Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Chocolate, Cherry and Walnut Brownies

Brownies are always a welcome treat in our house and these Chocolate, Cherry and Walnut Brownies are seriously wicked! The recipe hails from Jo Pratt’s In the Mood for Food, and one I’ve had book-marked to bake for ages after reading great reviews. I was sorry for not having baked these sooner but I always say better late than never. These brownies deliver a rich, luscious, gooey, and chocolaty centre, studded through with walnuts and sour cherries. An absolute must bake!

Chocolate, Cherry and Walnut Brownies

Makes 9 to 12 good-sized brownies

200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
3 large eggs
300g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
125g plain flour
A pinch of salt
100g dried cherries
100g walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/gas 4.

Grease and line an approximately 20 by 30cm rectangle baking tin, 3 to 4cm deep, with greaseproof or parchment paper. Melt the butter and chocolate either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or gently in the microwave.

With an electric hand whisk, beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract until they are lovely and thick and creamy. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter. Finally stir in the flour, salt, cherries and walnuts.

Pour into the baking tin and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is cracking and the centre is just set. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

Serve warm or, if you can resist leaving them, cold.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf

Lately I’ve treated myself to some new cookbooks from my Amazon wish list. One of which was Cook in Boots by Ravinder Bhogal, lots of lovely recipes that I can’t wait to try (one of them being the Oreo Cheesecake)! The first recipe I tried from the book had to be this Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf, not only because I had ripe bananas and all the other ingredients to hand but as you know I can’t resist trying out new banana loaf recipes. This loaf is dense with nuts, dark chocolate and sweet mushy bananas and another great banana loaf variation. Definitely a winner and worthy of being book-marked! If you want to treat yourself to a new cookbook, I definitely recommend you buy Cook in Boots.

Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf

Serves 8

250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pinch of sea salt
150g dark chocolate chips
100g chopped walnuts
50g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium bananas, mashed
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/350oF/gas 4. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the chocolate chips with the walnuts and coat with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.

In a mixing bowl or food processor, cream the butter and then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then pour in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. You should now have a lovely, loose yellow batter. Finally, fold in the flour mixture and beat until you have a thick cake batter.

Pour one-third of the batter into the loaf tin, sprinkle with half the chocolate and walnut mixture and top with another third of the batter. Layer again with the remaining chocolate and walnut mix, then cover with the remaining batter. Run a knife through the depth of the batter in a zigzag pattern to disperse the chocolate and nuts.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Test it with a skewer to check it is cooked – if not, bake for a further 15 minutes. Let it cool completely before attempting to turn it out. Slice into thick slabs!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Blond Rocky Road

A while back I bought Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic by Gizzi Erskine after seeing her cook wonderful recipes on TV for This Morning and hearing wonderful things about her first cookbook. I’ve not been disappointed and her book delivers everything I was expecting and more. There are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try. One of the first to catch my eye and have me drooling was this recipe for Blond Rocky Road and I couldn’t wait any longer. I can’t begin to describe how absolutely divine this version of rocky road is, it’s creamy, crunchy, chewy, nutty and will have you wanting more. These are testing my resolve to lose weight but I won’t give in to these blond bombshells!

Blond Rocky Road

Makes 24 squares

100ml double cream
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
125g unsalted butter, softened
300g white chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tbsp honey
200g shortbread
100g mini marshmallows
100g macadamia nuts, toasted
100g fudge, chopped into small cubes

Heat the double cream in a small, heavy-based pan over a low heat. Add the coffee powder and stir until dissolved, then put to one side. In another heavy-based pan, melt together the butter, white chocolate and honey over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat, then transfer one-third of the mixture to another, smaller bowl and set aside to cool. Pour the remainder, along with the coffee cream mixture, into a large mixing bowl.

Place the shortbread in a plastic freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until you have small pieces. Tip the shortbread pieces, mini marshmallows, macadamia nuts and fudge into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and mix together well.

Line a 24cm square brownie tin with clingfilm. Pour in the rocky road mixture and level off the surface. Pour on the reserved butter and white chocolate mixture and smooth the surface. Pop it into the fridge and leave to chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Lift the cling film up to take the biscuits out of the tin, and cut the rocky road into 24 squares to serve. They need to be kept chilled or they can become a bit sticky.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Banana and Honey Teabread

I don’t know if I‘m alone on this one but does anyone else get excited when their bananas go ripe? I love any excuse to try out new and different versions of banana bread. Yesterday afternoon after doing all my house chores I decided to spend an afternoon in my kitchen and do some baking for my boys. Plus hubby is working from home for the rest of this week and I know how much he loves having my home-baked goodies to have with his cups of tea and coffee. This Banana and Honey Teabread caught my eye with the great combo of ingredients and delivered a whole new banana bread experience. It’s super moist and lusciously light. Perfect for those tea breaks!

