Sunday, 22 February 2015

Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

A couple of good friends set me a challenge the other day. After breathing a rather mighty sigh of relief that the challenge had nothing to do with running a marathon (Gagh!) or lying in a bath of cold baked beans (Urgh!) or giving up cake for a month (What?!), it turned out the challenge was to see if it was possible to replicate the Ben's Cookies Cookie recipe.

Ben's Cookies have several stores in and around London and Oxford and make rather heavenly soft cookies with delicious, melting chunks of chocolate dotted throughout. But my friends live rather a distance away. And until Ben's Cookies develop mail order a home baked version would have to do.

After a little trial and error in the kitchen, watching marvellously decadent videos such as this Luke Evans one (WARNING: do not watch if hungry) and perusing articles entitled 'The Science Behind the Perfect Cookie' this is my version of the Ben's Cookies Double Chocolate Chip Cookie:

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Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

Makes 10-12

100g unsalted butter
75g golden caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, chopped into small and large chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Grease and line two baking sheets
2. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
3. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add a little milk if needed if the mixture appears dry
4. Stir in the smaller chocolate chunks. Form the mixture into 10-12 small balls and place, well separated, on the baking sheets. Insert the larger chocolate chunks into the centre of each cookie, which will give a lovely gooey centre when baked
5. Bake for ten minutes and allow to cool completely on the trays once removed from the oven

Baker's notes...

  • These were really, really, really good. Like, really good. My husband made my promise not to give any away.
  • A variety of chocolates, nuts and dried fruit can be added to create a lovely twist. Cranberry and Macadamia anyone? Peanut Butter maybe? A Spring like Lemon? 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day: Pear and Almond Crumble Cake

Ah, Valentine's Day.

The annual celebration of either:

a. the tacky greeting card industry, red rose growers and restaurants that double the cost of their set menu while popping up a couple of heart-shaped helium balloons that inevitably, depressingly, deflate into the chocolate fondants by ten pm


b. loved up couples everywhere wanting to demonstrate their undying devotion through a romantic card (such as this one), an extravagant bunch of hand-tied, over-sized roses and dinner a deux in the city's best restaurant

However you celebrate, and with whomever, make sure there's a cake involved. Because (WARNING: cheesiness alert!) cake makes every day better, not just St Valentine's.

Like this one.


Pear and Almond Upside Down Cake

For the crumble:
50g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
50g light brown sugar

50g flaked almonds

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp almond extract
150g self raising flour
a little dash of milk, if needed

3 pears, peeled, quartered and cut into cubs 

1. Grease and line a 8 inch round tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C /160C fan/350F

2. Prepare the crumble: place the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers rub the butter and flour together until the mixture forms bread crumbs. Add the sugar and flaked almonds and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside

3. For the cake: cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs and extract. Fold in the flour. Add a dash of milk if required to achieve a thick consistency. 
4. Dollop the cake mixture into the prepared tin, smooth over the top and place the pear over the top. Sprinkle over the crumble and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The crumble should be golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean
5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before placing on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving

Baker's notes...

  • Eat as pudding, warm from the oven, drowning in custard. Or serve a slice or two as part of afternoon tea
  • We can partly blame the commercialization of Valentine's day on Richard Cadbury, a member of the infamous chocolate dynasty who introduced heart shaped packaging for his chocolates in the 1800s for Valentine's Day. But then again, his company also introduced the world to the Fruit & Nut Bar, so I reckon all is forgiven. Plus everyone ( loves a nice box of chocolates on Valentine's Day. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake

There are some things in life that need to be eaten in a very particular fashion. 

Take the Jaffa Cake. Nibble around the edges, carefully lever off and eat the remaining biscuit before munching on the gooey orangey bit*

Or the Bourbon Biscuit, which is eaten by delicately taking apart the two biscuits and enjoying the chocolate cream filling as an entire separate entity.

And there are ways of not eating things. Kit Kats are designed for eating as individual fingers. NEVER EVER munch across all four Kit Kat fingers as though a bloomin' cheese sandwich. 

