Thursday, 30 June 2011

Time for Tea Cupcakes

As a lover of flavoured teas I've always tried to come up with inventive ways to incorporate them in my baking somehow and after many (and some disastrous!) attempts I came up with these delicious cupcakes. Using flavoured tea in this recipe is similar to adding traditional vanilla extract, but they add a delicate fragrance, sweetness and hint of what the French call je n'ai sais quoi that you won't find in traditional flavourings.

Another great thing about using flavoured teas is the array of almost limitless possibilities. Here I made four different varieties; Earl Grey, Strawberry and Raspberry, White Tea with Vanilla and Green Tea with Manuka Honey, but you can use whatever you fancy! The flavour is aromatic and subtle rather than empowering and you can use the same tea flavour and some food colouring to make a scrumptious frosting; they really do make for a tasty, slightly unusual, but absolutely tantalising treat.

Time for Tea Cupcakes


100g self-raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 tea bag, flavour of your choice
100ml boiling water

For the frosting

175g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened
4tsp tea, from 100ml above

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3 and line a 6 hole muffin tin with paper cases. Take your tea bag and place in a mug, pour over the boiling water and leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl sift in the flour, add the sugar and salt and mix. In a smaller bowl beat the eggs together, make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the eggs and butter. Add 4-5 teaspoons of the cold tea and mix everything together until smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and place on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and test with a skewer which should come out clean, don’t worry if they look a bit pale. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile to make the frosting sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and mix slowly until it begins to come together then beat until smooth. Add 4 teaspoons of the tea from what you have leftover and mix, now is the time to add a few drops of food colouring if you like.

When the cupcakes are completely cold use a palette knife to top each cake with frosting and serve.

Belle's Top Tip
Don't be afraid to experiment with different flavoured teas and coloured frostings. Clipper and Twinings do some great ranges so how about Cherry & Cinnamon with red frosting or Blackcurrant & Acai Berry with a purple as subtle or as daring as you like!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Stunningly Simple Shortbread

Sometimes, as scrumptious as a chunky slice of cake or a super chocolaty brownie can be at teatime, all you really want is a nice, simple, buttery biscuit to enjoy with your cuppa.

This shortbread couldn’t be any easier and despite it’s simplicity is still absolutely delicious. With just a few ingredients you can make these stunning shortbreads, and they’re so versatile too. I’ve made them pretty basic here, but you can cut them into different shapes (hearts for a loved one maybe?) or add additional flavours such as lemon or throw a nice handful of chocolate chips in the mix! They’re also great for introducing kids to baking as well as they’re fuss-free and take no time at all.

However you decide to make them this is one of those fail-safe, great recipes that I’m sure you’ll come back to time and time again…enjoy!

Stunningly Simple Shortbread


125g unsalted butter, softened
55g golden caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
180g plain flour
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and creamy. Sift over the flour and use a wooden spoon to roughly mix together. Now use your hands to get the mixture into a smooth dough.

Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and gently roll out the dough until about 1cm thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into fingers, re-rolling and re-cutting until you have around 12-15 pieces.

Place all the fingers on the baking trays, not too close together, and use the flat end of a skewer or fork and gently press into the fingers to make a nice, even design. Sprinkle lightly with icing sugar.

Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip

These shortbreads make a fabulous gift for a loved one. Once made place a few of the shortbreads in a cellophane wrap and tie with a pretty ribbon…simple.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dad’s Day-Off Cider Apple Crumble Cake

It’s Father’s Day in the UK today and what a great opportunity to spoil that special man in you life. It may not make up for calling him at 3am to pick you up after a disastrous night out, or the fact that you scratched his new car after taking it for a spin (without permission…oops!), but how could he stay angry after you lovingly bake this gorgeous cider apple crumble cake for him. So let him put his feet up, put the football on TV, make him a nice cup of tea and serve up this delicious cake…you can own up to the scratched car tomorrow.

Dad’s Day-Off Cider Apple Crumble Cake


330ml cider
300g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp cinnamon
150g light brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
3 bramley apples, peeled and grated
2 large eggs

For the crumble topping

130g plain flour
80g unsalted butter
50g light brown sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon

For the apple curd filling

2 bramley apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1tbsp cider
225g white granulated sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
40g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line 2 round sandwich tins with baking paper and grease lightly. In a saucepan boil the cider until it has reduced in volume by about two-thirds and leave to one side to cool.

For the crumble topping, place the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon and rub together until combined and leave to one side.

In a large bowl sift in the flour, add the bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and cinnamon, mix together. In a separate bowl add the butter and sugar and beat until pale and creamy. Stir in the apple, small amounts at a time, and then add the eggs and cider, beat until well combined.

Make a well in the dry mixture and pour in the wet mixture and beat together. Pour the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the cakes. Return to the oven and bake for a further 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the apple curd, place the apples in a large saucepan with the cider and 75ml of water over a medium heat. Cook until the apples are pulpy then add the cinnamon and use a potato masher to smooth any large lumps. Stir in the sugar, egg and butter. Reduce the heat and cook slowly until the mixture thickens, ensuring it doesn’t boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to help thicken it.

Place one cake on a plate and spread a good amount of the apple curd over the crumble top. Sandwich the other cake on top, crumble side up, and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip

Use the remaining curd to serve with a nice slice of the cake for an extra fruity kick, this cake also taste delightful with warm custard!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Black Cherry Chocolate Brownies

I've been trying to think of an excuse to make a super chocolatey treat for a while now, but in the end I decided I couldn't wait and when it comes to chocolate who needs an excuse anyway?  This brownie recipe is the best I have ever used and always turns out beautifully.  It's fudgy, gooey, sweet and moist and will satisfy even the most fussy chocolate-lover.  So why not give these brownies a go, just for the pure chocolatey pleasure of it!

