Lemon Mini Muffins

It is yet another Six Nations weekend and while thats on the tv, I take refuge in the kitchen! I saw a recipe for lemon mini muffins earlier in the week and when I remembered I still had lemons in the fridge this was a no brainer. I took the recipe a step further than the original, by swirling lemon curd through the batter before baking. I used a fancy lemon curd I bought from sainsburys, but next time will definitely be trying to make my own.

You might notice that my muffins aren’t particularly aesthetically pleasing (flat  explody tops – oops!) but they are so tasty I didn’t mind! You can also make these into full size muffins, just adjust the baking time as stated below.

Lemon Mini Muffins

(Adapted from Crepes of Wrath)

For the Crumb Topping:

  • 45g plain flour
  • 45g dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 40g unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
For the Mini Muffins:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 55g unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g crème fraîche
  • Lemon Curd (bought or homemade)
For the Glaze:

  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
Makes around 25
1. Start by making the crumb topping by chucking the flour, brown sugar, salt, zest and butter into a bowl and rub it all together with your fingers. When combined and crumbly, stick in the fridge while you make the muffin batter.
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2. Next, the muffin batter. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a bowl, combine the  flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt and set to one side. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla.
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3. Add in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the creme fraiche. When its all combined, divide into paper cases in a muffin tin. At this point, dollop a 1/4 teaspoon of lemon curd onto the batter and swirl around with a cocktail stick. Top with the crumb topping. Place in the oven for 10-12 mins with a turn if your oven cooks unevenly. If you’ve chosen to make full size muffins, they should take around 18-20 mins. Let cool completely before glazing.
Oops.
4. You’ll notice I haven’t got glaze on my muffins as they’re pretty tasty as is. However if you want to go for it, mix the lemon juice into the icing sugar and drizzle over the tops of the muffins.
Yum!

Jammy Dodgers, New and Improved…

The famed Jammy Dodger.

A biscuit of champions. One I always get excited about when purchased with the weekly shop. Quite frankly, a flipping great biscuit.

And then I eat one and remember how dreadful they are.

Is it just me who thinks this? I don’t know if they used to be tasty and they got a lot worse, or if they’ve always been bad, but Jammy Dodgers are some of the driest, unsatisfactory, hard biscuits I have ever had the displeasure of eating.

That said, the idea behind them is still brilliant – biscuits sandwiched together with jam?! What larks!

And so, (yes, you may have seen this coming) I took it upon myself to make the Jammy Dodger something to really get excited about.

Oh and I may have also added buttercream because lets face it – why the heck not?

Jam and Cream Sandwich Biscuits (Can’t call them Jammy Dodgers as these bad boys are much better)

(Adapted from Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi)

You will need:

Biscuit:

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 140g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 375g plain flour
  • pinch of salt

Filling:

  • 225g icing sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Strawberry Jam (or other flavour of preference)
Makes around 22 (fully assembled, so 44 halves)

1. Start by creaming together the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix together until blended. Mix in the flour and salt. You should now have a fairly stiff dough.

2. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 mins so its not too soft when you roll it out. If you’re clever like me and leave it in the fridge too long, just make sure you take it out for a bit to warm up or it will be too hard to roll out! While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 190°C.

3.Lightly flour your surface that you are using to roll out your dough. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of about 3-4mm. Using cutters of your choice, cut out shapes and transfer to your baking tray ready to go into the oven.

This is a good recipe for cut out biscuits so can be adapted to plenty of other styles of biscuit. For these, I used a medium scalloped cutter from a set like this and the smallest heart shaped cutter from this set. Obviously, I only cut out hearts from one half of the biscuits to get the jammy dodger effect!

4. Place your biscuits in the oven and bake for 10-12 mins, remembering to turn your trays if you have an unevenly heated oven like me. The biscuits should just be about showing some colour around the edges when you take them out. These are quite soft biscuits so leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

5. Prepare the buttercream while the biscuits are cooling. Cream together the butter, vanilla and icing sugar in a bowl by hand or with an electric mixer. Don’t worry about getting it too fluffy as you’ll be spreading it fairly thinly on the biscuits.

