Easy Chocolate Brownies Recipe

Yesterday I made easy traditional chocolate brownies from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. All in the name of the Wimbledon Final! You can make these in one hour tops! I would recommend using Green & Blacks 70% dark chocolate and only cooking the brownies in the oven for 25mins at 165 degree fan oven. All ovens do vary so experiment for yourselves. The recipe suggests 30-35 mins at 170 degrees. It also depends how gooey you like your brownies! They went down really well at the BBQ I hosted yesterday and my colleagues seem pretty happy with them for a post-lunch snack!
Hummingbird Bakery brownie recipe

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6 Valentine’s Day Recipe Ideas

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/getmedia/929c383c-7b10-45fe-9744-797cfce5f368/Sh-passion-fruit-and-vanilla-cheesecake-website-featured/?width=420&height=270&ext=.jpg

Vanilla and Passionfruit Cheesecake by Simon Hulstone

1. Passion? You said it with this vanilla and passionfruit cheesecake from chef Simon Hulstone. Passionfruit puree can be bought from Amazon and you can buy fine leaf gelatine leaves from Tesco. Not sure whether these will be bronzed though!

Poiresauchocolat

Dark Muscovado Truffles By Poires Au Chocolat

2. Or how about making some delicious dark chocolate truffles for your loved one? Much more thoughtful than bought choccies. I recently reviewed these Paul A Young dark muscovado truffles which were easy to make and yum! Poires Au Chocolat made some lush ones pictured here.

3. Take your other half to a Valentines afternoon tea – why not? I recently sipped hot chocolate downstairs from Rabot, a cacao restaurant in Borough Market in London and their afternoon tea menu caught my eye. Think cacao-infused drinks, brownies, banana bread and gin-cured smoked salmon sandwiches.

4. Concoct a raspberry courting cake – inspired from my Lancashire roots, the mascarpone icing tastes amazing.

5. Bake some love bug cookies – these look very cute and bright – perfect to cheer up your partner on a wintry February day! Ready to roll red icing can be bought from supermarkets and you’ll also need some 8cm and 6cm heart cutters (you can get a set from Lakeland).

6. And if baking eludes you then make your partner a Valentine-inspired cocktail. Rasmopolitan or Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini gets my vote!

For more inspiration you can read my previous year’s baking ideas. What will you be baking this Valentine’s?

Paul A Young’s Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Tart Recipe Review

Paul A Young sea-salted chocolate and pecan tartI was leafing through Paul A Young‘s Adventures with Chocolate recipe book and decided I HAD to bake this dark chocolate sea-salted and pecan tart (recipe online here)! The photo was just too irresistible! I made this for a week day dinner party last week but it did require baking it over two days so I’d recommend considering it for a weekend dinner party. The pastry is easy to create and using a food processor makes it super easy. I used medium yolks. I left it in the fridge for over an hour then rolled it out and left about a couple of inches spare so that the pasty overhung my dish and then cut off a bit of the excess. Next up another rest in the fridge for 15mins. I actually think it might be worth resting it for half an hour as I found my pastry did shrink a bit in the oven.

chocolate pastryI cooked the pastry at 160 degrees in a fan oven which was defo the right temperature for my oven atleast. I baked it for the full 20mins then another 8 mins and let it cool overnight. The next day I made the filling and popped it in the fridge before the dinner guests arrived. Now time to make the topping. Pour 100g of caster sugar in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Then don’t touch it. I know it sounds bonkers how can dry sugar turn liquid but it’s like magic! Keep that spoon far away from this sugar! Literally don’t touch it. Very slowly you’ll see the edges of the sugar start to liquefy and change colour. Give the pan a little shake to encourage the non-melted sugar to merge with the liquid bits. Very slowly you’ll start to get a nice golden brown caramel emerge. This Guardian article gives some nice tips on how to make different types of caramel.

chocolate and pecan tartThen pour it over halved pecans. It forms a lovely gooey caramel and quickly hardens. These are fab to sprinkle over the choc filling and it gives it a lovely crunch and texture and breaks up the monotony of the dark choc colour. Place on a big cake plate and watch your dinner guests’ eyes fill with glee! It serves 8 people as it’s very rich but boy was this a wonderful dessert!

