Chocolate Malteser Layer Cake

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This is my most requested recipe by far, and it also happens to be the easiest thing I make, so by sharing this I might be about to lose all my credibility as a baker. But needs must, and you really need to taste this.

It’s also a bit of a cheat because it’s not actually 100% my recipe. The sponge is from HRH Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and it’s now replaced Delia’s all-in-one (sorry, Delia) as my go-to chocolate cake. It’s beautifully light and fluffy, made with basic store cupboard ingredients and, most importantly, super quick and easy. The thing (and my only contribution) that makes this basic chocolate cake ‘malteser’ is the addition of malted milk powder buttercream. Yep, it’s time to dig out that slightly-solid pot of Horlicks or Ovaltine at the back of your nan’s cupboard; this incredibly retro ingredient is making a very delicious comeback.

Ingredients

50g cocoa powder
3 eggs
50ml milk
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g margarine
275g caster sugar

250g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
35g malted milk powder (you’ll usually find it in the hot drinks section of the supermarket, with the hot chocolate and coffee)
125g good quality milk chocolate, I use Dairy Milk
30g packet of Maltesers

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Method

Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line two 18 inch cake tins. Meanwhile, leave the kettle to boil.

Take one large bowl and add the cocoa powder to the bottom, then pour 6 tablespoons of boiling water on top and mix until it forms a smooth paste. (Don’t be tempted to try it, it looks like it should taste delicious, it doesn’t.)

Add all the rest of the sponge ingredients to the bowl and mix, then divide equally between the two cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out the sponges onto a cooling rack and leave until completely (you’ve guessed it) cool. It’s literally that simple. My cake rep ends here.

For the icing, melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave or over a bain-marie, then leave to cool slightly.

Place the softened butter into the bowl of a standalone mixer (or into a mixing bowl with separate hand mixer) and beat until soft. Next, add the icing sugar – a little at a time to minimise icing sugar clouds.

Lastly, mix in the malted milk powder and the melted chocolate until well combined.

To assemble, simply spread half the icing on the first layer, sandwich and spread the second half on the top, then decorate with the Maltesers. I like to place them in a ring around the edge as I find them a useful marker for cutting slices (ie. ‘do you want one Malteser or two?’), but feel free to go crazy and decorate however you wish.

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Hot cross buns

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This one really doesn’t need too much introducing; hot cross buns for Easter Sunday. Or any time of year really. They’re made from an enriched dough, meaning that butter, sugar and milk are added to your basic bread dough so they need a longer time to prove as the yeast has more weight to fight against in order to rise. Throw in all that fruit, and the total proving time is about four hours.

But they really are worth making yourself (the shop-bought ones aren’t a patch on homemade) and, although they take a long time to make them from start to finish, the process is very simple. This recipe comes from my go-to bread book, Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake, and are packed with sultanas and apple, though I’ve left out the citrus peel from the original recipe because I hate the stuff.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
75g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
40g unsalted butter
2 medium eggs
120ml warm milk
120ml cold water
150g sultanas
80g mixed peel (optional)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1 bramley apple, cored and diced into half cm pieces
2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the crosses:
75g plain flour
75ml water

Apricot jam, to glaze

Makes 12

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Method

Put the flour in the base of your standalone mixer (or in a large bowl, you can knead this one by hand). Add the sugar and salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together and add to the bowl, followed by the butter and about half the water. Begin to mix so the mixture comes together to form a rough dough, adding more water where needed to bring the mixture away from the sides of the bowl. You may need all the water, or you may only need a splash – what you’re looking for is a dough that is sticky and soft but not wet.

Next, knead your dough for 5-10 minutes, whether with a dough hook or by hand, until it’s soft and stretchy and has developed a slightly matte skin. Then tip into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.

Once it’s risen, add the cinnamon, orange zest, sultanas, apple and citrus peel (if using) to the dough and knead it through. Then return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise again for an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it with your knuckles to knock the air out; this is called ‘knocking back’. Then divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a rough ball; don’t worry about doing this too exactly, it’s all part of the charm.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then place the balls of dough on the sheet so they are just touching. Once they’re baked you pull them apart like a tear-and-share, giving them that characteristic exposed dough bits on the side.

Cover with a plastic bag and leave to rise for an hour until the dough springs back quickly when gently prodded. You’ll be glad to hear that that’s the final prove.

