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I made these to take along to the Green Man Festival. You always need some little treats when you are camping, especially when the forecast is for four days of solid rain. Luckily we had some serious sunshine between the serious downpours and I only had to queue for the toilets in a thunderstorm once. Anyway, these were lovely, and comforting and luxurious, and, like the weather, seriously moist.

P1030818

It takes a bit of confidence to bake a brownie. First of all there are just so many recipes out there to choose from. I have put this one together with a lot of agonising, testing and re-testing.

The perfect brownie requires the perfect length of cooking time to ensure it is moist, but not sloppy.  You want the finished brownie to be damp in the middle, but not undercooked. Also you need two different types of chocolate to ensure the right amount of gooiness. I don’t understand the science of this, but it has something to do with the way the fat content of the chocolate makes it behave differently during the cooking process.

Undercooking is better than overcooking. When you take your brownies out of the oven and shake the tray slightly, you want them to wobble rather than slop. Give the top of your tray-bake a little tap – it should sound just right  (unfortunately it takes practice and experience to know what this sound is, but my best guess is ‘phftut’).  I know this is a little vague, but the recipe that follows worked for me, and my oven.

Ingredients:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 300g dark chocolate – I used 200g of chocolate with 70% cocoa solids and 100g with 35% cocoa solids
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 150g tinned cherries, roughly chopped into quarters and coated in a little of the cooking flour
  • You could also add a splash of cherry liqueur.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Grease and line a baking tray – mine is about 27cm x 17cm.

Slowly melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. When it has melted, add the eggs and sugar and whisk together. Then whisk in the orange zest and juice.

Fold in the flour, then the cherries.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tin and cook for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool and slice into squares. If you like you can dust with cocoa powder.

Makes about 15.

 

 

 

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P1030575

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is take part in my local Parkrun; a free, timed, 5k run around our hilly park. It has a great community, and for some reason there is always a lot of cake. Each week over 70,000 runners take part in various Parkrun events across the world.  A few Saturdays ago it was my home Parkrun’s second Birthday, so we celebrated with… cake. My contribution was these lovely little carrot and orange cakes.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 200g self-raising flour, sieved

For the frosting

  • 300g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia cheese)
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 50-60g icing sugar

The cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and whisk together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, a little at a time and continue whisking.

Fold in the carrots and a little orange juice.

Fold in the flour. Make sure all the ingredients are full combined.

Divide the mixture between the  paper cases, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool.

The frosting

Whisk together all the ingredients until nice and smooth, you may need to add a little more icing sugar depending on how much orange juice you have squeezed in.

Spread a little over each cake.

Decorate as you like – I used these little coloured stars, but you could use orange zest, or a mini fondant carrot, or whatever.

The top tip

I made my cakes the night before the Big Event, but I was worried that if I iced them they would get soggy overnight. As an experiment I iced and decorated a couple of cakes the night before. The icing was fine but the colour in the decorations ran a little, so perhaps save the final touches until just before the big cake reveal.

Helen Walton & her picnic table

Photo: Lisa Power.

P1030329

Of course these don’t need to be pirate cakes, but I made them for the school disco, and I thought they would make a change from the usual pink fairy cakes. These are a delicious chocolate cup cake, made with hot chocolate powder instead of cocoa, and a chocolate ganache topping. The pirate decorations were from Sainsbury’s. The recipe is very slightly adapted from Milk Chocolate Cupcakes in Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, a cook book I find I’m turning to more and more.

Ingredients

The cakes

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of hot chocolate powder, dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour

The ganache

  • 125g milk chocolate
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp milk

For the cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

Make the hot chocolate/hot water mixture first, to give it time to cool.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, little by little, then the cooled chocolate mixture.

Fold in the flour.

Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and bake for around 20 minutes.

For the ganache

Once the cakes have cooled you can turn to the chocolate topping.

Break the chocolate into small pieces, add in the butter and melt, very slowly in the microwave.

(Most people will tell you that you should melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. I’m not patient enough for this, and as long as you take it very slowly, this method usually works, but please feel free to do it the proper way.)

Whisk in the milk.

Add a spoonful onto each cake. I added the chocolate decorations when the ganache was still warm.

