The most relaxing activity after a whirlwind week in the city for me is baking, especially in the winter. You can keep yourself warm by the oven and fill the kitchen with the sweet smell of a treat baking away. After the delicious cookies Rebecca (from Florence Finds) brought to the Dream. Find. Do. masterclass, I had to get my Hummingbird Bakery book out and see what I could whip up.

I fancied a bit of experimentation and, inspired by this mint chocolate chip cookie recipe, I decided to replace your average chocolate chips with Matchmakers (a regular feature in our Christmas chocolate hoard).

So here’s what you need to make a batch of 24:

  • 225g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 350g soft brown sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 box of mint Matchmakers (or 225g of dark chocolate)
Here’s how you make them:

Preheat your oven to 170 C (325 F) Gas 3.

Put your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and blend together until light and fluffy (or at least well mixed) with an electric whisk or spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scrapping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and using an electric whisk mix until the ingredients are combined.

Add the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix until a smooth dough is formed. Mine was quite sticky, not the kind of dough that you could roll out.

Now get your Matchmaker chocolates.

Break the Matchmakers in half, put in a small blender and blitz for a few seconds.

You should get small chips that look a bit like this.

Stir your chips into the dough until they’re evenly dispersed (I used my hands for this bit).

Arrange six equal amounts of cookie dough on four baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Make sure your cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking.

(By the way your dough will not look green unless you are experimenting with green food dye and the mint chocolate chip look like I was – not recommended!)

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and quite flat. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooking rack to cool completely.

They looked quite raised in the oven but as soon as you take them out they’ll shrink to look like this. The cookies should be soft and chewy.

Put the kettle on, make a cuppa and grab a stack of cookies to enjoy!

What’s your most relaxing activity? 

After a little break I’m very happy to welcome back Danielle with more of her simple fresh recipes! They’re perfect for anyone in the city who likes to cook delicious meals from scratch but doesn’t quite have the time and energy to slave over the hob, or a bank account that allows for eating out every night. Over to you Danielle!

This sweet chicken curry is a simple recipe that you can throw together and place in the oven with very little effort. I have taken it from my Mum who cooks it on a regular basis due to the limited preparation time, perfect during the dark winter nights when after a long day at work you just want to slump in front of the TV. It’s also great to cook when entertaining friends as you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your company.

A lot of curry recipes I have tried in the past I have found it hard to get the majority of ingredients from my local supermarket and I have had to look further afield. Most of the ingredients in this recipe can be found in your kitchen cupboard or are relatively cheap to buy. It’s tomato based with a fruity sweet taste, a great option for anyone who doesn’t like really hot curries. It makes enough for 4 hungry people and freezes well for another day.

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 tin (400g) of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 table spoon of tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons of sandwich pickle
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 table spoons of medium curry powder
  • 240g rice (60g per person)

Method

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

1) Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C of gas mark 4.

2) Chop your chicken breasts into small chunks and set to one side.

3) Chop your onion and apple into small chunks and add to your oven proof dish or casserole dish.

4) Cover the ingredients with the chopped tomatoes and stir in your tomato puree and sandwich pickle.

5) Add your chopped raw chicken breasts to the mixture and stir in your curry power.

6) Add the bay leaf and place in the pre-heated oven.

If you are using a casserole dish add the lid to the dish. If your dish does not have a lid cover with foil.

7) After 30 minutes stir the mixture and return to the oven.

8) 20 minutes before serving add the dried rice to a pan and cover in cold water. Bring the rice to the boil and reduce the heat for 10 minutes.

When the time is up serve immediately.

I like to add a couple of sides like naan, poppadoms and mango chutney. I have also enjoyed this curry on top of a jacket potato from a portion I have got out of my freezer.

Sounds pretty easy! Anything that doesn’t require tracking down tricky ingredients or buying new kitchen equipment is good in my books! What do you think?

Sundays should always be full of your favourite activities to help fend off any chance of the pre-Monday blues creeping in. I had a lovely weekend back in Birmingham, catching up with family and enjoying a beautiful wedding of a good friend. I got back to the city Sunday afternoon not quite willing to accept the weekend was almost over. I had a few ingredients left over from last weekend’s chocolate sponge so I decided to try out making my own homemade jaffa cakes.

I saw the recipe some time ago over on Florence Finds and it looked so easy I logged it in my memory. The recipe is by Simon Rimmer from BBC Food Recipes. So, here’s how you make them.

Ingredients:

For the cakes you’ll need

  • 2 eggs
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour, sieved
  • A little butter for greasing

For the jaffa filling you’ll need

  • 1 x 135g packet orange jelly
  • 1 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray with a little butter.

