Peppermint Squares

This post goes out to my brother, not only because this is one of his all-time favourite things to get from Cheshire Gap bakery, but also because he has a broken leg at the moment, so obviously deserves lots of cakes and chocolate!

These peppermint squares have a chocolate shortbread base, a fondant- type peppermint layer and a dark chocolate topping. They’re the perfect bake, partly because they only contain 7 ingredients and partly because they’re very simple, but very tasty! If you’re not so much of a mint fan, then this recipe can be easily adjusted to make chocolate orange squares, or maybe even cherry squares (because cherry and dark chocolate is amazing!), a bit like the Quality Street combinations. If you’re making these for a party, why not make some of each, with the addition of different food colouring so guests can tell them apart? Or maybe even without, making a chocolate squares roulette?!

This recipe was adjusted from a Waitrose recipe card (how middle class of me!), but I found that their recipe made the layers too thin, and that I needed to adjust the quantities of some of the ingredients. This recipe does include a lot of chilling time, so make sure you have plenty of time, or do something in the middle (some suggestions: wash up, dance around the kitchen, make tea, pretend to be Adele while singing, watch 2 episodes of Friends…)

Peppermint Squares

Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooling/ Chilling Time: 1 hour and a half or so (between stages)

Makes approx. 28 pieces

Ingredients

350g Butter
170g Light Brown Sugar
400g Plain Flour
4 tbsp Cocoa Powder
600g Icing Sugar
5-6 tbsp Water
1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract
400g Dark Chocolate
A small amount of butter (roughly 20g)

Baked in a 25 x 38cm brownie tin.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder until all the ingredients are fully combined.
3. Spread out in the tin, pressing down with the back of a spoon until the base is level and covers the whole tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins until spongy, but only just set, then place to one side to cool.
4. To make the peppermint layer, beat together the icing sugar, 5-6 tbsp of water and peppermint extract until you have a mixture which is smooth and quite firm. It should resist when your stir it, and not be of easily pour-able consistency.
5. Spread the peppermint mixture over the shortbread base, spreading right to the edges of the tin and until level. Chill to firm (about an hour is ideal, but probably could be done in half an hour if needs be).
6. Break up the chocolate and heat in the microwave until melted. Melt the butter in a separate bowl in the microwave, then add to the chocolate and mix until fully combined. Once the peppermint layer has firmed, pour the chocolate over the filling, and spread until the chocolate covers all of the base layers. Chill for 30 mins or so before serving.

Handy Hints

Light Brown Sugar– Alternatively, use Caster Sugar and 1 tsp of Vanilla Essence.
Peppermint layer– You may need to adjust the amount of icing sugar in order to create the right consistency for this layer. If it’s too runny, add more icing sugar. If it’s too stiff, add a tiny bit more water. The balance will change more depending on the extract used, and if you use any colouring or not.
Base layer– When transferring this into the tin, it can be a bit of a pain to spread out to make it cover the whole tin. Use your (washed I hope!) hands to press down sections of the base, and grease the back of a metal spoon if using this to press the mix down.
Cooling time– Make sure you take the time to let things cool properly- if you add the middle layer while the base is too hot, it will make the icing runny, if you add the chocolate when the icing isn’t set, it will mix with the peppermint when you try to spread it.
Chocolate layer– Let this cool a little bit before pouring over the rest of the bake- if it’s too hot it will melt the middle layer!
peppermint-squares1

Peppermint Square (top), Orange Square (middle), Cherry Square (bottom). As you can see, my squares are not particularly even (Mary and Paul would be disappointed) and my icing is running out on the bottom layer, hence the comments about being patient with the cooling process!

Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Mousse Topping

Mini cheesecakes are fast becoming one of my favourite things to bake- they’re cute, they’re tasty and their portion size is controlled! They’re great for when there’s only one of you because, much though I love cheesecake, I don’t think I could eat a whole one all to myself. I loved it the first time I made mini cheesecakes (recipe here), so this time I decided to class them up a little with some extras.

