Tuesdays with Dorie – Boca Negra

I’ve been so ridiculously busy with work recently that I haven’t had any time to bake or blog! I know, very upsetting. However, thankfully, I was organised and made this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe last weekend and I’m glad I did because it was well worth it! I decided to pop home to see my parents for the weekend and to make this dessert for them and none of us are particularly keen on strong alcohol in desserts so I decided to replace the bourbon with half brandy and half water. I’ve made dessert cakes like this one before, a recipe by Donna Hay seems to produce particularly similar results but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. Very rich and decadent, we served it with vanilla ice cream to balance the palate but we all preferred it cold surprisingly as the texture was closer, like fudge but more delicate, and wasn’t as sickly. I even managed to take some for lunch the next day! So here’s my Boca Negra, or Moulin Bouche as my dad called it, which seeing as it was just a joke because he couldn’t remember the name, I think it’s a brilliant name!

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Foodie Pen Pals!

So I completely lost track of days and forgot that yesterday was the last day of the month until I heard on the news this morning that it was the 1st February! I was supposed to post about Foodie Pen Pals yesterday but obviously, forgetting what day it was, I forgot to post so I’m doing it now! This was my first Foodie Pen Pals and for those of you who don’t know, it’s a great system where we get signed up with pen pals and send each other packages of interesting food items. I sent my package to Paula Woodhouse and Louise Dolding sent me a wonderful package!

I was so excited to get my package; post is exciting but post with food in it? Wow and what a treat it was too. The box contained goodies perfectly wrapped in bubble wrap and silver paper and I’m truly amazed how much Louise managed to fit into the box for under £10!

Here’s what I received:

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The package also came with a lovely hand written card and a long typed up letter from Louise including recipes for cookies and marmalade cake! There had clearly been so much thought put into this package, I was really touched and Louise and I seem very similar in our likes! She immediately apologised in her note for not having any savoury items in the package, a concept that not only did not occur to me but did not bother me in the slightest either! I love sweet things!

Louise sent some silver baking cases, which she said make the cakes last longer and keeps them fresh so I’m looking forward to trying this theory out. She also sent some red candy hearts and some gold glitter stars for decorating my baking, which were really cute. Louise had really taken notice of my blog and what I like because she’d read one of my posts about Paris and noticed that I’d mentioned cocoa nibs being on a baked good I had out there. What should appear in my package? Cocoa nibs! So now I obviously have no other choice but to try making chouquettes decorated in cocoa nibs…what a shame! Look out for those soon. Louise also managed to find out that I’m obsessed with stationery so sent me some very cute cake stickers.

  Another brilliant part of my package was a little recipe book about cakes and bakes, which I’m bursting to try out!  Homemade blood orange marmalade was a really lovely touch.

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  The highlight however was nestle tollhouse butterscotch morsels…I actually audibly gasped when I saw these, it was so exciting! I’m definitely going to be trying these out soon but I’m not sure whether to make cookies or something completely different…anyone have any suggestions?

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All in all, this package was so thoughtfully put together and suited to me. It was really a great welcome onto the scheme so thank you very much Louise!

The Day of Exciting News and Pie!

Remember that I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had something exciting to tell you? Well it’s time to tell you! After years of pining for one, I have finally got a Kitchenaid mixer! I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember and my friends and family all gave me money towards buying one for my birthday and Christmas so I’ve finally been able to get it. I ordered it for store collection but this was a rather stupid decision because I then proceeded to hug it all the way home…on foot…in the pouring rain. Yes, enjoy that image but it was not fun. It was all worth it though because it is now proudly being displayed in my kitchen. Of course, given my obsession with the colour, I chose an orange or ‘tangerine’ one I should say. I am so happy with it and it’s actually so easy to use. I got straight to work and made some meringues.

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  I’ve not made meringues before but have always been eager to try and having a Kitchenaid seemed the perfect opportunity to try. I used a simple recipe, whisking 3 egg whites and then mixing in 150g of golden caster sugar. I just spooned the mixture in balls onto a baking tray and baked them for an hour but I think next time, I may pipe the mixture onto the tray to make the mixture slightly closer together because there was a lot of room for air holes. It was amazing how well the Kitchenaid worked and how quickly it whisked the egg whites but then again, if you’re going to spend that much on a food mixer, I suppose it should be that good!

