Friday, 17 November 2017

Gluten Free Chocolate and Hazelnut Cakes with Amaretto Prunes

Isn’t it funny that the most common reaction to the word ‘prune’ is one of distaste and disgust. Perhaps it is a historical thing, because honestly I don’t know how one can fail to love them. All sweet and soft and jammy they are soooooooo delicious and brilliant in cakes or muffins. Here I’ve steeped them in amaretto overnight before folding them through a cheeky chocolate and hazelnut batter. Ooh ooh, did I mention this one is also gluten free? Huzzah!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus overnight steeping time)
Baking time: 60 Mins
175g Soft Prunes (Roughly chopped)
50ml Amaretto
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Toasted Hazelnuts
2tbsp Cocoa Powder (Plus extra for dusting)
1tsp Baking Powder
150g Dark Chocolate (Roughly Chopped)

The night before you want to bake this pour the Amaretto over the chopped prunes, cover and leave to steep overnight.

The next day preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm deep, loose bottomed baking tin with baking paper, or one of those handy cake tin liners. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl mix together the hazelnuts, cocoa powder and baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients and mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Fold through the chocolate, along with the prunes and steeping liquor, then spoon into your prepared tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 minutes, until the cake has risen and a sharp knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool carefully remove from the tin and give a final dusting of cocoa powder. Done!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Almond and Sultana Muffins

I admit, I only really made these muffins as I had an idle hour to fill. However, they were rather well received, so thought I’d better share the recipe! The best thing about this one is it’s versatility and you have free reign to tinker as you see fit. I’ve gone with sultanas and finished with flaked almonds, but you could use other fruits and nuts, chocolate chips or even really naughty things like chunks of toffee or smarties!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking Time: 30-35 Mins
110g Ground Almonds
50g Wholemeal Self Raising Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
150g Light Soft Brown Sugar
125ml Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Almond Extract
1/2tsp Orange Extract
200g Sultanas
A handful of Flaked Almonds

Let us begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a muffin tray with nine paper cases. In a large mixing bowl mix together the ground almonds, flour and baking powder, then add the sugar and repeat. Make a large well in the middle, then pour in the oil, eggs and extracts. Mix to combine, getting right to the bottom of the bowl, then fold through the sultanas.

Spoon the batter equally into your cases and scatter the flaked almonds over each. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into one of the muffins comes out clean. When you are happy that the muffins are baked remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes. This just allows the muffins to firm up a bit as the tray cools. Transfer each muffin carefully to a wire rack to cool and your work is done!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dairy Free Rose and Cherry Cake

One of the (many) things I love about food is its ability to transport you to far reaching and exotic places, be it the Asia, South America or in this case, the Middle East. This dairy free cake is heady with rose, but taken to the next level with hints of lemon and little jewels of cherry. On the subject of the cherries, I know they are no longer particularly seasonal, hence why I've used tinned. However, the syrup from the tin also serves as a sweet steeping liquor for the top of the cake. So why not leave the grey and the dreary behind and have a cheeky baking holiday? I promise you won't be disappointed. ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
5 Large Eggs
200g Golden Caster Sugar
1tsp Rose Water
The Zest of 2 Unwaxed Lemons
The Juice of 1 Lemon
200g Ground Almonds
50g S/R Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
454g Tin of Cherries in Light Syrup
3-4tbsp Icing Sugar

I use a full 20cm cake tin liner for this recipe and I would advise you to do the same, as the batter is quite liquid. So grab one and line a deep, 20cm loose bottomed baking tin. At the same time preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until just frothy, then add the rose, lemon zest and juice and keep whisking. Fold through the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder and do the same until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the tin and even to the edges.

Drain the cherries, retaining the liquor. Scatter the cherries on top of the batter and press gently into the surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 minutes, until a skewer or sharp knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and set to one side whilst you prepare the steeping liquor.

