Resistance is futile: Mark Hix picks four irresistible sweet recipes from his new book
Baked peaches with amaretto
This is one recipe that you could clip and keep in your scrapbook for next summer when you have a glut of peaches or nectarines that you need to put to good use. You will also find that this recipe works well with unripe fruit. Baking the fruit imparts a different flavour, rather like when you roast vegetables.
6 peaches or nectarines, halved and with the stones removed
80g butter, melted
100-150ml amaretto liqueur
120g amaretti biscuits that have been coarsely crushed
2tbsp clear honey
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Lay the peaches cut-side up on a baking tray.
Spoon over two-thirds of the butter and the amaretto.
Bake the peaches or nectarines in the oven for 15-20 minutes (you may need a little longer if the peaches aren't that ripe), covering them with foil if they are colouring a bit too rapidly.
Mix the remaining butter with the amaretti biscuits in a bowl.
Remove the peaches from the oven, spoon over the biscuit mixture and then carry on baking for a further 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden.
To finish, transfer the peaches to serving plates, and then add the honey and a few tablespoons of water to the cooking tray and simmer for 30 seconds or so, stirring, until mixed.
Spoon the sauce around the peaches and then serve with custard, ice-cream or mascarpone.
I really have to be in the mood for these Mediterranean biscuits as they are just so sweet. But once they are plonked in front of me with a cup of Turkish coffee, my resistance waivers.
225g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
18 sheets of filo pastry
225g mixed pistachios, blanched almonds and walnuts, roughly chopped
2tbsp granulated sugar
1tsp ground cardamom
For the syrup
350g granulated sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp orange blossom water
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Grease a 16-18cm x 28cm non-stick baking tray with butter or line with baking parchment. Take a sheet of the filo pastry, place it in the tray and brush with the melted butter. Place a second sheet on top of the first and brush with butter again before repeating with a further 8 sheets of pastry, ensuring you cover the pastry you are not using with a f damp cloth to prevent it from drying up.
In a clean bowl, mix together the nuts, sugar and cardamom. Spread three-quarters of the mixture over the pastry in the tray. Layer up the remaining sheets of filo on top of the nut mixture, brushing each sheet with butter as before.
Using the point of a sharp knife, cut a criss-cross pattern into the top layers of the pastry, cutting through into the filling.
Place the baklava in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 150C/gas mark 2 and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is slightly puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
To make the syrup, heat the sugar, water, lemon juice and orange blossom water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the sugar has melted and the liquid is syrupy. Pour the syrup into the slits in the baklava, sprinkle over the remaining nut mixture and leave to cool. Cut into strips or small rectangular or square pieces and serve.
Cherry Yorkshire pudding
Yorkshire puddings – so I've heard but never actually witnessed – often get dished up as a dessert up North. Well, our native Yorkshire pudding is a kind of clafoutis, I suppose, so why not serve it as a dessert? When cherries aren't in season, try using cherries preserved in eau de vie to give the puddings a nice kick.
100g plain flour
15g icing sugar
The seeds from half a vanilla pod, or a few drops of vanilla essence
24 cherries, stoned
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place all of the ingredients, except the cherries, in a bowl or a small electric whisker and whisk to form a light batter. Lightly grease 4 individual deep Yorkshire pudding tins and put them in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the tins from the oven, divide the cherries f between them and add enough batter to half fill each tin. Return to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the batter has risen and is golden. Serve with cherry ice-cream.
Galette au fenouil
This may sound a bit wacky, but it really is delicious. A pastry chef at The Ivy introduced me to it years ago and it stayed on the menu for ages.
200g ready-made, all-butter puff pastry
Plain flour, for dusting
300g caster sugar
2tsp fennel seeds
2tsp finely chopped dill (if there is no fern on the fennel)
Icing sugar, for dusting
200g crème fraîche
Roll out the pastry on a floured table to about 3mm thick. Cut the pastry into four 13cm discs and prick them all over with a fork. Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Meantime, prepare the topping. Trim the fennel bulbs if necessary. If there is any fern on the fennel, chop it finely and put it to one side. Put the bulbs whole into a saucepan with the sugar and fennel seeds. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the fennel is soft to the point of a knife. Remove the bulbs from the cooking syrup, setting both aside. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
Place the pastry discs on a baking tray and cover with a wire cooling rack to stop them rising while cooking. Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the discs over and cook for a further 4 minutes with the rack in place. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Strain 500ml of the cooking syrup f through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan. Bring to the boil, lower to a simmer and cook until it has reduced to around 4 or 5 spoonfuls in volume. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little before adding the chopped fennel fern or dill.
Cut the fennel bulbs lengthways into 5mm slices. To assemble the tarts, arrange the fennel slices on the puff pastry discs in a circular pattern, ensuring the fennel goes to the edges of the pastry.
Dust with icing sugar and bake for 7-8 minutes until golden (cover the tarts with foil if they begin to colour too rapidly). To serve, spoon the syrup around the tarts and top with a dollop of crème fraîche.
'Mark Hix on Baking', with photographs by Jason Lowe, is published by Quadrille, £20. To order a copy at a special price, including p&p, call Independent Books Direct on 0843 0600 030
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