Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

When Two Become One: Cheesecake Topped Chocolate Brownies

This tray bake combines two of my favourite desserts, and I love that someone looked at a chocolate brownie, and decided that the best thing to do with it would be to cover it in another dessert. 

I have been wanting to test out this for a little while now, and as I have a party to cater for next week, I thought if I could master them they would make a great addition to the finger buffet. I have seen quite a few American recipes for Cheesecake Topped Brownies, however this time I have amalgamated my favourite brownie recipe, and added a simple baked cheesecake topping.

So, the ingredients needed are as follows;

For the Brownies

  • 115g Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 115g Butter
  • 300g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 140g Plain Flour
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
For the Cheesecake Topping
  • 200g Cream Cheese
  • 75g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment and grease.

Start by melting the chocolate and butter together over hot water, stir through until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and combine.

Beat the two eggs into the mixture.

Sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

Add the chocolate mixture to the flour, and fold through until well combined.

Keep a couple of large spoonfuls of the mixture aside for the top of the bake, and transfer the remainder to the greased tin, spreading out evenly to the edges.

In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, caster sugar and yolks together until completely blended.

 Pour the mixture on top of the brownie mixture.

Add the remaining brownie mixture to the tin in random blobs, and then swirl through with a toothpick as below.

Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees, or until the top is a golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool and cut into small 1 inch squares.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Latest Pantry Door Cake Projects

So my little idea is nearly 4 months old now, and really starting to take shape. I had a look back through some of my first cake designs this week, and can't believe how far they have come on already! My beautiful friends and family have given me so many new and exciting tools and books for Christmas gifts this year, I cannot wait to get back into the kitchen and start baking, and I have some great ideas for 2013.

These are my last few designs of 2012...

1. 30th Birthday Literary Book Stack Cake

Book Cake
This cake was designed a few months ago for the 30th birthday of a friend's brother. The books have been personalised with his favourite titles and authors, and the three books concealed three separate flavoured cakes, one chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, one Victoria sponge, and one lemon.

2. 1st Birthday Butterfly Cake

My first official request 4 months ago! This was for a friend's little girl's first birthday, and I had one remit - Girly! The cake is a lemon sponge, with coloured lemon frosting. The decoration comes from edible gold paint, edible diamonds, and a sprinkling of edible pink glitter. I found the shaped mould on a fantastic site called Baked by Me - www.bakedbyme.net They really are fantastic, I would recommend anyone to check out their wares! 

3. Christmas Cake Project from Cake Decorating Class.

Christmas Cake
As you know I have been attending a sugarcraft class, this is the completed project from the end of the course. I have signed up for next year, and we will be learning orchids and lilies... I can't wait!

4. Panda Cake

This was a little bit of a home experiment, using a mould that came free with a magazine. I used vanilla and chocolate sponge mixtures, and piped the chocolate into the darker areas of the panda, before filling in with vanilla, and then used black and white sugarpaste to cover. The bamboo was made from wafers. 

5. Christmas Day Yule Log

And finally. this was the Yule Log I made to take to our big family Christmas dinner, decorated with holly and ivy...

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Saved by the Cookie Dough

I am quite particular about my cookies. For me, as a bare minimum, they have to be chewy, those crunchy choc chip cookies that you buy in packets (mentioning no brand names!) just don't cut it for me. I spent years trying to find the perfect cookie recipe, and the best by far I ever came across was for Super-posh Chewy Cookies, from the Hairy Bikers - link here


I adore this recipe, it has white and dark chocolate, cherries, hazelnuts and almonds, and a splash of cherry brandy and in my opinion it cannot be beaten.

My story today however comes from a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself in a (albeit brief) spell of austerity. I started a new job at the beginning of the month, and had to travel away for a few days for my induction. Having misjudged somewhat the dates of my last paycheck from my previous employers, and my first from the new, and then finding that I had pay my travel costs upfront, suddenly my purse was a little light.

I made some sandwiches to take on the train, and looked around the kitchen to see what else I could take with me to save myself from paying the inflated train station prices for snacks, but couldn't find anything. Then I spied a bag of chocolate chips in the corner of the cupboard. I grabbed a recipe book, had a flick through, and found a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.

In short, these cookies were soft and chewy, exactly how I like them, and the recipe was straightforward, simple, and versatile. I replaced 15g of the flour with cocoa powder (I always use Green and Blacks Cocoa Powder as I find it has a deeper flavour) but you could also replace the chocolate chips with nuts or fruit if you wished.

I packed a bag full of cookies, and I'm not exaggerating when I say at 10pm at night on a train after having made two changes already, these little treats saved the last shred of my sanity!

The Recipe

225g butter
100g caster sugar
220g dark brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
310g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
335g plain chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 190 C / Gas 5.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Finally, mix in the chocolate chips. Drop heaped tablespoons onto ungreased baking trays.

Cookie Dough
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until edges are golden. Remove from baking tray to cool on wire racks.

Double Choc Chip Cookies

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Gingerbread Recipe - Pantry Door Style

Quick post tonight - I wanted to share with you the recipe that I have been using for gingerbread this year, and a prime example of my 'kick-at-the-pantry-door' philosophy.

Earlier this year, after being bought a gingerbread house kit by my Grandma, I made a few batches of gingerbread, which proved to be quite successful (and reportedly quite spicy!). On Christmas Eve, whilst finishing my Christmas hampers for a few family members to open on Christmas Day, I decided to make one final batch to add to the boxes of goodies.

