P B & J Brownies

Peanut Butter and Jam is a flavour combination you really have to convince people to try. It’s a bit like telling a non-Brit that cheese and pineapple sticks are the best canapé ever. They scrunch their face up a bit and look at you like you’re potty until they try it and see the light. It sounds too weird to work.

There is just something about sweet and savoury combinations that really get me salivating. Peanut butter is salty, savoury and thick on the palate; pair that with a sweet, zingy jam to cut through the gacky peanut butter and you’re winning. 

Now I know you’re probably thinking that if PB& J is so good why screw with it by putting it in a brownie? Because my friends, I like to think of brownie as a blank canvas, waiting to be adulterated with naughty, new friends. A chocolate brownie in itself is a fine thing. Chewy at the edges and gooey in the middle, but I look at that gnarly top and think “what can I dress this with?” And because of this I’ve found out that you can put pretty much anything in a brownie and it will be amazing.

Ingredients 

  • 300g dark chocolate 
  • 200g butter
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g raspberry jam
  • 100g peanut butter

For the topping:

  • 200g double cream
  • 200g peanut butter
  • 200g White Chocolat 
  • Salted peanuts, chocolate chips and a little extra jam to decorate 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C or gas Mark 3. Line a square cake tin with non-stick parchment.
  2. Using a Bain Marie, melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl. Then add the sugar and stir until all the sugar has been incorporated. 
  3. Next add the eggs one at a time, combining fully between each one.
  4. Lastly stir in the flour and make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Pour the brownie batter in to your prepared tin. 
  6. Use a tea spoon to dot the brownie batter with blobs of peanut butter and jam. 
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The brownie should be risen and a little crusty on top, but still feel relatively wobbly.
  8. Leave the brownie to cool for at least an hour.
  9. When the brownie as reached room temperature you can prepare the topping.
  10. First heat the cream in a pan until just before it starts to simmer. 
  11. Stir in the peanut butter so that melts completely.
  12. Place the white chocolate in a bowl and pour the peanutty cream over. Stir until all the chocolate has melted.
  13. Pour this mixture over your brownie.
  14. Scatter the topping with peanuts and chocolate chips and a few swirls of jam.
  15. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours, so that the topping is completely firm.
  16. Use a sharp knife to cut into neat squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and consume within 3 days. It won’t be hard.



Choux 

Choux pastry is my favourite kind of pastry because it is the perfect vessel for whipped cream or custard. It is a socially acceptable method for shovelling custard into my pie hole. I like to eat Chantilly cream straight from the bowl with a spoon, but people tend to frown upon that. Put that shit in an eclair though, and we’re all good. 

Choux pastry is a delightful, crispy shelled mode of transport for delicious things to make their way in to my mouth. 

It’s also a very versatile pastry. By which I mean you can pipe it into different shapes. With this one basic recipe you can make choux buns, chouqettes, eclairs, profiteroles, Paris Brest… And once the shells are baked and filled, the outside can be decorated with boundless imagination. All one needs to do is type eclair in to pintrest to see the hundreds of wonderful creations to inspire you. And to terrify you.

I know a lot of home cooks are put off by the seemingly daunting task of making choux. It’s so mysterious. What even is it? It’s called a pastry but it’s made in a saucepan and the paste looks like a gloopy mess waiting to happen! It looks difficult and faffy. Do I even have all the right equipment in my kitchen?

First things first; pull yourself together. It’s not anywhere near as difficult as you think. The most technical piece of kit you need for this is accurate scales. Being precise with your weighing up is very important when it comes to patisserie. It may look like an art but trust me, it’s a mysterious fucking science. 

So here goes: here’s a recipe for choux pastry and a recipe for creme patissier. I’ve made little chocolate chouqettes (like profiteroles but less 70s sounding) as an easy introduction to choux pastry. 

N.B you will need to strong arm for this, there is a lot of beating involved. 


Choux Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 125g whole milk
  • 125g water
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 5g salt
  • 10g sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/Gas mark 5. Line 2 large baking sheets with non stick parchment.
  2. Weigh and prepare all of your ingredients.
  3. Heat the milk and water in a large pan on a medium heat. Stir in the butter until it has melted completely. Add the salt and sugar.
  4. When the melted butter/milk is almost at a boil, turn the heat to low and quickly throw the flour in and start mixing with a wooden spoon. Once the flour has been fully incorporated, turn the heat back to medium and continue to beat the mixture. At this point you should be mixing quite vigorously, in order to dry out the paste. Keep going for 1 minute. You should have a ball of paste.
  5. Turn the paste out in to a large mixing bowl. Continue to beat for about 30 seconds to let some of the steam out and to help it cool.
  6. Next add the eggs, one at a time. You need to completely combine one egg before you add the next. Make sure you work quickly though as at this point the paste will be hot enough to start cooking the egg, so keep beating. 
  7. Once you’ve addd all of the eggs, so should be left with a not-quite-liquid paste which plops off of your spoon.
  8. Transfer the paste to a piping bag. Snip the end off the bag to leave a hole of about 1.5cm. 
  9. Pipe the choux pastry into rounds about the size of a tea light candle. Make sure you leave plenty of space around them as they do expand a lot. If you have any spiky tips sticking up, use a wet finger to dab them flat.
  10. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on how feisty your oven is. 
  11. When the chouqettes are done they should be round, hollow and crispy with a rich golden colour. Leave to cool on a wire rack.


Chocolate Creme Patissier 

Ingredients:

  • 250g milk
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 25g cornflour
  • 100g dark chocolate 

Method:

  1. Heat the milk in a pan until it begins to simmer.
  2. Mix the egg, sugar and cornflour in a bowl until smooth.
  3. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Once well combined, pour the whole mixture back in to the pan and heat on low.
  5. Stir constantly until the cream is thickened.
  6. If you heat too vigorously and lumps start to appear, remove from the heat and whisk until smooth.
  7. Break the chocolate and stir into the cream until completely melted.
  8. Lay cling film over the surface of the cream and allow to cool.


To finish:

  • Once the shells and the chocolate creme patissier have both cooled to room temperature you are ready to pipe.

  1. Use a small, sharp knife to make a little hole in each shell.
  2. Fit a piping bag with a small, metal piping tip and fill with the chocolate cream.
  3. Pipe the filling in to each shell. Not too much though, or it will spurt out.
  4. Once each shell is full, arrange artfully on a plate and dust with icing sugar.
  5. Eat with reckless abandon and enjoy!



Tea Loaf

Tea Loaf, not to be confused with Tea Cake is a light and juicy fruit cake. The dried fruit is re-hydrated by being simmered in black tea, giving the cake a simultaneously rich and zingy flavour. 

I must confess I actually hate fruit cake; I’m not really a fan of raisins and I personally really dislike the way dried fruit tastes when it’s been soaked for days and baked into a cake for an eternity in a slow oven. But my husband loves this kind of cake, so for anyone else who enjoys a light and fragrant fruit cake to nibble on over a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine, here is my recipe:


Ingredients:

  • 300g mixed dried fruit
  • 225g water
  • 4 tea bags (I prefer Earl Grey, but any black tea will do)
  • The juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 100g of sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 225g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease and line a 1lb Loaf tin.
  2. Place the water and tea bags in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the lemon juice and zest followed by the dry fruit. Simmer the whole mix for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Take out the tea bags and discard.
  4. Set the pan aside for a minimum of 15 minutes to cool. Whilst the mixture is cooling, the fruit will absorb the tea and lemon.
  5. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then beat in the egg. 
  6. Mix the fruit into the butter, sugar and egg.
  7. Next add the flour and baking powder and stir until everything is well combined.
  8. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of your oven for around 1 hr. When the cake is ready it will be dark and bronzed on top and a skewer should come out clean.
  9. Allow to cool for around 20 minutes before you take it out of the tin. 

This cake is very moist and will keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you can keep your hands of it that is!

Persian Love Cake

Pistachios, Cardomom and Rose Water are probably some of my favourite ingredients to bake with. This may have something to do with my love for middle eastern food. I find it very fitting then, that this cake is called a Love cake. The exact origins of this cake are unknown, and there are countless different recipes under this name. The main ingredients of this cake have been used in Iran and the area which used to be the Persian Empired for thousands of years, not only because they are delicious and fragrant, but also for their medicinal properties. 

According to folklore, this cake was first baked as a romantic gesture for a prince. Quite appropriately then, it has been a very popular choice for weddings for a couple of years now. I even baked it myself for my best friends wedding! 

