Chocolate and Baileys Cheesecake

I know we’re 9 days into 2018, but as this is my first post of the year I’ll take this chance to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

The year started badly for me, with all 3 of us getting flu. I’ve had bad colds before but this was my very first time getting flu. Not bad for 43 years, but it is definitely something I wouldn’t want again thank you very much! When I started to feel a bit better I decided to make my favourite CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS MOUSSE to cheer myself up. It looked yummy as always, but sadly I quickly discovered my taste buds had gone so I didn’t enjoy it. Yesterday I finally got my taste back so thought I would make it again as I missed out before, but when I went to my cupboard I realised I didn’t have enough gelatine. Not to be put off, I made a no-bake cheesecake based on it instead. Oh my word, it was soooo scrumptious! I absolutely love the mousse, but think the cheesecake is even better!

Literally anyone can make this, it is that easy, and no stage of it can go wrong, so you are guaranteed a delicious creamy dessert. The actual preparation is very quick too but it does need a few hours to firm up in the fridge. It can be made the day before you need it, in fact it is perfect if left in the fridge overnight. I had a slice of mine today as a mid-morning treat and it was even nicer than yesterday (and it was amazing yesterday)!

I like a thick biscuit layer on my cheesecakes, but if you prefer a thinner base just use reduce the ingredient quantities that I used. Or, rather than just pressing them on the bottom of the pan like I did, spread them up the sides too and press firmly into place. The advantage of the thick biscuit layer though (don’t judge me for this, I’m only human hehe) is that you can eat a piece of it on the go! Most of the time I am civilised and eat cheesecake with a spoon or dessert fork, but sometimes, just sometimes, I really really want some but am in a rush or busy with a million things to do. So it is perfect to be able to cut a piece and pick it up to eat it just like a piece of cake! Ok I’m a savage, but I’m ok with that 🙂

 

CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS CHEESECAKE

FOR THE BASE

250 g digestive biscuits (which is 17 McVities ones)

110 g unsalted butter, melted

 

FOR THE CHEESECAKE TOPPING

460 g full-fat cream cheese

75 g icing sugar, sifted

220 ml double cream

3 tbsps Baileys

3 Cadbury Flake bars

 

FOR THE DECORATION

150 ml double cream

1 tbsp Baileys

1 Cadbury Flake bar

 

  • BISCUIT BASE: Line a 20cm cake pan (springform is best for cheesecakes for easy removal) with foil. Completely cover the inside of the pan, pressing the foil down well to get rid of large creases.
  • Place the digestive biscuits in a food processor and blitz until the biscuits have turned into small crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits in a ziplock bag, press the bag to remove any air before closing, and bash them with something like a rolling pin until you have small crumbs.
  • Add the melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and mix well. Tip the crumb mixture into the foil-lined pan, spread the crumbs to cover the base, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Make sure you go right up to the edges. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • CHEESECAKE TOPPING: Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until it is smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar and mix well.
  • In another bowl, whisk the 220 ml double cream until it is quite firm and thick.
  • Add the whisked cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold them together, using a spatula or large spoon.
  • Add the Baileys and continue folding the mixture until it is well combined and smooth. (It will be lovely and thick but with no lumps).
  • While the Flake bars are still in their packets, use your fingers to roughly crush them up. You want to make a mix of sizes of chunks so don’t overdo it. Tip the chocolate into the cheesecake mixture and fold in gently until evenly distributed.
  • Spoon the cheesecake mixture on to the chilled biscuit base and use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly up to the edges. Place the cheesecake in the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours (preferably more or overnight).
  • DECORATION: Remove the cheesecake from the pan using the foil to lift it out, then carefully peel the foil off the cheesecake, and place the cheesecake on to a serving plate.
  • Place the 150 ml double cream and the 1 tbsp Baileys into a small bowl and whisk until it reaches soft peak stage. The cream will be thick but still creamy and when you lift your whisk out, small peaks will form but the tips of the peaks will fold back over.
  • Spoon the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with your choice of nozzle, and pipe the cream on the top around the edge. I piped 16 rosettes on mine (hold the piping bag vertically with the nozzle just above the cheesecake and squeeze the bag slowly until the cream mixture makes a pretty shape on the top… repeat all the way round).
  • Take the Flake bar out of it’s wrapper and carefully cut it into pieces. Place one piece on to alternating cream rosettes, and crush up the remaining chocolate. Sprinkle this all over the cream decorations.
  • Serve and enjoy! Or return it to the fridge until it is needed.

This cheesecake will keep well in the fridge for a few days, as long as the cream and cream cheese would still be in date. I hope you love this as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

Sausage Meat and Chutney Plait Recipe

It is December so I am now officially allowed to talk about one of my favourite times of the year… Christmas! One of the many things I love about Christmas is the range of flavours and aromas of all the beautiful food. Cinnamon, gingerbread, orange, cloves, cranberry, nutmeg, spices… the list goes on.

Boddington’s Berries is a wonderful company who produce delicious high fruit conserves and savoury chutneys from their farm base in Cornwall. They have recently launched 2 new products for the festive period, Christmas Conserve and Christmas Chutney, and they very kindly sent me some to use in recipes.

