Hot Cross Buns

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Apparently hot cross buns almost caused a riot during the 18th Century. The Chelsea Bun House sold the most delicious buns in London so when they ran out at Easter things got a bit heated amongst the local residents. Luckily for us, we can get them all year around but seeing as it’s Easter I thought I’d make a fresh batch to share with the family. Best eaten hot from the oven with a pot of tea.

Happy Easter!

So here’s how (makes 15 buns):

  • 300ml full-fat milk, plus 2 tbsp more
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross:

  • 75g plain flour

For the glaze:

  • 75g apricot jam or marmalade

Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter and leave to cool. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then pour in the warm milk and butter mixture and the egg. Mix well and then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oil bowl and cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour until double in size.

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With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed. Leave to rise for 1 hour more until double in size.

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Divide the dough into 15 even pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover with more oiled cling film and then set aside to prove for 1 hour more.

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Heat oven to 220C (200C fan). Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses. Bake for 20 mins until golden brown.

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For the glaze, gently heat the jam and then when the buns are out of the oven brush on the top using a pastry brush.

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Recipe from Paul Hollywood. 

Boozy Chocolate Truffles

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I made these boozy chocolate truffles for a Christmas party but they would be perfect for any impending New Year celebrations. Made using dark chocolate, double cream and a big ol’ swig of coffee liqueur, these truffles are wonderfully luxurious. Cover them in rich cocoa powder and your guests will think they’ve been crafted by a Belgian chocolatier, not by you in your kitchen.

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Here’s how (makes about 30 truffles): 

  • 300g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 284ml double cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 5 tbsp coffee liqueur  (I used Tia Maria)
  • 100g cocoa powder

You can also try brandy, rum or bourbon. Add more or less liqueur according to your taste.

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Put the cream and butter in a saucepan and heat until the mixture reaches simmering point. Break up the chocolate into squares and place in a large bowl. Pour the simmering cream over the top of the chocolate and stir together until completely smooth. Add the liqueur to taste. Cool in fridge for at least 3 hours until the truffle mixture hardens.

To shape the truffles, scoop a ball of the chocolate mixture out using a melon baller. Then roll the truffle mixture between your hands until it forms a ball. Roll in the cocoa powder and chill.

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Enjoy and Happy New Year!!!!

Recipe from BBC Good Food. 

The Great Gatsby Cake

 

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Last weekend one of my best friends hosted the most beautiful 1920s themed party for her birthday. All the girls were dressed in pearls and feather headbands whilst the boys came out in gangster hats and dinner jackets. Think Downton Abbey meets Bugsy Malone. After copious glasses of champagne, canapes and a delicious sit down supper it was time to blow out the candles and cut the cake.

I am pleased to say that there wasn’t a crumb left of The Great Gatsby cake. Happy Birthday Emma!

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Here’s how (serves 25):

Vanilla Sponge:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour

Vanilla Syrup:

  • 150ml water
  • 150g caster sugar
  • seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod

Buttercream Icing:

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • tsp vanilla extract

Black Royal Icing:

  • black food colouring or paste
  • 300g icing sugar
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1 egg white

For the decoration:

  • 200g black sugar paste
  • ready-rolled white fondant icing
  • 200g black royal icing
  • black ribbon

Pre-heat the oven to 175C (160C fan oven). To make the sponge, mix the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds together. Beat the eggs into the mixture and add the flour until well combined. Line and grease two 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until it is golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, put the water, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Once the cake has been cooling for at least 5 minutes, use a pastry brush to brush the top of both of the cakes with the syrup mixture. The vanilla and sugar will soak into the warm sponge and make the cake beautifully moist. Leave to cool completely.

To make the buttercream icing, mix together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Once the cake is completely cool, sandwich the two cakes together with the butter cream and cover the entire cake with the icing.

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Roll out the fondant icing and cover the cake with it. For the best results, place the cake on a turntable. Smooth it down using a cake smooth. Click here to see the BBC’s tutorial on how the cover a cake with fondant icing. To make the black royal icing, mixture together the eggs whites, lemon juice, icing sugar and black food colouring until the icing is black. Transfer into a piping back with a small nozzle. To decorate then pipe a series of double swags around the edge and a tear drop between each. Place a black ribbon around the base of the cake.

