Pimp my Snack! Giant Empire Biscuit

wpid-img_20150524_153405.jpg

image

Empire biscuits are something I tend to bake often. Everyone I know seems to love them – and no wonder. Soft, tender butter shortbread sandwiched together with jam, topped with icing and depending on your preference, crowned with a glace cherry or a jelly tot. Or joob joobs, as I remember them being called many years ago.

I don’t know what made me decide to make a giant version of this pretty well known bakery treat, but it was a very good idea! It was pretty much demolished this afternoon by my boys and their friends. I’ve kept a little sliver (with the cherry intact) for myself for later while I’m watching TV :-)

Giant Empire Biscuit

250g salted butter, very soft
320g plain flour
85g icing sugar
Strawberry or raspberry jam for the filling

100g icing sugar
Glace cherry or jelly tot/sweet to decorate (if you ever come across the extra large fruit jellies they would be perfect here)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and base line two 20cm cake tins.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together until very light and fluffy. Mix in the flour until it forms a soft dough (if you’re using a stand mixer place a tea towel over it – otherwise you’ll have a flour explosion!)

Divide the dough into two equal portions and press into the cake tins, using the base of a drinking glass to smooth the dough out evenly (top tip!)

Bake for 30 minutes or until very light golden. Leave to cool in the tins completely.

When the biscuits are cold, sandwich together with jam. Mix the icing sugar with enough cool water to make a think but pourable icing. Spread over the top of the biscuit and top with a cherry or large jelly sweet.

Creamy chicken, bacon and spinach pasta

image

When it comes to weekday meals, like many people I tend to find myself coming home from work, opening the fridge and wondering what on earth I’m going to make that will make everyone happy. This recipe is the result of a little fridge rummaging. It’s creamy, filling, delicious and it just so happens to contain two of your five a day. Which  means it’s healthy, right?

Creamy chicken, bacon and spinach pasta
Enough for four hungry people

Penne pasta (I’m not going to tell you how much! Only you know how much pasta you and your family can eat in one sitting. I used around half a bag. I don’t do measuring)
One tablespoon garlic infused oil
4-5 large chicken breasts, cut into strips
One tsp paprika
One tsp Italian herb seasoning
About 5-6 rashers bacon, cut into small pieces and rind removed OR small packet of cubed pancetta
A good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved or 3-4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 250ml tub of creme fraiche
About half a large packet of spinach leaves
Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Place a large pot of water on the hob to boil. Heat the garlic oil in a large pan, then add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle over the Italian seasoning and paprika. Cook until the chicken is golden and cooked through. In the meantime cook your pasta and when ready, drain but keep back a small cup of the cooking water in case you need it to thin down the sauce.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and add the bacon, cook until starting to crisp around the edges. Remove bacon from the pan. Throw in your tomatoes with a pinch of sugar and the creme fraiche. Cook until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and once it has wilted, remove from the heat.

Throw your pasta into the sauce and add the cooked chicken and bacon. Grate in some parmesan, add salt and pepper place back on the heat and stir. Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is a little too thick. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and serve.

Foodie parcels and weekend bakes

wpid-img_20150520_172108.jpg
    Hello! Sorry things have been a little quiet on here this past week. Work and home life has been super busy lately. I’ve also had some stupid sore throat virus for the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been able to shake off. So lately my daily routine has been get myself and the boys ready for leaving the house, go to work, come home for dinner, a bit of washing/housework/helping the kids with homework or whatever else needs my attention, bath then collapse in bed with my tablet to watch a couple of Breaking Bad episodes. I’m up to season four and totally hooked. Brilliant series.

    I’ve got a few recipes on the backburner that I will share with you soon..in the meantime here’s what’s been going on in my kitchen.

    image

    Debbie and Andrew’s sent me this lovely package. I’ve already tried their sausages and loved them so I knew we would be in for a treat. Their gluten free caramelised red onion sausages went down an absolute storm with us. I used them in a tomato and sausage pasta recipe from the cute little booklet they sent me – there were clean plates all around. If you see these sausages in the supermarket I urge you to pick up a packet!

    image

    Scan sent me a couple packs of their Swedish meatballs to try. I’ve never seen tried Swedish meatballs before and they were pretty tasty! I made the meatball and roasted vegetable pasta bake from the recipe booklet that came with the package and it went down very well, plus I had leftovers for lunch the next day! Scan Swedish meatballs are available to buy in Sainsburys, Ocado and Morrisons.