Add 3 tbsp of icing sugar to the cherry syrup and whisk together. It should have a very light syrup consistency. If not add another teabelspoon and do the same. Stab a sharp knife into the top of cake, around halfway down and all over the surface, then spoon over the syrup. You want the surface to be completely sodden with syrup. Leave in the tin to cool completely and the cake is ready to serve. Boom!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Granola

It's fair to say that I have become somewhat obsessed with making (and subsequently eating) my own granola recently. It's not that it's any cheaper to do it, or obviously any easier than buying a packet from the supermarket (although still very easy), it's just so much more delicious and a surprisingly fleixible platform to be creative with flavour and texture combinations.

All you really need is some oats, a little oil and some sweet syrup and from there you can let your own tastes and temptations take over. In this recipe I've also added some cocoa powder and peanut powder (which is like powdered peanut butter), as well as vanilla and almond extract, but there's no reason why you couldn't go for some spice instead, or some citrus zest or extract. I've also kept it pretty generic with the dried fruit, nuts and seeds but if you prefer things more exotic, feel free to go wild with dried papaya or coconut, banana chips or even a handul of chopped dark chocolate!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 25-30 Mins
25ml Rapeseed Oil
75ml Maple Syrup
75ml Runny Honey
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Almond Extract
300g Jumbo Rolled Oats
1tbsp Cocoa Powder
2tbsp Peanut Powder
350g Dried Fruit, Roughly Chopped Nuts and Seeds (I'll leave the ratio up to you

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Add the oil, syrup, honey and extracts to a large, heatproof mixing bowl (it will become apparent why in due course) and stir together. As an aside, although I like the flavour of honey and maple syrup together the main reason I use half and half is because maple syrup is so darn expensive!

Add the oats, powders and any nuts to the wet ingredients, then mix together to combine. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl when doing this. Scatter the mixture over the baking paper and bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 minutes.

When the oats are just starting to colour remove them from the oven and tip back into your bowl. Add the seeds and fruit and mix through. Scatter evenly again over the baking paper and return to the oven for a further 12-15 minutes, until the oats and nuts are a toasty golden brown.

Once you're happy the granola is baked leave to cool on the tray, before tipping into an airtight container. It should keep for a fair few weeks like that, not that it ever lasts that long in my house!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Wholemeal Carrot and Rose Muffins

I may well post a little recap of my recent gastrotour at some point soon, but needless to say it was not only a wonderfully delicious experience, but highly inspirational. As is often the case though it's the little moments that more often than not make the biggest impression.

The perfect example of this was a phenomenal carrot and rose purée I enjoyed at Marcus at the Berkeley (https://www.marcusrestaurant.com), which has inspired me to make these little muffins in tribute. Those core two flavours are front and centre, but I've added some accents of my own which I think work beautifully too. I've also used some slightly more virtuous ingredients, which all can be picked up easily in most supermarkets. If you do struggle locating anything however, then please don't hesitate to get in touch. :-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
125g Unsalted Butter (softened)
100g Raw Cane Sugar with Stevia
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Rose Water
1/2tsp Almond Extract
100g Ground Almonds
125g Wholemeal Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
150g Finely Grated Carrot
200g Sultanas
75g Pistachios (roughly chopped)
A drizzle of Runny Honey

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper cases. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the rose water and extract. Mix through the ground almonds, then repeat for the flour and baking powder. Fold in the grated carrot, followed by the sultanas and the batter is ready.

Spoon your batter equally into each paper case then top with some of the pistachios. Give the pistachios a little press to just secure them to the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden brown on top. To make sure they are baked you can insert a metal skewer or sharp knife into the middle of one of th muffins. It should come out clean.

