Where do you find the time?

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A colleague of mine recently spent some time making her own Christmas cakes with her children.  The very idea of finding the time to buy the ingredients, guide the children through the process of baking and then clean it all up was enough to elicit praise from other colleagues.  Consensus was that with four children, my colleague was a heroine who had attempted and achieved the impossible.  I was in agreement.  The Christmas rush combined with the daily rigor of raising children is surely enough to fill our waking hours.

Upon reflection, I realised something that has always made sense to me:  we all find time to do what we value.  No matter how busy we get, it is possible to carve out time for something that really matters to us.  In baking with her children, my colleague wasn’t doing something extra.  It was part of what was important to her and her family.

Time is no friend at this time of year, but here is a recipe that you could make in minutes and would be easy to try with children too.  Melt all the ingredients in the microwave and then pour into a tray that can be refrigerated.  The outcome?  One of the simplest and most fun chocolate recipes in the universe.  Not convinced?  Take a few minutes out of your evening and step on the path to chocolate heaven.

Chocolate fudge truffles

350g sweetened condensed milk

250g dark chocolate

150g milk chocolate

50g salted butter

cocoa powder for dusting

Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a plastic bowl that fits into your microwave.  Pour over the condensed milk and then add the butter.  Melt in the microwave and stir every minute or so to ensure that the mixture doesn’t get too stiff.

Once the mixture is thoroughly combined and looking glossy, pour it into a small tray lined with baking paper and place on a shelf in the fridge until set.  I usually leave mine overnight to be sure.

Remove from the tray, place on a chopping board and carefully cut into little squares with a sharp knife.  Dust the whole batch with cocoa powder and enjoy!

These truffles will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks and make a great gift!  Enjoy.

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A month of sundaes- The Jaffa Cake Sundae.

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If you’ve never eaten a Jaffa Cake, there’s still time!  Despite its biscuit-like dimensions, the Jaffa Cake is just that; a cake.  Don’t believe me?  Simply leave one on the side for a day or so, and it’ll go hard, not soft like biscuits do.

If you’re still wondering what a Jaffa Cake is, well it’s a round little sponge cake containing orange jelly and topped with a thin layer of chocolate.  Actually, that description really doesn’t do any favours for what must be one of my most beloved treats.  There are few other snacks that I devour as quickly (popcorn, pretzels, honey roasted nuts and crisps are up there).  Jaffa Cakes are just so easy to eat and so much fun.

So where do they come into the realm of recipes?  Well, with spring beginning to gain momentum, I’m looking forward to the return of ice-cream and treats that refresh rather than stodgy puddings.  A recent meal at a nearby pub inspired me to come up with a fun sundae that I could enjoy.  Pubs have started to shift their focus toward good value meals and several chains have revamped their menus to include desserts topped with this and that and tagged with a catchy name.  Sadly, I’ve yet to taste one that lives up to the lively description in the menu.  My sundae arrived with little fanfare and amounted to three pieces of honeycomb floating in a pool of melted vanilla ice-cream.  Hardly the show-stopper pictured on the glossy menu.  I knew I could do better.  I knew my kids could do better.  Enter the Jaffa Cake Sundae.

It’s become something of a trend to use branded confection to sell below-standard food to the brand-loving consumer.  I wanted to avoid this kind of unimaginative approach.  I didn’t want ice-cream simply topped with a bar of my favourite chocolate.  Instead, I wanted components that would work together to give an overall taste and texture of things that I love.  The chocolate, orange jelly and sponge of a Jaffa Cake could be an interesting experiment.  With that in mind, I decided to load up on simple items that could create a satisfying sundae based on Jaffa Cakes.

What follows is less a recipe and more a description of what I did with several shop-bought items.  It’s so simple, I don’t know why I didn’t do it before and it’s delicious!

Jaffa Cake Sundae

Packet of orange flavoured jelly (prepared according to packet instructions)

Madeira cake

Vanilla ice-cream

For the sauce

50g dark chocolate

50g milk chocolate

Lyle’s Golden Syrup

butter

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This is an out and out assembly job, hence the lack of detailed measurements.  In truth, you can add as little or as much as you like of each ingredient to suit your taste and whatever you are choosing to serve your sundae in.  This time, I chose a chubby tumbler to stuff full of Jaffa goodness!

Begin by making the chocolate sauce.  In a bowl, melt the chocolate with a little butter and a good table spoon of golden syrup.  Stir and set to one side to cool slightly.

