Chocolate Rolo Cake

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Chocolate rolo cakes. The holes are from birthday candles

I’ve been trying to post the recipe for this cake for quite a few days now, but life, as they say, has gotten in the way.  I actually made this cake for my friend Dan’s birthday nearly two weeks ago and have only just managed to get myself a cup of tea, sit down in my laptop and write this thing up.  Good things, however, come to those who wait.  Or so the phrase goes.

I have a bit of a tradition of making vertiginous chocolate cakes for Dan’s birthday, getting more and more elaborate each year.  This year, I was struggling to find something to top the Chocolate Behemoth of 2013, until I came across this rolo cake by the brilliant Raspberri Cupcakes.  If you have not yet visited this beautiful baking blog, prepare yourself to feel both inspired and completely inadequate all at once.  Her cakes truly are masterpieces.

This particular creation is a rich chocolate brownie cake, sandwiched with a thick salted caramel and covered with a glossy slick of chocolate ganache.  As if that isn’t decadent enough, it has the added surprise of having a whole packet of rolos baked into each of the two cake layers; which melt a little to create pockets of caramel within the cake.  And more rolos piled on the top, natch.

To be honest, it really is best not to think too much about the ingredients for this cake.  Especially the 400g of butter.  Being the evil feeder that I am I also neglected to mention to my dining companions that it probably had hundreds and hundreds of calories per slice.  Especially those who went for second helpings.

A little bit about making caramel:  in short, don’t bother. I’ve tried every method from heating sugar to boiling condensed milk and both are time-consuming and fraught with hazards.  Use pre-made caramel or dulce de leche.  Carnation make one in a 397g tin that is just perfect.

Chocolate Rolo Cake

For the cake
400g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tubes rolos

For the filling
1 x 397g tin of carnation caramel
½ tsp sea salt

For the ganache
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
300ml double cream

To decorate
4 tubes rolos, each sweet cut in half

Preheat the oven to 150ºc.  Grease two 8inch sandwich tins and baseline with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter and sugar in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool.  In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale.  Fold through the chocolate mixture and then gently fold in the flour and baking powder until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared tins.  Push the rolos into the surface of the cake mixture and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.  The cake will have shrunken away from the edges of the tin but may still have a slight wobble in the centre.  Allow to cool completely in the tin before transferring to a wire rack until needed.

Stir the sea salt into the caramel and, using a palette knife, spread a thick layer over one of the cooled cakes.  Place the other layer on top.  Reserve a small amount of the caramel to spread thinly over the top and sides of the cake.  This will help the ganache to ‘stick’.  Chill the cake in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the ganache.  Place the chopped milk and dark chocolate in a large bowl.  In a saucepan, heat the cream until it just reaches boiling point.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to sit for a couple of minutes.  Stir with a balloon whisk and the chocolate will melt into the cream to form a smooth, thick ganache.  Allow to cool.

Place the chilled cake on a rack over a tray.  Pour over the cooled ganache, using a palette knife to spread it out.  It should coat the cake evenly and any excess will be caught in the tray below.  Stack the chopped rolos on top.  Transfer to the fridge to set the ganache, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Raspberri Cupcakes.

One Year Ago:  Key Lime Pie

Apple and Stem Ginger Crumble

In the days since I last wrote, there has been a birthday.  On Saturday night, eleven friends gathered in Honor Oak to wish our friend Dan many happy returns.

Photo by Claire Chapman

Photo by Claire Chapman

The venue was Sodo, a new(ish) restaurant specialising in sourdough pizza.  There is a lot of good pizza in London right now, and although I was reprimanded by our waitress for my use of the ‘F’ word (Franco Manca), they are among those who lifted it from late night junk food to respectable dining option.  Others include the magnificent Pizza Pilgrims, Homeslice‘s gargantuan offerings and, my personal favourite: The Gowlett in Peckham.  The pizzas at Sodo were also very good, with that charred and flavoursome dough that comes with using a sourdough starter, and good toppings.  We shared a classic anchovy/caper/olive pizza and one from the specials menu with five cheeses.

