Tag Archives: baking

Blueberry cake

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Going swimming before making a cake is a terrible idea. It is really difficult not to eat cake batter when your head is saying, “You’re still hungry even though you had dinner, plus you exercised so you deserve to eat EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. Go on, eat more batter. More batter. More batter.” But I persevered, and I’m glad because the baked product is actually far nicer than the batter, which I only ate a small(-to-medium) amount of. Honest. I used this recipe for a base, but I didn’t fancy cherries or cinnamon so this one has blueberries and vanilla. I love the way the blueberries explode in the oven and make the cake extra sweet and moist, but the crunchy topping stops it being soggy.

I like making cakes in a square tin. This cake is an advance cake for dinner tomorrow, but if I bake it in a square tin and cut it up I can eat a piece (or two) tonight and when I lay the pieces out on a plate tomorrow nobody ever needs to know. I also like making cakes with lots of fruit so I can label them as healthy, and actually this cake does a pretty good job of living up to the label. It’s sweet, but lots of that sweetness comes from the blueberries. You also get a decent chunk of cake for very few calories. The crunchy topping really makes a difference and only takes a couple of minutes to make. I sort of want to put it on everything now.

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Ingredients for the cake:
140g self-raising flour
50g caster sugar
85g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1 egg
200g blueberries

Ingredients for the topping:
25g cold butter, diced
25g caster sugar
25g plain flour

Makes 8 slices
Calories: 250
Takes 10 minutes to put together, and 30-35 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C. Prepare a 20cm square baking tin. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, and then stir in all remaining cake ingredients except the blueberries. You should now have a smooth and very firm batter.

Stage two: Spread the batter out in the baking tin. Then spread the blueberries over the top of the batter, pressing them in slightly. Don’t worry if you have a few blueberries left over. Eat them. I certainly did.

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Stage three: Prepare the topping by putting all the ingredients in a small bowl and rubbing the mixture between your fingers until the butter, sugar and flour have come together in crumbs. Spread the mixture over the top of the blueberries and press down gently.

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Stage four: Pop the cake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Maybe with a little blueberry on it. Cut into 8 pieces and put them on a cooling rack, and serve sprinkled with icing sugar.

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Double chocolate cookies

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Cooking and baking are totally different skills. I find it really difficult to stick to recipes when I’m cooking, always wanting to add things or change the methods, and I don’t care. As long as you keep tasting as you go it almost doesn’t matter what you do because you can usually save it. Baking I find trickier because all you’ve got is the batter plus extras, and while I love batter you still can’t count on it giving you the end result you want. If you’re adding fruit, is it going to dissolve into a mush in the oven? (And if it does, is there any way of renaming whatever comes out that will make it sound deliberate?) Did I add too much butter? What is another egg really going to do? Which brings me to these cookies, which are the first non-recipe-using baked goods that I am sharing on this blog, and I know it’s wrong to brag but I think they’re great! Crunchy outside, chewy inside, very chocolatey (despite humble cocoa powder beginnings), sweet but not too sweet, with great big chunks of white chocolate with every bite. Yum.

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Ingredients:
125g self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder (I use Green & Black’s, which is wonderful)
100g caster sugar
50g dark brown sugar
150g butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g white chocolate, roughly chopped, or chocolate chips

Makes about 20 medium-sized cookies
Calories: 120
Takes 5-10 minutes to put together, 12-14 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C.

Stage two: Cream the butter with the sugars, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Next, add the cocoa powder and beat until the mixture is evenly a dark brown. Mix in the self-raising flour until you can’t see any white bits, and finally add the white chocolate. You will now have a firm batter. As usual, I rejected spooning out the mixture in favour of getting my hands stuck in it. Anyway, put the cookies on a baking tray in balls about a heaped tablespoon in size.

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Stage three: Bake for 12-14 minutes. They won’t immediately feel firm to the touch when you take them out of the oven, but if you leave them on the baking tray 5 minutes before sliding them off to cool then they’ll set. I love the contrasting colours of the dark cookie and white chocolate when you bite in.

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Granola bars

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I am not a morning person. In fact, I usually wake up hating the world and everyone in it. (My husband loves mornings and not infrequently walks around singing and whistling, which doesn’t help.) Anyway, this can lead to a predicament in that as a support worker, sometimes I stay at other people’s homes overnight, and all of that hatred needs to be gone the moment I get out of my bedroom door. My solution to this problem is a tasty breakfast that I can eat before necessarily getting out of bed. I’ve adapted these handy bars from smitten kitchen. I’ve simplified them somewhat so I could put them together faster and avoid using corn syrup. You can adapt them as you like – I don’t like mine too sweet.

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Ingredients:
170g jumbo rolled oats
30g regular porridge oats (you don’t need to use the 2 different oats, I just like to use jumbo oats but had some leftovers)
100g brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
200g mixed dried fruit (I used raisins, prunes and cranberries)
1/8 tsp orange extract (optional)
50g smooth peanut butter
100g maple syrup
1 tbsp water

Makes 8 bars
Calories: 290
Takes 5-10 minutes to put together, and 30 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 170C, and either line a 20x20cm tin with greaseproof paper or whip out your silicone tin. Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together well – that’s the two types of oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and dried fruit.

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Stage two: Add the orange extract to the bowl, and then the peanut butter, and mix around by hand. Then add the maple syrup and water (I gave the measurements to you in grams because at this point I only had one non-granola-covered hand, so it’s easier to just weigh it). This will give you a crumbly mixture, which you should press into the baking tin.

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Stage three: Pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is browned. Don’t worry that it doesn’t feel firm and set, that’s going to happen as they cool. You should leave them for 20 minutes or so until taking them out of the tin, but make sure to cut into bars as soon as they’re out of the oven. If you wait, they’ll harden and then crumble while you try to cut them up! I don’t mind a bit of crumble – in fact, I’m probably going to eat half of them as bars, and then crumble the rest to use as cereal.

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White chocolate cranberry oat cookies

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White chocolate cranberry oat cookies is a mouthful to say, and also to eat. I used smitten kitchen’s recipe as a base, but then changed a few things up and switched from cups to grams. I love putting oats in cookies because it makes me feel healthy when eating cookies. These oats were intended for porridge, which means these cookies are basically porridge, right? I love how chewy these cookies are, and you can really taste the brown sugar. Which I also love. I’m happy. The boiler has been replaced and now I have cookies.

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Ingredients:
120g butter at room temperature
1 medium egg
150g dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
110g plain flour
150g porridge oats
40g dried cranberries
40g white chocolate, chopped

Makes about 15 cookies
Calories: 190
Takes about 20 minutes to make, 10-15 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 170C. Then beat the butter, egg and sugar until smooth. Now add the baking powder, cinnamon and flour until just mixed. I did this with an electric mixer.

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Stage two: Time to leave the electric mixer, because the rest of the ingredients are going to make the mixture very thick. Also, I like to get my hands stuck in it. Maybe you could do it with a spoon if you really wanted to, but the cookies are too thick to dollop so you’ll probably get your hands messy anyway. Anyway, now add in the oats and mix until evenly distributed. Finally, mix in the cranberries and chocolate.

Stage three: Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roughly ball the cookies in the palm of your hand and put on baking trays in whatever size you prefer. Mine were the size of about 2 walnuts. I’m sure there’s a better way to describe the size, but all I have in my head is walnuts. Pop in the oven and bake until golden around the edges. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on how big the cookies are and how crispy you want them. Leave on the tray for 5 minutes before putting on cooling racks.

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Raspberry brownies

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Raspberry brownies are one of your five a day. Yes, you’ll need to eat 8 of them, but that’s not necessarily a problem. The base of these brownies is from BBC good food, which is by far the best brownie recipe I have ever tasted. My rule for whether a brownie is good is whether it tastes more chocolatey than chocolate. I need it to smack me in the mouth with chocolate. This brownie does. It is chewy and gooey and not too sweet. It is good to take to picnics and things that are summery and wonderful.

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Ingredients:
185g unsalted butter
185g dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
50g white chocolate
3 medium/large eggs
200g caster sugar
75g dark brown sugar
150g raspberries

Serves: 16
Calories: 280
Time taken: 1 hour to make, 1 hour to cool

Stage one: Roughly chop up the butter and break up the dark chocolate into chunks, then put them in a glass bowl. Quarter fill a small saucepan with boiling water, then put the glass bowl on top so that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the boiling water. Heat gently until the butter and chocolate have melted. Carefully remove them from the heat and set aside to cool.

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Stage two: Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. Prep a 20×20 baking pan. I have a wonderful silicon pan that I prep by taking out of the cupboard and putting on the counter, which suits me very well. Sift the flour and the cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside. Roughly chop the white chocolate into whatever size chunks you like best. If you want to use chocolate chips then that’s good too. I prefer to make my own chocolate chunks because I get more control over what kind of chocolate is going in, and how big the chunks are. Also the chocolatey crumbs make me happy.

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Stage three: Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and doubled in size. Then, using a wooden spoon, very gently mix the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mix until mottled. You don’t need to overdo it, because when you add the dry mix it will all come together.

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Stage four: Mix in the dry mixture until you can’t see any flour left. Then add the white chocolate and half of the raspberries and give a quick stir. Pour/scoop it into your brownie pan, then pop the remaining raspberries on top.

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Stage five: Pop in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. This time can vary, especially since my oven is really really keen so it may well take longer in less hyper ovens. You can tell when the brownie is done by gently shaking it from side to side. If the brownie wobbles (a little wobble is OK, an earthquake is less OK) then bake 5 minutes more. If you prefer a firmer brownie then bake for longer. Wait 15 mins before even trying to take the brownies out of the pan to avoid a gooey mess everywhere, then put on the cooling rack. The cooling stage is actually what makes all the difference in this brownie. I prefer raw cake mix to most cakes so I assumed that this rule did not apply to me, but no, the brownie is a million times better an hour after coming out of the oven. Trust me.

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