Perfect apple pie with homemade pastry and apple and raisin filling. I have twisted the classic a little by making sweetened crust but if you use tart cooking apples and not a lot of sugar in the filling, it creates a nice balance.
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
Crusty tart with beetroot greens and garlic topping. If you get hold of really new, baby beets with vibrant, tender leaves, use them in salads.
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.
Chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow frosting. The classic is chocolate but they come in other flavours: vanilla, raspberry, red velvet or pumpkin. The filling should be marshmallow (made with Marshmallow Fluff if you’re in New England), but cream cheese, buttercream or chocolate all acceptable too.
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, the traditional butter pastry from the Basque region. The pastry is awfully rich, buttery and heavy, like a posh relative to shortcrust. Easy to put together, especially that, unlike shortcrust, it doesn’t need chilling in the fridge
Gateau Breton, Breton butter cake is unlike any other cake I’ve tried, the crunchy crust quite short and dense but not as crumbly as shortcrust. It melts in your mouth and has a lovely flavour from all those egg yolks and butter. It can be filled with jam...
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.
Linzer torte, hazelnut shortcrust tart with raspberry filling. Linzer torte is the flagship Austrian tart/pie: my grandmother was brought up near Linz so it’s close to my heart. Hazelnuts are obligatory; toasting them isn’t, so if you can get hold of ready-ground nuts, I’ll forgive you.
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.
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.
Pissaladiere Provençal, a simple savoury tart on pizza dough with onion, anchovy and olive topping. And that is one of the best snack/street food/ starter/nibble in the world.
Pumpkin pie with crust made from scratch and a cranberry layer. What do you know? It is an improvement – and marrying the festive, autumnal couple clearly produces a stable relationship.
Schiacciata di uva - Tuscan grape focaccia. The Italian and the French have a lovely way with flat dough – they salt it, stuff it with olives, ham, cheese, soft fruit, preserves, sugar - whatever you like. This one is harvest festive bread.
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.
Savoury tarte Tatin with confit tomatoes. Tomatoes are generally rubbish through three quarters of the year in the non-Mediterranean part of Europe. Tasteless and watery, with thick skins and not much flavour.
Venetian carrot cake, gluten free carrot cake with pine nuts and a handful of boozy raisins. This is a lovely cake, squidgy and wet (‘wet’ being the word I’m campaigning for to replace the hateful ‘moist’).
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