Strawberry Custard Tart

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The first time I tasted a Strawberry Custard Tart, I was sold! It was a late evening at Second Cup; the boyfriend and I were looking for something to tingle our sweet tooth, and we ended up there – sitting on a tiny table, him sipping on an Iced Mocha and I enjoying this glorious mini tart in front of me.

That day I truly fell completely in love with tarts. On three occasions thereafter, the two of us went to Second Cup just ’cause I wanted to have a tart – but I would end up eating a mixed fruit tart because the strawberry one wasn’t available; I loved the mixed fruit version just as much! (I have a huge soft corner for fruity desserts. HUGE!)

But then came the tart-less days! I was always pining for a fruity tart after a good dinner, but no matter how many times the boyfriend took me there, tarts just weren’t available. It was probably more than ten times; he would drive us there, only for us to come back empty handed. It was disheartening, to say the least. A dessert that I had come to love so much was nowhere to be found. (I know I sound like a drama queen, but I really wanted to eat a tart!)

Then I thought, ‘Ugh! What the hell?! I might as well make a tart myself!’ That is exactly what I did, and may I tell you, it turned out to be one of those days when I was incredibly pleased with my efforts. Without further ado, here’s how you make a perfectly delicious home-made Strawberry and Custard Tart.

IMG_2993Here’s what you’re going to need.

For the Shortbread Pastry Crust:

  • All Purpose Flour – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Icing Sugar – 45 g
  • Unsalted Butter – 170 g, cold, cut into small chunks

For the Custard:

  • Milk – 500 ml
  • Vanilla flavored Custard Powder – as per directions on the box

For the topping:

  • Nutella chocolate spread – as much as you wish to use
  • Strawberries – 500 g, chopped how you like it

This is how you make it.

  • Sift together the all purpose flour, salt and icing sugar until airy.
  • Using a hand mixer, or a food processor, blend together the the flour and icing sugar mixture with the cold butter until it forms clumps.
  • Knead the clumps by hand until it forms into a dough.
  • Press the dough into the tart tin and make sure it’s of even thickness throughout.
  • Prick the dough all over with a fork and cover it. Pop into the freezer for 15 minutes. The dough should be pricked so that it doesn’t puff up while baking.
  • In the meantime, preheat the oven at 220 degree Celsius for 10 minutes.
  • Pop the shortbread tart crust into the oven and bake for 13 minutes or until it is golden brown.
  • Take it out of the oven and leave to cool.
  • As the crust cools, make the custard as per the instructions on the box. Make sure it’s of a thick consistency. Leave to set.
  • Pour a nice big dollop of Nutella into the crust and spread it into a thin layer all over the crust.
  • Pour in the set custard until it fills the tart and put the tart into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Take the tart out of the fridge and decorate it with fresh strawberries.

This recipe looks long, and it is really time consuming. But when you take your first bite, you will surely feel that every last bit of the hard work you put into it was completely worth it.

This tart is freaking delicious. The shortbread crust is buttery and crumbly – it is crunchy at first and then it just melts in your mouth. The custard is sweet and creamy, the chocolaty bit is the perfect surprise and the fresh strawberries just cut through the sweetness of the tart. The balance is just right. It is the perfect summer dessert and a fantastic end to any meal. You will have to taste it to believe me! (You can thank me later!)

A little tip: Make sure the custard is thick so that when cut, the slices come out perfectly. The custard I made was a little runny, so it wasn’t easy to get perfect slices. Also, if you are not fond of too much sweet, you can reduce the quantity of sugar in the pastry crust or omit the use of Nutella altogether. Tailor it to your liking and you will enjoy it to the fullest!

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Dark Chocolate Cake Pops

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Oh those luscious mounds of chocolaty goodness, that crunchy bittersweet dark chocolate coating giving way to a mouthful of moist, sweet chocolate cake bound together with a delicious vanilla buttercream! Who could say no to that? (If you can, you’re really missing out!)

My love for cake is enormous; my favorite hobby is to look up recipes on the internet for a variety of flavors of cake, only to end up in the kitchen, electric mixer in my hand, whisking away. To say I enjoy baking is an understatement. However, eating a whole slice of cake has given me that nagging feeling of guilt way too many times; I cannot afford to eat much cake as I would like to bake. So I started reducing my portions – from a whole cake I shifted to baking cupcakes, and from cupcakes to cake pops!

Cake pops are a wonderful innovation in the world of all things sweet. They are tiny and bite sized and they are just as amazing as that delicious slice of cake you wish to scarf down; they don’t make you feel as guilty and they certainly don’t make you scrutinize yourself in front of the mirror for a good five minutes. Cake pops are essentially tiny spheres of cake, bound together with a dollop of frosting, coated with your favorite chocolate and hoisted onto a lollipop stick. But even though I have a bunch of pop sticks lying on my shelf, my cake pops never make their way on to them. (I mean they are ready to EAT, who cares about the stick?!)