Happily humming Christmas tunes, I gathered my utensils, weighed out my ingredients, melted the butter, and reached for the golden syrup... only to find that rather than the required 300g, I had... 25g! It was 5pm on Christmas Eve, there was no way I was going to the supermarket, and I had a gingerbread-man shaped hole in my hampers. I tipped the cupboard out, feeling into the back of dark corners in the vain hope of finding a long-forgotten bottle, but to no avail, so I had to improvise.

I re-read my recipe, which calls for 300g golden syrup or treacle. I had black treacle. 100g of treacle in and I looked at the mixture forming with dismay, if I was to use 300g of black treacle, I had a feeling I was going to end up with tar biscuits. Then I spied a bottle of Orange Blossom honey in the cupboard. This is already ruined, I thought, what harm could it do?

In truth - both Gary and I agreed that they were the best batch yet! Just goes to show - don't be afraid of adding and substituting in recipes, they are after all just guidelines! I have posted the official recipe below... happy experimenting! xx


180g Butter
125g Brown Sugar
300g Golden Syrup or Treacle
500g Plain Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Bicarb of Soda

Melt the butter over a low heat, then add the sugar, syrup and treacle. Remove from the heat and stir.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add to the syrup mixture, stirring until it forms a thick dough.

Transfer the dough onto a sheet of baking paper, and roll out to approx 1/2 cm thick. Cut out the shapes and remove the excess. Transfer the baking paper onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10 - 15 mins at 170 degrees. Remove from oven when shapes are firm to touch, they will continue to cook and firm up when out of the oven, so do not leave in for too long as they will be too hard and lose some of their chewiness.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

OK... It's Christmas Eve Eve (according to my Twitter feed) and I am at last sitting down to write a Christmas blog. You should probably know that I have four open drafts here, and a heart full of good intentions, however I realise now that I haven't actually uploaded a single word in December. This is not because of writer's block, it's not even because I have nothing to say, but more that so much has been happening that I simply did not know where to start!

Over the next few days I intend to share some baking experiments, a few tried and tested recipes, and the end results of a few long planned projects for some very special friends. Today however, before Christmas has been and gone completely, I wanted to share a few Christmas staples, and hope that a few of you may still yet benefit from the tips and links!

A few weeks ago, my Grandma took me Lakeland to buy Christmas presents (I was like a child in a sweet shop, seriously) and one of the treasures I brought home in my loot was a cookie cutter set for a gingerbread house. This little gem was just £4.99, and I have used the cutters over and over this Christmas, from shapes for icing cakes, to making a more festive shaped batch of cheese scones! This is the link, and comes thoroughly recommended by yours truly ... http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16675/Gingerbread-House-Cutter-Set

The box the set came in has a recipe on the back for gingerbread, and having never made it before, I used this and followed it to the letter to make my first batch of gingerbread. I made a batch of Christmas shapes, which have formed part of my Christmas hampers for friends and family, and decorated them with coloured royal icing. A lot of the blogs I have read over the last few weeks have all made a similar complaint, trying to find a red food colouring that does not come out pink when mixed with buttercream or royal icing. I have to say that the best by far is Sugarflair. You can find this in any good cake decorating shop, and is in small pots of gel. A small amount of this on the end of a cocktail stick is enough to produce a strong colour, and because it is a gel it doesn't affect the consistency of the substance you are adding it to.

These were my finished gingerbread shapes...

Next up were my Christmas essential, Mince Pies. I always have to have these in the house, nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit than a hot cup of tea and a mince pie, and I honestly cannot face the task of wrapping presents without the promise of this at the end. Up until now, honestly I always use shop-bought mincemeat, however I have made a promise to myself to try and make it homemade next year. I do try and make my mince pies stand out from Mr Kipling's (other makes are available...) and I always add ground almonds to my shortcrust pastry to give a special mince pie taste. This year, I found some cute Christmas stencils as well, and used these to decorate the tops of my mince pies with icing sugar.

Mince Pies
The almond shortcrust pastry recipe is as follows... Sift 200g plain flour into a large bowl, add 40g golden caster sugar, and 75g ground almonds. Stir the dry ingredients through until fully combined. Add 125g butter and rub into the mixture to create a breadcrumb like texture. Beat one free range egg and slowly add to the mixture, stirring well to bring the crumbs together to form a dough. Knead briefly and form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour. This dough will make approximately 12 pies. Be warned, it make a very crumbly dough from the almonds, do not over handle and use flour sparingly to roll out so as not to dry it our further.

My third and final share for the day is my first attempt at a Yule Log, or Buche de Noel to give it it's Sunday name! I have had a couple of requests for Yule Log this year, and spent a little time researching various recipes to give myself a starting point. I settled on the Mary Berry recipe from the BBC Food website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/yule_log_15656

My only deviation from the recipe was I decided to swap the listed whipped cream centre for a chocolate mousse, which I made from melted chocolate and whisked egg whites. This was the end result, and it went down very well with my testers it has to be said - I now have to make another for the family for Christmas Day!

Buche de Noel : Yule Log
More recipes and photos to follow over the next few days, in the meantime, Merry Christmas all, I hope Santa brings you everything you wish for...

V xx