Rose and Violet Chocolate Truffles

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Without getting too horticultural on you, 2015 has been a VERY good year for the roses in the UK. Fact. With a mild winter and a gentle spring, rose blooms are everywhere and have inspired me to get experimental in the kitchen. [Read more…]

Chocolate and Lime Thumbprint Cookies

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Everyone likes a thumbprint cookie, right? So let’s talk about this Chocolate and Lime version… [Read more…]

Rocky Road (aka Fridge Cake)

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Some friends have been wanting me to make Fridge Cake, or Rocky Road for sometime. So when I made this no bake treat, I had no idea that I would be giving you a little history lesson too. Interested to know where the name Rocky Road came from, ( I assume it came from the uneven finish and medley of different ingredients), I looked it up. [Read more…]

Chocolate ‘Mini Egg’ Cookies

minieggs-1I have been thinking about making these Chocolate Mini Egg Cookies for a while.

Basically, they are a double chocolate chip cookie but with sugar coated, chocolate mini eggs, as a substitute for regular chocolate chips. What is not to like?…minieggcookies-2

[Read more…]

Salted Caramel ‘Bouchon’ Hearts

saltcaramelbouchon-1-2Please don’t be fooled by the ‘hearts’ in the title for this recipe.

They are a ‘nod’ to the fact that the 14th February is fast approaching and I own a silicone, heart shaped baking tray, purchased a number of years ago, that needs its’ annual outing…

Whether you celebrate St. Valentine’s day or not, these can be baked shaped as hearts, or in a regular mini muffin pan. They are a delightful treat and will win over friends, family or a loved one.

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If you are an avid baking fan, you will be familiar with a ‘Bouchon’ – a beautifully light, chocolate cake with chocolate chips developed by the Bouchon Bakery in New York City. The little cakes are cork-like in shape and are baked in a specifically developed ‘Bouchon’ tray. In the past when I have made them, I used my Ikea muffin pan which actually gives the said narrow, cork-like shape (see below). However, there is no need to go out and buy a special tin, I see no reason why you cannot use a mini muffin tin/pan and still achieve these lovely cakes.

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So typically, these cakes contain dark chocolate chips. I experimented by adding the salted caramel to this original recipe but actually, I think it is too ‘overloaded’. Second time around I omitted the chocolate chips and added some salted caramel sauce to the centre of the batter. This gives a lovely sweet depth of flavour and  a salty after taste which compliments the slightly bitter cocoa powder in the cake (it has a ratio of 50:50 flour to cocoa powder).

The outside of this cake is crispy baked but the centre is slightly moist and a very flavoursome, caramel.saltcaramelbouchon4I know what you are thinking… Can I bothered to make the caramel sauce? The answer is ‘yes’! It is very quick (in this quantity) and straightforward. The batter requires some resting – a minimum of two hours, or overnight, so you can make the sauce during this time. As a bonus, although this is a small quantity of salted caramel, there will be some left over. You can use this for a host of other things, drizzling on cakes, meringues, ice cream, yoghurt and dare I say, just enjoying a spoonful from the jar when you need a pick-me-up! It lasts in the fridge for a few weeks.saltcaramelbouchcon3

So just to recap, the basics for making these are as follows;

  • Prepare the batter and let it rest.
  • Prepare the salted caramel sauce and chill.
  • Select your pan type and prepare accordingly.
  • Equally distribute half the batter in the trays.
  • Add a teaspoon of salted caramel sauce to the batter.
  • Top the sauce with remaining batter.
  • Bake.
  • Dust with icing.

The last thing you need to do is to enjoy these delicious morsels and share them with a loved one (assuming you are feeling generous?).

Why not celebrate the 14th with something home baked like these?

