Cinnamon, milk and white chocolate cake

As I mentioned in my Happy New Year post last week, I made a cinnamon layer cake to take to my friends’ New Year’s Eve  party.

Although I took photos before being cut, I didn’t get any of the inside – normally this would mean that I just wouldn’t blog about it, but I liked the cake so much that I decided I would have to make it again so I could share it with you all.

The sponge recipe comes from The Novice Chef, via Beantown Baker, and is light, fluffy and richly scented with cinnamon and vanilla – everything you could want from a basic cinnamon cake.

For the icing, I was originally just going to do a white chocolate buttercream, but when I first made it I wasn’t sure if I would have enough to both sandwich the layers and cover the cake, so I also made a milk chocolate ganache which became the filling, leaving the buttercream to use as frosting.

The buttercream is sweet, for sure, but it works with the cinnamon, and the milk chocolate ganache is a little less sweet but not overpowering, as I think dark chocolate probably would have been.

I didn’t really need to decorate this cake as it was just for me, my housemates and colleagues, but an all-white cake doesn’t photograph brilliantly so I added some red sprinkles and gold dragees. I love the finish, but I can’t help but think it looks a little red velvet…

This cake is honestly one of my favourite bakes of recent months, and even if you’re not as much of a cinnamon fiend as me it’s still worth giving it a go – the fact I made it twice in a week is testament to how good it is!

Cinnamon, milk and white chocolate cake (adapted from The Novice Chef’s Churro Cake)

  • 115g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 60g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 125ml milk

For the filling and frosting:

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla, yoghurt and vegetable oil. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, then fold a third of it into the cake batter. Add half the milk, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk and finish by folding in the final third of the flour.

Divide the mixture between three greased and lined 6″ round cake tins, and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) until risen, golden and pulling away from the sides of the tins. Leave to cool while you make the fillings.

For the milk chocolate ganache, melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water. Add hot water a tablespoon at a time, whisking into the chocolate. t might not come together after the first spoonful, but even if it splits just keep whisking and it will be fine. Add about 3 tbsp, until it’s fairly liquid but still thick enough to cool to a spreadable consistency.

For the buttercream, melt the white chocolate, stir in the salt and set aside. Beat the butter and icing sugar until combined, then add in the white chocolate and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Spread the cooled milk chocolate ganache on top of the bottom and middle cake layers, stack all three layers, then spread a thin amount of the white buttercream all over to crumb coat. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides. Decorate with whatever you like – the more sprinkles the better!

Festive alfajores

So, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve gone and entered myself in ANOTHER baking competition. I just can’t stop!

I’m keeping it local this time though, with the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Christmas Bake Off. I’m representing the company I work for and two rounds into the competition, it seems to be going pretty well…

The way it works is there are four rounds, one per week, each with a different theme – biscuits, bread, pastry and cakes. There are nine bakers in the competition, and after getting a free pass in the first week three will be knocked out in weeks two and three, to leave three for the final.

Week one was biscuits, and for some reason I decided straight away that I wanted to make alfajores, with a festive twist.

Alfajores are an Argentinian/South American biscuit, made with cornflour so they’re quite dry and crumbly, flavoured with Pisco and sandwiched with dulce de leche.

For my version, I changed the flavour to vanilla and cinnamon, and as well as using straight up dulce de leche added a layer of white chocolate caramel. Over the top, me? No…

Add a star shaped cookie cutter, sprinkles and glitter, and you have one festive alfajore.

I didn’t quite manage to get the title of star baker with them, but I came second out of nine which I’m more than happy with! The bread round has also taken place now, but I’ll wait until I blog about the recipe before revealing how it went…

Festive Alfajores (adapted from Chow)

  • 115g cornflour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp saltt
  • 115g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

For the filling:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 100g(ish) more dulce de leche to sandwich

Mix together the cornflour, flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt. Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Roll the chilled dough out to the thickness of a pound coin, then cut out stars, circles, whatever. Re-roll the scraps and cut more shapes until all the dough has been used. Place spaced out on baking sheets lined with baking paper, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 9-11 minutes, or until just crisp and golden. Leave on the tray for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can decorate however you like – I used white royal icing, star and snowflake sprinkles, and white edible glitter for a nice festive sparkle! I only decorated the half that were going to be on top, but you could to top and bottom if you want.