Paul A Young’s Muscovado Truffles Review

Paul A Young Muscovado TrufflesPaul A Young. Is that A for Awesome, A for Alchemist or A for Adventure? Turns out he’s an English creative flavour alchemist or quite simply, a chocolatier. This was a fairly easy truffle recipe, it just requires plenty of time for cooling. You basically make a chocolate ganache. It looked super silky smooth, like something out of the Chocolat movie. You do have to let the cream and sugar mixture cool a bit (e.g. a minute) before you pour it on the dark chocolate pieces otherwise apparently you’ll get a split ganache. I didn’t have 64% Madagascan chocolate but I can assure you it turned out just fine with 70% Green & Black’s dark choc.

Once you’ve made the ganache whack it in the fridge and watch a film (preferably one that lasts for two hours). To make sure it’s set, put the bowl over your head. Well that’s what my BF did to me and luckily for me it had set!! Next up, mix up 50g of cocoa and 50g of muscovado sugar in a mixing bowl. Get lots on your fingers, then take a teaspoon of the cooled ganache and roll it in a ball. Mine were quite dainty, the boy’s were like boulders. Paul A Young’s look quite rustic. Then I popped them into little cellophane gift bags with little ribbons. Paul A Young recommends making a batch of these and keeping them in an air-tight container – I thought that was a good idea for unannounced visitors and effortless domestic goddess chicness. *Warning* these are not calorie free. They’re incredibly rich so one truffle will do in any one sitting!

dark muscovado trufflesTo try out the muscovado truffle recipe it’s published online here. For a few more details on the method this Guardian article is pretty handy.

So you want the recipe book? It’s called Adventures with Chocolate and you can find it here on Amazon. I received the book as a pressie a couple of years ago so I’d recommend as a gift for foodie lovers. I will be trying the dark choc and pecan tart recipe next week. Lush! And if you want to go to one of Paul’s chocolate tasting and making workshops you better get in there quick! Last I checked the next one available is in March!

Baking Bonanza!

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This weekend has been full of baking, decorating and eating cupcakes! I made these Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting for my best friend’s birthday yesterday. They went down a treat! I can definitely recommend using Green and Black’s cocoa powder and the decorations were from Just Bake and I also received the other sugar flowers in my Christmas stocking. A few people have asked me where I get the boxes from – you can buy them online from Cakes, Cookies and Crafts.

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Since I had made a double quantity of chocolate frosting for 20 cupcakes (I doubled the sponge recipe) I still had some left so tonight I russled up some more vanilla cupcakes. This time they’re for Easter and I’ve used Smarties eggs. The one in the middle is for a colleague who has given up chocolate for Lent. I used caramel dipping sauce from Waitrose – it’s a bit like dulce de leche and tastes delicious. Last weekend I baked some shortbreads from the Great British Book of Baking and it tastes fab to add a dollop of caramel to those! If you’re wondering how I’m not the size of a house making these cupcakes, I made it to my first spin class tonight in eight years. I think the endorphin kick spurred me into baking again tonight!

Valentine Baking Ideas

Cupcake heartsWith only two weeks to go, it’s time to bring some inspiration to Valentine Baking and purchase some cool baking decorations or cupcake cases before it’s too late! Here is my top 10 list of Valentine Baking Ideas:

1. Make some delicious chocolate cupcakes (aka Hummingbird Bakery) and wrap them in these decadent red cupcake wrappers. Then sprinkle with cupcake decorations like these ones from Just Bake. You can view their full Valentine range here.

Red heart cupcake wrappers_Just Bake2. If you don’t think you can bake then this really is laid on a plate for you. Heart shaped cutter, cookie mix and Emma Bridgewater gift bag from John Lewis – no excuses boys!