One of my favourite flavour combinations is dark chocolate and raspberry, which I’ve been wondering about incorporating into a cheesecake for a while now. I think the tanginess (real word?) of the two flavours works really well together, which is what made me think of another great flavour combination- lemon and raspberry. I was debating between these flavours for ages so, naturally, decided screw it and made both! These are really easy to make, although they are a little more expensive to make than other bakes, they do last longer than some. If you don’t have any ramequins, then these can also be made in cupcake cases in a cupcake tin (although I would double up the cases.)

Lemon and Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Mousse Topping 
Preparation Time: Base- 5 mins, Cheesecake- 10-15 mins, Mousse- 5 mins
Baking Time: 20-30 mins
Cost: £2.60 (to make 8)

Ingredients
For base (makes 8):
175g Digestive Biscuits
70g Butter

For Lemon Cheesecake (makes 4):
125g Cream Cheese
55g Caster Sugar
1 Egg
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

For Chocolate Cheesecake (makes 4):
125g Cream Cheese
1 Egg
32g Icing Sugar
50g Dark Chocolate
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

For Raspberry Mousse (covers 8):
50g Raspberries (plus extra to decorate)
100ml Whipping Cream
30g Icing Sugar

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
For base:
2. Bash the biscuits until you have a crumby texture. Melt the butter, then stir into the biscuit crumbs. When the butter is fully combined with the biscuit, spoon into ramequins and press down with a spoon to form a base with no loose crumbs. Fridge until needed.
For lemon cheesecake:
3. Mix the sugar and the lemon zest, combining with your fingertips until you have a lemon sugar.
4. Mix in the cream cheese, using a hand mixer. Add the egg, lemon juice and vanilla essence and mix until combined.
5. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
For chocolate cheesecake:
3. Melt the chocolate until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a hand mixer until fully combined and smooth.
4. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
For the mousse:
5/6. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until fully combined and the cream thickens nicely (it shouldn’t run off a spoon).
7. Once the cheesecakes have cooled, add the mousse topping, spreading gently with the back of a teaspoon. Add an extra raspberries for decoration.

Handy Hints
Recipe- If you only want to make one of these flavours, double the ingredients for the cheesecake section but NOT the base and mousse sections. This recipe is for someone to bake both flavours.
Bake- The cheesecake are done when they have a slight wobble, but don’t took or feel runny.
Mousse- If you don’t like the sound of the mousse layer it’s by no means essential!
Ramequins- If you don’t have these, use cupcake cases in a cupcake tray (but double them up)
Storage- Keep these in the fridge.

mini cheesecakes 2 2

mini cheesecakes 2

Birthday Cakes!

Hey everyone! Sorry this post is a bit late- it’s been one of those weeks where all your work seems to hit you at once, and I was away for the weekend! Last week for me was a week of many birthdays- it was my flatmate’s and my grandma’s birthday on Sunday, and on Monday it was my cousin and one of my English Language friend’s birthdays! I think most people would agree that the best thing about birthdays that aren’t your own is definitely birthday cakes. I LOVE birthday cakes- I love making them for people, I love eating them for sometimes days afterwards, and I love the fact that you can make fancy cakes that you wouldn’t usually make.
We have a bit of a tradition in our flat of collectively making cakes for another flatmates birthday (a great tradition if you ask me!). The funny thing is that we also make these cakes as a ‘surprise’, even though each flatmate knows they’re going to get a cake- who knows why, it’s just more fun that way. So, after many hushed conversations behind closed doors, we decided on a recipe. The recipe was good, but the real star of the show here was the frosting, which is the recipe I’m sharing with you all today.
Over the years our flat’s birthday cakes have had some interesting designs, but I think this one is definitely our pride and joy. This years cake baking has reached new heights (maybe because I threatened to put pictures on my blog?!), so I’m actually very proud of the result! The recipe is taken from the Hummingbird book ‘Home Sweet Home’ from their recipe ‘Mississippi Mud Cake’. We then added mini marshmallows, grated dark chocolate and some chocolate sprinkles.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Preparation Time: 5-10 mins
Price: £4.74

Ingredients:
800g Icing Sugar
120g Cocoa Powder
150g Butter
600g Cream Cheese
Dark Chocolate (probably around 20g in all)
Mini Marshmallows
Chocolate sprinkles

Note: This recipe actually made enough to cover a 20cm diameter cake, and as a topping for a tray of brownies.

Method:
1. Mix the icing sugar, cocoa powder and slightly melted butter together on a low speed until fully combined. The texture will be a bit sandy but there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter.
2. Add a bit of the cream cheese (about 200g) to loosen the mixture and beat until smooth.
3. Add the remaining cream cheese and mix on a slow speed until fully incorporated, with no lumps and a smooth texture. Turn on a high speed and beat the frosting until light and fluffy.

Handy Hints:
Texture- Although ours may not be the neatest icing ever applied, you can create a nice texture once you’ve spread the frosting all over the sponges, by running a serrated knife around the cake to create a lined effect. You only need to press very lightly to achieve this, or you’ll just be scraping the frosting off.
Covering- This recipe has a lot of frosting, so I covered the sides of the sponges too- if you don’t want to cover the sides then reduce the recipe slightly.

shreeman cake2

shreeman cake

Chocolate Fudge Bars

Hey everyone! So, as Google tells me, summer is over. It’s now officially autumn which means, for the people of Britain at least, an onslaught of rain and generally miserable weather. Despite all that though, I am actually quite excited for autumn this year- it may be horrible weather but that means you get to snuggle up in warm jumpers and cosy scarves! The cold weather also means the return of warm puddings and, most importantly in my house, custard! There’s nothing better then coming in from the cold and eating a nice warm cake with plenty of custard, or maybe just with a hot drink. This recipe is perfect for either, but also perfect for student baking as it’s a no fuss bake that makes minimal washing up- perfect!

These chocolate fudge bars come in the form of a nice easy traybake, which is cheap to make but very rich and chocolately. The recipe comes from the Divine cookbook (see my ‘cookbooks’ page for details), which is a brilliant cookbook for all you chocoholics out there.

Recipe:
Preparation Time: 10/15 mins
Baking Time: 30 mins
Price: £3.69

Ingredients:
200g Dark Chocolate
250g Butter
4 Eggs
250g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
125g Plain Flour

(23cm square cake tin, greased and base-lined)

Method:
1. Heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3
2. Break up the chocolate and melt with the butter. When completely melted and combined, leave to cool until needed.
3. Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence into the bowl of a food mixer. Beat until very thick and foamy for about 3-4 mins (it should look a bit like a slightly more runny mousse).
4. Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Add the flour onto the mixture and gently stir until combined.
5. Transfer the mixture into the tin and spread evenly, being careful not to handle the mixture too much.
6. Bake for 30 mins- the centre when you take it out will be slightly soft still.
7. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cake, then cut into bars. Leave to cool completely then remove from the tin.

Handy Hints:
Eating it warm- these can be re-heated in the microwave to make a really nice warm pudding. Add custard, ice cream or chocolate sauce for the perfect autumn/ winter bake.
Melting butter and chocolate together- If you want to do this in the microwave, like I do (so much less effort!) then I would suggest melting the chocolate first, then softening the butter slightly. Then add together and if you stir it, the butter will melt in the chocolate.
Mixing lightly- the trick to this recipe is not knocking all the volume out of the mixture- mix with a metal spoon to avoid flattening it. Don’t over-mix as it needs to be light to get the rise right.
How many pieces?- I cut this into 15 to make more cake-like pieces, but this recipe would be great to cut into nibble-size bits as it’s quite rich. Add some chocolate sauce and a piece of fudge on top and hey presto!, cute bite-size bakes!

A note on Fairtrade:
This cookbook is from a brand that makes exclusively Fairtrade products, which I’m a big supporter of. I believe that Fairtrade is very important, but sadly the reality is that Fairtrade foods are often too expensive to buy for students. I would love to be able to use Divine’s chocolate to use for this recipe, but if I did all the time it’d be quite expensive! Although I do buy it as a treat sometimes, the price in this recipe is calculated by a different chocolate. Before you lose faith in me though, the chocolate I used in this recipe is Fairtrade! The great news is that Sainsbury’s have a Sainsbury’s own Fairtrade brand chocolate, which is cheap too! So, if you think you can’t buy Fairtrade food because it’s too expensive, go and buy that! There’s really no excuse not too!

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