These cookies are big, chewy and packed full of dark chocolate chunks and stem ginger pieces; better still, they’re so easy to make and you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it for future use!
Ingredients (makes 15-20):
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
150g dark brown soft sugar
2tbsp ginger syrup
175g butter, melted
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
300g dark chocolate chunks
100g chopped stem ginger
Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. In a jug, mix together the dark brown soft sugar, melted butter, ginger syrup, egg and egg yolk.
Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry. Beat with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth cookie dough.
Add the chocolate chunks and chopped stem ginger and knead briefly into the dough.
Take a tablespoon of the cookie dough and roll into a ball. Repeat until you have used it all up then line onto trays and press down with the palm of your hand. Chill for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 190c.
Once the cookies have firmed up a bit, bake for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool on the trays (they will be soft when you take them out of the oven but will become chewy after cooling) then display on a platter and serve!
Meringue is a guaranteed crowd pleaser throughout the year, whether you enjoy it torched on top of lemon meringue pie or piled high with summer fruits as the base of a retro pavlova. Though these classic forms of meringue are delicious, I thought I’d try out a brown sugar variation for a richer flavour; they worked brilliantly and the brown sugar adds a deep molasses kick which pairs really well with rum caramel sauce, caramelised bananas, peanuts and creme fraiche.
Ingredients (makes 6-8 large meringues):
For the meringues:
225g dark brown soft sugar
50g caster sugar
4 large egg whites
For the rum sauce:
200g granulated sugar
75ml double cream
2-3 tbsp dark rum
For the caramelised banana:
100g caster sugar
For the toppings:
some creme fraiche
Preheat the oven to 120c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the brown sugar and egg whites. Whisk with electric beaters until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is voluminous and hot to the touch.
Remove the bowl from the heat and keep whisking. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed on your beaters. Whisk until you have stiff peaks.
Pile the meringue into nests on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Switch the oven off when you can easily peel the meringues off the paper and they are crisp. Leave in the oven to cool for an hour.
While the meringues are cooling make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved bring to a boil and allow to turn into a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add the cream, butter and salt. Whisk until smooth (it will spit). Allow the sauce to cool slightly then add the rum. Taste and add more if you feel it needs it (hardcore). Set aside.
For the bananas, place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan. Heat, allowing the sugar to melt. Swirl occasionally but do not stir. Take the sugar to a golden colour and add the butter (it will spit). Stir together then add the banana pieces. Cook for a few minutes then turn over and remove from the pan.
To assemble top the meringues with creme fraiche, followed by the bananas, sauce and peanuts.
I’m on a bit of a rhubarb trip at the moment- in our house it’s going in just about anything, primarily, my mouth (I jest, but seriously; salad, granita, posset, sorbet, you name it). It’s got a versatile tart flavour and brilliant pink colour (if you buy the forced variety) which lends itself to so many recipes and pairs with lots of other ingredients, so naturally I’ve put it into a cake. This lightly flavoured thyme cake is sandwiched with a tart rhubarb compote which partners beautifully with the sweet white chocolate buttercream. Try it out and top with candied rhubarb ribbons and herby decorations for a statement nod to the season.
For the cake:
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
6 large eggs
350g self-raising flour, sifted
2tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2tsp finely chopped thyme
For the rhubarb filling:
75g caster sugar
For the white chocolate buttercream:
200g melted white chocolate
250g soft butter
500g icing sugar
For the decorations (optional ideas):
Candied rhubarb ribbons (to make these dissolve 100g caster sugar in 200ml water then bring to the boil and cool. Peel strips of rhubarb and dip into this syrup then line onto a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 110c for 1 hour. Once ready, mould around spoon handles or use as little strip decorations)
thyme/rosemary sprigs, freeze dried fruit, mini meringue kisses
100g white chocolate (melt this then pour out onto a lined tray and set. Break into shards and use as desired)
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line two 7 inch cake tins.
For the cake, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat (with paddle attachment or electric beaters) until light and well combined. This all in one method is so easy and so long as you don’t over-beat results in a lovely even sponge.
Split the batter between the two prepared cake tins and level out. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and the tops are springy to the touch.
While the cakes are cooking, make the rhubarb compote. Simply place the ingredients in a saucepan and stir occasionally over a gentle heat until the rhubarb breaks down and resembles a loose jam. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Once the cakes are ready leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. For this just beat together the butter and icing sugar until really light and fluffy, then add the melted white chocolate (ensuring it is cool) and milk and beat again for a couple of minutes. Your buttercream should be pale (not yellow) and light when it’s ready.
To assemble the cake, slice the sponges horizontally into two even layers so you have four in total. Place one down on your plate/board and spread over a dollop of the buttercream followed by 1/3 of the rhubarb compote. Repeat until you have a 4 layer cake. Take a few spoonfuls of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the cake with a palette knife or cake scraper and chill for 10 minutes (this is your crumb coating).
To finish, use all the remaining buttercream to cover the gaps and visible cake (unless you’re going for the naked look!) and smooth down. To decorate, use candied rhubarb, mini meringues, herbs, freeze dried fruits and chocolate shards!
I’ve made a chocolate and orange blossom variation of these biscuits before and they were so popular I thought I’d experiment with another flavour. This time I’ve gone for lightly flavoured lemon biscuits (which are super crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth) sandwiched together with lemon buttercream and a really zingy lemon curd; the end result is (unsurprisingly) zesty and really delicious- give them a try.
