Tag Archives: Chocolate

Chocolate from New Zealand

It was my birthday earlier this month and one of the best gifts I got was a care package from my friend, J, who lives in New Zealand. J and I have been friends for over 10 years and initially met when we both used to blog on Windows Live Spaces (yes, that was a thing). We hit it off so much that we took trips to visit each other (she was living in Australia at the time) and even ended up working together for a year.

J has gotten on board with my love of eating on camera so she sent me chocolate from New Zealand to try, along with a new pin, which is my latest obsession. You can check out J’s current blog here. And you can see what I thought of the Kiwi chocolate below. Read more…

Things I have been cooking lately #167: Pretzel tiffin

About a week ago when I was in Tesco buying essentials (nappies, bread, milk), I also came across a packet of salted caramel pretzel tiffin squares. These, of course, also counted as essential so I brought them home for Mr O and I to enjoy and they were glorious. I decided to make a sort of attempt to recreate them and although my version doesn’t have a caramel element they’re still pretty tasty… and very easy.

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Read more…

Things I have been cooking lately #141: Bounty cookies

Around this time of year tins of Celebrations start to appear around offices all over Britain. For the uninitiated Celebrations combine together mini versions of popular chocolate bars as little candies into a giant tin and once you open it to have to keep eating them until you have a pile of wrappers and you feel sick. It’s a festive tradition. Everyone has their favourite. In my office no one ever wants the Bounty ones, which works out great for me because they’re both Mr O and my favourites so they’re the first to disappear in our house. Bounties have a sweet coconut centres and are covered in either milk or dark chocolate and they are delicious. These cookies come from the ever awesome Jane’s Patisserie under a slightly different moniker but they tasted so much like Bounties to me that I have renamed them Bounty cookies. So if like me, you love the combination of chocolate and coconut I would highly recommend these.

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Things I have been cooking lately #117: Mint chocolate chip brownies

These brownies are definitely not for anyone on a diet so I won’t be making them again any time soon (which makes me sad) but if you want a delicious, indulgent treat then these are totally amazing. All credit for this chocolate mint chip brownie recipe goes to Jeanne Horak-Druiff from Cooksister.com who developed it and was kind enough to let me share it. Read more…

Things I have been cooking lately #105: Baked smores

Smores are one of those delicious sounding American things that we non-Americans read about in books and see in movies and always wonder about. While I grew up toasting marshmallows over a fire (or candles when we were desperate and my mother wasn’t willing to build a fire – something she was generally alarmingly willing to do), we never added chocolate and put them between biscuits. Way to extravagant. Of course now I live in a first floor flat with no balcony so even if I wanted to make a fire it would probably end in the termination of my lease. So when I found this recipe for baked smores I decided to give it a go and boy were they delicious (although very sweet and rich) and well worth the work.

Baked smores

Adapted from The Apron Gal

110g butter at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vamilla
1 1/2 cups flour
A pinch of salt
6 crushed digestive biscuits (or if you have access to Graham Crackers, use those)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 jar of marshmallow fluff (they sell this in my local Sainsburys in the jam aisle but you could also use 1 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows)
2 200g bars milk chocolate

Preheat your oven to 180 C and line a 20cm x 20cm baking tin with grease proof paper or baking parchment.

In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled.

In a smaller bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and biscuit crumbs. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time and beat until it comes together in a soft dough.

Divide the dough into two. Press half the dough into the bottom of the tin in a even layer. Spread the marshmallow over the top in another even layer. It helps if you use a knife that’s been dipped in warm water. Lay over the bars of chocolate, breaking them up if you need to to fill the tin.

Now comes the hard part. Lay a large piece of grease proof paper on a flat surface. Dust with a little bit of flour. Put the second half of the dough on top of the floured grease proof paper and press down a little. Sprinkle over a little more flour. Then spread another piece of grease proof paper over the top. Now roll out between the pieces of paper to form a thin layer that will fit on top of your baking tin. Once you have rolled the dough out, carefully peel back the top layer of the grease proof paper. Then flip the dough over your chocolate layer and peel off the remaining grease proof paper. Patch the edges if necessary to make sure all the marshmallow is covered. (I wasn’t so good as this bit but it still all worked in the end).

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown on the top. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes and then cut, into squares and eat when still a little melty (although they’re also good once they’ve set a bit more).

Makes 16 squares

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Things I have been cooking lately #98: Dark chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes

What goes together better than chocolate and peanut butter? Nothing! That’s what! I made these cupcakes for my colleagues on my birthday a couple of weeks ago and they were extremely popular. It’s a bit of an unusual recipe because the cake mixture is egg and dairy free (great for if you have allergies, just forgo or replace the frosting) but the cakes are moist and extremely light. I adapted this from Edibles and Travels who originally got it from Joy the Baker via Organic and Chic

Dark chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes

For the cakes

2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup olive oil (grapeseed oil or groundnut oil would work just as well)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 cups cold water

For the frosting

1 cup smooth peanut butter
225g butter at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat your oven to 180 C (170 C for a fan oven). Line two 12 hole muffin tins with paper wrappers.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Mixed well and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water.

Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter between the muffin tins and bake for 15 – 17 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Now make the frosting. Put the butter and peanut butter into a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until will combined. Add the icing sugar a little at a time and then beat beat well on low for one minute. Add the milk and beat on high for another minute. Spread the frosting over the cakes and decorate with some chocolate sprinkles or chopped up Reeses Pieces if you fancy.

Makes 24 cakes

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Things I have been cooking #95: Triple chocolate/Rocky Road Brownies

I have posted several brownie recipes over the past few years… gluten free ones, Oreo ones, cheesecake ones… but these super decadent, uber chocolately brownies are the real deal. The recipe is easily adaptable to be triple chocolate flavoured or Rocky Road flavoured depending on what you stir in at the end. You could also just as easily add pecan or walnuts.

Triple chocolate/Rocky Road brownies

Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

200g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) chopped up
175g butter
325g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 eggs
For triple chocolate brownies: 100g mixed chopped white, milk and dark chocolate or chips
For Rocky Road brownies: 100g mixed white chocolate, fudge bits, plain biscuits and mini marshmallows

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Line a 23cm x 33cm x 5cm baking dish with greaseproof paper.

Place the chocolate and butter in a large glass bowl. Rest this over a pot of boiling water. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Allow the chocolate and butter to melt together, stirring occasionally. Once the butter and chocolate have melted, stir in the sugar using a wooden spoon. Add the flour and mix well. Now add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. You should end up with a glossy, dark batter. Stir in either your chocolate or Rocky Road mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared tray and place in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes. The brownies should be set on the sides and flaky but soft in the centre. Do not over bake.

Put the baking tray on a cooling rack and leave to cool for about half an hour before removing the whole “brownie” onto the rack to cool completely before cutting into 16 squares.

Makes 16 brownies

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Things I have been cooking lately #92: Raspberry fudge cake

I’m not sure if everyone is as obsessed as I am with The Great British Bake Off but I can’t help tuning in to see what they’re going to make next. My baking skills are nowhere near the kind of level that’s necessary for Bake Off but I do enjoy flipping through the cookbooks and dreaming about what I might attempt. This easy raspberry fudge cake comes from The Great British Bake Off Everyday and it’s delicious! It is worth mentioning though that this cake needs to stand for 24 hours before you eat it.

Raspberry fudge cake

240g butter
5 tablespoons of raspberry conserve
70g cocoa
300g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
100g flour
A pinch of salt

To decorate
2 tablespoons of raspberry conserve
300g fresh raspberries

Grease and base line a 20cm springform tin and heat your oven to 180 C (170 C for a fan oven).

Place the butter and raspberry conserve in a pot big enough to hold all the ingredients. Put the pot over the lowest possible heat and melt the butter stirring regularly with a wooden spoon.

Once the butter is melted place the pot on a damp cloth to prevent wobbling. Sift in the cocoa and then add the sugar. Stir until well combined.

Beat the eggs and vanilla together until just combined. Add the egg mixture to the pot a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift in the flour and salt and stir until you have a smooth, glossy batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 160 C (150 C for a fan oven) and bake for a further 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out slightly sticky (if you have a demon oven like mine check after 30 minutes so you don’t over bake).

When the cake is done place the tin on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then leave it on the rack until completely cold. When release the spring and then wrap the cake in foil and store in an airtight container for twenty-four hours to settle.

When your cake is ready to decorate, gently heat the raspberry conserve and then brush over the top of the cake. Arrange the fresh raspberries over the top and serve.

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Things I have been cooking lately #88: “Bounty” cupcakes

I am not sure if you get Bounties outside the UK but they are my favourite chocolate bar. They basically consist of a sweet coconut centre covered in either milk or dark chocolate. Mr O also loves them so as a special treat I tried to replicate them in cupcake form. It’s a coconut sponge base with a coconut and chocolate frosting and a little Bounty surprise in the middle.

