Oozy Chocolate French Toast Pockets

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Well, actually that’s not strictly true…I’ve been struggling to get to sleep then struggling to get up again in the morning, subsequently drinking far too much black coffee to keep me functioning during the day. Anyway, this tiredness coupled with the start of a cold left me hankering for something sweet and stodgy for breakfast this morning. I really fancied proper pancakes with maple syrup and smoked bacon, but actually this is definitely more slimming world friendly.
I took three pieces of crustless wholemeal bread (60g) as my Healthy Extra B choice and brushed the edges with an eggy concoction made by beating an egg with a tsp vanilla extra and a tsp stevia. After brushing the edges, I measured out 1 tbsp Choc Shot (2 syns) and divided between the three pieces of bread dolloping it on one half of each slice.  Taking a corner of a slice, I folded it over diagonally to make a samosa shape and used the back of a fork to crimp it down to seal.  Once all three were folded and crimped I dripped them all in the remaining eggy mixture before dry frying on a medium heat for a few minutes until they were golden.  I served these with some fat free yoghurt mixed with a little vanilla extract and fresh cherries and strawberries.  It definitely hit the spot whilst staying on plan! Yum!

Want to see what else I’ve been eating? Check out my Instagram feed here.

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White Chocolate Cigarello Birthday Cake

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I have a lovely friend who is celebrating a birthday today. She’s one of those rare gems who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She spends so much time looking after everybody and is so generous in every sense of the word she definitely deserves to be spoilt on her birthday. I wanted to make her a cake that reflects her: beautiful, elegant and very special. Cue the cigarellos…

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These rolled chocolate straws instantly add a little sophistication to any cake. I used these from the Chocolate Trading Co.

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I like making cakes that have three thin layers of sponge as I think they look lovely when cut, and allow for more filling (which incidently is very forgiving should you accidentally over bake them. The extra filling helps moisten the sponge). I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe which you can find here, on the BBC Good Food website. If you’re doing three layers I suggest reducing the oven temp to 160oC, and the time to between 12-15 mins.

Once cooled, fill your cake with whatever you want. I used seedless raspberry jam this time.

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Now you’re ready to proceed with the decorating. Make a generous amount of buttercream using a pack of unsalted butter, icing sugar, a couple of tsps of vanilla bean paste and a few splashes of milk to loosen. The consistency should be spreadable, but still fairly stiff. Secure your cake to the cake board using a dollop of buttercream. I find it easiest to pipe the buttercream onto the cake, starting with the gaps around the edges.

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Once you’ve filled the gaps in, continue piping until the entire cake is covered with a thick layer. This doesn’t have to be neat.

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Now take a palette knife and smooth the surfaces down. Again, don’t worry about getting perfect edges as it’s all going to be covered with the cigarellos and fruit.

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Wipe away any stray smears of buttercream off the board. Now you’re ready to start attaching the cigarellos by gently pushing them into the buttercream, which is effectively used as glue to hold them in place. Start at the back of the cake if you’re adding any additional decoration to the front (a name on the board for example). You will end up with something similar to this:

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I decided to top mine with strawberries and raspberries. Wash and hull them and dry well on paper towels. Take the largest strawberry and cut the point off the end. Push a candle in and add a dollop of leftover buttercream to the bottom before securing it to the middle of the cake.

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Now add the rest of the fruit, strawberries first to avoid crushing the delicate raspberries. Crush a couple of cigarellos in your hand and sprinkle over the fruit as a final flurry!

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The birthday girl was happy!

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Caramel biscuit, chocolate and peanut butter no bake tray bake!

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Oooh I love a good tray bake, especially when it’s a minimal fuss, no bake, tray bake. The amalgamation of caramel, chocolate and peanut is a heavenly flavour sensation, and not to mention a reliable crowd pleaser.

This recipe makes quite a large batch (these were for church), so by all means halve the quantities if you want,  or alternatively freeze any leftovers (if you can resist the urge to hide in a dark corner and demolish them).