    image

    I was delighted when I received this ginger syrup from the ginger party. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know all about my love of all things ginger related! I can’t wait to use this syrup in my baking.

    image

    My cookery book obsession continues…here are a couple of recent purchases! The Works is a very dangerous place indeed…I’m sure I’ve pretty much doubled the amount of cookery books I own since they opened!

    image

    I made these cute little Baileys glazed baked doughnuts on Sunday…who could resist these? Not me that’s for sure. You’ll find the recipe right here on Recipes from a pantry.com

    image

    Pecan tassie bars from The Hummingbird Bakery “Life is Sweet”. I love anything with pecans so these jumped out at me while reading through the book. They are quite rich but the large amount of treacle stops them from being too sweet.

    image

    Last but certainly not least, I made this custard cream cheesecake from She Who Bakes. The ultimate treat for a custard cream lover!

Sweet cinnamon rolls with vanilla cream cheese icing

wpid-dsc_1959.jpg

image

Lately I’ve had this huge thing for cinnamon rolls. Right now there’s nothing I’d rather eat for weekend breakfast. Sweet vanilla scented fluffy dough, with spirals of honey, cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with a vanilla cream cheese icing. Sigh.

Resistance is futile. Join me.

image

Cinnamon Rolls

350g strong white flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
50g sugar
One large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
125ml milk
50g butter

For the filling:

75g very soft butter
50g soft light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp honey or maple syrup

Mix the sugars and cinnamon together, then stir in the honey or syrup.

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Don’t place the yeast directly on or beside the salt – this could kill the yeast.

Place the milk and butter in a small pan and place on the hob over a gentle heat, stirring until the butter has almost melted. Take off the heat and leave for a minute, then stir in the egg and vanilla. Check the temperature of the milk by dipping a finger in – it needs to be only just warm before
adding it to the flour. When the milk is ready, pour over the flour and knead for at least 5 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook attachment or 10 minutes by hand. When the dough feels smooth, silky and shiny place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a neat rectangle.

Spread the butter over the dough and top with the cinnamon sugar. Lightly press the sugar into the dough. Roll up from one of the long ends as tightly as you can. Seal the end of the dough with a little melted butter. Cut into 10 equal pieces and arrange in a greased 23cm round tin. Cover with cling and leave to prove until doubled in size, about 45 minutes -1 hour.

image

Preheat the oven to 200C. When the
buns have doubled in size, pop in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

image

For the icing, beat 50g soft butter, 150g icing sugar and 1/2 vanilla extract and beat together until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat until the icing is combined and smooth.

Spread the icing over the buns while they are still a little warm. Take and deep breath….and dive in!

image

Coconut and raspberry jam loaf

wpid-img_20150426_174410.jpg

image

This coconut cake is another old fashioned recipe that is so easy to make yet so lovely.

This particular recipe is actually the very first cake I ever made. It came from the Hamlyn book of cakes and baking, an extensive baking book that had a picture alongside every recipe. The raspberry jam topping is my nod to the retro school dinner pudding that was a favourite of many, the square slab of sponge covered with jam, coconut and slathered in custard. Birds of course!

Coconut and raspberry jam loaf cake

2 large eggs
6 tbsp milk
100g caster sugar
75g dessicated coconut
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
About one third jar raspberry jam
Dessicated coconut for sprinkling over the top

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Butter and line a loaf tin.

Crack the eggs in a measuring jug and top up with enough milk to make 200ml. Stir in the dessicated coconut and leave for 30 minutes. In a bowl, sieve together the plain flour and baking powder. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add the egg mixture and stir everything together until well combined. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely.

When the cake is cold, spread with the raspberry jam and sprinkle with dessicated coconut.

Vanilla custard biscuits

wpid-img_20150426_182157.jpg

image

These cute little golden tinged biscuits may look pretty unassuming but they are absolutely wonderful in their simplicity.

If you’re gentle with the dough and don’t overmix, you’ll be rewarded with biscuits that melt in your mouth.

One is never enough.

Vanilla custard biscuits

250g very soft butter
250g plain flour
70g icing sugar
70g custard powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, stopping as soon as you have a soft dough. (I use the KA, a food processor would do the same job. Or you could mix by hand if you aren’t as lazy as I am.)

