Sunday, 31 May 2015

AlphaBakes "Q" Roundup

Welcome to the Q roundup for AlphaBakes. It's not the easiest of letters so it was great to see the variety of entries which included sweet and savoury dishes. Tomorrow is officially the start of summer and it will also be the start of June AlphaBakes hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes. I hope it's an easier letter than Q and one that coincides with summer but we will have to wait and see! 

My co host Caroline from Caroline Makes made a Butternut Squash, Fennel and Goat's Cheese Quiche for her new year's day buffet party but had not gotten round to blogging about it until now. It's good timing as it's a delicious entry for AlphaBakes this month. Caroline says that as quiches can be eaten cold, they are great for buffets or picnics or al fresco lunches!

Next is my entry which is also a savoury dish. I made Mini Pork Pies with Quails Eggs. It was my first time working with hot water crust pastry and I was really pleased with the final result. They looked impressive and tasted amazing, much better than shop bought one. The star of course was the Quails egg. I served them with salad for lunch but they are also good for lunch boxes and picnics.

Caroline is back with Ham and Cheese Quesadillas. They are quick and easy to make and she made use of ingredients in her fridge as she was going on holiday to Mexico. A quesadilla is basically a tortilla filled with cheese and anything you fancy, folded over and fried or grilled on both sides.

Next is Kate from the Gluten Free Alchemist who baked a Cheddar, Gruyere and Bacon Quiche which is of course gluten free! Her daughter's favourite filling is cheese and bacon which is also one of my favourite fillings as you just can't go wrong with classics. Kate made this earlier in May to highlight Coeliac Awareness Week in UK.

Jen from Chardonnay & Samphire made Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa and Moutabel which is one of her favourite work weekday lunches. The dish is made from quinoa with chargrilled aubergine and tahini stirred through, which is also known as Moutabal/Baba Ganoush and originates from the Middle East. It looks like a tasty and delicious lunch.

Suelle from Mainly Baking made a Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread with Quark. She used a recipe from the Fabuloous Baker Brothers which uses quark instead of sour cream or buttermilk which is common in other recipes. It was very cheesy and well spiced and she served it with a spicy ratatouille.

Our first sweet entry comes from Choclette from Tin and Thyme. She was preparing to go on holiday to North Wales so wanted to use up some ingredients in her kitchen which included bananas, yoghurt and eggs. She baked this Quick Banana and Rum Soaked Raisin Bundt which looks really impressive. It was flavoursome as you can expect from the ingredients and had a lovely spongy texture.

Another sweet entry comes from Jean from Baking in Franglais with her Rhubarb Queen of Puddings. She followed a recipe from BBC Good Food and used rhubarb and ginger. It was a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off as there's quite a few components to this recipe. The contestants had to make their own jam for the filling, homemade custard and meringue for the top. I think it looks really impressive and I can see why it's called the Queen of puddings. 

The final sweet entry is from Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe. The inspiration came from Pinterest and they were packaged in a hamper of goodies for her mum for Mother's Day. Her Apple Rose Tarts which contain Quince Jelly were packaged amongst other goodies in a homemade woven paper box which was also inspired by Pinterest.  

Caroline completes the round up with her Fennel, Quinoa and Broad Bean Summer Salad inspired by Deliciously Ella. She took this to a barbeque party to celebrate her boyfriend's mum's 60th birthday. It's a really colourful summery salad and certainly makes a change from lettuce, tomato and cucumber! 

That's the end of the Q roundup. Thank you again to those who joined in this month and apologies for the delayed round up as it's been a crazy busy month. Remember to check out Caroline's blog tomorrow to find out what letter we are using in June and I'll see you all back here in July. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hans Sloane chocolate beads cookies with cranberry or ginger

