Chocolate Raisin Brownies

I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate covered raisins recently (health god) and yesterday I had a brain wave (daydream) about throwing them into brownies alongside chocolate chips. I cooked a batch up today and they might just be my favourite variety ever; moist middle, crispy shell-like top, pockets of chewy chocolatey fruit and chunks of white chocolate- a definite winner. Try my recipe out and join the party.

Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 275 caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • large pinch salt
  • 125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g chocolate covered raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt until pale and thick.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and fold in then do the same with the white chocolate chunks and chocolate covered raisins.
  4. Tip the brownie batter into a baking tin and level out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crisp on top and fudgy in the centre.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin then slice into squares and enjoy!

Cherry Blossom and Eucalyptus

No recipe to see here, just some decorating inspo for those of you who prefer less refined looking cakes (this is my preference- if I could put fresh flowers and greenery on every cake, I probably would). The base cake pictured is my classic chocolate fudge variety, filled with salted dark chocolate ganache and covered in swiss meringue chocolate buttercream; for decoration I’ve gone with seasonal blooms from the garden and hedgerows nearby (yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere and it has it’s perks!). I’ve never used eucalyptus before and have been pleasantly surprised with how versatile the leaves are- the curves and bends in the stems lend themselves to framing the cake and when paired with the cherry blossom (which, though beautiful, I fear may wilt very quickly) the overall effect is elegant and effortless.

Hope you like the cake and are inspired to freestyle with lots of different plants and flowers on your next bake!

 

Spring Lemon and Courgette Cake

This deliciously fresh tasting cake made up of homemade lemon curd, tangy cream cheese frosting and moist courgette sponge makes for the a great Easter treat, and the recipe will serve you well over the coming months when you’re looking for a simple and zesty summer bake too.

Ingredients:

  • zest 3 lemons
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g grated courgette (2-3)
  • 75g sultanas
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4-5tbsp milk

For the lemon curd filling:

  • 4 lemons (juice and zest)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar

To decorate: edible flowers, courgette ribbons, chocolate eggs

Method:

  1. Make the lemon curd first; put the lemon zest and juice, caster sugar and eggs in a saucepan and briefly whisk. Set over a gentle heat and gradually add the butter cubes, whisking constantly. After a few minutes the curd will start to thicken- keep whisking until you have used up the butter and stop when the lemon curd coats the back of the spoon (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside for later and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a thick skin from forming.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  3. Place the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated courgette then fold into the batter along with the sultanas.
  5. Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Carefully fold in followed by the milk. The batter will be very thick- don’t be alarmed!
  6. Split the batter between the two tins and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and beat together until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble your bake. Take your first cake and level off the top (if necessary) then pipe a circle of cream cheese icing around the edge. Fill the middle with your lemon curd (using the cream cheese line as a barrier) and place the other cake on top. Cover the complete cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate as you wish.

 

Coffee and Cardamom Cakes with Pistachio Praline

Coffee cake is one of my all time favourites, but this spin on a classic is perhaps even better (I know, big claim). The cardamom hum in the sponge goes really well with the simple coffee buttercream, and the crunch of earthy pistachio praline rounds off the overall flavour and prevents it from being overly sweet. Make these for any occasion (you can fool people into thinking they’re fancy with the help of a piping bag and edible flowers) and they are sure to go down a storm.

Ingredients:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 8 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
  • 3tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
  • 3tbsp milk

For the buttercream:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2tbsp coffee granules mixed with 2tbsp boiling water

For the praline:

  • 100g pistachios
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 20x20cm).
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the flour, salt and ground cardamom and fold in until well combined. Do the same with the coffee and milk.
  3. Once your straightforward batter is ready, spoon into the tin and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the praline. Place the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan and allow the sugar to melt (don’t stir, just tip the pan to move the sugar around). Once it’s melted and golden, swirl the pan to coat the nuts in the caramel then tip onto some greaseproof paper and leave to set hard.
  5. Now make your buttercream. Beat the butter until light then gradually add the icing sugar, whisking until very light. Add in the coffee and whisk again to combine. Once it’s streak free and smooth, pile into a piping bag ready to decorate.
  6. Slice the cooled cake into nine squares (or larger/smaller pieces depending on your appetite!). Pipe the coffee buttercream on top in little kisses (or freestyle with rosettes/patterns using different nozzles). Break up the praline and roughly crush then sprinkle a generous helping on top of the buttercream.

Enjoy!

