Biscoff banana cake bars

Biscoff banana cake bars

Oh Biscoff.

Over the past couple of years, I have read countless blog posts, mainly American, which talk abut a magical ingredient called Biscoff.

Also known as Speculoos, cookie butter or biscuit spread, it is quite literally a penaut butter-esque spread, made out of the caramelised biscuits you always get with a cup of coffee at the hairdressers.

I’ve always kept an eye out for it, but never seen it on the shelves of a supermarket – even when I was in Romania I went on a Biscoff search, but to no avail.

But then, I heard a rumour. A whisper, that maybe this magical ingredient could be found. Not in a specialist shop either, but in a major chain supermarket – Waitrose.

I don’t live near a Waitrose, but luckily my fab colleague visits one every day for a free coffee on her way into the office, and within 24 hours of me mentioning it to her, a jar of Lotus caramelised biscuit spread was sat on my desk.

My big dilemma then was of course what to bake first (after sampling a few spoons straight from the jar and deciding that it was every bit as delicious as I had hoped.

I’d seen a few recipes for Biscoff blondies, and that provided the initial inspiration. After spotting a couple of blackened bananas on two of my colleagues desks, I promised that if they let me take them I would bring them back in cake form, and so these bars were born.

I based the recipe on these banana and peanut butter muffins, doubling up the basic recipe, swapping the peanut butter for Biscoff, reducing the sugar and flour, and adding chunks of white chocolate.

I was originally aiming for a blondie, but actually the slightly more cakey texture of these bars was really nice and a bit lighter than a blondie, so it worked out ok. If you did want more of a fudgy blondie I think cutting the flour by a quarter would probably do the trick so it depends on your preference – either way they are worth trying.

I am now a certified Biscoff addict, and can’t wait to bake with it again – if there’s any left after I keep going back for more spoonfuls that is…

Biscoff banana cake bars (adapted from here)

  • 120g light brown sugar
  • 140g smooth Biscoff or biscuit spread
  • 2 medium/large eggs
  • 1 medium/large egg yolk
  • 2 overripe bananas (200g), mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g white chocolate chunks

Beat the sugar and Biscoff until well creamed, then add in the eggs, one at a time. Add the banana and beat again until thoroughly mixed, then sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold into the cake batter. Finally, fold through the white chocolate chunks and spread the mixture into a gresaed and lined 8×8″ square tin.

Bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden and a skewer comes out with a few damp crumbs on. Leave to cool before removing from the tin and slicing into bars.

PS – Cut into 16 squares these are only 170 calories each, which is practically health food! Awesome!

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake

When I saw this zesty orange ginger carrot cake with white chocolate frosting over on Sweetapolita, it was instantly bookmarked and I knew it wouldn’t be long until I would have to try it myself.

Luckily the opportunity came a week later when I was having a farewell dinner with my dad, mum and step dad before leaving for Romania. I thought it would have elements that appealed to them all – my step dad loves white chocolate, my mum I thought would like the ginger, and my dad likes most things that aren’t too sweet or chocolatey.

I adapted it quite a bit, halving the recipe and baking in a 6″ tin, switching carrot for butternut squash and using a cream cheese white chocolate frosting rather than buttercream just to sandwich the layers and spread on top, rather than completely covering the whole cake.

Even after an hour and a half in the car on a sunny day (sorry cake!) it was very well received, and my dad even gave it the huge compliment of saying he wish he hadn’t given so much of it away to my mum and step dad.

It was a very moist cake, and when I took it out of the tin it sort of sunk in on itself a bit, so if I made it again I’d possible bake it for a little bit longer on a lower temperature, but other than that I was very happy and kind of wish I had another slice to eat now…

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)

  • 115g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 75ml milk
  • 250ml butternut squash, finely grated
  • 40g crystalised ginger

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 100g icing sugar

Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again. Sift in half the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger and fold in, stir in the milk and then sift in the remaining flour mixture and fold again until just combined. Stir in the butternut squash and crystalised ginger then pour into a greased and lined 6″ round baking tin.

Bake at 170 degrees for about 50 minutes (or a little lower and slower if you want) then leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften then add the cream cheese and beat until no lumps remain. Stir in the melted white chocolate and sift in the icing sugar, then beat until light and airy. If it’s a bit too runny, chill in the fridge for half an hour and then beat again before icing the cake.

Slice the cake into three layers and use the icing to sandwich between them and spread on top. Finish with more crystalised ginger on top to decorate, then slice and enjoy!

L’Artisan du Chocolat – review

Earlier in the month, I was contacted by a website I’d never heard of before, the Handpicked Foodstore, to ask if I would like to try any of their products for a review.

