Recipe: Ginger & Lime Biscuits

Every year I say I want to do a GBBO Bake Along. Every year I fail. This year I’ve gotten part of the way. Whilst I haven’t managed to bake and blog along (hats off to those that have!), I have managed to be pretty good at baking something inspired by the show most weeks.

 photo Ginger Lime Biscuits_zpsysaa6606.pngThis bake is a bit of a mish-mash between the first two weeks; it coincided with moving week, and with baking bits all over the country it seemed like a good idea to skip the first week. We then decided to merge the slightly citrus tone from Week 1 into the Biscuits. The result was a wonderfully spicy gingerbread, with warmth from cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, half covered with a zingy-sweet lime icing. The bake of the biscuit was pretty much spot on, crunchy, a good snap, but not something that was so brittle it hurt to take a bite. A mish-mash that worked, I reckon these Ginger & Lime biscuits would, messy icing aside, definitely impress Paul & Mary!

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 7_zpsz61gxcoz.jpg photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 1_zpso8yocuyp.jpg photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 3_zpsbydqrlw5.jpgIngredients

  • 125g flour, plus a little extra for rolling
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 60g butter
  • 85g soft brown sugar
  • 1 small egg
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 6tsp lime juice
  • Lime zest, to decorate

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 9_zpstufppxja.jpgSift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a bowl. Add the butter and rub together until the mix looks a little like breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the flour mix and stir until the mixture holds together. Tip the dough out, knead for a short time until smooth, wrap in clingfim and chill in the fridge for 15 or so minutes.

Roll the dough out (0.5cm thickness) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your chosen shapes (we went square, you could go traditional gingerbread men!) and place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 175C, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When cooled make the icing and decorate. Simply beat together the icing sugar and lime juice until smooth, pipe/spoon onto the biscuits and scatted over the zest. Leave to set before boxing up – I didn’t and had a bit of a sticky mess the next day!

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 6_zpsozctiwdc.jpgI found these Ginger & Lime biscuits were delicious served with a cuppa – I really enjoyed taking one (or two!) to work for my 4pm pick me up. Naughty, but really rather nice…

Have you enjoyed #GBBO2016? Has it inspired you to get baking?

Recipe: Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake

Yep. I’ll say it once more. Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake. Doesn’t that sound like the stuff of dreams?!

 photo Giant Nutella Cookie_zpsir8no8wr.pngOne of my weaknesses is Nutella. There’s something so comforting about a spoon slowly melting into a bowl of creamy porridge or over a stack of pancakes. But it has to be proper Nutella. Over the past few years I’ve tried to (mainly) stick to cheaper supermarket varieties for budget reasons. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some Jim Jams low refined-sugar hazelnut spread. For me, nothing has come close to actual Nutella. Sure, other brands are nice enough, but they’re never quite right. They melt too thinly, don’t have a balanced a flavour, aren’t creamy enough. The biggest decider for me? Whether I can eat it by the spoon, straight out of the jar. Don’t judge…

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 6_zpsewsz05zy.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 8_zpsgvukjpit.jpgI’m not the only one with such a weakness for Nutella; my younger sister loves it too. And because excellent GCSE results deserve baked goods, I created this gooey, oozy, chocolatey treat a few weeks back. A Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake. She’s not a fan of cake so I know she was worried when I said I was baking her a well-done treat, but I reckon I got this pretty much spot on. I got told I could make it again, so I must have done something right?!

Slightly reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s Cookie Dough Desert, this is crispy, chewy cookie on the outside. Gooey and molten cookie dough inner. A layer of sticky, warm Nutella to sandwich together. A sprinkling of sea salt to keep it from being too sickly. A handful of chocolate chips, because you can never have enough chocolate. We ate it on its own, but I can imagine it would be perfect with some cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 1_zpsmb9ukqcy.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 5_zps8r0kcqzs.jpgIngredients

  • 110g salted butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 125g plain flour
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g pack chocolate chips – I used milk, but I reckon dark would work better
  • 4 tablespoons of Nutella, warmed slightly so it’s not too solid
  • ½tsp flaked sea salt

Beat the butter in a large bowl until softened, then beat in both of the sugars. Beating the butter singularly first helped to combine the mixture, I also find it reduces the chance of the batter splitting. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until just combined. Stir through the flour and bicarb (you may want to mix them together first) but don’t overmix. Finally stir through around half of the chocolate chips.

