Spiced ginger and date cake

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With the weather having turned and Christmas fast approaching I’ve found myself craving something warming and sweet to enjoy with a cup of coffee mid afternoon. Most days I have the willpower to resist, however this weekend I experimented with a basic ginger cake recipe, tweaking it with spices and dates.

The mini bundts went down well at a family meal served with custard and also the following day at church with a caramel drizzle, but to me, they were slightly dark and more pudding like than cake. So, with the school fair looming in Saturday I made some adjustments and came up with this easy recipe.

Boil the kettle and measure out 250ml boiling water.  In a blender cup (I used my nutribullet) weigh out 75g pitted dates and pour over the boiling water). Put the lid or blade on and leave until cool.

Whilst the dates are cooling cream together 125g butter and 125g caster sugar (I keep caster sugar in a jar with left over vanilla pods to add extra flavour) before adding in one large egg and 225g golden syrup. Beat together until fully combined then sieve in 300g plain flour, 1.5 tsp bicarb, 2 tsp each of ground ginger and cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground cloves. Add in half a teaspoon of salt to offset the sweetness.

Whizz up the dates, and as the flour is combining with the wet ingredients drizzle in the date water.

Don’t be alarmed at how wet the batter is. Pour it into a well greased bundt tin, (or your tin of choice but be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly) and bake for 35 mins at 170oC or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed, and a skewer comes out clean.

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Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out.

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Because this particular cake is for the school fair, I baked a smaller cupcake version to cut into to show you the inside…

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Light and moist with a distinct ginger taste yet reminiscent of its delectable cousin the sticky toffee pud.

I plan to make a cheats caramel drizzle for the bundt by simply warming some condensed caramel up and spooning over the top. That can wait until Saturday though.

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Avocado, banana and Nutella ice lollies

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This is an incredibly easy healthier treat for those of us with a sweet tooth.  You’ll need just three simple ingredients:

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Mash a couple of bananas until pretty smooth.

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Put in a nutribullet cup (a regular blender will work fine), top with half a mashed avocado and three tablespoons of Nutella. For those of you who would prefer a more natural alternative to Nutella you could try adding coconut oil and manuka honey chocolate instead, although I’ve yet to try it.

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Blitz until smooth and well combined.

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Pour into moulds and leave to set in the freezer.

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Run the mould under a little warm water to release the lolly and enjoy.

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Shortbread with Scottish tablet.

Yesterday seemed to whiz by. After dropping the little one at nursery, going to the gym, coming home, having lunch, painting my old dressing table, picking the little one up, making dinner, eating dinner, clearing up and waxing the dressing table it was 7pm and I suddenly realised I didn’t have anything to serve to our Life Group, which started at 8pm. Needing only three ingredients, I immediately thought of shortbread and set to work. Here’s the basic recipe and method (I hope you can read my writing):

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As the butter and sugar were creaming in the mixer, my eyes fell on a jar of Scottish tablet I’d made for DH as a birthday present back in January. His Nanna used to make it for him as a child, and ever since we married twelve years ago I’ve been trying to replicate her recipe with little success. On this occasion I’d tried this version on the Carnation website, but I think I’d boiled it a little too long and it was slightly too hard and crumbly.

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I wondered what it would be like in the shortbread, so crushed a few pieces up with a rolling pin and threw them in the mixer with the flour. Obviously the dough needed a little helping coming together because of the addition of the delicious golden nuggets, so I just tipped it out onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and gently pressed it together with my hands. Not even having time to cut out individual biscuits, I rolled the dough into a rough round and scored it with a knife to mark out slices that would easily break apart once baked. Had I had time I would have chilled it for twenty minutes at this point, but as our guests were arriving in less than half an hour I decided to just bung it in the oven and hope for the best.

25 minutes later it looked golden around the edges, so I took it out and lifted the huge shortbread round, still on the greaseproof paper, onto a wire rack. Re-mark the segments at this point if you need to.

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After cooling I snapped it into pieces and served. It was delicious. More cookie like than regular shortbread as a result of the extra sugar, but still delicious. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

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Rich Chocolate and Beetroot Bundt

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are ready to face 2015 with renewed vigour.

With an abundance of post-Christmas chocolate lying around at home, I decided to remove the temptation and share the love at church today with a very rich and indulgent chocolate and beetroot cake. Beautifully moist and studded with chunks of dark chocolate, this is bound to prove popular with kids and adults alike.

A lot of recipes call for cooked beetroot, but thanks to the pulversing powers of the nutribullet I used raw.

Here’s how to do it. Scrub a whole beetroot and weigh out 180g of it.  Cube and put in the nutribullet along with three large eggs.

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Blend until pulverised.

