Tag Archives: dessert

Flora’s Tearoom: One year Anniversary

Pancake of the Week (0683)

Update: Please note that as from the 28th October, 2019 Flora’s Cafe is permanently closing down. It will now only cater for private events and tea parties.

One year goes by so fast. I find myself saying this repeatedly these days. A year ago I was told by a good friend of mine about a little tearoom and cafe’ (thank goodness) in the heart of Naxxar. You should go, Anna said, you definitely should. So that’s basically how Flora’s, which I think must have been open for just around two days, went straight to the top of my places-to-visit list. I had moved to Malta with J the previous summer and was looking for quaint independent places where I could have good coffee and a piece of cake (or two) while chatting to my mum or for just reading a book. Needless to say, discovering Flora’s felt as if I hit the jackpot.
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Flora’s Coffee Shop and Tea Room

Mirror (0141)

Update: Please note that as from the 28th October, 2019 Flora’s Cafe is permanently closing down. It will now only cater for private events and tea parties.

One thing I thought I would miss, since moving back to Malta last year was a good place for coffee and conversation, and perhaps for some reading. I’m sure there are a few places dotted around the island where you can do all that, but I haven’t come across anything till now. From this week though, I’m happy. In fact, this post could easily be part 2 in my love Malta series. From this week, my lovely readers, there’s a new kid on the block I like – a place so charming you will want to visit very soon. It’s called Flora’s, a small but beautiful coffee shop and tea room in Naxxar. So central, so on point. At least, for me. With an address like 1, Victory Square, you cannot miss it, and it’s right by the church. That’s exactly where I wanted to go on Friday. They opened on Wednesday, and I wanted to see how they would manage the usual teething problems a new place faces during its first few days.

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Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton

Prettiness (9813)

Spring is here. (What, no exclamation mark, you say? I thought I might spare you one this time.) I hope you all had a lovely long Easter weekend. I am having quite a busy few weeks and it’s only going to get worse, but it’s all been good. Yesterday was the best day. We had lunch with my family (I made stew, which is sort of a tradition in my house, and took it over to my parents’ place.) Then we drove to Ħad-Dingli for a walk along the cliffs, and on our way back home stopped over to the wonderful Diar il-Bniet for a great coffee and something sweet. I took some snapshots with my mobile – no camera this time unfortunately – and will be tweeting some of them on Twitter later on.

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Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate Cake (6571)I have to say that I am always looking for a good chocolate cake. The main reason is simple really: generally there aren’t many people who would object to chocolate and this makes chocolate cakes perfect for any celebration. Personally I think that any excuse is good to bake one of these, but surely would you *really* need an excuse, and my go-to person in a situation such as this, is of course Nigella.

As much as I love using my round baking tins (I recently bought another two), I prefer finding recipes for loaf cakes. Somehow I find loaf cakes easier to cut and make taking them around, say for a picnic or to a friend’s house for tea, easier. This recipe is one towards which I gravitate most and is definitely one of my favourites. It reminds me of a lemon drizzle cake…you will see why as you read on.

Triple Chocolate Cake (6575)Before you start, take whatever you need out of the fridge. You will get a better cake if everything is at room temperature.

  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 275g golden caster sugar
  • 175g butter, soft and unsalted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 80ml sour cream
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 175g dark chocolate, cut into small chunks

Syrup ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 125ml water
  • 100g golden caster sugar

Place a baking tray on the middle shelf of your oven and preheat to 170°C. Grease and line a loaf tin, making sure you have extra baking parchment at the sides. You could use a silicon tin but I prefer the conventional way. It takes a bit more work but the results will be better.

For the cake, place the flour, baking powder and the cocoa powder in a medium bowl and give them a good mix.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and caster sugar together. Beat in the eggs one by one.

Now gently fold in the dry ingredients and add the sour cream and vanilla extract to the mixture. Slowly add the boiling water and mix everything until just combined. Add the chocolate chunks and distribute evenly in the cake batter.

As soon as you do this, scrape the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for around 50 minutes to an hour. (There will be a few cracks in the cake when it’s done. Check it by inserting a skewer in the middle. The cake shouldn’t be too dry.)

