Ras malai cake by Ravneet Gill

Sugar, I Love You: 3 feel-good dessert recipes by Ravneet Gill that will satisfy every sweet tooth

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For the dessert lover in all of us, pastry chef Ravneet Gill brings us three new recipes sure to satisfy every section of the sweet tooth spectrum.

As the autumn days turn greyer, it’s almost as if the zealous baking that once had a hold during lockdown has all but ceased. And while watching the hopefuls on this season’s The Great British Bake Off roll up their sleeves is a joy in itself, the homebound baker in us is falling, unabashedly, back in love with our mixing bowls.

This time around, however, we aren’t soothing our senses by kneading a hunk of dough; rather, we’re seeking solace in sugar. And who better to help us along the way, we thought, than celebrated pâtissière Ravneet Gill? A cordon bleu-trained pastry chef, she certainly knows a thing or two about creating sweet confections. Best of all, though, she takes the complication out of it. Last year, her first cookbook, The Pastry Chef’s Guide: The Secret To Successful Baking Every Time set the scene for making fuss-free pastry, inducting beginner bakers into the sweet world of sugary bakes

Now, Gill is back to help bakers build their repertoire with her new cookbook Sugar, I Love You. Whether you gravitate towards simple mid-afternoon treats or impressive dinner party desserts, Gill goes into granular detail about the recipes that are sure to satiate every type of sweet tooth – because sweet spots aren’t created equally, after all. 

While the cookbook pays tribute to the joy sweetness brings to our lives, Gill’s recipes don’t actually contain an abundance of sugar. Instead, Gill espouses a different philosophy: one of moderation, balance, and artful application. A successful treat doesn’t come down to a liberal sprinkling of sugar, she explains, but rather knowing how to pair it with the right ingredients for perfect flavour combinations. And fortunately, we’ve three equally moreish desserts on hand.

Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill
Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill

First up, Gill’s apple and rosemary tarte tartin, which remixes the traditional French dessert with fragrant herbs and sweet-and-sour caramelised apple, tucked into a tray of golden pastry.

Expecting company? The ras malai cake is perfect for anyone with a penchant for spice. Combining the traditional Indian flavours of cardamom, pistachios and saffron from the pudding into a springy sponge cake, the traybake will earn rave reviews from your guests and make your kitchen smell heavenly.

Finally, chocolate obsessives will adore Gill’s miso caramel and chocolate tart. The crunchy cereal base will transport you back to the days of birthday parties and break times when cornflake cupcakes reigned supreme – not to mention, the caramel sauce swirl gives A-grade Insta appeal. We defy you not to take a photo…

  • Apple and rosemary tarte tartin

    Apple and rosemary tarte tatin by Ravneet Gill
    Dessert recipes: apple and rosemary tarte tatin by Ravneet Gill

    Ravneet says: “This a particularly glorious tarte tatin; the difference from the norm being that here we are making a quick rough puff and a caramel spiked with rosemary and bay. The result is a wonderfully dark, sweet-and-sour apple topping with a crisp, buttery pastry underneath that stays crisp for a while, even after being drenched in custard or melted ice cream.

    I use strong white flour here, which I mostly always use for puff pastry, as it needs a bit more strength than plain flour can provide, due to all the fat and layers that we will be building within it.” 

    Makes a 20cm tarte tatin 

    Ingredients

    For the pastry

    • 200g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    • ½ tsp fine salt
    • 185g unsalted butter, frozen 
    • 60ml ice-cold water
    • 10ml white wine vinegar

    For the filling

    • 6 Bramley or Cox apples 
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 30g unsalted butter
    • 2–3 rosemary sprigs
    • 1-2 bay leaves 

    Method

    To make the pastry, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour and salt. Grate in the frozen butter. Mix until mixed through; we want it to stay lumpy with visible bits of butter, so this is just to coat the butter in flour.

    Stir together the measured water and vinegar, then add it to the bowl and mix until a dough forms.

    Scoop the pastry out onto a sheet of baking paper, lay another piece on top and roll it out lengthways. Remove the paper, then fold the pastry into three like a letter (this is called a single turn). Place in the fridge for 2 hours, then roll out again and complete another single turn, turn the pastry by 90° and fold again. Place in the fridge for another 2 hours, then complete another 2 single turns and chill for a final 2 hours.

    Roll out one 25cm, 5mm thick circle of pastry on a work surface dusted with flour and chill. Gather any scraps together and wrap tightly in clingfilm for use in something else!

    Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6.

    Prep the apples by peeling them and halving. Remove the cores.

    Take your tatin pan (or ovenproof frying pan) and set it over a medium heat. Sprinkle the sugar in and gently melt until caramelised to an amber colour. Add the butter and stir well to melt and mix with the caramel, then add the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves and remove from the heat. Place the apples in the pan, core-sides down.

    Place the disc of pastry on top of the apples, gently tucking the edges over the sides of the apples (be careful not to burn your hands). Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

    Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

    Take out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes. Carefully place a plate on top of the frying pan and, wearing oven gloves, flip it over before removing the pan.

    Enjoy with ice cream, custard or cream (or all three, in true Jeremy Lee-style). 

