Lemon Tart

A simple delicious lemon tart. A classic recipe that’s pretty easy to make. You could buy pastry but you will benefit from making your own sweet shortcrust pastry. And, you can feel a bit sanctimonious when your guests ask….
The pastry uses egg rather than water. This means the pastry shrinks less when baked blind.
You will need a tart dish, with a removable base, and about 22-24cm in diameter.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar to sweeten the pastry
  • 100g chilled butter in cubes
  • 1 beaten egg

Lemon Tart Filling

  • 3 eggs
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, which you can later juice below
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 3 medium lemons, juice only
  • 1 medium orange, juice only, For juicy larger oranges just add half the orange juice.

Pastry Method

  1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl
  2. Cube the butter into 1cm cubes and add to the flour
  3. Either use a food processor or a Kitchenaid, or your fingers, to rub the butter into the flour till it is like sand.
  4. Gradually add the beaten egg till the pastry just begins to come together, you don’t want to make it too wet.
  5. Work it briefly with your hands into a ball, wrap it in cling film, squash it flat, and then refrigerate to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to about 170C fan.
  7. Remove from the fridge and roll to a thin sheet between two pieces of cling film. When it is big enough to cover the tart dish use the cling film to guide the pastry into the dish.
  8. Ease the pastry into the corners by lifting the edges and feeding down into the dish, Don’t stretch the base as it will tear or later shrink. Trim around the top of the tart dish. Keep the trimmings in the fridge in case you need to patch holes later.
  9. Put some baking paper in the dish and fill with baking beans or rice to keep the base flat.
  10. Bake for about 15 minutes before removing the baking paper and beans. Leave it cooking for another 5 minutes to cook the base properly. Watch it’s not getting too dark, and turn down or remove if it is.
  11. While the case is cooking make the filling.

Filling Method

  1. Adjust your oven to 150C fan
  2. Add the eggs, sugar and lemon zest to a bowl. Whisk them for a minute till well mixed.
  3. Add the cream and juice and stir to mix
  4. If the mix is frothy you can skim off the bubbles to make it look cleaner.
  5. Place the cooked case in the oven (still in its dish), pulling the tray forward so you can fill it.
  6. Pour the filling into the case taking care not to spill over.
  7. Bake until the filling just has a gentle wobble, which should take about 20-30 minutes. Check it from 20 minutes. It continues “cooking” when you take it out, so a soft wobble will firm up.
  8. Take it out to cool.
You can dust lemon tart with icing sugar when cooled. I think it’s best served at room temperature. Serve with whatever you fancy like vanilla ice cream, lightly whipped cream, or some creme fraiche.

Scones

Simple scones are a delight fresh from the oven. I like to use buttermilk but ordinary milk will work fine.
You don’t want to work the dough too much as this develops the gluten and slows the rise. Also, don’t take too long before getting them in the oven as this also affects the rise.
When you cut the scones with a circular cutter, choose a size you prefer. The bigger it is then it can make it slower to fully cook the scone. I find about 4-5cm diameter is about right.
When cutting try not to twist the cutter. When you twist it the side of the scone gets twisted and sealed and this can hold back the rise too. This is why some scones cook leaning to one side, because that side won’t rise.

Ingredients

  • 450g plain flour (don’t use bread flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g chilled butter cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • Up to 200ml buttermilk (or plain milk)
  • Sultanas, if you like them and want fruit scones

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C fan
  2. Grease a baking sheet to place the scones on
  3. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl of a food processor
  4. Add the butter and mix, rub or whizz till the mix looks a bit like sand (or use your Kitchenaid or do it by hand)
  5. Crack the eggs into a jug and add buttermilk to bring the liquid and egg total to 300ml
  6. Gradually add the liquid to the bowl and mix till you have a sticky dough, stop adding if it gets too wet (Keep any extra liquid for glazing later.)
  7. Flour a surface and tip the dough out
  8. If using sultanas fold them into the mix at this stage
  9. Now roll or spread the dough gently till it’s about 2-2.5cm thick. I actually find it easier to use a flat hand to push the dough down till it’s the right thickness.
  10. Cut out as many scones as you can and place them on the baking sheet.
  11. Consolidate the remaining dough and re-roll and cut out the last of the scones (this second rolled set sometimes rises a little less than the first roll.)
  12. Glaze by brushing the dregs of the liquid on the top (only) of the scone
  13. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, more or less, depending on the size of your scone.
Eat warm. If they’ve sat for a few hours or overnight a few seconds in the microwave can revitalise them.

