Category Archives: Sweet treats

Apple Dessert Pancakes

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A perfect dessert pancake; light and fluffy yet more indulgent than something appropriate for breakfast. This recipe would be ideal for Pancake Day which is now just around the corner on February 9th!

I really do love Pancake Day; maybe it’s because I’m very non discriminatory – I love all food related holidays!- but a day dedicated (sort of) to pancakes, what’s not to love! That being said, I almost always do the same two types of pancakes on pancake day. A good old crepe and these Blueberry Pancakes. This year, I thought it was time to branch out, so, voila – Apple Pancakes!

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These are as deliciously easy as the blueberry variety; a simple store-cupboard ingredient list, grated apple, and a pinch of cinnamon. To top them, I’ve made some caramelised apple slices which are more than a little bit naughty. The thin slices of apple are gently caramelised in golden caster sugar and butter and by letting them cook gently, the apples get very soft, and almost jelly like. Sounds odd, but trust me it works!

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I drizzled mine with maple syrup – I’ll use any excuse to add a bit of maple syrup wherever it can go, so these pancakes were of course not going to be an exception! A small scoop of ice cream didn’t go amiss either, but this really is entirely optional. Although the pancakes themselves are sweeter than I would make for breakfast, I need the ice cream to really make it feel like dessert.

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The other great thing about these pancakes (just in case I haven’t already given you reason good enough!) is that you can do them easily for a crowd. These pancakes keep really well once baked; just put in a foil covered oven proof dish to reheat again when needed. And if there’s something I like even more than eating the pancakes, it’s sharing the day with a big group of people, all huddled round a small table, stuffed to the brim, but begging for just one more pancake!

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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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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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Health(ier) Maple & Pecan Flapjacks

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A healthier flapjack recipe – just as tasty, but with no dairy, wheat, gluten or refined sugar! Although not as nutritious as a piece of fruit, there are worse things you could eat!

Flapjacks; although kind in appearance and reminiscent of school lunch boxes and picnics, they are generally not a healthy treat with so much butter and sugar. Yes, they may be oat-y, but trust me, normally, the bad definitely outweighs the good!

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This version contains no dairy (would you expect anything else?!), wheat, gluten, or refined sugars. But I’m not going to pretend that these are ‘healthy’… they do still contain good amounts of fats and sugars, but here it is about recognising that you can make a bad or a better choice in those categories. This is a great recipe when you feel you want a treat; but particularly at this time of the year when our diets tend to go out of the window slightly with the copious amounts of sweet treats and drinks, it’s good to have a choice.

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I’m a big maple syrup fan – and combined with pecan nuts, it’s flavour is intense enough not to need help from a long list of ingredients. I like to use quite a strong maple syrup – a 2 or 3 on the strength scale – which does help the flavour pack a punch, but you can of course use a lighter flavour version.

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By using just maple syrup in the recipe, we’ve avoided having any refined sugar in the recipe. Of course maple syrup is still sugar – you can’t get away from that fact – but as it contains more than just sugars in it’s make up, you eat less true sugars per gram. That doesn’t give you free reign to eat as much as you want, but again it’s about understanding how to make the better choice.

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I’m praising myself slightly too much here for making these gluten and wheat free. As most flapjacks are oat based – and oats are not wheat – most will be gluten and wheat free, technically. The important thing is if you are making this for someone with a gluten intolerance, make sure you buy gluten free oats. Most oats are produced in wheat factories, so there is a very high level of contamination. So you have been warned!

 

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Fruit Scones

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Light, crumbly, fruit scones – packed full of sultanas, these scones only need a light spread of jam and a teaspoon of your favourite jam to achieve perfection. This reliable Delia recipe has been a family favourite for many years and never fails to delight.

So, I’m going to put it out there – my favourite time of the day to eat a scone is for breakfast. Now, I know what you’re all thinking. That is more than a little bit strange! In Britain, scones are a traditional afternoon tea treat. However, many moons ago my mother, who comes from Belgium, thought she would try and learn to make scones (she’s an absolute expert, and I have to admit hers always come out better than mine!). Her trusty Delia book did not give any indication of when these should be eaten, and so she made them for breakfast. And although it may not be conventional, it’s no more odd than eating a croissant and jam before 9am!

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You can of course still eat these at tea time – I tend to make mine as ‘mini’ scones, so you get to feel naughty and eat more than one – but I really consider them an any time of day treat. And as these scones have a generous amount of sultanas in them, you can kid yourself into thinking they count as one of your 5 a day!

