Mostly raw, these delicious vegan chocolate chip cookie dough energy balls taste of caramel. They’re flavoured with punchy chilli chocolate and cinnamon for an extra kick. And not only that, they’re also egg and dairy free, made with healthy ingredients and above all else, delicious.
Crisp and crumbly nutty shortbread type biscuits flavoured with a little cardamom, cinnamon and fragrant rose. These pistachio biscuits are perfect for the festive season and ideal as a homemade Christmas gift.
Easter is fast approaching and as it gets ever nearer, my thoughts turn to chocolate, although to be fair, my thoughts are rarely far from this exquisite food of the gods. Over the years I’ve made many Easter chocolate cakes, some more child friendly than others. These ones, containing rather a lot of rum are definitely of the adult variety.
Mini apple crumble and custard cakes flavoured with cinnamon. A surprise middle of apple purée with a topping of custard buttercream and crumble makes these little cupcakes a complete delight. Perfect for an autumnal party.
Fruit vinegars make a wonderful addition to many dishes. Vinegar captures the essence of the fruit beautifully reminding us of the season in which it was harvested. This blackcurrant vinegar gives a flavoursome tang to sauces, salads and desserts. It goes particularly well with beetroot. A little poured over simple vanilla ice-cream gives a real wow factor and mixed with water, it makes a refreshing drink.
Gingerbread is almost synonymous with Christmas and making some to hang on the tree is something I aspire to each year. This year, I’ve actually done it. Not that we have a tree to hang any on, but I’m hoping that the friends we are giving them to will.
Reading through a review copy of What to Bake & How to Bake It, I noticed a recipe for iced gingerbread cookies that used treacle as a variation. I find the word treacle very hard to resist – something to do with childhood memories of my mother’s treacle pudding, I imagine. Decision made: I would knock up some gingerbread. I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding only a little chocolate (of course) and a few additional spices. A pinch of black pepper for additional warmth was needed I thought as well as some allspice for Vanesther’s Spice Trail and some nutmeg.
What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (published by Phaidon Press at £19.95), is a rather beautiful book. It’s quite a large hardback and has a turquoise textured paper cover that makes me want to stroke it. Two matching turquoise bookmarks add distinction and there are plenty of gorgeous pictures to admire. It appears to be more a work of art than a manual. It’s certainly a book to treasure.
As the title suggests, this book is aimed principally at those who are new to baking or who require a confidence boost. Each recipe is spread over four to six pages, with lots of step-by-step aerial photography and accompanying instructions. Ah, so it is a manual, albeit a rather lovely one. Methodologies, terms and equipment are covered at the beginning and there are plenty of tips and tricks to be found throughout. Anyone working through a few of these recipes would learn pretty much everything they needed to turn out fabulous, cakes, breads, biscuits, pies and desserts. Despite this, I think the book is also useful to the more experienced baker; most of us still have something to learn. Creating a Swiss roll is one of my bêtes noirs, so maybe I’ll be able to crack it with the steps shown here.
There are fifty recipes in total and although the classics are represented, there is plenty here to keep the more experienced baker interested and inspired. Shortbread is covered for example, but orange, lavender, pecan and chocolate versions are also given. I have my eye on the malted chocolate birthday cake as I’m a sucker for a malteser and if I hadn’t been ill in the run-up to Christmas, I would have made the pistachio and fig biscotti which sounds exotic and comforting in equal measure. Other bakes that might restore me to health include: blueberry-cinnamon crumb cake, cranberry stollen and Linzer cookies.
This is how I made:
Spicy Gingerbread with Limoncello Icing
- Melted 110g Rodda’s salted butter in a large pan with 200g dark brown sugar, 2 tbsp treacle and 25g dark chocolate.
- Allowed to cool a little then beat in a duck egg (large hen’s egg would be fine).
- Beat in 2 drops Holy Lama cinnamon extract (2 tsp ground cinnamon), a drop of black pepper extract and a drop of nutmeg extract.
- Sifted in 150g wholemeal flour and 200g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp allpice and a heaped tsp ground ginger.
- Mixed until just combined, then left in my cold kitchen to firm up for an hour.
- Gathered the mixture together to form a ball of dough and rolled out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Cut various shapes from it, rerolling the leftovers again and again until the dough was all used up.
- Placed biscuits on a lined baking tray and baked at 180C for 7 minutes – mine were quite small and larger biscuits would need a couple of minutes or so longer.
- Used a chopstick to make holes for threading whilst the biscuits were still hot from the oven, then removed them to a wire rack to cool.
- Mixed 3 heaped tbsp icing sugar with just enough limoncello to make a thick, but slightly runny icing.
- Piped this onto my biscuits and left them to dry.
- Made about 80 biscuits.
The biscuits smelt wonderful, both in and out of the oven and were as warming and delicious as I’d hoped. The touch of limoncello icing gave an added note of sophistication. They may not have looked very sophisticated, but I’m blaming the flu virus for that. CT and I quickly polished off all the rejects and the rest got packed into bags for gifts.
I am sending these biscuits of to Vanesther over at Bangers & Mash for The Spice Trail, which is allspice this month.
Some are also winging their way to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage who has appropriately chosen sugar and spice for this month’s Cooking with Herbs.
When I arrived back from London last week, I found a box of Waitrose #BakeItForward decorating goodies waiting for me. All of them looked perfect for upcoming Christmas merriment and I have to confess to just a little bit of excited festive hopping around. I was most interested in Heston’s chocolate coated popping candy and some edible gold glitter and these are what I decided to try first.
