[Christmas] Hostess with the Mostess [or Cheats Chocolate Tart]

Today I’m hoping you guys can offer me some tips and advice, and in exchange I’m sharing THE best prepare ahead chocolate tart for your Christmas spread.

When Pete and I bought our house we had grand plans of family get togethers, now we have the space for everyone to stay over. We immediately invited everyone to have Christmas at ours this year. Then we had a baby. Now we’ve got 9 on Christmas day and 11 on Boxing day and I’m starting to panic! There’ll be Christmas dinner to make, and an evening buffet, then a cooked late lunch on Boxing day and an evening spread again, not to mention nibbles after church on the big day and breakfasts. Of course everyone will help and I’m delegating dishes to various people, but I’m trying to give serious thought to how to make it as easy as possible with made-ahead and simple dishes that mean I won’t spend all day in the kitchen. And that’s where you guys come in! I need your tips and hints on what can be made ahead or great ideas for stress free entertaining! How do you cater for large groups if you have a big family – we don’t, so it’s all new to me!

Now, onto that tart…

Did you watch Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes? It was pretty good viewing and we tried this Cheats Chocolate Tart after seeing it on one of the episodes, for a family party. It’s not a quick make, but it doesn’t take forever and it could be made 2 days in advance. Added to that it looks A-mazing and feeds a crowd (16 at a stretch,) because it’s so rich. And the alcohol gives it that festive edge. ;)

Now, first up with the confessions, I didn’t make this tart, Pete did, but neither of us have ever made pastry and it was still super easy, with no soggy bottom situation! The filling is ridiculously easy too and the simple topping makes it all look far more special and skilful than it actually is to make. Thats a coffee and liquor laced cream on top by the way…

You can check out the recipe here (and a picture of the whole tart… this slice is all that remained of the one we made, which speaks volumes about how good it was!) and the book it’s from – Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes. We’ve since made it again with equal success and it will definitely be featuring in my entertaining plans over Christmas and New Year.

So, please give me your tips on entertaining for a crowd and your Christmas day secrets! And make this tart. You will thank me. I promise.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Girl about Town: Chocolate walking tour of London

Easter weekend is on the way. I am excited for three reasons:

1) Two free days off work! Oh how I need the sleep.

2) Family time! In my house, Easter is like Christmas we gather, we play games, we (even in adulthood) hunt out eggs and we dine en masse.

3) Gluttony! If you’ve been abstaining from treats and indulgences for Lent, Sunday is the day it all comes to an end (just to clarify, I have abstained from nothing this year, I’ve been a glutton throughout Lent. My bad).

In light of this list, Rebecca thought I should tell you about something that combined all three, in particular a chocolate walking tour of London, that I did with my family over a chilled weekend the end of last summer. I booked it through Great British Tours with a 50% voucher from one of those well known discount sites (either the pink or the green, I don’t recall) which made it very reasonable indeed. During the tour we visited some of my favourite chocolateries (where we had tastings and were entitled to a discount on most purchases), wandered through Soho at a leisurely pace soaking up the atmosphere and we found a couple of hidden gems that I’ll definitely be re-visiting.

The meeting point was the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street where our guide greeted us with a large cup of chocolate coated coffee beans and a gigantic grin – imagine if your job was to wander the streets of London eating free chocolate? I’d grin a lot too!

First stop was Hotel Chocolat where we bought chilli hot chocolate powder and tested out their new line of chocolate themed toiletries…

…then on to Paul A. Young where the team introduced us to unusual recipes such as limoncello and cucumber, pink guava and lychee, goats cheese, rosemary and lemon and Marmite truffles and where we also sampled their delicious Aztec hot chocolate…

… a quick pit stop at Freggo to refresh the palate with some Malbec and berries sorbet (new fave thing ever!)…

…a browse around the sweet counter (and a quick dash to the loo) at Fortnum and Mason…

… a brief history lesson about the birth of the truffle at Prestat and sampled some boozy treats…

…all ending up at Charbonnel et Walker where I stuffed my face with my favourite violet and rose crèmes (apparently also the Queen’s!).

All in all a fun filled day!

Great British Tours do some other interesting walking tours including a cupcake and macaroon tour which I have my eye on for my next free weekend…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Pancake Party…

There are a few things every year that I religiously celebrate. Apart from Christmas, pancake day is right up there. It brings back such strong childhood memories – every year we used to just have plates of thin, soft, crispy edged pancakes drowned in sugar and lemon. Years later when Pete decided to treat me with savoury pancakes I was so disappointed! I’m not a big fan of savoury pancakes but yesterday I stumbled on this recipe and could be a convert…


Jamie’s Big Brunch pancakes, with French Guy Cooking

I’m a huge fan of brunch recipes so it didn’t take much convincing for me to consider trying this, even as a dinner recipe. That lead me to these, Crepes and salted butter caramel. A perfect end to my favourite food festival ever.