For the filling, melt the white chocolate (microwave is fine if you stir often) then stir in the dulce de leche. You can buy the fancy stuff, or use tinned caramel, both work! The mixture might seize up a bit, but add the milk, stir, and reheat a little, and it should be fine. Leave to cool until thick enough to spread.

Turn the biscuits upside down, and spread the white chocolate caramel onto the undecorated bottom biscuits, and the dulce de leche onto the bake of the decorated tops. Sandwich them together and enjoy 🙂

tea time treats

I think these biscuits would make a great gift this Christmas, and so I’m entering them for the December Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted (sadly for the last time) by Kate at What Kate Baked (although Karen at Lavender and Lovage will be keeping the challenge going in the new year, yay!

Banana and cinnamon layer cake

Banana cinnamon layer cake

Right, I know I’ve been a bit rubbish at posting recently, but I have a huge backlog of things to write up so I am going to make a proper effort to make time and give you all some baking goodness!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been house sitting for my wonderful friend Jenny, and her two GORGEOUS cats, Lizzie and Ted. Before she left, she mentioned that there were a few bananas in the fruit bowl that she’d intended to make a cake with but hadn’t had the time, so I decided to let them keep ripening and make her a welcome home cake to use them up.

I’ve made a fair few banana loaves, which I love, but I wanted this to be a layer cake, with a light and fluffy texture rather than the more moist denseness of what you’d possibly consider banana ‘bread’.

After much research, there didn’t seem to be any real secret to producing such a lighter banana sponge, so I adapted my favourite loaf recipe simply by adding a little more milk, some extra baking powder and beating the butter and sugar to death to try and achieve the texture I wanted.

Luckily, it worked – baked in three 6″ round tins the sponges were indeed light and fluffy. I kept things simple and layered them with a cinnamon cream cheese icing, going with the ‘naked cake’ look which is apparently all the rage at the minute and is a lot less faff than icing the sides!

I am a bit of a cinnamon fiend so for me the icing was the perfect partner to the banana sponge, but if you’re not keen you could either stick with a plain cream cheese icing, or go for something like a chocolate buttercream which I imagine would be equally delicious.

Banana and cinnamon layer cake (adapted from this recipe, originally found in Green & Blacks Ultimate Chocolate Recipes)

  • 200g bananas, mashed (2 medium-ish)
  • 100g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50ml milk

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g cream cheese

Start by mashing the bananas well – the blacker and riper they are the easier this will be to do, mine had been on the counter for over a fortnight before baking with them).

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for at least 2-3 minutes to get a really light and fluffy base. Add the eggs one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl, then add the mashed bananas and beat again. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold half into the cake mixture. Stir in the milk, then fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Divide the cake batter between three 6″ round cake tins, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for abot 20 minutes, or until risen and golden. Leave to cool completely.

For the icing, beat the butter with the vanilla paste to soften, then sift together the icing sugar and cinnamon and add gradually to the butter. It probably will seem like it won’t come together, but add 25g of the cream cheese and keep beating and it should be fine. Add the rest of the cream cheese, then beat for a few minutes until thickened – don’t over mix. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

To assemble, trim the domes off the sponges to level, then spread a third of the icing on top of each sponge – you don’t need to be too neat, that’s the beauty of naked cakes! Slice and serve 🙂

Biscoff chocolate chip cookie showdown

Biscoff chocolate chip cookie showdown

I’m just going to come right out and say it – I have an addiction.

Normally, my will power is pretty good. A cake can be sat under a dome, and I can walk right by. A bar of chocolate can be open, I’ll eat 4 squares and leave it at that.

When it comes to Biscoff though (or Lotus caramelised biscuit spread to be precise), I go weak. I buy a jar, use half in a recipe, then within a few days the rest has been eaten by the spoonful.

Because of this, I decided that from now on whenever I open a jar for a recipe, I need to use it all at once. And that seemed like as good a reason as any to carry out a biscoff chocolate chip cookie comparison – a test of two very different recipes, to see which would turn out the best.

First up was one I bookmarked a white ago from Averie Cooks, for Softbatch Cookie Butter Brown Sugar Cookies. These didn’t have chocolate chips, but looked thick, puffy and delicious – surely the addition of chocolate could only make things better…

This recipe doesn’t use any butter, and only brown sugar, which naturally resulted in a darker cookie with a more toffee-like taste. It also adds extra cinnamon, which boosts the flavour of the Biscoff and is definitely a worthwhile addition.

My biggest issue with these was that the dough was very oily and not the easiest to work with, but the oiliness does disappear once they’re baked.