Next, slice a thin piece of Madeira cake and press onto the bottom of the glass.  Add a generous layer of jelly.  Top the jelly with a few scoops of vanilla ice-cream and pour plenty of the sauce over it all.  You can repeat these layers if you’re using a tall glass.

This is now my new guilty, summer pleasure!

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Peanut butter cheesecake. Let’s do this!

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Summer is here again, though not for my good friends in Melbourne.  As the ice begins to cover my friend’s truck, sun bakes the ground dry around my olive tree and feeds my mint until it is waist high!  Regardless of the weather, there’s always an opportunity to share a good peanut butter recipe and tempt you back into the kitchen.

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I don’t need to dress this bad boy up at all.  It is quite simply a combination of a no-bake cheesecake recipe and the salty goodness of peanut butter.  I spent quite a while getting this just right, so my hope is that you try it and love it as much as I did.  The recipe below makes a rather large cheesecake; plenty for all the family.  Rain or shine, it won’t last long at all!

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Peanut butter cheesecake

340g peanut butter

300g cream cheese

284ml double cream

160g caster sugar

130g Reece’s Pieces

100g butter

22 chocolate digestive biscuits

12 chocolate covered pretzels

2 tblspoons chocolate sprinkles

I began by crushing all of the biscuits and putting them into a mixing bowl.  I melted the butter and poured it in.  After mixing the biscuits and butter together, I tipped the mixture into a 9 inch springform cake tin and pressed it down to form the base of the cheesecake.  This went into the freezer for about half an hour to firm up.

For the cheesecake mixture, I used an electric mixer to whip the double cream until peaks formed.  I then added the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter and continued to mix until fully combined.

At this point, I threw in the sprinkles and Reece’s Pieces.  These are optional, but fun.  I spread this mixture over the biscuit base and popped the cake back in the freezer to make it firm before decorating it.

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Once the cheesecake was firm to the touch, I placed chocolate covered pretzels around the edges to make it easy to portion out when serving.  I also drizzled some chocolate and peanut butter sauce to give it yet more peanut butter beauty!  No half measures here.  Now if that isn’t a fun cheese cake, I don’t know what is!

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Got a sweet tooth? Okay, prove it!

Nothing is too sweet for me.  Have I said that before?  Probably.  I’ll eat every last mouthful of every sugary delight you care to serve me.  Chocolate dome cake, caramel fudge, mud cake, baklava, treacle tart, butterscotch this and praline that;  do your worst.  My brother draws the line at halva, my mum stops at dulce de leche chocolate mousse cake.  All the more for me, I guess.

In my opinion, if a cake leaves you wanting more, it has failed.  A cake should satisfy every sugary urge and leave you wanting nothing.  If I didn’t have such a sweet tooth, I would suggest that the recipe I’m sharing this week achieves this and more.

Peanut butter and chocolate are a popular combination right now and the internet is awash with all kinds of cakes that bring together these two favourites.  One thing that I noticed was the lack of chocolate log action in this department.  Enter The Last Piece of Cake.  I tested the best components from a number of peanut butter and chocolate recipes to come up with a cake so delicious, it would surpass my previous efforts.  The result was a peanut butter and chocolate log of epic proportions.

Essentially, I made a chocolate log filled and covered with a fluffy peanut butter icing and then coated in a darkly decadent peanut butter and chocolate ganache.  This approach has been made popular by the American cake recipe book, Sky High.  My version holds true to the decadence of the original idea.  I’ve noticed, however, that some famous blogs warn readers to cut only the thinnest of slices because of how sweet the cake is.  Pathetic!  To these bloggers I say, “Halt your feeble whimpering and let the people enjoy a huge slice of one of the tastiest cakes in the blogosphere!”  To you, dear reader, I say, “Have a go at putting together this  joyful  bundle of ingredients and rest assured that it will bring a peanut butter and chocolate smile to every face that tries it.”

Peanut butter chocolate log

(For the cake)

115g caster sugar

45g melted butter

40g Fairtrade cocoa powder

4 eggs

Icing sugar

(For the icing)

250g smooth peanut butter

250g icing sugar

110g softened butter

double cream

(For the ganache)

200g dark chocolate

3 tblspoons double cream

2 tblspoons golden syrup

2 tblspoons smooth peanut butter

To make the cake, put the eggs into a glass bowl over a small pan of water and heat gently.  Whisk the eggs continuously.  Take the eggs off the heat when they are foamy and tip them into a mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to whisk the eggs for another five or six minutes.  Keep going on the highest speed until there are no bubbles left and the texture is silky and smooth.

