Amaretto fruit cake

fb_img_1480253135900.jpg

We are fast approaching the time of year when I begin to get ridiculously excited. I love Christmas and this year we have an extra special reason to celebrate…

Our gorgeous little boy Hamish Andrew arrived on the 30th October 2016, at 11.09pm. I can’t believe he is a month old already! I ended up having to have an emergency C section and for the first couple of weeks I wasn’t up to venturing out at all. My husband had to do everything for me – thank God he was off work. 4 weeks on and I’m still pretty tender and I get tired quite quickly. Breastfeeding every 3 hours can take it out of you as well, so at the moment my motto is – If it’s not desperate, it ain’t getting done! I’m just enjoying every moment with our little bundle of joy 🙂

 I just can’t imagine Christmas without a fruit cake – if I’m totally honest one of my main reasons for making one is to fill the house with the amazing, festive smell while the cake is in the oven! I usually make elaborate plans to ice and decorate the cake, but in reality I’m never usually organised enough to actually do it. If you’re short of time, a fruit and nut topping is easy and looks so pretty. 

This simmer and stir method means it isn’t totally necessary to make the cake weeks before Christmas and feed it – but you can if you want to.

It’s definitely worth taking the time to line your cake tin correctly to protect the cake during its long baking time.

Grease a deep, loose bottomed 23cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with non stick baking paper. Cut out a circle of baking paper, using the base of your tin as a template. To line the sides, cut a strip of baking paper a little longer than the circumference of the tin and about 3 inches higher. Fold it 1 inch along its length, then using scissors make little snips up to the fold line, making a fringe along the length. It should now fit snugly inside the cake tin. Finally, fit your circle over the top, covering the fringe.

Amaretto fruit cake

200g dried figs, chopped
300g sultanas
350g raisins
200g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
50g crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
125ml Amaretto, plus extra for soaking the cake
300g butter
250g dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large Orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons treacle
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds

FOR THE FRUIT AND NUT TOPPING: (OPTIONAL)

3-4 tablespoons apricot jam
250g mixed fruit and nuts such as apricots, glace cherries, cranberries, crystallized ginger, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Place the dried fruits in a large saucepan with the Amaretto, butter, sugar, Orange zest and juice, lemon zest, treacle, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg. Gently bring to a simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. I’ve often done this in advance and left it overnight. When you’re ready to bake the cake, pour the soaked fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and flaked almonds. Stir until everything is well combined. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin. When the cake is cold, poke a few holes in the cake, drizzle with a little Amaretto, then wrap in baking paper and store in an airtight container.

If you’re decorating the cake with the fruit and nut topping, warm the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat. If there are any lumps of fruit, strain through a sieve.
Brush the top of the cake with some jam, then stick the fruit and nuts onto the cake. Carefully brush the fruit and nuts with the remaining jam to add a lovely shine.

Spooky spider cookies!

wp-image-1203853922jpg.jpg

I came across some spider cookies on Pinterest using Reeces peanut butter cups a while ago and thought they were cute. This is my version using chocolate buttons – I hope you give them a try! I really enjoyed making these. I’m not a fan of spiders at all, but I love these!

Spooky Spider Cookies

200g soft butter

200g light brown sugar

125g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

400g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g dark or milk chocolate chips 

To decorate: 1 large bag chocolate buttons

Packet of candy eyeballs (I bought mine online via ebay)

100g melted chocolate for the spider legs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 or 3 baking sheets.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together over a medium bowl. slowly stir into the creamed mixture, until the mixture becomes a dough. Stir in the chocolate chips. Roll even sized amounts of cookie dough into balls and place them on your baking sheets, leaving about 3-4cm between each one to allow for spreading. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 mins, then remove the tray from the oven and bang the tray on a work surface to deflate the cookies. Return to the oven for another 5 mins or until light golden brown. 

While you’re waiting for the cookies, melt the 100g chocolate and place in a small piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. 

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack for 10-20 minutes. While the cookies are still very slightly warm, place a chocolate button in the middle of each cookie, place the candy eyeballs on using a tiny blob of melted chocolate and finally pipe on little spider legs. Leave the cookies for a little while to set the chocolate before serving to your trick or treaters, or guisers as we call them in Scotland!

