Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Chocolate orange brownies

Happy New Year! Now before you all embark on detoxes and healthy eating here is a truly delicious, indulgent recipe. I suspect many people will have got Terry's chocolate oranges for Christmas and may have them left over if they have had other goodies to eat, if not many supermarkets are now selling them off.

I myself was requested to make brownies for a boxing day party. I decided to make them 'christmas-y' by adding the chocolate orange and was very happy indeed to find them by one get one free. One for the brownies one for me! I used a white chocolate orange for a nice contrast but use any variety you like.

A low oven really does make for the best fudgey brownies. My parents oven is not like my crazy super hot oven and resulted in the best brownies I have made for a long time. I will be turning my oven down even further when I go back home.

Chocolate orange brownies

200g dark chocolate
175g butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
tablespoon strong coffee
300g caster sugar
115g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 chocolate orange, each segment broken into 3

Preheat the oven to 170oC/fan 150oC and line you brownie pan with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth (I did this in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water).

Once melted, remove the butter chocolate mix from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and coffee until fully incorporated.

Add the flour and cocoa powder to the bowl and mix until combined.

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add to the bowl, mix until smooth and then finally stir through the chocolate orange.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cook for 30-35 minutes until lightly flaky ontop but not overcooked.

Leave to cool in the pan then cut into chunks

Pink champagne marshmallows

These were another homemade gift this Christmas. Thankfully there were plenty left over as I love marshmallows and homemade ones are truly amazing.

The champagne flavour of these really comes through, giving an intensely fruity flavour.

Sorry for the lack of photos, it was very frantic making these on Christmas Eve. I urge you to give these a go should you be willing to spare a glass of you New Years prosecco or champagne!

Pink champagne marshmallows

3 sachets gelatine
250ml champagne/prosecco
340g caster sugar
325g golden syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Pink gel colouring
30g icing sugar
30g corn flour

Combine the icing sugar and corn flour in a bowl. Lightly oil a 13 by 9 inch pan (I used my brownie tin) and thoroughly coat in ~ 1/2 the icing sugar mix, reserving the rest.

Put the gelatine into the bowl of a free standing mixer. Add 125ml of the champagne and allow to soften.

Meanwhile put the sugar, golden syrup and remaining champagne into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Warm over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium/high and cook until the syrup reaches 240F on a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat and immediately start the mixer on slow. Carefully pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl onto the gelatine.

Increase the speed of the mixer and beat for 12 minutes. Add in the vanilla and a little colouring (a little goes a long way!) and beat for a further couple of minutes.

Scoop the sticky mass into the prepared pan, smooth over and sprinkle with the remaining icing sugar mix.  Leave for a least 4 hours or overnight then cut into squares.

These will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Stollen breakfast rolls

Merry Christmas everyone! I hop everyone's day was what they wished it would be. Are you still hungry? I suspect not. If you are like me though you will probably have a lots of leftover bits and open bags in your baking cupboard, yes? Well if so these stollen style breakfast buns could help use up the dried fruit and marzipan kicking about.

These are delicious warm from the oven and as the dough is light they are a not too heavy start to your day, plenty of room for that party buffet later!

I used the cinnamon roll recipe on my blog, here. I changed the filling by using mixed spice instead cinnnamon, plenty of mixed dried fruit and 60g of marzipan  broken into small pieces.

These really are best baked fresh so I kept the rolls in the fridge baking them over a couple of days as and when I needed them.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Maple pecan fudge

Christmas is fast approaching and over the past few years I have started to make little homemade presents, either a few together as a gift or alongside something else.

I have already made rhubarb and ginger jam which I made last year. This year I have already made a variation too, clementine and lemon marmalade. I have also remade peanut brittle, recipe here.

I still have to make salted caramels dipped in chocolate, pink champagne marshmallows, spiced coconut  caramels, frostbite cookies and pesto. Phew, look out for those appearing on the blog in the next week or so!

One new recipe for this year, already made, is maple and pecan fudge. I had never made fudge before so was a little worried about how it would turn out. The recipe I followed was fantastic and the resulting fudge is creamy and  really deeply flavoured with maple syrup.

Maple pecan fudge (from bbc good food magazine)

150g golden caster sugar
300g maple syrup (I used the darker grade for a more intense flavour)
30g of golden syrup
150ml double cream
75ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp sea salt
25g butter
100g pecans, roughly chopped

Grease the sides and base of a 8 inch square pan with some sort of vegetable oil and line with baking parchment. 

