I thought between posting my gift guides I’d throw in a quick and easy DIY to gift to anyone from a host to a teacher this festive season. Although it is a small gesture, making something yourself like these chocolate stars, can mean so much to the recipient. It would also be the perfect addition to your Christmas table, serve as a great accompaniment to coffee and compliment many a dessert. So really this is an all-rounder! As an added bonus, it is really simple and affordable to make! All you need is chocolate, your favourite toppings (added bonus if they’re in festive shades) and a silicone ice or chocolate tray.
- 200g milk or dark chocolate
- 40g pistachios, chopped
- 40g cranberries, chopped
- Spray and Cook
- Gold dust
- Break up the chocolate in a microwavable bowl and put to the side.
- Chop up the pistachios and cranberries and keep at the ready.
- Give a festive ice or chocolate silicone tray a light spray with Spray and Cook. If you are working with an ice tray, see whether you need to fill the whole shape or whether filling it half-way would be better. My stars turned out quite thick and it might have been better to only fill the shapes halfway.
- Take the bowl of chocolate and melt it in the microwave. I usually put it in for 30 seconds at a time at full power. I take care to stir it in between microwaving it and often stop it shortly before everything is completely melted, knowing the final small lumps will melt as I stir. Each microwave is different and your melting times might be different to mine. I know this isn’t conventional or the best method, but it is by far the most convenient! I always microwave my chocolate to melt it (a double-cooker is the correct tool) and rarely use bakers chocolate, but know that if you use regular milk chocolate it will only melt once. So you have to work quick, before it sets.
- Fill your tray with chocolate, stopping two milimeters before you get to the top.
- Sprinkle the tray with the nuts and cranberries and lightly press each star to ensure that the toppings will set in the chocolate.
- Leave the chocolate to fully set.
- Once it is set, turn out the stars and dust the top of each chocolate with gold dust.
- Store in a cool spot in an air-tight container.
I was never the biggest fan of banana bread, or bananas for that matter, until I found this recipe. I’ve made a few changes to it over the years, but now I think it is perfect!
It is fair to say that I have a few hang-ups regarding bananas, as I love artificial banana flavoured things (Beacon’s Fruit Salad sweets come to mind) but I don’t love bananas themselves and the idea of a warm banana freaks me out! They’re okay when eaten slightly green, but after that they just become a slimy mess with an overpowering taste. So I made this recipe with two ripe bananas, not overripe, and I the end result just has a hint of banana.
A friend of ours recently proclaimed that “Surely no-one has all the ingredients necessary for a cake at all times!” I kept quiet about the my stash of my favourite cake mix and answered with a resounding, “Yes, cake recipes usually require so much butter! It is rare that I’ll have a full stick of butter on hand.”
I didn’t lie, I often don’t have enough butter for a full recipe which is how this chocolate chip cookie recipe came about. My sweet tooth demanded some chocolatey-goodness so I took a recipe I’d been meaning to try for a while, made some adjustments (replacements and halving the recipe) and I won’t look back! I’ve made fairly good chocolate chip cookies before but everyone that tasted one of my latest creations has been demanding more of this version. It is the perfect balance of sweet, salt and crispy-ness with a gooey centre.
- 2 cups cake flour minus 2 table spoons
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 160 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup treacle sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 90 g dark chocolate slab, roughly chopped into chunks
- Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Mix in the dry ingredients with electric beater. Add the chocolate chips last.
- Cover the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 4 – 24 hours.*
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
- Roll the dough in your hand to make small balls approximately 3 cm in diameter and press then down slightly on a prepared baking tray (baking paper sprayed with Spray & Cook). I made two batches and the ones I didn’t press down were smaller, thicker and wasn’t as crispy.
- Bake biscuits for approximately 15 – 20 minutes.
- Let biscuits cool on a cooling rack before serving.
* I haven’t tested this yet, but apparently the longer you refrigerate the dough the better the results are.