IMG_1871Here’s what you need

  • One chocolate cake, baked, cooled and crumbled by hand. You can use your favorite chocolate cake recipe.
  • Vanilla buttercream – 4 to 5 tbsp (You could also use a store bought vanilla frosting)
  • Semi-sweet or dark chocolate – 150 g, chopped
  • Any kind of sprinkles, or chopped nuts for decoration

Here’s how you make these luscious dark chocolate cake pops

  • Once your cake is cooled, crumble it with your hands.
  • Add in the vanilla buttercream to the crumbled cake and mould it until it comes together like a dough. Make sure you do not add in too much frosting so as to retain the crumble and cake-y-ness of the cake.
  • Once the dough is ready, with the palms of your hand, sculpt small portions of the dough into bite sized spheres. Put these cake balls on a baking sheet lined with butter paper and pop them into the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • In the mean time, melt the semi-sweet or dark chocolate in the microwave oven for 3 minutes on Medium Low heat or until the chocolate is smooth and creamy and no longer lumpy.
  • Use a fork and spoon to drop each cake ball into the melted chocolate and turn over until completely coated. Once coated, line the cake pops on the butter paper, top with your favorite colored sprinkles or nuts and put back in the fridge for about an hour and a half to set.

If you’re a fan of chocolate and you just can’t get enough, you have got to try these cake pops; they are perfectly balanced with a crackling bitter-sweet coating and a sweet melt-in-the-mouth center which is to-die-for. It’s like a two-in-one offer, you have the crunchy sweetness of a chocolate bar and the goodness of cake packed in each cake pop. My circle of loved ones love these, as do I. I’m certain you’ll love them too.

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If you want to use my recipes for the chocolate cake and the vanilla buttercream, do check out my post on Double Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes.

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Cake in a Mug

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The act of eating cake does not require an occasion. As a kid, the idea of cake reminded me of birthdays and anniversaries; it was the only chance I got to grab a plate of a soft cake generously frosted with fresh cream. But all of that ended when I began baking.

Now I see cake as the highlight of most of my days – from the minute I bring out the ingredients, to whisking the batter, the sweet aroma filling up my home while I take the freshly baked goods out of the oven, to serving them up to the family. I swear I wouldn’t mind doing it day in and day out (if only everyone would stop complaining about sugar problems and putting on weight!)

In my years of experimentation with baking, I’ve spent hours on my feet, elaborately putting together cakes, cupcakes, cookies and puddings. But today, I developed a recipe for a sweet-tooth-lifesaver! A Cake in a Mug – ready to eat in just 10 minutes!

Have you ever been down in the dumps and you needed a quick pick-me-up? Or maybe you’ve been holed up in bed all day ’cause the rain is beating down the windows and you just need that little sparkle to get you up and running? Have you ever wanted to eat a piece of chocolate cake so bad but the thought of running to the nearest bakery or making some yourself just killed your craving? To you, I say, I have the solution to your problems.

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

  • All Purpose Flour – 4 tbsp
  • Sugar – 5 tbsp
  • Cocoa Powder – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Egg – 4 tbsp, beaten
  • Milk – 3 tbsp
  • Vegetable Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp

This is how you make it:

  • In a bowl mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.
  • Add milk, oil and the beaten egg. Mix well.
  • Add in vanilla extract and give the batter a nice whisk.
  • Pour the batter into a mug and pop it into the microwave oven. Bake for 1 and half minute on medium high heat.
  • Once it is done, decorate it with some Nutella or some whipped cream and some sprinkles.

This Cake in a Mug is delicious! It is chocolaty, moist and gooey and the ending bit at the bottom of the mug is extra creamy – it tastes like a little slice of heaven. For someone who loves their desserts extra chocolaty, this is for you. I didn’t invent the Cake in a Mug – there are tons of recipes for it on the internet. Tons of them claim to be awesome, only to have visitors to the sites complaining that the cake was too dry or the texture was not moist and crumbly but rather too dense. However, I did not have any such problems with this recipe – the cake was splendid!

So if you’re having a drab day and you need something to lift up your spirits, don’t hesitate to indulge in a Cake in a Mug. If you want to surprise your partner with a little something, this is the perfect go-to recipe for you. If you want to let someone special know just how much they mean to you, wrap this Cake in a Mug with some cling film, tie a ribbon around it to give it that festive flare and bring it to them. This is the perfect gift, both for you and your loved ones.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

There is nothing like this. Trust me, you will never want to stop eating this. There is no such thing as too much Sticky Toffee Pudding. This is the BEST dessert ever! Period.

