thelittleloaf 2011: A Year in Review

garlic_baguette

Garlic bread, ready to assemble

As the Christmas festivities draw to an end, the last of the crackers have been pulled, the turkey pie polished off and the bottom of the bowl of Quality Streets begins to appear, food may be the last thing anyone wants to think about. Unless, of course, they are a food blogger.

The internet is currently alight with annual reviews and round ups, top ten recipes, restaurants and trends, and predictions for foodie fads in 2012 and beyond. Rather than eschewing eating in response to the season of overindulgence, bloggers everywhere are wallowing in the delights of what has been, what they are enjoying now and what is yet to come. Continue reading

Toasted Panettone & Nutella Sandwich with Cantuccini Cream

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Toasted panettone, melting Nutella & crunchy, boozy cream

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse . . .’

Unless you happen to have left a little plate of treats out for Father Christmas, in which case said mouse is probably having a mince pie-fuelled field day as you sleep.

When I was little, we’d always leave a tray of treats out on Christmas Eve – homemade mince pies for Father Christmas, carrots for the reindeer and a snifter of brandy to help our festive friend on his way (or my Dad to sleep, the more cynical amongst you might suggest). The next morning my big brother and I would excitedly examine the crumb-specked plate, empty glass and convincingly nibbled carrots, taking them as evidence that Santa and his helpers had enjoyed our hospitality. Continue reading

Homemade Ferrero Rocher

ferrero_rocher

Creamy nutella, crunchy wafer and toasted hazelnut enrobed in a cloak of milk chocolate

I’m not sure how many of you are going to read this post in full. In my experience, baking blogs are often an exercise in unashamed food pornography, and I’ve pretty much provided you with the money-shot right here. In fact, I can already picture people scrolling straight down to the recipe and racing off to grab a jar of Nutella from the kitchen cupboard so they can get started straight away.

You know what? I wouldn’t blame them. This recipe really is that good ;-) Continue reading

Chewy chocolate brownies

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A fudgey layer topped with a shiny, crispy crust

When I was young, an old lady at the bottom of our garden used to bring us brownies. Not literally, of course – she lived on the next street along and her house backed onto ours – but I used to love the silly image this reference conjured up; a little old lady tucked away amongst the shrubs and fairies, happily baking brownies somewhere between the garden shed and the compost heap.

This neighbour of ours lived alone – her kids had worked abroad, eventually settling in the States – and every so often she’d come round to babysit, armed with a plate of dark, chewy brownies. I don’t know if it was something to do with the seeming exoticism of her far flung family, but I always associated these treats with America. I knew they were brownies, but their crisp crust and chewy texture felt a far cry from the cakier, fudgey version I sometimes made with my Mum.  Continue reading

Hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream

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Light hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream

I don’t know about you, but my baking goes through phases. While chocolate is a fairly reliable constant in my recipe repertoire, I love to try new flavours and textures; once I’ve discovered an ingredient or technique, I like to explore all the different possibilities it might hold. Dulce de leche was a recent find – once I realised how easy it is to make yourself I was adding it to everything from pecan and banoffee pies to ice cream sundaes, cookies and even brownies (recipe here).

A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for Gianduja ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches.  It was the first recipe I’ve made with my brand new ice cream maker (another slight obsession), and got me seriously excited about hazelnuts as an ingredient for the first time. Although I’ve been a lifelong fan of Nutella, I hadn’t really considered the flavours of a simple roasted hazelnut outside the context of this chocolatey, sugary spread. Continue reading

Gianduja ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches

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Hazelnut heaven: creamy gianduja ice cream sandwiched between chewy chocolate chip cookies

What could be better than a scoop of gianduja ice cream, velvet-smooth and creamy with sweet chocolate undertones and the richness of roasted hazelnuts?

If you’re an ice cream purist, not much. But if you enjoy the sweet things in life on a scale of decadence just tipping into over-indulgence, I’d suggest trying a scoop of gianduja ice cream sandwiched between two crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies. It’s heaven. Or as close as you’re going to get through a mouthful of frozen dessert anyway. Continue reading

Espresso cupcakes with fudgy Nutella frosting

espresso_nutella_cupcakesIt’s my friend’s birthday this week and I wanted to make something suitably delicious and gifty to mark the occasion. Celebrations would be taking place in a bar after work which slightly dictated the format my baking could take; I wanted something fairly dainty so people could stand and chat without having to manage too many stray sticky crumbs, but also something with strong enough flavours to still pack a punch several vodkas into the evening.

Continue reading