Caramel slices (Millionaire’s Shortbread)

I’m yet to find anybody who dislikes these beauties. There’s something pretty wonderful about homemade caramel slices that is even more decadent than the shop bought versions. Each step of making these is really straightforward but it is time consuming waiting for the caramel to cool – you really can’t add the chocolate layer while the caramel is too hot or it ruins the chocolate. Anyway, when I made these my friends all went a bit nuts for them and my boyfriend kept mentioning them until the last one was eaten (something that didn’t take very long).

To make these you will need:

For the biscuit layer
175g butter (plus extra for greasing)
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g plain flour
For the caramel layer
200g butter
1 397g can of condensed milk
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp sea salt (entirely optional but it adds extra depth to the caramel)
For the chocolate layer
300g milk chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a small deep baking tin (approx 20 cm x 20cm). Rub the butter, sugar, vanilla and flour together to form the biscuit dough. Use your fingers to push this into an even layer in your baking tin. Prick this with a fork and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 150°C and bake for a further 30 minutes, until the layer is golden brown.
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While your biscuit layer is cooling make your caramel. To do this melt your butter, condensed milk and golden syrup and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring to stop the bottom burning.
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Once the caramel is simmered stir in the salt and pour over your biscuit layer. Cool until the caramel is set.
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Melt your chocolate and spread it over the caramel.
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DSCN1881I like to use a form to make a slight pattern in the chocolate and to even out the layer.
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Once the chocolate has set use a sharp knife to cut this into squares.
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Serve with a cup of tea. These are particularly excellent when you’ve had a busy day or you think you deserve a treat!
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Cookies – inspired by Lyddie

When I was a student I lived in a house share with rather a lot of girls. It was as you would expect, fun, very messy and more pairs of make-up and hair products under our roof than we could possibly use. Now, I occasionally used to bake with my friend Lyd. At the time we didn’t even have a mixing bowl, we used to mix up our cookies in our biggest pan. Then we used to share out cookies and watch endless episodes of whatever tv programme E4 happened to be playing on a loop that day.

Now Lyd is now a very accomplished baker (far better than me!). She makes the most beautiful looking cakes and it makes me both miss baking with her and feel horribly jealous that I no longer live close enough that I can sample the goodies.

Anyway, to remind you of the good old old days of toasties and supernoodles, here is a basic cookie recipe that can be cooked anywhere as long as you have an oven, a baking tray, a wooden spoon and a receptacle large enough to hold your cookie dough. The dough actually tastes pretty nice raw; but don’t go making yourself sick eating it or you won’t have enough cookies to enjoy for the rest of the week. (Well I say the rest of the week, I took mine to my Uncle’s and they were pretty well received).

To make these cookies you will need:

125g butter (softened)

1 mug soft brown sugar

1 1/2 mugs self raising flour

1 large egg (please please buy free range)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g of chocolate chunks (or Smarties, Rolos or M&Ms)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a baking tray or line with baking paper or a silicone liner. Cream the butter and the sugar together.

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Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

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Sadly not a double yolker

Add the chocolate chips and the flour and mix well.

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These will be very chunky chocolate cookies
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Almost an action shot
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Cookie dough – this tastes pretty fantastic raw (J always tells me off for this, he thinks I’m going to catch salmonella!)

Make little balls from the cookie dough – whatever size you fancy. Place on your greased/lined baking tray.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are golden brown.

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Place on a wire rack to cool (use a plate if you don’t have a wire rack).

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Serve with endless cups of tea. If you’re still a student and you’re making these for a party or a girls night, they also go well with cheap wine!

If you have any left put in a tupperware container or biscuit tin to keep fresh.

Chocolate cakes with cookie and cream icing

This chocolate cake recipe is adapted from a recipe that the chocolatier Paul Young developed. I say adapted – I followed his sponge recipe but didn’t make the Mayan spiced syrup. Now, to set the scene I love to bake, and I especially love producing homemade cakes for my friends on their birthdays if the opportunity arises. My good friend Miss B had a birthday a few weeks ago and I decided to be a cake fairy. I planned to make chocolate cakes with a Nutella centre covered in buttercream and cookie icing. Super sticky right? Unfortunately, I had a bit of a baking disaster. Two batches of cake sunk before I realised that there was something wrong with the flour I had bought. J was (as usual) the true hero of the hour. He rushed out to get more ingredients to make these cakes because I needed a heavier cake recipe I could rely on.

