How much do you love chocolate brownies? Well let me tell you as I sit here typing I’ve had both daughterlings come and ask me when they can eat these soft cherry brownies? They’ve only been out of the oven for two minutes but they’ve made the whole house smell all chocolatey. “They’re for New Years Eve” I told them as they skulked off as if they had to wait an eternity.
Brownies rock NYE
I’ve found that with this recipe these brownies taste good when still warm with a dollop of ice cream but if you can bare to wait they improve in richness if eaten a day after baking. I made these to take to a New Years Eve party this year where there will be other chocolate loving kids so I wanted to add a soft cherry flavour. Usually I add glacè or natural morello cherries but for this one I decided to make them quick and easy and used a tin of pitted cherries in juice. I drained the juice completely so they wouldn’t make the cake all gooey – well more gooey than it should be. I also didn’t cut them in half so when you eat them you get all that juicy flavour in one hit.
The result? Pretty good I’d say.
3 medium eggs
275g caster sugar
175g salted butter
200g dark chocolate
175g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tin of pitted cherries (about 230g)
Line a 20x 30cm baking tin with silicon paper and pre-heat your oven to 180*C (160*C for fan ovens).
Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk up then add the sugar and combine. Set to one side.
Place the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and when melted remove from the heat and add the broken up dark chocolate until it melts. Place over the heat if necessary but be sure to watch that it doesn't burn.
Measure and sieve the flour and cocoa into a separate bowl.
Add the chocolate to the egg and sugar mix and combine. Add the dry ingredients and fold in.
Stir in the drained pitted cherries then transfer to the cake tin.
Bake for 30 minutes. The top will start to form cracks. That shows it's ready to be removed from the oven.
Leave the tin on a rack to cool completely before removing the cake from the tin.
To cut neat portions place a large knife in hot water then dry before cutting each slice. The heat from the blade will slice easily through the whole brownie if you re-heat it each time.
So what are you baking for New Years Eve then? Last year I made a tart and the year before I made Tiramisu. Anything goes as long as it sees in a sweet new year and brings you plenty of joy and happiness.
Happy New Year.
Christmas Jam recipe
I love to make Christmas gifts, especially for the girls teachers. We put into the group collections but it’s always nice to add a personal something. I’m sure the teaches get inundated with home made stuff so this year I thought we’d go for something a bit different from our usual gingerbread biscuits. We made Christmas Jam.
The jam is really easy to make and you can substitute any fruit you don’t like for something you do. We love apricots and dates but not everyone does. As long as you keep the weight of the fruit the same you’ll get a great result.
My first attempt at jam making was back at the end of the summer with my rhubarb jam. It was so delicious and simple to make that I couldn’t wait to make some more – any excuse eh! This time I thought I’d do it the official way and with the help of Lakeland and their jam thermometer, seriously cute jam jars and some waxed circles I was ready to go.
Tim bought some mini jam jars for his grape jam in the summer so I only needed a few more jars to top up the numbers. I love these ‘Ball’ ones. Such a cute size and shape. The discs come in bags of 200 – so they should keep me going for a while! and the thermometer is fantastic! Not only does it have a temperature gauge in Celsius and farenheight but it also has markings for the correct temperature for other baking – jam making, sterilising temperature, frying fish or chips it even has hard crack, soft crack and firm ball temperatures marked- and before you think I’ve become a crack addict that refers to sweet making. I think fudge and caramel may be next on the list. I also like that it has a clip on the back so you can secure the thermometer onto your pan to stop it getting in the way when you’re stirring.
This recipe will make 10 mini jam jars of 135ml or 3 regular jam jars of 450ml
800g mixed fruit
100g dried dates
100g glace cherries
100g dried apricots
Juice and skin of 3 small oranges
juice of 1 lemon
570g Jam sugar (which contains pectin) ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
200ml orange juice
Place all the dried fruit into an air tight container and cover with the alcohol. Give it a good shake so all the fruit is coated. Leave for 48 hours to infuse or longer if you have the time.
Place all the fruit in a deep pan over a medium heat and cover with sugar. Add the juice from the oranges and lemon and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Cut the skins from the oranges into small slithers and chop up a bit more then add them to the pot. Place a jam thermometer in the pan to allow it to heat up with the jam. Leave it in the pan the whole time.
Continue to cook for 20-30 minutes so the fruit really softens up and infuses in all the spices and juices. Stir occasionally to prevent the jam sticking to the bottom.
If using a thermometer bring the jam up to 105ºC /220ºF. Once this temperature is reached the jam will set. If not using a thermometer you can test if the jam is done by placing some jam on the back of a chilled saucers you have placed in the freezer. Leave it for 30 seconds then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles up it’s ready. If it doesn’t keep boiling for another five minutes and try again on a fresh plate.
To sterilise the jam jars place them in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and keep at that temperature for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs.
While still warm spoon the jam into the jars till it reaches the top. Place a disc of waxed paper over the top and seal with the lid. Leave to cool completely.
