Tahini, a thick sesame paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, is my go to ingredient for when I want to add a deep, nutty and slightly bitter flavour to a dish. I don’t usually think of incorporating tahini into my baking (for some unknown reason), and more often than not I’ll just pop it into baba ganoush, add it into a yoghurt dressing or drizzle it neat over slow cooked lamb and roasted roots to balance out a sweet date syrup glaze. This being said, yesterday I fancied making some cookies (someone put a stop to my wild and spontaneous lifestyle please…) and decided to bring tahini into the mix alongside sea salt and rich dark chocolate- the major players in my cookie game. The resulting cookies are absolutely delicious with a good balance of sweet, savoury, nutty and salty flavours; one hundred percent give the recipe a go, it’s a real winner.
110g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
150g dark brown soft sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp sea salt
300g plain flour
300g coarsely chopped dark chocolate, plus 50g extra for decoration (optional)
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Place the butter, tahini and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mix curdles or you’re worried about curdling, add 2tbsp of the flour with each egg.
Once the eggs are well incorporated add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour then mix to combine. Finally, add in the coarsely chopped chocolate and very briefly mix once more just to distribute through the dough.
Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then line even balls onto the prepared trays leaving room for spreading (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are turning a light golden colour but the middles are still very soft (they will firm up during cooling).
To finish the cookies melt the additional dark chocolate and drizzle over the tops, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Alternating layers of brown sugar cake and chocolate sponge sandwiched with peanut buttercream, chopped peanuts, salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache make up this look-at-me celebration cake (and ode to the Snickers bar)… A bit of a project? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!
For the chocolate sponge:
50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
250g soft butter
250g soft light brown sugar
100g cocoa powder
250g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
For the brown sugar sponge:
165g dark brown soft sugar
150g self raising flour
20g melted butter
60ml boiling water
For the peanut buttercream:
150g smooth peanut butter
100g soft butter
500g icing sugar
For the ganache:
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
For the salted caramel:
150g caster sugar
pinch salt (to taste)
75ml double cream
For decoration (optional):
chopped Snickers bars
thin ganache to create drips
Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Distribute this batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
To make this sponge place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) then whisk until light and voluminous (about 10 minutes). Sift in the flour and fold, then add the melted butter and boiling water to the side of the bowl. Fold very gently to retain the air then distribute between the tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
When the brown sugar sponges are cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. You should now have four cake layers (two chocolate and two brown sugar) and are ready to make the fillings.
Start off by making the caramel. Just place the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar (do not boil or stir, just be patient!). After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and boil for a few minutes; once the syrup reaches a deep amber colour remove from the heat and whisk in the cream (be careful as it will spit a little). Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the salt.
For the ganache simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a jug or bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour all over, allowing the chocolate to slowly melt. After a couple of minutes, stir the mixture to achieve a lovely smooth, glossy consistency. Set aside.
Finally, for the peanut buttercream beat the peanut butter and butter together with electric beaters (or a stand mixer). Once well combined continue whisking while you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar increase the speed and add the milk; whisk until very light, fluffy and smooth.
To assemble the cakes stack a chocolate layer with ganache and salted caramel, followed by a brown sugar layer. Repeat this process then cover the entire cake with peanut butter icing. You can be as neat as you like! Decorate with peanuts, Snickers pieces and chocolate shards (more is more in this case!).
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’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.
I can’t decide if this looks impressive or a complete mess (I’ll let you choose); either way, it’s a delicious tower of salted dark chocolate and coffee cream profiteroles decorated with coffee nib white chocolate shards and gold shimmer spray- the perfect look-at-me centre piece!
Ingredients (makes enough profiteroles to cover a 30cm cone):
Preheat the oven to 200c and grease 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper.
Place the butter and water in a saucepan and gently melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and tip in the flour all in one go. Mix rapidly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and looks glossy. Place in a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.
Break up your eggs in a jug then gradually whisk into the cooled butter mixture until it reaches a dropping consistency (where it drops off a spoon after about 5 seconds).
Pile the choux into a piping bag and pipe even piles onto the greased baking trays (leaving room for expansion). If they have little points just tap them down with a wet finger to create an even shape.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and well risen then poke a hole in each one with a skewer. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to dry out then cool on a wire rack.
Make the fillings- for the coffee filling, whisk together the cream, coffee and icing sugar until soft peaks form. For the chocolate, whisk together the cream and icing sugar in a separate bowl.
Melt the milk chocolate and dark chocolate in heatproof bowls over pans of simmering water.
Once the profiteroles have cooled, fill half with coffee cream (using a fine nozzled piping bag) and half with the sweet cream (in the same way).
If you would like to decorate with white chocolate shards, now is a good time to make those. Simply melt the white chocolate and spread over a piece of baking paper. Sprinkle with espresso powder and beans and set until solid and breakable.
By this time, the chocolate should’ve cooled a little. Dip the coffee filled profiteroles in milk chocolate and the sweet cream ones in the dark. Sprinkle the dark chocolate pastries with sea salt.