When you are happy the muffins are baked remove from the oven, drizzle each with honey and leave for 15 minutes. Once they have cooled slightly remove from the tray and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. All done!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Plumble


I had a hankering for a seasonal plum crumble recently, but not just any crumble. A SUPERCHARGED crumbly plum crumble. A plum crumble with crumble EVERYWHERE. So much crumble that the word crumble is no longer fit for the task. So behold, the PLUMBLE!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
50g Unsalted Butter (At room temperature)
50 Ground Almonds
75g Plain Flour
100g Light Muscovado Sugar
50g Flaked Almonds
1tsp Icing Sugar
6 Large Ripe Plums

Let’s get this bad boy going! Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and grab a medium sized ovenproof dish or tin. In a large mixing bowl rub together the butter, almonds and flour, then stir through the sugar. It feel like slightly damp sand when you run it through your fingers. In a separate small bowl mix together the flaked almonds and icing sugar.

Tip half of the crumble mixture over the base of the dish and even to the edges lightly with your fingers. Halve and stone the plums, then nestle in and around the crumble mixture. Scatter the rest of the crumble mixture on top, the do the same with the dusted flaked almonds.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 220C/425F/Gas 7 for the around 5 mins, until the flaked almonds are a toasty golden brown. When you are happy the plumble is baked remove from the oven, leave for 10 minutes to cool slightly and you are ready to serve. PLUUUUMMMMMMMBLLLLLLEEE!!!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Prune Pudding

I can be quite the compulsive sort and once a recipe gets me going I find myself making different versions of it over and over. At the moment it's puddings that have piqued my interest, deliciously soft and sweet and stodgy and ALWAYS served with custard!

Prunes have quite the negative reputation, but they really are beautiful to bake with and when prepared properly almost melt into your cake mixture. I like to steep mine for 24 hours, which not only softens them but leaves you with an INCREDIBLE liquor. So what are you waiting for? ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 24 hours steeping time)
Baking time: 70 Mins
200g Partially Rehydrated Prunes (Available in foil sachets from the supermarket)
150ml Hot Black Tea
50ml Brandy
50g Runny Honey
60g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
75g Raw Cane Sugar with Stevia
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Almond Extract
100g Ground Almonds
50ml Milk
75g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

The first task is to steep the prunes. Add the prunes to a bowl or container and pour over the tea, brandy and honey. Stir it all together and cover. Leave for around 24 hours to steep, stirring occasionally. 

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 16cm pudding tin and line with baking paper. The lining is actually the hardest part of this whole recipe, so fiddly!

Cream together the butter and sugar/stevia, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the extracts. Add the ground almonds, followed by the milk and mix together. Sift in the fLour and baking powder, then give it a final mix until you are left with a consistent batter.

Using a slotted spoon lift the prunes from the steeping liquor and fold into the pudding mixture. Pour the liquor into the prepared tin, then spoon in the pudding mixture, evening carefully to the edges. Grease a sheet of foil and cover the top of the tin with it, folding over the edge to seal. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 70 minutes, by which time a metal skewer or sharp knife should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the pudding.

When you are happy the pudding is baked remove from the oven. Leave in the tin for about ten minutes, before turning out onto a heatproof plate, VERY carefully peeling off any baking paper. Serve with custard. :-)

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Plum and Hazelnut Pudding Cake

There is so much delicious fruit in, or just coming into season at the moment I find myself going fruit crazy! Consequently, I do on occasion have some leftover which is a great excuse to fire up the oven and get baking. This time I used some fat plums to make a pudding cake which is sooooo delicious both hot with custard as a pudding or cold as a cake. I've tried to keep it wholesome too, well relatively at least. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus macerating time)
Baking time: 45 Mins
300g Ripe Plums (Stoned and chopped)
50g Light Muscovado Sugar
Zest and Juice of 1 Medium Orange

115g 0% Natural Yoghurt
2 Large Eggs
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
75g Wholemeal Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Ground Hazelnuts

Ok, lets start with the plums. Add the plums to a large mixing bowl and cover with the sugar, along with the orange zest and juice. Cover and leave in a cool place to macerate for at least four hours (ideally overnight), stirring occasionally. 

Once the plums have macerated you can start on the pudding. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 16cm pudding tin and line the bottom with a little disc of baking paper. In a large mixing bowl beat together the yoghurt, eggs and sugar. Add the flour and baking powder, followed by the hazelnuts then mix to a consistent batter. Add the plums, leaving behind about 3tbsp along with the macerating liquor and fold through to combine.