Banana and Honey Teabread

225g self-raising flour
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
100g butter
225g bananas
100g caster sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons thick pale honey

For the topping
2 tablespoons honey
Nibbed sugar or crushed sugar cubes, for sprinkling (I used granulated sugar)

Preheat the oven to 160oC/fan 140oC/Gas 3. Lightly grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin then line the base with baking parchment.

Measure the flour and nutmeg into a large bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Peel and mash the bananas and stir into the flour mixture, along with the sugar, lemon rind, eggs and honey. Beat well until evenly mixed, then turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 ¼ hours or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover the teabread loosely with foil during the end of the cooking time if it is browning too much. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

To make the topping, gently warm the honey in a small pan then brush over the top of the cold teabread. Sprinkle with the nibbed sugar.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Macaroni Cheese

Currently I’m following the Weight Watcher’s diet as I’ve gained weight over the last year, call it comfort eating to help with the loss of Ollie’s passing, followed by Christmas and more recently the stress of moving. I’ve done WW before and it works great for me and I’ve always lost the weight at a healthy pace, average 2lbs a week if not more and in the last 2 weeks I’ve lost 6lbs. Last week while browsing on Amazon, as you do, I decided to invest in a couple of WW recipe books. The books arrived and I was surprised at how many lovely recipes I could make and still lose weight (which is a must for me, as I get stuck into the same foods too easily and become bored and disheartned).

The following recipe for Macaroni Cheese I actually got from their website after craving pasta. I’m sometimes sceptical about low fat food, having no flavour etc but then I’m basing that on those ready-made meals that really taste like plastic. This macaroni cheese was truly delish and delivered so much flavour, that I would never have guessed that it was low fat and only 7 points per serving. Hubby enjoyed this pasta with me and he too said how nice it was and that he would never have guessed it was a WW recipe.

Macaroni Cheese

Points: 7

Serves: 4

200g pasta, uncooked, (macaroni)
225ml skimmed milk
2 level tablespoon flour
1 level tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground, black
100g cheddar cheese
3 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/350°F/175°C. Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and keep warm.
In a large non-stick saucepan, combine milk, flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens and comes to a boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheddar in batches, stirring until cheese is melted after each addition before adding more. Stir in macaroni.
Transfer mixture to a shallow 1-quart casserole dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to grill and cook for 3 minutes more. Cool slightly before serving.

More WW recipes to follow.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Cranberry and White Chocolate Flapjacks

Hi everyone, I’m back! The house move was tough and exhausting but we are settled and enjoying our new home. I love my big open plan kitchen/dining room, which has become the hub of the home and I'm totally loving my new Aga Rangemaster cooker. I hope you all had a lovely Easter and enjoyed lots of baking. I had a lovely time baking in my new kitchen and baked Chocolate Fudge Easter Cupcakes and Nigella Lawson's Simnel Cake and Honey Chocolate Cake, both from her book Feast. But I completely forgot to take pics, opps my bad!

Last week I remembered these flapjacks which are another favourite in our home and it was also the first ever recipe we baked at Sweet and Simple Bakes. My boys are addicted to these flapjacks, they are quick to prepare and once baked you have an oaty, fruity, chewy and delish bar. Not to forget the added bonus of the white chocolate, perfect combination with cranberries. These are great to add to pack lunches, for mornings when you’re rushing out the door, or to accompany a cuppa. I have made these so many times and they fly out of the tin, but they do store well.

Cranberry and White Chocolate Flapjacks
Makes 12

250g butter
100g demerara sugar
200g golden syrup
250g rolled oats
75g plain flour
100g dried cranberries ( other dried fruits can also be used, blueberries, apricots, etc)
100g white chocolate, chopped (dark or milk chocolate can be used)

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper (please do not use greaseproof).Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large pan over a low heat (stirring occasionally), until the butter and sugar have completely melted. Add the rolled oats, flour and cranberries to the pan, and stir together well. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then mark into 12 squares – but don’t cut all the way through. Allow to cool in the tin completely. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over each bar.