Have a wonderful Halloween! I won’t be doing it this year because I’ll be in hospital having my little bundle of joy! I’m so excited to meet him after all this time! It’s felt like a very long pregnancy. Hopefully see you soon! xx

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip granola

wp-image-175080124jpg.jpeg

My favourite season of all is officially here. I love Autumn. I love the colours of the leaves, the cooler weather, making warming soups, cosy jumpers and pumpkin spice lattes. This crunchy granola has plenty of Autumnal flavours in the form of pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Not forgetting a generous handful of chocolate chips. Chocolate is always a good thing at any time of year!

I love this granola with natural yogurt and fruit. Or just as it is, eaten in snatched handfuls whenever I pass the jar! 

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip granola

350g rolled oats

125g walnuts

50g pumpkin seeds

50g brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

100g pumpkin puree (I use Libbys, the only brand I can ever find in the shops)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

80ml maple syrup 

100g dried cranberries

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C.  In a small pan, melt together the pumpkin puree, oil and maple syrup. Take off the heat and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, spices, seeds and nuts. Pour over the melted mixture and mix very well together. Pour this onto a deep baking tray/tin and spread out evenly. You may need to use two trays depending on their size. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the granola is golden and crunchy.  Remove from the oven and leave to go completely cold before stirring in the cranberries and chocolate chips. 

This granola will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar. 


Viennese Whirls & House of Fraser Whisk, Bake, Serve, Repeat bakeware review

wp-image-820919846jpg.jpeg

 Hands up if you’ve been watching The great British bake off? I’ve been loving the return of the hugely popular baking show. Last week’s theme was biscuits – the contestants made viennese whirls, iced biscuits and the final challenge was to make a showstopping 3d gingerbread structure. 

Everyone who knows me will be well aware that there’s nothing I enjoy more than pottering around in the kitchen cooking and baking, but the pelvic girdle pain I currently have is making that very hard to do. I can’t stand on my feet for longer for 20 minutes, I get awful stabbing pains in my pelvis area and I feel like I have the hips of a 90 year old woman! So I went for the easiest option – viennese whirls. 

I decided to make them on Sunday evening after dinner. I made the dough in my trusty Kitchenaid but by the time it came to piping out the biscuits, I had well and truly ran out of steam and had to employ the skills of my ex-baker hubby while I sat down to put my feet up. He hasn’t worked as a baker for years and doesn’t have the time to bake at home, but he certainly hasn’t lost his piping skills! The biscuits turned out beautifully. Very light and crumbly – just how a viennese whirl should be. I used this recipe from Mary Berry. I sandwiched the whirls with strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream, then dipped the tops in white chocolate and strawberry sprinkles. The Viennese fingers were sandwiched together with buttercream and dipped in dark chocolate. They look very fancy but were actually pretty easy to make. But I wouldn’t make a habit of making them – purely because I would simply scoff them all! 

House of Fraser recently sent me a selection of their “whisk, bake, serve, repeat” bakeware, which looks really pretty and would be fantastic to use with little ones to get them involved in baking – now my boys are older, it’s getting much more difficult to get them in the kitchen with me -when they aren’t at school, they are either at football practise or out with their mates. But then that’s the way it should be, they are both practically teenagers now. Hopefully when the little one in my tummy is big enough, he’ll be keen to spend some time in the kitchen with Mum! 

I was sent a selection of bakeware from House of Fraser – they have some good deals on the range at the moment so it’s definitely worth checking out.

I was impressed by the quality and design of the bakeware, so I’ll be featuring it in future posts! 

 

Homemade Jaffa Cakes

wp-image-1313192991jpg.jpeg

I’ve not been feeling up to spending much time in the kitchen lately, but after watching the return of The Great British Bake off I was inspired to try the technical challenge – jaffa cakes. Plus the fact that there has been a serious lack of cake in the house for a while – so I needed to do something about it!

I ended up using a recipe from The boy who bakes for the sponge bases – I’ve made Mary Berry’s before and although I had no problems with them, I wanted to try a different recipe this time for comparison. Edd’s genoise sponge contains eggs and a small amount of butter, so it is somewhat richer and slightly denser than Mary’s fatless sponge but I do prefer it. But no offense to Mary, I still love her!

You’ll find Edd’s recipe for blood orange jaffa cakes right here. I’ve bookmarked it and I’ll be giving it a try in late January/early February when blood oranges come into season. 