The Kitchenaid comes with three attachments; the whisk, the beater and the dough hook. It comes with ten speed settings but what I found was really useful was that it also has a slow start function so that it gradually builds up to the designated speed and therefore, avoids splashes and any flour showers. I’ll let you know more about the machine as I use it more but so far, I’m very happy with the purchase.

  I made a simple chocolate ganache and sandwiched the meringues together. The meringues were a little large for this so next time, I think I’d pipe smaller versions. They were still delicious; crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle and the combination with the smooth ganache was a nice touch.

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  Not satisfied with just making meringues, I decided to make a pie for dinner, a steak and ale pie to be exact. I used this recipe to make the filling but halved all of the ingredients and omitted the chilli powder. I then made a shortcrust pastry (using the beater attachment on the Kitchenaid) using 125g butter, 225g plain flour and two and a half tablespoons of water. I prefer pies that have both a base and a top as opposed to bottomless pies to just a puff pastry top so that’s why I chose to use shortcrust. The steak and ale mixture stewed in the oven for an hour and a half, which made the beef very tender and the combination of the ale and oxo cubes made for a rich and luxurious gravy. I even topped the pie with some grated cheddar cheese in the last few minutes of its baking to add a further dimension of flavour. The end result was incredibly rich and neither of us could quite finish our share but it also took a lot of will power to put down our plates because of how delicious it was. It was so nice that I’ll be making this again next week! I think I’ll add some slices of cheese onto the filling next time though. You should definitely give this a go if you like pies but if you do, put some semolina on the base of the pie to stop the filling leaking through and getting a soggy bottom as Mary Berry would say. I very almost ran out of pastry for the lid as well so I’d make a little more pastry too. I used Hobgoblin beer by the Wychwood brewery, which was also a nice, rich addition the complimented the steak well.Image

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Tuesdays with Dorie – Pizza with Onion Confit

This is the first Tuesdays with Dorie of the new year and what a way to start! There were two elements to this dish, the pizza dough and the onion confit. When I read that this was this week’s recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it. My boyfriend and I both love caramelised onions or anything close to them and we will eat anything with goats’ cheese so this was clearly the topping of choice to go for. What made me most excited about trying this recipe though was that I love pizza but I am allergic to tomatoes. They won’t kill me or anything, I’m just intolerant, but it means I have to be careful and I was buzzing with anticipation that there might be a tasty alternative. I haven’t made pizza dough in years and the last time I did, it was a scone based dough and just didn’t taste like pizza so I was a bit dubious about trying this but I’m glad I did. There was a lot of waiting for the dough to rise (I don’t think my kitchen was warm enough because the first rise took around 2 1/2 hours rather than the suggested 1 1/2) but it was essentially very easy to make. I also appreciated how easy it was to shape; most pizza doughs that I’ve tried before spring back very quickly and you can’t get a decent shape. I ended up having to make mine rectangular to fit into the baking tray.

Now, ‘confit’ is something that has many meanings and I always thought it was something that essentially had two meanings, one for meat and one for other things. However, after trying this recipe, I’ve discovered that it essentially means a food that has been put into some kind of substance to add flavour and/or preserve the food. Essentially, this was caramelised onions that took a hot bath in red wine, red wine vinegar, sugar, butter and thyme. Sounds simple? Well the process of cooking it was but the flavour wasn’t… I used red onions and the sweetness from these combined with the sharp tang of the vinegar and a swirl of red wine. Delicious! All of this ended with a slight hint of thyme and I will definitely be using this confit recipe again – I’m addicted!

After shaping the dough, I topped the pizza with a considerable amount of the onion confit and followed this with a generous helping of goats’ cheese, sliced black olives and a sprinkling of parmesan. The aroma was incredibly enticing but I managed to stave off eating it before it was ready. It was incredibly filling but we both loved it. The flavour of the dough really balanced well with the onion confit and it wasn’t dry, which I was afraid it would be. We will definitely be trying this one again.

