Top 10 posts of 2011

So I’ve seen quite a few bloggers listing their top 10 most popular posts of the previous year, and I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and do the same.

I only started this blog in April, so it isn’t a full year’s worth of baking, but I’ve been literally amazed by the number of people who have visited and viewed my posts – seeing it go up month on month has been pretty exciting!

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit, read, and comment – hope you’ve all had a great 2011 as well!

Top 10 posts of 2011

10: Chilli Chocolate Orange Torte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9: Coconut and Raspberry Loaf Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8: Camp Coffee Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7: Nutella Swirl Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6: White Chocolate Raspberry Rose Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5: Malteser Birthday Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4: 1,000 Calorie Chocolate Caramel Lion Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3: Apricot and White Chocolate Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2: Super Chocolate Gateau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1: Frangipane Mince Pies

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Food Bloggers Unplugged

I’m a bit slow on the uptake with this, but earlier in the week Suelle at Mainly Baking tagged me to take part in ‘Food Bloggers Unplugged’ – a way of bloggers letting their readers know a bit more about themselves.

As Suelle described me as “the entity that is hingryhinny”, I think it’s fair to say I don’t give too much away about myself – so here is a rare glimpse into the world of the hungry hinny!

What, or who, inspired you to start a blog?

I’ve had several short-lived blogs in the past, but decided to start one to document my adventures in baking, mainly to keep a record of everything I make. I also wanted to have an opportunity to write, as I trained as a journalist but don’t work as one!

Who is your foodie inspiration?

I’m not sure I could pick any one person, I’ve always liked baking and cooking in general, but I guess as most of what I make is eaten by my other half, the friendly pony, he’s probably the biggest influence in what I bake – and the reason it so frequently includes chocolate!

Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?

Chocolate, by Joanne Farrow. I’ve had it for years, when I was younger it was pretty much the only book I baked from, and I think pretty much every recipe I’ve tried from it has turned out brilliantly!

Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Although I’ve eaten loads of great meals abroad, the stand-out one would have to be from visiting Rome earlier this year. On my birthday we went to a restaurant called Il Chianti, near the Trevi fountain, where I discovered for the first time the amazingness of ‘Cacio e Pepe’ (spaghetti with cheese and black pepper) followed by the best tiramisu I have ever eaten. I wish I go could go back and have it again right now…

Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?

That’s such a hard question, every day I see amazing looking food on loads of different blogs – I refuse to choose!

What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

My kitchen is woefully under-equipped, so there are quite a few things I would like… I know Santa (aka my dad) is getting me a set of knives, and ex-Mrs Claus (aka my mum) is getting me a new frying pan – aside from that I’d quite like a super large baking tray for biscuits and cookies and maybe some new cake tins in different sizes and shapes and an oven thermometer…

Who taught you how to cook?

My mum and dad have both taught me bits and pieces – my dad actually works as a cook but thinks I’m too slow in the kitchen so loses patience easily – but most neither of them are massively into cakes and sweet baking so a lot of that comes from books and tv chefs.

I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

I don’t really have a signature as such, but I have had one of my recipes published in a charity cookbook so I suppose I would go for that – vegetarian enchiladas. For dessert, definitely a cheesecake, by far the most requested dessert by my family and the one that gets the best feedback!

What is your guilty food pleasure?

Nutella straight from the jar, it’s just so addictive…

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Bit embarrassing, but despite spending as much time in the kitchen as I do, there are 3 fairly basic things I can’t do – boil, fry or poach an egg…

So now I’ve revealed all about myself, it’s time for me to tag 5 more people to take part in Food Bloggers unplugged. I know a lot of the blogs I read have already done it, but hopefully these people haven’t – although by no means does this mean you are obliged to take part!

A baking disaster

The main reason for me starting this blog was to keep a record of everything I bake, not to try and show the world what an amazing baker I am.

Which is why I am going to overcome my embarrassment to share the following pictures, of a certified baking disaster.

This should have been my entry for the November We Should Cocoa challengeToffee Apple Millionaires Shortbread. Sounds nice, right?

Well it probably would have been, but somewhere along the line something went wrong, and this is what happened when I tried to cut the bars:

Yep, that’s one huge, sloppy embarrassing mess. I don’t know if the caramel was just to thin to start with, or if the chocolate was too hot and made it split, but it is most definitely a disaster, and will not be my We Should Cocoa entry!

If anyone has tried this recipe and succeeded, please let me know what I might have done wrong!

Raspberry Rose Jam

I’ve wanted to make my own jam for a while, but have always been a bit put off by the fact it’s WAY cheaper to buy.

I finally decided it to do it this week, in preparation for my entry to the August We Should Cocoa challenge, the theme of which is rose.