The first batch I baked were a little overdone, and ended up slightly on the crisp side, but they actually softened over the next couple of days, and the second batch cooked for a minute less were perfect.

The second recipe was this one, from Buttercream Fanatic. It uses a mix of butter and Biscoff, and combines light brown sugar with caster sugar. I didn’t bother rolling them in sugar, and couldn’t get cinnamon chips so used all chocolate (although I can only imagine how awesome they’d be with extra cinnamon).

This version baked a lot softer an chewier, and are much lighter in colour as you can see. I’m still a bit undecided on which look the best – the chocolate chips stand out more in these, but the darkness of the first ones reminds me of gingernuts, which I love…

Both of these cookies have their merits, and I liked them both. My dad preferred Buttercream Fanatic’s, my uncle liked Averie’s, and both batches that I took into work disappeared pretty swiftly!

I think my ideal Biscoff cookie might actually be a combination of both, using Buttercream Fanatic’s base recipe, but with all brown sugar and added cinnamon. I also think a combination of white and dark chocolate would work better than milk – which sounds like a pretty good excuse to make them again!

Biscoff chocolate chip cookie 1 (adapted from Averie Cooks)

  • 260g smooth caramelised biscuit spread
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 10g cornflour
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped

Beat the Biscoff, egg, vanilla paste and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (apparently over-beating can cause oiliness, so maybe that’s where I went wrong). Sift together the flour, cinnamon, bicarb and salt and then fold into the mixture. Finally, mix in the chopped chocolate and then roll into balls – I got 18 out of this batch, and weighed them so they were all the same. Flatten the balls down a little, and then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Place spaced out on a baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 8-9 minutes, or until the tops are just beginning to set – DON”T OVERBAKE! Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Biscoff chocolate chip cookie 2 (adapted from Buttercream Fanatic)

  • 55g butter
  • 100g smooth caramelised biscuit spread
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 75g milk chocolate, chopped

Beat together the butter and Biscoff, then add in both sugars and continue to beat until well mixed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again, then sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt and fold into the batter. Stir in the chopped chocolate, then either roll into balls if you can, or chill in the fridge first to firm it up a little, which is what I had to do. I got 12 cookies out of this batch.

The recipe says you don’t have to chill these, but I did to be on the safe side. Once chilled, place spaced out on a baking sheet, flatten down a little, and then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for approximately 10 minutes – they take longer than the first recipe, but you still don’t want to overcook them. Leave to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Autumn spiced butternut blondies

Autumn spiced butternut blondies

You’d possibly think after National Chocolate Week and Salon du Chocolat that I might want a tiny break from eating or thinking about chocolate – but if you do then you definitely don’t know me well enough!

Not only have I been munching on the goodies I brought back from the show, I also couldn’t resist orderinga chocolate brownie at dinner last night, bought a bar of salted caramel chocolate to get me through work this afternoon, and now I’m thinking back to these delicious blondies and wishing I still had one left to eat now.

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This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, regularly hosted by Choclette but this month hosted by Jibber Jabber, challenged everyone to make something chocolatey with vegetables.

Exactly one year ago I was the We Should Cocoa host and chose pumpkin or squash as the theme, but I have to say I wasn’t entirely happy with my bakes and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give it another go.

I’ve made a couple of different versions of butternut brownies, but this time decided to let the fabulous colour of the squash stay and go for blondies instead.

I based the recipe on one from the Whole Foods Market website, but cooked and pureed the squash rather than grating it for a squidgier texture, cut down the sugar and added a different mixture of spices to give them a bit of autumnal warmth.

They turned out pretty much how I’d hoped in both texture and taste – reducing the sugar worked especially well as the white chocolate chunks added just enough sweetness to balance the spice.

My colleagues were also a fan, and I think I would definitely make them again as they’re a great way of using up half a butternut squash if you don’t fancy making soup!

Autumn spiced butternut blondies (adapted from Whole Foods Market)

  • 400g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 55g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for 8-10 minutes, or until soft enough to cut through like butter. Puree it with either a stick blender, food processor or potato masher, then set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until they triple in volume, then pour in the butter and vanilla with the mixer still running. Add the pureed squash and beat until just combined, then sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and fold into the mixture. Finally, fold through the chopped white chocolate then spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees (160 fan), until just set, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.

A day of food heaven in Romania

Our hosts here in Romania are showing us the most incredible hopsitality, and really spoiling us when it comes to food – something which I’m sure my waistline is going to start to reflect very soon!

