White Chocolate and Pistachio Blondies.

I found these white chocolate, pistachio and nougatine bars in the local Carrefour supermarket when I was on holiday in France

A couple of weeks back I was on holiday in France and spotted these scrumptious sounding bars of chocolate in the local supermarket.  I love anything with pistachios in them and slipped two of these 100g bars in my trolley.  Once back at the villa I had to put them in a cool place as it was so hot.  Then when I was packing my case to go home I was wondering if the chocolate would last the flight home!  Thankfully it did. Both bars were intact and nothing had melted!

I was wondering what to do with the bars and then last week I chose to bake Blondies with them.  I bake brownies a lot but have only ever tried peanut butter and white chocolate ones before.  They were delicious and didn’t last long in our house. I adapted My Favourite Brownie Recipe by substituting the two bars of white chocolate for the dark chocolate and the nuts/ chocolate chips.  Instead of cocoa powder I made up another 15g of plain flour instead.

I have to tell you but these Blondies were heavenly.  As soon as they came out of the oven I was tempted to get chomping on one.  Thank heavens I had to wait until they had cooled down.  They were devilishly gooey inside, just as Brownies and Blondies should be.  With treats like this they get snaffled up in no time and I was worried they would go before they were meant to be eaten at Sunday lunch when we had family round. Luckily we had enough!

These Blondies are perfect as a pudding with ice cream or on their own with a cup of tea or coffee.  I’ll definitely be making them again if I can find white chocolate with pistachios like this in the UK.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx.

White Chocolate And Raspberry Fridge Cake.

It’s been nearly two weeks before I broke up for the summer holidays but it’s taken me ages to get round to blogging this recipe.  My White Chocolate and Raspberry Fridge Cake turned out to be a real experiment.  It was the last day of term in the school I’d been working in on a long term supply placement.  I’d come home the night before wanting to bake two or three really gorgeous layer cakes for the staff to share.  By the time I’d got myself sorted I couldn’t face icing the cakes so I just thought of quick things that people would like. I’d originally wanted to bake a white chocolate and raspberry cake topping it with some Lind’t Dor White Chocolate and Strawberry balls. I had 12 in my baking stash, bought with 12 mint chocolate balls and 12 caramel ones from the Pick n’ Mix in the Lindt shop at the York Designer Outlet. But all my plans were also scuppered when I found 3 strawberry ones missing and 4 caramel ones had gone!  Both my children swore blind they hadn’t eaten them and I must be senile because I hadn’t counted them properly! One of these days I’ll get some chocolates made with disgusting flavours in the centres and trick them!

So, what could I bake instead that wouldn’t take long to prepare?  I thought about a no bake cake as that could just set in the fridge while I baked something else.  I had white chocolate, Cadbury’s White Chocolate Fingers, digestive biscuits, double cream and a punnet of raspberries.  I had forgotten about the unopened pack of digestive biscuits lurking in the back of my baking cupboard from the last time I made Rocky Road.  Then the idea of a White Chocolate Fridge Cake came to me as soon as I saw the digestive biscuits.

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY FRIDGE CAKE

Ingredients:

500g good quality white chocolate (I use Green and Blacks or Lindt)

3 large packets of Cadbury White Chocolate Fingers

400g Digestive biscuits

200ml double cream

250g raspberries

200g dark chocolate (good quality)

First, weigh out all the ingredients.

Then find a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin, preferably with a loose bottom and line it with cling film.  Make sure the cling film overhangs the sides of the tin.

When you have done this, melt the white chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave.  If you are melting the chocolate in the microwave, put the chocolate in for a minute on high, then take out and stir. Repeat for another 20-30 seconds then take out and then continue stirring until the chocolate has completely melted. Allow to cool for a little.

Stir in the double cream.

Break up the Digestive biscuits and the white chocolate fingers into small pieces. Don’t crush them completely but leave them in little pieces to add texture.  Stir into the melted cream and chocolate mixture.  Fold in the raspberries.

Tip the mixture into the prepared traybake tin and spread out with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.  Put in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

Later on, if you want to have a topping on your fridge cake melt 200g of dark chocolate in the same way as the white chocolate.  Leave to cool slightly, then snip a tiny hole off a disposible piping bag.  Pour the melted dark chocolate into the piping bag then drizzle chocolate over the top of the fridge cake.

Put back into the fridge to set for another half an hour.  When set, remove the fridge cake from the tin and slice into 16 pieces.  Best kept in the fridge until needed, though but I can guarantee it won’t last long.

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio, White Chocolate, Cranberry and Lemon Biscotti inspired by the Great British Bake Off.

