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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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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

P1020981

This cake made me laugh, it was just too much. The dimensions were all wrong – the layers too thick and the circumference too small. I had to slice the layers in half, which with the filling, made it even taller. It did, however, taste quite scrumptious. And once it was sliced it didn’t look quite as crazy. So here it is, my little tower:

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder

For the icing

  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 350g icing sugar
  • chocolate shavings

The cake

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and prepare 2 cake tins.

Dissolve the coffee in a little boiling water and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, cream together the sugar and butter, then slowly add the eggs, whisking all the time. Add the coffee and whisk some more. If the mixture starts to separate, add a tablespoon of your weighed-out flour.

Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and fold the mixture together until it is thoroughly mixed in.

Pour into two cake tins.

Cook for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

The icing

Once your cake has cooled you can add the icing.

Again, dissolve some coffee in a little boiling water and allow to cool.

Mix together the butter and icing sugar, add the coffee and whisk.

Spread the icing between layers and over the top of the cake. Finally, grate some chocolate over the top.

Next time I’ll use a broader tin and might even leave out the chocolate – my favourite cake is pure coffee.

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.

 

 

P1020390

No-one needs a recipe for rice crispie cakes, but I thought Beth looked cute in the photo and I wanted to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally finished the Easter eggs, yay! We melted the last ones down this afternoon.

Ingredients

  • chocolate
  • rice crispies
  • marshmallows

Melt the chocolate. Pour in some rice crispies. Stir. Spoon into cake cases. Decorate with marshmallows. Refrigerate. Done.

P1020383

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.

P1020161

These are just so yummy, and chewy and gooey. Perfect as a sandwich-box treat, and they make the house smell so lovely and old-fashioned and homely whilst they’re cooking.

Ingredients

  • 125g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 75g chocolate chips

 

Whisk the butter and sugar together. Add the golden syrup, vanilla extract and egg and whisk some more. Then sieve in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Finally stir in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

By now the mixture should have formed a dough. Put the dough in the fridge for about half an hour.

Set the oven to 150C.

Line two baking trays.

Form the dough into small balls, no bigger than a ping-pong ball. Then press into little disks on the baking tray. Allow plenty of room for the mixture to spread.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and delicious.

MAKES 20.

P1020153

The children were at school when I made these, so guess what? I got to lick the bowl myself! If you find the orange in these a bit subtle, you could add a few drops  of orange essence.  Or try using Terry’s Chocolate Orange instead of dark chocolate (just bash with a rolling-pin). Delicious!

Ingredients

  • 125ml olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml low-fat natural yogurt
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g chocolate chips
  • a sprinkle of caster sugar to finish

Set the oven to 180C.

Whisk together the oil and the eggs.  Then add the yogurt, orange zest and juice, and do a little more whisking. Add the sugar and whisk some more.

Next, sieve in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then add the chocolate chips. Fold them all into the mixture.

Distribute into paper cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle over some caster sugar as a finishing touch.

MAKES 12

P1020073

I made Florentines as Christmas gifts, and still have a load of ingredients left over. So, this afternoon I have made some more. The recipe is an adaptation of Kirsty Allsopp’s Christmas Florentines recipe. I believe that when you have made these you should be able to see through them, like lace. I have never achieved this. But I have made some rather scrumptuous Florentines. See what you think.

Ingredients

  • 25g  butter
  • 25g  light brown soft sugar
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 150g mixed dried fruit, for example: glacé cherries, toasted flaked almonds, desiccated coconut, dried mixed fruit, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricot, blueberries. This time I opted for the following:
  • 40g glacé cherries
  • 40g dried mixed fruit
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • 30g toasted flaked almonds
  • 85g dark chocolate for decoration

Set the oven to 180C

Melt the butter and sugar in a non-stick pan. When you can no longer feel the sugar with the spoon, add the condensed milk and heat gently until the mixture is just beginning to bubble.

Stir in the flour and mix until smooth. Then add the fruit and nuts.

Spoon onto lined baking sheets (or even better, a teflon sheet). Remember the mixture will spread a little. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden brown at the edges.

When the biscuits have cooled, melt the chocolate and spread onto the flat side of the Florentine. Traditionally the chocolate should have wavy ridges (made with a fork). Again, something I didn’t achieve.

But nevermind, they are just so lovely. And they remind you of Christmas.

Makes 10, so it might be a good idea to double the recipe.

P1010998

I don’t know why, but Sam has always called these ‘fluffy cakes’. We got the recipe from a Sunday supplement about five years ago. It was to do with cooking with children and I remember that Jay Rayner’s name was somehow attached to it. Sam’s made them loads. Today was Beth’s first time.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 100g butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 1tsp warm water
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder

For the buttercream

  • 80g butter
  • 160g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • splash of pink food colouring

The cakes

Set the oven to 180C.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating continuously.

Dissolve the coffee with the warm water, and add to the mix.

Sieve the flour and cocoa and fold into the other ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into cake cases.

Bake at 180C for 15 minutes.

The buttercream

When the cakes have cooled, beat the ingredients together until fluffy. Scoop out a circle from the top of each cake and cut each circle into two fairy wings. Spread the buttercream onto each cake and place the fairy wings on top. A light dusting with icing sugar finishes them off nicely.

Yum. And well done Beth.

MAKES 12

P1010989

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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