Sneakily Caramel Brownies

There are a couple of lessons to be learnt in making these brownies:

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1. There is absolutely no sensation more wonderful in this world than melting chocolate over a pan of simmering water. It’s probably the nicest feeling in the world. Nothing seems to happen for the longest time and then suddenly the chunks disappear and you are left with silky, runny, chocolate loveliness.

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2. It is very difficult to make brownies this gooey look good. But hey, sometimes food doesn’t have to look good, okay? Sometimes it’s all about the taste.

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Speaking of taste…

These are delicious. For a start, they are too gooey for words, so that’s always a good thing. And also, they have sneaky caramel them, which adds to the gooeyness.

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Sneaky- no we aren’t making caramel for our brownies. That’s waaay too much effort for the kind of chocolate indulgence we need on this cold January Tuesday.

We are throwing in some Rolos! This was probably the best brownies addition ever. You can’t actually tell when you get a bite of Rolo, the whole thing just has an overall caramel essence that is unmistakable and truly decadent!

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Sneakily Caramel Brownies

250g plain flour

100g cocoa powder

1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

125ml vegtable oil

250ml golden syrup

125ml milk

250g chocolate

2 tubes of rolos

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Melt the chocolate over a pan over simmering water, and allow it to cool.

While it is cooling, sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, the syrup and milk. Once the chocolate is cool, add that.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the rolos.

Bake in a well lined tin for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.

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xxR

Drinks Party Gruyere and Egg Tartlets

A lot of things change as you get older. I’m coming to the end of my degree, and the fact that soon I’m going to have to get a job and have my own house and live by myself and have responsibilities and pay taxes is starting to become a daunting reality. It’s scary!

I know that I am still young, and I haven’t quite entered the real world yet, but some things have definitely changed in the last few years. People expect so much more of you once you are in your twenties!

Now, this may seem menial in relation to the huge changes that happen between the ages of about 17 and 20, I know. But still, it’s something we should think about!

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When you are young (by young I mean 16-18 ish), entertaining your friends meant a free house, a few sneakily acquired bottles of cheap alcohol and maybe a sofa to crash on- if you were lucky!

Now when people come over for drinks, it’s not enough to say BYOB and be done with it. People expect nibbles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But it can be difficult to think of something easy and quick to make but that will satiate the thirsty masses.

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These are the answer- a little pastry tart filled with a cheesy, egg, almost soufflé- like filling. Delicious, simple and perfect for drinks with friends! We’re talking crispy pastry, eggy filling and Gruyere on top. Hello adulthood!

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Gruyere and Egg Tarlets

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

125g butter, cubed and cold!

1 egg, beaten

splash of cold water

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Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. When you have a consistency that resembles fine breadcrumbs (or sand) add the egg. Mix until it starts to come together into a dough. Add a splash of water if you need to to bring it together, but you don’t want it to be too wet or sticky. Once it has all come together into a ball, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

2 eggs

8 ounces ricotta cheese 

5 ounces brie cheese

6 ounces gruyere cheese, grated, plus more to sprinkle on the top

pinch of salt and pepper

Begin by whisking the eggs well. Add all the cheese and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry. Get out two wine glasses. Pour yourself a big glass of red into one, and use the other as a cutter to cut out circles of the dough.

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Put the dough into a well lined muffin tin. A good tip is to take thin, long pieces of greaseproof paper. Place two pieces in the shape of a cross under each tart- these little handles will be so useful when you are trying to get the tarts out later!

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Pour the filling in, and sprinkle some more gruyere on top.

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Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the filling has puffed up and the tops have browned.

Enjoy on this cold January saturday night!

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xxR

Uplifting Raspberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

I feel so good today. I’ve also just been informed that it’s Blue Monday (the most depressing day of the year), so I’m sorry if you aren’t feeling good today!

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Let me tell you about it. Before Christmas I organised a goods drive for a homeless shelter in Whitechapel at my university (this is going to make me sound like such good person- cupcakes and helping the homeless, who am I?!) We collected three huge crates of food, toiletries and clothes, and today I lugged everything to Whitechapel to finally make the donation (about a month late. I’m a good person, yes, but totally unorganised!)