6. To assemble: Spread a layer of buttercream on a full biscuit. Dollop a teaspoon of jam on top and spread it across the buttercream. Place a cut out biscuit on top to finish.

7. Eat. Lots of them. Preferably with tea.

Wheat Free White Chocolate Chip Cookies

There have been a few dramas in the kitchen in the past few weeks – the brand new kitchenaid breaking for starters! Its currently off getting repaired somewhere and by the time it gets back it will actually have been for repairs for longer than I’ve actually owned it! Typical!

In the mean time, I have (begrudgingly) gone back to my recent days of doing everything by hand. Fingers crossed my kitchenaid will be back and fully functioning soon!

Now, down to the baking. I’ve been making more and more wheat free and gluten free recipes recently as my Mum is wheat intolerant and it doesn’t entirely agree with my Sister either. I’ve actually got a few recipes ready to post up, but decided to go with this one today as I’ve just finished munching on the lot.

Wheat Free White Chocolate Chip Cookies

(from www.wheat-free.org)

  • 115g butter
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 75g brown sugar ( I used dark brown, but light brown should be fine too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 165g rice flour (I used brown rice flour, but white can be used)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 150g white chocolate (in chunks, I used broken up Milkybar buttons)
Makes 15

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a bowl, cream together the butter and the two sugars.

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

3. Sieve in the rice flour, cocoa powder, soda and baking powder and mix together.

4. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Take spoonfuls of the dough and place evenly on your baking paper lined tray. The cookies will spread an inch or so in the oven so leave some space between cookies.

5. Put in the oven for 12-14 mins. Leave to cool for a few minutes before cooling fully on a wire rack (or at least before stuffing in your mouth!).

Just a quick note on my food photography – this is actually using natural light for once, but in the only place in my flat that gets it, that is, the window sill. Not the best studio I’ll be honest!

Iced Fingers

Somehow I managed to buy the latest Great British Bake Off book before I’d even watched a single episode! Obviously I was soon caught up and was eager to try out some of the recipes. I love trying things I’ve not done before, though I’ve learnt not to attempt something new when there’s a time pressure (yes, I’m looking at you Chocolate Roulade on Christmas Eve…).

Lately, I’ve been getting more into yeasted recipes – lots of breads, doughnuts, waffles etc. I really liked the look of these Iced Fingers when I saw them make it on GBBO so thought it would be worth a try!

Iced Fingers

(Recipe from Great British Bake Off book, Paul Hollywood)

You will need:

For the dough

  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
  • 50g/1¾oz caster sugar
  • 40g/1½oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 2 x 7g/¼oz sachets instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 150ml/5fl oz warm milk
  • 140ml/4½fl oz water

For the icing

  • 200g/7oz icing sugar
  • 5 tsp cold water

For the filling

  • 200ml/7fl oz whipping cream
  • 100g/4oz strawberry jam
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Makes 12

1. Start with the dough by putting all of the ingredients, except from a quarter of the water, into a bowl and stirring together. Gradually bring the dough together with the extra water and knead for a few minutes. This is a very soft dough but shouldn’t be too sticky and is quite easy to knead.

2. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, before returning to the bowl, covering with a damp tea towel and leaving to rise for an hour or so.

3. Divide the dough into twelve pieces, weighing around 70g each. Roll each piece into fingers, about 13cm long. Place them on your greased baking tray with enough space to allow them to double in size, which should take about 40 mins. Preheat the oven to 220°C towards the end of the rise.

At this point I froze about a third of the dough as I didn’t think it was best to try and eat so may iced fingers in one sitting! To use the dough at a later date, take it out of the freezer and defrost at room temperature until no longer frozen. Roll the fingers out and let rise in a warm place.

