Cakes, tarts and fools from some of Observer Food Monthly's favourite chefs.
Thomasina Miers's gooseberry fool
Whether it's prune fool in the depths of winter, apple fool through autumn and winter or summer fruit fools in the height of summer, this nursery school creamy pudding has an eternal appeal. Our gooseberry bushes are just bearing fruit and this is what I shall be doing with them - the Pernod matches the tart flavour of gooseberries astonishingly well.
orange zest and juice 1, finely grated
Pernod 1 tbsp
vanilla pod 1, split in half down the middle
double cream 300ml, softly whipped
Melt the sugar with the water, add the gooseberries and orange zest and juice, and simmer gently for 15 minutes with the lid on and a little faster for 10 minutes with the lid off. Set aside and add the Pernod. Blend the gooseberries until they are fairly smooth. I like to keep the skin in as it has most of the gooseberry flavour and provides the fool with a bit of bite, but by all means push it through a sieve for a smoother finish.
Taste the gooseberry purée for sweetness and then fold gently into the whipped cream. Serve with some toasted flaked almonds, breadcrumbs toasted in sugar or sticks of buttery shortbread.
April Bloomfield's blueberry clafoutis with lemon verbena ice cream
Blueberries and lemon verbena make clafoutis and ice cream much lighter and perfect for the summer.
For the clafoutis
melted butter 20g
vanilla extract ½ tsp
salt ½ tsp
ground almonds 15g
For the ice cream (makes around 500ml)
whole milk 350ml
fresh lemon verbena leaves 8g
salt 1 tsp
egg yolks 3 large
creme fraiche 160g
You will also need:
kitchen thermometer, 4 x 10cm tart tins and a bowl of iced water
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Set aside 90g of blueberries. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Butter and sugar four 10cm tart tins. Put 15g of blueberries at the bottom of each prepared tin. Place the tins on a baking sheet and divide the clafoutis batter between them. Bake until puffed, brown, and just set in the centre.
To make the ice cream, scald the milk with the lemon verbena leaves, glucose and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar and add the hot milk slowly, whisking constantly, until combined. Return the mixture to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 82C. Cool down by placing the pan in the iced water immediately. Once cool, whisk in the creme fraiche. Leave to rest overnight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
To serve, unmould the clafoutis gently, and reheat them out of tins in an oven, 200C/gas mark 6. Dust with icing sugar, and place a scoop of ice cream on top.
Raymond Blanc's fig tart
You can prepare this dessert a few hours in advance. There will be enough pastry to make two tarts; freeze one portion for later use.
For the sweetcrust pastry
plain flour 250g
icing sugar 75g, plus extra to dust
sea salt a pinch
unsalted butter 120g, diced, at room temperature
organic/free-range medium egg yolks 2
cold water 1-2 tsp
For the filling
blackcurrants (fresh or frozen) 150g
semi-dried figs 150g, stalks cut off
best-quality fig jam 100g (La Confiture à l'Ancienne gave the best balance of sweet and fruit)
small fresh figs (ideally black figs from Provence) 10-12
For the glaze
best-quality fig jam 50g
You will also need
a 20cm tart ring
To make the sweet pastry, in a large bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, lightly rub it in, lifting the mixture as you do so, until it reaches a sandy texture. Create a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and water. With your fingertips, in little concentric circles, work the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture until evenly combined and clumped, then bring the dough together and press to form a ball. Do not over-mix the pastry, as this will make the dough elastic and cause it to retract during cooking. There will be enough pastry to make two tart cases. Freeze the other half for another occasion.
Break off 20-30g of dough, tightly wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for later (to tuck in the dough). Shape the remaining dough into a cylinder, cut in half and flatten each piece to a round, 2cm thick. Wrap each portion in clingfilm.
Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before rolling out (or freezing one for later use). To roll out the dough, place the rested dough in the middle of a large sheet of clingfilm, about 40cm square, and cover with another sheet of clingfilm of similar dimensions. Roll out the dough to a circle, 3mm thick.
To line the tart ring, place the tart ring on a flat tray lined with greaseproof paper. Take off the top layer of clingfilm and discard, then lift the dough by picking up the corners of the clingfilm and invert it into the tart ring, removing the clingfilm. Press the dough on to the base and inside of the ring with the little ball of dough, ensuring it is neatly moulded into the shape of the ring.
Trim the edges of the tart by rolling a rolling pin over the top of the ring. Now, push the pastry gently up by pressing between your index finger and thumb all around the rim, to raise the edge 2mm above the ring. Prick the base of the pastry case. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest and firm up the pastry.
To pre-bake the pastry case, preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Place a baking stone or baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Slide the pastry case directly on to the hot baking stone or tray in the oven and par-bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
To make the filling: while the pastry case is in the oven, crush the blackcurrants and place in a bowl. Purée the semi-dried figs in a blender or food processor and add to the blackcurrants with the fig jam. Mix well and then spread evenly in the pastry case. Cut the fresh figs into quarters and arrange in a rosette on top. To cook the tart, bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and deep golden.
Set aside to cool to room temperature. For the glaze, warm the jam in a small pan and brush over the fig quarters. Serve the tart cut into slices, dusted with icing sugar and accompanied by a bowl of creme fraiche.