Once the time is up, preheat your oven to 220°C. Mix the flour and water together to make a smooth paste and spoon into a piping bag. Snip the end off to give you about a 5mm opening and then pipe in lines across the buns to create the crosses. And that solves the mystery of those.

Bake for 20 minutes on the top shelf of the oven until they’re beautifully golden brown, turning if necessary to get an even bake. Once they’re done, melt a little apricot jam in the microwave or over the hob and use a pastry brush to brush it over the top.

Leave to cool for just along enough that they won’t completely burn your mouth, and then tuck in.

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There in the ground His body lay, light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Peanut butter cupcakes

IMG_5072Firstly, friends, my apologies for how long it’s been since I last posted. Most of my cake-energy has been subsumed by writing an absolutely mammoth guide to the 50 best bakeries in London for the Evening Standard. I know, excuses, excuses. It nearly cost me my love of cake (for all you might say my job is great, after the fifth bakery in a day I defy anyone to feel anything but ill) but 3,000+ words later and probably a stone heavier I’m done and recovered. So it’s back to it at Pippa Bakes.

We’re starting with these beauties – peanut butter cupcakes. I love the flavour of peanut butter, but find it too salty and the texture too cloying to actually enjoy out of the tub. Well, while on my cake guide travels, I spent a very pleasant half hour at the Primrose Bakery tucking into a peanut butter cupcake and – a revelatory moment – it was incredible; possibly the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten.

Sadly, there’s no recipe for peanut butter cupcakes in either of the Primrose Bakery cookbooks I own, so I did my best to make it up instead. I started with my basic vanilla sponge cupcake recipe, switched the caster sugar for dark brown because it seemed somehow more suited, and ladled in that peanut butter to taste. Smooth, obviously. They’re finished off with milk chocolate buttercream (with a bit more peanut butter for good measure) and peanut brittle. Not quite as good as Primrose, but near enough.

Ingredients
75g unsalted butter or margarine
180g soft dark brown sugar
3 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
65ml milk

100g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
1 dessert spoon peanut butter (or more, to taste)

80g caster sugar
60g unsalted peanuts

Makes  12.

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Method
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan and line a cupcake tray with cases.

Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the peanut butter and beat again until incorporated.

Weigh out the remaining dry ingredients so they’re ready, then add the eggs one at a time, beating between each. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful or two of flour to help bring it back together.

Next, beat in a third of the flour, followed by half the milk. Repeat, then finish up with the final third of flour.

Divide equally between your cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean. Leave to cool entirely.

Now to make the peanut brittle so it has time to set. Caramel may defeat Great British Bake Off contestants when they’re under pressure, but in the comfort of your own kitchen it’s really nothing to be frightened of.

First, get out a non-stick baking sheet or piece of greaseproof paper and lay it in a baking tray. Take a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan and place it over a medium heat, then add the sugar and don’t stir. Give the pan an occasional shake as the sugar begins to melt and leave over the heat until it’s all melted, then continue to cook until it reaches a deep copper colour – a bit like a 2p coin. If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat; you don’t want to burn it.

When it’s ready, pour in the peanuts and stir quickly before it begins to set, then pour onto your prepared baking sheet and flatten with the back of the spoon so it’s all one-peanut deep.

Leave to set at room temperature and then use your hands to snap it into small, cupcake-ready pieces.

For the icing, melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave or over a bain-marie and set aside to cool. Cream the butter until smooth, then add the icing sugar a bit at a time until well combined and fluffy. Lastly, mix in the milk and melted chocolate and peanut butter, adding more to taste if you wish. Pipe or spread liberally on top and finish each with a piece of brittle.

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The Great British Parkin-Off

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Unless you have some kind of connection with Yorkshire, the likelihood is you have no idea what parkin is. Well, it’s a kind of gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and treacle. It’s moreish and not too sweet, and it’s easy to make. It also happens to be a Bailey-family favourite and is made in the shed-load by my northern lass of a Grandma, Irene, before she visits us in London.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I picked up a copy of Paul Hollywood’s latest book, British Baking, and found a recipe for – you’ve guessed it – Yorkshire Parkin. Well there was nothing for it but to have a little competition between the two. This week, my favourite little sous-chef, chief-taster and fellow parkin-fan, Joe, got in on the action too.

