Friday, 12 December 2014

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Recently there's been some baking fails around here! It started with me wanting to make peppermint patties, because it's not Christmas without a peppermint overload and since we can't get peppermint patties over here in the shops I wanted to make my own! There were tons of recipes all calling for coconut oil, which I didn't have, which I'm ashamed to admit because hello I'm the queen of coconut?! but with no coconut oil in sight I settled on a recipe using just condensed milk...well apparently there's a reason all those other recipes called for coconut oil - my patties did not set at all! So became a gooey mess! Next up I tried to make candy cane truffles to take to a Christmas party, again using condensed milk...and again they didn't set - why do you hate me condensed milk?! 

The third baking fail in the space of 2 weeks came from a chocolate pecan pie we tried to make for thanksgiving and we had a pastry when I decided I wanted to bake something for a friend from church who was having some health problems I asked her teenage sons what her favourite dessert was (she has an American husband so I was expecting something red velvet, or s'mores, or peanut butter like) and immediately they responded with pecan pie!!! You can imagine me groaning on the inside!

I can bake most things with zero problems, but pecan pie? Out of all the things she could want!

Fortunately I found this amazing recipe for pecan pie bars, where all you had to do was rub some flour, sugar and butter together to whip up your pastry and then press it down into your square tin - easy peasy! This was a pecan pie I could handle!

Think making caramel is hard? think again! You whip up this salted caramel straight in the microwave - easy peasy take 2! 

Chop up some pecans, pour the caramel on top, bake and drizzle with copious amounts of chocolate! 

What can go wrong? Nothing!!! Thank goodness, so finally I had a baking win! which is awesome because with Christmas right around the corner I'm about to go into baking overdrive and I have no more time for failures!

So if you love pecans, chocolate and salted caramel and want a tasty no fail treat then these are your guys!

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars:
Makes 16 small or 9 large
Adapted from Averie Cooks

for the crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt

for the filling:
8 ozs roasted pecan halves
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (approx 140g)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup double cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

for the drizzle:
50g dark chocolate
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with tin foil, grease with a small amount of butter and don't skip this step otherwise it will not be easy to get your bars out.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar cornstarch and salt.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers.  The mixture will go sandy, continue rubbing in until everything starts to come together.

Break pastry into clumps and pat them down into the prepared baking tin, using a spatula or I used my hands.

Chop pecans in half, and sprinkle over the pastry base.

Chop chocolate into small chunks and sprinkle over the pecans.

In a large microwavable safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, double cream, vanilla and salt.  Heat on high power for 1 minute.

Remove bowl from microwave and whisk until mixture is smooth.

Return bowl to microwave for another minute on high power.

Remove bowl from microwave and whisk again.  Whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Slowly, and evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pecans and chocolate ensuring most of the filling is covered.

Bake for 28-30 minutes.  When your bars are ready the caramel will be vigorously bubbling away around the edges of the pan and the middle of the pan will be bubbling to a lesser extent.

Allow bars to cool in the pan for 3 hours, or overnight (ensuring you cover pan with clingfilm and put in an airtight container - not in the fridge).

Once cooled, add chocolate and vegetable oil to a small microwaveable bowl and heat in 30 second bursts.  The chocolate should all be melted by about 1 minute 30.  Pour into a piping bag and drizzle diagonally in both directions.

They will then be ready to slice and serve.

Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks

Sometimes when it's cold and grey and need baked goods! whether it is the weekend or not yet! but come on...Friday's count as the weekend right?

and sometimes only cookies will do!

but when you turn to your Pinterest list of cookie goodness, you discover that most of these recipes call for chilling your dough, for an hour...sometimes three...or sometimes OVERNIGHT!

Now, I know...chilling your dough has its merits and stops your cookies from spreading and makes them look more attractive but when that cookie craving creeps in who can stand to wait overnight to fulfil it?

Not me! 

Enter the cookie stick!

No chilling time, no rolling out into little balls...

maximum output of deliciousness with the minimum input...

Sounds good?

