Brown Butter Sponge with Praline and Hazlenuts

 

This is a simple sponge that with an extra step becomes something quite decadent. I used a jar of Bonne Maman Hazelnut Praline Caramel which makes it very very easy and doable but you can make your own salted caramel too – I was just all about the short cut when I saw this jar and that’s where the idea for the cake began!

 

You will need two cake tins – 20cm, sides buttered and bases lined. Preheat your oven to 180 (160c fan)

Ingredients

50g butter

6 eggs

200g golden caster sugar

200g plain flour

To serve:

500ml cream, whipped

Jar of Hazelnut Caramel Praline (or similar)

Chopped toasted hazelnuts

First you will make your brown butter. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. It will melt, then foam, turning a golden colour then to a deeper amber and smelling lovely and nutty. There will be some solids in the bottom of the pan that will go a darker colour. Watch closely that they don’t go too dark. This will give your sponge a lovely complex taste and is well worth the extra step. It goes so well with the nuts and caramel. Take off the heat and leave to one side.

In a stand mixer whisk the eggs and sugar until they are pale, fluffy and have more than doubled in volume. The beater should leave a trail when you lift it out. This will take a while so have patience! Now fold the flour in carefully, trying not to knock too much air out but making sure there are no pockets of flour left in the mix (a challenge). Follow this with the cooled brown butter, drizzling it carefully in with all the nutty bits and mixing them in carefully.

Divide the mix equally between the tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (in my oven they take 23 minutes!) until golden. Cool for a few minutes in the tin then invert on a wire cooling tray to cool completely.

Top one half with half the whipped cream and dot with praline (you may need to warm some slightly) and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts then top with the other half and repeat.

 

 

Mini Strawberry Bakewells

These little beauties are a sort-of version of something I remember baking with my Nana when I was really tiny. She called them chelsea buns but I don’t think they were. We would bake treacle bread, buns, soda bread and cakes in her red formica kitchen and I can remember so clearly her hands deftly forming the pastry and making it look like the easiest thing in the world.

I have taken a short cut here by using a roll of ready made pastry – this means you can have these babies in the oven in about six or seven minutes flat! It’s also a handy solution to the request to bake something from the kids as they can throw it together before they lose interest in the process!

I packet of shortcrust pastry – 320g sheet works well here (there will be a bit leftover)

100g ground almonds

100g butter, softened

1 large egg

100g caster sugar

1.5 tblsp plain flour (and some extra to roll out the pastry)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

A small handful of berries (vague but look at the pictures, you need less than 100g of berries to fill these bun tins!)

1 tblsp flaked almonds

I roll out the sheet, sprinkling a little flour to prevent sticking and stamp out 12 discs using a 9cm cutter, placing them in a good old fashioned bun tray. A handy tip – roll out the sheet using the paper underneath and a touch of flour on top, then when you cut out the discs place them upside down in the tray (flour side down) so there will be no sticking. This will make them easy to take out.

Now beat the egg, caster sugar, flour, vanilla and ground almonds together until smooth and spoon into each of the cases – don’t worry too much about smoothing it out, it will all be grand.

Add your chopped fruit of choice – I have used chopped strawberries here, but blackberries, raspberries, blueberries (no real need to shop these) or a mix of berries are all fantastic. You really don’t need that many and it’s a great use of a few lonely ones in your fridge.

Sprinkle with a few flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Cool for a moment in the tray before removing carefully to a rack. They are pretty fantastic warm too. They freeze well and so can be made in advance and thawed and reheated for a few minutes in the oven to revive.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

First, an acknowledgment. This is the second post in a row that includes Baileys. Not intentional, though my use of it at Christmas is entirely so. This lovely lovely recipe is one I have had for a good many years handed over to me from a friend, V. It’s fabulous and moreish and no-bake. It keeps for ages in the fridge, though we have no first hand experience of this ūüėČ I like to pass it on as gifts though I do confess we have been nibbling on it all week!

You will need two loaf tins, lined with cling film in both directions – enough to fold over the top and sides and then with a strip of parchment at the bottom.

 

400g chocolate (I favour the darker one – Lidl and Aldi have great cooking choc)

225g butter

1 tin condensed milk

600g (about 1.5 packets digestive biscuits)

large handful of raisins or dried fruit of your choice (see below)

large handful of nuts of your choice (I like to use a mix – cashew, pecan, hazelnut, almonds, brazil and pistachios for colour)

80-100ml of Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur

Melt the chocolate, butter and condensed milk in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring.

