Cake Batter Ice Cream With Many Sprinkles

_MG_6076I always want ice cream more when the weather’s cold. It’s a very unimaginative association thing, I think. Anyway, it’s been very cold here in the middle of England recently, and the nagging need for ice cream has been stronger than ever.

Mainly, I just buy ice cream and I’m OK with that. Because to be honest, I find making ice cream a bit of a chore. I don’t like ice cream makers much (and I ceased to own one several years ago), and I certainly can’t be bothered to make ice cream that needs to be ‘churned’ by hand (i.e. you make the mixture, freeze it, and then stir it regularly over several hours so that it freezes smooth and not ice-crystally).

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But, I’ve always wanted to try a make-by-hand, ‘no-churn’ recipe. Mainly because it utilises one of my favourite baking ingredients, sweetened condensed milk. This stuff is a real multi-tasker and a kitchen hero, I reckon. And it’s the secret to easy, no-churn ice cream.

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To make this ice cream, you simply mix condensed milk with whipped cream, and stir through flavouring and add-ins as you please. Then you freeze it. And that’s it. Smooth, creamy ice cream that you didn’t need to attend to on an hourly basis. Hooray!

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I decided to channel cake mix flavouring to this batch, and added vanilla (two types), a tiny amount of almond extract, and sprinkles for that nostalgic ‘can-I-lick-the-spoon’ cake batter flavour. It really does taste (and look) extremely like vanilla cake mix. Especially pre-frozen! Lick the spatula once you’ve put it in the tin to freeze, and tell me if I’m wrong. It’s delicious and you might be tempted not to freeze it – but do. Because then you’ll have cake batter ice cream, and that’s just even better. Creamy, rich and studded with little sugar hits.

If you wanted to go all out on the cake batter theme, you could add in some imitation butter flavouring. I didn’t because I’m scared of what ‘imitation butter’ actually is. But prejudices aside, I imagine it could work brilliantly here!

Best eaten with a cherry on top.

Enjoy!

*Note* Make sure your sprinkles are the kind that can stand up to being stirred through a ‘wet’ batter. Many sprinkles available in the supermarket are simply sugar strands which dissolve when they hit moisture. Instead, you want a ‘waxy’ sprinkle, like ‘jimmies’, which won’t dissolve.

Recipe:  Cake Batter Ice Cream with Many Sprinkles

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (397g) of condensed milk
  • 500ml double (heavy) cream
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or use another teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • A couple of drops (no more!) of almond extract (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 120g (this is quite a lot – you can just add less) ‘waxy’ sprinkles, like jimmies

Method:

1. Whip the cream until just until soft peaks form.

2. Empty the condensed milk into a large bowl, and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.

3. Fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture until incorporated and smooth.

4. Gently stir in the sprinkles and salt until they are well combined.

5. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin, and smooth the top with a spatula.

6. Wrap the loaf tin several times in cling film, making sure you press the cling film down against the ice cream mixture do there is no gap between the cling film and ice cream.

7. Freeze for several hours, until solid (I left mine overnight).

8. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before attempting to scoop and serve.

Chocolate Pretzel S’mores

S’mores made with fluffy, toasted marshmallow sandwiched between two chocolate-covered pretzels.  Simple and so tasty! Campfire entirely optional.

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As a little kid, I was fascinated by the food I saw on TVs and in movies. (I still am.) One of life’s greatest mysteries for me when I was younger was ‘what precisely is a Twinkie?’* They were mentioned so often in American films, and I loved the name. I knew they were a treat, but what were they exactly? When my older brother went to study in the USA for a year, he asked me what I wanted him to bring home for me. Obvs, the answer was a box of Twinkies. I would finally find out what they were! They turned out to be highly processed, factory-made vanilla sponge cake fingers, filled with a synthetic, white, imitation-vanilla goo. A.k.a: Heaven. They were everything the name suggested, and I ate them with great satisfaction.

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The other American treat I always wondered about was ‘s’mores’. I finally cottoned on to what they were when watching a movie where they made s’mores over a campfire.* Ah-ha! A Graham cracker (otherwise known as a Digestive to us Brits), combined with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallow. Divine. But it would be years before I embraced my inner girl scout and made them. Once I did, I never looked back.

*Before you judge me, remember that this was pre-Google. Thank you.

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But it occurred to me the other day as I chomped through a bag of chocolate covered pretzels that I have been missing a trick- surely, toasted marshmallow sandwiched between two of the aforementioned pretzels would do the trick extremely nicely? Reader: I tried it. And the results were so good, I had to share.

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If you make these (and please do), I recommend you go all traditional and eat them soon after making, while the marshmallow is still warm and gooey on the inside, crisp and toasted on the outside.

The pretzels are wonderful, because you occasionally get a little crystal of salt in the mix, which is the perfect foil for the sugar. Delish.

These s’mores couldn’t be easier to make – just a bag of chocolate pretzels, and a bag of marshmallows! Now that’s the kind of shopping list I like.

Ed and I ate the whole lot in one go did thorough taste testing to make sure they were good enough to put on RGB.  They passed our rigorous testing, phew!

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S’mores…s’gone.

Try them and let me know if you like them as much as we do. You get extra points for making these round a bonfire!

 

How to make Chocolate Pretzel S’mores

Ingredients

A quantity of marshmallows

Chocolate covered pretzels (Cadbury, M&S and Aldi all sell them) – you will need twice as many pretzels as you have marshmallows

Method

1. Preheat your grill/broiler to a medium heat.

2. Spread your marshmallows evenly over a baking sheet which has been lined with either a silicone baking mat or greased parchment paper.

3. Put the marshmallows under the grill and watch them like a hawk until the tops have toasted a golden-brown colour, about a 60-90 seconds. (Don’t walk away – they burn really easily!) Remove from under the grill and set aside.

4.  Using a palette knife, smear the sticky marshmallow as best you can on a chocolate pretzel (you may want to lightly grease your knife but don’t overdo it, or the marshmallow might not stick to the pretzel).

5. Take another pretzel and use it to scrape the remaining marshmallow off the knife. Smoosh the pretzels together to make a mallow sandwich.

6. Repeat until you’ve used up all your marshmallows and pretzels.

7. Devour.

(Alternatively, (carefully) toast the marshmallows on a stick over a bonfire or campfire, and then squish between two chocolate pretzels, and eat!)

Madeleines with Fiori di Sicilia

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a fan of ostentatious, OTT desserts. I love a layer cake with several different types and flavours of icing; I think edible glitter is possibly the greatest invention to ever grace the baking world; I consider that it is never a waste of time to spend hours making sugar flowers or waiting for your Pavlova meringue to dry out if it means you get an amazing pudding at the end.

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But as much as I love these treats, there is a large space reserved in my heart for the simple, pared-down, yet perfect cake; and in my mind, this is epitomised by the adorable, quintessentially French, petite Madeleine.

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So small, soft and delicate. Like a shell-shaped ‘fairy-cake’. (Remember fairy-cakes? Not cupcakes, which tends to be larger, and covered in a rich icing – I’m talking about the fairy-cakes of childhood, really quite tiny compared to cupcakes. Light and fluffy, vanilla or lemon-flavoured, and probably only covered with a simple glacé icing (made from just water and icing sugar), if anything. They were something to whip up with mum or grandma on a Saturday afternoon; they graced every childhood birthday party I ever went to. Eating madeleines sort of evoke that fairy-cake nostalgia for me… even though madeleines are far more sophisticated a cake, bien sûr.)

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My mum bought me a madeleine mould for Christmas, and this is the first time I’ve used it. It’s a silicone mould, rather than a metal one, and I must say it worked superbly! (In the past, I’ve had both good and bad experiences with silicone bakeware… I’d say, if you’re thinking of buying any, to do your research carefully. My experience tells me that for small bakes – like cupcakes, madeleines or mini loaves – a sturdy silicone mould can work well (I’ve had good ones from Ikea). But for larger things like cake pans, I’d always recommend metal.)

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Madeleines are traditionally flavoured with vanilla or lemon, or sometimes almonds, and are eaten warm out of the oven (suits me!). A delicate, sweet treat with afternoon tea. I couldn’t decide how to flavour mine…and then inspiration struck. A while ago, I bought some ‘Fiori di Sicilia’ (which gorgeously enough, means ‘flowers of Sicily’), an oil-based flavouring traditionally used in Italian panettone. The aroma of Fiori di Sicilia is hard to describe, but it’s a dreamy blend of vanilla, oranges and lemons, plus a number of other floral extracts you can’t quite put your finger on… it’s fragrant and unique and it just smells wonderful. I think Ambrosia, the food of the gods, must taste like Fiori di Sicilia.

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A few drops are all that’s needed- less is more when it comes to this flavouring. And indeed, my most trusted taste-tester (who luckily is also my husband) pronounced the flavour ‘perfect – subtle but just enough.’ And I hadn’t tipped him off on what to say, or anything.

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In fact, he thought the whole little cake was ‘perfect’, and I have to say I agree. Simple things, made with lovely ingredients, are so often the best. (Note to self.) So try to use the best unsalted butter and the best quality vanilla (if you’re using it rather than Fiori di Sicilia) that you can in these madeleines, to really let the flavours shine through.

Enjoy them with anyone old enough to eat a cake. My one-year-old niece Gracie can vouch for the fact that toddlers love madeleines as much as anyone, and can put a fair few away!

Enjoy!

**Notes:

– You can buy Fiori di Sicila online here and here.

– If you can’t get hold of Fiori di Sicilia (or you don’t want to use it), use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract instead.

– My Madeleine mould has 9 impressions, but this mixture makes about 20 Madeleines (depending on how big the impressions are). I just did batches back-to-back: after removing the baked Madeleines from the oven, wait a few minutes and then gently pop the cakes from the mould/tin and put on a baking rack to cool. Re-grease the mould/tin if necessary and refill with more Madeleine mixture, and put the mould/tin back in the oven to bake the second round.

Recipe: Madeleines with Fiori di Sicilia

Ingredients

2 large eggs

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, if you prefer)

100g butter, melted

3 tablespoons of milk

How to make them

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Once melted, remove from heat while you get on with the other steps.

3. Grease a Madeleine tin with baking spray (my method of choice) or with a little of the melted butter.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is thick, pale and frothy (a few minutes). I used my KitchenAid for this step but you can certainly do it by hand.

5. Add the flour and baking powder, and whisk for a minute to combine.

6. One at a time, add the Fiori di Sicilia, melted butter and milk, whisking all the time to combine.

7. Using a spoon, divide the mixture between the impressions in the Madeleine mould/tin, allowing the mixture to come very near to the top of the impression. (If you have mixture left over, pop it in the fridge while the first round of Madeleines bake – you can do the rest afterwards (see Notes above).)

8. Put the filled mould/tin in the oven and make for 8-10 minutes until the Madeleines are risen and golden brown. (I found that mine needed the full 10 minutes.)

9. Remove the Madeleines from the oven and after a minute or so, gently prize the little cakes out of the mould with a small palette knife or rounded table knife. Leave on a cooling rack to cool, but eat while still warm.

Quick Hot Cross Buns {no yeast, no kneading!}

There’s a lot of love for Hot Cross Buns in the RGB household (and in my entire family in general): even the aroma of the spices and sultanas are enough to elicit appreciative “mmmmm” sounds throughout the homestead. And because they’re traditional Easter fayre, scoffing them down at this time of year is extremely easy to justify. Hurrah!

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As much as I love baking (and I have a special love for the magic of yeasted doughs, which to me is the most fascinating of all the chemistry that happens in my kitchen), I am the first to admit that the timescales involved in producing home-baked goods are not always that convenient when you have a busy life. Sometimes, you just don’t have time to prepare a batch of yeasted bun dough (including giving it a 10 minute knead), wait for it to proof (rise) for a couple of hours, then ‘knocking it back’ and shaping it into bun shapes, and then leaving it for a second rise for another hour before the buns are even ready to go in the oven.

But this speedy and simple recipe means that in less than an hour, you can have a batch of these tender, spiced, fruit-filled Hot Cross Buns on the table. No waiting, just buns for tea. Double hurrah! If only everything in life was so simple, eh?

So what makes these Hot Cross Buns so rapido? Basically: the fact that it is not yeast that’s used to raise the dough (which takes a number of hours), but baking powder and baking soda instead – this type of mixture is known as a ‘quick bread’. These leavening agents react with the acid in the buttermilk (and actually, baking powder has its own acid mixed in to react with anyway, which is clever), and bubble up with carbon dioxide, making our buns voluminous in next to no time.

Anyway, these buns aren’t made in the traditional yeasted way, but rest assured that the end product is still a delicious, tender-crumbed bun, spicy and fruity… a taste of Easter-time.

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I recommend you eat them fresh (within 24 hours of making). As home bakers, we don’t have access to the preservatives used by commercial bakeries (probably a good thing!) and so these will start to get a bit stale after a day or so. This recipe only makes 8 buns, so you should be able to polish them off in no time! (But you could always toast them if they’ve become a bit firm, they make great toast.)

So…if you’re short on time, and have a craving for Hot Cross Buns that will not go away no matter how many times you sniff the sultana packet (true story), I highly recommend you give this recipe a go. I was so pleased with how these buns came out, especially given the time to effort ratio.

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You can make crosses on the buns out of dough, if you like, and bake the buns with the cross in situ… or you can pipe the crosses on after the buns have baked, like I’ve done here (I used royal icing, but for a small quantity it might be easiest to use melted white chocolate, or even glacé icing. That’s because royal icing requires egg white, and you might not want to use up a whole egg for just this small amount. I’ve put the directions for making glacé icing below). Of course, if you don’t want these scrummy buns to have an Easter connotation, you could simply leave off the crosses. Then you could eat them all year round…

I’d love to know if you try these buns, and what you think of the ‘quick’ method!

Holly

 

Recipe: Quick Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

355g plain flour (plus more for sprinkling on the work surface later)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

30g sugar (3 tablespoons)

135g sultanas

60g chopped mixed orange and lemon peel

300ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can use mix a good tablespoon of lemon juice / white vinegar with 300ml milk – leave it to stand for 10 minutes until it’s slightly thickened before using)

50g butter, melted

Egg or milk to glaze the tops of the buns with

How to make them:

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Celsius. Grease the base of a baking sheet or 9 x 13 baking tin with butter.

2. Put the flour, sugar, spices, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sultanas and peel into a large mixing bowl, and use a large whisk or spatula to combine the ingredients well.

3. In another bowl or a mixing jug, combine the buttermilk (or milk + lemon juice if using) and the melted butter together. Don’t worry if the butter solidifies a little in the buttermilk.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and use a spatula to combine the ingredients until a dough forms, about 1 minute’s worth of mixing, pushing and folding.

5. Tip the dough out onto a surface you’ve dusted with plain flour, and knead the dough a few times until it’s smooth. It will be pretty sticky.

6. Dusting your fingers with flour, pinch off enough dough to roll into a bun about the size and shape of a pool/snooker ball. Place the bun on the baking sheet. Repeat for the other 7 buns, dusting your hands with more flour as needed.

7. Brush the tops of the buns with beaten egg, or milk, if you want them to come out shiny.

8. If you want to put crosses on the buns, mix a little water with a little flour until you have made a thick paste or dough, and apply it in a cross shape to the tops of the buns (this is optional – you can always add the cross later if you want).

9. Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown and sound ‘hollow’ when you tap them on the base. I baked mine for 24 minutes in total. About 10 minutes from the end of the baking time, you might like to lay a sheet of aluminium foil loosely over the top of the buns so that they don’t over-brown.

10. Remove from the over and leave to cool for 15 minutes or so. Enjoy the buns while still warm, with lashings of butter and a cup of tea.

Notes **If you want to add the crosses after the buns have baked, it’s probably best to wait until the tops of the buns are completely cool to the touch – then simply melt a handful of white candy melts or white chocolate in the microwave (do so in 20 second bursts to avoid scorching the chocolate) or in a bowl suspended over a saucepan of simmering water, and drizzle the chocolate over the buns with a teaspoon.

Or you could make a simple glacé icing  – put 3 or 4 tablespoons of icing in a small bowl, and add a few drops of water at a time, whisking whisking whisking, until you have a thick sugar glaze. Then just drizzle it over the buns.**

Mini Eggs Rocky Road

It’s almost Easter and that means Cadbury Mini Eggs are out in force! Hurrah! I love ’em. I would go as far as to say that they’re my favourite festive chocolate at Easter-time…followed very closely by Malteaster Bunnies, which are just amazing. I love me some malty chocolate.

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But anyway, snapping myself out of my chocolatey reverie: I had the idea for this rocky road when I was chomping through some pebbly Cadbury Mini Eggs recently…how great would they be as a bar? With marshmallows! And something else…but what? I settled on some crumbled meringues in the end. A light, crisp, melt-in-the-mouth contrast to all those solid choccy eggs. (I didn’t make the meringues btw, that would have been a lot of effort just for something to crumble up in rocky road. Lazy, I know. #notsorry)

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Turns out that my idea to make these bars isn’t unique in the slightest – I thought (hoped) it might be and that I would be hailed as a genius…but a Google search revealed that many people have made versions of this rocky road already. Ah well, good to know there are lots of fans of the petit oeufs out there.

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These rocky road bars couldn’t be simpler to make – melt dark chocolate (preferably 50%+ cocoa solids to counteract the sweetness of the other ingredients), butter and golden syrup (or corn syrup) together, then stir in mini marshmallows, meringues and a heck of a lot of sugar-shelled chocolate eggs- feel free to use whatever brand you like, but as you know, I used Cadbury Mini Eggs. Leave to set and photograph with cross-eyed chicks perched all over it. Job done!

(These chicks were divas to work with. But once we had established that they had to stand up straight, I think you’ll agree they smoulder in front of the camera.)

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A quick and easy Easter treat, packed with chocolate eggs, marshmallows and meringue. I think I’ll have another piece…

So what do you think? Mini Eggs for the win as ultimate Easter chocolate?

Recipe: Mini Eggs Rocky Road

Makes 12 squares

Ingredients

400g dark chocolate (50%-60% cocoa solids is good)

3 tablespoons golden syrup or corn syrup

125g unsalted butter

650g Cadbury Mini Eggs

75g mini marshmallows

30g meringue, crumbled into pieces

Pinch of salt (optional)

How to make it

1. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in in a saucepan over a very low heat, together with the butter and syrup. Let the ingredients melt, and stir gently occasionally to combine.

2. Take the chocolate mixture off the heat and leave to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, cover a chopping board in foil, and lightly grease with butter.

4. Add the mini marshmallows and chocolate eggs (reserving about 200g of the eggs to put on the top as decoration), and the pinch of salt if using, and stir throughly to cover in the chocolate mixture. Then carefully mix in the meringue pieces.

5. Tip the rocky road mixture onto the foil-covered chopping board, and with a spatula, form the rocky road into a rough square or rectangle shape (or whatever shape takes your fancy). Scatter the reserved eggs over the top and press them into the rocky road.

6. Leave the rocky road to completely set, which will take a 3-4 hours (you can speed up the process by putting it in the fridge). Then cut into pieces, and enjoy.

 

 

Simple and Brilliant Yeasted Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

How wonderful are doughnuts? OK, a bit of a leading question. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like a good doughnut (or even a bad one, if I’m honest). Whether ring doughnuts, plump doughnut balls filled with jam or custard, or the aptly named ‘Yum Yum’ (a kind of twisted doughnut stick covered in a sugar glaze), they seem to be loved by everyone. Including Ed. So I made him a few!

Although doughnuts like the ones in this post are definitely all-American in appearance and flavour (I like to think they’d make Homer Simpson proud), it occurs to me that this type of doughnut is sort of like a traditional English iced bun, in a way? Fluffy, bready, slightly sweet, with sticky sugar glaze on the top. The best of all worlds. Except of course, these doughnuts are fried, and in my opinion, there are few foods which are not enhanced by frying.

You don’t have to put glaze on them, of course – they are equally as fantastic rolled in sugar (or sugar and cinnamon?) straight out of the fryer. We tried that too. Highly scrumptious.

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But if you glaze them you can go to town with gaudy sprinkles, comme ca. And you can tint the glaze a scarily bright yellow (if, like me, you are a bit trigger happy with the old gel colours- I feel “d’oh” is appropriate here).

These are made with a yeasted dough, so the dough needs two rises, and they take a bit of prep…but I think that’s ok. Good things are worth waiting for…and I love making yeasted doughs anyway (got to have a hobby, haven’t you).

Just one thing: eat them the same day you make them (i.e. fry them). Once things have been fried, they don’t really keep so well (ever tried a less than fresh McDonald’s chip?) and these are likely to taste very stale the next day.

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It can be a bit intimidating to deep fat fry things, I know… For one thing, you have to emotionally deal with the sheer amount of oil or shortening required to fry the chips/doughnuts/peanut butter cookie dough balls. I can’t help you with that one, but I recommend you just put it out of your mind, like I do, and think of the delicious delicious fried food that’s on the way!

Then you have to heat the oil and that can be scary. But it’s good to be scared a bit, because hot oil burns are no joke and you have to be careful. Use a deep fat fryer if you can; if you don’t have one, make sure your saucepan of oil heats at the back of the stove, and keep pan handles pushed to one side where you won’t accidentally knock them. Keep children and animals out of the room… and wear shoes! No oil drips on the toes, please. It’s a good idea to get all your equipment ready before you begin too – a slotted spoon to lower the doughnuts in/out of the oil, a plate lined with kitchen towel to receive the fried doughnuts.

And you have to heat the oil to the right temperature and keep it there…if it isn’t hot enough, the doughnuts will absorb a lot of the oil and you don’t want that. Too hot, and you’ll burn them. Use a food thermometer to make sure the oil is at the right temperature before you dunk the doughnuts. As soon as you put them in, the temperature will drop a little so make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan to help minimise the temperature drop (and it will give you more room to turn the doughnuts).

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But all the hassle of the fry is so worth it when you taste these babies. On the subject of hassle…I know not everyone has a stand mixer or food processor with a dough hook, but if you do have one or can beg, steal or borrow one, I’d recommend using one for this recipe. The dough is very sticky to work with by hand – but by all means go for it if you want to attack it with your hands. Just don’t let the sticky drive you mad! (Maybe that’s just me…)

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Remember, you could top these with whatever you like- chocolate glaze, maple glaze, sugar…. I’d love to know if you try them and how you get on!

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Recipe: The Best Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

(Makes 15-20 doughnuts, depending on size, plus doughnut holes!)

Ingredients

For the doughnuts:

360g plain flour (you may well need more, depending on the consistency of the dough – see instructions below)

7g (usually one sachet) ‘Instant’ or ‘Quick’ yeast

50g caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

180ml semi-skimmed milk

1 large egg

25g unsalted butter, melted

For the Glaze:

240g Icing/confectioner’s sugar

2-4 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon golden syrup/corn syrup

1 tablespoon of melted butter

1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence (if you want pure white icing, use clear imitation vanilla)

(Optional) Food colouring to tint -I used gel colours

For Frying:

Enough vegetable or sunflower oil to fill a medium/large saucepan to about 5 inches’ depth – I used 2 litres

How to make them

1. Put the dry ingredients for the doughnuts into the bowl of a stand mixer which has been fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on at a slow speed to combine the ingredients. (NB if you don’t have a stand mixer, simply do this in a large mixing bowl, and mix the ingredients together with a spoon/spatula).

2. Once the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer up to medium speed and let it whir away for a minute. Stop the mixer and check the consistency – you want the dough to be soft and quite sticky, but not too runny. For example, the dough should not be smeared all over the bowl, but should be coming together in more or less one lump of dough – although it will be very soft and pliable. If you think it’s too runny, add more flour, tablespoon by tablespoon (I added 7 tablespoons to mine) with the mixer running slowly, until the dough has come together a bit more.

Turn the mixer speed up to medium/medium high again and continue to let it do its work for about 8-10 minutes. (If you’re doing this by hand, you will need to turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it. It is likely to be very tricky to manage, as it will be very sticky. Feel free to add more flour as explained above, but don’t overdo it – this is meant to be a sticky and wet dough. Too much, and the doughnuts will be heavy.) The finished dough should be smooth, silky and very elastic, and still sticky and very moist.

3. Generously oil a large bowl with vegetable/sunflower/corn oil, and dump the kneaded dough into it, turning the ball of dough to cover it in the oil. Place a clean tea towel or cling film loosely over the bowl and put the bowl somewhere warm and draft-free for 60-90 minutes (such as the airing cupboard or near a radiator), or until the dough has doubled in size.

4. Knock back the dough by gently punching all the air out of it, and turn the deflated dough out onto a floured work surface. Give it a few kneads to make it smooth again, and pat it down flat. It’s fine to put flour all over it to stop it from being too sticky to work with. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it’s about 5mm thick.

5. Take a large circular cutter (the size you want your doughnuts to be) and cut out circles in the dough. Then take a smaller cutter (or any other round item that will cut through the dough – I used a metal icing tip) to cut out small circles inside the larger circles and create your ring doughnut shape. If you want to keep the smaller inner circles of dough, you can- these are your ‘doughnut holes’ and you can fry and eat these too!

6. Leave the cut doughnuts (and doughnut holes if you want to fry them too) under a clean tea towel/ lightly greased foil or cling film for an hour while they have their second rise.

7. Heat the oil to 175 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit – use a food thermometer to check it’s at the correct temperature. If the oil gets too hot, carefully remove it from the heat or turn the heat off, and wait for it to cool before returning it to the heat source.

8. Place a doughnut onto a heatproof slotted spoon and carefully lower it into the hot oil. You may be able to fit a few in the pan at the same time, but don’t overcrowd it. Fry the doughnuts for a minute on one side, until golden brown, then flip them over and fry on the other side for a further minute.

9. Remove the fried doughnuts from the oil with the slotted spoon and place on a plate which has been lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Leave to cool.

10. While the doughnuts are cooling, make the vanilla glaze: sift the icing sugar (so there are no lumps) and place in a mixing bowl or large measuring jug. Add the butter, vanilla and syrup and whisk to combine- add the milk until the desired consistency is reached. You should aim for a thick but runny glaze.

11. Take a cooled doughnut, and dip it halfway into the glaze. Put the half-covered doughnut onto a cooling rack or platter. Repeat for the rest of the doughnuts. Decorate with sprinkles, edible glitter, grated chocolate or whatever floats your boat.

Eat on the day you fry them!

Sticky Toffee Pecan Pie Bars

Oh dear. Long time, no post! How has that happened? (At this point, I could come up with some excuses reasons for the gap, but really, are we interested in that…or in pecan pie? I thought so.) Time to get get back on track – and I can’t think of a better way than with these bars. I can say honestly, with a straight face, that I could eat these pecan pie bars every day, for the rest of my life – they’re that good. Maybe not the whole pan, but you know, one or two. (At this point, I feel all English and embarrassed to blow this little bake’s trumpet. But if I don’t, you might not make it! And that would be sad, because these pecan pie bars are so very, very good.)

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The topping on these babies is a classic pecan pie mixture. But I had to call these ‘Sticky Toffee’ Pecan Pie Bars because it’s totally the best description: they are sticky, there’s no two ways about it, and the rich brown-sugar mixture that the pecans nestle in does taste like soft, rich toffee. Make them and tell me if I’m wrong!

Of course, they don’t have to be bars…I made these in an 8 x 8 inch square baking tin, so it seemed only right to cut them into smaller squares…but if you made this in a round tin, you could cut the bars into wedges like a ‘proper’ slices of pecan pie. The main difference between this recipe and a regular pecan pie is that there is no pie crust as such involved here – instead, the pecan pie mixture is set on a buttery shortbread-type base, which softens from the unctuous (yes, I just used the word unctuous – it’s a free country) toffee-like topping.

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But of course the star of the show is the sweet, buttery, toasty pecans. My goodness, are they the nut jackpot or what?

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Make sure you use fresh pecans, because nuts can go stale so quickly – if you have an open bag, make sure they’re not chewy or dry. Admittedly, they aren’t the cheapest item in the baking shopping basket, but for a special treat like this, they’re worth it.

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Buttery biscuit, rich soft toffee, and the bite of sweet toasty pecans. Heaven?

Enjoy!

Recipe : Sticky Toffee Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients:

For the shortbread base:

135h plain flour

115g unsalted butter (soft)

95g light brown sugar

For the pecan pie topping:

170g pecans

90g light brown sugar

3 tablespoons golden syrup

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla essence

Pinch of salt (I used Maldon Smoked Sea Salt, but any will do)

Method:

– Take an 8 x 8 inch square baking tin, and line it with foil or baking parchment. Spray the foil/parchment with non-stick baking spray or rub a tiny amount of vegetable/sunflower oil over it. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

– Make the base putting the sugar, flour and butter in a food processor and blitzing until the mixture looks like moist sand and a few clumps appear. Press a bit of the mixture between your fingers – it should be moist enough to stay together as a dough and not crumble. (If you don’t have a food processor, then beat the sugar and butter together with a wooden spoon until smooth and light, then mix in the flour until a dough forms.)

– Turn the dough base mixture out into your lined tin, and press it down evenly across the base of the tin with your fingers. You can also lightly grease a wooden spoon and use that for squidging down the dough.

– Put the base into the oven and bake for about 16 minutes until the base has a set top and is beginning to colour, although it shouldn’t be hard at all and if you gently prod it with your finger, you should be able to make a dent. Take the base out and set aside – we’re putting it back in in a minute + pecan topping.

– Make the topping by putting all the pecan pie topping ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and stirring gently until thoroughly combined.

– Pour the topping onto the base, and ensure the liquid/pecans are evenly distributed. Don’t get too bonkers trying to tesselate the pecans (true story).

– Pop the whole thing back in the oven and bake for another 17 minutes.

– Leave the pie to cool completely before cutting into slices and devouring. (Note: you can eat it warm, but the sticky topping will be pretty gooey and runny.)