The following day, after both a late night and a troubled one (I blame the cheese), Ollie and I decided to have a quiet day at home which, for me, always means spending some time baking.  I had some Bramley apples in the fridge, given to me the weekend before by my lovely friend (and apple dealer) Aimee, which would go to ruin if not used soon.  With the dark nights drawing in and nothing to do except watch television, I decided to make a crumble.

Nothing screams ‘autumn’ like hot crumble and cold custard.  I have this rule that a hot dessert must be accompanied by something cold (cold custard, cold cream, ice cream) and vice versa.  Never hot-with-hot or cold-with-cold.  Many disagree, but that is how I like it.  This crumble is a very simple combination of chopped apple, chopped stem ginger, a little syrup from the ginger jar and a sprinkling of sugar, topped with an oaty crumble.  I used four pieces of stem ginger as we both like it fiery.  If I was making this for others, I would probably tone it down to three.  Feel free to use a different crumble mix if oats aren’t your bag, or a ready-made one if you’re feeling super lazy.

Apple and stem ginger crumble

Apple and stem ginger crumble

Bake in your favourite dish.  This crumble will serve about six people, perfect for a large family lunch.  If you, like we, are a family of two, there will be lots for leftovers.  Eat straight from the fridge with (hot) custard.

Apple and Stem Ginger Crumble

650g bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
4 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger jar
75g rolled oats
100g demerera sugar
100g plain flour
75g butter

Preheat the oven to 200ºc.  Lightly butter an ovenproof dish.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, stem ginger and sugar.  Mix with your hands and arrange in the bottom of the buttered dish.  Pour over the ginger syrup.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, demerera sugar and plain flour.  Rub in the butter until you have a rough crumble, then sprinkle it over the apple mixture, covering it completely.  Pat the crumble mixture down gently with your hands and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling at the edges.

One Year Ago:  Nan’s Tea Loaf

A Chocolate Beetroot Cake for Chocolate Week

Chocolate beetroot cake

Chocolate beetroot cake

This week, 13th – 19th October, is Chocolate Week, and I’m struggling to find anything I don’t like about this.

Right now I am a bit of a sorry picture.  I have a bit of a cold and a bout of asthma, so am sat wheezing away on my big couch under a blanket.  The weather in south east London has become even more dismal – all grey skies and rain lashing against the window.  Thank goodness for Netflix and Green & Black’s Maya Gold: the two things that are making today somewhat bearable.

Chocolate is a wonderful thing, for it always has the power to make you feel better, whether your woes are emotional or physical.  A neighbour of my grandmother’s use to give us chocolate when we fell off our bikes and went running to her with grazed knees and dirty tears.  It sounds silly, but it worked.  Now, in my thirties, I tend to reach for a bar when I’ve had a bad day at work.  It has the same effect.

I tend to use chocolate in baking mainly for special occasions, for huge, multi-layered birthday cakes or decadent desserts for massive family gatherings.  With my lurgy keeping me from any kind of company, I needed to bake something far easier, more wholesome and more humble.  I had a bag of mixed beets I bought for a mid-week salad, so decided one could be spared for a cake.

I remember a while ago when the idea of using vegetables in cakes became big, spurred on by the resurgence of the carrot cake.  Suddenly we were all baking from the vegetable patch, with varying degrees of success.  Two such cakes that have survived in my repertoire are the lemon-courgette cake and this chocolate beetroot cake.  Adding vegetables certainly gives cake a new dimension, plus has the added benefit of getting more veg into your diet.  Speaking of which, a friend of mine writes a very good blog about getting your children to eat more vegetables by sneaking it into their food.  It’s called Sneaky Veg and has some brilliant recipes.

This chocolate beetroot cake is from Nigel Slater’s Tender, one of my favourite cookbooks.  It has quite a few processes and is a little time-consuming, but the end result is worth it.  It’s not too sweet but has the richness of chocolate and the sweet earthiness of beetroot.  The topping is a simple smear of creme fraiche topped with poppy seeds, although I used mascarpone as the shops of East Dulwich only had half-fat creme fraiche, which is far too runny.  Don’t bother using the expensive varieties of beetroot for this cake, as you don’t really see them once baked.  The good old purple kind will do just fine.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

250g beetroot
200g dark chocolate
4 tbsp espresso (I used Workshop Coffee’s Cult of Done)
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 eggs
190g caster sugar
135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
Creme fraiche or mascarpone
1 tsp poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 180ºc.  Spray a 20cm round loose-bottomed cake tin with cake release spray (I use Dr Oetker’s) and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Cook the beetroot whole in a pan of salted water until tender.  Remove and cool under cold running water.  Peel and blitz to a rough puree in a food processor.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the espresso.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl.  Leave them there for a few minutes to allow them to melt.

