RSS Feed

Category Archives: Easy Bakes

Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

Pimped-Up Cheese and Bacon Straws - perfect served warm with a frosty drink

Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

I love a cheese straw. These are dead easy – you could make them with just pastry, cheese and an egg – but with a few simple additions (obviously leave out the ham if you want them vegetarian) they’re extra tasty.

Not the most exact recipe – measurements are all going to depend how big your pastry is rolled out and how finely you grate your cheese. My top tip is to grate the cheese finely as you use less and actually get more flavour.

 

Pimped-up Cheese Straws

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry, chilled
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2-3 tsp of mustard – your favourite type
  • About 8 tbsp grated cheese – I used a mix of parmesan and strong cheddar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 pack (about 6 slices) Parma ham or similar
  • 1 egg

Pre heat the oven to 220C and get a couple of baking sheets ready. Flour a clean, dry surface and spread out the chilled pastry. Roll it out a little thinner – you should have a fairly large rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle closest to you, smear the mustard in a thin layer over half the sheet of pastry, like a page of a book. Sprinkle about two thirds of the cheese over the mustard, followed by most of the rosemary – keep about a teaspoon back. Lay the Parma ham over the cheese, covering as much of the area as possible, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the ham.

 

Fold the uncovered half of the pastry over the top, like you’re closing a book. Press the outer edges together to seal it a bit, then use the rolling pin to flatten it all out a bit more and squidge it all together. You should still have a rectangle shape, so with the longest side towards you again, use a very sharp knife to cut from top to bottom in strips about an inch wide. Give each strip a couple of twists and place on your baking sheets, leaving some room between each one as they’ll puff up when cooked. Beat up the egg and brush each twist, then sprinkle with the remaining chopped rosemary (and any cheese crumbs left over). Bake for 10-15 minutes – they’re done when golden and delicious smelling (check the underside also looks cooked). These are at their best still warm.

Advertisements

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Cookies, stuffed full of raisins, milk and white chocolate and toasted hazelnuts

Inspiration for new bakes can come from all kinds of places, but I never thought the One Show (don’t judge me, my landlord watches it) would lead me to bake such a cracking cookie. They did one of their scintillating features on biscuits – the science of dunking, the nation’s favourite biscuit – all that need-to-know stuff. Anyway, they made some biscuits with the nation’s favourite ingredients – chocolate, raisins and hazelnuts – and apparently they were really rather good. So I decided I’d have a bash at something like it myself and here’s the result.

The hazelnuts keep the cookies from being overly sweet, what with all the chocolate and raisins in there. If you can’t get hold of toasted hazelnuts, put them on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 5 minutes. You can then get the papery skins off quite easily by rubbing them with a clean tea towel or some kitchen paper, but it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t remove the skins.

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 100g soft, light brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 190g plain flour
  • half tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • small pinch salt
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g milk chocolate (drops, or chopped into smallish chunks)
  • 50g white chocolate (drops or chopped)
  • 50 toasted hazelnuts, chopped a little

Heat the oven to 190C. In a bowl, or in a freestanding mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy and light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well until well incorporated.  Add the flour, bicarb and salt and give another good beating so that you have a thick, sticky cookie dough with no lumps of flour. Chuck in the raisins, both types of chocolate and the nuts and give a good stir so that everything is well distributed in the dough.

You’ll need a couple of baking trays. Use your fingers to pinch off a lump of dough and roll roughly into a ball shape, about the size of a gold ball. Place the balls on the baking sheet, well apart as they will spread as they cook. I only got 4 to a baking sheet – you can always cook them in batches. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. They’re done when golden, but should still be soft to the touch as they’ll firm up as they cool and it’s better to under-bake a cookie so you get that soft, chewy middle. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool (eat one while they’re warm – lush!).

I made 8 cookies with just over half the dough. Cookie dough freezes brilliantly, so just put any that you don’t use in a freezer bag, sling it in the freezer and then the next time you want a quick batch of cookies take the bag out and leave it on the kitchen counter – it’ll be ready to use in about 30-40 minutes!

For more of my cookie and biscuit recipes, take a look here.

Boozy Chocolate and Hazelnut Pie

Boozy Chocolate and Hazelnut Pie

Boozy Chocolate and Hazelnut Pie; plenty of festive spirit in this one!