Sift the flour and cocoa into the eggs and fold them in gently with a spatula until they are combined and there are no dry bits.  Gently mix in all of the melted butter.

Pour the batter onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  My tray is about nine inches by fifteen inches.  Make sure the batter is spread equally so that it cooks evenly.  Put it into the middle of a hot oven (190C) for about ten minutes.  When a skewer comes out clean, you’ll know the cake is done.

To roll it, you’ll need to get some baking paper ready on your work surface.  Dust it with plenty of icing sugar.  This will prevent the cake sticking to the paper and breaking up.  Tip the cake out onto the dusted paper and carefully roll it up.  Take time to roll it carefully because it is hot and also delicate at this point.  Leave the roll to cool down on a wire rack.

Now it’s time to make the icing.  Yum!  Clean your electric whisk and use it to mix together the peanut butter and the softened butter.  Add the icing sugar in stages until fully combined.  Don’t put it all in at once, or you’ll finish up looking like Casper The Friendly Ghost.  If the icing gets too dry, add a little double cream.  Keep going until there is no more icing sugar to add and the icing is a nice, thick and creamy consistency.

Now it’s an assembly job.  Unroll the cake and peel off the paper without breaking it.  Using roughly half of the icing, spread a thick layer all over the cake right up to the edges.  Roll it all back up and put it on a plate.  Use a spatula to spread the rest of the icing all over the log.  It should be completely covered in the peanut butter icing incuding the ends.  There might be just a little left in the bowl for you to enjoy!  Put the log in the fridge for about half an hour to an hour to firm up.

Once the icing is firm, make the peanut butter and chocolate ganache which will coat the log.  Melt all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl over a small pan of water and mix it well.  Let it cool a little before you use it.

Okay, so I had a slice before the ganache had set. I just couldn’t resist!

The ganache should be thick and spreadable.  Pour it onto the log and spread the ganache all over.  Place the log back in the fridge for the ganache to set.  I’ll admit, I couldn’t wait and I had a slice while the ganache was still melted.  The cake tasted far better once the ganache had set, but it’s your call.

When you can tap the top of the log and it has set properly, it’s time to dig in.  My advice?  Cut a beautifully thick slice and let your cares float away!  Let me know what you think…

No chocolate, no smile.

Some people are just great bakers.  I am not one of them.  It’s an effort for me and I have to concentrate to achieve anything approaching average or good.  This only makes me more eager to try new recipes and get better each time.

It can be disheartening when N’s good friend comes round with a gorgeous coffee and walnut cake and says, “Oh, I just threw it together before I came round.”  You “threw it together”?  I’d have spent the best part of an afternoon trying to make it and would probably have thrown it in the bin at the end.

Well, fear not!  The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is one that anybody could follow for a successful outcome.  I know this to be true because I managed to get a tasty result without any gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair.  This chocolate pudding is fool-proof and packs plenty of chocolate too.

I know what you’re thinking: Why a chocolate pudding when it is spring in England?  Honestly?  I’ll tell you why.  A week or so ago, I went for a meal with colleagues and was outraged to find that the set menu we had booked for did not contain a chocolate option for pudding.  To clarify, the puddings on offer contained not one ounce of chocolate between them.  There was souffle, sorbet and the like, but no chocolate.  There was more fruit than anything else and you know how I feel about fruit rearing its healthy head in a pudding menu.  Disgraceful!  I was sick to the stomach, but not sick enough to put me off my starter and main.  Jamais!

To be fair, I don’t always want a chocolate-based pudding after a meal, but I feel it is only fair to have the option.  Feeling disappointed, I returned home and decided to make a chocolate pudding that was quite traditional, but easy to make.  Steamed puddings were not in my repertoire, but now that I’ve had a go, I will definitely be making more!  What follows is my recipe for a chocolate pudding that is uncomplicated and satisfying.  The texture is pretty is dense, but I won’t apologise for that.  It’s a pudding that will stick to your ribs and finish your meal with a chocolate thud.  Hurrah!

What’s your favourite pudding?