This cake recipe is a great one if you like to gage how well things are mixed with your hands as it works best if you work the mixture with your hands as opposed to a spoon. So its good to make if you don’t own a food processor to much baking equipment.

To make the chocolate cakes you will need

110g self-raising flour

65g dark cocoa powder (the higher the quality the better)

185g butter

225g  muscovado sugar

85ml double cream

2 medium free-range eggs

85ml water

 

For the buttercream icing you will need (approx)

140g butter softened

280g icing sugar

1-2 tbsp cream (used the leftover cream from your cakes)

7 small chocolate chip cookies

(You may need to make more buttercream icing depending on how thick you like to ice your cakes)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cake cases.

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Put the flour, cocoa, salt and butter in your mixing bowl. Rub the mixture between your fingers until the mixture has consistency of breadcrumbs (like you would when making crumble). Add the sugar and mix well.

Fill a measuring jug with the water, cream and eggs. Whisk together and add to the breadcrumb and sugar mix and mix together until smooth – it doesn’t have to be perfect. I was rushing and mine cake out fine.

Fill your cake cases with the mixture. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until a skewer comes out of one of the cakes clean.

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It does look a bit milkshake like in this photo
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You end up with some lovely rich chocolate cake

While your cakes are cooling, make your buttercream. Beat your butter and sugar together.

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J invested in some new mixing bowls, they’re so much more fun to blog with than his old one

Once the buttercream is smooth, crush your cookies (take any frustrations you have out on them). Add the cookies to the buttercream. Loosen the mixture by adding the cream.

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The Cookie Monster would literally dive into the bowl at this point

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Decorate your cupcakes with the buttercream as you wish. Mine don’t look particularly amazing because I was rushing out to Miss B’s birthday!

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They are very sticky
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I got some exciting sprinkles to jazz up my baking

Now you might have noticed a lack of pictures in this post – this is mostly because your hands get extremely messy making these! These cakes are tasty, but one is plenty. I’d definitely advice having one of these with a cup of tea or coffee as they are very sweet. Miss B loved them though, which is the thing that matters most. Special thanks to J and his speedy Asda trip!

 

 

Handmade in Yorkshire

As mentioned in my previous post DC accompanied me to the Handmade in Yorkshire food market in Leeds last weekend. We had a lovely time browsing the stalls and eating. DC, who is from New Zealand, also got her first chance to watch a Punch and Judy show (strings of sausages and all). The weather was fantastic which made walking round the stalls a wonderful atmosphere and I really wish I could have tried all of the food. Next time I will….

Nutella brownies (my first foray into gluten free baking)

Now people in real life who read this blog (ie. my mum and J) know I am hopelessly addicted to Nutella. I honestly cannot be left unattended with a jar. I will ladle it onto toast and croissants so thickly my dad always likes to ask “do you want some toast on that Nutella?” Now, because of this I actually avoid having a jar in my house, otherwise every day would be Nutella toastie day. Anyway, I just fancied Nutella on toast last week and ended up buying a big jar, knowing full well how fast it would disappear I decided to attempt to make Nutella brownies and give them to my workmates.

On a whim I decided to substitute the flour in my recipe for ground almonds, which made the brownies denser and have a more nutty flavour (obviously). They also had the added bonus of meaning I made a completely gluten free cake recipe (I checked the ingredients of Nutella to verify this fact) for the first time. These taste absolutely beautiful and one of my work colleagues actually emailed me asking me to make more. Sometimes store bought gluten free cakes can taste dry and mealy but frequently I think, from buying gluten free brownies at markets and looking at some truly fantastic blogs, that in the home gluten free baking has come a long way. I’m glad, maintaining a special diet is so hard at times, particularly when you have to watch other’s enjoying things like cakes and biscuits.

To make these brownies you will need:

110g butter

Approx 3/4 on a 40og jar of Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)

2 large eggs

50g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g ground almonds

2 handfuls chopped walnuts (or other nuts of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a small baking tin with grease proof paper or silicone liners. Scatter your nuts across the baking paper.

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Everyone goes nuts for these brownies, ho ho ho!

Melt the chocolate and butter and leave to one side to cool.

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Look at that glorious Nutella….

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Whisk the eggs and the sugar together until they have a pale yellow consistency and the mixture is very fluffy.

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Look at my beautiful whizzy whisk!

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Add the vanilla, ground almonds and Nutella/butter mixture and beat well until everything is mixed together.