I found this recipe for raspberry and rose water jam, which appealed because it didn’t require any specialist equipment or my own body weight in fruit and sugar.

The recipe is really simple, but calls for heating the sugar in the oven before using. I was a bit doubtful about this, and was proved right as the sugar started to caramelise and was unusable. As I’d already started boiling the raspberries I just threw in some more sugar straight from the packet, and to be honest I can’t really see any negative effect this has had.

This jam has so far been used on scones and as the filling for a very special victoria sponge, which will be blogged about soon. It will also be used in my We Should Cocoa entry which I’ll be baking later this week!

Raspberry Rose Jam (adapted from Waitrose’s recipe):

  • 500g raspberries (I used frozen, defrosted)
  • 500g jam sugar
  • 2 tsp rose essence
Place the clean jars you are going to use in the oven on a low temperature (I filled one large and one small jar). Gently heat the raspberries in a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and add in the sugar and rose essence. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring back to the boil for another 10 minutes. Test if the jam is ready by pouring a little on to a cold plate, leave it a couple of second then tip the plate. If the jam doesn’t run then it’s ready! Pout into the pre-heated jars and leave to cool.

Apricot and white chocolate cookies – We Should Cocoa

This is a special month in my baking world, as it will be my first attempt at a We Should Cocoa challenge.

We Should Cocoa is alternately hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot and Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, and each month an ingredient is picked to be paired with chocolate.

The July challenge hosted by Chele was apricots, which was a funny coincidence as my first post of the month was an apricot upside down cake (no chocolate included though).

I had planned to use fresh apricots, but when I discovered that 4 apricots cost £2.60, I had to think again and went for dried!

It took me a while to decide what to bake, and several ideas came up including the Moro chocolate apricot tart or some sort of muffins, but I settled on these white chocolate and apricot shortbread cookies.

I was intrigued by the idea of a cookie dough made with cream cheese, and as I had some left over from the Nutella cheesecake squares it seemed perfect.

At first the dough was a bit too sticky to properly roll into balls, and the resulting cookies were a bit mis-shapen and brown around the edges.

For the second batch though the dough had been in the fridge for 20 minutes and I used a bit of flour to roll them, and being actual ball shapes definitely seemed to make a difference to how they cooked.

The cookies were soft, a bit chewy and the white chocolate and apricot worked really well together. I personally liked the first batch which had a bit more crunch, but the friendly pony thought the soft ones were perfect, and is keen for them to be made again.

Thanks to We Should Cocoa for inspiring me to make these!

Apricot and white chocolate cookies (adapted from La Fuji Mama’s recipe)

(Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 4oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots
Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the cream cheese. Stir in the flour, apricots and chocolate until combined. Chill in the fridge if necessary, then roll into balls on a floured surface. Place well spaced out on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 160 degrees. Leave to cool until firm enough to move to a wire rack, then enjoy!

My ‘to-bake’ list

I am at a bit of a loss at the minute as my computer, along with all my baking photos, has been shipped off to the apple hospital for a bit of minor  surgery.

This means for the next week or so I won’t be able to update with any of the things I’ve been baking (including a malteser birthday cake, snickers brownies and nutella cheesecake – hello tooth decay!).

To keep myself busy I’ve decided to compile a list of all the things I’ve always wanted to make and not quite got round to – a sort of ‘bucket list’ of baking I suppose.

I’m planning on updating this list every time I see or think of a new recipe, and hopefully it’ll be a useful go-to when I can’t decide what to make.

My to-bake list:

Cakes

  • Coconut nutella cake
  • Carrot Cake
  • Chocolate orange cake
  • White chocolate gateaux
  • Red velvet cake
  • Chocolate Torte
  • Marble cake

Bars / Biscuits

  • Blondies
  • Raspberry and white chocolate cookies
  • The PERFECT brownies
  • Hobnobs

Desserts

  • Tiramisu
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Chocolate fondants
  • Ice cream
  • Nutella tart
  • Baked alaska
  • Banoffee Pie

Other baking

  • Croissants
  • Tiger bread
  • Homemade Nutella
  • Coconut cream cheese icing
  • Profiteroles
  • Jam
  • Crumpets

There are probably loads of things I’ve completely forgotten about (especially as the loss of my computer also means the loss of all my bookmarked recipes!) so I will probably keep adding to this as I think of more.

If anyone has awesome recipes for the things I want to make, then please feel free to share!

Baked raspberry cheesecake

I have been massively slack in updating this blog recently, and have a huge backlog of things I’ve baked but not posted about yet. This cheesecake I actually made for my mum’s birthday on June 15th, over 2 weeks ago!

But, it was an awesome cheesecake, so better late than never.