When the first words I saw on the site were ‘smoked salmon’ my heart sank a little – a shop full of fish is kind of my worst nightmare – but I was relieved to see that there were also pages for artisan cheeses, condiments and spices, and best of all luxury chocolates.

I left it in the hands of their marketing team to decide which products to send me, as I was really spoiled for choice with chocolate from Rococo, Montezuma’s and L’Artiscan du Chocolat, all handpicked as the website name suggests by a panel of foodie experts looking for the finest British produce.

I was delighted when a box arrived containing a little round tub of L’Artisan du Chocolat No.1 Sea Salted Caramels and a selection of their ‘fusion’ range of chocolate bars, and immediately set about formally taste testing with the pony and our next door neighbour Jo.

Whether or not the caramels really are the original salted caramel I don’t know, but I do know that they are pretty special – the chocolate is dark and crisp and the dusting of cocoa slightly bitter; the caramel a complete texture and taste contrast with both the caramel and salt coming through strongly.

All three of us enjoyed them, but I’d say they’re probably not for your average Dairy Milk chocolate eater – the pony thought the salt was bordering on too strong and Jo thought the caramel tasted almost burnt – but as an after dinner treat with a cup of coffee I thought they were perfect.

The four chocolate bars I received were sugar free milk, caffe latte, gianduja and gingerbread cookie. By far my favourite was the gingerbread cookie ,a creamy white chocolate with gingerbread cookie crumbs that not only combines two of my favourite flavours but is also a combination I haven’t come across before.

The caffe latte at first was a bit of a shock, I think as I’ve only ever tried coffee flavoured dark chocolate so in a milk chocolate it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. The gianduja was like taking everything that’s good about Nutella but somehow transforming into something classy and refined, and the sugar free milk was really good too (I ate some after eating regular milk chocolate and much preferred the sugar free).

The bars all have tasting notes on the wrappers which is a nice touch, and I was especially pleased to have been sent them in addition to the caramels as it meant I could do some baking as well as just scoffing chocolate. I made a cake last night involving the caffe latte bar, and it is seriously good – stay tuned for the recipe!

Big thanks to the Handpicked Foodstore for sending me the chocolate to try – obviously they were sent to me for free, but my opinions aren’t swayed by that in the slightest!

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes

When I saw this post on Poires au Chocolat, I knew that caramelised white chocolate would be heavenly, and I would have to incorporate it into my baking soon, in one form or another.

Then I saw this post, on What Rachel Ate, and decided that caramelised white chocolate in buttercream would be a thing of beauty, and that I really must try it out soon.

It’s taken me quite a while to actually get around to it, but when Kate at What Kate Baked chose fairy cakes, cupcakes and muffins as the theme for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, it gave me the motivation I needed and these coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes were born.

tea time treats

It is so hard not to just eat the caramelised white chocolate straight from the bowl – slow roasting it for an hour until it turns golden brown gives the chocolate a whole new depth of flavour, and when you add a little salt at the end it’s just SO good!

The sweetness of the icing is a perfect match for a strong coffee cake, and I was really pleased with how the cupcakes turned out, with half the icing spread straight on top of the cupcakes and the other half flavoured with coffee and piped in swirls.

I made these to take along to a working lunch (along with some fab apple/maple/pecan bars which I will blog soon) and they went down a treat – cake really is the best ice breaker when meeting new people!

I will definitely be doing more with caramelised white chocolate soon – Emma’s gorgeous eclairs are high on the list, but I’m sure there are countless recipes calling for normal white chocolate that could be improved with caramelisation…

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes (inspired by Poires au Chocolat and What Rachel Ate)

Makes 9 cupcakes

  • 115g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water
  • 115g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the icing:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 140g icing sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water

Beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg and dissolved coffee. Sift in the flour and baking powder, fold to combine and then divide between 9 large cupcake cases, in a cupcake/muffin tin. Bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and springy. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the caramelised white chocolate, roughly chop the chocolate and place in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Place on the middle shelf of your oven and cook at 150 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes – it should start to turn golden and caramelise and go delicious. Once it’s a nice caramel colour, stir in 1/2 tsp salt and transfer to a bowl to cool.

To make the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the caramelised white chocolate. Spread half of this over the cupcakes, then gradually add in the coffee to the remaining icing, tasting until it reaches a nice strength (if it makes the icing too runny, you can always add more icing sugar). Pipe the coffee icing in small swirls on top of the cupcakes, then serve.

Triple chocolate cookies

Triple chocolate cookies

When it comes to eating shop-bought snacks and baked goods, I can be very particular – if I’m going to splurge on calories and sugar it has to be worth it, and more often than not anything that comes in a packet isn’t.