The Christmas Chutney is packed in a glass jar with a lovely Christmassy label. It put me in a festive mood as soon as I saw it! The label says

“Our tangy Christmas Chutney warms the soul. Made with cranberries, chilli, orange and spices that work together to ensure this chutney packs a punch. Best served with festive meats and cheeses.”

I tried a bit on a piece of extra mature Cheddar and it was wonderful. If you have a cheese board at Christmas, you definitely need to try this chutney! In fact, whatever you are having at Christmas, you need to try this chutney!!!

On Christmas Day in my house I only prepare 2 meals. My son is usually very excited to get on with opening presents when he wakes up, so we have a hot breakfast late. So late that we could call it brunch. Christmas dinner is ready for around 4pm. That means we don’t have a Christmas tea of turkey sandwiches, cold meats etc like many people do. We have that type of meal on Boxing Day instead. One of the things I love to make for that buffet-style feast is a sausage meat plait. It is so easy yet so satisfying. Like a giant sausage roll but prettier. When I say it is easy, that’s because I use ready-made puff pastry. You can of course make your own from scratch, but when I’ve heard enough top chefs and bakers say they often use ready made, then that’s good enough for me! Obviously though this only applies to puff pastry. I make other types from scratch.

I decided to make a trial one with a thin layer of Christmas Chutney inside. The speed at which it disappeared after we had tried a bit tells me that I’ll definitely be making this version again for Boxing day! The red onion, chilli and cranberries go so well with the sausage meat. You can add chopped fresh herbs to the sausage meat if you want but to be honest, you really don’t need to add anything with the amount of flavour that the chutney gives.

Make sure you take your pastry out of the fridge 10 minutes before you plan to start the recipe, as it will crack if you unroll it straight away. Stupidly I forgot to take photos of how to plait the pastry but if you Google it you’ll see plenty of videos and pictures showing you step by step. I’ll explain it as best as I can in the recipe. So here it is:

 

SAUSAGE MEAT AND CHUTNEY PLAIT

1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry (around 320 g)

3 tablespoons Boddington’s Berries Christmas Chutney

450 g sausage meat

small handful of fresh herbs such as coriander, chopped (optional)

1 beaten egg, to glaze

black onion seeds, to decorate

 

  • Preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
  • Gently unroll the sheet of puff pastry so that a short end is near you. This just makes it easier to plait.
  • Spread the chutney evenly down the middle of the pastry sheet, leaving a gap at the top and bottom.

  • Place the sausage meat (mixed with herbs, if using) on top of the chutney. Fold the top and bottom edges over the sausage meat, then brush beaten egg on top of these folded edges.
  • Using a sharp knife for neatness, cut the pastry slightly diagonally downwards from the left edge of the filling to the left edge of the pastry. Repeat this all the way down the left side side, leaving about 2 cm between each strip. Repeat on the right hand side of the filling. (Google this stage if it doesn’t make sense).
  • Carefully pick up the first strip at the top and fold it across the filling. It should lie nicely over the top folded edge, at a slight angle downwards. Pick up the top strip on the other side and fold that across the filling, again angled slightly downwards.
  • Repeat, alternating left and right strips, all the way down to the bottom, so it looks like a plait. The bottom strips should lie across the bottom folded edge, sealing it all together.
  • Brush the plait generously with beaten egg, then sprinkle black onion seeds on top.

  • Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and cooked all the way through.
  • Serve hot or cold.

You could of course use other chutneys in this plait, but I would strongly recommend the Christmas Chutney if you want to really get some festive flavours on your table! It truly is delicious.

Boddington’s Berries can often be found at food fayres but the easiest way to buy their beautiful products is through their website.

Their Christmas Chutney can be found HERE so stock up ready for your festive feast!

 

 

Olive Oil and Grape Cake Recipe

I was recently lucky enough to be sent some delicious punnets of grapes to try from The Grape Artisan, who supplies artisan grapes to Marks and Spencer Food. As well as sending the grapes, they also included a couple of recipes to try (and a bag for when I go and buy more soon hehe).

The recipe card for this delicious cake said to use their Sable grapes, but I had already used those in my ROASTED GRAPES RECIPE.

I decided to use their Sapphire grapes for this cake. They do taste differently to the Sable but I figured any grapes would work, although red or black would look more appetising. The packaging for the Sapphire grapes states

“Exquisitely sweet and deliciously juicy, Sapphire grapes showcase our most outstanding red grapes.”

I can confirm they are both very sweet and very juicy! If I had to pick a favourite grape from the 4 varieties I was sent, this is marginally the one I would choose. The sweet sweet juice is the nectar of the gods.

Back to the recipe. I have to be honest, I was a little bit dubious about how good this would taste. I have seen other recipes in the past for various olive oil cakes, but had always been put off making them because of the oil. Olive oil has such a strong taste, I thought it would overpower any other flavour and be quite unpleasant. I decided to give it a go though, and I’m so glad I did! This recipe produces a beautifully light cake with a delicate lemon and grape taste. You really can’t taste the oil at all! The cake is very easy to make, and is a perfect teatime treat.