Break up the jelly cubes and mix together the jelly, marmalade and boiling water until the jelly has dissolved.

Pour the mixture into a shallow-sided baking tray and form a 1cm/½in layer of jelly. (I lined the tray with cling film to make sure it would come out OK.) Set aside until completely cooled, then chill in the fridge until set.

Whilst the jelly is cooling, get started on your cakes. Simon advises that you should bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). I missed this step and went straight to – add the eggs and sugar to the bowl, whisk for a few minutes until the mixture is pale, fluffy and well combined. Sieve the flour, whisking continuously, until a thick, smooth batter forms.

Divide your cake batter over a 12-hole muffin tray. Pop the tray in the oven and bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set the cakes aside, still in their tray, until cool.

When the jelly has set and the cakes have cooled, cut small discs from the layer of jelly (I used a champagne flute as it was a great size). Sit one jelly disc on top of each cake.

Now for the best part, melting chocolate! I used Cadbury Dairy Milk as the local Tesco Express was annoyingly out of dark. Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir until melted.

Then pour over the cakes sitting in the muffin tray. Set aside until the melted chocolate has cooled and set.

Carefully remove from the tray, boil the kettle and enjoy with a cup of tea.

Overall it was pretty easy and, apart from having to wait for the jelly to set, not very time consuming. In comparison to the Jaffa Cakes we know and love, these were good but definitely not the same. The texture of the sponge was a bit heavy but I wonder if the missing step would sort that out?! I would also recommend letting the melted chocolate cool properly. I was a bit eager which meant some of the jelly melted, although this does give a more rustic homemade look in my opinion…

You can read how Florence’s guest blogger got on in this post.

Do you fancy giving these ago? Or do you love Jaffa Cakes too much they could never compete?

 

After all the buzz about the Great British Bake Off, I got completely in the mood for a bit of baking on Saturday, I even felt like experimenting. Unfortunately what I hoped might look a bit like a chocolate version of these cake squares, after foolishly making up my own version turned out like this. On the upside, not only did this little square of sweetness get some admiration on Facebook, it also tasted pretty good and I discovered that I had a simple and reliable chocolate sponge cake on my hands.

So in case you need to whip up a cake at the last minute or you just fancy satisfying your sweet tooth I thought I’d share the recipe.

Here’s what you’ll need for a normal sponge ( the quantities in brackets will give you enough for a large square cake, perfect for bigger parties):

  • 200g [300g] plain flour
  • 40g [60g] cocoa powder
  • 280g [420g] caster sugar
  • 3 [4 1/2] teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 80g [120g] unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 240ml [360g] whole milk
  • 2 [3] eggs
  • 1/2 [3/4] teaspoon vanilla extract

You’ll also need one portion of butter icing, which means:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 40ml whole milk

Pre-heat your oven to 170 °C (325 °F) Gas 3. Get your ingredients and put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl. Mix until it’s all combined, leaving a sandy texture. I don’t have a food mixers so I start with a fork (to avoid a flour storm) and then use an electric whisk.

Next whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract in a jug, then slowly pour about half in the flour mixture and beat with your whisk to combine. Turn up the speed and mix until you get rid of any lumps. Slowly pour the rest of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth, being careful not to over mix.

Grease two cake tins (or two brownie trays lined with grease-proof paper if you’re using the bigger mixture). Divide your mixture between the two tins and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes. A knife in the centre should come out clean when it’s done.

Whilst your sponge is cooking (or cooling on a wire rack) you can whip up your icing. Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder. I use a spoon first, smoothing it together to avoid an icing sugar cloud. Then I add a little milk and use the electric whisk, adding more and more milk until I get what looks more like edible icing. Beat it together for a few extra minutes to make sure it’s well mixed.

When your sponge is nice and cool, using your least pretty cake as the bottom, spoon on your icing and spread across the sponge so you have an even layer.

Add your top layer and tah-dah! One cake (or about 30 ‘cake squares’) to share or enjoy with a cuppa.

Unfortunately I can’t take all the credit for this recipe as I’ve simply turned The Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcake recipe into a cake, doubling or tripling the ingredients.  It always produces a good cake and I’m impressed with how quickly I can make one.

Do you have a cake you can whip up in no time?

P.S. If you’re wondering what the white sauce is, I melted some white chocolate with the intention of completely covering each cake square. It looks terrible but it still tastes good!

It’s been a while since any baking has been done in my kitchen and I can’t even take credit for this! Enjoying baking is one of the many things me and one of my good uni friends Lucinda have in common, (fair skin, dark hair and a dangerous love of shopping to name a few more).  Luc has quite a collection of kitchen goodies that I like to claim means she tends to bake more than me, but the best thing about this is that when I get a sniff of something good being put together I’m quick to put my order in.  

