Really Great Rolo Brownies

Before I start this recipe, apologies for those of you that follow this blog- I realise I haven’t posted in a while! I’ve been trying to eat healthier because, you know, new year, new you etc etc. Hence me trying not to bake so much because when you bake stuff you kind of have to eat it afterwards… shame I know! However, I’ve realised that cutting out sweets and puddings isn’t all that realistic, so I’m trying to aim more towards everything in moderation (plus more exercise!) Although this has meant cutting smaller slices of everything than seems reasonable to a sweet-tooth, it seems to be working so far! I’m under no illusion that this recipe is in the slightest bit healthy, so enjoy, but cut small pieces everyone…

Rolo Brownies

Ingredients

  • 200 g Dark Chocolate
  • 100 g Butter
  • 250 g Caster Sugar
  • 4 medium Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 60 g Plain Flour
  • 60 g Cocoa Powder
  • 150 g Dark Brown Soft Sugar
  • 150 g Butter
  • 397 g Condensed Milk
  • 200 g Milk Chocolate
  • 2 tubes Rolos

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. To make the brownie base, first break up the dark chocolate and melt, then put to the side to cool.
  2. Mix together the butter and caster sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla essence, beating well after each addition. Take the melted dark chocolate from before (make sure that it’s not too hot) and add to the mixture. Mix in thoroughly then add the flour and cocoa powder and gently stir in.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a 20 x 25cm brownie tray then spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 mins, then place to one side to cool.16667875_10154139957481143_1010361292_o
  4. To make the caramel, heat the dark brown sugar and butter into a non-stick pan, stirring until melted. Then, add the condensed milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Cook for a minute or so until you feel the mixture thicken. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little. The consistency should be as in the picture below- it should hold on the back of a spoon without running off.16651528_10154139957456143_1981830470_o
  5. Once the brownie base has had time to cool, pour the caramel over the brownie, spreading out until you have an even layer of caramel covering all the brownie. Leave to one side until the caramel has cooled completely.
  6. To decorate, melt the milk chocolate and pour over the caramel, spreading evenly and making sure you’re not pressing down too hard when spreading it (I’d use a palate knife or a spatula). Before the chocolate has set, sprinkle on the Rolos and any other decorations you like! I used chocolate chips and garnished with a chocolate pudding sauce (I would have preferred a thinner caramel sauce but I didn’t have any!)16710576_10154139957426143_1883307032_o
  7. Allow the top layer to set, then cut into slices and serve!

Handy Hints

Making the caramel- make sure that you use a non-stick pan for this. If you don’t because, like me, you’re thinking ‘meh, it doesn’t really matter’ then you’ll end up with black little dots in your caramel, which are little burnt bits of sugar. Tastes ok, but not ideal!

Setting time- It is important with the caramel and the chocolate, to let each layer cool before you add the next one. I realise this means patiently waiting, but if the layer you’re tying to add to is still hot then the two layers will just mash together.

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Cheese scones

So lately, I’ve began my adventures into savoury baking and I’m actually really fond of it now! I’ve never been the kind of person who was very enthused about baking savoury things. To quote Miranda: “a savoury muffin?? Life is full of disappointments…” However, I’ve actually discovered that by baking things like these super-simple cheese scones I can actually save money and have some freshly- baked lunch. And we all know that shop-bought stuff never tastes quite as good as fresh baking!

These cheese scones are really easy and cheap to make, and only take half an hour (including baking time!) to make, so are perfect for those of you with not too much time or who are looking for something easy to bake. I find that they’re best enjoyed cut in half and spread with margarine, but they’d work well with ham or salad too. A perfect first-time bake for all you bakers out there who, like me, haven’t baked a whole lot of savoury stuff!

Cheese Scones

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients
(makes 8)

1oz/ 28g Butter
6oz/ 170g Self-raising flour
3oz/ 85g Grated Cheese
1 Egg
2 tbsp Milk
1 egg or 1 tbsp milk (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Cut the butter into small cubes, then add the flour in a bowl with the butter.
2. Using your fingertips, rub the butter and flour together to make breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in the grated cheese.
4. Add the egg and the milk, and stir/ knead the dough until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture forms a coherent ball of dough.
5. Divide the mixture into 8 segments.
6. Place each segment onto a greased baking tray and squash/ roll flat (to about 1cm thick)
7. Coat the scones with either the extra egg (mixed up before hand) or the extra milk. This doesn’t need to be a thick coat and don’t worry if some runs off onto the tray, it just gives the scones more of a shine.
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden and well risen.

