Festive alfajores

So, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve gone and entered myself in ANOTHER baking competition. I just can’t stop!

I’m keeping it local this time though, with the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Christmas Bake Off. I’m representing the company I work for and two rounds into the competition, it seems to be going pretty well…

The way it works is there are four rounds, one per week, each with a different theme – biscuits, bread, pastry and cakes. There are nine bakers in the competition, and after getting a free pass in the first week three will be knocked out in weeks two and three, to leave three for the final.

Week one was biscuits, and for some reason I decided straight away that I wanted to make alfajores, with a festive twist.

Alfajores are an Argentinian/South American biscuit, made with cornflour so they’re quite dry and crumbly, flavoured with Pisco and sandwiched with dulce de leche.

For my version, I changed the flavour to vanilla and cinnamon, and as well as using straight up dulce de leche added a layer of white chocolate caramel. Over the top, me? No…

Add a star shaped cookie cutter, sprinkles and glitter, and you have one festive alfajore.

I didn’t quite manage to get the title of star baker with them, but I came second out of nine which I’m more than happy with! The bread round has also taken place now, but I’ll wait until I blog about the recipe before revealing how it went…

Festive Alfajores (adapted from Chow)

  • 115g cornflour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp saltt
  • 115g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

For the filling:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 100g(ish) more dulce de leche to sandwich

Mix together the cornflour, flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt. Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Roll the chilled dough out to the thickness of a pound coin, then cut out stars, circles, whatever. Re-roll the scraps and cut more shapes until all the dough has been used. Place spaced out on baking sheets lined with baking paper, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 9-11 minutes, or until just crisp and golden. Leave on the tray for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can decorate however you like – I used white royal icing, star and snowflake sprinkles, and white edible glitter for a nice festive sparkle! I only decorated the half that were going to be on top, but you could to top and bottom if you want.

For the filling, melt the white chocolate (microwave is fine if you stir often) then stir in the dulce de leche. You can buy the fancy stuff, or use tinned caramel, both work! The mixture might seize up a bit, but add the milk, stir, and reheat a little, and it should be fine. Leave to cool until thick enough to spread.

Turn the biscuits upside down, and spread the white chocolate caramel onto the undecorated bottom biscuits, and the dulce de leche onto the bake of the decorated tops. Sandwich them together and enjoy 🙂

tea time treats

I think these biscuits would make a great gift this Christmas, and so I’m entering them for the December Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted (sadly for the last time) by Kate at What Kate Baked (although Karen at Lavender and Lovage will be keeping the challenge going in the new year, yay!

Chocolate pudding pie

Chocolate pudding pie

This is most definitely a dessert of indulgence.

It’s pure chocolate bliss – crunchy chocolate biscuit base, dark and rich chocolate filling, puffed up and cracked at the edges, sunken and silky smooth in the centre.

As reluctant as I am to bring up the V-word in January, if your other half is anything like the pony this would make the perfect end to a romantic meal – just make sure you haven’t filled up too much on the starter and main because it’s very, very rich!

This is another recipe from the Green & Black’s cookbook I was given for Christmas, and another resounding success – I have a feeling this book will be getting plenty of use throughout the year!

Not only was this delicious but it’s really very simple to make – I highly recommend you give it a go, and buy the book while you’re at it!

Chocolate pudding pie (from Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes)

For the base:

  • 80g butter
  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 225g digestive biscuits

For the filling:

  • 180g butter
  • 180g dark chocolate
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 180g brown sugar (recipe calls for dark but I used light)
  • 180ml double cream

To make the base, melt together the butter and dark chocolate (microwave will be fine), and crush the biscuits, either with a rolling pin or in a food processor – they need to be fairly fine crumbs. Stir in the melted chocolate and butter to thoroughly coat the biscuit crumbs, then press into the base of a greased 9″ round springform tin, and leave in the fridge for half an hour while you make the filling.

For the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together as before, then leave to cool. Add the eggs, sugar and cream to a food processor and blend well, then pour in the melted chocolate and butter and blend again. Pour the filling over the chilled base, then bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes – it should puff up at the edges and be firm to the touch, but with a slight wobble. Leave to cool, then dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder to serve.

Homepride chocolate chip cookies – a Random Recipe

This month’s random recipe challenge, set by Dom of Belleau Kitchen, was to pick a random recipe from the 17th book in your collection.