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Now there may be many of you who are wondering what is a scone? And is it pronounced ‘skon’ or ‘scone’ (like cone with an ‘s’ at the front). Although I can’t answer the debate on pronunciation, I can explain what a scone is! Technically, it is a type of dough enriched with eggs and butter, where you start as if you were making pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar to make crumbs. The effect creates a crumbly half bread, half pastry product – crumbly and light, a good scone should melt away in your mouth, and provide a buttery texture and taste which is perfect for lashings of jam on top.

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Traditionally scones are served with jam and clotted cream – however our dairy free version comes with a nice bit of dairy free butter. Unfortunately I think clotted cream is just one of life’s pleasures we may have to go without, but there are other upsides – no cream means you can definitely have at least 1 more scone!

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Lemon Shortbreads, Coconut Milk Whipped Cream and Berries

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Crumbly, buttery lemon shortbread cups filled with whipped coconut cream and raspberry curd, and topped with fresh raspberries. A delightfully simple dessert perfect for summertime.

You know those beautifully presented, tiny patisserie-type desserts? The ones that look just so appealing, delicate, and perfect? Yeah? Well, these were an attempt! Perhaps the presentation was slightly amiss, but they definitely delivered on taste. I also loved being able to use my Raspberry Curd in these, as usually it is reserved for cakes and ice cream toppings – but it just worked so perfectly with these flavours.

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These desserts look complicated and fiddly, like you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on them – but as with lots of my baking, I can assure you that is not the case! The only real effort required for these cups are the biscuits themselves, and they are as simple as you can get; they just look more fancy (and, therefore, more effort) than a normal biscuit because of it’s shape, which just comes from baking it in a cupcake tin.

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Once the shortbread cups are baked and cooled, the only other effort is whipping the coconut cream, which one could hardly call any effort at all! They are finished off by dolloping in a teaspoon of curd and the cream, and finally by popping a fresh raspberry on top. If you haven’t already made some raspberry curd (and don’t fancy the effort), a thickened raspberry puree would work just as well. These would make an elegant ending to a dinner party, or a lighter alternative to cake at tea time.

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Raspberry Curd

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Delicious Raspberry Curd; a berry take on traditional lemon curd which has just as much flavour and will eternally remind me of summer. Perfect for cakes and desserts, or just on its own straight from the jar.

In a previous post about Lemon Curd, I explained how ‘curd’ was this mysterious being… so tasty but I thought far too hard to actually make yourself. Well, once I had made Lemon Curd a few times, mostly successfully (once it ended up like scrambled eggs… that was a disaster!), my confidence grew and I started to think about what other kinds of curds could be made – and it seems the options are endless!

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Of course with my love of raspberries, Raspberry Curd was going to be the first one I tried, and it’s one I go back to making every summer. And what makes making Raspberry Curd even better than Lemon Curd? Raspberry picking! I often double this recipe which then requires a lot of raspberries, so I use this as an excuse to go to a pick your own farm and pick a huge amount of fruit. I still remember going strawberry picking with my family when I was little, and I think it will forever be one of those summer activities that brings out the child in me… As I obviously sneakily ate a few as I went round!

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Raspberry Curd can be used just like Lemon Curd; it’s great as a tart or cake filling, spooned over ice cream, turned into a delicious buttercream, or just eaten straight from the jar. You can use them a filling in my Raspberry Meringue Cupcakes, and I have a few more recipes coming over the next few weeks which feature this delicious Raspberry Curd.

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Lemon Curd

IMG_1536Dairy free lemon curd – a sweet but tart, luscious spread with a punchy lemon hit. Ideal for filling cakes, flavouring buttercream or even just slathering onto ice cream!

Lemon curd is just one of those things I never thought I would be able to make. For some reason those mysterious jars of bright yellow, tart goodness just seemed like they would be too complicated to make at home. Not that I understood how it was made, of course – more that it just seemed the kind of thing that only Delia Smith or Mary Berry could pull off.

So what is lemon curd? Perhaps for many of my non UK readers this sounds very unfamiliar and strange! Well, I’ll give you the practical description, and then my own description. Lemon curd is essentially eggs, butter, lemon juice and zest. It is slowly cooked over low heat until the eggs cook and thicken, and the curd can coat the back of a spoon. But that sounds so unappealing!!

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A much better description is this; a luscious, sweet but tart smooth mixture, the consistency of a thick sauce (somewhere between chocolate spread and hoisin sauce – strange description I know, but I think it sums it up well!), with a really big punchy lemon flavour. You can make different fruit curds (I love raspberry curd and will do a post on that later this summer!) and it can be used in lots of ways – such as spreading on toast, filling a cake or flavouring buttercream, just to name a few.

