Back with Brownies

Hello and apologies for the dry spell! I’ve spent the past few weeks teaching teenagers, an experience to say the least and one that didn’t give me much time for baking. In true Blue Peter style I had prepared a couple of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ posts, however I couldn’t access this blog AT ALL on the school Wi-Fi so my efforts were futile. Some tech-savvy child probably could have helped me but I never actually thought to ask. I’m sure you’ve not been going hungry and life has hardly been devoid of treats but wait ‘til you see what I’ve got in store. They’re decadent, delicious, delightful. Rich chewy brownies combined with a fruity raspberry cream cheese and dotted with gorgeous little bursts of fresh raspberry. Naughty and nice in every bite.

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I present to you, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies and here’s the how:

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  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 95g all-purpose flour

Raspberry Cheesecake swirl:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80g raspberry jam
  • 100g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking tray ready to go.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmer water, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature (15-20 mins)

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Once cool, stir in the sugar and then add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.

Whisk in the vanilla and then gently fold in the flour.

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Set that aside while you crack on with the cheesecake layer, it’ll take you all of two minutes.

Beat all the ingredients EXCEPT the whole raspberries with a handheld mixture until nice and smooth. I added a couple of extra drops of red food colouring to give a more intense colour but that isn’t necessary – the aesthetics are all up to you.

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Now, pour ¾ of the brownie mixture into the pan, leaving the last ¼ in the bowl. Drop dollops of cheesecake mixture alternatively on top of the brownie, spoon the remaining brownie batter on top and then swirl with a knife. Try not to over-swirl or you just end up with a mess

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Finally press some fresh raspberries into the top of the mixture and stick it in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out not quite clean. You want them fudgy but not too undercooked

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As with any brownies, and particularly ones with swirls or extra jazzy bits, leave them to cool COMPLETELY before even attempting to lift them out of the tin and refrigerate before slicing. I know, I know, the temptation… it’s a test of willpower worth the wait.

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Poached Pear Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart.


This is a recipe I’ve been dying to try for ages and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. Pastry hasn’t posed me too much of a problem before (bar the soggy bottom Bakewell) but chocolate pasty was a new challenge. I’m not sure if it’s the cocoa powder but it just seems so much more dry and crumbly than normal sweet shortcrust, even this recipe that uses three egg yolks. In attempt number one the pastry bubbled and in the second it cracked when I lifted it out of the tin. It was third time lucky and about time too! The pastry is rich but not very sweet, which is just as well because the hazelnut cream and poached pears really are, the cocoa adds a depth of flavour which offsets that sweetness.


Start with your pears, doing these the day before will allow the medley of spices to infuse.

Poached pears:

  • 8 pears
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Vanilla pod
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • 50g caster sugar (or honey)
  • 500ml water

 As I’ve said before, I love spices. I used bits of whatever was in the cupboard but to keep it simple just use a vanilla pod – sometimes less is more and the pear flavour won’t be overpowered by just using vanilla.Image

Peel, core and chop the pears in half.

Bring the sugar, water and spices to the boil and simmer for a minute or two before adding the pears. Image

Allow to simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Test this by poking them with a sharp knife, they should feel soft like tinned ones.

Take them out and allow to cool, put them in the fridge for a day to let the flavours come together. Image


Chocolate Pastry:

  •  175g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Just as with normal shortcrust, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub together with the butter.

Once you have a breadcrumb like consistency add the three egg yolks and mix into a smooth doughImage


Wrap it up in clingfilm and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grease a tart tin ready for when the pastry is rolled and preheat the oven to 180C.

Dust a surface lightly with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the tart tin.

Drape it over and press gently into the sides, overhang is good because the pastry will shrink as it cooks.

Finally, line the pastry case with some baking paper and fill with baking beads

I know I normally use rice or lentils when baking pastry to keep it’s shape, however I have discovered that baking beads are much more effective.

Bake for 15 minutes before removing the beads and baking for a further 5.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.