Add the remaining plums and liquor to the tin, then top with the cake mixture, evening to the edges. Cover with a sheet of greased foil and bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, carefully peel off the foil and leave in the tin for around ten minutes. Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of the cake to free it then turn out onto a plate, peeling off the baking paper from the top. You're all done! 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Spiced Carrot and Hazelnut Muffins

These muffins are a great way to use up those one or two carrots we all seem to have leftover come the end of the week. The addition of ground hazelnuts (which you can purchase from that well known supermarket beginning with 'S'), warms spices and honey elevate what could be seen (by some at least) as a little uninspiring to something really rather special indeed. With regards to the raisins if you can try and find big plump flame raisins as opposed to the cheaper little bullets you definitely will notice the difference. :-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 25-30 Mins
100g Ground Hazelnuts
100g Wholemeal Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2tsp Ground Ginger
90g Raw Cane Sugar with Stevia
2 Large Eggs
135g Low Fat Yoghurt
2tbsp Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
2tbsp Honey (Plus 2tbsp to drizzle)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Carrots (Finely Grated)
150g Raisins

There's a fair few ingredients in this recipe, but it's still very easy to make. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper cases. In a large bowl mix together the hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, spices and sugar. In a separate bowl (or large jug) beat together the eggs, yoghurt, oil, honey and vanilla. Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients, pour in the wet and mix to a consistent batter. Fold through the carrot and raisins until evenly combined. 

Carefully spoon the mixture into your paper cases and bake in the centre of the oven for around 25-30 minutes, until a metal skewer or sharp knife comes out clean when inserted into one of the muffins. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and gently transfer each muffin to a wire rack. Warm the final 2tbsp of honey to loosen, then brush over each muffin to glaze. Leave to cool and your work is done.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Dairy Free Peanut Butter Oatcakes

OK OK, as much as a try to rationalise it I think, for the moment at least I seem to have become one of those "healthy" baking types. Honestly though, it's only because despite my balanced diet and all the fitness training I try to cram in these days, I still really can't resist something cheeky after dinner!  Luckily however, with such a vast array of wholesome alternatives to traditional baking ingredients when it comes to healthy treats, I really can have my cake and eat it. Just take these soft and chewy oatcakes for instance. Wholemeal and dairy free but still blooming delicious!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 12-14 Mins
60g Peanut Butter
100g Raw Cane Sugar with Stevia
60g Coconut Oil (Melted)
1 Large Egg Yolk
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
100g Wholemeal Flour (Plus extra for rolling)
100g Jumbo Oats
1/2tsp Baking Powder
3tbsp Almond Milk

These really are a doddle to make. Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lining a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the coconut oil, egg yolk and vanilla. Add the flour, oats and baking powder, then drizzling in the milk, mix to a soft dough.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to around half a centimetre thick, then cut into rounds using a generous sized biscuit cutter. You should get around nine oatcakes out of this quantity of mixture. Place your oatcakes onto the baking tray, evenly spaced apart and bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-14 mins, until light golden on top and just starting to colour at the edges. 

When you are happy the oatcakes are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool for around 15 minutes on the tray. Lift the warm oatcakes from the paper and leave to cool on a wirerack. All done!


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Rummy Date and Banana Bread

I admit, I came up with this one as I was looking to use some wholemeal flour I had leftover from recent baking adventures. However, I was so pleased with the result I felt I must share it with you all. I've made banana bread many times before, but this one has a few extra special twists, such as the addition of sweet and syrupy dates, a touch of cinnamon and a heady dash of rum. I've also used light agave nectar in placed of refined sugar and no dairy, so you could say it's not so naughty but nice. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus soaking time for the dates)
Baking time: 70-75 Mins
200g Hadrawi Dates (Or Medjool)
100g Agave Nectar (Plus a little extra to drizzle)
90ml Rum
90ml Boiling Water
215g Wholemeal Flour
2tsp Ground Cinnamon
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
2 Ripe Bananas (Well mashed)

