Category Archives: Baking

Guilt Free Cookies

Do you ever get those moments, when nothing but a biscuit and a cuppa will do? But oh what about the bingo wings and the ‘moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips’? Well, with these little gems, you can have your cake and eat it – or at least your biscuit!

As an avid cook I do like to try out different recipes, just ask my family, they’ll struggle to think of a meal that we’ve had twice in the last year. But they do have their favourite biscuits, peanut butter being one of them (which I’ve posted on here a while back). So I thought it was time for a change.

I love baking rich, indulgent cookies, but my husband has recently been complaining on his expanding waist line. So in order to satisfy his desire for a sweet snack, yet ensuring the button doesn’t fly off his trousers, I made three treats whose recipes are courtesy of the Weight Watchers.

Caramel Cookies
Makes 60

Ingredients

120g butter softened
140g light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
120g wholemeal flour
½ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 200° (fan 180°) and set aside two non stick baking trays. In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly, ideally using an electric mixer. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and roll into a log (or two) approximately 4 cm wide. Wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. Cut the dough into 3mm slices and arrange on a baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24

Ingredients

25g butter softened
2 tbs vegetable oil
100g light brown or muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 egg
100g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
75g chocolate chips or broken chocolate – plain, milk or dark

Preheat the oven to 190° (fan 170°) and set aside two non stick baking trays. In a large bowl cream together the butter, oil and sugar until light in texture and paler in colour. Add the vanilla extract, salt and egg and beat well until creamy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in the chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of the cookie mix onto non stick baking trays and bake for 5 – 8 minutes until golden and spread out. Allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Choc-Peanut Frozen Cookies

Makes 16

Ingredients

60ml skimmed milk
4 tsp heaped, cocoa powder
25 g caster sugar
50g peanut butter
125g oats
2 tbs vegetable oil

In a small pan heat together the milk, cocoa powder and sugar until the cocoa powder and sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and remove the pan from the heat. Add the peanut butter and stir until it has dissolved. Mix in the oats and the oil. Divide the mixture into 16 balls and place on a large tray. Freeze for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

I was actually expecting them to be half the size of ‘normal’ cookies, but no, they were just as big and smelt delicious as they were cooking. The trouble was, they were a bit too moreish, which meant double the amount were eaten! Oh well, looks like I’ll be getting the needle and thread out to reinforce the trouser buttons after all!

Peanut Butter Brownies

Chocolate brownies are a big hit in our house, especially when made with beetroot, but on this occasion I decided to try a different recipe, from the May edition of The Good Food magazine. I had seen and forgotten about this recipe until stumbling across it a couple of days ago. I don’t know about you, but my usual decision process for sampling a new recipe is by how the picture appears and whether or not it makes me salivate just by looking at the page – this recipe certainly ticked the box!

It’s quite a quick and easy recipe and the results were excellent, even though I do say so myself. The brownies had a slight crunch on the outside, but were beautifully gooey on the inside, just as they should be. A testament of how good they are – my husband has asked me not to make them again as he finds it impossible to resist and has no willpower to only have one or two squares!

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES

225g crunchy peanut butter
200g bar dark chocolate , broken into pieces
280g soft light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
100g self-raising flour

Set aside 50g each of the peanut butter and chocolate. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment. Gently melt remaining peanut butter, chocolate and all the sugar in a pan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has just about melted. Turn off heat and use a wooden spoon to beat in the eggs one by one. Stir in the flour and scrape into the tin.

Melt reserved peanut butter in the microwave on High for 45 secs, or in a pan, until runny, then drizzle over the brownie. Bake for 30-35 mins until it has a crust, but the middle still seems slightly uncooked.

Melt reserved chocolate, drizzle over the brownie, then cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

My hubby has asked that I stop making cakes for a while as he thinks his waist line is expanding too quickly! I couldn’t resist making these though, and did think that as they’re cut into small squares, he could at least have some portion control. Four squares later, it appears he has no control! So either I stop baking (yeah right!) or he finds some willpower – or buys larger trousers!

Coconut Cake

My dear dad celebrated his 71st Birthday recently, and apart from Amazon vouchers his only request was to have a coconut cake made for him, which I duly did. My Gran would always have this honour and I have to admit nothing compares to her masterpiece. She was an excellent cake maker, although I remember her being incredibly self critical about practically every item she made; ‘it’s a little dry; it’s not quite right this time; the oven is playing up’ etc. From coffee and walnut cake to chocolate fairy cakes with melted chocolate and a smartie on top, to gooey meringues to her light coconut cake, they all tasted heavenly to us.

Gran never appeared to use recipes and unfortunately the secrets of her baking died with her. So it was quite a tall order for me to find a recipe that would do her coconut cake justice. She would add glacé cherries and angelica to her coconut cake, however dad obviously wasn’t particularly keen on them and asked for them to be omitted. I found plenty of recipes for coconut cake with lime (which is divine!) or lemon or even banana, but I wanted to start with just a basic coconut recipe. I was recommended the following recipe which is taken from the lovely Nigella’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’. As my dad isn’t keen on icing I didn’t use any on top but sprinkled the cake with icing sugar instead. I also think this cut down on the sweetness.

For the cake:

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g desiccated coconut, soaked in 150ml boiling water

For the coconut buttercream within:
25g dessicated coconut
75g soft unsalted butter
150g icing sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon Malibu

For the icing on top:
2-4 tablespoons Malibu
125g instant royal icing (which may be labelled ‘royal icing sugar’)
Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter and line two 21cm sandwich tins.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat into the mixture. Beat in the vanilla.
Add the flour, cornflour and baking powder, and fold until it’s all combined. Stir the soaked coconut in its boiling water and then tip the lot into the batter. Alternatively, blitz everything bar the coconut in the processor until you have a smooth batter, then whizz in the coconut at the end.
Pour into the waiting sandwich tins, and cook for between 25-30 minutes. A skewer should come out more or less clean. Leave to cool in the tins for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.
While the cakes are cooking, toast the 25g coconut for the buttercream in a dry pan, shaking it now and then, until it is nicely golden. Tip it onto a plate to stop it toasting further, and allow it to get completely cold before you make the buttercream.
To make the buttercream, cream together the butter and icing sugar. When you have a smooth paste, beat in the Malibu and then the cold toasted coconut. Spread onto the bottom cake, then place the other cake on top, pushing down gently.
For the topping icing if using – beat together two tablespoons of the Malibu with the instant royal icing. Pour the icing onto the centre of the cake, and allow it to spread out. Let the icing set before serving the cake.

I must admit, the cake smelt delicious as it came out the oven and was very light and slightly moist. As for my toughest coconut cake critic? A big thumbs up!

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

With the rain lashing down and the wind blowing a gail, I took our dog out on his daily walk. Soggy jeans and the 80’s windswept hair look doesn’t invoke images of summer, however this is how our July appears to be evolving this year. To take my mind off the grey dreariness of the trudge through muddy puddles I reminisced of bygone summers that really did feel as though they’d last forever. Sweltering heat, hosepipes left on purely for the benefit of the squealing children dashing across the lawn, ice-cream soda’s and tingling sun-kissed skin. Oh how things are different this year!

Summer produce that always makes this season complete for me, come rain or shine, are juicy fat strawberries, plump raspberries and tart rhubarb. I am in a privileged position of being kept in constant supply of the beautiful champagne rhubarb, by my daughters Grandfather. He has been growing it in his garden since I have known him, and every year without fail he provides me with bags full of the pink and green delight. My latest delivery was put to good use in our family favourite – Rhubarb and Custard Cake.

I’ve tried a few variations of this, but I do keep coming back to this one by Jane Hornby. Drizzling the custard on the cake before baking, along with mixing it with the batter, seems to give a better balance of custard and rhubarb. Other recipes I’ve tried omit baking the custard and use the custard as an optional extra when serving. Baking the custard ensures you get the best of both in one bite, even if you’re taking the cake in a packed lunch.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

To start with you need to roast your rhubarb:

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Allow to cool.

