Monthly Archives: January 2016

Chocolate Pear Pudding

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The perfect dessert when you’re in a rush or need to feed a crowd. Relying on store cupboard ingredients and a bit of oven magic, this dessert needs less than 10 minutes of your time. All you have to do is open a tin and stir…

This is a very nostalgic dessert for me. Perhaps one of the first recipes my mum ever made from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Express’ recipe book, it is one we still come back to regularly. The beauty of it is simple; a warm, self saucing chocolate sponge pudding with hot, gentle tinned pears spread throughout that requires under 10 minutes of your time. You probably have most of the ingredients in your house already – perhaps just missing the tinned pears – so do like me and start keeping a few tins handy!

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Even more than its delicious simplicity, the recipe is an absolute doddle. In true Nigella style it is a throw-it-all-in-a-bowl-and-mix-it kind of recipe. And, actually, if you have a food processor, the mixing work is done for you.

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The key to getting this dessert spot on every time in my book is to undercook it vs the original Nigella recipe. I only cook mine for 20 minutes, and this ensures that I’m left with delicious hot batter all around the pears, making this a wonderful dessert of contrasts. I get a light and fluffy sponge with some crispy outer bits, piping hot juicy pears, and around it a sauce like batter with an intense chocolate flavour. It also makes the recipe incredibly forgiving to a little bit of over or under baking!

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If I’m in the mood, I’ll sometimes go one further and actually make chocolate sauce to drizzle on top for an even more indulgent pudding. A little scoop of ice cream never goes amiss either…

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Filed under Chocolate, dessert, Fruit

Raspberry Marshmallows

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Light as air, melt in the mouth, flavoursome Raspberry Marshmallows. These are the absolute indulgent treat; if you’ve never had a homemade marshmallow before now, then I’m begging you to try this recipe!

As I mentioned before, I’m lucky enough to have gotten engaged to my boyfriend (or I suppose Fiancé now, although neither of us can say the word with a straight face!) in October. We’ve done a fair bit of wedding planning, including booking our venue, but it was whilst searching for one that I had my very first homemade marshmallow.

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As we went from venue to venue, plied with champagne and chocolates (not dairy free, unfortunately, although of course Matt did not complain!), we were really beginning to flag. And then, at the lovely Stanwell House Hotel in Lymington, they had trays and trays of these perfectly formed, identical, pink raspberry marshmallows. They were just…. amazing. So much so that although the venue wasn’t perfect for us, I couldn’t stop myself from going on and on about how amazing it was (read: the marshmallows completely overtook my opinion of everything else!).

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After eating a homemade marshmallow, I think it will be hard to ever eat a shop bought again. These just literally melt in the mouth… they’re so light and airy, and surprisingly less sweet than usual. Don’t get me wrong – they are still by far the sweetest thing I’ve ever baked. But as they’re not as sweet as usual, you can eat more… which is definitely dangerous. The other way in which they significantly differ is flavour. There’s no way you could mistake these for anything other than raspberry flavoured; whereas those pink marshmallows you buy in the supermarket bags – any idea what flavour they are? – they’re raspberry too!

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Before I started looking at homemade marshmallow recipes, I wasn’t really sure what was in them. When you look at the back of a shop bought packet, the ingredients are really a little vague. Proper marshmallows are egg white, sugar, gelatine, and flavouring – and are simpler to make than I thought. I’m not going to pretend that this is a super simple bake as it definitely requires a sugar thermometer and ideally a free standing mixer or second pair of hands. It also requires multitasking – they key to perfect marshmallows is getting your egg whites and sugar syrup ready at the same time. Even I will admit that I failed miserably on this at the first time – my egg whites got way over whipped, so I had to bin them and start again… whoops!

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I would definitely advise making these for a large group (or take the rest into the office!) as it makes a surprisingly huge amount from only two eggs, and this will help reduce the risk of eating them all… something I did seriously have to think about! I now daydream about the many other possible flavours I could make, so watch this space for more!

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Filed under Fruit, Sweet treats

Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

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Pecan Cinnamon Rolls – a soft, chewy, sweet and light bun filled with chopped pecan nuts and cinnamon. Delicious and really easy to make at home, you’ll be making these bakery-perfect in no time.