The Grape Artisan has very kindly let me share the recipe with you, so here it is for you to enjoy. A couple of tips from my experience of baking it… don’t worry if it looks like the middle is rising into a dome that looks like it might erupt; it does sink down to a normal level! And if it looks like all your grapes have disappeared to the edge of the cake, add a couple more to the centre for the last 5 minutes of baking. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I will definitely make this again and again. Happy baking!

 

OLIVE OIL AND GRAPE CAKE

125 g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

100 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

100 ml olive oil

3 tbsp milk

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

300 g seedless Sable grapes (or any variety of seedless black or red grapes)

icing sugar, to dust

creme fraiche, to serve

 

  • Preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Grease and line a deep 20cm cake tin.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs for 3 minutes, using an electric hand mixer at high speed. The mixture will go pale and increase in volume.
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium, and add the olive oil, milk and lemon zest. Mix well.
  • Turn the mixer to it’s lowest speed setting and add the dry ingredients to the mixture. Do not over mix at this stage. Just mix until all of the ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin, and scatter half of the grapes over the top.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Scatter the rest of the grapes over the cake, and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack, sprinkle with a thin dusting of icing sugar and then serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

 

Cinnamon Honey Roasted Grapes – A Perfect Dessert or Topping

I was recently sent some grapes to sample from The Grape Artisan, who supplies Marks and Spencer Food with the most delicious grapes I have ever tasted, with varieties including Candy Floss grapes. Candy Floss!!! I’ll talk about those beauties in another recipe post. I really had no idea grapes could taste so different! I had previously thought all black grapes tasted the same, all red tasted the same, and all green tasted the same. How wrong was I!?

One of the varieties I received was a punnet of seedless Sable grapes. The packaging says “Mouth wateringly sweet with hints of muscat and blackcurrant, Sable grapes reflect their exotic origins of blended white and Persian black grape varieties.”

These grapes are just beautiful. They are very sweet, but not quite as sweet as 2 of the other varieties I received. They have a hint of a delicate floral honey flavour which is just sublime.

We have recently bought a waffle maker and have been trying lots of different toppings to go on the waffles. I wanted to make a hot, fruity topping which would be nice and juicy. I wondered what grapes would be like if they were roasted, and imagined the juice bursting out making a lovely syrup. I decided to try it and am so glad I did! The result was so good!

Roasting grapes really brings out their sweetness and makes them extra juicy. As they get hotter, they plump up and then split a little, causing some juice to escape. I think it is best to use red or black grapes for this, as the syrup that is made in the process takes on the beautiful colour of the grape. At this time of year (well any time really but especially this time) I love cooking or baking with cinnamon, so I used some in this recipe. It goes so well with the grape flavour! I also added a spoon of honey to help the syrup caramelise slightly.

I have to admit this is now my new favourite topping. In fact I could easily eat a bowl of these on their own or with a dollop of cream. They make a wonderful topping for waffles, pancakes, or just ice cream. I even think these would be amazing as the fruity base of a crumble. I served mine on a Belgian waffle, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the hot syrup poured over that. You can use any red or black grapes, but I would highly recommend the M&S Sable ones. Delicious!

 

CINNAMON HONEY ROASTED GRAPES – 2 generous servings

200g Sable grapes

25g unsalted butter

1 tbsp runny honey

Quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, or a touch more if preferred

 

  • Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C Conventional.
  • Put the butter into a non-stick roasting pan, and place in the oven until the butter has melted.
  • When the butter has melted, add the honey and cinnamon to the pan. Mix well with a wooden spoon (so that you don’t damage the non-stick surface).
  • Add the grapes to the pan and toss them in the mixture until they are all coated.
  • Place in the centre of the oven and let them roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently toss the grapes in the delicious syrup that is now developing. Return them to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until the grapes have slightly burst and the skin is starting to go a little bit wrinkly.
  • Remove from the oven and serve straight away.

 

 

 

Raspberry and Coconut Squares – August BakedIn Baking Club Recipe

I’m beginning to feel like the legend that was Bruce Forsyth, when he used to tell every couple on Strictly Come Dancing that they were his favourite… because every month I say the same thing. THIS BakedIn Baking Club recipe is my favourite. Well, at least until September’s arrives anyway!

In case this is your first visit to my blog, let me tell you about this Baking Club. Every month they send you all the dry ingredients you need as well as extra bits and pieces such as baking paper and testing skewers, to make a scrumptious recipe created exclusively for BakedIn with Michel Roux’s approval. There is always a handy tip included on the recipe card which suggests a way to make the recipe extra special. The recipe card tells you exactly what is included in the box, what extra ingredients you will need, and has clear instructions and photographs for each step of the recipe. All of the dry ingredients are weighed out for you so you can get on with the fun part of baking without so much preparation. The card does tell you though how much of each dry ingredient there is so that you can make the recipe again in the future. I love that detail! I used to receive a subscription box that gave you a recipe and the spices needed to make amazing curries. The recipes were fantastic. The only problem was they didn’t tell you how much of all of the included ingredients there were, so it was impossible to make the recipe again without buying the whole kit again! I love that BakedIn aren’t like that. They WANT you to make their recipes time and time again and they want to get everyone baking! These recipes are perfect for baking with children too, so make brilliant quality family time. Plus of course you’ll have a wonderful time eating them.

