Viennese Fingers.

These are another of my childhood favourites… buttery biscuits filled with sweet buttercream and dipped in smooth, dark chocolate. Yum. 

Viennese Fingers by Heather Brown

Ingredients.

  • 6oz butter
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 oz plain flour
  • 8oz icing sugar
  • 4oz soft butter (spreadable butter works really well)
  • dark chocolate

Method. 

Line 2 baking trays and preheat the oven to 200 degrees/180 fan/gas 6.

Mix together the butter and sugar until the mixture turns pale and creamy (about 5 minutes with a spoon and about 2 minutes with an electric mixer). Add the eggs and mix in well. Stir in the flour. Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto the tray – either in lines or in swirls.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (or until golden) and allow to cool completely.

To make the buttercream icing simply beat together the soft butter and icjng sugar. Taste and if not sweet enough, simply add some milk and then add some more icing sugar.

For the finished biscuit – take one line/swirl and spread a thick layer of buttercream over the bottom (the flat side of the biscuit) and press the base of another biscuit to it. Melt the dark chocolate and dip each end of the biscuit in the chocolate and leave to set on a wire rack.

Alternative – if you would like chocolate biscuits, substitute 2oz of flour for 2oz of cocoa powder.

Makes about 20 biscuits. 

Chocolate Chip Muffins.

This is one of my favourite recipes as it is both simple and quick but super delicious! My secret is simple – I just add lots and LOTS of chocolate chips! If you always sometimes have the need for chocolate cake, then this recipe is for you! 

choc muffins 1 (2)

Ingredients. 

  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 6oz butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 6oz self raising flour
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g chocolate chips

Method. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/180 fan/gas 6. Place paper muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tray.

Mix together the butter and sugar until the mixture turns pale – this can be done with a wooden spoon but a mixer will make this quicker (and easier on your arms!). Beat in the eggs and vanilla really well (the mixture may look ‘curdled’ at this point but the flour will sort this out). Mix in the flour until combined (go easy with the mixing at this point) and then stir in the chocolate.

Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until brown on top and middle cakes in the tray are ‘springy’ to the touch. Check the muffins after 15 minutes and rotate the tray if necessary so they brown evenly.

These are great eaten warm but if you don’t manage to eat the whole tray warm from the oven (!) then 10 seconds in the microwave is enough to just melt the chocolate chips to make this delicious snack even better!

Makes 12 muffins. 

Coconut Lime Biscuits.

I have had to endure that horrible wait in between finally ordering something you have longed to own, and it actually arriving! (I know, I know #firstworldproblems). This recipe book is written by a Canadian baker and can be hard to order here in the UK (even Amazon keeps being out of stock!) – but I finally received it yesterday and it is worth waiting for!

Barely was it opened before I was reading (and salivating) at the recipes and here is one for you as a teaser. To buy your own copy of the recipe book , it is called Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy by Anna Olson and retails for about £25.

Lime and Coconut biscuits by Heather Brown

Coconut Lime Biscuits. 

  • 250g desiccated coconut
  • 250g plain flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • zest from 2 limes
  • pinch of salt
  • 125g butter
  • 1 egg white (to glaze – you can use melted butter here instead).

Method.

Grease and line a baking tray.

Mix together in a large bowl the flour, sugar, salt, zest and half of the coconut. Add in the butter and, using your hands, mix in the butter until the mixture comes together in a soft dough. Roll the dough into a long sausage shape (or 2 shorter lengths) and wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 2 hours.

Preheat the over to 180 degrees/160 fan/gas 5.

Take out the wrapped dough, unwrap, brush the egg white over them and then roll them in the remaining coconut until completely covered. Slice the dough into rounds about 1cm thick and place on the tray, squashing them slightly (you can dip these in the coconut too if you have any left).

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until they have hardened slightly and golden brown.

I have added some lime icing dribbled over the top. To make this, simply squeeze some juice from the limes you zested and add icing sugar until it makes a dribbly paste and cover the biscuits.

Makes about 20 biscuits. 

 

Lime Squares.

These light and zesty squares can be served warm from the oven with a big dollop of cream for pudding or on their own as a perfect accompaniment with your morning latte. 

key lime bar

Ingredients: 

  • 3 limes (juice and zest)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 tin condensed milk
  • 15 digestive biscuits
  • 4 oz butter

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/160 fan/gas 5. Grease and line a 7″ x 10″ tin.

