Chocolate Easter Egg Brownies

Chocolate Easter Egg Brownies

Two weeks ago The Little Loaf turned six. I failed to mark the occasion here and, if I’m honest, would have forgotten about it completely had I not received a little note from WordPress informing me of the event. I’m not normally one to let anniversaries sail by – I’m the personality type who likes to look at progress, and anyway, who in their right mind turns down an excuse for celebratory cake? – but this season of our lives is just so busy that the superfluous seems to get pushed out of the picture. Continue reading

Easter Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Easter Cake - 1

Making memories is a wonderful thing. Ever since we’ve had Nino, each time a celebration rolls round I get a little twinkle of excitement at the thought of how I can recreate the fond traditions of Luke and my childhoods. Summer holidays with sandy toes and sticky ice creams, unwrapping presents at Christmas, Mothers Day lunches and chocolaty Easters. For as long as I can remember, my mum would organize an Easter egg hunt in and around the house and garden, working so well on their hiding places that tiny, shiny eggs would appear in the most unexpected places months after the actual event. One year we wondered why she’d disappeared during a dinner party at our flat, only to discover on getting into bed those same tiny, shiny surprises hidden under our pillows, mattress and tucked into our pajamas.

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Hot Cross Blondies

Hot Cross Blondies

With Easter just around the corner, my thoughts are turning to chocolate, spice and all things nice. My mother-in-law gifted us generous amounts of Hotel Chocolat goodies last weekend which have already been eaten (chocolate = perfect fuel for middle-of-the-night nursing), but luckily there’s a batch of these sweet, squidgy Hot Cross Blondies in our freezer. Mellow with warming seasonal spices, a kick of citrus and plump dried fruit, these blondies are the perfect afternoon tea treat for the long Easter weekend and can also be dressed up, warm, with ice cream for a decadent dessert. Continue reading

Happy Easter from the little loaf

Bircher muesli
Life has been hectic lately, to say the least. Beyond the book – which is the best kind of busy – we’ve been up and down the M1 for family reasons and I’m afraid I don’t have a new recipe for you today. What I do have, however, is a selection of my favourite Easter recipes – just click on each picture to take you to the post. A hot cross bun isn’t just for Easter, so although I should probably have posted this a week ago, I hope you’ll try them out anyway.

The last couple of weeks have really hammered home to me the importance of family, and Easter feels as good a time to give that some recognition. Wherever you are, I hope your weekend is filled with friends and family, love and laughter. Plus an endless supply of speckled chocolate eggs, of course. Continue reading

Healthier Wholemeal Hot Cross Loaf

Wholemeal hot cross loaf

Hot cross loaf made with wonderful, natural ingredients

Coconut is one of those ingredients I’ve never been one hundred percent sure about.

As a little girl, I can remember waiting for what seemed like forever at the local fair while my Dad and brother threw wooden balls at a row of coconuts in the attempt to win this exotic prize. Once the hairy husk was prized open and crumbly white flesh exposed, I’d try a tiny nub but soon be distracted by the other edible excitements on offer: burgers from the BBQ, bags of sweets or a stick of candy floss that melted with every messy, fuzzy mouthful. Continue reading

Fresh From the Oven Challenge April: Hot Cross Buns

hot_cross_buns

Little spiced buns with a sticky syrup glaze

Hot cross buns. The name for these Easter treats always anthropomorphizes them in my eyes: rather than being crossed for religious reasons, I always imagine them as hot and bothered: a flustered little addition to any baking repertoire. Luckily making these lovely seasonal buns is anything but bothersome. A simple enriched dough of flour, sugar, butter and egg is stirred through with mixed spice and additions of your choice – typically raisins, sultanas and candied peel, although chopped dried dates, apricots, cherries or even chocolate are all delicious alternatives – before being quickly kneaded, left to rise then divided into perfect little pillows and marked with a cross.

This month I’m hosting the Fresh From the Oven challenge and I’ve decided to task anyone who wants to get involved with making spiced buns. With Easter just a few days away and the shelf-life of a homemade hot cross buns a little less than 48 hours, now couldn’t be a more perfect time to get baking. But don’t worry if you’ve been hugely organized and already baked a batch for your freezer  – there are some suggestions below for alternatives to your standard hot cross bun, and the more diverse and imaginative the entries the better!

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Creme Egg Ice Cream (Fior di Latte, Milk Chocolate, Passion Fruit)

fior_di_latte_ice_cream

A thin milk chocolate shell encloses soft, pale fior di latte ice cream

Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. How do you eat yours?

If you’re me, the answer is not very often. Despite their popularity (300 million of the things are sold every year in the UK), and strong association with all things seasonal (Creme Egg ads are to Easter what Coca Cola ads are to Christmas, sad but true), I’m just not that keen on them. Give me a caramel-filled alternative or handful of Smartie-like Mini Eggs any day over the sickly fondant slop that fills the nation’s favourite Easter egg.

That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of them. There’s something about peeling back the foil, biting off the top and licking out that gloopy goo which brings out the child in all of us. This childish joy has been so perfectly captured in the Creme Egg ad campaigns that every year I’ll be tempted to try one, opening it in eager anticipation only to be defeated after a couple of bites by the onset of sugar on top of more sugar. Continue reading

Chocolate & Caramel Layer Cake

caramel_chocolate_cake

A word of warning before you embark on reading this post: if you’ve given up chocolate and sweet stuff for Lent, you might want to look away now. Recent events suggest I have a tendency to lead people into temptation . . .

Last week I met one of my school friends for dinner after work. There were supposed to be three of us, but my other friend ended up stuck in the office in the way, it seems, that only lawyers can, unsure whether more paperwork might come through from the States and if she’d be there until ten at night or two in the morning. Despite her absence, the evening was lovely: wine was opened, stories shared, gossip caught up on and plenty of good food consumed. After two very virtuous fish-based mains, we both decided to go for the most indulgent-sounding dessert on the menu: chocolate brownie with homemade hazelnut ice cream. Continue reading

Banana, chocolate & walnut loaf

banana_bread

Sticky, moist banana loaf

Over the last few days I’ve seen quite a few blog posts cropping up with recipes recommending what to do with leftover Easter chocolate. Rocky road, tiffin, brownies, rice crispy cakes, chocolate cake, chocolate sauce and more; these are all suitably worthy resting places for those sad little eggs and shells that didn’t quite make it into the Easter morning binge. But to be honest, I’ve never really had this issue of ‘egg-cess’ (sorry), having subscribed to more of an ‘all or nothing’ approach to anything sweet from a young age. Consuming my own body weight in chocolate before Easter breakfast has now become pretty much standard practice.

Having said that, yesterday a little bit of Easter egg chocolate did manage to sneak its way into the mixing bowl as I was making my favourite banana loaf recipe. I’d returned home after Easter to a pile of soft, slightly blackened bananas and needed a recipe to salvage them pretty quickly, This sticky, moist banana loaf was the perfect answer- in fact, it simply doesn’t taste the same if the bananas you use aren’t blackened, squidgy and sickly sweet. And the addition of a few nuggets of deliciously dark chocolate prevents the richness of the banana from becoming overpowering.

chocolate_walnut_banana_loaf

Banana, chocolate & walnut – the perfect combination

I mentioned a few weeks ago my discovery of a delicious banana, chocolate and walnut loaf recipe on Gourmet Traveller ‘s blog. I’ve made it a few times since, tweaking the ingredients here and there, and the result is always spot on – dense, moist and nutty inside, crusty and golden on the top, with a richly intense banana flavour and little hits of chocolate. This loaf is delicious as a dessert with natural Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, the perfect tea-time snack served straight up, or an incredible indulgence toasted and smothered in butter. It’s really more of a cake than a loaf though, so arteries take heed if you do decide to go for this final option.

Banana, Chocolate and Walnut Loaf
(adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe)

4 large ripe bananas
100g unsalted butter, slightly soft
140g soft brown sugar
2 large free range eggs
50g walnuts, chopped
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa minimum), chopped
150ml semi-skimmed milk
140g plain flour
140g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment.

Peel and roughly mash the bananas with a fork. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Crack in the eggs and whisk further to combine, then stir in the mashed banana, walnuts, chocolate and milk. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all the ingredients – the banana means there may be a few lumps.

Sift the flours and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and gently fold into the wet mixture until just combined. The key here is to work carefully to preserve the lightness of the cake batter. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour – you’ll know it’s done when a metal skewer inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. If it’s still wet with batter, pop your loaf back in the oven for another 15 minutes, covering with foil if the top is browning too much. When cooked, remove from oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes before transferring the loaf out onto a wire ack to cool completely.