Chocolate pudding with Bailey’s chocolate sauce

100g melted butter

100g melted dark chocolate

100g caster sugar

3 eggs

75g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

(For the sauce)

100g dark chocolate

50g butter

5 tblspoons water

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur

1 tblspoon caster sugar

This recipe will make four steamed puddings.  Begin by putting the eggs and caster sugar into a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.  You’ll need to whisk the eggs and sugar for about ten minutes until they are light and frothy.  It’s not fun, but it’s good exercise.

Once this is done, take the bowl off the heat and gently fold in the cocoa powder and the flour with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Once combined, do the same with the melted butter.  Repeat with the melted chocolate until you have a luscious, dark liquid that is begging to be steamed into pudding glory.

Grease the inside of four pudding pots with a little butter and pour in the chocolate mixture.  Cover the puddings with foil and seal tightly around the edges.  You could use baking paper and string for this, but I didn’t and the results were good.

Pop the pudding pots into a big pan on the hob and pour in hot water.  The hot water should reach just over halfway up the sides of the pudding pots.  Keep the water simmering and steam the puddings for about forty minutes.  You can do this with the lid on the pan, but be careful not to let the water bubble up and into the puddings.  Alternatively, you can simmer the water without a lid on and just top up the water as it evaporates.

The puddings will rise up (and take over the world) and become firm on top when they are done.

To make the sauce, put everything except the Bailey’s into a small pan and melt together.  Stir the sauce, take it off the heat and then stir in the Bailey’s.  If you prefer not to have alcohol in the sauce, simply omit the Bailey’s and you’ll have a very nice chocolate treat to pour over your puddings.  You could use a liqueur of your choice.  I served mine with the sauce poured over and some coffee beans for decoration.

These steamed chocolate puddings are cute, but be careful.  I had stomach ache after finishing a second pudding.  Perhaps it’s best to eat just one.  Hmmm…an interesting idea.  I’ll certainly consider it.

Making it mine.

I don’t always feel like blazing a trail.  Every now and again, it’s nice to follow in the footsteps of those who share a passion for similar things and are willing to create and share with the kind of gusto that I secretly hope I have.  My thanks, then, to Nigella Lawson for her commitment to artery-blocking sweet treats and flavours that pack a punch.

Not many Christmas’s ago, the plucky, self-acclaimed domestic goddess shared her recipe for Christmas rocky road bars.  I enjoyed making them and have adapted them each year since to suit my own taste.  This year, I’ve been most happy with the addition of glace ginger.  I knew it would come in handy at some point!  The following recipe is extremely simple, in the same way that the no bake chocolate cake was.  A great one to make with children and so quick to put together.  With only a day or so before the big day, you could easily empty your cupboard of fun stuff and combine it in syrup, butter and chocolate!

Festive rocky road bars (Adapted from Nigella Lawson)

300g dark chocolate

170g butter

125g milk chocolate

100g glace cherrries

100g glace ginger

100g amaretti biscuits

100g almonds

100g marsh mallows

4 tblspoons golden syrup

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over a low heat.  Stir in the vanilla and the syrup.  Pour in the almonds, cherries and ginger and stir until coated.  Next, crush the biscuits, but not too finely, and mix into the chocolate.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marsh mallows.  Tip the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.  Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.  Sneak into the kitchen at every opportunity to stuff one into your mouth.

Tomorrow, my sausage and apricot terrine!

No bake chocolate cake.

I can only apologise for the delay in food action this week.  Preparation for my baby boy’s baptism have given me little or no time to get close to my beloved oven.

There’s no way that I can resist making something, so it was a real guilty treat to knock together my no bake chocolate.  Essentially, it is nothing more than melted chocolate and some tasty bits, but it does the trick.

No oven, no special techniques or weird ingredients.  Just plenty of chocolate and a gorgeous cake in no time at all.  Been promising to try a recipe out, but not had the time?  Perhaps this is the one for you.  Enjoy!

No bake chocolate cake

250g dark chocolate

230g butter

200g chocolate digestive biscuits

60g demerara sugar

4 tblspoons black coffee

100g pecans

100g glace cherries

100g mini marshmallows

half tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter, chocolate and sugar together in a pan and then stir in the vanilla extract.  Crush the biscuits, but not too finely.  Plenty of biscuit chunks is what you’re looking for.  (Plain digestives work just fine, but I’ll take any excuse to get more chocolate into the recipe!)

Stir the biscuits and cherries and pecans into the chocolate.  Add the marshmallows last so that they don’t melt into the chocolate, but keep their shape.