Sounds amazing...and the taste is even better!

Throw some chocolate chunks in, creamy peanut butter, and reese's pieces and your laughing!

A delicious winter warming treat, that only takes less than 15 minutes of prep time - you can't beat that!

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks:
Makes 9
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup creamy smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup Reese's Pieces
1 cup milk chocolate chunks 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a brownie pan (11x7") with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine the sieved flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil, peanut butter, both sugars, vanilla and egg. Mix on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour mix in 3 parts, mixing on low speed until the flour is incorporated.

Chop the chocolate into chunks, and stir in with a spatula.  Add the Reese's Pieces and stir again.  Reserve back a handful of both to decorate the top.

Spread the cookie dough into the brownie pan, ensuring the surface is flat and level.  Sprinkle the handful of chocolate chunks and Reeese's Pieces across the top of the dough.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, until the top looks golden brown, and the middle is still slightly gooey.

Remove from oven, and leave to cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Remove parchment from pan and cut the cookie vertically into cookie strips with a large sharp knife. Be careful because the cookie will still be quite soft and gooey, and you don't want any of the sticks to break in half.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Ferrero Rocher & Nutella Fudge Cream Pie

So I know I promised you a Nutella break for a while...but I just can't keep away from the stuff!

Also, I'm having a hard time shifting my baby weight - because did you know that baby weight doesn't fall off itself, and it also doesn't fall off when you eat brownies and cupcakes and huge slabs of dairy milk and toblerone nightly!

So my husband suggested we abstain from any chocolate or baked goods during the week, and that we can 'treat' ourselves on the weekend! Do you know that I can't recall the last time I even went for one single day without a chocolate fix??? So this was a really big deal! At the end of our first week, I felt like I had just run a 20k marathon - does that even exist? See I'm so busy eating the whole pan of brownies I don't even know what distance marathons are run in, but anyway it felt like a massive massive achievement!

So to reward myself for being so good for a whole 5 DAYS I made this beast of a pie! because I may or may not have been dreaming it up the whole week long!

...and what a way to break a diet! Nutella? check, Chocolate? check


 Oreo crust? check

 Ferrero Rocher's? check

 Double cream? check

 Oh and don't forget the Nutella drizzle!

You can't finish off a beast of a cream pie like this without copious amounts of warm drizzled Nutella!

It is super rich and pretty sweet because of the addition of the Nutella to the chocolate fudge filling - both of which are absolutely fine by me but if you're not into super sweet fillings (then why are you following my blog?!) then perhaps you'd want to increase your dark chocolate to Nutella ratio.  I do think the cream balances it all out nicely though and it would certainly make a great dessert at any dinner party, for a Nutella lover, or just to sit in front of the T.V with on a rainy weekday night ;)

Ferrero Rocher & Nutella Fudge Cream Pie:
Serves 14
From Cupcake Crazy Gem

  For the base:
18 Oreos, crushed
60g unsalted butter, melted

For the Nutella fudge filling:
397g condensed milk
100g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
 200g Nutella
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

9 Ferrero Rocher's, halved

For the topping:
250ml double cream, whipped
2 tbsp Nutella
3 Ferrero Rocher's, chopped

For the frosting:
1 tbsp cream cheese
3 tbsp icing sugar
3 heaped tbsp Nutella

4 Ferrero Rocher's, halved

Grease your pie dish with a thin layer of butter.

Crush the Oreos in a blender.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave.  Mix the butter in with the Oreo crumbs until the mixture is sticky and when you roll it in a ball it holds its shape.  Spread the biscuit layer into the bottom of the pie dish, pressing down with the back of a teaspoon.  I used my hands to press the remaining crumbs into the sides of the dish to ensure the crust was evenly distributed.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes whilst making the fudge filling.

In a medium saucepan, add the condensed milk, chopped dark chocolate, Nutella, salt and vanilla.  Stir over a medium-low heat until melted.  Get your Oreo crust out of the fridge and spread the fudge layer on top, save back a small amount - about half a cup.

