Monthly Archives: December 2013

Baci di Dama

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That’s Italian for the most amazing biscuits ever

Small bites of hazelnutty goodness sandwiched together with Nutella.

Before making these for myself, I had never actually tried these biscuits. I had seen them on a cooking programme on TV, I didn’t even know their name, I just knew they were bite sized Italian hazelnut biscuits with a hazelnut cream filling. They looked and sounded delicious. I knew they would be the most amazing biscuits. All I had to do was find out what they were.

A few google searches with vague descriptions were fruitless. I couldn’t find them on the programme’s website. Looking through my many cookbooks didn’t help. I guess I was just going to have to give up on these…

Now I don’t normally read let alone attempt recipes that don’t have pictures. I was slightly, no very, disappointed that my new cookbook didn’t have a picture for every recipe. Yet something drew me to this recipe, and as I read the description I knew I had found them!
(Despite not having a picture for every recipe I highly recommend this book, everything I have made so far has come out perfectly, I was probably over exaggerating how few pics it has, and all the pictures are mouthwatering!)

The recipe is very straight forward. I used my hand held electric whisk, not food processor, as it’s less hassle to clean.
The recipe says to leave the dough in the fridge for at least 30minutes. The first time I made these I left them in the fridge all day and still found it easy to form the biscuit balls.
There was no way I was going to weigh out the balls for them to all be the same (I am marginally OCD but that’s just taking it to the next level!) I think they look more homemade when they are slightly different shapes and sizes anyway.

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The recipe makes A LOT, which shouldn’t be a problem as they are incredibly moreish.
The first time I made these I froze half the dough and still ended up with about 40! The dough freezes very well and they tasted just as good than when made fresh.

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I also didn’t make my own gianduja filling, it is probably worth the effort, and I may attempt it in the future, but for now I’m sticking to Nutella.
More difficult than waiting for the dough to chill is waiting for the biscuits to cool so they can be sandwiched together. Obviously a good time to try them out, they taste really good warm (smother them with Nutella when they are warm…it goes all melty and messy..mmm). They taste really good cooled and without the Nutella as well (it’s probably a good thing this recipe makes a lot!)

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These are one of my favourite biscuits at the moment, crunchy, nutty and gooey (and bitesized, which means you can eat more without feeling guilty/greedy).

They go really well with a hot mug of coffee 🙂

And they make a great homemade gift

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P.S. It actually means ‘ladies kisses’ but I prefer my translation 🙂

Keep rolling

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Every Winter I tell myself I am going to make a Chocolate log.

For the past few Decembers I have been doing thorough research to ascertain what constitutes the perfect log (it’s a hard life, right?)

For me, it’s good old Cadburys that leaves the rest trailing behind, it’s that combination of buttercream and the chocolate sauce wrapped up in a fluffy sponge with a crispy shell that wins it for me.

Looking at various recipes, most seemed to be filled with fresh cream and covered in ganache.
Or covered and filled with ganache. Personally I find ganache a bit heavy, and felt double ganache would be sickly.
I decided to help me recreate some of that Cadburys goodness I would go for a eatmebythespoon chocolate buttercream filling smothered over a layer of chocolate sauce. The log itself will be covered with ganache. I did entertain the idea of then covering this with some melted chocolate to give it that chocolate shell, but considering how much chocolate it would already have, I decided to go with the ‘healthier option’ and left it out.

For sponge I used this recipe, I thought the muscavado sugar would give it a great caramally undertone. The sponge was easier to make than I thought, it is extremely light and fluffy, and was so much better than I was expecting for a fat free sponge.

Part of my reason for not making a Chocolate Log until now is I am scared of Swiss Rolls. Not eating them, clearly, but making. I have nightmares of my roll splitting. Of over or under beating the eggs whites and being left with a rubbery, chewy cake mat like thing. But I beat my rolling demons, just!

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While my rolled roll was cooling, I made the buttercream.
Whisk 170g of unsalted butter at room temp until nice and smooth, gradually sieve in 200g of icing sugar; mixing in with the a spoon before using your electric whisk. I find this stops the icing sugar from spreading over every kitchen surface. Once all the icing sugar is in add 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence/extract. Then whisk. And whisk some more. The more you whisk the fluffier your icing will be. I usually aim for about 5mins.
Then add 150g melted a cooled dark chocolate. I use Bournville or store own brand, I find the high cocoa content chocolate too rich (Waitrose Dark Belgian chocolate is divine, and cheaper than Bournville, which is probably why it was out of stock).
This buttercream really is amazing, you will be eating the left overs with a spoon (and luckily there will be definitely be left overs).

For the ganache I heated 300ml of double cream until it was just boiling, then poured this over a mixture of 150g milk and 150g dark chocolate. I find it too rich with just dark chocolate. Mix until smooth. It will thicken as it cools. Once cooled leave in the fridge until needed.
These quantities made far too much ganache, probably 2/3 would suffice.