For the cupcakes

120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
40g butter at room temperature
120ml coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 large Bounty bars (the ones that come with two portions to each bar)

For the frosting

200g icing sugar
30g cocoa
65g butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons coconut milk

Extra desiccated coconut to decorate.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix to a sandy consistency using the paddle attachment of your standing mixer… or if like me you don’t have one you can rub together with your fingertips because if you try to use a handheld mixer it goes everywhere.

Mix together the coconut milk and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the egg and beat well. Scrape down the sides to make sure there is no unmixed batter left behind.

Cut each Bounty segment into 4 pieces and place a piece in the bottom of each cupcake liner. You could also use the Bounty sweets from a packet of Celebrations if you haven’t already eaten all of them. Divide the cupcake mixture between the liners. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for a couple of minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting cream together the butter, cocoa and icing sugar. I cheat and do this step in the food processor to form a paste. Add the coconut milk and beat at a slow speed to get a creamy consistency. The turn up the mixer and beat well for 5 minutes. When the cakes are completely cooled spread the frosting over the top and then dip each one in desiccated coconut.

Makes 12

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Things I have been cooking lately #80: Extra crunchy peanut butter cookies

It’s no secret that I love peanut butter… so much so that I will happily eat it out of the jar (something I definitely did not do while making this recipe). I am also a big fan of chocolate. So this peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie recipe is definitely a combo I can get on board with.

Extra crunchy peanut butter cookies

Adapted from Kitchen Joy.

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
110g butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 C (170 C for a fan oven) and prepare a baking sheet with covering with a layer of parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mix well and set aside.

Cream together the butter and the sugars using an electric mixter until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Then add the egg and mix again.

Stir in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together.

Put the peanuts in your blender and process until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir the peanuts and chocolate chips.

Break the dough into chunks and roll into balls (about 2 tablespoons of dough for each ball), spread out on the baking sheet (you will need to do this in batches) with about 5 cm between each ball. Press down with a fork dipped in water to make a criss cross pattern on the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes. The cookies should be brown at the edges but not look completely cooked through.

Allow to cool on the baking tray for a minute or two before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 24 cookies

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Things I have been cooking lately #65: Chocolate brownie pudding

Do you ever get a chronic pudding craving that just can’t be stopped… but you know that if you make an entire pudding you’ll just eat the whole thing? This recipe is idea for those times. It makes exactly two servings, using ingredients you’re very likely to have in your cupboards and it’s ready really fast. Craving satisfied!

Chocolate brownie pudding

6 tablespoons butter, melted
10 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon water
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons plain flour

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Grease 2 200ml ramekins with a little butter and place on a baking sheet.

Whisk the butter, sugar, cocoa, water, salt and vanilla together until combined and then whisk for another  another minute. Allow to cool a little and then add the egg and whisk vigorously until combined. Fold in the flour until just mixed.

Pour the brownie mixture into the ramekins and bake for 20 minutes or until the centres are set and the sides are starting to pull away from the ramkeins. Do not over bake.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Serves 2

browniepud

Things I have been cooking lately #61: Self-saucing chocolate cherry pudding

When I was a little girl my favourite pudding that my mom used to make was a self-saucing chocolate pudding. It was rich and gooey  and just perfect for winter. I couldn’t get enough of it. This version that I have adapted from Cooksister.com has the added awesomeness of cherries and is every bit as good as the one I grew up with. When you remove it from the oven it doesn’t look particularly special but when you cut into it a rich sauce pools up for you to pour over the top. Delicious!

Self-saucing chocolate cherry pudding

125g plain flour
60g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
40g butter, melted and allowed to cool a little
1 egg
80ml milk at room temperature
A few drops of vanilla extract
1/2 cup tinned cherries

For the sauce

120g brown sugar
2 tablespoons of cocoa
80ml cherry syrup drained from the tinned cherries
160ml boiling water

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl mix together the oil, egg, milk and vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet and then fold in the cherries.

You can make pudding either in 4 large ramekins (250ml capacity) or 6 medium ramekins or one 20cm square baking dish. Whichever you are using, grease the dish/es and then divide the batter evenly between them. Mix together the brown sugar and the remaining cocoa and sprinkle evenly over the top of each dish. Mix together the boiling water and cherry syrup. Pour evenly over the top of each dish. Make sure there is room to spare because the pudding will rise up quite a lot.