Crush the biscuits by placing the biscuits in a double layer of sandwich bags and bash with something heavy like a book or rolling pin). Melt the butter and stir in the biscuits crumbs well. Squash the mixture into the base of the tin and set aside.

Separate the eggs into 2 bowls. Add to the yolks the condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice and mix together. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this mixture over the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the edges have cracked slightly and the top starts to brown.

Remove from the oven and either cut immediately (and carefully!) and serve warm for pudding or leave to cool. If they don’t get gobbled up the day they are baked, then cover and store in the fridge.

Makes 12 pieces. 

The humble Rock Cake.

This cake is the buttery sister to the fruit scone. Best eaten warm from the oven with a hot cup of tea. This cake is a fond memory from my childhood and thank you to my brilliant Mum for this recipe. 

The humble Rock Cake. by Heather Brown UK

 

Ingredients:

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3oz demerara sugar
  • 5oz dried fruit
  • small amount of milk.

Method: 

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/180 fan/gas 6. Grease and line a baking tray.

Mix together the flour, salt and spices. Rub in the butter (between your forefingers and thumbs, rub the butter and flour together until you end up with lots of golden crumbs). Stir in the sugar and dried fruit. I used a combination of dried cherries, cranberries, raisins and sultanas but the great things with this recipe is that you can use what ever dried fruit you fancy – apricots, currants, apple, pineapple etc.

Mix in the beaten egg and add tiny amounts of milk to the mix until it has formed a thick paste.

Place onto the baking tray in rocky heaps and sprinkle with a bit more sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Tips: If the mixture is too wet, the cakes will flatten too much and you will end up with pebbles. Rectify this with a little extra flour.

Makes 5 large or 8 small Rock Cakes. 

LetThemEatCake

There is a lot in the media at the moment about our diets; low fat vs. low sugar,should we be eating 5/7/10/13 (delete as appropriate) pieces of fruit a day, low carb diets are good for us, low carb diets are bad for us, fasting is a good thing, should we eat like a caveman…. the list is extremely confusing and seemingly endless! Obviously my world is heavily focused on the sweeter side of things but what really is the nutritional advice when it comes to our sponge based friends?

I turned to a personal trainer for some help and try an unravel this mystery a little… Malachi is a personal trainer based in Bath. His mission statement is to keep fitness and health as simple and as fun as possible… and always with a smile on his face!

“When you think of cake, you tend to think of an indulgent snack (some people even think meal!). Your first thought is probably the soft moist red velvet cake smothered in a creamy, silky icing. I know that’s definitely mine! But what about the health aspect? I mean, everything that tastes good is bad for me, right?!

“The first thing that you need to be aware off is that when something is marketed or labelled as healthy, it really might not be. You need to check out the ingredients list.

So what things should I be looking for? If you can’t pronounce something, run the other way and if it’s something that is unfamiliar to you, then be cautious. If it is food, and delicious, have at it (in moderation). Some recipes try to use coconut oil instead of butter, which is simply the healthiest oil to cook with. The good fats it contains are less easily oxidised (messed-up!), meaning you end up with healthier end product. Not that there is anything wrong with butter. In fact, butter is amazing, and is less processed than margarine. Natural, non-roasted nuts are always a great addition – full of micro-nutrients and fat soluble vitamins, they are a great addition to any cake or diet. Dried fruit are another thing that would make any baked good much more agreeable with your waste and mood. Just be careful that they haven’t added any added sugar or salt!

“You see, sweet treats are not a problem if part of a healthy diet – I love a good cake (can you tell?!). Here’s a great tip though… when I’m hungry, the first thing I do is to reach for some healthy, usually more savoury food. Then, by the time I get to cake, I just want something that will leave a sweet taste in my mouth, rather than wanting to devour the whole cake.”

 

Obviously the above is just a tiny snippet of Malachi’s great wealth of knowledge on this subject. To check out more about what Malachi does or to follow his words of wisdom on all things health and fitness, then check out his website www.dingisfitness.com or like his facebook page www.facebook.com/dingis.fitness.

If all this talk of fruit and nuts has got you salivating then check out this granola bar recipe. This recipe is full of lots of yummy nuts and dried cherries but you can substitute the nuts and fruit I have used with whatever tickles your fancy – just keep the weights the same and it shouldn’t affect the end bars.