While the cake is baking away, prepare the syrup by putting the cocoa powder, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Swirl the pan around a few times and let the liquid boil for a few minutes, until it has reduced to a syrup-y consistency.

When the cake is done, let it stay in the tin on a wire rack and pierce it with a skewer (like you would do with a lemon drizzle cake). Slowly pour the syrup all over the cake. Don’t worry if the liquid runs on the sides.

Make sure the cake is completely cold before taking it out of the tin, with the help of the overhanging parchment paper. Remove the lining and place it on a serving dish.

Serve it alone or with strawberries and cream or crème fraîche. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Feast: Food that celebrates life, Chatto & Windus, 2004.)

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry-Muffins-(6541)A very good friend of mine always asks me for more muffin recipes. I get this. Unlike cakes, my personal preference if I were to choose (I don’t think so), muffins are charming little things. Even though I may have a muffin with my coffee when out running errands, I prefer homemade ones. Somehow shop-bought ones seem too big, too out there if you know what I mean.

Sometime ago I was invited to a YSL event at a local store. In one corner the ladies prepared a spread of pretty little cupcakes, which seem to be all the rage nowadays. To me they looked more inviting than all the expensive stuff in the shop. They were good, a bit on the small side, but good nonetheless. One would argue that you cannot look sophisticated while devouring a large chunk of cake! I went home and I wanted to bake something in between.

Homebaked muffins will be smaller than the huge things you might get at the store but don’t let that deter you. You can make the mixture in five minutes flat and they are so convenient when you have people round for afternoon tea. All you need is coffee! Blueberries are great here, but you can use whatever you want…strawberries, raspberries, or perhaps a mixture of both. Makes 12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened almost melted
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100ml milk, preferably full-fat
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 180g blueberries

Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases and preheat the oven to 190ºC.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter together with the sugar, eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice till everything is just combined.

Fold in the flour mixture gently into the wet ingredients preferably with a spatula. Tip in the blueberries, and don’t overmix. A lumpy batter is exactly what you want here!

Using an ice-cream scoop, distribute the mixture evenly in the tray and bake for approximately 15 to 18 minutes. They should be ready by then but always check by inserting a skewer in the middle of one muffin just to be sure.

Place them on a cookie rack to cool, and eat them when they are slightly warm on the same day. They should keep in an airtight container until the next day – good excuse to invite a good friend for tea. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No. 8: Cakes, Pam Corbin, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry fools

Strawberry Fool (7433)Strawberry Fool (7401)I know that Wimbledon season doesn’t necessarily mean strawberry season for some. It’s not as if we have been on an exclusive strawberry diet for the past ten days! I just have to reserve a place for them in my kitchen right now. At one time I had so many I just didn’t know what to do with them. For a change I couldn’t bother with a gazillion recipes this year, so I just went to one lady for advice, the incredible Deb Perelman. I cannot think of any foodie who doesn’t know the name Smitten Kitchen. I have been a fan of this blog for a long time and goodness knows how many times I have visited for some much needed inspiration. It also makes a good read and the photos look great.

Books (6967)Now I finally have the book. I have been so looking forward to holding it in my hands that I did a little dance when it arrived in the post. It’s been around for quite some time so I had to get cooking to try to keep up. So I went ahead and made Deb’s strawberry cheesecake fools. I never made a cheesecake before, neither a fool for that matter, though I know of many, so this recipe was a good place to start. It seemed simple enough (this positive outlook changed by the end of the process though) and having done something similar before I thought I would give them a shot, and here they are. I modified slightly the method, the way it worked for me. I thought I would insert the photos as we go along; it helped me break down the method and I hope this will help you too.

Strawberry Fool (7400)Strawberry Fool (7406)Strawberry Fool (7409)Strawberry Fool (7411)Strawberry Fool (7418)Strawberry Fool (7421)Strawberry mixture:

  • 450g strawberries (give or take a few grams)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the fruit mixture, wash, hull and cut the strawberries into quarters or half if they are smallish in size. Put them in a heavy-based medium to large saucepan, together with the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Give them a stir and let them stand for around 15 minutes, gently mixing them once in a while.