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So, despite my worry about making it, giving up dairy meant I had to find a way to eat lemon curd again… nothing else quite hits the spot like it! And actually when I finally was brave enough to try I realised it wasn’t really that hard. I tried various recipes and liked this Delia Smith one best. Don’t get me wrong – it is definitely a nerve wracking experience the first few times (and if you, like me, end up with scrambled eggs it can really put you off trying again!) but once you get the hang of it and know what to expect, it feels easier and is definitely worth it.

 

This is my first two part post – so if you weren’t already tempted to give this a try, next week I’ll be posting these Lemon Meringue Cupcakes where the curd is used as a filling and a flavouring for the buttercream. So go on, be brave and give it a try!!

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Cinnamon & Raisin Bagels

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A denser than normal bread with a crisp and chewy crust. Flavoured with cinnamon and stuffed with raisins, these are perfect just lightly buttered and topped with cinnamon sugar.

Bagels have been a very recent discovery for me. I often don’t bother to check the ingredients on baked goods, presuming they have butter or milk in them, but recently found New York Bakery Company’s bagels are dairy free! And so the last few weeks have been bagel filled whilst I’ve been trying different toppings, and it seems that everyone has their favourite combination. After experimenting with everything from eggs, jams and marmalades, peanut butter and chocolate spread, I have settled on my favourite…. Cinnamon and Raisin Bagels lightly buttered with a cinnamon sugar topping.

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These freshly bakes bagels are so much better than the shop bought variety; more crusty and chewy on the outside, much less dense in the middle. They were perfect just reheated in the oven for a few minutes, split open and then buttered. If you, like me, have no problem with something sweet occasionally for breakfast, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon and sugar on top too. I love cinnamon so am generous with the cinnamon – Although there is quite a lot in the dough already, it only gives a gentle flavour once the bagels have been baked so I like to ramp it up.

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Bagels on paper did not look that difficult to make – but they were certainly one of the more challenging types of bread that I have made. There are two things that made it different to normal dough; One thing is that you make a pre-ferment (sounds complicated but was actually incredibly simple), and the second is that the dough has very low hydration levels, which makes it very stiff and a good work out for your arms to knead it. I would not recommend making these as a first time bread maker, but if you’ve made any sort of bread before you will be fine.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from Richard Bertinet’s book ‘Crust’ but has been adapted to make them cinnamon and raisin flavoured. If you wanted to make plain bagels simply omit the cinnamon and raisins and reduce the honey to 20g.

With all of that being said these bagels were so delicious and worth the effort that I will definitely be doing them again. It makes me wish we held brunches at our house just to have an excuse to make them regularly!

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Healthy Granola

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Breakfast – The most important meal of the day. And lets be honest, sometimes it can become the most boring one, especially on a week day. I’ve never been a cereal or porridge fan, so often I resort to toast with peanut butter… a worthy breakfast but sometimes I do fancy a change!

So along comes granola… a crunchy mix of your favourite nuts, seeds and oats, packed full of fibre and protein – what’s not to like? Well…nothing! Now, you could go out and buy one of the many branded versions around. But I want to convince you to make your own, and believe me, once you do you won’t ever want to settle for the shop bought stuff again.

  1. It takes less than 10 minutes to make 10 breakfast worths (I’m not kidding – If I was concentrating I think I could do it in under 5 – theres a challenge for you to beat!). Even better, you can easily do this one weekend and it lasts for weeks.
  2. You can personalise it. Don’t like almonds? Don’t add them! Want more sweetness but don’t like raisins? No problem, add cranberries! More than that you really can use whatever you’ve got in the cupboard – and equally skip or substitute for what you do have!
  3. It is healthier. Its scary when you start reading the packets and realise how much sugar is added to shop bought stuff. Now, as someone who writes a baking blog I can’t profess to be counting every teaspoon of sugar I consume, but I do try not to add more than needed. For breakfast I want to eat something wholesome, not something that’s going to make me hungry an hour later.
  4. It is so versatile. My favourite way to eat granola is with a heaped tablespoon of coconut yoghurt and some fruit – but why not eat it with almond milk, or make some breakfast muffins and add some granola before baking for a crunchy topping? The uses are endless!
  5. It’s cheaper. Enough said 🙂

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So – heres a toast to the wonderful granola. I hope it inspires you to give it a try.

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