Separate the eggs.  Set the yolks aside and whisk the whites in a bowl, or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, and whip until stiff peaks form.  Add the sugar and continue tho whisk until glossy.

Stir the chocolate mixture so the butter is fully incorporated.  Beat in the egg yolks then fold in the beetroot puree.

Using a large metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being careful not to knock out too much of the air.  Do not overmix.  Finally, sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and fold this through.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake in and put in the oven, turning the heat down to 160º.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until the edges start to come away from the sides of the tin.  There may be a slight wobble in the centre, but this is OK as it will solidify as it cools.  Leave it to cool completely in the tin before removing.

Spread over the creme fraiche or mascarpone using a palette knife and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater.

One Year Ago:  Pumpkin Pie

Cherry Oat Bars

Cherry oat bars

Cherry oat bars

I’m writing about sweet things again.  I apologise.  Despite how it looks here, I can assure you that I do eat proper food. Promise.

One of the things I love about the street I live on is the cats.  Almost every other house has one and they can often be seen parading up and down, jumping on walls and hiding under cars.  Being surrounded by pets reminds you that you are in a part of the city where people actually live.  Real people, not just those with a city bolthole they use from time to time.  My favourite cat is a fluffy ginger one that lives at the end of the street.  Regardless of what time I am arriving home, he always seems to be there to greet me.

My friends John and Heather have just got a cat, and on Friday we popped over to meet him.  He is just too cute and, despite my being allergic to his fur, we became firm friends.

I baked these cherry oat bars to take for them as a little gift.  I seem to be making quite a lot of cake bars at the moment – I think it’s because I seem to be transporting bakes across town, and are more robust than a cake or cupcakes.  These are a cake bar combined with a fruit flapjack, with an oat crumble baked into the topping.  Cherries have recently gone out of season, but the tinned ones work well. Just make sure that they are well drained as the coloured liquid will spill into the base and ruin the effect of the layers.  If you don’t fancy cherries, other fruits will work equally well.

Cherry Oat Bars

For the bottom layer and topping
185g plain flour
100g icing sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp lemon zest
175g butter, at room temperature
90g rolled oats

For the filling
400g tin black cherries, drained and halved
2 large eggs
175g caster sugar
40g plain flour
125ml natural yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 175ºc.  Spray a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin with cake release spray (I use Dr Oetker’s).

In a medium bowl, combine the plain flour, icing sugar, salt, and lemon zest.  Rub in the butter until you have a smooth dough.  Separate a small handful of the dough (about half a cup) into a separate bowl, this will be used later to make the topping.  Press the remaining dough into the base of the tin, spreading evenly to cover.  Bake for around 15 minutes until brown at the edges.

Arrange the black cherries over the crust.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, caster sugar, plain flour, natural yoghurt, lemon juice and salt until well combined.  Pour this mixture over the cherries.

Add the rolled oats to the reserved dough and rub together to form a crumble.  Sprinkle this over the top of the tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until set.  When baked it should have a very slight wobble.  If it is too wobbly, return to the oven.

Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker.

One Year Ago:  Street Food Saturdays:  Viet Van, East Dulwich

Plum Clafoutis

Plum clafoutis

Plum clafoutis

Last week my friend Sam was in the city and so came for dinner.  We had planned to go out in Peckham, but I had Band of Bakers the following day, so was chained to my kitchen whilst I proved and baked my malt loaf.  Luckily she’s pretty happy to sit at my kitchen table drinking tea whilst I cook, filling me in on life in the westcountry.