Roughly crush the biscuits in a large baking bowl – only roughly as you do want some texture.

Pour the Baileys over the biscuits and stir to combine, followed by the nuts and fruit.  (This time I used dried cherries and cranberries. Lidl do a lovely new pouch of Cashew and Cranberry which I loved in this.) Use your eye to gauge how much fruit and nut to add Рyou are looking for balance.

Now mix in the melted ingredients and stir very well. Pour into two loaf tins, pressing down well.

Fold over the cling film and chill in the fridge until set.

This is best kept in the fridge and removed a while before serving if you like. I like to cut it into slices and then into smaller bitesize pieces.

Baileys Blondies with Pecans and Coconut

So my previous Christmas post on the Santa Hat Brownies was for children (big and small alike) and this one is more for the adults, but I do confess my kids enjoy these too. These are the blonde version of the brownies. I am all for equality, me. They make a quite a few, 24 the way I cut them, and they last for a few days and even longer in the freezer well-wrapped. I think anything with Baileys in it has quite the Christmas edge!

 

50g pecans
25g coconut chips
225g butter
380g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 tblsp Baileys
300g flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g chocolate chips (I prefer plain/dark)

Preheat the oven to 160c and toast the pecans and coconut chips on a baking tray for 5 minutes, watching carefully so that the coconut doesn’t burn. Chop the pecans and set both aside for later.

Now increase the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 13×9 brownie tin with baking parchment and set aside.

Melt the butter, either in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave (the latter is my preference) stir in the sugar until smooth and well combined. Now add the eggs, vanilla and the Baileys, stirring to combine well.

Now add the flour and baking powder stirring well – no sneaky pockets of white!

Finally add in the coconut, pecans and chocolate.

Add to the tin, smooth over the top and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes – I start to check from about 25 – a tester in the middle should just come out clean. Usually in my oven they are done between 30-32 minutes.

Leave to cool and then cut – this is much easier when they are cool. The blondies make a tasty accompaniment to a cup of coffee or go equally well with vanilla icecream.

Santa Hat Brownies

It’s December! I can legitimately talk about some Christmas cooking and baking treats now. It’s our favourite time of year. The decorations went up yesterday, the lights in the village are being turned on later today and the Late Late Toy Show was on so the season has truly begun. We have a few favourite treats to go with the festive cheer and the first on our list are these little bites. I am a bit of a tart (!) when it comes to brownies having a favourites list of recipes stretching into double digits, but these are very cute and simple. The recipe came from a coworker of my husband’s in Toronto. He came home from work years ago raving about these little bites and was sent in with strict instructions not to return without the recipe, so thank you YuYen. She used a saucepan to make them, but I have used a bowl and a microwave with success and I have also used caster sugar here too. I gave them a festive twist with the addition of strawberries and cream, but you can also use buttercream for this too. I do like the fresh cream which works well with the sweetness of the brownies (and goodness knows there’s enough sugar floating around so for once I don’t mind eschewing it in favour of something a little more low key) The small size means they are a handy finger food dessert too.

Makes 25

 

170g chocolate (plain, at least 50%)

115g butter, very soft

60ml Chocolate syrup (note I use Hersheys which I have seen in Supervalu and Centra)

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs, beaten

75g flour

160g caster sugar

pinch of salt if you have used unsalted butter

To decorate:

25 strawberries, topped and tailed

150-200ml cream, well whipped

 

Preheat the oven to 175c. Butter and line an 8×8 inch tin. I like to line mine for ease of lifting them out.

Start by melting the chocolate in spurts in the microwave (if you are more comfortable melting in a saucepan, no problem!) I usually do it in bursts of 30 seconds to avoid burning, stirring each time.

Stir in the chocolate syrup, followed by the butter, beating  until well incorporated and smooth.

Now add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well.

 

Finally the sugar and the flour, mixing well and making sure there are no sneaky pockets of white lurking there.

Pour into the prepared tin, smoothing out and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (checking before the end – mine are usually done around the 28 minute mark)

Allow to cool in the tin. These little guys are much easier to cut if you pop them in the fridge for a while (or even the freezer for five minutes) as you will get a much cleaner line. The picture below is what they will look like when you are in a rush to get to the neighbours but are running late and do not have enough time to do this, not that bad but if you are a perfectionist it may make you twitch ever so slightly.

 

When cool and just before serving, it’s time to decorate.

I use a Ziploc bag (or you can use a piping bag) with the corner snipped to pipe little mounds of cream on each brownie.

I then top with a strawberry and finish with a splodge  dot of cream.

