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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Recipes with flour

30Jul 12

Flake-y Fruit and Nut Slice

Flaky Fruit and Nut SliceSo called because it contains Flake bars…. Mmmmmm – yummy! Flaky fruit and nut slice is a crumbly and crunchy treat for the whole family.

This is a modified version of a recipe that I found long ago.  It gives you something really easy to do with those Flake bars that we all love!  Cooking this cake slowly results in a beautifully moist texture which holds together the crumble and crunch of the other ingredients.  I normally let it cool and eat it cold as a cake slice – but you could also try it warm with a dollop of ice cream or single cream.  To play with the flavour some more, try adding a couple of tablespoons of rum to the mix!  If you do this, you may need to add a tiny bit more flour so that this mixture is not too wet before it goes into the oven.

If you have friends coming to stay, especially if they have children – this is a good cake to make together in the kitchen one rainy day.  Just be sure the kids are OK with the nut pieces first; then get stuck in to some fun food creation together. (Also try this pear and hazelnut mess with chocolate shavings recipe.)

Flaky Fruit and Nut Slice
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
So called because it contains Flake bars…. Mmmmmm – yummy! Flaky fruit and nut slice is a crumbly and crunchy treat for the whole family.
Ingredients
  • 230g softened butter or margarine
  • 230g caster sugar
  • 280g self-raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 3 Flake chocolate bars
  • 145g hazelnuts, chopped into random sized pieces
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g raisins
  • 75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • Icing sugar and cinnamon powder for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
  2. Lightly grease and then line a cake tin.
  3. Chop the flake into pieces about 1.5cm long, and put to one side.
  4. Mix the sugar and butter together in a bowl until smooth and creamy.
  5. Combine in the cocoa powder.
  6. Separate off half of the flake pieces, 50g of the broken hazelnuts and 50g of the dark chocolate. Keep them to one side for now. Add the remaining quantities of all 3 to the mixing bowl and stir in.
  7. Add in the raisins and the apricots and mix gently.
  8. Spoon the mixture out into the prepared cake tin, and then scatter the nuts and the chocolate that you had kept to one side, over the top.
  9. Pop the cake mixture in the oven and bake for around 2 hrs, testing that the cake is cooked with a skewer or sharp knife that should come clean out of the mixture.
  10. Once ready, remove the cake from the oven and let it sit to cool in the cake tin.
  11. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and cinnamon powder and serve with a hot cup of tea and some good conversation.

 

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20Jul 12

Chocolate Gingerbread Animals

 

Chocolate Gingerbread AnimalsChocolate is my passion, and my niece loves it too, so we often find ourselves playing with it together when she comes round for the day, even when she visits with her mum and dad. We girls get busy in the kitchen, leaving mum and dad to relax together a while – a much welcome break for them; and loads of fun for us! Here’s one of our favourites; chocolate gingerbread animals. We make animals because they are the shapes we happened to find on a shopping trip together. But we also have heart, circle and square cutters – and you can make this recipe into gingerbread people too and decorate them with icing, chocolate and smarties if you like. (Also try this sugar-free gingerbread recipe.)

We had a family gathering recently with my parents, brothers, sisters and of course my little niece, and we rustled these up. My dad, with his Canadian roots, particularly enjoyed munching his way through the moose.

Chocolate Gingerbread Animals
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
A classic gingerbread biscuit with the added delight of chocolate…
Ingredients
  • 30g unsweetened good quality cocoa powder and a little for dusting
  • 310g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 190ml golden syrup
Instructions
  1. Grease a baking sheet with a little butter and preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Measure out and sift the cocoa powder, flour, ginger powder and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and combine.
  3. Chop the butter into small cubes and then work it into the powder with your fingertips, creating a fine crumble-like texture.
  4. Now add the sugar, the golden syrup and the egg. Combine the mixture together with your hands to create a firm dough.
  5. Cut the dough ball in half and roll it out on a lightly cocoa powder dusted surface, then cut out the shapes of your choice.
  6. Bake the biscuits on the tray in the oven for between 10 and 15 minutes, until you see them just beginning to darken around the edges. Let them sit on the tray for a couple of minutes cooling before transferring them to a cooling rack. Once cool, you can decorate as you wish.
  7. Repeat the rolling, cutting and cooking processes with the other half of the dough, or wrap it in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge if you prefer to make another fresh batch the next day.