Handy Hints

Breadcrumbs- When combined, these should just look like slightly darker flour i.e. there should be no lumps of butter left in the mixture.
Cheese- You can use any cheese you like for this, though I wouldn’t recommend using one that’s too creamy and not ‘solid’ enough (like Brie). I find that simple cheddar works best, or maybe red leicester but don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Back to basics: Tiffin

This week has been a good week to continue the (rough) theme on my blog recently of baking simple, but classic and enjoyable bakes. When I’m stressed out with work, or am baking things for an event but don’t have much time, I often find that it’s best to go back to basics a bit. It means the recipes are easier, quicker to make and, in this case, don’t even need cooking! Tiffin is the perfect recipe for all these things- it’s the perfect tray bake! Not only does tiffin not need oven time, meaning that you can throw it together in about 10-15 minutes, but it’s also a very adjustable! This is great trait in a recipe for students, the masters of the improvised what’s-in-my-cupboard meal. Not that I’d admit it to everyone (yes Mum, of course I eat properly when I’m at uni…), I’ve made my fair share of throw-together meals in my time! Bacon strips and pot noodle? Sure! Plain pasta and plain chicken? Of course! You get the idea… and tiffin is the throw-together meal of deserts!

All the ingredients below can be swapped out for pretty much anything else, with the exception of the chocolate, butter and golden syrup (but that stuff lasts ages!). All that you need to maintain is the balance of dry ingredients, and you’re good to go. I like tiffin to be chocolatey and fudgy rather than a dryer, bisuity mix, but if you prefer it more biscuit-like, simply reduce the amount of golden syrup and butter by about 25g.

Tiffin

Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients

250g Digestive biscuits
200g Dark Chocolate
125g Butter
175g Golden Syrup
100g Raisins
75g Glace Cherries
75g Maltesers

A 20cm (8oz) square tin lined with greaseproof paper or cling film.

Method

1. Crush the biscuits to fine crumbs, either by putting them in a zip-lock bag and bashing them with a rolling pin, or by hand. Leave some slightly larger chunks if you like biscuit pieces in your tiffin.
2. Put the chocolate, butter and golden syrup into a pan and melt gently until fully liquid and combined.
3. Take off the heat and add the chocolate mix to the biscuit crumbs and stir in, making sure that there’s no biscuit crumbs uncovered.
4. Add the other dry ingredients and stir until combined.
5. Tip mixture into the brownie tin, flatten out and place in the fridge.
6. Allow mixture to set in the fridge, then cut up and enjoy! Store in the fridge.

Handy Hints
Crushing biscuits- Having had a fair few disasters with the zip-lock bag technique, I tend to just crush the biscuits between my fingertips to get the consistency I want.
Melting the chocolate mixture- Don’t let the mixture boil or you run the risk of ruining it. Melt on a low heat- it shouldn’t take long!
Dry ingredients- you can pretty much substitute these for anything- I like to play with a mix of textures, so I go for raisins and cherries, but also something with a crunch like maltesers or, stay with me here, meringue pieces last time (I had some left, but it actually worked really well!)
Chocolate- I use dark chocolate because it’s my favourite, but you can use a mix of dark/ milk, all milk or all white if you wanted! (White chocolate and cranberries/ raspberries would be nice?!)

 

 

Ice Cream Cake

Summer is here!! For all you students and year 13s out there, that means you’re finished with exams- congrats! Take advantage of your time off to go and do fun stuff (maybe even bake something new…) I feel like I actually have a right to say that now that I’m working on my dissertation through summer. And yes I know, I brought that upon myself by doing a Masters degree, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sit here and feel sorry for myself, ok? But anyway,from the midst of my pity-party came a great idea- a combination of my favourite thing (cake) and summer (represented here by ice cream).

