Pear Tart Tatin

You will notice a theme in the coming weeks of comfort and joyful foods that will hopefully brighten your day (as well as mine when I develop and make them) and help us through this darkest of Januarys.
I still find it mind boggling that only a year ago we had no idea what the last year would bring and our lives would turn out so differently. We’ve been lucky with work carrying on from home and schools doing a fantastic job of offering great education from home, but I know it hasn’t been so easy for many many others. People getting seriously ill, losing jobs, struggling with their mental health and opportunities disappearing out the window. It’s just all so sad; i don’t notice on a normal day but then you go into town and see everything shut and it dawns on you that the world is a different place to a few short months ago. Like everyone, I do so hope things get better and we can return to some kind of normality soon.

But in the meantime, what we need is serious comfort food; a great big hug on a plate! Surely a Tart Tatin, with it’s crisp and flaky base topped with delicious caramel and juicy fruit must be the epitome of feel good food.

I think people presume a Tart Tatin is difficult to make but it’s so easy and you only need a few ingredients to make a delicious drool-worthy tart. Apparently created by a happy mistake, the beauty of a good tart Tatin is that a little bit of scruffiness only adds to the appeal. A normal Tart Tatin is laden with butter but you really wouldn’t notice the difference with my friendly version.

Pear Tart Tatin

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 4-6

100g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 pears, peeled , cored and cut into 12 wedges each

1/2 pack dairy-free puff pastry (about 250g)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  2. Roll out the pastry and cut out a circle a little bigger than the top of the pan you’re going to use.
  3. Place an oven-proof pan (if you have one) on a medium heat. Add the sugar and let is dissolve until it forms a light golden caramel. Carefully add the margarine and cinnamon (it will splatter a bit) and swirl to combine. Add the pear slices and turn over in the caramel so they are nicely coated.
  4. Either pour into an oven proof dish or use the one you made the caramel in. Neatly arrange the pear slices and let cool for a few minutes
  5. Place the pastry circle on top and tuck the edges in
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and is golden all over
  7. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then place a plate on top of the pan and quickly invert the dish.
  8. Serve wedges with ice cream or dairy-free pouring cream

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecake of the diary-free variety is the most popular pudding in this household. It has even been requested instead of a birthday cake, which is quite some praise! We’ve always preferred Tofutti as the cream cheese substitute due to the smooth creamy texture and mild flavour. So many dairy-free cream cheeses seem to want to make their product ‘cheesy’ tasting which is (in my opinion) neither authentic nor nice. A conventional cream cheese has a mild, creamy and smooth nature which is not happily replaced by an overly cheesy tasting grainy affair! As you can tell, we’re quite particular about cream cheese substitutes, but that is only because so many of them are frankly awful. Sadly Tofutti is no longer available in the UK – when I last contacted them they were looking for a new distributor but it seems that it is another thing that’s Covid has got in the way of. I still do Tofutti google searches almost weekly but to no avail 😦

So needs must and we have had to make do with Violife which is probably the next best choice after Tofutti (although using it in a bagel like we did with Tofutti is maybe best avoided!).

I have made a delicious Ottolenghi white chocolate and honey cheesecake a few times and have really wanted to make the recipe ‘friendly’. In fact, the addition of white chocolate not only tempers any cheesiness but also gives a fantastic set cheesecake texture. All in all the combination of white chocolate and tart yogurt with the dairy-free cream cheese gives a wonderful finish and I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a go.

It may be January and the time for resolutions and health, but everything is so grim and bleak right now that a celebratory decadent white chocolate cheesecake is just the ticket! I’ve served mine with homemade blueberry compote but a drizzle of honey, or any fruity sauce would make a wonderful finishing touch.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 6-8

125g ginger or biscoff biscuits, crushed

40g dairy-free margarine, melted

170g dairy-free cream cheese

50g dairy-free greek style yogurt

20g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1/2 a lemon

100g dairy-free white chocolate, melted

  1. Mix the melted margarine with the crushed biscuits and press into the base of a spring-form tin. Place in the fridge to firm up
  2. Whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt, icing sugar and zest until totally smooth
  3. Stir in the melted white chocolate until fully combined
  4. Pour over the biscuit base and level off. Place in the fridge for a least an hour to set
  5. Remove the tin and serve in slices drizzled with fruit compote, sauce or a honey

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

I’ve seen a lot of tempting bakes using candy canes this winter. There’s something about the eye catching red and white stripes that really sand out and make these bakes look all the more tempting.

I initially had visions of rolling chocolate truffles in crushed up candy canes but sadly the canes were a bit too soft and sticky once crushed and it didn’t work out. Then this idea popped into my mind – dark, cocoa rich cookies dipped in snowy white chocolate and then sprinkled with the crushed up candy canes. It turns out that it was a great idea – the flavours really work – bitter, sweet, smooth with crunchy bits that have a hint of peppermint. A bit like an after eight mint in cookie form! These could now be one of my favourite festive after dinner treats. 

For those who are less keen on a minty flavour profile, then these work just as well as simple white chocolate dipped chocolate cookies and decorated with some pretty sprinkles.