This week was the December meeting of the Bake Club I’m part of and the theme was Boozy Bakes – helpful for getting us all in the festive spirit (sorry, I’m a bit of a pun fan)! Though I rarely drink, I have a fairly extensive array of liqueurs that mostly get used This week was the December meeting of the Bake Club I’m part of. Our theme was for baking. When deciding what to make I recalled making grasshopper pie a while back and thinking there were endless possibilities for other flavour combinations; after a little deliberation I settled on hazelnut and chocolate.

This isn’t a pie in the classic sense of the word, certainly it’s more US inspired than GB, but calling it a tart didn’t seem right somehow. Regardless of the name, it’s delicious; the marshmallow cream gives the filling an incredible texture and the liqueurs make it a distinctly grown-up dessert. My top tip when making this is to melt the marshmallows slowly – too much heat can mean the gelatine from the marshmallows doesn’t work its magic and the filling doesn’t set properly. Other than that, this is super easy to make so give it a go!

Boozy Chocolate and Hazelnut Pie

For the base:

  • 300g bourbon biscuits
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter, softened

Chuck all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz them up until they begin to clump. Tip into a tart tin and press down with the back of a spoon, smoothing into the edges and up the sides, trying to make it as even as possible. Place in the fridge and chill until your filling is ready.

For the filling:

  • 125ml full-fat milk
  • 150g mini marshmallows
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) creme de cacao blanc (or other chocolate liqueur)
  • 60ml (4 tbsp hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico or similar)
  • 375ml double cream
  • a few grams dark chocolate to decorate (optional)

Put the milk and marshmallows in a saucepan and melt slowly on a low heat – the milk should never boil, just begin to foam, and you’ll be able to hear the marshmallows foaming as they melt. I can’t stress enough that you should take your time with this stage; keep taking the milk off the heat and stirring the marshmallows to get them to melt without letting the temperature get too high. Once the marshmallows are completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the liqueurs. Transfer the liquid to a heat proof bowl and leave to cool.

Once cooled, whisk the cream in a large bowl until it’s getting to soft-peak stage. Add the boozy marshmallow mixture and continue to whisk until smooth and thickened – it should be the texture of very soft (Mr Whippy) ice cream. Pour into the biscuit base and smooth out to the edges. Finely grate a little dark chocolate over the top and chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before serving.

Snow-topped Minty Rocky Road

Snow-topped Minty Rocky Road

Snow-topped Minty Rocky Road – easy to make and very easy to enjoy eating!

I’m mostly getting into the Christmas spirit through the feasting aspect (always my favourite part of any festivities). I think these easy treats would make lovely little gifts, prettily bagged-up when visiting people over the Christmas season. A word of warning; go easy with the peppermint essence or flavouring – a few drops should be plenty, taste as you go and you can always add more, but if you’re heavy-handed it can get a little toothpasty tasting!

Snow-topped Minty Rocky Road

Ingredients:

  • 450g milk or plain chocolate (or a combination of the two)
  • 70g butter
  • small pinch salt
  • 3×4 finger mint KitKat biscuits (or other mint chocolate biscuits of your choice)
  • 150g mini marshmallows
  • 1 large packet mint Aero balls (or get some of the bars and chop them into chunks if you can’t find the balls)
  • 300g white chocolate
  • a few drops peppermint essence or flavouring

Grease and line a high-sided baking tray (approx 22x25cm) with greaseproof paper. In a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water), melt the milk/plain chocolate, 50g of the butter and add the salt, stirring occasionally until smooth. Turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool a little. Chop the mint biscuits into chunks and add them to the chocolate mix, along with the marshmallows and mint chocolate Aero balls, stirring to ensure everything gets coated; be as brief as possible to avoid the Aero balls melting too much. Scrape into the prepared tin and smooth into the corners so you have an even layer, but still lots of lumps and bumps – this is Rocky Road after all! Leave to cool in the fridge for about half an hour or longer so the top is set.

Following the same method of melting in a bowl over simmering water, melt the white chocolate along with the remaining 20g butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat and add a couple of drops of mint essence, stir it through and taste a little to see if you think it’s minty enough. Add more, a drop or two at a time until it’s to your taste. Allow to cool slightly before taking the tin from the fridge and pouring the white chocolate on top, trying to coat as much of the surface as possible whilst pouring. Tilt the tin or use a spatula to carefully spread the white chocolate evenly, trying to get as little of the brown chocolate showing through on top. Return to the fridge for a few hours to set completely.

When ready to serve or bag up as presents, remove from the fridge. If you have any white edible glitter, give the top of your snowy rocky road a frosty dusting. Remove from the tin and peel away from the greaseproof paper. Cut into squares and get stuck in.

