Nutella* Brownie Bars

So many apologies for not posting recently, but I hope you will forgive me when you see what I’ve got for you today 馃檪

My friend posted a recipe link on Facebook and I just couldn’t resist…

I made them but found they were a little too squidgey for my liking and the modification began 馃檪

They are so simple to make and ideal for a kids baking project. Small person whipped them up in a matter of minutes.

200g of nutella*
2 medium eggs
200g flour
20cl milk

*nutella is of course a brand name, but most supermarkets will sell this as chocolate hazelnut spread.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mush them all together until well mixed.

This is where you can add a handful of whatever you like to give it a little texture. I halved the mixture and added a handful of crushed peanuts to one half and a handful of sugar balls ( more usual on the top of cakes I know, but they make a really fun multicoloured interior for small people)

Stir any of your extra ingredients into the mixture and it’s ready to be baked.

If, like me, you have two flavours but only one want to do one bake, just line your tin with paper as normal, but make a peak fold in the middle and voila, as they say in these parts, you can fill up each half with a different mixture.

Bake at 200 degrees for around 20 minutes, until you can poke it with a cocktail stick and it comes out with a tiny smudge of mixture on it. You have to make sure you don’t over bake this as it is supposed to be slightly gooey in the centre.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer onto a cooling rack. As tempting as it is to dive straight in it’s best to try and wait at least 30 minutes so they don’t crumble too much when you cut them.

When cooled, cut into bars or squares and store in an airtight tin.

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**more pictures will be uploaded as soon as small person has stopped hogging the pc 馃檪

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

Well hello there. It’s been a while I know, but I just haven’t been feeling the baking mojo of late. A seemingly endless round of family illness and grotty cold weather had left me feeling rather uninspired.

The good news is that this week the sickness has abated and I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen 馃檪

My first post flu cravings were for comfort and sweetness. What better than a coconut macaroon to cheer me up. But, as it’s me in the kitchen, it’s a coconut macaroon with a twist. Of course I turned to chocolate as a first choice, but i thought this might make it a little sickly and there was a little extra something needed to take the edge off so I dabbled with a little lime. The results were just what I needed.

This is a very simple recipe and quite quick to make too. They are ideal as a biscuit replacement with your afternoon cuppa, but pretty enough to be served at a high tea.

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime ( reserve the rest in case your mixture isn’t quite wet enough)

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200g dark chocolate

50ml single cream

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. The best way of doing this is with your hands. It will feel very dry to start with but you really need to squeeze the ingredients till they start to come together. If it’s not pressing together add the reserved lime juice 1 tsp at a time.

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Turn out your mixture onto a greaseproof sheet and press it firmly into a square about 1 cm thick.
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Take a small cookie cutter and press firmly into the mixture.
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Very gently transfer to a lined baking sheet. You will need to be quite delicate when easing the shape out onto the tray as this is a VERY crumbly mixture.

Keep cutting and repressing your mixture until it is all used. I had enough to make 24 hearts.
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Place the tray in an oven preheated to 180degrees for 10- 15 minutes, just until the coconut has started to brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes to allow them to firm up a little before placing on a wire cooling rack.
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When the macaroons are completely cool melt the chocolate and stir in the cream until it is completely blended.
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Dip the macaroon in the chocolate ganache and place onto greaseproof paper 聽until the chocolate is set.
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These can now be kept for up to a week, ( if you have a stronger will that I ), in an airtight container.
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A Bient么t.

Marvellous Moreish Muffins

I haven’t actually been in the kitchen very much of late as my lovely hubby has been cooking up a succession of delicious curries and Thai dishes for us, I’m hoping he’ll guest spot here one day with his fabulous spicy pork salad but up till now he can’t be persuaded.

That said I have been allowed in to make the odd dessert or two and I have found one of the simplest and most reliable muffin recipe I’ve ever used. And this is what I’m going to share today. This is a quick bake too- no more than 30 minutes start to finish.

This is so simple and delicious that it’s great for novice bakers, kids and old hands alike, and the variety of flavours are as limitless as your imagination!

I will start by giving the plain muffin mix recipe and method then go through a few variations after. These ingredients are enough for 6 large muffins. If you happen to have run out of muffin cases then it works just as well in cupcake cases and you will get 10 ( guess how I found that out!)

Marvellous Moreish Muffins.

In a Bowl

150g Plain Flour
1tsp baking powder

In a large Jug

1 egg
60g sugar
2tbsp oil
100ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
ingredients (Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)
Mix the egg,milk, oil and sugar together in the jug.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl gradually and mix until combined *
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Spoon mixture into cake cases and put the tray in the oven at 160C for 20 until set and cracked at the top if not quite set put back in for a further 5-10 mins
So the plain muffins are delicious, but they are well, plain so let’s have some fun!