For a really soft and sticky texture you'll need to soak your dates for a few hours and ideally overnight, so grab a good size bowl and something to cover it with. Remove the stones from your dates, chop roughly and add to the bowl. Drizzle in the agave, then pour over the rum and boiling water. Leave to soak for a minimum of three hours, covering when the mixture has cooled to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a 2lb loaf tin with one of those loaf tin liners you can pick up now from the supermarket. If you don't have a liner then baking paper will do just fine. Add the flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder to a large bowl, mix together, then make a well in the centre. Pour in the beaten eggs, along with the cooled date mixture and mix together once more. Fold through the ripe bananas, getting right to the bottom of the bowl until you are left with a consistent batter, then pour into your prepared tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 70-75 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf. When you are happy the loaf is baked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for ten minutes. Carefully turn out onto a wire rack, drizzle with a final lick of agave syrup and leave to cool until ready to serve. All done.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Wholemeal (and Dairy Free) Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now I wouldn't call myself a 'healthy' baker, but as I become more educated on the impact of what I eat I find myself becoming equally more mindful when choosing the ingredients. That doesn't mean I compromise on taste or texture however, as these delicious cookies demonstrate. They may be wholemeal, dairy free and relatively low in refined sugar, but they are still sweetly satisfying and deep in flavour. Yum!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some chilling time)
Baking time: 15 Mins
75g Smooth Organic Peanut Butter
110g Raw Cane Sugar mixed with Stevia (Available from most supermarkets)
1 Large Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
75g Coconut Oil (Melted)
100g Wholemeal Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
75g Jumbo Oats
150g Dark Chocolate Chips
50g Toasted Flaked Almonds

This quantity of mixture will make 12 big cookies. Begin by creaming together the peanut butter and sugar, then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla extract and coconut oil. Add the wholemeal flour, baking powder and oats, then mix to a sticky dough. Toss in the chocolate and almonds then fold through until evenly combined. Spoon the loose dough onto some cling film, wrap up and place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours.

Once the dough has firmed up the fridge preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two large flat baking trays with baking paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into twelve. Roll each portion of dough into a ball and place onto your prepared baking trays. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until the dough has spread, is golden brown and just starting to darken at the edges. When you are happy the cookies are baked remove from the oven, carefully slide the paper onto a wire rack and leave the cookies to cool. They are now ready to serve, so get the kettle on!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Wholesome Fruit Cake

I'm a big fan of rapeseed oil at the moment. Not only is it relatively low in saturated fat, but the slightly nutty flavour works very well with an array of baked treats. Here I've used it in a yummy fruit cake, made even more wholesome with the use of wholemeal flour, oats and a mix of raw cane sugar with stevia. You should be able to find this in the supermarket, but if not you can use agave syrup. 

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
70g Wholemeal Flour
4tbsp Jumbo Oats
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Ground Almonds
115g Raw Cane Sugar with Stevia
150g Rapeseed Oil
3 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Almond Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
1tbsp Dark Rum
500g Pre-soaked Dried Fruit
1tbsp of Honey

Let's begin! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm deep, loose bottomed cake tin entirely with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, almonds and sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the rapeseed oil and eggs. Mix together until evenly combined, then add the extracts and rum and do the same. Fold through the fruit, then spoon into your prepared tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 minutes, until nicely risen and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin an peel off the baking paper. Finish with a drizzle of honey and leave to cool entirely on a wire rack. Done done done!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Chocolate Hazelnut Loaf Cake with Cherries

