Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

I adore coffee, there are few smells that make me as happy as the smell of coffee. I can understand why people have coffee addictions (myself included) and how the aroma truly makes or breaks ones morning. Luckily, I now live in a country that is equally passionate about coffee, good coffee. When I came across this recipe, I knew it was for me. Biscotti is a twice baked Italian cookie, normally Im very American when it comes to cookies, the softer the better. However, I am prepared to sacrifice my soft cookie preference for a good biscotti.

I’ve started sending home baked treats with my colleagues to give to their partners, sharing is caring and honestly I think its cute and very undutch. One of the partners was so impressed with this ‘cookie’, that he emailed me to thank me and sent me the link to the Dutch version of the Bake Off. Whilst I was flattered, I politely declined. Its always nice when individuals appreciate your baking and being entirely honest, I even impressed myself with this baked treat!

Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

Makes: 30ish 1 inch cookies  Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 2 X 30 mins  Total time: 80+ mins

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Required Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (256g) plain flour
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 cup (230g) dark chocolate chopped 
  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate coffee beans (or a chocolate covered coffee bean works) with 30ish reserved to decorate with
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white chocolate

Now how to make these delightful espresso twice baked cookies:

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 F (150C), line two baking sheets with greaseproof/parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and 3/4 cup of chopped dark chocolate. Pulse until the chocolate is ground into the flour mixture, set aside.
3. In the bowl, cream the butter and then add in the sugar, mixing until creamed together. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mix until combined.
4. Now stir in the chocolate flour mixture just until combined, use a wooden spoon to ensure that you did not over it. I left quite a bit of flour around the sides, knowing that I still had the chocolate and expresso beans to mix in. Stir in the remaining 3/4 chopped dark chocolate and chocolate espresso beans.
5. On the parchment/greaseproof paper,  divide the dough in half and form two logs, leaving at least a 4 inch gap, be warned, they will spread whilst baking! Shape your logs so that they are smooth, even and vaguely the same shape/size.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, the logs should be firm but not hard. Allow them to cool for at least 15/25 minutes before moving them to a wire rack. I was overly keen and managed to crack mine in half in trying to move it too soon. I left mine to cool for about an hour, as the crack put me off.
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7. On a cutting board using a serrated knife, cut slices of ½-1 inches (if the slices are overly crumbly, allow the loaf cool a little longer, they will be somewhat crumby). Lay the the slices back on the parchment/greaseproof paper and bake for 30 minutes until the surface of the cookies is dry ( though the chocolate and chocolate espresso beans will be melty).

8. Melt your white chocolate (I was being lazy and opted for the microwave at 30 second blasts until melted) and using a piping bag or freezer bag with the corner cut off, drizzle the white chocolate over your cookies. I then decorated them with chocolate espresso beans I put to the side.
9. Allow the chocolate to ‘harden’ and store in an airtight container.

 

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

 

Zucchini Bread

Is it a zucchini or a courgette? Its both, in America, its zucchini, in the rest of the world, its a courgette. No matter what you call it, you’ve probably eatten it as a vegetable in a savoury way. I enjoy challenging the pallet and the mind and baking sweet things with zucchini, from breads to brownies. I thought I’d pass the idea by my Dutch colleagues, of ‘what do you think of zucchini bread?’, I then explained it was sweet with a lot of cinnamon. They thought it was a weird idea but that they were willing to sacrifice themselves as my ‘proefkonijns’ (guinea pigs). Luckily everyone has pleasantly surprised, despite pulling faces that suggested they really didn’t want to try it, (un)fortunately I refuse to leave my colleagues desks until they have taken a piece. I’m never really bothered by if they like what I make or not but I insist that they try it. 

I searched various different recipes and came across different ideas that I was able to combine into one. This is a combination of best zucchini bread with a crumb topping.

Zucchini Bread

Makes: 2 loaves  Prep time: 20 mins Bake time: 45-60 mins Total time: 65+ mins

Ingredients:

For the bread:

  • Butter and flour for preparing baking pans
  • 3 cups (384g) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3½ cups (500g) grated zucchini, with the excess liquid removed
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (127g) apple sauce (I used pear butter or you could also use apple butter)
  • ½ cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • 2¼ cups (450g) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125g) chopped pecans

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (20g) old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted

Now to make this deliciously sweet bread

1. Grate your zucchini (I used my food processor or rather I realised that my food processor had an attachment, got really excited and then used it) and then using a muslin/cheese cloth or similar cloth and remove/squeeze the excess liquid from the zucchini. Set aside.