Yesterday was basically an amazing food day – our host Emilian cooked us a delicious herby tomato and spinach omelette for breakfast and we were treated to a delicious buffet lunch by our guide Jonny’s parents’ catering business – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buffet look so pretty…

Lunch dessert was an apple and cinnamon cake, pictured above, which I’ve asked Jonny to track down the recipe for – I will definitely try to recreate it at home if I can as it was really, really good.

After mentioning we liked ice cream a couple of days ago, in the afternoon we were surprised with basically an ice cream buffet with I think 6 or 7 different flavours – I tried a little wild fruits, rum and raisin and pecan praline, all of which were good but I think the wild fruits was probably the best.

For dinner, I chose a mushroom omelette (Omeleta Ciuperci) partly because I wanted something light and partly because I just love them. It was a good choice, as for dessert the Rotary president here, Uri, suggested we try Papanasi, which he explained to me as ‘the food that policemen eat in cars – I love how certain images work in every culture!

These were basically like doughnuts on steroids, absolutely huge with sour cream and jam – I chose blackcurrant and it really was delicious, although I could only manage one. Anyone who can polish off two gets my ultimate respect!

Today has also been a good food day, after visiting our host’s favourite patisserie and sampling the Romanian version of cheese pasties, apple strudel and a fantastic pecan cake – pictures to come soon!

Nutella-filled cinnamon sugar muffins

Nutella-filled cinnamon sugar muffins

I absolutely adore cinnamon (despite spending the first 22 years or so of my life hating it) so when Choclette chose it as this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge ingredient it should have been easy for me to think of things to bake.

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In a way it was, I had plenty of ideas, but things have been a bit manic in my kitchen recently, what with making Christmas gifts, food for parties and catering to the pony’s rather specific needs (quick to eat breakfasts and bars he can take to work), so finding a way of squeezing cinnamon in was actually harder than I expected.

Attempt one was cinnamon chocolate shortbread, which was a disaster, but attempt two, these Nutella-filled cinnamon sugar muffins, was a resounding success.

I’m aware my last post also featured both muffins and Nutella, but who cares because it’s a great combination.

The Nutella is baked into the centre, so when you eat one warm you get a lovely melty surprise when you bit into it, and the tops are brushed with melted butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar which make them a lot like cinnamon sugar doughnuts – basically, finger-lickingly irresistible.

Even the pony, despite claiming not to like cinnamon, has been happily having two a day for breakfast, which I put down to Nutella’s having the baking equivalent of the Midas touch – it just makes everything into food gold!

Nutella-filled cinnamon sugar muffins (recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

  • 70g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 8 tsp Nutella (about 50g)

For the topping:

  • 25g butter, melted
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the egg and vanilla followed by the milk, beating until you have a smooth, fairly liquid batter. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients, then fold into the batter gently until no white flour bits remain.

Butter and flour 8 holes of a muffin tray, then drop a good tablespoon of cake batter into each. Place a teaspoon of Nutella in the centre of each muffin, then finish by dividing the remaining cake batter between the cops, completely covering the Nutella. Bake at 200 degrees for 5 minutes, then drop down to 170 degrees and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen, golden and springy to the touch.

Transfer to a wire rack as son as they’re cool enough to handle – it’s easier to get them out of the tin that way. Brush the tops with melted butter, then mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and roll the muffin tops in it to coat. Eat while warm, or leave to cool and pop in the microwave for a few seconds before serving.

Apple pie

Apple Pie

Apple pie has been on my to-bake list for forever, and I really don’t know why I’ve taken so long to get around to making it – I love apples, love pie, it’s easy to make, doesn’t need any fancy ingredients and it’s perfect for the autumn/winter. I must have been mad for not making one sooner!

I did fancify this one a little bit by trying out a cream cheese pastry and adding a caramel sauce, but as baking goes it’s still very much at the simple end of the scale. If you can chop apples and press the ‘on’ button of a food processor you’re basically good to go!

I didn’t fall in love with the cream cheese pastry, apart from cutting calories I can’t really see any major benefit to it, but overall I loved the pie and would definitely make it again. It’s such a traditional favourite I don’t think there are many people who would turn down a slice!