MAKES 10

P1030124

New year, old bananas. I have a freezer full of bananas, as usual. So when I needed to make something for the school lunch boxes, it had to be something banana-based. This tray-bake is very, (very) loosely based on my staple banana cake recipe, but I have added some orange and a dark chocolate drizzle, and omitted the cream cheese topping, among other things.

Incidentally, in addition to the banana cake, Sam is getting a fresh banana in his lunch box tomorrow.

Ingredients

  • 125g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas
  • juice of one orange
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 25g dark chocolate for drizzling
  • You could, if you like, add chocolate chips to the above ingredients

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Grease and line a baking tray (mine is 28cm x 18cm).

Whisk the butter and sugar together, add the honey and orange zest. Beat in two eggs, and then two bananas.

Add the juice of the orange, whisk again.

Add the self-raising flour (and if including, now would be a good time for the chocolate chips). Mix until the flour is fully incorporated into the batter.

Pour the mixture into your baking tray.

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake has fully cooled, drizzle some melted dark chocolate over the top.

If you want to be really adventurous, you could use melted Terry’s Chocolate Orange instead of normal dark chocolate.

Makes about 12 squares.

P1020836

There is something very special about these little cakes. The combination of delicate flavours and sweetness make them an exotic treat. For a sharper flavour you could easily swap the orange for lemon. But I think they are just perfect the way they are.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175g softened, unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g polenta
  • 100g almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 orange

For the glaze

  • 50g demerara sugar
  • juice of 1 orange

The cake

Set the oven to 180C (160C fan). Grease and line a baking tray – mine is about 16cm x 16cm.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, whisking as you go.

Add the polenta, almonds and baking powder and whisk again, slowly this time.

Grate in the orange zest and give a final stir.

Pour into your prepared baking tray.

Bake for around 30 minutes.

The glaze

Whilst the cake is cooking, mix together the sugar and orange juice.

When the cake is still warm make little holes in the top to help the syrup sink right in. Pour the glaze as evenly as possible. Cut into little squares.

MAKES 9.

P1020798

It has taken me forever to hone my recipe for the simple flapjack. I have struggled to find that perfect chewyness for far too long. I thought the secret was in the length of the bake but finally I have stumbled across the solution: just add sweetened condensed milk. Of course you can add sultanas, cranberries, ginger, but I like my flapjacks plain.

I make these for the children’s lunch boxes. I pretend they are healthier than chocolate biscuits. But once you’ve seen the butter and sugar melting together in the pan, you’ll know that there is nothing healthy about flapjacks.

Ingredients

  • 200g butter
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 397g (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 500g porridge oats

Set the oven to 190C.

Grease and line a baking tray – mine is about 16cm x 16cm.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. When the sugar is no longer grainy, pour in the oats. Stir until the buttery, sugary, syrupy mixture has coated the oats.

Pour into the baking tray, and pat down.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the flapjacks start to turn golden.

Remove from the oven, when they have cooled just a little, mark out the squares and remove from the baking tray.

P1020473

Madeleines are a very delicate tea-time treat. They are best served warm, and absolutely must be served fresh. The great news is that you can make the batter in advance, even the night before. And they only need cooking for 6 minutes or so.

There are lots of things you can use to flavour madeleines: try using lemon or orange – just add zest and a little juice, or 85g of chocolate chips, or in this case: vanilla.

The recipe I’m following comes from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted

Mix together the eggs, sugar, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. Sieve and fold in the salt, flour and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, gently melt the butter. Allow to cool slightly and fold into the other ingredients.

Put cling film over your bowl and refrigerate the batter until you are ready to use it.

Preheat the oven to 240C (or 220C for a fan oven).

Grease your madeleine tin with melted butter, or Cake Release.

Put about a teaspoon of the batter in each mould.

Place the tin in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 220C (or 200C for a fan oven). Cook for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes reduce the temperature of the oven to 190C (or 170C for a fan oven). Cook for a further 2-5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of each of your madeleines, and allow them to cool in the tin. If you like you can dust with icing sugar before eating.

P1020476

MAKES 24

 

P1020405

I have to say, these are the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I made them for the P.T.A. cake-sale, and the school have no idea how lucky they are that I didn’t just scoff the lot and send in some Mr Kipling confection as a substitute.

Blondies are basically a white chocolate version of brownies. There are countless recipes out there for blondies involving peanut butter and macadamia nuts, but I just wanted to keep things simple.