Ingredients (makes 8-10 sandwiches):
175g soft butter
60g icing sugar
60g corn flour
185g plain flour
zest 1 lemon
For the lemon curd: 100g caster sugar, 2 lemons (juice and zest), 50g butter, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk
For the lemon buttercream: 65g soft butter, 175g icing sugar, juice and zest 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 160c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Cream together the butter, icing sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Sift in the corn flour and plain flour then briefly mix until a dough forms (don’t over mix or you won’t achieve that melty texture you’re after in the final biscuit).
Take the dough a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Line onto the prepared baking trays and press down with the back of a fork to create a lined texture. Chill for half an hour.
While the biscuits are chilling make the lemon curd. To do this place the sugar, lemon juice, zest and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally, allowing the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted allow to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk. Whisk together.
Set the bowl back over the pan and gently mix for about 10 minutes until the heat thickens the curd. Remove from the heat and cool.
Once your biscuits have chilled and are firm, bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the trays.
While the biscuits are cooling, make the buttercream. Whisk the butter up to lighten then gradually add the icing sugar and beat until you have a fluffy texture. Add in the lemon juice and zest then briefly whisk to combine.
When the biscuits are cooled, pair them up. Pipe a ring of buttercream on one and spoon some lemon curd into the middle. Sandwich together with the other biscuit.
This cake is a straight forward throw-it-all-in, mix, bake and frost situation (but tastes uh-mazing). The pecan brittle is optional but I think the nutty crunch and slightly bitter caramel really adds to the spiced sponge and tangy cream cheese frosting- definitely a winner!
225ml vegetable oil
225g soft light brown sugar
250g grated carrot
225g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp mixed spice
75g chopped pecans
For the brittle: 100g caster sugar, 100g pecans, pinch salt
For the frosting: 80g butter, 250g full fat cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 22x22cm).
Place the oil, sugar, eggs and grated carrot in a large mixing bowl and briefly whisk to combine. Now sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and mixed spice and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the pecans.
Tip this mixture into the square tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cake is cooking, make the brittle. To do this simply place the pecans and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar melts (don’t stir but swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted allow it to reach deep golden brown then pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow to set hard and cool.
Once your cake is cooked and cooling on a rack (in the tin), make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Gradually pour in the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes- you should achieve light smooth consistency. Stir in the lemon zest last.
Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cooled and level off if necessary. Spread a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting all over then break up the brittle and sprinkle on.
Slice up and serve (and try to resist coming back for a second piece).
I’ve been making granola at home for a while, but I usually throw in a load of sugar and butter to make it taste more like crumbled up flapjack than a nutritious breakfast essential (don’t judge, I don’t eat it everyday). This one, however, is made with peanut butter in place of dairy and agave syrup to cut out the refined sugar- it’s really delicious and packed with protein. I like it on top of yoghurt and fresh fruit but it’s also great with porridge or warm stewed apples.
350g porridge oats
2tsp ground ginger
50g roughly chopped almonds
75g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
75g chopped dried figs
50g dried cranberries
1tsp vanilla extract
30g coconut oil
100g peanut butter (or your preferred nut butter)
100ml agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 140c. Line a large tray with greaseproof paper.
Place the oats, cinnamon, ginger, almonds, seeds, figs and cranberries in a large bowl and mix together.
Gently melt the coconut oil, vanilla, peanut butter and agave together in a saucepan until smooth. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until all the oats and seeds are coated in the peanut butter mix.
Tip the granola mix onto the prepared baking tray and spread into an even layer. Bake for 40 minutes, turning every 10 to get an even colour on the oats.
Leave the granola to cool down then store in an airtight container until required.
Amelia Rope recently sent me some delicious pale rose chocolate bars to have a little play with. I decided that with Valentines day around the corner I’d use them in a simple but luxurious tart, the ideal dessert to round off a lovingly (hah) prepared meal (disclaimer: you do not need a floppy haired Valentine/ flickering candle / rom-com vibe to enjoy these).
Ingredients (makes 4 mini tarts or 1 six inch tart):
For the crust:
200g chocolate biscuits (I used bourbons)
40g dark chocolate
50g melted butter
For the filling:
200g Amelia Rope Pale Rose chocolate
100ml double cream
1tbsp caster sugar
50g toasted chopped pistachios
30g melted and cooled dark chocolate
rose petals/ silver leaf for decoration(optional)
Start off by greasing your tart case (or cases) ready for the biscuit crust (I always use a loose bottom tart tin).
For the crust, place the biscuits, chocolate and salt in a blade mixer and blitz to create crumbs. Add the melted butter and briefly blitz again to combine, then tip into your tin (or distribute between your mini tart tins). Smooth down evenly onto the base and up the sides with the back of a spoon to create a case ready for the filling. Chill for 30 minutes.
While your case is firming up make the filling. To do this simply place the chocolate, cream, butter and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Slowly melt, stirring occasionally, then once you have a smooth mixture set aside to cool.
When the chocolate filling has cooled, pour it into the tart case and level out. Set aside to firm up for 1 hour then carefully remove from the tin. Brush the rim of the case with your melted dark chocolate and sprinkle over the pistachios. Decorate with silver leaf and rose petals, if you like.