For me, this was ‘Baking with Homepride Flour’, my oldest cookbook.

Now, I have a confession to make – the selection of these chocolate chip cookies wasn’t completely by chance.

Not because I cheated at all, but because I have made the recipe so many times I think the book automatically falls open at that page…

As much as I love chewy, American-style chocolate chip cookies, these will always hold a special place in my heart as I’ve been making them for as long as I’ve been baking.

They’re almost shortbread like in texture, quite crumbly and soft, studded with delicious chunks of chocolate (I double the amount stated in the recipe – it’s better that way, trust me!

I probably wouldn’t have thought about making these old favourites if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes, so thank you Dom!

Homepride chocolate chip cookies (from Baking with Homepride Flour)

Makes 20 cookies

  • 50g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 100g chopped milk chocolate
  • 100g chopped white chocolate

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then sift in the two flours and fold in with the chopped chocolate. Roll the mixture out into two long sausage shapes, about an inch thick, and wrap in cling film. Chill until ready to use (they freeze well if you don’t want to make them all at once.)

Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Slice each sausage of dough into 10 pieces, then flatten them out on a lined baking tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden. Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut butter Nutella swirl cookies (GF)

Pinterest is dangerous.

Ever since I joined, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of delicious looking baked goods that appear every time I log in.

Sometimes I pin or repin things and then forget about them, but some I just can’t get out of my head.

These peanut butter Nutella swirl cookies were one of the latter – as soon as I saw them I knew they would be baked soon, and they were.

As well as being pretty tasty, they’re also versatile – I made half the batch using wheat and gluten free flour and you couldn’t tell the difference between those and the ones made with normal flour, perfect if you know anyone with allergies or intolerances that normally would have to miss out.

(PS – If you too are a Pinterest love, you can follow me at www.pinterest.com/natblachford)

Peanut butter Nutella swirl cookies (recipe pinned from Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine)

Makes 35 cookies

  • 125g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 55g light brown sugar
  • 200g peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 210g plain flour (GF or normal)
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100g Nutella
Beat together the butter, both sugars and peanut butter until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again, until well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and fold in until the mixture is just coming together, then gently fold in the nutella (the more you mix it, the less pronounced the swirls will be.)
Use a tablespoon measure to scoop rounded balls out of the mixture, and place spaced out on a baking sheet. Flatten each down with a fork, to create a criss-cross pattern on top. Bake at 180 degrees for about 9 minutes, or until just turning golden. Leave to cook on the sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Orange shortbread thumbprints

For my last day at work this week, baked goods weren’t just expected, but demanded. I made some marzipan chocolate cupcakes which I will post about soon, but as I wasn’t sure if they would be to everyone’s tastes I decided I needed something else that I could whip up fairly quickly as an alternative.

As I still had some homemade orange curd to use up, I decided to give thumbprint cookies a go, as they always look so pretty and I’ve never tried them before.

The recipe I was planning on using needed an egg, which I didn’t have, so that led to me making them with shortbread instead so I wouldn’t need to go to the shops (laziness can lead to the best creations!)

They turned out really well, a lighter alternative to the cupcakes with a nice fruity tang. They were really easy to make, so I would definitely make them again, maybe trying out a few different fillings…

Orange shortbread thumbprints (my own recipe!)

Makes about 20 biscuits

  • 75g caster sugar, plus extra to dust
  • 150g butter, cubed and softened
  • 200g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • Roughly 1/3 jar orange curd

Beat the butter to soften, then add in the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornflour, then run together with your fingers to make breadcrumbs, then knead into a soft dough. Roll into a fat sausage shape, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Take the dough out the fridge, then slice the log into rounds. Roll each into a ball, then roll in the extra caster sugar to cover them. Place on a baking sheet, then make an indentation in the middle of each with your finger or thumb – so they look a bit like this:

Spoon about half a teaspoon or orange curd into each shortbread, filling them not quite to the top as the curd will bubble over when they’re in the oven. Bake at 170 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until they’re firm and just about to start turning golden. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack.

Chocolate crunchie bites

When thinking about bite-sized bakes I could package up nicely to give as Christmas gifts, these chocolate crunchie bites were pretty high up the list.

