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Can we talk about strawberry cheesecake muffins for a minute? Because I made some the other day, and they turned out rather well.
Here is a secret: I am not, at present, at my thinnest. Babies will do that to you, apparently. One would think that the best cure for this would be to stop eating so much cake, but that is not the kind of thinking-outside-of-the-box I’m aiming for. My solution, for the moment, is to occasionally bake stuff with fruit in it, and to allow logic to languish by the wayside until I’m getting a little more sleep. Anyone who tells you that cake doesn’t help with disturbed nights is a teller of falsehoods, and that is the end of it.
Anyway. Strawberry. Cheesecake. Muffins. Three marvellous things rolled into one glorious whole. I found them in my BBC Good Food Cakes and Bakes book, but they’re also here. The muffin mix is a standard flour-sugar-eggs-milk-butter-baking powder concoction, and since the butter needs to be melted, absolutely no creaming is required. The recipe specifies that the mixture should be ‘loose and slightly lumpy’, warning that over-mixing leads to tough muffins. With a sound like a light bulb going off, I remembered that the scones recipe I use asks for the mixture to be combined with a cutlery knife. This is so incredibly awkward that it prevents you mixing too enthusiastically (thus ensuring lightness of scone). So I got out a knife for the muffin mix, too, and it worked just fine.
The next stage is mixing together cream cheese and sugar for the filling.
Then comes the assembly. First, half-fill your paper cases with muffin mix. Then add half a small strawberry…
…and a blob of the cream cheese mixture.
Another spoonful of muffin mix goes over the top to hide the filling.
(Don’t judge me by the colour of my muffin tins, by the way. They’re actually Yorkshire pudding tins, so they don’t get washed. This is the Law of Yorkshire Pudding Tins, and cannot be helped.)
After fifteen minutes in the oven, they’ve risen a fair bit. I didn’t want to burn them so didn’t cook mine quite long enough – they were a little sticky and not very golden-brown. But the muffin was not at all tough (yessss, cutlery knife!) and the filling was a marvel.
Be careful to wait till they’ve cooled a little. Boiling strawberry is not something you want on your tongue under any circumstances. We’ve made this mistake before.
Deliciousness: I find it hard to get excited about muffins, generally, but the filling makes these a little more special. A crowd-pleaser for guests, I bet.
Complexity: Don’t boil your butter into cheese. Otherwise, very easy. A little more assembly than your average muffin, but more enjoyable for that.
Washing-up pile: I rather think the Other Half did the washing up after these, so I didn’t count. Use paper cases rather than the silicone variety for a smaller pile.
Casualties: Strawberry burns aplenty. Learn from our silliness.
Oh, autumn. You tricksy devil, you.
I was so excited about finding myself in late September last week. My friends, autumn means nothing less than PUDDING SEASON. Crumbles, treacle sponges, apple pie and anything else that can be partnered with custard: this is what I dream of at night. But just when I’d got out my crumble dish, all a-quiver with anticipation, the weather suddenly turned tropical for four or five days. We sweltered in 28°C, and it was not a crumble-appropriate temperature at all. O, but I am fortune’s fool.
Today, however, we returned to grim raininess, and the babe and I ventured out to the post office under grey and sullen skies. Crumble was gloriously back on the menu. I decided on a pear and toffee variety from a book of one-pot dishes I have on my shelf. Because, well. Wouldn’t you?
Onwards, then. Step one is the crumble topping. A fairly standard combination of diced butter rubbed into flour, then combined with demerara sugar and chopped hazelnuts. I ended up having to add more flour than instructed (the first attempt was far too sticky), but otherwise, this went well.
I’d forgotten to buy hazelnuts, but happily found an ancient bag of them in the back of my cupboard. The best before date was July 2011, but on balance, I decided I was unlikely to contract E.coli from a hazelnut, and forged ahead anyway.
Step two is the toffee. Making toffee sauce is the most happy-making thing on the planet, I sometimes think. The ingredients are joyous: golden syrup, cream, butter, vanilla essence, sugar. You throw them all in and then gently simmer for a few minutes. It smells like ambrosia itself. Toffee sauce completed.
Step three is the filling. Peel and chop four large pears, fry in more butter for a short while and then add the toffee sauce. Once I’d done this, the pears had juiced up so much that the mixture was quite watery, but I assumed it would reduce in the oven (and so it did).
The pear mixture goes in the bottom of the dish, and the crumble on top. After twenty minutes or so in the oven, it’s done.