I whizzed up two 250g packs of Lotus Biscoff biscuits in a blender with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar, before adding in dollops of crunchy peanut butter. When the mixture starts to clump together you’ve added enough. Press these sticky crumbs into a shallow tray (I think mine was probably about 12″ by 8″). Now melt 300g milk chocolate in a bain-marie, adding in a cup of Smooth Lotus Biscoff spread. Stir until it melts and pour over the biscuit base. Now melt a couple of additional tablespoons of the biscuit spread and drizzle over the chocolate topping. Use a skewer to unleash your artistic talents and make swirly patterns on top. Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours before slicing into fingers or squares. Delicious!

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If you prefer a more uniform pattern on the top pipe little blobs of the melted biscuit spread onto the chocolate in straight rows and then drag a skewer through the centre of each blob in the row to create perfect little hearts. Here’s a pic from another test bake I made a while ago to demonstrate the technique.

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Cacao nibs and peanut butter Nutriblast

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If you haven’t heard the hype about Cacao Nibs where have you been hiding? Apparently high in magnesium, flavanoids, potassium and antioxidants these bitter little chunks of goodness are the most raw form of chocolate you can get. You can read more about the benefits here.

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Now, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned on here that I’m on a bit more of a health kick than usual, trying to replace a few lunches a week with an additional nutriblast (I usually have one for breakfast). I’m allowing myself to add in a couple of ingredients I wouldn’t usually add to make it a bit more substantial and fill me up until we have dinner with our four year old, which is generally around 5pm.

In this blast I added the following:
20g cacao nibs
20g unsweetened peanut butter
100g spinach
80g frozen banana chunks
100ml milk of your choice (I had to use cows as had run out of almond)
Top up with water to the max line.

Blast for thirty seconds and enjoy. If you want, and I’ll probably do this next time, put the cacao in the cup first and grind to a powder using the milling blade before adding the rest if the ingredients and swapping to the extractor blade. It just makes it a little smoother.

Nutella cheesecake

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If you’re looking for a decadent yet simple to make dessert this is where it’s at.

For the base you’ll need:
A packet of chocolate digestives (I think my pack was 300g)
Approx 100g salted butter melted
100g chocolate chips (optional)

Topping:
500g mascapone
400g Nutella
3 tablespoonfuls of icing sugar
Chopped hazelnuts or chocolate to decorate.

Crush the biscuits, add in the butter and mix.  Add the chocolate chips if using and press the mixture into the base of a springform tin. Chill in the fridge while you make the topping.

Mix all the topping ingredients together until smooth and well combined and spread over the base.  Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts or chocolate and chill overnight. Best served straight from the fridge. Enjoy!

If you liked this you might like this very indulgent chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake.

Sweetie cone party favours.

I don’t know about you, but I reluctantly admit I’m not a fan of traditional kids party bags. I’ve done them for P’s previous birthday parties but can’t help feeling like I may as well be setting fire to my cash as I fill my shopping basket with bags of plastic tat, party poppers and those horrifically irritating party blower things. Eurgh!

Bah-humbug you may cry, but this year I’m going down the sweetie cone root. Yes, I realise there’s a huge sugar debate going on at the moment and yes, I admit to feeling a pang of guilt as I think back to a TV documentary I watched last week about five years old having to have their teeth pulled out.  That said, it’s supposed to be a treat, an occasional thing, and it’s up to the parents to implement some sensible rationing (as I attempted to do as we merrily filled piping bags this afternoon.  It was hard when I had this little excited face asking me for,  “just one more” every three seconds!).

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Anyway, here are the finished products. Easter themed as her party falls on Easter Weekend this year.

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Chocolate and vanilla valentines heart cookies

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A friend of mine recently posted a link to Eugenie Kitchen Rainbow Heart Cookies on my Facebook page and I was intrigued.

How on earth did she do it? Was it worth the effort? Could I recreate them at home?

Well, never one to shy away from a food challenge I thought I’d give it a go, but simplify the process by only using two colours, a light pink vanilla dough for the outside and a chocolate heart centre.

I made the cookie dough exactly how Eugenie does it on the video up until she tips out the crumbs to bring them together to form a dough. At this point I split the dough in half and added two tablespoons of cocoa powder to one half.