Where to store your jam: If you press the centre of the lid down and it moves store in the fridge and eat within 1-2 months. If the top of the jam jar doesn’t move when pressed you have a good air tight seal and you can store your jam in a dark place for up to 12 months.
So what are you making and baking for Christmas gifts this year. I’d love to know?
Disclaimer: Thank you to Lakeland for providing me with the jam jars, waxed circles and jam thermometer for this post. All thoughts, opinions and ramblings are entirely my own.
Honey cake recipe for Rosh Hashanah
Every Jewish festival comes with a traditional cake. Rosh Hashanah – which is the Jewish New Year, is Honey cake. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated over two days and it’s one of the biggest festivals in the Jewish calendar. We get together and eat – a lot, gathering for big meals and lots of honey cake.
Traditionally honey cake is a really dense and heavy cake but I’ve been making lighter versions for years now. This one is made with syrup. Now I know what your thinking. If it’s made with syrup why is it called honey cake? Well, Syrup makes the cake a bit heavier than honey and that’s what my mum does and what her mum did and what her mum did. Get the picture? So I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t want my cake to be too heavy so I made it the Genoise way. Still light but with a superior moistness! Yummarge!
Honey cake recipe
- 90g plain flour
- 100g Self Raising flour
- 1¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 100g caster sugar
- 110ml syrup
- 110ml sunflower oil
- 110ml tea (the stronger the better)
- Line an 8″ baking tin well. This cake mix is more like batter than cake so it will run out of any cracks in a loose bottom tin. It’s also quite sticky once baked so I always bake in cake liners. It also makes it easier to give the cakes as gifts.
- Heat your oven to 180ºC (Fan oven160ºC)
- Make the strong tea and set aside to cool a little.
- In a separate bowl measure out all the dry ingredients
- Measure the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof bowl and place over a bain-marie. You want to warm the mixture not heat it up. If it gets too warm you’ll have scrambled eggs – yuck! Whisk the ingredients to add air and make the mixture double in size. Remove from the heat and carry on whisking with a hand held whisk or in a stand mixer. Stand mixer is easier.
- Measure the oil into a jug and while whisking the egg whites slowly add the oil in a slow and steady trickle. Add the egg whites and the oil and whisk further.
- Add the cooled tea and whisk again.
- Sieve the dry ingredients over the cake mix. Avoid pouring the dry contents into the bowl in one go as the weight of it will burst loads of air bubbles and we need them to give the cake lightness. Fold the dry ingredients into the mix until completely combined then pour the ingredients into the cake tin. The mix will resemble a very wet batter. It will rise into a deep cake so fill the case to ¾ full.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 45minutes or till the cake starts coming away from the sides. This cake is incredible light so if you press the top with your finger it will leave an indent even if the cake is baked.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a rack before removing from the tin.
This cake tastes great on the day of baking but even better the day after
Happy New Year to all my Jewish readers. Chag Sameach
Last week Darcey came home from Cubs having made these really cute Easter Nests. They take literally 10 minutes to make, twenty minutes to harden up and just seconds to devour.
My mini chef
She’s becoming a bit of a whiz in the Kitchen of late. A few weekends ago she asked if she could make lunch for everyone. I said yes – thinking that a round of sandwiches were on their way and told her that I would be down to the kitchen in five minutes. By the time I arrived she had already boiled water ready for noodles and had made her favorite “red sauce” (Sweet and Sour – made by mixing tomato puree and soy sauce in heated up honey). I need to get to that kitchen a lot quicker!
So, when she asked on the first day of the Easter holidays if she could make some more Easter nests I knew what was coming.
“Mum, where’s that glass bowl” was the first question by which time the white chocolate had already been broken into tiny pieces – I’m sure a few were missing! She loves cooking and baking and is really confident in the kitchen. I’m just glad that when she now want’s to make me a cup of mint tea she uses the kettle and not the hot tap for water!
The main keys to baking with kids is to let them have fun. Let them make a mess and most importantly in my case- let go of perfectionism. I just let her go for it. I think she had fun. Just look at that super cheesy grin. Happiness personified!
Makes 6 nests
- 125g white /milk/dark chocolate broken up into small pieces- the choice is yours
- 2 shredded wheat
- mini eggs – ours were from M&S
- Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until completely melted.
- In another bowl crunch and crush the shredded wheat into small twig like pieces.
- Pour the chocolate over the shredded wheat and stir until the Shredded wheat is completely covered.
- Spoon the mixture into paper cupcake cases. We placed ours in a cupcake baking tin so they would keep their shape. Make a well in the middle.
- Position the mini eggs in the centre and leave to harden for twenty minutes.
- Munch through them. Nom, Nom, Nommmmm!
Darcey wanted white chocolate nests; as that’s her favorite, but really anything goes. I think using Shredded Wheat is ingenious. Not only do they look more twiggy but they taste great. Move over cornflake cakes. You have officially been replaced!
All that’s left to say is I hope you have a fantastic Easter with tons of chocolate and masses of family fun time.
