Rocky Road

Last Friday saw the UK raising money for Red Nose Day. At my work, we have one charity that we raise money for each year so nothing was organised to raise money for Red Nose Day. My dad, however, was involved in a number of events to raise money for this cause. First, he works in a call centre which was being used to take calls from members of the public wanting to make donations. Secondly, he was getting his head shaved to raise money. When he was younger, my dad used to have long hair and as he has gotten older he’s kept it short but has never dared to get rid of it completely. Why would he? He hasn’t started to lose any yet and it is still it’s natural colour (no grey appearing yet). Good on him for going through with it but now he’s worried it won’t grow back. Thirdly, charity bake sale. Cue him asking me (very nicely) if I’d do some baking for him. He re-requested some triple chocolate cookies that I baked for his team last month, which I did bake for him. But the week before, I found out that maltesers were promising to donate £5 for every photo that was posted on the Facebook page showing a Red Nose Day charity bake using maltesers. Now, that wasn’t a challenge I was going to ignore. So, it got me thinking about what I could make. Crush some maltesers and mix them into the cookie mix instead of chocolate chips? Nope, his team were looking forward to the original cookie recipe. Make some malteser cupcakes? Nope, last time I was involved in a cake sale, the cupcakes were still there until the end. Make a malteser cake? Nope, my dad would only worry about cutting it into pieces.

Rocky road….chocolate….biscuits….marshmallows….maltesers…winner!!!

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A bonus about rocky road is that it is simple to make and can be made in advance. No manic baking the day before trying to get everything ready for me to to take round to my dad. So, as mentioned above, my recipe only consists of four ingredients, yes, FOUR!! Everyone has an opinion on what should be in rocky road. Dried fruit, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, certain type of biscuit, certain type of chocolate, dusted with icing sugar….The list is endless. For me, I like to keep it simple. Adding too much can mean fewer people will buy it. With this recipe you can interchange the type of biscuit used (shortbread, shortcake, cookies, rich tea, digestives, oreo) or put in your favourite chocolate bar (crunchie, double decker, mars bar, milky way). But if you want to re-create my version, follow the below recipe.

  • 450g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken into 1cm chunks
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 80g maltesers

Line the base and sides of a 7×9 inch cake tin with baking parchment. Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Bring the water to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly. If the chocolate is too hot the marshmallows will melt. Stir in the biscuits, mini marshmallows and maltesers and then press into the cake tin. Place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until set. Cut into 12 pieces.

I use basic own brand chocolate as I feel it is not as sickly as the brand and balances well with the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients.

I’ve made this before where I have used one third plain chocolate and two thirds milk chocolate which gives it a bit of bitterness.

I melted 50g white chocolate and drizzled over the top once it had set to add some contrast.

Mr W managed to sneak a piece before it went and loved it. I was worried the ginger biscuits might overpower but he felt they worked well. Feedback from my dad’s work has been good and some have wanted the recipe. Here you go 🙂

Soft Baked Pretzels

One of my New Year  ‘resolutions’ was to bake more bread/dough based recipes. I’ve mentioned in my blog a couple of times that it is one of the baking areas that I feel less confident in. The main reason for this being unsuccessful proving in the past. So this year, I aim to bake a new bread/dough based recipe once a month.

January saw me making my first rye bread. Over the last few months, rye bread has become one of my favourite bread options. Especially toasted for breakfast with smashed avocado or almond butter and banana. I particularly like the dense texture which is one reason why Mr W doesn’t like it. For this bake I followed the suggested recipe on the back of the dark rye flour pack. It was an easy recipe to follow (although the addition of a beaten egg threw me a little) and the end result was a decent, although basic, rye loaf. This recipe was more like the rye breads that you can buy from the bakery section in your local supermarket as opposed to a traditional rye bread. Although it did have the addition of caraway seeds which gave it a slightly aniseed taste which took a while to get used to when eating for breakfast. I’m going to attempt this bake again and follow a recipe Paul Hollywood recipe. His ‘How To Bake’ book has a number of different ones.

February found me wonder what to bake. I didn’t want to bake another bread as I wanted a new challenge. Also, I want to attempt sour dough but I am waiting until summer so I have warmer temperatures to get a starter growing. Mr W didn’t like my suggestion of attempting doughnuts again so I asked my sister for suggestions. I should have guessed what she would want me to bake. Her favourite bakery snack that she had to have every day whilst we were in Germany. Pretzel. A soft baked pretzel. I tried to put her off them by telling them that they were dipped in caustic acid before being baked (honest fact there, it gives them the crunchy outer texture. I was able to find a fairly easy recipe online that got the nod from sis.

