Friday, 29 March 2013

Creme Egg Brownies

I am sure that everyone is on their way to being fed up of seeing these brownies all over the internet, and I'm sorry to add to the huge numbers already out there, but I couldn't resist. I love brownies full stop but they are even better when you put chocolatey things in them. I went to the supermarket last night to get a few more Creme Eggs and the Easter isle was manic - lots of people and hardly anything left!

Much like Sophie, my family have never been big on Easter. We never had huge dinners or exchanged Easter Eggs, in fact I received my first one from Mark's family when we started going out 8 years ago.


This recipe is from Good to Know's Easter Egg Recipes and will make one 15cm square brownie. The original recipe can be found here and the directions for adding the Creme Eggs are here. I used mini Creme Eggs as I wanted a bigger distribution of them throughout the brownie.


Ingredients
200g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
4 large organic free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
3 large Cadbury Creme Eggs or 3 packets mini Creme Eggs


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 15cm square tin and set aside.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter oven a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool.

3. Place the sugar in a bowl and beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix in the melted butter and chocolate. Finally, sift in the flour and cocoa powder then mix until combined.

4. Pour the brownie mixture into the greased and lined pan, ensuring the top is smooth. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

5. Whilst the brownie is baking, cut the Creme Eggs in half and set aside. Remove the brownie from the oven after 20 minutes and gently push the Creme Eggs into the brownie. Place it back into the oven for 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove and place on a cooling rack.

These are the perfect brownie - really gooey in the middle with a crispy topping and the Creme Eggs bring a lovely sweetness. I am going to enter them into Good to Know's Easter Cooking Club Competition as there are some lovely prizes to be won!


I am really pleased that it's Easter weekend - I've been ready for some days off for a long time! The only plan I have is to do some work for Food Blogger Connect. Mostly Mark and I will be at home with Luna (our cat). However I am quite cross with Luna at the moment; we got home from work last night and there were two blocks of butter on the floor in the living room, one was ripped open and had been bitten into. I was puzzled as I'd left the butter in a tupperware box on top of the microwave in the kitchen, so she must have knocked it off. I did tell her off and we've moved past it now, but she is such a clever (and destructive!) cat.

As well as baking, I have been catching up on Masterchef. I've never followed it before as I always seem to realise it's on about 2 weeks after it's started, but this time I've watched it from the beginning. I love it! The food they make is fussy, the portions are tiny and I could never ever see myself ordering something like that in a restaurant but it is fascinating to see what the contestants can do. I can cook, but I wouldn't stand a chance if I entered something like Masterchef!

What are you plans for Easter? Are you baking anything?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

Sadly I had a hot cross bun nightmare last weekend. I found a recipe for some chocolate ones and when I was kneading the dough I knew it was wrong - it was really tough and wasn't stretching but I persevered. I should have listened to myself as they didn't work (hence why I didn't blog last weekend) but Mark still thought they were good, and has had them for breakfast every day this week. He's like my own personal cheerleader!

Baking Mad got in touch to ask if I would like to recreate one of their Easter recipes. Imediately I knew I wanted to have a go at Hot Cross Buns. Mark is obsessed with them and has been since I've known him. He was over the moon with these. They are beautifully soft and made the house smell divine. There is just the right amount of spice in them and the chocolate chips are lovely and gooey when warm.


This recipe is from Baking Mad, however I have tweaked it a little bit. The recipe will make 10 large Hot Cross Buns.

For the buns
250g strong white bread flour
250g strong wholemeal bread flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon salt
50g golden caster sugar
250ml milk
50g unsalted butter
1 large free range organic egg
100g raisins
50g chocolate chips

To finish
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons plain flour, mixed with water to make a paste



Method

1. Place the flours, sugar, yeast, spice and salt in a bowl and set aside.

2. Gently warm the butter and half of the milk in a saucepan until the butter is melted. Combine it in a measuring jug with the remaining cold milk. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, along with the egg and mix until a dough begins to form. Finally mix in the raisins and chocolate chips.

3. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 10 portions (weighing about 100g each) and tuck under the edges so you are left with a smooth bun. Place onto a lined baking tray, repeating until you have 10 buns. Cover the tray with cling film and leave to rise somewhere warm for an hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

5. Once the buns have doubled in size, glaze them with the beaten egg. Make the paste for the cross by mixing the flour with water until it is thick and smooth. Tip into a piping bag, snip off the tip and pipe a cross onto each bun. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on the baking tray, then move to a cooling rack.


This is the first weekend since Christmas where Mark and I haven't actually had plans - it's been lovely so far! We caught up on sleep this morning, I baked my hot cross buns, bleached my roots and we are now watching Iron Man 1 & 2. Tonight we are making veggie chilli with rice, empanadas, nachos and nacho cheese sauce.

Tomorrow I am doing some work for Food Blogger Connect. If you missed my announcement a few weeks ago, I will be volunteering at Food Blogger Connect along with some of my favourite bloggers Sophie and Hannah. The event enables food bloggers from all over the world to get together to network, learn and eat. It takes place over 3 days in July and there are still tickets left. I am really excited about it and hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mini Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes

In January my sister, some friends and I ventured to London to see The Spice Girls Musical. To make our day more special we also went for afternoon tea at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire hotel on Leicester Square. Unfortunately one of our friends couldn't make it as they were snowed in. We had the best day and I was really sad she couldn't make it, so I decided I would host an afternoon tea at my house so she didn't completely miss out.

