Chocolate Praline Cheesecake

Last week I spent almost an hour reading back over old blog posts. I always intended this space to be a diary of sorts as well as a recipe archive and found myself sucked into the narrative of Nino’s early months, comparing my notes and mindset with where I sit now. Any mother of two small children will know that an hour alone is seriously precious – there are so many things I could, or should, have done with that time – but instead I sat and reminisced over silly stories and anecdotes, things my son might have eaten or done, reliving those early months.

In just a few days, Joy will turn nine months. As long on the outside as in. I’d love to have documented each movement and mouthful for this blog the way I did with Nino, but truth be told it’s three long months since I’ve posted a recipe (sorry!). There have been photos on Instagram, thousands more on my phone and a baby book of milestones to make sure my ancient self can remember the most important details, but those random little insights into daily life that come with regular blog posts are sorely missing.

If by any chance, Joy, you are looking back on this, if WordPress still exists by the time you’re old enough to be interested in reading my random ramblings – a mummy yourself perhaps? – know one thing. This absence doesn’t mean I love you any less. You are adored. It’s simply that we’re living out our lives together, caught in the daily madness of sleepless nights, early mornings, multiple meals, clothes, demands for stories and cuddles and explanations with less time for reflection than I might have had as a mummy of one.

If you do want a quick catch up on what you’re like at almost nine months, your name still pretty much sums it up, sweet girl. Smiling, happy, so kind natured and utterly unphased by anything, including the bouncing bundle of energy that is your big brother as he careers around naked singing ‘Everybody wants to be a cat’. After thinking we were due some respite after Nino, your sleep habits are as appalling as his were, but I couldn’t be cross with the impish grin that greets me each (insanely early) morning and your milky snuggles are simply the best. When it comes to food, you’re also following in your brother’s footsteps with a great appetite, but a little more keen to do it all yourself. No idea where you get that one from . . . ahem. You scooch along the floor at breakneck speed, still more of a drag than a crawl, and are starting to pull up on anything and anyone. At times I see such fierce intelligence and communication behind those gorgeous hazel eyes (a subject of much debate, they seem to change colour every day), others you snuffle in and try to chew on any object in sight (all family members included) like a feral puppy. Charming, feisty, ferociously independent and utterly uncomplicated (so far) you are simply gorgeous inside and out.

Speaking of gorgeous things, a little while back Guylian approached me to develop a recipe for their Finishing Touches ebook. Their chocolate praline shells were a staple of my childhood and although I hadn’t eaten one in years, the first bite too me straight back. Click the link below for my Chocolate Praline Cheesecake recipe, amongst some other delicious looking chocolaty creations.

Double Nut Butter Blondies

Double nut butter blondies - 1

Yesterday I shouted at our two year old. After he repeatedly banged his little sister’s cot with two wooden spoons he was pretending to be ski poles while I attempted to put her down for a nap, I told him he was old enough to know better, shut the door on him and promptly burst into tears. Granted he’ll turn three in February and part of him knew exactly what he was doing, but because he’s so much bigger than Joy I sometimes forget, he’s still so very little. ‘Be quiet’ is a command he can commit to obey for a few minutes max before an exciting distraction sets in and patience is crucial on both our parts if we’re going to survive. In my three short months of parenting two, I’ve discovered that frustration can be high on the list of emotions for all parties involved, but raised tempers rarely improve anything. Certainly not the likelihood of babies to nap. But blondies? I have scientific proof that blondies improve just about everything.  Continue reading

Chocolate Rye Brownie Cookies

Rye Chocolate Brownie Cookies - 4

Move over chocolate chip, chewy oatmeal, crispy ginger . . . these are – hands down – the best cookies I’ve ever made. Tender bellied and crispy edged with the chocolate fudginess befitting only the very best brownie and a unique profile all of their own, these brownie cookies are simply divine. In the past, I’ve toyed with recipes for brownie cookies only to be slightly disappointed, the result falling short of both camps. But these? These you need to make. Continue reading

Raw Chocolate Coated Cookies with Raspberry & Coconut + WIN Modern Baking by Donna Hay

Raw Cookies Donna Hay - 2

Earlier this week I ventured down to Brighton with seven week old Joy, leaving Nino in the hands of his ever-adoring grandparents for day of swimming and Gruffalo hunting. Not wanting to negotiate London rush hour with the buggy, I bundled her into a snowsuit then stuck her in the sling, quietly congratulating myself as we met with a wall of commuters twenty deep on attempting descent to the tube. Maternity leave has removed me so completely from central city life, I’d forgotten the silent grey sea that is the London rush hour, office workers hiding behind papers and iPhones, unspeaking, their clothing muted and gaze cast low. Navigating the crush with a child swathed in bright pink unicorns attached to my chest, I felt like an imposter, unable to imagine having done this twice a day, every day, for almost all of my adult life.

Making raw and/or vegan desserts is a little like going on maternity leave. Your point of reference changes. Crisp-edged cookies become soft and dense with dates, cream tastes of coconut and jam is held together with chia seeds. As a seasoned lover of butter and flour and sugar, I’m perfectly aware that the recipe posted here is not a cookie as we know it, but these treats are no less delicious for it. Just as hanging out in the playground in leggings is no better or worse than going suited and booted into work, it’s just different, each to be enjoyed and appreciated on their own merits.  Continue reading

Brown Butter Muscovado Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

Brown Butter Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars - 2

Nino has recently become obsessed with Octonauts. For the uninitiated, the show involves an intrepid team of animals who hang out in their underwater Octopod, venturing out in various vehicles called Gups to rescue sea creatures in peril. The Octopod resides in the Sunlight Zone, but said explorers seem to spend the majority of their time deep underwater in the mysteriously named Midnight Zone. Six weeks into life with a newborn and as a parent of two, I feel an uncommon affiliation with them . . . Continue reading

Alison Roman’s Salted Butter & Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

Alison Roman Chocolate Shortbread Cookies - 1

When I’m not baking, blogging, making milk or toddler wrangling, my day job is in marketing. One sentence that always makes a marketer sigh is ‘how can we make this go viral?’ If it were an exact science, everyone would be doing it and often the most unlikely content swoops across the internet for reasons hard to fathom. At other times, it’s a little more obvious, as in the case of these salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies aka ‘the cookies that broke the internet’. Continue reading

Wholemeal Raisin Chocolate Chunk Cookies + Joy’s Birth Story

 

Wholemeal Raisin Chocolate Chunk Cookies - 3

She’s here! Joy Marie Maureen Doran, our brand new bundle of bliss, made her unforgettable entrance into the world at 12.29am on Friday 24th August weighing in at 7lb 8oz. And my goodness what an arrival, delivered by her daddy on the downstairs bathroom floor while her big brother slept upstairs. And no, that wasn’t exactly part of our birth plan . . .  Continue reading

Peanut Butter Millionaire’s Shortbread

Peanut Butter Millionaire's Shortbread - 1Sweet girl,

Before he arrived I posted a letter of sorts to your big brother in this space. I’ve been writing something similar to you for weeks now in my head, but finding the time to get it down has been trickier second time round – if you’re ever lucky enough to be a mummy yourself (assuming that you want to be), I think you’ll understand what I mean.

When Nino was diagnosed with TGA at his twenty week scan, I promised myself I’d never ask for anything more if we could just deliver this fragile first baby into the world safe and well. But once he made me a mummy and grew and got stronger, I realized how much I adore this gig, how brilliant a big brother he could be and how while one was just perfect, two little people in our lives would be bliss. It’s hard to imagine my heart expanding any more, but I just know that it has and will. You are already so loved and so wanted and we just can’t wait to meet you.

Peanut Butter Millionaire's Shortbread - 4First time around, there were so many unknowns – both what would happen when Nino was born, surgery and all that scary stuff, but also how we would be as parents. This time I feel a little more prepared, but two? Who knows how that’s going to go. Regardless of the mayhem that will undoubtedly ensue, know that your big brother is already in love with you, that he places his hand on my belly to feel you hiccup and tries to tickle you awake. He wants to teach you how to smile and talk and walk and has already requested the role of chief nappy changer. Fine by me. My ever-expanding belly means there’s no longer space to sit on my lap for stories so I’m sure he’ll be vying with you for that spot when you pop out, but I think you already know all this, you’ve been listening in on us for nine months.

Your daddy (and many a relative) thinks you’re going to be dark like me. I’m predicting a curly blonde menace to match the boys you’re joining, but it couldn’t matter less – it’s all part of the excitement of meeting you. Either way, I feel like you’re going to be a happy soul, feisty and with maybe just a little ferocious streak like your mum.

The doctors have given a due date of this Friday, but I’m pretty sure you’ll just come when you’re ready. We’ll be waiting, baby girl, to welcome you into the world: already utterly in love and ready and for you to make our family complete. Until then, this shortbread, as if life wasn’t sweet enough already 🙂

Peanut Butter Millionaire's Shortbread - 2

5.0 from 2 reviews
Peanut Butter Millionaire's Shortbread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Millionaire's shortbread with an added peanut twist. The addition of salty peanut butter to the chocolate topping of these addictive little squares balances the sweetness beautifully. The perfect tea time treat.
Author:
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 16 squares
Ingredients
  • For the shortbread
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g plain flour, sifted
  • 50g corn flour, sifted
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • For the caramel
  • 140g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 397 tin condensed milk
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • For the chocolate topping
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
Instructions
  1. To make the shortbread, lightly grease a 20cm square tin and line with baking parchment. Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor, making sure not to overwork, then press into the tin. Prick with a fork then chill for one hour, before baking at 180C/160C fan for 35 - 40 minutes, until pale gold. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  2. To make the caramel, melt all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 5 - 6 minutes until thickened then pour over the shortbread base. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.
  3. To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate then pour over the caramel. Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together, then drizzle over the top. Refrigerate for a further hour until set then cut into squares.
  4. Will keep for several days in an airtight container.

 

Peanut Butter Millionaire's Shortbread - 3

Everyday Chocolate Cake

Everyday chocolate cake slice

Ever since Nino celebrated his second birthday, we’ve been talking almost daily about what kind of cake family members will be getting for their upcoming birthdays. For Grandpa there was polenta cake, rolled out annually on request (with ever so slight variations to satisfy my urge to experiment). Daddy wants a whiskey one next January. Nino was shocked to discover that his Nonna isn’t that keen on cake, nor is a close toddler friend, but we’ve now been to enough birthdays with caterpillars and rainbows and tray bakes to establish a playing field to work from and, after much debate, we’ve hit on a lemon sponge with fresh strawberry buttercream to make for me at the end of the month.

My go-to is almost always chocolate so it’s refreshing to be pointed in a different direction by my mini kitchen sidekick and I’m excited to make and taste his fruity creation. But before then, chocolate cravings still call – thank goodness for an uncle with a birthday before mine and a last minute lunch invite creating the need to whip up an easy one bowl chocolate cake for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Continue reading

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Chocolate Courgette Muffins - 2

Let’s talk about courgettes. Or zucchini. Whatever you call them, it’s impossible to avoid their charms and abundance during the summer months. When we were in Italy a few weeks back our neighbour gifted us a bowl of freshly picked courgettes and their flowers which we respectively grilled, grated into a frittata with pecorino and softened in butter. Back in the UK we picked an enormous bag full from the local farm and while most made it into savoury dishes, I couldn’t resist saving a few for some sweeter baking experiments. Continue reading