Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Squidgy chocolate brownies packed with caramelized white chocolate

The simple magic of an oven will never cease to amaze me.

Subjected to its heat, pudgy rounds of dough become crusty loaves, liquid batter rises into golden-crowned cakes, pastry puffs, biscuits bake and incredible aromas escape around the edges of its door.

Normally baking requires some sort of skill, an understanding of the alchemy of ingredients and an ability to weigh, whisk, beat and blend. Butter, sugar and flour are combined, flavours and textures far greater than the sum of their parts created. Whether an amateur cook or a professional chef, it’s satisfying to know that baking is both a science and an art. Continue reading

Crispy Oat, Milk & White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

chocolate chip cookies

Crisp little cookies packed with milk & white chocolate chunks

One of the things that makes me happiest is a big baking project. Whether it’s a birthday, researching recipes for this blog, a celebration cake or a big family party (for recipes from our recent engagement do, click here and here), I love everything about the process from planning it all in and thinking up new ideas through experimenting in the kitchen to the look on peoples’ faces when they taste my food.

When people ask about our upcoming wedding, one of the first things they always want to know is whether I’ll be baking my own cake. Although it’s something I did initially consider, I’ve since explained my reasons against the idea so many times that I’m pretty positive that I’ve made the right decision not to. Continue reading

Raspberry Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

raspberry cupcakes

Raspberry cupcakes topped with a chocolate ganache swirl

Aga toast is probably the best toast in the world.

Other than that, and the occasional slow-cooked one-pot wonder, I’m not an enormous fan of agas. Aside from the fact that I’d boil to death were we to install one in our tiny London kitchen (that is, if it’s great weight didn’t cause it to fall through the floorboards to the foundations below), they can guzzle enormous amounts of gas and slightly scare the obsessive baker in me with their lack of precision dials and just four basic oven temperatures.

But they do make seriously good toast. Continue reading

Mint Chocolate Fondant Puddings

chocolate_fondant

Rich, dark & full of chocolaty mint flavour – perfect served with cold ice cream

One of the most seductive qualities of chocolate is that it melts at precisely body temperature. Pop a square of the good stuff in your mouth and, as your brain’s pleasure centre floods with dopamine, a textural experience unlike that imparted by any other food takes place on your tongue. Rich, smooth and creamy, melting chocolate lingers long after flatter flavours have died away, creating a mouthfeel that is utterly unique.

Hands up if you’ve ever been disappointed by a slice of chocolate cake? Eating with your eyes, a cake can appear utterly irresistible, the dark sponge promising deep chocolate flavour, only to deliver an experience that is dry and at best, underwhelming. Icing can help, adding some textural contrast to the layers, but if a chocolate cake hasn’t been made well, the buttery icing can sometimes simply add a cloying sweetness which you really don’t want. Continue reading

White Chocolate & Toasted Macadamia Brownies

chocolate_brownies

Take these out of the oven while still slightly wobbly for the perfect squidgey centre

If there’s one thing I admire more than a brilliant baker, it’s a brilliant baker who is also a wonderful cook. While that’s not to say there aren’t a number of people, professionals or otherwise, who are talented at both, baking and cooking involve some fundamental differences in attitude and approach to ingredients and how they are used.

While a chef is generally constrained only by his or her creativity, throwing together ingredients and experimenting with pinches of this and splashes of that, a baker’s art is somewhat restricted by the confines of science: a cake will only rise with the right ratio of fat, sugar and flour; accuracy is key; and following a recipe to the word is important to achieve the right results. Of course baking can still be creative, and cooking is full of scientific detail, but moving seamlessly from one to the other is not always as simple as it might seem. Continue reading

Spiced Chocolate Orange Mousse Cake

chocolate_mousse_cake

Dense, dark chocolate orange mousse cake topped with a spiced white chocolate layer

Chocolate is one of my favourite ingredients to bake with. Whether it’s chunked and studded through cookies, stirred into the smoothest mousse, melted over ice cream or baked into a dense, fudgy cake, chocolate is an ingredient reliable enough to be called on for comfort, yet versatile enough to always be exciting.

While chocolate and cocoa regularly make an appearance in my shopping basket, it’s rare that I’ll buy a bar to simply eat on its own. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I really enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and combining chocolate with other ingredients, making it into more of a meal or occasion than a snack straight from the packet. However there are two major exceptions to this rule when I (and a pretty a large percentage of the UK population) can’t seem to help but over indulge: Christmas and Easter. Continue reading

White Chocolate & Peppermint Candy Cane Macarons

candy_cane_macarons

Shiny-shelled macarons with a hint of peppermint

Much like dreaded dinner party nemesis the soufflé, macarons have earned themselves a bit of a reputation as a difficult beast. Browse your favourite blogs or recipe sites and you’re sure to encounter strict words of warning and reams of advice; how to avoid the shell cracking, how to achieve the perfect raised ‘feet’, the importance of almonds and why ageing your egg whites is crucial. It’s enough to put off even the most intrepid of bakers.

At the end of the summer I joined Mactweets, a ‘virtual Mac Kitchen’ which sets its members a new challenge each month, allowing them to share the highs (and lows) of their attempts at macaron mastery.  I’ve made a fair few batches of macarons now, and what I have learnt is this… Continue reading

Gingerbread & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Golden spiced gingerbread & rich, smooth ice cream

As resident little loaf in this household, I’m understandably pretty partial to anything with the word ‘sandwich’ in the title. Any excuse to enjoy bread is always welcome, and there’s such certain comfort in something delicious sandwiched between two slices of thick-cut homemade bread.

After getting an ice cream maker for my birthday this summer, I began experimenting with numerous flavour and texture combinations, accompanied by my trusty ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. Following in quick succession came a trip to Sicily with a group of girlfriends at the end of August, where I strolled the streets looking for the best gelato available, feeling like a kid in a candy store when presented with such choice and quality. Continue reading

Death by Chocolate Halloween Tombstone Brownies

chocolate_brownies

‘Death by chocolate’ brownies with edible white chocolate skull & crossbones

The majority of my Halloween memories can be measured in food. Whether bobbing for apples or dipping them in sticky toffee, biting doughnuts from a string or simply counting through a treasure trove of trick-or-treat sweets, my relationship with this spooky celebration is all about the edible.

And reading through some of my favourite foodie sites in recent weeks would suggest I’m not alone. There’s hardly a blog out there that hasn’t produced some kind of Halloween-themed treat; from  spooky spiderweb cupcakes to ghostly meringues, witch’s finger biscuits to candy corn and more variations on toffee, apple and pumpkin (think pies, cheesecakes, fudge, brownies, muffins and more) than you could make in a lifetime. Continue reading

Popping Pink Champagne Macarons: Wear it Pink

popping_pink_macarons

If you do one thing this October, think pink

Staying true to the macarons it features, I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet. We’re coming to the end of Pink October – an annual international health campaign organized by various breast cancer charities to raise awareness and funds for research – and any mention of the dreaded ‘c’ word inevitably lends a certain seriousness of tone to proceedings. However, while cancer undoubtedly brings sadness and suffering to everyone it touches, the communities and support networks it creates are incredible. Rather than dwelling on the hurts and horrors, this post is intended as a celebration of life, of humans finding strength in adversity; above all it’s a toast to every woman who has ever been affected by this destructive disease.

Writing a food blog has made me think about what we eat in a very different light. While some simply consume for sustenance, there is a whole community out there for whom food is so much more. Cooking is an opportunity to explore our creative sides, to share experiences and mouthfuls with family and friends, to try new things, take a trip down memory lane, to celebrate, commiserate or simply to indulge. Food can also be used to positive effect, from the good old Blue-Peter-style bring-and-buy charity bake sale through to bigger events such as Action Against Hunger’s Love Food Give Food campaign. Continue reading