Blueberry cheesecake brownies

Along with the peanut butter cup rocky road, which went down a storm, I also made these blueberry cheesecake brownies for my American-themed party last weekend.

The original idea was something red, white and blue, so I thought that red velvet cheesecake brownies with a few blueberries thrown in would do the job perfectly.

Unfortunately, I seem to be incapable of making a red velvet anything that actually turns out red.

This time I used Dr Oetker gel colouring, in the past I’ve tried liquid food colouring and even beetroot for a natural version, but nothing seems to produce the vibrant red I’m after. If anyone has any top tips of the best colouring to use, please let me know, I am determined to crack it one day!

Anyway, despite being more mahogany than red, I was actually quite happy with these – the brownie layer was fudgy, the cheesecake layer was distinct, and the flavours all worked well together.

An added bonus of making these is that they reminded me just how amazing blueberries are to bake with, so you can expect to see a few more blueberry treats coming soon!

Blueberry cheesecake brownies (adapted from Foodtastic Mom)

For the brownie layer:

  • 115g butter
  • 55g dark chocolate
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp salt

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100g blueberries

Start by melting the butter and chocolate together in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food colouring together until light and fluffy, then add the chocolate butter mixture and beat until combined. Sift in the flour and salt, fold into the mix, and then spread into an 8×8″ square tin, greased and lined.

For the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth, then pour over the brownie mix. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly on top, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for about 35-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake has just set but still has a slight wobble. Leave to cool completely, then slice into bars and keep in the fridge until serving.

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!

Apple, maple and pecan bars

When I had to make cakes for a work meeting the other week, I knew straight away that coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes would be on the menu, but choosing a second bake proved a little trickier.

The pony thought I should stick with something simple (read: chocolate) and a straw poll in the office put cheesecake in with a shout, but in the end I was swayed by the incredible looking maple, pear and pecan treacle tarts posted by the Little Loaf, and ended up adapting that recipe to make these bars.

I turned it into a traybake as I was a bit short on time and didn’t want to faff around lining individual tart tins,  slightly altered the ratio of maple to golden syrup to keep the cost down, and swapped pear for apple, just because.

These bars actually made me quite nervous – I thought they were great but I really didn’t know how well they would go down with everyone else.

Luckily I needn’t have worried as they were a winner – the lunchers loved them and my boss even said they would be in his top 3 pick of everything I’ve ever baked, which is a pretty good endorsement!

I served them at room temperature, which was good as it was actually a rare sunny day, but I can only imagine how amazing they would be warm with a scoop of ice cream on a chilly autumn or winter evening… Definitely worth revisiting the recipe to try!

Apple, maple and pecan bars (adapted from The Little Loaf)

For the pastry:

  • 65g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1 medium egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 35g butter
  • 150g maple syrup
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 150g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 granny smith apple (115g) grated
  • 50g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

To make the pastry, beat the butter and sugar until well mixed, add the egg yolk and beat again, then finally add the flour and mix until just combined. Tip the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin and press down with your fingertips – this is loads easier than rolling it out and a method I will definitely use more in the future!

Prick the base with a fork and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes while the oven pre-heats to 180 degrees, then bake for around 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Leave to cool while you make the filling.

Heat the butter, maple syrup and golden syrup until melted (you don’t need to bring it to the boil, just get everything nice and liquidy). Stir in the breadcrumbs, grated apple and chopped pecans, then spread in an even layer on top of the base.

Return to the oven and bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until set and just crisping up around the edges. Leave to cool before slicing into bars.

Strawberries and cream bars

These are another of the bakes I made for our bank holiday barbecue (still 2 more to go!) and were chosen because no British summer event is really complete without strawberries cream in one form or another.

I had the original recipe for these from Cookies and Cups bookmarked on Pinterest for ages, so this seemed like the perfect occasion to give them a go before the strawberry season sadly comes to an end.

I changed the recipe up a bit because I didn’t want to use a boxed cake mix, and ended up using the same recipe for the base and crumb that I used as the base for my Millionaire’s Shortbread so I could make both at once.

It worked pretty well and the bars turned out great – they tasted just like strawberry cheesecake, looked really pretty, and were even relatively low calorie – 160 if you cut them into 12 pieces.