*Just before you spoon the mixture into the cups is a great time to start being creative. You can add just about anything here, chunks of fruit, chocolate, nuts or combinations of all 3 of those things. I have found that around 100g of ‘extras’ is about right, but if you are adding things like oats or desiccated coconut you may need a tiny bit more milk as they will absorb some of the moisture in your mix.
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(Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)

Here are a few flavours I’ve already tried;
Oatmeal honey and raisin
Apple and cinnamon
Chocolate chunk
Chocolate cranberry and coconut.
Marvellous Moreish Muffins
I’m quite sure I’ll be making more, I’m already tempted for a chocolate and orange, but do let me know what flavours are your favourite.

A Bient么t

Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

It was time for a post festive season clear out of the snack-shelf* and I came across the remnants of the candy canes. A little the worse for wear and held in shape only by their cellophane wrapping.
Most normal people would have just dumped them in the bin, but I’ve never in my life claimed to be normal so it was into the kitchen they came to be used in ….. something…. The something turned out to be cookies, not your ordinary cookies, but cut out cookies of course!

I have a nifty little cutter that cuts holes in the centre of your cookie shape, but if you dont have one all you need is one large ( 4-5 cm) and one small (2-3cm), which will do the job perfectly.

This is a great bake to do with small people it’s a lot of fun with tasty and good looking results. We got a little carried away ( I know, you’re stunned) and decided to colour our dough as well, this is not strictly necessary, but it is really pretty 馃檪

If you don’t happen to have any candy canes kicking about in your kitchen then any kind of boiled sweet or hard candy will be fine.

This recipe should yield between 20-30 biscuits
*it started out as small persons snack box, but has gradually grown and taken over a whole pantry shelf. Oops.

Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

225g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
150g Butter
75g Sugar
25g Icing Sugar
1 beaten Egg
5 Candy Canes ( or a handful of boiled sweets )

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cube the butter and rub into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir in then sift the icing sugar and mix well. Mix to a stiff dough with the beaten egg then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed well.

The next step is optional 馃檪

Split the dough into 3 roughly equal parts and add a few drops of food colouring to each part and kneed until you get an even colour. ( it’s advisable to wear some gloves at this point unless you want technicolour hands for the rest of the day.

Place the dough into plastic bags and chill for at least 30 minutes.
roll out dough
Roll out your dough to between 1/4 and 1/2 cm thickness, cut your shapes and place onto greaseproof paper (VERY important not to bake them directly on the baking tray /cookie sheet).
place cookies on paper
Take your candy canes or boiled sweets and smash into small pieces, place a small piece of candy into the hole of each cookie.
place sweets in centreNow… you can of course reuse the ‘middle bits’ and re roll, or… you could place them along side and have lots of very cute tiny biscuits too 馃檪
Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees and bake for between 10 and 15 minutes. Take them out as the cookie begins to brown and the candy is a bubbling liquid.
take out of oven
Leave then on the tray for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack as this will allow time for the candy to solidify.
cool on paper first
Once completely cooled store in an airtight container, or just eat them straight away!!

yummy cookies

Red nose Reindeer Biscuits

It’s become something of a tradition that I bake a batch of christmassy biscuits for small ones class just before the holidays and I saw these and thought they were perfect.

But I must begin with a confession.

This blog post features my 2nd attempt at these biscuits.

When I made the first batch they didn’t turn out so well. 聽I saw pictures posted on-line by the lovey Alex at Sugar Plum Patisserie and got over excited, grabbed the cookie dough that was languishing in the bottom of my fridge and started baking.

Well had I actually thought about it I would have realized that the dough in my fridge was far to soft and would totally lose any shape that I had moulded it in as soon as I put it in the oven, and the decorations would not stand up!
The results were tasty, but the look was … not quite as intended.
In the ever sobering words of small person “I like your biscuits mum, but why have you made them with big bushy eyebrows?”

Time for a second attempt.

Red Nose Reindeer Biscuits (mark 2)

For the sugar dough

sugar dough ingredients

400g Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
225g Butter
200g Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla essence

For the decoration

decorations
Chocolate chips
Salted pretzels (traditional knots snapped in half)
50g dark chocolates (melted)
Small red sweets (smarties, jelly sweets, foam strawberries. All are fine!)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, add a teaspoon of flour with each egg to avoid curdling.

making the dough
Add the vanilla essence and beat well.
Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in gradually.
When the mixture comes together turn out onto a floured surface and kneed till smooth.