Black Cherry Chocolate Brownies


185g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
185g dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
100g pitted cherries, chopped plus a few extra
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar
icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a square brownie tin with baking paper. Allow some of the paper to hang over the sides, this will make it easier to remove the brownies later.

Pour some water into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Put the butter in a heat-proof bowl and break the chocolate into pieces before adding to the butter. Put the bowl over the saucepan, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl, and stir occasionally until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and leave to one side to cool.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a medium bowl and mix. Break the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar, beat for about 5 minutes until very thick, pale and creamy.

Pour the cool chocolate mix into the egg mixture and fold together lightly with a spatula, being careful not to over mix. Don’t worry if the colour is slightly mottled, this is better than over beating it. Sift the flour/cocoa mixture into the chocolate mixture and gently fold until just combined, again being careful not to over mix.

Gently stir the chopped cherries into the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and lightly and evenly scatter the extra cherries all over the top.

Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. When inserting a skewer don't worry if it doesn't come out completely clean as you want a moist, sticky texture to the brownies. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When completely cold lift out the brownie with the overhanging paper, cut into squares, dust lightly with the icing sugar and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip
For an impressive extra special dessert serve the brownies warm with a dollop of thick cream, a drizzle of cherry coulis and a light dusting of cocoa powder…ummmmmm.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Poppy Seed Bagels

Making bread always brings out the baker in me. I love the springy, bounciness of just risen dough and the feeling of satisfaction when, what feels like hours of constant kneading, transforms it into a smooth, elastic ball of loveliness. The smell in the kitchen as it’s baking away is heavenly and that first bite into a slightly crunchy outside yet super soft inside is simply delightful.

There are so many different types of bread I like to bake, but this is one of my favourite recipes, Poppy Seed Bagels. Bagels are fantastic, filling and so versatile. They make a great breakfast with butter and jam, a satisfying lunch with cream cheese and chives, mini ones are great for parties, the possibilities are endless! So bring out the baker in you and try these delicious Poppy Seed Bagels.

Poppy Seed Bagels


375ml warm water
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2tbsp caster sugar
600g plain flour
2tsp salt
2 litres water, extra
1 egg yolk
1tbsp milk
2tbsp poppy seeds

In a small jug add the warm water, dried yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir until combined and leave to one side for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl mix the flour and salt together and make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture and stir until combines. As the dough gets thicker use your hands to bring together.
Lightly flour a surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and springy; if you press your finger lightly in the dough it should spring back into shape.

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover loosely with a slightly damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large saucepan pour in the extra water and 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar. Put on a high heat, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a medium simmer.

Brush three baking trays with oil and divide the dough into 12 even balls. Push a lightly floured finger through the middle of the ball to create a hole and spin carefully on your finger to widen it. Place on the oiled tray (4 bagels for each tray), flatten slightly and repeat with the remaining dough balls. Leave them to rise on the trays for 10 minutes.

Carefully drop 4 of the bagels into the simmering water, cook for 3 minutes then turn over with a slotted spoon and cook for a further 3 minutes. Use the spoon to remove them one by one and place them back on the oiled tray. Repeat in two more batches for the remaining bagels.

Whisk the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, spread a little over each bagel. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on the top of each bagel. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Place on a wire rack and cool and serve either on their own or with a filling of your choice.

Belle's Top Tip
You can make a sweeter version of this bagel by adding an additional tablespoon of sugar into the yeast mixture, throwing in some sultanas when you mix the flour and salt then topping them with granulated sugar rather than poppy seeds for a sweet, sugary crust.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Carrie's Cosmopolitan Blondies

A recent revisit to my Sex and the City DVD box sets has left me daydreaming of shopping on Fifth Avenue, picnics in Central Park, cupcakes at Magnolia’s Bakery and cocktails in Manhattan. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda would often discuss life, love and everything in between over a Cosmopolitan, a blend of vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime which was made iconic by the show and had women around the world clambering into bars eager for a taste of the Sex and the City lifestyle with a “Cosmo”.

So, inspired by the iconic cocktail, I created these delicious blondies. Like a brownie, only replacing the dark chocolate with white, and with the key cranberry and lime flavours of a Cosmo, they make a delicious afternoon tea treat. So get your girlfriends over, grab those Sex and the City DVDs, serve up these tasty slices and make Carrie proud.

Carrie's Cosmopolitan Blondies


200g unsalted butter
150g white chocolate, roughly chopped
300g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
1tsp vanilla extract
100g dried cranberries

Lime icing

250g icing sugar, sifted
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 Lime, zest and juice

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a square brownie tin with baking paper allowing some to hang over the sides, this will make it easier to remove the bars later.

Place the butter in a pan over a low heat until melted then remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add half the white chocolate to the butter and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Place the muscovado sugar and eggs in a bowl and mix together until thick and pale. Add the flour, salt, chocolate mixture, cranberries and vanilla, then fold in with a spatula until even being careful not to over mix.

Pour the mixture into the tin, then scatter with the rest of the chocolate. Bake for 40-45 minutes or golden. Allow to cool in the tin.

Meanwhile to make the lime icing, place the icing sugar, butter and lime juice in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Spread the icing over the slice and sprinkle over the lime zest. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the icing has set. Lift out using the baking paper, cut into around 12 pieces and serve.

Belle’s Top Tip
For a more "cocktail" feel to the bake why not add a teaspoon of vodka or Cointreau to the lime juice in the icing!