Now how, I wondered, was I going to use it. I’ve never tried baking with popping candy before or decorating with it. I mused that as this particular candy was covered in chocolate it might work in a dryish biscuity bake. I’d read somewhere that popping candy loses it’s fizz if it comes into contact with moisture. Chocolate macaroons with their nutty chewy centres are a good bake for this time of year and with a bit of popping candy to liven them up, CT reckoned that smacaroons would be an appropriate name for them.
In the run up to Christmas, Waitrose is celebrating home bakes in its #BakeItForward campaign. All you have to do to take part is bake something for a friend, take a picture of it, share on social media using the hashtag #BakeItForward and nominate them to do the same. Every day until 23rd December, randomly selected participants will be rewarded with treats including hampers and bottles of champagne.
I am overrun with ideas as to how to use the contents of the box of delights I was sent and most of them involve Christmas biscuits, so watch this space. Most of these will be shared with various friends, family and neighbours, but as CT is particularly fond of nutty biscuits, these macaroons are made for him.
As you can probably tell from the picture, these are the British version and are not meant to be the fancy French macarons that have become all the rage. I have adapted this recipe from Jill Norman’s The Complete Book of Spices. Made with dark chocolate and flavoured with cinnamon, they are substantial, chewy and very nutty.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Cinnamon Smacaroons
- Placed 125g caster sugar in a bowl together with 150g ground almonds, ¾ tsp cinnamon and 75g of Mortimer’s 70% West African chocolate powder (could use finely grated or melted chocolate instead).
- Whisked together to ensure there were no lumps, then added 2 tbsp popping candy.
- Stirred in 2 duck egg whites (large hen’s eggs).
- Gathered spoonfuls into my hands and rolled into walnut sized balls. Flattened out into discs and laid on a lined baking tray.
- Baked at 180℃ for 12 minutes.
As it happened, my hopes for the popping candy working in the macaroons went unrealised. Whether this was because the candy came into contact with moisture or because it couldn’t take the heat remains a mystery, but there was no pop to be had. Not being prepared to lose the name smacaroons, I quickly rethought my strategy. I made up a little water icing and drizzled this over the smacaroons. Popping candy was scattered over the top and then given a dusting of edible glitter.
I’m sending these off to Helen of Casa Costello for her Bake of the Week. Do take a look at her fabulous Christmas Tree cupcakes with concealed star.
Thanks to Waitrose for the beautifully wrapped parcel of baking goodies and voucher received in exchange for letting my readers know about the campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.
Having been sent eight large ripe Peruvian Hass avocados, I didn’t have a great deal of time to use them up. Following on from the avocado chocolate chip cookies I made a few weeks ago, I wanted to continue with the avocado baking theme. Leafing through the accompanying booklet, I found a recipe for Peruvian Hass avocado brownies. With my well known love of all things brownie, I didn’t need to cogitate further.
Of course, I made a few adjustments with the recipe. For a start I thought a hint of chilli and a soupçon of cinnamon would be appropriate flavours to enhance the South American feel of the brownies. Sadly I didn’t have any Peruvian chocolate to hand but made do with using up three partly used bars which were making my cupboard look untidy; as it happens one of them was from Ecuador, so at least it was from the right neck of the woods. As well as the spices I added a little cocoa powder for extra richness and used mostly brown sugar for fudginess. As I was using duck eggs which are quite large, I added a little bit of extra chocolate too.
Whilst the avocado by no means replaced all of the butter, it did have less saturated fat than many brownie recipes, so it could be argued that they are slightly better for you!
This is how I made:
Spicy Peruvian Avocado Brownies
- Melted 150g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat with 270g chocolate (I used a mixture of 70& plain, 53% dark and 37% milk). Stirred to combine, then left to cool a little.
- Beat 100g dark brown sugar, 50g golden caster sugar together with 3 duck eggs (large hens eggs will be fine) using electric beaters for about 3 minutes
- Mashed 1 large Peruvian Hass avocado and added it to the eggs. Beat the mixture for a further minute.
- Poured the chocolate mixture down the side of the bowl and folded the mixture in as gently as possible.
- Sifted in 60g self-raising flour, 1 scant tbsp cocoa powder, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon.
- Folded this in until just incorporated.
- Scraped the batter into a 9″ sq. silicone mould and baked at 180℃ for 25 minutes.
- Left in the mould to cool then cut into 16 pieces.
These are real melt in your mouth brownies – sort of light but fudgy and unctuous at the same time. The touch of spices was just right, a catch at the back of the throat and a hint of something warming, but nothing that overpowered the deep rich chocolateyness of these brownies. You can eat several of these and your palate is left feeling quite clean at the end of it – I should point out that eating several at a time is not really recommended. The taste of avocado could barely be detected. None of the taste testers (other than super taster CT) noticed it, even after I told them what the brownies contained. Not being able to taste avocado in your brownies, when all’s said and done, is for most of us, a good thing.
This month’s theme for Love Cake over at JibberJabberUK is all about Back to School – Something New. These brownies fit the bill perfectly. They are delicious treats for the school lunch box, but slightly healthier than your average brownie. They are also new to me as I’ve never made brownies with avocado before.
This recipe for chocolate cake waffles is a little unusual, but none the worse for that. The waffles are at their best served warm with lemon curd and strawberries. Whipped cream makes them even more delicious and decadent. Best eaten for a special occasion dessert.
If you like spices as much as we do, you’re going to love this giveaway. We’re reviewing two spice extracts from Holy Lama Spice Drops, cinnamon and tulsi. But the giveaway is for a lovely bundle of five spices, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla. Read on to find out how to enter.