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It was a usual laid-back evening. Curled up on the couch, the boyfriend and I were putting ourselves through another excruciatingly-torturous-for-our-stomachs episode of the current season of Masterchef USA that is being aired on Star World. The contestants were to cater for the wedding of an extremely picky couple. We were both sitting there, clutching our hungry tummies, watching the guests gobble up the glorious-looking food, when chef and host Gordon Ramsay produced the dessert for the night – his signature Sticky Toffee Pudding with Brown Bread Ice-Cream. That just did it for us – now our stomach’s hurt like they had been punched in the gut. I mean, where on earth were we to find those smooth, soft date puddings, doused in a sticky salty toffee sauce? (Where… WHERE?)

That was our sorry state a couple of days ago.

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Today, about a week after that really depressing-for-the-stomach ordeal, I woke up with a strong urge to bake. I have these out-of-the-blue urges to bake something immediately, and once that feeling has overcome me, it is very hard to shake it off. That is the trigger; and within minutes I find myself determinedly searching through the internet for ideas to try something I’ve never baked before. So today, I decided to put an end to my torment and Sticky Toffee Puddings is what I made.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding is a traditional English dessert – a moist steamed date cake drenched in a warm toffee sauce. It is one of those desserts which are to be eaten warm and a dollop of vanilla ice-cream is the perfect accompaniment to it. I am not a big fan of steamed puddings – I find the texture to be sludgy. So, instead of a steamed base cake, I decided to bake the date cakes instead.

Here’s what you’re going to need for the date cakes:

  • Boiling Water – 1/2 cup
  • Dates – 225 g, pitted and chopped finely
  • All Purpose Flour – 1 and 1/3 cups
  • Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Butter – 6 tbsp
  • Dark Brown Sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp
  • Cocoa Powder – 1 tsp

This is how you make them:

  • Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  • Soak the dates in the water. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In another bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until soft. Incorporate the eggs one at a time.
  • Then add the soaked, softened dates into the mixture.
  • Stir in the flour mixture into the batter until flour streaks are no longer seen. Add vanilla extract and cocoa powder and mix.
  • Divide the batter into the greased cups of 12-tin muffin pan and pop them into the oven. Bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Once your little date muffins are done, take them out and cool them upside-down on a rack. While the cakes are baking, you can make the toffee sauce on the side.

Here’s what you’re going to need for the sauce:

  • Unsalted butter – 113 g
  • Dark Brown Sugar – 1 cup
  • Heavy Cream – 3/4 cup
  • Cinnamon Powder – a tiny pinch
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp

This is how you prepare the Sticky Toffee Sauce:

  • In a skillet, melt butter and brown sugar on low heat.
  • Once melted, gradually add in the heavy cream while stirring continuously until the sauce becomes thick.
  • Add in the cinnamon powder and salt and bring to a boil.
  • Once it bubbles, take it off the heat.

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Once you’ve got both – the cakes and the toffee sauce –  ready, it’s time to plate up. Place the cakes on a plate and with a skewer or a toothpick, prick holes into the top of the cake – this is to make way for the sauce to seep into the cake. Then pour the sauce on to the cakes until they are covered completely. Then pop the plate into the microwave oven for a few seconds just to warm it up a bit. And lastly, dig in!

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Ideally, this dessert is perfect for a chilly winter day. The wholesome warmth oozing from the flavor of the dates and the sweet and salty stickiness of the sauce, all come together to fill your mouth with a delicious velvet texture and make your insides cave in and crumble with its decadent pleasure. But this dessert is just as good on a hot summer’s day too – that extra bit of ice-cream will surely help.

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I must be honest, I didn’t know how these sticky puddings would turn out and if any of my loved ones would like them. Having never had anything like it before, I had that feeling of uncertainty constantly nagging me while I was putting these together. But one bite taken by the boyfriend and I had nothing to worry about anymore – “Oh my God, Babe,” he said, “this is freaking amazing!” ( And after a little playful coaxing, I got him to admit that he thinks I’m a genius) My mum hasn’t tried them yet, but she loves dates and she’s excited that the dessert is made with only brown sugar, I’m sure she’s going to love them. Personally, the first time I took a bite just after baking them, I felt they were okay. But then a couple of hours later, I gobbled one up and I immediately teleported to sweet sweet heaven!

Once you take a bite, you’re just going to keep coming back for more.

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Double-Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes

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Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit to use in a dessert. It is the perfect sidekick to anything chocolate (chocolate covered strawberries, anyone? I need to visit my fridge, give me a minute). I just cannot get over my obsession with the chocolate-strawberry combination; I’ve been experimenting with it quite a bit.