I had a punnet of plums that had been ripening on the kitchen counter since the weekend, which seems to be a constant feature in my kitchen at the moment.  Many of the fruits we have been enjoying for the past few months are rapidly going out of season and, instead of buying the imported varieties that are creeping on to the supermarket shelves, I am stocking up on good British plums, still very much in season and still in abundance at my local farmers market.

The plums I had were the most common type you are likely to find in autumn – the small, dark purple variety with orange flesh inside.  Similar to those I used for my plum upside-down cake.  They hold together well when sliced and cooked, so I thought they would be perfect for a clafoutis.

For those not familiar, a clafoutis is a dish of fruit baked in custard.  It solidifies to form something half way between a creme brulee and a flan.  It is most commonly made with cherries, although other soft fruits are often used.  It has to be baked in the oven for around 45 minutes – just set the timer if you have a friend over whom you’ve not seen in a long time, as you may forget it’s there.

Plum Clafoutis

6 medium plums, halved and sliced into wedges, stones removed
3 large eggs
65g caster sugar
250ml whole milk
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
60g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 175ºc.  Butter a medium-sized baking dish.  Arrange the plum wedges at the bottom.

In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale.  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk on the lowest speed until fully combined.  Pour the mixture over the plums and bake in the oven for around 45 minutes.  When done it will be puffed up with no wobble in the middle.

Allow to cool a little and serve with a drizzle of double cream.

One Year Ago:  Sausage, Cider and Potato Pie

The Last of the Summer Raspberries

Raspberry-almond bars

I don’t know how, but it is October already.  Something has changed in the air and we seem to be settling in for winter.  This morning, I unpacked my scarves from their vacuum bag and got out my winter coat, ready to be taken to the dry cleaners.  I turned on the heating.  I started thinking about Hallowe’en.

I have had a punnet of raspberries in my fridge that have been there since before I went to Germany.  Despite expecting to have to throw them away on my return, they survived remarkably well.  If I’m honest, I can’t believe I risked letting them go to waste; raspberry season is quickly coming to an end, and it will be a long time before fresh British raspberries will be available again.

could have just tipped them into a bowl and eaten them with a little icing sugar and a lot of creme fraiche, but instead I decided to bake something with them.  I swore off cake after eating so much of it in Baden-Baden, but there is something about the new chill in the air that makes me want to nest; and baking is always the biggest part of that need.  Raspberries always work so well in baking; their sharp flavour cuts through all of the butter and sugar and makes everything just a little less sweet.

My favourite combination is a classic one: raspberry and almond.  The world probably does not need another raspberry-almond recipe, but I am just going to squeeze this last one in.  These raspberry-almond bars are based loosely on Dan Lepard’s Blueberry Almond Bars from his book Short and Sweet – he suggests that you can use blackberries instead of blueberries, which is where I got the idea.  The base is a dense cake, almost biscuit-like, topped first with a raspberry jam, thickened with cornflour, and then with a brown sugar-almond crust.  The result is more biscuit than cake and lends itself to being sliced up and eaten with a strong cup of tea.  Once the raspberries have gone completely, I am going to try this with a plum jam and a hazelnut crust.

Raspberry-Almond Bars

125g caster sugar
150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
180g punnet fresh raspberries
2 tsp cornflour
50ml whole milk
2 tsp honey
100g light brown sugar
100g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180ºc.  Spray a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin with cake release spray (I use Dr Oetker’s).

Mix together 75g of the caster sugar, the plain flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the mixture.  Add the egg and bring the mixture together in a soft dough.  Press this evenly into the bottom of the prepared cake tin and set aside.

In a small pan, combine the raspberries, cornflour, the remaining 50g caster sugar and 100ml of water.  Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until the raspberries have broken down and the mixture thickens.  Set aside.

In a separate pan, combine the milk, honey, brown sugar and flaked almonds and simmer over a medium heat until thickened.

Spread the raspberries over the base layer (you probably won’t need all of it), then top evenly with the almond mixture.  Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until browned.  Leave to cool completely in the tin and then cut into slices.

