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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Rhubarb and walnut muffins

My rhubarb plant has come back with such vigour this year I’ve been shocked and being so busy I got left with a huge amount of it. Most got stewed up with vanilla sugar and swirlled into plain natural yoghurt for desserts, a bit found its way into a crumble.

But the rest I used in this Nigella recipe for rhubarb and walnut muffins. I highly recommend them, my other half took the batch to work and everyone loved them. They are not too sweet but have a wonderful crispy cinnamon topping. The recipe is in How to be a Domestic Godess.

Very delicious, nutty and rich with cinnamon

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Chocolate cherry cupcakes

Yes I have turned 25 today. And yesterday I actually made my own birthday cakes. I’m not sure if this is sad or not, but I don’t really care. I enjoy baking cakes and people enjoy sharing a cake with you on your birthday. Friends at work were certainly appreciative and so were the children who live next door!

 I made some chocolate cherry cupcakes, that not only were adorned with these beautiful jewel-like fruits, but had some yummy cherry jam lurking inside.

Chocolate, cherry cheesecake brownies

Continuing on the cherry theme I did chocolate cherry cheesecake brownies – as if brownies aren’t decadent enough on their own. Cheesecake mix is swirled into brownie mix then cherries scattered over the top – ‘to die for’ I think were the exact words of Penny on reception. Simply make your favourite brownie recipe, in a separate bowl whisk 300g cream cheese, 50g caster sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract and two eggs. Put alternate blobs into the brownie tin and swirl together with a skewer and scatter in some cherries.

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I don’t think it’s actually possible to bake a ‘healthy cake’, not one that  tastes good anyway. But as cakes go Nigella’s Venetian carrot cake is pretty healthy. Butter is replaced by olive oil and wheat flour by ground almonds. That makes this treat both dairy and gluten free.

Knowing all of this you would think the cake would be really quite boring , lacking in flavour and worryingly like the things they try and pass off as cakes at health food stores (which later turn out to taste like dust and have the texture of cardboard)

This cake is non of the above, in fact it is the most delicious carrot cake I have ever cooked. It is heavenly moist, even three or four days after being cooked, rich and indulgent. You needn’t serve anything with it, I love it plain, but it is also rather gorgeous with the sweetened mascapone cream.

I haven’t baked a whole cake for a while because with just me and the man we find it difficult to get through the lot before it goes past its best – and I hate to throw food away. But this kept for several days wrapped in cling-film in an airtight box and was taken wrapped up in foil to work for elevenses each day.

I would highly recommend you try this recipe. The link to the recipe of BBC Good Food is below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/gluten-free_and_11807

I know you know I am a major Nigella fan, but I have to say if you haven’t got the book Nigella Kitchen it really is an amazing tomb of homely recipes. Don’t even get me started on how genius the rapid rostini is….

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If you still haven’t bought all your Christmas presents and you are dreading going out shopping on the weekend then why not make your presents? There’s still time. Surely anything is better than a hot, sweaty indoor shopping centre where you move around like sardines in a can, all with the same glazed expression wondering what tat you are going to buy your family this year.

Last year I made everyone a homemade hamper, which included two types of chutney, glass jars of vanilla sugar, chocolates, honeycomb and fudge. They went down a storm, and cost half as much as the previous year’s bought presents.

Click here to see my post about it written last year:  https://food4two.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/edible-gifts-for-any-occasion/

Now, obviously I cannot show you what presents I am making this year as my family read Food4two (nice try, you’ll have to wait!), but they all know I’ve been on a sewing course and they will be expecting something fabric based.

The course has been fantastic fun, so now not only are my hobbies cooking and gardening, now I can include crafts! I’m particularly into the sewing, but once you get into making things you can’t stop – really. I’ve been making card Christmas decorations and I’m just about to start making festive stockings to hang above the fire – so quaint!

Some of you might be laughing right now, but I feel confident enough to believe most of you are nodding in agreement, because crafts are huge these days. The sewing course I went on in Bristol is so popular you have to sign up as soon as bookings open.

All I can say is take a trip to Hobbycraft and try and come out with nothing in your hands. I guarantee you won’t. I look forward to showing you my creations after Christmas!

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I had a bit of a baking spree last month. It started with some small squares of chocolate cheesecake brownie, it moved on to big strawberry and cream cupcakes and escalated to a full blown white chocolate and raspberry tart.

White chocolate and raspberry tart

Needless to say I’ve been trying to eat healthily ever since. Although to tell you the truth that isn’t going well either, since on Sunday I cooked a huge slow roast pork shoulder joint that could have fed most of the residents in my cul-de-sac. In fact on the day of the tremendous roast we started off with a full English including bacon, ate ham salad for lunch then the pork for dinner. I felt like I had eaten a whole pig – between us we had probably come very close.

But back to the cakes. I really recommend you try making cheesecake brownies, they bring the American treat to a new level. I won’t give you the recipe I used as it didn’t work out as well as others I’ve tried in the past, but put chocolate cheesecake brownies into Google and you’ll find loads of recipes.

Cheesecake brownies

The cup-cakes were a complete revelation, a total shock in fact. The recipe came from an amazing book by Harry Eastwood, called Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, in which the all the cake sponge mixes are made with no butter and no wheat flour. All of the recipes in book are gluten free and are lower in fat than typical cake recipes, plus they all incorporate vegetables. How can this be? I asked myself – no butter? No wheat flour? Would it not taste of cardboard.

