Gingerbread Marshmallows

   There's not much that can beat homemade marshmallows in a hot chocolate. I'm sure someone else could give it a much more technical reasoning...but, they just seem to melt loads more. These plump pillows of gingerbread goodness have a strong warming spice on their own that can completely transform any hot chocolate.

   After spending many an hour on Pinterest the other evening, I found my self suffering with a bad case of American marshmallow envy. They always seem to have much more choice of supermarket kinds. Even very cute gingerbread men shaped ones! I gathered it would be a little unreasonable to jet off to The States just to purchase some, so I hunted for some recipes to try my very own!

Spiced gingerbread marshmallows
(Recipe from Annie Rigg's 'Sweet Things')

Ensure that you fully prepare and measure all ingredients before starting. It's also helpful to have all pans, bowls and tools out ready. Marshmallows aren't too technical to make but do involve some good timing and a pan of molten hot syrup. For this molten hot syrup, use a sugar thermometer. So easy to use, and very essential for sweet treats such as these.

     1tbsp icing sugar
     1tbsp cornflour
     6 leaves gelatine
     2 large egg whites
     185g golden caster sugar
     pinch of salt
     2tsp ground ginger
     1/2tsp ground cinnamon
     pinch of allspice
     pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
     100g soft light brown muscavado sugar
     2tbsp treacle
     2tbsp golden syrup

  • Lightly grease a 20cm square baking tray. Line with baking paper and lightly grease again.
  • In a small bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cornflour.
  • Use a few teaspoons of the mix to dust the inside of the greased tray.
  • Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water and set aside.
  • Place the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, add 1tbsp of the caster sugar and the salt, but don't whisk.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix together the spices.
  • Heat the remaining caster sugar, light brown sugar, treacle and golden syrup in a medium saucepan with 150ml of water.
  • Bring to the boil then leave to simmer until the syrup reaches 115 degrees on the sugar thermometer.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and quickly turn the stand mixer on to whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak.
  • Drain the softened gelatine leaves and stir until melted in the syrup mixture.
  • Pour into the whipped egg whites, continuing to whisk on a low speed.
  • Increase to a medium speed, add the spices and continue to whisk for a further 3-4 minutes.
  • Pour into the prepared tin. Shake and give it a little wiggle to smooth out the top.
  • Leave to cool before covering with cling film and leave for a further 4 hours, or overnight, to set.
  • Once the marshmallows have set, turn out onto a work surface dusted with the remaining icing sugar and cornflour mix.
  • Using a sharp, lightly oiled knife, cut into squares. 
  • Toss all squares in the icing sugar to ensure all sides are coated.
Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

You can find my coconut marshmallow recipe here
And if you fancy following my boards on Pinterest, you may find them here.

As part of a blogger's Secret Santa, I sent some to the lovely Leona from Oh! Leona. Check out her blog to see her cute dog, Rex, who is fond of chocolate!
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Sunshine Bars

   In attempt to have healthier snacks this week, I thought I'd give one of Gwyneth Paltrow's recipes a go, these sunshine bars. I'm not sure exactly what the difference between a flapjack, granola bar or sunshine bar are. But I like the sound of some sunshine.

   Of course, in true Sophie style, there are sure to be some unhealthy snacks this week as I'm on annual leave for 10 days. Well, I did finish half a packet of chocolate chip cookies whilst making these bars. I also have a special bake planned for some festivities this keep your eyes peeled.

   My take on Gwynnie's sunshine bars are probably not as 'clean' seeing as I'm reluctant to fork out on ingredients like a jar of coconut oil that will most likely be finished in one use. But, am willing to give it a go if anyone can persuade me otherwise?

   I'm always on the look out for new recipe books, but have made a pact to myself to try out a few recipes before I buy. There seems to be more and more books out with not much substance and a whole load of bumf. For this reason, Dan Lepard's 'Short & Sweet: The Best of Home Baking' is on my Christmas list. From reviews, and flicking through it every time I walk into Waterstone's, it seems to be one of those books with just about everything you could want to ever bake.

   I found this recipe online and with a few of my own tweaks am impressed. So if anyone else has some links for other recipes of hers then I'd love to give them a go.

Sunshine Bars
(Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's 'It's All Good', makes 8 generous bars)
     145g rolled oats
     75g margarine, melted
     25g oatbran
     small pinch of salt
     70ml maple syrup
     40g flaked almonds
     50g sultanas
     handful of chopped hazelnuts
     handful of cacao drops (raw chocolate buttons)
     2tbsp ginger preserve (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, ensuring that all oats, nuts and fruit are coated evenly.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and pack down the mixture.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
  • Cut into bars whilst still warm and allow to cool fully before serving.
These bars are no where near as sweet as shop bought granola/flapjacks but I don't mind that.
Use any dried fruit or nuts depending on your preferences or on what you have lying about in the cupboard. I added in the ginger preserve, as since receiving a few jars from Mackays I've been putting it on practically everything for a little warmth and spice! 