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There is nothing more uplifting than taking a donation of food to a homeless shelter. The people there were so unbelievably nice and friendly and kind. Their job must be pretty tough at times, but they were just so lovely. The atmosphere in the building was also so wonderful. I really got a sense of community and everyone helping each other.

I left feeling so uplifted and just generally good about myself.

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I hopped on a bus to go home and the Oyster card reader wasn’t working, so my trip was free. Karma? Definitely!

I want everyone to feel as good as I have felt today!

These cupcakes may not be quite as uplifting as giving food to the homeless, but they come pretty close. Hummingbird bakery cupcakes, with a surprisingly jammy centre and white chocolate and raspberry buttercream. Banish those January blues.

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Happy January everyone!

Raspberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate and Raspberry Buttercream

(cupcake recipe taken from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook)

120g plain flour

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

40g butter, at room temperature

120ml milk

1 egg

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Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and mix until everything is combined. It will look a bit like the start of apple crumble or shortcrust pastry.

Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until it is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg and the remaining milk in a separate bowl, then pour into the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases and bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden.

Once completely cool, cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill the whole with a dollop of raspberry jam, and replace the ‘lid’. It will look like this:

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White chocolate and raspberry buttercream swirl:

250g icing sugar

80g softened butter

150g white chocolate, melted and cooled

tablespoon of raspberry jam

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Beat together the icing sugar and butter. Divide the mixture into two bowls.

Into one bowl, add the jam. Into the other add the melted chocolate, and mix both well.

Put the star shaped nozzle on a piping bag. Put the jam icing in one half of the bag, and the chocolate in the other. This is slightly tricky, but not unmanageable! When you squeeze it, both colours should come out together- so you might want to do a test run to make sure you have a nice distribution of each colour.

Then pipe swirls on the cupcakes.

Devour!

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xxR

Cinnamon Spiced Couronne

My family has this holiday house in Maine that we inherited from my great grandmother, right on the rocky coast of America, looking out across the Atlantic. Well, I say house, but it is more like a large, well-endowed shed. In fact, it is a chicken coop, that was brought over on a boat from one of the surrounding islands, balanced on some big rocks, and had a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom added. It’s very simple and very small, and we just love it there.

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But I am getting sidetracked. There is a point to this seemingly pointless story.

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When we lived in Connecticut, when I was a child, we used to wake up at 5am to start the eight hour drive to my great grandmother’s house, in Maine. About nine o’clock we would finally cross the Piscataqua Bridge, which connects New Hampshire and Maine. Halfway there!

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And every time, without fail, we would stop for cinnamon rolls. I think the promise of such sugary, sticky breakfast was the only way my parents managed to coerce us into the car, still in our pyjamas and half asleep. After great granny died, we cchicken coop-cum-house was our only connection to Maine left, we still stopped for cinnamon rolls.

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Even now, we live 3000 miles away, but the drive from southwest Connecticut to Northeast Maine has not changed.

I haven’t been there for nearly three years and I must admit that I’m feeling pretty homesick for it.

And when I’m homesick, I bake. Nothing makes me think of Maine more than cinnamon rolls (well, or lobster or blueberries!) This couronne is basically like a giant cinnamon roll. But with a twist (literally!) It is a wonderful thing to make on a lazy weekend morning- and even better to eat!

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Cinnamon Couronne (recipe adapted from the BBC, find it here)

For the dough:

250g strong white bread flour

5g salt

7g instant yeast

50g unsalted butter, softened

105ml milk

1 free range egg, lightly beaten

100g caster sugar

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Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the butter, milk, egg and sugar and mix to combine.

Continue to mix until you have picked up all the dry bits!

Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it for 10-12 minutes. It might been a bit wet at first, but keep going until it starts to become smooth and elastic.

When it feels smooth and silky, put in back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for one hour, or until it has doubled in size.

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While the dough is rising, make the filling:

90g butter, softened

70g light muscavado sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

35g plain flour

zest of an orange

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Mix in the spices. Then add the flour and orange zest and mix to combine.

When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Trying not to knock too much air out of it, roll it out into a rectangle. Turn it so you have a long edge facing you.

