Sunday, 19 June 2016

Coconut brownies

I had virtually no time to bake this weekend but, nonetheless, wanted some home baking.  This is the perfect recipe to have up your sleeve – the work of minutes to get in the oven, very few ingredients, and utterly delicious. 

If I had to pick my favourite things to pair with chocolate coconut would be right at the top of the list, perhaps having to slug it out with pear for who actually had the top spot.  There is just something about coconut that brings out the best in chocolate and vice versa.  I love the damp grainy texture of baked desiccated coconut and that you can find bits of it in your teeth for a while after eating – it’s the ingredient that keeps on giving!

One thing I think it’s important to point out – this recipe didn’t behave like a normal brownie recipe; usually, when you’ve done the melting of the chocolate and butter you end up with quite a liquid mixture right until you add the flour, and even then it’s a runny mix.  This was thicker and only started to loosen when I added the eggs – here’s what it looked like after the initial melting stage (just so you don’t panic that it’s gone wrong if yours looks similar!):

Possibly the only difficult thing about baking brownies is judging when to remove them from the oven.  I work on the assumption that things firm up/set/dry out a little on cooling so try and take them out before they look ‘done’.  This goes against my prudent nature and I feel a bit of a risk-taking daredevil in removing something from the oven before it looks ready, but I force myself, and the momentary stress is worth it!  In my opinion a brownie is better a little underdone, than a little over.


100g cocoa powder
250g unsalted butter
500g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g desiccated coconut, plus 2 tablespoons extra to sprinkle on top


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper or non stick foil.

Place the cocoa powder, butter and sugar into a large pan (large enough to accommodate all the additional ingredients) and melt over a gentle heat, stirring all the time so nothing catches on the bottom of the pan.

When everything has combined remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Fold in the flour and coconut.

Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the extra coconut over the top.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the brownie is set but not firm.  Best to start checking after about 30 minutes as ovens vary.  If the top is getting too dark and crusty, cover loosely with foil and continue to bake.

Leave to cool in the tin and, when cool, cut into chunky sized squares.

Serve with a cup of tea, or warm and serve with ice cream for dessert.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Ginger and rum cake

I think I must be a contrarian baker.  Now that summer actually seems to have arrived, I know I should be thinking about strawberries, cream and other such light frippery….but what I really wanted this week was ginger cake.  And rum.  And dates.  And all things that make you think of colder weather (not that I even like colder weather).  As I said – contrarian.

This cake is always better the day after baking, and the day after that; it’s always the way with sticky spicy cakes – they need time to mellow and let their flavours mature.  I do have a penchant for rum and have a selection at home that would rival most cocktail bars; for this cake I chose a spiced rum as I thought the extra punch of flavour would work well.  Spiced rum always seems to have a vanilla note to it too and I never miss the opportunity to get a bit of vanilla into something.

You can taste each of the main flavours in the cake: ginger, dates and rum.  Putting the rum in the icing gives a raw hit – if you like your booze softer, and more baked, consider putting more in the cake and leaving it out of the icing.

Without checking through almost nine years of blogging, I don’t remember putting dates into a ginger cake before.  It was a good move – it turned a standard ginger cake into something more akin to a sticky toffee pudding.  You could leave the icing off this cake and serve it warm, as dessert, with custard or ice cream.  Personally, I am always partial to a white icing and a bit of the itchy teeth feel it can sometimes create.  Many older people I know have lost their taste for overly sweet things…I do sometimes wonder if it will ever happen to me.  I just can’t imagine being that person who winces when they eat something and say, ‘ooh, that’s a bit sweet for me’.  Does. Not.  Compute.


75g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
125g black treacle
125g golden syrup
2 eggs
3 tablespoons rum – I used spiced rum
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
50g stem ginger, finely chopped
75g medjool dates – pitted and finely chopped
For the icing:
100g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons spiced rum
1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes before beating in the eggs and rum – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble and leave lumps in the cake.  Not nice.

Stir in the flour and ground ginger.

Stir in the chopped ginger and dates.

Pour into the prepared baking tin.

Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the icing: mix the icing sugar with 1 tablepsoon each of rum and ginger syrup – add the extra spoonful of rum only if needed.  You’re aiming for a thick, glossy icing that has movement to it but isn’t so loose it will just run off the cake.

Spoon the icing over the cake and leave to set.

This cake gets better with age – it becomes stickier and more flavoursome.