PS. Friends and neighbours, 1 x heart shaped pan available for loan this week… x

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Salted Caramel ‘Bouchon’ Hearts

10-12 cakes

Ingredients

  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 140g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 160g granulated sugar
  • For the salted caramel
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 150ml double cream, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon course sea salt
  • For finishing
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  1. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder, then add the salt. Mix and set aside.
  2. Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted, mix the warm butter with the room temperature butter in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla paste until very light and pale in colour. Alternating between the butter and flour mixture, add to the egg mixture as the mixer is continually running, in three additions. Once the mixture is fully combined, cover the bowl with food wrap and leave to rest in a cool place (not a fridge) for at least two hours. It can be stored in a fridge overnight but must be bought back to room temperature prior to baking.
  4. Whilst the batter is resting, prepare the salted caramel.
  5. Place the sugar in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt and swirl the pan to ensure all the sugar liquefies. Do not stir. After about 5 minutes, once the sugar has melted, it will turn a dark amber colour. At this point, remove from the heat and whisk in the melted butter and warmed cream. Keep whisking until fully combined. Add the salt and whisk further.
  6. Place a sieve over a heatproof bowl and pour the caramel through the sieve. If you choose, transfer to a sterilised jar. Allow to cool and then cover. Store in the fridge. (As it chills it will become paler in colour and a little firmer).
  7. Once the batter is rested, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4. If using metal mini cupcake/muffin pan, prepare by lightly greasing. If you are using a silicone tray, there is no need for preparation other than to place it on a flat baking tray.
  8. Spoon, or pipe, half the batter equally in your muffin pan. Add a teaspoon of salted caramel to the centre of each batter cake. Top, in equal measure, with the remaining half of the batter.
  9. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan position and shelf half way through the bake. Once the top of the cakes has risen and looks sufficiently baked, these will be ready. It is difficult to test with a cake tester as the centre is meant to be a soft, moist caramel.
  10. Allow to cool in the tray for approximately 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Dust with icing sugar (optional) and serve. Store in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/salted-caramel-bouchon-hearts/

Source: Cake batter adapted from Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’ and Salted Caramel Sauce quantities adapted from April Carter’s ‘trEATs’.

 

 

Gingerbread Pound Cake

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Technically, my Gingerbread flavoured Pound Cake is not actually correct.

A ‘pound’ cake is typically a very large cake made of a pound (a whooping 450g, no less), in equal ratios of flour: butter: sugar and eggs.  Nowadays, the quantities of the ‘pound’ cake are less rigid and as a it is typically baked in a Bundt, or loaf tin and conservatively finished, I figured I could get away with calling this a ‘Pound’ Cake.

With friends visiting this weekend I had wanted to bake a large cake but needed something that was quick and substantial. This pound cake was a perfect solution.

So, I have side lined my fresh berry obsession – albeit temporarily – to make way for my new favourite ingredient, ginger. I have been busy in my kitchen all week making Christmas hamper gifts. I made some rather delicious bottled Spiced Pears (more about these another day) but as a result I had some surplus fresh ginger.

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I wanted to adapt a recipe to include the fresh ginger and as I am planning my Christmas bakes, I have all the ingredients for gingerbread cookies, so why not include these flavours and recreate in a loaf style cake? Let me be clear, this is not the rich, sticky, molasses infused, bubbly gingerbread cake that you will know. Yes, in contains the dark rich sugars, dark treacle and glorious cinnamon, ginger and clove spices but it is a denser cake, perfect with a cup of tea.

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I have topped this with a rich chocolate ganache, inspired from Martha’s ‘Baking Handbook’ and it works wonderfully. That’s not to say that other toppings wouldn’t work. A simple dusting of icing sugar, a lemon glaze/icing or perhaps an orange cream cheese frosting would be wonderfully indulgent.

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 This warming, spiced cake is super easy to make and easy to enjoy when the weather is getting chilly outside.

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Gingerbread Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 300g margarine, or softened unsalted butter
  • 160g Demerara sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 heaped tbsp. dark treacle
  • For the topping
  • 600ml double cream
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • Crystallised stem ginger for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Grease and line a large (9cm x 24cm) loaf tin with parchment. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Sift together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Mix and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, cream together the margarine, or butter, with both the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once well combined, add the freshly grated ginger and the dark treacle. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the flour mixture in two parts ensuring that it is thoroughly mixed after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level with a knife.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing it to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool add the ganache topping.
  6. For the topping
  7. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over a low heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, chunk by chunk. Whisk the chocolate until it melts and combines with the cream to form a glossy ganache. Pour into a jug and allow to cool a little. Once cooler and a little firmer, pour over the cake. Sprinkle with the crystallised ginger to decorate (optional).
  8. Store in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/gingerbread-pound-cake/

Source: Adapted and inspired by Martha Stewart’s ‘Baking Handbook’

 

Marbled Brownie

marbledbrownie-1I think you will like these Marbled Brownies.