Turn on the hob to medium heat and let the strawberries simmer. Cook for not more than 3 minutes. Take them off the heat, put them in a bowl and let them cool for a while before covering and putting them in the fridge to chill well, for around 2 hours.

Strain the strawberry mixture using a sieve over a small bowl to collect some of the juice. You will need 50ml for later*.

Strawberry Fool (7423)

Strawberry Fool (7425)

Sugar cookie crumble:

  • 60g digestive biscuits (5 to 6 – just eyeball it, you’ll be fine)
  • 30g soft light brown sugar
  • pinch or two of cinnamon

To prepare the cookie crumb mixture, put the digestive biscuits, brown sugar and cinnamon into a food processor and grind. If you prefer you can also topple the ingredients into a freezer bag and bash them with a meat pounder or a rolling pin. Whatever works for you!

Strawberry Fool (7427)

Strawberry Fool (7430)

Strawberry Fool (7431)Whipped cream cheese:

  • 175ml whipping cream
  • 170g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 25g sugar
  • pinch salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the creams, in a large bowl mix well the soft cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla extract, until smooth. Remove around 100ml of this cheese mixture and set aside. In another bowl beat the whipping cream with an electric beater till you get stiff peaks. Remember the reserved 50ml of that glorious strawberry juice?* It’s now time to fold it gently into the larger amount of the cheese and cream mixture.

For the assemblage, you need roughly 6 x 100ml tall glasses, (though my mixture had a mind of its own and increased by, oh I don’t know…a lot! So I used assorted ones and even a couple of ramekins.) Start layering like so: 1 tablespoon of the strawberry mixture, 1 tablespoon of the biscuit crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the pink cream cheese mixture, 1 tablespoon crumbs and 1 tablespoon of strawberry mixture. Repeat the process and top the glasses with the remaining white cream and frankly whatever’s left.

Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes and eat. They will also keep for 3 days, if preparing ahead.

Strawberry Fool (7436)The kitchen will be a mess by the end of it…well, mine was anyway, and it was a little bit of a faff. I don’t know whether I would want to make this again. If I ever do it’s because it tastes so darn good! Perhaps next time I could forget the fancy pink cream cheese mixture and keep it white. No need to reserve any strawberry juices then. It will probably be soggy but I wouldn’t mind. It will look pretty anyway, and by the end of the process the whole thing (or rather one *cough* portion) will be gone! Enjoy the tennis and have a great weekend!

Rob xx

Anything-you-want-to-add-to Cake!

Cranberry-Cake-(5957)

Pretty weird as a title I know, but that’s how I felt when I baked this little beauty. My chocolate bakes which I have promised you will be posted soon, but today I thought about writing about a simple Madeira style cake which I love to prepare when I’m really up against it. I can never *not* have anything good to eat in this house, and neither should you – not that you must listen to everything I tell you but it’s nice to be prepared! Also there’s no need to remind my lovely readers that J eats for four, e di più!

I have been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while (I think I made this for the first time in the beginning of summer) but never came round to writing about it. Here it is today though. My inspiration comes from a recipe which you can find in Nigella’s HTBADG for Cherry Almond Loaf Cake. It’s a fantastic cake because you can replace the dried cherries with any other dried fruit you fancy. It’s as simple as that really. I love it because it’s easy and good for those days when chocolate won’t do either – a rarity, but it can happen. I used cranberries which worked really well. They are my favourites! One thing I will say is that since this cake is very moist, it has a tendency to take a bit longer than usual to bake completely. And it might remain moist in the middle, especially if you accidentally pierce a berry, but on the whole, a skewer or knife should come out clean. OK, here we go:

  • 200g dried cranberries
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 225g soft butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 6 x 15ml tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 3. Grease and line a loaf tin.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar till they become creamy and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs slowly, then the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and slowly fold them into the egg mixture, with the ground almonds.

Fold the dried cranberries and the milk and pour this cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Don’t worry if the mixture seems thick. It’s supposed to be that way.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, but most importantly when a skewer comes out totally clean. Leave in the tin on a wire rack until the cake cools completely.

Enjoy!

Rob x