Baci di Dama (Hazelnut biscuits with chocolate, hazelnut ganache)

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I went to a friend’s wedding this weekend and it really inspired me to make something I’ve been meaning to try for a while now – Baci di Dama! It literally means ‘Lady’s Kisses’ because of the two biscuits being paired together like a kiss. I love the combination of chocolate and hazelnut, it’s a real classic and is definitely irresistible to me so when I found out about these, I was desperate to know what they were like.

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The biscuits themselves were actually really simple to make and bake; they took barely any time at all! The recipe called for melted chocolate to sandwich the biscuits together but I decided to go that bit further and make a hazelnut, chocolate ganache. If you don’t want to make one, you could use a hazelnut, chocolate spread instead, like Nutella. The biscuits were like a slightly softer and hazelnut version of amaretti biscuits or biscotti. The combination of the crunchy biscuit with the smooth and luxurious ganache was addictive but I even went further and rolled some of them in chopped hazelnuts to add yet another texture and a blast of hazelnut.

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If you can manage to buy whole hazelnuts and roast and chop them yourself, then do, I used ground hazelnuts from a bag and I think there was quite a lot of the skin left in the packet so if you can avoid this, it would be beneficial.

The original recipe for the biscuits was found here but I made the ganache by heating 120ml of double cream until it was just boiling and then poured it over 130g of chopped dark chocolate and 30g ground hazelnuts. I then let the chocolate melt for a few minutes before stirring and producing the ganache. I then used it to sandwich two biscuits together and even with two biscuits, these little baked goods were still small enough to pop in the mouth all in one go! Delicious and will definitely be making them again and exploring further.

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Mini Doughnuts!

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I have a new mini doughnut mould! What fun I’m having with it as well. This recipe is a little too easy and uses ingredients that I generally have around the house so it’s going to prove far too easy to make them all the time and create lots of different variations.

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Bite-sized bits of baked goodness; who could resist fresh, warm, home-made mini doughnuts? Not me, that’s for sure. Every time I passed the plate, another doughnut disappeared. I made the same basic batch of doughnuts but then dipped some in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and dipped one side of the left over doughnuts in melted nutella.

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I have to say, the nutella version was my favourite and they were gone within the hour. The rich, hazelnut spread worked perfectly with the subtle vanilla taste of the doughnut and I couldn’t resist.

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I used the basic recipe for the doughnuts from the Lakeland website here

The recipe offers the choice of using olive oil or melted butter and I tried both. There were advantages and disadvantages to both versions I think. If you don’t have much time, use olive oil because it’s incredibly quick and easy. If you have more time, tried the melted butter version as I think it gave slightly more flavour to the base doughnut. However, if you choose the melted butter version, be careful when adding it to the milk and egg because the difference in temperature can curdle the milk and egg. To avoid curdling, you need to get all of the ingredients to the same temperature. I did this by letting the butter cool slightly after melting and by warming the milk and egg mixture slightly in the microwave. If you can use butter though, DO! I felt the doughnut really benefited from butter but frankly, what doesn’t benefit from having more butter?

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I’ve never really been a fan of the new silicone craze but I may be a convert after using this excellent doughnut mould. The silicone made it so easy to clean, grease and remove the doughnuts but they also kept their shape very well, which is the problem I usually have with silicone moulds. For £5, it was definitely worth the investment and I will soon be trying out plenty of new combinations and variations of doughnuts so watch out for them!

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Pecan Pie Please!

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Oh I do like a good pie! I thought that my recent trip to America would have been full of them but sadly, it was not! The severe lack of pie meant that my craving had not subsided by the time I got home. Hence, the creation of this delicious pecan pie!

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I adapted the recipe for this pie from Mary Berry’s version and the main difference is that her recipe calls for brandy, whereas I use Southern Comfort. Pecan pie screams the south to me so I thought I’d try this combination and it worked wonderfully well! I use half the amount as well so as not to overwhelm the flavours of the pie but it still gives a kick of real southern flavour.

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The combination of flavours and textures in this pie is perfect… Rich and sweet from the brown sugar and golden syrup, brought back to Earth with toasted pecans and all surrounded in buttery, crisp, homemade pastry – nothing beats homemade. The coupling of crunchy and smooth textures keeps the mouth watering and wanting more and this pie only has one slice left – I’m sure even that won’t last long!

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Pecan Pie

Ingredients

150g pecan halves

30g unsalted butter

60g light muscovado sugar

30g caster sugar

125ml (or roughly 8 tablespoons) golden syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons Southern Comfort

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons single cream

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of grated nutmeg

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

For the pastry:

175g plain flour

90g chilled butter, cubed

roughly 2 tablespoons cold water

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Method

  • Make the pastry by putting the flour and butter into a bowl and rubbing the mixture between your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add enough water to form a soft dough and leave to chill in the fridge for roughly 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface and line a buttered flan tin with the pastry. Bake the case blind in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the baking beans and baking paper or foil and lightly brush the pastry shell with the egg white. Return to the oven for 2 minutes.
  • Whilst the pastry is chilling, toast the pecan halves in a preheated oven at 180C, turning occasionally to avoid burning, for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and once slightly cooler, reserve some of the halves and chop the remaining pecans roughly.
  • Put the butter into a saucepan and melt on a medium heat until it turns golden brown. Add the sugars and golden syrup and heat gently until the sugars dissolve. Add the Southern Comfort, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Whisk together the egg and egg yolks in a separate bowl. Whisk a little of the hot syrup into the eggs. Add half of the syrup, a little bit at a time, then add the remainder. Leave to cool.
  • Arrange the chopped pecans and pecan halves in the pastry shell, reserving some for decoration if desired. Pour the syrup and egg mixture over the pecans and place the decorative pecans on top.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes until golden brown and set. After 25-30 minutes, you may need to place a piece of foil lightly over the pie to prevent the pastry from burning. Leave to cool before serving but you can reheat individual slices to have warm pie if you wish. I have a warm slice of pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the combination offset each other perfectly. Image

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!)

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.