Incidentally, there is nothing healthy about this sweet – I have never seen so much sugar in a recipe. But it was love at first bite. I could happily get fat on these.

Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 350g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a baking tray. My tray is 25 x 16cm.

Melt the butter in the microwave in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and whisk together.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then add the eggs, and whisk again.

Sieve in the flour, baking powder, salt and half the chocolate. Stir gently until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Spoon the mixture into your lined tin.

Sprinkle the white chocolate over the top. (If you want to add some nuts, here’s the place to do it.)

Bake for around 25 minutes. You want a skewer to come out clean.

Blondies should be soft and chewy on the inside, just like brownies.

MAKES 18, or so.

 

 

P1020344

This is the easiest thing in the world to make. The children sometimes make it as an end-of-term gift for their teachers.

Ingredients

  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g chocolate, broken into pieces – I used 200g of dark chocolate and 100g milk chocolate
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 1 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

You could also try adding popcorn, dried fruit, chopped nuts or even Maltesers.

The first job is to line your tin. This recipe is just fine for my tin which is 25cm x 16cm.

Then, gently melt the chocolate, butter and syrup in a thick bottomed pan. Don’t allow it to get too hot, or you’ll melt the marshmallows.

Whilst the chocolate etc. are melting, put the biscuits in a plastic freezer bag and bash with a rolling-pin. Don’t go mad, you do want a bit of chunk in your tarmac.

When your chocolate has completely melted, stir in your marshmallows, cherries and any other ingredients. I sprinkle a few mini marshmallows on top, just to look pretty.

Refrigerate overnight.

This is such a rich sweet that you can cut it into pretty small pieces. Dust with a little icing sugar.

Enjoy.

P1020347

This dessert is so pretty, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. I often make it when we have guests, or for example, this weekend when we had a very special Birthday to celebrate. It’s not difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. On the plus side, it can be made in stages in advance; and if you like, you can cheat by buying your own pastry.

Ingredients

For the pâté sucrée pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 90g softened, unsalted butter
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks

For the apple filling

  • 700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • a few tablespoons of water – added a little at a time
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar

For the topping

  • 450g pretty pink or red apples, cored, quartered and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of apricot jam

The pâté sucrée

This is the trickiest part of the dish. It can be fiddly to handle, often tears, and I usually end up with a bit of a patchwork pastry base. The good news is, no-one will ever know.

First things first; pre-heat the oven to 190C, then line and grease a loose-bottomed flan case.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add the butter, sugar and egg yolks. Rub in the butter, sugar and egg yolks with your fingertips, until you get ‘breadcrumbs’.

Using a knife, gather the breadcrumbs into a ball of dough, knead briefly, but don’t overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the ‘fridge for half an hour.

Roll out the pastry, and ease it into the loose-bottomed flan case. Trim off any excess pastry.

Prick the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper, and scatter baking beans over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so, until the pastry is crisp.

The apple filling

The important thing here is not to let the apple burn or dry out. If you like you can make the filling the day before, or make it well in advance and freeze it.

Put the apple chunks in a thick-bottomed pan. Add water, just a couple of tablespoons at this stage. Heat gently until the apple is soft. You need to keep an eye on it all the time, adding more water when necessary.

For a really smooth filling, press the apple purée through a nylon sieve. This is a bit of an effort, but well worth it.

Return the sieved purée to the saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil. Stir, stir, stir. Be really careful not to burn it. You want to finish up with a quite thick purée.

Allow to cool, then spoon it into the pastry case.

The topping

Arrange the apple slices in circles on top of the tart. Bake for 30-35 minutes – but keep an eye on it – you want the apples to be tender and just a little brown at the edges.

Melt the jam – you could sieve it if you are after perfection – and brush it over the top of the tart. Allow the jam to set.

Enjoy served at room temperature with cream or ice-cream.

Here's one I made earlier

Here's one I made earlier

Hi, my name's Helen and I live in London with my husband and two children. When I started piping the potato on my shepherd's pies, my husband suggested that it might be a good idea for me to find an outlet for my creativity, so here we are. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the extra twist is that I don't eat meat (I do eat fish though) and Jim, who loves meat, is always on a diet. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed making for my family.

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