One Year Ago: In Praise of Granola

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

The weekend that the clocks go back to Greenwich Mean Time always feels like the final death knell of summer.  A balmy autumn can keep the spirits up for so long, but once it becomes dark at 6pm, winter is most definitely here.  This weekend, more than any so far this year, was especially turbulent, as we were all preparing for the impending storm of doom.  Of course, none of us knew that it was not going to be the epic storm of 1987 proportions, as we had all feared, and were all fearing the worst.  This may have explained the Mother Flipper queue at Brockley Market on Saturday – if there was a last meal to be had, well….

This weekend was also the birthday of my friend Adrienne, so we braved the blustery streets of East Dulwich to spend the afternoon drinking prosecco at The Bishop.  Every year, for Adrienne’s birthday, I make her either a key lime pie or a lemon meringue pie instead of a birthday cake as she prefers citrus desserts to birthday cake and these pies give her a link to her North American homeland.  I was relieved that this year she chose key lime pie as I have been having some serious issues with meringue pies lately.  Every time I make one, it comes out the oven looking like a piece of cloudy perfection only to collapse completely when I take it out of the tin, haemorrhaging liquid everywhere (where does the liquid come from? the eggs?).  A couple of years ago, Adrienne’s birthday lemon meringue pie was little more than slop, and I don’t think I could face that again.

Apparently if you add a layer of pulverised cake crumbs in between the filling and the meringue, it soaks up the liquid and stops this happening.  I have yet to try and need to practice!

A key lime pie is an American dessert and so named as the variety of limes traditionally used were called ‘key limes’ and originated from Florida.  The pie consists of three individual components, two of which vary greatly according to recipe.  I am told that the traditional base for a key lime pie is shortcrust pastry, although in recent years this has been substituted with the kind of biscuit base that you would find on a cheesecake.  Similarly, traditionalists claim that the original pies were topped with meringue, although many pies are now topped with whipped cream or, often, not topped at all.  The filling is the only consistent component – a thick custard flavoured with lime juice and zest – although some are set in the fridge and some baked in the oven.

My key lime pie has a chocolate shortcrust pastry, which almost recreates the flavour of those chocolate lime sweets we all remember from childhood.  Chocolate and lime are a seriously good combination.  The pie has a baked filling that contains only four ingredients: lime zest, lime juice, condensed milk and egg yolks and is topped with whipped Chantilly cream.  For decoration, there is drizzled dark chocolate and candied lime slices.   I added a little extra lime than I usually would in the hope that the sharpness would cut through the richness of the chocolate, and it worked.  The flavours compliment each other, rather than fighting for pole position.  It takes a long time to make: the pastry has to be chilled twice and the filling chilled in the fridge for several hours, but if you plan your time well, it need not take over your weekend.

Key Lime Pie

For the pastry:

  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 140g cold unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks

For the filling:

  • 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1½ tbsp lime zest
  • 120ml lime juice

For the topping:

  • 200ml whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 lime, sliced horizontally into 5mm slices
  • 250g caster sugar

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and icing sugar and pour into a food processor.  Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the food processor.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  With the motor running, add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until the mixture comes together in a firm dough.  Turn out on to a floured surface, and gently knead for a few seconds.  Form the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm.  Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface and use to line a loose-bottom tart tin.  Gently push the pastry into each of the grooves, but do not trim the edges.  Return to the fridge and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6.  Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans and bake blind in the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat of the oven to 150ºc / 300ºf / gas 2, remove the baking parchment and baking beans and bake the pastry case, uncovered, for a further five minutes.  The bottom of the pastry case should be dry and cooked through.  Trim the edges and allow to cool.

To make the filling, combine the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and lime zest in a large bowl.  Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk until all of the ingredients are fully combined and smooth.  Scrape this mixture into the cooled pastry case – there should be a gap at the top, this is where the cream will sit – and bake at 170ºc / 325ºf / gas 3 for about 15-20 minutes.  The filling should be firm with a slight wobble in the centre.  Allow to cool completely at room temperature and then chill in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

For the cream topping, whisk together the whipping cream and icing sugar until thick, but not stiff.  Spread the cream over the cooled filling with a palette knife, filling to the top of the pastry case.  Return to the fridge to chill while you make the toppings.

