Chocolate Tartlets with Spiced Biscuit ( Speculoos) Spread

These came about because I found a jar of my favourite Biscoff spread in Sainsbury's. I've since noticed that Lidl sell the same kind of spread called Spiced Biscuit spread. I expect most of the supermarkets now have their own versions.
I bought a new tartlet tin so wanted to try it out, and chocolate and spice seemed to go well together.
I was very lazy and bought a pack of shortcrust pastry, but of course you can make your own from your favourite recipe, or even buy ready made tartlet shells, so then you'd have no cooking at all!

You need; 1 pack ready shortcrust pastry, 100g dark chocolate, 3 tbspn spiced biscuit spread, 100ml single cream, 60g butter and a few crumbled Biscoff biscuits [or supermarket equivalent] to sprinkle on top.

Preheat oven 200C                    Grease a tartlet tin.

Roll pastry out on a floured surface and cut out discs using a 71/2 cm /3" cutter. Line the tin with these then bake for 20 mins. Take out of the oven and leave cases to cool on a wire rack.

Break the chocolate into pieces then melt 60 g with 1 tbspn water over a simmering bowl of water [or just melt in microwave].  Pour into the cooled tartlet cases and put in fridge for an hour.

Melt the rest of the chocolate with the cream and butter over simmering water.

Take tartlets out of fridge and spread a layer of the biscuit spread over the chocolate layer. Pour the rest of the melted chocolate mixture over and put in fridge for 2 hrs before serving. Sprinkle some broken Biscoff biscuits over the top.

I love the mixture of chocolate and spiced biscuit. The pastry gives a nice crunch as does the biscuit topping, which is a good contrast to the soft filling. They are quite rich, but a good treat.


Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Courgette Loaf Cake

I went to tea with a friend recently and she'd made this loaf cake. If you're on a diet, look away now! It involves chocolate, peanut butter and courgettes, but you wouldn't guess about the courgettes as they add moisture but no flavour. The negative bit is that you use several bowls, but the end result is well worth it!

So for the loaf you need: 
2 small courgettes grated [leave the skin on], 2 eggs, 80ml honey, 120ml vegetable oil, 100g soft brown sugar, 2 tspn vanilla extract, 1/2 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn baking powder, 200g plain flour, 75g smooth peanut butter, 1/2 tspn instant coffee, 25g cocoa, 50g chocolate cut into pieces and 25g chocolate melted with 25g smooth peanut butter.

Preheat oven 170C           Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper

In bowl A mix together the courgettes, eggs, honey, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
In another bowl B sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarb together, then add to the batter.
In yet another bowl, C, pour half the batter and add the peanut butter to it. 
Add the cocoa, coffee and chocolate pieces to bowl B and mix well.
Put alternative spoonfuls of the batter into the loaf then swirl together using a knife.
Bake for about an hour then leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin.
When it's cool, take the loaf out of the tin and drizzle the chocolate and peanut butter mix on top.
It's delicious, and I love the texture of the mixture. It's moist with a soft crumb, and the different flavours mingle well. The topping sets like fudge. An indulgent treat, occasionally!


Blueberry Streusel Cake

There are lots of blueberries around at the moment and I love them.
I've been eating some every morning with my cereal, but decided I wanted to make a cake. This is one of our favourite loaf cakes, but with a streusel topping. The original recipe was from an American website so has been converted from cups - hence the odd amounts. I've tweaked the recipe because it had way too much sugar in the cake. I like making cakes with oil - makes me think they're healthier!

So, preheat oven 190C/gas5

Grease a 900g loaf tin.

Put 80g granulated sugar in a bowl with 60ml sunflower oil. Mix together with an electric mixer, then add 1 egg, 250ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat till smooth and creamy. Fold in 280g plain flour which has been sieved with 3 tspns baking powder. Mix to a batter without lumps. 
Put 220g blueberries in a bowl and add 1 tbspn flour and coat the berries with it. Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Pour into the tin and smooth top [ batter should fill about 2/3 of the tin or it will overflow when baking]. Mix 60g granulated sugar with 50g flour and 50g butter and rub in to make the streusel. Sprinkle this over the batter and bake for about 50mins-1hr. After about 30 mins I covered the top with foil to stop the streusel burning. Cool on a wire rack.

It make a nice treat with a cuppa, and keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. I like the contrast in textures between the cake and the streusel and the softness of the fruit. If you like, you could add more topping, but for me, the ratio is just right. A nice easy cake to make.


Peanut Chocolate Bars

If you like Hershey's peanut butter cups, which I do, then these are for you. They aren't the healthiest of options, but as a treat they're very moreish. 

120g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar
260g smooth peanut butter
12 digestive biscuits made into crumbs
60g unsalted butter
90g chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

You don't need an oven to make these. Line a 20cm square cake tin with foil, leaving some hanging over the sides and butter the foil.

Melt the 120g butter in a saucepan over a low heat. When melted, take off the heat and add the icing sugar. Stir till smooth. Add the peanut butter and the crumbs and again stir till smooth.
Spread this mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
Melt the 60g of butter in the same saucepan and add the chocolate.Stir till it's nearly melted, then take off the heat and stir till it has completely melted. Pour this over the layer in the tin and smooth.
When cool, put into a fridge for at least 30 mins to set.
Use the overhanging foil to take it out of the tin. A pizza cutter is useful for cutting into 16 bars.
Keep in an airtight box in the fridge.

I like the texture of these bars, firm and with a great peanut butter taste, then the chocolate kicks in. They are so moreish!


Polish Honey Cake

On my friend Phil's lovely blog, As Strong as Soup, [http://asstrongassoup.blogspot.com]   he writes about Nonnettes and using honey. I haven't tried his recipe yet, but my Polish dil also gave me her  recipe for a Polish Honey cake. Every time I visit a farmer's market I always buy a jar of local honey, so have plenty to use in both recipes.

I decided that I needed a large cake to take to a meeting yesterday, so made the Polish honey cake. It's called Piernik in Polish. There seem to be many varying recipes for this cake, but they all contain a mixture of ground spices.

The recipe said to use a 22cm tin, but I don't have one this size, so used a 23 cm tin and it turned out fine.

500g plain flour, 2 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn ginger, 1/2 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn cloves. 1/2 tspn allspice, grated zest of 1/2 orange, 25g chopped walnuts, 25g seedless raisins, 25g chopped figs, 300g honey, 90g caster sugar, 90g butter, 4 egg yolks, 2 tspn instant coffee dissolves in a tspn hot water and 4 egg whites, apricot preserve [opt], dark chocolate [opt]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                        Grease and line a 22cm cake tin

In a big bowl, sift the flour, spices and baking powder together. add the orange zest, walnuts, raisins and figs and mix in.
Put the honey, butter and sugar into a pan and melt over a low heat. Cool slightly then add to the flour mixture together with the egg yolks and coffee. Whisk the egg whites till stiff then fold into the batter.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour. Cool on a wire rack.
You can eat the cake as is, or slice in half and sandwich together with apricot preserve and decorate the top with a thick layer of melted chocolate, or a ganache if you prefer [which is what I did].

I know it has quite a long list of ingredients, but it's well worth the effort. It's an unusual cake. It has a soft crumb, and I love the mixture of spices and the different textures - the crunchy walnuts, soft figs and raisins, the hint of orange and the lovely honey flavour which permeates the cake. Next time I'll leave this unadorned, as it's perfect with a cuppa or a coffee.


Pecan and Banana Loaf Cake

I love loaf cakes. They’re easy to make, easy to cut and so useful. A few very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl was my inspiration for this loaf cake. I added some pecans, and used the buttermilk left over in the fridge from making scones.

Cake : 3 ripe bananas, 100g pecan nuts broken into small pieces, 100g soft butter, 175g soft brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 250g plain flour, 1 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn mixed spice, 100 ml buttermilk

Topping: 1 small banana, sliced,

Preheat oven 180C/gas4.        Grease and line base of 200g loaf tin

Beat the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, a bit at a time.
Mash the bananas and add to the batter then add  flour, bicarbonate and mixed spice and fold in.
Stir in the buttermilk then most of the nuts, saving a few bits for the top.
Pour into the loaf tin, then put the sliced bananas on top and sprinkle over the rest of the nuts.
Bake for about 45-50 mins. If top is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
Cool on a wire rack.

The buttermilk makes this loaf nice and moist. It has a crumbly texture with nice crunchy nuts and soft bananas. A treat with a cuppa on a really miserable day like today!


Strawberry Meringue Cake

I made this last week for a friend’s birthday. It’s easy to make, but looks impressive. It’s a pavlova with a top!
For the cake you need : 4 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 125g light Muscovado sugar, 100g caster sugar, 1teaspoon white wine vinegar
Filling: 200ml double cream, 250g strawberries

Preheat oven 150C/gas 2.     Grease and base line 2 x20 cm sandwich tins

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl till stiff. Put the sugars together then add to the white a bit at a time. Whisk a few minutes more till nice and thick and shiny.
Divide equally between the sandwich tins and bake for 35 - 45 mins till light brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Whip the double cream to peaks. Save 8 strawberries and slice the rest up.
Put one meringue on a plate and cover with half of the cream Sprinkle the strawberry slices over the cream then put the second meringue on top. Cover this with the rest of the cream then slice the 8 remaining strawberries in half and arrange in top.
Use within 2 hours.

You could use other fruit such as raspberries or blueberries. Am thinking about making another version adding a pinch of cinnamon to the cream and using apple purée in the middle and cream and caramel apple slices on top. Yet another  idea is to add 2 tbspn cocoa powder to the meringue mix, bake as in the above recipe then fill with 150ml of double cream mixed with a 220g can of sweetened chestnut purée. Make chocolate curls with a potato peeler to put on top. It’s not the easiest cake to cut - make sure you have a good sharp knife, but it’s delicious.