Although summer seems to be manifesting itself largely in the liquid sunshine form here in the UK so far, I feel that it’s summer-y enough to start consuming large quantities of ice cream.  I briefly toyed with the idea of making a baked alaska for my first summer post, but quickly realised that a) although it’s impressive, it seems like far too much effort and b) I don’t have the freezer space for a cake like that. Also, we all know how making baked alaska in the summer goes- especially if you’re in a very warm tent with other bakers… (too soon?!) The idea behind my ice cream cake seems to me to be much simpler, and also fit better in my shared freezer shelf! It has a brownie base, ice cream middle and chocolate ganache topping, which makes for a nice combination and isn’t too rich.

Ice Cream Cake

Baking time: 20 mins

Preparation time: 30 mins (not including cooking time)

Ingredients

200g Dark Chocolate
100g Butter
250g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
60g Plain Flour
60g Cocoa Powder
900ml tub of Vanilla Ice Cream
100g Milk Chocolate
200ml Double Cream

I baked this in my 23cm diameter springform tin.

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Break up the dark chocolate and melt in the microwave until smooth. Set to one side.
2. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing a little after each one, then add the vanilla essence and mix until the eggs are fully combined.
3. Add the melted dark chocolate to the mixture and stir until combined. Next, add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into a greaseproof paper-lined cake tin and spread evenly. Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
5. Remove the brownie base from the oven and set aside to cool. Once it is cool, take the ice cream out of the freezer to melt slightly.
6. Once the brownie base has cooled completely, spread the slightly melted ice cream onto the brownie base, spreading as evenly as possible and making sure to cover the brownie base. Once the ice cream has spread, place the cake tin in the freezer.
7. Whilst the ice cream re-sets in the freezer, make the chocolate ganache. To do this, first break the milk chocolate into pieces, then heat up the cream in a saucepan until boiling.
8. As soon as the cream reaches boiling point, add the cream to the broken up milk chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and combines with the cream.
9. Once the cream and chocolate are combined, take the cake from the freezer and pour on the ganache. Spread the ganache evenly over the ice cream layer. It is important to do this quickly as the ice cream will start to melt due to the heat of the ganache, so as soon as it is spread, place the cake back in the freezer.
10. Store in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it!

Handy Hints
Ice Cream- Although I made this with vanilla ice cream, I think it would also be great with other flavours, such as mint or cherry (two of my favourites!) I would avoid anything too sweet though as it may make it too rich overall!
Cooking- These brownies are quite fudgy, but should still pass the knife/ cake tester test (i.e. the knife should come out clean after sticking it in the brownie)
Spreading Ice Cream- This process can be a little tricky. You want the ice cream to have melted enough so that you can (roughly) spread it, but not so much that it becomes soup! If it’s easier, cut chunks of ice cream and fit them together like a jigsaw on the brownie base!
Ganache- When making the ganache, keep stirring the cream and chocolate at all time until they’re combined. If you let it cool too much, it’s still fine but it will have a thicker consistency, if you want a smooth, glossy finish then you’ll have to add the ganache whilst it’s still quite warm.
Serving- If you are serving the whole thing at once, then defrost for 5-10 minutes before serving. If you want to cut a slice or two, this is more difficult but I found that for the most part it cut ok, even when I’d just taken it out of the freezer. Don’t leave it too long or the ice cream will melt everywhere!

 

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P.S. The apples totally offset the huge slice of cake, right?!

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Flapjacks

I’ve realised recently that I take baking for granted. Baking is such a normal occurrence in my house and I’ve been baking it since I was little (under strict supervision of course in the earlier years!). I never really thought anything of this until I talked to my flatmate, who is relatively new to baking. It seems perfectly normal to me to not have to look up how to bake a Victoria sponge cake and to know what it means when a recipe says something like ‘whisk to soft peaks’, but not everyone has this experience. This can make it difficult to know where to start with recipes, especially if you’re starting with no-one to guide you along the way, as my family have done. I’m really glad that my flatmate joins me when I’m baking, even if it turns out that it’s all been a scheme to get free food! I hope that, if he can overlook me being a bit bossy occasionally, he might learn some things about baking in order to be able to enjoy baking by himself. But for people who do want to try baking by themselves, and who don’t have a friend to guide them, it occurred to me that some recipes aren’t all that suited to beginners and that maybe more recipes about the simple stuff need to be out there. And so came the idea for this post.

I was talking about what to bake next for my blog with the aforementioned flatmate, and he asked me ‘what’s a really easy thing to bake for a beginner?’ My immediate thoughts were all things that I’ve written up recipes for at some point or other on this blog: brownies, cookies, cupcakes; but one thing in particular came to mind- flapjacks.

Flapjacks used to be something of a signature bake of mine and I’ve been baking them for a long time. They’re a nice easy bake that I used to make on my own before I built up the courage to bake things that were a little more complicated. Once you’ve got the hang of the simple base recipe, you can be creative in adding whatever extra flavours you like! This recipe adds two of my favourites: cherry and dark chocolate. If those flavours aren’t your cup of tea, simply swap them for something else (more advice on this in the Handy Hints section).

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Flapjacks

Baking time: 45 mins- 1 hour (Oven time 30-35 mins)

Ingredients
170g Butter
70g Soft Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
340g Porridge Oats
100g Dark Chocolate
150g Glacé cherries

Bakes in a greaseproof paper-lined brownie tray

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Melt the butter in a pan, over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and golden syrup until combined. Take off the heat.
2. Add the oats and stir until the butter mixture coats the oats.
3. Chop up the chocolate and cherries into small chunks (I’d recommend cutting the cherries in half)
4. Stir in the chocolate and cherry chunks until evenly distributed.
5. Place in the lined baking tray and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the oats are golden coloured.
6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. The flapjacks will continue to bind together a bit after they’ve been removed from the oven, so don’t panic if they look really crumbly.
7. Cut into squares and serve!

Handy Hints
Ingredients Swap- If you don’t want to add chocolate to this mixture (why not?!) then use 225g of Butter instead. If you’re swapping dry ingredients, use the same quantity as the cherries. If the ingredient you’re adding isn’t as sweet, add a little more sugar to the mix.
Other flavours- the classic dry ingredient to add would be raisins, but I would recommend maybe white chocolate and cranberry or topping normal flapjacks with toffee, chocolate or caramel.
Baking- Make sure to press the mixture into the tin when you transfer it from the pan. This will help it to come together a bit better.

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Cookie Monsters!

This week my family was invited to a board games day (yes that’s as nerdy as it sounds) for a family friend’s birthday, and we were asked to bring something sweet to contribute to the wide selection of food to be consumed between games. I thought these monsters were perfect for the occasion – not only because they are very snackable, but also because they would appeal to the young gamers (and those that are young-at-heart!). And it was biscuit week on the bake-off – perfect.

I got the idea for these cookie monsters from a trip to Bakewell earlier in the week, where we saw some that were kind of similar in a little bakery, and I have to admit I was quite pleased with them. They’re a good recipe for students, even if they are a little childish for some, because they’re very easy to make, they are perfect afternoon/ evening snacks and they have a bit more flavour than a plain cookie. The only problem you could possibly have with these happy characters is getting a little too attached to them! I grew quite fond of a particular one of mine, who looked so cheerful I didn’t want to eat him- that could be just me though?!

This recipe is more of a construction recipe, as these monsters could be made from any cookie recipe. I used the one in my Divine Chocolate cookbook, which creates great cookies with plain chocolate chunks and a nice soft texture. I’ve included a simple buttercream recipe below, but that’s all the filling is, so there’s a wide scope for creativity here- weird and wonderful flavours at the ready!

Cookie Monsters
Preparation Time: 45 mins (depending very much on how much of a perfectionist you are!)

Ingredients
15 cookies, cut in half
6oz Butter
Icing Sugar
A dash of milk
*Flavouring
Food colouring
Smarties, or any other round sweets

Method
1. Soften the butter in the microwave. Add some icing sugar and the milk and mix until combined. Keep adding icing sugar until you reach a texture light enough to pipe- you should be able to mix the buttercream without too much force, but it should be thick enough to stay on a spoon without dripping off.
2. Add any flavouring to your buttercream. *I used orange, lime and strawberry, so used the zest of these fruits and a couple of tablespoons of strawberry milkshake powder for the strawberry one. These really just need to be added to your taste.
3. If you want a strong colour, add a few drops of food colouring to the mixture.
4. Fill a piping bag with a large star nozzle with your buttercream.
5. Placing one half of the cookie in front of you, with the flat side at the back, cover the top with buttercream. I found it best to start in dots around the front crescent of the cookie (like teeth) and then fill in with dots behind this afterward.
6. Take the other half of the cookie and gently place the straight line along the straight line of the other half- you’re aiming for a jaw-like structure here, so the top half doesn’t want to lie flat along the bottom cookie.
7. Repeat for all cookies.
8. Pipe two dots for eyes on the top of the assembled monsters. DON’T press down too hard on these, or you’ll squash all your delicate piping work!
9. Press a smartie on to each dot of buttercream.

Handy Hints
Cookies- It’s best to cut your cookies in half while they’re still warm, as then you don’t run the risk of your cookie completely crumbling when you cut it.
Flavours- If you’re using zest, I used the zest of half an orange for my orange mix, and half a lime for the lime mix.
Colouring- Don’t add too much food colouring, as your mixture will go too runny. If this does happen, add some more icing sugar until you reach the right consistency again.
Construction- I found that they looked better, and held their shape more, when I used the bigger half (yes I know technically they should all be even but such is life- I’d be hopeless on the bake-off) as the top half of the jaw.

Cookie Monster

The easiest bake ever- Toffee Marshmallow Crispies

Before I start this post properly I just want to say I’m sorry this post is a little bit late- I moved back to uni a week ago today so I’ve been catching up with my flatmates sorting all my uni stuff out! It’s great to be back, despite the 9am start I had today, and it’s great to be blogging about student baking when I’m actually back at uni! I’m on campus again this year so the other night we decided to go and play pool in the bar and then have a film night so I suggested that we bake something to eat while we watch the film, because obviously snacking is an essential part of any film night. So, having just got back we needed something we could buy the ingredients for in the Spar on campus, which although has a good stock of general stuff doesn’t have that much for baking. I had the idea to bake something that I used to make when I was little, which is toffee marshmallow crispy cakes! They’re so easy to bake and only have 3 ingredients, so we decided to pop to Spar and see if we could find them. We did have to improvise a bit on ingredients (a big part of student baking if, like me, you’re not very good at planning ahead), so I’ll put in the recipe what you need to get, then explain what we used instead.

Since this recipe is so easy, and because I have flatmates whose phones have good cameras, I’ve decided to try a new kind of post to present my recipe. I took a picture of each key stage of the bake, so I’m going to put the pictures alongside the steps of the recipe as a kind of visual aid. Let me know if you like this method and if you think it works better then my usual posts; if you prefer just a written recipe with a picture of the finished bake at the end; or if you’re indifferent.

Toffee Marshmallow Crispies:
Preparation Time: 2 minutes
Baking Time: 5-10 minutes
Price: £3.20

Ingredients:
150g Marshmallows
150g Toffee Sweets
Rice Crispies
A bit of Butter or Oil
200g Chocolate for topping (optional)
Sweets for topping (optional)

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Method:
1. Unwrap all the toffee sweets and put in a pan with a little bit of butter or oil.

10588821_10152336616260423_1256786914_n2. Keep the pan on a moderate to high heat (I used number 4 on our hob, so not too hot but not simmering either) and wait for the toffees to melt to a thick liquid consistency. Then, add the marshmallows.

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3. Stir in the marshmallows and keep stirring until the toffees and marshmallows are all combined and melted.

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(the mixture should look, at this stage, should look more like the melted toffees on their own, and should have a stringy, sticky consistency:)

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4. Take the pan off the heat. Then, add as many rice crispies as you like, depending on whether you want more dry kind of slices, or more sticky toffee-like crispy cakes.

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5. Stir to combine the rice crispies and the toffee marshmallow mixture. You know you’ve got the right consistency when it’s hard work to stir the ingredients together! You’ll want to give up at this point but power through- they turn out nice in the end! When they’re all combined, spoon them into whatever container you have (I just used a brownie tin).

6. Leave to cool in the container. While cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave. When cooled, spread the melted chocolate on the top as much as you can.

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7. If you’re using sweets to decorate (I cut up fudge sweets into little pieces as a topping), scatter them on the chocolate before it melts.

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8. Fridge for a bit, or cut up immediately and serve!

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Handy Hints:

Toffee sweets- We couldn’t find any toffees so we used Cadburys Eclairs. I think pure toffees work better but feel free to experiment a bit- as long as they’re sticky they’ll hold it together.
Stirring- The toffee and marshmallow mixture needs to be constantly stirred or it will stick to the bottom of the pan and be a nightmare to clean off!
Cooling- Don’t keep these in the fridge for too long or they will go really crunchy and are hard to eat!