apricot crostata

One of my favourite memories of Italy is called merenda.

Merenda is an afternoon snack, nothing as fussy as afternoon tea, just a simple, sweet snack to tide you over to dinner time. The time for merenda is usually about 4 ish and you can eat anything from fresh bread with jam, biscuits, budino or crostata if you are lucky enough that someone had the thought to make one. Normally washed down with a fruit tea, juice or espresso.

Crostata is basically a tart, a big tart.

apricot crostata

Made with a base of pasta frolla and covered with your favourite jam, in this case I used the Apricot jam we bought back from France last week.

The quantity of pastry given here is enough for two crostata so I have frozen the other half for next week’s dopo scuola merenda.

The beauty of a crostata in the house is it’s good for merenda, as already mentioned but also good for a slice with a cup of tea whilst watching tv in the evening like husband and I did last night. It’s good for breakfast instead of toast and it’s good for elevenses too.

apricot crostata

Make one and tell me when you enjoyed a slice, here’s the simple recipe which I am also submitting to Mummy Mishaps Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 5 which follows the GBBO on the TV, this week was pies and tarts so Apricot Crostata here you go. Head over to her blog for lots of other fantastic ideas.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Apricot crostata - or massive apricot jam tart
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A simple and delicious idea for dessert or merenda or even a snack.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
  • 300 g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g butter
  • 130g sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 800g apricot jam
  • egg to brush the pastry with
  1. Place the flour, salt and butter in a mixer and whizz until it's like a breadcrumb mixture.
  2. Turn into a bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest and eggs.
  3. Mix well together with your hands until a pastry is formed.
  4. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  5. Take your pie dish (I have a removable bottom one) and coat the insides with butter and then flour to prevent the pastry sticking.
  6. Roll out the pastry until ¾ mm thick, roll it around your rolling pin and transfer over the pie dish.
  7. Push gently into place making sure it's not stretched and trim the edges for a neat finish.
  8. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork and then cover with the jam spreading evenly over the base.
  9. With the remaining pastry cut long strips about 1cm thick to make the lattice pattern on top.
  10. Place your strips about 3cms apart first one way and then go over the top in the other direction.
  11. Trim the edges and push to the top of the jam for a neat edge.
  12. Brush with eggwash and place in a preheated oven at 180C for about 45 minutes
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how to make a gingerbread house

I have always looked at the fabulous gingerbread houses and imagined they were really difficult to make so I never got any further than admiring them from afar oh and eating them of course

How to make a gingerbread house

Then Lakeland asked me if I’d like to review one of their Fairy Cottage moulds which can be used with gingerbread or chocolate. Versatile and easy.

I said yes as you know I can’t refuse a challenge and I was amazed just how easy it was to make my first gingerbread house, not only that I really enjoyed making it and had a smile on my face from start to finish. I have a confession – I didn’t let the girls help me I was so engrossed in my creativity, oops. Lucky it’s a mould and we can use it time and time again

Lakeland Ginger bread house mouldSo here’s what your Lakeland Fairy Cottage moulds look like. They cost £11.99, you can order them online and have them delivered too.

NB: Lakeland – please could you make a plastic box to put them away in, like a made to measure briefcase? Only reason they are in silicone and as they’re only used occasionally throughout the year I’d hate them to get ripped or broken by mistake. ;)

The moulds are suitable for gingerbread and chocolate, take a look at my chocolate Chapel of Love

Gingerbread house recipe

gingerbread house decoratingcourtesy of Lakeland

180 g butter
125g brown sugar
300g treacle OR golden syrup (I used syrup for the lighter colour)
500g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Extra flour for rolling


Pre heat the oven to 170C

Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat then add the sugar and syrup, remove from the heat and stir. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended into a thick dough

Tip the dough onto a floured board, knead with flour, then tear off pieces of dough and press into the mould.

gingerbread house panels

Place onto a baking tray and bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until firm to touch – the dough will crisp as it cools

Allow to cool before removing from the mould.

gingerbread house panels cooked

Royal icing

500g icing sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
3 egg whites

Place the sugar and cream in a medium bowl. Gradualy add the egg whites whisking with an electric mixer until the mixture forms into a thick white paste, the whisk should be able to stand upright in the mixture. If required add more icing sugar

Spoon the icing into a piping bag, twist top and begin building the house using the icing as your ‘glue’

gingerbread house

Biscuit anyone?

gingerbread house

Chocolate Custard cookies

Once upon a time the world, well Britain, stopped for Elevenses. A daily ritual where people up and down the country would take a five minute break and enjoy a cup of tea with something to nibble on. It could be a biscuit, a piece of cake or any number of special small treats.

We’re all so stressed these days running from one task to the next, stopping off half way to do a school run and then back indoors, the ironing, the dinner, the shopping, the cleaning we’re constantly on the go. What used to be an enjoyable daily ritual got put to one side in favour of…what? Taking the dog for a walk? Cleaning the bathroom? Cleaning the oven? Heaven forbid!