Hazelnut cream:

  • 300ml milk
  • 50g cornflour
  • 60g golden caster sugar (I used a mix of brown and caster)
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g ground hazelnuts

I roasted and ground my own hazelnuts using Mum’s fabulous food processor which, as much as I love it, puts my little hand blender to shame. The perks of being at home.

Turn the oven up to 160C

Place the nuts on a tray and stick them in for 10 minutes.


Take them out and remove the skins, they should come off easily but if not you can put them in a bowl of water and sort of squeeze them out. Into the food processor they go and whizz until they’re finely ground.

You can make your own vanilla sugar too; just stick a couple of vanilla pods in a jar of caster sugar, leave for a week or two and bob’s your uncle. Well, he might not be but you’ve got vanilla flavoured sugar anyway. I didn’t bother and just added a drop of vanilla essence.

Finally, for the cream!

Weigh out the sugar and cornflour and sieve into a bowl

Crack the eggs into the bowl.

Bring the milk to the boil and once it’s nice and bubbly pour over the sugar, cornflour and eggs – whisking all the time.

Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes stirring constantly.


Remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, mix and set aside to cool. Image

Once cool pour into the pastry case and arrange the pears on top.




Dark chocolate

Chopped roast hazelnuts

Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the tart with a spoon (I ended up with a couple of dollops but who doesn’t like a good blob of chocolate…)

Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top et voila!


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I brought this to a friend’s for dinner and it went down well with a scoop of ice cream, and even better with a Ferrero Rocher to follow. Indulgence at it’s best.



*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart

Hot Cross Buns


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.



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)


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.


 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. 


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.


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


Happy Easter!

Cinnamon & Black Forest Berry Sponge

Lovely, light and airy this cake would be perfect for summertime picnics especially if you’re tiring of your go-to Victoria sponge. I brought it to a friends’ for dinner and it was a nice light finish to the meal, which was just as well because I’d had a rather generous helping of seconds. It freezes really well and doesn’t lose any moisture or fluffiness, it’s the perfect balance in fact. I made it one day when I had the urge to bake cake and then to save myself from a cake baby belly, froze it for a more appropriate time.


As you can tell, I hurriedly snapped a couple of pictures before we ate, hence the poor lighting.


For the sponge:

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 100ml cold milk

Prepare a deep 20cm tin and preheat the oven to 180C

Beat the eggs, sugar and syrup until pale and thick, almost meringue like, if in doubt just keep whisking it took me a little while to achieve the right texture.



Add the milk to the mixture and beat again.

Sift the dry ingredients together and whisk until smooth.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes.

If your cake begins to look to brown cover the top with foil for the final ten minutes of baking.

The cake is ready when you stick a toothpick in and a it comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Allow to cool completely on a before doing anything with it, my sponge was quite fragile.

If you’re not a cinnamon fan you could use nutmeg instead or even a teaspoon of each. I think the flavours could easily be played with and changed to compliment whatever fruit you decide to fill it with.

To decorate:

  •  Fresh or frozen fruit and/ or jam

* The original recipe uses blackberries as the fruit but seeing as they are expensive and not in season I went with a frozen black forest mix. I’d recommend fresh if you do intend to bring it do a picnic or event. I think raspberries would add a nice tartness as the sponge is quite sweet.

  • 184ml double cream (one tub)

Whip the cream lightly so it just holds its shape.

Slice the cake in half and fill with the cream and fruit/jam. ImageImage

I also placed some cream and fruit on the top of my cake, alternatively you could dust with icing sugar.








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.


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.


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


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.


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


  • 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.


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.


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.


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).



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.

Date and ginger flapjacks

I spoke about them in my last post and this time I finally gave in.

In Peyton & Byrne’s Great British Baking they’re called ‘oaty date and ginger slice’ s… but they’ve got all the components of a flapjack, and they taste like the best flapjack I’ve ever had. So I call them flapjacks.

My friend and baking guinea pig was on her way over for coffee when I realised I had absolutely nothing to offer her. Not even a rich tea biscuit. I’d been keen to knock up some of these but knew that my self-control around them is absolutely zero so had been trying very hard to resist the urge. Long story short, I didn’t. Instead I only made ¼ of the amount, enough to offer a couple with coffee and have one for myself.