Kitchen Secrets by Raymond Blanc (Bloomsbury, RRP £16.99). To order a copy for £12 with free UK p&p, click here
Nigel Slater'sricotta cake
A rich summer cake - just a thin slice is lovely with fresh berries or maybe a purée of raspberries.
For the apricot sponge
unrefined caster sugar 250g
eggs 4 large
lemon 1, grated zest and juice
ground almonds 50g
plain flour 100g
soft-dried apricots 100g
For the ricotta filling
icing sugar 2 lightly heaped tbsp
orange 1, grated zest
finest vanilla extract a few drops
whipping or double cream 280ml
icing sugar and fresh berries to serve
You will also need
a 20-22cm shallow square cake tin
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Line the bottom of a 20-22cm shallow square cake tin with a sheet of baking parchment.
To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a food mixer until truly light and fluffy. It should be very pale and creamy.
Beat the eggs lightly and add them in three or four goes to the butter and sugar. They might curdle slightly - don't worry, just keep beating. Add the lemon zest, reserving the juice, then mix the ground almonds and flour together. Slowly fold in the flour and almonds, then add the reserved lemon juice and dried apricots. At this point you should treat the mixture gently.
Smooth the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove, and turn upside down on a cake rack to cool.
Put the ricotta in the bowl of a food mixer with the mascarpone and the icing sugar. Beat thoroughly to a thick and relatively smooth cream. Beat in the orange zest and the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, softly whip the cream. Stop while the cream is still in soft folds, before it gets thick enough to stand in peaks, then fold it gently into the ricotta mixture.
To assemble the cake, line the bottom of a long, thin cake tin, about 28cm x 8cm (though you can improvise with other dimensions easily enough, just use what you have).
Cut the sponge into three long strips, then cut each half into two horizontally. Line the bottom of the tin with a slice of the sponge, using some from a second one where you need to. Spoon one half of the mascarpone mixture on top of this, smoothing it gently. Cover this with another layer of sponge and a second layer of mascarpone cream. Finish with more sponge, patching any gaps where necessary. Tightly cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for a good 2 hours (overnight will not hurt). You will inevitably have some sponge left over after this, but it will no doubt soon disappear.
Run a palette knife around the edges and turn the cake out on to a long flat plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve with the berries.
Simon Hopkinson's chocolate pithiviers
The origins of this rich little chocolate pastry hark back to the early 1980s, in south-west France, when I was generously taken by friends to have lunch chez Guerard, at his three star restaurant in Eugenie-les-Bains. It is based upon the traditional almond cream pithiviers, most famously offered in patisseries all over France during the days following Christmas up to twelfth night. After a splendid lunch, I felt I had to ask of the great chef how he had made it: 'Well, you know, almond cream, a little chocolate and some puff pastry.' 'Oui, chef,' I thought. 'How very helpful.' After much tentative work - including many failures - I felt I had finally cracked it. Over 21 years on, thankfully, it is still going strong.
for the pastry:
strong plain flour 250g
salt a pinch
cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces 250g
lemon juice of ½
iced water 150ml
For the crème pâtissière:
vanilla pod split lengthways 1
egg yolks 3
caster sugar 75g
plain flour 25g
For the chocolate mixture:
unsalted butter softened 125g
caster sugar 125g
small eggs 2
ground almonds 125g
cocoa powder 50g
dark rum ½ tsp
plain chocolate chopped 125g
egg 1, beaten, to glaze
icing sugar to dust
To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt together into a bowl and add the butter. Loosely mix, but don't blend the ingredients together in the normal way of pastry-making. Mix the lemon juice with the iced water and pour into the butter/flour mixture. With a metal spoon, gently mix together until a cohesive mass has formed. Turn onto a cool surface and shape into a thick rectangle.
Flour the work surface and gently roll the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 18 x 10cm. Fold one third of the rectangle over towards the centre and fold the remaining third over that. Lightly press together and rest the pastry in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Return the pastry to the same position on the work surface and turn it through 90 degrees. Roll it out to the same dimensions as before, and fold and rest again in the same way. Repeat this turning, rolling, folding and resting process three more times. (Phew! This is the moment when you wish you'd bought ready-made pastry.) Place the pastry in a polythene bag and leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
To make the crème pâtissière, put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod and heat gently to boiling point. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and flour. Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture and whisk lightly together. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook gently until it thickens. Pour through a sieve, discard the vanilla pod and chill.
To make the chocolate mixture, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat again. Now add the ground almonds and cocoa powder. Beat again. Add the rum together with the crème pâtissière and finally fold in the chopped chocolate. Chill.
Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. Cut it into four 10cm and four 15cm squares. Place the smaller squares on a floured board. Using a large ice cream scoop, place a scoop of the chocolate mixture in the centre of each of the small squares of pastry. Brush the pastry edges with half the beaten egg, place the larger squares of pastry on top and press down and around firmly, making sure there are no air bubbles.
Use a 10cm/4 inch round pastry cutter to cut the filled pastry squares into neat rounds. Discard the trimmings. Press and seal together the edges with a fork to form a decorative pattern. Brush the pithiviers with the remaining beaten egg and dust lightly with icing sugar. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is well risen, shiny and golden brown. Remove from the oven, dust lightly with some more icing sugar, and serve hot with thick cream.
Simon Hopkinson's chocolate pithiviers Photograph: Lisa Linder