Now the fun part: chop 9 Ferrero Rocher's in half.  Press them into the fudge layer - filling side down.  Spread the remaining fudge on top so most of the Ferrero's are hidden.

Whip double cream in the bowl of an electric mixer on high for 3-4 minutes until peaks start to form.  Meanwhile melt 2 heaped tablespoons of Nutella in a small microwaveable bowl for 30-60 seconds.  Spread your whipped cream on top of the fudge filling.  Smooth it out.  Dip a knife into the bowl of melted Nutella and flick it across the top of the cream, repeat several times.  Chop up 3 Ferrero Rocher's and throw them on top of the cream.  

To make the Nutella frosting, beat the cream cheese with the icing sugar until creamy and then stir in the Nutella.  Put the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star attachment.  Pipe 8 swirls evenly around the edge of the pie.  

Cut four Ferrero Rocher's in half.  Alternate each half between filling down and filling up and press them into the frosting.

Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Halloween Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkin Rocky Road!

Rocky Road is one of my favourite things to make! It doesn't require you to turn on your mixer and wake a sleeping baby, or try and track down where the heck your whisk attachment has gone to (seriously whisk...where are you? my guess is lost in the move) and it can certainly be whipped up in one of the baby's shorter naps...and if you're lucky enough to live in a hot country it's good for those days when you can't bear to turn the oven on!  It is also SO versatile! It was one of the very first things I ever baked, using a recipe from one of those little random chocolate recipe books you get as a stocking filler! Go ahead and laugh at my embarrassing blog post back in 2009 where it made its debut. Since then I have jazzed it up using all of my favourite treats - Snickers and OreoReese's peanut butter, crazy amounts of coconut and festive peppermint ones plus seasonal mini egg easter ones too!

So I thought it was about time that my peanut butter rocky road got made over into a Halloween edition! because I found a bag of reese's peanut butter pumpkins in Tesco and I knew I had to use them in my kitchen! Sadly when I opened them up they didn't look like pumpkins at all! just an oval sized peanut butter cup! so I pimped them jack-o-lantern style with a little bit of orange coloured white chocolate, green sanding sugar and chocolate sprinkles and mini chocolate chips!

I'm not exactly an artist, but hopefully there's no denying now that those are pumpkins!

I even added in peanut butter m&m's too to truly amp up the peanut butter goodness involved! and with some chopped peanut butter cups making up the bulk of the add ins you just can't go wrong! Throw some marshmallows, chopped nice and chunky, and rice krispies into the mix and you've got one delicious Halloween treat!

Not a trick in sight!

Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkin Rocky Road:
Serves 9
Adapted from Cupcake Crazy Gem

400g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
2 tsp vegetable oil
35g rice krispies
150g marshmallows
75g peanut butter m&m's
240g peanut butter cups (approx. 16)

9 peanut butter pumpkins
60g white chocolate, I used milky bar
1/2 tsp orange food colouring
green sanding sugar
18 chocolate sprinkles
9 mini chocolate chips

Line an 8x8 dish with parchment paper.
Melt your milk and dark chocolate in a large bowl together over a pan of boiling water.  Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the vegetable oil.  Leave to cool.

Chop your marshmallows in half, and your peanut butter cups into quarters.  Measure out your rice krispies and peanut butter m&m's.  Check that your chocolate is completely cool - you should leave it for at least 10 minutes (if it's still warm, when you add in your chocolates they will melt so the cooling process is important!)  Once it's cool, stir in all the mix ins.  Spread evenly into your baking pan.  I like to reserve back a bit of the chocolate in the bottom of the mixing bowl to use right at the end to smooth out the surface of the rocky road.

Melt your white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave in 20 second bursts - watch it because white chocolate burns easily.  I used milky bar because the lower quality white chocolate melts far easier - don't go buying any fancy stuff for this.  Once melted stir in the orange food colouring.  Put into a piping bag and snip a tiny tip off the end.