This cake was the result of one of those all too frequent occurrences, when I have a few odds and ends in the store cupboard that I'm looking to use up. The delicious result has more than a hint of the black forest about it, but of course that's no bad thing. It's a real fudgy devil too, which means it will keep for more than couple of days if stored in a cool or cold place. Well, if you can resist gobbling it all up!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 70-75 Mins
175g Butter
150g Milk Chocolate (Broken into cubes)
100g Ground Hazelnuts
100g Plain Flour
1.5tsp Baking Powder
2tbsp Cocoa Powder
150g Golden Caster Sugar
75g Toasted Hazelnuts (Roughly Chopped)
2 Large Eggs, plus 1 Yolk
175g Cherries soaked in Kirsch, along with 2tbsp of the soaking liquor (Plus a few extra cherries to decorate)
175g Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a 2lb loaf tin with a greaseproof loaf tin liner. You can pick the liners up easily from most supermarkets or kitchenware stores. Melt together the butter and chocolate, either over a bain-marie or in the microwave, then set to one side to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl mix together the hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar and hazelnuts. Make a well in the middle and pour in the melted butter and chocolate. Mix through, then add the eggs and continue mixing to a batter. Finally, add the cherries and soaking liquor and give one last mix until evenly combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 70-75 mins, until a metal skewer or sharp knife comes out sticky with crumbs when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool carefully remove from the tin and spread the surface with chocolate spread. Finish with a few leftover cherries to decorate and you are ready to serve. Booyah.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Honeyed Orange and Almond Cake


As frequent flyers will have no doubt noticed, I’ve been on somewhat of a quest recently to discover the healthier side of baking. From wholemeal flour, to sugar substitutes, to fat alternatives it’s been quite the adventure to date!

This time I’ve made a delicious orange cake using honey, yoghurt and almonds, with just a touch of wholemeal flour to really bring out the nuttiness of the almonds. It has a really soft, yielding texture that almost melts in the mouth and a gentle, fragrant flavour. For an added indulgence I drizzle with a lick of honey just before serving. ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 55 Mins
185g Runny Honey
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Almond Extract
150g Greek Yoghurt
Zest and Juice of 1 Medium Orange
200g Ground Almonds
2tbsp Wholemeal Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

Begin by preheating the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and lining a 20cm loose bottomed tin entirely with baking paper. Add the honey, eggs and almond extract to a large bowl and whisk by hand for a good 30 seconds, until nice and frothy. Add the yoghurt, orange zest and juice and keep whisking to combine.

Mix together the ground almonds, flour and baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients. Fold through until evenly combined. Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 55 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When the cake is cool remove from the tin, peeling off the paper and place of a serving plate. You are finished!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Wholemeal Banana Breakfast Muffins

As soon as one labels anything 'healthy' the sense of apprehension becomes almost palpable. But just because something is relatively virtuous, that doesn't mean it's not equally as delicious and satisfying, often even more so.

These muffins are a very nommy breakfast treat and packed with wholesome ingredients that will keep you firing on all cylinders until lunchtime. Don't worry though, there's still one or two cheeky nuggets of naughtiness to keep your tastebuds on their toes! ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
200g Wholemeal Flour
1.5tsp Baking Powder
1.5tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1.5tsp Ground Cinnamon
125g Granola (Crush any large lumps of this up with your hands)
100g White Chocolate Chips (Or Raisins, Sultanas or anything else you fancy!
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
150ml Natural Yoghurt
50ml Rapeseed Oil
100g Runny Honey (Plus a little extra for drizzling)
2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Did I mention this one is a DODDLE to prepare? So no excuse not to get cracking! Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lining a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, 75g of granola and chocolate chips (or whatever alternative you decided on). Mix together to combine, then make a large well in the centre.

Pour in the eggs, yoghurt, oil and honey, then add the bananas and vanilla extract. Don't worry, you can do this all in one go. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together to form a consistent batter, then spoon equally into your paper cases. Sprinkle the rest of the granola onto the top of each filled case, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until the muffins have risen and are slightly springy to the touch.

