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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.

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Toblerone Birthday Cake

Toblerone Birthday Cake

Toblerone Birthday Cake for a surprise party

I was asked to make a birthday cake this week, and given the brief “a nice sponge or chocolate cake, with 40 iced on top”. I’m no great artist with a piping bag so I asked what the birthday boy’s favourite sweets are, thinking I might be able to make a 40 out of them; it turned out Toblerone is his favourite, which inspired me to make this cheeky little number. I opted for a vanilla sponge as I felt chocolate sponge, buttercream and ganache may have been excessively rich; by all means if you want to go for a totally chocolate experience then you could use this cake recipe in place of the vanilla sponge.

Toblerone Cake

For the cake:

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 175C and grease and line two 8″ cake tins with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and two of the eggs and beat again until well combined. Add about half the flour and mix. Follow with the remaining two eggs, mixing again, then the last of the flour and baking powder mixing until everything is well combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Lastly add mix in the milk so the cake batter is a soft, dropping consistency. Divide the mixture as evenly as possible between the two cake tins, smoothing into the edges with a spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when golden, a skewer inserted comes out clean, or they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger tip. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Toblerone ganache:

  • 300g Toblerone (or similar, non-branded chocolate bar)
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream
  • small pinch salt

Chop the Toblerone and other chocolate into small pieces. Heat the cream over a medium heat in a smallish saucepan. Once the cream is just under the boil (beginning to bubble very slightly at the edges) turn the heat off and add the all the chopped chocolate and the small pinch of salt, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. You’ll see little white flecks, which are the nougat, but if you occasionally stir it as the mixture cools these will melt too. Leave to cool completely (this will take a few hours).

For the Toblerone buttercream:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g Toblerone

If you have a food processor, use this to whizz up the Toblerone so it’s small crumbs; otherwise, chop as finely as possible.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar – if you’ve got an electric hand whisk or stand mixer use it for this – beat the mixture for longer than you think you need to and you’ll get a lovely, fluffy soft buttercream. Add the vanilla and chopped Toblerone and give it all a really good mix.

To assemble the cake, place the flattest cake on a serving plate or cake board. Smother with the buttercream, using a spatula or palette knife to get it as evenly spread and as flat as possible. Place the top layer of sponge on and gently but firmly press down to secure it in place. Use a spatula to dollop the ganache on top of the cake. Use a palette knife to push the ganache to the edges of the cake then smooth it down over the sides, turning the cake as you go (here’s a video that shows you what I mean).

Toblerone Cake

Vanilla sponge smothered in rich Toblerone chocolate ganache

Decorate the cake as you wish – I always enjoy a bit of sparkle (and edible glitter doesn’t require fancy piping skills)! Add a candle. Make somebody’s birthday even more special. Serve.

A slice of Toblerone Birthday Cake

A slice of Toblerone Birthday Cake, generously filled with Toblerone buttercream and covered with Toblerone ganache

If you like using well-loved chocolate bars in baking, check out this pavlova recipe.

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade; light, luscious, sweet and sharp

My best friend loves lemon, particularly lemon curd. For our pre-Christmas get-together I decided to make a dessert with some lemon curd; something a bit sharp and zingy to liven up the taste buds when all around is super-stodgy, rich and spicy. I decided on roulade as, though it’s filled with cream, the sweet meringue is light and fluffy inside and the perfect foil to the tart lemon and raspberries. I was incredibly pleased with how this turned out – it’s easily as good as any luxury dessert you’d get at a supermarket – it’d be a brilliant centrepiece pud for a New Year’s celebration.

If you wanted, you could use ready made lemon curd, but make sure it’s the best quality you can afford, made with real lemons, eggs and butter and not full of additives and setting agents. However, making the curd is actually quite simple, gives you a great sense of satisfaction, and there’s plenty left over for toast (or give it as a gift in a pretty jar).

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

For the lemon curd: (I followed a Nigel Slater recipe)

  • 4 lemons, preferably unwaxed
  • 200g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3 eggs and 1 yolk (save the spare white for your meringue)

In a heat proof bowl, over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) combine the finely grated zest and juice of the lemons with the sugar and butter, stirring until everything has melted.