Put your ramekins or baking dish on a baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven – 15 – 30 minutes for the ramekins or 40 – 45 minutes for a single dish. Do not over bake or you will lose your sauce.

Serve hot with either cherry frozen yoghurt, vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream and any leftover cherries from the tin.

Serves  4 – 6

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Things I have been cooking lately #30: Gluten-free gooey dark chocolate cookies

Gluten-free recipes can be a bit hit and miss but these cookies do not disappoint. Despite having no oil or butter in them they are rich and chocolatey with a satisfyingly chewy centre. I took them to work and they disappeared within minutes. I will admit that I wasn’t sure they were doing to work while I was making them but stick with it because the pay-off is totally worth it.

Gluten-free gooey dark chocolate cookies
Adapted from divine-baking.com

3 large or 4 medium egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 ½  cups icing sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon rice flour
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups (about 180g)  good quality dark chocolate chips (or if you can’t be bothered with chips, just hack up 2 slabs of Green & Blacks. The quality of the chocolate makes all the difference, so don’t skimp.)

Pre-heat your oven to 180 C. Put a pot of boiling water on the stove and rest a glass bowl on top of it. The bowl should not touch the water. Add one cup of the chocolate chips to the bowl and allow to melt, stirring occasionally. You can melt the chocolate in the microwave but if it goes wrong there is nothing you can do to salvage it. I prefer the old school, safe method. When the chocolate is completely melted, set aside to cool a little.

Now beat the egg whites to soft peaks with the cream of tartar using an electric mixer. This can be tricky, so here are my tips for doing it right:

  • Always use a glass or metal bowl – never plastic.
  • It won’t work if there is a drop of fat or yolk in the bowl so separate your eggs carefully and wipe your bowl with a piece of kitchen roll and a drop of vinegar before you start
  • The cream of tartar really helps
  • You will know you have soft peaks when you can lift the beater out of the egg white and it makes a little peak that flops over at the end. If the peak doesn’t flop over, you’ve gone too far!

Once you’ve got your soft peaks, add one cup of the icing sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat. Once all the sugar is in, keep beating until you get a creamy marshmallow texture. It shouldn’t take more than the few minutes. Don’t panic if you become surrounded by a cloud of white powder. Just make sure you vacuum after.

In a separate bowl, mix together another cup of the icing sugar, the cocoa, flour and salt. Now turn down your mixer to a slow speed and add the dry ingredients a little at a time. Then stir in the melted chocolate and remaining chips.

Put your mixing bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes for the dough to stiffen up.

In the meantime, grease two baking trays with a little oil and put your remaining icing sugar in a bowl.

When your dough is nice and stiff, take a tablespoon of mixture at a time, roll into a ball and then roll in the remaining icing sugar to thickly coat. Place on the baking tray. You should get 9 – 10 per tray. Bake each tray for 10 minutes. Prepare to be amazed!

Makes 18 – 20 cookies

Dark Chocolate Cookies

The Chocolate Festival: London

Those who live in London will know that yesterday was not the warmest spring day in the history of spring (*cough* real feel minus eight *cough*).  But if there was ever going to be a reason to get out your big coat, snood, hat gloves, balaclava, thermals… and brave the freeze The Chocolate Festival was definitely it. Set out behind the Southbank Centre within sight of the Thames, this three day celebration of all things chocolate featured a dizzying array of treats to sample, from fudge to beer and even mole flavoured chilli (mole being the chocolate based sauce, not the small furry animal).

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For those who were feeling rich and creative, there was a Chocolate Cookery Theatre available offering paid workshops, tastings, cookery demonstrations and even high tea.

Jen and I decided to focus on snuffling out free samples and gawking at the incredible artistry on display.

Our first encounter was with the Purbeck Ice Cream stand, unsurprisingly deserted considering the weather but offering delicious samples of chocolate orange and chocolate brownie ice-cream. Heaven.

We were immediately drawn to the Crumbs and Doilies stand, offering all manner of gorgeous cupcakes. Although we had claimed we weren’t going to buy anything, we quickly cracked. Here I am about to inhale a salted caramel mudslide mini cupcake… and yes, it was every bit as delicious as it sounds, if not better.

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The exhibitors at The Chocolate Festival certainly take their chocolate seriously and there were several more unusual flavours and textures available, including a fascinating cocoa nib and salt combo from Pacari, straight from Ecaudor.

For those who are keen to do some of their own more unusual baking, Cocoa Pod was selling a variety of flavours of chocolate drops to jazz up your cookies and cakes along with their personalised treats. I am still slightly embarrassed that I incorrectly identified the mystery flavour as lime rather than lemon. Greg and John would not be impressed.

Creating both beautiful and delicious handmade chocolates in London is the impressive Kokopelli’s, fronted by chocolatier, Steph Saffer. I was particularly enamoured with the shiny blue ones (that’s a technical term).

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It wasn’t just about flavour though and we couldn’t help but be amazed at the incredibly beautiful things that some of the chocolate “artists” exhibiting had created. My favourite has to be the leopard and orange eggs from The Cocoa Mistress – totes amaze, babes!

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My biggest surprise of the day was coming across Amisqi, selling homemade alfajores, a type of Latin American biscuit sandwiched together with dulche leche. Dulche leche is very present in South African cooking and the alfajores tasted just like the caramel tartlets I grew up with so I ended up having a long chat to the stallholder. Might just email him my recipe for peppermint crisp tart.

The only bum note of the day came when we succumbed to the cold and bought hot chocolate from Jaz and Jules.  My caramel and lime combo was weird at best and Jen’s ginger flavoured one didn’t hit the mark either, with both being a bit tasteless. Maybe we were spoiled by Hungarian hot chocolate in Budapest.

You can check out a full list of exhibitors here.

Things I have been cooking lately #24: Peanut butter chocolate Oreo surprise cupcakes

My mum altered me to the idea of making these and I couldn’t resist. They are outrageously decadent so approach with caution.

Peanut butter chocolate Oreo cupcakes

100g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

140g caster sugar

2 tsp baking powder

40g butter at room temperature, cut into chunks

120ml milk

1 egg

¼ tsp vanilla extract

8 – 12 Oreos (will depend on the size of your muffin tin)

Peanut butter

300g icing sugar

100g butter at room temperature

40g cocoa powder

40ml milk

As an advance warning, this recipe might fly in the face of every other cupcake recipe you’ve ever made but it really does work.

Heat oven to 170 C. Put flour, caster sugar, baking powder into a mixing bowl and rub in with your fingertips until it resembles fine sand and all the butter is combined. Of course if you have one of those schmancy standing mixers with a proper paddle attachment you can just chuck it in there till you get the same effect.

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk egg and vanilla extract. Add about half of this mixture to the flour mixture and beat together with an electric whisk on slow speed until just mixed. Add in the rest of the milk mixture and beat until incorporated. Then crank up the speed of your whisk to make sure you get out any lumps and don’t forget to scrape down the sides with a spatula. You don’t need to beat for long though, it’s important not to overmix.

Spread your Oreos with a little peanut butter.

Get out a 12 hole muffin tin and paper cases. I would suggest that the big deep ones are probably best for this recipe.  I got 9 out of that but like I said it might vary. Fill your cases about 1/3 of the way with cupcake batter. Put an Oreo on top of the batter, peanut butter side up, in each case. Then top with the remaining batter so that the Oreo is completely covered.

Pop in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake springs back when you touch it. Allow to cool in the tray for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling tray.

Once again my icing making technique is unusual but I can promise that this is the BEST. ICING. EVER. Put the butter, icing sugar and cocoa in the blender and blend until everything is combined into a sort of paste. Remove this paste to a bowl, add the milk and beat with an electric whisk at a low speed until combined. Then turn up the speed and beat for 5 minutes. You should be left with a fabulously fluffy icing that it’s hard not to eat straight out of the bowl.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread with icing. Eat. Get fat.

Makes 8 – 12.

Oreo cupcakes

Things I have been cooking lately #19: Gluten free peanut butter fudge brownies

I have to admit than on reading a brownie recipe with no chocolate, butter, oil or flour in it I was pretty sure it was going to be rather sad. However the pictures and the fact that there was lots of lovely peanut butter (look… I eat it out of the jar) was enough to make me try these and boy am I glad I did. They are deliciously fudgy and rich, gluten free and considerably lower in fat than standard brownies. Also ludicrously easy to make. Get in!

Gluten free peanut butter fudge brownies
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

½ cup oats
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
170g fat free vanilla yoghurt
¼ cup semi skimmed milk
1 cup Demerara sugar
½ cup smooth peanut butter, make sure you get a sugar free, additive free one – you don’t need all that crap

Put all the ingredients except the peanut butter in a blender (or in a large bowl and get at it with a stick blender) and blend until smooth. Grease a 20cm x 20cm baking dish and line with baking parchment.  Pour in the chocolate mixture.

Put the peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the melted peanut butter to the brownie mixture a few spoonfuls at a time, dotting over the surface and then swirl through with a knife to create a marbled effect.

Bake at 180 C for 25 minutes.

Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting all they will fall apart. Prepare to be amazed.

Makes 12

brownies

Things I have been cooking lately: #13 Peppermint Crisp Tart

As it’s almost Christmas, I thought I’d share my favourite festive dessert with you. I made this traditional South African favourite for my British in-laws at Christmas a couple of years ago and it’s now an absolute staple. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it, even my sweet-phobic husband comes back for seconds and it’s breathtakingly simple to make. The only downside is that you’ll have to hit a South African deli to buy some of the ingredients… or if you live in South West London most off licenses and even the Wimbledon Tesco.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

1 pkt Tennis Biscuits

1 tin caramelised condensed milk/dulche leche (now sold at bigger supermarkets)

250ml double cream

3 Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars

Beat the cream in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add in the caramelised condensed milk and beat until well combined. Smash up the peppermint crisp bars. I like to bash them against the kitchen counter and get out all my frustrations. Stir two of the smashed up bars into the caramel mixture.

You can choose almost any shaped container that has the depth to make at least two layers. I normally go for 20cm x 20cm square but I’ve also made it in a fancy trifle dish. Make a layer of the tennis biscuits in the bottom of the dish. Break them up to make them fit if necessary. Cover with a layer of the caramel mixture. If you’re using a square container put in half. Add another layer of biscuits and then another layer of caramel. Sprinkle over the remaining crushed chocolate and a couple of crushed tennis biscuits.

Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Film Friday #105

My Week With Marilyn

During the filming of The Prince and The Showgirl, young studio, “runner”, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) becomes the favourite of the legendary Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) for a brief period of time. Focused as much on the relationship between the immature Clark and the fragile but intense Monroe, as her interactions with a frustrated Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), this film is an interesting look into how life in the public eye affects someone’s psyche. And it’s easy to draw parallels between Monroe and some of the “hunted” celebrities of the moment. I found this enjoyable and engaging but I’m not sure if I entirely bought Williams in the role of Monroe. Best summed up as “nice”. 3/5

Yes, I have become trapped in the bath

The Hangover Part II

This time Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifiniakis) are in Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Despite Stu’s insistence that he doesn’t want a bachelor party, the trio once again wake-up in a strange place with no idea what has happened the night before. This time Stu has a facial tattoo, Alan’s head has been shaved and Teddy (Mason Lee), Stu’s future brother-in-law is nowhere to be found. Every cliché and character from the original film is wheeled out but somehow all of the buddy charm from the first one is missing. I didn’t laugh. Not once. I also marvelled at the willingness of the female partners of these man-children’s to forgive them for their shocking behaviour. Avoid. 1/5

What do you mean, I’m not Mike Tyson?

Chocolate

Zin (Ammara Siripong), a young Thai gang member, enrages her boss/ex when she takes up with Masashi (Hiroshi Abe… phwaorgh!), the boss of a rival Japanese gang. Forced apart, Zin raises their autistic daughter, Zen (JeeJa Yanin) along with the help of a chubby foundling called Mangmoon (Taphon Phopwandee). As Zen becomes a teenager Mangmoon discovers that she has an amazing natural ability to mimic the movements of others, which makes her a formidable martial artist. When Zin becomes ill, Mangmoon and Zin set off to collect on her gang debts, but it’s not long before her original boss and his tribe of lady boy assassins find out… and they’re not happy. This is typically bonkers in the way that most Asian cinema is – visually beautiful but often baffling. Overall this film is very cool but a little bit too “fighty” for me and I had moments of boredom.  3/5

That’s the last time you tell me to make you a sandwich!

Bright Young Things

It’s the 1930’s and writer, Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) finds himself working as a gossip columnist after his novel is destroyed by customs. Wrapped up in a wild party set, he desperately tries to earn enough money, by hook or by crook, to marry his glamorous fiancée, Nina (Emily Mortimer). But under the hedonistic lifestyle there is a dark side and when Nina agrees to marry the wealthy, Ginger (David Tennant), how will Adam get her back? This is in equal parts funny and dark and in some ways very beautiful. It takes quite a bit of getting into though. 2.5/5

This is the greatest pole I have ever touched