Dense, dark chocolate orange mousse cake topped with a spiced white chocolate layer
Chocolate is one of my favourite ingredients to bake with. Whether it’s chunked and studded through cookies, stirred into the smoothest mousse, melted over ice cream or baked into a dense, fudgy cake, chocolate is an ingredient reliable enough to be called on for comfort, yet versatile enough to always be exciting.
While chocolate and cocoa regularly make an appearance in my shopping basket, it’s rare that I’ll buy a bar to simply eat on its own. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I really enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and combining chocolate with other ingredients, making it into more of a meal or occasion than a snack straight from the packet. However there are two major exceptions to this rule when I (and a pretty a large percentage of the UK population) can’t seem to help but over indulge: Christmas and Easter. Continue reading
Soft, smooth ice cream, sweet, crunchy praline & a mellow hint of frangelico
The first time I ate ice cream with alcohol in, it made me cry.
I was on holiday with my family in Italy, a much littler loaf than I am now, and we’d just emerged from eating lunch at our favourite local pizzeria. The kind of pizzeria with no pretensions, just incredible dough rolled paper thin, rich red tomato sauce spread over the top and milky mozzarella dotted between volcanic blisters of risen crust. By all accounts we should have been full, but anyone with even the slightest sweet tooth will understand that there’s full, and then there’s the pudding stomach.
Normally we’d have jumped in the car and headed up into the walled town to get a cone of homemade ice cream from one of the local bars, but for some reason or other we had to get on the road. If memory serves me correctly it was raining, so my Dad hot footed it into the next door café to grab a couple of cornettos for my brother and I to eat in the car 0n our way to wherever we were going. Continue reading
Silky milk chocolate coated peanut butter flapjacks
How many recipes have you made in your lifetime? How many more do you think you might still? And just how many are left languishing inside eagerly acquired cookbooks, on pages torn from magazines, on bookmark bars and Pinterest boards, never to see the light of day as you return to tried, tested and trusted recipes you’ve always enjoyed?
According to a poll commissioned by the Good Food Channel last year, the average British woman can cook just seven meals from scratch, with eighty percent admitting to churning out the same thing over and again, and only two percent turning to cookbooks or online for a source of inspiration. I don’t know about you, but as a member of that minority percentage, my problem is less how to get out of a cooking rut and more deciding what to make next from the ever-growing reams of recipe ideas accumulating in print, online and in my head. Continue reading
This weekend I’m up in Yorkshire for various family festivities, so I’m keeping this post pretty short. And sweet (of course), which most of my posts tend to be. Continue reading
Sponge fingers encase creamy layers of tiramisu topped with fresh raspberries
‘Some woman is going to want me to do it to her, and I’m not going to know what it is.’
‘You’ll love it.’
20 years ago, the world was a very different place. In lots of ways, of course, but this particular scene from Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks’ character is about to embark on the dating scene again shows just how much our knowledge of different types of food has changed since 1993. To even be able to contemplate including such a joke in the script, the screenwriter would have had to be pretty comfortable that plenty of people didn’t know what tiramisu was; that for every person laughing at Hanks’ clueless comment, another one would be scratching their head and wondering what this unusual aphrodisiac might be. With 5.3 million pages returning on the search term ‘tiramisu’ on UK Google alone today, that hardly seems possible now. Continue reading
Little spiced buns with a sticky syrup glaze
Hot cross buns. The name for these Easter treats always anthropomorphizes them in my eyes: rather than being crossed for religious reasons, I always imagine them as hot and bothered: a flustered little addition to any baking repertoire. Luckily making these lovely seasonal buns is anything but bothersome. A simple enriched dough of flour, sugar, butter and egg is stirred through with mixed spice and additions of your choice – typically raisins, sultanas and candied peel, although chopped dried dates, apricots, cherries or even chocolate are all delicious alternatives – before being quickly kneaded, left to rise then divided into perfect little pillows and marked with a cross.