They were surprisingly easy to make. They used active yeast which isn’t a yeast I’ve used before. As the name suggests, it needs to be activated in water before use. I’m used to fast action yeast. Unsurprisingly, the hardest part was shaping the pretzels put for a first attempt, they weren’t too bad. Ideally, they need to be eaten straight away as after two days, they’d past their best (but sis still ate them). Although not as good as shop bought, they were a decent attempt. The texture was softer but it had the flavour. They did seem a little greasy which is down to the lashings of melted butter that was used to coat them. I followed the recipe from this blog. If you want to try making them, head over. Do follow the recipe exactly. Although I thought there was too much melted butter it’s better to use your own judgement. See if you can master the classic pretzel shape. You think you’ve managed it but by the time it comes out of the soda bath, its a soggy mess lol.

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Salted Caramel Brownies

Now, when asked to make a birthday bake that was chocolate related, this recipe was the first that popped in my head. I made it earlier this year when going to visit some friends. There were 6 of us. I went with 16 pieces and returned with none. If that’s not a sign of a good brownie, I don’t know what is. Maybe that Mr W had more than one means it’s a winner seen as he tells me he doesn’t like brownies!!

I found the recipe in an old copy of a Good Food magazine (it has since made an appearance on their Instagram). It’s a fairly easy recipe. The only step I struggle with is the placing of the salted caramel. It asks for 5 thick strips (I can only manage 4) and the strips are never even (I’m a bit of a perfectionist). The first set of strips are placed in between two layers of brownie batter. This time round I had a thinner base layer so the caramel oozed out the bottom a little (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just meant I had more bits stuck to the greaseproof paper to eat 😛 ). The last set of salted caramel strips are placed on top and feathered. I struggled to make the feathering look anywhere as good as Mary Berry’s iced Bakewell tart (remember GBBO pastry week?).

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If you want to make these yummy brownies, see the recipe below. I adapted the original slightly as I feel that the higher end chocolate does not melt as well as the cheaper chocolate. It’s down to preference.

Makes 16 large pieces

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 397g can Carnation caramel
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • pinch flaky sea salt

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C fan. Grease then line a 23cm square traybake tin with baking parchment. Melt the butter in a medium pan, break in all the chocolate, then remove the pan from the heat and wait for the chocolate to melt.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 175g of the caramel with 1 tsp salt to loosen. Put the rest of the caramel in a large bowl with the sugar and eggs, and beat with a whisk until evenly combined.
  3. Whisk in the melted chocolate and butter. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa and a good pinch of salt, then sift this on top of the chocolate mix. Beat briefly until smooth.
  4. Pour half the brownie batter into the tin and level it with a spatula. Using a teaspoon, spoon half of the salted caramel on top of the batter layer in 4 evenly spaced strips. Spoon the rest of the brownie batter on top and smooth it out. Try not to disturb the caramel. Top with the rest of the caramel in the same stripy fashion. Drag a skewer or tip of a knife through the caramel to make a feathered pattern on the top.
  5. Scatter with the sea salt flakes, then bake for 25-30 mins or until risen all the way to the middle with a firm crust on top. Let it cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

GBBO weeks 3 and 4

So, the third week of this year’s Great British Bake Off was bread week. Now, as I’ve admitted on here before, bread isn’t my strongest baking area. I never seem to get a good rise. But, I had seen in a recipe in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks that I’d been wanting to try, so week 3 theme seemed a good time to try. It didn’t fit in with any of the categories (a sweet dough, a steamed bake or contain three flours) but who cares?

The recipe was for a ‘Figgy Banana Bread’ from Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food cookbook. It’s a suggested breakfast idea so we actually had our first try of it before the bake off episode (yum yum yum). The recipe is relatively easy with everything going into a food processor. It also doesn’t contain any yeast so does not need to be proved and can be ready in under an hour and a half. Rather than being a typical bread, it comes out looking more like a cake. I don’t think it helps that it is baked in a cake tin. I found it easier to slice the bread into the recommended number of wedges so you can grab a piece each morning. Jamie suggests serving it with a dollop of nut butter and a dollop of natural yoghurt. I did this and loved the combination of salty peanut butter with the sweet figgy bread.  I sliced my piece of bread in half, topping one with the peanut butter and the other with yoghurt. I also had it with home made strawberry chia jam instead of the peanut butter and it was still yummy. Mr W had his with sliced banana instead of the nut butter so the combinations are endless. I strongly recommend having it with something to make it more into a meal rather than a snack. Although the recipe doesn’t mention anything about freezing the bread, I froze a couple of pieces for about a week and they were just as good as fresh once defrosted. The bread until stays fresh for a few days in a tin and I didn’t want to have to throw away the leftovers (I liked it too much). Below is the recipe taken from Jamie’s book.