 

 

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18Jul 12

Divine Chocolate Éclairs

Divine chocolate eclairsI call them that because, well, chocolate éclairs are always amazing – but home-made ones, they are simply divine.  So for all of you chocoholics who like your chocolate with lashings of cream, this one is for you.  You’ll love these divine chocolate éclairs.

Ingredients:

For the bun pastry

  • 50g butter, unsalted
  • 60g plain flour
  • 150ml water
  • 2 eggs

For the topping and filling

  • 295ml double cream
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
  • 155g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 15g butter, unsalted

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Take a large baking tray, lightly grease it all over with a butter pat and sprinkle the surface with a little water from your fingertips.  Sift the flour onto a clean sheet of paper or baking parchment.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring in the water.  When the butter has melted, take the mixture up to the boil and remove it from the heat.  Now add the flour and beat the mix into a dough ball which comes away from the side of the pan.  Let it cool down for a couple of mins.
  4. Now beat the eggs into the pastry ball, a small amount at a time, working it gradually into a smooth and glossy paste.  Transfer it to a large piping bag covered with a 1cm nozzle.  Pipe about 12-15 fingers of the mixture onto the prepared baking tray, each about 7cm in length; spacing them about 6cm apart. Bake them in the oven for 30-35 mins when they should be crispy and nicely risen.
  5. Supporting each bun with an oven glove, on a board, carefully make a slit along the side of each, before popping them back in the oven for 3 more mins to dry the centres.  Cool the buns on a rack.
  6. Tip the icing sugar into a bowl on top of the cream.  Drop in the vanilla essence, and whip everything together, until the cream begins to hold its shape.  Fill the bun centres with the cream.
  7. Melt the chocolate and the butter slowly together in a saucepan and stir.  Drizzle the mixture over the éclairs and put them in the fridge to set.

Time: 25 mins to prepare, around 40-45 mins to cook, and a little setting time

Cocoa Treats: 12-15

Note: This one is a bit high on the calorie count, so I suggest using this dessert after having a salad like this spinach and bell pepper potato salad, just to keep a good healthy balance of veggies and sweets!

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09Jul 12

Fruity Milk Chocolate Florentines

Fruity Milk Chocolate FlorentinesAs the name suggests, florentines originated in the Italian city of Florence. The Italians make excellent desserts in the Tuscany region, including Biscotti de Prato.

Florentines are fragile, fruity sensations that are often made with dark chocolate, but I prefer them with milk chocolate.  The trickiest bit of the process is getting a good round shape to your biscuit, so I think it’s best to be relaxed about that, and enjoy the biscuits a little uneven around the edges.  They’ll still taste just as wonderful!  You can enjoy fruity milk chocolate florentines as a rather special biscuit snack; or dress them up for after-dinner with creams, sauces and liqueurs, for a rich or romantic dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 150g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 30g glacé cherries
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 30g sultanas or raisins
  • 55g flaked almonds
  • 20g candied peel mix
  • 2tsbp plain flour

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and lightly grease a large non-stick baking tray with a pat of butter.
  2. Chop the cherries into rough pieces and set them to one side.
  3. Melt the butter and the sugar together in a saucepan on a gentle heat until melted, stirring them together.  Then bring the temperature up until the mixture boils.  Remove from the heat and whilst the mixture is still hot, add in the dried fruit, almonds, flour, glacé cherries and the double cream.  Combine the ingredients together.
  4. Lift teaspoonfuls of the mixture out and place them on the prepared baking tray, spaced widely apart so as not to touch and stick when they spread.  It’s best to cook the biscuits in 2 batches or more and really give them plenty of space.  Pop each batch in the oven for around 8 minutes.  Remove them and push each biscuit into a neat circle using a round, oiled biscuit cutter.  Bake them again for about 2 minutes before transferring them onto a clean sheet of grease-proof baking parchment to cool.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a pan.  Once the Florentines have cooled, turn them upside-down and use a palette knife, or large blunt knife to spread the melted chocolate across the flat surface of the biscuit which is now on top.  Transfer the biscuits to a clean sheet of paper to set.

Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 25-35 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 12-15

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05Jul 12

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Millionaire's ShortbreadMillionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a shortbread base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping! I like to use more milk chocolate than dark chocolate on mine, but you can play with the proportions as you wish. Traditionally it is made completely with dark chocolate instead of using a combination.

This is a snack that we used to make at home sometimes after school with Mum. I loved rubbing the butter and flour together through my fingers, enjoying the sensation of getting my hands covered in the dough, and gradually breaking it down into finer crumbs as the butter separated and became covered in the flour – something very satisfying about that. Then there’s the fun of making the caramel and dipping a sneaky finger in to ‘check that it’s ok’! (If you love caramel flavours, then you will adore this caramel cake with butter cream icing.)

The chocolate part, well what can I say – it has to be the crowning glory doesn’t it? I used to loved eating my way through the 3 layers. Sometimes biting through the whole cake, and sometimes eating it layer by layer.

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Millionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a biscuit base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping.
Ingredients
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 397g condensed milk (1 can)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease an 18cm square cake tin – loose based or spring-form if you have one.
  2. Make the shortbread: Rub 50g of the butter and the flour together through your fingertips to create a fine breadcrumb texture. Add 25g caster sugar and combine the ingredients into dough. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin, pressing it into a flat layer. Bake in the oven for around 20 mins until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. Make the caramel next: Melt the remaining butter together with the condensed milk and the remaining sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring everything together. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture up to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently for around 5 mins. The mixture will thicken and turn lightly golden. Pour over the shortbread and let stand for 2-3hrs to set.
  4. To make the chocolate topping: Melt the chocolate gently in a saucepan and pour it over the set caramel. Leave it to set before cutting the cake into squares.
Notes
3-4 hrs to set

 

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25Jun 12

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chips

I’ve made chocolate chip muffins many times with my little niece.  It’s one of our staple favourites when she comes round as she always asks to help me make them. The last time she visited and we baked this recipe together, I have a feeling that more chocolate chips went straight into her tummy than into the muffins themselves. 

Chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter than traditional baking chocolate, giving them a higher melting point, which is what helps them to keep their shape during cooking.  We are all very familiar with the good old American-English muffin, which has become so very popular these days, and can be found in all sorts of sizes and varieties.  But the palm-sized chocolate chip muffin must also be high on the list of all-time favourites. (Also try these choconana muffin nests, perfect for Easter!)

Ingredients:

  • 90g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g butter
  • 75ml milk
  • 50g dark chocolate chips, or good dark chocolate, broken into pieces.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and grease a 6 muffin mould baking tray with a sliver of butter.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together over a large mixing bowl and stir.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together until light and creamy.  Add the milk, and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Gradually beat the butter and sugar mixture into the flour mixture, and when evenly combined, stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Bake the muffins in the oven for around 20-25 mins.  Remove the tray from the oven and cool the muffins on a wire rack before enjoying them with a fresh cup of tea and the company of children.

Note:    Normally, muffins are eaten once cooled, but have you thought of trying them warm, drizzled with chocolate sauce and with a dollop of ice cream for a wickedly rich pudding?  Or try eating them straight from the oven with chocolate custard.