For this bake, I’ve used a silicon mini cake pan. It gives really neat, rectangular cakes instead of the usual round muffin shape. The advantage of using a mini cake mould is that you don’t have to worry about portioning the cake before you serve. Also, everyone gets to enjoy the chewy, caramelised edge which forms whilst baking. The quantities on this recipe will yield approximately 18 mini cakes, but will happily fill an 8″ cake tin. I would not recommend trying to make this cake too deep, as the recipe is only 50% cake flour which means it has a really delicate crumb structure, and although delicious and light, is also prone to sinking.


Ingredients 

  • 200g Sugar
  • 200g butter
  • 150g pistachios (shells removed)
  • 150g plain flour
  • 5g baking powder
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 Cardomom pods
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 50g double cream
  • Dried rose petals to decorate 
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
  2. Grease your silicone muffin pan with a little butter and dust with flour.
  3. Place your pistachios and Cardomom pods in a food processor and blitz as finely as you can. Add to this the flour and baking powder and pulse until combined.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mix no bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer.
  5. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the rosewater.
  6. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
  7. Fill each cell of the muffin pan with the batter until it is 2/3 full.
  8. Bake on the middle tray of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning the tray around after 15 minutes to ensure even colouring. When baked, the cakes should be lightly golden on top and springy. To check for raw batter, insert a clean metal skewer into the middle.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove. Sprinkle the cakes with a little extra rose water if you really want to intensify the floral scent. 
  10. While the cakes cool, make your ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the white chocolate. Stir until all the lumps have melted. Set aside to cool to a spreadable temperature.
  11. When the ganache is the right consistency and the cakes have cooled, spread a little chocolate over the top of each cake and top with rose petals, chopped pistachios and any other pretty additions you have in your kitchen. I’ve used freeze dried raspberry pieces. 


Iced Buns

It is a well known fact that nobody can say no to an iced bun. They’re nothing special, but the sweet simplicity of an iced bun is irresistible. Maybe it’s the way that the soft, enriched white bun with its layer of sweet icing is quite simply ‘enough’. Enough softness, enough chewiness, enough sugary sweetness. And ‘enough’ is all anyone really wants from life, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s their magical powers of taking us back to our childhood. Every time I make iced buns they are greeted with delighted cries of “I haven’t had these since I was a kid”. I know I certainly have many fond memories of eating iced buns as a child. They remind me of family picnics, of Sunday afternoons and of squashing around my grandmas kitchen table, elbow to elbow with my cousins.


Ingredients 

  • 325g strong white flour
  • 150g warm milk
  • 40g butter
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Water
  • Egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt and a dash of milk)

Method

  1. To make your dough, place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg and butter. Dissolve the yeast into the warm milk and pour in to the bowl. Mix for approximately 7 minutes, until a soft and elastic dough has formed. This dough will feel a little sticky.
  2. Leave to prove in a warm place for a couple of hours. Sweet doughs will often take a little longer to prove because of the extra fat, but just be patient.
  3. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Divide your dough into equal portions. I scale mine to 50g as I prefer a daintier bun, but if you like a larger bun weigh out larger portions.
  4. Using your hand and as little flour as possible, roll each portion of dough into a ball. Then roll each ball into a sausage shape.
  5. Place the shaped dough on a lined baking tray. They need to be about 1.5cm away from each other to ensure they batch. This simply means that they touch at the sides whilst they bake. It means you get soft fluffy edges and it also encourages the buns to be taller.
  6. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark 6.
  7. Before you bake the buns, give them an egg wash to make sure they come out shiny and golden.
  8. Bake the buns for 10-15 minutes. They should be well risen and golden in colour.
  9. Whilst the buns are in the oven, make the icing by adding water a drop at a time to icing sugar. It needs to be quite thick and spreadable.
  10. Allow the buns to cool,completely before icing them. 


Spiced Orange Polenta Cake

If you follow me on Facebook or instgram you’ll have seen that last week I was on holiday with my family in beautiful Marrakech. We spent our time lounging on rooftops and mooching around the souks in the thirty degree heat. Coming back to th UK to find that winter has finally arrived was certainly a shock.

In Marrakech we saw orange trees everywhere and the smell from the many orange juice vendors in Jmaa el Fnaa square is divine. We wandered around the labyrinth of alleyways in the Medina and got pleasantly lost, stumbling across shops selling exotic treasures. I particularly loved the spice souks; the heady smell of rich spices piled high and shaped into cones and the sight of shops laden with dried chillies and things I couldn’t even identify was magnificent. 