The Raspberry and Coconut Squares recipe was absolutely scrumptious. It had a delicious almond base which had a gorgeous crispy crust. It reminded me a bit of suet pastry puddings, although much much nicer, and no suet. This base was topped with fresh raspberries, a coconut crumble-type layer, another layer of raspberries, and finally topped with white chocolate curls after it had cooled. It was supposed to be cut into 12 squares, but as I frequently get accused of being a “feeder” I decided to live up to the accusations and cut it into 9 larger squares 😀 We enjoyed it with ice cream one day and custard the next, and each time it was heavenly. Definitely one to make over and over again. It was comfort food at it’s best and we’ll be enjoying this one a lot during the Winter months, warmed up with custard.

If you are interested in joining the Baking Club, just click HERE to go to their website to find out more. It costs just £8 a month including delivery (even less if you pay for a few months in one go). Although at the moment when you first visit the link you will get a chance to sign up to their mailing list and receive your first box for just £3.99! That’s an offer you can’t refuse. Happy Baking!

 

 

Scrumptious Chocolate Flapjacks

I absolutely love flapjacks. They are so easy to make and so satisfying to eat, and you only need a few ingredients. The oats fill you up and give you energy, and you can make them in so many different flavours. Today we fancied chocolate.

I’ve eaten some before that have been hard and crunchy, more like a biscuit. That’s not how I like mine. They have to be soft and chewy and slightly crumbly for me. The recipe to make them like this is so easy to remember. Whatever weight of oats you use, just add half that amount each of light brown sugar and butter. For example, if you use 400g of oats, you will need 200g of brown sugar and 200g of butter. Add 1 tbsp of golden syrup per 100g of oats and you have a perfect flapjack.

For this chocolate version I decided to add a layer of delicious JimJams Milk Chocolate Spread in the middle. I wasn’t sure if it would work but it was soooooo good. I warmed up a tablespoonful in the microwave for a few seconds to drizzle on top after they were cooled too. Naughty me. Well actually not really! That is why I love JimJams spreads… they have 83% less sugar than another very well-known brand. (I was introduced to JimJams through a subscription box some time ago. Find out more about what I thought of it HERE … the Degustabox discount code has now expired so don’t try using that though). JimJams is now much easier to buy too. It is available in many supermarkets for around £2.60 per jar.

So, here’s the recipe. Use the measurement guide I gave earlier if you want to scale the recipe up or down to suit your pan size. I would recommend using JimJams, as flapjacks do have quite a lot of sugar so you don’t want to add loads more with the other brand 😉

 

CHOCOLATE FLAPJACKS

500g rolled or porridge oats

250g butter, plus extra for greasing

250g light brown sugar

5 tbsps golden syrup

JimJams Milk Chocolate Spread

 

  • Preheat your oven to 180C conventional/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 13 x 7 inch pan. Don’t worry about the short sides. Make sure the paper hangs over the long sides though so you can lift the flapjack out easily when cool.
  • Place the butter, sugar and syrup into a large pan and heat gently on the hob until the butter has melted. Stir regularly to make sure it is all combined. When it is melted, remove from the heat. Add the oats and mix well until completely covered in the syrupy mixture.
  • Tip half of the mixture into your prepared pan and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.

  • Add a thin layer of JimJams spread. (I didn’t give an amount as you can add as much or as little as you want).

  • Tip the remainder of the oaty mixture on top and press down firmly with the back of a spoon again.

  • Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.
  • When it is cool, place 1tbsp JimJams in a small dish or cup and microwave for a few seconds to melt slightly. Drizzle over the top of the flapjack. Cut into desired sized pieces. I cut it into 12 large pieces, but you could cut it into 24 small squares.
  • Enjoy!

 

You could add a layer of your favourite jam instead of the chocolate spread if you prefer a fruitier version. JimJams also make amazing low sugar jams!

Let me know what you use to make yours!

French Macarons Inspired by Persian Love Cake

Macarons used to terrify me. Not eating them… that was easy enough. Making them though scared me so much that I very rarely attempted them. My very first attempt, shockingly, was a success. Others after that were a disaster, with nothing but cracked macarons, very unelegant!

There are 2 methods of making macarons, French or Italian. A lot of my friends advised me to try the Italian method as that seemed to make the shells more stable. That method involves boiling sugar and water and adding it to the egg whites. I can be a real stickler for detail though, which can be a real pain in the backside. The stickler in me decided that as macarons are a French treat, I wanted to be able to make them the French way. I found a wonderful book in a set of 3 published by Love Food. This book is called Macaroons and has lots of different recipes. I’ve tried a few now and each time they’ve come out perfectly. My Persian Love Cake Macaron recipe is based around the recipes I picked up from this book.

The story of the Persian Love Cake is a beautiful tale of love and romance, which really appeals to me. Depending on which version you follow, it shows that the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach! A lady fell in love with a Persian prince and baked him a beautiful cake as a symbol of her love. In the version I like to believe, the prince fell in love with her and they lived happily ever after. In the other version, the prince was allergic to one of the ingredients and died. Boo hiss. I don’t like that version! There are nuts in these macarons though so make sure the person you give them to doesn’t have a nut allergy!!!