This was my favourite snack as a child, I could eat a whole tray of it and I can confirm that my girls both feel the same way although I stop at just one or two pieces these days :) It’s an ancient recipe that my mother found in a magazine, cut out and stuck in her scrapbook, she can’t even remember which magazine it was and we’re probably talking 1970’s so here goes for a real step back in time to ‘proper’ Elevenses

Chocolate Custard Cookies

Ingredients for 18 cookies

1st Layer

100g Anchor butter
40g caster sugar
3 level tbsps cocoa
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
125g crushed digestive biscuits
50g walnuts (optional)

2nd layer

200g icing sugar
2 level tbsps custard powder
50g soft margarine
3 tbsps hot water

3rd layer

75g plain chocolate
40g butter
40g icing sugar


1. Grease a 25 x 12 cm swiss roll tin

For 1st layer – Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a small saucepan. Add the beaten egg and essence and stir for 1 minute without boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed biscuits and finely chopped walnuts if using. Spread mixture into tin, level and chill

For 2nd layer – Sift the icing sugar and custard powder into a bowl, beat in the margarine and add enough hot water to bind. (note in my photo my cookies are sliding a little bit – probably a tad too much water). Spread over the biscuit layer and chill.

Chocolate Custard cookies 2nd layer

For 3rd layer – Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small basin over a saucepan of hot water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove form the ehat, beat in the icing sugar and spread over the custard layer. Chill until firm cut into 18 squares

Chocolate Custard cookies 3rd layer

Perfect for a special treat, dessert buffet and once you’ve tried them you won’t be able to stop yourself going back for another ;)


Yule log

Should have sprinkled a little icing sugar on for snow!

It’s not completely Christmas for me if there’s not a slice of Chocolate log in the house and this year I was determined to try and make one of my own. There are thousands of recipes out there, some with chestnuts or marron glace, some with alcohol and versions upon versions of Yule logs but I have gone for the simplest.

It’s VERY easy and only takes 10-12 mins in the oven the longest bit is waiting for it to cool so you can cover it in chocolate butter icing but I learnt my lesson after the biscuits and only called on the girls to ‘help’ once I was at the icing stage ;)

Video instructions at the bottom to see exactly how easy it is :)

Christmas Chocolate Log recipe – serves 8



50g butter
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100g self raising flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp hot water


75g butter
150g icing sugar
2 tbsps cocoa powder
skimmed milk to blend
1/4 tsp orange extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C gas mark 6)
  2. Line a 30 x 20 Swiss roll tin with baking paper and brush with melted butter.
  3. Place all the sponge ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and make sure it’s even, bake in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes
  5. Sprinkle some icing sugar onto a sheet of greaseproof paper, carefully turn the sponge onto it and remove the tin’s paper lining
  6. Tidy up the edges with a sharp knife then using the greaseproof paper gently roll the cake so the paper is inside the sponge
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack
  8. Place all the icing ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.
  9. Gently unroll the sponge, spread half of the icing on top and roll up without the paper inside! ;)
  10. Cover the log with the rest of the icing sugar and make a bark texture with a fork
My own little touch which isn’t compulsory but if you’re as big a fan as me of Terry’s Chocolate Orange then I’d thoroughly recommend it – is to add a little Valencian Orange Extract to the icing, if I’d thought about it I could have even decorated with slices of Terry’s Orange but instead used Dr Oetker’s Chocolate stars.

I’m joining in with English Mum’s Christmas Bake Off

We Should Cocoa challenge over at Chocolate Log Blog

and Tea Time Treats over at What Kate Baked

tiramisu recipeWho just went mmmmm on seeing the word Tiramisu? :)

I do every time, be it on a menu, on a shop shelf or in my own fridge. The trouble is I’ve hunted around my archives for a mouth watering photo to add of a homemade tiramisu and I haven’t got one. It occurred to me that this pudding has never been around along enough to be photographed! (Editor’s note: photo taken 21/11/13)

Did you know the word tiramisu literally translated means pick me up? I would imagine it’s because of the strong Italian coffee used to soak the biscuits in and not for the drop of brandy used to add a bit of flavour :)

Contrary to popular belief this is an incredibly simple recipe to make, it is also very fortunately a cheap one AND above all guaranteed to have everyone, umming and arring over the super deliciousness of such a dessert.

At a family barbecue a couple of weeks ago, I took along all of the necessary ingredients for a Tiramisu recipe, set up my video camera and along with the help of my niece Rosie we made a delicious pudding, have a look just how easy it is.

Just in case you missed it here’s a fool proof recipe and ‘how to’ video for risotto , dead simple to follow and guaranteed to be a table pleaser. So now you have no excuse all we need is for the Great British weather to play ball too.