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Bring them together to form two balls of dough then knead some pink food colouring into the plain one.

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Now roll out the chocolate one and stamp out small hearts using a small cookie cutter.

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Stack the hearts on top of each other to firm two pillars, sticking each heart together with the leftover egg whites. 

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Now wrap in cling and put them in the freezer for half an hour. Once chilled, roll out ‘snakes’ of pink dough and stick them to the heart dough using the egg whites as a glue. 

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Roll the dough gently to smooth it out.

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Wrap it in cling and put it back in the freezer.  Now do the second stack. After they’ve had about half an hour to chill, take them out, slice about half a cm thick and bake at 180oC for about ten minutes.

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Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy… Or give them to someone you love!

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Decadent chocolate caramel brownies

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This week I had half a can of delicious condensed caramel sitting in the fridge after making mini banoffee pies last weekend. I wanted some inspiration for using up the remaining and came across this delicious recipe from Carnation. It was a huge hit with our Life Group on Wednesday night, so much so I decided to make a double batch for Church and our monthly Contact the Elderly tea party tomorrow. I doubt we’ll have leftovers. They are truly divine and super easy to make.  If you’re doubling the batch you’ll need a bigger pan and of course you’ll need to lengthen the cooking time. Mine took about 55 minutes at 180oC.

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Rich Chocolate and Beetroot Bundt

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are ready to face 2015 with renewed vigour.

With an abundance of post-Christmas chocolate lying around at home, I decided to remove the temptation and share the love at church today with a very rich and indulgent chocolate and beetroot cake. Beautifully moist and studded with chunks of dark chocolate, this is bound to prove popular with kids and adults alike.

A lot of recipes call for cooked beetroot, but thanks to the pulversing powers of the nutribullet I used raw.

Here’s how to do it. Scrub a whole beetroot and weigh out 180g of it.  Cube and put in the nutribullet along with three large eggs.

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Blend until pulverised.

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In a bowl or blender mix 200g plain flour, 250g light brown soft sugar, 100g  good quality cocoa powder, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste before adding the beetroot and egg mixture, and 200ml melted butter. You’ll end up with a lovely rich mixture like this.

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Chop 100g of good quality dark chocolate (no higher than 70%).

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Mix into the batter before spooning into a greased bundt tin which has been sprinkled with cocoa powder to stop the cake sticking.

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Bake for 35mins at 180oC or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes before turning out.

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For the icing steep a few cubes of the leftover beetroot in some vanilla syrup (water or milk works fine if you don’t have syrup to hand), then add the liquid to icing sugar to make a thick pink drizzle. Pipe over the cooled bundt.

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It went down well at church this morning.

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Chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake

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This cake is not for the faint hearted, or weak hearted for that matter. If you’re watching your calorie intake you’re reading the wrong blog, as this is the ultimate in chocolate peanut butter blow outs.

A friend had given me a jar of chocolate spread, and because it’s not the type of thing I’d usually spread on my toast I wanted a recipe to use it up. Hence coming up with this beauty!

For the base I used a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits, some salted peanuts, and melted butter. Having accidently put too much butter in the biscuit crumbs, I needed to ad-lib a little using whatever I could lay my hands on to soak up the excess butter, as we didn’t have any other biscuits in. So, some pretzels and granola later the base was ready. I pressed it into a springform tin and chilled it whilst making the topping.

The topping was completely made up as I went along. I whipped approx 300ml double cream  then mixed in 500g mascarpone, a jar of smooth peanut butter and a jar of chocolate spread. It needed a bit of something sour to cut through the richness and about 200ml of natural yoghurt did the trick.  After spreading the topping on the base I drizzled about 50g melted milk chocolate over the cheesecake and sprinkled with crushed salted peanuts. Leave to set in the fridge over night.

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This dessert was one of a few I did for a welcome home party for some friends who had just arrived back from a round the world adventure.

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I also did a rhubarb, strawberry and rose water pavlova:

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Mini creme pat and filo, fruit tartlets (recipe here) :

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A fruit platter and a cheeseboard.

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It was a great success and a lovely evening was had by all.