2. Make the crumb topping: With a fork, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Don’t over-mix; you want crumbles that are flour-y! Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter and flour two loaf pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. Make the cake: In a large bowl beat the eggs. One the eggs are completely beat, add in the applesauce/pear butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.

4. Sift in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir gently to combine. Gently stir in shredded zucchini and nuts into the batter with a spatula or wooden spoon.

5. Pour half of the batter into each prepared pan. Top each loaf with the crumble topping. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out cleanly. If you find that the crumble is burning or looks like its going to burn, cover the loaf pan with aluminium foil.

6. Allow to slightly cool in the pan and remove for cooling on a wire rack. It should be consumed within 3 days.

 

I forgot how much I enjoyed making this recipe years ago and then was reminded that it has autumn flavours in it. Lets be honest, summer is coming to an end and winter is most certainly the way, this is kind of a sweet reminder of whats to come. Sadly my crumble came out drier than I would have liked (I went a bit off piste from the recipe and regretted it before I set the bowl side) but it was still nice and gave the bread a sweet bite.

I absolutely loved that my colleagues kept telling me that every though they could see the green from the zucchini, they couldn’t taste it. Much like pumpkin, zucchini tastes of whatever you season/flavour it with. A few colleagues even took pieces home for their partners to try it. I think it’s funny/great how many husbands I’m now giving Monday treats to!

Remember to share with your friends, family and colleagues 🙂 

Dutch Apple Pie

I originally took this recipe from Dutch Cooking Today and then naturally changed and adapted it into a recipe that works for me. I was gifted this cook book roughly 10 years ago by my Dutch friend and whilst there are some great recipes in it, there are also some that I will never make – ie super picky eater.

Sundays for me are for baking, taking paracetamol and procrastinating. Sundays are the day where I remember that Monday is on the horizon, its time to be an adult and prepare for alarm clock and corporate world that will greet me in less than 16 hours. I normally start the day with baking, allowing myself a few hours in the morning to wake up, take it slow and realise my long list of things I need to do (but most likely won’t).

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As you know, I like to take something baked goods in on Mondays to start the week off on a literal sweet note. Each week I like to bake something new for my colleagues, never repeating recipes where possible. I had a request for apple pie and I did what I do best. I told my colleague ‘no’ in a inappropriate way, even using a hand gesture (he wouldnt recognise me any other way and it goes without saying that Im as sassy in the office as I am outside of the office) and clearly stated that I dont take orders. I then came home and decided to surprise him and make his request. Why being boring when I can be entertaining and surprising instead? I had this super awkward moment at work, I took these pies in to work, colleagues ate them, said how good they were and then proceeded to give me a standing applause. Yeah, just a thank you would have worked and been far less embarrassing. HOWEVER, if I am able to impress my Dutch colleagues with my version of Dutch apple pie, then I feel like Im onto a serious winner! Ive been making this pie for years and its now officially gotten a standing ovation from real Dutchies this week.

I decided to make individual pies rather than a large pie, convenience, easy to eat and easier to take in to work. I doubled the below recipe to make 24 mini pies – yes, I had a LOT of happy colleagues.

Dutch Apple Pie

Makes: 1 large pie or 12 individual pies   Prep time: 20 mins Bake time: 45 mins Total time: 65 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup (100g) raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) orange juice
  • 2 cups (300g) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup butter (chilled)
  • 2lbs (1kg) firm apples
  • 1 tablepsoon custard powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all spice

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Now to make this Dutch approved apple pie

1. In a saucepan, combine the raisins and orange juice and bring to the boil and allow to boil until the liquid has evaporated, this will take 3-5 minutes. Set to the side.

2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugars and a pinch of salt. Cut in the butter, in chunks and using a pastry knife (or two knives), cut in the butter until it resembles course bread crumbs, add in the all spice and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and then knead until a firm ball is formed. Alternatively use a food processor (sadly mine was out of action and I did it all by hand which took 5-10 mins).

3. Grease a large 10in pan or a muffin pan with butter. Press the dough 2/3 up your pan.  You should have approximately 1/4 of your dough left. Refrigerate the pan and remaining dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 375F/175C.

5. Peel, core and slice the apples. For mini pies I chopped up the applies so they would cook more quickly. Put them in a bowl and combine with the raisins, custard powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

6. Take your pan out of the refrigerator and arrange the apple filling over the dough. I tend to just throw it in and then flatten it with my hand. Try to push any raisins down, as they can burn. Take the remaining dough and crumble it over the top, alternatively you can roll it out and create strips over the top of the pies.

7. Bake for 45 minutes (for individual pies 30 minutes) or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack for mini pies. For mini apple pies, run a knife around the edge of the pan to aid removal from the pan. Keep refrigerated and consume within 3 days.

 

This pie is equally tasty no matter in its large or in a mini version. This is a great recipe if you want to impress friends, treat yourself, or add something special to brunch.

*Note for those who are unable to get Birds Custard Powder, use Jell-O French Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix instead and add in 2 tablespoons of the powdered mix.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

The ultimate 6 hour pasta sauce

I am one of these unfortunate people who is unable to cook for less than 4-6 people, ever. I almost find it impossible to cook for one or two, I always start out with the best of intentions and then have enough food for 4-6 people. This is ultimately what I love about this recipe, it makes enough to feed 10-12 people, which means I freeze it and multiple dinners are sorted. Being a southerner means I like things that go low and slow and this recipe ticks the box, you cook it low and slow for 6 hours and allow the flavours to develop. Ive been making this recipe for years and its great on cold evenings when you want something hearty and flavourful to beat the cold or a Dutch summers evening when you’re wondering how its cold and yet almost July.

Doing some research for this post, I came across the following definitions for sauces.

  • A marinara sauce is a simple tomato based sauce with no meat.
  • Bolognese sauce is a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy.
  • Pasta sauce is any sauce that is put on pasta.

I think this recipe/sauce falls under the category of Bolognese but isn’t made in the traditional way.

My nana recently asked for this recipe and my response was ‘Throw stuff in a pan and let simmer for 6 hours’, needless to say this wasn’t the response she wanted. It encouraged me to put create a proper recipe for something thats been in my head for years.

The ultimate 6 hour pasta sauce

Makes: 8-12 portions Prep time: 20-30 mins Cook time: 5-6 hours Total time: 6 hrs 30 mins

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1lb/500g minced beef
  • 8 small carrots
  • 3 bell peppers (I used red, yellow and green, use different colours as it gives better presentation)
  • 1 large onion
  • 250g/.5lb button mushrooms
  • 250g/.5lb cherry tomatoes
  • 1 X 400g/14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 X 68g/2.3oz tin of tomato puree
  • 1 X 500g/17.6oz box of Passata
  • 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 tiny bottle 250ml/1cup red wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons pureed garlic
  • 3 tablespoons mixed herbs/italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Now to make this utterly amazing low and slow sauce:

1. Grate your carrots and chop the rest of your vegetables. The great part of this recipe is if there is another vegetable that you love or have excess of, throw it into this recipe. Ive also used leek and zucchini and they tasted great.

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2. In a very large sauce pan, add in your oil olive, grated garlic and chopped onion, sauté until soft, approximately 3-5 minutes.

3. Once your garlic and onions have softened, add in the minced beef and cook until browned, breaking up the beef. Once it has browned, remove all of the excess liquid and fat, I used a strainer (bad photo) but you want to get rid of moisture element.

4. Return the beef, onion and garlic mixture back to the pan and turn the pan on high for approximately a minute.  You will hear it sizzling, this is a good thing. Now add in your wine, this will deglaze the pan, taking all the flavour from the bottom of the pan and putting it in the mixture, stir thoroughly.

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5. Now to start adding in all the stuff that makes it a sauce. Add in tinned tomatoes, passata, tomato puree and herbs, stir well. Add in the tomato ketchup and brown sugar. The brown sugar helps to take away from the acidity of the tomatoes.

6. Now to add in the vegetables, quite literally just chuck them all in and stir.

7. Mix your 2 beef bouillon cubes with 2 cup of boiling water and stir until the cubes have dissolved. Pour this mixture into the sauce, this should basically now fill your pot. (This is the excitement on my face of realising its only 6 hours to go and then the sauce will be done!)

8. Bring your sauce to a rolling boil and then turn it down and allow it to very slowly simmer for 6 hours, stirring it every 30-60 mins. You will see it slowly reducing and I guess its more than half a pan full when its done. It will be between 1/2 to 2/3 of the pan when its simmered down, you want a really thick sauce with not much liquid, you dont want it runny basically. Taste it at this stage (making sure you dont burn your tongue) and add salt and pepper to taste. (Im not going to lie, I was running short on time and only did this one for 5 hours but honestly I could tell a difference, there was a lot of liquid on the plate when I dished it up and it really needed that extra hour)

This can be served with any pasta that you like or just with bread, to dip the bread in (Im also a big fan of this). It freezes really well, allow it to defrost 24 hours before reheating.

Yes, it takes a LOT of time initially, however, it tastes really delicious, your house smells really amazing and makes enough so that you dont have to make it regularly.

Edits: If you dont like wine or chose not to cook with wine, replace the wine with beef stock or beef bouillon. Honestly, the wine gives it a richness that cant be replaced. I hate wine, I dont drink it (it gives me bad headaches almost instantly) but I absolutely would not leave it out of this recipe, thats what a taste difference it makes.  You can also it more tomato rich by doubling the puree, passata and tinned tomatoes if you like, then half the beef bouillon that you use.

Remember to eat on a cold evening to warm yourself up and enjoy! 🙂 

 

Banana Bread

I really love cookbooks, I have two types, the first being the cookbooks that seemed like a good idea at the time to buy but when Im looking for inspiration I never find anything I want to make but they look pretty. The second type is the cook book that I go back to over and over and over again.

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I have one recipe thats absolutely covered in butter, pureed things, possibly egg and everything else in between thats called for in the recipe, which shows how much I adore this recipe and cook book. This is my go to banana bread recipe, which have proven a hit time and again. In the UK its called banana cake, cake it is not but in the US and to me it will always be banana bread. I made it this weekend for my colleagues and all 16 pieces went ridiculously quickly and I didn’t even get a piece! You could even say they went bananas for it (pun completely intended). Several colleagues have now asked for the recipe or rather my version of the recipe, Im really great at taking a base recipe and changing it to suit my taste.

This cake tastes better if you let it sit for 2-3 days, as the flavour develops. It will be very hard to resist temptation, so go on and have a piece but honestly you will be able to taste the difference over the days.

Banana Bread

Makes: 16 small to medium portions   Prep time: 10 mins Bake time: 45-60 mins Total time: 70 mins tops

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (150g) margarine or butter (butter is always better!)
  • 4 teaspoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla flavouring
  • 1 cup mashed over ripe bananas (which is 3 medium sized bananas and you REALLY want them over ripe)
  • 1 1/2 C (192g) self raising flour

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Now to make this truly amazingly yummy bread

  1. Preheat the over to 350F/180C, grease with butter or line a pan with greaseproof paper. (I used a 10in square silicone pan)
  2. Mash your bananas, I always start off with a fork and then move to a food mixer. Having overly ripe bananas makes this much easier to do with a fork. Once your banana is mashed, add in the cinnamon. Set aside. As you can see from my ingredients photo, I had 2 super ripe bananas but I was short a banana and used a not so ripe one to make up the ingredients.

3. Combine the eggs and margarine and mix until combined. Add in the sugars and bananas (I then added in more cinnamon).

4. Add in half your flour and baking soda, mix until just combined, then add in the buttermilk and mix. Add in the remaining flour until just combined.

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5. Bake in a greased/lined pan for up to 1 hour, check it with a toothpick that comes out clean. I made a large banana bread for the office and then a small one for a friend who has never had it before (2 birds, 1 stone). The large bread took 45 mins and the small one like 20 mins.

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6. Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in a air tight container for up to 5 days. Seriously remember to allow the bread to sit for a few days for the flavour to develop, its so worth it!

 

Edits: You can add nuts to this, I would go with pecans personally but walnuts also work (I just find them bitter). If you do not have buttermilk, you can make your own, use 3 teaspoons of milk and add in 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

I recently discovered I am married to my job, Ive been doing crazy hours and I have actively started getting into my office for 6:20 each morning. Sometimes you have a realisation and realise its not for fun or giggles and that if I want to be married, it shouldn’t be to the corporate world.  However, this also means that my time is taken up working and not blogging, although I still make time to bake for work each week.

Someone recently asked me why I dont take ‘pretty pictures’ of the food that I make, I laughed. I replied,’ for the same reason that I dont take pretty selfies, I know Im pretty and more importantly I know that my food tastes amazing.’ Theres nothing worse than seeing pretty food and tasting it and it having no flavour or substance. So you get less than pretty pictures and tutorials of food that is tried, tested and tasted and approved not only by me but also by my colleagues who are my guinea pigs or as they tell me in Dutch ‘proefkonijns’, which literally translate into ‘experiment bunnies’. This is what I love about the Dutch language, it doesn’t translate literally very well.