(Is it me, or does it look a bit like sick? It’s hard to make crumble look good in a photograph. It was much more appealing in real life, honest.)
Deliciousness: It was lovely. LOVELY. But it didn’t taste much of toffee. The pears overpowered it. More toffee sauce is required, I think. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to include more hazelnuts than the specified two tablespoons. You couldn’t taste those either, though maybe that’s because mine had gone off.
Complexity: Very easy. Pears are a bit gross when you peel and chop them, but at least they don’t need coring.
Washing-up pile: A very reasonable five.
Casualties: Major hand-cramp from rubbing butter into flour. Is there a machine that would do this for you? I’d buy one.
Hey, remember when I used to make cake? Me too. And then I got all huge and spent my weekends hunting down pushchairs in the wilds of North London and then I had a baby, so the cake took a back seat. Well, it turns out that my little boy is really good at sleeping through electric mixers, so I’m sure I can juggle baking AND changing nappies (though not at the same time, because that stuff is nasty).
Anyway, my foray back into flours and sugars yesterday took the form of a fatless Victoria sponge. Fatless, you say? Yes: there’s no butter. The cake rises using the air you’ve whisked into egg whites. I would like to think that this turns the cake into health food. If you ignore the amount of whipped cream you put in it later.
You start with sieving plain flour, cornflour and baking powder together, then, in a separate bowl, separating four eggs and whisking the whites until stiff. Every recipe I’ve ever come across brings out this old chestnut about egg whites being ‘stiff’, and no one has ever specified exactly what they mean. So I take a guess: generally I keep going until the egg is clinging to the whisk like this:
You add caster sugar to the egg whites, then pour in the whisked egg yolks, then whisk a bit more, then fold in the flour mixture. I wasn’t sure how long you were supposed to keep whisking at this point, either, so left it when the mixture dripped smoothly off the whisk like this:
Mostly because my arm was hurting.
That’s about it, as far as the preparation goes: the whole thing is divided between two 8-inch cake tins (I had to use 7-inch tins, because that’s what I’ve got) and they go into the oven for 20 minutes.
Once out, the sponges are a strange, delicate, bubbly texture. They don’t have the same elasticity as a regular sponge, which unfortunately meant they came out in a cone shape, to match the slightly sloping edges of my tins. Use tins with straight edges, if you’ve got them. But lightness is to be encouraged when my previous sponge efforts have been dense enough to use as a Grade-A weapon.
Strawberries, cream and jam are all things that make me exceedingly happy, especially in combination, so I took the construction of the Victoria sponge very seriously. First, cake no. 1 went face-down onto the plate. Then I spread the jam carefully on the top. The sponges are so light that a little ham-fisted spreading could ruin everything, so I stirred the jam vigorously first to make it more movable.
Then I whisked the cream. I always, always accidentally over-whisk cream, and yesterday was no exception. I had to blob it on top of the jam with a spatula, and then spread it out as delicately as possible.
Then came the strawberries. You need about five or six.
And finally, because you can never have too much jam in a given situation, I drizzled some more on top (having heated it up a bit in the microwave).
You almost don’t need another cake on top of this, especially when it’s an odd, lopsided shape and doesn’t fit properly, but since I’d made one, and all, I decided to use it. A bit of icing sugar on the top completed the task.
And there we have it. Clearly, this cake will not be winning any Best in Show prizes. It looks like a wonky spinning top. But – and this is the important part – YUM. The sponge is light and feathery, and the filling is enough to make one weep with joy.
Deliciousness: Lovely, lovely, loveliness. Never mind that it’s not summer anymore. You can never go wrong with a bit of cream and jam.
Complexity: I need to work on appearances (or possibly just buy some different cake tins). But if you can make this with a sleeping four-week-old in the background, you can make it anywhere. It’s not hard.
Washing-up pile: Ten items. I’ll do them tomorrow, honest.
Casualties: Arm-ache from propping up the electric mixer. Wimp.
Look, I know we’ve had torrential rain today. Don’t let that dampen your holiday spirit. With a UV lamp, a summery dessert and a sandpit to rest your feet in – or a handy cat litter tray – you can work all kinds of magic.
Here’s the summery dessert you’re looking for, courtesy of the frankly amazing Cheeky Kitchen: Plump and Perfect Berry Tart. It is fruity, yummy and looks all kinds of impressive. Best of all, it’s so easy that even kitchen dunces like myself can put it together in half an hour. I had to take twice as many step-by-step photos this week, just to get this post beyond two paragraphs.