4. Bake the risen fingers in the preheated oven for 10 mins until they look like this:

5. Before you start the icing, slice the fingers where you want to put the cream in later. When the fingers are cool, make up the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and mixing the water in until you have a thick paste. You want it to be easy enough to apply, but not so thin that it runs straight off. If you look at my next picture you can see the first two I did were with too runny icing and have a much thinner coating of icing. Thicker is better! You can apply the icing any way you fancy, I dipped them into the bowl of icing and tried to get as much on as possible 😀

6. When the icing has set, lightly whip the cream ready to put into the fingers. Now, you can put the cream and the jam in separate piping bags to pipe into the fingers, but if you’re lazy like me you can spread in some jam and spoon in the cream! Doesn’t look quite as nice but still tastes fantastic!

7. Eat!

Millionaire’s Shortbread and a Very Special Christmas Present

Well, well, well – look what I got for Christmas! Wahoooo! I’m well aware I’m showing how cool I am, but I still can’t quite get over how ace it is. Only problem so far is that it means I’m doing waaayyyy more baking thats far too easy to eat. Oops!

So there’s been a distinct lack of posting of late. This is due to many reasons; mainly its being busy with my job that I started back in June and the fact that my new flat has close to zero natural light. Therefore my usual sketchy photography is taken back to near diabolical. My apologies.

While I work on my dire photography skills, I’ll share with you a recipe that I tried out a few months ago that I’d wanted to test out for ages!

Millionaire’s Shortbread

(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food and the Carnation website)

Shortbread:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g butter, softened

Caramel:

  • 150g butter
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • 397g can Condensed Milk

Chocolate:

  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 50g White Chocolate/Milk Chocolate (optional)

1. Start by preheating your oven to 180°C and grease and line a 13×9 inch swiss roll sheet pan with baking paper.

2. To make the shortbread, put the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Pull the mixture together into a dough, picking up all the dry ingredients. Press this dough into your prepared pan. Prick all over with a fork and place in the oven for around 20 minutes until very lightly browned.

3. Prepare the caramel while the shortbread cools. Heat the dark brown sugar and butter in a pan until the sugar has melted. While stirring continuously, add in the tin of condensed milk and bring to the boil fairly quickly. Cook for a minute or two until the caramel has thickened. Pour over the cooled shortbread and place in the fridge to set.

4. Next, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, or melt in the microwave (in short bursts with regular stirring to avoid burning). Pour the chocolate over the caramel and shortbread and spread out evenly. If you want to get a bit more creative you can melt white or milk chocolate and, using a spoon, drizzle the it over the still runny dark chocolate. Use a toothpick to swirl the two chocolates together.

Now you’ll notice that I’ve actually done a base of milk chocolate with dark chocolate swirled in. Thats because I forgot until I just uploaded the picture! You can do any combination of chocolate you like though – I’m currently envisioning white chocolate with dark chocolate swirled in – yep definitely going to have to try that one now!

Also, as you can see in the picture above, I discovered my swiss roll pan was slightly too long and I couldn’t spread out my shortbread any more – no big deal, just some edges that I had to neaten up*.

And there you have it! I always thought Millionaire’s Shortbread was really hard to make, but as you can see – easy peasy!

*When I say neaten up, I obviously mean ‘stuff my face with’**.

**In fact I neatened up so many edges I’m not allowed to make these again…

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

My recent forays into the the baking world have been verging on neglectful, to say the least, recently. This is due to the fact that I’ve been attempting an overhaul on my eating in general, and baking doesn’t lend itself very well to being healthy! However, no matter how healthy I try to be, I really do love baking and sooner or later I get that itch to delve into one of my many (and I mean many) baking books and make something new.

As you can imagine, having a lot of freshly baked treats around the house is nothing short of dangerous when you’re trying to be good. I’ve tried to combat this in a number of ways, like making other people’s preferences so I’m less tempted to indulge, making half recipes and getting David to take whatever I make to work.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned doing ‘healthier’ baking. I’m sure there are some great recipes out there, but I’ve found that option just isn’t for me. I’d much rather eat a smaller slice of what I really want, than a larger piece of something mediocre.