First up, Grandma Bailey. She usually measures this recipe with the same cup every time, but seeing as we don’t have access to that cup (I’m expecting to have it bequeathed to me in her will), she has very kindly converted it into grams for us.

Ingredients
100g margarine
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125g medium oatmeal
125g wholemeal bread flour
90g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
210ml milked, boiled

Method
Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line a roughly 20x20cm cake tin.

Melt the margarine, treacle and syrup in a bowl in the microwave or on the hob. Add the dry ingredients and stir together. Lastly, add the milk and mix. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes.

NB: Parkin is best left to sit, wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil, for 24 hours before eating, to let the flavours mature and to develop that characteristic sticky top.

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A little family joke, spotted on holiday in Barcelona last year

Now, over to Paul…

Ingredients
225g margarine
110g golden syrup
110g black treacle
2 eggs
125ml milk
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
225g dark muscovado sugar
225g medium oatmeal

Method
Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line a roughly 20x20cm cake tin.

Again, melt your margarine, syrup and treacle in the microwave or on the hob.

Lightly beat the eggs into the milk with a fork.

Add the dry ingredients to the melted mixture and stir, followed by the eggs and milk.

Pour into the tin and bake for 45 minutes. Just like Grandma’s parkin, I recommend you leave this to sit for a day or two before tucking in. It may be hard to resist, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

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Grandma Bailey’s, left, and Paul Hollywood’s, right

The verdict? If you like your parkin slightly denser, egg-free and lower in sugar, Grandma Bailey is your girl; it really is the cake of my childhood. On the other hand, Paul’s is lighter textured and has a richer, more adult flavour. At risk of being forever excommunicated from the family, I’m a Paul-convert. By a fraction. Please forgive me Grandma. But, to be honest, you can’t really go far wrong with either; both are delicious – Joe certainly seemed to think so.

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Cinnamon Buns

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Something about the weather at the moment just makes me crave sweet, doughy goodness (particularly, it seems, if I’ve been to the gym that day, too). Well yesterday I went to the gym in the morning, so I just had to balance it out by making some cinnamon buns in the afternoon.

This recipe comes straight from Signe Johansen’s wonderful Scandilicious BakingIt’s a really simple, no-knead enriched dough and easy to alter for different occasions: replace the cinnamon with cardamom for a more grown-up flavour, or even ditch the filling altogether and instead swirl with nutella, pureed fruits or toffee and pecans. I made 24 individual buns from this recipe, but you could cut it into seven pieces instead and make a tear-and-share loaf, like I did with my brioche recipe.

Ingredients
225ml milk
150g butter
300g plain flour
125g wholemeal flour
120g caster sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
10g fast action yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
A little demerara sugar

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Method
Start by heating your milk and 75g of the butter in a pan on the hob. Stir until melted and then heat until nearly boiling, without letting it burn. Set aside to cool.

You can make this dough in a standalone mixer with a dough hook or with a bowl and wooden spoon. Whichever you prefer, tip the two flours, yeast, salt, 70g of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon into the bowl. Lightly beat one of the eggs and add it to the bowl. Lastly, add the now-warm milk and butter mixture on top and stir/mix until combined. It should give you a soft, smooth dough.

Now, the best bit – there’s no need to knead. So pop it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While that’s going, cream together the remaining butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract until smooth. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Once your dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it roughly in half and set one half aside. Roll out the other half to form a rectangle that’s about 25x15cm, then spread half the filling over the top with a palette knife. If it’s too stiff to spread, try warming it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to loosen it up again.

Then, long side towards you, roll it up to make a long, thin roll. Divide into 12 equal pieces (start with in half, then in quarters to make it easier to judge), and place, spiral up on the baking tray.

Repeat with the second half of the dough, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for another half an hour – or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C fan.

When they’ve risen nicely, lightly beat the second egg and brush it over the exposed sides of the buns, then sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake them, one tray at a time, for about 14 minutes until golden brown. Then, all that remains to do is to eat as many as possible while they’re still warm.

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Chocolate & Vanilla Mini Madeleines

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As well as my usual Christmas presents of cookbooks and history tomes (A History of the Viking World, anyone?), I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of new bits of baking kit. Among them, a silicone Mastrad mini madeleine pan. So, obviously, I had to test it out for you all.