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Serves 12

  • 250g dried figs
  • 75ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 125g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 eating apple
  • 50g whole almonds
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 25cm cake tin with a scrunched sheet of wet greaseproof paper. Place 200g of figs in a food processor with the oil, yoghurt, vanilla extract, peeled bananas and eggs then blitz until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, poppy seeds and turmeric and pulse until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Coarsely grate the apple and stir into the mixture.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Tear over the remaining figs and chop the almonds, scatter over the top of the mixture, pushing them down slightly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. N.B. I found it difficult to remove from the greaseproof paper. Don’t panic if it sticks, just slowly peel it away.

This is definitely a  recipe I want to bake again. It was slightly indulgent having essentially cake for breakfast but it made a nice change.

Now, GBBO week 4 was batter week with the making of Yorkshire puddings, lace pancakes and churros. The obvious option for something to make was pancakes. This year, I never made the traditional pancakes for Shrove Tuesday so took this week as a chance to do so. Now, what a disappointment. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to having slightly thicker, flavourful breakfast pancakes. These crepe style pancakes were plain, bland and boring. Even the addition of lemon, sugar and ice cream didn’t help matters. Not something I will be repeating anytime soon.

 

 

Biscuit Week

One of my favourite television programmes returned to our screens two weeks ago….The Great British Bake Off!!!! Who would have thought that watching 12 amateur bakers battling it out each week would be so popular. I think having Mel and Sue presenting the show makes it even more enjoyable. The start of this years series coincided with Mr W’s birthday which meant I had even more reason to bake. I’d decided to bake Mr W one of his favourite biscuits, Empire Biscuits. Now, I’d never hear of these delectable treats before I met Mr W. They seem to be more popular in Scotland than in England. I guess you could call them a fancy jammie dodger. It wasn’t until the night before the first episode did Mr W point out that it was cake week. And it wasn’t until the end of the show did I find out that it was biscuit next and I was a whole week early with my bake. Never mind. I did do an experimental ginger and lime drizzle cake to make up for it. Although it tasted great, it had more of a syrup topping rather than a drizzle. I was also disappointed with the rise of the cake (more of a traybake than a loaf cake) and refused to take pictures. To make up for it, I made some more biscuits which turned out a lot better. These were a request from someone at work. She wanted the biscuits she used to have at school that had jam in the middle…thumbprint biscuits.

To be fair, these two biscuits weren’t the most technical of bakes but they were very much enjoyed. Although I didn’t get to try the thumbprint biscuits, they met my colleagues criteria which was a hit.

Empire Biscuits

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After a bit of googling, I managed to find a recipe by a previous GBBO contestant (James Morton) that looked like the biscuits Mr W wanted. The recipe has very few ingredients and is extremely easy to make. The only adaptation I made was the halving of the recipe. I followed the suggestion of using some cornflour which gives it a lovely crumbly texture. I also rolled the dough as thinly as possible so that when the biscuits are sandwiched together, the ratio of biscuit to jam to biscuit is as close to the same as possible. Click here for his recipe.

Thumbprint Biscuits

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There were a number of variations of this recipe online. I knew what biscuit my colleague wanted. I managed to buy one a couple of years ago at a food fair and it brought back those school memories. It’s funny how as a child, school dinners were awful but when you think back on them, they weren’t as bad as you thought. The biscuit needs to be crumbly with a good dollop of jam (preferably strawberry) in the middle.  BBC Good Food had just the recipe I needed. Again, it uses very few ingredients and is very easy to make. It is also a quick recipe if you have a food processor as it can do all the work for you. Click here for recipe.

Tomorrow it’s bread week….

 

Melt in the Middle Pudding

This time last week I was coming back from my friend’s hen party in Valencia. It was a weekend of sun, food, drink and fun. On the first day we enjoyed a three course Italian late lunch. On the second night it was a tapas and wine night where we dressed the hen up in her ‘housewife’ outfit. On the third day, we used our very little Spanish to order takeaway sandwiches for the journey home (our greatest achievement lol).

 This weekend it was turn of the stag with a weekend away in Barcelona. Now, the only details I know of this are a craft ale tour and a football stadium tour. I think we got the better deal hehe. So I’m currently waiting for Mr W to fly home. Being the nice wife that I am, I have offered to pick him and my sister’s boyfriend up from the airport. Now, I agreed before I knew the details. Flight doesn’t land until 11:45pm!!! I’m normally in bed by 9:30pm. Boy, am I regretting my kind offer. To pass the time, I’m currently baking some ‘skinny’ chocolate muffins. They have been on my Pinterest board for so long that I figured I should probably give them ago.