A really simple recipe, great taste and my house still smelled of pizza dough this morning, which is just a huge plus! Thanks to Tuesdays with Dorie for this great find! If you’d like to read about the others’ attempts at this recipe, head to http://tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com/ or http://theboycanbake.wordpress.com/

Thanks to the boy can bake for hosting this week! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Happy New Year! Lots of bakes to catch you up on!

Hello all and happy new year to you! I hope you all had a wonderful time over the holidays, I must apologise for my brief hiatus but I’ve been very busy with family things and of course, baking. Therefore, I have multiple bakes to catch you up on. Christmas Eve in my household means freshly baked mince pies with home made brandy butter. Fresh from the oven, the brandy butter melts into the mincemeat and the pies are more pastry than they are filling – perfection!

This was a great way to really kick start Christmas but even before this, I had multiple bakes to catch you up on; gluten-free Earl Grey muffins, almond and chocolate biscotti and almond and cherry florentines!

First – the Earl Grey muffins. I couldn’t resist this recipe from Twinings; a friend of mine and I both independently saw the recipe, wanted to try it and ended up baking it together. The recipe isn’t gluten free but as my friend is allergic to gluten, we replaced both types of flour with one gluten free flour and added a teaspoon of xanthum gum at the same time. The xanthum gum helps to bind all of the ingredients together and improves the crumb structure – it’s not needed with regular flour but helps when baking gluten free. The result turned out more like an English muffin texture rather than an American muffin and was something I’d not experienced before but it was delicious! The combination of the Earl Grey and the orange really complimented each other and as the muffin was slightly more like a sweet bread, it was perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea. I will definitely be trying these again but next time, I think I’ll replace the orange zest with lemon as Earl Grey tea is typically served with lemon. I might also try adding a violet flavoured icing to the top to add another level. The recipe can be found here.

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This Christmas, I also decided to bake something for my parents and give it to them in a decorative Christmas box. I chose to make almond and chocolate chip biscotti for my dad and cherry and almond florentines for my mum. The biscotti turned out really well, recipe found here, they were incredibly simple to make and my dad loved them so much that they were practically all gone by the next day! The florentines weren’t quite as successful, I used this recipe as I haven’t made them before but they seemed to take a long time to cook the middle of them and in doing so, the outsides became slightly burnt, not badly so but if I were to make them again, I’d ensure that they were smaller and flatter so that they cooked through quickly.

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If you’d like to know the recipes for the mince pies or brandy butter, then let me know but please have a go at any of these recipes, they were all fun to make and of course, to eat! Now that the holidays are over, I shall finally be getting back to my oven and that means plenty of recipes for you! I’ve been re-watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off as well so I have many things I’d like to try in this new year. I also have something very exciting happening but more to come on that soon (if I told you now, that’d spoil the fun wouldn’t it!)

Chocolate cake filled with brownies? Oh yes it is! (Oh no it’s not) plus the Werthers Christmas caramel shop

Apologies for the pun and for the lack of posts but this week, my Theatre society have been performing their Christmas pantomime (hence the pun). It was a fun but exhausting week and of course, it called for cake. Brooklyn Brownout cake to be specific. I read about this treat on so many people’s blogs that I had to give it a go; devil’s food cake layered with brownies and ganache – heaven! Sufficed to say, I was not disappointed and neither were my society. It was wonderfully moist and dense, just like a devil’s food cake should be and the ganache was smooth and silky. It was incredibly rich but truly delicious, whoever thought of layering cake with brownies was a genius, I really recommend you try this recipe here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/04/sweet-melissa-brooklyn-brownout-cake-recipe.html

Sorry for the poor photo and messy plate but I finished this literally as I was walking out the door!

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Somehow I managed to have half an hour off this week to pop into town and what awaited me was something truly incredible… a Werthers caramel shop. A small wooden shop in the middle of the precinct adorned with Christmas decorations and offering thousands of Werthers in old fashioned sweet shop jars, pots and falling down brass chutes. I felt like a child on Christmas eve and couldn’t resist buying a Christmas tin filled with assorted pick ‘n’ mix Werthers.  It really inspired me to try a butterscotch recipe but I’m not sure what – anyone got any good recipes that they’d recommend I try?

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Tuesdays with Dorie – Gingerbread Baby Cakes

So even though I posted this morning about snow and advent calendars (and this post only just published for some reason), I haven’t felt very Christmassy at all today. Even watching a co-worker put up the Christmas tree didn’t put me in the festive spirit but baking these little cakes did! This is my first Tuesday with Dorie and I think it’s been highly successful! I chose to make muffin sized cakes because I didn’t have small cake pans and I also chose to omit the espresso powder and black pepper because I didn’t have any espresso powder and black pepper always makes me cough. I think the omission of these made the amount of molasses in the mixture too much for me so if I were to make them again, I’d put less molasses in and a little more of the ginger perhaps. I coupled mine with vanilla ice cream and it was a delicious combination… like an adult brownie and ice cream dessert. If you’d like to see how everyone else’s turned out then please visit the Tuesdays with Dorie blog and if you’d like to try the recipe yourself, either buy the book or have a look at this week’s host blog Karen’s Kitchen Stories; thanks to Karen for hosting!

Here’s a couple of photos just to tempt you as well:

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It’s snowing! (On WordPress at least…) and the Good Food Show!

I turned on my blog this morning to find small white circles falling down my screen and confusion ensued! What could they be? Is my computer going wrong? But no! The circles kept coming and I realised that they must be snow! This, combined with opening a chocolate advent calendar, clearly means it’s nearly Christmas! How exciting, I know!

On Saturday, I went to the winter BBC Good Food Show, which of course made me feel even more Christmassy! I’m a firm believer that the Good Food Show is always a brilliant day out; you get to meet some of your favourite chefs, sample products you wouldn’t normally know about and generally just have a good day entirely about food. However, it always astounds me that there is a severe lack of GOOD food to eat for your lunch. Sure, you could queue up for twenty minutes to buy a pork bap for double the price that you would at your local village fete but the alternatives are even worse. I thought I would be fairly safe going to the Good Food show stand but how wrong was I? I had a burnt rosti-topped fish pie that tasted of nothing but black pepper, which made me choke. I followed it with an apple flapjack crumble that mainly tasted of the whole cloves that I found scattered all over it. Sufficed to say, I was not happy and had to take the food back. Now, I know it’s not the Good Food show’s fault as they hired outside caterers but frankly, I wouldn’t hire the company again.

Anyway, that’s enough on the bad points because the good points far outweigh them! I got to see Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Shelina Permaloo and Jo Wheatley cooking. The highlight however was watching John Whaite, the winner of this year’s Great British Bake Off, demonstrate cooking his festive sticky toffee pudding. He was so natural, didn’t seem nervous and was just so lovely. If he doesn’t have his own television show within the next year, then TV producers are missing a trick! I’m really glad that I managed to speak to him but I’d have liked to have had a proper chat with him. He’s really inspired me further to apply for the Great British Bake Off this year…what do you guys think?

Anyway, I got a few treats to try at the Good Food show (all of the baking persuasion of course) and when I’ve sampled them all, I will be posting my verdict! If you haven’t been to the Good Food show yet, then you should definitely give it a go; it’s a great day out for all the family (and no I don’t work for them!)

Cheesecake or Brownies? Cheesecake Brownies!

So I’m in a theatre society and this lovely group of people are almost as obsessed with baked goods as I am so, naturally, they are my guinea pigs when I try out new recipes. Whilst scrolling through the archive posts on my new favourite blog, KatieCakes, I found something that looked so interesting that I couldn’t resist trying it; cheesecake brownies. Combining two of my favourite desserts, it seemed impossible to ignore so I rushed out to the shops in search of ricotta and donned my apron to make these beauties. 

In all honesty, I was slightly disappointed with the flavour but I think this recipe has a lot of potential. I think my pan was a little too large for the amount of mixture as they were a little thin and I much prefer thick brownies. I’d also recommend having the cheesecake mixture ready to pour in when you put the brownie mixture into the pan because I didn’t and by the time the cheesecake mixture was ready, the brownie was practically set in the pan and therefore marbling the two was very tricky. 