Dough!
Place the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for minimum of an hour.

Roll out your dough and cut into triangles.
Place the triangles on your baking sheet and pinch the top corners to make ear shapes.

pinch to make 'ears'

Bake at 170 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until just turning golden brown.

Now you have to work fast.

First take your pretzels (2 for each biscuit) and push them into the top of your biscuits to make the antlers. Then take chocolate chips and press into the biscuit to make the eyes. This must be done when the biscuit is still soft, or they will fall off when you move them.

pretzels and choc chips

Allow them to rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits are completely cool, melt the chocolate and spread a small amount on the bottom of your triangle.

chocolate nose

While the chocolate is still warm press a red sweet into it, then allow the chocolate to harden completely.

Rudolph!
Not a bushy eyebrow in sight.

These are such a fun Christmas treat for kids and also great for kids to make with you.

I hope you enjoy them as much as small persons classmates did!

A Bient么t.

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, 聽the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled, 聽not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought, 聽and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and聽 leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

陆tsp Cinnamon

陆 tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook聽 in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10聽 minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 馃檪

You can serve with cream or cr茅m茅 fra卯che and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bient么t.

Chocolate , Chocolate, Chocolate and Beetroot cake

Yes you read that right beetroot. But more of that later….

As regular readers and friends will already know Small Person has very recently reached the grand old age of 8. As is tradition here on her ‘actual’ birthday it is custom to bring in a cake for the school to share ( this is not as daunting as it sounds as in the whole school 聽there is a grand total of 20 people). When I picked her up on Tuesday afternoon the teacher confirmed that there would indeed be a cake on Friday, I told her yes of course there would be, then she leaned over to me and asked me if it was at all possible that I could make the same cake as I had made last year as she had really enjoyed it. I was, of course, thrilled that she had enjoyed it so much and whilst I reassured her I would do my best I was also a little concerned as I knew for a fact that I made up the recipe for it and didn’t write it down.

I knew vaguely what it was and that involved lots of chocolate and grated pumpkin, ( we were give a 17 kg pumpkin last year by a friend and I was desperate to find things to do with it ), but other than that I was at a bit of a loss. In any case as we had not received a massive pumpkin gift this year I resolved to go to the supermarket on Thursday and purchase a pumpkin to use for the cake.

Of course you know that when i got there, there was not a pumpkin to be seen. So what was I to do. I could just make a normal chocolate cake, that’s what I could do.

Yeah right.

As I was gathering my ingredients my eyes strayed to the vegetable shelf and 聽came to rest on a vacuum pack of natural beetroot and my my mind decide that this would be a great idea…… And I’m happy to say that despite Hubby’s “I’ve married a mad person” look, it was.

The Beetroot gives a very subtle flavour in the the midst of the chocolate kick and helps to keep the cake super moist.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate and Beetroot cake

75g unsalted Butter (softened)

100g Sugar

1 medium Egg (beaten)

225g Flour

50g Cocoa powder

3tsp Baking powder

1 Banana

50g Natural (un-pickled) Beetroot

100ml Cr茅m茅 fra卯che

75g Dark chocolate (roughly chopped)

 

Begin by creaming together the softened butter and sugar and beat till pale and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the egg adding a tsp of flour with each addition to avoid curdling.

Sieve the remaining flour cocoa powder and baking powder into the bowl and fold in gently using a metal spoon.

In a separate bowl mash the banana, grate the beetroot and mix well with the cr茅m茅 fra卯che .

Add the ‘wet’ ingredients to the ‘dry’ bowl and beat together.

Finally add the roughly chopped chocolate and give it one last stir before pouring the mixture into a greased and lined baking tin.

Cover the top of the cake with baking paper, pressing lightly on the surface ( this should ensure a nice flat top), and place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the baking paper after 25 minutes of baking.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cook completely.

Now, these quantities will give you one large square cake, but as I was showing off a bit I made double the quantity so I could sandwich them together with chocolate ganache and smother it in yet more chocolate before plonking a solid dark chocolate birthday star on top and round it of with some white chocolate butter cream swirls! Well it was her birthday.

As I knew there was absolutely zero chance of Hubby and I getting a sniff of the cake, i used a tiny bit of the mixture to make a cupcake size tester (well you HAVE to try these things….) and it was simply delicious and extremely indulgent. 馃檪

 

I’m very happy to report that when I went to pick up Small Person from school there was not a single crumb left and lots of children with chocolaty smiles. Thats all you can ask for really.

A Bient么t