Roll the mixture into balls and place on the baking tray, press them down with a fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Leave on the baking tray for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

I shared this recipe over at Super Golden Bakes for #Cookblogshare
image

I also linked up at A Mummy Too for recipe of the week.
image

Yum

Mexican chilli beef and black bean soup with New Covent Garden souper booster

wpid-img_20150420_221617.jpg

image

The lovely people at New Covent Garden Soup Company sent me their new souper boosters to review along with a veg box so I could create some tasty soup recipes.

On Sunday night we had a really lovely topside of beef for dinner, and I used the few leftover pieces to make this spicy, Mexican style black bean soup. I love spicy food and this soup really hit the spot! I used a tin of black beans with jalapenos which added even more kick, but if you can’t find them they aren’t essential to the recipe – a regular tin of black beans would do fine. If you do use the regular ones just make sure you rinse them in a sieve before cooking.

Mexican chilli beef and black bean soup

One tablespoon oil
One red onion, chopped
One stick of celery, chopped
One red pepper, chopped finely
Half a tube New Covent Garden Mexican Chilli Souper flavour booster
One tin of black beans with jalapenos (I found this in Tesco in the American food aisle – the brand is Ortega)
200ml beef stock (I use those Knorr flavour pots)
One 400g tin chopped tomatoes
One tablespoon tomato puree
A few pieces of leftover roast beef, sliced into thin strips

Heat the oil in a large pan and throw in the onion, celery and pepper. Squeeze in half a tube of New Covent Garden Mexican Chilli souper booster paste and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the veg has started to soften. Add the entire contents of the tinned black beans with jalapenos, the beef stock, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and a grinding of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. If it’s looking too thick, add some water to thin it down. Finally add the beef strips and cook for a further 5 minutes. Taste and add some more Souper booster if you like. Serve with plenty of sour cream, fresh chopped chilli and nachos.

You can read more about the souper boosters and order them right here on the New Covent Garden website!

Lemony chickpea and smoked mackerel salad

wpid-img_20150420_123247.jpg

image

I’ve been trying to find different, quick to prepare and healthy lunch ideas and this salad ticks all the boxes for me – it’s very simple to put together and all the flavours go together very well. I love smoked mackerel – it’s so good for you and pretty easy on the purse strings.

Lemony chickpea and smoked mackerel salad

Serves two generously

One packet ready to eat smoked mackerel fillets
One 400g tin chickpeas
Finely grated zest of one lemon
5 spring onions, finely sliced
A packet of mixed salad leaves – I used rocket and spinach
Half a dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil
Sea salt and pepper
One tablespoon rapeseed oil
The juice of half a lemon

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add the lemon zest. Empty the salad leaves into a bowl and add the chickpeas. Tear the mackerel into chunks and add to the bowl along with the spring onions, tomatoes and basil leaves. Mix the oil and lemon in a small bowl and add a good grinding of sea salt and black pepper. Pour over the salad and using your hands, mix to coat everything in the dressing.

image

Hot cross bun bread and butter pudding

wpid-img_20150412_211017.jpg

image

I used to think I hated bread and butter pudding. Stale bread in custard? No thank you. But that was before I actually made one for myself. It must have been about seven years ago – I was cooking my way through the Nigella Bites cookbook (which contains one of my families all time favourites, ham in Coca-Cola) when I came across her ginger jam bread and butter pudding. It did look pretty inviting. I decided to give it a go and I would take it round to my mum-in-law – who had a bit of a sweet tooth like myself so I knew she would appreciate a home made bread and butter pudding!

So I made it and when it was ready I covered the top of the dish in foil and walked the short distance to her home. We ended up having a lovely afternoon, chatting and sharing the bread and butter pudding that we both agreed was delicious. It was sweet, comforting and I loved the contrast between the crispy bits on top and the custard soaked bread in the middle that melted in your mouth. So this evening when I was making this pudding, I couldn’t help but think of my lovely mum-in-law in heaven and smile. I do miss our putting the world to right chats while sharing something home baked.

This recipe is a delicious way of using up stale hot cross buns. I used the chocolate orange buns I made last week so I continued with that theme by adding chocolate chips, orange zest and orange marmalade.