I love cookies. They are my favourite baked goods and I love experimenting with different flavours and textures. A classic chocolate chip cookie is my all time favourite and it's a very versatile base to start from. I looked in my store cupboard to see what I could use as additions and found an opened pack of crystallized ginger and a pack of dried cranberries that was nearing it's expiry date. As I'm not a fan of ginger I decided to bake 2 types of cookies - one with ginger and one with dried cranberry. The cookies were absolutely delicious. The dark chocolate beads gave an intense chocolate flavour and paired well with the dried cranberries and the crystallized ginger. J tested both and it was difficult to pick a favourite but the ginger one won out in the end. The best thing about this recipe is it's versatility as you can add any additions you like to this cookie - dried fruit, nuts, coconut, candy. 

 adding chocolate beads to the mixture 

 adding dried cranberries

 adding crystallized ginger 

 cranberry and chocolate cookie 

 ginger and chocolate cookie 

Recipe adapted slightly from BBC Good Food
Makes approximately 40 cookies depending on size of cookies.

150g butter
80g brown sugar
80g caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g Hans Sloane rich dark chocolate beads
100g dried cranberries or ginger or other additions

Note - I made 1 batch of cookie dough then divided it into half. I added 50g of dried cranberries to one half and 50g of crystallized ginger to the other half.

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. 
  • Cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. 
  • Add in the egg and vanilla bean paste.
  • Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Stir in the Hans Sloane dark chocolate beads.
  • Add in any additional flavours - dried cranberries or crystallized ginger. Alternatively you can just use chocolate beads.
  • Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out cookie dough and place them spaced apart on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for approcimately 8-10minutes or until golden brown. 
  • The cookies will still be soft but will harden once it's cooled on the baking tray for about 5 minutes.
  • Place on a cooling rack until fully cooled then store in an airtight container. 

Disclaimer: I was sent some Hans Sloane drinking chocolate beads for review purposes to create a recipe. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Banana, pecan and chocolate waffles

fresh fruit waffle

We decided to treat ourselves to waffles over the bank holiday weekend. We usually have plain waffles with maple syrup and fruit and occasionally with bacon. This time I thought I'd bake something a little different as we are trying to eat healthier so it had to be loaded with fruit. I actually ended up forgetting to add the oil (maybe it was my subconscious working overtime) and surprisingly the waffles turned out fine. It's probably because they are baked in the oven so they have a slight cake like texture but it really did not detract from the taste. I was really worried that it would be dry and unpalatable but they were actually really delicious and filling. I'm guessing that it would taste better with the oil but I've not tried it yet. In any case, the bananas and buttermilk probably saved the day. 

The initial plan for the waffles was for banana and pecans but then I decided to add in some chocolate in the form of chocolate beads from Hans Sloane. Hans Sloane sent me some rich dark drinking chocolate beads to try. They are packaged in an attractive red box and the smell of chocolate when you open the bag is heavenly. Dark chocolate is my favourite kind of chocolate and these beads really pack a proper chocolate punch. I tried quite a few on their own and had to stop eating them otherwise I wouldn't have enough to bake with! They worked well in this recipe as it provided a rich, dark chocolate taste to the waffles. The beads did not melt completely so you get lovely chunks of chocolate. I've also tried it with milk as a hot chocolate drink and it's absolutely divine. I often find that powdered hot chocolate have an artificial taste and tends not to taste chocolatey at all. This is the complete opposite as it tastes like proper melted chocolate in warm milk. I loved the stuff so much that I baked another recipe with these chocolate beads which will be on the blog very soon. 

 Hans Sloane drinking chocolate beads which won the Taste Gold Awards in 2011 and was winner of the chocolatier taste test in 2012. 

 dry ingredients on the left and wet ingredients on the right (minus the oil!) 

 adding chopped pecan nuts to the mixture with the chocolate beads on the right 

 Look at the gorgeous chocolate beads - they are really shiny

 This is my silicone waffle tray

 I love how the chocolate gives it a speckled look 

 Topped with lots of fresh fruit and maple syrup which I bought from America 

 You can see the chocolate beads better in this picture 

Makes 8 waffles

375g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g brown sugar
4 eggs 
250g buttermilk 
2 bananas, mashed
50g pecans, chopped
100g Hans Sloane chocolate beads 
80 mls vegetable oil (optional -see notes above) 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and brown sugar and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vegetable oil (if using)
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients andmix gently until just mixed.
  • Stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate beads.
  • Pour the batter into a waffle mould and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Serve with fresh fruit and maple syrup or as desired. 
  • (The waffles freeze well and tastes great if you toast them in the toaster)

Disclaimer: I was sent some Hans Sloane drinking chocolate beads for review purposes to create a recipe. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Pecan Butterscotch Blondies

We went to America a few weeks ago for a holiday to celebrate J's significant birthday. We had a brilliant time and it was also a good opportunity for me to stock up on American baking goodies. I bought a few bags of butterscotch chips as I love the flavour and really enjoy baking with them. However, my favourite combination is still butterscotch and pecans so I decided to make some blondies with them. The flavours work really well together and they were quite addictive! I brought this along with the Irish tea bread to work but these were devoured much quicker. I'm sure I will be getting repeat requests for this one! 

 adding butterscotch chips and pecan nuts 

 ready to bake 

 fresh from the oven 


Makes 1 large traybake

225g buttter
200g brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour
100g pecan nuts, chopped
300g butterscotch chips

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue mixing.
  • Stir in the flour and mix well. 
  • Finally stir in the butterscotch chips and pecan nuts.
  • Press into a traybake tin and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Irish Tea Bread and Degustabox April 2015 review

It's time for the what's in my Degustabox for April and I will be posting about May fairly soon. April's box had an international theme and as usual it comes in an alcohol version or non alcohol version. I usually receive both in my review box but you can specify when you order them for yourself. A quick note about Desugatabox in case you're not familiar with it. Degustabox is a no obligation monthly subscription which costs £12.99 including delivery. You get 9 to 14 surprise products and it's usually a good mixed selection of goodies. Do check out my previous reviews to see the range of products you can expect to receive.  I have a special discount code for all my readers if you are interested in signing up a box for yourself or for a family memeber/friend. You get a £3.00 discount when registering by using this code PXATS which makes it just under a tenner for a goodie box including delivery.

I decided to create a recipe using Barry's tea which is from Ireland. I used a traditional Irish Tea Cake recipe which I found online and it turned out beautifully. I gave half to an Irish colleague who thoroughly enjoyed it. She suggested adding a bit of brandy or whiskey so I'm going to give it another go soon. It was really easy to make apart from allowing extra time to soak the fruits in tea overnight. It was delicious warm from the oven with butter on top. It kept well and was equally delicious toasted with butter.

 Kingfisher beer in the alcholic box which is from India. 

 IdrinQ from Hermany which is an enhancement drink. 

 Scheckters Organic Energy drink which is a natural, organic drink. 

 Cirio tomato fillets from Italy. 

 Vetee rice which I like for the convenience. The spicy mexican rice works well in stuffed peppers. 

 Nando's Peri-Peri potato chips - tasty ridge cut chips perfect for snacking. 

 Debeukelaer Cookies Bakery inspired by traditional family bakeries in Greenwich Village, New York. They are individually wrapped and have a melty chocolate centre. Perfect for picnics or lunchboxes. 

 Barry's Tea from Ireland

 Kinder choco-bons and mini kinder chocolate with cereals. Perfect for treats and lunchboxes as they are all individually wrapped. 

 Schwartz Balti and Korma recipe mix. These were great for mid week meals and the spices were perfect. 

 Cirio concentrated tomato puree from Italy - absolutely delicious. 

 I decided to use Barry's tea bags for my recipe this month. 

 Soak fruits in strongly brewed tea overnight 

 The fruits were plump and juicy after soaking 

 ready to go in the oven 

Makes 1 large loaf

500g dried fruit mix
4 Barry's tea bags
400ml boiling water
200g brown sugar
250g self raising flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon mixed spice

  • Place the tea bags in 400mls boiling water in a large bowl. Allow to steep for at least 5 minutes before removing the tea bags.
  • Add the dried fruit mix and stir.
  • Cover with a tea towel and leave overnight. 
  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the dried fruit mix and stir.
  • Pour the batter into a loaf tin and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Check after 45minutes as you may need to cover the loaf with foil to prevent the top from burning.