Saturday Special: Don’t Bother, It’s Nut-Ella Worth The Hassle

I’m going to be honest with you here.

You know that bit in ‘Liar, Liar’ where Jim Carrey is shouting at the judge and he goes “I HOLD MYSELF IN CONTEMPT, WHY SHOULD YOU BE ANY DIFFERENT?” – that was me after completing this god-forsaken task.  This is the stupidest recipe I’ve ever tried (apart from the vegan cheesecake… but we don’t speak of that dark time any more, it’s too painful).

Pinterest is a wonderful place – full of ideas for DIY, beauty, and especially recipes. One that kept popping up from people I follow is how to make your own Nutella; great, I thought, I could make a nutty chocolate spread with a different nut, since hazelnuts can be pricey, we always have almonds, and my brother doesn’t like hazelnuts. These recipes always say that there are other varieties of nuts that you can use, including almonds, so I decided that this would be the day I tried to make my own all-natural Nutella. More like nut-HELL-a, amirite?? Oh wait, I haven’t explained everything yet, that won’t make sense – it follows on from the recipe.

It’s a super simple recipe, to be fair. Two ingredients:

  • One cup ‘bittersweet chocolate chips’ (guys, dark chocolate chopped up will work fine too)
  • One cup almonds (or hazelnuts if you want)

Lego jar optional.

Photo on 30-08-2014 at 11.40

And all you need is a food processor.  The impossibly simple steps, as guided by various websites, are:

  • Roast the nuts for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.
  • Take the still warm nuts and put them in the food processor or mini chopper, processing for 5-10 minutes – you might have to periodically stop to push the almonds down the side of the processor.
  • Once the consistency resembles a nut butter (think along the lines of smooth peanut butter), add the chocolate chips and and process again until it’s all combined completely.

So easy, right? WRONG.

Photo on 24-08-2014 at 18.45 #2

Here’s what they don’t tell you:

One cup of nuts is actually quite a lot, and nuts aren’t really all that cheap or low in calories – I should add that this recipe is touted as a ‘healthy’ and ‘clean’ version of Nutella. Calorie for calorie, a one tablespoon serving of this recipe is exactly the same as shop-bought Nutella.

‘Process for 5 to 10 minutes’? Pardon my French, but fuck the fuck off. Let me tell you something – if you’re in need of this ‘Nutella’ on short notice and you can’t go down the shops, you’d better have some kind of industrial strength food processor because the only thing that took 5 to 10 minutes were the breaks I had to take in order to let my mini chopper cool down and stop from over-heating. Yes, my friends, to give you an idea of how long it took for ONE CUP of almonds to process down into a nut butter consistency, I watched THREE episodes of Desperate Housewives (don’t judge me, don’t you dare judge me) and had to get my laptop charger (sure, that’s more to do with the battery-draining nature of Netflix, but it makes the whole thing more dramatic, doesn’t it?).  It stays in the crumby, powdery stage for absolutely ages, and it really doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere until after a really, really long time. I did some checking around before hand, plenty of people said that a mini-chopper would be fine, but they were obviously big fat liars with stupid faces because I would bet money on my mini chopper being able to process paving slabs into custard quicker than getting these almonds down to a nut butter.

Paving slabs would probably taste better, too

Paving slabs would probably taste better, too

Finally, just no. No. It’s not like Nutella.  You know that smooth, delicious, oh-god-if-I-eat-the-whole-jar-I’ll-regret-it-and-if-I-don’t-I’ll-regret-it-more, magically quality that Nutella has? Yeah this doesn’t have that. At all.

I want to formally apologise to you all, for letting you down by forsaking Nutella. And I want to apologise to Nutella. If a representative could please send me 100 jars as a means of communicating that they have accepted my apology, that’d be great.

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Saturday Special: Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins

20140719_131411

“Cinnamon and WHAT?” I hear you cry.

“Stahp yo’ cryin’,” I reply. “And it’s cinnamon and courgette.”

The courgette in this delightful sweet treat works exactly how carrot does in a carrot cake. It’s not immediately obvious, but it adds a certain sweetness and almost creamy texture to them that really does work. So if you’re looking for something intriguing and delicious to whip up and amaze your friends with then give these a go.

Here’s how you make them (the recipe is from my go-to book for anything cakey and awesome, ‘Annie Bell’s Baking Bible’):

You will need:

225g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

100g golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting

200ml whole milk

1 medium egg

75g unsalted butter, melted

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

125g coarsely grated courgette

75g raisins

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and arrange 8-10 muffin cases inside a muffin tray (silicone muffin cases would be perfect for this, as recommended by my fellow DTSFTers, or you can use regular cupcake cases and put them on a baking tray, like I did).

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, 100g sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix.

3. Whisk the milk, egg and butter with the lemon zest in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the courgette and raisins.

4. Put the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients and loosely combine – the mixture should be wet but lumpy.

5. Divide the mixture equally between the muffin/cupcake cases and sprinkle some more sugar and cinnamon on the top to give them a golden look and a nice crunch and put in the oven. You can check if they’re cooked by sticking a knife in the middle of one, but here’s the difference – if it comes out slightly wet still, it’s cooked. You want them to be slightly underdone to give them that ooey-gooeyness.

Bon appetito!

Hannah

 

Saturday Special: Gorgeously Golden Peanut Butter Cookies

Photo on 08-07-2014 at 22.49

Excuse the mess…

Long time no speak.

So here’s a cookie (BISCUIT BISCUIT BISCUIT) recipe from Nigella Lawson’s website, which I understand to be a ‘community recipe’, and thus not by the lady herself. Nevertheless, these tasty treats are so delicious that you’d enter into a battle to the death with your own mother just to have the last one.

Taken from the website:

Ingredients

50g soft light brown sugar

50g caster sugar

50unsalted butter (soft)

1 medium egg

teaspoon honey

teaspoon vanilla

200g peanut butter crunchy

100plain flour

teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

teaspoon salt

Saturday Special: Vanilla Fudge

Fudge! The idea of fudge has intrigued and haunted me for years. The discovery that we actually do own a sugar thermometer and all the necessary ingredients for this simple vanilla fudge cemented my decision to try it out! The recipe is taken from Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home book and is the first recipe I have made from the book!

Vanilla Fudge

Ingredients

300ml full fat milk

350g caster sugar

100g butter

1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Lightly grease one 17.5cm square tin. (I only had a circular one!)
  2. In a medium pan, bring the milk, sugar and butter to the boil, stirring to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil for approximately 20 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture must reach the soft ball stage – 115 oC (239 oF) on a sugar thermometer. You will need to stir quite vigorously towards the end as the fudge can catch on the bottom of the pan easily.
  3. Once it has reached the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the vanilla extract. The fudge might soufflé up in the pan – this is normal. Beat with a spoon until the fudge has thickened and lost its glossy appearance.
  4. Carefully pour the fudge into the prepared tin and leave to set completely. Don’t put in the fridge.
  5. Turn out the fudge onto a chopping board and cut into the desired portion sizes.

I had two minor issues when first making this. 1) It took a long time to reach the soft ball stage because I didn’t have the hob on a high enough temperature and I used too small a saucepan so had to transfer mid-way through! 2) When cutting my fudge up I found that a lot of pieces tended to crack. I don’t know why but it didn’t affect the taste just made the pieces very uneven!

I hope your fudge turns out as tasty as mine – but in better shape!

S x

Saturday Special: Simnel Cake

It’s Easter Saturday and we have a traditional Easter cake for you. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s website. I don’t like dried fruit so I won’t be enjoying the cake personally but my parents will!

dinner cake

Ingredients

  • 100 grams glace cherries
  • 500 grams mixed dried fruit
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 175 grams caster sugar
  • zest of lemon
  • 225 grams plain flour
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 25 grams ground almonds
  • large eggs
  • tablespoons milk
  • kilogram yellow marzipan to decorate
  • icing sugar for rolling
  • tablespoon apricot jam (melted)
  • egg white (optional)

Method

  1. Take everything you need out of the fridge so it can get to room temperature. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F. Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8 inch springform cake tin with a double layer of brown baking paper. Chop the cherries very finely and add them to the rest of the fruit.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until very soft and light, and add the lemon zest. You could do this by hand, just with bowl and wooden spoon, but I own up to using my freestanding mixer here. But it’s not crucial, not least because the intention with fruit cakes is not to whip air into them. Measure the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds into a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 of the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar with 2 tablespoons of the dry flour-and-spice ingredients, then beat in the remaining eggs in the same way. Beat in the rest of the dry ingredients, and then the milk. Finally fold in the fruit.
  4. Dust a surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out about 400g / 14oz of the marzipan. Cut it into a 20cm / 9 inch circle which will fit in the middle of the cake later. Spoon half of the fruit cake mixture into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a rubber spatula, and then lay the marzipan circle on top of it. Spoon the rest of the mixture into the tin on top of the marzipan circle and smooth the top again. Bake for half an hour and then turn the oven down to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F for another 1½ hours or until the cake has risen and is firm on top. Let it cool completely on a rack before you spring it open.
  5. Unspring the cooled fruit cake, and unwrap the lining from the cake. Roll out another 400g / 14oz circle of marzipan, paint the top of the cake with the melted apricot jam,and then stick it on.
  6. Make 11 apostle balls out of the remaining marzipan, roughly 2.5cm / 1 inch in size. Beat the egg white – just till it’s a bit frothy and loosened up a little, no more – and use that as glue to stick the apostles around the edge of the cake.
  7. Now for the bit I love, but you can ignore altogether. Paint the whole of the cake with egg white, and then blow-torch the marzipan so that it scorches slightly, giving a beauteously burnished look.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter and enjoy this sunshine we’re having!

S x

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/simnel-cake

Saturday Special: Pieminister’s chicken, leek and cider pie

The pastry chicken on top is compulsory (it's not compulsory)

The pastry chicken on top is compulsory (it’s not compulsory)

This recipe comes from Pieminister: A Pie For All Seasons, which is the poshest recipe book I’ve ever owned.

The chicken, leek and cider pie (from the Spring section of the book – fancy!) is one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted; and if you don’t fancy pastry, the filling makes a pretty amazing broth/soup type thing.

Pieminister recommends using Orchard Pig cider, but that’s probably because they know the bloke that makes it. Any medium or dry cider works just as well.

Here we go!

Ingredients:

1 free range chicken (I used thighs because they’re the shiznit)

1 carrot, peeled and cut into quarters

2 celery sticks, cut into quarters

2 onions, cut in half

1 whole bulb of garlic, top sliced off

6 sprigs of tarragon

a large knob of butter

3 chunky leeks, cut in half lengthwise then sliced

200ml dry or medium cider

2 tbsp plain flour

150ml single or whipping cream

grated zest of half a lemon

3 tbsp chopped chives

about 660g of shortcrust pastry

1 free range egg, lightly beaten

375g puff pastry

salt and pepper

Method

  • Put the chicken in a large pot with the carrot, celery, half an onion, the garlic bulb, 2 tarragon sprigs and a little salt.
  • Add enough water to almost cover the chicken. Cover the pan, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 45 mins until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot.
  • Strain the chicken stock into a pan, discard all the vegetables but keep the garlic
  • Boil stock until reduced by half. Take the skin off the chicken and wolf those muthas down between two slices of bread discard
  • Tear the meat to shreds
  • Chop the rest of the onions, melt the butter in a pan and add the onions. Then add the leeks and cook until softened. Pour in the cider then simmer until reduced by half.
  • Stir in the flour, cook for a few seconds, then add 400ml of the chicken stock, then the cream and lemon zest.
  • Bring to a simmer, adding more stock if needed. Chop the remaining tarragon and add to the sauce then remove from the heat.
  • Squeeze in the garlic bulb flesh, stir in the chives and that sweet, sweet chicken. Season and leave to cool.

    All that chicken-y goodness works well as a broth if you're not in the mood for a pie. But you should always be in the mood for a pie.

    This works well as a broth if you’re not in the mood for a pie. But you should always be in the mood for a pie.

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
  • Roll out the shortcrust pastry and use it to line a large ovenproof dish. Fill the pastry with the chicken mixture and brush the edges with beaten egg.
  • Roll out the puff pastry and use this to cover the pie, trim off any excess pastry and press the edges of the pastry together to seal.
  • Make a couple of small holes in the top to let out steam.
  • Leave to stand for 10 minutes then bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
  • Take it out of the oven and take a moment to quietly reflect and shed a tear because the world will never realise your genius.
  • Eat that sucka with roast potatoes.

 

@thatmissdeen x

Saturday Special: Coffee and Walnut Cake

Getting shopping for my Mum I took my usual glance through the recipe cards found in Waitrose. Grabbing a few, my eyes clung to the recipe for classic coffee and walnut cake. As we have a homemade cake every week I took this recipe card as a massive hint from… the world? Anyway, I was set.

Ingredients

175g salted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp cooled strong coffee
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g walnut halves, 6 reserved for decoration and the rest roughly chopped

For the frosting:

200g salted butter, at room temperature
400g icing sugar
2 tbsp strong black coffee, cooled

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins.

2. Using an electric hand whisk, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs, then coffee, until well blended.

3. Sift over the flour and baking powder and gently fold into the mixture with the chopped walnuts. Divide between the 2 cake tins, level off the surface and bake for 20–25 minutes until just set. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, to make the frosting, beat the butter until soft and pale then gradually beat in the sugar followed by the coffee.

5. Spread the top of one cake with a third of the frosting then place the second cake on top. Smooth the remaining frosting around the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with the reserved walnut halves.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

To get a great strong coffee flavour I used our stove top coffee maker to get espresso strength coffee. If using a cafetiere or instant coffee you may need to adjust the amount of coffee used but don’t make too much coffee because too much liquid will affect the sponge and icing consistency.

Hope you all give this a try – it’s simple and effective!

S x