This Spiced orange cake is inspired by the flavours that remind me of Marrakech. It’s gluten free, using Polenta and Almond, and can easily be made dairy free by substituting the butter for a soya based margarine. As usual, I’ve used whole spices and ground them myself to make sure they are as fresh and fragrant as possible. If you’re not a fan of the spices I’ve used, leave them out or substitute them for whichever spices you prefer. I’ve chosen to ice this cake with an intense orange icing, but it’s sweet and moist enough to be simply dusted with icing sugar. It is also really delicious served warm from the oven, with mascarpone or ice cream.

Ingredients 

  • 200g butter, melted and cooled
  • 200g fine Polenta
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 7g gluten free baking powder
  • The zest of one orange
  • 1 star anise, 3 cloves, the seeds of 5 Cardomom pods, a small piece of ginger and a small piece of cinnamon, all finely ground. 

For the syrup:

  • The juice of one orange
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g water
  • 3 star anise, 3 cloves and a small piece of cinnamon, left whole.

For the icing:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Zest of half and orange
  • Juice of half an orange

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3. Grease and line an 8″ cake tin.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, spice and zest. 
  3. Add the eggs and whisk well.
  4. To this, add the Polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 mins. The cake will feel springy when it is baked, and a skewer will come out clean.
  6. Whilst the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid into a syrup. Leave to cool with the whole spices infusing. This will intensify the flavour.
  8. When the cake is baked, poke several holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the syrup. If you are using a loose bottomed tin be sure to place the cake on a tray or plate so that should any syrup escape out of the bottom it doesn’t make a sticky mess all over your kitchen.
  9. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, the gently remove and place on a serving plate. Do not place on a wire rack as this will allow all of the syrup to escape. Because there is no gluten in this cake, it is very delicate so move as carefully as you can and as little as possible. 
  10. If you are icing the cake, leave to cool completely.
  11. To make the icing, place the icing sugar, honey and zest in a bowl. Add the orange juice a little at a time, mixing as you go. The icing should have a thick but still gloopy consistency. 
  12. When the cake is cool, carefully spoon the icing over the cake and use the back of a clean spoon to smooth it out. This cake is very delicate, so be careful not to tear up the top. 


Chocolate Birthday Cake


When I was little, I had a chcolate cake pretty much every year for my birthday. For me, chocolate cake is to birthdays what wine is to Friday evenings. You can have one without the other but it just isn’t as fun.

My father in law said to me recently that nobody makes a chocolate cake as good as your Mum’s, and I definitely have to agree with him. My mum is an amazing baker and every year for my birthday I had a glorious, homemade cake. My favourite one by far was the chocolate cake covered in whipped cream and strawberries.

This recipe is a slightly tweaked version of the one my mum uses, which was passed to her by a great aunt.

Ingredients 

225g plain flour

350g sugar

85g cocoa

10g baking powder 

10g bicarbonate of soda

2 eggs

250g milk

250g oil

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade or gas mark 4.
  2. Grease and line two cake tins.
  3. Sieve together all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  4. Add the milk a little at a time, so as to avoid clumping.
  5. When all the milk has been incorporated, add the oil and the eggs.
  6. Split the batter evenly between to two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. The cakes should be well risen and springy.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tins. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.


To Decorate

This cake makes a really good base for lots of different styles of cakes. It’s not too sweet and not too rich, plus it’s reasonably sturdy and stays moist for several days. Here are some ideas for quick and easy ways to finish this cake.

  1. Fill the inside with vanilla buttercream and your favourite jam. Dust the top with icing sugar.
  2. Fill and top with Nutella. Make it easier to spread by microwaving for a few seconds and stirring well.
  3. Fill the cake with whipped cream and seasonal fruit and finish with icing sugar and more fruit.
  4. Fill the cake with chocolate buttercream and coat the outside with chocolate ganache. Decorate with your favourite chocolates and sweeties.



Tips

  • If your batter turns lumpy, use an immersion blender to ensure a silky smooth batter.
  • If you only have a small oven, bake your cakes one at a time to help you get an even bake. Make sure you keep one in the fridge whilst the other bakes. 
  • If you are only using shallow tins, you only need to line the base of the tin. I start with a square of paper the size of my tin, fold it in half, half again, then diagonally and diagonally one more time. Then cut across to top of the triangle, open it out and voila! Butter the tin, place the paper inside and rub more butter around the paper to keep things neat and to help avoid leakages.