They would also work well with other fruits – I’m particularly thinking blueberry – so may have to try a few more versions…

Strawberries and cream bars (adapted from Cookies and Cups)

  • 165g flour
  • 130g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 200g strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the base/crumb, rub the butter into the flour to create a breadcrumb-like mix, then stir in the sugar. Press about 2/3 of this into the base of an 8×8″ square tin, lined with baking paper, and bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until starting to turn golden.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. When the base is done, pour the cream cheese mixture on top, scatter the chopped strawberries all over, and finish by sprinkling clumps of the rest of the crumb mixture on top.

Return to the oven for another 30-40 minutes, until the cream cheese mixture is set and the crumb is golden. Leave to cool before slicing into bars, and serve chilled.

No-bake chocolate oat bars

I don’t know if it shows from reading this blog, but a lot of things I make involve  ‘bars’, chocolate and/or oats.

The reason for this is the friendly pony’s need for sustenance at work, in the form of something sweet, easy to eat, and that won’t get destroyed by being carried around in a bag all day.

These bars are absolutely perfect for that, as in addition to having everything mentioned above, they are also unbelievably simple to make!

Essentially, they are flapjacks that don’t need baking, with a nutty chocolate mixture spread on top – laden with calories, just what the greedy friendly pony likes.

No bake chocolate oat bars (adapted from Gingerbread Bagels):

  • 1/2 cup packed muscovado sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup Nutella

Line an 8×8″ square tin with baking paper, no need to grease. Heat the butter and sugar together over a low heat until the butter has melted. Stir in the oats and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Spread the mixture into the tin and flatten down with a wooden spoon or bottom of a measuring cup.

Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl with the peanut butter and Nutella (the original recipe uses just peanut butter, but I didn’t have enough which is why I went for half and half – peanut butter on it’s own or Nutella on it’s own would both work fine!) Microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between, until the chocolate has just melted – be careful not to let it burn! Pour onto the oaty base, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before slicing into bars.

Caramel crumble bars

Continuing with the recent crumb/crumble theme, I introduce these caramel crumble bars. Essentially millionaires shortbread, but with a crumble topping rather than chocolate.

I found the recipe on Baked Perfection, and pretty much kept it the same apart from adding a drizzle of dark chocolate on top. I should have just stuck with the original, as the chocolate didn’t really stick to the crumb topping and fell off quite easily…

I won’t bother re-typing the original as it’s perfectly well explained here, but I would definitely recommend trying it as they were pretty tasty!

Peanut butter chocolate chip crumble oat bars

‘Peanut butter chocolate chip crumble oat bars’ is a bit of a mouthful to say, and these bars were definitely a bit of a mouthful to eat.

I made this as an alternative to the friendly pony’s usual flapjacks as a high calorie, sugar rush, energy boost.

The base is a cross between flapjack and shortbread, with a layer of fudgy peanut butter on top and finished with a chocolate chip crumble.

They are super rich, and you need a really sweet tooth to eat a whole one, but the pony loved them, and I enjoyed the odd nibble here and there. They’re a bit more time consuming and need more ingredients than flapjacks (not to mention the sky high calorie count) so I’m not sure I’ll make them that regularly, but they definitely make an awesome occasional treat.


Peanut butter chocolate chip crumble oat bars (adapted from 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats):

  • 225g butter
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 350g light brown sugar
  • 175g oats
  • 70g chopped peanuts
  • 1 egg
  • 200g milk chocolate chunks
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks
  • 400g tin condensed milk
  • 70g crunchy peanut butter

Rub together the flour, baking powder and butter with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs, then mix in the sugar, peanuts and oats. Transfer a quarter of the mix into a separate bowl, add in the chocolate chunks and set aside. Add the beaten egg to the remaining 3/4 of the mix then press into a 12×8″ tin. Bake at 180 for 15 minutes.

While the base is baking, mix together the condensed milk and peanut butter. When the base comes out the oven, spread the peanut butter mix over the top, then sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes, the leave to cool before cutting into bars. This made 10 friendly pony sized bars, but would make 20 very reasonable sized squares easily.

Lemon Bars

Lemon bars have been on my to-bake list for a while now, and what better occasion to make them for than a sunny (ha!) summer barbecue.

I had quite a few recipes bookmarked, but went for this one as they’re described as ‘perfect’…

As you can see from the pictures, these turned out nothing like the originals, in looks at least.

I cooked the shortbread for a lot longer as it wasn’t browning, and I couldn’t really work out if the filling was cooked or not, which I think led to it boiling a bit around the edges, and looking a bit messy.