When you are happy the muffins are baked remove from the oven, leave in the tray for ten minutes, then carefully transfer each to a wire rack. Drizzle each with a final lick of honey and leave to cool completely. Finished!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Honey, Lemon and Almond Cake

This recipe is the perfect accompaniment to the early summer sunshine that's becoming ever more frequent (and more welcome) as the weeks drift by. Honey and lemon is a tried and tested classic, but I've thrown in some almonds and coconut oil alongside to add another delicious dimension. What really makes this one special though is the sweet syrup, as you'll be DRENCHING the surface with it!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
150g Golden Caster Sugar
50g Runny Honey
3 Large Eggs
The zest of 2 Lemons
200g Greek Style Yoghurt
100g Coconut Oil (Melted)
200g Ground Almonds
150g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

For the Syrup
125g Runny Honey
The juice of 2 Lemons

Cake time! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a deep 20cm baking tin with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the caster sugar, honey, eggs and lemon zest. I usually do this by hand for a solid 60 seconds. Add the yoghurt and coconut oil, then fold through. Follow this by adding the ground almonds and sifting in the plain flour along with the baking powder. Continue folding through until you a left with a lovely consistent cake batter. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove it from the oven and leave in the tin, on a wire rack. For the syrup add the honey to a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Once small bubbles start to appear on the surface of the honey add the lemon juice and turn up the heat. Let it bubble away whilst stirring for about 60 seconds until syrupy, then remove from the heat. 

Poke holes all over the top of your cake and spoon over about half of the syrup. Leave for about 5 minutes to soak in, then repeat for the rest of the syrup. Leave the cake to cool entirely, before carefully removing from the tin. It's now ready for slicing and nomming!  

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies

As much as I LOVE Nutella on my toast in the morning it's just too naughty to eat regularly as part of a balanced diet. Subsequently, I've been looking at ways to use up the large jar of the chocolatey hazelnut spread that until recently has been tormenting me with temptation. I've gone super nutty by combining it with peanut butter in a cookie dough, which when baked gives the cookies an incredible flavour and a soft, super moreish texture!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 60 Mins Chilling time)
Baking time: 12-15 Mins
125g Nutella
100g Smooth Peanut Butter
75g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Plain Flour

To the kitchen! Begin by combining two large, flat baking trays with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the Nutella, peanut butter and sugar, then beat in the egg along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the baking powder and flour, then mix to a sticky dough. Spoon the dough onto a sheet of clingfilm, wrap up and leave to chill in a fridge for 60 mins.


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grab your dough from the fridge. Break off a small handful of the dough, roll into a ball and place on one of your prepared trays. Repeat for the rest of the dough, evenly spacing your balls apart, then press each to a fat disk with the palm of your hand. 


Bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 minutes, until just cracking on top and darkening at the edges. When you are happy the cookies are baked remove from the oven. They may have domed slightly on top, so with the back of a spoon press down on each. This will give the cooled cookies a lovely firm and chewy texture. 

Leave the cookies to cool on the trays for around 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Your work is done. ;-)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Oh bread, how I love thee...


Bread is by far my favourite food, both to eat and to make. The process is a joy, from the tactile pleasure of kneading and shaping the soft dough, to the nervous anticipation of the rising and baking. It is tremendous fun and every bread I bake fills me with both satisfaction and pride.

BREAD IS NOT BORING

To eat freshly baked bread is a sensory feast without parallel. There is nothing quite like the smell of bread baking in the kitchen. Both comforting and seductive, the mouth-watering aroma is as tantalising as it is possible to be. Research has shown that the smell of bread not only makes us hungrier, but happier, even kinder and that is with good reason.

Every bread you make will be an individual, no two are alike and the sight of a freshly made, just baked loaf will always cause a stir amongst your guests, friends or family. The sound of the crisp crust shattering as it is torn or sliced only further intensifies the excitement of what is to follow. And what is to follow is nothing short of spectacular.

To describe the taste and texture of just baked bread is an impossible task, with a near limitless palette of possibilities at ones disposal. Be it nourishing and satisfying, rich and complex, sweet or savoury there is a bread for every occasion and each delicious and distinctive in it’s own way.