They are  intense dark chocolate brownies swirled with crème de cassis, soaked berries and a creamy soft cheese topping. I baked them a couple of weeks back when I hosted a charity coffee morning, a ‘Great Pink Bake Off’ for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. It was a very popular bake and many of my friends requested the recipe, so here it is.

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I have adapted it from an excellent article in The Guardian, ’10 Best Chocolate Recipes’. I have adapted mine by increasing the chocolate intensity, reducing the sugar slightly, substituting the raspberries for various dark berries and currants that I have in my freezer. Those of you who have followed the blog know I have a freezer full of gorgeous summer berries, the fruits of our numerous pick your own labours this summer. I have soaked these blackberries, blackcurrants and blueberries in crème de cassis but this is purely optional. I have used salted butter as I love the ‘salty/sweet’ taste with the dark chocolate. I have also changed the quantities of goat’s and cream cheese. I find there is nothing more irritating than buying an ‘out of the ordinary’ ingredient – for example, the goat’s cheese here and having to buy two packs, knowing you will only use one and a half of the quantity. I have played around with these quantities to make this bake more practical and economic, at the same time as making it still taste delicious.

marb-2These brownies are very easy to make and there is little room for error. They are deliciously ‘fudgy’, which goes wonderfully with the tartness of the berries and the creaminess of the soft cheese topping.

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These Brownies go a long way too – you will get 24, good portions from this bake. Perfect with morning coffee, afternoon tea, or served with a spoonful of cream for a lovely dessert. Just as well really…

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Marbled Brownie

Approximately 24 portions

Ingredients

  • 180g mixed berries & currants - blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrants
  • 2 tbsp. of crème de cassis (optional)
  • 300g dark, good quality chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 175g salted butter
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 375g unrefined golden caster sugar, or caster sugar, plus 40g for the topping
  • 1 tsp. vanilla paste
  • 5 eggs (4 eggs for the Brownie, plus 1 for the topping)
  • 130g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 150g soft goat's cheese
  • 150g full fat cream cheese

Instructions

  1. Rinse the berries and currants and pat dry. Place in a bowl, add the crème de cassis, if using, mix and set aside.
  2. In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Prepare a 20cm x 30cm baking tray by greasing and lining with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  3. In a large saucepan, over a low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together. Once melted set aside to cool before adding the milk. Whisk. Add 375g of sugar and the vanilla paste and combine. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in approximately half of the berries and currants, along with the juices. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared tin and distribute evenly.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, or with a hand held electric whisk, beat together the goat's cheese, cream cheese, the remaining egg and 40g of sugar. Once light and fluffy, fold in the remaining fruit.
  5. With a large spoon, drop portions of the goat's cheese mixture onto the brownie mixture. Swirl the mixture with a knife, ensuring that you get a good 'swirl' but without over mixing.
  6. Bake the brownie for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the tray for 10 minutes before removing from the tray and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. Once cool, cut into portions and serve. Store in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/marbled-brownie/

Source: Adapted from Faith Durand’s recipe as seen in The Guardian’s ’10 Best Chocolate Recipes’

 

Cardamom and Chocolate Angel Cake

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So I invested in a Angel Food Cake pan.

I am so pleased I did.  I think this is going to be my new favourite cake. So what is so special about Angel Cake (or Angel Food Cake, if you are Stateside)? It is a light airy, sponge cake requiring egg whites to be whipped to a meringue-like stiffness. The relative small quantity of flour and lack of fat gives the Angel Cake a very light texture, taste and tight crumb.

The Angel Cake is baked in a tall, tube pan with a hole in the middle, similar to a bundt tin. The tin I purchased has three, short legs. Once baked, the pan is inverted onto the legs to allow it to cool.