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To make the black sugar roses divide the sugar paste into three equal sized segments. Taking each segment in turn, warm the sugar paste between your hands and then cut into 6 equal parts. Roll into 6 round balls and then using a rolling pin roll them into flat circles. For the centre of the rose, roll the circle into a cylinder. Then take another circle and wrap it around the central cylinder. Repeat this until you have a rose shape. You can shape the petals in any way you want. There will be excess sugar paste at the stem of the rose. Cut this off so that the base is flat. Place the three roses in the middle of the cake. With the excess from the steps you can make a smaller rose and place this in the middle. To make them stick to the fondant icing brush with a little bit of a cold water. For some extra glamour, I sprinkled the roses with edible glitter.

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Sponge recipe adapted from Peggy Porschen’s Glorious Victoria Cake.

Gingerbread Christmas Decorations

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Every year I try and make a gingerbread house. However this year I haven’t had enough time so I thought I’d make some gingerbread decorations for our Christmas tree instead. Very simple and easy to make but they look (and taste) great.

So here’s how (make about 20 gingerbread cookies):

  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 125g butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 1 large egg

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To decorate:

  • white writing icing
  • ribbon

Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and butter. Mix in the sugar and beat the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then add in the egg and golden syrup until the dough clumps together. Knead the dough on a floury surface, roll into a ball then wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

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Roll out the dough on a floury surface using a rolling pin until about half a cm thick. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough and place shapes onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Pre heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. As soon as they are out of the oven use a skewer to make a hole to thread your ribbon through. Leave to cool completely on a wire wrack.

I had some extra dough left over so I made some little star cookies to nibble on.

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Once they are completely cool decorate using the white writing icing. Then thread some ribbon through the hole in the gingerbread and hang on the tree.

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Recipe from BBC Good Food. 

Salted Caramel Apple Tart

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I made this tart for a friend’s dinner party over the weekend and as it went down quite well  I thought I’d share it with you all. After the most delicious main course of slow roasted pork and creamy mash (not to mention copious amounts of sloe gin) we served up the tart with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream. As the recipe makes a lot of salted caramel I transferred the leftovers into a jam jar for everyone to drizzle over the top. The perfect autumnal dessert.

Also I’d like to apologise to all you baking purists. I cheated and used ready-made shortcrust pastry. Sorry.

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So here’s how (serves 12)*

Apple Filling 

  • 8 Granny Smith apples (peeled and cored)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 500g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tsp corn flour

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Salted Caramel

  • 350g soft brown sugar
  • 100g salted butter
  • 240ml double cream
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a floured surface until half a cm thick. Grease a 20cm loose bottomed tart tin with a thin layer of butter and line the tin with the rolled pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper over the tin and put ceramic baking beads on the top. Pre-heat the oven to 190C (170C fan) and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edge of the pastry starts to go slightly golden. Remove the ceramic beads and leave to cool.

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For the apple filling, slice the apples into thing wedges and place in a large saucepan. On a medium heat melt the butter with the apples until they start to soft. Then add the sugar, cinnamon and corn flour and simmer for 5 minutes.

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To make the salted caramel, melt the butter, sugar and double cream together over a low heat. Keep stirring making sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Then once all the ingredients have melted together, add in the sea salt to taste.

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Pour a layer of salted caramel on the bottom of the tart base then arrange the apples on top of the caramel. Then pour another layer of salted caramel over the top of the apples. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the apples are golden brown. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tart tin.

Serve with ice cream and extra salted caramel. Sloe gin and prosecco optional.

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*Recipe adapted from Flourishing Foodie.

Double Chocolate Spider’s Webs

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I realise that Halloween was a week ago but thought I’d share this with you anyway.

Firstly, a word of warning. Molten chocolate is notoriously difficult to work with so be prepared for things to get a bit messy. A lot of chocolate ended up on my face and on the floor.

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Here’s how (makes 12 cupcakes): 

Chocolate Sponge

  • 190g plain flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 bicarbonate soda
  • 40ml sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 vanilla extract
  • 100g white chocolate chips

Spider’s Web decoration 

  • 2oog white chocolate
  • 50g dark chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 170C (150C fan) and line a cupcake tray with paper cases. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, vinegar, vanilla and 125ml cold water. Mix the two together until smooth adding in the white chocolate chips and spoon into the cupcake cases until two thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until skewer comes out clean.

