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?!

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

The other week, I introduced my international friend to the concept of Jaffa Cakes. Ironically, they asked the age old question: is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? People have debated this a lot and I’m sure that there’s food-y people out there who can tell me, but I can tell you now the true answer: Who cares?! The more you debate about it, the more other people can eat while you talk about it!

Not to sound too British, but I do love a good biscuit (/cake), especially with a cup of tea! However, I have felt for a while that some snacks of this description should be incorporated into a pudding of some sort. This is the thought that created the idea, whilst food shopping, of Jaffa Cake cupcakes. They’re easy to make into cupcakes, because they’re essentially three elements: chocolate, orange curd and sponge. Even if you’re a beginner to baking, you’ll see that this isn’t a conversion that’s hard to create! And what better than a cake and a Jaffa Cake on top (that’s two puddings in one!!)

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Baking time: 10-15 minutes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
For the sponge:
110g (4oz) Butter
110g (4oz) Caster Sugar
2 eggs
110g (4oz) Self-raising Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Orange Marmalade (or see this recipe for 10-minute orange curd)

For the Icing:
130g Butter
500g Icing Sugar
170g Cocoa Powder
3-4 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

12 Jaffa Cakes for decoration

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until the mixture is fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mixture until combined.
3. Add the flour and vanilla essence and mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
4. Spoon the mixture and divide evenly into the cupcake cases. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the sponge is golden and springs back when pressure is applied to it.
5. When the cupcakes have baked, set them aside to cool.
6. To make the icing, soften the butter in the microwave, then beat together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter until combined. Add the vanilla essence. Add the milk a little at a time until the icing is a good texture.
7. Once the cupcakes have cooled, using a teaspoon, hollow out a small section from the top of the cupcake and fill with orange curd/ marmalade. Replace most of the sponge back on the top of the curd/ marmalade (as if you’re putting a lid over the orange). Repeat for all the cupcakes.
8. Cover the cupcakes with the chocolate icing.
9. Cut 12 Jaffa Cakes in half, and using two halves, create a butterfly effect by placing one half on each side of the cupcake.

Handy Hints
Icing texture– this matters more if you choose to pipe your icing onto the cakes. If you do, it needs to be firm enough that the mixture holds on a spoon (i.e. it doesn’t drip off the spoon), but not too stiff that it doesn’t mix easily.
Adding the orange– for more tips on this, see this recipe.
Adding the icing– Piping the icing gives a more neat effect (and possibly adds more icing), but this works just as well with a knife and using the back of a spoon to shape.

Jaffa cake cupcakes

Jaffa cake cupcakes3

Na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na… Pancake!

So it seems to be that a huge baking trend lately is pancake art. These sort of trends always get me- it’s the sort of thing that you see on Buzzfeed or Facebook that looks really easy and makes me think ‘I could do that’. The idea, if you’ve somehow missed this, is that you draw a shape with pancake batter, let the outline cook, then fill in the middle. The outline should then cook more than the filled-in middle, making the lines defined. This is made to look very easy, so the other day I invited some friends round and we gave it a go. Needless to say, it was a disaster. Here’s the best attempt we came up with:

Flower fail

I think the problem is that our mixture was a thinner pancake mix, rather than the thicker batter used for more American-style pancakes but I’m not sure! If any of you know how to stop getting the patterns on the pancakes, please comment and let me know!

Now you might think that given the disasters that we’d created so far, we’d have just given up (the picture above is honestly the best one we managed), but we weren’t giving up that easy. We still had half a batch left so, driven by a stubborn determination to create something worthwhile (felt more strongly in some of us than others it must be said), we adapted our technique to creating pancakes in the shape of things instead. This we had a lot more success at! If you’re looking for something easy and fun to do then this couldn’t be better, even for those who may be more artistically-challenged! The trick is to pipe the outline quickly, then fill it in with batter from a jug and, as long as you’re careful not to pour too much on and spill it over the outline, you’re good to go!

Pancakes are perfect for anyone who wants to bake something easy and doesn’t have much time, or patience, to wait for things to cook/chill. They need three ingredients, no fancy equipment (if we can make something at guide camp, you can make it in a student kitchen) and taste nice with any number of toppings. If you’re not feeling artsy, or just don’t fancy faffing about making your food look pretty before you demolish it, then just follow this recipe ignoring the bits about separating the mixture, and just pour your batter into the pan- simple!

If you do want to be artsy, you’ll need an empty sauce bottle- you can buy these online or from lots of shops, an example of one is here.

