Flourless Chocolate Cake

There are some people you always associate with certain foods. My mother makes a mean lasagne, my auntie’s strawberry mousse is better than birthday cake and Dad’s beef stroganoff is the best in the business.

For one of my oldest chums the recipe most associated with me (and one she constantly nags me to bake) is a richer than rich chocolate cake. It’s not what I’d call a signature bake – I made it once and she fell in love, but after years of begging (literally) and considering she’d cooked me some delicious dinners I owed her one. 2014-08-26 19.13.25-1There’s no flour in the recipe and the ground almonds set off the rich chocolate flavour without being overpoweringly nutty. It doesn’t need a ganache but my friend did say it added an extra bit of luxury, admitting she missed it this time around. Lesson learned – sometimes, more is more!2014-08-26 22.38.19

  • 160g dark chocolate (70 – 80%)
  • 160g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

Grease and line a 23cm cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180C

  1. Break up the chocolate and place it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
  2. Allow it to melt slowly, once smooth turn off the heat (but leave the pan there) and drop in the cold butter – let it melt a little bit before you stir then leave to sit until it melts completely before stirring again.2014-08-26 15.59.51
  3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the whites until they form soft peaks, add caster sugar and stir until the peaks begin to stiffen.2014-08-26 15.56.20
  4. Stir the butter into the chocolate until smooth and glossy.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and butter one at a time.
  6. Fold the whisked egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mix, very gently until just incorporated.
  7. Finally fold in the almonds light-handedly, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.2014-08-26 16.15.49

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make a simple chocolate ganache use equal parts chocolate and cream. Chop the chocolate finely, heat the cream until nearly boiling but not quite then pour over the chopped chocolate whisking until smooth. Leave to thicken slightly before using.

2014-08-26 22.38.24Alternatively you could just drown it in cream….2014-08-26 22.42.18

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Hot Cross Buns

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Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday I thought this was an appropriate recipe to post. I love hot cross buns. Fruity spicy things always appeal to me and I’d most definitely rather have one of these than a crème egg. You’ve probably been eating them for months but if you’re looking to try something new this weekend give them a go. Like a lighter scone, they’re perfect for breakfast, an afternoon pick me up, or an after dinner treat.

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For the buns

  • 300ml/ whole milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong white flour
  • optional:
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Cardamom pods
  • Cloves
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 200g dried fruit e.g. sultanas (I used a mix of currants, raisings and sultanas)
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 2 oranges, zest only
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger

For the cross

  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Apricot jam (to glaze)

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To make the buns:

Heat the milk gently, bringing it to the boil;

  • I like using a lot of spices when I cook so I infused my milk with some cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, you could also add some saffron.

Remove the milk from the heat and add the butter, stirring it in as it melts.

Allow to cool to hand temperature.

While that’s cooling mix zest your oranges and chop up the apple, put it all in a bowl with the mixed peel and dried fruit and spices (again, I like spices so added the mace, ginger and nutmeg, you could just leave it at cinnamon)Image

Put your dry ingredients, yeast, flour, salt and sugar, in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk then add the egg.

Mix together to form a soft sticky dough, bring the dough together with your hands and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm, leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

**Tip – leave your dough in a warm part of the kitchen as this will help the process**

Once risen remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 – 14 even pieces. Image

Roll the pieces into smooth balls and arrange them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave to prove for an hour.

The buns should be quite close together, they’ll stick together a little bit when backing but pulling apart the soft edges is so satisfying and makes them look all the more rustic.

 Heat the oven to 220C

 To make the cross mix 50g plain flour and 25g of icing sugar with some water until it forms a smooth paste.

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 Put the paste in a piping bag and pipe a cross onto each of your buns before placing in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown. 

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Gently warm the apricot jam and when the buns come out of the oven, while they’re still warm, brush it over for a lovely glazed effect.

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Let them cool or eat them warm. I had mine for breakfast, toasted and topped with plenty of butter. Delicious.

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Happy Easter!

Banoffee Pie

I love bananas and I love toffee but I’ve never really been a huge fan of banoffee pie. However,  this dessert has been made two weekends running. Considering I rarely bake the same thing twice that’s saying something.ImageImage

Needless to say I have changed my own mind. The extra banana caramel layer is what does it, I think. This was a massive hit with everyone and my baking guinea pigs hailed it as ‘the best you’ve ever done’ so, without further ado:

 For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 75g cold but pliable butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 15 ml ice cold water

Tip: This makes enough for one pie, you can double the quantities and freeze half ready to use for something like an apple tart.

Use your hands to combine the flour, icing sugar and butter, rubbing the butter through until you have a sandy texture with no big lumps.