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In a bowl or blender mix 200g plain flour, 250g light brown soft sugar, 100g  good quality cocoa powder, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste before adding the beetroot and egg mixture, and 200ml melted butter. You’ll end up with a lovely rich mixture like this.

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Chop 100g of good quality dark chocolate (no higher than 70%).

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Mix into the batter before spooning into a greased bundt tin which has been sprinkled with cocoa powder to stop the cake sticking.

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Bake for 35mins at 180oC or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes before turning out.

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For the icing steep a few cubes of the leftover beetroot in some vanilla syrup (water or milk works fine if you don’t have syrup to hand), then add the liquid to icing sugar to make a thick pink drizzle. Pipe over the cooled bundt.

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It went down well at church this morning.

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Cinnamon Rolls

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I love cinnamon rolls! Absolutely love them. Warming, gooey, sweet, perfect with a steaming mug of coffee for elevenses on a frosty morning. That said, until yesterday I only ever attempted to make my Cinnamon Swirl Scones, the simple, quick and easy cousin of this yeast infused doughy delight. However, I bit the bullet and decided to have a go. After checking out a few different recipes, I did the following:

In a saucepan lightly heat:
1.5 cups semi skimmed milk
0.5 cup double cream
0.5 cup sugar
0.5 cup vegetable oil

In a mixer bowl measure out 4 cups plain flour and two and a quarter tsps of quick yeast, 1 tsp baking powder and a 1/4 tsp bicarb.

When the milk mixture is luke warm set the dough hook going on your mixer and drizzle in the milk. You should end up a wet dough like this:

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Cover with clingfilm and leave somewhere warm to rise for an hour or so. You should end up with this:

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Now mix in an extra 0.5 cup of flour before turning out onto a floured surface.

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Roll out into a rough oblong shape about half an inch thick.

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Brush with approximately 75g melted butter, before sprinkling generously with ground cinnamon, dark brown sugar and light brown sugar.

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Roll up before slicing into half inch thick slices.

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Grease a few round tins. How many you need obviously depends on the size of them. I bought some disposable foil containers with lids and needed five of them for this amount of dough. I could fit five rolls in each.

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Leave them to prove for another half an hour somewhere warm.

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Bake for 15 minutes at 160oC.

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Now, ordinarily at this point I’d ice them. However these are going to be frozen for Christmas, so I’ll ice them in due course.  However, here’s my Cinnamon icing recipe for you. To a kilo of icing sugar add a tablespoon of ground cinnamon, a tablespoon of vanilla syrup and a tablespoon of camp coffee syrup. Set the mixer going on low and drizzle in a bit if milk until you have a very thick but pourable icing. Divide between the five trays of rolls while they are still hot, and serve. Delicious! Enjoy!

Chocolate and peanut butter mini cakes

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The other day I watched Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, whip up a batch of peanut butter frosting. As well as smooth peanut butter, she added in regular butter, a splash of cream and icing sugar. 

I had some left over chocolate buttercream in the fridge which I wanted to use up (recipe on the BBC Website), so loosely following what I’d seen the Barefoot Contessa doing, I came up with my own version by simply beating the chocolate buttercream with a tub of smooth peanut butter, a splash or two of double cream, a pinch of salt, and icing sugar.  This is all to taste, making adjustments as you go along. If if tastes good to you, then it’s fine. I put it in a piping bag ready for the next stage. 

I was a bit disappointed my cakes had come put if the oven with unsightly domes on top.

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Never one to be defeated though, I decided to make individual mini cakes, by slicing the tops off the cake, and using a cookie cutter to make little rounds, as so:

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“What about all that waste?”, I hear you shrieking. Fear not my friends, I have plans for the left overs….(see here) Pipe the frosting on each mini cake and adorn with a few halves of salted peanut.

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The amalgamation of the rich sweet chocolate, with the creamy saltiness of the peanut butter is an unlikely union, but as the old adage goes, opposites attract, and this is certainly a match made in heaven. Enjoy!

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Simply stunning and stunningly simple fruit tartlets

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I don’t know about you but I find great satisfaction in serving guests scrumptious little morsels that taste as delicious as they look. These fruit tartlets definitely fall into the edible art category, but they are ridiculously simple to boot. Happy days.

Firstly, make a Creme Patissiere (pastry cream).This can be made the day before and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. I used Raymond Blanc’s recipe on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pastry_cream_36417

Cut sheets of filo into squares and put one square into each hole in a cupcake tray, brush with butter the repeat until you have three layers. Bake for around 8 minutes until golden and crispy.

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Cut up whatever fruit takes your fancy. I used clementine, grapes, strawberries and blueberries.

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Spoon the Creme Patissiere into the filo tartlet cases and adorn with the fruit. Dust with icing sugar et voila. Enjoy immediately.

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