If I had to pick one thing as my baking ‘speciality’, it would probably be cheesecake. I’ve been adapting one recipe for a couple of years and now have it down to an art, with WAY over-complicated cooking methods – but it is delicious.

My mum doesn’t like spongey cakes, so I knew for certain I would make her a cheesecake for her birthday (the big five-oh!) but it took me a while to decide on the flavour.

I was toying with the idea of a Lorraine Pascal white chocolate amaretto cheesecake, but instead decided to go for baked raspberry. I’ve made plenty before with raspberries on top, but never actually in the cheesecake mix, so I was excited to try something new.

I adapted the recipe from the BBC Good Food version, which had received rave reviews so I thought it was worth a go. Me and my mum both prefer a sponge base to a biscuit base though, so I made that the night before – making the whole cheesecake a 3 day effort…

Day 1

  • 60g butter
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 40g self raising flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Beat all the ingredients together in one go (as it isn’t particularly important for the cake to rise). Spread the mix into a 9″ round springform cake tin, lined with greaseproof paper, an bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees. Leave to cool for an hour or so, or overnight as I did.
Day 2
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 142ml pot sour cream
  • 200g raspberries
Beat all the ingredients apart from the raspberries in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the raspberries then pour the mix on top of the cooled sponge base. Place on a high shelf in the oven, with a baking tray with 1cm boiling water on the shelf underneath. Bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 110 degrees and cook for a further hour and a half. After an hour and a half, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in to cool, preferably overnight (this prevents cracking on top).
Day 3
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 100g white chocolate
  • icing sugar to taste
  • 15 raspberries
Melt the white chocolate over a low heat, then beat into the cream cheese. Sift in the icing sugar little by little until it reaches the right level of sweetness, then spread over the top of the cheesecake. Place the raspberries on top to decorate, then remove the whole thing from the tin. Serve and enjoy!
(Apologies for the hideous lighting, but the photos were rushed as my family were keen to eat!)

Healthy chocolate brownies – Does such a thing exist?!

If you’re thinking of baking something healthy, chocolate brownies probably won’t be the first thing that comes to mind. Or the second, or third, or fourth… But if nothing but the chocolateyist of treats will do, then really it has to be brownies – so if it’s possible to find a way of making them slightly less guilt-ridden then I’m all for it.

Ultimate low fat brownies by Angela Nilsen

Angela Nilsens Ultimate Brownies

Angela Nilsen has done a great series of ‘Ultimate Makeover’ recipes, taking similarly calorie laden delights and trying to make them a little bit healthier.

Her ‘ultimate’ chocolate brownies recipe, taken from the BBC Good Food site, uses some cocoa powder rather than all chocolate, and her secret ingredient is mayonnaise. I’ve heard of it being used in cooking before so when I read the ingredient list I wasn’t totally disgusted, but still… I was dubious.

I followed the recipe to the letter… apart from swapping muscovado sugar for plain light brown sugar, and making my own buttermilk by combining milk and lemon juice. You’ll come to see that it’s very rare I stick to a recipe exactly, which often backfires but in this case didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

The brownies turned out dark and sguidgy, although not with the crusty top I usually like to have. I’m also a fan of brownies with added chocolate chunks, but I suppose that would be asking too much from a ‘healthy’ version. They’re supposedly just 191 calories each…

The testers at work were impressed, apparently you’d never be able to guess they were low fat, and I’ve had requests to make them again, so all in all I’d say they were a success.

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies, low fat with mayonnaise

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 85g dark chocolate , chopped into small pieces
  • 85g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp coffee granules
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 100g mayonnaise (I used low fat supermarket brand)

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Pour enough water into a small pan to one-third fill it. Bring to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Put the chopped chocolate into a large bowl that will fit snugly over the pan without touching the water. Sit the pan over the water (still off the heat) and leave the chocolate to melt slowly for a few mins, stirring occasionally until it has melted evenly. Remove the bowl from the pan, then let the chocolate cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly oil and base-line a 19cm square cake tin that is 5cm deep. Combine the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda. Using a wooden spoon, stir both the sugars into the cooled chocolate with the coffee, vanilla and buttermilk. Stir in 1 tbsp warm water. Break and beat in the egg, then stir in the mayonnaise just until smooth and glossy. Sift over the flour and cocoa mix, then gently fold in with a spatula without overmixing.
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin, then gently and evenly spread it into the corners. Bake for 30 mins. When a skewer is inserted into the middle, it should come out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. If cooked too long, the mix will dry out; not long enough and it can sink. Leave in the tin until completely cold, then loosen the sides with a round-bladed knife. Turn out onto a board, peel off the lining paper and cut into 12 squares.