Jaffa Cakes

Makes 12

1 135g packet orange jelly

150ml water

Place the jelly cubes in a heatproof bowl and pour in 150ml boiling water. Stir until the jelly cubes have thoroughly melted. Pour into a shallow dish measuring 30cm x 20cm and place in the fridge for an hour or two or until competely firm.

For the sponges

1 large egg

30g caster sugar

30g self raising flour

15g (1 tablespoon) butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180C and thoroughly grease a 12 hole muffin tin (or use cake release spray)

Place the egg and sugar into a medium bowl and using an electric mixer whisk together for 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and thick. Sieve the flour over the egg mixture and carefully fold in. Pour in the butter and carefully fold in, taking care not to beat to much air out of the mixture by overmixing. Place about 1 tbsp of batter into each muffin tin base and bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Leave in the tins for a few minutes before turning out (you may need to carefully coax a few out using a butter knife, they can stick a little). Place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Remove the jelly from the fridge and using a 2cm round cutter (I couldn’t find a cutter small enough so I used an icing nozzle) cut out 12 little rounds of jelly and place in the middle of each sponge.  

For the topping, place 150g dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water and leave until melted. Watch the chocolate doesn’t get too hot or it will melt the jelly. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate over the top of the jelly centres, gently spreading it over to the edges of the cakes. Leave to set. 

Are you baking along with GBBO this year? I posted these jaffa cakes on Twitter for #gbbotwitterbakealong – if you fancy joining in (there are some great prizes to be won!) head on over to Twitter and search for the hashtag to find out more ☺

Malted Fruit and banana Loaf

wpid-img_20151018_135431.jpg

The past couple of weeks have been a bit fraught. I ended up going to hospital not once, but four times due to a few complications (baby and I are fine thankfully  – they are just keeping a close eye on me because I lost my first baby very late in pregnancy) and I had to stay in for a couple of days last week as a precaution. I have to say though, the staff at the hospital are absolutely amazing and I can’t praise them enough. They did a fantastic job of calming my nerves and comforting me when I was taken through via an ambulance last Tuesday night. Honestly, where would we be without our NHS? I actually dread to think😕

So needless to say, things have been pretty quiet on the cooking/baking front. The housework is being severely neglected. I’m sure my ironing pile contains clothes that we’d forgotten we owned we haven’t seen them in that long, and I just have piles of stuff. 

Everywhere. Boys are so messy!

But I’ve been told to rest as much as I can, so I’m trying my hardest to turn a blind eye. To be fair, my eldest has been hoovering daily (one of my bug bears is dirty carpets – normally if I see a speck of dirt I’m out with the hoover) and they’ve both been taking their dirty washing/cups/plates downstairs and helping Dad wash up. They are trying! 

I made this fruit loaf just before one of my longer hospital visits. It’s packed full of goodness and is fat free. I only added the banana in because I had a very sad looking one sitting in the fruit bowl. I can’t say you can really taste the banana much, but I was so happy with how this turned out I’m sticking with it! And that little extra fruit makes it even more healthy, I’m sure😉

Malted fruit and banana loaf 

Adapted from the “River Cottage Cakes” book

100g malt extract      

100g golden syrup 

100ml milk

75g dried dates, roughly chopped

75g sultanas or raisins

225g self raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

1 medium egg, lightly beaten  

1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the malt extract, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture is hot and all of the ingredients are well combined. Remove from the heat and add the dates and raisins/sultanas. 

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the fruit mixture, egg and mashed banana. Stir the mixture until everything is well combined and no pockets of flour remain. Spoon into a greased and lined 1 litre loaf tin (approx 20x10cm) and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. 

Leave to cool completely in the tin. This fruit loaf will last for about a week – if it isn’t devoured by then!

Cherry Tomato and thyme Focaccia

fb_img_1467698791296.jpg

Hello! I’ve been meaning to post this Focaccia recipe since last year – I’m such a bad blogger! Hope you are all well and having a good “Summer” despite the wet, stormy and humid weather – it’s been cooler in the Highlands over the last couple of days which I am welcoming with open arms. Bump and I were struggling to cope last week with the humidity! I ended up getting signed off work with pregnancy exhaustion and another few issues. It was nothing to seriously worry about but I was forced to put my feet up and rest for a few days. But without further ado, I give you my cherry tomato and thyme Focaccia bread. 