This is my third attempt at Angel Cake. The first,  mentioned in a previous post, was an attempt to use up a large quantity of surplus egg whites when I needed yolks for ice cream. Sadly it failed on the following counts; I added pureed fruit in attempt to create a beautiful ‘swirl’ when cutting my cake; I failed to add baking powder (to compensate for my fruit addition); I did not invert the pan when I took the cake from the oven, only to see it visibly sink before my eyes and finally, although it is possible to use a bundt tin, as no greasing of the pan is required, the sunken mess sadly stuck to the sides of the pan.

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Not to be defeated, I wanted to give the Angel Cake another go so I went ahead and bought the pan to see if I could get it right.

I used Martha Stewart’s Classic Angel Food Cake recipe and I was not disappointed. I followed the instructions to the dot and I was rewarded with a beautiful, golden, vanilla Angel Cake. This one I served up with blackberry cream and glaze. Totally, light, flavoursome and actually, stunning.

For this post I have opted for a chocolate and cardamom version. Cardamom, after lavender, is one of my all time favourite spices. It has a wonderful aroma and a warm, spicy flavour. It has a natural affinity to chocolate, hence my pairing here. To be honest, I have only really used cardamom pods with caramelised oranges so am keen to experiment further.

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I have been infusing some cardamom pods in sugar for a couple of months now so I have used some of this fragrant sugar in this cake. Ground cardamom is hard to find in the shops so I used pods, shelling them and grinding the seeds with a pestle and mortar. This way they are incredibly fresh and fragrant. I have drizzled the cake with a chocolate ganache.

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This cake is fairly straightforward to make. My key tips for a successful bake would be to use an angel cake pan if at all possible, invert it as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before removing from the tin. Finally, to use a serrated knife for cutting so as not to deflate the cake too much when slicing.

I think that this cake has the potential to be a show stopper. Its large volume and light texture are very impressive. The potential for variation is huge and I think a vanilla version served with fruit and cream would make a lovely celebration cake. I plan to experiment further with this type of cake. I know I won’t be disappointed. It is delicious…

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Cardamom and Chocolate Angel Cake

Ingredients

  • 150g plain flour
  • 160g cardamom infused sugar
  • 160g caster sugar (if not using infused sugar, use 320g of caster sugar)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom (or, approximately 10 pods, shelled, flax removed and ground)
  • 12 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • For the ganache
  • 300ml double cream
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Sift together the flour, the infused sugar (or 160g of caster sugar), cocoa powder, baking powder and ground cardamom. Sift a further three times until all ingredients are 'light' and well combined.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk the egg whites with the warm water until foamy. Add the salt and cream of tartar and mix further until soft peaks form. Add the further 160g of caster sugar, a little at a time whilst the mixer is on high speed. Continue to whisk until meringue-like peaks form.
  4. Transfer the egg white mixture to a large bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the meringue mixture in small quantities (so as not to deflate the mixture) and fold in after each addition.
  5. Once combined, transfer the mixture to an UNGREASED 10 inch tube pan. Bake the cake on the middle shelf of the oven for approximately 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the pan, onto its legs, or a wire rack. Allow the cake and pan to cool. Turn the cake pan back on itself and with a sharp knife, run it around the edge of the pan and carefully around the narrow 'hole' part of the pan. Release the cake from the pan and again with a sharp knife, release the bottom of the pan. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. The cake can be stored in a airtight container.
  8. For the ganache
  9. Pour the cream into a small saucepan over a moderate heat. Just before the cream comes to the boil, remove from the heat and add the chocolate, chunk by chunk, stirring with a whisk. Continue to whisk until you have a thick, rich, chocolate sauce. Allow to cool slightly before pouring/drizzling onto the cooled cake.
  10. Serve.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/cardamom-and-chocolate-angel-cake/

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s ‘Baking Handbook’

Oatmeal Raspberry and White Chocolate Cookies

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Whenever I collect my children from school, they ask me, ‘what snack have you got, Mum?’

This is before I have had a chance to say ‘hello, how was your day?’

Don’t get me wrong, I know they eat very well at school with a hot school meal at midday and appropriate snacks either side, but the bottom line is, they come out of school ravenous! Yes, they have a long day as their after school sports activities are incorporated within the school day (which is great, saves me more ‘ferrying’ and car journeys) but they are tired and they are hungry. [Read more…]