Marmalade Brownies

With just a few simple tweaks, you can elevate your brownies to a different level. If you love orange flavour in chocolate, you’ll love these. I reduced significantly the amount of sugar and marmalade from the original recipe and it worked out very well. They are very fudge, gluten-free, with the perfect amount and flavour of bitter orange. Even better the next day!

GLUTEN-FREE MARMALADE BROWNIES

Ingredients:

200g dark chocolate

100g butter

4 eggs

100g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons ground almonds

5 tablespoons marmalade

3 tablespoons flaked or chopped almonds

pinch of sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line 25cm square tray with baking paper.
  2. Break the chocolate into the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water or in the microwave. Add the butter, stir well to combine.
  3. Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg white until meringue-stiff. set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla, then fold in the ground almonds.
  5. Add the cooled but still warm chocolate mixture into the yolk batter. Then gently fold in the egg whites, a third at the time, do not knock the air too much.
  6. Pour the ready mixture on the the prepared tin.
  7. Gently warm the marmalade in a small saucepan with the spoon of water until it’s a bit loose. Then spoon this over the brownies mixture randomly. Sprinkle with the almonds on top and seas salt, bake for 20-25 minute or until the knife inserted int he middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin completely before removing and cutting into the squares.
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Road trip through Somerset & Raspberry Oat Slices

Over the Easter break we spent two nights, three days in rural Somerset, having a little road trip and visiting National Trust places. I know it sounds very grown-up, but we find it very therapeutic after a busy and sometimes stressful week to get away from towns, shops, news, chores and reconnect with the nature and simple things.

For some of you who are not familiar with National Trust, it is charity that works to preserve and protect historic places, spaces and historic landscapes.

Our fist stop was Montacute House, a grand Elizabethan mansion house with what used to be described as an ‘Elizabethan garden’.

Then we moved on to Lytes Cary Manor, which is much more intimate medieval manor house with its beautiful Arts and Crafts-inspired garden, was once family home to the Elizabethan herbalist Henry Lytes.

Next day we visited a place called Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate, which serves as a backdrop to the story of Gibbs family who built their wealth from the guano trade. They transformed a Georgian house to a Victorian Gothic masterpiece and filled the house with the incredible collection of more then 60,000 objects.

This paces is amazing and so different from any other NT places we’ve been, it’s huge and packed with so many interesting things, that one visit is not enough to fully appreciate and experience everything this house has to offer.

On our last day before coming back home, we went to Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Lacock Village. The Abbey itself has almost 800 years of history of previous owners with sophisticated taste, who turned it from a nunnery into a quirky family home, furnished with well-loved mementoes and furniture. It was also a home of William Henry Talbot, creator of the first photographic negative and now this place counts as a birthplace of photography.

I also want to mention the place where we stayed for two nights. I found it on airbnb the night before we left, what luck it was. It is a small converted barn at Amberwell, small village of Alhampton, run by a lovely couple Jeffy & John. This place is perfect for the people who appreciate a low key country retreat, but at the same time Jeffy and John made you feel like a very special guests, providing everything you need for your comfort and more. The weather wasn’t great during our stay, but we didn’t mind at all, because after our day of the house and grounds trotting we were coming back to most comfortable and relaxing place with the log fire.

If you are in UK the and looking for the week-end away, I can not recommend this place enough: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/23850201

While we were there Jeffy treated us with tea and homemade raspberry slices. They were so good, that  I had to ask for the recipe and make them as soon as possible. It turned out to be one of this very uncomplicated bake, which proves again, sometimes less is more. And thank you again, Jeffy, for introducing these to us.