3. From today, Peggy Porschen’s Valentine cupcakes are available to buy and feature a heart or a luscious pair of lips, for £3.50 each.

4. Or how about doing a Valentine Baking course together which Primrose Bakery are hosting on Sunday 17th Feb?

heart shaped macaron from Vera's Cookbook blog5. If anyone made these heart shaped macarons for me then I’d be pretty bowled over. Here’s a video to guide you through how to make them from Vera’s Cookbook blog. Macarons are notoriously hard to make but I think even if you managed to produce 3 perfect ones that would be impressive and show your appreciation for someone!

6. Or you could make heart shaped cupcakes with these silicone cases from Lakeland

7. I also liked the look of these jam filled heart shaped butter biscuits from BBC Good Food and you can buy the cutters here

red velvet cupcakes photographed by Kimothy Joyeates8. How about baking something in these mini heart shaped ramekins from Le Creuset?

9. If you prefer to bake with cups then this is a useful double chocolate heart shaped cake recipe covered in raspberries and you can buy heart shaped pans from Cakes Cookies and Crafts (BTW they’ve got an updated website since I last went on there – looks good!)

10. And finally…a red velvet cake…here’s a US recipe from SomethingSwanky or try the cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird High. To read my 2015 Valentine Baking Ideas, you can find them here.

Brands2Life British Bakeoff for ByteNight

Great British Bakeoff  - BBCLast week I was one of three judges for the ‘Brands2Life British Bakeoff‘ at work to raise money for Byte Night – the IT industry’s sleep out to raise money for Action for Children. Along with fellow judges @goldenbrown01 and Lucy, we judged the cakes on three criteria – flavour, the bake and presentation. We had a huge selection of cakes to choose from – Mississippi Mud Cake to Sachertorte to chocolate swiss roll and Chocolate and Guinness cake. All but one entry was chocolate – a brave banana cake.

I have never eaten so much cake in one sitting!! It was really fun to judge the cakes and sachertorte came in first place for its glossy finish, tasty sponge and jam, icing and sponge combo. It looked very professional too. In joint second place was the chocolate and hazelnut cake for doing well across the board and the refridgerator cake for being particularly ‘scrummy’. Well done to everyone that entered! We then sold the cakes to raise money for Byte Night and made over £100!

Chocolate sachertorte cake

Cake Days: Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate and Salty Caramel Cake Recipe Review

salty chocolate and caramel birthday cakeI saw this recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and it immediately sprang out at me as a great birthday cake. I made it yesterday for my boyfriend’s ex’s birthday and it went down really well with him and his colleagues today! It’s a three layered chocolate cake with a salted caramel and chocolate frosting. The good news is it tastes great although this cake is not for the faint hearted. Definitely big appetites are needed as it is pretty sickly but yummy too. A word of caution – it takes ages to make the cake! Because it is three layers of cake you need to cook the sponge in two batches so that you can put each cake on the middle shelf of the oven. Of course if you have a third cake tin (unlike me) then this will speed things up. It’s also quite a complicated recipe as you have to faff about with alternating adding flour with the soured cream and cocoa powder to form the sponge. I must say though that the sponge baked really evenly and consistently. The cake definitely needs a full 25mins in the oven and for the last sponge I made it needed 27 mins.

Birthday cake from Cake Days by Naomi Longworth

The other thing is that it makes WAY too much frosting and caramel. The recipe only needs six tablespoons of caramel. You could have probably quartered the recipe and still had left over but you would need a small measuring jug to cope with the smaller measurements. Now I am left with loads of caramel. My plan is to buy some Rice Krispies tonight and see if I can make some little cakes so I don’t waste the mixture. I still have about a third of the frosting left – again you could easily pare down the recipe. I am also left with quite a bit of buttermilk and soured cream so if you have ideas of what to do with it then let me know! BTW on the top of the cake I sprinkled caramelised cocoa nibs from Artisan du Chocolat and coarse sea salt. If you want to create a cake that’s a bit different and yummy then this is a good one to go for. Just make sure you have about four hours time to make it!