Last weekend I invited myself over for dinner and found out that on top of Coq au Vin, I was offered Bailey’s and chocolate cheesecake! I knew this was going to be good so I got her to take some pics and share the recipe.

I often use recipes from the BBC’s Food Recipes site as they’re usually pretty simple and it saves buying cookbooks as I can follow the instructions using my iPad.  The Baileys and chocolate cheesecake is a great example, there are only a few ingredients and although it does take sometime to allow it to set it really doesn’t take too much time to put together.   So here’s the recipe!

You’ll need:

  • 100g/3½oz butter
  • 250g/8¾oz digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 600g/1lb 5oz cream cheese
  • 25ml/1fl oz Baileys
  • 100ml/3½oz icing sugar
  • 300ml/10½oz double cream, whipped
  • 100g/3½oz grated chocolate
To garnish
  • 200ml/7¼oz double cream, whipped
  • cocoa powder, to dust

How to make it:

Melt the butter in a pan and add the crushed digestive biscuits. Mix well until the biscuits have absorbed all the butter.

Remove from the heat and press into the bottom of a lined 18cm/7in springform tin. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for one hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Lightly whip the cream cheese then beat in the Bailey’s and icing sugar. Fold in the whipped cream and grated chocolate. When smooth, spoon evenly onto the biscuits.

Refrigerate and allow to set for a further two hours. Once set, remove and decorate with whipped cream and cocoa powder dusted over the top.

 Serve…

I think Laura enjoyed it if it was worth Instagraming

 I can confirm it was indeed delicious and I’m pretty tempted to whip one up the next time I have someone round for dinner!

Now that the autumn is here and standing by the oven is an appealing thought I’m hoping to get baking and creating in my own kitchen over the next few weeks so look out for some more recipes!

P.S. Have you voted in the Reader Survey – which post would you read most? I’m looking to introduce a new style of post and would love to know what you’d find more interesting!

Blondies are fairer versions of the humble brownie, getting white chocolate involved instead of the more traditional milk or dark chocolate. I have a bit of a weakness for white chocolate, I’ll search out the golden Lindor wrappers and usually snap up white chocolate cookies in the blink of an eye.  I also love a good brownie, so combine them and you’ve got something pretty irresistible, I HAD to bake them.

 

There are a few recipes around the web but I chose BBC Food recipes for mine (skipping the frosting option as I didn’t fancy that much).  It’s really easy and you only need a few ingredients, so if your stomach is rumbling for white chocolate read on!

 Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 225g/8oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g/5½oz plain flour, sifted
  • 225g/8oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 100g/3½oz macadamia nuts, chopped (I tracked these down in the John Lewis Foodhall if you’re in central London)

Equipment 

  • Scales
  • Mixing bowls
  • Sieve
  • Hand blender
  • 20cm/8in square cake tin
Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease your cake tin with butter.  I didn’t have a square cake tin which was the right size so I improvised and used a regular round cake tin and a cupcake tray (I’ll explain more later).

Beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy.  I didn’t think mine looked that pale or fluffy, so if it looks anything like the image below you’re still on the right tracks.

Melt your butter if you haven’t already.

Beat in the melted butter a little at a time, making sure each addition of butter is fully mixed in before adding the next.

Add the flour and fold it into the mixture using a metal spoon.

Pop your macadamia nuts into a blender and blitz for a couple of seconds.  Add them to the mixture and get your white chocolate.

Break up your white chocolate and blitz these too for about the same time as the nuts.

You could chop your white chocolate by hand but I liked the smaller grains as these mixed the white chocolate goodness into the brownie nicely.

Fold in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate.  The final mixture isn’t that pleasing on the eye but I promise you the end result is much more tasty.

Now this is where the improvisation comes in.  I didn’t have a 20cm square tin so I used a regular round cake tin and filled it so that the mixture was about 2cm deep, with the rest of the mixture I got a cupcake tray and filled six cupcakes.

I baked the cake tin for about 30-35 minutes and the cupcake tray for about 25 minutes.  You know it’s done when it looks golden round the edges and when you pop a knife in it comes out clean.  I recommend doing your test in the middle so you can make sure it’s cooked right through.

Wait for it to cool slightly. Then take it out and leave to cool for a few more minutes before cutting.  I made squares out of the round cake tin.  The cupcakes tasted great but didn’t look as good as these beauties.

They went down pretty well and I was even told they were my best baking yet! So if you want to impress with something pretty simple give them a go!

What do you think? Could a blondie ever beat a brownie?