Marbled Chocolate Crumble Cake

When I first took this cake out of the oven, I laughed because it looked so unattractive. The baking paper shielded the cake on all sides, and all I could see was a pile of brown chocolatey rubble.

But but but, don’t be deceived by first impressions. Once you cut into this cake, you get an eyeful of beautifully light marbled sponge, melty studs of chocolate, all combined with a crumbly crunchy topping.

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It’s another winner by Dan Lepard, whose cookbook I am continuing to wax lyrical about. What can I say? It’s just full of stuff I want to bake. Twists on the traditional, nothing looks too scary, nothing that takes several days (apart from the sourdough starter). The recipe is on The Guardian from the (much missed) days when he wrote a regular baking column.

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I got home from work at 6pm, left the ingredients to get to room temperature while I headed out for a quick run, came back and combined everything together. So, it was all out of the oven and ready to be consumed by 8pm, yummy yum.

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Fresh out of the oven, the cake was bouncily light, rich and absolutely delicious. Once cold, it settles into a firmer texture that is perfect packaged up for lunches or snacks. Generous squares, delicate slices…however you fancy. You can see which option I’ve gone for!

I could probably have swirled the sponges together a little more, but you can see how well the light vanilla sponge contrasts with its darker, chocolatey cousin. The downside of winter weekday baking is that I didn’t get a chance to take any photos in actual daylight, but I think these turned out reasonably well with the aid of some extra light and of course, my new cake stand. It’s so quintessentially girly – pink with a frilled edge – and I LOVE it.

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Hazelnut Butter and Milk Chocolate Cookies

Imagine those delicious chocolate pralines, the ones that always disappear first in any luxury chocolate selection box. Then imagine them transformed into a crispy, chewy, nutty cookie, generously studded with moreish, melting chunks of milky chocolate.

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As well as a lot of chocolate, there’s quite a cookie theme going on this month. These were inspired by the peanut butter cookies I made last year. I had a big stash of hazelnuts left over from 2014, so I got out my mini-blender, and blasted a bag of roasted nuts into a nut butter, ready to make into something to nibble on.

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The batter for the cookie dough was quick and easy to make. I mixed it up after dinner, then popped the mixing bowl in the fridge to rest overnight. The next day, I scooped out the dough, and hey presto! Freshly baked cookies.

I mixed in milk chocolate chips, but you could easily go with dark chocolate, or even more hazelnuts to ramp up the nutty flavours even more.

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Hazelnut Butter and Milk Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Makes 10-12 cookies

  • 110g lightly salted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 90g light brown sugar
  • 120g hazelnut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 170˚C.

Beat the butters and sugars together, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Finally beat in the flours, bicarbonate of soda, and the chocolate chips.

Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer balls of cookie dough onto 2-3 baking trays. Keep plenty of space between each cookie as they will spread! Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes. Leave to cool before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There are a lot of pretty damn good cookie recipes out there, and this chocolate one by Dan Lepard is no exception. These cookies are comfortingly weighty in the palm of your hand, and are absolutely choc-a-block crammed full of dark chocolate chunks, melting into tiny rivulets and puddles that you just want to lick off.

Very lightly adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, they pack a fantastic chocolatey punch. In my case, a slightly boozy aftertaste too, thanks to my homemade vanilla extract, which is currently approximately 50% vodka, 49.999% brandy, and 0.001% vanilla seeds. Tis no bad thing. Hic.

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It was dark when I baked these (being a January weekday) so here’s a quick iPhone snap.

I keep meaning to bake more from Short and Sweet as Dan Lepard’s recipes tend to be so reliable and produce great results. For instance, the ratio of ingredients here is incredibly similar to that of Dorie Greenspan/Pierre Hermé’s Korova cookies. I didn’t get along with that cookie recipe at all, which resulted in epic cookie spreadage, but this one worked beautifully.

Anyways, super happy I have a tub filled with these to keep me going for the rest of the working week (and weekend) yum!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg
  • 175g strong white flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Beat the butter together with the sugars and vanilla extract until creamy. Then mix in the egg, followed by the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then roll into balls with your hands, then place on a baking tray, well spaced apart, and bake for around 14 minutes until puffed and starting to colour at the edges. Cool for a few minutes on a tray before transferring onto a cooling rack.

Fall into this Chocolate Cake

Three-thirty in the afternoon.

Hungrily snapping up the last of the mellow January sunlight.

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Trying to capture the sheen of the crackly surface, of this almost flourless chocolate cake. The sides standing proudly tall, the centre deeply cratered. Tenatively hiding behind its uneven planes, lies the darkest, richest melt-in-your-mouth-texture.

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A rich cake, perfect for sharing. In teeny slices, a flake of salt to whet the tastebuds, and a spoonful of smooth, cold, sharp cream.

Another treat for my self-dubbed “Chocolate January.” The recipe can be found in my old post here.

This almost flourless chocolate cake doesn’t contain any raising agent, so the rise relies entirely on whisking prowess. If you don’t want it to puff up so dramatically, simply whisk the mixture for a shorter period of time.

I think it would be perfectly amenable to adaptation with the addition of some ground nuts, or a drop of citrus oil. Play around with the flavours, it’s a perfect blank canvas!

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

I’ve posted about sausage rolls and rough puff before. A good puff pastry elevates a sausage roll from a greasy café staple, to a minature gastronomic heaven.

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Rough puff is the easiest way to get that – quicker and less complicated than the traditional version, with flaky layer that fall apart messily on eating. Emma from Poires au Chocolat has written a comprehensive tutorial on it, which beautifully explains the whole process from start to finish.

I ran out of plain flour – so went with strong flour instead, and as my stores of butter were looking deplete, I halved it, to see what would happen.

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It actually turned out really well. The sausage rolls puffed beautifully in the oven, and you could still see layers of clearly defined pastry. The photo above doesn’t adequately showcase how well they rose, they looked like little pastry pillows stuffed full of tasty filling.

Although the reduction in butter meant the pastry wasn’t quite as flaky or tender, it was also less overtly buttery, which made it an even better pairing for the delicate herby flavours of the seasoning, and the pork sausagemeat itself.

Though the pastry makes a fair few sausage rolls, be aware they disappear very fast. A splodge of tomato ketchup, and away you go.

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A lot of people feel the need to lighten their diets and practice a little abstinence throughout the month of January. I’m afraid I’m not very good at doing either, so I’ll probably be making up another batch of these. Delicious!

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

For the rough puff pastry:

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 125g unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 8 Cumberland/Lincolnshire sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the pastry first. Tip the flour into a bowl and add the chunks of cold butter. Rub in roughly, so there are lots of little chunks of butter still remaining. Then throw in the pinch of salt, and tip in enough water to bring the whole mixture together into a shaggy dough. You may need a bit less water.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Then take it out, and roll it out into a long rectangle. Fold this in three, like a letter, turn 90˚ and roll out into a long rectangle again. Fold into three again, then wrap and return to the fridge once more for another 30 minute rest.

After the 30 minutes has elapsed, take the pastry out, and roll it out into a rectangle once again, and fold. Turn 90˚ and fold once again. Return to the fridge for another rest. Repeat the process a third and final time, then the pastry is ready to use.

Now you’re ready to make sausage rolls. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Prepare a large baking tin with raised sides.

Squeeze the sausages out of their skins, and mix thoroughly with the chopped garlic.

Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Trim into a long rectangle. Brush a layer of wholegrain mustard down the centre of the long rectangle, then lay on the sausagemeat in a line down the centre of the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the mustard and sausagemeat to form a roll, and seal the edges together. Trim off any excess.

Flip the sausage roll over so the seam faces downwards, then slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch long pieces. Lay each roll on the baking tray with some space between each to allow for spreading.

Brush the tops of the sausage rolls with beaten egg, then stab the top of each roll with a fork. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer onto a cooling rack and eat warm or cold.

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

Gently crackly, with nuggets of fiery ginger to settle the post-indulgence stomach, and a sprinkling of hazelnuts, for their warming golden flavour notes.

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These hazelnut and ginger brownies are warmly indulgent, yet full of bright flavours. Perfect for this time of year. Whatever some people say about January resolutions, and diets, I think chocolate should have no part in that. Eat plenty, and counteract those post-Christmas blues.

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January a sad month? Nah. Let’s make it Chocolate Month instead?

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 heaped tbsp flour
  • handful crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped roughly

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain-marie until totally melted and liquid. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, mix in the sugar and eggs, followed by the cocoa powder and flour. Then add the ginger and hazelnuts. Bake in a lined square tin for around 25 minutes until the top is just set. Leave to cool down, then cut into squares.

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The Best of 2014

I have epic Quality Street withdrawal symptoms. This consists of my eyes honing in on anything purple and plastic, and poking around hopefully around all the cupboards in case I hid some chocolates in one of them. My pockets rustle with empty foil wrappers.

Last year, I wrote a recap post. There’s been so much baking in 2014 I knew I’d do it again. I’ve really stretched myself in so many ways, trying difficult techniques, and a heck a lot of French patisserie. So here we go!

The year started off with setting myself the challenge of conquering River Café’s infamous chocolate nemesis. What a way to start January.

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Buoyed from my first challenge, I finally braved the italian meringue method of macaron-making. With Pierre Hermé’s book, there was no stopping me! I baked and baked and baked, and my family pleaded with me that they were all mightily sick of macarons.

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On a similarly Parisian theme, I had to bake fresh fruit tartlets, and these strawberry beauties had me sold.

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Then even more French patisserie with the Gateau L’Opera

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Perhaps a change from French indulgence. This summery red, white and blue cheesecake was absolutely delicious, and required no baking at all. Less of a French theme going on, unless you just count the colours.

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Many birthdays followed, requiring the obligatory inclusion of chocolate cake. Never put birthday candles on this cake in 30˚C heat – it melteth….

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Then time for something savoury with these chorizo sausage rolls which were the BEE’S KNEES and sure to get another outing in the future!
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And then, come Christmas, bringing in the festivity with these gorgeous mince pies. I couldn’t stop making these over and over again.

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For 2015, there’s a few things I’d like to get to grips with.

Red velvet cake has always been a tricky one with me, so I’d love to find a recipe I was 100% happy with. Then in the savoury department, perhaps I’ll finally get round to making a pie that doesn’t contain apple! Pork pie anyone? Then perhaps more experimentation with yeast – brioche, and maybe a homemade Panettone next Christmas!

Let’s see what happens :).

Happy New Year!