Pancakes

This recipe makes about 10 small pancakes.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
125g (41/2 oz) plain flour
250ml milk
Butter
Toppings

Method:
1. Add the eggs to the flour. Add a little milk.
2. Whisk gently until the mixture becomes thick, then add a little more milk and mix again.
3. Making sure to mix in all the flour from the sides, add the rest of the milk and whisk until all the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture is smooth. Separate the batter between the bottle and a measuring jug.
4. Melt a small amount of butter in a frying pan on the hob (medium heat) and tilt the pan until the melted butter covers the pan.
5. (to make pancake shapes) Using the batter in the sauce bottle, draw onto the pan the outline of your shape. Fill the inside of the shape with batter from the jug, making sure not to pour too much at once (or it’ll spill over the edge and ruin your shape!)
6. Let the pancake cook until it starts to come away from the pan, then flip it over (whether you use a spatula or your awesome pancake-flipping skills is up to you) and let the other side cook.
7. Serve and add toppings!

Handy Hints:

Shapes- Create away! Let your imagination run free- anything is possible! (well actually there are some limits, my friend did attempt the Sistine Chapel, which I think is taking it a little too far.)
Cooking time- Pancakes cook quickly, so you shouldn’t be waiting long. It’s cooked on one side when it starts to come away from the pan- wiggle the pan and if it moves without sticking, it’s cooked on that side.
Batter- If you’re using a bottle to make the shapes, make sure that there aren’t any chunks of flour in your mixture, as they’ll get stuck in the nozzle!

Batman pancake

 

Candy Cane Cupcakes

It may seem a little too soon for some of you to be reading a Christmas recipe, but it’s definitely acceptable now because it’s December!! I love it when it reaches December because no-one can complain about me getting excited for Christmas. I love Christmas (just in case you hadn’t picked that up!) It’s such a good time of year, and I really enjoy the build-up through December. I love Christmas jumpers, hot chocolates, and most of all, Christmas puddings! We always have family over to stay for Christmas in my house, which is great because me and my mum get to bake whatever we want to, and know that it’ll be eaten quickly so we can bake something else! It’s a great excuse to bake all the things that I deem too expensive when I have to pay for the ingredients myself (ta mum!), or simply too fancy for everyday life. And what better way to spread a little Christmas spirit than by sharing some bakes?!

So, because it’s now December, I wanted to come up with a recipe that was Christmas-y but also would be good to make at uni. I actually made these cupcakes for my flatmates and also to take in for one of my lecture groups, so they’re great for spreading the Christmas joy! The idea for these cupcakes came from the leftover candy cane segments I had after making Candy Cane and chocolate lollies. These cupcakes have a mint chocolate truffle centre, and a minty buttercream topping so are not only decorated with candy cane bits, but have the great sweet mint flavour too.

Candy Cane Cupcakes
Preparation Time: 30 mins (total)
Baking Time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: £3.62

Ingredients
For the cupcakes:
165g Butter, softened
165g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
165g Plain Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Baking Powder

For the mint truffle centre:
225g Icing Sugar
30g Butter
25g Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract

For the mint buttercream:
140g Butter
Icing Sugar (at least 200g)
A dash of milk
Peppermint extract (to taste)
Crushed pieces of candy cane/ Christmas-coloured sprinkles to decorate

(makes 12)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and mix until combined and smooth.
2. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined- scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to make sure it’s all combined properly.
3. Line a cupcake tray with cupcakes cases and fill the cases, spooning in the mixture until the case is about two-thirds full.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the sponge springs back when pressure is applies, or until a knife or cake-tester comes out of the cupcake clean. Leave on one side to cool.
5. Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, make the mint truffle centre mixture. First, melt the butter slightly in the microwave until soft. Then, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix until fully combined.
6. Add a dash of milk if needed to soften the mixture slightly, then add the peppermint extract to taste.
7. Once the cupcakes have cooled, taking one at a time, spoon out a small circle from the middle of the cupcake and extract the sponge from beneath it until you have a small hole in the middle of the cupcake. Don’t spoon too much mixture out- there should still be plenty of sponge surrounding the dip, and it shouldn’t go to the bottom of the cupcake case.
8. Once the holes have been cut in all the cupcakes, spoon a little of the mint truffle mix into each hole until it fills it to a level top.
9. Put these to one side to make the buttercream icing (preferably covered and in a place that isn’t too warm!)First, soften the butter in the microwave. Then, add the icing sugar and mix until combined. Start with equal quantities, then keep adding icing sugar until you reach a slightly stiff consistency. Add a dash of milk to create softer icing, then add some more icing sugar.
10. Add peppermint extract to the icing to taste, and mix to incorporate. Ice the cupcakes, then add crushed candy canes/ sprinkles to decorate!

Handy Hints
Even cupcakes- to get cupcakes that are the same size, try using an ice-cream scoop to make sure you have an even amount of mixture in each cupcake case (you can tell I didn’t do that!)
Filling the centres- You may have to use a teaspoon to gently press down the truffle centre into the cavity in the cupcake. Fill the hole to the top to make it an even top when you’re adding the buttercream.
Buttercream- If you’ve used margarine instead of butter to make your icing, don’t add the milk, as this will require a lot of icing sugar!

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