One of my aims for last year was to continue to expand my bread making skills. Suffice to say that by the time Summer came, I had gotten a bit lazy. Apart from the odd focaccia and pizza base, I hadn’t made bread in quite a while, and then I saw these in a bakery whilst walking around our town centre. Well, how could I not be tempted to try and recreate them at home?!

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I’ve only once made anything similar – these Christmas Chelsea Buns – so although I was familiar with the concept of making an enriched dough, I’m by no means an expert. The end result should be a dough that is richer and sweeter than normal bread, softer and more buttery, and lighter from lots of tiny airholes. However complicated that might sound to achieve you really don’t need bread making experience to get these perfect. The main thing is just to knead until your arms hurt. And then knead some more!

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The end result is definitely worth the effort – a soft, chewy, ever-so-slightly sticky bun, with layers of sweet cinnamon and chunks of crunchy pecans throughout. Surprisingly not too sweet, but sweet enough to have alongside a strong coffee – Perfect for a mid-morning treat. As you can prove them overnight in the fridge, you can treat yourself to some freshly baked goods for a late breakfast, ideal on a lazy day.

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The buns get their classic shine from a little drizzle of sweet, sticky, maple syrup. It just begs to be put with warm spices like cinnamon, and used sparingly, the flavour doesn’t overtake the rest. It just makes for an irresistible bun, where eating them one at a time is certainly not an option!

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Filed under Bread, breakfast

Salted Caramel Nuts

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Salted, caramelised nuts; a great skill to have up your sleeve – use to top desserts or bakes, or even just eat straight as they are!

These nuts are simply delicious. They are dangerously moreish and unfortunately simple. Sugar work is made out to be an extremely complex thing- but as long as you have plan white caster sugar and a thick bottomed, scrupulously clean pan it’s a doddle.

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I first made these with Christmas in mind, but now find myself fantasising of all sorts of bakes which could involve these. You could use any nuts; I tried hazelnuts and pecans and both were brilliant. Think of the hazelnuts with delicious, vanilla ice cream. Think of pecans on a stack of pancakes!

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I’m not going to give you the best step-by-step instructions of making caramel in this post. Perhaps I will at a later stage when I can master taking photos and watching the sugar like a hawk at the same time! If you’ve never done it before, I would take some time to google making caramel, so you get a feel for what to do – but the best thing you can do, by far, is practice. Be prepared that it might be slightly over or under caramelised the first time – but trust me, perfection will come quickly, and it is so worth it once you get there.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Sweet treats, vegan

Chocolate & Amaretti Cake. Dairy, Wheat & Gluten Free!

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A dense chocolate cake, filled with amaretti biscuits and lots and lots of chocolate! This is a perfect dessert cake for a special occasion; rich, decadent, and chocolatey in every mouthful!

This dessert was stumbled upon by accident, and I’m so glad I did! In search of something to give a chocolate fix, I came across this recipe on the Food Network. Full of ground almonds, amaretti biscuits and orange zest it just sounded too good not to try. I’m now a real convert to using chocolate and almond as a combination ever since these delicious Raspberry & Amaretti Brownies, and it never disappoints.

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Not only do the ground almonds and amaretti biscuits provide a lot of flavour, they also replace any flour you would normally need in a cake. That means not only is this cake dairy free, it is also gluten and wheat free too! You really wouldn’t know it though – the cake slices beautifully and has a dense cake-like texture.

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Now although this is a cake, and you could, of course, eat it at tea time – I think this cake really deserves to be eaten as a dessert. As rich and decadent as it is, it just cries out for a light drizzle of chocolate sauce on top, and is delightful with a small scoop of ice cream. It’s not heavy as such, but a small slice will go a long way after a big meal!

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I’m making this cake to take to my brother’s house for Christmas as the chocolate dessert – so one of the absolute best things about it is that it genuinely tastes better a day or two after baking. The amaretti flavour seemed to come out a lot more, and you could taste more of the orange zest. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a repertoire of recipes from the quick and instant to the make in advance; and this recipe would fit that second category perfectly.

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As a side note, if you’re making this for an adults only group, I would highly recommend adding a small amount of Disaronno. The amaretti-flavoured liqueur gives a slight alcoholic heat to the chocolate sauce, and really helps the almond flavours stand out. Trust me – once you’ve tried this sauce, you’ll start to think of the many other things it would go with….

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Filed under cakes, Chocolate, dessert, Gluten Free