You can dust with icing sugar too for that extra Christmas effect.

 

Toasted Quinoa, Oat and Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

These not-so-little cookies have been a real hit since I started making them earlier this year. I’ve used the quinoa flakes in granola and wondered what they would be like toasted and added to cookie dough. They work really well and are a big hit. I have used chocolate chips and of late, I’ve chopped up a bar of chocolate (we like the dark choc for added flavour and slightly less of a sweet vibe) The chopped up chocolate works well as these are not delicate little babies and they can take the enormous uneven melty chunks of chocolate running through. They are nice warm, but will also keep a few days but I cannot confirm any longer than one or two for obvious reasons.

Makes about 20

250g plain flour

100g oats

75g quinoa flakes

1 tsp baking powder

2 tblsp cocoa

200g caster sugar

200g butter, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

200g chocolate chips or 2 x 100g bars, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside for later.

First of all, toast the oats and quinoa flakes. Place them on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring once. Remove and allow to cool while you prep the other ingredients. 

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Now add the flour mixture in two to three additions, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding the next.

Fold in the oat and quinoa mixture, followed by the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough onto the baking tray – I use about 2 (generous) tablespoons for each cookie, leaving space between each as they spread a little.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotating if they are baking unevenly. Leave to cool on the tray for five minutes, then remove onto a wire tray.

Hazelnut Scones two ways

Hello there! Things have been a little hectic in the Treacle kitchen of late but today I managed to have a little time to bake some of these autumnal beauties. I saw Lorraine Pascale had the inspired idea of decorating the top of her scones with a slice of fig and I thought they looked just beautiful so why not try that idea to jazz up a recipe that I have used for quite a time? It’s a Diana Henry one for hazelnut scones that I have enjoyed making for a while. I have messed around with the recipe, substituting plain for wholemeal flour and light brown sugar for dark.¬† I think the scones can take it. The fig is the first topping and the second is well, a little more whimsical. It’s a coffee icing which also screams autumn I think, but is also a nice foil to the crunchy scone underneath. It’s got a blob of maple syrup for good measure too.

Makes 12 or so , using a 2 inch round cutter

400g fine wholemeal flour, sifted

50g dark brown sugar

1 tblsp baking powder

170g cold butter

180ml cream

60ml milk, plus maybe a little extra if needed

75g roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts (I dry toast in a pan and rub in a clean teatowel to remove the skins before chopping or you can buy them pre toasted and chopped too)

1 egg beaten, to glaze scones

1-2 figs to top (optional)

Coffee icing  (optional): note this will ice/drizzle roughly 6 scones generously

70g icing sugar

1 tblsp butter

1 tblsp maple syrup

1-2 tblsp strong coffee

Preheat the oven to 200c. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set aside for later. Mix the flour with the sugar and baking powder in a big bowl and then rub the butter in until the ingredients resemble breadcrumbs (or grate the butter in like I do!) Then add the cream and combine with a knife, using the milk thereafter conservatively to bring it all together to form a dough. Add a little at a time – you can’t undo it! Now add in the hazelnuts, working them in without handling the dough too much – this will make it tough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and flatten it into a circle about 1.5cm thick. Cut out the scones and place on the lined baking sheet.

Brush with the beaten egg and top with a thin slice of fig if desired, pressing it in gently on the top of the scone.

Bake for 15 minutes or so until golden. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

To make icing: Melt the butter in a small saucepan, letting the nutty flavour develop but don’t let it burn! Add to the icing sugar together with the syrup and one spoon of the coffee and whisk to form a paste, which shouldn’t be overly runny, but should allow you to drizzle. You may need to add a little more coffee or icing sugar to get the right consistency. Drizzle over the scones while still warm on the rack (place some parchment underneath to catch the excess)

Enjoy!

 

Pecan and Chocolate Chip Scones

I tend to use the BBC Good Food recipe for Ultimate Scones. It has never failed me and I can make it in my sleep at this stage. It’s a lovely basic recipe and perfect with jam and cream. I’ve added pecans and chocolate here. I usually double it as when you are going to all the bother of getting your hands and worktop messy, you should make it worth your while! I throw some raw unbaked ones in the freezer and bake them from frozen at a later date (just adding a few minutes to the cooking time), which is handy. This makes about ten or so:-

450g self-raising flour (plus extra to dust)

100g butter, cold

50g sugar

250ml buttermilk plus about 8 tblsp milk to thin it out

50g of chopped dark chocolate

50g chopped toasted pecans

 

Preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the butter. I like to grate my butter in. I have an ancient grater and am so unwilling to part with it as it does this job perfectly.  Just grab the butter rub it in the flour and grate away Рmakes the butter very easy to mix in with the flour.