Now it’s time to assemble. Take your cone and cover it with any leftover melted chocolate. Stack up the profiteroles layer by layer to cover the cone completely. You may need to wait a few minutes between layers to allow the profiteroles to set.
I’ve recently arranged an exciting collaborative series with Savse Smoothies which will involve me incorporating their drinks into my recipes! I will be posting a recipe every couple of weeks and hope to show that whilst their products are really delicious on their own, they can also be used in lots of tasty dishes, both savoury and sweet.
Savse, if you aren’t aware of the brand, specialise in healthy smoothies made up of raw, fresh fruit and vegetables. They sell a core range of five ‘Super’ smoothies (red, orange, purple, blue and green) and make many more specialised drinks. It might come as a surprise looking at my incredibly indulgent bakes, but I eat very healthily and really enjoy cooking with fresh ingredients so this opportunity is really exciting (and a bit of a challenge!).
The first recipe I’ve come up with is inspired by the mango and carrot flavours in the Super Orange smoothie (part of the Savse core range). The street style salad is really fresh and marinating the chicken in the smoothie gives it a sweetness which cuts through the classic Thai flavours of chilli, ginger and coriander I’ve used. I’d recommend making this in bulk on a Sunday night and then portioning it up for no fuss weekday lunches!
Ingredients (Serves 4):
For the chicken: 4 chicken breasts, 2/3 bottle Savse Super Orange smoothie, 3cm piece ginger (grated), salt and pepper, oil for pan frying
For the salad: 4 grated carrots, 2 large handfuls bean sprouts, 2 thinly sliced red peppers, 1 thinly sliced red onion, large bunch coriander (chopped), small bunch parsley (chopped), 200g roughly chopped cashews, 1-2 red chillies (sliced), bunch spring onions (sliced)
For the dressing: remaining 1/3 Savse Super Orange smoothie, 3tbsp white wine vinegar, 2tbsp soy sauce, 1tbsp honey, juice 1 lime, 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
Slice the chicken breasts into three large pieces and place in a shallow tray. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the smoothie and add the grated ginger. Cover and marinade for a minimum of 2 hours.
For the salad, toss together the carrot, bean sprouts, red pepper, red onion, coriander, parsley, cashews, chillies and spring onions. Set aside.
For the dressing, whisk together the remaining smoothie, vinegar, soy, honey and lime juice.
Heat some oil (olive oil, rape seed or coconut oil is good) in a frying pan, drain excess liquid from the chicken then fry quickly over a high heat until you achieve some golden colouring and the meat is cooked through.
Dress the salad until thoroughly coated then pile onto a plate. Add the chicken and pour over any juices. Garnish with more cashews, coriander and chilli slices.
Chocolate seems to be dominating my blog recently, so before I break from that theme to enter other territories I thought I would share my Oreo chocolate cake recipe. It’s made up of three chocolate fudge cake layers which are sandwiched between chocolate ganache, slathered in Oreo cookie frosting and topped with chocolate drips and Oreo cookies. Make it for your next special occasion and your guests will be forever grateful (if a little heavier…).
Ingredients (the quantities might sound like a lot- but this is a big old cake!):
For the cake: 400g plain flour, 450g caster sugar, 125g cocoa powder, 3tsp baking powder, 3tsp bicarbonate of soda, 4 eggs, 350ml milk, 225ml vegetable oil, large pinch salt, 300ml boiling water
For the ganache: 300g milk chocolate, 200ml double cream
For the Oreo frosting: 300g butter, 800g icing sugar, 3tbsp milk, 1 pack oreos (crushed into crumbs)
For the drips: 100g dark chocolate, 120ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180c then grease and line three 8 inch cake tins.
Place your plain flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir briefly to combine.
In a jug, mix together the eggs, milk and oil. Make a well in the bowl of dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk together until smooth, then measure out your boiling water. Add the boiling water in a few additions, carefully mixing to distribute it through the cake mix. It will be very runny, but this is what makes the cake so moist. Once smooth, pour the batter into the three cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling make the chocolate ganache. Finely chop the milk chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat the cream until nearly boiling then pour straight over the chopped chocolate and allow to melt. Stir until smooth then set aside to cool.
Now make the buttercream. Place the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk (using electric beaters) until pale and thick. Add the icing sugar in additions and keep beating until it becomes white, light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Now add the Oreo crumbs and milk. Whisk again to combine then adjust the consistency by adding a drop more milk if necessary. Set aside.
Make the chocolate ganache for the drips now, to allow cooling/ thickening time. This ganache should be runnier than your filling you’ve already made. As before, heat the cream and pour all over the chopped dark chocolate. Mix until smooth then set aside until it reaches a thick but still pourable consistency.
Now it’s time to assemble your cake! Layer up the chocolate sponges with milk chocolate ganache (and a little Oreo frosting too, if you like!) then coat the whole cake in a thin layer of the Oreo frosting (a crumb coating). Chill for 10 minutes, then use the remaining frosting to create a thick outer layer. Smooth down with a palette knife and cake scraper. Chill again to firm the edges, then pour the runny dark chocolate ganache over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides.