Chocolate peppermint candy cane cookies

When we went to the giant gingerbread house in the Disney Contemporary hotel, we bought a couple of cookies including a chocolate peppermint one. This is my attempt at re-creating it. I based it on this cookie recipe, and oldie but goodie.

Ingredients:

125g butter

100g light brown sugar

125g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tsp peppermint extract

175g self raising flour

50g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g chocolate chips

100g dark chocolate

2 crushed candy canes

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the egg and peppermint extract.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, salt and chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture onto the tray- walnut sized balls approx.

Bake for 7-10 minutes- until pale golden in colour-they will continue baking on the tray for a little.

Leave to cool on the tray.

Melt the chocolate and crush the candy canes. Dip each cooled cookie in the dark chocolate, then put back into the baking paper (the chocolate won’t  stick). Sprinkle over the crushed candy canes.

I was really pleased with how they turned out. For extra mintiness I think I would add a bit of peppermint extract to the melted chocolate.

I bagged them up and gave them as little gifts for my team at work- they seemed to go down well.

Do you like chocolate peppermint? When we went to Boston we had the most amazing chocolate candy cane cheesecake, which sounds strange but it was delicious.

Christmas Pudding Fudge (recipe)

I have been making this fudge for years, but realised that the recipe on my blog needed a little update as I now use a stand mixer for the mixing at the end (instead of a hand whisk in the pan).

It does sound a bit difficult, but I think the key is preparation (having everything ready before you start).

The recipe is a combination of one from The Pink Whisk website and one from a Rachel Allen cookbook.

Ingredients:

100g butter (unsalted)

450g brown sugar

1 tin condensed milk

1 mini Christmas pudding (the ones that are already cooked and you would just re-heat in a microwave)

 

Equipment:

Brownie tin lined with baking paper

Heavy saucepan

Mixer

Thermometer

Spatula

Preparation! I use my stand mixer so I put the attachment in and turn the plug on. Line a baking tray with baking paper, weigh out the ingredients and cut up the pudding and leave it on a plate (the pieces don’t need to be small because the mixer will mash them up).

Put the butter, sugar and condensed milk in a pan and heat gently, stirring regularly.

It will eventually bubble away and appear more smooth. The sugar thermometer needs to reach 235F. Once it reaches that, leave it for a few seconds before pouring it (carefully- it’s very hot) into the stand mixer.

Turn on the mixer and whisk away. It takes a while, but eventually the mixture will thicken- if you stop the mixer and lift up the attachment it will leave ribbons in the mixture and drip slowly off. Add in the Christmas pudding and mix a little more until it is evenly dispersed.

Pour into the lined pan and smooth the top- it won’t set too quickly so you have time to even it out. Leave it to cool for a few hours/ overnight, and then cut into lots of little squares ready to put into little bags.

Do you like to make gifts? What is your favourite fudge flavour? I do like peanut butter and chocolate fudge, and I am tempted to do a different festive one with maybe cranberries and white chocolate chips.

If you make it, let me know how it turns out!

Peanut butter caramel slices

I have still been loving the Bake Off. Yes, I love Mel and Sue and I miss them (and Mary) but Noel and Sandy are funny too. And really I watch it because I find it so relaxing- I don’t mind who goes home or who wins. I like to see them bake new things and decide that I will never attempt something that looks such a faff (mini swiss rolls) or maybe give something a go (I think the first time I tried to make a Battenberg was because I had seen it on Bake Off). Anyway, the other week was caramel week and inspired by it (because I think they made it look harder than it actually is) I have created my own recipe for peanut butter caramel slices.

Base:

150g soft margarine (Pure spread)

6 tbs brown sugar

165g plain flour

60g rolled oats

Caramel:

125g butter

1 tin condensed milk

75g brown sugar

1 tbs golden syrup

Plus 3 tbs peanut butter (to add later)

Topping:

200g dark chocolate

1 tbs peanut butter

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

Line a square brownie tin with baking paper

Cream together the margarine and sugar for the base. Stir in the flour and oats, then press into the bottom of the tin.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden

To make the caramel, put the butter, sugar, condensed milk and syrup in a pan. Gently heat and stir for around 10 minutes. The mixture will bubble but it should not spit. It will gradually turn darker as it thickens. I don’t use a thermometer for this bit- to test if it is thick enough put a little blob on a plate, leave for a few seconds and then push it with your finger to see if it has thickened. Once it has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Pour the peanut butter caramel over the base and leave to cool.