Add half of the cookie dough to a 20cm dish lined with baking paper – make sure the dish is relatively deep as I found mine rose rather more than I expected! Spoon over the nutella (having it melted slightly makes this a lot easier) and spread over the cookie dough base. Scatter with a little sea salt. Top with the remaining dough, scatter over the rest of the chocolate chips and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes at 180C, then cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes more. I found this timing gave me the perfect gooey cookie, but cook for longer if you fancy a harder, more fully-baked cookie ‘pizza.’ To reheat the next day, cover with foil and pop in the oven (120C) for around 10-15 minutes. This remelts the nutella, increases the gooeyness and makes it just as good as the first day. Dangerous I know!

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 11_zpsehx6epo1.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 9_zpsizj51sdt.jpgAnd though this is pretty much perfect as it is, I’m tempted to try a peanut butter version soon. Or a smores cookie dough cake, complete with melted marshmallows…

Are you a Nutella fan? What’s your favourite way to eat it – in a baked good, on toast or just by the spoonful…?

Recipe: Mum’s Classic English Scones

First off, it’s a scone, pronounced s-cone. As in police cone. Not a s-con.

 photo Mums Classic Scones_zpsffpxbynw.jpgNow that’s cleared up, it’s onto my mum’s scone recipe. Whilst my mum isn’t a massive baker, there are some things she does really, really well. I’ve yet to try a Pear & Raspberry crumble as good as my mums, her Victoria Sponges are far more reliable than mine, and then there’s her scones. The first thing I asked her to make for our engagement party. You’ve had my dad’s recipe for his Malteser Blondies, now it’s mums turn.

And these are well worth waiting for. A good outer crust, soft within and just the right side of crumbly, these are my perfect scone. They virtually split themselves, are light enough to not be overwhelming when piled with clotted cream, just sweet enough to taste good without contrasting the (raspberry) jam. So yep, the perfect scone. Even better served warm enough for the cream to melt into the scone…

 photo Classic Scones 2_zpsvxob2bsy.jpgIngredients

  • 8oz flour (self-raising works best)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 5fl oz full fat ‘blue’ milk

Tip the flour into a large bowl, and stir through a pinch of finely ground table salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar, then use a knife to stir in the milk – you will end up with a soft dough. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly – don’t overwork as this makes the scones tough to eat, and they will also fail to rise. Pat or roll out to  2cm thickness. Stamp out rounds (we use a 5cm cutter) and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat to use up all the dough.

Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for at 200C 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve with jam and clotted cream.

 photo Classic Scones 1_zpsakujf7l6.jpgThis amount make a good eight scones if you like them on the large size, or perhaps 12 more dainty sized afternoon-tea portions. Apologies for the imperial measurements, that’s just what my mum sticks to – she will even convert recipes from metric to imperial!

Whilst we’re talking about baking, who’s been enjoying good old Bake Off?! #GBBO time of the year is definitely the best time of year, I’ve even marked my work diary as ‘busy’ from 5pm on Wednesdays so I know I’ll be back/cooked/washed up in time for a cuddle up on the sofa with a baked good or two. I’m attempting a bit of a bake-long (though unfortunately I’m not able to blog-along due to time constraints – it has resulted in some epic recipes though!) but baking can be SO expensive. Luckily  voucherbox.co.uk has created the Great British Save Off, a weekly price comparison of GBBO recipes and the best value supermarket to buy ingredients from each week. This makes it so easy to save a few pennies here and there (batter week’s cheapest store was ASDA) – making it possible to do even more baking. Can’t go wrong really…

*Post in collaboration with voucherbox, all opinions are my own, apart from the recipe with is (of course!) my mums!

Are you are fan of scones? Where’s the best scone you’ve ever had – I’m desperate for afternoon tea recommendations in London!

Food: Vanilla Cupcakes with Bake Box

With me and W catering a good chunk of our engagement party (though thanks of course goes to my dad for his Malteser Blondies, my mum for her vast amount of scones, and W’s parents for providing salads, cheese, sandwiches and a massive pork pie), we knew we couldn’t go over complicated. So we made homemade quiches, a lot of sweet treats, and a macaron tower…

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes_zpsjdk3n6hm.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 9_zpsh76cegk2.jpgThese were some of the easier bakes. Yes, we ‘cheated’ and used the KitchenAid for the cupcakes and their icing but when it turns the endless beating and creaming into a sixty-second job, why not?! And the final results were damn yummy. In fact, these were some of the best cupcakes I’d made… Super popular with the children at our engagement party, I was also a big fan of these. The vanilla flavour really comes through, making them rich and flavourful without being too sweet. It’s also one of those recipes I’ve memorised, making it my go-to cupcake recipe. You’ll see what I mean when you read the ingredients…

We decorated them in a vaguely floral theme, which was in fact the vague theme I was going for throughout the whole day. I think I managed it, with my dress, the bunting, the garden. A few cute-sy bakes (including the slightly mishapen jam tarts, though they tasted bloody good!) finished it off – all inspired by Bake Box. If you’ve not read any of my other posts about them, Bake Box* is a subscription box with a difference. Think GlossyBox for bakers! It includes recipes, and some more specialist equipment. So far I’ve had a multitude of different moulds, both for bigger cakes and more delicate single serving tarts and jellies. I’ve had biscuit cutters (including the flower shapes used in aforementioned jam tarts), piping outlines, and even edible glitter (in a stunning rose gold shade), food colour and other so-cute-I-audibly-gasped decorations. And it all comes wrapped in an Instagrammable box too, what more could you want? Here we used their flower-themed piping nozzle and edible glitter to decorate – whilst our piping possibly needs a little more polishing (W is far better than I am), I do like the effect. More glitter would definitely have been a good thing though!

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 1_zps73c5kpat.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 2_zpsucpoh15s.jpgIngredients

  • 175g each butter (at room temperature), self-raising flour and caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp each baking powder and vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Icing: 175 g butter (at room temperature), 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract, 2-3 tbsp milk, 350 g icing sugar

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat  until smooth and evenly mixed – around a minute if using a stand mixer, I’m afraid it will take a bit longer by hand. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 paper cases in a muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 175C. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency – it should hold a peak, but still be spoonable. Carefully spoon the icing down one side of a piping bag fitted with a number eight star nozzle (this gives the rose effect). Twist the end of the bag to seal the icing in, then pipe swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Scatter with the edible pink glitter and enjoy.

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 3_zpsixc4iuva.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 6_zpsevehhqll.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 4_zpslsxmkayh.jpgThe perfect party addition, the moist cupcakes topped with the creamy frosting in this classic flavour just can’t be beaten. Whilst I may not be a fan of ‘trendy’ cupcake flavours, something like this will have me saying “yes please” every time!

What is your go-to bake? Are you a fan of classic combos or do you like to mix things up a bit?

Recipe: Dad’s Malteser Blondies

Whilst I wish, wish, wish I could take credit for this, unfortunately I can’t. I come from a family who all make delicious baked goods. My Grandma’s Treacle Tart is delicious, my mum’s scones are pretty much perfect (I’m hopeful of publishing her recipe soon), and my dad’s traybakes are legendary.

 photo Malteaser Blondies_zps5uh8bd53.jpg photo Malteaser Blondies 3_zpsacpcitnf.jpgAnd this is one of his best recipes. The blondie has the texture of that perfect brownie, with the sweetness from the white chocolate. The maltiness of the Maltesers breaks up this sweetness, stopping it from becoming cloying. The drizzle adds an extra chocolate hit. Because chocolate. Obviously. The centre is deliciously soft and gooey (my favourite), though the outer pieces have that crisp edge if that’s more your cup of tea. All I know is that these go down extremely well at charity bake sales. At least, the pieces that make it out of the house do…

Weirdly, I don’t actually enjoy Maltesers on their own, but I adore these. Don’t get my wrong, I think Maltesers are damn yummy, but for some reason they make me cough uncontrollably. Baking seems to alleviate this problem, so clearly I’m destined to eat lots of this Malteser Blondie!

When creating the spread for our engagement party over the weekend, we took inspiration from the Bake Box boxes* that I’ve been receiving over the past few months. It’s always a good day for post when I receive one of these! Whilst my dad’s usual way of decorating freehand suits these blondies perfectly, the ‘Spots & Stripes‘ box* helped neaten it up a bit. I think the stripes from the drizzle and the spots from the maltesers fit the theme perfectly! We also used the Flower Power box – stay tuned to hear about that one…

 photo Malteaser Blondies 4_zpsnp9lhbvi.jpgIngredients

  • 100g white chocolate, chopped, plus a little extra for drizzling
  • 125g unsalted butter, diced
  • 225g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, beaten together
  • 150g flour
  • 4 tbsp Horlicks
  • 1 big sharing bag of Maltesers
  • 60g milk chocolate, chopped

Melt 100g white chocolate and the butter gently together, stir until smooth and fully mixed, and leave to cool slightly. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and beaten eggs to the mix and stir well to combine. Sift the flour and Horlicks into the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in 100g Maltesers and the milk chocolate and spoon into a greased and lined tin (20cm square is my brownie preference!). Bake at 170C for 35-40 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin.

Melt the remaining white chocolate. Meanwhile, lightly crush the rest of the Maltesers. Drizzle over a little of the the melted white chocolate. Then scatter over the crushed Maltesers, and finish with the remaining melted chocolate. Cool, then cut into squares.

 photo Malteaser Blondies 2_zpsdhjgnifc.jpg photo Malteaser Blondies 5_zps24hzzkjn.jpgThen all that’s left to do is sneak off with a piece or three, hide away on a sofa with a good book and a cuppa, and enjoy. Because these are quite honestly some of the best blondies I’ve tasted…

What’s your favourite chocolate treat?

Recipe: Peanut Butter & Jam Bakewell Tart

One of the bakes that instantly reminds me of childhood family time is a Bakewell Tart. I have no idea why really; my Grandma occasionally made one, but I was never a huge fan. Perhaps its the fact that a Bakewell Tart looks so traditionally ‘English’ that makes me feel all nostalgic? Either way, when I say that July’s theme for the Bumpkin Betty Baking Club was Family Favourites, I instantly knew I wanted to update this classic recipe. And as luck would have it, BBC Good Food Magazine featured a PBJ adaptation a few months ago. Que playing around with the recipe and coming up with this…

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 9_zpsueugsjpu.jpgAnd damn, it was good!

Crisp, bitter, chocolatey pastry. Sweet fruit jam. Moist nutty filling. Easy enough to eat outside, perhaps at a picnic. Absolutely delicious served with a dollop of yoghurt – which definitely did not form my breakfast for a few days after baking. With my love for peanut butter, I found this far more enjoyable than the standard Bakewell Tart, and considering this photos were taken at 9pm it doesn’t look half bad either!

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 10_zpsusokyej1.jpg photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 6_zpsc7pxrfen.jpgThe proportions from the original recipe have changed. The pastry was crumbly and fragile, breaking off in the oven and generally being difficult to handle; my version is a little easier, though still far more tempermental than standard shortcrust. I’ve upped the jam quantity in the filling, and reduced the icing. And the leftover egg yolk? Just use in a carbonara!

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 2_zpsmaymxbsk.jpgIngredients (Pastry)

  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 150g salted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2-2½ tbsp water, very cold

Ingredients (Filling)

  • 175g smooth peanut butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 120g butter, softened
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 125g seedless raspberry jam

Ingredients (Topping)

  • 20g roasted peanuts
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp seedless raspberry jam

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 1_zpssxqwjse5.jpgStart off by prepping the pastry. Pop the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the chilled butter. Rub the mixture together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Drizzle iced water over the flour and butter mixture, and use a knife i to mix until combined and the mixture begins to hold together. Bring the pastry together with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured, cool benchtop. Lightly knead the pastry until smooth and soft. Shape the pastry into a ball, wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge for around an hour to rest.

Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin, then use to line a 23cm tart tin. Line with baking paper and weight with baking beans (uncooked rice is a storecupboard substitute, just don’t use it for eating afterwards!). Bake at 180C for 15 minutes, before removing the baking paper and baking for an additional 5 minutes. Trim the edges and leave to cool slightly.

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 12_zps00yz2v2n.jpgWhilst the pastry is baking, make the filling. Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and baking powder – the mix should be smooth and creamy.

Spread the pastry case with the jam. You want a good thick layer (the original recipe had a major jam shortage!). Top with the filling, then bake for 45 mins. The filling will be slightly risen and golden. Allow to cool completely – to avoid a soggy bottom, cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the jam and icing sugar together, and drizzle over the tart. Roughly chop the peanuts and scatter over – and there you have it. A modern take on Grandma’s Bakewell Tart.

 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 3_zpsxupglhho.jpgI loved this tart. So often peanutty bakes can be dry, but this was lovely; moist, flavoursome and a little bit quirky. I loved the fruity kick from the jam, the crunch from the nuts and the bitterness of the pastry case. Definitely one I’ll be making again!

Have you joined in Bumpkin Betty’s Baking Club? What’s your favourite recipe from your childhood?

Recipe: Homemade Hobnobs

If you were a biscuit, what type of biscuit would you be?

A reportedly common interview question, albeit one that I haven’t been asked. I’m a bit gutted really, because I’d had the answer ready and waiting for a good few years. I would be a (chocolate half-covered) hobnob. Why? Sweet with a surprising twist (the subtle saltiness), grown up (no child would take a hobnob over a custard cream!) and commonly found with a cup of tea. And because chocolate covered hobnobs just happen to be my absolute favourite biscuit, and one of my only sweet-toothed weaknesses.

 photo Easy recipe for_zpswngcvq0z.jpg photo Homemade Hobnobs 2_zpst03rvxsv.jpgI try not to buy biscuits as a rule, but with W being diabetic there is a need to have something sweet, slightly carby and easy-to-eat-quickly on hand. Hobnobs will always be my biscuit of choice as they are super-yummy without being too naughty (well, they have oats!). One is also *enough* to fill a hungry tummy, though certainly not enough to satisfy as I’ll always want more. After several packets were consumed during the revision period (before I discovered an easy energy bite recipe!) I decided I wanted to make my own. And the very day that exams were over and done with, I did.

The first try wasn’t perfect. It tasted too much of golden syrup, didn’t have quite the salty kick I was after. The chocolate wasn’t right (using up a Lindt bunny made them too sweet – I found cheap Basics chocolate to be far better). They spread and amalgamated into a single large traybake. These are much better, though be warned they still spread and need to be far smaller than you’d think. They are sweet, but not tooth-achingly, with a good biscuity snap. So, so good, they didn’t last long at all!

 photo Homemade Hobnobs 5_zpssi6c0vv5.jpgIngredients

  • 125g butter, plus 15g for the chocolate topping
  • 85g soft brown sugar (don’t substitute for other types, as this type goes delicious sticky in the mix and helps bind the biscuits)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp golden syrup
  • 100g quick oats
  • 90g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste, plus extra sea salt flakes for sprinkling if wanted
  • 150g chocolate

 photo Homemade Hobnobs 4_zps19fi4ypc.jpgSoften the butter well, then beat together with the sugar – the mix should be pale, creamy and almost fluffy looking. Beat in the golden syrup, before stirring in the oats, flour, baking soda/powder and salt. The mix is very stiff so requires some elbow grease, but I promise it does eventually come together.