So, here we go. Start with ready-rolled puff pastry (you can buy the stuff you roll out yourself, of course, but since you need to end up with two identical rectangles, you might’s well let a machine do the rolling for you). My box unexpectedly contained only one sheet of pastry, so I cut it in half. Then flour or grease a baking tray and lay the rectangles one on top of the other on the tray. That goes in the oven by itself for about 15 minutes. I brushed mine with milk first, because I never pass up an opportunity to use a pastry brush.
Once the pastry was out of the oven, I couldn’t help noticing that it was approximately twice the height of the tart in the photograph. I’d have a job balancing fruit on top of that, so I did a bit of cautious prodding to let the air out, until the pastry had reduced in size enough to go at it with a rolling pin.
You roll down the centre to create a little pastry well. Don’t be alarmed if you’re surrounded by little flying pieces of puff pastry dust at this point; just don’t roll too enthusiastically.
On goes the yoghurt. The recipe calls for vanilla flavoured Greek yoghurt, mixed with a vanilla bean. I used just plain Greek yoghurt, mostly because – I confess – the natural stuff is cheaper, plus I hadn’t the first clue where to find a vanilla bean in Tesco (do they come in ones? How large are they? How would you scan one at the till? A mystery).
Then comes the fruit. I stuck to the suggested kiwi fruit, raspberries and blackberries, because the latter two are in season at the moment and are on sale. You could use whatever fruit you prefer, of course. At the moment, I’d stick to the berries: it’s been a good year for berry-growing, and they’re HUGE. I did have a small crisis when I got out my two kiwi fruit and suddenly realised I hadn’t the faintest idea what to do with them. We’ve never eaten them at home before. The last time I had this kind of existential dilemma, I was faced with chopping up a leek and couldn’t remember which bits you actually eat (don’t judge me).
Google to the rescue.
Turns out you chop off the ends, peel and then dice. It’s ok for the middle bits to stay in. Isn’t it amazing what helpful people have put on the internet?
Finally, microwave some clear honey for a few seconds, and drizzle over as you wish. Because I’d used unsweetened yoghurt, I ended up using quite a lot of honey. But if you’d gone for vanilla yoghurt, you probably wouldn’t need very much.
And there it is.
Doesn’t that look fabulous? You chop it up with a pizza slicer too, which makes any dessert worth having, in my book.
Deliciousness: The combination of fruit, pastry, yoghurt and honey is wonderful. Depending on the types of fruit and yoghurt you’ve used, you may need to sweeten to a greater or lesser extent. But you could always have honey on the table, so people could help themselves. Or eat it with icecream.
Complexity: A great deal easier than pie. It’s done in thirty minutes or less, even if you’re the kind of idiot who doesn’t know how to chop up a kiwi fruit.
Washing-up pile: A baking tray, a rolling pin, and a few spoons. A cinch.
Casualties: None. I didn’t even add to my burn collection. A winner!
Now is a very good time for raspberries.
I haven’t had much in the way of pregnancy cravings – tinned tomatoes have been the worst of it, and thankfully they don’t tend to end up in desserts – but this week, raspberries became the beaded scarlet berries of the gods themselves, and I could not eat enough of them. Hence, when it came to weekend baking, I went straight to the ‘r’ section of all of my cookbooks.
I chose, in the end, the erroneously named raspberry cupcakes, a recipe I inherited from a friend after falling in love with the pale, fruity little cakes she brought in one Monday morning. They’re erroneously named because, according to my own hazy cakery classification system, they’re not really cupcakes. No swirly frosting, no nicely rounded top. Perhaps they’re technically closer to muffins, although in deference to my native Northern tongue, I’d just call them buns.
Whatever they are, they’re not hard to put together. The surprising element of this recipe is the entire carton of full-fat cream cheese you put in at the beginning, along with caster sugar, vanilla essence, eggs, milk and flour. You’re supposed to cream all of the ingredients together with an electric mixer. I was so delighted at actually owning the suggested kitchen appliance in the recipe for once (albeit a little handheld version, not a freestanding mixer) that I enjoyed the preparation even more than usual.
Once all the ingredients are incorporated, you end up with a thick, creamy-coloured mixture that sticks to the whisk and looks a bit like vanilla custard.
Then in goes four tablespoons of raspberry jam, plus as many fresh raspberries as your little heart desires.
Pleasingly, the recipe asks you to fill up your cupcake cases using an ice cream scoop (why? They don’t specify, but it does work well), then they go in the oven for 25 minutes or so. A bit of sieved icing sugar on the top finishes them off nicely, though as usual I miscalculated the size of my sieve and drowned my cupcakes in clouds of white powder before I could stop myself.