At my work we have a fairly well stocked biscuit tin, but it’s very rare that I’ll have anything from it as I just don’t see biscuits as a worthwhile indulgence. I also think there’s something slightly disturbing about a biscuit that has a shelf life of months, if not years – I dread to think what’s in it that keeps it fresh!

The one type of biscuits I do like, although still buy very rarely, is cookies. As in the big, chewy, American-style ones, that come from the bakery section rather than the biscuit aisle , or, my absolute favourite, from Millies Cookies.

Even with those I’m still pretty fussy though – I like standard chocolate chip cookies, milk, white or dark, but definitely not anything fancy like toffee or rolos or smarties, and definitely not double or triple chocolate. Nope, plain flavour dough all the way, get those sinister looking dark cookies out of here right now, they’re not for me. No way.

Until now.

I made these on the request of the pony, who complained that I’d never made chocolate cookies with chocolate dough. As most of what I bake is eaten by him anyway, I thought it was a reasonable enough request, and after the success of the thick and chewy cookies I made a few weeks ago decided to use a recipe from Edd Kimber’s ‘The Boy Who Bakes’, adapting chocolate and cherry cookies to be chocolate and more chocolate cookies.

I was fully expecting to be pretty indifferent about these, but I was so wrong. I think, maybe, they are the best cookies I have made to date, beating every one of the plain flavour dough recipes I’ve tried.

These cookies are addictive – I initially halved the recipe to make 12 cookies, but had to mix up another batch just two days later when they’d all been eaten (I ate two, the pony ten…)

I honestly can’t recommend this recipe strongly enough – even if you think you wont like them, you will! Promise!

Triple chocolate cookies (adapted from The Boy Who Bakes)

Makes 12, but you’ll probably want to double, or triple, or quadruple it…

  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg
  • 65g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped

Beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy – because it’s quite a high ratio of sugar to butter this will take a few minutes, but stick with it. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt and fold into the mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, then finally add in the chopped dark and white chocolate, folding until the chocolate is evenly distributed. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour, to make the cookies easier to shape.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (mine were about 40g each) and roll into balls. Place six of the balls spaced a couple inches apart on a lined baking sheet, then bake at 180 degrees for around 13 minutes, or until the dough has spread and cracked and is just starting to crisp around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for as long as you can, then dive in and enjoy.

Almost healthy carrot cake

Almost healthy carrot cake

Carrot cake is definitely one of my favourite cakes (despite not being able to comprehend why anyone could like it up until the age of about 20).

Moist yet light in texture, richly flavoured with a subtle blend of spices and a little sweetness coming through from the carrot, studded with either deliciously sweet bursts of dried fruit or the crunch of nuts, and finished with my favourite topping, cream cheese icing – what’s not to like?

Well, unfortunately there is one thing – the calorie and fat content. Healthy it may sound, but traditional carrot cake recipes have equal amounts of sugar and oil which kind of balance out any goodness coming from the carrots, and cream cheese icing just can’t be done low-cal.

My go-to carrot cake recipe is great, but I wanted to have a go at making a lightened up version that wouldn’t contain half a day’s calories in a single slice. I was also inspired by the arrival of my Riverford veg box, which was a lovely follow on from the lunch at Riverford Field Kitchen I attended a few weeks ago.

Usually costing £12.95 for what they call a small box of all organic, seasonal produce, I thought it was great value. Mine contained a cauliflower, two broccolis, a punned of chestnut mushrooms, a giant butternut squash, about 8 onions, a sack of potatoes – and lots of carrots.

So how did I lighten up my carrot cake? Well to start with, I used the classic Jedi mind trick of changing the shape of the cake from a two-tiered round to a one-layer square, meaning you can cut yourself a bigger slice, without actually eating as much. I made 2/3 the amount of cake, but cut it into the same number of pieces – obvious, right?

I then switched the vegetable oil, which would have been 1,800 calories, for a combination of low-fat creme fraiche, semi-skimmed milk and melted light butter spread, which came in at just 425 calories.

Instead of full fat cream cheese icing, I made a lemon flavoured whipped white chocolate ganache, made with more low fat creme fraiche – perfectly rich and creamy with a bit of a tang, but almost half the calories (790) of the original (1,500).

Using an 8×8″ tin and cutting it into 12 bars, each slice of cake had 255 calories. The original version, cut into 12 slices, would have been 635 calories, so it’s safe to say that this recipe is quite a bit of an improvement, and it lost nothing in taste or texture.

I quite often try to lighten up recipes where I can (although sometimes pure indulgence is the only thing that will do) – does anyone else have any top tips? Let me know!