The macaron shells are flavoured with cardamom and rosewater. You can buy ground cardamom but the very best flavour and aroma comes from grinding them yourself. For baking purposes, you need green cardamom pods. Black ones are much more savoury and not suited for sweet bakes. The pods are quite hard, but break them open to reveal the cardamom seeds. It is these that you need. Grind them as finely as you can using a pestle and mortar. You can buy them in the spice section of supermarkets, or a great online seller for all your spice needs is The Spiceworks. They also sell dried rose petals in various sized bags, which are used to decorate these macarons.

Another ingredient in Persian Love Cake is saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. It is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, and is handpicked as there is no machine capable of such a delicate job. I use saffron from The Persian TraderThey only use the most superior grade of saffron from farms in North Iran, with the most intense colour, flavour and aroma. Cheaper versions can be bought but they are sometimes artificially dyed or mixed with less superior grades. As saffron is so expensive, you may as well make sure you’re getting the very best for your money. And believe me when I say you only need to use the tiniest amount, so a jar lasts forever!

Persian Love Cake is also flavoured with pistachio nuts. As macarons already have ground almonds I didn’t want to add extra nuts but wanted the flavour of the pistachio. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Monin syrups and had a bottle of pistachio syrup already. This was perfect to make a pistachio buttercream. The flavour was all there but the texture was beautifully smooth.

Enough waffling… here’s the recipe.

PERSIAN LOVE CAKE MACARONS

FOR THE MACARON SHELLS

115 g icing sugar

75 g ground almonds

Seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground very finely

2 large egg whites, must be at room temperature

50 g caster sugar

Half tsp rosewater

Pink food colouring, gel or paste but not liquid

FOR THE FILLING AND DECORATION

115 g icing sugar, sieved

55 g unsalted butter, softened

1.5 tbsp Monin pistachio syrup

dried rose petals and saffron to decorate

  • Using a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, blitz the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom until it is like powder, around 20-25 seconds. Sift this into a small bowl using a fine-meshed sieve. If there are any bits left in the sieve, throw them away.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form but the tips of them will fold back over. I find it is best to use an electric handheld whisk for this, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer. Add the caster sugar very gradually, whisking well each time you add any. The meringue mix will become glossy. Add the rosewater and enough food colouring to give the meringue a beautiful pink colour, and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form and will not fold over.
  • This next part is the stage that is most likely to cause problems if not done right, so be extra careful at this point. Tip a third of the almond mixture in with the meringue and use a flexible spatula to very gently fold the dry mixture in to the meringue. I scrape around the bowl, then lift the mixture from underneath and fold it over, occasionally cutting through the middle. When it is all combined, tip another third of the almond mixture in and repeat. At this point it will start to firm up a bit. Finally add the last third of the almonds, and fold as before until fully incorporated in to the mixture. It will be quite firm now. Keep folding gently until the batter loosens a bit. When it is ready to pipe, it will be glossy and smooth, and when you lift the spatula out of the mixture and let some fall off, it will lie in a trail on top of the batter for around 30 seconds without losing it’s shape. If you over-mix at this point allowing the batter to go too runny, your macarons will not hold their shape when piped.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. (I have a fan oven, so to make sure the breeze from the fan doesn’t lift the paper, use a tiny bit of the meringue mixture left on your electric whisk to stick the corners of the paper to your baking sheets). Spoon the mixture in to a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Or if you are using disposable piping bags, just snip the end off to make a 1cm opening. Pipe 16 macarons on to each sheet, around 3 cm wide. To do this, just hold your piping bag vertically almost touching the paper, and squeeze until the mixture spreads to around 3 cm. Lift and repeat to pipe 4 rows of 4 shells on each sheet.
  • Hold the baking sheet with one hand and very firmly tap all along the underside with your other hand. Or gently tap the sheets on to your worktop. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles. The macarons will spread very slightly as the action flattens them a bit and gets rid of any peaks from the piping. If you do still have any peaks, lightly wet your finger and gently smooth them down. Carefully place a rose petal and a few strands of saffron on to 16 of the macaron shells. Saffron tastes very strong so don’t put too many on!
  • Leave the macarons on the side at room temperature to stand for around 30-40 minutes. They need to dry out a bit so that they bake evenly without cracking. They are ready to go in the oven when you can gently touch them without any mixture sticking to your finger. They will also lose their shine as they dry. While they are standing. preheat your oven to 140C fan, or 160C conventional oven.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. (They take 10 minutes in my oven). Check them after 5 or 6 minutes and if they look like they are browning, turn your oven temperature down slightly.
  • To test if they are ready, gently nudge one of the macarons. If it wobbles on its base, it needs a little bit longer. If it has a crisp shell and doesn’t move, it is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cover a wire cooling rack with a piece of baking paper, gently peel the macarons off the baking sheet paper and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
  • While they are all cooling, make the buttercream. Place the icing sugar, butter and pistachio syrup into a bowl and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  • Use a piping bag with a small nozzle or cut a small opening on a disposable piping bag, and pipe buttercream on to the macaron shells which don’t have the rose and saffron on them. Then place a decorated macaron shell on top and gently press together.

