Tag Archives: sweet treats

When searching for a perfect dessert, it’s hard to beat the good British Pud

While some people are addicted to reading the latest fashion magazine or finding out the gossip on the Hollywood grapevine, there is nothing I find more relaxing than sitting down with a good cookery book and reading it cover to cover.

Although I enjoy looking at lots of food related books, it’s really the desserts that get me going. For me, combining a few simple ingredients to create the most heavenly treats is one of life’s purest pleasures.

While I don’t usually need an excuse to start flicking through the brightly illustrated pages, this time there is a definite reason. The friend who owns the house I’m currently staying in is having a dinner party and I volunteered to make dessert. And this particular friend also happens to have been a food writer in years gone by so is not easy to impress!

For our last little gathering I made a variation on the British recipe for Eton Mess, adding some caramelised peaches and spun sugar pieces, and it went down a storm. So the pressure for a repeat success is on!

When I last visited the UK I brought back a cookbook that looked like it would stand me in good stead for some culinary reminders of home – Jamie’s Great Britain. It has some fantastically British sounding recipes in it like “Bubble and Squeak”, “Wee Scotch Eggs”, “Queen Victoria Sponge”, and “Humble Pea & Ham Soup with Fluffy Dumplings”.

That last dish is so British in fact that when the Capital was at its smoggiest, Londoners used to refer to a low visibility day as a “real Pea Souper”.

And of course the book wouldn’t be complete without a recipe for the dish loved by children and adults alike, and the very first thing I ever learnt to cook myself – Jam Tarts.

But I think this dinner party might call for something slightly more sophisticated than a plate of Jam Tarts, so the search continues.

The good thing about a task of this nature is the almost mandatory sampling of many kinds of puddings. Incidentally, one of the many interesting “lost in translation” moments since moving to America was finding out that “pudding” in the US refers to a smooth custardy dish, not simply as another name for any dessert as it does in the UK.

I found a trip to the Nashville Famers‘ Market was the inspiration that I needed, and with all the fresh and tasty looking apples that were in season, I decided to go with one of my favourite British recipes, Apple Crumble.

I usually serve apple crumble with hot custard or cream, but an even more perfect accompaniment I found was a recently discovered ice-cream by Talenti, called Sea Salt Caramel. I think this particular ice-cream goes perfectly with just a spoon, but on apple crumble it’s also fantastic. It’s a pretty decadent treat.

If you like the sound of Apple Crumble, there are loads of great recipes for it online. You can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith’s though, which you can find here, and she even has a handy conversion table on her site for measuring in cups: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/galleries/delia-waitrose-recipes/best-ever-apple-crumble.html

NB: The photo I used is not actually a picture of my apple crumble, due to it being so delicious that it all got eaten before I remembered to take a photo! So this one is borrowed from http://pincurlmag.com/tag/apple-crumble

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If Heaven Was Made of Meringue…This is what it would taste like! My version of the Great British Recipe, Eton Mess

There are not many things I find more relaxing after a long tour than coming home for a few days and getting time to cook, or more specifically, to bake.

I don’t know what it is about the sweet stuff that fascinates me so much (although getting to eat it afterwards is obviously one giant incentive!)  but I love the different creations that can come from so few ingredients. Let’s be honest, when your main ingredients are butter and sugar, it’s pretty likely it’ll taste good.

I’ve been staying in Nashville recently with a great friend who likes to throw parties a lot. It’s great for me not only because it means I get to meet loads of other cool people in Nashville, and not least because several of her close friends happen to also be professional chefs. Not a bad deal!

At one recent party I wanted to contribute something to the overflowing table of food, and decided to make the dessert. A bit of pressure, making the only dessert while being surrounded by the city’s top chefs, so I had to pick a fail-safe option. And there is nothing more fail-safe than homemade meringue.

So easy to make, and completely irresistible when combined with large amounts of cream, mascarpone, sugar and fresh fruit. And I threw in some spun sugar too for some extra sweetness and crunch. I ended up making the recipe again the same week because I liked it so much.

So here’s the recipe – give it a try, it’s bound to help make this a great weekend:

(Recipe adapted from http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/meringues.html)

Meringues (makes about 8 individual meringue nests)

2 large egg whites

4 oz (1/2 cup) caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C/ Gas Mark 2

Line a baking sheet with silicone paper or parchment paper.