This month I’m hosting the Fresh From the Oven challenge and I’ve decided to task anyone who wants to get involved with making spiced buns. With Easter just a few days away and the shelf-life of a homemade hot cross buns a little less than 48 hours, now couldn’t be a more perfect time to get baking. But don’t worry if you’ve been hugely organized and already baked a batch for your freezer – there are some suggestions below for alternatives to your standard hot cross bun, and the more diverse and imaginative the entries the better!
Beautiful, bright oranges bursting with blood red juice
What’s the first thing you look at when you land on a blog post? Do you start at the beginning, slowly savouring each sentence as the author intended, do you skim read the recipe before deciding whether to bother reading the rest of the article, or you more of a pictures person, enjoying and assessing each image as it unfolds?
When I’m writing a post, I always try to keep all three types of reader (though these are pretty broad categories, I’m sure you could break them down into many more) in mind. Words are what come easily to me, but I also make sure to check my recipes, instructions and ingredient lists carefully, and, although I’m still very much a novice in this department, try to take as pretty and as representative photos of my food as possible. Continue reading
These lovely little cupcakes have a not-so-secret ingredient . . .
Do you have a sweet tooth?
Given the content of this blog, the content of my kitchen cupboards and the way in which I can talk for hours about the joys of cake, baking, butter and sugar, it would be foolish to even try to suggest that I don’t. But my sweet tooth (or teeth, some might argue) is not exclusive or exclusionary – I’m unlikely to choose dessert over a main meal, I like to have it in addition to what I’m eating on a daily basis, enjoying flavours that are savoury, salty and sharp as much as I do anything sweet.
When I was a littler loaf, my biggest weakness was always savoury. While I loved chocolate, cake and sweets as much as the next child, sandwiches, crisps and Twiglets were always my first port of call at parties (my Mum, apparently, was the same). While other kids were getting hyperactive on luminous bowls of jelly, multicoloured sprinkles and synthetic sweets, I’d be quite happy munching on the corners of a Marmite sandwich (normally cut into triangles by the birthday boy or girl’s Mum, the crusts removed in an attempt to get everyone to eat them, much to my dismay). Continue reading
A thin milk chocolate shell encloses soft, pale fior di latte ice cream
Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. How do you eat yours?
If you’re me, the answer is not very often. Despite their popularity (300 million of the things are sold every year in the UK), and strong association with all things seasonal (Creme Egg ads are to Easter what Coca Cola ads are to Christmas, sad but true), I’m just not that keen on them. Give me a caramel-filled alternative or handful of Smartie-like Mini Eggs any day over the sickly fondant slop that fills the nation’s favourite Easter egg.
That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of them. There’s something about peeling back the foil, biting off the top and licking out that gloopy goo which brings out the child in all of us. This childish joy has been so perfectly captured in the Creme Egg ad campaigns that every year I’ll be tempted to try one, opening it in eager anticipation only to be defeated after a couple of bites by the onset of sugar on top of more sugar. Continue reading
A pile of beautiful, buttery homemade croissants
How far would you go to find the perfect croissant?
With so many wonderful bakeries in the city, Londoners like me are lucky enough to have some pretty amazing options on our doorstep. Fancy venturing a little further afield? France is your obvious answer, synonymous with the very best croissants in the world and only a couple of hours away. Doable in a day, definitely, and not so completely crazy if you’re really on a mission to find that perfect pastry.
I’m going to throw another option into the mix. How about we travel for twenty two hours, averaging around 500 miles per hour, covering nearly 11,000 miles and ending up in Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia? We’ll head for Bourke Street, number 633 to be precise, and before you can even begin to feast your eyes on the incredible array of bread, cakes and pastries displayed in the window, you’ll detect the irresistible smell of butter and baking that draws Sydney-siders to Bourke Street Bakery like moths to an irresistible, edible flame. Continue reading