But anyway, back to todays baking! A few weeks ago my friend Steff was having a birthday BBQ, so I immediately got onto the task of what desserts to take! Having just discovered the scrumptious brownies, they were a no brainer, and I decided to make some Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes. These cupcakes are without a doubt, the best cupcakes featured in The Hummingbird Bakery book. They feature a fresh strawberry layer and so I’d been waiting what seems like forever for strawberries to come into season again! The cream cheese icing compliments the sweetness of the strawberries brilliantly and makes for a real winner of a cupcake. Enjoy!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook 

You will need:

Cupcake (Makes 16-18):

  • 240g plain flour
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 80g unsalted butter/margarine
  • 240ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 large strawberries, sliced
Icing (adapted from Annie’s Eats):
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 70g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 310g icing sugar
  • Digestive biscuits (Optional)

1. Starting with the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 170°C. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter/margarine. I usually refuse to use margarine in baking, but in cupcakes I find you can barely notice the difference, especially when using lots of butter in the icing later! Your mixture should look quite sandy when all combined.

2. Add the milk and vanilla and mix together until fully combined with no lumps. Add the egg and beat until incorporated into the batter.

3. Prepare your cupcake cases in your pan and divide the strawberries between them. Spoon/pour your mixture over the top of the strawberries, until your cases are around 2/3rds full. Place in the oven for 20-25 mins, until golden and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Leave the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before adding the icing.

4. For the icing, try and use an electric whisk or a stand mixer if you have them. I’ve done this by hand before, and although it tastes great still, I find it doesn’t quite get whipped enough to hold its shape when piping. This is quite a soft icing, so if you think it won’t hold its shape, put it in the fridge for a while to firm up.

Ok, first, combine the cream cheese and butter until completely combined.  Mix in vanilla extract.

5. Add in the icing sugar in batches until you’ve put it all in. Give it a good blitz with the electric whisk. If you want to chill it, you can put it in the fridge now. You can use the icing in any way you like, I chose to frost them using Lakelands giant piping nozzles  and topped them with some wafer daisies bought from Sainsburys. The Hummingbird Bakery suggests using digestive crumbs as sprinkles across the top, which looks great, but when I’ve done it in the past I found it doesn’t add much taste-wise as theres too much else going on.

And there you have it! Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes. Scrummy.

The BEST Brownie I have ever tasted. Ever.

Yes ok, thats a little bit of a boastful title, but I take no credit for the creation of this beautiful batch of brownies, apart from the fact that I made them… I discovered the recipe originally on http://www.browneyedbaker.com, who in turn got it from ‘Baked: New Frontiers in Baking’ by Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis.

Now, I’ve been having a bit of an issue in my search for the perfect brownie, in that I just couldn’t get any right. Pretty much every single one I tried, ended up being a bit of a nightmare. I knew what I was looking for; in Swansea theres a place called the One Shoe Cafe, and the brownies they sell there are spectacular. As I no longer live in Swansea I knew I had to find something that could match the greatness of those brownies. And so, when I saw this particular recipe, I knew it had to go on the list to try. I bookmarked it and then forgot about it. For months. Then, last Wednesday I stumbled upon it again and knew I couldn’t forget about it again. As soon as I had obtained the 310g (!) of chocolate needed to go into it, they were being made.

I think its fair to say that these are some pretty sexy brownies – extremely rich, moist, crackly on top, chocolatey squares of yumminess, ideal when eaten warm out of the oven, but just as perfect when cold. Yes, yes, they aren’t on the list of my healthiest baking options, so you may want to have somewhere convenient to send them straight away; I packed them off to work with David and apparently I’m quite popular in his office now. My search for the perfect brownie is finally over!

The Baked Brownie

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/10/08/the-baked-brownie/

My recipe is pretty faithful to the original, with only one or two changes – the original calls for a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to go in with the melted chocolate, but I didn’t have any so left it out.

You will need:

  • 1¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I had to use some milk chocolate, about a 5th, as I ran out of dark!)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and prepare your pan. Grease a 9×13 dish/baking pan and line the bottom with baking paper.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together and put to one side.