To make the meringues, place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk or kitchen aid on a low speed, begin whisking.

Continue for about 2 minutes, until the whites are foamy, then switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for 1 more minute.

Now turn the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites reach the stiff-peak stage. Next, whisk the sugar in on fast speed, a little at a time (about a dessertspoon), until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.

Now all you do is spoon 8 heaped dessertspoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly.

(You can also just do one giant meringue if you’re just going to break it up later.)

Next, put the meringue on the centre shelf of the oven, immediately reduce the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave them for 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the warmth of the oven until it is completely cold (usually about 4 hours).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can top with cream and fresh fruit, or go for an even more indulgent option…

3 peaches, cut into slices

Raspberries, strawberries (sliced), or other fresh fruit

Small tub of Mascarpone, or alternatively use regular cream cheese (don’t worry too much about the exact measurements for these ingredients, just do it to taste)

Small tub creme fraiche, or alternatively about 200ml whipping cream

1 tbsp Sugar/ Powdered sugar to taste, add more to taste

1tsp Vanilla extract

Cook the peaches in a pan with a little cold water and a couple teaspoons sugar. Keep on a low heat and cook until softened. You can also add in a handful of the raspberries if you like. When cooked, put into a dish to cool.

Mix the mascarpone, creme fraiche and vanilla together and add sugar to taste. Mix in the fresh fruit. (Leave some for topping)

Break up the meringue and add to the cream mixture. Break some up fine, and leave some big chunks too.

Once the cooked fruit has cooled, put in the bottom of your serving dish. Spoon the cream and meringue mixture on top.

Top with remaining fruit.

If you’d also like to add some spun sugar on top for decoration, here is a great website with videos about how to make spun sugar. It’s very easy! http://www.cookingwithcandra.com/blog/2010/04/12/butter-pecan-cheesecake-with-spun-sugar/

 

 

Enjoy!!

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Getting The Skinny – Low Calorie Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Skinny oatmeal raisin cookies

Skinny oatmeal raisin cookies – so yummy and at only 116 calories per cookies, they’re almost good for you!

I don’t know if such a condition exists, but if it did, I would definitely be classed as a “bake-aholic”.

There aren’t many things I find more relaxing than creating some sugary sweet concoction and enjoying it with a few cups of British tea (how very rock and roll of me!). However, tucking into these high-calorie treats make getting into my favorite leather pants on stage a bit of an issue so I’m constantly on the look out for ways to have my cake and not have to spend hours in the gym every day.

And that’s when I discovered the TV show “Cook Yourself Thin“. What an ingenious idea this is! People come onto the show who want to lose maybe 10-20 pounds and the very clever chefs help them learn new ways to cook their favourite foods but with half the calories.

I have only watched a few episodes so far and have already been trying out the recipes, and can confirm – they taste gooooood! There’s even a whole episode devoted to pasta (which makes up about 95% of my food intake) and how to eat it without ending up looking like the Michelin Man.

So I thought I’d share with you one of my new favorite recipes for some delicious oatmeal raisin cookies. Because everyone knows, you can’t really enjoy a cup of tea without a biscuit to dunk in it….

P.S I just did an interview for Georgia Music Magazine all about my debut album, but also featuring one of my own recipes for chocolate peanut butter fudge…I’ll let you know when it comes out, incase you fancy another sweet treat!

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

(Recipe originally from http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/cook-yourself-thin/recipes/chewy-oatmeal-raisin-cookies)

Makes about 40 (2 1/2-inch) cookies
Calories per cookie: 116

2 tablespoons whiskey or rum (optional – I didn’t use any alcohol in mine)
2/3 cup raisins
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups oats (not instant)

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Sprinkle the whiskey or rum over the raisins in a bowl and let stand while you assemble the batter.

3. Using a handheld or standing mixer, beat the butter, applesauce, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Beat in the egg and egg white, milk and vanilla.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon, add to the batter, and beat just until the flour is absorbed. Gently fold in the oats with a rubber scraper.

5. Use 2 spoons to scoop out the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are set but still soft in the centers and beginning to brown on the edges, 17 to 20 minutes.

6. Let cool on a wire rack.

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