This is such a beautiful, herby bread studded with cherry tomatoes. I love to make this using the different coloured tomatoes you can usually find around this time of year. It looks so pretty. I used to be scared of making Focaccia, but Once you get the hang of the wet dough, it’s really quite easy. If you have a stand mixer I recommend using it for this recipe. Otherwise, get your hands in to the mixing bowl and take off any rings – it’s going to get very sticky! Just don’t be tempted to add more flour. 

Makes one large Focaccia

500g strong white flour
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
10g salt
400ml tepid water
40g garlic oil, plus more for drizzling
Small bunch of fresh thyme
Small punnet of fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

Weight out the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast and salt at opposite sides of the bowl (Placing salt directly on top of yeast can stop it from working.)

Pour the water and the garlic oil over the flour and using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix together. It will seem far too wet and you may think you’ve added to much water, but don’t worry! It’s meant to be this way. Once you have a very wet dough, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Turn out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes, or for 5-7 minutes using a food mixer. Don’t be tempted to add more flour – it will change the texture of the bread. Place dough back in the bowl and leave to rest for 1-2 hours or until almost doubled in size.

When the dough has almost doubled in size, tip out onto a large baking tray which you have drizzled with olive oil. The dough will start to collapse and flatten. Lightly oil your hands and fold the dough in half a couple of times. This should help it hold its shape a little. Flatten the dough out into a Foccacia shape, trying to get the dough to reach right to the edges of the tray. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for 45 minutes- 1 hour or until doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 8. When the dough has proved, poke dimples into the dough using your fingers. You need to press down quite firm. Place the halved cherry tomatoes into the dimples, scatter over the thyme leaves, drizzle with a little more garlic oil and scatter over some sea salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Chocolate chip banana muffins

img_20160124_151518.jpg

image

As luck would have it (and much to my eldest son’s disgust because he had to go to school – ha ha) I got a much needed day off work today due to the bank holiday!

I’m now 17 weeks into my pregnancy and everything seems to be going ok. I could just do with a bit more energy! Unfortunately the job I do means I’m on my feet pretty much all day and I’m starting to find it pretty draining. Which means that when I get home from work every night I have my dinner, get my pj’s on and crawl into bed. I’ve been trying to start Stephen King’s book 11 22 63 for a while now but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open long enough to read! But despite my moans, I really am counting my blessings and crossing my fingers that everything has been going well so far. I’ve even started to feel the little one wriggle about which I love🙂

Here’s a really great recipe for using up those black bananas. I don’t know about you but as soon as they start to turn black, I have to make something with them right away or just throw them out because the overwhelming smell makes me feel ill.

These don’t take much effort at all – and once you’ve tried them you’ll be glad you didn’t chuck those yuckky overripe bananas out!

Chocolate chip banana muffins
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate banana muffins in “Kitchen”

Makes 12

225g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
125ml coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g chocolate chips of your choice

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin lined with papers.

Weigh out the flour and cocoa powder. Stir together and set aside. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the eggs, coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder, taking care not to overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into the cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen and springy.

image

CHOCOLATE CHERRY HAZELNUT BISCOTTI

wp-1464185834945.jpeg

image

CHOCOLATE CHERRY HAZELNUT BISCOTTI

These crunchy, chocolate chunk loaded, espresso spiked twice baked Italian biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to a large mug of coffee or hot chocolate. I really like the dried cherries in this recipe but you can swap them for dried cranberries if you prefer. The espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavour.

I find it quite difficult to leave these alone. I love them!

Chocolate cherry hazelnut biscotti

Makes 10-14 biscotti

300g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
2 tbsp espresso powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
75g butter
200g sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g dried cherries
150g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 180c/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line two large baking sheets with parchment.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.

Beat the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes then slowly add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until everything is well mixed together. Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until a dough forms. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chunks.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one log at a time, roll the dough into 12 inch long logs. Flatten the logs into a rectangle with the palm of your hand so they are 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Transfer to the baking trays.

Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes or until slightly firm. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into slices. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sun dried tomato and rosemary bread and sharing some happy news!

fb_img_1454494245624.jpg

image

Hello! It’s been a while. I’ve completely neglected this blog lately. The truth is, I haven’t spent very much time in the kitchen at all. It’s hard creating recipes when more often than not the smell of cooking makes you retch and meal planning pretty much goes out the window when you don’t have a clue what you are going to fancy eating from one day to the next.

Yes….I’m pregnant!