These oat slices are something in between flapjack and biscuits, and absolutely delicious. The original recipe asks for raspberry jam, since we arrived I already made them twice, once with the raspberry jam and another with homemade blackberry and apple, and the next time, I’d like to try them with the apricot jam. So here is the recipe (originally came from allrecipes.co.uk):

RASPBERRY OAT SLICES

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons light brown soft sugar

125g plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

pinch salt

100g porridge oats

125g butter, softened

250g good quality raspberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease one 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Combine brown sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and porridge oats in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.
  3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin, reserving the rest for the topping. Spread the jam over the base, but not quite to the edges as it will spread.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top and lightly press it into the jam.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

 

 

Soft Cottage Cheese Biscuits

These biscuits are a taste of childhood for me. It comes from the time when our mums couldn’t get hold of chocolate, nuts or any other ‘exotic’ ingredients easily, so they had to make some treats with what was available. However, the cottage cheese was a staple ingredients in any household, hence in our culture so many recipes are based on this product, which is still very popular to this day.

These biscuits are very frugal, just 4 ingredients, but you need to get hold of this type of cottage cheese/farmers cheese/tvorog to get a right consistency. Luckily, it’s widely available in all big supermarkets, in  ‘world section’.

They are the best while still warm, with glass of milk.

SOFT COTTAGE CHEESE BISCUITS

(About 30-35 biscuits)

Ingredients:

200g butter,at room temperature

250g farmers/cottage cheese

350g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

sugar for rolling , approx 150g

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line up a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, mix together the butter and cottage cheese first, then add the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, make sure it is well incorporated. At this stage, you might need to add a bit more flour to get the consistency of sought when it is pliable, but not sticking to the hands.
  3. Then, on a lightly dusted with flour clean surface, roll out the dough at about 0.5 cm thickness. Cut the circuits with the cookies cutter (I prefer using 3 inches/88mm cutter).  Cut as much circles from the dough as possible, save the scraps, scrunch them into a little ball and reuse it, repeating the the same process.
  4. Put the sugar into a small bowl and press one side of  the circle of dough into the sugar. Fold it in half to form a half moon shape. Press one side into the sugar again, fold it in half and press one of the sides in the sugar. Alternately, you can press both sides in the sugar straight away, but in this case your biscuits will be much darker in colour and crispier. I normally do half and half to satisfy everyone. Notice that there is no sugar added in a dough, so you control how much sugar you want to roll into the biscuits.
  5. Place the cookies on pre lined baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and golden.

(Cottage)Cheese Straws

As the title suggest, these are not your usual loaded with Cheddar cheese straws, these are a much lighter version, made with the Cottage Curd Cheese /Twarog

You can snack on them, serve instead of bread with soups and dips, or even with tea and coffee, if you don’t have a sweet tooth. They are very addictive though.

Also there is no limit to toppings. Traditionally, they are sprinkled with caraway or poppy seeds, but  you can sprinkle with whatever takes your fancy: paprika, linseeds, sesame seeds, curry powder, chopped nuts or as a sweet option with sugar and cinnamon.

COTTAGE CHEESE STRAWS

Ingredients:

250g twarog cheese (available at Tesco or other Polish supermarkets)
250g butter, at room temperature
350g plain flour
2 eggs  (1 — for a dough, 1 for the topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Options for topping:

Caraway seeds
poppy seeds
linseeds
paprika, etc.

Method:

  1. Beat the cheese with butter until smooth.
  2. Add the egg and sugar, beat again. Add the flour, salt and baking powder. Knead lightly until the dough comes together and is quite soft.
  3.  On floured surface roll out to a of 7-8 mm thick and cut into sticks with a width and a length of about a finger.
  4. Place the cut out strips on a baking sheet, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caraway seeds, sesame seeds or anything else of your choice.
  5. Bake in a preheated to 180C oven about 13-15 minters or until the straws are tender and golden brown.

 

 

Apricot and Pistachio Bars

Another bake from ‘Baked in America’ book and another success. To be honest it even exceeded my expectations.

One of the downside of this book is a lack of photographs. I’m not into step-by-step ones, however, I appreciate at least one photo to go with any recipe. Especially if it’s a completely unknown to you recipe, at least to know what this dish should look like. In this case, there was a photo with the recipe, but it was so dark that I presumed the bake included some chocolate or cacao powder. I read the recipe again and again and still couldn’t understand what was added to make the bake so dark. Then I realised, that if you put the required amount of sugar ( a whopping 450g for the filling and another 100g for the base!!!) that anything will turn black, as well as all your taste buds will be numb forever.

