Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Hunky Chunky Peanut Butter Dough Biscuits

As much as my male friends love my baking, I always seem to get the same complaint from them, they want more! So I came up with these Hunky Chunky Peanut Butter Dough Biscuits especially with the boys in mind. This is one hunk of a treat; a crunchy, nutty biscuit sandwiched together with a nice helping of peanut butter dough. So why not treat your hubby, boyfriend, that guy from work you’ve had your eye on or…anyone as a matter of fact! One should be enough to satisfy, although they do taste so good, maybe they’ll still want more!

Hunky Chunky Peanut Butter Dough Biscuits

65g flaked almonds
125g butter, cubed
100g dark brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
115g self-raising flour
100g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp milk

Peanut butter dough filling

115g peanut butter, smooth
4tbsp milk
1tbsp butter
100g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C and line 2 baking trays baking paper. Spread the almonds over one of the trays and when the oven is ready cook for 4 minutes until lightly golden and leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy. Sift both the flours and cinnamon over the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add the toasted almonds and milk and mix well.

Use your hands to bring the mixture together into a dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out until 5mm thick and use a 5cm round cutter to cut the dough into circles. Keep bringing the dough together, rolling and cutting until you have 18 biscuits. Place the biscuits about 3cm apart on the lined baking trays.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, swapping the trays halfway through cooking. When ready set aside to cool on the trays for a few minutes then transfer the biscuits onto a wire rack to cool completely. Whilst cooling make the peanut butter dough filling.

For the filling melt the peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of the milk in a small saucepan over a very low heat. Add the butter and mix, remove from heat as soon as the mixture has combined and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl and add the icing sugar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of milk, mix well until thick, it will have a dough-like consistency. Pull off small amounts of the peanut butter dough and roll between your hands into a small ball.

Place the dough ball in the centre of one of the biscuits and sandwich together with another biscuit, pressing firmly together. Repeat until all the biscuits are sandwiched together, dust with icing sugar to serve.

Belle's Top Tip
For a lighter treat leave out the dough filling and enjoy them as crunchy individual biscuits instead...still tasty! The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, great for unexpected visitors or if you want to make them in advance.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Lemon Sponge Cake

With it being a Bank Holiday weekend there's no better time to catch up with friends and family and enjoy the extra day off together.  Why not get everyone around, settle down with a nice cup of tea or a picnic in the park and enjoy a nice slice of this delicious lemon sponge cake.

For me, this cake is pure summer on a plate; the zesty yellow of the lemons and the butterfly pink sprinkles compliment the season perfectly.  It's sunny, bright, delicate and light and great for lazy summer days.

Lemon Sponge Cake


350g butter, softened
350g golden caster sugar, plus 1tbsp extra
250g self-raising flour
3 large eggs
100g ground almonds
130ml milk
2 lemons, zest and juice
220g lemon curd
200g icing sugar
100g butter
1tsp lemon juice
a few drops of yellow food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and grease and line two deep sandwich tins with baking paper.  In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at time until well combined.

Sift in the flour, add the ground almonds, milk, all the zest and half the lemon juice to the mix, beat until smooth.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Add the extra 1tbsp of sugar to the remaining lemon juice and mix.  Using a skewer, poke a few holes in each cake and drizzle the sugar/lemon juice mixture over. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins.

In the meantime mix the lemon curd in a small bowl until smooth and runny and leave to one side.  In another bowl add the icing sugar and butter and blend until creamy.  Add the lemon juice and food colouring and mix until well combined.

When the cakes are completely cold, remove from the tins and sandwich together using the lemon curd.  Using a spatula, spread the buttercream icing evenly all over the cake.  You can now leave the cake as it is, or decorate with anything you fancy, I used pink sugar butterflies.

Belle's Top Tip
Be careful with the sponges as they are very moist and could crumble easily if not handled with care.  Once out of the oven and when they've cooled in the tins try leaving them in the fridge for 10-20mins, you'll find them easier to handle when decorating later.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Super Speedy Scones

Friends, as lovely and as welcome as they are, have a habit of turning up unexpectedly and almost always when my cupboards are bare. After scraping together my last few teabags I also rustle up these delicious, light and fluffy scones. They only take about 20 minutes from mixing bowl to coffee table and use only a few basic ingredients that I always have at home. They’re so simple, even if you’ve never attempted baking scones before, you’ll love making, sharing and eating these!