Hot cross bun bread and butter pudding

6 stale hot cross buns
100g chocolate chips
100g soft butter
100g demerara sugar
3 large eggs
250ml milk
100ml double cream
The zest of one orange
Orange marmalade for glazing the top

Slice the hot cross buns and butter both sides. Cut each bun into triangles and arrange in a dish, sprinkling each piece with the sugar as you layer. Sprinkle over some of the chocolate chips. Repeat until all of the bun pieces are sitting snugly inside the dish.

In a jug mix together the eggs, milk, cream and the orange zest. Slowly pour this over the bun slices. Cover with foil and leave to soak for about one hour. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and bake for 30-40 minutes with the foil on. Remove from the oven and brush the top with the marmalade. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve with double cream, ice cream or custard.

I don’t know why I ever thought I wouldn’t like bread and butter pudding. Warm from the oven with pouring cream trickled over, It’s like a hug in a bowl.

image

I shared this recipe over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for the no waste food challenge link up.

Thai spiced prawn noodle soup with New Covent Garden soup Co Souper Booster

wpid-img_20150410_181834.jpg

New Convent Garden soup Co sent me something lovely in the post this week – a box full of fresh vegetables along with each flavour of their new Souper boosters.

image

There are four flavours to choose from – Mexican chilli, roasted Morrocan, wild garlic and herbs and Aromatic Thai.

image

I decided to try the Thai Souper Booster first. I am a pretty big fan of Thai spices but no-one else in my house is (boo!) so I don’t have the opportunity to cook with them very often.

This recipe isn’t set in stone – I’m a “use up what I have” kind of gal so please feel free to use whatever veg you have. Babycorn, sugarsnaps and mushrooms would work very well here, or pak choi instead of the spinach.

image

Thai style prawn and noodle soup

One tbsp oil
Half a tube New Convent Garden Co Aromatic Thai Souper boosters
5 Spring onions, sliced thinly
One sweet potato, cubed small
One red pepper, diced
One yellow pepper, diced
One red chilli, chopped small
One lemongrass stalk, chopped as finely as possible
One Kaffir lime leaf
One 400ml tin coconut milk
700ml water
One or Two nests noodles – I used egg noodles because that’s what was in my cupboard but rice noodles would be perfect here
125g fresh king prawns
Handful spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the souper booster paste and cook for a few moments. Add your chopped veg and gently cook for 5 minutes, or until the veg has softened. Pour in the coconut milk and water and bring to a fast simmer. Drop in the noodles and cook for 2 minutes or according to the packet instructions. When the noodles have one minute left, add the prawns and spinach. Taste the soup and add more souper booster paste if needed.

Remove from the heat, decant into bowls and garnish with sliced chillies and fresh coriander.

I absolutely loved this soup – I devoured two large bowls. The flavours were wonderful. I will definitely be keeping a tube of the Thai souper booster in my fridge from now on so I can make this whenever I want. I’m really looking forward to trying the other flavours which I’ll tell you all about – so watch this space!

The souper boosters are also very handy for using up any leftover veg – just throw them in a pan, add half a tube of the paste and water and simmer for a few minutes.

Disclaimer: New Covent garden soup Co sent me the Souper boosters and a veg box so I could create my soup recipe. I was not paid in money for this review. All opinions are my own.

Foodie parcels review time!

wpid-dsc_1824.jpg

I received a few foodie parcels in the post during March – here’s a round up of them.

Spice Kitchen UK

image

Spice Kitchen UK is a family run online shop based in Birmingham specialising in high quality hand blended Indian spices. They source the freshest spices from around the world, handblend, roast and grind them. The freshness of the spices was evident even before I opened the package – my husband could smell them while he was coming down the stairs and they were sitting unopened on the doormat! I received the 8 International spice blend kit which contained Garam Masala, Sri Lankan curry powder, Panch Phoron, Mexican spice blend, jerk spice blend, Chinese spice blend, Ras El Hanout and Baharat. It was all packaged beautifully and carefully and there was even a stunning handmade silk cover!

image

I couldn’t wait to start cooking with my spices and last night gave me my first opportunity. I made salmon with spiced butter using the Sri Lankan spice blend which was absolutely delicious. I’m really looking forward to creating more dishes with the spice blends and you can be sure to hear all about them over the next few weeks. You can read all about Spice Kitchen UK and order their amazing spices right here.

