Recipe: Hidden Oreo Cupcakes

I'm not really sure who makes the rules. People seem to think that the cupcake craze is over. Perhaps for some, but not for me. Essentially, they're cakes in mobile form without the need for awkward slicing and delegating who gets what sized slice.

So with that in mind, I decided to bring together a few of my recent favourite treats (Oreos, chocolate and hidden centres) and bake these cupcakes. Sharing is optional.

Oreo cupcakes have been around the Pinterest block a few times, but here's a recipe in UK measurements for you to store away for a rainy day.

Hidden Oreo cupcakes
(Makes 12)

175g unsalted butter, softened
caster sugar, 165g
3 large eggs
40g cocoa powder
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pack Oreos

For the Oreo Buttercream:

140g unsalted butter, softened
280g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
2 packs Oreos

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a cupcake tray with paper cases. Add an Oreo to the bottom of each case.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and gently beat after each addition. Add the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder to the bowl and mix. (Use a splash of milk if you feel the mixture needs a little loosening). Spoon evenly between the cupcakes cases, filling each approximately two thirds to the top.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Sift the icing sugar into the same bowl and add the milk. At this stage I tend to start mixing gently by hand with a wooden spoon to avoid getting covered in clouds of sugar. Return to the mixer and continue to beat until your buttercream is smooth and fluffy. Add 2 packs of crushed Oreos. To crush, either blitz in a blender or give them a bashing with a rolling pin in a sandwich bag.

To ice, smooth buttercream over the tops with a palette knife, or use a piping bag with a circular nozzle. Top with any remaining Oreos.

Cupcakes will keep for a few days stored in a cool place in air tight containers.

A selection of alternative Oreo recipes from other friendly food bloggers:

Baking Queen 74's slow cooker white chocolate Oreo blondies
Lauren Abery's Oreo double chocolate cheesecake
Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary's Oreo button cookies
Little Sunny Kitchen's Oreo brownies
Recipe's from a Pantry's no bake blueberry Oreo cheesecake
The Petite Cooks' homemade love Oreo cookies

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Recipe: Cookie Dough Marshmallow Brownies

As if I needed any encouragement to get baking, yesterday was World Baking Day. A day in which people worldwide pledged to bake for loved ones in a bid to show them how much they care. Whether it be for friends, family or loved ones, its always nice to share something baked over a nice cuppa.

These brownies were a little mix of two recipes I'd been eyeing up, although they only came together due to one not quite going to plan. There's nothing more disconcerting than the first bake of a new book you've bought not coming out right.

In this instance, cookie dough swirled marshmallows from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook I made earlier in the week. There's nothing better than a plump homemade marshmallow, but I think a combination of not enough or old gelatine leaves from the back of the cupboard made for not very firm marshmallows. They tasted great, but couldn't be sliced so I boxed them up and saved them until I found a way of using them. After watching over molten sugar and whisking away from a long time, I couldn't bear to waste them.

Brownies are probably my most favourite thing to make, pretty straightforward but can be so versatile. I enjoy trying out different brownie recipes to compare and to hopefully find the best ever recipe. Lisa Faulkner's Tea and Cake is another recently new book of mine so I was intrigued to see how her brownie recipe went.

Without a doubt, the recipe itself was the most straightforward I've tried with the least number of ingredients in. I shall definitely be bookmarking it for future for when I'm short of cupboard ingredients, i.e. don't have 4 bars of fancy dark chocolate in to spare. 500g of sugar probably ranks in at the highest sugar content out of other recipes I've tried, however.

And so became the base of my weekend brownies, cookie dough marshmallows swirled into dark chocolate brownies.

I used half of the batch of marshmallows which melted in to form the most chewy, gooey, fudgy brownies I've ever made. Due to the golden syrup in the marshmallows they tasted caramel-like and very dense.

You could definitely get away with using more than half the batch of marshmallows though. Try pouring two thirds of the brownie mix into the pan, dollop a layer of marshmallow on top and swirl over the remaining brownie batter.

Other options: use your own regular cookie dough, shop bought marshmallows or alternatively a bar of your favourite chocolate chopped into chunks to fold through the mix. Brownies are versatile!

Cookie dough marshmallow brownies
(Makes 12)

For the cookie dough marshmallows:
(makes about 24 marshmallows)

Butter an 8 x 8 inch baking tray using 2 tbsp unsalted butter and sprinkle over a few generous spoons of icing sugar ensuring to coat the sides and corners.

To make the cookie dough, combine 80g softened unsalted butter with 30g caster sugar and 50g soft light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 tbsp milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt and mix well. Add 55g plain flour and continue to mix until well incorporated.

Pour 75ml of cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle in 2 packets of unflavoured gelatin. Leave to soften for 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, melt together 50g soft light brown sugar and 215g caster sugar with 170ml golden syrup. Stir the mix continuously until the sugars dissolve and start to boil. Stop stirring, cover with a lid and leave to boil for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue to boil until the mixture reaches 238 Fahrenheit / soft boil on a sugar thermometer. Do not stir. Once it reaches this temperature, remove from heat.