Beat the egg yolk and water together with a fork and add to the dry ingredients.

Mix with a wooden spoon until they come together to form a soft dough.

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

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Once your dough has chilled take it out and roll it between two sheets of lightly floured baking paper. I find this stops the pastry sticking.

The pastry needs to be about ½ a cm thick, enough together a 20cm tart tin.

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Lift the pastry with the rolling pin and drape it over the tin, pressing gently into the bottom and sides.

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Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper over the pastry and pour on some baking beads, lentils or rice. This will stop the pastry shrinking away from the sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 – 15 mins then remove the baking beads and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

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While it cools begin making your caramel.

 For the caramel:

 I made two caramels, brining my love of bananas and toffee together to create a banana caramel to layer on the bottom and then standard banoffee caramel on top of that.

Banana caramel:

This follows a similar, but not quite the same, recipe as the caramel for the butterscotch banana cake.

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 50g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 banana

Heat the sugar and water until it turns a reddish brown.

Add the butter and bananas, removing from the heat to stop it burning.

Add the sugar, return to the heat and add the cream, mixing all the time.

Let it bubble, stirring constantly until it becomes quite thick but you still have some bits of banana.

Remove from the heat and pour over the pastry base.Image

Caramel:

  • 115g light or dark brown sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 1 x 397g can condensed milk
  • 100 ml double cream

 *Mary Berry’s recipe used two cans of condensed milk and it is delicious but I didn’t need as much toffee because of my extra banana caramel layer, I also wanted it slightly creamier so replaced the second can with some cream instead. Tweak the recipe as you please!

Melt the butter and add the sugar, stirring until the two combine to make a thick mixture with no oil sitting on top.

Add the condensed milk and cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently, stirring constantly for 3 or so minutes until the sauce thickens and darkens.

If you overcook it the toffee will become quite chewy but it all depends on your banoffee tastes, some people enjoy a chewy toffee.

Pour the caramel over the banana caramel and leave to cool and set before finishing. Leaving it overnight is best.

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To finish:

  •  2 or 3 bananas
  • 284ml (1 carton) double cream
  • Chocolate to grate

Slice the bananas and layer them (I like to layer quite generously) over the toffee.

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Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, not too much more or it’ll be too thick and you want a nice light texture, as the toffee is quite dense.

Spread ¾ of the cream over the bananas.

I whipped the remaining ¼ a little bit more so it was firm enough to pipe around the edges as decoration.

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Grate some chocolate over the top as or just leave it if you’ve done quite a lot of decorating as I did with my second attempt (seen above).

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You’re done! It seems long-winded but it was quite easy to whip up. If you really are tight for time or not comfortable with pastry you could always use the base from the Bannoffee Cheesecake.

Red Velvet Oreo Brownies

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Valentines Day, another excuse for presents, wine, wallowing in self-pity and, in the world of baking at least, red velvet.  This isn’t just any old red velvet though, these brownies take it to a whole new level. A layer of pillar-box red brownie topped with Oreo frosting and finished with a chocolate ganache. Whether you’re wallowing in self-pity or sharing with people you love these are most definitely worth the effort.

Red velvet brownies:

  • 115g butter
  • 200g sugar (I used half caster sugar, half brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp red food colouring
  • ¾ tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 95g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 175C

Melt the butter gently over a low heat

Add the sugar and stir to dissolve

Add the ingredients up to the white wine vinegar in the order listed, mixing to combine.Image

Beat the eggs and mix into the batter.

Finally fold in the flour, don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into a prepared tin and bake for 20 – 24 mins

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A couple of moist crumbs should stick to a toothpick inserted into the middle, but you don’t want the brownies wet.

Leave to cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge.

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Tips:

*1 tube of Dr Oeteker red gel will not be enough, use at least two. I wouldn’t recommend standard supermarket food colouring either. I used a tub of gel I got from the cake shop at my local market.

*The white wine vinegar won’t make your brownies taste weird, apparently it’s what brings out the vivid red colour.

*Take the butter out of the fridge for the frosting and ganache while you prepare the brownies, to allow it to come to room temperature.

I added a little bit extra cocoa powder because I was concerned the food colouring I used had given the batter a funny flavour, it didn’t but I taste tested enough to make absolutely certain. The evidence was all over my tongue and around my mouth. Red food colouring does not make for sneaky scoffing.

 Oreo Frosting:

  • 60 – 80g butter
  • 210g icing sugar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp (30 – 45 ml) double cream
  • 9 crushed oreos

(6 just didn’t seem enough to me)

 Beat the butter until creamy

Add the sugar, I did it a bit at a time to avoid a powder explosion all over the adding the two tbsp. of cream to smooth out the icing.