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Whiskey Marmalade & Pecan Brownies

   Here's my recipe for Mackays #christmaswithmackays challenge. Super fudgey brownies with a whiskey marmalade kick and topped with pecans to give a little crunch.

   I used Smitten Kitchen's cocoa brownie recipe for two reasons; it's cold outside and I wasn't feeling brave enough to walk in the rain to the shops to get lots of chocolate bars and because Huffington Post deems it as 'the only brownie recipe you'll ever need'. With my addition of marmalade and some stray chocolate chunks I found in the cupboard, I can confirm that this is the ONLY brownie recipe you'll ever need.

Whiskey marmalade & pecan brownies
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Makes 16)
     140g unsalted butter
     250g caster sugar
     65g unsweetened cocoa powder
     1/4 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp vanilla extract
     2 large eggs
     65g plain flour
     4tbsp Mackays Orange Marmalade with Whiskey
     100g milk chocolate chunks
     75g walnut pieces, lightly chopped
  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees and line an 8x8 inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  • Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Melt either in the microwave or over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Set the bowl aside to cool.
  • Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter is thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour and mix well. Smitten Kitchen then advises to beat vigorously again for 40 strokes.
  • Stir in the marmalade and chocolate chunks before filling the prepared tray with the batter. Smooth out the top with a knife and scatter over the chopped pecan pieces.
  • Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until the top is shiny. Leave to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting into 16 squares.

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Pumpkin & Pecan Praline Cake

I made this cake quickly after work for a family birthday, on Bonfire Night!

I decided to go for full on autumn flavours with a pumpkin sponge and pecan praline topping. All helped with a good smothering of dark chocolate ganache.

For this I used a combination of Marta Stewart recipes, including the pumpkin sponge I made into mini cakes here, and the pecan praline. The ganache was my first attempt and a bit of guestimating!

Pumpkin cake, with dark chocolate ganache & pecan praline
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
     2 cups plain flour
     1tsp bicarbonate of soda
     1tsp baking powder
     1tsp salt
     1tsp ground cinnamon
     1tsp ground ginger
     1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
     1/4 tsp ground allspice
     1 cup packed light brown sugar
     1 cup granulated sugar
     1 cup butter, melted and cooled
     4 eggs, lightly beaten
     1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (I used Libby's)

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease 3 regular sandwich tins.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree,
  • Divide the batter evenly between the tins. Bake until golden and the tops spring back when touched, roughly 25-30 minutes. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Chocolate ganache
     200g dark chocolate
     300ml double cream
     2tbsp golden caster sugar
  • Chop the chocolate into small chunks and tip into a heatproof bowl.
  • Heat the double cream in a pan, add the sugar and heat until it is about to boil.
  • Take off the heat and pour over the chocolate chunks.
  • Continue to stir until all chunks have melted and the mixture is smooth.
Pecan praline
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)
     vegetable oil, for baking tray
     1 cup golden caster sugar
     1 cup whole pecans, lightly toasted
  • Lightly coat a baking tray with vegetable oil and set aside.
  • Mix together the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Cover and cook, without stirring, until an amber coloured syrup has formed, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the pecans. Pour mixture onto prepared baking tray and leave to cool completely.
  • When the praline has cooled, coarsely chop. 

To finish, I sandwiched the three layers of pumpkin cake with lashings of chocolate ganache. Then, poured the rest over the top. Did a little tidying up and sprinkled over the chopped pecan praline.

There was enough praline left to cover one more cake...Martha advises to store in an airtight container at room temperature.
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Great British Food Magazine: Mulled Wine, Cranberry & Marmalade Tea Bread

Following on from my last post, you'll now know why I've been in such a festive mood recently. In September I started working on a Christmas recipe for Mackays to be published in this month's Christmas edition of Great British Food Magazine. The magazine is now out so I thought I'd share to recipe here too.
 My festive take on a classic tea bread uses Mackays Dundee orange marmalade paired with cranberries, spices and mulled wine. All my favourite festive flavours!

Mulled wine, cranberry & marmalade tea bread
     500ml mulled wine
     75g dried cranberries
     75g chopped mixed peel
     75g currants
     175g butter, softened,
     3 eggs
     160g Mackays Dundee Orange Marmalade
     250g self raising flour
     1tsp baking powder
     2tsp ground ginger

For the topping (optional)
     75g dried cranberries
     2tbsp icing sugar
     1 large orange, juiced, plus zest
  • Leave the fruit to soak in the mulled wine for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and lightly grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy. Gradually add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  • Stir through the marmalade before folding in the flour, baking powder and ginger. Drain the fruit and gently fold into the batter.
  • Transfer into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Then removed and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • For the topping, mix the icing sugar with enough orange juice to make a smooth, runny icing. Drizzle over the cake and top with the dried cranberries and a sprinkle of orange zest.
Boy Loves Food and I bought 4 copies of the magazine this morning for family. I think the lady who served us was a bit confused!

Find Great British Food Magazine here.
And, Mackay's marvellous marmalade here.

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