Meanwhile, the way to eat this Jamaican Ginger Cake? Preferably with a lovely hot cup of tea, curled up on an armchair with a ridiculous number of soft squidgy cushions, a blanket draped over your knees and infront of a roaring fire while the snow silently falls outside. Daydreaming about the origins of the Jamaican Cake is optional (that'd be long sandy beaches and azure blue skies in the Caribbean ocean rather than the McVities factory, please). 

*Unless you are Peter Czerwinski from Canada, current holder of the Guinness Book of Records Number of Jaffa Cakes Eaten in One Minute record. At 17 in a minute he probably didn't have time to carefully nibble around the edges, carefully lever off and eat the remaining biscuit before munching on the gooey orangey bit.

Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake

175g plain flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp milk
0.5 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dark treacle
75g golden syrup
75g light muscovado sugar
75g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

To decorate
50g icing sugar
Chopped crystallised ginger

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin. In a large bowl sift the flour and spices. 
2. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and milk together and set aside
3. In a small saucepan, melt the treacle, golden syrup, sugar, butter, extract and 75mls water until combined, stirring throughout and removing from the heat before the mixture boils
4. Add the syrup mixture to the flour and spices, beat together until combined. Add in the egg and milk mixture and thoroughly beat together
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake on a lower shelf for 1¼–1½ hours until it’s well-risen and firm to the touch.
6. Once cooled, mix the icing sugar with enough water to form a smooth mixture. Drizzle over the cake and decorate with the crystallised ginger

Baker's notes

  • This recipe is based on Delia's Dark Jamaican Gingerbread- I've made a few tweaks including using a different sugar, adding the vanilla and upping the quantity of dark treacle to add a little extra stickiness to the cake
  • I've decorated with some simple water icing and crystallised ginger. For an extra ginger hit, finely chop a little stem ginger and add to the mixture

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Jaffa Chocolate Pots

Is it just me or is there a disproportionally large number of telly programmes on at the moment about the lives of the very wealthy, their super cars, luxurious holidays, humongous mansions and considerably inflated bank accounts? 

Take the BBC's 'Inside Necker Island: A Billionaire's Paradise', on our screens the first week of January and possibly the cruelest bit of TV scheduling ever. Chilly, dark, impoverished January evenings are never, ever improved by watching an hour of rich people paying £30,000 per week to frolic in azure blue seas, sunbathe on long stretches of golden sand and sip piƱa coladas by the infinity pool. Or the uber-richskis on 'Super-Rich and Us' spending over £50,000 in all of five seconds in the back of a limo on diamond jewellery when the rest of us are counting our pennies until payday. 

The answer for us mere mortals? These Jaffa Chocolate Pots: an indulgent, glorious taste of paradise. And should you need another excuse to make them (really, you do?) lets celebrate chocolate in the week that Cadbury's rather outrageously revealed their Creme Eggs are no longer made from Daily Milk but a “standard cocoa mix chocolate”. I'm not sure what a 'standard cocoa mix chocolate' is either, but it certainly sounds unappealing vile*. 

*Sure, I haven't tasted the new version but really Cadbury's, really. 

Jaffa Chocolate Pots
(Makes 4 generous pots)

250g chocolate 
300g double cream
2 tbsp Cointrou Orange Liqour (optional)
4 clementines or satsumas
2 Cadbury's Flake (or similar)

1. Melt the chocolate in a small glass bowl suspended over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring regularly. Once melted, remove from the heat.
2. Whip the cream until just thickened and fold in the melted chocolate and liqour 
3. Divide between four glasses or ramekins and chill for at least two hours. Top with the clementine/satsuma segments and crushed Flake bars

Baker's notes...

  • I used Cadbury's Dairy Milk in homage to this week's events but darker chocolate would add a lovely, rich taste
  • These pots can also be left to chill overnight and are a rather fine make-ahead dessert

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Winter Warmer Pie

Ahhhh January. Drab, dull and for many of my friends, colleagues and, it seems most of the nation, now dry. January arrives after the jolly festivities and frivolities of December like an unwanted guest arriving as the party is ending. 

Frankly, hedgehogs have it right. We all ought to hibernate throughout these thirty one days. I most definitely have enough 'fat reserves' from Christmas to keep me going until March. But, in the event you aren't a cute but prickly little creature, I have the answer: pie. 