Combine all the ingredients except the butter and pecans in a large heavy based saucepan and cook gently over a medium heat, stirring frequently,  to dissolve the sugar.

Pop a sugar thermometer into the pan and bring the syrup to the boil. Continue to cook the syrup at a gentle boil until it reaches 114C/236F. The mix will have to be stirred frequently to prevent it catching on the base of the pan. This will take a while to get t the correct temperature, be patient. 

Take the pan from the heat and plunge the base into cold water to prevent the syrup from cooking further. Add the butter, give the fudge a gentle stir then scoop into a large mixing bowl. Leave to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Do not touch it! Not even a tiny taste, you will end up with grainy fudge. 

Using a wooden spoon beat the fudge for 3-4 minutes until it thickens and starts to lose its sheen. Add 3/4 of the pecans and then spoon the fudge into the prepared tin, spreading with a palette knife to create an even layer. Scatter the remaining pecans over the fudge pressing them in gently.
Leave to set overnight before using a nice sharp knife to cut into squares.

The recipe states these will keep for two weeks. I have wrapped each square tightly in clingfilm then put them in a thick cellophane bag. Hopefully the recipients will enjoy, I certainly enjoyed my quality control piece!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Xmas village

First things first. I can spell. As a general rule I very much dislike the word xmas instead of Christmas. Having said that, this months letter for alpha bakes is 'X'. I cannot find a food that begins with X so am actually pretty relieved it has turned up in December.

I was having my weekly wander round lakeland when I spotted, amongst much Christmas bakeware, their mould for a fairytale village. I have always wanted to make a gingerbread house and thought that for my first one small would be better as they would be sturdy. The mould can be used for chocolate or gingerbread.

I followed the recipe on the packet as I thought that it may be important for the structural integrity of the houses. I did add an extra half teaspoon of ginger and 1/2 a teaspoon of mixed spice as I really like my gingerbread to have a deep warmth. I also used all treacle. You could use all golden syrup or or a mix but 1) I like the flavour of treacle and 2) It makes my houses nice and dark which contrast nicely with the snow.

I have never made royal icing before but it was very easy and holds my house together very very well indeed.

I got creative with all the remaining royal icing to create snow drifts by doors and in window panes. I also had a go at icicles and am very pleased for my first attempt. I finished the whole thing off with a dusting of icing sugar.

Its almost to pretty to eat but once I had brown the first roof panel off it got easier. The gingerbread is crunchy with a lovely deep flavour, I am glad I added the extra spicing.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Frangipane topped mince pies

I am in love. With the homemade mince pie. Last year I mentioned how I thought I did not like mince pies. Turns out what I do not like are over sweet mushy soft soggy shop mince pies. What I LOVE are homemade ones with short crumbly buttery pastry with a spiced fruit centre.

I have already made a batch of normal mince pies this year and they reignited my relatively new found love. You can find the recipes for the mincemeat, and the pies themselves here.

Although I love them as they are I wondered if there was any other ways that I could jazz them up. I love frangipane and decided that a moist almond sponge topping on a mince pie would probably be no bad thing. And I was 100% right. These are amazing. As someone had work said, 'they may upset absolute traditionalists but dare I say these are better than all pastry'.

I am not claiming this to be an original idea, I am sure if we looked there would be lots of recipes out there. But I did use my own mincemeat recipe, my own pastry and my own frangipane recipe. So I can at least the claim credit for this exact version.

Frangipane topped mince pies

makes 10-12

90g butter
110g plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
egg yolk
1-3 tablespoons ice cold water


70g butter
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg
teaspoon almond extract
70g ground almonds
25g plain flour
Pulse the butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and egg yolk and pulse again. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until until the dough comes together, I have made this pastry a couple of times and always have needed 2 tablespoons of water, but it will depend on the butter you use and the size of the egg yolk.

Gather the dough and wrap in clingfilm, chill for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling make the frangipane. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and almond extract until combined. Gently fold in the almonds and flour until everything is evenly combined. 
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN. Spray or butter cupcake tins and add a strip of greaseproof paper, this will make removing your mince pies a doddle.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll out your pastry to a few mm thick. Stamp out circles bigger than the bases in your cupcake tin.  Line the cases with the pastry, gently pushing it to the base and up the sides. Trimmings can be lightly re-rolled and to get the most from your pastry.

Fill each case with heaped teaspoons of mincemeat. then top with heaped teaspoons of frangipane. 

