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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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.

 

Do blondes have more fun?

Being married to a greedy chap with a food obsession is frustrating at times, I’m sure.  There’s moaning when meals are dull, there’s a constant stream of food-related chat, large amounts of hard-earned pennies are spent on what seem to be random or unnecessary ingredients and every now and again, a meal is served that the hip kids would label as an “epic fail”.

Don’t get the violins out just yet.  N is a big fan of white chocolate and has the odd day where she completely lucks out.  There are actually two days when this happens.  One is white chocolate cheesecake day.  The other, is blondie day.  Today, it was definitely a blondie day.

Blondies are an alternative to brownies and while I don’t wish to give the impression that I would ever get tired of eating brownies, I do want to promote some thinking outside of that rich, chocolatey box.  I first came across this recipe a few years ago when I was going through what can only be described as a baking frenzy.  Having lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years without an oven, it was a total joy to be back in a kitchen that had more than a microwave and a wok burner.  The baking that followed is almost a blur to me now, but one thing has remained a part of our household since then.  My blondie recipe.  It’s so easy to make that I could burst out laughing just thinking about it.  It requires only two things of you.  The first is that you like white chocolate.  The second is that you like peanut butter.

Blondies (adapted from Rachel Allen)

200g white chocolate (chopped into little chunks)

200g light brown sugar

150g peanut butter

125g plain flour

100g butter

1 egg

1 tspoon baking powder

1 tspoon vanilla extract

If you’re gonna bother making something that relies heavily on two ingredients, it’s worth making sure that those ingredients are well represented.  I’ve adapted this recipe so that every piece and every bite is packed full of fun.  Let’s just say that I’ve cranked up the volume.  For me, there’s no such thing as too sweet.  I used crunchy peanut butter because it gives the blondies extra texture, but the recipe works fine with smooth.

Cream the peanut butter and butter together in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla and egg.  Add this to the peanut butter mixture and stir.  Finally add the flour and baking powder.  It’s a good idea to use your hands to squeeze everything together and form a dough.  When you’ve got a dough, you can mix in the white chocolate.  My mum hates white chocolate, so at this point she would add something else.  Come to think of it, I don’t think she likes peanut butter either.  Hmmm… anyway, once you have a ball of stickiness, you’re ready to transfer it to a baking tray.

Don’t be alarmed.  The dough is not the sort that you can roll out and work with.  The best thing to do is to line a little tray with baking paper and then press the dough onto it.  I begin by putting the dough in the middle and using my palms to flatten and push the dough to the edges.  I use a tray with one inch sides because the blondies will rise during baking.  Upon finishing this stage of the recipe, I guarantee you’ll be full of doubt, but fear not.  Into the middle shelf of the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for about twenty minutes and you’re laughing.

Just golden, but not brown.

The blondies will puff up and turn ever so slightly golden.  Don’t allow them to brown.  The blondies will still be very soft when you take them out.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool.  If you try to lift them out (and I have), they’ll break up.  If you try to cut them (and I have), they’ll be a mush.  If you prod them with your finger (and I have), well hey, it’s your finger, do what you like.  Once they are completely cool, they will have a wonderful soft, chewy texture and will hold their shape after being cut into little squares.  If your loved ones like white chocolate as much as my wife, you’ll earn major brownie points- or should that be blondie points?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.