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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

4-ingredient Chocolate Coffee Fudge Sprinkled With Caramelized Walnuts (EASY AND FOOLPROOF!)

I thought it was time for a really chocolaty recipe and this does exactly what it says on the tin!
I love fudge but when I remember back to the last time I attempted the traditional fudge method it ended up all grainy and not the texture I had ventured for. It just feels like a whole lot of sugar and butter and constant attention over a bubbling hot pan ~ waiting for that all important soft ball stage (which FYI is flippin' hard to tell when you don't have a sugar thermometer!!)  

Anyway I'd probably be able to master it now because I'm a lot older and I've got a trusty sugar thermometer. But for this recipe you don't even need to own one, because this fudge is FOOLPROOF and so QUICK to make!

Basically you just need those 4 ingredients (by the way - I am counting caramelized walnuts as one of them) because I got given some as present from my friend...all the way from France, so I am assuming you can buy them caramelized over here too, but if you can't buy them, don't be lazy like me and make them from my recipe here or top with something else you fancy. The list is endless.... mmmm gets me hungry just thinking about it.
I used a 9 x 9 inch square baking tin but after using it...I think now that I probably should have used something a bit smaller, so that the pieces are thicker. So just use whatever tin you have really and the thickness of your pieces will vary (I've just supplied a guide.) 

4-ingredient Chocolate Coffee Fudge Sprinkled With Caramelized Walnuts


Ingredients (makes 20-25 pieces):

275ml sweetened condensed milk
320g milk chocolate (35% cocoa solids)
1 tbsp good quality instant coffee granules
60g caramelized walnuts

Method

Line an 8 x 8 inch square tin with grease proof paper. Break up the chocolate. Heat the condensed milk in a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat and once it nearly begins to bubble. 

Next put in the coffee granules and keep stirring until most if not all dissolves. The mixture will become light brown, glossy and thick.

Then take the mixture off the heat and put in the chocolate, keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Pour into the lined tin and pat down into all corners and smooth out. Crush up your caramelized walnuts into rough uneven pieces (you don't want a fine powder). Sprinkle the nuts over the fudge and pat down so it just sticks. 

Place the tin into the fridge for 3-4 hours. Remove the fudge from the tin by lifting it with the grease proof paper. Turn it out onto a board and peel off the paper. Cut the slab of fudge into squares and serve!  


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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Tea + Cake = Vanilla Chai Cake!

It wasn't until very recently that I discovered this tea blend called vanilla chai when I decided to be adventurous for once and ordered it in a coffee shop. (Ironic really...say tea shop and cake always springs to mind!) 

Anyway...this delicious tea blend includes black tea, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, calendula, and of course vanilla. When brewed, this full bodied tea produces a spicy and creamy aromatic flavour. 


Apparently Chai is so prevalent in India and Sri Lanka that it could be called their national drink! The word chai literally means tea in Hindi. 

So I thought...let's make a vanilla chai cake! I've made earl grey cupcakes before so why not mix it up a bit and create my own unique tea cake?! After all we all know that vanilla is amazing in cake already and the added combination of sweet spices just takes this to a whole new level! 


If your wondering where to buy this tea from - all good supermarkets stock this, so what you waiting for? Get brewing your tea...


Ingredients (Makes an 8 inch cake):

For the Cake
170ml milk (45ml is for the buttercream)
4 vanilla chai tea bags
225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs (at room temperature)
225g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream
170g butter
500g icing sugar
45ml infused milk

Sprinkle of ground cinnamon to decorate

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C /Fan 160°C/ Gas 4 / 350°F. Grease two 20cm /8 inch sandwich cake tins then line the base of each tin with baking parchment. 

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and add the teabags. Cover with a lid or clingfilm and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Once infused, put 3 tbsp (45ml) aside as reserve for the buttercream later.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture looks pale and smooth, add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. You may need to add a tablespoon of flour at this point if it starts to look curdled. Add the vanilla extract and stir.

Combine the flour and baking powder in another small bowl. Add one-third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one third of the infused milk and beat again. Repeat all these steps until all the flour and milk has been added.

Spoon half of the mixture into one tin and the other half in the other tin. Make sure to level off the mixture with a palette knife and then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  Turn them out, peel off the baking parchment and then leave to cool completely.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter in a large mixing bowl and then add half of the icing sugar with the cold 3 tbsp (45ml) of infused milk leftover. Beat with an electric whisk or in a free-standing mixer until smooth and then add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again. 

To assemble the cake, spread half the buttercream over one sponge and then sandwich together, spreading the other half on top. Sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon to finish. 

Enjoy! x


Monday, 11 August 2014

Courgette glut anyone? I have the answer!


               
I'm all for using seasonal ingredients...and as it's summer time - it can only mean one thing - an abundance of courgettes! We used to grow courgettes in our little vegetable patch; they were easy to start off and a pleasure to just watch them bloom without huge amounts of nurturing.

Now if I remember rightly...this is the time when the plants would be bursting full, fattening by the minute, on the verge of a marrow just at the blink of an eye! 

Even though I haven't had the time to grow any this year, I still enjoy eating this delicious recipe I'm about to show you...

                               
I know that not everyone is a big fan of courgettes, but I think it all comes down to what you use it with. If you just chop it up and roast it, simply serving it plain all the time...then yes! Of course it's boring! But courgettes are soooo versatile, all they really need is a little extra helping hand. 

That's where I step in. 

Heard of courgette cake before? Just like carrot cake really, and it's delicious... but let's not digress, maybe I'll show you my recipe for that another day (if any of ya interested?!)

Courgette soup is something that most people would turn their nose up at... my friends have been known to do that!! ( and yes you know who you are) I don't blame you really, after all it's a big bowl of green liquid...it seems dull and uninteresting. But it's really not!

There is no overwhelming strong flavour here, its mellow and creamy and marries well with a nice big chunk of white crusty bread. Perfect for a starter (if we're being posh), lunch or supper - any day is soup day in our house! 

So here's the recipe, slightly adapted from my Auntie Linda who kindly passed it on to me (when I asked!) Yes- it's that good.

Courgette Soup

Ingredients (serves 4 large bowls)

3 large courgettes
a large knob of butter 
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
water to make up to 1 pint
2 tbsp milk
1-2 tbsp crème fraîche
Salt & pepper
Any fresh herbs that you have: 
oregano, parsley and chives all work well (nothing too woody like rosemary)

Method

Heat a large saucepan, and melt the knob of butter. Wash and slice the courgettes into roughly 1cm slices (nothing too thick or it will take longer to cook). Add these to the pan along with chopped herbs.

Season well and then in a jug add enough boiling water to the stock cube to make up to 1 pint, whisk this well. Add to the pan with the milk and then simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the courgettes are cooked. 

Remove from the heat and liquidize with a blender. 

Add enough crème fraîche depending on how creamy you prefer it and blitz briefly, you could also swirl some some more on top. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Maple and Walnut Cupcakes

Well this past week and a bit has been a pretty quiet one for blogging...sorry guys! But after a holiday in Wales I'm ready and raring to go again (now equipped with my vintage & eclectic mix of Welsh charity shop finds- plates...plates and more plates for food styling!)

So I'm BACK with these cupcakes- maple and walnut...oh yeah!!

These cupcakes not only have walnuts hidden in the cake itself but they are also topped with crunchy, sticky and sweet caramelised walnuts. Mmmmm!

You may notice that in the ingredients list for the cake mixture you'll see that there isn't actually any maple syrup in them...that's because I discovered the wonders of maple flavoured golden syrup. (It works a treat in flapjacks!) So use that if your lucky enough to find it (but it's quite hard.) Otherwise use maple syrup as you'll still need plenty of that to go in the buttercream.

Overall I find these cupcakes quick and easy to make, but I suppose you could argue that the trickiest part is making the caramel to pour over the walnuts. So I'm gonna break this down for you, it sounds fancy and hard - but its really not!

All it is...melted brown sugar in a pan, just remember do not stir!! If you want you can shake the pan but that's it. Otherwise the sugar will crystallize and go all granular and bitty...you don't want that do you? Next thing: remember it's extremely hot!! So never touch with your fingers. Finally, as soon as the sugar is all melted and pale golden remove from the heat immediately or it will burn and taste bitter. Then pour all over the walnuts and it will set and go hard almost straight away.

Tip- Always have a kettle at the ready of boiling water to pour into your saucepan when the sticky but hard remains of caramel persist to remain intact. It always works for me!

So get baking...perfect timing for the new series of The Great British Bake Off tonight eh? I can't wait!

Maple and Walnut Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12 regular cupcakes)

For the cake:
150g margarine/butter
175g self raising flour
3 eggs
150g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup (maple flavoured)
40g chopped walnuts

For the caramelized walnuts:
60g brown sugar
12 walnut halves

For the buttercream:
150g butter, at room temperature 
85ml maple syrup
400g icing sugar, sifted 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4 / 350°F. Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases. Put all the cake ingredients except the walnuts in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until light and creamy. Then fold in the chopped walnuts and divide the mixture into the 12 cupcake cases.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until just firm to the touch. Transfer to a a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the caramelized walnuts- gently heat the sugar in a heavy based saucepan  until the sugar has melted and is a pale golden colour. Spread the nuts onto a sheet of baking paper, in a tray preferably, and then pour the melted sugar over the nuts, covering them completely. Once cooled and hardened, break into 12 pieces ensuring a nut in each. 

Next make the buttercream. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, maple syrup and half the icing sugar until a smooth, creamy consistency. Gradually add the other half of the the icing sugar and mix again.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, ice them with a generous amount of buttercream and top with a caramelized nut.  





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