They’ve always gone down well when I’ve made them before, they’re one of the pony’s favourites, pretty much foolproof, and they’re incredibly easy to make – no baking required! They should also keep quite well in the fridge, if you can keep greedy hands off them…

Chocolate crunchie bites (adapted from Jam and Clotted Cream):

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 65g butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 110g digestive biscuits
  • 2 Cadbury’s Crunchie bars
  • 30g cranberries

Prepare an 8×8″ tin by lining with baking paper, creating a pleat so that the tin has a divider 2/3 of the way across (basically, you need the tin to be approximately 8×5″).
Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. While that’s melting, put the digestives and crunchie bars in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin, until mostly crushed but with a few lumpy bits remaining. Pour the crushed biscuit mix into a large bowl, add in the cranberries, then stir in the melted chocolate mixture until well combined.

Spread the mixture into the prepared tin, then leave to set. I tend to leave mine to set a room temperature for a few hours so it’s easier to cut, but you can speed it up by putting it in the fridge. Trim the edges (feed the offcuts to an impatient hungry boy), cut into small squares, then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Makes about 24 mini squares.

Turtle shortbread biscuits

A couple of months ago now, I saw a turtle shaped cookie cutter on ebay and obviously bought straight away, full of excitement for turtle shaped biscuits.

When it arrived however, I knew that it wouldn’t really be right to use it until I’d be able to decorate the biscuits in the manner they deserved – which meant waiting until I had green food colouring.

Last week I finally got around to buying the green paste colouring, and these biscuits are the result!

Unforunately I couldn’t find a good light that really showed the colour of the turtles, this is the best I could do, although the picture isn’t great:

I was really happy with how they looked though – super cute! And well worth the effort of icing.

Turtle shortbread biscuits:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g white chocolate
  • green food colouring paste
  • splash of milk

Rub together the butter and flour until it forms breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and vanilla extract and work the dough until it comes together into a ball.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about half a centimeter thick, then cut out the biscuits and place onto a silicon baking mat. Bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden brown.

While the biscuits are cooling, melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water, an add in a little of the green paste to make a light minty green colour. Spread a layer of chocolate on top of each biscuit, remembering to save some of the chocolate for the decoration. Put the biscuits in the fridge for the chocolate to set.

Once the first layer of chocolate is set, re-heat the melted chocolate and add in more of the colouring paste to make a darker green icing. I found that the amount I needed to use to make it dark enough thickened the chocolate too much, but mixing in a splash of milk fixed this. Spoon the dark green icing into a piping bag and pipe on the round shell, pentagon pattern and eyes. Leave to set.

Makes about 32 biscuits.

As this made over 30 biscuits, I gave some to my boss to take home for his two young boys, as one of them has been housebound since breaking his leg and ending up in a full leg cast. I don’t know much about children, but who wouldn’t be cheered up by these cute little turtles?! For that reason, even though I’m about a month late, I’m going to enter these for Vanessa’s Random Bakes of Kindness – an inspired and generous idea that has got lots of people baking for a good cause this autumn!

Chocolate dipped melting moments

I’d been wanting to make melting moments for a while (in fact they’re on my to-bake list), but when I saw these incredibly cute ones ones on Baking Obsessively it was the incentive I needed to actually bake them.

The recipe is super simple, right up until the part where it says roll into balls the size of a large marble.

My image of a large marble is obviously a bit off, as I made half the amount I should have from the mix and ended up with rather large moment.

Because of this, I decided that sandwiching them together would make them way too big, and decided to dip them in chocolate instead. This made the friendly pony particularly happy, as he got to eat the entire bowl of vanilla buttercream.

These melting moments are like an incredibly light, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and are delicious, especially with a cup of coffee!

Chocolate dipped melting moments, adapted from Baking Obsessively:

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 125g cornflour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 225g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g dark chocolate

Put all the ingredients, apart from the chocolate, into a food processor, and blitz until it comes together into a ball of dough. Roll the dough into (not so large) marbles and place on a silicon baking sheet, spaced a couple of inches apart. Squash the balls down with a fork dipped in cold water, to create the lines on top.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until just turning golden. Leave on the tray to cool, then move to a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water, then either dip the biscuits in or use a knife to spread a little of the chocolate on the bottom of each. Place back on the (cleaned!) silicon sheet and put in the fridge until the chocolate has set. Eat, lots of them!