Bake | How to make simple bakes more fun..

Baking can sometimes seem so overcomplicated that it makes more sense to just buy ready made. I certainly do that with brownies (who has the time?) but let me tell you there are cakes out there! Cakes which are both fun, relatively easy to make an awesome to look at. Enter the coffee, chocolate walnut cupcakes.

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These started out so differently I can’t believe it. Firstly you need to go full out Great British Bake off and use Mary Berry’s Cappuccino cake recipe then you need to mix it up a little by adding chocolate drops and finely chopped walnuts to the cake mix (I used 100g of chocolate and 50-75g of chopped walnuts). The biggest change? Put the mixture into cupcake cases instead of tins!

Cook at 180 degrees and they cook wonderfully quick! I can’t tell you exact times just wait for them to be cooked through (skewer one once the tops are tanned and springy. They are done once the skewer comes out clean – but remember chocolate drops will leave a residue.) On a side note because of the mixture its worth cooking them a little longer than you perhaps would normally. I always find Mary’s mixtures a little heavy and it seems cooking them for a little longer often helps in making them a little less dense.

Now, the fun bit? Decorating.

We forget why kids love baking, its the experimentation and fun of decorating. You could just buy a piping bag and do a basic icing but then you could do this instead.

Make a mountain.

The icing, unlike Mary’s is coffee buttercream (with a little milk for smoothness) mixed with chocolate and the kicker… once you spread a little on the top of the cupcake (although cut the very top off first to make the mountain structure.) roll the cupcake it more chopped walnuts and/or place chocolate drops onto then add a little hat & icing sugar, suddenly your bake is fun again!

My favourite part of this was just experimenting and making half of them different, it just adds to the look and makes them a little more fun and less serious.

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Bake | Need a Friday pick-me-up treat?

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Friday treats are a must and with it being Autumn now this could be the last weekend to make the most of those warmer afternoons eating outdoors (or at least with a lovely sweater on!) so why not live it up this Friday?

Add to Brownies a little fudge sauce and the last of summer strawberries, perhaps some Ice Cream with vanilla pods and you’ve got yourself a party! Am I wrong?

Brownie Recipe +

Fudge Sauce Recipe+

therealjlow cooks | Caramelised onion, Goats Cheese and Fig tarts

Cook: Caramalised Onion, fig and Goats cheese tarts

Many, many moons ago I worked at a wedding in Surbiton and they served similar tarts to these. Fast-forward four or so years and finally I have recreated these for myself and Josh.

With Autumn fully upon us (apparently we have some arctic storm approaching us?) we of course had to indulge in a little festive cooking and the call on this day was figs!

Now you must bear with me and my kitchen. We have never had the most beautiful kitchen but let me just tell you, our new one? It walked straight out of the seventies and that is not pretty so here goes.

You will need . . .

  • Goats cheese (as much or as little as you want – we used the whole pack – I live with a serious cheese addict – he even stole pieces whilst I wasn’t looking!)
  • 1 Onion per 2 tartlets (we tried to do all four with 1 and it fell short – we used pre packaged caramalised onion chutney to fill the void, yummy but not as good!)
  • 1 pack of puff pastry (I also made these the first week we moved into our doer upper – I have zero time for pastry making!)
  • Butter (I used salted but either is fine)
  • Honey (runny is best!)
  • Figs (we used three – but a pack of four (as we had) would be even better!)
  • Red wine (an additional option for drinking)

First things first you will need to make sure your pastry is at room temperature. Even refrigerated it can be too cold which when you roll it out can potentially crack. Something you don’t want! So unroll your pastry and gently use your rolling pin to make it stretch out that little bit further!

With your new, flatter pastry divide the piece into four. As a messy, fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl I haven’t minded odd shapes and uneven squares (however you can always make these perfect). I’m also the girl who always failed home economics because my counters were messy so be prepared . . .

Having divided the pastry into four pieces, now is the time to fold the corners in order to keep the filling in. I achieved this by once again roughly folding up the sides and then placing them on a baking tray. I choose to pre cook my pastry. To do this its best to place baking beads within the centre of your pastry (to minimize it rising where you don’t want it) however because we hadn’t kept ours because of the move I ended up re flattening the insides once baked. Bake this until cooked through but don’t worry about a golden sheen however you can have already baked this with an egg wash (I forgot entirely, doh.) Bake these pastry tarts for roughly 7 minutes.

Whilst cooking we need to assemble the filling. That means cutting the goats cheese into equal slithers, cutting figs into sections and frying off 1 onion per tart in a mix of butter and honey to achieve a tasty and caramelised look and taste.

Once baked, it is as simple as assembling your tarts. You can organise this in anyway you like including mixing your goats cheese with honey and smoothing this across the pastry base. I, however choose to place slices of goats cheese first before layering five to six fig slices per slice and topping off with our onion and a generous drizzle of honey.

Your final bake (or grill) can take up to ten minutes. The key is to keep an eye on your tarts, your pastry is already pretty much cooked so what you need to look for is your goats cheese melting to your ideal without the pastry burning around it (same with your figs.)

I didn’t worry about this too much since I know Josh adores goats cheese in any form (in fact he stole a lot before the process even began!) Also note that these taste great warm from the oven to cold the next day! We had ours for lunch on the Monday, cold and they were perfect! So good for easy and yet fancy work day lunches!