Give the eggs and extra yolk a little whisk to mix, then add to the lemon mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or whisk frequently until the mixture thickens. It’ll feel heavier and be the consistency of custard. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for several hours or overnight (if you’re planning on giving some as gifts then put it in sterilised jam jars at this stage, whilst it’s still hot –  you’ll get a couple of small jars worth with enough left over to make the roulade)

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp cider/white wine vinegar
  • a little icing sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 150C and grease and line a Swiss roll tin or high sided baking sheet (approx 23 x 33cm) with greaseproof paper. Now, to make your meringue it’s really important your bowl is scrupulously clean – if possible use a glass or metal bowl and wipe round the inside with the cut side of half a lemon or a paper towel with a little vinegar on; this should get rid of any grease. Put your egg whites in the bowl and whisk until you get to the stiff peaks stage. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while. Sprinkle over the corn flour and vinegar and give one last short whisk until everything is combined and glossy. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared tin, smoothing into the corners with a spatula and trying to get a flat, even surface. Bake for 30–35 minutes until the surface of the meringue is just firm. Remove from the oven, let it cool for about ten minutes. Lay a sheet of greaseproof on a board and dust with icing sugar. Once the meringue has cooled a little turn it out onto the board and carefully remove the greaseproof from the base and leave to cool while you assemble the filling.

For the filling:

  • Approx 200ml lemon curd
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
  • 150g raspberries

In a large bowl, whip the cream with the icing sugar until thick – it should cling to the whisk but drop off easily if the whisk is tapped on the side of the bowl. It’s easy to over-whisk cream if you do it with an electric whisk or stand mixer so keep a close eye on it if you use a machine. It doesn’t take long to do with a balloon whisk and a few minutes whisking shouldn’t be too much work for most people. Once it’s the desired consistency, add six tablespoons of the lemon curd and mix well.

Use a spatula to smooth the cream mixture over the cooled meringue, trying to make an even layer and leaving a border of about 1 cm around the edge. Slather with the remaining lemon curd and then scatter with the raspberries. Now for the roll!

Before the big roll! Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Before the big roll! Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

With the shortest end of the meringue facing you, roll it away, folding over and using the greaseproof paper to try and keep the roll compact. Once it’s fully rolled, place on a serving plate with the fold underneath. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving as this will help it firm up before you slice into it. It looks beautiful when cut, with swirls of snowy white interspersed with sunny yellow curd and ruby red raspberries. Luscious!

If you love a roulade, take a look at another recipe here, or if lemon meringue pushes all the right buttons how about some blondies or cupcakes?

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

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding – the BEST Christmas pudding ever!

I’ve always loved Christmas pudding, even as a kid and this is the BEST I’ve ever had; think traditional Christmas pud crossed with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (in a good way, naturally). Because the boozy back notes are being provided by liqueurs rather than brandy or rum, the chocolaty, fruitiness is amplified to delicious effect. If you’re not concerned about making this recipe gluten-free, you can simply use regular breadcrumbs and flour.

Making this is actually dead simple, but the cooking requires some knowledge of how to properly steam a pudding so this post is a bit longer than usual with extra pictures that will hopefully be helpful; whilst I already knew how to steam a pudding, I was banging on about making my pud over on Twitter and the friendly folk from Mason Cash sent me this video which you might find useful if you’ve never done it before.

A few things to bear in mind before embarking on making this pudding: creme de cacao isn’t the easiest liqueur to get hold of, but there are online retailers that sell it, or you could see if you can buy a couple of shots from your local cocktail bar (I got my bottle of the stuff whilst on holiday), or if you can find another chocolate liqueur (not cream based) then use that; you’ll need to be at home for eight hours while your pudding steams in order to make sure that the pan doesn’t boil dry, so plan ahead when you’re going to do this and steep your fruit the day/night before; you’ll need a 1.5 litre pudding bowl, either plastic or a heat proof glass bowl (Pyrex or similar); you’ll also need a large enough saucepan for the pudding bowl to fit in, with a little extra room so you can rest it on a trivet or jam jar (to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan) and still get a lid on it; so yes, you also need a small metal trivet or a jam jar too; to cover your pudding bowl you’ll need greaseproof paper and foil, and some string to secure it to the bowl.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 150g glace cherries, chopped
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g sultanas
  • 20g dried, mixed peel (if you happen to have it, don’t buy it especially for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur (I used Cointreau, but Grand Marnier or similar is fine)
  • 4 tbsp creme de cacao
  • 2 oranges
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 200g dark chocolate, chips or chopped into small chunks
  • 50g chopped almonds

The day or night before you’re going to steam your pudding, put the cherries, apricots, sultanas, peel (if using), finely grated zest and juice of both oranges and the liqueurs in a bowl. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

On the day of pudding making, put the butter and sugars in a large bowl and cream together. Then beat in the eggs, followed by the breadcrumbs, flour and remaining ingredients, mixing together until well combined. Add the boozy fruit to the bowl and give a final mix. Your raw pudding mixture is now ready for steaming.

Preparing to steam – you’ll need:

  • 1.5 litre (or larger) heat proof pudding bowl
  • a little butter or oil
  • greaseproof paper
  • tin foil
  • string
  • scissors
  • a small metal trivet or clean jam jar lid
  • large saucepan with lid

Lightly grease the inside of your pudding bowl and put a small disc of greaseproof paper in the bottom – this will help the pudding to come out of the bowl when it’s cooked.