This is a blogpost I’ve been meaning to write for ages now. Before I went away on holiday for a week I enjoyed watching the second week of The Great British Bake Off, which was biscuit week.  For the contestants’ Signature Bake they were asked to bake biscotti.  This is not easy, to get delicious flavours, the right amount of crunch and to make sure that each biscotti was exactly the same size.. well all I can say is I’m glad I wasn’t trying it out in the Bake Off tent.

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My take on biscotti adapted from the Hazelnut and Orange Biscotti recipe adapted from the latest Great British Bake Off book.

I do love having a go at baking biscotti though.  I hadn’t baked any for ages although it tends to be something I make for foodie presents at Christmas.  I had to use ingredients in my baking cupboard rather than relying on one of the recipes for biscotti in the latest Great British Bake Off book “The Great British Bake Off Celebrations”.  There is a delicious sounding recipe for Orange and Hazelnut Biscotti in the book. Now as I didn’t have any oranges or hazelnuts in, that was going to die a death.  Instead I went for pistachio and cranberries and because I always think white chocolate goes well with cranberries, I used some white chocolate chunks as well.

This was the first thing I’d baked in a couple of weeks, what with our holiday and getting back into the swing of things.  Hubby had gone away overnight and I was at home doing jobs with the kids.  I knew that biscotti wouldn’t take me that long to bake but then realised that I should have waited to start baking. We were meant to be staying in catching up on jobs but I ended up having to nip out.  So, as usual my baking session ended up being rushed.

Plain flour, caster sugar and baking powder was first put together into a big mixing bowl and combined. After this was done I added beaten eggs and finally the dried fruit, chcoolate, pistachios and grated lemon zest were mixed in.  All formed into a huge ball of dough which was then split into two and rolled into two long logs.  These logs were then baked on a greased baking sheet.  They really expanded in the oven and thankfully didn’t stick together in one huge lump! Unfortunately I started to cut the biscotti up a bit too early, still a bit too soft  and warm and this made them a bit difficult to cut up.  Eventually I managed to get the separate biscotti pieces, I lost count of how many I cut up but they they did end up more or less the right size.  Back into the oven they went to bake separately and to crisp up.

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These biscotti didn’t last very long in our house.

It took all of my willpower not to scoff one but when my husband got in from work, I caved in.  My husband said he would have one with a cup of tea as it was going to be a while before our tea was ready.  That was it, he was eating one so I had to join in. In fact he had two!  They were delicious and I loved the flavour combination.

I enjoyed baking biscotti again and hope it won’t be too long before I can bake some more.  I put all the leftover ones into a tin but because they were so moreish they didn’t last very long!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Cupcakes from Primrose Bakery Celebrations.

I wanted to get started on my latest Cooking The Books Challenge so what better excuse was to bake for my school’s Summer Fair?  This month’s book is the third Primrose Bakery Book- “Primrose Bakery Celebrations” and I have had it for several months now and not tried any of the recipes out of it.  After all that’s the reason why I set myself this monthly challenge, to get myself baking from the books I buy and then put on the shelf to look pretty, then forget about them!

I had four different cupcake recipes to try out from Celebrations and I chose flavours which were going to be the easiest to create with ingredients I could easily get in my local supermarket. I didn’t have time to go to my local American candy stockist or even to order online.

First up were the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Young Girl’s Party Chapter of the book.  I found these simple to make even though the weather was very hot and sticky on the day I made them.  The chocolate melted really easily and I found that there was not enough white icing to cover the cupcakes using the piping method that I like using when baking cupcakes.

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White chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing.
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The cupcakes were finished off with some small chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips. I would have liked to have grated the chocolate but it was melting in my hand as I was holding it to the grater.

Second to be baked were the Cola Cupcakes in the Boy’s Party chapter.  I’d already wanted to bake Cola Cupcakes but never got around to it. I’m surprised as I love fizzy cola bottles but when I went to our local Morrisons all I could find was a pack of large ones.  I didn’t want to buy a multipack because I’d be nibbling the remaining sweets I didn’t need for the cakes!  When I opened the large cola bottle pack I found there were only 8 in there so the remaining 4 cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy!  In the recipe introduction it says “we found that using a cola concentrate rather than real cola is much more effective” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bottle of SodaStream cola concentrate so a real can of “full-fat” coke had to do!  The matching cola icing turned out very runny and just would not thicken up.  Instead of swirling it on it was spread on just as it seemed to get warmer and warmer in my kitchen!

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These cola cupcakes were a hit with the children.
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Some of the cola cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy.

When the cola cupcakes were finished I got on to bake number three.  This time I had a go at Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sounded incredibly rich.  The cupcakes were vanilla flavour but were topped with the rich caramel icing.  They did have a hidden surprise in them though- half a chunk of Galaxy Bar!

