September 03, 2010

in search of the perfect Chocolate Brownie!

You know how it is when you have a tried and tested recipe that you come back to time and again.....well, for years I've used a Mary Berry recipe that never fails to produce a dense, fudgy, chocolatey brownie every time. But, being me, I'm always curious to try out new ideas in search of the definitive recipe.

So, when I saw this recipe for Fudgy Coconut Brownies on the Good Food website I was immediately intrigued; coconut in brownies? hmmm, that's an interesting twist! I have had the recipe bookmarked for ages, but the other day was grey and miserable with just enough of a hint of Autumn in the air to make me think of the warm comfort of baking and filling the house with the aroma of chocolate! The perfect excuse to try out - Coconut Brownies!

This time I didn't make any adjustments to the original recipe because I really liked the way they turned out. Unlike other brownie recipes there is no melted chocolate in the mixture, but they tasted so deeply chocolatey that you would never guess. Despite the name there is really just a hint of coconut in the taste, but it gives the brownies a lovely chewy texture.....and they are very addictive; I had eaten two before they'd even cooled down!

Coconut Brownies
(Recipe from BBC Good Food)

100g cocoa
250g butter
500g caster sugar
4 eggs
100g self-raising flour
100g dessicated coconut

Heat oven to 180C / Gas 4 and line a 21cm square tin with baking paper - I used a standard size swiss roll tin

Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan and then stir in the cocoa and caster sugar until melted and combined. Be careful because it will catch and burn if not stirred constantly

Take off the heat and cool for a few minutes then beat in the rest of the ingredients until well mixed

Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 40 mins until set. Leave to cool in tin and then turn out, dust with icing sugar and cut up into chunky pieces

Beware - they won't last very long!

August 08, 2010

fresh peach and blackberry muffins

Following on from my foray with the summer berries and loaf cake, I'm continuing with a bit of a Summer theme.....this time with peach and blackberry muffins. It's not quite blackberry season yet so I did 'cheat' a bit and used frozen blackberries, and they turned out just fine!

...slightly crunchy on top, very fluffy inside and not too sweet, with mouthfuls of fruit that burst through the soft sugary vanilla cakiness.....

I've been searching for some good muffin recipes lately, and this one Strawberry Muffins was one I came across on the Australian website I did tweak it a bit, just because I can't leave anything alone!!

So, here's my version of the recipe - with tweaks - although, as you can see from the comments on the original recipe, this is a very forgiving mixture so you can be inspired to add 'tweaks' of your own! Happy baking!

Fresh Peach and Blackberry Muffins
Recipe (by Alfie)
400g self-raising flour
175g unrefined caster sugar
250g mixed peaches (cut into small chunks) and blackberries
2 eggs
300mls buttermilk
80g melted butter
3 tsps good vanilla extract

set oven to 190 / Gas 5 and put your prettiest muffin cases in to a 12 hole muffin tin

mix together all of the dry ingredients, and then stir in the fruit

mix together all of the wet ingredients

quickly add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix lightly until it just comes together - it's important not too over- mix if you want light fluffy muffins!

fill muffin cases almost to the top and then bake in the centre of the oven until they are golden and firm to the touch - about 30-35 minutes

leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes just to allow them to firm up a little, and then cool on a cooling rack

perfect for a lazy Sunday breakfast, tea-time treat - or just because!.....

August 02, 2010

summer berry and vanilla loaf cake

You know, I think that (well, for me anyway!), the answer to everything is cake! ....Every challenge, every problem is always soothed by the therapeutic alchemy of mixing up lots of sweet, fragrant goodies to a glossy goo, putting it into the oven, and ending up with this wonderful transformation into something beautiful, with the added bonus of filling the house with the evocative and comforting smell of vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, or, in this case, blackberries!.........

I have decided that I don't cook enough cake!

That may sound a little strange seeing as I am always making cupcakes, and, much as I love making those little cuties, whilst looking through all my cuttings and books for inspiration for new flavours I realised that I had so many cake recipes that I wanted to try out. So, that's just what I'm going to do; work my way through all of my cuttings, folders, and books, of all the cake recipes I have wanted to make, but just never quite got around to.......starting with this loaf cake. I feel I must say, in defence of loaf cake, that although it may not sound all that inspiring, it delivers good, down to earth scrumptiousness with no fuss or frills, just good honest comfort food!

This recipe is really just an amalgamation of several that I've had book-marked for ages, and it produced a wonderfully fragrant slab of fruity indulgence - thanks to the delicate perfume of the blackberries and raspberries and the warm vanilla, and the addition,(just because I couldn't resist it!) of drizzly pink icing and fresh fruits on the top. In fact, in the end it tasted more like a pudding than a cake, reminiscent of warm blackberry crumble!