Taste wise though, these were amazing – if you’re the kind of person who can happily eat lemon curd straight from the jar, then these are for you.

Tangy lemon, sweet sugar, and a bit of crunch to hold it all together – not perfect but pretty damn tasty!

Lemon bars (recipe courtesy of Baking Bites):

Crust:

  • 1 and a half cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup butter
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until it comes together as breadcrumbs. Press down into 9×9″ foil lined baking tin (I find using the bottom of a measuring cup works well for this). Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden.
Filling:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and a third cups caster sugar
  • juice of 6 lemons
Whisk all the ingredients together, then pour onto the base as soon as it comes out of the oven. Put back in the oven and bake for a until set. The original recipe states 20 minutes, but I probably left it for closer to 30. Having never made lemon bars before I still don’t really know what’s correct! Dust liberally with icing sugar before serving.

Chocolate caramel shortbread

This week the friendly pony decided to take a break from dinosaur flapjacks (usually at least one is consumed per day) and tasked me to make something else.

I decided to make something I don’t particularly like, so I wouldn’t be so tempted to steal some for myself. As much as I would love to be able to eat baked goods all the time, it really wouldn’t be good for my waistline!

I decided on chocolate caramel shortbread, because caramel is a bit too sickly for me, but perfect for the pony’s sweet tooth.

I had a few problems making this, firstly that it called for a 9×9″ tray, which I don’t have. I improvised by creating a foil barrier in a rectangle tray, which actually surprised me and worked!

The shortbread itself is absolute simplicity to make so no problems there, but when it came to the caramel I came a bit unstuck.

I very gently heated all the ingredients with no problem, but the recipe then said to bring it to the boil, which immediately caused it to burn on the bottom of the saucepan, no matter how furiously I stirred. I took it off the heat, passed it through a sieve to get rid of the brown bits, then started again in a different saucepan on a lower heat. Frustratingly the same thing happened again and I have absolutely no idea why, so i repeated the sieve procedure, then heated for a THIRD time until it was finally thick enough.

It didn’t quite reach the golden brown colour I was hoping for, and did have a few brown specks in if you look closely, but it was good enough.

Patience is definitely not one of my virtues, so I put the tray in the freezer to firm up so I could get the chocolate on as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this meant that the chocolate set super quick so I couldn’t spread it as neatly as I would of liked, and it had a slightly matt finish instead of being glossy.

Nonetheless, I think these bars turned out ok – the pony declared them ‘NICE!’ and certainly hasn’t had a problem getting through them…

Chocolate caramel shortbread (from 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats):

  • 115g butter
  • 115g plain flour
  • 55g caster sugar
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it goes past the breadcrumbs stage and starts to come together. Flatten down into a greased and lined 9×9″ tin and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, until just golden.
  • 175g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 3tbsp golden syrup
  • 400ml tin condensed milk
  • 200g dark chocolate
Place all the ingredients apart from the chocolate in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then simmer until thick and golden (in an ideal world!) stiring constantly. Pour on top of the shortbread base, and leave in the fridge to set.
Melt the chocolate over simmering water then spread over the caramel. Cut into squares before putting back in the fridge, as the chocolate will be easier to cut and won’t crack.

Dinosaur Flapjacks

This week, the friendly pony (who you will notice appears a lot in my baking stories) took to the kitchen. He wanted to create something sweet and delicious that would give him an energy boost before cycling home from work and could also be frozen.

He decided on flapjacks, decided the key ingredients would be oats, peanuts and chocolates, and asked me to work out the rest.

I adapted a recipe for chocolate hazelnut flapjacks from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies and Other Tempting Treats (a Christmas present from the pony himself).

We basically double the base amounts of oats, butter, syrup and flour, and threw in extra nuts and chocolate – because they’re the tastiest bit.

This recipe made 12 fairly large flapjacks in an oven roasting tin, so I reckon half the amount would fill a 10×10″ square and maybe make 9.

(PS, the name ‘dinosaur flapjacks’ doesn’t really have much to do with the finished bars, but it’s what the pony wanted to call them.)

Chocolate and peanut flapjacks

Ingredients:

  • 400g oats
  • 200g peanuts
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g plain flour
  • 250g butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 180g light brown muscovado sugar
Method:
  • Heat the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool for a bit then mix in all of the dry ingredients
  • Spread the mixture evenly into a greased and lined tin, then bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until it feels firm to the touch.
  • Leave to cool a little before cutting into squares, then chill in the fridge until set.