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To assemble I unrolled my roll, and spread a thin layer of ganache (I wanted to use chocolate spread but didn’t have any), on top of this a layer of buttercream. I think I got a bit excited with the buttercream, mainly as I didn’t want any left over (as good as it tastes it’s not really good for you apparently).
I then sprinkled some grated chocolate over the buttercream to give it a crunch.
Due to overloading with buttercream made it difficult to roll back, plus my baking paper stuck to the sponge. So my nightmare came true, rolly split 😦 From the pictures you can also see it’s more Arctic roll looking than Swiss roll.

All was not lost as I covered him with a layer of ganache. Place baking paper just tucked under the edges of the roll so any ganache dripping doesn’t leave a mess (I didn’t do this, it was an afterthought unfortunately).
Once slightly firm I used a fork to etch tree bark patterns and swirls.

To give my roll that wintery effect I dusted with icing sugar.

Done.

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This was a HUGE roll. It was cut into 12 generous slices. It would make a beautiful dessert for any special occasional, at any time of the year.

It tasted amazing. It looked amazing

High fives all round.

Next time (and I’m sure there will be many next times) I would use a larger tin to make the sponge to get more rolls. I will definitely use less buttercream inside. Some recipes say to use a sugar syrup to brush the sponge, I think I would try that with a cherry or raspberry syrup and put the cherries/raspberries on top of the buttercream.

Cheesecake Brownies

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Cheesecake or brownies? My two favourite food groups

How’s a girl to decide?

Fudgy brownie or creamy cheesecake?

Combine the two? Yes please!

Cheesecake brownies are my favourite dessert hybrid.

For the brownie base I use this super simple recipe (without the cherries/other optional items) that has yet to let me down.

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For the cheesecake topping I found most recipes were stingy, I didn’t want small blobs of cheesecake marbled in teasing me. So I adjusted the quantities to give me a substantial layer thick enough to appease the part of my brain/stomach/heart which deals with cheesecake like matters.

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(The pictures include the addition of the below mentioned Oreos)

This does cause a slight dilemma, I find the cheesecake topping is done within about 30-40mins in the oven but the underlying brownie is nowhere near being ready especially the middle which is still a gooey mess (I try my best not to lick the knife I use to check if it’s ready), I normally put a tray on top to stop it from burning. Next time (I tell myself this every time I make these…) I will bake the brownie bit first for about 30mins then quickly pour the cheesecake bit on top and then it should be okay?

Cheesecake brownies are extremely versatile and can be made with endless flavour combinations.
My current favourite are double peanut butter, I add a combination of Reese’s peanut butter cups (minis or the larger ones chopped up), peanut butter chips and peanuts. For the cheesecake topping a few generous spoons of peanut butter and chocolate chips. YUM!
This was inspired by the Cheesecake Factories Reese’s peanut butter chocolate cake cheesecake.

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What flavour combinations do you make. Ideas and suggestions in the comments please 🙂

This batch were for a friend, and I don’t think she quite shares my enthusiasm for peanut butter. So I went for a Mars bar base (just when you think brownies couldn’t get any fudgy and amazing, the nougat and caramel melt to take this brownie to the next level, though Mars bar enthusiasts may be disappointed to find that due to the melting there are no Mars bar chunks) with an Oreo topping.

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I was really happy with the brownie base, so fudgy and morish (in a I’m going to be sick if I eat one more but it’s worth it kinda way), the Oreo cheesecake bit wasn’t amazing, it didn’t taste very Oreoy even though I used a whole pack, more vanilla cheesecake with a hint of Oreo.
Possibly overbaked due to my uncooked brownie dilemma, and it didn’t quite have that smooth, creamy texture. It was still good… Just not amazing.

As mentioned above, these were a gift for a friend. She recently had a baby, unfortunately, I think he is a bit young to be introduced to these. So his mummy will have to scoff the lot (lucky her).

So he doesn’t feel left out I got him these gorgeous knits to keep him all snuggly through the winter.

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These were handmade by the very talented CaraMacchiato. She discussed what I wanted, design wise and colours, and we (well she) came up with these. They came out perfectly. I’m sure baby ‘S’ will approve!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year..

I love winter

I love the chilly,frosty mornings

The naked trees showing off their physique

Snow

Hibernation

Pretty Christmas lights and the gorgeous shop fronts filled with enticing delights

Gloves/mittens and fingerglovemitten hybrids

Snow

Christmas movies

Walking through quiet foggy roads

Did I mention snow?

The holiday season is upon us (earlier and earlier so it would seem) when the supermarkets stock their shelves with yummy Xmas treats, gorgeous gingerbread houses, panatonne, stollen,mince pies, Yule logs and mouthwatering continental biscuits.

