While we absolutely and unabashedly love all food, we don’t usually indulge in dessert on the average weekday. Weekends, however, are fair game. Add in the fact that fall is the quintessential time to hunker down and spend some quality time in the kitchen, and you’ll understand why we’re baking our way through our new favorite cookbook, Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi. The cookbook is as gorgeous as the recipes are delicious, and it manages to be both accessible and impressive. Whether you’re a wannabe pastry chef or a baking novice, there’s a recipe for you. Below, we’ve pulled out three of our favorites, categorized by difficulty level. Feeling ambitious and have a little time on your hands? Go for the Mont Blanc Tarts. Want something chocolatey and quick? Consult Ottolenghi’s cookie recipe. Think of these as our pre-Halloween gift to you, our Potatoheads; you’re welcome…
8 tbsp/110 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
½ cup plus 2 tsp/110 g granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup/125 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
3 ½ tbsp/20 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup/100 g dark chocolate chips (70% cocoa solids), or 3 ½ oz/100g dark chocolate, cut into ¼-inch/0.5-cm pieces
2 oz/55g mashed bananas (about ½ small banana)
1 1/3 cups/165 g pecan halves, finely chopped
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp/100 g confectioners’ sugar
1. Place the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, then gradually add the egg and continue to beat until incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl, then add to the butter and sugar. Mix on low speed for about 15 seconds, then add the chocolate chips and banana. Beat until combined, then transfer to the fridge for 2 hours to firm up.
2. When firm, use your hands to form the dough into 1-inch/3-cm round balls, about 2/3 oz/20 g each; you might need to wash your hands once or twice when making them, if they get too sticky. Place the pecans in a medium bowl and drop the balls into the nuts as you form them, rolling them around so that they are completely coated and pressing the nuts in so that they stick.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the cookies onto the sheet— there is no need to space them apart—and transfer to the fridge for an hour.
4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and roll the cookies in the confectioners’ sugar, pressing it in as you go so that it sticks well. Place on the lined baking sheets, spaced 1 inch/2.5 cm apart, and flatten the cookies to 1/3 inch/1 cm thick.
6. Bake for 10 minutes. They will be soft to the touch when they come out of the oven, so allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before gently transferring to a wire rack. These can be served warm, when they will be a little gooey in the center, or set aside until completely cool.
Once the unbaked dough has been rolled into balls, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. You can also bake them from frozen; you’ll just need to add an extra minute of cooking time.
These cookies are best eaten within a day of being baked.
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp/200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 ¼ cups/250 g granulated sugar
2/3 cup/60 g finely shredded coconut
Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla pod
¼ tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 2/3 cups/180 g almond meal
2 oz/55 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) roughly chopped into 1/3-inch/1-cm pieces
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
3 tbsp water
Scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod
1 ½ tbsp, unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾-inch/2-cm cubes
1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease the base and sides of a standard 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch/900-g loaf pan or a 9-inch/23-cm round springform pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
2. Place the butter, sugar, coconut, vanilla seeds and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the speed to low, add the almond meal and mix until just combined.
3. Scrape the mixture into the pan and bake for 40 minutes if using the loaf pan or 50 minutes if using the round pan, or until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool in the pan before inverting onto a serving plate. Set aside until completely cool.
4. To make the water ganache: when you are ready to serve, place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Put the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and, when the sugar has melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring gently from time to time. Continue to boil for about 7 minutes, until the color is a pale amber. Remove from the heat and carefully pour in the water. Don’t worry if the mix seizes; just return the pan to the heat, add the vanilla seeds and stir gently and continuously until it returns to a boil and the sugar has melted again. Remove from the heat and wait for a minute before pouring the water-caramel over the chocolate. Allow to stand for about 3 minutes, then whisk to combine. Add the butter, a couple of cubes at a time, whisking after each addition. Continue until all the butter has been added, whisking to combine until the consistency is that of thick syrup.
5. Spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides a little, and serve.
This can be made in a standard 8½ x 4½-inch/900-g loaf pan or in a 9-inch/23-cm round springform pan.
This will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. It can be eaten on the day of making, but we think it tastes even better served at room temperature the following day.
1 2/3 cups/220 g all-purpose flour
8 ½ tbsp/120 g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/3-inch/1-cm cubes, plus extra, as needed, for brushing
2 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp ice-cold water
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup/120 g pecan halves
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt
2 oz/55 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 cup/320 g sweetened chestnut spread (we use Clement Faugier; whichever brand you use, just make sure it is not the unsweetened variety)
Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 ¼ cups/300 ml heavy cream
1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp brandy
1. To make the flaky pastry, place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, until it is the consistency of fine breadcrumbs, then add the vinegar and water. Continue to pulse for a few seconds, then transfer to a work surface. Shape into a ball and flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
3. When ready to roll out, allow the pastry to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (if it has been in the fridge for more than a few hours) and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch/3 mm thick and cut out eight circles, 5 ½ inches/14 cm wide. Reroll the dough, if necessary, to get eight circles.
4. Transfer one circle at a time to the 3 1/2-inch/9-cm-wide and 1-inch/3-cm-deep fluted tart pans and gently press the pastry into the corners of the pan; you want it to fit snugly and for there to be a decent amount of pastry hanging over the edge of the pan, as the pastry can shrink a little when baked. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
5. Line the pastry shells in the pans with parchment paper or paper liners and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 18 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown at the edges. Remove the rice and paper and bake for another 8 minutes, or until the shell is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely on the baking sheet. Once cool, trim the shell (so that it can be removed from the pans) and set aside until ready to fill.
6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
7. To make the candied pecans, combine the maple syrup, corn syrup and granulated sugar in a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir gently until the sugar has melted, then add the pecans and salt. Stir so that the nuts are coated in the syrup, then tip the nuts onto the lined baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the syrup is bubbling around the nuts. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside until completely cooled. When the nuts are cooled, the glaze should be completely crisp; if not, return them to the oven for a few minutes more. Once cooled, break or roughly chop the nuts into 1/4 -inch/0.5-cm pieces and set aside until ready to use.
8. To make the filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted, then use a pastry brush to coat the inside of each tart shell with the chocolate. Set aside for about 30 minutes, to set, then fill with enough chestnut spread so that it rises about halfway up the sides of the tart shells.
9. To make the vanilla whipped cream, pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and brandy and beat on high speed for 1 minute, or until medium-soft peaks form.
10. Divide the whipped cream among the tarts, so that it is slightly domed on top of the chestnut spread. Sprinkle the candied pecans generously on top—you might have a tablespoon or two left over, but these can be saved to munch on, to sprinkle over your next bowl of breakfast granola or porridge, or to use in the Knickerbocker Glory—and serve.
You will need eight mini fluted tart pans, about 3 ½ inch/9 cm wide and 1 inch/3 cm deep. Alternatively, you can make this in one large fluted tart pan, around 10 inches/25 cm wide and 1 inch/3 cm deep.
The pastry can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge (covered in plastic wrap) until ready to roll. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months. The candied pecans can be made up to 5 days in advance and kept in an airtight container.
Once assembled, the tarts are best eaten on the day they are baked.
Reprinted with permission from Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, copyright© 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Peden + Munk© 2017
*In partnership with Crown Publishing Group