The cupcakes come out pale and flat-topped, speckled with red and sunken in places where the raspberries have been. The cream cheese is the stroke of genius here: it gives the cakes a dense, squishy texture and a smooth taste that’s nicely distinct from your average sponge. Every now and again you come across an explosion of fruit in the middle – the explosion being literal if you’re too greedy to wait till they’re cold, as we were – which was so lovely I wished I’d put in even more raspberries.
The downside is that they’re not especially pretty: a world away from the buttercream-covered masterpieces you see at weddings, and not likely to produce a gasp of admiration when you unveil them at a dinner party. But that sort of thing matters less when they taste good enough to eat ten at a sitting. Honest.
Deliciousness: Not only is the cake itself very moreish, the amount of fruit in each cupcake surely makes these healthy. A bonus.
Complexity: Not hard at all, if you’ve got the specified ice cream scoop.
Washing-up pile: Twelve. Quite a lot, actually.
Casualties: One burnt mouth apiece. But that was more self-inflicted than otherwise.
Once upon a time (last year), I was at a family wedding in a bright and shimmery turquoise bridesmaid dress. And much against my better judgement, I ate a squidgy lemony shortbread thing covered in icing sugar, and an ill-timed snort of laughter sent the icing sugar all down my front (I managed to brush it off in the end, only to spill a cascade of chocolate truffle down it later in the day).
It was lovely, though, the lemony thing, despite the dress disaster. There was a layer of shortbread at the bottom, and a kind of lemon curd on top – but thicker than lemon curd, more like the lemon part of a lemon meringue pie. The curd had formed a crispy shell on top, on which sat the layer of icing sugar. Delicious. So I was utterly delighted when I stumbled across a church cookbook from 2005 and found that the author of these little masterpieces had donated the recipe (dear Kathryn, I bet you didn’t think you’d be making my day six years later…).
I started with the shortbread crust. You cream together butter and sugar, but not granulated sugar: icing sugar. Have you ever done that? It makes the most delicious-looking creamy-coloured paste. Then you add a bit of salt and two cups of flour. Unfortunately I’d overestimated the amount of plain flour I had, so had to top up with self-raising. I’ve always had a horror of doing this, probably instilled in me by generations of very serious Yorkshire pudding makers – you never, never, no never make Yorkshire puddings with self-raising flour - but it was either that or trail back to Tesco without a car, so I ploughed ahead and hoped for the best (didn’t seem to make too much difference, in the end).
Once it’s all mixed in, you pat it into a lined baking tin and put it in the oven for 15 mins or so. It looks like a large, soft biscuit when it emerges.
When I say ‘lined baking tin’, by the way, I really do mean lined in every direction with paper overhanging the sides of the tin. Otherwise terribly stressful times will follow. As you will see.
In the meantime, you’ve been diligently preparing the topping. This is comprised of four eggs, a fair bit of sugar, a little bit of flour (self-raising again, ulp), baking powder (which technically, given the flour, I didn’t need, but felt too nervous to leave out) and the rind and juice of a lemon. When the shortbread emerges, all soft and golden, you pour the lemony egg mixture directly on top and put it all back in the oven again for 25 minutes.
Here’s where I came unstuck. After 25 minutes, the topping had formed a kind of light crust on top, and a bit of exploratory poking established that at least some of the lemon stuff underneath had set into a curd-like consistency. Done, I thought. I wasn’t sure how best to get the thing out – curse my inadequate tin lining – so ran a knife round the edges and lifted the tin onto one end. And then the crust broke open like a fault line, and boiling, lemony lava came surging out onto my hand and all over the oven top. One third-degree burn and quite a lot of sticky mess later, I decided it probably wasn’t done yet, and put it back in the oven after patching it up the best I could (the burn wasn’t that bad. But it hurt). It took a good ten minutes more before I established – with extremely vigorous poking - that there was no liquid left anywhere on the top. Idiot.
It didn’t look good, after all this trauma. Frankly, it looked like a giant rectangular wart in a baking tin. I covered it in icing sugar, which disguised it somewhat, but after brutally hacking it out of the tin piece-by-piece, it certainly wasn’t worthy to soil a bridesmaid dress.
Thankfully, the tale has a happy ending, because these things are AMAZING. The shortbread is soft and doughy, the curd is squishy and delicious, and the icing sugar offsets the tartness of the lemon. After eating about four each and holding my hand in cold water for a bit, we definitely lived happily ever after.