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One of my favourites are ‘Zimtsterne’, German cinnamon star cookies. They are a macaroon type biscuit with a smooth,crunchy meringue topping. The warming cinnamon with the crunchy sugar is a definite winter winner.

After seeing a recipe for them in the December Goodfood magazine I decided I had to make them. I had a look at a few other recipes online, they all seemed pretty similar, and this recipe yielded the least.

To make the dough was fairly easy, I was slightly concerned about over/under whisking the egg whites, but I think I got the right balance.

The instructions said to roll the dough between two pieces of greaseproof paper, this sounded abit fiddly to me, so I placed the dough to chill for a while and used plenty of icing sugar and didn’t have any issues.
The stickiness of the dough did help when cutting the stars out as they stuck inside the cutter and were easily pushed out onto my tray.

For the topping I piped it on to keep it tidy and though this would be the easiest way. In total I made about 45 stars (I probably could have made about 10 more if I didn’t eat so much dough, it’s divine!)

After about 12mins I took them out, I was disappointed to see the topping of a few of them had cracked. But on the whole they looked pretty good.

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Taste wise, the biscuits themselves were very nice, a soft yet slightly crunchy consistency,but could have done with more cinnamon, if I remake these I would add 1-2 teaspoons more.

The topping had a nice crunch, but possibly I put too thick a layer as they were still soft underneath. Next time I would brush it on with a pastry brush. Or possibly in the shop bought versions I’ve tried they use royal icing?

They went down very nicely with my cinnamon flavoured coffee the next day … And the flavours of the cinnamon and ginger were slightly stronger 🙂

Keep an eye out for more season bakes 🙂

Best Cannelloni Ever

Spinach, ricotta and feta cannelloni

Cannelloni tubes filled with a tasty spinach,ricotta and feta filling, smothered with a creamy béchamel sauce on a bed of rich, tangy tomato sauce.

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Comfort food at its best

I first ate Spinach and ricotta cannelloni several years ago at Spaghetti House.I can still remember the taste, absolutely delicious. I really wanted to recreate that taste, and think this especially with the addition of the feta cheese beats it hands down.

You will need 18-20 cannelloni tubes (feeds 6-7 people, with a serving size of 1-2 tubes per person)

For the tomato sauce:
3 garlic cloves crushed, 75gram butter, 400gram tin of chopped tomatoes, 500grams passata

Fry the crushed garlic in the butter until golden brown, add the tin of tomatoes and passata and some salt ( to taste, I usually add about a teaspoon). Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30minutes till the sauce has thickened and reduced.

Bechamel sauce:
850ml milk, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of grated nutmeg, 90grams butter, 45grams plain flour

Heat the milk with the bay leaves and nutmeg (and a pinch of salt) till just boiling. Turn off the heat and leave aside. In the meanwhile melt the butter and mix in the flour to a paste. Add the milk to the paste a spoon at a time, mixing so fully combined each time. It may start of a bit on the lumpy side but will eventually be a smooth sauce. Once all the milk has been added keep mixing over a low-medium heat till it comes to a boil and thickens.

Filling
2 onions chopped, 2 cloves of garlic crushed,750grams of fresh spinach, 300grams ricotta, 200grams feta (crumbled/chopped)

Fry the onions in some olive oil till soft and golden, add the garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the spinach by placing it in a colander and pouring boiled water over it causing it to wilt. Drain out as much water as possible,I squeeze the water out with my hands by squishing the spinach up before chopping it into the onions. Mix into the onions and add the ricotta and feta. Add a pinch of grated nutmeg. Combine completely.

Spread the tomato sauce over the base of your dish, fill the cannelloni tubes. I find the best way to fill the tubes is with a piping bag, quick and mess free. Cover completely with the bechamel sauce. Bake at 180degrees for 45mins (or until golden brown and bubbling).

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Serve with crusty ciabatta.

Enjoy.

I can sing a rainbow…

Sing a rainbow
Sing a rainbow too.

Red and yellow and…

Ok I can’t sing…an anything .. let alone a rainbow

However, I can bake a rainbow

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I’ve had my eye on rainbow cookies for sometime, after falling in love with some super piñata rainbow cookies. So when a tutorial popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, my rainbow cookie obsession was back.

Being me, I couldn’t just do squarish rainbow cookies and decided it would be a great excuse to use my new cookie cutters (I got them from ebay).

To make the dough it was easy enough, some effort was needed to knead the gel colours in…

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Once all the layers were stacked up (I had to make an extra layer so it would fit the size of my cookie cutter, I did this by combining my left over pink and yellow to get a nice orange), and the cookies were sliced, I used my cutter to make my cookies that extra bit awesome

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They did take a bit longer than stated in the recipe, around 20-25mins, possibly mine were thicker, and out they came

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Using the left over dough I made some marbled cookies as can be seen in the pictures

These were a lot easier to make than expected and they look really impressive (even if I do say so myself)

Many thanks to iced gems for a great tutorial

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