If necessary add the final tbsp. of cream but be aware you want the frosting quite thick, thicker than what you’d use on a cupcake or to frost a cake.

Fold in the crushed oreos.

Spread the frosting over the cold brownie and place back in the fridge while you prepare the ganache.

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Ganache:

  • 120g dark chocolate
  • 120ml double cream
  • 30g butter

Chop up the chocolate and place in a bowl

Bring the cream to the boil and then pour over the chocolate, stirring until smooth.

Cut the butter into the mixture a bit at a time, mixing until smooth.

Let it cool for 5 minutes before spreading over the oreo frosting.Image

To finish decorate with a couple more crushed oreos.Image

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Wallow, scoff, share, you can thank me later for finding you true love.

Banoffee Cheesecake

There isn’t much that really needs to be said about this so I’ll cut straight to the point. It’s delicious. Bake it, eat it, have another slice of it with extra caramel. Then go for a jog so you don’t completely defeat the purpose of your ‘depriving myself of all things yummy’ new years resolution.

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For the base:

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease and line a 20in cake tin (spring form probably best!)

melt the butter and while it’s melting crush up your biscuits really well

Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter and mix well

Spread/press the base into the prepared tin

Bake for 15 minutes

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For the cheesecake:

  • 150g very ripe banana (if your bananas aren’t very ripe bake them in the oven a about 180 until the skins blacken, leave them to cool before taking them out to add to the cheesecake)
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 11/2 bsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • *3 tbsp caramel (you can omit this from the recipe, I added it because I liked the idea of some caramel flavor running through the cake alongside the banana)

Mash or blend your bananas really really well

Add everything but the egg whites to the bananas and blend together really well

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks

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Carefully fold the egg whites into the creamy cheesecake mixture

Pour into the tin

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This is where I added my caramel. I whisked it a little to smoothen it then dropped a couple of teaspoons into the mix. I dragged a knife gently through to swirl it in. There was no marble effect once baked but I didn’t want to add too much and cause the cake to collapse.

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I was worried about a lemon drizzle incident the way the cake rose and fell but I shouldn’t have been. It was gorgeous. Definitely benefits from being chilled overnight so if you’re going to make it for a dinner party or other event I’d do it the day before. When it’s ready to serve drizzle over some caramel and grate some chocolate on top.

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Perfection.

*The recipe is from Good Housekeeping magazine which is chock full of fantastic stuff.

Avoiding a Soggy Bottom for 2014.

I’ve been off the baking/blogging scene for a while, enjoying far too much sunshine and good food. There was absolutely no need for excess goodies in our house around Christmastime and there seemed to be no end to them! I’ve been sent back to Leeds with about a kilo of Christmas cake by my Dad because he claims he and Mum would never eat the whole thing themselves. What lies, he loves Christmas cake as much as I do and I’m well over halfway through this quarter in under a week. That’s not a complaint though, I’m savouring every slice! All the Christmas yumminess aside, the point of this was to share one of my favourite, baking related, presents this year:

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My friends know me far too well. I read it on the plane home and finished it all in one go. As well as baking tips it explains a lot of the technicalities of baking and gives loads of history on how the recipes we use today were adapted and developed. It’s not for everyone but if you enjoy baking it’s most definitely worth a read! I did try a custard recipe and wasn’t too keen (post to come) but I’ll be trying out some more for sure. So that’s to come and I’ve also just kicked off the new year with some biscuits. I’m not quite sure how my resolution to kick my serious sugar habit is going to get on with my baking addiction, the two hardly complement each other. Oh well, challenge accepted.

Hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and 2014 is off to a good start!

Selection Boxes

As much as I love Christmas, the food and presents in particular, I’m not the best buyer. I never know what people are going to want or need and I know I’ve been on the awkward receiving end of a dodgy gift or two.  On the subject of buying presents the other day someone mentioned ‘selection boxes’ and I realised I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christmas without one? Pressed for time, on a budget and with loads of ingredients to use up in the cupboard I had a moment of genius. Baked Selection Boxes! Image

So easy and gives you a great excuse to spend a day or two baking.  Cookies and brownies are crowd pleasers and it wouldn’t be a Christmas selection box without a mince pie, so I went with those three.

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I stuck them in takeaway boxes (budget friendly, you could get nice ones or wrap them) tied a Christmassy ribbon around them and gave them to friends.Image

Instead of doing individual boxes for my housemates I left them a Roses tin full of baked goods to keep them going while I’m away. They’ll only last a couple of days but I take that as a compliment! Image

So there’s an idea for you if you’re struggling with gifts this Christmas! They might not be perfect for under the tree but they’re a nice gesture and a great way to get rid of all those leftover mince pies you’d never eat yourself.