Ingredients
1 quantity roasted rhubarb
250g pack butter , softened, plus extra for greasing
150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)
250g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g golden caster sugar
icing sugar , for dusting

Butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
Reserve 3 tbsp of the custard in a bowl. Beat the rest of the custard together with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and sugar until creamy and smooth. Spoon one-third of the mix into the tin, add some of the rhubarb, then dot with one-third more cake mix and spread it out as well as you can. Top with some more rhubarb, then spoon over the remaining cake mix, leaving it in rough mounds and dips rather than being too neat about it. Scatter the rest of the rhubarb over the batter, then dot the remaining custard over. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cake

I first saw this recipe back in 2009 in the Good Food Magazine, but it’s only been this week that I’ve eventually got round to making it after stumbling across it on a Good Food Cakes App. It was surprisingly easy to make and although I haven’t eaten any (still battling with the bingo wings and thunder thighs, not to mention being wheat intolerant) but from what little is left in the cake tin, and going from the ‘mmmmm’s’ and ‘yuuuuumy’s’ coming from the family whilst they sampled the delight, I’m guessing this was a big hit.

The cake is gloriously calorific and laden with peanut butter and dulce de leche, which seem to work beautifully together. The roasted salted peanuts which were caramelised and scattered on the top gave balance to the sweetness of the cake, just enough so it wasn’t sickly.

200g butter , softened, plus extra for greasing
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter , plus 2 tbsp for the middle (or more if you like)
4 large eggs
200g golden caster sugar
150g pot natural yogurt
200g self-raising flour
F OR THE FILLING AND TOPPING
50g salted roasted peanuts
1 tbsp icing sugar
100g milk chocolate , roughly chopped
2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp dulce de leche (or carnation caramel)

Butter 2 x 20cm non-stick sandwich tins and line with circles of baking paper. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Using electric hand beaters, beat the butter, 3 tbsp peanut butter, eggs, sugar and yogurt together until smooth and creamy. Fold in the flour, then split the mix between the tins, using a spatula to get every last bit. Bake for 30 mins until risen and golden.
Meanwhile, toss the salted peanuts and icing sugar with ½ tsp water until well coated and claggy. Spread over a non-stick baking sheet. When the cakes are ready, leave them to cool for 5 mins in the tin, then turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Turn the oven up to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6, then roast the nuts for 10 mins, tossing them a couple of times until golden and coated in a shiny caramel. Tip onto a lightly buttered plate. Make the topping while you wait: melt the chocolate and milk together in a pan over simmering water or microwave on High for 1 min, then stir to melt. Leave to cool.
Put one of the sponges onto a plate, spread with 2 tbsp peanut butter (or more), then dot with the dulce de leche and spread with a palette knife. Sandwich the second sponge on top, then spread with the chocolate topping. Scatter with the caramelised peanuts to serve.

This is definitely one to do again, and again, and again!

Peanut Butter Biscuits

There are certain tasks around the house that remind me of different family members. Wiping the bathroom sink out and putting the loo roll the ‘correct’ way round reminds me of my mother, grinding coffee, my elder sister and changing an electric plug, my Grandfather, are just a few. A couple of days ago I was sitting shelling peas whilst reminiscing about by Grandmother. She would sit in the garden with a bowl and colander, surrounded by sweet smelling peas tucked up in the pods, merrily chatting whilst shelling at a speed that would put the top chefs to shame.

She was everything a Grandmother should be, caring and loving, first class at knitting and baked the most amazing cakes. The ones that spring to mind instantly are her coffee and walnut cake, gooey sticky meringues and our particular favourite as children, her chocolate fairy cakes covered in melted chocolate with a Smartie on top.

My sisters and I have tried to reconstruct her recipes, but no matter how many times we try the end product just never turn out quite the same as Gran’s.

My daughter has very fond memories of my Gran, and from an age when her first words were being vocalised she decided to call her Biscuit Tin Gran, on the account that the biscuit tin played a starring role during every visit. When Gran died and her belongings were being sorted out, it was felt appropriate that the infamous biscuit tin be passed to my daughter.
At the age of 16 my daughter seems to have developed the baking bug, much to my delight, although to say she’s a messy cook is an understatement. I am sure Biscuit Tin Gran would be incredibly proud of her though, but would “box her ears” for the chaos she creates in a kitchen!

One of the first recipes my daughter attempted on her own was Peanut Butter Biscuits. A great recipe for beginners as everything can be thrown in a mixer together and it takes no time at all to get from weighing the ingredients to eating the goodies.

Peanut Butter Biscuits

60g margarine
60g light brown sugar
60g golden syrup
115g crunchy peanut butter
85g plain flour
30g medium oatmeal
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. Roll a spoonful of the dough in your hands to form a walnut size round and gently flatten. Space apart on a tray covered with baking paper. Bake on the middle shelf in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool, enjoy with a cuppa.