Tip the mixture into a lined loaf tin and place in the fridge until it is set.  Cut thin slices and serve with coffee.

 

Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

As soon as the words had left my mouth, I felt deep and utter shame.  What had I become?  Who was this slightly overweight individual who looked for opportunities to terrorize his arteries with butter and chocolate milk?  Why had I let myself turn into someone who could conceive of such a sentence.  Brownies are not boring.

I know, I know.  The sentence left my mouth before I’d had time to think of it.  N managed to barely conceal her disbelief behind a veil of disapproval.  The dog looked at me as if to say, “Shame on you.”  The fact is, that food blogging can push a person to look for more and more unique food ideas.  Not a bad thing altogether, but it can make a food lover look beyond the simple things and that is where sentences like the one I blurted out, can find themselves released into the open kitchen air.

N wanted to know why I’d used my brownie recipe to construct a cake?  Why had I made a butter cream filling and sliced it up?  Essentially, why had I not just made brownies?  My answer was unforgivable.

If you’ll continue to read, however, I can assure you that what follows is a chocolate-filled delight and one with a conscience.

I used a favourite brownie recipe and simply cut the whole baked brownie in half so that I could sandwich the butter cream.  I used Fairtrade sugar and Fairtrade chocolate and it only took a matter of minutes to whisk up the brownie batter.  A splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur gave everything a new dimension.  Brownies are fun and delicious and so many things to so many people.  If you aren’t up for something like a cake filled with Bailey’s butter cream, I can highly recommend my brownie recipe as it is.  You’ll still end up with moist, rich brownies that have a thin, flaky crust and a chewy centre; and there’s nothing boring about that.

Faritrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

200g Fairtrade caster sugar

100g Fairtrade dark chocolate

3 eggs

70g pecan nuts

50g butter

50g plain flour

1 tspoon baking powder

(For the Bailey’s butter cream)

200g icing sugar

120g butter

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 tblspoon cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl.  Next, whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together in another bowl and then mix in the flour and baking powder.  Time for the chocolate!  Pour it into the flour and egg mixture and then mix in the pecans.

Line an eight inch tin with baking paper and pour the brownie batter into it.  Bake the brownie at 140 degrees Celsius for forty-five minutes.  I baked mine at 120 degrees because I used my fan oven.

When the brownie has cooled completely, cut it in half ready to assemble the cake.

Beat the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and Bailey’s with an electric hand mixer until they have formed a fluffy and light butter cream.  Spread over the top of one of the brownie pieces and then place the other half on top.  Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream complete.  Cut off a chunk and switch your phone to silent.  You may be some time…

Why I’m not known for my lightness of touch.

The thing about a secret drizzle cake, is that nobody knows it’s a drizzle cake until they eat it, and even then, they’re not sure.  All they know is that it’s incredibly moist.

I am a huge fan of lemon drizzle cake and particularly those with poppy seeds in them.  I think that the sticky, sweetness and moist centre are just perfect.  It occurred to me recently, that I don’t know of any other types of drizzle cake.  This brought me to a question so staggeringly obvious that I could only answer with action: can I make a chocolate drizzle cake?

With N out of the house and the baby asleep, I set about completing what had now become a mission of the utmost importance.

My usual downfall is my need to represent flavours fully in every dish.  My poorest concoctions tend to be recipes in which I have added too much of something.  It happens more often than it should.  I sprinkle some cinnamon into a dish and then I think, “How will that tiny amount make a difference?  How will anyone even detect it?  Why bother putting such a miniscule amount in?  Need more.  Must have more.  And then some more to make sure”.  Dish is finished.  Dimitri tastes the dish and,  “Bin.  Must go in bin”.

It’s rare that I knowingly pull off subtlety.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to thread needles while wearing boxing gloves.  I want there to be little hints of this, a suggestion of that, a slight background accent, an ever so delicate nuance within the combination of flavours.  Imagining my food were a painting, I’d be looking to achieve a gentle merging of light and colour that was akin to the work of Degas.  On a given Sunday (or in this case, Thursday), I am more likely to turn out a propaganda poster from the forties: bold, uncompromising, and all the subtlety of a brick.

Before I’d even cracked an egg into the bowl, I knew that with this chocolate cake, I should actually embrace my heavy-handed approach.  Why not produce a chocolate cake so uncompromising in its chocolateness that it would terrify every other cake on the shelf.  A chocolate cake so rich and dark that Victoria sponge cakes blush as he catches them in his steady gaze.  A cake so self-assured that the cup cakes huddle together to steady their nerves and the old fruit loaf keeps still and wishes he were younger and braver.  Yes, I would make a secret chocolate drizzle cake.  I would include lots of real chocolate.  I would use Amaretto, a shot of Bailey’s, cinnamon by the truck-load and enough syrup to fill a bath.  How do you make a secret chocolate drizzle cake?  I’ll show you.

Secret chocolate drizzle cake

(For the cake)

200g dark chocolate

5 eggs

250g butter

160g plain flour

100ml Amaretto

120g dark brown sugar

1 tblspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

(For the syrup)

250ml water

200g sugar

(For the filling)

140ml double cream

100g plain cooking chocolate

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

(For decoration)

A tub of chocolate fudge icing

glace cherries

dark chocolate for grating

Before we begin, this isn’t really a recipe for the kids.  It’s a chocolate cake for the grown-ups.  Yay!  It’s also a rather long recipe, but here goes!

Line two 20cm sandwich tins with baking paper and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  The first thing to do is to melt the butter, sugar and chocolate together in a bowl over some simmering water.  Set the bowl to one side once everything has melted and let it cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs until they are full of air and looking fluffy and bubbly.  They’re ready for the chocolate mixture to be whisked in.  Pour the chocolate carefully into the bowl as you whisk.  Next, add the Amaretto and continue to whisk.

Finally, add the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and whisk until there are no lumps.  The cake batter is ready.  Divide it between the sandwich tins and bake in the centre of the oven for about twenty to twenty-five minutes until the top is firm.  Check that the cake is done by inserting a skewer into the middle.  If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Only two more things to make; the filling and the syrup.  Let’s do the syrup.  Boil the suagr and water for at least five minutes until you have a thicker liquid.  Set it aside to cool slightly.

When the cakes are done, let them cool and then make lots of holes all over them using a skewer or chopstick.  Try not to go all the way through.  Pour the syrup over the cakes so that they are soaked.  You don’t need to use all of the syrup if the cake will be too soft.  We don’t want the cake to crumble or become soggy.

While the cake absorbs the syrup we can move onto making the filling.  Simply melt everything in a milk pan and stir gently until there are no lumps.  You need to leave this to cool so that you can spread it onto the cake.

Now it’s the construction job.  Place the bottom half of the cake on a plate or cake stand.  Pour and spread the cooled chocolate filling onto the cake and then gently position the top half on it.  When I did this, I hadn’t let the filling cool enough and it oozed everywhere.  Thanks to Betty Crocker, I had a tub of chocolate fudge icing on hand to cover the entire cake.  This kept the filling where it should be and also turned the cake into a secret drizzle cake!  From the outside, it will look just like a regular chocolate fudge cake.

I finished my cake with cherries and chocolate shavings.  No contemporary finish here.  It was retro, but with good reason.  The cherries help me when I come to cutting slices.  I’m a simple creature.

If you want everything to firm up, put the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Try heating a slice in the microwave for fifteen seconds and see it all ooze into chocolate loveliness.  I admit, there are lots of stages in making this cake, but it’s great if you’re feeling indulgent and have the time.  Go on, treat yourself to a big chocolate hug.

6000 miles and a ferry ride to chocolate heaven.

Thousands of lights sparkled on the water as little tug boats puttered across the black harbour.  I knew it was going to be a special night.  My mum and brother were coming to visit us and were arriving early evening.  That meant we could take them into the city and give them a great meal!  When they arrived, we spent an hour or two drinking champagne, laughing together and gazing out at my favourite skyline in the world.

We took a ferry across the harbour and made our way to a popular Australian-run restaurant.  I’d chosen it specifically because of their great puddings and if there’s one thing that lights up my mum’s world, it’s a good pudding.  The finale to the meal was Mars bar cheesecake and some chocolate filo parcels with chocolate sauce for pouring.  My mum was in chocolate heaven, and to this day, I think those little parcels of molten indulgence were the highlight of her trip to Hong Kong.

I’ve been dying to make these for a few years now and finally, very late last night, I did.  Realising that there was no need to make a ganache or mess around with hazelnuts and other distractions, I grabbed the filo out of the fridge and a bar of chocolate and fired up the oven.  I knew exactly what I was going to do and I knew it would take a matter of minutes.

Twelve minutes later, I bit into the crispy filo, felt the warm chocolate ooze onto my tongue and was transported back to that night in Hong Kong.  My mum doesn’t know it yet, but soon she’ll be back in Hong Kong too; and this time, she won’t have to fly six thousand miles.

Chocolate filo parcels

100g of your favourite chocolate

filo pastry

salted butter (melted)

icing sugar

Lay one sheet of filo on a dry surface and brush all over with melted butter.  Gently lay another sheet of filo over the top and smooth it out.  Use a plastic spatula to cut squares with sides measuring about two inches.  Place a square of chocolate in the middle and brush melted butter around it.  Lift the corners to the middle, pinch and twist them gently to seal the parcel.

Brush a line of melted butter onto a baking tray and place each parcel along this line.  Finally, brush a little more (yes, more!) melted butter onto the parcels and put them into the oven at 200 degrees Celsius until they are golden.  They’ll take around six or seven minutes.  Remove the parcels from the oven and place them gently on kitchen paper to cool slightly.  Taking a bite now will leave you with plenty of burns to your mouth, so resist the urge and give them some time.  Dust the parcels with icing sugar and serve.

I’ve tried a few different ideas using the filo parcel premise.  I’ve put half a glace cherry inside with a square of chocolate on top (it worked, but you’ll have to make the filo square slightly bigger).  Serving this at the end of a meal means you can have fun by serving a trio of white, milk and dark chocolate parcels.  You could add chopped nuts, peanut butter, marsh mallow, all kinds of little surprises!  They would also be nice served with a little extra chocolate sauce, if you’re a real chocoholic.  Whatever you do, it’ll feel like a wonderful little treat!  Enjoy!

You had me at “Peanut butter”.

Fairtrade is the way forward.

What do you do with spare peanut butter?  Yes, I tackle all of life’s big questions.  After making the blondies, I had some peanut butter left.  The simplest option involves me grabbing the nearest spoon and simply tucking in.  Yes, I’m that sophisticated.  Fans of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will already be familiar with the excellent marriage of chocolate and peanut butter.  I’ve made my own before, but this time, I thought it would be fun to use ice-cube trays for the molds.

Reading fun posts on blogs like The Smart Cookie Cook, is a great way to get inspired.  When I read the peanut butter and Oreo post, I knew that I had to make something where peanut butter was the star.  That’s really why I love these chunks of chocolate and peanut butter.

I found making them with the ice-cube trays was rewarding.  I even got a bit carried away at the end and used some of the gold paper from the chocolate bars to wrap the chunks individually.  A pointless act, because we both know exactly what was gonna happen to those little mouthfuls of peanut butter loveliness.  Now I have to go and make some more.

Fairtrade peanut butter and pecan chocolate chunks

150g Fairtrade milk chocolate

10 pecans

Fairtrade peanut butter

I haven’t put a measurement for the peanut butter.  The amounts needed are very small because you don’t need very much for each chunk.  This recipe makes ten chocolate chunks, but obviously it would be very easy to make larger quantities.

The pecans will be the top of the chunks when they are popped out.

I broke up the chocolate in a bowl and placed the bowl over a pan of hot water on a low heat.  We are often told by television chefs not to let the water touch the bowl, but it really doesn’t matter, so long as the heat is kept low enough to melt the chocolate slowly.  Melting it too quickly with give you a grainy texture.

Nobody will miss just one, will they?

I placed a pecan half in the bottom of each ice-cube compartment and spooned just enough melted chocolate into it to cover the pecan.  I then put the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes to set the chocolate.  Next it was time to add the peanut butter.  It’s a good idea to pipe the peanut butter onto the centre of each chunk if you’re making a lot of them.  Since I was only making a mini batch, I just used a little spoon to drop a little ball of peanut butter in.  This would be the filling for the chocolate chunks.

The next bit was fun too. I just topped up the ice-cube tray with the remaining chocolate so that each compartment was level and put them all back in the freezer for another couple of minutes.  When they were set, I popped them out and I have to say that a couple didn’t even make it to a plate!  At one point, I wondered if you’d mind not seeing a photograph of them.  Could I get away with just a description?  My mother-in-law adores peanut butter as much as, if not more so, than me.  A little box of these wrapped in shiny paper may be making its way to her at some point.  In the meantime, I think I’ll just make another batch…for research purposes of course.