To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate (I have a nice thick bowl that I can use in the microwave) and then stir in the peanut butter. Pour over the caramel and leave to set again.

Once set, slice and enjoy.

Do you like caramel slices? What would your ultimate flavour combination be?

A summery salad

A while ago I was contacted by Sainsbury’s to see if I could make a visually stunning salad, as they have teamed up with food artist Amber Locke to encourage people to be more creative with their salads.

At the moment we have been enjoying halloumi cheese, often grilled with a salad and some quinoa. Then on Sunday after the 10K we went to Bill’s and I had one of their specials which was a salad with grilled honey peaches and halloumi. The sweet fruit and salty cheese went so well together, so we decided to make a similar version at home.

Halloumi and Watermelon Salad

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For two servings we used:

Watermelon, cubed (we bought a whole one, but had loads left over)

One pouch of Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa (for extra colour although it is more black than red)

One pack of salad leaves

Half a pack of halloumi

A sprig of mint leaves

It was very quick to prepare:

Slice the cheese and put in a pan, Heat for a few minutes on either side.

Heat the pouch of quinoa in the microwave.

Slice the watermelon.

Tear the mint leaves.

Assemble on the plate.

Enjoy.

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I loved it and we both agreed that it is something we would make again. The watermelon and cheese just went perfectly together- I think the texture of the watermelon was even better than the peaches at Bill’s. It was also good to have a mixture of warm (quinoa and cheese) and cold (salad and watermelon). I don’t normally think to add herbs to salads either, but the mint just went so well and I am glad we used it. Andy did comment that we should have bought some blueberries too, and then it could have been a 4th of July salad (we had it on Monday) but we were eating it by then- maybe next time!

Do you like cheese and fruit in salads? Or salads with warm and cold ingredients?

*I was sent a voucher from Sainsbury’s to cover the cost of the ingredients. All opinions are my own.

Banana cake with peanut butter frosting

So, we are still rather inundated with bananas. Last weekend I was flicking through my new CCC book, A Year of Cake, and came across Peanut Butter and Caramelised Banana cake. It sounded good, but the ingredients list was long, and despite trying a few recipes I always go back to the banana bread from the original CCC book. So I made a bit of a recipe mash up (get it?).

For the cake:

100g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

250g self raising flour

80ml milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

4 medium bananas, mashed

1 tsp bicarb

3 tbs peanut butter (I used smooth, but crunchy would work too)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two 20cm cake tins with baking paper (I buy the circles now as that is so much easier). If making the icing you may want to leave out the butter so that it has plenty of time to come to room temperature before you need it.

Mash the bananas. Put the milk in a jug and add the lemon juice. Leave while you make the batter.

Beat together the butter and sugar, then add in the peanut butter and beat.

Add the eggs once at a time, then add the vanilla.

Pour in the milk (the lemon makes it curdle slightly, so it might be a bit lumpy) and bananas, and mix well. Finally fold in the flour and bicarb.

Pour into the two pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, before removing from the tin (leave in the paper) and placing on a rack to cool.

Icing:

80g butter (room temperature)

250g peanut butter

150g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Possibly a tbs milk to thin

Beat together the butter and peanut butter until creamy. Slowly add in the icing sugar and finally add the vanilla. If it is really thick, add a tbs of milk to thin it out.

The recipe for the cake with the frosting also had bananas on top, caramelised with a blow torch, but I felt like it had enough banana flavour in there already. I had some of that lovely marshmallow deli vegan butterscotch sauce, so when I put the cake together I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom cake, then half the frosting, put the other cake on top, and repeated with more sauce and more frosting.

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We had some on Sunday for tea and it was so good! The peanut butter frosting is just amazing, and luckily the banana bread-style cake is not too rich, so they go together perfectly. I normally add dark chocolate chips to the banana bread, but I think I might be converted to peanut butter instead. There was some left over so we took it home and are saving it.

To continue the peanut butter love I made some peanut butter cookies- I was visiting a friend and one of my friends does not eat gluten, so I had a quick google and found a recipe here on the Wholefoods site. I made half with white chocolate chips, and half without as I didn’t think they were gluten free. They were so easy to make- I just whisked the egg in a jug, added the vanilla and sugar, whisked again, then finally added the peanut butter. Some reviews on similar recipes said they were too crumbly, but these were perfect- nice and soft with a very strong peanut butter flavour.

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A slightly quicker recipe than the cake!

Do you go for smooth or crunchy peanut butter? I always used to prefer crunchy but because smooth is easier to use in baking I tend to go for that now.