Spread the mixture evenly over the dough. Roll it up tightly along the long edge, like a Swiss roll. You should have a long dough sausage.

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Cut it in half lengthways, exposing the layers of filling inside.

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Keeping the filling facing upright, twist the two lengths of dough together to make a long rope, then form them into a round ‘crown.’ Transfer it to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

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Leave to rise again for 30-40 minutes. When its risen, the dough should spring back when lightly touched.

While its rising, preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Bake it for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the filling seeps out a bit or starts to brown more quickly than the dough- that’s part of its charm!

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To make the icing:

200g icing sugar

splash of water

Mix the icing sugar with just enough water to bring it together into an icing consistency. You do not want it to be too thing and runny! It should be a nice, solid white colour.

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Drizzle over the bread, cut and enjoy!

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Yum.

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xxR

Ginger Treacle Sponge Pudding

This pudding is the perfect antidote to a cold, January night. These days, everything can look a bit bleak. Christmas is over, and the New Year (for me, anyway) brings the promise of long days in the library, piles of reading and a dissertation to write. Not to mention the anxiety about what to do after uni finishes!

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I feel like these months are just the place holder, until we can get going with Spring and Summer.

Sometimes, the best way to overcome the January blues is with a big ol’ cup of tea, a hearty slice of pud. So put on your slippers (I got some new ones for Christmas and I literally haven’t taken them off since!) and curl up next to the fire and tuck into some pudding!

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Now, I must admit, suet would not be my go-to choice for desserts. This is mainly because I’m veggie, so the whole idea of suet is kind of just gross. But I had some left over from the Christmas pudding that I made this year (it was the vegetarian alternative, of course) and I figured it would be better in a delicious pudding than sat on the shelf in my pantry, waiting for its best before date to pass. I was actually very pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It was delicious. But then again, anything warm and syrupy would definitely hit the spot!

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This was also sort of inspired by a dessert I had recently at a vegetarian restaurant in London, called The Gate. I promised myself that I would not write reviews of restaurants on this blog, and strictly stick to things I have baked myself. But this was too good not to share. Plus, since I’m only going to mention the dessert, it’s not really a restaurant review at all. (But, on that note- the starters and mains were also delicious!) So, we ordered the ‘dessert mezze,’ which was basically a huge platter with a small portion of every dessert on the menu on it. (We did share between four- don’t worry!)

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It included a whole load of delicious things, including creme brûlée, apple and fig crumble, chocolate and chestnut torte and pear and star anise tarte tatin. Everything on the plate was delicious, even down to the mint leaf used to garnish. But my favourite element by far was the ginger sponge pudding with toffee sauce. It was so tasty: the perfect balance of ginger spice and sugary treacleness. I just had to try and replicate it!

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Steamed Ginger Treacle Pudding

175g plain flour

50g soft brown sugar

75g suet (or vegetable suet, if you prefer)

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

1/2 tablespoon golden syrup

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

150 ml milk

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So the method for this recipe is really simple. All you have to do, is get a large bowl, throw all the ingredients in and mix well!!

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Then, get a pudding basin, or a medium sized bowl will work just as well, as long as it won’t be get broken or damaged while being boiled! Grease it well with butter. Then pour the mixture into the basin.

Making the lid for the pudding can be a little tricky. Firstly, grease a large piece of greaseproof paper with butter. Then lay it over a piece of tin foil that is roughly the same size, if a little larger. Fold them to make a pleat in the centre of both sheets. Lay over the top of the pudding, with the greaseproof paper facing the pudding, so that the tin foil is on top. Fold around the sides of the bowl, so the it is airtight, and tie securely with string. Cut off any excess paper or tin foil.

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Now you need to steam your pudding. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. In order to get the pudding out once it is cooked, it is a good idea to fold a long sheet of tin foil into thirds. Lay it under the pudding in the saucepan, so that the two ends are sticking out, like handles.

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Place the pudding in the boiling water and boil for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is spongey and soft. Turn out onto a serving plate.

To make the treacly sauce, simply put a good four tablespoons of golden syrup into a saucepan, and heat gently until it has loosened and started to melt. Pour over the pudding to serve.

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Happy New Year!

xxR