Teapigs Everyday Brew

image

Teapigs asked me to review their everyday brew tea. Now I have to admit that while I’m already a big Teapigs fan (I am addicted to their wonderful peppermint and liquorice tea) I’m not really a “normal” tea drinker. But I have to say I found this one really flavourful and refreshing. It tastes like proper tea should! I do love that Teapigs use the whole leaves in the tea temples for the freshest possible flavour. There’s absolutely no need to squeeze the living daylights out of the tea temples either – just infuse in boiling water and leave to brew for 3 minutes. The best tea I’ve ever tried.

image

I felt very lucky indeed (so did the boys!) when I opened this parcel full of treats from Eatmesweets.co.uk…it was like Christmas had come early! I had originally intended to bake something with this box of American themed treats, but I’m ashamed to say they didn’t get that far! The milk duds were the most popular with the kids (they reminded me of toffee poppets) and I loved the peanut butter m&ms. mmmmmm. The nerds also went down very well with the kids – they brought back memories of visiting the sweetie shop after school, my pennies burning a hole in my pocket while I decided what to buy. They tasted pretty much the same as I remember, although I don’t think they were advertised as Wonka nerds back then. If you fancy your very own sweetie hamper you can order them right here.

Many thanks to Spice Kitchen UK, Teapigs and Eat Me Sweets. I was not obliged to give a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. If you’d like something sweet something savoury to write a review concerning a product, please email nic.thompson@hotmail.com

Honey and milk chocolate bars

wpid-img_20150406_172818.jpg

image

The Happy Egg Company very kindly sent me an Easter gift – a signed copy of Eric Lanard’s “Totally Chocolate.”

image

I received an email while I was at work telling me to expect the book to arrive very soon, so when I got home that evening I was delighted to see that it had already been delivered! How lovely is that! So I just want to say a big thank you to the Happy Egg team! #Happyeggtastemakers :-)

This book is basically a chocolate lovers dream come true. It contains  good old fashioned home baking like chocolate and vanilla marble cake, chocolate brownies and shortbread and you also have show stopping desserts such as apricot and chocolate Charlotte and chocolate and chestnut truffle cakes.

Recipes on my list to make include:

Chocolate and cinnamon buns
Chocolate and hazelnut muffins
Chocolate pain d’ Epice
Chocolate waffles
Chocolate coffee baked cheesecake
White chocolate, raspberry and lemon battenberg
Hazelnut bouchees

image

I decided to make these easy honey and milk chocolate bars first. They are very similar to a traybake my Gran used to make with coconut and cornflakes. I loved it and these bars brought back fond memories for me. Isn’t it great how food can transport you back to a certain time and place?

Eric’s recipe called for rice crispies, but I didn’t have any so I used cornflakes, just like my Gran did.

Honey and milk chocolate bars
Recipe adapted from Eric Lanard’s “Totally Chocolate”

200g milk chocolate, chopped plus an extra 25g for the topping
40g butter
2 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp condensed milk
75g cornflakes, lightly crushed
25g dessicated coconut
150g white chocolate, chopped

Grease an 18cm square baking tin and line with parchment.

In a medium sized saucepan, melt the milk chocolate, butter, honey and condensed milk over a low heat. Take off the heat and stir in the cornflakes and coconut. Pour into the lined tin and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Once melted and smooth, leave to cool for a few minutes then pour over the chilled base. Place in the fridge again to allow the chocolate to firm up, at least 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Melt the remaining 25g milk chocolate, then drizzle over the white chocolate. Leave to set at room temperature. Cut into bars.

image

Chocolate orange hot cross buns

wpid-wp-1428315736788.jpeg

image

It must be true what they say about your taste in food changing as you get older. When I was little I couldn’t get enough of chocolate. Easter was an extremely exciting time for me – the one day of the year where you were allowed to eat as much chocolate as you wanted and no-one would tell you off was my idea of heaven.

But now you can keep your Easter eggs – the best thing about Easter for me is hot cross buns. Fluffy, soft, spicy buns spread with butter while they are still warm from the oven – yes please!

I wanted to try a chocolate orange version ever since I tried some from a local bakery (Ashers in case you’re wondering!) and loved them. I was a little disappointed this year when I learned they were no longer making them but it gave me the push I needed to make my own. I’m not going to state that my attempt is better than Ashers, but they do come pretty damn close. They are so good toasted under a hot grill and spread with butter and marmalade.