Madeleines are one of the most unassuming delicacies you’ll find in Parisian patisseries, but that buttery nuttiness and beautiful shell-shape arejust too good to resist. I mixed up two flavours – vanilla and chocolate – and made a nice little batch of each, plus some marbled ones. I’ve included the recipe for vanilla ones below, but to make them chocolate, simply take 10g each out of the almonds and flour and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Madeleines this size are perfect to pop one on your coffee saucer – though, to be honest, you’re probably going to end up eating at least three.

Ingredients
125 butter
100g icing sugar
40g ground almonds
40g plain flour
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons clear honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra icing sugar for dusting, or chocolate for dipping if you prefer

Makes: around 40 mini madeleines, or 12 large ones

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Method
First, liberally greasing your madeleine tin with a little butter or margarine and set aside.

Madeleines get their moistness and golden colour from beurre noisette; a technique that roughly translates as ‘brown butter’. To make it, melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat, then continue to heat gently until it turns a beautiful golden brown (being careful not to let it burn). Pour the butter through a sieve to strain it and leave to cool completely.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a mixing bowl with an electric beater), whisk the egg whites, vanilla extract and sugar together until light and at least doubled in size.

Sift the almonds and flour into the bowl and gently fold together. And I mean gently; to get the light crumb of a madeleine you need to avoid developing the gluten.

Next, pour over the beurre noisette and honey and fold together. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 40 minutes.

Spoon into the moulds, filling them almost to the top around the edges. Don’t be afraid to mound them higher in the middle; that gentle dome on the bottom is part of the madeleine’s charm.

Refrigerate again, uncovered, for about 20 minutes to let a skin form. While you’re waiting, preheat the oven to 170°C fan. Bake the madeleines for 8-10 minutes (10-15 if you’re making large ones) and then turn out onto a baking tray immediately.

Repeat until you have used all the mixture, then decorate with a dusting of icing sugar or half-dip them into a little melted chocolate. If you want to make marbled ones, simply spoon a little of each mixture into the moulds and swirl together one at a time. Then serve up with your mid-morning coffee or, for an extra-decadent treat, dip them in hot chocolate.

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Chocolate Yule Log

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Every year before Christmas my girl friends from school and I celebrate what we have very creatively titled ‘Mini Christmas’, where we eat too much, laugh a lot and open our secret Santa presents. I was on pudding duty, so I went for a festive classic: the chocolate yule log.

This recipe gets repeated year after year in my house and is originally a Delia Smith one, but has morphed a little over the years. It is a fatless and flour-less sponge and relies entirely on eggs as the raising agent. Folding the mixture together requires a little patience, but the result is a beautifully light, moist sponge.

Before dinner last night, a few people requested we save them a piece and I (foolishly, with hindsight) said we would because there was no way we’d eat the whole thing. Needless to say, I was wrong; we ate it all. I wish I could use ‘well, it is Christmas’ as an excuse, but, to be honest, we’d probably have done the same any time of year.

Ingredients

6 eggs
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
450ml double cream
150g dark chocolate
Icing sugar, for dusting
50g marzipan, optional

Method

Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line a 29x18cm tin with greaseproof paper

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and set them aside. Whisk the egg yolks until they thicken slightly, then add the sugar and cocoa powder, beating for a minute or so after each addition.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Take a couple of spoons of the egg whites and fold into the chocolate mixture. This helps loosen the mixture up a little before you add the rest; it’s better to knock the air out of a small amount of egg whites at this stage than all of them in the next.

Next, add the rest of the egg whites to the mix and gently fold together until smooth. This will take a few minutes. Pour into the lined tray, holding the bowl close to the surface so as not to knock too much air out on impact. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Leave it to cool in the tin; it will shrink away from the sides and fall slightly. I like to pre-roll the sponge to loosen it up a little so it rolls easier with the cream. Lay a piece of greaseproof paper, a little larger than the tin, on the work surface and dust it with a little icing sugar. Carefully turn your sponge out onto it, long end towards you, then peel away the piece that lined the tin. Use a knife to score along one of the long edges, about 1cm in, taking care not to cut the whole way through. Then, taking the greaseproof with you, roll it up into a log shape. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip 300ml of the cream until stiff, adding a little sugar to sweeten if you prefer. Unroll the sponge and spread the cream over the top then re-roll (without the greaseproof inside this time!) Wrap it nice and tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for half an hour, or overnight.