No it didn’t, it tasted nothing like cardboard. It tasted like the softest, most moist sponge I had made. Bonus points also for the fact it used grated courgette because I had loads growing on my plant in the garden.

Yummy cup cake

The vegetable gave it the moist texture as did the ground almonds, then rice flour was used for lightness. A nice trick was to put two scoops of sponge mix into the muffin case, a spoon of jam and a last scoop of sponge mix, so the jam oozes out when you bite into it. It was quite simply genius and I recommend you either buy a copy – or, as I did, rent it from the library.

Lastly I made the white chocolate cheesecake tart with dark chocolate pastry base. A recipe of Nigella’s, I plucked it from the pages of How to be a Domestic Goddess one rainy weekend. Making it whiled away the hours. It then took three solid days of dedicated eating by the two of us to polish off. So excuse me while I go lay down, loosen my trousers and attempt to talk myself into going for a run.

White chocolate raspberry tart

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Hmmmm, delicious home-baked cookies or an hour and a half watching England getting thrashed in the World Cup? I know which one I prefer. My chap sat in the front room yesterday, while the sun was blazing, and watched England’s football team fail miserably in the World Cup – as waste of 90 minutes. I spent half an hour in the kitchen whipping up a batch of oat and raisin cookies for lunches this week and the rest of the time lounging in the garden reading a cookery book. Not only did I not have to sit through the pain of seeing Germany defeat us in style and spend an hour after with a pitiful sense of humiliation, I got a tan and a pile of delicious cookies at the end. Can’t be bad.

Oat and raisin cookies

These little, not particularly spectacular looking, cookies are one of my boyfriend’s favourite. He swears he can’t get through a morning without having two for elevenses. They are a recipe of Bill Grangers. Simple to make, not too sweet, full of healthy oats and raisins, but with butter and sugar to make it all taste great.

Ingredients:

225g Brown sugar

150g Butter, unsalted (softned)

1 egg

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

125g Plain flour

1 teaspoon Baking powder

235g Oats – Rolled

125g Raisins

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease two baking trays with butter (you might need to cook in two batches)

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth again. Sift the flour, baking powder and a inch of salt into the bowl and mix lightly. Add the oats and raisins and stir together. 

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on baking trays. Flatten balls with a fork dipped in flour. Bake the cookies for 15 – 20 minutes or until pale golden. Remove from oven and cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Homemade cranberry and apple chutney

The edible gift is a phase sweeping the credit-crunched nation at the moment. It is the main reason my blog went eerily quiet during December. I was beavering away every weekend, and nearer Christmas evenings too, making all my Christmas presents. Why am I telling you this now when Christmas is well and truly over and we all want to forget about mince pies and tinsel?

Well for a start I couldn’t say anything at the time because members of my family who were due to receive the presents read my blog and that would have spoilt the surprise. Plus the gifts I made could be given for any occasion not just Christmas – birthdays, anniversaries and I think homemade presents are most appropriate for thank you gifts – it shows thought.

I went all out and made hampers full of treats, but you could just make one of the items. My hampers included:

1. Apple and cranberry chutney

2 Spicy apple chutney or pineapple chutney (some got one, some got the other)

3 Fruit and chocolate slices

4 Chocolate and pistachio fudge

5 Honeycombe (or cinder toffee, whatever you like to call it)

6 A jar of vanilla sugar

My homemade hampers in working progress

The chutneys turned out surprisingly easy to make, just chop the ingredients, throw in a pot and simmer. The key is to be clever about sourcing your ingredients and gift-wrap. I got my cellophane gift bags, which looked very professional, in Lakeland (I think just over £2 for 50 bags), the cute fabric for the tops of the chutney worked out at less than a pound for all of it, bought off the roll from an independent fabric shop – the ribbon from the same place costing around £3.

Fruit and chocolate slices

Fruit and chocolate slices

Too simple for words. Melt some good quality dark chocolate and pour onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Smooth it out with a knife. For a normal baking tray I used 200g of chocolate. Then scatter on your dried fruit.

I used cranberries and pineapple, which was delicious and festively coloured. When it has nearly set score lines in it to create big slabs, I made mine wiggly – because I couldn’t do a straight line – or cut out with shaped cutters. Once cool peel off the greaseproof paper and put in boxes lined with tissue paper.

Nigella's chocolate and pistachio fudge

Chocolate and pistachio fudge

This was a recipe from Nigella Express and is a super simple fudge-like confectionary that I thought was more like a chewy truffle, but either way was delicious.

Check out her recipe by clicking on the photo, but make sure you keep it in the fridge until you give the gift and then ensure the recipient keeps it cool.

It is also great stashed in the freezer and eaten without defrosting. I kept some back for myself and ate it this way! The photo is how Nigella’s turned out, but mine looked remarkably similar.

My homemade honeycombe

Honeycombe

The honeycombe recipe was also from Nigella Express (she calls it hokey pokey) and if you thought the other two recipes were simple, you haven’t seen anything yet- just sugar, golden syrup and bicarb (click on the photo to take you to the recipe). Plus this is so much fun to make. It is the perfect gift for children or the young at heart. You could even dip the honeycombe pieces in chocolate to make your very own crunchie bar – but I just loved the festive gold colour of sweet.

I think I’m going to extend my gift making into the New Year as the homemade hampers were received so well. If you have any great recipes for delicious gifts I’d love to hear about them.

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