Nevertheless, they were a huge success at theatre society and I still enjoyed the taste. The brownie was crumbly and moist with a silky cheesecake layer. I think I might put double the cheesecake mixture in next time as well to get the ratio more equal. 

If you’d like to have a go at this recipe, it’s on Katie’s blog here. Enjoy them! 

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A twist on Bread and Butter Pudding and the Family Favourite Brownies

It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to bake brownies for my brother’s birthday every year. I’ve been using this particular recipe for so many years that I can’t remember how many adaptations I’ve made to it. It’s so popular in my house that I have to make a double batch every time and my brother eats them five at a time! As I was in Paris on his birthday, I travelled to see him on Saturday armed with a batch of his favourite brownies and boy, did they go down well! They are not the fudgy, gooey type of brownie but the silky, smooth, decadent type. They are made using melted chocolate, rather than cocoa powder, which I always find makes for a better brownie. The top is flaky and the outside slightly crumbly but as soon as you bite into it, the chocolate melts with the sugar in your mouth and really gets the juices going. Sufficed to say, this is a tried, tested and failsafe recipe. The original called for 125g of chopped walnuts but I much prefer using chopped hazelnuts and tend to use 100g because not only do the packs generally come in 100g so it’s more convenient but I prefer the ratio this way as the chocolate has more room to take precedence. I’ll pop the recipe at the end of this post so that you can all have a go!

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Two bakes in one post? I know, I spoil you but this recipe really couldn’t wait. For those of you who live in sunny ol’ England, you’ll be only too aware that there has been a fair amount of rain over the past week and Sunday was yet another miserable rainy day. As I sat home alone, I craved a warm winter pudding and immediately thought of bread and butter pudding. I’ve never been a huge fan of this pudding because I don’t really like hot raisins or sultanas but I worked in a hotel restaurant for a few months and that gave me the idea for this recipe; waffle and chocolate chip bread and butter pudding. Essentially, it’s waffles instead of bread and chocolate chips in place of the raisins – I know, why haven’t we thought of this sooner? The waffles were light and fluffy on the inside, crispy on top and soft and flavoursome on the bottom where the custard had soaked in to them. To add to all of this, the chocolate chips melt slightly so when you bite into this dish, you get a hot ooze of chocolate sauce on top of the fluffy waffles. It’s not the most elegant dish to serve but if you like waffles and chocolate, try this recipe! Image

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

Ingredients: 

200g butter
200g dark chocolate
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
112g plain flour
100g chopped hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/170C/350F. Line a deep baking tin with greaseproof paper. 
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together by placing them in a bowl over simmering water until melted. 
  • Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale (this usually takes me about a minute but this will depend on your mixer).
  • Add the melted chocolate to the eggs and sugar and mix well until blended.
  • Add the flour, salt, chopped hazelnuts and vanilla extract to the mixture and stir well until all of the ingredients are combined and there are no lumps. 
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-35 minutes. The top will look cracked and flaky.
  • Leave to cool, then lift out from the tin and cut into squares. 

 

Waffle and Chocolate Chip Bread and Butter Pudding

Ingredients:

For the waffles:
3 free range eggs
170ml semi-skimmed milk
230g self-raising flour
30g sugar
100g butter

For the pudding:
5 or 6 waffles (the number of waffles depends on the size of your dish and your appetite and the waffles can be shop bought or homemade).
100g milk chocolate chips
25g butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
350ml milk
50ml double cream
2 free range eggs
25g granulated sugar

For the waffles:

  • Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly. 
  • Whisk 3 eggs in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the melted better, sugar and milk. Mix thoroughly and stir, carefully folding in the flour.
  • Cook the waffles in your waffle maker as per the instructions on your waffle maker.

 

For the pudding:

  • Butter one side of each waffle and cut them into triangles. Arrange a layer of the waffles in the dish, sprinkle over a layer of chocolate chips and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Repeat the layers until the waffles are used up.
  • Gently warm the milk and cream together in a pan but don’t let it boil. 
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl along with three quarters of the sugar. Whisk until pale. 
  • Add the warm milk and cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour the custard over the waffle layers, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top and leave to stand for 30 minutes. 
  • Place the dish in a preheated oven at 180C/355F/Gas 4 and bake for 30-40 minutes.