I followed the basic recipe for orange, cranberry and white chocolate hot cross buns I made last Easter and added the zest of two small oranges (you could use one large Orange but I had two little easy peelers to use up in my fruit bowl), 1/2 tsp Orange extract and 80g dark chocolate chips. When they came out of the oven I brushed them with a glaze I made by boiling 3 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp water and 1/2 tsp cinnamon together in a small pan until syrupy and slightly thickened.

Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend!

Roast chicken with lemon and herb butter

wpid-img_20150329_095043.jpg

image

This is my go to recipe for roast chicken – it’s my eldest son’s favourite dinner and he requests it often. He particularly loves the herby butter which I rub under the skin – it keeps the chicken moist and is packed full of flavour.

This is a very simple recipe, all you do is take 75g soft butter and mix it with fresh chopped herbs of your choice – today I went for lemon thyme and rosemary. Season the herby butter with salt and pepper. Gently work your fingers underneath the chicken skin to loosen it, trying not to rip it. Using your hands, work the butter underneath the skin. Rub the remaining butter over the top of the chicken. Pop a few herb sprigs and half a lemon in the cavity and pop in the oven for 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size of your chicken.

image

Herby lemon roast chicken, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, maple roasted parsnips and carrots, cabbage and Yorkshire puds :-)

Wholemeal wreath

The wonderful people over at Baking Mad recently sent me a beautiful Allinson bread baking hamper. Baking bread is one of my very favourite things to do, so naturally I was delighted!

I had a look on the Baking Mad website and decided to have a go at the wholemeal loaf. I had originally intended to bake the loaf on Friday evening, but my plan had to be put on hold because my son ended up in A&E on Friday afternoon with a mild concussion after an incident in P.E :-(

image

I ended up making this yesterday afternoon, unfortunately a little rushed (not to mention a tad hungover!) and it shows in the final product. My loaf didn’t turn out as pretty as the picture on the website and it turned out a little flat on one side, but it really didn’t matter much because the flavour was just lovely. I’ll definitely make it again!

image

I had some of the bread toasted with peanut butter for breakfast, but it would also be really good with soup.

You can find the wholemeal wreath recipe plus lots more inspiration over at baking mad.com

Creme egg chocolate bundt cake

wpid-img_20150319_212837.jpg

Creme eggs. People seem to either love them or hate them. Some find them sickly, others can’t get enough of them.

Regardless of whether you’re in the love/hate camp, you couldn’t have failed to notice the uproar on social media a couple of months ago when the story broke that creme eggs had changed and the chocolate “shell” is no longer Dairy Milk.

So which side are you on? Do you love or hate creme eggs? Have you noticed a difference? I think they have definitely gotten smaller, but that seems to be the case with all chocolate bars! They all seem to have shrunk over the years.

This chocolate cake is rich, moist and totally delicious – it didn’t last more than two days in our house!

a href=”http://cookiescakesandbakes.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/wpid-img_20150319_212837.jpg”>image

Creme egg chocolate bundt cake

250ml milk
1 tbsp vinegar
180g soft butter
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
80g cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Spray a bundt tin liberally with cake release spray (I’ve tried to use butter/butter and flour with bundt tins and it was always a disaster!)

Pour the milk in a measuring jug and add the vinegar. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then slowly add the beaten eggs, a little at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder in a bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, stirring lightly to combine. Pour in half of the milk and lightly stir until everything is smooth and combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour and milk. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then place another rack on top and carefully invert – crossing everything that the cake falls out of the tin effortlessly! Leave to cool completely.

chocolate ganache

This chocolate ganache recipe couldn’t be simpler. Pour 100ml double cream into a small pan. Heat until almost boiling, take off the heat immediately and throw in 100g chopped dark chocolate. Leave for a minute, then stir to make sure the ganache is smooth. Set aside until needed.

When the cake is cool, spread over the chocolate ganache and decorate the top with halved creme eggs.

image

Salted Caramel Brownies

wpid-img_20150318_080850.jpg

image

I have to share this recipe with you.

These chocolatey slabs of gorgeousness have been very popular in my work place over the past couple of weeks.

These brownies are so good it has even been stated – and I quote – they are “better than sex.”