Being home alone most of the time gives me a lot of room to go a little crazy in the kitchen; I took the liberty and decided to do something out of my comfort zone. And Lo and Behold! I came up with these moist gooey chocolate cupcakes filled with fresh strawberry chunks, topped with vanilla butter-cream frosting and finished off with fresh strawberries. It sounds really exotic, but it’s really not so hard to put together, and let me tell you – it tastes FABULOUS!

Without further ado, I’m going to give you my secret to becoming the coolest home-baker your loved ones have ever known (you’re going to serve them cupcakes with fillings and they are going to think you are a genius!)

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So let’s get started!

For the chocolate cupcakes:

You can use your favorite go-to chocolate cupcakes recipe, it will work just as well with the strawberries. This is the recipe I normally use, and I absolutely love it. I never go wrong with this recipe, the cupcakes always come out perfectly risen, moist and not-too-sweet, just the way I like it.

Ingredients:

  • Sugar – 2 cups
  • All Purpose Flour – 1 and 3/4 cups
  • Baking Powder – 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Salt -1 tsp
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Vanilla Extract – 2 tsp
  • Cocoa Powder – 3/4 cup , sifted
  • Baking Soda – 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vegetable Oil – 1/2 cup
  • Boiling Water – 1 cup

Here’s how you make them:

  • Preheat your oven to 175 degree Celsius.
  • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Add eggs, milk oil and vanilla extract and blend until well-combined. Stir in boiling water . (Don’t be alarmed that this batter is too watery. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.)
  • Bake for about 12 minutes or until wooden pick inserted comes out clean.
  • Keep them on a wire rack until cooled completely.

Now, try not to eat all of them up before you fill them in with strawberries and finish them up with the frosting.

So next up – filling the cupcakes! Cut up a few strawberries into really tiny cubes and toss them with some granulated sugar. Then scoop out the top of your cupcakes in a cone. I know, it sounds very hard to do, but its not. Hold the cupcake in your hand, take a serrated knife and insert it into the cupcake and cut at an angle while you turn the cupcake in a circular motion. That way, a cone shaped piece of cake with come out. Now, of the cone you have, cut off the lower cone portion till you only get the top disc of cake.

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Then fill the hollow with some of the prepared strawberry filling and then recover the cupcake with the top disc of cake.

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Now that you’ve successfully filled the cupcake, frost on some vanilla buttercream icing and top it off with a fresh strawberry.

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For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • Butter – 60g
  • Confectioner’s sugar – 80 to 100g (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp

Blend all the ingredients till you get a smooth creamy delicious frosting.

And here’s how you eat them. Tear the wrapper apart, and take a big bite of the cupcake; all at once there will be the gooey chocolate laced with the sweet and sour strawberry center, the sweet creamy texture of the vanilla buttercream and the freshness of the strawberry-on-top dancing a tango on your tongue. Indulge and revel!

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A little tip: These cupcakes taste different as they age. On the first day they had bang-on distinct flavors, while after keeping them overnight the strawberry filling made the cupcake taste a little like a black-forest cupcake as it gave out the flavor of kirsch or strawberry liqueur that is used while making a black-forest cake. So according to me, they taste best right away, but if you’re a black-forest fan then you’re going to love it the day after too.

 

 

Chocolate and Berry Canapes

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I am a huge fan of dessert. I love anything sweet, though I cannot have too much of it. More than eating desserts, I love making them. For the eating bit, I’m surrounded with foodies who have massive sweet cravings! I have a lot of patience when it comes to making precise sweet dishes that are sure to make everyone crazy. However, every once in a while, I like to cheat too. I mean, who doesn’t love a dessert that can be put together in minutes and still make everyone crazy?

Thus, I present to you – Chocolate and Berry Canapes

I had this pack of ready-to-eat canape shells and I had no idea what to do with them. I first thought I’d fill them with a tangy tuna salad but then that would fit into the category of ‘usual’. I wanted to do something different, something innovative. Suddenly it hit me – I had a whole lot of berries lying in my fridge and an untouched jar of Nutella too! In that moment, I knew exactly what would be for dessert that night.

So this is what you’ll need.

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Some canape shells, a nice big jar of nutella, some strawberries (washed and cut in halves) and raspberries (washed).

So all you’ve got to do is hold the canape shell daintily in your hand, spoon nutella into the shell, about halfway, and then place your favorite fruit on it. And the best bit, pop it right into your mouth! Gosh, thats delicious!

You can also fill the canape shells with a thick custard and top it with fruits or you can fill it with chocolate and top it with nuts or butterscotch chips, any way you like them. A little tip: don’t make these ahead of time because the canape shells will get soggy. Instead, serve them as soon as you’ve made them.

So if you’ve got last minute plans of having friends over, you know you’ve got dessert covered!

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Your Chocolate and Berry canapes are ready to eat!