Super Speedy Scones


350g self raising flour
¼ tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
3tbsp caster sugar
85g unsalted butter, softened
175ml milk
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and mix together.

Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and mix until combined.

Pour the milk into a microwave proof jug and heat on high for about 30 seconds until warm. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice to the milk, stir and leave to one side.

Place a large baking tray into the hot oven (or 2 smaller ones). Make a well in the dry mixture and pour the milk into the centre. Using a knife mix thoroughly until well incorporated.

Lightly dust a surface with flour and place the dough on top. Work lightly until the dough is smooth. Flatten with your hands until it is about 4cm thick moving constantly to stop it sticking.
Dip a 5cm cutter into some flour and use to cut about 4 circles of the dough. Work the dough together again and cut some more circles; repeat this process until you have a total of 8 scones.

Take the baking tray out of the oven and grease lightly with some butter, be careful as the tray will be very hot. Place the scones onto the tray, leaving a gap between them. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of each scone with the beaten egg.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes, they will be well risen and golden on top; serve warm.

Belle’s Top Tip
You can make these scones fruity by adding 85g of fruit when you add the sugar to the dry mixture. Why not try sultanas, chopped glace cherries or even some blueberries!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Cheer Up Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

I've had a dreadful last couple of days.  You know the one's I mean, when everything that can go wrong does go wrong...and in spectacular fashion!  I needed cheering up and there's a famous saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. I do love lemonade, but I say, make this luscious lemon and poppy seed cake instead! It’s sweet, extremely moist, utterly delicious and guaranteed to brighten up even the most dreary day.

Cheer Up Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake


175g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, reserve the juice
3 large eggs
250g self raising flour
50g poppy seeds
4tbsp milk

For the icing

100g icing sugar
Juice from the zested lemons

Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan and grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
In a large bowl beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until very pale. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined.

Beat in one egg and a heaped tablespoon of the flour, repeat until all the eggs have been used. Sift the remaining flour into the mixture and beat until there are no traces of flour left.
Put a half a tablespoon of the poppy seeds to one side and pour the remaining seeds into the mixture along with the milk, mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. You will find that the mixture is quite thick so use a spatula to spread into the tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for about an 1 hour and 10mins. Insert a skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean it is ready.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10mins then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Whilst cooling make the icing; sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add just enough of the reserved lemon juice to make a thick icing.

When the cake is completely cold use a spoon to cover the top of the cake completely, allowing it to drip down the sides. When the top is covered sprinkle the reserved poppy seeds liberally over the top and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip
This cake is freezable (before iced) so pop in the freezer and defrost when friends are visiting, particularly if they're in need of cheering up too!
You can also make this cake using oranges or limes in replace of the lemons if you fancy something different…still delicious!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Grab and Go Morning Muffins

In my daily morning rush if I have to choose between juggling my hairdryer and GHDs for super shiny tresses or sitting down for breakfast, I have to admit, the blow-dry always wins. This is not helped by the fact that Starbucks is right next door to my office so after battling the tube and hour long commute I’ve given into temptation and added a double chocolate muffin to my venti soya latte…not good for either my purse or my waistline.

Therefore, I decided to make my own muffins to eat on the go. They’re fruity enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, the soya bran is packed with protein and fibre and the raisins are full of antioxidants so although they still might not be the healthiest option for breakfast they certainly feel a lot more saintly than the calorific chocolate alternative (and I have enough change left for Grazia afterwards!)

Grab and Go Morning Muffins


75g butter, melted
300ml soya or skimmed milk
125g soya bran (from health food shops)
2 eggs
75g dark muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
60g self-raising wholemeal flour
125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
220g tin pineapple slices, well drained and chopped into bite size pieces
2 tbsp raisins soaked in 2 tbsp orange juice
25g desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Put the milk and soya bran in a bowl, mix thoroughly and set to one side.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until well combined.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt and baking powder and stir in the pineapple pieces.