Make these and prepare to be adored.

They could quite possibly be – and I don’t say this without careful consideration – the best brownies I’ve ever had.

image

Salted caramel brownies
Recipe from the March issue of BBC Good Food Magazine

200g butter
200g dark chocolate, broken into squares
One 397g tin of caramel
One tsp sea salt
300g sugar
4 eggs
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22cm square baking tin.

Melt the butter slowly in a medium sized saucepan pan and once melted, take off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate. Measure out 175g of the tinned caramel and add the sea salt. Stir to loosen the caramel.  In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and remaining caramel together until well blended. Stir in the melted butter and chocolate. Tip in the flour and cocoa powder and stir until everything is combined. Pour half of this brownie mixture into the lined tin. Spoon half of the 175g salted caramel over the top of the brownie batter in horizontal lines. Pour over the rest of the brownie batter over, trying not to disturb the caramel. Finally drizzle the remaining caramel over the top and swirl with the tip of a knife to create a marbled pattern. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set on the top Рthey should still have a slight wobble in the centre. Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.

image

Chocolate Nutella raspberry puddings

wpid-img_20150315_190955.jpg

image

I don’t tend to make many puddings these days. John and I don’t really bother and if the boys fancy something after dinner it usually tends to be fruit or a slice of whatever is in the cake/biscuit tin. But tonight I was really craving a little sweet something and these gorgeous chocolate raspberry puds really hit the spot after our roast pork dinner. They are a simplified version of Nigel Slater’s gooey chocolate puddings from The Kitchen Diaries.

I hope all you Mums out there had a wonderful Mothers Day!

Chocolate Nutella raspberry puddings
Makes four or five, depending on the depth of your ramekins

200g dark chocolate
50g butter
3 eggs
100g sugar
2 heaped tablespoons Nutella
2 tbsp self raising flour
Handful raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter five ramekins.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water. Add the butter and stir until melted and smooth. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is thick and pale. Pour the melted chocolate on top of the egg mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the Nutella and the flour, lightly mixing only until there are no streaks of flour left. Pour this chocolatey batter into the buttered ramekin dishes, leaving 2cm space at the top to allow the puddings to rise. Place a few raspberries on top of each one and sit the puddings on a baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

The puddings will be risen and puffy and should have a slight wobble in the middle. They will probably collapse slightly when you remove them from the oven – I see this as a fantastic excuse to fill the crater with cream ;-)

image

Baking with Tea – Thai Chai Spiced Madeleines

wpid-img_20150217_124752.jpg

image

Up until fairly recently I wasn’t really a tea drinker at all – I was (and still am) a hardcore coffee lover. But lately I’ve been seduced by the world of loose tea – I had no idea there were so many varieties. Ever since tea company Adagio sent me some samples of their delicious teas, I’ve been thinking about various ways I could use tea in my baking.

Firstly I needed to find out the best way to infuse the tea flavour into the ingredients. In “Baking from my home to yours” Dorie Greenspan recommends steeping the tea leaves in butter to extract the flavours. Dorie says she learned this trick from the tea masters at Mariage Freres in Paris.

These delicate thai chai infused madeleines are adapted from Dorie’s Earl Gray madeleines recipe. Shortly after I placed my madeleine tray in the oven, my kitchen was permeated with a gently spiced, aromatic aroma with notes of lemongrass, cardamom and cinnamon.

Thai Chai Spiced Madeleines
recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my home to yours

75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons loose Thai Chai tea
100g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
makes 12 Madeleines or 24 mini Madelines

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the tea and allow it to infuse for 15 minutes. Line a small sieve with a double layer of damp cheesecloth or two layers of extra strength kitchen towel, then strain the butter into a small bowl and discard the tea leaves. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and using your fingertips, work the zest into the sugar until the smell of lemon is strong. Add the eggs and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until pale and thick. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients. When they are only just incorporated, fold in the butter. Place cling film against the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to bake, grease your Madeleine tin and preheat the oven to 200C. Spoon the batter into the little moulds. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes (but start to check after 8) or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the mold by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. If some stick, use a butter knife to gently prise them out. Lovely eaten warm alongside a pot of tea, obviously!

If you’ve feeling inspired to bake with tea, have a look on the Adadio site and check out all the flavours they stock – you’ll be spoilt for choice!