When you’re ready to decorate, gently heat the remaining cream in a pan on the hob until it begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until you have a smooth ganache. Leave to cool for 20 minutes to half an hour until it’s spreadable.

Remove the sponge log from the cling film and place it on your serving dish. At this point you can just leave it as a single piece, but I like to chop off about a third and place it cut-end against the rest of the log at an angle to resemble a branch. Spoon the ganache a bit at a time onto the log and ease down the sides with a palette knife. Once it’s covered, use the end of the knife to scrape wood patterns into the ganache, then clean up the serving dish around the edge with a wet cloth.

At this point, you can just dust with icing sugar and serve, or you can make the marzipan decorations. For this, you’ll require green and red food colouring pastes and a holly leaf veined plunger or if, like me, you don’t have one, get creative with what you do have. Colour a little of the marzipan red and roll it into small balls for the berries, then colour the remainder green, roll out and cut into leaf shapes. You can do it with a knife instead if you don’t have anything else, though it is a little more fiddly. Decorate, dust with icing sugar and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

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Christmas Gingerbread

IMG_2937Last Friday my beautiful sister, Becka Bailey (not my actual sister, despite the surname), threw a Christmas party in my university town of Leeds. So of course I had to go and surprise her – and take something baked. I needed something that would travel well and last a few days, so I opted for gingerbread biscuits decorated with royal icing. They went down a treat, the party was great, and I got to spend a weekend with some very special people. All in all, a cracking weekend.

Ingredients
Biscuits, made with one quantity of my gingerbread recipe
4 egg whites
1kg icing sugar
Assorted food colouring pastes – I used red and green
Silver balls

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Assorted Christmas cookie cutters – I used a snowflake, Christmas tree, holly leaf, heart and two bauble ones
Disposable piping bags
3 of the same thin piping nozzles (or more if using more than three colours), like a Wilton 1 or 2

Makes: about 70 biscuits, depending on cutter size

Method
Follow the gingerbread recipe using your chosen Christmas cutters and bake. I recommend chilling each baking sheet for 15 minutes in the fridge before baking to help prevent spreading. Usually I wouldn’t bother, but when you’re doing something a bit more special it’s definitely worth it. Allow them to cool and get started with the icing straight away, or store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Add the egg whites to the bowl of a standalone mixer (or a mixing bowl with an electric beater) and whisk until they hold soft peaks. Then, continuing to whisk on a low speed, sift in the icing sugar a bit at a time, until it is all incorporated. Turn up the speed to medium and beat for another five minutes, until the icing is stiff and glossy.

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Separate into bowls for colouring; I used red, white and green in fairly equal quantities, so I divided evenly between three bowls. Add your pastes or powders: you won’t be able to get a strong enough pigment with supermarket-bought liquid colours without making your icing too runny; proper cook shop colours are a must.

Divide each bowl in two, so you have two bowls of each colour. Cover one of each with cling film (I find laying it directly over the surface of the icing helps prevent it from drying out) and set aside. The bowls remaining are going to be your piping icings, which must be stiff enough to hold their shape. You may need to add a little water to bring them to pipeable consistency, but do it very slowly, a teaspoon at a time. You may only need one teaspoon, it should be very stiff; about the texture of toothpaste.

Set up the matching nozzles with piping bags and transfer your piping icing into them, twisting and securing the tops with elastic bands. Carefully pipe outlines around your cookies in the colour that you want them to be, as shown in the picture below, and allow them to dry until hard, about 15 minutes.

Next, you need to fill the outlines with icing; this is known as ‘flooding’. To make the flooding icing, take the bowls that you set aside earlier and add water to them, a teaspoon at a time. You can test whether the icing is the correct consistency by drizzling a spoon of it over the surface of the icing; if it returns to being flat within 5-10 seconds then it’s ready. You can pipe your flooding icing on or use a squeezy bottle, but I find it easiest to just use a teaspoon and spread with the flat of a cocktail stick. It’s not the most technically correct way to do it, but I find it works best for me.

Flood all the biscuits with the corresponding colours and leave to dry at room temperature for 24 hours. Dispose of any remaining flooding icing, but keep your stiff piping icing. Cover the surface in cling film and keep it in air tight containers in the fridge. If you leave them in the piping bags overnight, the nozzles will dry out, so make sure to dismantle your bags and store the icing separately, annoying as it may seem.