Greaseproof paper in the pudding bowl

Greaseproof paper in the pudding bowl makes it easier to get the pudding out when cooked

Pour and scrape your pudding mixture into the bowl, smoothing it out as much as possible. Take a large sheet of greaseproof (big enough to comfortably cover the top of your pudding bowl with an over-hang all around) and a sheet of tin foil around the same size. Lay the foil over the greaseproof and make a pleat down the centre of both – this is to allow room for expansion as the pudding steams (see the video for a demonstration of how to do this). Place the paper/foil over the top of the bowl and secure tightly with the string. Trim any excess paper and foil.

Place your trivet or jam jar lid in the centre of the bottom of the saucepan – this is to keep the bowl off the bottom of the saucepan. Tear off a long strip of tin foil, long enough to go under your pudding bowl with over-hang – you’re going to use this a bit like a sling to lift the pudding out of the saucepan eventually. Fold the foil lengthways several times to make it stronger and lay it in the saucepan across the centre so it rests on top of the trivet or jam jar lid.

Saucepan prepared for pudding steaming

Saucepan prepared for pudding steaming; a jam jar lid or trivet to keep the bowl off the base of the pan and a strip of foil to lift the bowl out once the pudding is cooked

Carefully place the pudding bowl in the saucepan, on top of the lid and foil. Fold the edges of the foil sling over the top of the pudding bowl so that you’ll be able to get the lid on the saucepan. Boil a kettle full of water and pour the hot water into your saucepan so it comes to around two thirds up the pudding bowl, turn the heat on under the saucepan and put the lid on, bringing the water to a boil again.

Pudding in the saucepan

Pudding in the saucepan, boiling water in and lid on and it’s ready to steam for 8 hours!

Your pudding is now steaming! Steam for 8 hours, regularly topping up with more boiling water so that it never boils dry (aim to keep the water level between a quarter and two thirds up the bowl, not less or more – I topped up around every 45 minutes).  After the eight hours steaming are up, you can remove the pudding from the saucepan using the foil sling. Allow to cool completely before removing the greaseproof/foil lid.

To store your pudding, cover with clean, dry greaseproof or foil and secure tightly with string. Leave in a cool, dark place (it doesn’t need to be refrigerated) until you need it.

To reheat, you can: steam again, following the same instructions as before, for around three hours, or; remove it from the pudding bowl, put it in an oven proof tray, loosely covered with foil and heat in moderate oven (around 150C) for about an hour, or; remove from the pudding bowl, place on a microwavable plate, cover with cling film with a couple of holes pierced in and heat on medium, in bursts of 2-3 minutes until piping hot all the way through (don’t just whack it on high or leave it in for ages, it could burn easily as it has such a high sugar content).  However you choose to reheat it, always ensure it’s hot all the way through before serving and never reheat more than twice.

I know this sounds like hard work, but it isn’t really. The most complicated bit is the greaseproof/foil lid and that’s hardly rocket science. The rest is just being around to keep an eye on things. This pudding is so much nicer than even the most luxury of puddings we’ve had from supermarkets and I think making it yourself for such a special occasion is incredibly rewarding. But if you think it’s just a little too much work, check out some of my other Christmas recipes and give one of those a go.

The making of the Christmas Pudding!

The making of the Christmas Pudding!

Chocolate Clementine Cake

Chocolate Clementine Cake

Chocolate Clementine Cake; it’s practically health food!

I can’t take all the credit for this cake as it’s adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe for clementine cake. I made this version for my cousin’s birthday; she’s a nutritionist and the fact this cake is wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and free from added fat means you could almost convince yourself it’s healthy! As it’s made with ground almonds it stays wonderfully moist, and with the addition of cocoa it’s almost truffle-like – serve with a little cream and you’ve got yourself an excellent dessert.

Chocolate Clementine Cake

Ingredients:

375g clementines (probably 4-6 clementines depending on size)
230g ground almonds
240g caster sugar
40g cocoa, sifted
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder

Firstly, don’t worry if your clementines are a little more or less than 375g, just don’t go cutting a bit off to make the right weight, they should be whole for the first stage. Boil the clementines for 2 hours, topping up the water as necessary to make sure they don’t boil dry. After the two hours are up, remove from the pan and allow to cool before cutting in half to remove any pips and any stalk.

Heat the oven to 190C and grease and line an 8″/21cm springform tin. If you have a food processor, chuck in all the clementines (skin  and everything) and whizz them up into a fairly smooth pulp. If you don’t have a food processor then blend or very finely chop and the fruit, trying not to lose any of the liquid, then tip it all into a large bowl. Add the rest of ingredients to the food processor or bowl and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about an hour, covering the top with foil after about 40 minutes to avoid burning. The top will crack, don’t worry. The cake is done when it springs back when pressed and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely whilst still in its tin on a wire rack.