Mix it in every so often. Now mix in the sugar and make a well in the middle. Mix the buttermilk in using a butter knife to incorporate it all together. Now gently mix in the nuts and chocolate.

When mixed, tumble it out onto a floured board. Less is more in terms of handling now. Pat the dough out to a thickness of 2.5cm. Using a cutter of approx 4cm diameter, cut the scones out by pushing the cutter straight down. Twisting it makes them wonky! Work the scraps together and cut more out, placing them on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes and cool on a wire tray.

 

Pavlova

This is a nod to my old pal and workmate N. If there was a birthday or a reason to celebrate, this wonder appeared. She also made all things better in our office by appearing with this at other times too. It is just delish. I love to use golden caster sugar as it makes the meringues creamy and golden looking.

A couple of pointers when making pavlova: Make sure your bowl and tools are completely clean and grease free. It may seem an obvious point but any leftover butter will spoil your meringue. Let your meringue cool in the oven too, so if you have other items on your menu, plan accordingly!  Finally, fill at the last minute if at all possible. Eat immediately Рthis is never usually a problem.

Ingredients

4 egg whites, at room temperature

225g caster sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Begin by drawing a 20cm circle on a piece of baking parchment and place on a cookie sheet. This will be your outline for your pavlova. Preheat your oven to 120c

If you would like to make individual nests that serve one generously, draw 4 inch circles on parchment paper – I can usually get around six out of this quantity.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff in a stand mixer (or with a handheld electric whisk) then beat in the caster sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Follow with the vanilla extract, vinegar and cornflour.

Spoon the mix onto the circle of parchment and make a slight indentation in the middle. Bake for 1 hour until firm. If you are making the individual mini(ish) versions, they will bake at 120c for 30 minutes before you turn off the oven and let them cool. Either way, after the time, turn off the oven and let the meringue cool in the oven with the door closed  this prevents too much cracking

Here are a few ideas for fillings:

A selection of berries marinated in 2 tblsp of balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp of brown sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. I used raspberries, cherries, blueberries and strawberries. I filled the nests with half whipped cream and half greek yoghurt and topped with the berries

Sliced mango and strawberries with basil and a teeny squeeze of lime. Again, I used equal parts greek yoghurt and whipped cream.

And my current favourite: roast apple with hazelnut and maple syrup. Inspired by a Diana Henry recipe, I roasted peeled cored apple halves sprinkled with brown sugar at 190c for 20 minutes, removing them from the oven and drizzling them with a little maple syrup and letting them cool. When cool, dice them any way you want, they don’t need to be uniform. Again fill the nests with a mix of whipped cream and greek yoghurt and a touch of maple syrup. Top with the diced apple and a little of the maple/apple juices and sprinkle with some toasted hazelnuts. Heavenly.

 

 

Cheese and Onion Crisp Cookies

Now bear with me. This you will either love or hate. Please don’t knock it till you try it. If you like the salty/sweet combo you will love these cookies. If you don’t there is something wrong with you!!! In blind tests conducted by me on unsuspecting friends and family, most did in fact like these cookies when they tasted them – interestingly not everyone figured out the ingredients!

Again, I’m grateful to the smitten kitchen for the fabulous recipe, though I did put an Irish twist on it with the cheese and onion ūüėČ I did not add extra salt to the cookie batter though I did go totally over the top and sprinkle crushed crisp crumbs, Maldon and drizzle chocolate too.

1 cup (225 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 grams) golden caster sugar,

1/2 cup demerara sugar – or a coarser sugar for rolling
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1/2 cup finely crushed crisps. I used Keogh’s Dubliner Cheese and Onion
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

For the topping:

1 tblsp crushed crisps, as above

1 1/2 tsps Maldon salt

4-6 squares of chocolate (at least 52%)melted, for drizzling
1 teaspoon butter

Preheat oven to 170c. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside. With a stand mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla, pecans, 1/2 cup crushed crisps and flour and gently mix until combined.

Place the coarser sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon sized scoops of dough into a ball with your hands.  I used a cookie scoop to measure. Roll them in the sugar then place on the prepared tray Рuse a cup or drinking glass to gently flatten them.

Sprinkle each cookie with some crisp crumbs and a few flakes of salt.

Bake cookies until lightly golden at the edges, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to cool on a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth and drizzle or dip the cookies and let set on a rack. Enjoy.