Happy New Year, peeps! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break and have come back refreshed. I have to say, I was quite delighted to get back to the routine… and then I got back to the routine and decided it wasn’t that great after all. Hey ho.
So what does 2015 have in store? Most excitingly a trip to New Zealand is in the pipeline this December. Yup, Christmas 2015 will be spent on the South Island with Husband’s brother and his family, which is something to look forward to, and a motivating factor in my quest to get fit and healthy.
So, time permitting, I am getting back into running and have already been several times during the last couple of weeks. Of course, it’s fitting it in around the family and work that’s the issue, especially given that it’s dark in the morning and the evening, which I don’t find very motivating. But I have also built more walking into my daily commute, which is good for my health, and has the added benefit of being cheaper, too. I have been listening to the (very gripping) Serial podcast as I walk, which helps pass the time.
We’ve been making lots of delicious smoothies and healthy breakfasts, including overnight oats, here at OH HQ, too (more to come on this soon!), and both Husband and I have been doing loads of cooking from various cookbooks – new and old, which has been lovely.
I am LOVING our new KitchenAid, and so Littlest and I spent the afternoon making a chocolate cake because, well, just because really! She loved cracking the eggs, sifting the flour (although she did get bored half way through) and stirring and mixing. A great way to pass a winter’s afternoon with a little one.
Come on, it’s time to fall off that sugar-free wagon in style. Just a small slice…
Moist Rich Chocolate Cake
This recipe is slightly adapted from The Guardian’s ‘Guide to Baking’, which was given away with the newspaper way back in 2007 and this chocolate cake is simply incredible. The icing is from Nigella’s Feast, and is the icing she uses on her Chocolate Guinness Cake. Nothing healthy here, I’m afraid, it’s pure indulgence!
You will need:
375ml boiling milk
100g dark chocolate, chopped (I just broke into chunks tbh)
275g caster sugar
225g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large free-range egg, plus one yolk
75ml sunflower oil
25g golden syrup
2tsp vanilla extract
What to do:
- Heat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line the base of a 20cm diameter, 9cm deep round cake tin (or the closest you have to this) with baking parchment.
- Melt the chocolate into the boiling milk and allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, weigh and sift all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (I used the KitchenAid bowl).
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, golden syrup and vanilla and then beat into your milky-chocolate mix from step 2.
- Whisk this liquid into your dry ingredients for 30 seconds (this is where I used the KitchenAid) until smooth, and pour the batter into the tin.
- Bake for approx. 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before topping with the below.
For the topping you will need:
150g Philadelphia cream cheese
75g icing sugar
60ml double cream
Cocoa powder for dusting
What to do:
- Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth – I used the KitchenAid to do this (because I love it).
- Sieve over the icing sugar, and then beat both together.
- Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Spread over the top of your cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder from a fine-mesh sieve.
It dawned on me recently that the reason I love to bake is because I love to share. And because I love to talk. Arriving at a friend’s house with a container full of still-warm brownies, or a freshly made cake is like extending a hand, to say ‘Hello, let’s sit down together and chat.’ Whether it’s in the morning or the afternoon, for me, enjoying a (usually much-needed) coffee with a friend over a slice of cake is always a treat. Because I’m at work for much of the week, I cherish these catch-ups with my friends. Whatever we are discussing – potty training, crazy bosses, the Asda Christmas ad, where to get a great Thai meal, or when the next night out is going to be – cake always helps things along.
The trick is to have something up your sleeve for the little ones to do while you chat. I always take a little container just for my toddler so she can tuck in to something by herself. (Invariably, she also always gets a small piece of what I’m eating, too.)
This recipe was passed down to me by my mum – a great cook who is totally (and I mean totally) unflappable in the kitchen. I have tweaked slightly to make it even easier; I think it has to be the simplest brownie recipe ever. I can make the mixture and get it in the oven in about 10 minutes flat.
NB The added bonus to this recipe is, assuming you have a platform scale, like my Salter one, and can weigh directly into your saucepan, you should only have about five items to wash up (or stick in the dishwasher) by the end. Result.
Easy Chocolate Walnut Fudge Brownies
These are a doddle. They are squidgy, nutty and delicious. (Although I have to say now that they aren’t *quite* as good as Nigel Slater’s very good chocolate brownies, which are, quite simply, the best in the world.) But they are good and considerably quicker to make, so brilliant for a busy mum to whip up while the children are occupied, the baby’s napping or you’ve finally got them to bed and have just realized it’s the school cake sale next day…
Makes about ten decent sized brownies
150g soft dark brown sugar
90g self-raising flour
1 egg, plus 1 extra yolk
70g chopped walnuts
1tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt
What to do
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F, and line a 8” x 8” square baking tin.
- Put a non-stick saucepan on to your platform scale and weigh the butter and sugar directly into it. Set onto a low heat to melt. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat.
- Weigh out the flour, cocoa and walnuts, and fold into your melted butter and sugar mixture, along with the egg, the extra yolk, the vanilla essence and the salt.
- Spoon the mixture into your baking tin and bake for 20 mins. Remove from the oven, and once cooled for about 20 mins, cut into squares, before allowing them to cool completely in the tin.
- Enjoy with a friend.