Serve in generous slices with a cup of tea.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Bakewell thumbprint biscuits

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been blogging it’s that good recipes can turn up anywhere; a particularly good source being supermarket free magazines.  This one is from the Co-Op’s magazine and combines two of my favourite things – biscuits and bakewells.  Sadly, I no longer live near a Co-Op but my mother in law does, and diligently picks up the new magazine for me whenever it’s available – thanks Dot!

We all probably made thumbprint biscuits as children; they must be up there with fairy cakes and rock buns as the ideal ‘starter’ bake for children.  But what I liked about this recipe was that it reinvented the familiar biscuit and introduced almonds and white icing to create a bakewell hybrid.  It really is a winning combination.

The recipe makes a lot of biscuits.  A lot.  The recipe said it would make 40, and I got 26 (this isn’t bad for me – normally when a recipe says 40 I get about 12!). This is very handy as it is a strong individual who will stop at one!

The lemon zest in the biscuit and the lemon juice in the white icing is quite strong; if you want the almond and jam to be more dominant I would recommend maybe using the zest in the biscuit and making the icing up with water.


For the biscuits:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
1 lemon’s zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
150g ground almonds
150g self raising flour
approx ½ a jar of raspberry jam

For the icing:
80g icing sugar
1 lemon’s juice
Handful of toasted flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Line two (or four if you have them, otherwise you can just rotate the baking trays and use them twice) baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

Beat together the butter, sugar, zest and vanilla until light and whippy; you will notice the mix turning pale.

Add the egg and beat well.

Add the ground almonds and self raising flour and stir until just mixed.

Take a heaped teaspoon of the mix and roll into a ball.

Place on the baking sheet.

Repeat until the tray is full – they do spread while baking so aim for a maximum of 8 per baking sheet (depending on the size of your sheet.)

Push your thumb into each ball to form a well.

Spoon ½ teaspoon of jam into each well.

Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until golden and nicely spread. I found mine needed longer – about 16-18 minutes, but it’s good to check after 10 minutes if only to rotate the trays for an even bake.

Repeat the process until all your biscuit dough is used up.

Leave to cool.

Now make the icing: mix together the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice (you won’t need it all) until you have a thick but runny icing.

Drizzle across the top of the cooled biscuits.

Scatter over the flaked almonds.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

White chocolate cheesecake

There is something about a bank holiday weekend that just makes you feel like you have more time for everything, including baking.  I wanted to bake something that was rich and indulgent, and would also be a fancy treat across the whole three days.  I don’t usually make baked cheesecakes but the minute I laid eyes on this one, on the BBC Good Food website, I knew it had to be!

Just reading the ingredients list indicated that this was going to be rich, rich, rich!  I tried to balance it by serving with fresh raspberries. Any acidic fruit would work well such as rhubarb or citrus.

The texture of this cheesecake is beautiful – I often find that baked cheesecakes can be a bit dense and heavy, resulting in that squeaky tooth feeling.  This one is light and almost mousse-like, but unmistakably a cheesecake.  Surprisingly, it isn’t too sweet either.

It’s possibly the first time I’ve made a baked cheesecake where I avoided a split on the top as it cooled.  I think I’ve had this in the past because I’ve overbaked it and not trusted that it would firm up enough during cooling; this time I made a conscious effort to turn the oven off after an hour even though the cheesecake looked barely set.

This makes a big cheesecake but don’t worry if you don’t want it all at once.  Cut it into slices and freeze for future treats! Or eat it all up in a couple of days – I won’t judge you.


For the base:
200g digestive biscuits, or Hobnobs
85g unsalted butter

For the topping:
400g white chocolate
300ml double cream
400g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve: raspberries


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor and then add the butter (no need to melt if you’re using a food processor) and blitz again until combined.

Press into the base of a 23cm round springform tin.

Bake for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.

Reduce the oven to 140C/fan 120C/280F/gas mark 1.

Wrap the outside of the cake tin tightly in 2-3 layers of foil – this is to make it waterproof for its water bath later!

Now make the topping: Place the chocolate and the cream into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat together the cream cheese, eggs and vanilla.

Add the cooled chocolate cream mix and beat until smooth.

Place the tin (wrapped in foil) in a deep roasting tin and pour the filling into it.

Pour boiling water, from the kettle, into the roasting tin so that it comes about halfway up the side of the cake tin.

Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off.

Leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour with the door closed, then for about another hour with the door slightly ajar. 

Remove the tin from the water bath and remove the foil.

Cover the top with clingfilm and refrigerate until about 10 minutes before you wish to serve it.

Serve either on its own, or with some fruit for a fancy dessert.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.