Blueberry Muffins

Making blueberry muffins is quick and easy. This recipe makes about 8-12 depending on how large you make them. They are best made on an easy morning and enjoyed still warm with a coffee. I find they are best eaten on the day they are made. If eaten later, 10-20 seconds in the microwave can revive that just cooked experience.

Ingredients

Dry

  • 280g plain flour
  • 10ml (2 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) salt
  • 110g sugar

Wet

  • 1 egg
  • 240ml milk
  • 85g butter (melted)
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) vanilla extract
Fruit
  • Up to 200g of berries (can be blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or any other soft fruit; keep some frozen and use them straight from the freezer out of season)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (180°C fan)
  2. Prepare the tray and put in 9 – 12 muffin cases. I prefer 9 larger muffins but if making for kids you may want smaller portions.
  3. The trick is keeping the wet and dry ingredients separate until the last moment. Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  4. Beat the egg and then add the wet ingredients into a different jug or bowl.
  5. Now add the wet to the dry and mix quickly with a wooden spoon. Don’t be too fussy it will look a bit lumpy and uneven – it’s fine. Just mix them briefly to wet the dry ingredients.
  6. Now add the fruit and stir in. Using frozen fruit works well as it doesn’t break up into the mix and cooks fine from frozen.
  7. Spoon into the cases and put in the oven.
  8. Should be cooked in about 20-35 minutes depending on what size they are and how much frozen fruit is in them.

Tips

Makes about 8-12 muffins blueberry muffins – lay out the tray and cases in advance of making up the mix.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in a jug. Add the wet to the dry just before you do the final mix.
Melt the butter till its just melted – don’t heat it up. I use a small warm saucepan on the cooker for this. If you microwave it then it will splatter all over the inside of your microwave.
Add the blueberries (or whatever fruit you choose) after you mix the wet and dry and just quickly stir them in – don’t break them up.
Be as quick as possible once you mix wet and dry ingredients to get them into the cases and in the oven.
To check if cooked press the top of a muffin gently with your finger – it should spring back. Or use a thin metal skewer to check there’s no uncooked gloop.

Apple Tray Bake

A nine year old harvesting apples by climbing the tree
Harvesting Apples

I always think of Apple Tray Bake as a lovely Autumn comfort treat. Basically, it is a sponge with chunks of cooking apple baked in it. The sweet warm sponge with contrasting slightly sharp apple is fabulous. We get a small glut of Bramley apples from the tree in our garden. First get a nine-year-old to climb the tree to pick the apples….

Serve this as a warm treat with your afternoon cup of tea. Or serve in portions with some warm custard on the side. Sure, you can make your own custard, but there’s not much wrong with the supermarket chilled stuff. Or, I grew up with custard made with Bird’s custard powder and until I was an adult I had no idea it could be made any other way. I loved it.

An old family recipe book.
Our old recipe book

This is one of these recipes that gets handed down. Our original version as written in our old recipe book shows its age. It’s all in ounces and tablespoons. And it uses margarine instead of butter. I grew up with pretty much all baking made with margarine but nowadays I tend to use butter. Also, I tend to use grams instead of ounces nowadays.

Times are changing. I grew up with pretty much all baking made with margarine but nowadays I tend to use butter. Also, I tend to stick to grams instead of ounces. Though I still use tablespoon and teaspoon measures. For temperatures, I use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.