Deliciousness: Yum. That is all. Just yum.
Complexity: The mixing and construction wasn’t hard. Presentation remains a mystery to be solved, as does the question of Is It Done, Or Just Done Enough To Cover The Oven With Lemon Gunk?
Washing-up pile: Eight items. Not bad.
Casualties: Another burn on my fingers. The last one scarred, so I suppose my dreams of being a hand model have been dashed for good. (PS: it was worth it.)
Sometimes, and let me tell you, those times include when you have a hard little baby head pushing out of your abdomen like an extremely hurty alien, you bake for comfort. And to my mind, baking apples is one of the most comforting smells in the world. Off I hobbled to look through the recipe book shelf, and my BBC Good Food Teatime Treats book kindly obliged with this: a Dorset apple tray bake, looking all sugary and densely delicious. Perfect.
I should qualify that while baking apples may be comforting, weighing, peeling, coring and thinly slicing 450g of apples is much less enjoyable. I always consider the French to be le Kings of thinly sliced apples, and had a renewed appreciation for all their tartes aux pommes once I’d scraped my knuckles, bent back several nails, and sprayed juice absolutely everywhere, including in my eye. (If anyone knows how to use an apple corer without inflicting personal injury, I’d be interested to hear about it.) Still, we got there in the end. The recipe calls for Bramleys, by the way, but I always find those too tart, so I used the Golden Delicious we already had in the house. Also, 450g makes FAR too many apple slices for one cake. We froze the remainder (always useful to have the option for an Emergency Apple Crumble, I think) but if you only have 3 apples in the house instead of 4, you’ve got plenty.
Once all the peeling and slicing was out of the way, I put the apples aside with a squeeze of lemon juice and got on with the cake. Nothing difficult here – it’s an unusually eggy mixture, which I think is intended to make the finished product more puddingy. There’s a lot of flour too, which made the cake mix extremely stiff, and hard to spread into the tin. But spread you must: in goes a layer of cake mix, then a layer of apples, then another layer of cake mix and one more of apples to finish.
Oddly, this recipe does not call for cinnamon. I am so unable to think of apples without cinnamon that I sprinkled some on each layer anyway, and felt terribly daring when I did it. Take that, BBC! You’re not the boss of me.
(The Other Half was delighted when there was some cake mix left over too – I didn’t quite have the right sized tin – and composed an appley cinnamon blob of his own devising. It wasn’t half bad, actually.)
Anyway, after 45 minutes in the oven the cake has more peaks and valleys than a moonscape, but tastes wonderful. Something about the regularity of the sliced apples on the top is very pleasing, too. The BBC recommends serving it warm with clotted cream or vanilla ice cream, and I would whole-heartedly agree (I put the leftovers in the fridge and I think they’ve suffered a little for it – it’s much denser and harder to eat cold – so I’d store it in a cake tin instead). I curled up in a corner under a blanket and ate Quite a Lot, and felt much better.
Deliciousness: Top marks. Smells divine, too, which was really what I was after.
Complexity: If you can stand slicing all those apples, the rest of it isn’t difficult. The construction is therapeutic without being too fiddly.
Washing-up pile: Twelve: quite a lot of apple slicing paraphernalia, plus the usual mixing bowls and wooden spoons.
Casualties: Bent nails, scraped fingers and general appley displeasure. Next time I’ll hire a Frenchman for that part.
Another afternoon-tea kind of post – which is ironic, considering that, as a good northerner, I still consider ‘tea’ to be the meal you have at 6pm, usually involving potatoes and gravy. Still, I’m quite happy to adopt any custom that includes additional consumption of cake, so have embraced afternoon tea with gusto.
This week, Granny came for tea – not the potatoes and gravy kind – which was a good excuse to have another crack at the Best Carrot Cake Ever. I made this at the very earliest beginnings of my forays in the kitchen, and hideously undercooked it. I couldn’t quite believe that any cake would need an hour and a quarter in the oven, so only put it in for 40 minutes (I know this because I made myself some optimistic notes, which have now been scribbled out). Several banana breads later, I’m a little wiser: fruit and veg stuff always seems to need an age to cook.
But not quite as long, seemingly, as I gave this second-time-unlucky carrot cake – because this time, I slightly overcooked it. The preparation went well, at least. Grating the carrots is a long and wrist-hurting job, but once that’s done the rest is just mixing. The ingredients are unusual: no eggs and no milk for a start. Raisins, brown sugar and olive oil are added to the carrots – and let me tell you, the brown puddly mess this makes looks like nothing so much as some sort of Satanic dog food.
