Sunday, 26 January 2014

Self saucing chocolate pudding

This pudding borders on witchcraft and I bet everyone who makes it for the first time puts it in the oven thinking, ‘this will never work’.  But guess what?  It does!  The idea of pouring hot water over a batter and the oven sorting it all out is hard to believe but by the time you take the finished pud out of the oven there will be a lovely sponge risen on the top, and a thick, rich chocolate sauce at the bottom of the dish.  

It really doesn’t look promising going into the oven (apologies for all the mess and smears around the bowl – I was having one of those uncoordinated days where everything goes where it shouldn’t!):

I particularly liked where the sauce bubbled up on top of the sponge and set into a crusty topping.  The sponge and sauce contrasted with vanilla ice cream was the perfect dish – hot, cold, multiple textures and bold flavours.

This is a real ‘stick to the ribs’ pudding reminiscent of that chocolate sponge you sometimes got for school dinners.  The chocolate sauce is more chocolatey than school dinners chocolate custard (not that I didn’t love school dins chocolate custard!)

The other good thing about this dessert is that it takes barely 10 minutes to get it ready for the oven.  I do recommend standing your baking dish on a tray to catch any spills.  Some of my chocolate sauce did decide to erupt out of the pud like a rather limp Versuvius.  Mmmm, chocolate lava!


For the batter:
150g self raising flour
165g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
125ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30g unsalted butter, melted

For the topping:
150g dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
425ml hot water


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Grease a 1.5-2 litre oven proof dish with butter.

Place the flour, sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and mix together.

Beat in the milk, vanilla and butter until you have a smooth batter.

Spoon into the prepared dish and level the surface.

Now make the topping: Stir together the brown sugar and cocoa powder making sure there are no lumps.

Scatter over the top of the batter.

Pour the hot water over the top at a gentle speed so as not to disturb everything – using the back of a spoon to break the flow helps.

Place on a baking sheet in the oven (this will catch any sauce that bubbles up) and bake for 50 minutes, during which time the sponge will rise to the top and the liquid will be at the bottom of the dish transformed into a thick chocolate sauce.

Serve from the oven with vanilla ice cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Cream cheese biscuits

For reasons I won’t bore you with, it’s not been a great start to the year so I felt justified in ‘buying me a little happy’.  This manifested itself in an Oxo Good GripsCookie Press. Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve never had much success in piping biscuit dough and usually end up spooning it onto the baking sheet instead, but with this lovely bit of kit my luck has changed!

The recipe is from the instruction book that comes with the cookie press and Mr CC declared them the best biscuits I have ever made.  I think he’s right.  They are lovely: crisp, buttery, flavoursome and small enough that there’s no shame in eating several!

Because they are small and thin they crisp up quickly from the oven.  We ate some warm and they had an almost nutty flavour, which was surprising given that they don’t contain any nuts.  When cool that nuttiness goes, but the cream cheese gives a boost to the flavour; you wouldn’t know they contained cream cheese but it does add something.

The recipe said the yield would be about eight dozen biscuits.  I never have a lot of luck in getting the suggested amount thus expected to get half that.  I got well over 100!  It is the recipe that just keeps on giving!  The shape looked so crisp unbaked that I thought I would lose all that definition on baking:

But guess what?  They kept their shape:


230g unsalted butter, at room temperature
85g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
250g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
310g plain flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil – you will need about six, but I only had three so re-used them as the batches finished baking.

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined.

Add the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.

Weigh out the flour and cinnamon.

Gradually beat into the butter mixture.

At this point you can spoon small teaspoons full of the dough onto the baking sheet, but I used my cookie press.  Fill the cookie press with dough (you will have to refill about four times) and press your cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.  They don’t spread a lot so place them as close together as the cookie press will allow.

Bake for 15 minutes, turning the trays halfway through the baking time.  The biscuits are ready when they are a light golden colour.

Leave to cool for five minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

If using a cookie press this recipe will make about 100 biscuits.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Apple and blueberry cake

Apples and blueberries in one cake?  That’s two of your five a day in one simple slice* Plus think of all those calories you’ll burn pouring the cream over the cake, lifting weights (ok, the spoon) and chewing.  It’s the cake for anyone on a January health-kick*

We had the cake warm, but not hot, from the oven with pouring cream and it was lovely.  The apples had a little tartness and the sugar sprinkled on top of them had crunch which gave many lovely textures while eating.

Mr CC is not a fan where fruit is baked in a sponge and makes it squidgy.  He liked this because the sponge remained crumbly as the fruit sits on top.  He’s not normally at home when I bake and the smell of this straight from the oven was too tempting for him....hence us eating it warm!

The weather is grim at the moment – grey, dark and mostly wet.  I know we’re getting off lightly compared to other parts of the country, and indeed other countries, but there was something cheering about this cake.  It was quick to make, colourful and flavoursome.  I’m not sure cakes can have personalities but if they could this one would be saying ‘hey, it’s not so bad – spring will soon be here’....and ‘eat me’.  All cakes say ‘eat me’.  It’s the law*

*May not actually be true (sadly)


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
165g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
125ml milk
1-2 eating apples, depending on size, peeled, cored and cut into slices
125g blueberries
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale – it won’t go as whippy as some other mixes because of the ratios.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the flour and milk until the batter is just combined – don’t over beat it.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Arrange the apple slices on top and then scatter the blueberries over the apple.

Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the top.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Best check the cake after 40 minutes and, if it’s browning too quickly, cover the top loosely with foil.

Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack until it is cool enough to de-tin.

Leave to cool completely or serve warm.

Serve either warm for dessert with ice cream, or at room temperature with cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Tunis cake

If, like me, you watched the Christmas Bake Off special on TV you will have spotted this cake as the one made by Mary Berry.  It got Mr CC’s attention and within seconds of that thick ganache topping going on I was made to promise it would appear in our household at some point over Christmas!  Mr CC can never resist a good chocolate cake.

This is a deceptively simple cake to make and tastes of luxury.  The ganache topping tastes like the richest, most delicious truffle and works so well with the soft, crumbly Madeira-like sponge. 

I made one tweak in that I turned the sponge into a vanilla one rather than Mary’s lemon version.  This was an act of selfishness on my part! 

The sponge was so good I will use it for other cakes – I think it would take sultanas well, or be nice topped with cream and fruit in the summer.

The origin of Tunis cake seems uncertain.  It was mass produced by McVities in the 1970s but it is thought the recipe dates back to Edwardian times.  However, the reason for the name perhaps dates back a lot further to the days of Carthage’s wars with the Roman Empire.   After a victory the Tunis warriors would celebrate with cake and wine, which is why Tunis cake is made for celebrations.  I think a victorious warrior would be very pleased with a slice of this cake named after him!


For the sponge:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used this instead of the recommended grated zest of 1 lemon)
225g self raising flour
70g ground almonds

For the ganache:
300ml double cream
400g chocolate – I used half dark, half milk – broken into squares

To decorate: sprinkles of your choice


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper, making sure the paper comes up above the height of the tin.

Beat together the butter and sugar until whippy and pale.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.

Beat in the vanilla.

Fold in the flour and almonds.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour, although it’s best to check the cake after 45 minutes in case it is browning too quickly.  If it is, loosely cover the top with foil, and carry on baking.  Mine didn’t need this, but all ovens are different.

Leave the cake to cool – do not remove from the tin.  This is of vital importance!

Now make the ganache topping: heat the cream until just starting to bubble but not boiling.

Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.

Stir gently to help the chocolate melt.  At first it will look a bit of a mess but gradually the mix will turn into a smooth, glossy ganache.

Leave to cool, but not set.

If your cake has a peak – and you can do it without de-tinning the cake – level it as best you can.

Pour the ganache over the top of the cake and put aside to set.  It’s best not to refrigerate at this point as it keeps the chocolate glossy.

When the ganache has set, decorate however you wish.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Snowy rocky road

Now for something that requires no baking and very little prep, this was one of the stand-out hits of my Christmas goodies!  This is the perfect treat for having on standby in the fridge whenever a cup of tea needs a little bit of something tasty to accompany it.

You could reinvent this and change the ingredients, for example switching sultanas for the cranberries, or almonds for the pistachio, but the combination set out below really worked well – whatever you do, make sure you keep the mix of chewy and crunchy.

The pistachio and cranberry also looked festive sitting in the white chocolate.  I struggled to get good photos as it must have been one of the greyest, wettest, darkest Christmases ever...and, of course, I only remembered to photograph it when I was sitting with my cup of tea waiting to eat a square.  Impatience and greed does not make for good photos!

Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a year of wonderful bakes and may you never have a soggy bottom!


400g white chocolate, chopped
25g mini marshmallows
50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
50g dried sweetened cranberries
40g pistachios, roughly chopped
50g ginger nut biscuits, broken into small chunks but not crumbs
To decorate: sprinkles of your choice


Line a tin approximately 15cm x 20cm with clingfilm.

Melt the chocolate, either in the microwave or in a bowl above a saucepan of steaming water (making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water).  Be gentle and don’t rush as white chocolate is more sensitive than other chocolate.

Stir in all the ingredients and spoon into the prepared tin, leveling the surface.

Sprinkle over the additional coconut and decoration of your choice; I used bronze sugar pieces.

Refrigerate until set and then remove from the tin and cut into squares.

Keep in the fridge until wanted – it keeps for days.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.