 

 

Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet (No Churn)

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Bucks, and the sunny weather has inspired me to make something zesty, refreshing and seasonal. This brilliant pink sorbet really hits the spot after a three course dinner or makes for a great component in a larger dessert. I’d advise preparing it a day or two ahead as it does require blitzing a couple of times (but no ice cream maker needed- result!).

Ingredients:

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
  • zest and juice 3 limes
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb pieces and poach for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
  2. Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
  3. Increase the heat on the rhubarb sugar syrup and boil until it reaches ‘thread’ stage. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds; you can check it’s ready in two ways. Firstly, you could use a sugar thermometer and make sure it reads between 223 degrees and 235 degrees. Secondly, if you don’t have a thermometer just add cold water to a bowl and drop some of the syrup in- if it forms a thin thread in the water, it’s ready (I use this method).
  4. Once you’ve reached thread stage take the syrup off the heat and cool a little, then add half to the rhubarb and lime ( too much will make the sorbet too sweet!). Blitz to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve, then add the lime zest. Pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally to help break up ice crystals.
  5. After the sorbet has frozen, break it up and return to the blender. Add the egg white (if you can’t eat these or are making this for vulnerable people, just skip this) to lighten the texture and blitz again until smooth.
  6. Freeze again and use as required.

Spelt Banana Bread with Walnut Crumble

Banana bread is a staple in many a baking repertoire- it’s simple, tasty and for some reason one of the only cakes deemed acceptable to eat for breakfast (what’s not to like). My version calls for wholemeal spelt flour, making it nutty in flavour and a little courser in texture than a regular banana bread; delicious when paired with the walnut crumble topping!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 75g melted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 200g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp ground ginger

For the crumble topping:

  • 50g spelt flour
  • 25g soft butter
  • 25g soft light brown sugar
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 75g chopped walnuts

 Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar and butter in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until thick, pale and voluminous then fold in the mashed banana.
  3. Add the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt and baking powder) and fold again until well combined. Tip the mix into the prepared loaf tin and level out.
  4. For the crumble topping, rub together the butter, flour, sugar and mixed spice between your fingers until they resemble course crumbs, then stir in the chopped walnuts. Sprinkle this liberally over the top of the banana bread and bake for 45-55 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Serve warm or cold, on it’s own or with cinnamon butter, creme fraiche or yoghurt.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Roll

Yes this is really a roulade but I can’t bring myself to type that word (in my head it’s associated with hostess trolleys, raspberry pink table runners and, worst of all, glace cherries), so let’s settle on meringue roll. Regardless of the terminology though, this is delicious; hazelnut studded meringue, smooth milk chocolate cream, dark chocolate ganache and to top it off, caramel covered hazelnuts- it’s pretty much a guaranteed winner (plus it’s not as complicated to make as it looks, providing you’ve got a good whisk… or guns of steel).

Ingredients:

For the meringue:

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g icing sugar

For the chocolate filling:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 3tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp icing sugar

For the topping:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • handful hazelnuts
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 20cm x 30cm (roughly) shallow baking tin with a little butter then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Once golden cool a little then blitz in a food processor to create a corse crumb texture. Set aside to cool for later.
  3. Whisk the egg whites to form medium peaks then add the caster sugar  in three additions, whisking well between each. Once you’ve added all the sugar continue to whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks, then add the crushed and cooled hazelnuts. Fold the nuts in carefully then tip the meringue into your prepared tin. Spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula or palette knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it has some light colour.
  4. When your meringue is ready, place on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin. Dust the icing sugar in an even layer over a large rectangle of greaseproof paper, ready for when you turn out the meringue.
  5. While the meringue is cooling, make the chocolate cream filling. To do this sift the cocoa and icing sugar into the double cream and whisk to soft peaks with electric beaters.
  6. When the meringue has cooled turn out onto the prepared paper. Spread the chocolate cream all over the surface, leaving a gap of about 1cm around the edge.
  7. Using the paper to help you, roll up the roulade lengthways. I always find it’s easier if you do this away from you, using the paper to help tease up the meringue. It will crack, but don’t worry, it’s meant to!
  8. When your roll is complete, make the ganache. To do this just chop up the dark chocolate and place in a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly over it. Leave it to melt together then give it a stir to completely combine. Set aside to thicken a little then pipe down the centre of your roll.
  9. For a final (completely optional) flourish, pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently. Allow the sugar to melt (do not stir, just swirl), then take it to a golden amber colour. Once it reaches this colour remove it from the heat and keep an eye on it’s consistency. Once it thickens and begins to form sugary threads, dip the whole hazelnuts in and pull out to create spiky caramel coated nuts- the perfect decoration!

Enjoy!