 

As these are based on a royal story, I wanted to make them extra indulgent, so brushed some gold lustre dust around the tops of them. You don’t have to though if you don’t want to.

Eagle eyed readers will notice I said pipe 32 shells but I only have 15 complete macarons in my photos. I couldn’t resist instantly sampling one before the photos were taken. My willpower is sadly lacking!!!!!

These would make beautiful gifts for loved ones, or wonderful wedding favours. What better way to celebrate a union of love than with these romantic treats. Whoever you make them for, I’m sure they’ll be very gratefully received.

 

Cinnamon Sauce and Cream Cheese Icing Recipes for Fluffy Pancake Toppings

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This time last year there was a huge amount of excitement in our house as we were just a couple of weeks away from flying out to Orlando to see Mickey Mouse and friends. Half of me was dreading it (I imagined it would be just like a jam-packed Alton Towers for 2 weeks) and the other half of me was excited for the Disney magic. I have to say now though it was absolutely fantastic! The people were so friendly and fun, the weather was just glorious, the whole atmosphere was laid back, and the magic was definitely there. I had been kind of dreading the food too. I’d imagined just fried chicken and burgers for 2 weeks. Isn’t it funny how wrong our preconceptions can be? Three particular meals will always be remembered as some of the best food I have ever eaten. A Mexican feast in a gorgeous restaurant called Chuy’s on International Drive. A delicious meal in a restaurant called The Plaza, in Magic Kingdom. And a humungous breakfast in Denny’s Diner on International Drive. For this breakfast I chose pancakes with egg, hash browns, bacon, sausage and I think there were beans too. Can’t quite remember that part so well.  It was all soooooo good but the best part by far was the pancakes. They arrived on a separate plate and they had a cinnamon sauce and cream cheese icing drizzled over them. (Cinnamon seems to be a very big thing in Orlando).

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You can’t tell from the picture but these beauties were enormous! Actually you can tell…. the plate they are on is a dinner plate! I can honestly say these were divine! The pancakes were super light and fluffy, and the sauce and icing were… it’s hard to find a word to describe how amazing these were. You know the extremely famous scene with Meg Ryan in the diner in “When Harry Met Sally”? Yes, THAT scene? Well I think she had just tried a mouthful of this dish when she filmed that! Enough said.

I have craved these pancakes ever since returning home but had no idea how to go about making them. Two days ago it was Pancake Day and I was determined to recreate the only pancakes I have thought about in the last year. It took a bit of trial and error to get the sauces right but I was deliriously happy to eventually sit at the table with a stack of fluffy pancakes and two squeezy bottles full of the 2 most delicious toppings in the world. And as I would feel selfish keeping these recipes to myself, I’m going to share them with you. These taste EXACTLY like the ones I had a year ago in Florida. I am so happy now I can enjoy them every day!!!

You can use your favourite recipe for fluffy pancakes if you already have one. I used THIS RECIPE and it made 5 good sized very light and perfectly fluffy pancakes. Some people use buttermilk but these were just perfect as they were. I actually made 2 batches so had 10 pancakes. They were just as good the next day warmed quickly in a dry frying pan. I should imagine you could warm them quickly in a microwave too in around 15 seconds. Or eat them cold! Here are the recipes for the sauces:


CINNAMON SAUCE

200 g granulated sugar

25 g plain flour

1 level tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

140 ml water

30 g unsalted butter

  • Put all of the ingredients except the butter in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens. Let it boil gently until it is the thickness you prefer. I boiled mine for around 5 minutes, still stirring it.
  • Take the sauce off the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and is thoroughly combined.

 

This sauce is at its best served slightly warm or room temperature. It is perfect for pancakes, waffles, churros, or glazing cakes. It would make a delicious dipping sauce for fruit too.


CREAM CHEESE ICING

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

50g cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tbsp milk

half tsp vanilla extract

220g icing sugar, sifted

pinch of salt

  • Using a handheld electric whisk/beater, mix together the butter and the cream cheese until combined.
  • Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat until creamy.
  • Finally add the icing sugar and salt and continue to beat until very smooth and any lumps have disappeared.

This icing is perfect for pancakes, waffles, to use as a dipping sauce, or drizzling over cakes. Leftover icing will need to be kept in the fridge and ideally used within a few days.


I had 2 squeezy bottles which I used to put mine in and they made it so easy to drizzle the sauce and the icing over my pancakes. They also make them very easy to store. Both of these recipes made enough to fill 1 and a half bottles of each, so if you don’t want that much, just halve the recipes. Although I am absolutely certain that when you try them both, especially together, you will be wanting a permanent supply of them!