Put aside the detox regimes and rice cakes*: this pie is both comforting for the long dark nights and the perfect foodie antidote to January-blues. 

Beko are promoting their unique Freezer Guard technology, which allows you to store your freezer in a garage or any other unheated room and your appliance will continue to work at temperatures as low as -15°C or 5°F. As part of this campaign they are asking bloggers for freezer-friendly recipes. Such as this glorious, January-busting pie packed full of cockles-of-your-heart-warming loveliness.

*A rice cake really, really isn't a cake. Ever.

Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Winter Warmer Pie 

1 tbsp oil 
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
8 rashers smoky bacon
1 onion, sliced
225g leeks, sliced
250g pack baby button mushrooms
2 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp water
400ml chicken stock
200ml milk (plus a tsp for brushing)
225g carrots, cut into thin slices 
1 heaped tbsp chopped flat-leaf or curly parsley
500g puff pastry

1. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. 
2. Fry the chicken on a medium heat until golden brown, turning occasionally. Lift the chicken onto a plate and set aside. Tip the bacon into the pan. Fry for 5 mins until crisp. Add the onion, leeks mushrooms and fry on a high heat for another few minutes until the onions start to colour.
3. Add the flour mixture to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 min. With the pan off the heat, gradually whisk in the stock, followed by the milk, then add the chicken back to the pan. Add in the carrots and parsley 
4. Place the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 mins. 
5. Spoon the filling into your pie dish. Leave aside to cool while preparing the pastry
6. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas mark 7
7. On a floured surface, roll the pastry to the thickness of two £1 coins. Lift the pastry over the pie, using the rolling pin to assist. Brush lightly with a tsp of milk and bake for thirty minutes or until the pastry is golden brown

Baker's notes...

  • This recipe is inspired by BBC Good Food 
  • To freeze: simply make up the pie and freeze until ready to bake 
  • What foodie delights get you through January?
With thanks to Beko, who sent vouchers to cover the cost of ingredients for this pie

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Baking Trends 2015


Roll up, roll up, its time for the annual gaze into the foodie crystal ball to see exactly what 2015 has in store. Are marshmallows still going to have their moment? Will the Cronut still be king? And will we finally tire and say bye to the burger?*

Disclaimer: Please note in four years of Baking Trends, a grand total of ... erm... three two predictions have been correct.

Coconut Sugar

image:Real Food Store

Coconut water was soooo 2014. Coconut sugar is the new 'heathier' sweetener, sure to pop up in a good-for-you bake near you this year


Erm, our morning bowl of cereal has pretty much always been on-trend in our place, but apparently this year breakfast is going to be a 'bigger deal'.


Not the ciggie kind. Smoked food, such as Smoked butter. You can even buy smoking guns in high street cook shops. Smoked Victoria Sponge anyone?

Salted Bacon Chocolate

All excellent, excellent ingredients. Separately that is. I'm not convinced I'll be swapping my Dairy Milk for Salted Bacon Chocolate any time soon

Mini Desserts

Nooooo, I really object to this trend! Desserts should never, ever be described as 'small', 'mini' or 'tiny'. But apparently mini puds, such as small hot chocolates and chocolate chip cookies are soon to be seen on restaurant menus

image: huffingdon post

Nuts are the number one for 2015. Think almond rose shortbread and pumpkin praline fudge

Foodie mash-ups

Expect more foodie mash-ups over the next twelve months. If the Salted Bacon Chocolate counts, I'll skip this particular trend thank you very much

No Bake Cheesecake

I'm all for no-fuss recipes such as the no-bake cheesecake

In other breaking news and for those on a New Year health kick, cauliflower is the new kale. Suffice to say, I never, ever thought I'd be writing that on this sweet-toothed blog.

Anyway, a very, very Happy New Year to you all!

* As if. You'd be more likely to see this blog feature a year's worth of cauliflower recipes than the nation giving up its favourite gourmet fast food treat.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

With just three days to go until the Big Ho Ho Ho, we're heading off to a little cottage, aptly called "Christmas Cottage" (no, really) for a few days of festive fun.

Which just leaves me to wish you all a very, very Happy Christmas with my Christmas Cake offering, based, as always, on Delia's classic recipe.

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

Kate x