One of my favourite spirits in Rum, we are really good friends (probably too good) and what I like about Rum most is that it doesn’t give me hangovers (for the win!). When I came across this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it and improve it.  There is no rum taste in the cake, as its all cooked out, which actually felt like a let down and honestly I think Id make it alcohol free next time (and just drink the rum instead) and substitute orange juice instead for a more citrus taste.

Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

Makes: 16-20 portions   Prep time: 20-30 mins Bake time: 30-60 mins Total time: 90 mins

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 (200-250g) medium carrots
  • 1/3C (75g) raisins
  • 1/4 C (60ml) rum (or use orange juice)
  • 3/4C (150g) caster sugar
  • 1/2C (125ml) regular olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 C (250g) ground almonds
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • ½ lemon, finely grated zest and juice (optional – I left it out, mostly because I didnt have a lemon on hand)

Now to make this yummy gluten free cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of a 9in round springform cake tin with re-usable non-stick silicone liner or baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. I used a silicone pan and made my own life easier 🙂

2. Toast the pine nuts by browning them in a dry frying pan, watch them to ensure that they do not burn. This will take approximately 3-5 minutes. Set aside. (clearly I did a lot more than the 3 tbsps as I was roasting for multiple recipes)

3. Grate the carrots with a coarse grater (sadly my processor is broken but if you have one, use it), then sit them on a double layer of kitchen paper and wrap them kind of wringing them out to soak up excess liquid. Set aside.

4. Place the raisins in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.

5. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs, whisking well, fold in the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots, raisins (with any rum that clings to them) and the lemon zest and juice (which I left out).

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake (I also threw on some chopped pecans because I had them and well, why not?) and bake it for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sticky but more or less clean.

7. Turn out on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into slices, store in a air tight container and ideally should be consumed within three (3) days.

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I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this cake. Normally almond meal can be a bit grainy in texture but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. My colleagues really enjoyed it, even though it didnt taste of rum.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

Chocolate Pine Nut Tart

I was recently made an honorary Dutch citizen, sounds exciting, right? Yeah, this means I was hit by a car whilst on my bike (if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d literally have no luck at all). Luckily it wasn’t my fault even though the car driver really wanted me to think that it was (insert several expletives) but it most certainly bruised my ego more than my legs (which were most certainly 50 shades of bruising). Im very lucky that I wasn’t seriously hurt, my legs were covered in bruises and I broke a nail (which upset me more than the bruising). I naturally heal slowly, so being covered in bruises whilst the weather has been nice has added insult to injury, all I really wanted to do is get out my lovely bronzed legs and show them off and three weeks later I was still in black tights. Ive now shed the tights, with a bit of bruising to show my roadkill survival.

One of my colleagues brought me a load of pine nuts on the basis ‘you bake, make something sweet with these’! Awesome… was not the first thought that I had. Ive never worked with pine nuts and was slightly clueless, however, this did not deter me. I have the ultimate sweet tooth and love a challenge to make new sweet things.

My Pinterest search began and I came across this awesome recipe, Chocolate Tart with Pine Nuts and decided to jazz it up and make it more to my taste.  Heres the step by step tutorial on how to make this rich chocolate tart, which was enjoyed by many colleagues. They seriously love the fact that every Monday I bring in something different, new and something that most of them have never tried.

Chocolate Pine Nut Tart

Makes: 8-12 portions   Prep time: 3.5 hours Bake time: 25 mins Total time: 4 hours approx

Crust ingredients:

  • 1 cup (128g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (43g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (100g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (67g) ground toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup (35g) toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried instant espresso grounds

Chocolate filling ingredients:

  • 6 ounces (150g) dark chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (40g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt 
  • 1 shot espresso

Now to make this very nice and delicious tart:

For the crust:

1. Grind the pine nuts down, I found that they went into a paste, which was unexpected but understandable (and made a bloody awful mess in my coffee grinder). I would suggest maybe using a pestle and mortar to grind the pine nuts down.

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2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add in the flour, cocoa, ground almonds, pine nuts (ground and whole), dried espresso and sea salt, mix at low speed until combined.