Afternoon tea review: Beas of Bloomsbury


On Saturday I went for afternoon tea with my friend at Beas of Bloomsbury in St Pauls. We originally went a month ago for coffee and cake but hadn’t found the service very good. Having been in touch with Bea herself, we were invited back for afternoon tea to recreate first impressions. We were greeted with a table upstairs where all the afternoon teas take place and the table was set out with fresh baguette portions and a cake stand adorned with cupcakes, scones and mini cakes. I liked the lights which were teapot shaped – thought it was a fun touch to the atmosphere.

Baguettes by Beas of Bloomsbury by Naomi LongworthWe were offered a selection of teas and coffees and iced water which came quickly. The food was very fresh and it was good to have baguettes rather than sandwiches to be a bit more substantial. Flavours included brie and ham, salami, and my friend had a soft cheese and veg one. It turned out my friend was cutting out sugar for Lent so she only tried a few bits of the afternoon tea. I, on the other hand tasted everything! I most enjoyed the millionaire shortbread square, nut and choc brownie and the pistachio macaron was to die for. The food was good quality and tasty. The only cake that let them down was the mini meringue which was a bit tough to bite in to. I wasn’t a massive fan of the homemade mango marshmellow because of the texture but thought it was something a bit different. There were so many other mini morsels to try that it didn’t matter too much if there was one you didn’t like. The scones were also fresh and broke in two easily and they went down a treat with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We had a lovely afternoon and really enjoyed it.

Close up of cupcake at Beas of Bloomsbury

Couple of things to note: there are only four tables for coffee and cake downstairs in winter, double that capacity on sunny days. If you want to go for afternoon tea then you need to book by email in advance. Everything is made to order based on the number of afternoon teas that day – this is to reduce food wastage and keep the price of the afternoon tea more affordable – £17 for full afternoon tea which I do think is good value. However, because of this sandwiches aren’t on the menu at weekends for those not having afternoon tea, nor are scones. Beas of Bloomsbury are looking into what they offer customers who aren’t coming for afternoon tea so you never know this might change.

Passionfruit frosted cupcakes and flat white and latte by Hannah CarmichaelI would recommend the afternoon tea – it was a lovely atmosphere and great fresh food plus good service. Hopefully the service is mirrored downstairs from now on and if you’re only wanting cake and drinks anyway then it’s not a problem that sandwiches aren’t provided.

Afternoon tea review: Dean Street Town House Hotel

Afternoon tea at Dean Street Townhouse Hotel by Naomi Longworth

Yesterday I went for afternoon tea at the Dean Street Town House Hotel for my friend’s birthday. It’s a great location for a winter afternoon tea as the low lighting and cosy furnishings are perfect for hiding away on a cold winter’s day. They were incredibly busy and we had to wait for our reserved table so we were offered a free glass of champagne at the bar which cheered us up. We were then seated at a big table by the window on low green armchairs and comfy cushions. We did have to wait quite a while before our order was taken and the afternoon tea came a lot later than our teas and coffees. However, the food was very good – the sandwiches were very fresh and tasty – egg and cucumber which was subtle and delicious, ham and mustard – again very tasty and the mustard wasn’t too overpowering and smoked salmon and cream cheese. As you can see, we gobbled the sandwiches down before I remembered to take a photo! We opted for one afternoon tea between the two of us which costs £16.75. Depending on how hungry you are, this is about the right size but you probably need to order another set of sandwiches as you only get three sarnies each time.

We then started on the plate of fancies – a cake with thin layers of choc sponge and choc coating – it tasted divine, a lemon macaron which was zingy and had the right amount of crunch and chew and then a fairy cake with cream piped on top which was average and not as adventurous. Finally, we tucked into scones which were very fresh and slightly warm, followed by homemade strawberry and raspberry jam and clotted cream. It tasted delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend the afternoon tea but the service was slow so bear that in mind.

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