  • Ras malai cake

    Ras malai cake by Ravneet Gill
    Dessert recipes: ras malai cake by Ravneet Gill

    Ravneet says: “When I worked in an Indian restaurant (as a chef rather than a pastry chef), everyone there thought I was mad. I mean, that’s a given, but their specific complaint was that I would request that the pastry chefs save the ras malai milk for me so I could drink pints of it during service. For those who don’t know what ras malai is, let me enlighten you. It’s an Indian pudding made of light milk dumplings, soaked in sweet, gently spiced milk. The milk contains notes of cardamom, crushed pistachios and sometimes flaked almonds; saffron if you’re lucky, too.

    A while back, my friend Mattie bought me a cupcake that was soaked in the stuff and it was sensational, so I thought we should make a whole cake based on it. This cake is baked in a disposable foil container, so it soaks up all that milk.”

    Makes a 31 x 25cm foil container of cake

    Ingredients

    For the cake

    • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 175g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • pinch of fine salt
    • 200g plain flour
    • 20ml neutral oil
    • 280ml whole milk
    • 200ml double cream
    • 140g condensed milk
    • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
    • small pinch of saffron threads
    • 1 tbsp ground pistachios
    • 10 roasted almonds, crushed

    To serve

    • 300ml gently whipped cream
    • handful of crushed pistachios
    • handful of roasted flaked almonds

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 4.

    Using a stand mixer or electric whisk, whisk the eggs gently on a medium speed with the sugar until thick and luscious. The mixture should be at ribbon stage (thick enough to hold its shape when drizzled back on top of itself).

    In a separate bowl, stir together the baking powder, salt and plain flour. In three batches, sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently. Drizzle the oil in gradually and fold in as you pour, making sure not to over-mix.

    Pour the mixture into a 31 x 25cm foil container and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

    Meanwhile, in a saucepan gently warm the milk, cream and condensed milk with the cardamom, saffron, ground pistachios and crushed almonds until steaming. Take off the heat.

    When the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Poke holes with a cocktail stick all over the cake and pour over the slightly warm (but not hot) milk mixture evenly (make sure you remove the cardamom pods).

    Leave at room temperature until cool, then place in the fridge, ideally overnight, so the flavours all get used to each other and have time to properly chill out. It will keep in there for up to 3 days.

    To finish, top the cake with gently whipped cream, crushed pistachios and flaked almonds. For extra luxury, add saffron to a basic sugar syrup and drizzle generously over the top, before serving chilled.

  • Miso caramel and chocolate tart with a crunchy cereal base

    Miso caramel and chocolate tart with a crunchy cereal base by Ravneet Gill
    Dessert recipes: miso caramel and chocolate tart with a crunchy cereal base by Ravneet Gill

    Ravneet says: “Using a mix of cereal and melted chocolate for the base of a tart brings out my inner child. The base here is so madly addictive that it’s quite hard to not eat it before pressing it into the tart case. (Perhaps it’s better to make a double batch of the base so you can do just that.)

    The use of a swirled-through miso caramel means that you don’t need to sprinkle sea salt flakes on top.” 

    Makes a 20cm tart 

    Ingredients

    For the tart case

    • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
    • 40g unsalted butter, melted
    • 30g roasted hazelnuts, lightly crushed
    • 90g bran flakes cereal, lightly crushed
    • pinch of sea salt flakes

    For the miso caramel

    • 35g caster sugar
    • 7g/1⁄2 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 65ml double cream
    • 1 tbsp white miso paste
    • For the dark chocolate ganache
    • 200g double cream
    • 60g milk chocolate, chopped
    • 90g dark chocolate, chopped 

    Method

    Start with the tart case. Melt the chocolate and butter together over a bain-marie (a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Leave to melt, then allow to cool to room temperature) - or in short bursts in the microwave.

    In a large bowl, mix together the hazelnuts, bran flakes and salt. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir well.

    Press into a 20cm tart tin, into the bottom and up the sides. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reach to the very top of the tin, you want just enough to give you a good edge of roughly 2.5cm deep. Place in the fridge to chill for up to an hour.

    For the miso caramel, make a direct caramel in a saucepan by placing it over a medium heat, sprinkling in the sugar and letting it melt to a dark caramel. Add the butter and whisk well, then pour in the cream and let it bubble for a minute.

    Remove from the heat and whisk in the miso paste. Set aside for a few minutes. When the caramel has cooled slightly, pour it into a heatproof dish and allow to cool further. We want it to be at pouring consistency but not hot.

    To make the ganache, in the same pan that you’ve just poured the caramel from, add the cream and heat until steaming.

    Place both the chocolates into a large heatproof bowl and pour over the hot cream. Let it sit for a minute before stirring with a whisk from the middle outwards until melted and smooth. Pour into the chilled tart shell and let it sit for 2 minutes.

    Take the miso caramel and drizzle thickly all over the ganache. Use a butter knife to drag the caramel through the ganache to form swirls, then place in the fridge to set for 4 hours. 

Sugar, I Love You: Knockout Recipes To Celebrate The Sweeter Things In Life by Ravneet Gill (Pavilion Books) is out 14 October

Photography: Ellis Parrinder.

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