Time: 15 mins to prepare, 25 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 6 large muffins

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15Jun 12

Almond and Apricot Chocolate Brownies

Almond and Apricot Chocolate BrowniesChocolate Brownies of any description are pretty heavenly.  Rich, moist and gooey!  Eaten warm with ice-cream is always my favourite way to devour them!  Brownies are often made with walnuts, but I want to give you a slightly different idea. 

Almond and apricot chocolate brownies have all the gooey richness of a classic brownie, but they offer a different kind of sweetness and crunch.  You can try experimenting with other fruit and nuts too.  Any variation is good fun to make, and lip-smackingly tasty!  Just be sure not to overcook your brownies, or they will be disappointingly dry.

Also, try this Go Free Chocolate Brownie recipe, which is gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free. Perfect for large groups with special dietary needs.

Ingredients:

  • 300g good dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 200g good milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 220g unsalted butter, left to soften
  • 220g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 100g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 75g breakfast apricots, drained, excess juice squeezed out, and roughly torn

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.  Grease and then line a shallow baking tray with grease-proof paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate slowly together with the butter in a large saucepan, stirring well.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar until creamy and light, then stir in the melted dark chocolate.  Once well mixed, add the flour, the almond and apricot pieces, and the roughly chopped milk chocolate.  Combine everything together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Spoon the mixture out into the lined baking tray and bake for around 40 mins until the centre of the cake feels firm to the touch but soft directly underneath the surface.  The trick with brownies is never to overcook them. You need to look out for the golden moment, and take them from the oven before they begin to go dry.
  5. If you’re not going to eat the brownies straight away, leave the brownie to cool in the tin.  Once cooled, turn it out onto a chopping board and cut it into squares.

Note: If you want to serve some of the brownie hot and fresh, you can remove the part you want from the tray as soon as it is cooked, and serve it in bowls with ice-cream. To make it fruitier, try topping with bits of strawberries and apricots. It will fall apart and be ever-so gooey!  Then you can leave the remainder of the cake to cool in the tray, to cut into servings and store.

Another idea for preparing it to eat hot, is to bake the brownie mix in smaller pots or ramekins to serve straight from the oven with cream and ice-cream.  Or you could even pop a square of brownie in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it at any time.  So many ways to eat a brownie!  Yum!

Time: 20 mins preparation, 45 mins baking

Cocoa Treats: 18 squares

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13Jun 12

Almond and Chocolate Orange Biscotti

Almond and Chocolate Orange BiscottiAlmond and Chocolate Orange Biscotti – Italian style biscuits that are wonderful accompanied by a rich roast cappuccino. It’s the perfect complement to round off your Italian meal. (Try this pancetta and pea gemelli recipe.)

Ingredients:

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g light muscavado sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 55g polenta, or ground semolina
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur (or swap for 1 tsp vanilla essence)
  • 1 egg
  • 110g almonds
  • A little icing sugar to dust

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC, and grease a baking tray with a little butter.
  2. Put the almonds in a plastic sandwich bag, or wrap them loosely in clingfilm, and place them on a wooden board.  Using a rolling pin, bash them gently to break them into rough pieces.
  3. Melt the chocolate and the butter slowly in a saucepan, stirring them together.
  4. Take a large mixing bowl and sift in the flour and baking powder.  Mix in the sugar, polenta, egg, orange zest, orange liqueur, and finally the almonds.  Work in the butter and chocolate mixture and form a biscuit dough.  The dough should be a good consistency, but if it is a little moist, sift over an extra little bit of flour; and if it is a little dry, add another splash of orange liqueur, or a tiny bit of water.
  5. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and divide the dough into 2 halves.  Create a log shape out of each half, about 25cm long.  Lay out each sausage of dough on the baking tray, flattening them with your palms to about 1.2cm high.  Bake for 25 mins in the oven, or until the dough rises and feels firm to the touch.
  6. Set the partly baked biscotti to one side to cool.  On a wooden board, slice each log diagonally into 10 biscuits (about 1.5cm thick) and place them back onto the tray, leaving a little space between each one.  Return the tray to the oven for about 10 more mins, crisping up the biscotti.  Remove them and once cool, dust over with the icing sugar.

Time: 20 mins preparation time, 35-40 mins cooking time

Cocoa Treats: 20

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09Jun 12

Pure Pleasure Chocolate Cake

Pure pleasure chocolate cakeYou may have noticed by now that I’m not much of an advocate of cooking chocolate used specifically for baking. I see it like this; the better the chocolate, the greater the eating pleasure.  Simple really.  And there’s certainly no exception to that rule when it comes to this incredibly moist and rich pure pleasure chocolate cake. (Also try this chocolate beetroot cake.)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 55g light muscovado sugar
  • 80g ground almonds

For the creamy chocolate covering and filling:

  • 155g good dark chocolate, chopped into fairly small pieces
  • 155g double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.  Grease and line a circular tin as I did.
  2. Gently melt the chocolate with the butter.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the eggs and the sugar together until they begin to firm.
  4. Sift the flour into the mixture; add the ground almonds and the buttery chocolate mixture and stir everything together until completely combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin and pop it in the oven for around 35 minutes, or until the mixture is just firm.  Timing is everything here so keep an eye on the cake and when ready, remove it from the oven and delicately transfer it onto a cooling rack.

For the creamy chocolate filling and covering:

  1. Whilst the cake is baking, you can make the chocolate cream covering and filling.  Take a saucepan and pour in the cream, bringing it up on the heat until it is just about to boil.  Take the cream off the heat and add in the chocolate.  Leave the chocolate sitting in the cream until it melts and then stir it all together into a smooth mixture.  Pour it into a cold bowl and leave it to cool and thicken.

Putting it all together:

  1. Once the cake has cooled, slice the top off if it has risen in the centre and then cut it in half horizontally.  Sandwich the creamy chocolate inside the two halves of the cake – use about one third of the chocolate cream for this.  Finish the cake by spreading the rest of the chocolate cream over the top and the sides.  Slice it and serve with a refreshing cup of tea.

Time: 20 minutes to prepare, plus cooling time, 45 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 12-14 slices

Note: The picture is of my cake is the pre-icing stage so you can see how chocolaty the cake is!

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21May 12

Chocolate Crepes with Hazelnut Liqueur

Chocolate CrepesChocolate Crepes are fun and easy to make with children or for the big kid in you!  You can experiment with different fruit fillings too – try raspberries or strawberries! Crepes Suzette is another fruit option for the orange lovers out there.

Ingredients:

For the crepe batter:

  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur

For the chocolate sauce:

  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Make the crepe batter first.  Melt the butter and leave to one side to cool slightly.  Then mix the milk, butter, egg yolk, vanilla essence and hazelnut liqueur together in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the icing sugar, whisking it in until very well mixed.  Gradually add the flour, whisking it together until the crepe mixture is completely smooth. Put the batter to one side.
  2. Next make the chocolate sauce.  Take a saucepan, and add the butter to it, melting it nice and slowly over a low heat.  Stir in the milk and the hazelnut liqueur.  Add the cocoa powder and the icing sugar, combining all the ingredients thoroughly.  Turn the heat down very low to keep the mixture warm as you cook the crepes.
  3. So now it’s time to cook the crepes.  Grease the surface of a non-stick frying pan (or a crepe pan if you have one) with a little butter and place on a medium heat.  Pour in about 60ml of the crepe batter, swirl it into a thin disk and leave on the heat for around 2 mins before flipping it and cooking for a minute on the other side.  Have fun with the flipping too – call the family in to watch this bit!
  4. And to put it all together!  Pop the crepe on a plate and spoon over with the chocolate sauce.  Fold or roll the crepe as you like it, drizzle a little more chocolate sauce over the top, and sprinkle over with a little icing sugar.  Repeat the process until all 4 crepes are cooked, filled and decorated.

Note: These crepes are delicious with slices of chopped banana added too.

Time: 25 mins to prepare, 10 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 4

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