Right after the Olympics theme of last month's 5-Star Makeover Challenge, we find ourselves back in the UK again, this time chilling out over high tea, British style. Tea Party is the theme of this month's 5-Star Makeover. Of course this brought back memories of my student days over there, the many times when my friends and I used to traipse over to our favorite tea room, Bettys, either in York or Harrogate (I was at a University up North). Dressed in our weekend student gear - which really wasn't much different from the weekday clothes, really - we would feel somewhat elegant surrounded by the cafe's quaint decor, while sipping our fancy-flavored teas and biting into the baked desserts and delicate sandwiches positioned just so between the thumb, index and and middle finger. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration there, but you get the picture. :)
For this challenge, I really wanted to do a spin on classic British desserts. The first one that came first and foremost to my mind was Bakewell Tart, a buttery tart with a slick of bright raspberry jam underneath a toasty baked almond frangipane filling, originating from Bakewell in Derbyshire. The only thing was, I didn't feel like baking a tart, as visions of substituting butter with something else for the crust just didn't appeal to me. I decided to use filo (phyllo) pastry dough instead to seal the almond and raspberry flavors in and glaze it with lemon-scented confectionery sugar. I've seen some individual-portioned Bakewell Tarts being topped with half a cherry but I didn't have any so I made do with cranberry.
The second sweet treat I opted to make was based on a modern British 'classic', Sticky Toffee Pudding, sometimes also known as Sticky Date Pudding. It's a steamed dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates or prunes, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream. Since I was on a roll with the filo, I thought well why not capture the flavors of the pudding using filo too?
You could use luscious Medjool dates for filling the toffee pudding purses, but I had these yellow dates on hand. I used the browned, soft and ripened ones instead of the fresh yellow ones as the latter are not as sweet and can even be slightly tart.
For the filling, I blended toasted cashews with the ripened dates and added elements of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to enhance the sweet flavor. I made a vegan toffee cream sauce to accompany the parcels out of vegan butter, dark brown sugar and cashew cream. The purses were baked and each one placed in the center of its own pool of thick toffee sauce. So it was all a matter of dip, bite, dip and bite until all the crisp and crumbly morsels are finished...and then you reach out for another one!
If you've ever lived in the United Kingdom, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the British reach out for their 'cuppa' every time they need to destress or resolve life's dilemmas. Well, you won't be far wrong. Having a bad day? Let's brew some tea. The weather's cold and wet... here's a cuppa to warm you up. Your favorite football (or soccer) team lost, or your sweetheart/handyman/publisher (insert relationship preference here) just let you down again... grab this cuppa in between your palms and tell me all about it. Feeling all posh and Fancy Nancy? What are you waiting for...let's head off to high tea!
Bakewell Tart Samosas
1/2 cup toasted & ground almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1/4 cup raspberry conserve
15 filo sheets, thawed and cut into 7in X 2in
1/2 cup confectionery sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
15 dried cherry halves (or dried cranberries)
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place almonds, sugar, zest and oil in a small food processor and process mixture until it forms into a moist and pliable dough.
2. Cut filo dough into 7 X 2 in strips. Place half a teaspoon of raspberry conserve on one end of the filo strip. Top this with a teaspoon of almond mixture, flatten slightly for easier folding. Take one corner of the filo strip and fold it over the filling into a triangle shape. Continue folding down the length of the strip, samosa-style, and seal the end with a dab of water. Do this with all the strips and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.
3. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
4. To make the glaze, sift confectionery sugar into a small bowl. Add lemon juice gradually to get a thick glaze consistency. Dip one side of each samosa in the glaze and place a cherry half on top. Leave to set before serving.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Purses
1/2 cup toasted & ground cashew nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup soft dates (Medjool, or ripe yellow dates)
8 square filo sheets, thawed and cut into 4in X 4in
filo strips, for the 'ribbons'
Cashew Toffee Cream
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. To make the filling, process nuts, spices, vanilla and dates until it becomes a moist dough. Take a heaped teaspoon and roll into a packed ball in your palms. Do this with the rest of the dough.
2. To make the purse, take a ball and place it in the centre of a filo square. Brush the filo just around the ball area with a little water to help seal it.
3. Take 2 opposite corners of the sheet and bring them together. Do the same with the remaining two corners. Wrap filo around the ball circumference and twist to seal. Tie filo ribbon along the twisted part to secure further.
4. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.
5. For the toffee cream, blend the cashews with water to form a thick cream. Strain though a fine sieve and set aside.
6. Melt the vegan butter and brown sugar in a pan, then add the cashew cream and bring gently to the boil. Leave to simmer for a few minutes on low heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Add more water if the sauce is too thick.
7. To serve, spoon a teaspoon of toffee cream on an individual serving plate and place a Sticky Toffee Pudding Purse on top. Serve immediately.