Then flour, baking powder, maple syrup and orange juice thankfully return the mixture to an edible-looking state. It’s bright orange and raisiny, and, thanks to the syrup and orange juice, smells delicious. Put it all in a tin (I went for a loaf tin, but any shape would do) and it’s ready for the oven.
The recipe calls for lemon icing to go on top. My attempts at lemon icing have all tasted far too lemony to me – I seem to lose the icing sugar entirely somewhere in the mixing – but perhaps that’s what it’s supposed to be like. It went well with the spices in this cake, I think, but it would overpower something blander-tasting like sponge cake. I certainly wouldn’t be able to eat it on its own. Not that this stopped the Other Half, who enthusiastically spread the remainder on toast before I could stop him (‘Wow!’ he exclaimed from the kitchen, ‘Every bite of this is like a citrus blast to the face!’).
Out of the oven, the cake proved drier than I would’ve liked: it should be moist and crumbly, like ginger cake, and it was more like bread in texture. I reckon fifteen minutes less in the oven would’ve done it (clearly I need to make more notes on the recipe). The taste, though, is very moreish – fruity and sharp. Based on our extensive too-dry-cake experience, warming up a slice before eating it should improve it a hundred-fold.
Deliciousness: The taste was good, but the texture was wrong. Carrot cake 0, over-enthusiastic fan oven 1. I’d make it again, though.
Complexity: Apart from the mystery of the cooking time, it wasn’t at all hard.
Washing-up pile: Five larger items, plus utensils.
Casualties: Several grated fingers. Grating carrots is hard…
I am a huge and heartfelt fan of the digestive biscuit. Bill Bryson once said that the chocolate variety was a British masterpiece, and while I agree that the chocolate digestive is found at the very pinnacle of our achievements as a nation, I still have a soft spot for the plain, unvarnished version. People used to think they aided digestion – hence the name – which I think probably isn’t true. But they are cheap and comforting, and they go with anything: cheese, butter, jam, hot chocolate. I expect they’d go with fish fingers if they tried hard enough. They’re amenable types.
They go with fruit tarts, too. I was initially drawn to Nigella’s Black and White Tart (How to be a Domestic Goddess) because I wanted something fruity after a weekend of very large dinners – if dessert includes one of your five-a-day, it doesn’t count – but once I realised it had a digestive biscuit base, I was sold. No pastry this week, to my delight. My hands were starting to go into spasm from all that rubbing butter into flour.
Nigella recommends blitzing the digestives in a food processor. Out of sheer laziness, I decided to follow her advice, though I knew quite well that I only have a miniature blender which jams shut when you try blending anything larger than, say, a pea. However, I broke the biscuits into pieces myself first and crushed them from there, which worked well enough. You add melted butter to the biscuit-sand and then smoosh it into the bottom of your pie dish. The middle of the tart is mascarpone cheese, sugar, whisked egg white, yolk and a bit of lemon juice. Mascarpone tastes a bit nothingy on its own, I discovered, but altogether the creamy filling is delicious, and offers to lick the spatula clean afterwards were enthusiastically taken up. Blackcurrants and whitecurrants were supposed to go on top, but I decided to play it safe and got raspberries instead (they were on offer in Tesco). Any old berry would do, of course. Pick your favourite and run with it.
A quick and easy assemblage, then, and nothing that you’d call actual cooking. I am still wary about the uncooked egg lurking in the cream but none of us have yet been stricken with salmonella, and hopefully it will stay that way. The real difficulty came, though, at 6am this morning, when I woke up to the realisation that I’d made the tart in the same dish I needed for lunch. Curse my tiny, crammed cupboards – I can only have one of everything! Thus it was that the Other Half and I found ourselves squinting blearily at the pie dish in pajamas, with a spatula in each hand. The extraction was not really what you’d call an unqualified success, and we ended up bringing the tart to the table in several pieces. Still, presentation’s not everything. I hope.
Deliciousness: Excellent. The semi-sweet biscuit, the smooth cream and the sharp-tasting berries made a lovely combination. And I confidently expect to dispatch my large slice with ease, thanks to the digestives.
Complexity: A ludicrously easy recipe. The ingredients were a little on the expensive side: I needed two pots of mascarpone, and berries of any kind are quite pricey. Worth it, though.
Washing-up pile: Twelve items, one of which was the biscuity blender. A bit of a slog.
Casualties: Our concentration spans, after the unexpected very-early-morning spatula session.