Christmassy Snow-topped Minty Rocky Road

Double chocolate and minty goodness

Lemon and Lime Tray Bake

Lemon and Lime Tray Bake

Lemon and Lime Tray Bake, fragrant with the zest of citrus

This week was the final of Great British Bake Off. I bloody love that programme (not exactly alone in that, eh?) and often watch with another addicted friend. We watched this last episode together so I baked us something (it’s safer that way!) to keep us satisfied whilst watching all the spectacular goodies on-screen. I had been undecided as to what I should bake, but in the end, time constraints and an abundance of citrus fruit in my kitchen lead me to knock up a nifty little all-in-one tray bake – with the added bonus of getting to use my Kenwood Chef which is my favourite new toy!

Lemon and Lime Tray Bake

For the cake:

  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • zest 2 lemons
  • zest 2 limes and juice of one
  • 2 tbsp whole milk

Heat the oven to 180C and line a tin (approx 25x20cm) with foil. If using a food processor or stand mixer, put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix, starting off slowly and increasing speed until well mixed. If making with an electric hand whisk or by hand, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in 2 of the eggs followed by half the dry ingredients, then the remaining eggs and dry ingredients, finishing with the zests, juice and milk. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch, springing back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before icing.

For the icing:

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • juice of half a lime

Mix together and then drizzle artfully (or not) over the cooled cake. Cut cake into portions. Eat.

Lemon & Lime Tray Bake

Artistic decoration optional!

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake, perfect for a rainy autumn day

I was over at my parent’s place this weekend because I was looking after all the sick people there. Mostly this just involved feeding people, something I rather enjoy. I knocked up this simple little cake because there were lots of apples to be eaten or used, and a slice of comforting apple cake on an autumnal day is surely good medicine even if you’re not feeling poorly.

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eating apples (I used Pink Lady), cored and chopped into small chunks
  • generous handful raisins

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat, then add about half the flour and mix to incorporate, then mix in the second egg followed by the remaining flour, baking powder and cinnamon (if you’re a big cinnamon fan, I’d say chuck in an extra half teaspoon). Mix well, then stir in the apple chunks and raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour. It’s done when golden and it springs back when pressed with a fingertip. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about half an hour before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones, delicious warm and buttered

Cheese scones are my favourite kind and remind me of my childhood when I’d ask my mum to bake them pretty frequently. I made some to take to my bake club meet up last week, but completely forgot to take photos of them. My fellow bake clubbers enjoyed them so I thought I’d recreate them for the blog as they’re ridiculously easy. And then it struck me. What makes everything better? Bacon! These are delicious, even if I do say so myself. They’re so simple to make, and you can have them ready and on the plate in little over half an hour from start to finish. I think cheese scones are best just a few minutes after they’re out of the oven, slathered in butter, but all scones should be eaten the day they’re made or they’re just a bit disappointing. If you’re a vegetarian or just don’t like bacon (what’s wrong with you?!) then just leave the bacon out and you’ve still got yourself the easiest, tastiest cheese scones ever.

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Ingredients:

  • 4 rashers of bacon (I used smoked, streaky bacon)
  • 230g self raising flour
  • 115g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • scant pinch salt
  • 150g full fat milk (a little over a quarter of a pint), plus a drop extra for glazing
  • 1 tsp English mustard

Heat your oven to 220C and lightly grease a baking tray. Fry or grill your bacon rashers until becoming crisp, then transfer to some kitchen paper to cool and drain the excess fat. When cool enough to handle, chop up into small pieces.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, cheese and salt. My top tip here is to finely grate the cheese as you’ll get more intense flavour. Measure your milk and mix in the teaspoon of mustard so it disperses into the dry ingredients a bit better. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and use a blunt ended (butter or dinner) knife to make cutting motions across the ingredients, turning the bowl as you go – the less the mixture is worked to bring it together, the lighter your scones will be. As the mixture starts to begin to clump together, add in your bacon bits and continue to mix, bringing together with your hands at the end if you need to.

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll or pat out your dough to about 1.5cm thick. If you use any kind of cutter to shape, don’t twist, just push down firmly – twisting can stop your scones from rising as much as they should. Or you can simply cut the dough into squares – scones don’t have to be circular. Either way, keep reforming any excess dough to make more scones until it’s all used up. Place your scones on the prepared baking tray and brush the tops with a little milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool (or just split in half, butter and eat!). These are great on their own, with cheese and chutney or to accompany a hearty and smooth winter soup.

Cheese and Bacon Scones

Just a few ingredients and simple to make; give them a try