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This is the original recipe for the full quantity:

  • 180g butter
  • 6 tbsp golden syrup
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 100g dates
  • 20g fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 275g oats.

Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan

Chop the dates up into bits and grate the ginger

Add the dates and ginger to the melted mix followed by the oats

Mix together then spoon into a 20 x 20 in pan (or whatever you’ve got, they don’t spread so you can shape them to a thickness you like if you’ve made less)

Bake for 30 mins at 180C

I quartered the recipe and added a teaspoon of treacle and slightly more dates and ginger. I really like dates and ginger.  Then I baked them for 10 minutes at 180C.


Let the slices/flapjack cool before slicing, although we did have ours still slightly warm. They were delicious but more delicate to handle, plus the chew develops once they cool and these have just the right amount of crumble to chew ratio.

Christmas Cake(s)


I love fruitcakes, maybe because they always remind me of Christmas cake but definitely because they always go well with a cup of tea. With a month to go until Christmas now it seemed like an appropriate time to post this. So, If you’ve not got yours done yet then now you’ve no excuse.  I thought it was strange not to soak the fruit in alcohol before using it but it saved me buying a bottle of brandy and in fact I’d say this cake doesn’t really need it. It’s called a ‘black’ Christmas cake which is quite accurate. The spiciness of the cloves and richness of the prunes really come through, especially when it’s wrapped up and left a while. Even though it wasn’t fed with alcohol the cake was still really moist, even more so after being left for a few weeks.

Black Christmas cake:

  •  500ml stout (I used Guinness)  Image
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp groung mace
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 375g dried mixed fruit
  • 150g prunes, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 200g chopped glace ginger
  • 200g muscovado sugar
  • 175g black treacle
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Line a 20cm cake tin with non stick baking paper – I’d suggest double lining it and make sure it goes up higher than the baking tin.

Preheat the oven to 170C.

It might be worth having a look at Delia Smith’s ‘how to make a Christmas cake’ if you want to make sure your cake is really protected. I wish I had! 


Heat the Guinness in a saucepan, bring it to the boil and then allow it to simmer until you’re left with just 100ml of liquid.

While that’s reducing get all your fruit ready and place it in a bowl with the orange extract.

Add the butter to the reduced Guinness and allow it to melt.

Stir in the spices.

Beat in the sugar and treacle then pour the mix over the dried fruit.

Beat the eggs separately then stir them into the fruity mix.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then beat this into the rest of the mix.

Bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours until a skewer inserted comes out with just the odd crumb.

If you’ve not gone for Delia’s protective method then cover the top with tinfoil if the cake starts looking too dark.

Now, I’ve had a rant before about my dodgy oven and this is why my mini cakes came about.  The cake is a ‘black’ Christmas cake so obviously it was going to be dark, but my black Christmas cake was a just a burnt Christmas cake. Well, it wasn’t that bad but it was slightly overdone and chewy. I was absolutely gutted thinking the whole cake would be dry but when I cut it in half to check the inside was beautifully moist. So, I set to work mutiliating a morning’s hard work. I cut off the slightly burned chewier bits and then made what was left into squares which I wrapped in cling film and left for a couple of days before decorating.



  • 500g Marzipan
  • 500g fondant icing
  • Apricot jam
  • Icing sugar

Depending on the size of the cakes roll out enough marzipan to cover each one with a little excess. Image

Brush the squares with melted apricot jam just as you would a normal Christmas cake, and wrap them with marzipan.

Press the marzipan firmly down around the corner and trim the excess off at the base.

Wrap in cling film and leave for a day.

Repeat the process, without the jam, using your fondant icing.


Use a bit of icing sugar when rolling your marzipan or icing to make sure it doesn’t stick, I’d also recommend chilling them a bit beforehand so they don’t get sticky and pull apart easily.

Decorate them as you like! I had loads of random fondant icing colours in my cupboard I thought I’d best use up but you could do all sorts.

The cakes were a hit and even my hardest to please housemate absolutely loved them. I certainly wouldn’t complain if I was served a nice big slice of this on Christmas day.