Turn on the stand mixer with the gelatin to a low speed with a whisk attachment. Slowly pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl to cool. Increase to a medium-high speed and whisk until the mixture is thick, shiny and slightly cooled. This should take 13-15 minutes. Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Dollop in spoons of the cookie dough and fold in gently by hand.

Pour into your prepared tin, smooth over the top with a warm buttered knife. Sprinkle with a handful of chocolate chips and leave to set in the tin for 4  hours (or overnight).

To enjoy as regular marshmallows, lift out of the tin once set and use a rolling pizza knife to cut into bite-size pieces. Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

For the brownies, grease and line an 8 x 8 inch baking tin and heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Grate 125g dark chocolate into a medium saucepan and add 150g unsalted butter cubed, melt on a low heat until smooth and combined.

Whisk together 4 large eggs and 500g caster sugar until pale and smooth. Stir in melted chocolate pouring down the side of the bowl to help cool slightly.

Sift in 175g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt and gently fold in. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin.

Dollop in drops of cookie dough marshmallow and use the end of a spoon to gently swirl a little brownie mix around.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the top firms. Once baked, leave for an hour to cool before slicing.

Brownies will last for a week stored in an airtight container.

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GIVEAWAY: BBC Good Food Show Summer Tickets

The BBC Good Food Show Summer is set to get you in the mood for summer. With cooking inspiration from top chefs, food experts and lots of cooking and shopping stalls its a great foodie day out.

Be sure to catch your favourite chefs giving live cooking demonstrations in the Supertheatre including Mary Berry, James Martin, Tom Kerridge and the Two Greedy Italians.

Enter my giveaway below for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the BBC Good Food Show Summer at NEC Birmingham 11th-14th June.

The tickets are valid for any day of the show (except Saturday) and will also give you access to Gardeners World Live.

Good luck! x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Once the giveaway is over, and a lucky winner is announced, I'll be sending an email for a postal address for the tickets to be sent to.

Alternatively, for a discount on tickets use the code '2MV4' will give readers 15% off tickets, visit the Gardeners' World Live website here or the BBC Good Food Show website here.

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Review: Chocolate Savvy at Bake with Maria

You know in talent shows where everyone has their long-term love for singing/sob stories. Yup, that's me and chocolate. I've been told that maybe my relationship with chocolate isn't healthy, I'd just call it passionate.

My earliest memories include hoarding multipack chocolate bars after Mum's weekly shop into hidden spots over the house. Heaven forbid someone could eat some and not save me any when I wasn't around. A 5 pack of crunchies in the garage, who would have thought?

Then there was the phase where my Grandad, a non-dessert eater, would order profiteroles on family meals just so that I could have an extra share of the chocolate on top. My hero.

Now I can 'pretend' that its all in the aid of research. I do like to stay on top of things you see. Forget front page Daily Mail scandals, I need to know what bonkers combinations Cadbury's are releasing next and how many Lindt truffles I can get away with eating for lunch.

Now of course I know my commercial chocolate very well, but to me, single origin, roasting and whatnot is a bit of a mindfield. And that's exactly where the lovely Bake with Maria team step in.

As an introduction to their school's chocolate classes a small group of like-chocolate-minded people were invited into their Baking Lab to get chocolate savvy.

We started off with introductions to chocolate from Annamarie. Who took us step by step through process of bean to bar.

To start, there are a few different types of cocoa bean, one of the best being Criollo. If you spot this in the ingredients of your fancy single origin bars then you know you're onto a winner. Other beans, along with their greatly varying manufacturing processes, can be found in more mass produced bars. For example, you're likely to find Kraft and similar brands using Forced Arrow beans.

Once the cocoa beans are picked from a cocoa pod, the beans are left out in the sun to ferment. This fermentation process takes place on large sheets of banana leaves and ideally in a sheltered greenhouse-type place for hygiene. The beans are gently churned over frequently to ensure that each bean dries out evenly. The process not only allows the beans to develop in flavour and character, but to rid themselves of any bacteria they may be carrying and essentially to stop growing.

After anything from one week to three, depending on humidity and climates, the beans are ready for the next stage, roasting. Better quality chocolate will now be roasted steadily at a low temperature to ensure that no smoke forms and depletes flavour. Larger mass produced brands may roast at higher temperatures to ensure a quick turnaround.

Next up, winnowing. Machinery is used to separate the bitter outer husk from the bean itself. Once separated, the cocoa beans are now coarsely ground down form cocoa nibs, which are in turn ground down again to form a cocoa paste known as cocoa liquor.

Now this is the point that we start recognising chocolate as we know it. From the cocoa liquor, cocoa butter is extracted. Through conching, cocoa butter is then added back to the cocoa liquor but the amount largely depends on quality and brands. The mix is then churned to form a nice smooth consistency, ideally the longer the smoother the final product will be.

At this stage, the cocoa mix will be tempered and poured into moulds and bars to pass onto chocolatiers to create their own final chocolate product. And, as you can guess, the whole length of manufacturing process and tools used varies greatly between brands and their suppliers. Some of the commercial chocolate giants are more likely to be able to go from bean to bar in just a week with giant industrial processing.