Take 9 pumpkins, and pipe a thin edge all the way round with the orange chocolate.  Do zig zag lines in the middle of each pumpkin and at the end go back with your piping bag tip to help smooth out the chocolate until the pumpkin surface is completely covered.  Sprinkle green sanding sugar on the stem, and use 2 chocolate sprinkles for the eyes.  Place a mini chocolate chip for the nose.

Once all your pumpkins are complete, place them on top of the rocky road, pushing down slightly so they set into the chocolate.

Refrigerate for 2 hours until set, or overnight.

Eat and enjoy!

Friday, 3 October 2014

A Cupcaking Round Up from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Ironbridge!

So we've moved...again! back to North Wales where we lived two years ago for my husband to finish off his last year of Uni.  We've been here for 3 weeks now and we've had amazing weather so we've been out and about exploring daily, showing Ella the sights and with everything basking in golden sunlight and blue skies I'm wondering what I didn't like about living here the last time around?

Oh yeah...lack of cake!

So whilst I'm dreaming about better cake days, here's a round up of all the best baked treats I've been eating over the past year!   

In Leeds on the last Saturday of every month, Kirkstall Abbey (pictured at the top) hosts a very awesome food market!

It's worth going for the Yummy Yank's stall alone! because everything's baked by an American, so what more needs to be said! Think huge slabs of rocky road bars, peanut butter bars, pecan pie bars and...

chocolate nutella cheesecake cake!
Everything I've ever tried from here is amazing!

I was also SUPER excited to discover a stall selling only Nanaimo bars! which originate from Vancouver Island and are a truly Canadian confection! It's safe to say I ate my fair share whilst we lived over there...and whilst I came across all kinds of combos - raspberry, peanut butter, mint variations...I never came across an Oreo one!

They were so tasty, and I wanted to buy every variety on the stall!!

Heading up to Scotland's my cakey round up of all things tartan and bagpipe like!

Cup is right in Glasgow's town centre, they have a cabinet filled with a good variety of cupcakes, and they also offer afternoon tea's which seemed quite popular. 

For me, their cupcakes were just okay - not particularly moist and the frosting was on the heavy side.

Just outside of the centre is Cushion & Cake, a little vintage style tearoom.  I was a little disappointed with their cake selection on the day I visited.  I had heard good things about this place but none of their flavours were that appealing to me...

until I heard them mention coconut and I was sold! It also came sandwiched with some pineapple jam, I asked them if it was homemade and they said it wasn't (insert stoney Mary Berry face here!) I would have expected a little place like this would have whipped everything up themselves! it was a pretty good cake!

My mom and sister shared the polenta cake and they weren't bowled over either! 

Next up was Cupcakery Bakehouse, whose cupcakes I really wanted to love! We went in when Ella was still a teeny tiny newborn to take away some cakes for a sweet treat! The owner would have chatted to us all day and was such a nice guy, he told us how he had gone down to London and sampled all the cupcakes down there before he opened in my head I was thinking these are going to be good!

 My husband got the ferrero rocher one, and his chocolate frosting tasted of mint! It was so weird! I don't know whether it had been next to mint flavoured ones in the cabinet or if the wrong frosting had been put on but it was just a strange combo!

 My coconut frosting on the bounty cupcake was tasty but again the chocolate cupcake part was just dry, so Glasgow really didn't impress on the cake front!

but in Edinburgh it's a whole different story and the cake scene is a whole lot tastier!

Just off the main road is Bibi's Cake Boutique specialising in cupcakes, and what a variety of flavours they had!

It was a no brainer! and I had to pick the Nutella one! A nice moist chocolate cupcake with fluffy creaming Nutella frosting - you can't go wrong!

Now my very favourite find is Love Crumbs.  I love everything about it, from the piano you can sit at that acts as a table to the little window seat if lucky enough to score it where you literally sit in the window - like you're on display or something! to their unusual flavour combos, and most of all their creamy dreamy beautifully frosted layer cakes! This place is a total winner! 

My only complaint, is that both times I've gone have been late in the day and they display their cakes in an open cabinet (which looks very cool and hip admittedly) but I'm pretty sure their cakes would be way fresher if they were contained better...