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

makes 15-20

  • 115g or 1 cup of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsps cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 55g or 1/4 cup hard vegetable fat 
  • 55g or 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine 
  • 100g or 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 30g dairy-free white chocolate
  • 1-2 candy canes, crushed and/or Christmas themed decorations
  1.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, cornflour, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, small rectangles work well.
  5. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes
  6. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  7. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie and half dip each cookie into the melted chocolate
  8. Place back onto the lined baking sheet, sprinkle with decorations or crushed up candy canes and leave to set

Pepparkakor – Swedish Ginger Thins

I always love a cooking challenge and so was happy to be asked for a Pepparkakor recipe. These Swedish Ginger thins are a Scandinavian Christmas must have and rightly deserve a place on my site.

I’ve only had the Anna brand ones, those very thin crisp flower shapes biscuits often found in health food shops. They always make me think fondly of my step-Grandmother who would always buy Anna’s Ginger thins and a variety of dried fruit for my girls to graze on when they were tiny. She was always very kind to me and made such an effort to cater for us, despite the dietary challenges.

These pepparkakor are a little less thin and crisp and not so dark in colour as I only had syrup available rather than the syrup and treacle required. But the spice is spot on and they make a lovely addition to the Christmas spread.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Thins)

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 16-20

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

50g caster sugar

40g soft-brown sugar

50g golden syrup (or ideally 25g treacle and 25g syrup)

35ml water

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugar and spices.
  2. Melt the syrup (or syrup and treacle) into the water
  3. Add the syrup mix and flour, bicarb and salt to the creamed margarine and mix to a soft dough.
  4. wrap and rest for a couple of hours in the fridge
  5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  6. Roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and stamp out festive shapes.
  7. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. These are best iced but if you don’t have time (like me) a little dusting of icing sugar is nice too 🙂

Mini Panettone

These days panettone is a big part of Christmas. Every food shop seems to have a huge pile of beautifully packed panettone flown straight from Italy. Since I started making homemade friendly panettone it has also become a family tradition for us.

This year I’ve decided to make mini panettone. After all, what could be more temping and cute than a perfect individual panettone?

This version is chocolate chip as I know that’s the flavour combination that’ll be devoured in this house, but you could easily swap the chocolate for dried fruit or mixed peel for a more traditional vibe.

If you can find proper mini-panettone cases to place in empty tin cans or panettone moulds, then you are luckier than me! I used the tulip type muffin liners placed in a deep muffin tin, which did a pretty good job.

Did you notice the mistletoe and the tag in the photos? Every year we and our neighbours have a mistletoe fairy who mysteriously leaves mistletoe with a tag in our letterboxes. We don’t know who it is, but it’s a lovely festive treat 🙂

Mini Panettone

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6

250g plain flour

30g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp yeast

1/4 tsp salt

100ml dairy-free milk, warmed to body temperature

25g cup dairy-free margarine, melted

Zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine

30g cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  2. Stir in the sugar, yeast and salt.
  3. Pour in the warm milk, margarine and zests and bring together to form a smooth and elastic dough.
  4. Knead in the chocolate until they are evenly distributed
  5. Leave in a warm place to double in size.
  6. Knock back and form into a smooth ball. Cut into 4 equal pieces, approximately 75g each
  7. Place in a lined muffin tins.
  8. Leave to rise again until it they’ve grown a lot. An hour in a warm place should be adequate
  9. Brush the top with oat milk and sprinkle with a pearl or chouquette sugar. (if you can’t find that use demerara)
  10. Place in a preheated oven and bake at 180 degrees centigrade fan/190 degrees centigrade non-fan/gas mark 5 for 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through (it will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.)
  11. Cool

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pâte de Fruits (Fruit Jellies)

I’ve always loved to make homemade sweets, and as pate de fruits are such an essential part of Christmas (especially for the French side of the family) these homemade fruit jellies are the perfect addition to my 12 days of Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with pate de fruits they’re a fruity jelly sweet, like a soft fruit pastille, covered in sugar. Made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin they’re naturally vegetarian and allergy friendly despite being not particularly healthy. But then again it’s Christmas and it’s time for luxury and indulgence.

Making homemade sweets seems like the height of luxury and difficult techniques, but these are super simple and you end up with some beautiful 100% natural pure fruit pastilles. One batch makes enough for well over 50 jellies, making it easy to have some for our Christmas treats as well as an addition to my homemade hampers. As long as they’re kept in an airtight container they will keep for months.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book on preserving by Pam the Jam. I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out if you enjoy delicious and exciting preserving. I’ve chosen a combination of pomegranate and grenadine as it felt suitably festive and packs a punch of flavour, but you can easily swap any juice you’d like.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pate de Fruits

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 50-100 jellies

500ml pure pomegranate juice

juice of 1 lime

3 tbsp grenadine

450g granulated sugar

15g pectin

75g glucose syrup

1 tsp flavourless oil

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment
  2. Pour the juices and syrup into a deep saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin powder into half of the sugar. Sprinkle over the juice and stir, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the glucose syrup and oil. Let the sugar dissolve. Then bring to a rolling boil.
  5. You want the temperature to reach 108 degrees Centigrade. This will take 10-15 minutes and you will notice the bubbles changing as the mixture heats. Be sure to scrape down the sides whilst the mixture is bubbling.
  6. As soon as it reached 108 degrees Centigrade, take the pan off the heat and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Leave to cool, then cover with baking parchment. Once fully cold and set cut into pretty shapes. Squares or triangles are the most efficient but I like using mini cookie cutters to stamp out little shapes.
  8. Roll each shape in caster sugar and then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.