Actually, this time I baked with my friend and we decided to follow the recipe precisely, apart from adding only 1/3 of the asking sugar amount. Other than the sugar issue, it is a good bake with a rather short but firm buttery base and wonderful topping, slightly gooey, but full of texture with lovely cardamon aroma.

APRICOT AND PISTACHIO BARS

Ingredients:

For the pastry base:

90g icing sugar

300g plain flour

225g butter, softened

For the filling:

225g dried apricots

115g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

1/2 ground cardamon

4 eggs

190g light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the tin (30x23x5cm), and line with parchment.
  2. Place the dried apricots in a pan, cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Drain, cool, chop the apricots, then leave them aside.
  3. For the crust base, using mixer or processor, on a low speed combine the sugar, flour and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Dump the whole lot into the prepared tin, press it on to the bottom and slightly aside (I found the back of the metal spoon is good for that). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just barely browned. Remove from the oven, put aside, let it cool.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamon and set aside. Using the same bowl from the crust mixture, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla until evenly mixed. Then add the flour mixture, until it well incorporated. At the end, fold in the cooled apricots and the pistachios. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and smooth it.
  5. Bake it for another 25-30 minutes, until it evenly browned. Let the bake cool in the tin completely , then cut into squares or triangles, sprinkle icing sugar on top, if you wish.

Banana Bread with Chocolate & Walnuts

Banana bread is like a trusted family member you can always rely on. It is a delicious no fuss cake. Basically, if in doubt, bake a banana bread. And if it’s good just on its own, it’s even better with the addition of chocolate and nuts.

Banana and Chocolate chips bread

 

BANANA BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

Ingredients:

2-3 (depends on the size) ripe bananas, mashed

180g caster sugar

2 eggs

140g softened butter

250g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

100g walnuts, chopped in pieces, plus reserving a few for decoration (optional)

100g plain chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170C. Line the loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mash the peeled banana in a mixing bowl first. Then add the remaining cake ingredients (except the nuts and chopped chocolate) and beat with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. Once combined add and fold in with a spatula the walnuts and chocolate.
  3. Pour into the prepared tin, decorate top with some walnut halves if you want, and bake it for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave it to cool slightly in the tin before transferring it onto a serving dish.

 

Cranberry and Chocolate Squares

It’s that time of year again, when you start seeing bags of fresh cranberries popping up in the stores. Most of us probably walk by these bags filled with bright red jewels without even pausing unless we are shopping for our Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. But there is no need to wait for the traditional meal to enjoy the benefits of these tangy berries. They are packed with Vitamin C, fiber, carbohydrates and antioxidants, supporting your immune system. I just like to snack on them raw. However, if you are not very keen on too tangy taste, try this bake and you’ll love them – sharp cranberries and sweet chocolate were made for each other.

Cranberry & Chocolate Squares

CRANBERRY AND CHOCOLATE SQUARES

115g butter

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

180g muscovado sugar (or caster sugar just fine)

150g self-raising flour

2 eggs

150g fresh or thawed cranberries

For the topping:

300ml sour cream

120g sugar

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

50g butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

about 75g plain chocolate, grated for topping

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin with butter and dust with flour.
  2. Combine the butter, cocoa powder and sugar in a pan and stir over a low heat until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs and the flour. Then add the cranberries and spread the mixture evenly in the prepared tin.
  4. To make the topping, mix all the ingredients, but the chocolate in a bowl, mix until smooth, then spread on top of the chocolate mixture.
  5. To finish, sprinkle evenly the grated chocolate on top and bake for about 40 minutes, or until risen and the wooden stick inserted comes out dry. Leave it to cool completely in the tin, then cut into 12 squares. Store in an airtight container.

cranberry-chocolate-layers

Cranberry and chocolate quares