As you can tell from the photo of the ones I made, I put quite a bit more sauce and icing on them than the ones I ate in Denny’s Diner. When you try them, you’ll understand why. I have no shame in saying I could even eat them on their own straight from the bottles!!! I hope you love them as much as I do. I’d love to hear what you use them for if you make them. Enjoy! 🙂

2…4…6…Ate! Easy Shortbread Hearts, Baked with Love

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As many of you will know, my mother sadly passed away when I was still a child. It wasn’t just my mother that died that day, it was also a whole host of experiences that many people take for granted. I’d never get to tell her about my first boyfriend, or go wedding dress shopping with her, or hand a precious grandchild to her to hold for a while. Those things fill me with sadness, but strangely enough the one thing I never got chance to do but really wish I had was to bake something for her. When my son makes or bakes something for me, it fills my heart with so much joy and pride, and I wish I could have done that for her. The look of pure satisfaction and happiness on my son’s face as he watches my face light up… well that’s a look that will stay with me forever.

I always loved baking and loved making things at school in Home Economics, as it was then called. Those lessons taught me so much. How to make shortcrust pastry, how to make a Victoria sponge. The methods and quantities used always stick in my head. One thing I was taught which I remember well was shortbread. The easiest shortbread ever to remember. In those days (the 1980s) we measured ingredients in ounces not grams, and for shortbread my teacher used to write on the board “2-4-6-Ate”. Easiest ingredient quantities ever, right? It stood for 2 ounces of sugar, 4 of butter, 6 of flour, and that would make them good enough to eat. It is such a simple recipe, my 9 year old son knows it by heart too, and he makes scrumptious shortbread!

With Mother’s Day approaching I wanted to write a blog post of a recipe that would be easy enough for children to make, with supervision, to give to their Mums as a gorgeous little gift. Baked with love. A wonderful cookware and bakeware shop called The Little Cook Shop very kindly sent me a beautiful Eddingtons loose-based mini heart pan to try, and I decided this would be perfect for this recipe.

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The pan has 12 small heart-shaped cavities, and each has a removable base so you can get your bakes out so much easier. Push up from underneath and your bake just pops out. It is also non-stick for extra easiness. There is a scrumptious looking recipe on the back of the box to make strawberry and chocolate cheesecakes with this pan. I shall definitely be trying those at some point!!! This pan costs £9.99 and is well worth it at that price as the quality is fantastic. However, The Little Cook Shop have given me a code to pass on to you so you can have 10% off any order, making this pan just £8.99! I can’t recommend it highly enough. I will be using mine A LOT! It will be perfect for savoury bakes such as quiches as well as so many sweet bakes. Have a look around their website and enter the code CONFARREO10 at the checkout to redeem the discount offer. You can use it on anything you order, not just this pan.

Back to the recipe. I normally only really use unsalted butter in my baking, but I was taught that shortbread is best when made with salted butter. It also is best made with butter that is slightly softened but still cold. Too warm and it affects the texture. Too cold and it’s hard to mix in properly. This is where a fairly new butter in the shops is just perfect.

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The Softer Butter Co. has produced a delicious butter that tastes exactly as you’d expect from a quality 100% natural butter, but it has one big difference. It is, as the name suggests, softer! No need to leave this one out of the fridge for a while to soften up, it is the perfect softness straight from the fridge. If you want to try it yourself, you can find it in Morrisons and in some Tesco stores. It is perfect for this recipe as it is softer but still cold.

EASIEST SHORTBREAD EVER 2-4-6-ATE!

2 ounces of caster sugar

4 ounces of salted butter slightly softened, or the Softer Butter Co straight from the fridge

6 ounces of plain flour, sieved

a knob of butter, melted for greasing

extra caster sugar for sprinkling on after baking (optional)

  • Use a pastry brush to grease the heart cavities with melted butter.
  • Cream together the sugar and the butter, until pale and fluffy. You can do this with a wooden spoon or an electric hand whisk. Obviously the electric whisk is quicker, but children love mixing with spoons.
  • Tip the flour into the butter mixture, and use a wooden spoon to mix well until you have a fairly stiff paste/dough and everything is combined thoroughly.
  • Use your hands to gently press the mixture together and then divide into 12 equal sized balls, about the size of walnuts.
  • Place one ball into each greased heart cavity, and use your fingers to press them down until they fill the bottom of the cavities and are level. Use a fork to prick them all over, making sure you don’t go all the way through them.
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  • Place the pan with the uncooked dough into the fridge. While it is chilling, turn your oven on to 170C or 150C if using a fan oven.
  • When the oven has reached the temperature, place the pan on to the middle shelf and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the shortbread with caster sugar, if using. Leave in the pan for 5-10 minutes.
  • Using a clean tea towel to protect your finger from getting burnt, push up each heart shortbread from underneath, and place them on a wire rack to cool completely. They will pop up so perfectly and cleanly.
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You can keep them plain like this, and they will be delicious served with a cup of tea. They are perfectly crumbly and melt in the mouth.

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Or you can decorate them by dipping half in melted chocolate or icing, and sprinkling decorations on. I love the different ways you can present them so I decorated 4 with melted white chocolate and dried rose petals, 4 with melted ginger dark chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, and 4 with icing and sprinkles.

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Beech’s Fine Chocolates make 60g bars of various flavours of the most delicious chocolate, and I used their bars for the melted chocolate decoration on these hearts. Their chocolate tastes so luxurious and smooth. The white chocolate was so creamy and the ginger dark chocolate had a beautiful gentle warmth. Of course, you can use any chocolate, but these bars make the shortbread so indulgent. Melt the chocolate either in a microwave (being very careful not to burn it) or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Dip each heart into the chocolate and then place back on the wire rack. Sprinkle with whatever decorations you fancy.