Ingredients

  • 110g Butter at room temperature
  • 110g Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 220g Self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • about 300g Cooking apples
  • 80-90ml cold milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160-170C fan
  2. Look out a tray or ceramic dish. The one we use is a rectangular ceramic dish that is about 5cm deep and 25cmx17cm in size. Anything around this size will work. Lightly butter the dish.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or a mixer
  4. Peel and chop the apples. Make them about 1cm thick and about 2-3cm in size. You need chunks so they don’t disappear into the sponge in the cooking.
  5. Beat the egg into the mix
  6. Sieve the flour and salt into the mixture
  7. Mix in the milk until there is a workable sponge mix, quite thick and not too runny
  8. Add the apples and stir them through
  9. Scrape the mix into your tray.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 40-50 minutes. We test it with a skewer to check it’s cooked. It will depend on the shape and depth of your tray.

Variations

  • You could reduce the apples a bit and add some blackberries, a classic combination, and the lovely purple-red staining from the berries will make it visually interesting too
  • Vanilla, it always splits opinion, you could a teaspoonful

We let the Apple Tray Bake cool till warm in the tray and then cut it into a grid of portions (they need to be a decent size, in my opinion!) and eat some warm with a cuppa. You will want to have it later for pudding, served with your favourite custard. If you have leftovers for the following day they really benefit from 15 seconds in the microwave.

Bread – Easy and Simple To Make

Baked Bread
Baked Bread

This is my normal non-sourdough bread. I like the overnight fridge proving as it is much better for the gluten, flavour and crumb of the bread. The is quite a wet mix so is very delicate even when proved. It tends to make a flatter loaf but I find it has a good crust, crumb and flavour.

This bread is little effort in terms of time preparing or working on the dough. The elapsed time is quite long because of the slow prove (which benefits the flavour etc) so some planning is required. I like to make the dough in a mid-evening, removing from the fridge in the morning when I get up. This allows me to bake the bread by about midday.
Ingredients
  • 350g strong bread flour
  • 150g Spelt wholemeal flour
  • 10g salt
  • 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 365g about room temperature water
Method
  1. Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl keeping the salt separate from the yeast. I put the yeast in first and the salt last and this works fine.
  2. Add the water.
  3. Baked bread showing crumb
    Baked bread showing crumb

    I use a dough hook on my Kitchenaid to mix it till it’s a decent dough, this only takes about 2-3 minutes. Otherwise, mix with the fingers of one hand till it is a dough and all the dry flour has been incorporated.

  4. Leave it for about 30-60 minutes at room temperature until it has risen by about 50%. It may take longer depending on temperature. This is the autolyse and helps the gluten and flavour.
  5. Now put it in the fridge to prove for about 8-12 hours. Overnight works for me.
  6. Remove from the fridge and knock the dough back into the bowl.
  7. Leave it out for about an hour in the morning. Then shape it. Tip it onto a well-floured work surface and create the shape you want by gently handling the dough. Then place on a well-floured baking sheet or into a dusted banetton to finally rise before baking. This will take an hour if warm or probably 2-3 hours if the dough was in the fridge, depending on the room temperature.
  8. Preheat your oven to the maximum temperature, usually about 250C (fan). If using a baking stone put it in at the beginning so it gets really hot. (Or you can bake in a Le Creuset, using it as a Dutch Oven)
  9. If not using a Dutch Oven approach, boil a kettle of water and put an empty dish in the bottom of the oven. A few minutes before you put the bread in the oven fill the dish with boiling water to create a moist atmosphere in the oven.
  10. Score the bread with a razor or sharp knife as you prefer before baking. I often leave uncut as the bread is very soft.
  11. Either place the baking sheet in the hot oven or gently put the loaf from your banetton on your hot baking stone (take the stone out of the oven to do this.) Turn the oven down to about 220C (fan)
  12. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. I like to have a darker crust so I turn the oven back to the maximum temperature for the last 5-8 minutes depending on colour before removing the loaf to a cooling rack.