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Galaxy chocolate inside the cupcake filling, put more on top after the photo was taken!

 I cheated and instead of making my own caramel I used a jar of salted caramel sauce  bought from a local deli.  The icing for these cupcakes came up a bit thicker and spread on the cakes much easier.  My daughter came into the kitchen as I was making these and asked if she could help.  So she had the fun job of bashing a packet of Werther’s Original caramel sweets with the end of a rolling pin so they could be sprinkled on the top of the cupcakes.

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Salted caramel cupcakes topped with crushed Werther’s Originals!

The final bake for the summer fair was some Eton Mess cupcakes.  I love Eton Mess pudding so I wanted to see if I could recreate it in a cupcake.  I baked them slightly differently to the way they were in the recipe.  The recipe called for making a hole in the baked cupcake and poking in a fresh raspberry and some mascarpone cheese.  I didn’t bother with the mascarpone but put the raspberry into the mixture before it baked. When the cakes cooled I got ready to make the creamy frosting.  I needed to add pureed raspberries to cream to make it pink but I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t got enough raspberries.  In the end I had to use artificial pink food colouring in the cream.

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Eton Mess Cupcakes.

To finish off the Eton Mess cupcakes I had bought some ready made mini meringues.  I could have made them myself but I just ran out of time.  My daughter enjoyed crushing them for me and then sprinkling them on the cupcakes.

But… disaster struck when I got the cupcakes to the school fair the day after.  I had boxed the cakes and put them in my garage which was the coolest place in the house being as I didn’t have a fridge which worked!  The other cupcakes were fine but the Eton Mess cupcakes were a mess!  The meringue melted into the topping and looked horrible.  So they went in the bin.  I was gutted but I will try and bake another batch on a cooler day in the future so that I can see what they should taste like!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Speculaas Spice Company- Chewy Speculaas Blondies and Speculaas Cookies.

I enjoyed my baking session using the Speculaas Spice miz.
I enjoyed my baking session using the Speculaas Spice miz.

I must admit I’d not heard of speculaas spice before.  So when Steven from The Speculaas Spice Company asked me if I would like to try a sample of his special Speculaas spice mix I was intrigued.

A little package arrived in the post last week along with some background information about The Speculaas Spice Company.  Speculaas is a special spice mix that originates from The Netherlands and many families had their own spice recipes.  Steven grew up in Amsterdam and wanted to recreate the smell and taste of the Speculaas biscuits his own mother baked at home.

The special Speculaas Spice mix packet and background information sent to me from The Speculaas Spice Company.
The special Speculaas Spice mix packet and background information sent to me from The Speculaas Spice Company.

The spices used in the VanDotsch Speculaas spice mix are organic or Fair Trade wherever possible and do not contain any preservatives.  There are nine different spices in the blend including ginger, cloves, cinnamon and six other aromatic flavours.

If you want to find out more about The Speculaas Spice Company then here are the details:

Steven Dotsch, The Speculaas Spice Company

www. speculaasspice.co.uk

Email: info@speculaasspice.co.uk

Tel: 020 8374 8718

To follow on Twitter: @vanDotschSpices

There are some delicious recipes to try out on the website but I was keen to try out the spices in two recipes I’d always fancied baking from the very first Edd Kimber book “The Boy Who Bakes”.  One  recipe was for some mouthwatering Blondies, also containing chocolate and hazelnuts, the other for some aromatic Speculaas cookies.  I thought that the Spice mix would transform the bakes onto another level. There were enough spices to bake both recipes and as soon as I opened the little packet the wonderful smell escaped out into the kitchen.  It made me very hungry.  One of my favourite aromas in the world is the smell of gingerbread men baking and I was immediately transported back to my childhood.  I am sure the Speculaas spice does the same for lots of Dutch children!

Edd Kimber says in his recipe introduction that he is “in love with speculaas.. what’s not to love?”  I have baked blondies before but not with spices added to them, this was going to be very interesting.  So, I greased an 8″ square tin and got stuck in!

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I used about three teaspoonfuls of speculaas spice mix in the blondies.
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Some butter was melted in a small pan.
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The spice mix was added to the melted butter, cooked for a couple of minutes and then I added some brown sugar to heat through.
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The melted butter, spice mix and brown sugar. This was taken off the heat and left to cool for a few minutes.
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The other ingredients were added. First the dry ones, such as plain flour, baking powder and salt were folded into the melted butter mixture. Then I added in a bar of chopped white chocolate and some hazelnuts.
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The batter was poured into the prepared tin and then baked in the oven for about 35 minutes. It took a little bit longer as I used a square tin and not a longer rectangular one. 
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The brownies had more depth than the ones in the picture because of the size of the tin. I had to adjust the baking time, it needed about 10-15 minutes longer than Edd suggested. This didn’t cause any problems, the blondies came out gooey and chewy as expected.
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The finished blondies- cut up and on a serving plate. The smell was absolutely gorgeous and it took all my courage not to scoff the lot there and then!

