Double Chocolate Chequerboard Cake

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I’ve seen these all over the internet and various cafes recently and have been waiting for an excuse to make one for a while. With two of our congregation members leaving to go on long term mission in Sierra Leone, we’re having a bit of a leaving do for them tomorrow evening at church. Perfect opportunity to test this out. You’ll need to make a batch of your favourite chocolate cake and your favourite vanilla/Victoria sponge cake. I added white choc chips into my vanilla sponge mix too to give the double chocolate element of the cake. Once they’re cooled cut each layer into three equal rounds…

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Now whip up a batch of your favourite chocolate icing. I made a chocolate ganache but whipped it up with a tub of mascapone to lighten it. Spread the inside of each circle with the frosting to act as glue, then put the layers back together alternating the colours.

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Now transfer one layer to a cake stand using a blob of frosting to secure it. Spread a thin layer of the frosting on top of the layer then top with another layer ensuring you alternate the colours. Repeat until you’ve used all four layers. Pop it in the fridge for an hour.

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After an hour take the cake out of the fridge and cover with the remaining frosting. Decorate as you choose and put it back in the fridge.

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Here is the inside…
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Smoked bacon and maple scones

You may have noticed I’ve got a hankering for bacon & syrup at the moment. It’s the heavenly amalgamation of sweet, salty and smokey that does it for me. It sounds so wrong on paper, but seriously all you sceptics should give it a go. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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For these swirly scones I simply whipped up a batch of basic scone mixture. I happen to like this one by good old Delia Smith. Once the dough is made, set it aside and fry off 150g smoked bacon bits until cooked. I prefer to use a lean cut, but you could use lardons from the belly pork if you like. Once they’re cooked and a little crunchy, turn off the heat and add in 4 tablespoons of maple syrup. I added in half a teaspoon of sea salt flakes as well as I didn’t think my bacon was salty enough to offset the sweetness of the syrup, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether yours needs it. Let the mixture cool as you roll the dough out.

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Roll out the dough into a roughly oblong shape.

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Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the warm syrup from the bacon bits pan. Sprinkle over a scant amount of dark brown sugar, before scattering over the bacon leaving a gap if about an inch on one of the long sides. Roll it up starting from the opposite side.

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Slice off the scraggy ends and squish them together. This is important. You’ll see why later. Put it on a lined baking tray. Now slice the roll into 6 equal portions and add to the baking tray.

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Bake for around 16 minutes in a 200oC oven, or until golden brown.

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These tasty morsals are a present for a friend who’s celebrating his birthday tomorrow, so I transferred them to a foil container and allowed them to cool whilst I concocted a glaze. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this as I made it up as I went along. To icing sugar I added maple syrup, a teaspoon of camp coffee, a glug of double cream and then I loosened it all with a dash of milk. When you’re happy with the taste, spoon it over the scones.

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These are best enjoyed warm, so if you can resist eating them straight away store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, then warm them through in the oven for a few mins.

Now, remember I told you to cut the two scraggy ends off the roll, squish them together and bake along with the others? Here’s why…

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Chef’s treat. Enjoy!

Rhubarb and Custard Eclairs

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It’s the right season for rhubarb, but unfortunately my chickens have annihilated my plant. Apparently chickens love rhubarb leaves (and no, they’re not poisonous to them thankfully!). As a result I’ve only managed to harvest a couple of measly stalks. Not enough for a crumble, but just enough for rhubarb and custard eclairs for tomorrow’s Contact the Elderly tea party.

First you’ll need to make a batch of choux pastry, pipe it into short lines well spaced on a greased baking sheet, and bake until golden, puffed up and dried out in the middle. Remember to prick them with a skewer as soon as they come out of the oven to release the steam and avoid the dreaded collapse. Choux deflation equals sheer frustration. Trust me, I’m talking from experience! You can find a basic choux recipe on my ‘Choux-laa-laa A Paris Brest of Sorts’ post.

Once the eclair cases are baked, use a knife to open them out and set aside ready for piping.

Next, I took the miniscule amount of rhubarb I had, put it in a pan with a few tablespoons of sugar (roughly 4 I think) and added some water.

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Poach until the stalks are tender.

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Then remove from the pan and place on some kitchen roll to dry out.

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Allow the syrup left in the pan to reduce for a few minutes bearing in mind you’ll need about 190mls of it.

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Once reduced, measure out 160mls of the syrup and pour into a pan along with 100g of custard powder. Whisk over a medium heat until the powder is cooked out. You’ll be left with an incredibly thick custard with a hint of rhubarb coming through. Set aside to cool. You could of course make a creme pat (recipe on here), but it’ll lack the rhubarb taste which is why I opted for custard powder.

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Now beat 125g mascarpone with 100ml double cream until combined. Once the custard has cooled down a bit, beat it into the cream/cheese mixture. It will take some working in so persevere. Once combined add in the cooled rhubarb, giving it a rough chop first.

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You’ll end up with a rhubarb flecked custard creation like this:

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Transfer it into a piping bag with a wide nozzle. I used this one:

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Time to start filling the pastry cases.