Baby T is due 5th November and we couldn’t be happier!

image

So now you know the reason why I’ve been a really bad blogger over the past couple of months. I’m feeling much better now (frantically searches for some wood to touch!!) but I had a lot of nausea in the first 10 weeks…some days the nausea was so severe I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow. I’ve had some very random cravings which included proper sausage rolls from a local butchers, Tyrells salt and vinegar crisps, granny smith apples spread with peanut butter and ginger nuts. I think I’ve eaten my body weight in ginger nuts. So no really weird cravings so far. I’m almost 15 weeks now and the sickness seems to have faded. Needless to say I don’t miss it at all! Apart from that I’m absolutely loving being pregnant again. It’s been a long time since I went through this (my boys are 13 and almost 12) and I just can’t wait to meet our new addition to our family. Exciting times ☺

So how would you like a new recipe? I think it’s long overdue! Today I’m sharing one of my favourite bread recipes with you – sun dried tomato and rosemary bread. The smell of this bread baking is absolutely divine and never fails to make me feel ravenous.

This bread is amazing with chorizo slices and melted mozzarella – best sandwich ever!

Sun dried tomato and rosemary bread

500 g strong white bread flour
7 g sachet fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
250ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp clear honey
80g sun dried or sun blush tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl, keeping the yeast and salt at opposite ends of the bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm water, oil and honey and mix until the mixture forms a dough. If there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, add a little more warm water.

Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Shape into a ball, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for another minute to deflate any air bubbles. Flatten the dough out into a rough rectangle and add the drained tomatoes and chopped rosemary, gently kneading to incorporate.

Shape into a round loaf and transfer to a baking tray lightly dusted with flour. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for a further hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

image

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/gas Mark 6.

Dust the risen loaf lightly with flour and make a couple of slashes across the top, if you like.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and the underside sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

The Sound of Flavourites Dairy Milk Chocolate Giveaway

20160313_144838.jpg

image

****COMPETITION NOW CLOSED….THANKS FOR ENTERING!****

WINNER TBA…..

Can listening to music while eating chocolate actually make it taste better?

According to Cadbury, it can!

The good folks behind the chocolate Company have conducted an extensive study with Mindlab and I have to admit, my geeky side was intrigued!

With hearing and taste senses being closely linked, they have discovered that our chocolate eating experience is enhanced by listening to different tempos of music depending on whether our chocolate is plain, nutty, fruity or stuffed with other goodies.

The study revealed the following:

1. Low pitch complements nutty flavours

2. High pitched music complements crunchy texture

3. Steady rhythm complements smooth texture

4. Mellow sounds complements soft spongy textures

5. Up-tempo sounds complements surprising textures that pop and crackle

Cadbury have put together an album called “Sound of Flavourites” with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Each track is designed to pair up with one of the nine bars in the Cadbury range, and you can test the theory out in the comfort of your own home by visiting Spotify. That’s if you can resist eating the chocolate all up before the playlist loads, of course😉

To celebrate the launch of The Sounds of Flavourites, Cadbury are giving away a big haul of chocolate to one of you lucky readers!

image

It’s super easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment below this post telling me what your favourite chocolate flavour pairing is. The winner will be drawn at random on Friday 25th March 2016. UK residents only. Good luck!

Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

img_20160302_163746.jpg

image

Over the years, I’ve made so many banana loaves I could probably make them in my sleep. I’ve tried dozens of different versions but I think this one is my new favourite. This moist banana loaf is studded with Reeces mini peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces. It’s pure heaven for lovers of the banana and peanut butter combo!

Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
2 large, very ripe bananas (about 250g total weight), mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g Reeces mini peanut butter cups, chopped in half (save a few for sprinkling over the top)
1 small packet Reeces pieces OR handful chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the eggs to the creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at this stage. Gently fold in the flour. Finally, fold most of the peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces/chocolate chips into the cake mixture, taking care not to overmix.

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Top with the reserved peanut butter cups and bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour 10 minutes, or until risen and skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or until turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Le Creuset cast iron grillit – review

img_20160221_171805.jpg

image

I felt I hit the jackpot the other week when Houseology very kindly sent me a Le Creuset cast iron grillit to review!

I’ve never cooked with cast iron before and I was excited to try it out. I had read a few things about seasoning the pan before you use it, but the instruction booklet told me there was no need so I decided not to worry about it.

image

I was making beef olives for dinner the weekend the grillit arrived, so I had the perfect recipe for trying it out.