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Vanilla
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Almonds
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Nutella (sweet sweet nectar of the Gods!)
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A nice consistency

Pour into your lined tin and bake for 30 minutes until crusted on top.

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The anticipation
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It got a little burned in one corner, but it’s genuinely only on top and you can’t taste it

Leave to cool and cut into squares. Before I took these into work, my housemate and I enjoyed these warm with a hot drink (I had tea, she had coffee). I really urge you to try this recipe, its amazing whether you can eat flour or not!

 

Raspberry and white chocolate brownies

Now, this recipe was inspired by my utter obsession with the raspberry and white chocolate brownies that used to be on sale in my work canteen. They were little squares of brownie heaven that I have tried to recreate. Now these brownies are pretty squidgy and messy to eat but they do taste so wonderful its worth the sticky fingers. They are also pretty quick to make and straightforward enough that even baking novices would enjoy making them.

To make these brownies you will need:

50g dark chocolate (with over 70% cocoa solids)

225g caster sugar

2 eggs that have been beaten

1 tsp baking powder

110g butter

50g plain flour

About 100g raspberries (I used 1/3 bag frozen raspberries because they’re cheaper but fresh ones are fine too)

100g white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a small baking tin with grease poof paper or baking paper. Add your raspberries to the paper. This will help weigh down the baking paper.

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Raspberries are just so beautiful and pink

Put the tray to one side break the dark chocolate into small pieces and put into a heatproof container. Melt using the method of your choice. I melted my butter chocolate mixture in the microwave for 50 seconds. Put this to one side to cool.

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Add the chocolate mix to a bowl containing the sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs. Mix thoroughly, making sure there are no lumps. I used my new whizzy whisk (a hand whisk) and it did a great job. Thanks Mum and Dad!

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Glorious chocolate
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You want it to look smooth so it bakes with no lumps in it (apart from raspberries)

Pour the brownie mix into the baking tray over the raspberries. Make sure the mixture spreads evenly to the corners so all the pieces cook relatively evenly.

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Melt the white chocolate, again using the method of your choice.

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Drizzle it over the brownie mix. It doesn’t matter how pretty it looks, the white chocolate with partially sink.

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Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.

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Now, it doesn’t come out looking particularly beautiful and it is rather mushy, so leave to cook before cutting it up and serving. Its pretty messy to serve, but the flavours are lovely. The tart fruit cuts through the sweetness nicely.

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Enjoy with a cup of tea, share with whoever you think deserves a brownie. (I’m taking some into work so I hope they like them!) Could you even justify it by saying its 1 of your 5 a day?

So I made up a biscuit recipe – “Easy maple syrup biscuits”

Ok, I’ll work on the name. Now occasionally when I bake I tweak recipes. Well I decided to keep similar proportions to my basic shortbread but to tweak it so it was more flavoursome. In addition I was pushed for time so instead of creaming butter and sugar I melted everything bar the flour together. Using maple syrup and brown sugar resulted in a richer sweetness than shortbread but a crunchy biscuit with a texture not unlike shortbread.

To make these biscuits you will need:

220g plain flour

120g butter (I find margarine just doesn’t make such delicious biscuits)

80g soft light brown sugar (I would have used 60g but I was emptying my sugar packet)

2 tbsps maple syrup

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C with a fan oven). Weigh out your flour and put into your mixing bowl.

This is not what your mother means when she says she wants a bunch of flour for mother's day
This is not what your mother means when she says she wants a bunch of flour for mother’s day

Put the sugar, butter and syrup into a small saucepan and melt together. (You can microwave it all in a glass bowl but I like waiting for it all to melt).

From this
From this
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To this

Add the glorious melty mixture to your flour and beat it together.

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Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of how my dough looked after mixing until half of it was in the oven.

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Use your hands to shape small balls of dough and flatten down. Put on a baking tray covered in baking paper or silicone liners (I hate washing up and like making my life easy). I found when baking my biscuits that these fortunately don’t spread overly so you can pack more on a tray than I did.

Bake for 10 minutes and cool.

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These biscuits are really not going to win any prizes for being beautiful but they are simply glorious when still warm with a cup of tea. When I bake, I usually eat some of what I bake then give whatever I have made away as a way of maintaining self-control. I gave the biscuits to my Aunt and Uncle (and cousin, who ate about 4 in 10 minutes a true seal of approval).

If you can think of a better name for these bad boys then please comment!

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