Apple pie

For the pastry

  • 75g butter
  • 75g light cream cheese
  • 300g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar

For the filling

  • 6 large granny smith apples
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche

To make the pastry, add the flour and sugar to a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and cream cheese and blitz until it goes past being breadcrumb-like and starts to come together into a dough. With the food processor running, slowly pour alittle cold water down the chute, until the dough forms a ball that leaves the sides of the blender. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two pieces, one roughly twice the size of the other. Roll out the larger piece of dough and use to line a 10″ fluted flan tin, or smaller high-sided  pie tin if you prefer. Roll out the smaller piece and use a star-shaped biscuit cutter to cut as many stars as you can, re-rolling and cutting until all the dough has been used up.

For the filling, peel and core the apples, chop into quarters, lengthways, then cut into fairly thin slices. Toss in a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1tbsp of the sugar, then spread evenly on top of the pie crust. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rest of the sugar, stirring until it starts to bubble and thicken. Whisk in the creme fraiche, then pour over the apples.

Finish the pie placing the pastry stars all over top, making sure they slightly overlap each other. Brush with egg wash or milk, then bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until the apples are tender and cooked through. You can cover the pie with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much. Cut into wedges and serve!

Chocolate spiced parkin

Apologies for the lack of posts recently – there are a couple of reasons for this but the main one is that I have been stuck in a bit of a baking rut, making quite a few things which have either been a complete disaster, or just ‘ok’, and not really worth blogging about.

This chocolate spiced parkin kind of falls into the second category, but I wanted to blog about it anyway because I think it does have the potential to be really good.

Taken from my favourite chocolate cookbook by Joanna Farrow, it combines a dark, treacly, spiced parkin with lots of chocolate, and it’s a combination that works well especially at this time of year.

The main problem is that either the baking time stated in the book is far too long, or my oven just went into overdrive – I took it out after 45 minutes rather than 75, but it was still dry and overbaked, which made me rather sad!

I did make a few alterations to the recipe based on what ingredients I had (subbing plain flour and bicarb for self raising, and swapping light brown for caster sugar) but I don’t think these would have had a huge effect on the outcome…

It’s definitely still edible, and the pony has been particularly enjoying it warmed up with a bit of custard, but I think if I’d reduced the baking time it would have been a lot nicer to just eat straight up as a snack cake.

This recipe gives the baking temp and time that I used, but I would strongly recommend reducing it if you want to have a go!

Chocolate spiced parkin (from Chocolate by Joanna Farrow)

  • 250g dark treacle
  • 250g golden syrup
  • 125g butter
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 375g porridge oats
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 200g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oats to sprinkle on top

In a heavy based saucepan, heat the treacle, golden syrup and butter until the butter has melted, then remove from the heat. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and spices into a VERY large bowl, then stir in the sugar and oats.

Whisk together the milk and egg, then pour into the dry ingredients with the melted butter and syrup and stir until just combined. Add in the chopped chocolate, then pour into a lined 8×8″ square tin. Sprinkle the remaining oats on top, then bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes – but check after half an hour and if it’s cracked on top it’s probably done!

Baking with pumpkin – the basics

After selecting pumpkin as this month’s We Should Cocoa ingredient, I set about shortlisting pumpkin and chocolate recipes.

Pretty quickly, I realised there are two essentials if you want to bake with pumpkin – pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice.

I’m sure in many places both of these things are readily available to buy, but I’m yet to see either of them here in Cornwall, so I thought that in case anyone else has the same dilemma I would post the super simple ways to make them yourself.

First up, pumpkin puree.

Get a medium sized pumpkin and chop into wedges. Scrape out the seeds then place skin side up in a roasting tray with a little water in the bottom. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees, or until the skin darkens and begins to wrinkle and the flesh softens.

Leave to cool, then peel the wedges and discard the skin (or eat it, if you’re me). Chop the flesh into chunks then blend in a food processor for a couple of minutes until fully pureed.

1 medium pumpkin produced 500g (or 2 cups) of puree, which I think is probably the same amount you’d get in one can. A bit more time consuming than buying it, but still not hard, by any stretch of the imagination!

For pumpkin pie spice, I used a recipe from My Baking Addiction, with the only change being to tone down the cloves.

Literally all you have to do is measure out the ingredients, mix together, and store in a spice jar. It will make enough for several uses, but that shouldn’t be a problem with all the delicious pumpkin recipes out there waiting to be tried! It would also be a great partner for apple, or other seasonal bakes.

Both my pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice have been tested out in my first pumpkin cake, which I will blog about very soon – and they worked out perfectly!