I was a little worried how it would fare on my little electric hob, but it was absolutely fine. I had no issues with the food sticking at all. It worked perfectly!

image

I’ve used the grillit about three-four times since and I really like it. It’s fantastic quality and I love the way it heats up so evenly and maintains the heat. So far it’s inpressed me. The real test will be cooking a steak on on it!

Do you own any cast iron cookware?

Do you have any tips for cooking with cast iron?

The Le Creuset cast iron grillit is available to buy right here

Houseology have a brilliant masterclass section on their website which is filled with tips, buying guides and tools for interior design! It’s perfect if you’re looking for inspiration for redecorating or even just freshening up a room. There is also a great kitchen section with tips and recipes

Book Review – Prohibition Bakery

img_20160302_091019.jpg

image

Along with the everyday baker, I was recently given a copy of Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg and Brooke Siem to review.

Brooke Siem is a classically trained chef who, with experienced baker and bartender Leslie Feinberg, created New York City’s first alcoholic cupcake company, Prohibition Bakery in 2011.

A book dedicated to boozy cupcakes sound very appealing to me and whenever I’m sent books for review I like to test a few recipes out but sadly I can’t drink alcohol at the moment (no, not because of that!) so I had to make myself content with reading the book and imagining what the recipes would taste like!

Flicking through the pages I found many classic cocktails in cupcake form – Cosmo, sex on the beach, mint julep, strawberry daiquiri, Tequila sunrise and amaretto sour to name just a few. There are also a fair few I’ve never heard of including Kokoloko, flower of Oahu, Johnny Appleseed’s dirty little secret and my personal favourite name for a cocktail/cupcake – Breakfast, Bitch!

image

If you’re going to bake from this book, you’ll have to invest in a mini cupcake tin. All the cupcakes are presented in mini form, which the writers insist, is vital for recipe success. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from trying the recipes using a regular cupcake tin, but Leslie and Brooke go on to say don’t get grumpy if they don’t work! So we can’t say they didn’t warn us.

It really is a great book full of handy tips on how to achieve perfect results when baking with alcohol and in the final pages there is even a little cocktail recipe section to inspire you.

I can’t see myself using this book as an everyday baking reference, but I would definitely use it if I was throwing a girls night in get together – a selection of these mini cupcakes would be a perfect addition to the party! Sounds like a plan…;)

I was sent a copy of Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg and Brooke Siem to review. RRP £14.99. All opinions are my own.

Book Review – The Everyday Baker

02d1f473aad69c364315b845721e8dbf.jpg

image

The Everyday Baker
Essential Techniques and Recipes for Foolproof Baking
By Abigail Johnson Dodge

A sumptuous, comprehensive tome, The Everyday Baker is a baking reference to die for containing 200 essential, step-by-step techniques and recipes that every home cook should master. The book showcases a huge variety of sweet and savoury baked goods, from simple crumbles and muffins to pavlovas, meringues, soufflés and more, all with detailed instructions, visual clues and ingenious tips, so that each one is in easy reach of the novice cook.

Author Abigail Johnson Dodge is a veteran cookbook writer and pastry chef who explains techniques in a friendly, conversational tone, alongside 650 photos to bring her instructions to life. For each recipe, Abigail provides the extras that make her a highly regarded baking expert: make ahead tips, flavour and size variations and ‘baker’s wisdom’ gems that will help home cooks become more knowledgeable and confident. The Everyday Baker is packed with authoritative yet approachable information and will remain a staple in the kitchen long after home bakers gain the skills they need to become Great British Bake Off hopefuls!

I was recently given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. It is indeed a tome, with over 600 pages. It is pretty heavy! It’s definitely a perfect book to curl up and read if the weather is rubbish. I’m pretty certain you would pick up a few new tips along the way – Abigail shares a wealth of handy kitchen hints and techniques. One thing I really love is the recipe measurements are in cups, grams and ounces – very helpful! There are also step by step photographs for many of the recipes.

