Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Special: Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins

It's Halloween tomorrow!  So it's time to dust off those fancy dress costumes, carve up those pumpkins and bake the last treat in my Halloween Special, Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins.

There's not actually anything terrifying about these delicious muffins, just sweet, fruity deliciousness.  They'll delight guests at your Halloween parties, please Trick or Treaters and make wonderful little gifts for friends and colleagues. 

So here is the last recipe for Halloween, but before you sigh a breath of despair fear not...the Christmas Special is on it's way soon!

Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins


300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
100g dark brown sugar
100g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
240ml milk
3 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
100g vanilla fudge, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and sugar.  Mix together until well combined and make a well in the centre.

In a separate bowl whisk together the butter, eggs and milk until smooth and even coloured.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix quickly with a wooden spoon. Stir in the apple and fudge, being careful not to overwork the mixture, it should be quite lumpy.

Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Belle's Top Tip
I love to give these to Trick or Treaters and as gifts by placing the cold muffin in a Halloween designed paper cup, wrapping in cellophane and tieing with ribbon.  It makes them easier for the Trick or Treaters to carry and makes them look extra special for friends.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Halloween Special: Jack Skellington Cookies

For the second part of my Halloween Special here are my lightly spiced, utterly delicious Jack Skellington Cookies.  As fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas know, Jack is the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town, where residents are responsible for scaring people in the "real world" on Halloween night.

These tasty cookies are sweet and lightly spiced to give them a warming, autumnal taste and aroma to compliment this special time of year.  I've made Jack's face with white chocolate regal icing and milk chocolate food colouring to give them a lovely, surprising chocolaty flavour!  So to add a spooky treat to your Halloween celebrations give these yummy cookies a try!

Jack Skellington Cookies


300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
250g white chocolate flavoured regal icing
1 milk chocolate food colouring pen (or 100g melted milk chocolate)

In a large bowl sift in the flour, baking powder, spices and a pinch of salt, mix together.  Make a well in the centre and leave to one side. 

In a small bowl beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the egg and mix until well combined.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.  When the dough starts to come together add a teaspoon of cold water and use your hands to form into a smooth, even coloured dough.

Once the dough has formed a ball shape, wrap tightly in clingfilm and place in the fridge.  Preferably leave overnight, or for at least an hour if you're short on time.

When the dough is ready preheat the oven to 170C/gas 4 and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.  Lightly flour a clean, dry surface and roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin.  Use a round cookie cutter to stamp out rounds of the dough and place on the baking sheets, ensuring they are evenly spaced, you should get around 15 cookies.

Place the baking sheets in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden in colour.  Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the Jack Skellington faces; lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the regal icing to about 3-5mm thick.  Use a cookie cutter slightly smaller than the one used for the cookies and cut out rounds equal to the amount of cookies you have.

Take a cold cookie and lightly dab the top with a little cold water (this will help the icing stick), place a round of icing on top and smooth gently with your fingers; repeat with all the cookies.  Then use your food colouring pen (or melted milk chocolate if piping) to add Jack's eyes, nose and mouth to the icing face and voila!

Belle's Top Tip
White chocolate regal icing and chocolate food colouring pens are available from specialist Cake Craft stores like The Craft Company.  Alternatively, you can use plain white regal icing and melted milk chocolate in a piping bag with a fine tip nozzle for the same fang-tastic result!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Halloween Special: Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake

Now we're well into October that means only one thing...Halloween is approaching!  To help you create some fantastic treats to celebrate I've created a "Halloween Special" which will include a series of deliciously devilish bakes to serve up on 31st October.  So whether you're having a frightful fancy dress party, a scary movie night or a Halloween themed afternoon tea, these bakes will go down a (trick or) treat!

To kick things off here is my Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake.  A mysteriously moist, gruesomely gooey sponge, covered in thick chocolate icing and decorated with tasty tombstones and scrumptious spooks!  It makes a great centrepiece to any ghoulish get-together and will delight everyone, from cheeky little Caspers to wicked old Witches and everyone in between!

Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake


300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
125ml milk
4tbsp cocoa powder
85g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, melted
150ml soured cream

For the tombstones

125g unsalted butter
55g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
180g plain flour
icing sugar, to dust

For the icing

300g icing sugar, sifted
2tbsp cocoa powder
7tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a square tin with baking paper and grease lightly.

In a large bowl sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well.  Make a well in the centre of the bowl and leave to one side.  In a small bowl mix the vanilla extract with the egg yolks and leave to one side. 

Heat half of the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it is just about to boil.  Remove from the heat, add the cocoa powder and mix well.  Stir in the remaining cold milk, mix and leave to cool.

In a large bowl beat the butter and 200g of the sugar until pale and creamy.  Slowly whisk in the egg yolk mixture and the melted chocolate.  Use a spatula to pour the mixture into the dry ingredients along with the cool chocolate milk mixture and soured cream.  Gently fold the ingredients together until no traces of flour remain.

In a small bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then whisk in the remaining 50g of sugar until it forms stiff peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture gently, being careful not to overwork the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, using a spatula to smooth into the corners, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the tombstones; turn the oven up to 190C/gas 5 and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. 

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and vanilla with a wooden spoon until it is pale and creamy.  Sift over the flour and use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a soft dough.

Dust a surface and rolling pin with a little flour and roll out the dough.  Dip a tombstone shaped cookie cutter into some flour and press into the dough repeatedly.  Place the cut cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, roll the left over pieces of dough back into a ball and repeat the process.

When you have all the tombstones on the baking sheets dust lightly with icing sugar and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before transferring to the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When cold you can ice names on them if you wish to.

Meanwhile to make the icing;  place the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl and mix until well combined.  Add the water, little by little, stirring as you go, until it reaches a thick, glossy consistency.

To decorate the cake; cut the risen top off of the cake using a bread knife to give a flat surface.  Use your fingers to crumble the cut-off cake into breadcrumbs.  Pour the icing over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Firmly push your tombstone biscuits into the cake so they stand upright and sprinkle the cake with the cake crumbs.

Belle's Top Tip
When it comes to decorating your "graveyard" really let your imagination run wild!  You could use insect shaped jelly sweets, a cookie ghost (like mine!), spiders made from fondant as creative as you dare!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

White Chocolate, Apricot & Ginger Oat Cookies

I'm back!! Sorry for the lack of posts recently; with Weddings and holidays I've hardly spent anytime in the kitchen so it was great to get back into the swing of things with these delicious cookies!

Now I have some time to myself again I wanted to sit back and relax with some yummy comfort food and nothing says comfort quite like a glass of ice-cold milk and a plate of sweet, crumbly, chewy cookies.  The creamy chunks of white chocolate and apricot pieces give a sweet indulgent flavour and the delicately spiced ginger and wholesome oats add a comforting warmth to this bake.

So draw the curtains, cosy up on the sofa and enjoy these scrumptious treats.  They keep well in an airtight container for a good 5 days, just enough time to get you through to the weekend, if they last that long that is!

White Chocolate, Apricot & Ginger Oat Cookies


110g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
100g porridge oats
200g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
200g dried chopped apricot

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3 and line 3-4 baking sheets with baking paper; leave to one side.

In a large bowl add the butter, sugar, syrup and vanilla and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.

Sift over the flour, salt, baking powder and oats and mix together.  Pour in the chopped chocolate and apricot and mix well until combined; the mixture will look quite crumbly at this stage.

Use your hands to scoop out some of the mixture.  Knead between your hands into a soft, doughy ball, flatten slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat this process until you have 18-24 balls of dough evenly spaced on the sheets, allowing room for spreading.

Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes (if you have placed them on different shelves swap halfway through to ensure even baking).  When golden brown remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Belle's Top Tip
If apricot doesn't take your fancy try using raisins, dried cranberries or even dried blueberries instead.  You can even substitute the white chocolate for dark or milk if you like.  Feel free to mix and match to create your own unique oat cookies!