So, who’s having pancakes tonight?

*****

Today I also have a little message to pass on from Anna and the team at Any Other Woman:

On 8th March, it’s International Women’s Day 2014. On Any Other Woman we traditionally celebrate IWD with a day of posts on a theme relevant to being a woman. You can see previous posts here.

This year, on Friday, we want to do something a little different. We want to run snippets of advice throughout the day from our readers. And our question is this:

What advice would you give the next generation of AOW readers?

What do you wish someone could have told you? Email (anna@anyotherwoman.com), or tweet @AnyOtherAnnaK / @AnyOtherAisling whatever advice you’d like to give – it can be a few words, a paragraph or a whole post.

Get involved readers and if you don’t have any wisdom to impart, make sure you head over on Friday and read what the AOW community have to say.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Food: Autumn Crumble

The first thing I think of when to comes to Autumn cooking is a delicious fruit crumble and I always turn to Delia for the best result. You can combine this recipe with traditional apples, rhubarb, or many other fruit combinations, just chop them and soften on a gentle heat with a little sugar to prevent the flavour being too sharp. Don’t soften too much as they will cook further in the oven and you don’t want to end up with mush!

For the crumble topping you need:
75g of chilled butter, diced.
175g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
110g Demerara or granulated golden sugar

  • Whiz all the ingredients together in a food processor until it resembles crumbs, or if you like to get your hands dirty, rub the dry ingredients into the butter cubes with your finger tips until you get the same crumb.
  • Pack the crumb mix tightly down onto your fruit layer for a crunchy finish and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for around 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve with cream, custard or ice cream. Lovely!

*Recipe adapted from Delia Smith, ‘How to Cook’ Book Two.

What’s your favourite crumble flavour?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Food: Champion Bakewell tart

After yesterdays post on appreciating all that Autumn has to offer, it felt only right to post this autumnal dessert – the good old fashioned bakewell tart. I’ve been meaning to make a bakewell tart (amongst my favourites for it’s moist baked almondy interior and the layer of sweet tangy jam,) for a long while now and this one didn’t disappoint – Taken from the Delicious Baking book I shared with the scones recipe a few weeks back, it was perfect for a rainy afternoon baking.

Ingredients
Sweet shortcrust pastry
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g ground almonds
Finely grated zest of a lemon
110g strawberry jam
2tbsp flaked almonds

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and roll out your pastry to 5mm thick before lining a 24cm fluted loose bottomed tart tin. Line the pastry case with baking paper, weigh down with baking beans or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes.
  • With a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, add the eggs slowly as you beat and then fold in the ground almonds and zest.


  • When the case is baked, allow to cool. Once cool, spread the jam over the pastry base thinly and top with the filling. Finish with a scattering of flaked almonds.
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes, until golden, risen and just set in the centre. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack.

Serve with clotted cream or ice cream and enjoy :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Recipe from Delicious Baking – £5.99 in your local W H Smiths or Tescos, or order online by clicking the link.

Friday Food: Honey Roast Peaches

I’m a huge fan of a peach. When they’re in season there’s nothing better and I’m currently stuffing myself with the flat white peaches that are in the supermarkets right now.

I love the adaptability of peaches in cooking too, I’ve made a peach and bresaola salad before now and they make great summer crumble or cobblers. I wanted to make something similar to todays recipe but then I realised when I spotted this recipe over on Rose’s blog, The Londoner, that I actually couldnt do it better than she has. Rose has a knack of writing about food that is ridiculously indulgent and making it sound super sexy. I’m not going to argue with her on this dish.


Image Credit: The Londoner

Head on over to The Londoner for the full Honey Baked Peaches recipe and to ogle at the pictures. Incidentally, Rose is nominated in the Cosmo blog awards (Best Food Blog) so make sure you vote for her if you appreciate this offering! (And Florence Finds of course!)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Friday Food: Key Lime Pie

Last weekend, Jess finally had a housewarming party (only 12 months later!) which, given that it was summer, actually turned into a housewarming BBQ. As these occasions often call for a contribution, I decided to make a Key Lime Pie – suitably summery and it feeds the five thousand – literally, mainly because it’s so rich but it’s also rather large. Thin slivers are still very satisfying so it’s great if you have many mouths to feed or a party planned.

The recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery and surprisingly simple to make. Be warned, it is deliciously calorific!

Serves 12-16

Filling

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 397-gram tins of condensed milk
  • Freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 5 limes (You don’t need green colouring as the zest gives it the green colour.)
  • 450ml whipped cream
  • I use a sixth lime for extra zest to decorate.