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Pipe a continuous circle swirl into the opened out eclair case to achieve a pretty effect like so:

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Once they’re all filled, take the remaining rhubarb syrup (there should be around 30mls) and whisk it into icing sugar, adding more sugar until you have a thick consistency.

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Pipe it on top of the eclairs using whichever nozzle you fancy. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

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And there you have it. A twist on the classic cream and chocolate combo. Enjoy!

Fruit bread

Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking in the oven? Well yes, there is. Cue the fruit loaf.  Perfect on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon with a cuppa, this rich and sweet bread will certainly warm your cockles.

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You’ll need:
300ml milk heated to boiling point then left to cool until warm.
500g strong bread flour
200g mixed fruit
1tsp salt
7g quick yeast
75g caster sugar
50g very soft butter
3tsp ground cinnamon

Mix the flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt and yeast together before drizzling in the warm milk. Mix in the fruit and knead the dough for 5 or so minutes on a floured surface until it’s smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave somewhere warm to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.

Knock the dough back and knead again. Divide into two and put in greased loaf tins. Leave to prove for another hour then bake at 180oC for about 30 minutes or until golden and hollow sounding when tapped on the underside.

Melt some apricot jam and use a pastry brush to glaze the top of the loaf. Enjoy warm with butter. 

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Christmas swirl scones

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Last year I shared my Cinnamon Swirl Scone recipe with you and was blown away by the positive feedback. This is an even more Christmassy version of it, using good old Christmas mincemeat. Like most of my recipes, it’s quick and easy, and can also be made ahead of time and chilled or frozen raw ready to be baked when impromptu, but welcome, Christmas guests turn up.

Make a basic scone dough like the one in the Cinnamon Swirl Scone recipe (I doubled it for this recipe as I was feeding a crowd), and roll out to a rough rectangular shape.

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Spread roughly 450g mincemeat over the dough leaving about an inch gap at one side.

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Roll up, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for an hour, or freeze for use at a later date.

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Slice and bake at 180oC for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden.

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Slather in icing, or if you’re feeling very indulgent, icing sugar mixed with Baileys for a proper taste of Christmas.

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Christmas flapjacks

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Two of my most favourite things in the world are Christmas and flapjacks, so imagine my delight when a friend passed this recipe on to me years ago. It has become a firm Christmas staple in our house, with friends and family alike reveling in the novelty of the fact they’ve not been served yet another mince pie, but yet they’re still experiencing those lovely warming Christmas flavours. What I find even more appealing is the fact you can knock them out in 45 mins including the half hour cooking time. Perfect for last minute guests.

Here’s what you’ll need:

8oz porridge oats
6oz soft brown sugar
3oz pain flour
6oz butter
1lb mincemeat
1/2 tsp bi-carb
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Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
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Melt the butter and mix into the bowl of dry ingredients to form a sticky flapjack.
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Press 2/3 of the mixture into a greased shallow baking dish.
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Spread the mincemeat on top. I make no apologies about using shop bought mincemeat for this as, let’s face it, who has time to make their own at this hectic time of year? I certainly don’t.
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Sprinkle the rest of the flapjack mixture on top and bake at about 180oC for half an hour.
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Ignore the baking potatoes... An accompaniment for dinner tonight.

Now, you could serve this straight away as a pudding with custard or cream, almost like a Christmas crumble, but if you want it to hold its form and be able to cut it into squares then let it cool in the tin before removing.
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And there you have it. Super easy Christmas flapjack in a flash. Delicious!
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Cinnamon swirl scones

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With friends coming round for a play date this afternoon, I wanted to treat them to something tasty and freshly baked, but I knew I was going to be pressed for time having spent the morning in the gym (having a preemptive calorie burning session!). These cinnamon scones were just the thing, being incredibly fast to make and utterly delicious.

You’ll need:
550g self raising flour
110g salted butter
50g caster sugar
300ml milk

A couple of tablespoons of soft dark sugar, caster sugar and two or three teaspoons of ground cinnamon to taste, and a large knob of butter for melting.

Plus icing sugar and water to glaze.

Here’s how to do it:
Dress sous chef in appropriate attire…

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Chip the butter into the flour and rub together until you have a fine crumb.

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Add the sugar and milk and mix to firm a dough. Roll the dough out into a rough rectangular shape on a floured surface. You’re looking for a thickness of about a centimetre.

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Sack the sous chef on the grounds of inappropriate conduct…

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Melt a knob of butter and spread over the dough.

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Then mix brown sugar, caster sugar and the ground cinnamon in a bowl.

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Sprinkle the mixture over the butter drenched dough being sure to leave a gap on one of the long sides of about an inch.

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Roll up, sealing with the edge that’s still bare.

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At this point, if you have time roll the rolled up dough in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge (or freeze for use at a later date). Doing this won’t affect the taste but will give you a more circular shape when you come to slice them. On this occasion I didn’t have time, so just went ahead and sliced them immediately.

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You will always end up with a runt of the batch from either end,  but that’s ok… Chef’s treat!

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Look at those swirls of cinnamony goodness! Yum!

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Bake at 180oC for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.

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Leave to cool for ten minutes or so before transferring to a cake stand and drizzling with icing. Invite a few friends over and enjoy!

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Steph's never far from a baked good!