24 October 2016Last updated

Food | Recipes

Sweet sensations

You don’t have to be a Michelin-star chef to whip up pretty French desserts. Climb the popularity charts at your next dinner party with these decadent classics

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29 Jan 2016 | 12:00 am
  • Chocolate crème caramel.

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  • Chocolate fondant.

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  • Pear tartlets.

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  • Crème brûlée doughnuts.

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  • French custard tart.

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  • Pancakes with chocolate sauce.

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Chocolate crème caramel

Prep time 10 mins
Baking time 45 mins plus 3 hours cooling time
Serves 6

200g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
100g 70 per cent dark chocolate
400ml milk
250ml cream
A pinch of vanilla powder
125g caster sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 1600C.

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and heat without stirring. Cook until caramelised.

Pour caramel into a jug, then very carefully pour it into 6 ramekins with a volume of about 125ml each. Let stand for a few seconds, tilting so caramel covers half the inside of the ramekins.

Break chocolate into pieces and place in a mixing bowl.

Heat milk, cream and vanilla powder together in a saucepan to just before boiling point. Add chocolate, stirring until chocolate has melted.

Beat sugar, eggs and egg yolks together until pale. Add chocolate mixture and stir well.

Pour chocolate-egg mixture on top of caramel in ramekins. Place ramekins in a roasting dish. Fill the dish until halfway up the sides of the ramekins with boiling water. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until set. Remove and leave to cool.

Refrigerate for 3 hours. Remove and turn out on to serving plates.

Chocolate fondant

Prep time 10 mins
Baking time 10-12 mins
Serves 6

140g 70 per cent dark chocolate, roughly chopped
140g unsalted butter
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
85g caster sugar
45g cake flour

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease 6 ovenproof dishes with butter and place on a baking sheet.

Bring water to the boil in a saucepan. Place chocolate and butter in a glass bowl that fits over the pan. Switch off the heat and place bowl over water. Stir occasionally until chocolate and butter melt.

Beat together eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar with an electric mixer until pale yellow. Beat in the chocolate mix. Divide among dishes and bake for 10-12 minutes or until risen. (Puddings must not completely set. If they crack on top there will be less of the soft centre.) Serve immediately with ice cream.

Pear tartlets

Prep time 1 hour
Baking time 45 mins
Makes 12

6 pears
500g sugar
500ml water
A pinch of vanilla powder
100g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
1 egg, beaten
2 square sheets of frozen puff pastry
Icing sugar, to dust

Peel pears and halve lengthways. Remove seeds. Heat sugar, water and vanilla powder in a large saucepan, stirring continuously until sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and carefully put the pears in the hot syrup.

Cut a circle out of a wax paper as large as the top of the saucepan. Cut a small round hole in the centre of the wax paper and place the wax paper directly on top of the pears and syrup. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until pears are soft. Remove pears from the pan and leave to cool. Set the syrup aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cream together butter and sugar until light. Add almonds and egg and mix well.

Let the puff pastry thaw for 20 minutes, then cut each sheet of pastry into 3 equal strips. Halve each strip down the middle. Place pastry strips on lined baking sheets. Divide the almond mixture among the strips, spreading it evenly. Score pears lengthways. 
Place a pear on top of each strip of pastry dough and press gently to fan out. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile return the syrup to the heat. Reduce until syrup thickens.

Remove tartlets from oven and brush pears with syrup. Leave to cool slightly and dust edges of each tartlet with icing sugar. Serve with stiffly whipped cream or ice cream.

Crème brûlée doughnuts

Prep time 1 hour
Cooking time 30 mins plus cooling time
Makes 15

10g instant yeast
35g caster sugar
190ml lukewarm water
1 egg
1 tsp salt
125ml evaporated milk
490g cake flour
2 tbsp melted butter
Oil, for frying
For the filling
250ml cream
250ml milk
80g sugar
6 egg yolks
20g cake flour
1 tsp vanilla powder
For the caramel
100g sugar
20ml water

Place yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add water and let stand for 10 minutes. Beat together egg, salt and milk in a bowl.

Add the egg mixture to the yeast one and stir well. Add half the flour and mix. 
Add melted butter and stir through. Add remaining flour and mix well.

Place the wet dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Oil a bowl and place dough in it. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat together cream and milk in a saucepan to just before boiling point. Beat together remaining ingredients until light.

Add a little of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture and stir well. Pour the egg mix into the rest of the cream mixture in the saucepan. Place back on a low heat, stirring continuously, until it forms a thick custard. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl. Set aside to cool and place in fridge.

When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out on to a floured surface. Punch down, sprinkle more flour and roll out to about 1cm thick. Using a cookie cutter about 6cm in diameter, cut out circles.

Heat oil in a saucepan on medium-low. 
Fry doughnuts in batches until golden and drain on paper towels. Let cool completely.

Heat water and sugar on medium without stirring until the sugar caramelises. Dip the top of each doughnut in the caramel.

Make a small slit in the side of each doughnut. Fill a piping bag with the filling and pipe into each doughnut. Serve.

French custard tart

Prep time 10 mins
Baking time 1 hour plus cooling time
Serves 6-8

For the pastry
150g cake flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, diced
50ml cold water
For the filling
750ml milk
125ml water
4 eggs
370g caster sugar
A pinch of vanilla powder
60g cornflour
1 tbsp fine apricot jam

To prepare the pastry, place flour, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blitz until the butter and the flour are well blended. Add water and blitz until the mixture forms a dough. Remove and cover with cling film. Leave pastry to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, to prepare the filling, mix milk and water together in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla and cornflour until light. Add warm milk mixture and mix well. Return mixture to the saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously until custard is thick. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Place oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry dough very thinly on a floured surface. Line a loose-bottomed tin of 23cm diameter and 4cm height with the pastry.

Pour custard into the lined tin and bake for an hour. Remove and set aside to cool. Leave in the fridge until cold, preferably overnight.

Melt apricot jam and brush a layer on top of the tart. Slice in wedges and serve.

Pancakes with chocolate sauce

Prep time overnight
Cooking time 5 mins
Makes 15

500ml milk
3 tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
175g flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp sunflower oil
125ml ginger ale
100g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Chocolate sauce and ice cream, to serve

Heat milk in a saucepan.

Add melted butter, mix and keep aside.

Mix together flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixer. Beat together eggs and oil. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients in the mixer. Turn mixer on and pour egg mixture into the well. Beat well. Add butter and milk mixture and beat well to remove any lumps. Switch off machine and add ginger ale. Pour batter through a sieve into a bowl to remove lumps. Cover with cling film, place in fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat a non-stick pancake pan and grease with butter. Pour a thin layer of batter, cook until bubbles start to form and flip carefully. Let it cook for about 2 minutes. Repeat the process to make remaining pancakes. Serve with chocolate sauce and ice cream.

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