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.


Natural sugars don’t count- part 1: Pear & pecan toffee crumble.

Given the amount of marketing that goes into promoting fruit and vegetables as the way to protect your heart and ensure longevity, it’s amazing how many adults still choose to eat nutritionally poor food on a daily basis.  We’ve never been more aware of the content and nutritional values of food, and yet, obesity is prevalent in a number of wealthy countries with high levels of literacy.  Why don’t people make the right food choices for their bodies?

In my humble opinion, I think choice itself is part of the problem.  Sugary food, food laden with flavourful fat and food containing too much of what we don’t need is often more appealing than healthier, natural options.  I adore peas, love broccoli, would kill for olives and feel incredibly happy when eating sweetcorn, but burgers, pizzas, chicken korma and anything covered in melted cheese is hard to resist.  What hope do greedy folk like me have?

The best thing to do is to treat yourself to the unnecessary sugary and fatty items every now and again and most importantly, to acknowledge that they are just that; a treat.  A couple of days of eating poorly is all it takes for me to get back on track.  Too many treats and they stop feeling like a treat and I enjoy them less.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been making an effort to cut down on the naughty things so that I begin to appreciate them again.  Baking every day is not conducive to this, so I’ve started giving away almost everything I bake to friends and family.  It feels good, but it’s hard to wave goodbye to the freshly baked goods as they leave my flour-covered hands forever.

Vegetables will always be on my plate, though and I love them.  However, what my diet has in vegetables, sadly, it lacks in fruit.  I’m just not a fruit fan.  I love watermelon and I’ll eat just about every fruit going, but I’ll never ask for it or make an effort to eat it.  For all the colour, variety and goodness in fruit, it just doesn’t register on my food radar.  And pudding?  No.  Fruit, no matter how nicely presented, is not and never will be an acceptable pudding.  Scanning a dessert menu, my eyes narrow scornfully should they come across fruit.  Disgraceful.  I want the finest sugars known to humanity and I want them now!

Natural sugars don’t count.  They don’t cut it with me.  I’ve decided to try to address the lack of fruit in my diet by incorporating fruit into my treats.  The first of these is about as sugary as it gets and so delightful, I almost talked myself out of giving it to my mum today.  I said almost.  Mum got the pudding to serve at dinner with my brother and uncle and I got to make what I believe is the nicest fruit-based pudding I’ve tasted.  It wasn’t too difficult to give it away because I’d made a test version last week and the poor pudding didn’t even see the next morning!  I’ll wait a few more weeks before making it again.  Moderation is the key.  Meanwhile, I’ll see what other ways there are to turn fruit to the dark side.  Watch this space…

Pear & pecan toffee crumble

(For the filling)

6 pears (peeled and roughly chopped)

4 tblspoons demerara sugar

3 tblspoons golden syrup

2 tblspoons dark muscovado sugar

30g butter

1 tblspoon milk

(For the crumble topping)

120g self-raising flour

100g butter (diced)

5 tblspoons demerara sugar

2 tblspoons pecans (finely chopped)

Rub the flour and butter together to make the crumble topping.  They should look like breadcrumbs in yoru bowl when you’re done.  Pour in the pecans and the sugar and bake in the oven for five or six minutes at 200 degrees Ceslius until golden.

Next, make the toffee sauce.  In a milk pan, gently heat the syrup, muscovado, demerara, milk and half of the butter.  Once it has come to the boil, let it simmer for five minutes and stir constantly.

In another pan, cook the pears in the remaining butter for about five or six minutes.  Pour the toffee into the pan with the pears and cook for another five minutes on a gentle heat.  Stir the pears so that the toffee doesn’t burn.

Finally, put the mixture into an oven-proof dish and then spread the crumble over the top.  Sprinkle extra demerara sugar on top, if you’re a sugar fiend like me.

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for twenty minutes.  The crumble should be golden brown, but not burned.  It might be a little too sweet for some, so a scoop of vanilla ice-cream is a good choice when serving.

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…