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Bring your piping icing bag to room temperature and give them a good stir to loosen them up. You may need to add a drop or two of water, but no more. Once again, fit your piping bags with matching nozzles and fill, securing the tops. You are then free to pipe any designs you like on to your biscuits; take inspiration from mine or have a Google. I made a Pinterest board to collect inspiration before making mine. I decorated with silver balls, but you could also use edible glitter, gems etc.

If you’re not making these for a party, they make a pretty Christmas gift, presented in cellophane bags tied with ribbon or in presentation boxes. Alternatively, because gingerbread keeps very well once iced, you can also use them to decorate your Christmas tree. Before baking, use a straw (or something similar-sized, round and hollow) to remove circles from your dough shapes. Don’t put them too close to the edge or they will be too delicate. Ice around the holes, then thread through with ribbon when dry. This works particularly well with bauble-shaped cutters (duh); I got mine from Cakes Cookies & Crafts.

Once you’ve mastered these basics, you can do the same for any royal icing cookies: birthday balloons, ballet shoes, new baby biscuits or dinosaurs; if there’s a cookie cutter for it, you’re golden.

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Toblerone Cupcakes

IMG_2580Hello friends. Firstly, apologies for the slight hiatus last week – I was off sunning myself (ok, and getting a bit rained on) in Barcelona – but now I’m back and already getting ready for Christmas. Forty days people.

The one thing that makes its way into mine and my brother’s stockings every year, without fail, is a box of Toblerone minis from my Grandma; the subsequent trading of (my) white chocolate ones for (his) dark has become something of a ritual. So, when I spotted this recipe for Toblerone cupcakes in the Primrose Bakery’s new Christmas book, it practically sang carols to me. These are a little taste of a Bailey family Christmas, in November — though, to be honest, they wouldn’t go amiss any time of year.

Ingredients

220g margarine or unsalted butter, softened
250g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g self raising flour
100g cocoa powder
120ml milk

100g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
50ml milk

Three 100g Toblerone bars, broken into pieces

Makes 18.

 

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Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan and line two cupcake trays with 18 cases.

Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl or mug, beat the eggs and vanilla essence together with a fork.

To help stop the batter curdling when you add the liquid, get your eggs and butter/fat the same temperature: if you’re using softened butter, bring your eggs to room temperature, too; if you’re using margarine that doesn’t need to be softened, keep them in the fridge. Weigh out your cocoa powder and flour and mix them together before you add the egg, just in case it does begin to curdle.

Add the egg and vanilla mixture a bit at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate before adding the next. If it does start to separate, throw in a tablespoon of the dry ingredients to bring it back together.

Once all the egg is mixed in, add the remaining cocoa powder and flour and beat. Lastly, add the milk and mix until smooth. Divide equally between the cupcake cases to about three quarters full.

Press a piece of Toblerone into the top of each one — try not to go right down to the bottom, it doesn’t matter if they poke out the top a bit — and bake for 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the side (around the piece of chocolate!) comes out clean. Leave to cool on a rack.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave or over a bain-marie and set aside to cool.

Using a handheld electric beater or a standalone mixer, cream the butter until smooth, then add the icing sugar a bit at a time until well combined and fluffy. Lastly, mix in the milk and melted chocolate.

I piped the icing onto these cakes using a closed-star Wilton 2D nozzle, to give a more ruffled swirl — unlike the straighter ones produced by the open-star 1M that I used for my Coffee & Biscoff Cupcakes. For the finishing touch, pop a second piece of Toblerone on top of each one.

You could easily make these with any kind of chocolate you fancy, though something “meaty” that won’t completely disappear when baked would work best – I’m thinking Mars Bar or Crunchie.

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Butter Croissants & Pain au Chocolat

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I will never get bored of the “I can’t believe I made that” magic of croissants. The whole process takes about 16 hours from start to finish, but it’s totally worth it for that buttery, flakey goodness. And, oh man, it makes your kitchen smell good.

Croissants are made from a laminated dough, which means that, rather than being mixed in, the butter is folded in-between layers of dough. When the butter melts in the oven, it creates steam, causing those characteristic pockets of air between the layers of pastry. Temperature is vital when making croissant dough: too warm and the butter will melt and mix in with the dough, creating a bready texture; too cold and the butter will break through the dough when you try to roll it. Make things easier for yourself and use a good quality Normandy butter if you can as it has a higher melting temperature.

Ingredients*

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g easy bake yeast
80g caster sugar
300ml water
300g chilled butter
1 egg (for glazing)
100g dark chocolate, if making pain au chocolat (the great Mr Paul Hollywood swears by Bournville, and I do too)

This recipe makes 12 croissants – I made six crescent-shaped butter croissants and six pain au chocolat.

*As in Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake.

Method

Set up a standalone mixer with a dough hook and add your flour. Put the salt and sugar on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other.

Add the water and mix on low (about 4 on a KitchenAid) for 2 minutes, then on medium (about 6) for a further five to six minutes. It will make quite a stiff dough so you could knead it by hand instead, though you might need to do it for a little longer than in a mixer.

Put a handful of flour into a clean plastic/freezer bag and (securing the top) give it a shake. Put the dough in the bag and pop in the fridge for an hour to cool and firm up.

In the meantime, tear two sheets of greaseproof paper about 40cm long. Put your cold butter in one block in the middle of one sheet and put the second on top of it. Use a rolling pin to bash the butter as flat as you can, and then roll it out into a piece about 40cm by 19cm. Pop your sheet of butter in the fridge, still between the greaseproof, to let it harden up again.

Once it’s been an hour, turn your dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a rectangle about 60cm by 20cm, short end towards you. Take your butter sheet from the fridge and cut it into two squares, then peel back one of the sheets of greaseproof. Place the first square, butter-down, onto the middle of your dough and peel back the other sheet of greaseproof. Fold the top third of the dough down over the butter. Place the second square of butter on top of that folded-down third, then fold the bottom butter-less third up over the top. Press down on the open edges to seal, then put back in the plastic bag and return to the fridge to chill for anywhere between half an hour and two hours. That’s the most complicated bit, I promise.

Once your dough has chilled, turn it out onto your floured surface, taking care to maintain its square shape. Place it with the sealed fold end towards you, so that you will always be folding in the same direction. Roll it out, short end towards you, into a 60cm by 20cm rectangle. Fold the top third down over the middle third, then the bottom third up over that. Press down lightly to seal the edges again, return to the bag and then back in the fridge for another rest – again, between half an hour and two hours. Repeat this step twice more, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least eight hours, or overnight.

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Line three baking trays with greaseproof paper and set aside. Again, turn your dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle, this time about 30cm by 40cm. Cut it in half lengthways to give you two strips of dough, 15cm wide by 40cm long. I used one of these strips for plain croissants and one for rolled pain au chocolat, but you could just do one type if you prefer.

For the plain croissants, cut your strip into isosceles triangles with bases of about 12cm. You should get six, with two half triangles at either end – bin these. Take a triangle, hold down the wide base and pull the pointy end away from you to stretch out, then roll up from the wide end, tucking the pointy end under to seal. You can either leave them straight or curl the ends round to create crescents – personally I prefer the look of the crescent. Place on the baking trays.

For the pain au chocolat, chop up your dark chocolate into small pieces. Cut your strip of dough into 6 pieces, 6-7cm wide by 15cm long. Place about a tablespoon of chocolate in a line across the width of each strip, about 2cm from the end closest to you. Roll them up, starting by folding the 2cm end over the chocolate and then continuing, tucking the close under. Place on the baking trays.

(If you want, you can freeze some or all of your croissants, at this point, pre-prove, and then let thaw and rise at room temperature for two to three hours before baking anytime you fancy one.)

You now need to leave your croissants to rise at cool room temperature (20-24 degrees) until doubled in size, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Don’t let them get too hot; otherwise, the butter that you’ve spent so long carefully folding in will melt and leak out or soak into the dough.

Preheat your oven to 180°C fan. Once your croissants have puffed right up and the dough springs back almost immediately when you press down, you’re ready to bake. Beat the egg in a mug or small bowl with a fork, then brush all the exposed pastry to glaze. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown – if you can only fit two trays in your oven at a time, the third won’t suffer for being left out a bit longer – and tuck in as soon as they’re cool enough. If you manage to save some for the next day (the perfect thing to cheer up a Monday morning), you can bring a bit of life back to them by reheating in a hot oven for five minutes before eating.

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