If using icing, mix a few drops of water into 2 ounces of icing sugar, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but runny enough to dip. Dip the shortbread into the icing and return to the wire rack. Decorate with sprinkles. I used the stunning Unicorn Sprinkletti available from Scrumptious Sprinkles. The colours in this are so feminine and magical, and the shapes are so pretty.

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My son said you could decorate them to show what you think of your mother. You love her so you make them heart shaped with this beautiful pan. Then if you think she’s pretty, you decorate with sprinkles or flowers. If she’s daft and nutty, you use chopped nuts. I asked him how he would decorate mine and he said with plenty of nuts! Charming!

I hope you enjoy baking these oh so easy treats. And if your children will be making them for Mother’s Day I’m sure there’ll be some very happy mums.

Don’t forget, if you head over to The Little Cook Shop you can buy anything you want and get a 10% discount if you use the code CONFARREO10 at the checkout. You could even pick up some presents for Mother’s Day there! If you particularly want to buy this gorgeous mini heart pan click HERE to go directly to it. Happy shopping and happy baking!

(EDIT 12/09/2018: The hearts pan is no longer available in this shop so I have removed the link for it. You can however use any loose-bottomed pan with 12 cavities for this recipe).

BakedIn Baking Club…. Autumnal Spiced Blackberry Muffins

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I really look forward to my BakedIn Baking Club box arriving each month. The chance to bake something delicious using a recipe created exclusively by Michel Roux for BakedIn is just so exciting, and I love the anticipation of what each recipe might be.

The October box was a beautiful Spiced Blackberry Muffin recipe. The eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have noticed I used blueberries instead. Here’s why. I had gone with a friend and my son to pick some blackberries not long before this kit arrived, and had found a perfect place with an abundance of big juicy berries. As we were about to start picking them though, an elderly gentleman approached us and told us we should leave them. We thought he was joking but it quickly became apparent he wasn’t, as he proceeded to go on and on about how they were food for the birds. We did tell him there were more than enough for the birds and for us and if we didn’t pick some they’d just go rotten there were so many, but he just wouldn’t leave us alone, saying “Birds can’t go to Tesco”. He was so rude and his manner was so unfriendly, he was actually making us feel very uncomfortable, so we decided to abandon our berry picking. I went to Tesco to buy some the next day, only to find they weren’t selling them any more! I searched for any bushes locally as the perfect place we had found was miles away on a nice day out, but sadly the berries had all gone. Luckily the helpful BakedIn team told me that this recipe would work with blueberries too, so that is what I had to use. I will be making these again next year though as soon as I spot ripe blackberries around!

The Baking Club kit arrived as always in a box that fits perfectly through the letterbox. It contained all the dry ingredients needed for the recipe, already weighed out and placed in numbered packages to make following the recipe card simple. It also contained a handy butter measure guide, the recipe card, a skewer, and squares of baking paper.

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The baking paper squares were to make muffin cases out of, which I thought was wonderful. They ended up looking like the lovely tulip muffin cases you can buy, but were so easy to make! I just needed a glass that was the same width as the cups in my muffin tray, which I had, and then it was a simple task of folding the paper around the bottom of the glass. It didn’t take long at all to get them all made and placed in the trays ready for the mixture.

The instructions were, as always, very clear and easy to follow. You really can’t go wrong with these kits. I would say they are completely foolproof. The kitchen had the most amazing aroma of cinnamon and almond while I was preparing and baking these. It felt very Autumnal and cosy. The recipe made 20 muffins, which was great as they were so delicious they disappeared rapidly!

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The addition of cinnamon pearl sugar on the top added a beautiful sweet and spicy crunch. They really were scrumptious!

I don’t believe in giving much away about these recipes as they are exclusive to the Baking Club, but I can say in the months I’ve subscribed there hasn’t been a single recipe I haven’t loved. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut of just baking the same things for convenience, so this Club is a great way to try new bakes you might not otherwise have come across. It is ideal too for those days when you really want to bake but time is short. The fact the ingredients are weighed out for you cuts out so much preparation time, so you can just get on with the fun part. I tend to do mine with my 9 year old son, as the recipe card is so easy to follow. A perfect way to spend quality time with your family, and a great way to bring everyone together to enjoy the end results!

Christmas is fast approaching, and if there’s someone you are struggling to find a gift idea for, why not buy them a Baking Club subscription? It would make  a beautiful gift for any occasion. How about a house warming present? Give someone the smell of home baking to fill their house every month, along with a sense of pride and achievement when they have created something delicious.

The Baking Club subscription costs £7.99 per month, including postage. That is already a fantastic price, but the lovely BakedIn team are so sure you will love their Club, they are letting you have your first box for the crazy price of just £1.99!!! You can cancel at any time should you want to (although I doubt you will).

To get your first box for the ridiculously low price of £1.99, click HERE to join the Club using the discount code they will provide on that page. Happy Baking!