I knew I wanted to make mini cheesecakes and toyed with the idea of making fridge-set ones, but decided baked ones are always best.


This recipe makes 12 mini cheesecakes.
Recipe adapted from 'Saved by Cake' by Marian Keyes.

For the base
8 Digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter

For the cheesecake
250g mascarpone cheese
200g full fat cream cheese
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

For the topping
Fresh strawberries and raspberries


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake cases.

2. Place the digestives in a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are fine. If you don't have a food processor you can put the biscuits in a sandwich bag and roll over with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a pan (or microwave) and mix with the crushed biscuits. Place a heaped spoonful of the mixture into each cupcake case and press until it makes an even base. Put aside whilst you make the cheesecake filling.

3. Place the cheeses in the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a hand mixer!) and beat until combined. Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and the vanilla seeds. Beat until combined and smooth.

4. Spoon the cheesecake mix into the cases, filling almost to the top. They won't rise so there's no danger of them overflowing.

5. Boil a kettle (but don't actually let it reach boiling point!) Place the cupcake pan into a large roasting tin and carefully fill with the water from the kettle, until it reaches 3/4 of the way up the side of the cupcake pan. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until set.

6. Remove from the oven and place the cupcake pan on a cooling rack. Leave the cheesecakes to sit in the pan until completely cool. Chill in the fridge overnight.

7. When you are ready to serve the cheesecakes, remove the cupcake wrapper (they will be slightly soggy so be careful!) and top with whole raspberries or chopped strawberries.


Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of my afternoon tea with my proper camera, but I did capture it on my iphone. I made mini brownies, vanilla cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, mini meringues and my best friend Natalie kindly made scones. I also served a selection of sandwiches - egg mayonaise, cheese and onion, cheese and cucumber and cream cheese. It was a lot of work but I felt so proud of what I'd done and the look on my friends faces when they walked in and saw the table was the best!



GIVEAWAY WINNER
Thank you for your entries to win The Big Book of Bread. I put the entrants names into a bowl and my sister kindly picked a winner! Beth you have won! Please could you email me at bakingclaire@gmail.com and let me know your name and address and I can post out your book this week. Well done!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Soda Bread x3 and my first Giveaway!

I was so pleased that it was pay day on Thursday. I know February is a short month but Mark and I seemed to have had so much to pay for. We are saving to get married in New York City next year so having to pay for things like car MOTs, new glasses and renewed driving licences is frustrating.

However I did get myself a pay day treat: Stacie Bakes by Stacie Stewart. This book has been on my wishlist for months and I've been so excited to get my hands on it. Stacie was a finalist on MasterChef a couple of years ago and she owns The Beehive Bakery. She is so appearing on the new series 'Food Glorious Food' on tv. Did you watch it last week? What did you think?

I have gotten really into making bread and anything dough-based recently. In the past I've tended to stay away as it can be time consuming and messy. However, this recipe is anything but - it's a bit of a bread cheat really as it doesn't involve any yeast or kneading. I made these loaves last weekend to take to a friends house for dinner. You could change or alter the main flavouring additions to suit whatever you fancy. To make 3 loaves it took less than 2 hours, leaving plenty of time to do everything else I had to.



This recipe will make a round loaf that can be cut into four chunks. If you'd like a bigger loaf, simply double the ingredients - I've done it many times before with good results.
This recipe is adapted from a WeightWatchers one (don't let that put you off) which I have used for ages.

Ingredients
200g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
100g low fat natural yogurt mixed with 3 tablespoons water
Oil for greasing

For an Olive loaf
60g pitted olives (black or green) roughly chopped

For a Sundried Tomato and Basil loaf
10 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

For a Cheese and Balsamic Onion loaf
1 large red onion, finely chopped and fried until soft. Once soft, add 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar to the pan and cook until the pan is dry.
100g cheddar cheese, grated


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C, and grease a baking tray with the oil.

2. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Mix in the olives, tomatoes and basil or cheese and balsamic onion.

3. Add the yogurt and water to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Add a dash of water if the dough is dry.

4. With your hands, form the dough into a rounded loaf and place on the greased baking tray. If you choose to make the cheese and balsamic onion loaf it will take longer to bake - bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then cover with tin foil and return to the oven for another 20 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. For the other loaves, bake for 25 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.

This soda bread has a really crusty outer shell and the inside is lovely and springy. I always serve it with risotto - it goes perfectly with the creamy cheesiness!


I was planning on baking tomorrow but I am going out tonight to see Deer Chicago play at the Oxford 02, so I am not sure what sort of state I will be in tomorrow.

GIVEAWAY
I will end on an exciting note - I am doing my first giveaway and it seems appropriate for it to be included with this post.
I have one copy of The Big Book of Bread to give away to a reader, with thanks to the lovely people over at Baking Mad. As I am becoming more adventurous with breads I would like a copy for myself! It includes recipes to make by hand and also in a machine, and covers everything from basic breads, to sweet breads, buns, pastries and even muffins.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment letting me know what your favourite bread or dough-based bake is and why.

Entries are open to residents in the UK and Ireland only and closes on Sunday 10th March 2013. I will choose a winner at random from the entries. Good luck and thanks for entering!
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