Apricot frangipane tart, fresh apricots on a frangipane layer, with Italian shortcrust pastry base. There are three recipes in this one. The tart base is made from pasta frôlla, the Italian equivalent to sable or shortcrust; not really very different but less flaky and crumbly than their Anglo-French brothers
Traditional Canadian butter tarts with raisins and maple syrup filling. Of all the contradictory recipes out there, butter tarts, the traditional Canadian treat, are the most confusing. You’d think there’s nothing to it: little pastry cases filled with butter and sugar mixture.
Camembert en croute: baked Camembert wrapped in homemade shortcrust pastry. A divine cheese parcel in cornmeal shortcrust with Cheddar and thyme. Who doesn't love baked cheese?
Cinnamon swirls with raisins and maple syrup. Almost like Danish, only easier to make. Best straight from the oven. If you keep them – give them a two minute grill attention.
Croissants made with overnight proving dough laminated with butter. If you’re lucky enough to be living in France you get them from your boulangerie, but actually there's nothing like the homemade thing in terms of flavour. Is it difficult?
Danish bagel wheels, savoury pastry pinwheels with sesame, poppy and almonds. A savoury twist on raisin wheels, these pastries are made the easy way: the laminating process, usually so troublesome, is shortened here by maturing the dough in the fridge for a couple of days.
Danish pastries with jam and raisin wheels - brushed with lemon icing. Just about the best thing ever – laminated dough. On average I bet people don’t realise that it’s actually simple bread dough enriched with butter.
Easy Danish dough, homemade apple and raspberry filling. So what you are supposed to do is simply mix the butter a bit with yeasty flour and some liquid, leave it in the fridge and then roll out once or twice.
Easy kouign amann, butter pastry from Brittany. My recipe is a cheat’s kouign amann, easier to make and not quite as calorific as the traditional Breton pastry
Ice cream cones made from sweetened, layered filo pastry. Deliciously easy, and can be also filled with cream, mascarpone or custard.
Fruity, nut free mince pies made from scratch: the best shortcrust pastry and delicious fruit filling. I never used to like mince pies until I made them at home. The fact is that all shop-bought pies, even the posh, fancy, Hestonised and overpriced numbers taste mainly of too much orange peel and too much booze. As much as I’m the last person to complain about too much booze, I like to keep it separate from cakes. And orange peel is usually nasty, unless you make it yourself (I don’t) or spend quite a bit more money than even Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients charge.
Galette des rois, an elegant treat for the night of Epiphany, or any other time during the twelve days of Christmas. There are some lovely traditions associated with the galette: a ‘fève’ is hidden inside the cake - a tiny china figurine or an almond - and the lucky person to find it (and not choke on it) is crowned a king or queen for the carnival.
Gâteau Basque is a traditional pastry from the Basque region of France. A buttery tart, plain or filled with cherries or pastry cream, it is similar to gateau Breton and just as gorgeous.
Gateau Breton is French butter cake, Brittany's finest. It's an enormous shortbread, a gigantic jammy dodger, the impossibly buttery double tart.
Little ham and cheese pastries made in the shape of crescents. These little pastries are enormously moreish, originally meant for breakfast or brunch but I see them disappear from the tray at all times of day.
Ice cream sandwiches in choux pastry buns, with ice cream flavour of choice, homemade or your favourite brand. I first made choux pastry at the age of about 11, in my technology lesson at school.
Classic French madeleines, buttery and melting. The cookie is lovely – and don’t listen to the evil people who tell you it’s all right to make madeleines with whole eggs.
Marzipan and shortbread biscuit chocolate coated bars, made from scratch. Like Twix, only better; like Ritter Sport’s all best bars combined into one.
My recipe for mince pies has the best shortcrust pastry and the nicest mincemeat filling - easy to make too. They go back to the times of crusades and the Middle Eastern approach to sweet and savoury, mixing meat with spices, fruit and nuts.
Mini gateaux bretons, individual breton butter cakes with jam filling. Breton butter cake, or gateau breton is one of the best things to come out of northern France.
Healthy homemade cereal bars made with oats and plenty of dried fruit and seeds. Cereal bars or granola bars? Either way they are much better than shop-bought bars.
Tartlets with ricotta and almond filling, topped with candied orange slices. I can’t honestly say which filling is nicer – the bonus about the ricotta one I guess that you can stick the leftovers into a buttered and floured ramekin and bake for a mini cheesecake.
Puff pastry tartlets with three kinds of filling: prawn and garlic, spinach and blue cheese and bacon and Cheddar. Puff pastry – party food rescue, the solution for when you crave pizza-type food but can’t be bothered to make the real thing...
Rough puff, or flaky pastry, is quick and easy to make especially if you own a food processor. It might not be as delicate as traditional puff but it’s easy and enormously satisfying to make.
Homemade sausage rolls – or rather home assembled. A twist more than a recipe. Adventurous as I am, I don’t make my own puff pastry, even celebrated master bakers say it’s perfectly fine to use good quality shop bought stuff. The twist is...
Sfogliatelle, Italian leafy pastry bites, with creamy ricotta filling. Lobster tails, as they are also known (easy to guess why), must be one of the nicest things that come out of Italy – and that’s of course a serious claim.
Spinach and cheese empanada wrapped in filo pastry and baked in the oven, with honey and pine nuts topping. Spanish empanada meets Greek spanakopita!
Spongata di natale, Italian honey and nut Christmas cake is like an oversized mince pie, with shortcrust pastry case and filling of dried or candied fruit, and mixed nuts.
Tomato tarte tatin with caramelised plum tomatoes and shortcrust thyme pastry. Cut corners by all means and use puff pastry. But it’s so much more rewarding when it’s a proper tart: slicing into shortcrust base rather than the squishy puff which goes soggy much too soon is worth the effort of producing the pastry.
Tomato crostata with honey and thyme flavour on flaky pastry made from scratch. Delightfully flaky pastry, with or without sneaky cheese addition, is full of carbs, those floury devils.
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