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Whilst the cupcakes are in the oven, melt the white and dark chocolate over a low heat. As soon as the cupcakes are out of the oven cover the top with white chocolate. Then carefully spoon the dark chocolate into a piping bag using the smallest nozzle you can find. Pipe three concentric circles of dark chocolate on top of the white chocolate. Using a skewer, drag a line from the centre of the circle to the outer circle. Repeat this until you have eight lines coming from the centre to the edge.  As you do this the dark chocolate with drag through the white chocolate creating a spider’s web effect.

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Very messy but lots of fun!

 

Super Skinny Banana Bread

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Now I know what you’re thinking, how can banana bread be low in calories? Surely it’s packed full of butter and sugar? Well think again my friends. Just replace the butter and sugar with whole milk natural yoghurt and agave syrup. With only 120 calories per slice, you can definitely have your [delete cake] bread and eat it!

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Here’s how (makes about 12 slices):

  • 140g wholemeal flour
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 large ripe bananas (mashed with a fork)
  • 4 tbsp agave syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150ml whole milk natural yogurt
  • 100g chopped pecans (plus 50g to sprinkle on top)

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Line a loaf tin with baking paper (or grease with margarine) and pre-heat the oven to 160C (140C fan). Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Then add in the bananas, agave syrup, eggs and yoghurt and mix until smooth. Then fold in the chopped pecans. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and scatter the remaining pecans over the top of the mixture. Bake for 1 hour 15 (or until a skewer comes out clean) and leave to cool slightly before removing it from the loaf tin. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into slices.

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Recipe from BBC’s Good Food Magazine 

Greek Yoghurt Honey and Blueberry Muffins

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These muffins are utterly scrumptious. The Greek yoghurt makes the sponge incredibly moist, the pumpkin seeds add a bit of crunch and the blueberries ooze their purple juice complimenting the sweetness of the honey. Ideal for a weekend brunch or afternoon pick-me-up with a fresh pot of coffee. I used gluten-free self raising flour and reduced the sugar to make them slightly less naughty. 

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So here’s how (makes 12):

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 250g self-raising flour (or Gluten-free self-raising flour)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 200g fresh blueberries (50g for the topping)
  • 150g pumpkin seeds (50g for the topping)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 150ml Greek Yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 100ml honey (extra for the glaze)

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Sift the flour and bicarbonate into a large bowl and add the sugar, 150g blueberries and 100g pumpkin seeds. Make a well in the centre and pour in the beaten eggs, yoghurt, milk, melted butter and honey. Mix until well combined. Spoon into muffin cases sprinkle over the extra blueberries and pumpkin seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown.

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To make the honey glaze pour about 3 tbsp honey into a pan and warm over a medium heat. As soon as the muffins are out of the oven, use a pastry brush to brush the top of the muffins with honey. The warm honey should soak into the hot sponge. Leave to cool. 

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Gluten-free Oat, Raisin and Choc Chip Cookies

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Crunchy on the outside…squidy on the inside!

These gluten-free oat, raisin and choc chip cookies are the perfect naughty treat to get you through a long afternoon sat at your desk. They are also super easy to make. It takes about 5 minutes to mix up the ingredients and 10-12 minutes in the oven. Enjoy!

Also you might want a plate. They are very crumbly and I’ve now got crumbs all over my laptop.

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Here’s how (makes about 20 cookies):

  • 225g butter
  • 175g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g Gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 60ml boiling water
  • 160g rolle oats
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

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Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and salt. Dissolve the bicarb in the water and add to the mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful on baking paper and bake in 180C (160C fan) oven for 10 -12 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before transferring them to a wire rack.

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Peanut Butter Squares

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I love Peanut Butter. It’s my guilty pleasure. There’s nothing better than smothering a slice of hot toast with a thick layer of the stuff.

This isn’t quite toast and peanut butter but something a little (sorry I mean A LOT) naughtier. It’s sort of like a millionaire shortbread but with a saltier, crunchier biscuit base. I found the recipe whilst perusing Lorraine Pascale’s cookbook and thought I’d give them a go.

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Here’s how (makes about 25 squares):

  • 150g melted butter
  • 200g melted dark chocolate
  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 300g crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

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Line a 20cm square loose bottomed baking tin with baking parchment. Blitz the digestive biscuits and sugar together in a food processor until they form fine crumbs. Then add the melted butter, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Mix together until everything is well combined. Tip the mixture into the baking tin and spread out evenly pressing it down with the back of a spoon.

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Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water until smooth. Then pour over the peanut biscuit mixture until evenly spread. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 1 hour. Remove from the baking tin and cut into 3cm squares and serve.

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