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane topping is golden.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

I say cool completely but they are nice warm. I do  mean warm not hot, The hot pies are unstable and likely to collapse, not to mention the molten fruit within may do serious damage!

I am a little bit sad that I took these in to work as they are all gone already. Another batch will definitely be made on Friday.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Salted caramel and dark chocolate macaroons

One day, perusing twitter I saw a tweet proclaiming that 'today is the last day to sign up to the Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap'. I was hooked at the word cookies and quickly signed up before the deadline could pass me by.

The basic premise of the swap is that you register your interest, get sent three names and addresses of other bloggers and send them cookies. In return 3 different bloggers send cookies to you. You pay a small fee to enter ($4, £2.50) and this money goes to charity, the money raised is also matched by companies so lots of money is raised. So lots money for charity and lots of cookies for me, everyone is a winner.
The cookies had to be robust enough to stand up to transport and also keep well. I initially considered biscotti, one of the toughest of biscuits. You're not allowed to send a recipe already featured on your blog but are able to send a variation. I have a few biscotti recipes already, and although I could have tweaked one I had another think.

After trawling the internet I found some European biscuits that for some reason made me think of English coconut macaroons. And that was that. English macaroons fit the bill perfectly, the keep very well and are robust enough to send.

The basic English macaroon is coconut, flour and condensed milk, shaped into mounds and baked until golden.

I decided I would jazz up my macaroons and make them a little less sweet and more sophisticated. I made salted caramel macaroons and dipped the base in dark chocolate.

Salted caramel and dark chocolate coconut macaroons

makes 40-45

225g caramel (from a tin or make your own)
sea salt to taste
one tin of condensed milk (390g)
500g coconut
120g plain flour
100g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN and line a baking sheet or sheets with baking parchment.

First gently warm the caramel and add sea salt to taste stir till dissolved. I salted a little more than I usually would, almost too salty. I wanted it to be able to stand up to the sweetness of the condensed milk and coconut.

Mix the condensed milk with the salted caramel. Add in the flour and the coconut and mix well until everything is thoroughly combined.

Using a tablespoon put heaped mounds onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave a few centimetres between each one, you will need to bake these in a few batches!

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. They will firm up as they cool.

Once the macaroons are completely cold melt the dark chocolate and dip the base of each macaroon. Leave the macaroons upside down for the chocolate to set then devour!

Thankfully I had a few spare macaroons, so I could sample some, for quality control you understand! I really liked the texture of these, caramelised on the outside, soft in the middle, and the caramel chocolate combination helped temper the sweetness.  I hope that my recipients enjoyed them as much as we did here.

I would like to express my thanks to Merunnisa from Come.Con.Ella. for her delicious brownie roll out cookies. Pat from Pat's Kitchen for her seriously moreish Chocolate frostbite cookies. And finally Victoria from Victoria Sponge, Pease Pudding for her lovely festive Brandy soaked cranberry, Golden pecan and Dark chocolate Christmas cookies.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


You may have noticed (or not) a few less blog posts the past couple of months. I am once again back in Brno, just as I was in October.

For those of you wondering where on earth I actually am, Brno is a city in the south east of the Czech Republic. Although there is a small kitchen, there is only two hobs and a microwave so not much baking can happen for TWO whole weeks. This also means I suspect that less cake will be eaten. This is very sad.

Saying that I have had some cakes and bakes. I was presented with freshly baked apple strudel from my host when I arrived. It was fantastic and just what I needed after a 4.30am start and 9 hours travelling.

I have had a very English feeling piece of homemade carrot cake in a cafe here too. Carrot cake is not so common here, indeed there was some strong suspicion from some people at the idea of a cake with carrots in.

Also not common is salted sweet bakes. There was another cake on offer, chocolate with sea salt, and this caused even more suspicion than the carrot cake. It was not actually so salted and was nice. But chatting with people I found out that salted caramel was unheard of and declared 'weird' and salted chocolate was very uncommon but starting to appear.

If I am back again I will have to introduce them all to the joys of salted caramel!

One of the things I love about Hungary or the Czech Republic is the presence of Trdelnik, at least that is what it is called in Czech.

It is bread dough, that is allowed one rise. It is then rolled into a thin sausage and wrapped around a cast iron rod. This is then turned over heat to produce a spiral of bread, crispy on the outside but still with some softness on the inside.

They are flavoured by coating the outside of the bread in nuts, sugar, or my current favourite, cinnamon.

Bigger cities have them all year round but I have managed to track them down at the Christmas markets in Brno and will be having plenty more before I leave!