3. Put the chocolate and butter into a large bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water until it has melted and combined together. Take off the heat, but keep over the water and add the sugars. Whisk together and leave until room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mix and whisk until combined. Add the other 2 eggs and whisk together. Add the vanilla and stir in. Be careful not to whisk too much at this stage or it may become a bit cakey.

5. Fold in the flour mixture using a spatula, until all but a small amount of flour has been mixed in.

6. Pour the batter into your prepared dish and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake for around 30 mins. I was really nervous that I would overdo the brownies so from 25 mins I was checking them every few mins, but I found they weren’t done until about 35 mins. The brownies should be ready when the mix no longer wobbles and a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs still sticking to it.

7. Let cool completely and cut into squares and serve. Or if you’re like me, let cool for 10 minutes and then dive right in and eat a large, still very warm piece with a great big dollop of ice cream. Nom.

Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

I realised a while ago that I hadn’t posted in some time, but for some reason I was waiting for a really good recipe to spur me on. Yesterday I discovered the most perfect Brownie recipe and I knew I had to post it. Unfortunately for you, I haven’t taken a decent picture of them yet, so for now I shall reveal my gluten free adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding.

My brother, Christian, came back from his GRSP year in Georgia last week and I asked him what he wanted me to make him for dessert on his first night back. I was shocked and appalled to hear that he’d had enough junk food and didn’t fancy anything. Wha?! Didn’t he even fancy something traditionally british, like sticky toffee pudding?! Well it turned out that yes, yes he did fancy sticky toffee pudding. So then I had to go and find a recipe to attempt, as I’d never actually made it before…whoops!

As I was at my parents house, I decided to go for a gluten free option, as my Mum is allergic to wheat, and my sister tries to avoid it too. I decided to adapt Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his website and it was pretty good! Its more cakey than pudding-y, but with plenty of toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, it is pretty damn tasty.

Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted from: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/other-recipes/sticky-toffee-pudding

• 225g dried dates (fresh are used in the original recipe)
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 85g unsalted softened butter
• 170g caster sugar
• 3 large free-range eggs
• 170g gluten free self-raising flour (I used Doves)
• ¼ teaspoon ground mixed spice
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

for the toffee sauce
• 115g unsalted butter
• 115g light brown sugar
• 140ml double cream

1.Preheat oven to 180ºC. Soak dates in 200ml boiling water with bicarbonate of soda. Stand for a few minutes and then drain. Put the dates into a food processor and blend to a paste.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, then add the eggs, flour, mixed spice, and cinnamon. Mix well and then fold in the yoghurt and pureed dates.

3. You can use a 9×13 baking dish/pan here, but I went for two loaf pans as that was what I had on hand. Cut some baking paper to shape, place at the bottom of your chosen tin and butter up the sides. You don’t need to use baking paper but I find it makes getting things out of pans much, much easier. Put the mixture into your prepared pans and bake for 30-35 mins. The pudding will be ready when a toothpick inserted still has sticky crumbs on it when pulled out.

At this point I let the cakes cool down and and put them in the fridge overnight. I was making dinner and dessert the next day and knew I’d be limited on time. You can do this if making ahead, if not just move right onto the next step! If you decide to make it the day before, then make sure you reheat it in the oven for 5-10 mins.

4. Next, make the toffee sauce. Put the butter, brown sugar and double cream into a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and it has a thicker texture and darker colour. I found the best way to judge this was to take it off the heat every minute or so while stirring to see how it was coming along (I was using what seemed to be a nuclear hob though, so you might not need to take this advice!)

5. Remove your cake/pudding from its tin/pan/dish, peel off the baking paper and flip it back over. Use a toothpick to make lots of holes across it for the sauce to sink into. Pour the toffee sauce across the top and leave for a minute or so – the sauce will start to cool and get really sticky at this point.

6. Serve up however you like, but I do suggest eating with copious amounts of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!