3. Roll the dough between sheets of parchment (greaseproof) paper to about 1/8-inch thickness. Refrigerate for a minimum of2 hours or overnight.

4. Once your dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F (180° C). Coat a 10-inch tart or springform pan with a removable bottom with butter or line a springform pan with greaseproof paper (like I did).

5. Carefully press the dough onto the bottom and sides of the pan (not going to lie, this was beyond tricky and difficult for me). Bake for 15 minutes (I let mine go for 25 mins because it just didnt look ‘done), until firm to the touch. Be prepared – the crust will slouch/fall down the edge of the pan a little as it bakes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool whilst making your chocolate filling.

For the chocolate filling

6. Melt the chocolate slowly over a bain marie (double boiler). Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.

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7. Using an electric mixer (or kitchen mixer) whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until very pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla, espresso shot and sea salt. Gently fold a third of the egg mixture into the chocolate just until incorporated to lighten the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg mixture.

8. Immediately pour the filling over the cooled crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and set. A skewer or toothpick stuck into the center of the tart should show some crumbs but not a runny filling. Let cool before slicing into wedges.

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9. Refrigerate any cake that you do not eat and consume within 3 days, if it lasts that long!

 

Verdict: Im not going to lie, it was a LOT of effort that took hours to make and the taste was like a very rich brownie. You cant taste the coffee, as it just enhances the chocolate flavour, which is amazing. Part of me was like, ‘seriously, its just easier to make brownies’ but my colleagues were very impressed and asked for the recipe. I get the feeling once they realise how much effort it takes, they will be less keen to make it. Having said that, it did make an absolutely awesome Monday treat in the office.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

Loaded chocolate chip cookies

I honestly believe in starting off the week right by taking sweet treats to work on a Monday, true story! Mondays are pretty awful and anything you can do to make them better, do it! Ive been doing this for years if not well over a decade now. British colleagues thought it was great and never questioned the motive behind the baked good because well free baked goods. Dutch colleagues, this is a different matter and every week they ask me if its my birthday, as apparently you only bring something to the office if its your birthday. I find this entire concept strange, bringing in your own cakes for your birthday, I dont know, it seems slightly usual and kind of cruel. I think I will soon quit explaining its not my birthday and just say ‘yes’ every week instead.

Whats the difference between a biscuit and a cookie? This is only ever a question asked in the UK and possibly Europe but absolutely never asked in the States. Cookies are soft and slightly fluffy, generally melt in your mouth when you eat them. Biscuits (I refer to the British edible) is a very hard cookie that you are forced to dunk into tea/coffee to make it soft enough to chew without damaging any dental work. Given that my childhood was in the States, I prefer cookies and find British biscuits, well, sad.

I happened across these cookies and kind of feel in love with them, they are fully pimped out chocolate chip cookies that are over loaded everything but the kitchen sink.

Overloaded everything but the kitchen sink chocolate chip cookies

Makes: 25 cookies   Prep time: 15 mins Bake time: 12 mins per batch Total time: 60 mins approx

Required Ingredients:

  • 1.5 (195g) cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170g) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) Caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 cups (265g) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 cups (135g) old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cups (60g) toasted coconut
  • 3/4 cup (95g) chopped pecans
  • 1 box (4oz/113g) Reese’s Pieces

Now to make these super delicious cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment/greaseproof paper.

2. In large bowl or kitchen mixer, beat your room temperature butter until soft. Gradually add in the sugars and mix until light and fluffy. (this is me forgetting to take a picture when between putting in the caster sugar and the brown sugar)

 

3. Add in the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix until fully combined. Technically you should add in the eggs one at a time but Im lazy and think its easier just to chuck them all in.20180415_150537

4. If using a kitchen mixer or electric mixer, switch over to a wooden spoon at this point. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined ( I forgot the cinnamon in the previous step, hence the extra brown colour). You NEVER want to over mix a cookie dough, as this can create hard cookies (or the ultimate insult, it can your your cookie into a biscuit, OH THE HORROR).

5. Stir in chocolate chips, oats, coconut, Reeces Pieces and pecans. Mix until just combined and no more (see note above).

6. I use a medium sized ice cream scoop for cookie portioning, as this allows for each portion to be roughly the same weight and size. Otherwise use two large tablespoons and place cookie dough 3 inches apart on baking sheet. The dough is super wet/sticky, so dont try rolling it between your hands, you’ll just make a mess. I do also flatten the tops slightly with a spoon. As you can see Im rather heavy handed with my scoop and rarely are my cookies ever the same weight/size/shape etc, I like to think they are all unique differently with a homemade look about them.