I could quite happily bake my way through the entire book. The chapters include:

Morning food
Quick to make
Cookies
Cakes
Pies and tarts
Pudding and custards
Yeast breads
Pastry
Flatbreads
Fruit desserts

Recipes I want to try include:

Cinnamon swirl crumble topped ricotta coffee cake
Baked double chocolate dougnuts
Vanilla macarons with Nutella filling
Toasted coconut meltaways
Espresso hazelnut meringue cake with espresso buttercream and milk chocolate ganache
Maple pear slab pie
Roasted butternut squash pie with pecan praline
Popcorn creme caramel
Bourbon maple pecan baklava
Double tomato basil open faced tart
Cheesy bacon focaccia rolls

image

I made the creamy peanut butter filled Devil’s chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache topping. The chocolate sponge was so moist and light. They were amazing. My sister declared them the best cupcakes ever!

image

The best ever maple pecan granola clusters were addictive. It was lovely with natural yoghurt but I couldn’t walk past the jar without grabbing a handful. Perfect. Another keeper recipe!

So far that’s two brilliant recipes – I’m really looking forward to trying more.

The Everyday Baker is a fantastic baking reference. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced, confident baker I highly recommend this book. It will be a constant kitchen companion for me.

I was given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. All opinions are my own.

Blood orange and strawberry smoothie

img_20160201_125402.jpg

image

I’ve been feeling very drained and tired lately, so in an attempt to increase my vitamin intake I bought myself a NutriNinja (thanks to my brothers and sister for giving me Lakeland vouchers for Christmas!) and I’ve been experimenting with all different kinds of smoothies and juices.

So I thought I’d share some of the more successful smoothie experiments with you in a series of mini posts ☺

Starting with….

Blood orange and strawberry smoothie

Makes one large glass for one

Juice of 2-3 blood oranges
5 large strawberries
1 banana
200ml Greek yoghurt
A little milk to thin the smoothie, if too thick

Simply blend all the ingredients together. Add a little milk if it’s too thick.

image

Horlicks limited edition bundle giveaway

wp-1454536499278.jpeg

image

Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief – we made it though January! But we all know February can also be cold and grey, which makes us want to shut out the outside world, curl up on the sofa with a blanket, a good movie or book and a warming milky drink.  So with that in mind I’ve teamed up with Horlicks to give one lucky reader some fantastic limited edition Horlicks memorabilia.

image

The prize includes a Horlicks mug, storage tin, coaster and a tub of light malt chocolate Horlicks.

image


Horlicks is great for those looking for an alternative afternoon cuppa to help boost energy levels! A mug of Horlicks Traditional is packed with 14 key nutrients including Vitamin B6 which contributes to the normal functioning of both the nervous and immune system and can reduce tiredness and fatigue. It is also low fat and a source of protein.


To enter the competition, all you need to do is click on the Rafflecopter link below and complete the entry options. The more options you do, the more chance you have of winning. Good luck! UK entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Easiest ever Nutella cookies

wpid-img_20141130_145719.jpg

wpid-img_20141201_012336.jpg

 

Easiest ever Nutella cookies

These Nutella cookies are so simple and easy to make and I can guarantee they won’t be around for long, especially if my boys have anything to do with it!

Makes 12-15 cookies

125g Nutella 125g condensed milk 75g plain flour 75g plain chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a baking sheet.

Place the Nutella and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Add the flour and chocolate chips and mix together with a wooden spoon. It will come together, although it might not seem like it at first! Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a shiny dough. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place on the lined baking sheet, placing them at least 2cm apart. Slightly flatten each one with the palm of your hand and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and look set around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

image

Gingerbread loaf with orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing

wp-1453577477571.jpeg

image

I really do love a nice, simple ginger loaf and this is a really good one! Like most gingerbread, this is best made in advance – keep it wrapped up for 2-3 days and you’ll be rewarded with a beautifully sticky, moist cake. The orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing is optional but lovely.

ginger loaf with orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing

250g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
120g butter
110g treacle
110g golden syrup
110g dark muscavado sugar
250ml milk
1 egg, beaten
50g Crystallised or stem ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest, sugar and chopped crystallised ginger.

In a small pan over a low heat, melt the treacle, syrup and milk. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before stirring in the egg. Pour into the flour mixture, whisking thoroughly until no lumps remain and you have a smooth batter. Pour this batter into the lined tin and bake for 60-75 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the gingerbread cool completely in the tin.

ORANGE CREAM CHEESE ICING

125g full fat cream cheese
275g icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated zest of one small orange
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

OR

Lemon icing:
100g icing sugar
Juice of half or one lemon
Chopped crystallised ginger to decorate, optional

Sift the icing sugar into a medium sized bowl. Add enough lemon juice to make a thick but pourable icing. Pour over the cold cake and top with the remaining crystallised ginger, if using.