Lighter carrot cake (adapted from here, original recipe from Breakfast by the Sea)

  • 200g carrots, grated
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 75g light butter spread (I used Clover Light), melted
  • 75g low fat creme fraiche (I used Weightwatchers)
  • 50ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 40g sultanas

For the icing

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 50g low fat creme fraiche
  • 50g lemon curd

Whisk the sugar, melted butter, creme fraiche, milk eggs and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the grated carrots. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices, then fold into the mixture. Finally, stir in the sultanas and pour into an 8×8″ square greased and lined baking tin. Bake at 170 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour, checking to make sure it’s risen, springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, finely chop the chocolate and place in a small heatproof bowl. Heat the creme fraiche in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour it over the white chocolate (don’t worry if the creme fraiche splits, it will come back together again later) and stir until the chocolate has completely melted.

Place the small bowl inside a larger bowl, half filled with cold water, being careful not to get any water into the chocolate. Using an electric whisk, whisk the mixture until it starts to cool and whips up into medium peaks. Fold in the lemon curd, then either spread on top of the cake straight away or chill in the fridge if you want it a little bit thicker.

Cut into bars and serve, guilt free!

Cranberry and white chocolate cookies

Cranberry white chocolate cookies

Cranberry and white chocolate is a classic combination, with the slight bitterness of the cranberries being the perfect foil for the sweetness of the white chocolate, and putting them together in a cookie is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I’m also constantly in search of the perfect chewy cookie recipe, and although I have another REALLY good one to post soon, I think the dough for these is possibly the best I’ve made so far.

The cookies turned out just how I like – soft, chewy, puffy and with just the right amount of bite. I think I was a bit stingy on the chocolate and cranberries though, I used what I had in the cupboard but if I made them again I think I would up the quantities of both, by half again.

The recipe for these comes from Table for Two, and if my recommendation isn’t enough to make you want to bake them, TfT’s pictures will, I can promise you! They look so tempting that I made them within a month of bookmarking the recipe, which pretty much never happens…

Cranberry and white chocolate cookies (adapted from Table for Two)

Makes 24

  • 60g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 60g dried cranberries

Beat the butter to soften then add both sugars and cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and milk and beat again until fully combined, then sift in the flour, bicarb and salt and fold to combine. Stir in the chocolate and cranberries and then chill the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Roll the chilled dough into 24 balls – I weighed mine to make sure they’re all the same but that’s probably not necessary! Place spaced out on a baking sheet (I had to do this in 4 batches of 6) and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 12 minutes – keep an eye on them though, you want to take them out when they are golden but still soft in the middle.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. They do taste incredible warm though, so don’t feel obliged to wait!

As this was one of the rare occasions I actually make something I have bookmarked rather than just adding it to my huge to-bake like, I’m entering these cookies to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes. Hopefully I’ll get through a few more of my list this month as well!

bookmarked recipes new logo

Lemon blueberry cake

Lemon Blueberry Cake

The inspiration for this cake came from a Clandestine Cake Club event I was hoping to attend, but ended up being postponed to a date I couldn’t make – I had already made the sponge before I found out so I thought I might as well carry on and bring it into work instead!

The theme was to bake a cake inspired by art, and I was planning to recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night in cake form. I chose lemon and blueberry because I thought the inside would reflect the colours of the icing, plus it’s a combination I love anyway.

I thought a Starry Night cake might be a little OTT for my colleagues, and so instead I had my first go at ‘ombre’ style graduated colour, going from pale yellow in the centre to a bright sunshine yellow at the edge.

For a first attempt I was pretty impressed with how it turned out! I used a lemon buttercream with added white chocolate, which I find makes a better textured icing than regular buttercream and is a lot easier to work with.

The juicy bursting blueberries inside looked and tasted exactly how I imagined. I’m sad I didn’t get to share this cake with everyone at Cake Club, but it’s a recipe I would definitely make again, and an icing technique I look forward to experimenting with more.

Lemon Blueberry Cake (adapted from Domestic Adventure)

  • 150g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 210g plain flour
  • 20g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 200g blueberries, fresh or frozen

For the icing:

  • 75g butter
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 50g white chocolate, melted
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • Yellow gel food colouring

Start by beating the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – because there’s quite a high ratio of sugar to butter I found I needed to add a splash of the milk to bring it together but you might not find that necessary. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, then the lemon zest and juice. Sift together the flour, cornflour powder and add to the mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, so it’s – flour, milk, flour, milk, flour.

