Hazelnut and Pumpkin Tart

As I write this, I am sitting here grabbing a little slice of Winter sun. Inside, beside a window. It may not be the great outdoors, but it’s something. And sitting in the sun is making me think that a picnic would be a good idea. And whilst there is nothing like a picnic somewhere verdant and lush, either just in the backyard or out somewhere adventuring, on a day like today I think the blanket might just blow away. So let’s have an indoor picnic instead, and dream of a new day in Spring, with some flowers out and some birds singing, and just soak up a little bit more of that sun.

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This tart is earthy and sweet and gluten free. The base is crumbly, but deliciously so. Don’t skimp on the fetta, rocket or the dukkah, together they make for a perfect picnic combination of flavour and texture; smooth and sweet pumpkin alongside creamy, tangy fetta, a little spice from the dukkah and freshness from the rocket. Best enjoyed with friends.

Hazelnut and Pumpkin Tart

20cm loose bottomed tart tin, greased with butter

For the filling:

  • 600g pumpkin, sliced into wedges and roasted until tender
  • 3 tablespoons of dukkah for sprinkling
  • 150g ricotta
  • 4 beautiful, organic, free range eggs

For the hazelnut crust:

  • 75g butter, cold and cubed
  • 65g brown rice flour
  • 45g hazelnut meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour or cornflour
  • a sprinkling of cold water
  • a pinch of good quality salt

Combine the rice flour, salt and hazelnut meal in a bowl. Add your butter, and use your hands to crumble it all together, until things are looking a little lumpy and pretty well mixed. Sprinkle in some cold water, and give a light knead until a dough forms. You should need around 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins to firm up a bit.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

Once the dough has had a rest, use your hands to press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a well greased tart tin. Yes, no rolling pins required!

In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta and eggs until smooth, along with a good pinch of salt and a crack of pepper.

Pour the ricotta, egg mixture into the tart shell, then place the roasted pumpkin pieces on top. Sprinke with the dukkah, then place in the oven to bake for around 35-40 minutes. It will be ready when the sides of the tart will have puffed and it is slightly golden all over.

This tart is delicious hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Bring it to the table or the picnic rug and top with a handful of wild rocket and a crumbling of goat’s fetta. The base will be delicious and a bit crisp and crumbly, just mop it all up with your fingers and enjoy.

Photos by the amazing Sarah of Love Katie and Sarah

Persimmon and Maple Spice Cake

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There is a lot to be said for whimsy. Of whimsy, I am a rather large fan.

I have just looked up the definition of the word whimsy in the dictionary and, oh dear, I fear poor whimsy may be very misunderstood! Ye olde dictionary wants to paint it in a conceited light, like it is a good for nothing, flippant little urge which will, quite frankly, get you into trouble.

But hark! What about those serendipitous ideas that strike you, and you follow them just because? Are they not a precious moment of whim? Is this, in fact, not exactly what life should be about, living in the moment and all such things?

I believe whimsy and inspiration are very good friends, maybe even cousins, and they should be grabbed by the hand and danced around with whenever they turn up at your door.

Here I go, speaking in a grand and whimsical fashion, I hope you won’t all mind.

So what on earth does all of this have to do with persimmon cake? Well, it is because I like to get swept up in the idea of things that a cake like this was born. I had started to spy some persimmons around and having grown up with a large persimmon tree in the backyard, the whimsy of my memory took me by the hand and loaded up my basket to the brim. We grew the astringent variety, which must get very soft before you eat it, unless you like having your mouth turned inside out and dusted with chalk. But, in my new home town, you can buy both the soft and the firm varieties, even more fun.

Hoping to pass on some of my fond childhood memories to the littlies, I have planted a tree of each variety in our yard, but I’m getting in early and trying to introduce the love of persimmon by slipping some crunchy slices into a lunch box here, making a yummy persimmon, avocado and sesame salad there, and baking some into a cake. By the time our trees are producing their own, I hope to have two fellow persimmon (and whimsy) advocates standing at my hip.

My husband says this cake reminds him of Pfeffernusse – those delicious German spice biscuits with the crunchy white tops… I guess it has that same gentle spicing but with the aroma of persimmon. Total afternoon tea material, just add a nice cup of tea.

Persimmon and Maple Spice Cake

adapted from Desserts for Breakfast, who adapted from Tartine

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  • Pulp from 3 very soft persimmons (around 300g)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 150g sugar
  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 250ml grapeseed oil
  • 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt tin and set aside.

Puree the pulp from your persimmons (discarding any skin or seeds) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, salt and spices and give a little whisk.

In another bowl, whisk the persimmon puree, oil, sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until they are homogenous. Add in your eggs one at a time, whisking each one in well before adding the next. Now gently mix through the flour mixture until just combined.

Pour the cake mixture into your prepared bundt tin and bake for 50 or so minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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I served my cake for afternoon tea with dollops of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, and just for a bit more persimmon love, some wedges of the firm variety.

Big thank you my super talented friend Sarah who took these lovely photos xx

Smells like home… apple spice cake

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It’s been pretty Wintery here this past week, so when I was asked to do some baking for a morning tea, I was thinking of sweet spices and dreamy baking aromas to make the house feel warm and cosy. Our weekly trip to the market at Ceres presented me with some gorgeous apples, so here is an adaptation of an old favourite cake, by the amazing and iconic Stephanie Alexander, an Australian pioneer in good food and growing your own. It’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve, as it’s made in the food processor, so is really quick and easy to slam together. And the smells coming from your kitchen will be divine.

As I was turning this one out of the tin, I dropped it onto the cooling rack (hence, it looks a bit worse for wear in the photos!). Oh well, when life gives you lemons… as the saying goes, so the kidlets and I enjoyed a sneaky piece from the cracked section while it was still warm for afternoon tea. I then did some deft cake cutting and presented only the clean cut pieces. Lemonade made, indeed.

Apple Spice Cake

adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Rhubarb and Cinnamon Cake, from The Cook’s Companion

  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 300g plain flour
  • 380g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 2 apples, one grated and one finely sliced
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • sprinkling of demerera sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 24cm springform tin with 20g of the butter, then dust tin with a little of the flour. In a food processor, cream remaining butter with sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Sift remaining flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a bowl, then add to food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the mascarpone and natural yoghurt, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in the grated apple.

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Scrape into prepared tin and arrange apple slices on top. Squeeze over the half a lemon, and sprinkle with demerera or sugar crystals. Bake for 60 or so minutes, mine only took 55, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Serve warm (delicious) or cold (I was told it was delicious then too!)

A little note about this recipe, the original recipe suggests 1 cup of sour cream or creme fraiche, I just happened to have 1/2  a cup of beautiful organic mascarpone that needed a home, hence my mascarpone and natural yoghurt substitution. I have also used only yoghurt on occasion, so any creamy dairy based goodness should work out beautifully.

Happy days xx