Cornflake, Sultana & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There's always time for cookies!

I've sort of had a love / hate relationship with baking cookies. Who would have thought there'd be such a battle to get the perfect texture, crisp on the outside and chewy in the centre. Not to blow my own trumpet but, ok maybe a little, these cookies have not only the best texture but the cornflakes are also a surprisingly great addition. I think I've cracked them!

Yeah oats would do, but cornflakes lend a great golden flavour and a good crunch alongside some super plump sultanas. And who doesn't love chocolate chunks too?

I'm most certainly baking these again on the weekend. If they've got cornflakes in then I'll be eating them for breakfast. All part of a balanced diet!

C O R N F L A K E   S U L T A N A   A N D   C H O C O L A T E   C H U N K   C O O K I E S
(Makes a dozen large or two dozen small cookies)

120g unsalted butter, room temperature
115g soft light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
150g sultanas
75g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
145g self raising flour
50g cornflakes
pinch salt

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and cover two cookie sheets with baking paper.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla extract and egg, and gently beat until combined.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients and gently fold together to form a dough.
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute or two until smooth.
  • Use a tablespoon to scoop a cookie at a time onto your prepared cookie sheet, or an ice cream scoop if you're making large ones. Place evenly spaced on the tray, leaving plenty of room between each.
  • Bake for 12 minutes until golden, but soft in the centre. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Christmas Canapés with John Lewis

So now we're in November I can talk about Christmas, right?

I'm not sorry to say that I'm fully in the festive spirit after John Lewis invited me to an evening of canapés and cocktails at the Waitrose Cookery School in Finchley.

The cookery school has long been one of my favourites in town - possibly because a selection of Christmas inspired cocktails were ready and waiting for us at the bar - but also because of the huge variety of classes they have on offer.

When I first heard we'd be making up to 5 different canapés in just a few hours I was pretty intrigued as to what was on the menu and how much cooking we'd actually do. I'm not one for fiddly bits and finesse but Chefs Gerry and Shauna expertly guided us through each step and added a whole heap of new recipes to our festive repertoire. So if you fancy some confit duck samosas with spiced pear puree or maybe parmesan risotto balls, I'm your girl. And cocktails? I'm a dab hand at a spiced gin and tonic and my new favourite, the spiced blackberry fizz.

I've decided to share my favourite recipes from the night because the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Especially as I've recreated them at home since the class and LOVE them.

S P I C E D   B L A C K B E R R Y   F I Z Z
(Recipe from Waitrose Cookery School, serves 1)

For the spiced blackberry cordial (easily doubles)

400ml water
200g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
peel of 1 orange
200g punnet of blackberries

  • Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon and orange to a gentle simmer before adding the blackberries, cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool fully before straining the juice through a fine sieve, pressing out the juices from the berries.

To serve:

white/spiced/dark rum or vodka, your choice
ginger beer
tonic water or sparkling water
freshly sliced ginger
orange slices
fresh blackberries

  • Fill your glass with ice and pour over a measure each of your preferred spirit and blackberry cordial. Top with equal amounts of ginger beer and tonic water. Add a slice each of ginger and orange and a blackberry to finish.

H A Z E L N U T  &   C H O C O L A T E   O R A N G E   B I S C O T T I
(Recipe from Waitrose Cookery School, makes up to 30 biscuits)

50g blanched hazelnuts
120g plain white flour
pinch salt
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp cream of tartar
35g dried cherries
25g orange dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 egg
zest of 1/2 an orange

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until just golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • Place all of the remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix to form a biscuit dough, adding a few drops of water if needed to bring the mixture together.
  • Upturn onto a floured work surface and knead until soft. Roll out the dough into two sausages the length of your baking tray.
  • Place the dough sausages on a tray spaced apart and bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch, but still soft in the centre. 
  • Remove from the oven and reduce to oven to 140 degrees.
  • Leave to cool slightly before diagonally slicing into 1cm thick pieces. Place on the tray once more and bake for a further 12-15 minutes until crisp.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool fully before serving.

And now we're all feeling super festive, I'm off to have a peak at John Lewis' Christmas gift inspiration. Thanks for inviting me guys, I learnt so much and would seriously recommend the cookery school classes to all.

I have not received payment for this post - just some canapés, which I greatly enjoyed. All opinions genuinely my own.

Ginger & Golden Syrup Bonfire Cake

Its been a busy week at work and whatnot but also in mentally preparing myself for the biggest bake I've ever done. Persephone's wedding cake! Flick and I are pretty honoured to be making a giant stack of brownies for the special day tomorrow. So whilst my kitchen is filled with countless trays and kilos of chocolate, I've just squeezed in some time to make a birthday cake for my Stepdad.

I'm slightly envious of his bonfire night birthday, the perfect time for a big ginger cake and some fireworks in the garden. (We'll forget the year a Catherine wheel set the garden gate on fire!) So whilst I'll be wearing my dancing shoes and shimmying around during P's reception, I'm sending this cake over in my absence.

A super tall, sticky ginger and golden syrup cake, soaked in more golden syrup and topped with sticky toffee popcorn from Popworks. There's heaps of sparklers for the top for tomorrow night, but for now I've improvised! 

G I N G E R   & G O L D E N   S Y R U P   B O N F I R E   C A K E
(Serves 12)

225g golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
100g golden caster sugar
75g glace ginger pieces
200ml full fat milk
2 eggs, beaten
225g self raising flour
1tbsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp salt
2-3tbsp extra golden syrup
popcorn to top

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a deep 6 inch round cake tin.
  • In a saucepan over a medium heat, melt the golden syrup, butter and sugar together until smooth. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  • Add the ginger, milk and eggs and stir together.
  • Place the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients.
  • Fold the mix together and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine started browning on the top half way through so I popped a foil hat on.
  • Once baked, remove from the oven and pour over a generous dollop of golden syrup, smoothing over the top.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 8 - Cherry, Marzipan & Pistachio Cake

If you haven't already guessed I wasn't entirely enamoured with Tudor week. I didn't fancy making a pie, knotted biscuits or fussing around with twiddling some marzipan over a cake. So I took it upon myself to boycott Henry VII and made a cake instead, with marzipan baked in. Sorry Henry. But...this cake is super moist as it uses ground almonds, and is the perfect balance to the cherries and pistachio. 

I couldn't find any fresh cherries in my local supermarket so opted for frozen ones and left them to defrost and dry out, before a good flour coating in a bid to stop them from sinking to the bottom of the cake as much as possible. I even added some on the very top, but they still sunk a little. Any tips to stop this baking experts?

C H E R R Y,   M A R Z I P A N   &   P I S T A C H I O   C A K E
(Recipe adapted from Delicious, serves 12)

300g cherries, pitted and finely chopped
150g marzipan, chopped into small chunks
150g self raising flour, plus 1tbsp extra
225g unsalted butter, softened
185g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1tsp almond extract
4 eggs
100g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
50g pistachios, roughly chopped
icing sugar to dust
  1. Heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin.
  2. Mix both the marzipan and cherries with the 1tbsp of flour, this will help them to not sink in the cake during baking. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Gently fold in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Fold in half of the cherries and marzipan and pour into the prepared springform tin. Add the remaining cherries and marzipan on the top and gently press into the top of the mixture.
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes before turning down the heat to 160 degrees and baking for a further 50 minutes. Once cooked, a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool fully.
  7. Top with chopped pistachios and dust with icing sugar to finish.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros
Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart
Week 6 - Brownie Bottomed Coffee Mousse Cake
Week 8 - Cherry, Marzipan and Cherry Cake

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 7 - Brownie Bottomed Coffee Mousse Cake

The weeks have flown past and tonight marks the semi final. After some time away its time to dust off the mixer and get back in the kitchen.

Last week's dessert challenges saw a heap of recipes I've never tried before. The aim is to try something different and whilst I didn't strictly do that, I did try and make smaller delicate versions of my usual monster brownies.

These brownies are soaked in coffee syrup, topped with a layer of caramel and a head of coffee mousse. Not suitable for your lunchbox but perfect for a make ahead dessert. One of those that you can do in stages. Brownies last up to 5 days in the fridge and you can make the mousse up to 1 hour before serving - just leave enough time for it to set if you want to slice it neatly.

I'm silently pooping myself over tudor week. I guess all will be revealed in just a few hours time...hopefully nothing too challenging!!

B R O W N I E   B O T T O M E D   C O F F E E   M O U S S E   C A K E
(Makes 24 small, or 12 large servings)

For the brownie base:

3 eggs
275g caster sugar
175g salted butter
300g dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa solids)
pinch salt
175g plain flour

For the coffee syrup:

50ml strong hot coffee
25g caster sugar

For the caramel layer:

I halved this recipe

For the coffee mousse:

4 eggs, separated
150g golden caster sugar
4 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water
2tbsp instant coffee
120ml hot water
220ml whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks

  • To make the brownies, heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a square brownie pan. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water, remove from the heat, add the salt and leave to cool slightly. Whisk the eggs and sugar once more until the mix turns pale and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate and gently whisk once more. Using a metal spoon or spatula, fold in the flour. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Once cooked, the top should be shiny, but there will still be a little movement in the centre of the brownies which will firm up as it cools. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.
  • To make the coffee syrup, stir the sugar into the coffee until melted. Poke holes over the surface of the warm brownie and pour over. This will soak in as it cools. Once fully cool, place in the fridge to firm up fully and make it easier to slice.
  • Follow the caramel instructions, or use a jar of shop made and spread an even, thin layer on the top of the unsliced brownies.
  • To make the coffee mousse, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and creamy. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Remove the gelatine leaves from the water and squeeze out any excess. Add to a further bowl along with the coffee and water and mix until the gelatine fully dissolves completely. Combine the coffee mixture with the egg yolks and mix well. Add half the whipped cream and gently fold in and alternate with the egg whites. Once everything's folded together, pour over the brownies and leave to set for at least an hour in the fridge before serving. Or blitz in the freezer for extra slicing help.
  • Serve with a dusting of cocoa powder and some cream.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros
Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart
Week 6 - Brownie Bottomed Coffee Mousse Cake
Week 8 - Cherry, Marzipan and Cherry Cake

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart

Another week in the tent of dreams, and another bake that usually wouldn't phase me...but did. Its as if the baking Gods (i.e. Paul) knew I was using shop bought pastry and let me down. This week saw a patchwork of pastry and a leak. Pastry week was a flop.

A flop until I got some treats from the lovely Debenhams gang from their Tala range. My baking armoury is ready Paul, bring on botanical week! There's everything from icing nozzles to pastry making tools - star baker I'm coming for you.

But for now, I tried every which way to ensure that there were no soggy bottoms. With the blind bake, I pricked the base and loaded up with baking beans in a bid to dry out the pastry. My mistake was in chopping surplus pastry off before the blind bake rather than after, and it shrunk down the sides of the tin. I tried to patchwork in some new sides but it didn't work so much. Mary would have called in informal and Paul a mess. And ultimately it sprung a leak!

C H E R R Y   B A K E W E L L   T A R T
(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food, serves 8)

1 block of shop bought shortcrust pastry (sorry Mary and Paul!)
2-3tbsp morello cherry jam
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1 egg, beaten
1tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds
80g icing sugar, sifted
2tsp cold water

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a well floured surface until its the thickness of about a pound coin. Use the pastry to line an 8 inch tart tin. Prick with a fork to avoid any air bubbles, line with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes to dry out the base.
  • Spread the base evenly with the cherry jam.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sugar, almonds, egg and almond extract and stir well. Pour into the pastry tin and cover with the flaked almonds.
  • Bake for 35 minutes until golden and the frangipane is mostly firm.
  • Make the icing with the icing sugar and water, pour into a piping bag before drizzling over the top of the tart once slightly cooled.

Thanks to the fab guys at Debenhams for sending over some Tala baking treats. Will certainly keep me going with bake off bake along! Check out their range here.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros
Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart
Week 6 - Brownie Bottomed Coffee Mousse Cake
Week 8 - Cherry, Marzipan and Cherry Cake

The Happenstance, St. Paul's

Out of pure coincidence I seem to have spent a fair amount of my time recently frequenting various venues of the Drake and Morgan chain. There's The Refinery, The Folly and now The Happenstance amongst six other sites.

Last week I was invited to sample The Happenstance's new Autumn menu which at the time felt premature on the hottest day in September since time began. But now I'm fully in the swing of things, pumpkins, coats, scarves 'n all (you'll be happy to hear!).

On first glimpses we were a little concerned about whether our table was to be near the busy bar area. Something all to familiar from dining at The Folly. Fortunately we were soon ushered up to the dining room and handed a glass of fizz and the menu.

Next up for Flick and I on our culinary quest was the drinks list. I've fond memories of sitting in a deck chair watching Wimbledon and drinking a goldfish in a bag cocktail at The Refinery. So you guessed it, when I clocked it on the menu this is exactly what I ordered. Now I know this sounds very unladylike of me, but its not the goldfish bowl of our student years. Its a bit of fun, ultimately a supercharged G&T with the addition of vodka and rosemary, and I love it. 

First up on the menu was chorizo and paprika scotch egg followed by meatballs with cannellini beans, feta and pine nuts. I couldn't quite find the feta flavour in the meatballs which would have added to the kick of seasoning that they needed. We were also thrown by them being in a creamy sauce rather than your regular tomato. Not necessarily a bad thing, just needed a little lift. The scotch egg, however, was sublime and I'd happily eat plenty more.

Next up for mains, we shared a butternut squash risotto and roast cod with brown shrimp and mash. Sadly the risotto was not quite to my taste as I'd expected the squash to be a primary ingredient rather than a few cubes on the top. The brown shrimp and cod were pretty good, despite lots of surplus oil on the dish, but I'd have loved a sauce to accompany it.

For dessert, the pecan tart came up absolute trumps. So much so its inspired Flick to invite the gang round for Sunday dinner this week and pecan tart is on the menu! And still obsessed by Jaffa Cakes from week 1 of the Great British Bake Off, I also opted for their chocolate orange jaffa cake for dessert. A soft genoise slice, layered with orange jelly and chocolate. Send me more please!

Overall, the venue is great and ideally located. The separate dining area is great too. I'd recommend it most especially for their creative cocktails, and if you're looking for those after work/food drinks.

Find The Happenstance nearest to St. Paul's station and check out their menu here.

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 4 - Churros

I wasn't overly enamoured with batter week. So much so I didn't really want to bake/fry any of the challenges. I spent hours flicking through Pinterest and Instagram looking for some inspiration. I know you can always freeze batter, but its better fresh. With a home of two, there's only so many yorkshire puddings of lace pancakes you can make and that's just wasting food. I'm not sure taking cold leftovers into the office would have worked so well.

And so, begrudgingly I decided to make churros. I didn't expect that I'd be able to get regular churros to be uniform in size and to hold their piped ridges so I went for fewer and bigger doughnut sized churros. 

You know what? I'm so glad I did. These are super easy to make and can be great for desserts. Imagine them sandwiched between a big scoop of salted caramel ice cream or topped with fresh berries. A DIY churros dessert bar if you will. 

As I was home alone on a weekday day off, I decided to keep it simple. Ready made fancy salted caramel and super quick cheats chocolate dip were my choice of toppings. One for me, one for Matthew and the rest were packaged up in foil takeaway containers to keep warm and were sent off to my brother, his wife and brand new baby in hospital as a care package. 

G I A N T   C H U R R O S   W I T H   C H E A T S   C H O C O L A T E   D I P
(Recipe adapted from SBS, makes 6 large churros)

For the churros:

100g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
3 eggs
Plenty of oil for frying

For the sugar coating:

100g caster sugar
1tbsp ground cinnamon

For the chocolate dip:

4tbsp nutella spread
1-2tsp whole milk

Salted caramel, ice cream, chocolate chips and anything else you fancy to serve.

  • Bring 250ml of water and the butter to boil in a medium pan over a medium heat. This will melt the butter, so doesn't matter so much whether you've cubed it or not, or even forgotten to take it out the fridge in advance.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt to remove any lumps.
  • Once the liquids have come to the boil, pour in the flour mix and continue to cook over a medium heat whilst stirring continuously until the batter forms a smooth ball in the centre of the pan. Remove from the heat.
  • Put the batter into the stand mixer's bowl (saving on washing up!) and mix with a paddle attachment on a low speed. Add in each egg one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Once smooth and all the eggs are combined, leave the batter to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, once the batter is ready everything will happen very quickly so prepare the next steps in advance. Cut 6 squares of baking paper. Prepare a disposable icing bag with a large star shaped nozzle. Line a tray with baking paper to blot the churros once cooked.
  • After the batter has rested, spoon into the prepared piping bag. Pipe 6 equal discs of churros, starting from the centre and working out. Place the discs into the freezer to chill, this will help them keep their shape when frying.
  • Bring a medium frying pan filled with 4cm of oil to the boil, or enough to cover a churros. Once the oil has reached around 180 degrees, a square of bread will turn brown within 45 seconds.
  • Place the churros in one at a time, and cook for 2 minutes each side. I like to regularly check the oils temperature in order to maintain the same heat. Otherwise its likely to increase and you'll find your churros burning.
  • Once golden, use a slotted spoon to upturn each onto kitchen paper to blot away any residue oil.
  • Then dunk in the prepared cinnamon sugar ensuring to coat all sides, nooks and crannies.
  • For the chocolate dip, add the nutella into a small bowl and add a dash of milk. Warm gently and slowly  in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time. You may want to add a few more drops of milk a little at a time to ensure the right thickness. Mix well before serving.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros
Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart
Week 6 - Brownie Bottomed Coffee Mousse Cake
Week 8 - Cherry, Marzipan and Cherry Cake