Monday, 30 November 2015

A Parcel of Christmas Goodies from DotComGiftShop

A few weeks ago I was delighted to find out that I had been included in DotComGiftShop's list of 25 Brilliant Baking Blogs. It's always lovely to hear that my blog has been noticed, especially as I haven't had the chance to add to it as much as I'd like recently.

Then, few days later, I received another email offering me one of their lovely recipe tins and a £30 voucher to spend on their website!

First to arrive was the recipe tin which is ideal for storing all of those random recipes you accumulate over the years and would make a lovely gift for someone. Or I might just keep it for myself!

After much deliberation I eventually managed to choose some goodies from the website. It was a tough decision though as there are so many lovely things to choose from, including some real bargains in the sale section. In the end I stuck to a seasonal theme and choose a lovely selection of things to help get the Christmas season off to a good start.

I chose...

A cute gingham print tea tray
A box of Christmas lights that will look perfect over the fireplace
A roll of red and white twine that will save us from untangling (again) the years-old card-hanging string we've put up with for years
A reel of ribbon to decorate the Christmas cake
A fold-out decoration
A mistletoe heart decoration
Two packs of gift labels
Two colourful pens for E&T's stockings (not in the photo)
And finally, a pack of paper chains to decorate the house with

A great selection I'm sure you'll agree. I should also mention that the parcel came well wrapped and was delivered promptly, less than an a week after I placed the order.

A big thanks to DotComGiftShop for the voucher. I'm really pleased with my Christmassy parcel and I'm sure I'll be visiting the website again in the future.

Disclaimer: I was kindly sent the recipe tin and voucher as a gift from DotComGiftShop and wasn't under any obligation to write about what I received.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nigella's Not-Just-For-Vegans Vegan Chocolate Cake

In a recent episode of her new series Nigella shared a recipe for her "Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake" that she says "might just be one of the best chocolate cakes you have ever eaten". There's a challenge if ever there was one. Better than her Chocolate Marmalade Cake? Better than a Chocolate Guinness Cake? And vegan?? Hmmm.

I'm always up for a challenge though when it comes to sampling chocolate cakes so, for the benefit of anyone who happens to read this, I thought I'd give it a try.

Vegan, of course, means no butter and no eggs (or any other animal product of course). Instead the recipe calls for coconut oil and coconut butter. Luckily I already had some coconut oil and managed to find coconut butter in my local Holland and Barrett. Beware though, this stuff is not cheap. A 250g jar is over £7 but luckily I had a 20% of voucher to soften the blow a little. Add to that 150g of dark chocolate and you have a pretty costly cake.

So was it worth it?

In short, yes! Seriously, this is a pretty amazing cake. The cake itself is dark and moist but still light with just the vaguest hint of coconut in the background (but don't let that put you off if you're not a fan). Ultimately though, this cake is all about the icing. Obviously the fact that it contains 150g of dark chocolate is a big help and this, combined with coconut butter, sugar and instant espresso power, made for something pretty special. Overall it has a very dark, rich chocolatey flavour so if you like your chocolate cakes more on the sweet side then this may not be for you but it was a big winner for me.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here.

For the record...

* The expensive coconut oil and butter can be substituted for 90ml of any vegetable oil and regular butter or margarine.
* I was concerned that my cake tin wouldn't be watertight enough for the running mix so decided to line it with foil before greasing and lining the base with parchment. This worked just fine.
* It took around 15 minutes longer than the recommended time for mine to cook through to the centre.
*My icing was not very runny by the time the cake was cool enough but it was still spreadable so didn't cause me any problems.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Lorraine Pascal's Twister Bread

I came across this recipe in Lorraine Pascal's book. I was planning to make the Broccoli and Stilton soup from the same book and this bread looked it would make the ideal companion.

Making bread can be very rewarding and I find that, if I follow the instructions, I generally end up with something pretty reasonable. Even a less-than-perfect, slightly-too-dense loaf tastes pretty good warm from the oven and slathered with butter.

I was really pleased with the way this one turned out though. I particularly liked this recipe as it only needs one rise and that only took around 30 minutes so you don't have to wait hours for the final result or spend too much time going to and from the kitchen to see how things are going. The end result looked quite impressive and tasted lovely. It went really well with the soup too.

You can find the recipe on the BBC website here.