Almond, Coconut and Dried Cherry Granola Bars. 

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup (can replace this with honey or maple syrup )
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil (can be replaced with butter)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a small lump of marzipan

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) or gas 5. Line an 8″ square tin.

Combine the oats, almonds and coconut flakes into a pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until the nuts are slightly browned. In a saucepan, melt together the coconut oil, syrup, cinnamon and salt and take off the heat. Once the oats and nuts have browned, tip into melted mixture and stir well together. Add the cherries. Take the marzipan and roll into lots of tiny balls (the size of small peas) and gently stir through the mixture. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and squash down. Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until golden on the top. It will feel soft to the touch but will harden as it cools.

The most frustrating part of this recipe is waiting the hour or two for it to cool before you cut and scoff. Makes between 10 and 15 bars depending on how small you cut them.

Yorkshire puddings… with a twist.

I started to add food colouring to Yorkshire puddings in a bid to make them more exciting to my two boys (aged 6 and 8 years old) but I just loved how they came out! Often a generic brown on the outside it is only when you cut them open that they show off their colour inside. It makes a mundane Toad in the Hole much more fun and not only that – yorkshire puddings are super easy to make too!

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Ingredients

olive oil
3oz plain flour
1 egg
milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 200/gas 6. As the oven is warming, dribble into 6-hole muffin tin a very thin layer of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of each muffin hole). Put this in the oven to heat as you make the mixture.

In a mixing bowl, measure the flour and add the egg and the food colouring (a couple of drops of liquid colour or a pea size amount of the colouring paste). Mix together carefully and add milk a little at a time (this will help you avoid lumps). Once your flour is combined, add enough milk to make a batter that is similar to pancakes (somewhere between thick and runny) – you don’t have to be entirely accurate – with 2 hungry boys, I always seem to be making dinner in a rush and never have time to measure the milk properly and it always turns out fine.

You can use an electric mixer for this or just some elbow grease and a spoon and if you do get lumps, either whisk a bit more or use a sieve!

Take the muffin tray out of the oven (be careful the oil in the tray will be VERY hot) and pour into the muffin holes the mixture. It will look odd at this point as the oil will sit almost on top of the mixture. Pop the tray back into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 6 individual Yorkshire puddings.

Tips
– DO NOT open the oven door until at least 15 minutes have passed! The puddings need the hot oven to rise up and will deflate into a soggy mess if the oven if opened too soon!
– If you want purple puddings use more colouring than you think – too little and it becomes a weird grey colour.
– A striking yellow is quite difficult to achieve as the puddings are a pale yellow to start with so for a first attempt, try a strong colour like blue or green to avoid disappointment.
– I prefer the food colouring pastes as they are easier to control and I like the gel colours the least (you need to use a lot for a strong colour and that makes them expensive).
– Keep food colouring away from your hands as it can stain for hours!
– If you are making them for the first time for your kids, don’t tell them first – their expression is priceless!

As an aside… this is the same recipe for simple crepes (just fry the batter in a well oiled frying pan)

… you can also colour these too.

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Crochet Roses.

 

I recently added flowers to my crochet repertoire and have had a fun few hours playing with how they can fit together until I found some designs that really work.

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After a couple of minutes more than half an hour perusing the many different kinds wool in the wool shop (weighing up different style and colour combinations), I proceded to spend a happy few hours crocheting many different roses and stitching them together to make lots of beautiful accessories, the most elaborate of which was a bridal bouquet.

Not only will it last forever but it would make a stunning addition to any wedding and the great thing is that it can be tailored to any colour scheme too! Alongside the bouquet, flowers can be used to adorn hairpieces, buttonholes or jewellery for a truly bespoke and original talking point for any wedding.

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Gluten-free Blondies.

I have heard so much about the Brownies’ fairer sibling that I decided to give it a whirl today to see what all the fuss was about! A blondie is simply a brownie without the chocolate and the bonus is their flexibility to be also be gluten-free.

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Ingredients

8oz soft brown sugar
4oz melted butter
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4oz plain flour
6oz dried cherries

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170/160 fan. Grease an 7inch x 7inch pan.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt and fold in. Then stir through the cherries.

Add to the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin.