Autumn Toffee Apple Cake

Autumn is in full swing so I thought I’d finally do some baking to warm up these chillier days. Unfortunately work has gotten busier so I haven’t written as much recently, but this delicious dessert has made me realise how much I like trying out new recipes and eating it all afterwards 😀

This spiced toffee apple cake is the perfect answer to cold grey afternoons when all you want to do is curl up in bed. In fact I think this is what a hug would taste like if you ate it. It does take a bit of prep before baking but it’s actually quite therapeutic and the results are well worth it.

Ingredients

  • 200 g dates (I used medjool)
  • 200 ml milk
  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175 g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250 g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 small red apples (I used cox)
  • 1/2 bramley apple
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • For the toffee sauce:
    • 8 toffees
    • Splash of milk
    • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  3. Roughly chop the dates and simmer gently in the milk in a saucepan for 5 mins. Leave to cool.
  4. Blitz the dates and milk in a blender / food processor until it forms a smooth puree.
  5. Prepare the apples. Peel and dice the bramley apple into small chunks.
  6. Quarter and core the cox apples and cut into thin slices. Toss them with a squeeze of lemon juice and leave in a bowl.
  7. Using an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Crack in the eggs, one at a time and mixing in between. Add in the date puree and vanilla extra and continue whisking until smooth, but don’t worry if there are still some lumps.
  8. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, baking powder and spices).
  9. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.
  10. Add the diced bramley apple into the cake batter and mix gently.
  11. Scrape the cake batter into the baking tray.
  12. Arrange the sliced apples into overlapping rows on top of the cake. You should be able to get three rows.
  13. Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  14. While you leave the cake to cool, prepare the toffee sauce. You can either melt the toffees with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan, or in the microwave (mixing every 30 seconds). Start with less milk and add more to loosen the sauce if it is too stiff.
  15. Drizzle the toffee sauce generously over the cake.
  16. Serve warm (and with vanilla ice cream, if you’d like) – enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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This cake is wonderfully moist (thanks to the date puree) and surprisingly fluffy. The sharp tangy apples are nicely balanced against the salted toffee drizzle. I can’t wait to try out more recipes with autumn and winter flavours, and I hope you give this one a go!

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The Most Indulgent Triple Chocolate Brownies

Prepare yourselves. This post isn’t for the faint-hearted or the health-conscious. But, this is perfect if:

  1. Chocolate is a part of your everyday diet and you probably couldn’t live without it;
  2. You’ve had a bad day and need a pick-me-up;
  3. You’ve had an amazing day and need a reason to make it even better;
  4. You love rich, dense, chocolatey desserts.

This is perhaps the best brownie recipe I’ve ever tried. It does take some effort to make, but the recipe is still pretty straightforward and I promise you that the results are completely worth it.

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The original recipe is from BBC Good Food’s website (click here) and it is a true godsend – my recipe below has adapted this slightly.

Ingredients

  • 185 g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 185 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 100 g white chocolate
  • 50 g milk chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275 g golden caster sugar

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and dark chocolate using a microwave for approx. 2 minutes, giving the mixture a stir every 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can melt this over a saucepan with hot water (if you have more patience!). Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to  180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  3. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  4. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a a bowl, getting rid of any lumps, and set aside.
  5. Whisk together the eggs and golden caster sugar for 3 – 8 minutes until the mixture has become pale, creamy and about double its original volume. An electric whisk is definitely recommended – I hand-whisked this the first time I made this recipe and my arms ached for days afterwards.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture over the egg mixture, and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Combine the two mixtures, but try not to knock out the air from the egg mixture!
  7. Resift the dry ingredients (flour and cocoa) into the eggy chocolate mixture and fold together. Although this may look dry at first, the mixture will come together and end up looking very fudgy. But, be careful not to overdo it!
  8. Chop the milk chocolate and 50 g of the white chocolate into bite-sized chunks. Stir this into the brownie batter.
  9. Pour the brownie batter into the baking tin and use the spatula to even out the top.
  10. Melt the remaining 50 g of white chocolate and use a tablespoon to spoon blobs of the melted chocolate onto the brownie mixture. Then, use a fork to create swirls by dragging the white chocolate across the surface of the brownie mixture.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just coming away from the tin. If the brownie still wobbles in the middle when you take it out, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  12. Leave the brownie to completely cool – if you try to cut it while it is warm, it will ooze everywhere (as delicious as that will be). This is probably the most difficult step of the whole recipe.
  13. Personally, I like to put the brownie in the fridge to let it ‘set’ before cutting it and heating it up in the oven before serving.
  14. The brownies will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  15. Enjoy!

Oh my god these are incredible.

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I made these brownies a week ago and they have been completely demolished. Whether you’re baking for family and friends, or just for yourself, I highly recommend this recipe! Finally, a brownie dessert isn’t complete with a cold scoop of ice cream to top it off – I paired it with my gianduja hazelnut ice cream and it was spectacular.

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Maple, Cinnamon and Pecan Granola

Granola and yogurt is my favourite quick, go-to breakfast when I haven’t prepared anything beforehand (like my bircher muesli)! It’s filling, tasty and I like the contrast between the creamy yogurt and the crunchy oats. But for years, I’ve just been buying my granola from the supermarket and haven’t given much thought into what’s actually in the breakfast that I’ve been chowing down every day.

After a search for some recipes online, I found out that making your own granola couldn’t be easier! It’s one of those wonderful recipes which don’t require much measuring-out, and you can basically mix everything together and throw it into the oven to work its magic. It’s also super customisable so you can really go wild with what you add to your oat mixture. I’ve gone for a more nuts-and-seeds based granola with an autumnal note in the combination of maple syrup, buttery pecans and cinnamon.

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Ingredients

  • 300 g rolled oats
  • 50 g sunflower seeds
  • 50 g pumpkin seeds
  • 100 g flaked almonds
  • 100 g pecans
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 85 ml maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan / 320°F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together; mix the dry ingredients together; then combine.
  4. If the mixture is looking too dry, add a tbsp more oil or sweetener, depending on your taste preferences (see tips below).
  5. Tip the granola mix onto the baking sheets and spread evenly.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the granola is crisp and golden brown. Give the mixture a stir every 10-15 minutes to ensure that everything bakes evenly and that the edges don’t get burnt.
  7. Let the granola cool before serving with milk / yogurt / on top of ice cream / on its own as a snack / how ever you like!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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Tips

  • The granola can now be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.
  • If you’re using more delicate ingredients (e.g. flaked coconut, dried fruit) or nuts that have already been toasted, add them in near the end when the mix only needs another 10 minutes to bake.
  • The ratio of wet to dry ingredients in this recipe means that the resulting granola is more crumb-y than chunky. If you like your granola with big oat clusters, you can:
    • Add more oil / butter / sweetener;
    • Whisk one egg white and add it to the granola mix before you bake it – apparently the proteins in the egg will bind the ingredients together (I haven’t tried this yet, but will give it a go!);
    • Don’t stir the granola too furiously while it bakes and while it cools.

I’m enjoying my homemade granola for breakfast and there are so many more nuts and seeds than I’d ever find in a store-bought granola! Seriously, it’s such a joy to be able to decide what ingredients you add and how much. I’m so excited to try different flavour combinations – let me know what you’d add to yours 🙂

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Chai & Speculoos Ice Cream

Following the success of my tea & biscuits ice cream, I decided to continue the theme with a different tea and to pair it with another type of biscuit. I have a feeling that I’ll be trying a few more variations, so do let me know your favourite tea and biscuit combination in the comments below!

English breakfast is usually my go-to tea, but if I’m feeling something with more flavour and warmth, I really like masala chai. Whether it’s brewed in hot water with a splash of milk, or made into a chai latte, I love how the blend of spices (cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardomom, ginger) lift a simple black tea.

The house chai at Dishoom (various branches in London) is one of my favourites since it has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy – and you get unlimited refills! At home, I like Tea India‘s chai – you can smell the amazing spices the minute you open the box, and each teabag is packed with plenty of flavour.

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I wanted to find a biscuit that could match the strong flavours of the chai and was torn between gingersnaps and speculoos. I think either of those biscuits would’ve paired well, but I decided on speculoos in the end as I wanted a more cinnamon-flavoured ice cream.

Speculoos is traditionally a Christmas cookie that originates from the Netherlands and Belgium. It’s laced with similar spices to chai – cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom – but also pepper and nutmeg. I used Lotus’s Biscoff biscuits for my recipe, but I’m definitely planning to make some of these biscuits from scratch at some point!

Like my milk tea ice cream, I steeped 5 tea bags’ worth of chai in the milk and cream mixture before making the custard. I also added a few extra pinches of cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg. My kitchen was filled with the aroma of all the spices and it started to remind me of Christmas 🙂

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This ice cream also turned out wonderfully, with the speculoos complementing the creamy chai ice cream perfectly. I’m starting to think you can’t go wrong with this tea and biscuits combination! I’m thinking of doing an earl grey ice cream next…!

Ginger Barley & Rye Biscuits

When I was a kid, ‘baking’ meant using some kind of cake or cookie mix, mostly because it was convenient when my parents were busy, the instructions were easy to follow, and the results were still tasty. But using these mixes didn’t leave much room for creativity, and some of the ingredients were pretty questionable. I was so excited to move out into my own place (with a fully functioning oven) since this meant I could finally start making some of my favourite baked goods from scratch!

You can imagine I was a little sceptical when we received a biscuit mix as part of our goody bag after the British 10K… but I finally got around to making it today and ended up pleasantly surprised. Sweetpea Pantry has a whole range of baking mixes (for biscuits, cakes, pancakes, etc) that are based on wholegrains and contain no refined sugars (unlike the mixes I used to rely on).

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I received their Ginger Giggles Biscuit Mix, which includes the following ingredients: stone ground wholemeal plain flour, rye flour, wholegrain barley flour, unrefined dark muscavado sugar, flaxseed, ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and sodium bicarbonate. All I had to add was butter, honey and an egg white.

The instructions were straightforward, and it was fun cutting out different shapes for the biscuits – I had to freestyle most of this, as I didn’t have any cookie cutters (but the rustic look is in trend… right?).

 

The biscuits turned out crisp around the edges and slightly moist and chewy in the centre. They’re not overly sweet, and have a lovely spiced flavour.

 

All in all, I’d recommend this to busy bakers, or even if you want to make a healthier version of your favourite baked good!

Tea & Biscuits Ice Cream

Tea is basically the lifeblood of the British people and since moving to the UK in 2012, I’ve adopted this national beverage as part of my regular diet as well. There’s something so comforting about a big mug of English breakfast tea, especially during the cold winter months (and the cold summer days in London, recently!). Yorkshire Tea is my personal favourite, and I enjoy my tea with a splash of milk and no sugar.

That being said, I’ve loved milk tea long before coming to England – in Hong Kong, milk tea is also a staple in cha chaan tengs (a typical fast food restaurant that serves a fusion of Chinese/Western cuisine – I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about them). Hong Kong-style milk tea is has a distinctively smooth and deep tea flavour and it’s so delicious whether served hot or over ice. It’s made using black tea, evaporated milk and sugar, but what makes the tea so incredibly smooth is that the tea leaves are strained using a sack-cloth back (kind of like a silk stocking, which is why it’s sometimes called ‘pantyhose’ tea!).

This ice cream recipe celebrates both versions of the humble milk tea, and I hope I’ve done it justice!

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Inspiration

Via Tokyo (Shop 1A-1B, G/F, Leishun Court, 106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay)

Via Tokyo is one of Hong Kong’s most popular dessert cafes, serving a range of Japanese desserts and in particular, the most indulgent soft serves. Their classic flavours include Matcha (this in itself is worth a separate post), Hokkaido milk and Hojicha, but for awhile they had an amazing Royal Milk Tea flavour, which inspired me to create this recipe!

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Creation

To take my milk tea flavoured ice cream to the next level, I decided to add some texture by crumbling one of my favourite biscuits into the mix – chocolate digestives! Not proud to admit that I devoured many packs of these biccies whilst at university (seriously, the chocolate caramel version is crack to me).

I used my usual custard base, but steeped several tea bags’ worth of Yorkshire Tea in the milk & cream mixture for an hour before adding the egg yolks and remaining sugar. To achieve the silky smooth texture, I passed the ice cream mix through a sieve a couple of times before churning it in the machine.

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I’m so happy with how this ice cream turned out in the end – there’s a lovely tea flavour, it’s not too sweet and the bits of chocolate biscuit make this dessert so addictive!

Let me know what your favourite tea and biscuit combination is in the comments below – unless you’re more of a coffee person… 😛 Thanks for making it all the way down this fairly long post – hope you liked it!

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Classic Carrot Cake

Weekends are for baking so on Friday evening, I decided to make one of my favourite cakes – carrot cake! Ever since coming to the UK, I’ve become addicted to this sweet, rich dessert so I wanted to find a perfect recipe to make it at home.

I find recipes like this – where you basically dump everything into a huge bowl, mix and then bake – so satisfying and therapeutic. While I appreciate using actual technical skill to make perfect macarons, for example, sometimes after a long week, all you want is a simple, (fairly) effortless recipe. The result here is an incredibly moist and warmly spiced cake, which can be enjoyed as afternoon tea, after dinner and even for breakfast.

Usually, I love the combination of carrot cake and cream cheese icing, but I’ve opted for an icing sugar drizzle for this recipe as it keeps the cake lighter (and means that it’s more justifiable to have several servings in one sitting!).

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Ingredients

  • 160 g light brown sugar
  • 145 ml vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 160 g grated carrot
  • 100 g raisins
  • 175 g plain flour
  • 2¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  3. Put the sugar, oil and eggs into a mixing bowl and lightly whisk until combined.
  4. Add in the grated carrot and raisins and mix gently.
  5. Sift in the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  6. Fold everything together.
  7. Transfer the carrot cake mixture into the baking tin.
  8. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes.
  9. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, and then on a wire rack.
  10. For the frosting/drizzle, beat the icing sugar and orange juice until smooth, then drizzle over the cake in any way you like!
  11. Serve and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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Matcha & White Chocolate Blondies

Matcha (Japanese green tea) is one of my favourite flavours in the world – I love the tea on its own, but I’m also obsessed with matcha ice cream and desserts. On its own, matcha can be slightly bitter, which I think can be nicely balanced out by the sweetness of white chocolate.

This recipe makes approx. 16 blondies, which are great for a dessert, a snack or even breakfast (at least I did!). They’re dense, cake-y blondies with a lovely hint of matcha.

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Ingredients

  • 200 g butter (unsalted)
  • 200 g soft brown sugar
  • 150 g white chocolate
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp matcha powder (I used Bloom’s Supercharge Matcha)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter and mix in 100 g of the chopped white chocolate.
  4. Stir until the white chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until pale.
  6. Sift in the flour and baking powder, matcha powder into the egg and sugar mix.
  7. Add the vanilla extract.
  8. Pour in the cooled chocolate butter mixture and fold everything together.
  9. Transfer the blondie mixture into the baking tin.
  10. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes.
  11. Melt the remaining 50 g of white chocolate and drizzle over the cooled blondies.
  12. Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream or a cuppa tea!

(Recipe adapted from Teapigs.com)

 

 

 

Strawberry Quartet – Four Delicious Ways to Enjoy Strawberries this Summer

Summer is in full swing here in London, so I thought I would share four (or technically three) ways to prepare my favourite fruit of the season – strawberries! I served these together, but you can also have them separately, or paired with other desserts.

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(From top, going clockwise) – roasted strawberries, marinated strawberries, strawberry ice cream and a fresh strawberry

1. Fresh strawberries

Okay, okay this is a bit of a cheat as there’s not much preparation to do – but sometimes fresh fruit should just be enjoyed as it is, with nothing else added.

That being said, here are three tasty ways to prepare this beautiful fruit.

2. Roasted strawberries

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Roasting the strawberries gives the fruit a more concentrated, sweeter flavour. The berries end up with a gooey and syrupy texture, meaning they’re best paired with something else (e.g. ice cream, oatmeal, bircher muesli, toast), rather than eaten on their own (though I wouldn’t stop you!).

Ingredients

  • 200 g strawberries
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters (if large).
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning them halfway.

3. Marinated strawberries

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This is a delicious recipe that heightens the sweetness of the strawberries, while keeping them extremely fresh. I love the extra zing! that the mint and lemon zest provides to the fruit. Again, like the roasted strawberries, these are a great topping for other desserts or breakfasts.

Ingredients

  • 200 g strawberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar (you could use a natural liquid sweetener, if you prefer)
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1/4 lemon

Directions

  1. Cut the strawberries into quarters.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and cover with cling film.
  3. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and longer for a more syrupy result.

4. Strawberry ice cream

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Despite being such a simple flavour, strawberry ice cream is one of the hardest ice creams to get right. Often, it can end up with small ice crystals because strawberries are over 90% water! Therefore, you have to start with the highest quality strawberries which are super sweet (rather than pale and watery) to make this ice cream.

Some recipes say to cook the strawberries first before mixing it with the ice cream base (e.g. David Lebovitz’s Roasted Strawberry & Miso Ice Cream), but I wanted to retain the naturally fresh flavour of strawberries, so I chose to puree the fruit before combining it with my usual custard base.

My ice cream has a light, fragrant note of strawberries, but unfortunately the berries I used weren’t as ripe and sweet as they should’ve been. Thankfully, there were no crunchy ice crystals!

This is a lovely ice cream to enjoy on its own, or with another dessert. I love the combination of strawberries, white chocolate and matcha, so I paired this ice cream with some homemade matcha blondies (recipe to come).

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This has been a pretty long post – so I’m glad you’ve made it down here! Let me know what your favourite way of eating strawberries this summer.