For me though that is what makes bread so special. Everyone I know loves bread, from young children enjoying a jam sandwich at lunch, to top restaurants employing the most complex artisanal techniques to produce unusual and original creations. It’s accessible to all, unpretentious and simple to make, yet even starting with the easiest of recipes the possibilities are endless...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sugar Free Hot Cross Buns

I used to be so cynical about the times of celebration and festivity that occur throughout the year, but as I have matured (or maybe that should be immatured ;-)) I've come to not only embrace such occasions as Christmas and Easter, but downright love them! They are such a welcome departure from the stresses, strains and routine of daily life and an excellent excuse (not that I ever need one) to indulge in a naughty treat or two.

Saying that, these hot cross buns are not actually as naughty as they could be, a consequence of me trying to cut down on those refined sugars that are so very bad (and not in the good way). I've sweetened the dough instead with a dash of agave syrup, as well as glazed the top with a lick of the same. Worry not though, for they are still buttery and rich and most importantly, yummy!

Prep time: 15 Minutes to prepare the dough, plus a few hours proving and rising.
Baking time: 20-30 Mins
7g Fresh Yeast
100ml Tepid Water
250g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1/2tsp Salt 
1/2tsp Mixed Spice
25g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1 Egg Yolk (From a Large Egg)
2tbsp Agave Syrup (Plus an extra tablespoon to glaze)
125g Mixed Dried Fruit and Peel

For the crosses
1tbsp Plain Flour
1tbsp of Water

Making bread dough is such fun, so let's get started. Crumble the fresh yeast into a jug, pour in the tepid water and mix to dissolve the yeast.

Add the flour, salt and spice to a large mixing bowl, mix briefly to combine, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the butter, yolk, syrup and fruit. Bring together with a flat bladed knife, then tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Bring the dough together with your hands, then knead for around 8-10 minutes, stretching the dough away from you, folding it back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Once the dough is smooth and elastic place in a lightly greased large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for around 90 minutes. 

Once the dough has doubled in size you can make the buns. Uncover the cling film then, with a lightly oiled hand take a small handful of the dough. On a clean, dry surface, roll in a circular motion, holding the dough loosely with the top of your hand to form a sphere. Once rolled place on a greased baking tray and press lightly to flatten a touch. Repeat for the rest of the dough, which should be enough for around six buns. Once the buns are all on the tray, evenly spaced apart cover gently with a sheet of lightly greased clingfilm and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes to rise again.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. I tend to not go any hotter than this as I find the buns will scorch before having time to bake properly. Take the buns from where you have left them to rise and carefully remove the cling film. Mix the plain flour and water to a paste, then using a piping bag or tube pipe a cross onto the top of each one. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins.

Once the buns are nice and golden you can remove from the oven. Lightly brush each bun with a final glaze of agave syrup and leave to cool on the tray for about 15 minutes. They are then ready to serve, fresh and warm and delicious!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Vegan Banana Trail Mix Cakies

These cakies are so called as they sit somewhere between a cookie and a little cake. Fear not though intrepid cake adventurer, for I shall spare you any sort of Jaffa Cake style debate. However you wish to classify these naughty treats, the one thing that is indisputable is that they are VERY moreish. Oh and I did I mention they are also entirely vegan? ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus 60 Mins chilling time)
Baking time: 13-15 Mins
100g Coconut Oil (Melted gently)
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Ripe Banana (Mashed)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
250g Fruit and Nut Trail Mix

If you're ready, then let's begin. Grab a large mixing bowl and pour in the coconut oil. Add the sugar, banana and vanilla extract, then mix to combine. Add the flour and baking powder, then mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the trail mix, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 60 mins.

Once the dough has chilled it's ready to cakify, so preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two large flat baking trays with baking paper. Take your dough from the fridge and divide into 18 little balls. Place each evenly spaced apart on your baking trays, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 13-15 minutes. By this time they should have spread, are golden brown and just darkening at the edges.

When you are happy the cakies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 mins on the tray. Peel each carefully from the baking paper and leave to cool entirely. They are now ready to enjoy. X