Bye for now
Pumpkin cake pops
I love cake pops. They may be a bit fiddly to make but the look on peoples faces (and when I say people I mean Beau and Darcey) when they see them is worth every minute. We have a bit of an obsession with Halloween in our house and the only reason for this is that it’s my birthday on Halloween. This means anything pumpkin/bat/ghost or witch related is a real draw for us.
These cute little pumpkin cake pops for Halloween aren’t hard to make when you know the little tricks(or treats) which I’ll share with you now.
You will need:
- A cake
- buttercream (enough to make the crumbs stick so only around 50g butter/50g icing sugar)
- orange candy melts
- black food colour (professional pastes work best)
- cake pop sticks
- Green sugarpaste
How to make pumpkin cake pops
- Take a cake and turn it into crumbs in a food processor. A cake that has been sitting around a day or two is fine (not that we ever have cake sitting around!)
- Add a small amount of buttercream.
- Mix the crumbs and buttercream in the food processor until the mixture forms a large ball.
- Roll out little balls then make a hole in the top. This is where the stalk of the pumpkin will sit.
- To create ridges in the side of the cake pops use a spoon to create dents all around the pumpkin shape.
- Heat a few candy melts then coat the end of each stick in turn. Place that end in the bottom of the cake pop. Chill the cake pops in the fridge for at least 20 minutes so that they set hard and can be handled without falling apart. This is essential otherwise the balls fall off the sticks into the candy melts.
- Make pumpkin stalks from the green sugarpaste. Set aside to harden while you dip the cake pops.
- Heat the rest of the candy melts in a glass bowl set over saucepan of boiling water till they are runny like melted chocolate. You can add a small amount of sunflower oil to candy melts to make the liquid thinner and easier to apply to the cake pops. Don’t ever add water as it will make the candy melts sieze up and you have to start all over again. Dip each cake pop in until the whole pumpkin is covered.
- Place the cake pops in a glass full of sugar making sure you allow enough space that they won’t touch each other while setting. Add the green stalks while the candy melts are still wet.
- Leave the pops to dry and harden completely (at least an hour).
- Using a food only paint brush paint on a pumpkin face in black food colouring. Professional food colours come in a paste form and are much easier to use than supermarket bought colours.
- Once ready display in a bowl of sugar (so they stand up) ready for your trick or treaters.
Well, it had to be done really didn’t it? I mean how long can you have baking blog before you make a batch of mincepies? Well for me nearly three years.
I absolutely love mince pies but it wasn’t until Darcey asked for “those cakes with all the stuff inside” (and it took quite a while to work out what she was talking about) that I even decided to give it a go. I did the usual, looked through a ton of baking books, blogs and websites and they all had various amounts of fruit/ butter/ sugar / BRANDY!!! Some sounded too sweet and some too boozy – they are for Darcey after all. So, rather than follow one recipe I decided to just go with the flow and grab whatever I had in my store cupboard. I bought a bag of mixed fruit but everything else was from my cupboard.
So whether you are making mince pies or adding some boozy juicy raisins to a cake as I am planning to do, here is a really moist and tasty mince meat recipe.
- 500g mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, mixed peel- you can make up any combination as long as it’s the same weight)
- 60g dried apricots
- 50g dried dates
- 125g butter
- 160g dark brown sugar
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
- juice and rind of an orange and lemon
- 1 tbsp brandy
To make the mincemeat…
- Measure all the ingredients except the brandy into a large saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir continuously until the butter has melted.
- Keep stirring for a further 5 minutes to slowly cook the fruits.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat then add the brandy and mix it in well. Leave to cool in the saucepan.
- Once completely cold store in an air tight container and allow the alcohol to really sink into the fruit for at least 24 hours before using in a pie.
Shortcrust pastry recipe
- 250g plain flour
- 140g cold butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 egg white – for brushing the pies before baking
How to make shortcrust pastry
- Sieve the flour into a bowl
- Cut up the butter into small cubes then rub into the flour to form a breadcrumb consistency.
- Mix the water and egg yolks together then pour into a well in the bowl and mix into the flour/egg mix with a knife.
- Keep mixing until well blended but don’t over mix or the dough will become tough and you’ll loose that light, light texture.
- Bring all the crumbs together with your hands then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
To make the mince pies
- Lightly dust the wells in a fairy cake baking tray with flour. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160 fan)
- Roll out the chilled dough and cut out thin circles that are just a little bit bigger than the fairy cake wells in the tin. Place each disk of dough into a well and press down to make the pie base.
- Fill the case with mincemeat.
- Cut out a shape to go on the top of each mince pie. I made snowflakes but anything goes, just remember that if you are completely covering the top of the pie put a few holes in the top for the steam from the fruit to escape from.
- Brush the top of each mince pie with a little egg white to give it a nice sheen when it’s baked.
- Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
- Leave the pies to cool for 10 minutes in the tray before removing them and eating while still warm or place on a cooling rack to cool completely. You can dust them with icing sugar too.
- Either way devour!
So, what are you making for Christmas this year? I’d love to know.