Dark Chocolate and Tahini Cookies

Public service announcement: these are the best cookies in the land. Well, that I've made. I've often struggled with getting the absolute perfect consistency, chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Often my cookies are more like cakies as my boss has named them.

I've stowed a secondary batch of dough in the freezer, although its pretty tempting to dig it out for a mid week treat. The tahini is a perfect match for gooey chocolate chunks, but peanut butter can be substituted if you prefer. I'd imagine that white chocolate will also work just as well too.

D A R K   C H O C O L A T E   A N D   T A H I N I   C O O K I E S
(Recipe adapted from BBC, makes a dozen)

50g salted butter, softened
125g dark brown muscovado sugar
125g golden caster sugar
80g tahini paste
1 egg, beaten
200g self raising flour
2tbsp cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate chunks or chips

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line two cookie sheets with baking paper.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy. 
  • Add the eggs and the tahini and continue to beat on a low speed until combined.
  • Tip in the dry ingredients and continue to beat, again until combined and the mixture forms a cookie dough. 
  • Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to scoop each cookie into shape. Place each cookie evenly spaced on the prepared trays, with half an inch gap between each.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes until soft in the middle, they will firm up on the outside as they cool.
  • Place on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Flourless Salted Chocolate Pretzel Cake

I feel like pretty much everything I bake is chocolate, even besides the brownies. When flicking through my cookery books I was looking for the ultimate chocolate cake, something super dense and fudgey for a dessert. The difference with flourless chocolate cakes, is just that, they're dense and incredibly moreish. Essentially all the great bits of a brownie but in cake form.

This cake is a little different to those I've made before. Usually a sugar syrup is used in recipes to help keep a cake moist, but in a flourless cake I don't really understand why that would be a problem like this recipe calls for. Anyone know? Sugar aside, this cake is baked in two stages. The first half is baked until just firm, cooled and the remaining batter poured over the top for a second bake. The result gives a crisp base and a dense fudgey topping with a shiny, slightly flaky topping.

F L O U R L E S S   S A L T E D   C H O C O L A T E   P R E T Z E L   C A K E
(Recipe adapted from The Cook and Baker, serves 10)

240g salted butter, chopped
360g dark chocolate, chopped 
pinch of sea salt
285g soft light brown sugar
5 eggs, separated
handful of crushed pretzels, for dusting
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line the base and sides of a 9 inch springform tin.
  • Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a medium pan over a low heat. Once fully melted take off the heat and stir through a generous pinch of sea salt. 
  • In a small pan, melt the sugar in 60ml of water and bring to a gently boil. Pour the syrup over the chocolate mixture and beat in the egg yolks.
  • Whisk the egg whites on a medium speed until stiff peaks.
  • Fold the egg whites into the chocolate gently until combined.
  • Pour half of the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
  • Pour over the remaining batter and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Leave to cool completely once more before removing from the tin and scatter the crushed pretzels over the top to decorate. 

Coconut and Blueberry Gluten Free Cake

I've always been curious about coconut oil, and just how good it is to bake with. Many prefer it to regular fats for its nutritional values but just what difference does it make to the taste? We've all heard by now about melting points and that coconut oil pretty much trumps the rest with one of the highest. But in baking, this means cakes will have a lightness you won't be able to achieve with butter. Just substitute it one on one with your regular quantity of fat and gently melt in a pan or microwave before adding it to your ingredients. Admittedly, the coconut flavour isn't suited to all recipes but you can always use half butter and half coconut oil to limit the fat in any recipe.

And something I've not heard too much about, coconut flour (unless I've been living in a shell). I tend to swap any flour with ground almonds as a gluten free alternative if needed. I love the moistness and flavour it gives, particularly in brownies. But I'm not a fan of regular gluten free alternatives like rice flour. I just can't get the substitute quantities right, and to be frank, the taste is just not right. My research tells me that as coconut flour is so absorbent you need much less flour as it will soak up all your liquid ingredients. You'll also need more eggs to help bind everything together.

Essentially, coconut flour is low in carbohydrates and non-inflammatory unlike other grain free options so is much easier to digest. Although it would seem that substituting quantities is difficult, its definitely worthwhile for the added healthy fats it includes and as its high in fibre.

And so, here it is, a tried and tested recipe that introduced me into the world of coconut flour. This cake is almost virtuous so I'm just going to help myself to another slice...

Holland and Barrett online is my new favourite place for baking supplies! I didn't know how many coconut ingredients existed.

C O C O N U T   A N D   B L U E B E R R Y   G L U T E N   F R E E   C A K E
(Serves 6-8)

4 eggs
125g soft light brown sugar
100g coconut oil, melted
50g coconut flour
1tsp gluten free baking powder
50g desiccated coconut
200g fresh blueberries
220g cream cheese
120g icing sugar
zest of 2 lemons

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line the base and sides of three 6 inch sandwich tins (or one 7 inch deep round tin).
  • Whisk together the eggs and sugar on a medium speed until light, fluffy and doubled in size.
  • Continue to mix on a low speed and slowly pour in the coconut oil.
  • Add in the coconut flour, baking powder and coconut and gently fold together with a spatula.
  • Add the blueberries and mix until just combined.
  • Pour into the prepared tray, smooth a knife over the top to level and bake for 30 minutes. After this point, turn the heat down to 150 degrees for another 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • To make the icing, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and all but a spoon of the zest until smooth and creamy.
  • Sandwich the cakes between layers of frosting and sprinkle the remaining lemon zest on top for decoration.

Thanks to the team at Holland and Barrett for sending over some coconut goodies to inspire this post.

Sticky BBQ Mop Sausages

The sun is out and its barbecue time. Perfect for weekdays, fuss free weekends or large crowds, these sticky BBQ sausages are my new favourite thing. On the barbecue or in the oven, I love how Meat Lust sauces do all the work. 

Meat Lust's new range can be used as standalone sauces in their snazzy squeezy bottles or to give your existing recipes and sandwiches a little lift. The BBQ Mop sauce, my favourite, is great as a marinade for anything from chicken, pulled pork to sausages.

I kind of went overboard and made way to many sausages for my weekend of being home alone. But I've loved them in sandwiches for work and in a smokey bean mix for dinner. If it sounds like I've been eating sausages since the weekend, then yes I have but these are so worth it! I'd say that I've shared them with the man friend since he returned from his weekend away, but truth is, I've been hiding them away in the back of the fridge. Oops. Sophie does not share food. 

Their other flavours include Buffalo, Chinese BBQ and Green Sweet Chilli. I imagine every sandwich is going to be utterly pimped from this point forward! Meat Lust have got you covered for all potential sauce situations you may encounter this summer. 

S T I C K Y   B B Q   M O P   S A U S A G E S
(To serve 6 people)

6 premium pork sausages
1/2 bottle Meat Lust BBQ Mop sauce
6 hot dog/sub rolls
handful of green leaves
chopped onions and mustard to serve

  • Place the sausages in an oven proof tray and squeeze over the BBQ mop sauce, turning to ensure all are fully coated. Cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to marinade.
  • Cook the sausages in a preheated grill for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through and golden on all sides.
  • Half each of the rolls and top with a scattering of leaves. Top with a sausage each and add some chopped spring onions and a generous drizzle of mustard.

Find the rest of Meat Lust's tasty range in Sainsbury's and Tesco, look out for green sweet chilli, buffalo and chinese BBQ.

Thanks to the lovely Thug Flavours team for sending me some samples to try. All opinions are my own.

Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake

This is no mean feat, especially for a chocolate and caramel lover. But that's exactly what I love about sheet cakes, the greater surface area allows for mass chocolate chip/drizzle combo topping. Its not the prettiest, nor the best executed. More like an excuse to make yourself a cake and load it up with all your favourite toppings.

There's no limit to poke cakes either. You could load it up with chocolate ganache, something boozy or anything else you fancy in place of the caramel. A poke cake literally means poke holes in it and pour over a sauce, it knocks the socks off a drizzle cake...unless it's the super boozy gin and tonic cake I made last week!

C H O C O L A T E   C A R A M E L   P O K E   C A K E
Serves 12

Chocolate cake

140g unsalted butter
350g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
2tbsp malted milk powder (like Horlicks)
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
300g soft light brown sugar
300ml milk
150ml vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla extract


395g tin condensed milk
2tbsp golden syrup
60g unsalted butter

Chocolate caramel frosting

250g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), melted and cooled
1-2tsp caramel extract

Chocolate chips and 50g white chocolate for finishing

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 23x33cm baking tray.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt to remove any lumps and add in the sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla and cooled butter before whisking into the dry ingredients. 
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the baking tray for 10 minutes before using the end of a wooden spoon to poke holes over the surface of the cake.
  • Whilst the cake is baking in the oven, make the caramel. Add all the ingredients into a medium sized pan on a medium heat and gently whisk until the mixture starts to steam, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for a further minute.
  • Pour the caramel over the cake ensuring to cover every edge and poke hole. Cover and leave to chill for one hour in the fridge.
  • To make the chocolate frosting, whisk the butter and sifted icing sugar together, gently at first, until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the cooled melted dark chocolate whilst continuing to beat.
  • Spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cooled cake. 

Top with whatever treats you want for finishing touches, I threw over a generous helping of chocolate chips and sprinkles and a drizzle of white chocolate.

The cake is quite oozy, so feel free to pop in the fridge to chill a little again in order to make neat slices for serving. Alternatively, eat straight from the tin with a fork and in great quantities. 

Super Boozy Gin and Tonic Cake

A drunken cake seeped in gin and plenty of sunny lemon makes for a great combination of my two loves: cake and gin. This cake can hold her booze, that's for sure, perhaps a little more than you can.

 S U P E R   B O O Z Y   G I N   A N D   T O N I C   C A K E
(Recipe adapted from Pudding Lane, makes one large 2lb loaf)

265g unsalted butter, softened
265g caster sugar
4 eggs
265g self raising flour
2 lemons
8 shots of gin
Dash of tonic water
150g caster sugar

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper. 
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. 
  • Beat in the eggs, gently one at a time, add in a few spoons of flour after each addition. 
  • Add the flour, lemon zest of both lemons and juice of 1 and half the gin and stir together. 
  • Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 
  • In the last few minutes of baking, prepare the drizzle. Whisk together the remaining gin, tonic, caster sugar and juice of the remaining lemon until well combined. 
  • Once the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and poke lots of holes into the surface. Pour over the drizzle and leave to cool fully before serving. 

Salted Caramel Stuffed Brownies

Since last month I've been attempting to get used to 9-5 commuting and a new job. Gone are the old days of baking at midnight after a late shift and having the whole next morning to take photos, read and drink coffee. Even though my days are now shorter it feels like there's not enough time in the day.

My body clock is taking some time to adjust so at 6am on Sunday morning I was up baking brownies. I figured that was the only way to make being awake so early on a Sunday more bearable.

Brownies are my go to thing. I'd make them each week if I trusted myself not to eat the whole batch. But I've never made them in this way, stuffed with salted caramel. Not the oozy kind, but the kind you make with condensed milk that sets really well once baked. And, most importantly, the kind that reminds me how much I love baking and how I really do need to make more time for it regardless of what hours I'm working!

S A L T E D   C A R A M E L   S T U F F E D   B R O W N I E S
(Recipe adapted from Recipe Tin Eats, makes 16 brownies)

200g unsalted butter
200g Lindt Excellence salted caramel dark chocolate
180g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
60g plain flour
30g cocoa powder

Salted caramel:

395g sweetened condensed milk
2tbsp golden syrup
60g unsalted butter
1tsp flaked sea salt

  • Place the butter and dark chocolate over a pan of barley simmering water and gently melt. Takeoff the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the chocolate mix into the sugar mix and stir together until smooth and silky.
  • Fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just combined and set the brownie batter aside.
  • Line an 8x8" tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
  • To make the caramel, add all ingredients to a medium pan on a low - medium heat and stir together.
  • Whisk continually until the caramel starts to turn a little more golden and to steam. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for a further minute.
  • Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared tin and top with the caramel mix. Smooth the remaining brownie batter over the top.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top has a smooth crisp skin. The brownies once done will have a little wobble in the centre but will firm up as they cool out the oven.

Thanks again to Lindt for my stash of chocolate! This is not a sponsored post. I just love Lindt, a lot. 

Salted Chocolate, Bourbon and Spelt Cookies

You know when you spend forever baking something for someone, trying to get it just right, and it just goes wrong? Brownies for example. I made some when I went to Flick's for tea a little while ago and she sent me back home with them! Sounds cruel, but she was right, you really can tell when something's just not right.

In this instance, I'd melted down some leftover Easter eggs and the chocolate wasn't anywhere near my usual 70-80% cocoa choice. They didn't really taste of anything, such a shame that they didn't taste that great.

For baking, I love using dark chocolate. The darker the better. I'm forever double checking the back of packets just to check just how much percentage of cocoa they have. That's why I love Lindt's Excellence range, it says its 70% and it really is 70%. Especially as they have my 3 favourite flavours, salted chocolate, orange with almond and salted caramel. These are excellent in any baking.

Particularly these cookies. A little bit grown up with the addition of bourbon, super dark chocolate and flaky sea salt. I almost didn't feel guilty having two of these for breakfast this morning!

S A L T E D   C H O C O L A T E   B O U R B O N   &   S P E L T   C O O K I E S
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, makes a dozen cookies)

290g plain flour
70g spelt flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
190g unsalted butter, room temperature
75g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bourbon
200g Lindt Excellence salted dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
flaky sea salt for topping

  • Add the flour, bicarbonate and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to remove any lumps.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy, around 3-4 minutes. Add in the egg, vanilla and bourbon and continue to mix on a low speed until incorporated.
  • Add the flour mix a little at a time until incorporated again.
  • Gently fold in the chocolate chunks before scooping the dough into a large ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for a few hours until firm.
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Line two cookie trays with baking paper. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls, I use an ice cream scoop for this. 
  • Flatten each cookie onto the tray, leaving space in between each. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden and leave to firm and cool before serving.

Thank you to the lovely Elle and Mai at Lindt towers for sending me some samples for recipes!

Pretzel Cinnamon Rolls

I'm a sucker for cinnamon buns. But each time I make them they're never Pinterest perfect. I guess with a little practice I could master them, so on the weekend I was feeling a little adventurous and got some dough proving.

I always find that it takes much longer for my dough to double up on first prove than recipes suggest. My flat is warm so I don't know what I'm doing wrong? If you've got any bun tips then help a girl out!

I first spotted these on Pinterest and couldn't wait to try them out. A combination of my two loves, salty pretzels and sweet sticky cinnamon buns. 

Think of those pillowy soft cinnamon coated pretzels you get in shopping centres but swirled into a bun. Instead of quickly boiling the buns like you would with pretzels to give that chewy outside, these are brushed with a bicarbonate of soda solution to do the very same thing. Sprinkled with salt these will turn pretty dark once baked but I promise they'll be squidgey cinnamon pillows on the inside.

P R E T Z E L   C I N N A M O N   R O L L S
(Recipe adapted from The Kitchn, makes 12 rolls)

450g plain flour, plus more for kneading
7g dried packet yeast
4tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
100g dark brown sugar
3tbsp ground cinnamon
75g unsalted butter, softened
1tbsp bicarbonate of soda
salt for sprinkling 
  • Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the egg and 175ml of warm water. Mix together with your hands to form a sticky lump and tip onto a floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth, slightly sticky ball.
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about 1 hour in a warm place.
  • Lightly grease a large ovenproof dish or tray.
  • Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a floured surface and roll out to a 20 x 12 inch rectangle. 
  • Spread the butter over the dough, reaching all the edges. Sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar.
  • Tightly roll the dough into a log starting with the short edge. Cut evenlt into 12 pieces, each an inch thick. Arrange onto the oven dish, leaving space between each roll. Loosely cover with some greased cling film and leave to rise once again in a warm place for about 30 minutes,
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. 
  • Mix the bicarbonate of soda with 3tbsp of hot water and use a pastry brush to brush over the tops of each of the rolls. Immediately sprinkle with salt and bake for 35 minutes, until risen and darkly golden.

These rolls are best eaten on the day, but if by rare chance you've some left, gently warm them and you're good to go.

Almond Chai Muffins with Chocolate Chunks

I don't know if you can tell, but I have the ultimate sweet tooth. For elevenses and after lunch slumps I'm always raiding the biscuit jar, I just can't help myself. On weeks where I'm much more organised I like to whip up a batch of healthier treats to stash in my desk drawer at work. Anything from muffins, flapjacks to banana bread.

Most weeks I do ok, other weeks I need a little more encouragement. So when Blue Diamond got in touch to tell me about their new '30 Ways to Goodness' campaign I was excited to try a new recipe for my snack box. In collaboration with fitness guru and blogger Faya Nilsson from Fitness on Toast, the team are encouraging you to feel good about yourself with a few simple tips in food and fitness. Together with Faya they've launched a video series to get both your tastebuds and body moving.

Whilst I may not start doing burpees behind the desk, I've been enjoying the brighter days by taking myself on lunchtime walks to get myself moving a little bit more. I tend to graze on snacks throughout the day so instead of sitting around in the canteen, I've been trying exploring the local area in my 45 minutes. Along with being organised in taking in healthier homemade snacks I've also being enjoying almond milk in my coffee to sweeten it up in place of my regular spoon of sugar.

A L M O N D   C H A I   M U F F I N S   W I T H   C H O C O L A T E   C H U N K S
(Recipe adapted from Simply Nigella, makes 12 muffins)

Whilst these aren't super healthy muffins, anything homemade is better than raiding the biscuit jar. Everything in moderation, right? Replace the flour for spelt flour, oil for coconut oil and sugar for honey if you're feeling adventurous. The chocolate chunks are entirely optional, currants or cacao nibs would work equally well too.

225ml Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 chai tea bags
400g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g soft light brown sugar
75g whole almonds, roughly chopped
100g milk chocolate chunks (optional)
2 eggs
150ml sunflower oil
  • In a small pan, gently heat the milk, cinnamon and chai tea. Its easier to tear apart the tea bags and pour the tea into the pan. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 degrees and line a muffin tray with paper cases.
  • Pour the flour, baking powder and sugar into a large mixing bowl and roughly whisk to remove any lumps. Add the almonds, apart from a few spoons, and the chocolate chunks.
  • In the saucepan with the cooled milk, add the eggs and oil and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a spatula or wooden spoon to fold together until just incorporated. Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on the muffin tops. 
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before eating.

Find out more about the '30 Ways to Goodness' campaign videos here, or recipes here. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze and other products are available in your local Sainsbury's, Tescos, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and Ocado. 

This post was kindly sponsored by Blue Diamond, but all views and opinions are my own.