Enough about now. With the boys away, my sister and I took advantage and had some sister time. This involved me cooking her meals (she requested healthy), watching films and making cocktails. To be fair, she did complete a charity 5km yesterday in the rain (well done sis and Beaky!!). So yesterday, I decided to try her on a cauliflower pizza (yes, you’ve read that correctly). Now, Mr W and I have had these in the past but I found the recipe we used to heavy. It used ground almonds which gave it a denser texture but was also a bit stodgy. The recipe I followed last night was from ‘The Body Bible – Clean Eating Alice’ which didn’t use any flour or substitutes. It’s basically cooked cauliflower that’s blitzed down and mixed with egg and Parmesan. Although this made for a softer base, I thought it was a lot tastier than the previous recipe I followed. Don’t get me wrong, cauliflower pizza are never going to be the same as an actual pizza. You will never be able to trick someone into thinking it was. But it is a tasty alternative that doesn’t leave you feeling ‘heavy full’. It was definitely a hit with us.

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As the blog name suggests, we did indulge in a sweet treat. It’s all about balance and moderation. This pudding has been on the card for months, and has been booked in for this weekend since finding out when the stag do was. My sister sent me the link on Instagram. It’s a Peanut Butter Melt In the Middle Chocolate Pudding!!!

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This was my first attempt at a melt in the middle pudding (never mind a peanut butter one) and it was a lot easier to make than I thought. The recipe I found served 4 so I had to adapt it to make a serves 2. Mr W doesn’t like peanut butter and my sister’s boyfriend isn’t a big dessert lover. Seemed the perfect time to try them. After seeing this pudding be made numerous times on MasterChef, I knew the greasing of the mould and the cooking time was important. If I was to make again, I would use smooth peanut butter. All I had in was crunchy and it didn’t melt as well. Do you want to give it a go?

100g dark chocolate (I wouldn’t use a high percentage as it would make it too bitter and you won’t be able to eat it all!)
50g butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
55g caster sugar
17g plain flour
Peanut butter

Pre-heat oven to 180C.
Grease two moulds or ramekins.
Melt the butter and chocolate, slowly, in a saucepan.
Whisk the egg, egg yolk and sugar.
Add the chocolate mixture and plain flour. Mix until combined.
Half fill the moulds/ramekins with the batter.
Add 1 teaspoon of peanut butter to each mould/ramekin.
Fill with the remaining batter (leave some room at top as the pudding will rise.
Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes. The top should be firm to the touch. Try not to over bake or there will be no melting middle!

 

Beetroot and Chocolate Traybake

There seems to be a lot of sweet baking recipes that have a vegetable thrown into the ingredients list. The most obvious is the classic carrot cake. I refused to eat this when I was younger because of the carrot component. Who wants to eat a cake that tastes of carrot? But once I tried a slice I realised how wrong I was and this has now become one of my favourite cakes. Now I’ve seen (and tried) cakes made using courgettes and sweet potatoes. I’ve recently seen avocado being used but have not yet tried one of these. One cake that I have been wanting to try is beetroot chocolate cake. I have seen this colourful vegetable used in brownie recipes, cupcakes recipes and more recently as a traybake. After watching an episode of ‘The Great Sport Relief Bake Off’ I knew I needed to make Mary Berry’s technical challenge so we could try it at work.

What’s the purpose of adding the vegetable? Does it cut down on the use of fat or sugar? After looking at the recipe, I don’t think it does. Sure, it makes the cake lovely and moist but I would have thought it would be a ‘healthier’ bake. But this didn’t stop me from making it, I was too curious as to what it would be like.

Mary Berry’s Beetroot and Chocolate Traybake

Making the recipe. Now, I like a recipe that uses the minimum amount of bowls and utensils. This recipe didn’t meet the criteria. It required the use of FOUR different bowls (and I didn’t even follow the full recipe). I managed to drop my tub of cocoa powder on the floor which meant that, having needing to clean the mess up, it took me almost an hour to get the cake in the oven. Now, I normally wouldn’t mind if it was a slightly complicated bake. But this wasn’t. It was just a traybake. I made the cream cheese frosting (this was very tasty) but didn’t bother with the beetroot heart decoration. I dusted with cocoa powder instead. 

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The eat. Don’t get me wrong, the traybake was nice. The beetroot had kept the texture moist and the frosting complimented the flavour well. But it didn’t have the promised richness or the wow factor you would want for a special occasion. I mean, if you wanted to have some cake without too much guilt, this would be the right choice. But if you want a rich, chocolate cake, go elsewhere. This Gimme S’more cake from Home Sweet Home in Manchester is what you need.

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