Roll small helpings of dough (I use a teaspoon) into balls and flatten on a tray lined with greaseproof, until they are about the thickness of a £1 coin. Leave room for spreading – I recommend a maximum of 6 on each tray. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes at 180C, until the biscuits are golden brown. Allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate together with the 15g of butter, and top each biscuit with a good helping of the mixture. If you’re being good you could leave the chocolate topping off – but I’m not a huge fan of naked hobnobs! Sprinkle with a little seasalt if you’re being fancy, then eat with a good cup of tea.

 photo Homemade Hobnobs 1_zpsdvkc95un.jpgA delicious treat, I reckon these homemade hobnobs would be a fab addition to lunchboxes – almost like a crunchier version of a flapjack. They are rather oat heavy, and have a crunchy edge with a slightly chewy middle. Perfect to dunk in a cuppa, enjoy whilst studying, or just because. I could see them making a lovely gift tied up with some ribbon too…

If you were a biscuit, what biscuit would you be, and why?

Recipe: Energy Bites, Two Ways

Quite a while ago, I poo-pooed the idea of energy bites as a fad, said that they didn’t appeal to me at all, vowed to never make them. Embarrassingly, I’m now going back on that. Turns out that, yes they may be a bit of a fad, but I actually quite like them, and made them on a number of occasions during exam season.

 photo Energy Bites 5_zpswagmdahi.jpg photo Energy Bites 10_zpsxc7ohzvo.jpgI’m the kind of person that doesn’t really have a huge sweet tooth, until around 9pm at night. Whether I’m watching TV, reading or studying, at that point I like a little pick-me-up. And trust me, I get super hangry without it! If I’m at home, a small instant hot chocolate does the trick without inducing guilty feelings, but when I’m in the library? I need snacks and I need them quickly.

Right at the start of exam season, I’m made the mistake of treating myself to ‘just one’ packet of half-covered hobnobs. Several packets later, skinny jeans starting to feel a little uncomfortable, enough was enough. I pulled out my favourite ‘healthy eating’ books, threw some bits into a blender, and discovered that energy bites weren’t as horrible as previously feared. I’ve now honed my recipe, and now is the time to share it…

 photo Energy Bites 4_zps0viehj6n.jpg photo Energy Bites 1_zpsmm3xn7gk.jpg photo Energy Bites 3_zpsuheif4ot.jpgIngredients

  • 75g ‘dry stuff’ – I use equal measures of oats, almonds (flaked as that’s what I tend to buy), hazelnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  • 50-75g pitted dates, soaked in a little boiling water then drained
  • 50g nut butter
  • 2 teaspoons cacao powder, for chocolatey bites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – for ‘plain nut bites’ (a drop of vanilla extract is also good!)

Blitz the dry stuff in a blender (I use the grind function on mine) until you have a coarse powder. Tip into a large bowl and stir through the cacao, if using. Blitz together the dates and nut butter, adding a little of the soaking liquid if the mix is too sticky to blend.

Personal preference – I like to leave a few good-sized chunks of date in there for a fruity hit (says the person who hates fruit!).

Tip the sticky mix into the bowl, then mix together with your hands. Trust me, a spoon does not work here! I find some actions similar to bread kneading works well to combine the ingredients. Roll tablespoons into balls, place on a lined baking tray, and chill in the fridge for a few hours, before transferring to a sealed container – keep in the fridge, though I prefer to bring them to room temperature before snacking!

 photo Energy Bites 7_zps1v1xampg.jpgThe chocolatey ones are (surprise surprise!) my absolute favourites. Super chocolatey, rich and squidgy, I’ve even warmed them until melty and eaten with a spoon for a real ‘treat’ without any of the guilt. I’m planning on making them infused with some orange next time, for a healthier take on a Terry’s Chocolate Orange…

Are you a fan of energy bites? What’s your go-to sweet snack?

