Buckeyes

We all love peanut butter in my house, especially Reece’s peanut butter cups.  Not overly keen on the chocolate though, sorry!  These are very similar to a peanut butter cup, but homemade and – well, nicer chocolate too!

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I’ve seen buckeyes around on the internet for a few years now and they are traditional in Ohio as they resemble the buckeye tree nut – basically just like a conker.  They are traditionally served around Christmas time, so I thought I would have a go and bring buckeyes to the UK.

They are really easy to make and take no time at all to make a batch.  I have a double recipe here, which makes practically a whole tree full, but you can halve the recipe, or halve the dough, freeze it and make some another time.  They are really rich and indulgent, so you wouldn’t want to eat too many anyway, but great for a crowd.

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I have used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, but you could go all dark to offset the sugar a little if you wish.

Ingredients:
500g smooth peanut butter – I used Skippy
120g softened butter
pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar – seived
200g dark 70% chocolate
100g milk chocolate

Method:
Beat the peanut butter, butter, salt and vanilla in bowl until smooth. I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but this is easily done by hand.

On low speed (and with a towel wrapped around the mixer) beat in the sugar until combined. You are looking for a fairly stiff and mouldable mixture that you can easily roll into balls without getting in a mess. If it looks too sticky, add in a little more icing sugar. Similarly, if it is too dry and turns into crumbs, add another spoon of peanut butter. Its a very simple mixture, you can’t really go wrong.

Taking around a tablespoon of mixture for each one, roll into balls and place on a non stick liner, or waxed parchment. Skewer each one with a cocktail stick and chill, or freeze until firm.

Buckeyes

When you are ready to dip, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave, stirring the last few lumps in the residual heat to completely melt.

I like to transfer to a smaller bowl at this point as you want to dunk the balls to coat them.

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Dip each ball into the molten chocolate and let the excess run back into the bowl and place back onto the non stick liner. As the peanut butter balls are so cold, the chocolate will set immediately and leave you with a nice, thin, crisp shell.

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Finish coating all of the balls, tipping the bowl as the chocolate runs out and leave to set.

Pull out the cocktail sticks and leave the chocolate to completely set, before smoothing out the hole with a clean finger, or the back of a teaspoon.

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I prefer them kept refrigerated, but you can place them into little paper cases in a festive box and give them as gifts.

Apple and Blackberry Cobbler

The weather is getting cooler and the nights are starting to draw in, thoughts are turning to recipes baked with seasonal fruit and spices.

Apples and blackberries are a classic combination and I often make apple and blackberry pies and crumbles.  For a change, this is a cobbler and uses buttermilk and melted butter in the ‘cobbles’ which makes the topping very tender and moist.

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The sweet fruit and spices all baked together makes the kitchen smell wonderful.  The finished cobbler has sweet, juicy fruit on the bottom and the gently spiced topping is soft on the inside and a little crusty and golden on the top.  It’s the perfect alternative to a crumble or a pie and really easy to make.

Although the temptation is to dive straight in the finished pudding, it’s best to leave it to cool a little before serving as the filling is incredibly hot straight from the oven.

Filling:
3-4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 punnet of sweet blackberries, washed
Juice of half a lemon
150g brown sugar
1tsp cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
1tbs cornflour

Topping:
250g self-raising flour
150g butter, melted
240g buttermilk
100g sugar
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp cinnamon
A little melted butter for brushing

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F and butter a baking dish

Place the sliced apples, spices, cornflour, lemon juice and sugar in a pan and heat gently.  When the sugar has melted and the juices thickened a little, place into a bowl and gently stir in the blackberries.

Apple Blackberry Cobbler

Place into the buttered dish and prepare the topping.

For the topping, place the flour, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix together.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter and buttermilk.  Stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix.

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Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, or two spoons, drop spoonfuls of the batter over the fruit and top with a little extra brown sugar.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cobbler is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cobbles comes out clean.  When the cobbler is removed from the oven and still hot, brush the top with a little melted butter.

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This is best served warm and is good with ice cream, custard, whipped cream, or just on its own.  It’s also good cold the next day.

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Rustic Nectarine and Blueberry Crostata

This is the ultimate summer tart really. A tender, flaky crust, filled with frangipane, fresh nectarines and blueberries.

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These nectarines were so fresh, sweet and juicy, they were almost too good to use in this tart – almost! Any stone fruit and berries would work in this, but nectarines are my favourite summer fruit and work really well together with the blueberries.

The frangipane cream on the base of the fruit plumps up as it bakes in the oven, so as the tart expands, you can see little bits of the delicious almond mixture peeping up through all the juicy fruit.

I love making free form pies like this as they are so easy and the crust is so forgiving! It doesn’t have to be perfect; this is a lovely rustic and home-made tart, the perfect dessert on a hot summer day.

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Ingredients:
Crust:

240g of plain/all-purpose flour
2tbs soft brown sugar, packed
½ tsp salt
170g butter, cut into cubes and refrigerated
Iced water

Frangipane:
60g ground almonds
60g room temperature butter
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
Zest of half an orange
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 tbs plain/all-purpose four

Fruit filling:
50g soft brown sugar – you might want to use more if your fruit is not overly sweet
2 tbs plain/all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
4 nectarines, each one cut into 8 wedges
1 small punnet of blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping:
1 egg, beaten with a little milk to make a wash
Demerara/Turbinado sugar for sprinkling – about 2tbs

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Method:
Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Add the iced water 1tbs at a time, while pulsing, until it just comes together. Turn out the dough, form into a circle, wrap in cling film and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

For the frangipane, use a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat the almonds, butter, zest and salt together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, almond extract and flour until smooth. Chill this until completely firm. I cheated and stuck it in the freezer while I prepared the fruit.

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For the fruit filling, my nectarines were super sweet, so they didn’t need too much sugar, but if you find yourself with rather tart fruit, then you can add a little more sugar.

I placed the nectarines, blueberries, four, salt and vanilla into a bowl and tossed gently until everything was coated. Everything was very juicy, so I didn’t need any extra liquid, but a squeeze of orange could be added at this stage too.

To assemble the tart, roll out the dough into a large circle on a lightly floured piece of parchment, or non-stick liner to a thickness of around a £1 coin.

Scrape the frangipane into the centre of the dough and smooth out with the back of the spoon, or an off-set spatula, leaving a good 2 inch border all the way around.

Leaving any extra juices behind in the bowl, pile the fruit (or very artistically arrange) on top of the frangipane, still leaving the border behind.

Brush the dough border with the egg wash and fold the crust up and over the filling, pleating and gently pressing down to seal the crust in place. The centre of the tart will remain exposed.

Brush the outside of the crust with the egg mixture and sprinkle the Demerara/turbinado sugar generously to coat. Then chill the tart until the whole thing has firmed up – around 30 minutes – 1 hour.

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Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Place the tart, still on the parchment or liner, onto a large baking sheet and bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden colour and the frangipane filling is cooked through. The tart will expand and spread out a little as it bakes and the frangipane filling will puff up and around the fruit.

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Transfer to a wire rack to cool for around 10 minutes if serving warm with vanilla ice cream, or leave to go completely cold. The tart will firm up as it cools, making it a perfect dessert to take on a picnic.