Heat the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted.  Allow to cool to room temperature and scrape into a plastic piping bag.  Place the cooled pie on top of a large sheet of newspaper, snip a hole in the bottom of the piping bag and drizzled the chocolate back and forth across the pie.  Be sure to start and finish each of the lines on the newspaper, not on the pie, so you don’t end up with any blobs.  Return to the fridge to set the chocolate while you make the candied limes.

Place the lime slices in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil.  Drain and repeat four times.  Combine the sugar and 250ml water in a separate saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the lime slices and cook over a low heat for around 40 minutes, until tender.  Use to decorate the pie.

Pumpkin, Part 1

Pumpkin Pie

In these dark few weeks of mid-October, when the transition from Indian summer to winter chill leaves us contemplating the bleak winter months ahead, we can at least be thankful for the abundance of autumnal food sent to keep us warm and well fed. Pumpkins, at the moment, are everywhere and, whilst the supermarkets are selling the great big orange globes best suited to carving, the markets and farm shops are selling an array of squashes and pumpkins from the lovely little cricket ball varieties to the ubiquitous butternuts.  The approach of Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving sends us all a bit pumpkin crazy – I even bought a Jack’o’Lantern-shaped cookie cutter last week – but it is a great time to make use of this vegetable in both sweet and savoury autumnal recipes.

Although pumpkin pie was eaten in England prior to the exploration of the Americas, it features in several cookbooks dating as far back as the 17th century, it is with American celebrations that we have come to associate it with.  It is eaten traditionally at Thanksgiving and Christmas and is now such an integral part of those celebrations that a number of different recipes exist for the traditional pie, regional variations and other ‘pumpkin spice’ items such as cookies and cakes, that replicate the flavour of the pie.  Pre-baked pie shells and canned pumpkin pie fillings are even available for the non-cook or time poor.

Most traditional pies follow the basic formula of a sweet Shortcrust case and a filling of puréed pumpkin and spices thickened with eggs and cream, all baked in the oven. The main variations come from the type of pumpkin used and the combination of spices. I first made pumpkin pie for some ex-pat Canadians a couple of years ago and have been working on the recipe ever since. Recently I have discovered that I prefer the flavour and texture of butternut squash in a pumpkin pie – it is less stringy in texture, so requires less preparation. Getting your pumpkin spice mix right takes a little bit of practice and trial-and-error until you find a combination that you like. The most common spices used are ginger, all spice, mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger and cardamom, and the best way to start is to make combinations of three or four spices in equal measures and adjust the ratios accordingly once you find a combination you like.  If you plan to make a number of pumpkin spiced items throughout the winter, make your spice mix in a large quantity  and store in an airtight jar – it should retain it’s potency for a good few months.

My own personal spice mix is: two parts cinnamon, one part mace, one part ginger, one part allspice, one part ground cloves.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

For the pastry:

  • 220g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp cold water (more if needed)

For the filling:

  • 565g pumkpin or squash (prepared weight)
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 90g dark brown sugar
  • 3½ tsp pumpkin spice mix (see above)
  • 330ml double cream

To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.  If you do not have a food processor, rub the butter into the flour and sugar by hand until it reaches the same consistency.  Add the egg yolk and water and pulse or mix until the dough starts to come together.  Turn out on to a floured surface and work with your hands until it forms a smooth ball.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6.  Flour the inside of a loose-bottomed tart tin.

Once chilled, roll out the pastry and line the inside of the tart tin, gently pushing the pastry into the grooves.  Do not, at this point, trim the edges, instead allow them to hang over the edge of the tin – this will help to prevent the pastry from shrinking during cooking.  Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake blind in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the paper and beans and carefully trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp knife.  Return the pastry to the oven for another 10-12 minutes until lightly golden and completely dry.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Cut the pumpkin into 1in pieces and cook in a steamer over boiling water until tender.  Puree the pumpkin in a blender or in a large bowl with a hand-blender.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and set these aside also.  In a large saucepan, heat the cream, sugar and spice mix in a pan, whisking occasionally, until it reaches simmering point.  Pour this mixture over the eggs, add the pumpkin puree and whisk together until smooth.  Pour the filling into the cooked pastry case and cook for around 40-45 minutes until risen with a slight wobble in the centre.  Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then remove and serve on a plate.