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7. Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. The middles should appear slightly under done. Remove cookies from rack to cool.

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These are the super delicious overloaded everything but the kitchen sink chocolate chip cookies. I have to say Im kind of impressed with myself and these cookies. My colleagues and friends also liked them, so Id say these are a bit of a success.

Notes: I dont use baking powder or baking soda in my cookies, as this makes them too fluffy and more cake like than cookie like. You can also make an adult version of this cookie buy mixing in 1 shot of espresso into the batter, which will enhance the flavour. You can substitute peanut butter chips for the Reece’s Pieces. You can basically throw in anything you like to this recipe, such as dried banana chips, chopped up pretzels, or even mini marshmallows.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy! 🙂

 

 

 

Guacamole – not vampire friendly

Warning: if you are a vampire or allergic to garlic, this recipe is not for you 🙂

Up until about three years ago, I was really not avocado friendly, at all. I saw them as green grenades and to be avoided as though my life depended on it. As you get older your tastes change and I think this is one of the things that Im now ‘ok’ with, although it has been a process. Having been on high protein and fat diet, made avocados on the top of my list for ‘good for you foods’, so I put on my big girls pants and decided to try to eat them more regularly. Its not all been green bliss but I have made some unique things with them, like avocado brownies (being honest, I really didn’t like them).

I came across inspired taste recipe not long ago and thought, ‘wow, this is a great base, how can I make it even better?’. I came up with a few ideas which I will share with you and will elevate your ‘guac’ to a whole new level and make it good for you! This will be your new go to recipe for guac, whether it be for snacks, a side dish or as part of your main meal!

I am a fan of garlic and have even used it for ear aches (add that to the list of things I never thought I’d do in the NLs). Through roasting garlic roast the flavour becomes a bit sweeter and more mild. Garlic contains powerful phytochemicals and nutrients, which  help fight off disease, including potent anti-cancer compounds, immune-strengthening molecules and heart disease-preventing antioxidants.

This this is easy but time consuming, its not a matter of throw it all in a bowl and in less than 5 minutes you have guac. Oh no, this recipe is for those who want a unique flavour sensation guacamole!

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Guacamole 

Makes: enough for 4-6 people   Prep time: 40 mins  Make time: 20 mins per batch  Total time: 1 hour

Required Ingredients:

  • 6 small ripe Haas avocados
  • 1 Plum or Roma tomato, deseeded and diced
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion (red onion also works) – deflamed
  • 1 lime – juiced
  • 1/2 lemon – juiced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder – medium
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder – hot

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Prep:

Preheat over to 180C (350F). First you need to roast your garlic, this involves cutting off the top of the garlic (approx 1/4 in) so that you see the top of your garlic bulbs. Place the garlic head in the middle of a piece aluminium foil and drizzle over your 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and bake for 40 minutes. Allow your garlic to cool once roasted (around15-20 minutes) before handling, otherwise you are likely to burn yourself. Warning: roasting garlic will fill your house with the delicious smell of garlic.

Whilst your garlic is in the oven, put your minced onion in a bowl of water, this will remove the ‘flame’, ie the heat that you often get raw onions. This can be done for a minimum of 10 mins or the entire time the garlic is in the oven. Sieve out the water once deflamed.

You need to deseed and dice your tomato, this is done by taking out the middle of the tomato, the seeds and ‘watery’ bit of the tomato (left side of picture below) and then dicing it finely.

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Now to make this truly garlicy yummy guac!

1. Cut the avocados in half and remove seed (with a spoon or knife). Score the inside of the avocado with a spoon and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add in your juices, I risked it and just squeezed them in and then spent 3 minutes telling myself off whilst trying to fish out lemon seeds.

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2. Using a fork or potato masher (I find this easier), roughly mash the avocado. Guacamole should be chunky but this gives you the opportunity to make it as smooth or chunky as you like.

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3. Add in all your spices, diced tomato, deflamed onion, and squeeze in your garlic. I literally take my garlic and squeeze, you’ll see the bulbs coming out, in all their roasted glory.

4. Give it a stir and you’ve now completed your tasty guacamole. I suggest you take a taste at this point and see if it matches your taste buds, does it need more salt, pepper, or chilli? If so, add it in and see how it tastes.

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Serve immediately, I enjoyed it with homemade beef nachos and it was truly tasty. If you are not eating it immediately, plus cling film (plastic wrap) on the surface of the guacamole  to prevent air reaching it and refrigerate until ready to serve. If you do not put the cling film on the surface of the guac, the oxygen in the air causes oxidation which will turn the guacamole brown and lets be honest, no one likes brown guac!

 

Notes: Im really not a fan of hot or spicy food at all, AT ALL, if you want a hotter version of this recipe, feel free to add diced jalapeños (with or without the seeds) or up the powdered chilli/curry element to 1/2-1teaspoon of each. I found this with a bit of sour cream (staple in my life) worked well and wasnt an assault on the tongue.

I am also not a fan of cilantro, pieces of green sticking between my teeth? No thank you. The taste also annoys me, I know its a usual ingredient in guacamole but I leave it out! However, if you are a member of the cilantro fan club, please add in as little or much as you like.

Enjoy this yourself, serve at a dinner party or share with friends! 🙂

Southern American Biscuits

My younger years were spent in the mountains of North Carolina, this is a part of my life that I dont often reflect on. Every time Im back in NC, I always visit Chimney Rock, its  like a ritual and every time the views are more stunning than I remembered, theres something very calming about it.

Certain foods take me back to my childhood and biscuits is one of them. Having lived in the UK for the last 17 years, biscuits are very hard cookies served with tea. They would compare a southern biscuit to a scone but a scone is really quite different and again, served with tea, often with freshly whipped cream and jam.  Southern American Biscuits are like a dinner roll but can also be served with breakfast, cut in half and stuffed with meat or served with a very southern gravy.

I recently decided that what I needed in my life was biscuits, a throw back to my childhood. I think it could have been the move, feeling unsettled and craving the comfort of something familiar.

Southern American Biscuits

Makes: 6 very large or 8 medium-large biscuits Prep time: 80 mins  Cook time: 15-20 mins  Total time: 95-100 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (300g) Plain flour
  • 2 Tablespoons (40g) Baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8g) Salt
  • 1/2 cup (150g) unsalted butter, very cold or frozen
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (270ml) cold buttermilk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (15g) Honey

( A true southern will do half butter and half shortening/lard, so 1/4c (75g) each of butter and shortening)

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Now to makes these very yummy flakey biscuits

1. First FREEZE your butter (and shortening if using), put it in the freeze for an hour, you want it to be very cold for BEST results. I cut mine into blocks, cover in cling film and put in the freezer for at least an hour. (I always a few portions of butter in my freezer so that when the biscuit feeling hits, I can make them!)

2. Preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C).

3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a food processor. Pulse until combined,  add the cubed butter and pulse several times in the processor until it resembles fine crumbs. (You dont have to use a food processor, you can use a bowl and pastry blender to make combine and make fine crumbs by hand.

4. Pour the crumb mixture into a bowl, making a well in the middle of the bowl. Pour in 1 cup 1 cup (250ml) of buttermilk and the honey into the well. Stir the mixture until it JUST comes together. You want to avoid over mixing it, as it will make the dough and biscuits hard. The dough will be crumbly and bitty.  (apologies for the POOr pictures for this stage, having your hands covered in biscuit dough and taking pictures at the same time, not a good idea!)

5. Pour the crumbly dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently mold it into a rough rectangle with your hands, patting it into shape as you go.

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6. This is the REALLY important part that will make the biscuits light and flakey. Fold one side into the center, then fold the other side into the middle.

7. Turn the dough so it’s long width wise and gently flatten, I lightly used my rolling pin. If you are using a rolling pen, be very gentle! Repeat the folding again.

8. Turn the dough again, so it’s long horizontally once more and flatten, in a light and gentle manner. You want it to be 1.5 inches thick. Biscuits are meant to be thick!

9. Cut into circles, I use a biscuit butter but even the rim of a wide glass will work. Re-roll any scraps you have, as per the bottom right Frankenstein biscuit. Bake on a cookie sheet or cast iron skillet (if you’re lucky enough to have one).

10. With your last 2 tbsp of buttermilk, brush the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top.

11. Remove from the oven and enjoy! Biscuits are best served warm with butter (or gravy for the full southern experience). Store leftovers in a air tight container tightly and consume within 3 days.

I hope you enjoy this very classic delicious buttery southern staple!