Autumn Apple Tart

Light and delicious apple tart

Fall is just about my favorite season and apple pies are just about my favorite dessert. Recently I discovered Bramley apples which are sold by a farm in Nagano prefecture. These apples are tart and crispy just like a Granny Smith.  Bramley apples are originally from England and were introduced in Japan about 20 years ago. One of my friends in Tokyo, Stacey,  runs a great bake shop and  school called Mornington Crescent. Her British desserts are delicious and if there is ever an opening book one of her classes.

This is a light tart with a thin crust, covered in a layer of almond cream then topped with sliced apples.  Total time for putting everything together (excluding baking time) is about 30 minutes.

This is a short project to enjoy fall baking so grab the apples, flour and some butter and time to get to work.

Fits a 24 cm tart pan (serves 8)

200 grams flour
100 grams butter cut into cubes (cold)
1 egg
5 grams salt
10 grams sugar

1. In a food processor, pulse together the butter and flour. Then add the salt and sugar. Lastly, add the egg.  Put the ingredients on a board and gently knead everything together so the dough is smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 40 minutes before using. 

Almond Cream
50 grams butter room temperature
50 grams powdered sugar
50 grams almond flour
1 egg
5 grams flour

1. In a bowl, mix the butter with the powdered sugar with a small whisk. Gradually add in the almond flour and flour in portions. Lastly, add the egg and mix thoroughly with a whisk.

2 - 3 large crispy apples
1. Peel and thinly slice the apples

Putting everything together
1. Roll out the dough to fit the tart pan and cut off any extra around the edges.
2. Spread the almond cream on top of the dough then place the apples around the tart pan in a nice circular design. You can put the inside circle of apples in the opposite direction for a more creative look.
3. Before baking, sprinkle sugar on top of the apples.
4. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 35 - 40 minutes. After removing from the oven you can brush with apricot jam for a nice shine.


Decadent Chocolate Christmas Cake

In Japan everyone loves Christmas cakes with BIG decoration. Fresh fruits, whipped cream, chocolate and other decorations are usually used for these special cakes. Gingerbread and fruit cakes are not so popular in Japan at Christmas.

For some early Christmas practice, I baked a chocolate cake and decorated with cream cheese icing and chocolate topping. The chocolate is tricky to get the right temperature so that it drizzles down the cake with the right mouth watering look. The cake was a little cool so the chocolate cooled down as soon as it hit the icing which slowed down the chocolate flow.

The cake is a basic chocolate cake recipe which is easy to put rather together quickly. The cream cheese icing is also quite fast to make, however, if you aren't familiar with icing a cake that can be challenging. A palette knife can make the job of icing much easier. The chocolate has a small amount of gelatin so that it stays firm.

Chocolate Cake

200 grams sugar
200 grams flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams butter
180 grams sweet chocolate (chopped)

1. In a bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, measure the butter and melt over a saucepan filled with hot water.
2. In another bowl, put the chocolate over a saucepan of hot simmering water and melt.
3. In a large bowl, whip the eggs with a hand mixer and gradually add the sugar. Mix on medium speed until the batter is a light yellow color and slightly thickened. This may take a few minutes but don't skip this step.
4. After the batter is well mixed, add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well mixed. Next add the melted butter in portions and mix on low speed.
5. Lastly, add the chocolate in portions and mix with a spatula.
6. Prepare 2 round baking pans (20 cm round) and lightly butter and flour each of them.
7. Pour the batter evenly between both pans and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 40 minutes. Check if done by using a toothpick.
8. When finished baking, cool thoroughly.

Cream Cheese Icing
200 grams cream cheese (room temperature)
40 grams butter (room temperature)
125 grams powdered sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix the butter and powdered sugar with a hand mixer on low until well mixed. Then gradually add the cream cheese in pieces and continue to mix.
2. You can add some flavoring to complement the chocolate like vanilla.