Storage issues aside,

I present the peanut butter and jelly layer cake!

Any UK cakery that presents peanut butter baked goods makes my husband do a happy dance! He was loving it!

Cheesecake swirled brownie - it's a win win!

Another time went and got peanut butter and white chocolate tart and this utterly divine mint and white chocolate brownie - see those green pieces on top - they were like mint cracknel! which features inside one of my favourite South African chocolate bars, peppermint crisp, where they found them in the UK I will never know but the baked goods are consistently inventive and amazing here! I'm still hoping to make it there one day when they have made their brownie meringue pies because they always look amazing on their IG feed!

Over in Leith, Mimi's Bakehouse had been on my to visit list of a long time! I finally made it with my mom and sister shortly before we left Scotland, which was a shame because had I discovered it sooner I would have been back for sure!!

It was very cute inside, bunting galore!

and I adored the hanging rolling pins and whisks from the wall!

Clearly, Mimi and I think alike!

This coconut slice was the dreamiest creamiest slice to ever touch my lips! I am so desperate to recreate it! a chocolate biscuit base, covered in creamy coconut with tiny coconut shreds in and topped with milk chocolate and a piece of bounty - a coconut lover's dream!

Once back in England again, we couldn't stay in Shropshire without visiting my favourite Shropshire cake establishment - Queenie's Cupcakery.

I was so pleased to see their more out their flavour combos this time around, our first visit they mostly had traditional flavours but I loved that they had branched out!

This berry cupcake was covered in cream cheese frosting, and meringue pieces and was so amazingly delicious it almost made me regret my choice...

almost but not quite because this snickerlicious cupcake was the best cupcake I've eaten all year! Now that's some compliment! The frosting was oh so silky and creamy with a little layer of peanut nougatty goodness underneath and a MOIST chocolate cake! Finally!!

Byron was also super happy with his chocolate hazelnut combo and again we couldn't get over the creaminess of that frosting!!

We took a random daytrip to Liverpool! I googled cupcakeries as you do, and came across Cuthbert's Bakehouse.  I heard their Nutella Cupcakes were worth the visit alone, I tweeted to ask if they would have them on the day we were going and they said they would make them especially - now that's service!

It was all very quaint inside...but with no cupcakes in sight we were getting worried! I asked about the Nutella cupcakes and I was told they were just coming out the oven.  So we had to wait a while for them to cool down and be frosted...but when a fresh Nutella cupcake is headed my way I can find a lot of patience!

They were SO worth the wait! and so good, that we boxed up a whole load of them to take home too! That frosting was to die for!

Sooo silky smooth! if you are ever near Liverpool, you have to detour to try on of those!
My last caking adventure ended up in London where I hadn't been for nearly 2 years! which was painful for me! I love London with a passion! and the one thing I was desperate to do was try a Nutella duffin from Bea's of Bloomsbury.  I've tried their jam duffins, but as you all know I'm obsessed with Nutella and these little beauties weren't around on my last visit.  I especially tweeted and asked if they would be in the bakery when we visited, I was assured they were made Mon-Fri.  So off we headed to their St.Pauls location which was waaaay out of our way but man I wanted a Nutella duffin! It was bank holiday so they only opened at Midday, cue sitting around in the rain waiting for 30 minutes because no other shops were open either!

and then we get inside and not a duffin in sight! Apparently they only make them at their St.Pauls store on the weekends! I was SO upset to have missed out.  We weren't going to have time to go to their other we picked up a few goodies to keep us going but I was too bitter about my poor Nutella duffin disaster to enjoy them!

The brownie was packed full of coconut and walnuts and was just the fudgy kind of delicious you expect from a brownie, and the monster peanut butter and jelly slice was pleasing my husband no end!

When I'm in a happier mood, I'm sure their key lime cupcake will hit the spot! with toasted meringue frosting and a key lime curd filling - yum!

So that's that...the one upside of a lack of tasty baked goods to buy around these parts is I will be making alot more so hopefully this blog will see more action! and you can bet it's going to be Nutella orientated ;)


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