Crust

  • 500 grams digestive biscuits
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, melted

Method

Crush the biscuits in a food processor or blender and add the melted butter.
Once combined pour the mix into a 30cm dish. Press the biscuit base into a firm crust, evenly along the bottom of the dish and up the sides to the rim of the dish where you can flatten it out. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees then set aside to cool.
Separate your 8 yolks from the eggs and add to a bowl with the condensed milk and lime juice and zest. Mix until thoroughly combined and the yolks are completely incorporated.
Once your crust is completely cooled, pour in the mixture and wobble it a little to smooth and spread it out.

Put it back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes. When it’s done the surface is firm to the touch (but not discoloured.)
Leave to cool again.

When you are close to serving it, or this can be done in advance, smother the top of the pie with whipped cream. I sprinkle the top with a few pinches of lime zest to decorate.

Then enjoy!

Mmmm. I want to make this all over again now!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

 

Friday Food: Frozen treats

This week, I have developed a bit of an unhealthy magnum obsession. It has happened before, I buy a mini magnum box and slowly work my way through them, whether on the sofa with a good episode of Greys Anatomy, or simply for lunch if there’s nothing else in the house (like yesterday for example.)

This got me thinking, there must be healthier and DIY options for frozen treats, particularly if any sunny weather makes an appearance…
(For the record if you’re wondering why I’m writing about frozen food in the middle of the worst summer ever here in the UK:
a. I can’t refrain from doing summer stuff forever and
b. it was pleasantly warm and humid here yesterday, although not exactly sunny.)

There’s even the grown up option of cocktail ice pops or gourmet recipes.

So here are a few recipes that tickled my fancy…

Have you made DIY ice lollys? Any ideas that I have missed? Let me know if you’re going to try any of these out…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. Wondering where to find an ice lolly tray? Try this Ice Lolly mould from Amazon.

Friday Food: Tart au Citron

This week, I thought I’d share a recipe that my sister makes, shared with me, and now even my Mum makes well. It’s just as good in mini tart cases and so I thought it would make a great recipe for any parties you’re having this weekend. Not only is it seriously delicious, it’s also super easy, so great made ahead of time or when you’ve just got better things to do!


Image from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine (check her recipe out by clicking the link)

Recipe by James Martin from BBC Food, tried and tested by Florence.

Ingredients:
5 free-range eggs
190g/6¾oz caster sugar
250ml/9fl oz double cream
4 lemons, juice and zest
butter, for greasing
flour, for dusting
225g/8oz ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry (find the recipe here or like me, use a ready made one – no one will ever know!)
Icing sugar, for dusting.

Method:
Preheat the oven to 150C
For the lemon tart, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk gently to break up the yolks. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the cream and the lemon juice and stir. Pass the mixture through a sieve, then add the lemon zest and set aside.
Pour the lemon mixture into the tart case. Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until the filling is just set and the pastry is golden-brown.
Leave to cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill for about two hours.
To serve, bring to room temperature and dust the top of the tart generously with icing sugar, then place under the grill until caramelised if you wish to serve warm. (I prefer it cool with whipped cream or mascarpone for a refreshing summer desert.

Tweet me a picture if you make it!

Enjoy and have a great long weekend!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

 

Friday Food: French Toast Bake

I do like to keep things topical here at Florence Finds, sharing seasonal suggestions and perhaps something like last week’s salad would be more appropriate for this week’s Friday food, although I would like to take a moment to note how excellent the timing was on that one given the weather you’re all enjoying. ;)

Today’s Friday food how ever comes to me from you, across the Atlantic. It was my breakfast when we stayed at the beautiful and homely Kern River Inn and Virginia, the owner, made it for our breakfast. I asked for the recipe straight away and heard about how it was a ‘church supper’ dish. She told me how as a child she used to go to church suppers, where all the old ladies in a town would take along a dish and get together. The groups often produced booklets of cherished recipes and it was from one of these that she first found this recipe.

It was seriously one of the best breakfast dishes I’ve ever tasted, and can apparently be made with countless variations if you season the egg, milk and butter mix to create a savoury wash and omit the sweet ingredients, instead adding your choice of savoury additions. Ham, spinach and cheese was Virginia’s particular recommendation. I also think it would make a great winter dessert warm from the oven with ice cream, custard or cream.

Ingredients (Serves 8)
10 slices of cubed thick sliced (dense) bread
3 oz sweetened cream cheese spread (mix with a desert spoon of icing sugar and a little vanilla essence, to taste)
8 eggs
1.5 cups of skimmed milk
6 tablespoons of melted butter
3 tablespoons of apricot preserve (or substitute fresh fruit – wetter fruits are better, like peaches)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your baking dish.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add your cubed bread and stir careful then put the mixture into your baking dish.
  • Spoon dollops of the sweetened cream cheese and apricot preserve onto the top.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until the toast is puffed up and browned on top.

Serve with maple syrup if you have a really sweet tooth.

Thank you for the recipe Virginia!

Enjoy and happy weekend, don’t forget to pop back for Friday Frock later!

Love,
Rebecca
xo