Chocolate Topping
40 grams water
40 grams milk
45 grams sugar
25 grams cocoa powder
2 grams gelatin (softened)

1. Heat the water, milk, sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan until just lightly boiling. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin. Pour into a bowl to cool. The chocolate should be a little thickened to when pouring on the cake.

Putting everything together
1. Put the bottom piece of the cake on a plate cut the top so that it is flat. Spread some icing on the top add a little strawberry jam on top of the icing (don't spread the jam to the end of the cake though).
2. Place the second piece of cake on top and then spread the remaining icing on the cake using a palette knife. Recommendation is to icing the cake once with about half of the icing and then place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and use the rest of the icing to icing the cake.
3. Starting from the center of the cake, start pouring the chocolate and use a spoon to distribute it evenly on top of the cake and so that it gradually starts to drip down the sides.
4. Decorate the cake with fresh cream and fruit as you like.


Delicious White Chocolate Mousse with Pumpkin Gelatin

I found two great combinations - white chocolate and pumpkin. This is a bit of a nontraditional dessert for Halloween but it is always good to update the recipe box. The white chocolate is made into a mousse and combined with a soft pumpkin flavored cake and delicious pumpkin flavored gelatin.

This cake has several steps to it but don't despair since the end result is well worth it. If you are looking for short cuts you can also buy the cake that sits on the bottom.

Let's get to it. Put on some good music and set aside a couple of hours for this one.

This recipe is enough for a 18 cm x 6 cm baking ring

Spice Cake 
130 grams butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
120 grams sugar
150 grams pumpkin puree
240 grams flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
50 grams milk

50 grams Nutella (will be used when putting everything together at the end)

1.       In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt & spices.
2.       In another bowl, mix the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs in portions and  continue to mix. Lastly, add the vanilla.
3.       In portions, add the flour to the egg mixture and continue to mix with the hand mixer on low speed. Lastly add the pumpkin then the milk.
4.      Fill the bottom of the baking ring and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 – 25 minutes.

Pumpkin Gelatin

100 grams pumpkin puree
30 grams milk
1 egg yolk
30 grams sugar
6 grams gelatin (softened in water)
50 grams fresh cream

1.       In a bowl, mix the egg yolk and sugar together. In a saucepan, heat the milk until lightly boiling then add to the egg yolk mixture and mix. Add back to the saucepan and heat until lightly thickened - do not boil. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin. Pour into a bowl and cool.
2.    Whip the fresh cream with a whisk then add to the pumpkin mixture.
3.    Prepare a small ring (about 15 cm) by placing plastic wrap at one end of the ring and secure with a rubber band. Pour the pumpkin into the ring and place into the refrigerator until firm.
4. Keep out a little extra to spread out on the top of the cake.

White Chocolate Mousse

2 egg yolks
30 grams sugar
150 grams milk
80 grams white chocolate (melted over hot water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 grams gelatin sheets (softened in water)
150 grams fresh cream

1.       In a bowl, mix the egg yolk, vanilla extract and sugar together. In a saucepan, heat the milk then add to the egg yolk mixture and mix. Add back to the saucepan and heat until lightly thickened - do not boil. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin. Pour into a bowl and cool.
2.       Add the milk mixture to the chocolate mixture in portions and mix with a small whisk. Note, both the chocolate and milk mixture should be about the same temperature, about 38 degrees Celsius.
3.       Whip the fresh cream until soft peaks form. Add the chocolate mixture to the fresh cream in portions with a spatula. Put this bowl over ice water while mixing. Mix until it is just lightly thickened and then take off the ice water.

Putting everything together:

1.       Line the ring with mousse film then cut the cake to fit at the bottom of the ring and then cover with Nutella. Pour about 1/3 of the mousse into the ring over the cake then place the pumpkin mousse on top. Pour the remaining mousse into the ring until about 98% full. Put into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to start to firm up.

2.       Pour the remaining pumpkin gelatin on top and spread evenly with a palette knife. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before removing the cake from the ring for serving.