Summer Berry and Vanilla Loaf Cake
Recipe (by Alfie)
125g caster sugar (vanilla sugar is good if you have some)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
80g butter, melted
60mls natural yoghurt
300g self-raising flour
250g of mixed summer berries (fresh, or frozen)

Set oven to 180 C or Gas 4 and grease a standard loaf tin - you can also line it if you want, although with a non-stick loaf tin you probably won't need to

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until frothy, and then pour in the melted butter and yoghurt

Combine dry ingredients together and then toss in the fruit to coat with the flour. If you are using frozen fruit there is no need to thaw it first as it will go a bit too mushy

Add the wet ingredients to the flour and fruit and gently mix until it just comes together. Don't be tempted to over-mix, it will look a little lumpy, but that's fine

Then, just put the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for around 50 mins to 1 hour - until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean - and let the magic happen!

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins and then when the cake is completely cool, ice with a little icing sugar mixed with some fruit puree. Or just leave it plain for a more 'rustic' look

Served warm, this also makes a very yummy pud with ice-cream or thick double cream!

I was going to show you a photo - but it didn't last that long!!

July 25, 2010

Just for fun!

summer weddings

Having fun with wedding cupcakes and samplers.......

Vanilla with lemon and raspberry buttercream frosting and fresh pretty!

Chocolate Truffle with rich chocolate frosting and Vanilla Raspberry

Chocolate Truffle, Banana Maple and Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting - very elegant

February 13, 2010

chocolate puddle cookies...and fluffy pink marshmallows

Is it wrong to eat Chocolate Truffle cupcake for breakfast?......

well.....I just couldn't resist when I'm surrounded by them! Over the last couple of days I've baked and iced dozens of cute Valentine Chocolate Truffle cupcakes - chocolate heaven, seeing them all lined up neatly, ready to be boxed and delivered in time for Valentine's Day.

I always love delivering the see the smile on people's faces, but delivering the Valentine ones has been especially enjoyable. I've dropped them off with an air of planned subterfuge, and have shared the sense of excited anticipation as I've handed over the gift boxes filled with decadent chocolate treats, knowing that they will later be presented to unsuspecting loved ones!

So,...... with all these chocolate truffle cupcakes in production I found myself left with surplus Pink Velvet cupcakes . and lots of egg-whites that needed using up, and.....the obvious solution was Pink Cloud cupcakes!! Moist fluffy raspberry vanilla sponge, topped with clouds of the pinkest marshmallow meringue frosting

......and these little fluffy pillows of delicate pink raspberry marshmallow using this marshmallow recipe from James Martin.....I'm a sucker for anything pink and edible, especially when it's so pretty!

Coincidentally, I'd also come across this recipe for Chocolate Puddle Cookies the other day on one of my favourite blog sites while looking for some healthy dinner ideas - honestly! (it's amazing how easily distracted I become with chocolate) It was a perfect coming together of serendipitous circumstances; a recipe for fudgy chocolatiness, and spare egg-whites.....
These are soooooo good. I couldn't wait for them to cool, and had to have one while it was still warm from the oven. It was chocolate heaven, soft, fudgy, and dense in the middle, and what's even better - they don't contain any wheat so they're gluten-free, a perfect indulgence, so that even those chocolate lovers with a wheat intolerance don't have to miss out, or compromise on chocolatey bliss!

January 01, 2010

cupcake crazy

A New Year, a new decade, a fresh start.....

I haven't posted in so long, but it's all been a bit cupcake mad lately!!.... I decided that after a love affair with cakes and baking for years, I would start my own cupcake business Pretty Sweet. It was definitely the right idea, and I'm having so much fun doing something that I absolutely love. Seeing all the cupcakes lined up neatly in their colourful rows, and being up to my elbows in icing sugar and buttercream is my idea of heaven!......I have so many plans for new flavours whizzing around in my head for the new year, and a special valentine range in mind for February.

My own passion, as you will know if you are a regular reader (sorry guys for neglecting you for so long!) is for fantastic quality food - real food; so it's no surprise that this goes for my cupcakes too, and I'm passionate about sourcing excellent quality (and local, where possible) fresh ingredients. After all, it's not just about what the cakes look like - it's important that they deliver on taste too! So, I use fresh fruits to flavour and colour the cakes - no nasty additives. Although, I must admit that I have included a 'just for fun' range that indulges my love of all things bright and glittery, and the cake toppings are like I said, just for fun. That said, I am always trying to source additive free sprinkles and decorations.

I'm looking forward to the spring when all the flowers start to bloom again - they are just beautiful sitting pretty on top of the pastel cupcakes for the naturals collection and this is something that I want to develop even more. Of course, there has been a lot of cupcake eating (in the name of research, naturally!) so.... I think my new year will start with getting back to some healthy detox foods - though, of course, this will just allow me to start again with more 'research'. I wish you all a magical New Year....I have a feeling it's going to be a good one :o)