I was very impressed with the Speculaas spices and I hope to buy some more in the future.  I can see the comforting  spices working very well in cookies, gingerbread and other bakes that you would eat or make in the Autumn and Winter months.  As I was so entranced by the spices I decided to use the rest of them up in a second recipe from The Boy Who Bakes.  This time it was a recipe for Speculaas cookies.

Edd also says in the biscuit introduction that this is a “spicy biscuit with plenty of crunch” The recipe he states is not a traditional one but has the flavour.

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First, I put plain flour, the remainder of the spice mix, some salt, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl and mixed them together.
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To this I added cubed butter which I rubbed in to the flour and sugar mixture.

After this I added in one whole egg, another egg yolk and binded the mixture together to form a large ball of dough.  After this, Edd says to cut out the dough shapes and to chill them on a baking tray.  I didn’t have time to do this so I baked them straightaway as soon as I had cut them out.  The biscuits in the picture were circular ones but I fancied trying out two different shapes. I cut out plain circles and also a fluted rectangle.  The recipe went very far and I got loads of biscuits out of the dough.

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The finished circular Speculaas cookies warm out of the oven, deliciously aromatic and sprinkled generously with caster sugar.
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The rectangular biscuits.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars from Delia’s Cakes.

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In my monthly challenge “Cooking The Books“, where I choose a favourite baking book and bake one recipe from each chapter throughout that month, I thought I would have no problem at all in choosing a recipe from the Chocolate chapter.   After all I am a total chocolholic!  This month’s turn is to bake from Delia Smith’s fantastic and much loved “Delia’s Cakes”.  I have already fallen in love with her Chocolate Beer Cake but had to choose something else that would go down well at my neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.

I decided to go with the Chocolate Energy Bars  as they reminded me of a cross between a flapjack and chocolate fridge cake!  Whenever I have run cake stalls before, these always fly off and sell out!  So the Chocolate Energy Bars it just had to be.  Delia says in her introduction to the recipe that she “made them on TV with Dawn French for Comic Relief” and that “school children were making them all over the country to raise money and they were very popular”  I’m not surprised.  Judging by the beautiful picture to accompany the recipe, I would happily sink my teeth into a huge chunk of this!

So both my mum and I got on with baking this for our neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.  This was to be the last of the four bakes I chose to take along as my contribution to the cafe in the village school hall.   I noticed that pecan nuts were on the ingredients list but I thought I would put in crushed digestive biscuits instead of nuts in case it would put children off and what with allergy worries. I also didn’t have any Bran Flakes which were also needed for the recipe.  I can’t stand Bran Flakes, so I doubled the quantity of Rice Krispies that were needed.  The rest of the ingredients stayed the same: dried apricots, raisins, etc.  The recipe also called for molasses syrup.  I thought molasses was like black treacle but I didn’t have any so I substituted in golden syrup instead.  After all, you put golden syrup in flapjacks don’t you?

First I had to put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl.  In a small saucepan I heated up some condensed milk with the golden syrup.  I was surprised that you only needed to use half a tin of condensed milk.  It didn’t seem very much fluid at all to coat all the dried fruit and cereals.  In fact I thought the mixture was a bit dry and wondered whether to add in the rest of the condensed milk but wanted to stick to the recipe.  Then the mixture was  spooned into my traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.

 Once it had been let out and cooled I started to melt the chocolate for the topping.  In one bowl I melted white chocolate in my microwave, followed by some dark chocolate.  Even though it was exactly the same quantity it looked like I had far more dark than white chocolate!

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Now for the tricky bit!  Here was where it was all about the taste and not the appearance.  Instead of the bars being easy to cut with a sharp knife I found the whole thing just broke in half diagonally as I tried to turn it out of the tin.  The air was blue in my kitchen!  Then I spread the chocolate on, not looking as pretty as it looked like in Delia’s picture.  My mum and I tried to cut the traybake into even bars but in the end we decided on little squares.  Perhaps it was too crumbly and messy because we needed more fluid to bind the mixture together. It definitely wasn’t overbaked or anything like that.  Into the fridge it went and I hoped and prayed people would buy some the next day.

Whether people did buy some to try I don’t know.  I tried a piece and I thought it was too dry for my liking, though I liked the flavour combination and the chocolate on top.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx