Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Raspberry Blondies

I am a huge advocate of equality for everybody regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class ... But *gulp*, I've realised I have my prejudices too. Here goes. *Deep breath* I. am. . . chocolatist. And no, I don't mean that some chocolate is superior to other chocolate - though that is certainly true. Lindt; good. Hershey's; Bad. Nope, what I am trying to say is that I have issues with white chocolate. It's white, chocolate is by definition brown. Issue number 1. It is not made of cocoa, it is made of cocoa butter. The fact that they can even get away with calling it chocolate is beyond me!

This prejudice extends to their use in a moist cakey goodness known as a brownie; or a 'Blondie' as they are known when they're made with white chocolate. However, though I LOVE brownies and don't think Blondies are comparable; I have to admit that when I consider them on their own, instead of comparing them to their darker, richer counterpart, they're actually pretty good. They are essentially dense, white chocolate cakes and although rich in flavour, not overly cloying. The raspberries and clotted cream make it a wonderful summer dessert. I made these as part of a tea-party spread.

I'm not sure what happened when I made this batch but the mixture seemed way too thick which is why I didn't take any photographs. However, the finished blondies were the perfect combination of crispy top layer, and moist, cakey inside. I'll have to make them again at some point and post pictures. In the meantime, give them a go yourself; they're very easy to make!

175g butter, softened
400g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate, chopped
50g raspberries
clotted cream (To serve)

1 - Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
2 - Grease and flour a 23cm (9in) square cake tin
3 - In a large bowl, beat together the butter and caster sugar
4 - Beat in the eggs, one at a time
5 - Stir in the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and mix well until combined
6 - Stir in the white chocolate and spoon the mixture into the prepared tin
7 - Scatter over the raspberries and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
8 - Leave to cool completely then cut into squares in the tin
9 - Serve with a dollop of clotted cream

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Happy (and Healthy) New Year - Apple and Sunflower Seed Muffins

I'm not usually one for following the crowd. But this new year, I'm jumping on probably the biggest bandwagon there is. You know, that one that comes round once a year (maybe twice if you count pre-summer), right at the beginning of the year, straight on the heels of Christmas excesses. Yup, that's right, I am going on a diet! I have Christmas and two weeks in Lagos straight after, gorging on all the foods I love, to blame. 

My diet of choice is Weight Watchers, which I'm constantly touting as the best diet around. There's no self deprivation, or cutting out entire food groups. Instead, with a daily point value, it just teaches you how to make healthier food choices so you can get the most for your points. Don't worry, though, this does not mean I'm going to stop baking all the other fattening stuff! Thanks to the new WW ProPoints system, I have an extra allowance each week, which I'll spend some having a slice or portion of the stuff I bake! However, I'll also be experimenting with healthier recipes so bear with me my anti-diet readers, there will be plenty for you too!

First up are these muffins. I can't lie, these do taste like diet muffins but they're tasty, filling make a good and healthy substitute for a muffin breakfast or in place of your afternoon cake. I believe that there are low-fat muffin recipes out there that are tastier than this, but these were a good start. 

5 WW ProPoints per muffin
Makes 8


3 eggs
100ml skimmed milk
7 tsp artificial granulated sweetener
150g apples, grated
100g carrots, grated
2 tbsp sunflower oil
30g sultanas
10g sunflower seeds
300g plain flower
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

For the icing
1 - 2 tbsp lemon juice
40g icing sugar

1 - Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. 
2 - Line two muffin tins with 8 muffin cake cases
3 - Whisk together the eggs, milk, sweetener, apples, carrots, sunflower oil, sultanas and sunflower seeds
4 - In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, ground cinnamon and pinch of salt
5 - Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined
6 - Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack

7 - Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice and drizzle over the muffins.
These are best eaten on the day they're made or the can be frozen. Defrost and warm through in a microwave (medium power) before eating.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies, Chocolate Chip Tea Cookies and Baking Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a slightly more eventful New Year’s Eve than I did. I fell asleep at 11pm on the 31st so I slept right through the countdown and all the fireworks. As a result, the fact that it is a new year hasn’t hit me quite yet. I hope it hits soon!

The last cookies I made on my cookie baking spree are these Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies and Chocolate Chip Tea Cookies. I'm not sure why they're called 'Tea' cookies but when they taste this good, who cares? And I can't believe it's taken me three whole posts to toot my own horn about how amazingly all my cookies turned out! Actually, I might have already hinted at how great I , ahem, I mean, they were, I can't remember ;) But considering that before that day, any thoughts of cookie dough (or any kind of dough for that matter) made me break out in a cold sweat, I was pretty impressed with my efforts! So impressed that I now want to take on the dough world! On that note, here are my baking resolutions for 2011:

 - Bake bread. Bake lots of bread. Bake lots of bread style stuff; cinnamon swirls, stollen, honey rolls, regular bread, bread, bread bread!
- Bake a pie. I have never baked a pie before but on my list are Pecan pie, Apple pie and Pumpkin pie.
- Bake more cookies
- Bake more cheesecakes
- Practice decorating layer cakes

Basically there's lots of dough in my future. I can't wait!

These recipes are both from Brown Eyed Baker. Learn her name as I'm going to try out a gazillion of her recipes next year! Till then, I leave you with these.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Oh, we don't have Hershey's kisses in England, which is what the original recipe calls for, so I used Lindt mini chocolate balls. I think they were the perfect size, and Lindt chocolate is far superior to Hersheys, so I was happy. But you can use either - or any other chocolate of around that size.

48 Lindt Chocolate Balls, unwrapped
½ cup shortening
¾ cup peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1 - Preheat oven to 190° C / Gas Mark 5. Remove wrappers from chocolates and put the unwrapped chocolate in a plastic bag in the freezer.
2 - Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended.
3 - Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy.
4 - Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.
5 - Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
6 - Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
7 - Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into the centre of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Chocolate Chip Tea Cookies

2 cups plain flour
226g butter
½ cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups miniature chocolate chips, divided

1 – Preheat oven to 190°C / Gas Mark 5
2 – Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well.
3 - Gradually add flour. Stir in 1 cup miniature chocolate chips.
4 - Shape into 1” balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.
5 - Remove to wire rack to cool.
6 - Place ½ cup miniature chocolate chips in a sealed plastic bag and microwave until melted; about 30 seconds. 
7 - Snip off a small corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate on top of cold cookies. Chill for 5 minutes or until chocolate is set. 
Store at room temperature.