Baking: Snickers Brownies

Another bit of procrastination baking, these came about when W left me alone in his flat for the entire day. He came back to moan about the fact that I’d depleted his chocolate supplies, though once he realised I hadn’t just eaten then all he came around quite nicely…

 photo Snickers Brownies 6_zpsvwywdsdc.jpgI did come up against a few difficulties whilst baking these. Mainly the oven, which is pretty dreadful in his flat (nothing to do with the flat that I failed to turn it on at the wall!). It resulted in these being a little overbaked, the ultimate brownie sin. Microwaved, though, these turned out pretty good! I had also planned on having the snickers layer in the middle, but managed to pour all the mix into the tin before remembering. Revision scrambling the brain you see!

These are based on my ‘storecupboard’ brownie recipe, using cocoa as the base rather than tediously melting bars of chocolate. In fact, the recipe is exactly the same – just doubled and topped with slices of snickers. I’m prepared to bet that swirling through a spoon or two of peanut butter would go down quite nicely too…

 photo Snickers Brownies 2_zpspihinare.jpgIngredients

  • 140g salted butter, melted (coconut oil also works, though does make the brownie slightly oiler)
  • 225g sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder (I’ve been using some raw, unprocessed, unrefined stuff – it’s insanely rich and chocolatey!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 70g flour
  • 3-4 snickers bars, sliced

Make up the brownie batter based on this recipe. Decide whether you want a gooey layer of snickers sandwiched between brownie, or a more crunchy caramelised layer on top. For the former, spread half the batter in a greased/lined tin, top with the snickers, then spread over the remaining batter. And for the latter? Tip all the batter in, spread evenly, top with the snickers. Bake for around 25 minutes at 180C, and cool completely before cutting. Perfect warm with a little ice-cream.

 photo Snickers Brownies 4_zpseildzjlc.jpgOh, and for those on a budget? Tesco do ‘Snicker’ type bars, £1 for 8, and they are absolutely delicious…

Are you a peanut-chocolate-combo fan? What would be your favourite chocolate bar to bake into brownies?

Recipe: Storecupboard Brownies

Recently I had a 9pm craving for brownies, and it was a craving that only good, proper brownies would cure. The problem? I had no chocolate in, and all my brownie recipes utilise melted chocolate (and a lot of it!). Knowing that not eating a brownie would result in an all-out brownie blow-out as soon as I got to a shop next, I set about throwing some bits and pieces together.

 photo Storecupboard Brownies 5_zps4cv8lqjd.jpg photo Storecupboard Brownies 3_zpsibm2hbqf.jpgThe result was these – rich, moist and extremely chocolatey brownies. They have the papery thin crust that only proper brownies develop, a chewy edge and fudgy centre. This amount of cocoa-sugar does make for quite a dark-bitter brownie, so add in a little sugar (or milk/white chocolate chips!) if you have a sweeter tooth. Trust me when I say it; these were a big hit when I carted them halfway up the country to visit W!

 photo Storecupboard Brownies 10_zpsfi8dryer.jpgIngredients (makes 6 decently sized brownies)

  • 70g salted butter, melted (coconut oil also works, though does make the brownie slightly oiler)
  • 120g sugar
  • 35g cocoa powder (I’ve been using some raw, unprocessed, unrefined stuff – it’s insanely rich and chocolatey!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 35g flour
  • Any additions – I highly recommend cocoa nibs for a not-too-naughty chocolate kick

Combine the melted butter with the sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract, adding a tiny drop of milk. Let cool slightly, then beat in the egg before folding in the flour. Stir through your additions, then pour into a lined baking dish. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, then cool completely before slicing.

 photo Storecupboard Brownies 11_zpsxm5pxpyq.jpgEnjoy cold with a glass of milk or (my ultimate indulgence) warmed with a little ice-cream. You can’t beat a warm, gooey brownie topped with some smooth salted caramel ice-cream!

Are you a lover of chocolate brownies? What’s your go-to recipe?