Whisk the egg whites until they stand in peaks, then fold into the cake mix a third at a time. Make sure no white bits are left but be careful not to overmix. Finally fold the blueberries through the batter and spread into a greased and lined 8″ round cake tin, and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour at 170 degrees, or until nicely golden, springy and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and juice, then the melted white chocolate. If you’re not icing the cake straight away, leave the icing covered on the worktop – if you put it in the fridge it will set too hard because of the chocolate.

Spread a thin layer of icing all over the cake to crumb-coat, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

To create the graduated colour effect, start by spreading a small circle of uncoloured icing in the centre on top of the cake. Add a little yellow food colouring to the remaining icing until it’s a shade or two darker, then spread a ring of icing overlapping the inner circle. Add a little more yellow colouring, then spread another circle – repeat, going a shade or two darker each time, until you reach the edge of the cake and it’s a nice bright yellow. Use the leftover icing to cover the sides of the cake, then transfer to a serving plate and cut into nice big wedges!

Grasshopper squares

These grasshopper squares have been on my to-bake list for an incredibly long time, but I think I’ve always been a bit put off by the ingredients list – 250g dark chocolate, 200g white chocolate, peppermint extract, green food colouring all bought in one go would be a bit expensive for one batch of brownies!

This week I found myself with a bar each of dark chocolate and milk chocolate that had gone unused the week before, I had peppermint extract leftover from making homemade after eights as Christmas gifts, and green food colouring going back to the crocodile cake I made ages ago, so it seemed fated that it was finally time to give grasshopper squares a go.

I adapted the recipe a bit, more to keep the calorie count down than the cost, and reduced the amounts of chocolate – these are still incredibly rich even when cut into smaller squares than the recipe suggests so I definitely don’t think you miss out on any of the chocolatey goodness by using less!

I though 2 tsp of mint extract would be too overpowering so I added it bit by bit, but actually it was fine and I think I even added a little extra. I changed the top layer to be pure chocolate so it would have a bit of bite to it rather than having three soft layers and I think that worked well too, although it does make them a bit harder to cut neatly.

The pony loves these, and I have to admit I do too – I don’t normally go for things this chocolatey but the mint pulls it all together and makes them rather addictive!

I’m glad I finally got around to making them, and I have a feeling they will be made again…

Grasshopper squares (adapted from BBC Good Food)

For the brownies:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 15g cocoa powder

For the topping:

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 50ml single cream
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract
  • green gel food colouring
  • 125g dark chocolate

Start by melting the dark chocolate and butter for the brownies together and set aside to cool. Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy, then pour in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake at 170 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cracking at the edges but just set in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin while you make the topping.

Heat the cream until just starting to simmer, then pour over the white chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and then add in the peppermint extract to taste and enough green food colouring to turn it a pale minty green (I thought I’d added too much green but once it was sandwiched between two dark chocolate layers it was toned down a bit). When the mixture has thickened but it still pourable spread over the brownie base and chill in the fridge to firm up.

Melt the dark chocolate, stirring regularly and checking to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Working quickly, spread over the mint layer – because it’s been in the fridge it will make the dark chocolate set really fast. Cut into squares using a hot knife then store in the fridge. If they last long enough that is!

Gingerbread truffles

Gingerbread truffles

More truffles! I’m a big fan of making truffles to go in Christmas hampers as they’re quick, easy, keep well and look pretty packaged up in cellophane bags with festive ribbons.

My first attempt at making these wasn’t perfect – the original recipe from Love and Olive Oil calls for unsulphered molasses, which I swapped for dark treacle, and although I quite liked it I think it would have been too strong for most tastes.

For my second attempt I used just a teaspoon of treacle and swapped the rest for golden syrup, which made a much sweeter, milder dough. Coated in white chocolate, it’s the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, and it’s a good job I gave most of them away or I would have been eating them by the handful!

one ingredient ginger

I’m entering these for the December One Ingredient Challenge, hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen and Laura at How to Cook Good Food. Nazima picked ginger as the festive ingredient, although I have to say it’s one of my favourite flavours and I like to enjoy it all year round!

Gingerbread Truffles (recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

  • 30g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dark treacle
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp (20ml) golden syrup
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • pinch salt
  • 150g white chocolate

Beat together the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup until light and fluffy. Sift together all the dry ingredients, then fold into the dough until it comes together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, before rolling into small balls (about 1.5cm diameter). Place spaced on on a piece of baking paper and transfer to the freezer for a further 30 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring after 30 seconds and again at 10 second intervals after that, until completely melted but not hot. Remove the truffles from the freezer and use two forks to roll in the melted chocolate, then place on another baking sheet to set. Repeat until all the truffles have been coated. Because the truffle mix has been in the freezer, the chocolate will set quickly and they don’t need to go in the fridge, just leave them an hour or so before packaging/eating.