Mix the bran mixture into the egg mixture. The bran mixture may appear too thick, but once mixed thoroughly with the egg mixture you‘ll get a nice, smooth consistency. Briefly stir this into the dry ingredients until there are no traces of flour, being careful not to overwork the mixture.

Briefly stir the raisins into the mixture and divide evenly between the 12 paper cases. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut lightly over the top of each of the muffins.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve the muffins warm.

Belle’s Top Tip
What’s great about these muffins is that you can freeze them, so they last for almost two weeks! Just take one out of the freezer the night before, leave to defrost and it’ll be ready to grab and go in the morning…easy!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Totally Tropical Caribbean Crumble

It’s summer! Ok, so it’s not quite summer just yet, but with London hitting 25C in the last few days it certainly feels like it! So when it came to making dessert the other day, inspired by the gorgeous weather, I wanted to bake something with a tropical, summery feel to it.

A twist on the traditional Apple Crumble, I’ve given it a Caribbean-feel by replacing the apples with pears and mango. I’ve spiced it up with some ginger, a little coconut, and it wouldn’t be Caribbean without a little splash of rum!

Everyone loved it and I’m sure you will too; enjoy adding some sunshine to your dessert.

Totally Tropical Caribbean Crumble


4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
4tbsp rum, use pear juice or water if preferred
2 mangoes, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1tsp ground ginger

For the topping

175g plain flour
85g butter, softened
85g muscovado sugar
4 ginger nut biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs
70g pecans, roughly chopped
1tbsp desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Put the pears in a saucepan with the sugar and rum. Heat gently for 5mins until the pears are just tender.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the mangoes and ground ginger then spoon the mixture into a baking dish. Whilst cooling make the topping.

Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles crumbs. Stir in the sugar, crushed biscuits and pecan nuts. Sprinkle the crumble all over the cooled fruit mixture until covered and then sprinkle the coconut all over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25-30mins and when ready serve hot.

Belle’s Top Tip
Delicious on it’s own, however in keeping with the tropical theme of this crumble why not serve with a fruity mango sorbet, rum and raisin ice-cream or add a dash of Malibu to thick double cream, whip lightly and serve.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Will & Kate's No-Bake Chocolate Cake

I hope everyone enjoyed the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (and the extra day off work!) on Friday. Although I wasn’t in town for the big day, my invite was obviously mislaid in the post, I was glued to the coverage on TV. Their eight tier Wedding cake by Fiona Cairns was beautiful, but it was their second cake that really caught my interest.

William loves no-bake chocolate fridge cake so much the newlyweds commissioned biscuit makers McVities to craft a three-tier Wedding-worthy version of his favourite chocolate treat. The recipe is top secret and was passed to McVities from Buckingham Palace’s kitchen chefs. All we know is that it contained dark chocolate and crushed rich tea biscuits encased in a smooth chocolate exterior with white chocolate floral decorations.

Sadly, I have not been given access to the top secret recipe, so I’ve come up with this version instead.

Will & Kate's No-Bake Chocolate Cake


250g digestive biscuits
150g plain chocolate
150g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
150g golden syrup
1tsp brandy, optional
100g glace cherries, chopped
75g raisins
60g mixed chopped nuts

Line a 20cm (8 inch) square tin with cling film. Leave some edges hanging over the sides so it’s easy to lift out later.

Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and beat them with a rolling pin until they resemble course crumbs.

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl with the butter, syrup and brandy if using. Melt over a saucepan of boiling water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl, stir occasionally.

When melted together remove from heat and mix in the crushed biscuits. When combined add all the remaining ingredients.

Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and leave to cool..

When cold put in the fridge for 1-2 hours minimum, however overnight is even better if you can.
Use the cling film to lift out then peel off the cling film, cut into 12 pieces and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip
The great thing about this recipe is that you can swap and change the ingredients to suit whatever you fancy, as I’m sure Will and Kate did. How about popping candy or chopped apricot instead of raisins, pistachios instead of mixed nuts or even Oreo cookies in place of digestives? Mix it up and enjoy!