Mine made about 11 cookies (It is possible that I ate more than one cookie’s weight in raw dough though)
Both my cousin and I love baking, so on a recent visit we decided to attempt macarons. She had never had much success with them and I could also do with some practice. Despite the fact that we learned the importance of the bicarb, our somewhat sad looking macarons tasted heavenly!
- 90 g almond powder, sifted
- 100 g Castor sugar
- 10 g high quality cocoa powder
- Pinch of Bicarbonate Soda
- 2 egg whites
- 50 g Castor Sugar
- 55 g butter, room temperature
- 100 g icing sugar
- 20 g cocoa powder
- 2 large eggs
- 20 g dark chocolate, melted
- 1 tbs vanilla extract
- Prepare your baking tray. Line it with baking paper and spray it with non-stick spray.
- Sift together the almond meal, cocoa powder and icing sugar, at least twice.
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then add the Bicarbonate soda and castor sugar.
- Beat until hard peaks form and then gently fold in the almond meal and icing sugar mixture as well as your flavouring and colourant.
- Pipe out a few round macaron shells on your prepared tray. Try spacing it equally and to stick to one size. We pencilled out some circles on the other side of the paper which made it easier.
- Give the baking tray a gentle whack on the kitchen counter underneath all rows of macarons.
- Set the oven to 160C and leave the macarons outside whilst the oven preheats, for about half an hour.
- Bake for 6 min on one side and turn around before baking for another 6 min on the other side.
- Place on wire rack to cool before filling it.
- Beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder together.
- Add the eggs one by one.
- Melt the chocolate and add it to the mixture.
- Beat until it becomes light and fuffy.
- Finally, assemble your macaron shells by piping a fair amount of icing on one side of the macaron. There should be more than enough to go around and have a few taste testers!
If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll have noticed that I reserve a special place in my heart (in my stomach) for Italian cuisine. Naturally Biscotti, something between a rusk and a biscuit, is one of my favourite treats. This is the ultimate indulgent snack for winter. It is sweet, filling and ideal for dipping into coffee. The best part is how easy it is to make as you literally just throw it all together and mix before baking.
- 100 g almonds, diced
- 100 g milk chocolate chips or diced milk chocolate slab
- 430 g flour
- 15 ml baking powder
- 300 g castor sugar
- 5 ml cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 45 ml butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 160C and prepare a baking tray with baking paper.
- Sift together all the dry ingredients and add the almonds and chocolate.
- Beat the eggs and butter in a separate bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until it forms a big piece of dough
- Divide into two pieces and press and roll it out into two long ‘french loaf’-type shapes.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and leave to cool completely.
- Slice thin slices of biscotti (approximately 5 mm) with a sharp knife.
- Spread out on baking tray and bake for a further 20 minutes or until crispy at 60C.
- Let it cool and serve with coffee.
This is the perfect indulgent summer dessert. The raspberries balance the sweet, creamy chocolate filling and the crispy pastry adds the perfect finishing touch to the smooth center.
- 220g butter
- 200g castor sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 500g flour
- 120g butter
- 450g chocolate, half dark chocolate half milk
- 4 large eggs
- 165g castor sugar
- 80 ml cream
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 150g raspberries, halved (to top)
Preheat oven at 180 ⁰ C
To make the pastry
Combine the butter and sugar in a blender and then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Cover in cling-wrap and refrigerate for one hour or more.
Remove from refrigerator and press into tart tins (at least 10cm). This is best done by pressing tiny pieces of dough into the shells, but try to make the shell as even as possible.
Place the tins in the fridge for 30 min before blind baking for 15 min or until slightly golden. Remove and allow to cool whilst preparing the filling.
To make the filling
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler (or recreate the effect with one small pot and a slightly larger one) over low heat.
Beat the eggs, castor sugar, cream and vanilla together until it is light and fluffy.
Pour the butter and chocolate mixture into the egg mixture whilst beating continuously. Pour into the cooled tart shells.
Bake for 15 min. Allow the tarts to cool completely before removing from the tins.
Decorate with halved raspberries.
Makes 18 small tarts.