Stuart is West London's answer to all things chocolate. His shop, Cocoa Bijoux, can be found in West Hampstead and is filled with all sorts of traditionally made chocolate made from the finest of ingredients.

He bought along a selection of his most popular bars for us to have a try.

I'm not usually too keen on dark chocolate to eat on its own, but I was very surprised to find how different they all tasted. The different percentages really do taste different. Some coat your mouth, some are more smooth and some have that bitter taste I was more familiar with.

My favourite being the Blanxart 72% Republica Dominicana. Think of a deeply rich homemade chocolate mousse, this bar tastes of exactly that. Another favourite, from the milk selection was the Mazet salted caramel milk chocolate bar. The crunch of the salt and the golden flavour of the caramel pairs beautifully together in this bar.

Truly chocolate inspired, Annemarie went on to demonstrate how exactly chocolate truffles are made by making ganache.

Dark chocolate ganache truffles
(makes about 50 rolled truffles)

125ml double cream
75ml glucose
1 vanilla pod, split and beans scraped
50g unsalted butter, room temperature
75g 65-70% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
pinch of salt
cocoa powder for dusting

optional: melted dark chocolate for coating

Stir the cream and glucose together in a medium saucepan. Scrape the vanilla beans into the pan along with the pod, and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over a medium high heat, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for one minute. (For best results, allow to cool, transfer into a bowl, cover and infuse by refrigerating overnight).

Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking tin with cling film.

In a small/medium heatproof bowl, pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and stir together using a spatula in small concentric circles until the chocolate is incorporated fully and emulsifies into a homogenous mixture. Add the butter in small pieces and incorporate.

Pour ganache into lined tin and spread evenly into corners, smooth over the top. Cover with cling film and allow to set in the fridge, about one hour.

Place ganache onto work surface or chopping board, remove cling film and using a knife, cut ganache into 1 inch squares, dipping the knife into hot water and wiping between each cut. Wearing gloves, roll the ganache squares into balls, then roll and coat in cocoa powder.

Optional: melt down more dark chocolate until just melted, either over a bain marie or in the microwave. Dip ganaches into the chocolate using a dipping fork or using gloves and then roll into the cocoa powder.

The Bake with Maria school now offers two speciality chocolate classes: 'Introduction to chocolate making' and 'Chocolate desserts class'. In each class Annamarie, pastry chef and chocolatier, will take you through how to make ganache and to correctly temper chocolate. You'll have a chance to try some chocolate treats as well as making your own to take home.

For more information on Bake with Maria's classes, visit the website here. They also offer gift vouchers and can host private parties.

And seeing as chocolate comes from a plant, its healthy after I made my own.

Thank you to Bella and Maria at the Baking Lab for having me. And to Annamarie and Stuart for imparting all your knowledge to me. 

I was invited to attend the chocolate class, but all views are my own.

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Review: Disney's Into the Woods Afternoon Tea, Sketch

Mayfair's Sketch has teamed up with Disney to offer a magical woodland inspired afternoon tea to celebrate the release of Into the Woods on DVD and Blu-ray. For a limited time their classic afternoon tea menu will be recreated to include a selection of the Baker and his Wife's pastries. As you can see, Sketch's Pastry Chefs have really gone to town on retelling the tale with their fantasy treats.
Hidden behind an emerald green curtain, Sketch's Glade room is the perfect backdrop for this fairytale woodland treat. As soon as you step through the curtain you really do feel as if you've been transported into an enchanted forest. The eclectic mix of furniture helps to add to the outdoor feel including peacock chairs and rattan furniture. With songs playing straight from the film, you're sure to feel right at Disney home.
A selection of assorted finger sand-witches include: smoked salmon & Jacob's cream, cucumber & ricotta, Prince pesto panini with mozzarella and egg & mayonnaise with quail egg and caviar.

The toasted paninis come wrapped in a ribbon, just like you'd imagine Little Red Riding Hood's mum to pack into her basket ahead of her journey into the woods. The extra special finishing touches really do make the sand-witches magical.

Next up, plain and fruit scones served with clotted cream and a choice of homemade fig or strawberry jam. Quite possibly the best scones I've had in a long time. Beautifully light, fluffy and not too crumbly.

As expected, the enchantment continues onto the pastries. With Jack's beanstalk tart and Little Red Riding Hood choux buns. Almost too beautiful to eat! Other sweets include Earl Grey macarons, rhubarb & raspberry cheesecake, Cassis meringue, Malabar marshmallows, chocolate mint cake and pineapple, coriander & coconut sponges.
The afternoon tea comes with a large choice of Jing teas or Champagne if you fancy a few bubbles.

Well and truly in the fairytale mood, I considered leaving a trail of crumbs to follow my route back - except there just weren't any left!

And as for the film...with such a great cast, gorgeous costumes and a mix of all my favourite childhood fairytales, I think its safe to say this is my favourite Disney film in a long time. Forget 'Let it Go', the Into the Woods song will definitely get stuck in your head!

To coincide with the DVD release on 18th May, tea in the woods will be available between 18th May - 7th June. For reservations, visit their website here.

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I was asked to review the afternoon tea by Premier Comms and was not paid for this review. All opinions are honest, and my own. 

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