Silent Sunday

Easter Bark

30 March 2013

Should I apologise for posting yet another chocolate recipe? I admit that I've baked an awful lot of chocolate based goodies over the winter {except for the Cherry Blossom cupcakes} but I can't help it. Over the cold, dark winter months,  chocolate is such a comfort and a pick-me-up, releasing all those warm and fuzzy feel good endorphins.

Anyway I bought some Cadburys Creme Egg Splats last week with the intention of using them in my Easter baking. My initial thought was to put them in some chocolate brownies but I'm all brownied out at the moment. Then today I saw some bark on Pinterest and a further search brought up loads of bark ideas. And I knew it was the perfect base for the Splats.

Easter Bark

Preparation time 10 minutes plus 1 hours refrigeration

150g milk chocolate
150g white chocolate
20 Cadburys Creme Egg Splats
Sprinkles/Smarties/mini chocolate beans

Break up the chocolate and put them in separate heat proof bowls. Place one bowl at a time over a pan of simmering water or melt in the microwave in 30 second bursts on half power.

Pour three quarters of the milk chocolate onto baking tray covered with a piece of baking paper. Tilt the tray slightly to spread the chocolate out a little. Spoon 4/5 teaspoons of the white chocolate in blobs onto the milk chocolate and swirl around with a cocktail stick to get a marbled effect.

Place the Splats on top then sprinkle the mini chocolate beans/Smarties/sprinkles in the spaces in between. Pop in the fridge to set for about 1 hour.

Repeat the process but pour the remaining the white chocolate onto the sheet and blob ans swirl the rest of the milk chocolate on top.

Once set, break up into smaller pieces. I tried to make sure each piece had a splat in it.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Easter!

The Easter Bonnet

28 March 2013

 On Friday Oliver brought a letter home from pre-school saying they were having an Easter bonnet parade on this week.  The infant school which his pre-school is part of do it every year and he was very excited about going into 'big school'. 

I've never made an Easter bonnet before but like to think im quite creative and really enjoy making things. I couldn't find a hat anywhere, partly due to the fact we were almost snowed in all weekend, but everywhere I tried didn't have any left. But a last minute dash to good old Sainsburys saved the day.

I wanted to go for the 'less is more' look and make sure it didn't end up looking too girly either. I had a quick look on Pinterest for some inspiration but I didn't really have a plan of what it would look like so I just made it up as I went along!

I'm most proud of the chick on top as I made it from scratch by sticking two pompoms together and making the wings, feet and nose out of little foam shapes. I was going to put a plastic egg on top with the chick sitting inside but Oliver didn't want any eggs on it! He loved it though and was very proud to take it to school yesterday. I cant wait until Lydia goes to pre-school so I can make one for her!

'Alternative' Easter Nests

26 March 2013

Why is it when all you want is Shredded Wheat it's impossible to get hold of any?! First I ordered some with my Asda delivery and they were substituted with All-Bran. Er no thanks Asda! They would have made very 'twig-like' nests but no one in this house would had eaten them. 

So I planned on calling in to Sainsbury's over the weekend to get some Shredded Wheat. But on Friday the snow came. And it snowed solidly for 48 hours. More snow than I've seen in my adult life. We had at least 30cms, more in some places as there were some huge snow drifts. The roads were horrendous, the car was snowed in and I'm not a massive fan of driving in the snow. Plus it was too deep {and cold} to even venture out with the darlings to the shops nearby. 

So forget the Shredded Wheat. Let's improvise. We always have Shreddies in the cupboard {my favourite cereal} so I thought we'd make do with them. I let the darlings break them up into a big bowl while I melted the chocolate. They both had a good stir then made an enormous mess spooning the mixture into the paper cases.

The Shreddies were fab, they look very nest-like and they taste great too!

The darlings made theirs with lovely bright coloured Smarties mini eggs which look so cute.

Easter Nests

Makes 15
Preparation time 15 minutes
Chilling time 30 minutes

200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
350g Shreddies
2 x 100g Cadbury's mini eggs or Smarties mini eggs

Crush the Shreddies into a large bowl using your hands or in a food processor.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water or in a microwave on 50% power in 30 second bursts. 

Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl with crushed Shreddies and mix thoroughly.

When mixed and all the Shreddies are covered with chocolate, spoon the mixture into bun cases and press down in the middle of each to create a place for the eggs

Press three or four Mini Eggs into each nest.

Leave to set for at least 2 hours (or 30 minutes if you put them in the fridge)


Silent Sunday

Review: Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg

22 March 2013

The things I do for my readers. I only like to do reviews that are relevant to my readers so when Hotel Chocolat asked me to review one of their Easter eggs I knew you'd love to see one! Besides, a complete chocoholic like me can't say no to such an offer. I think it's fair to say I was very egg-cited!

So on my shopping trip to Manchester last week, we popped into the Hotel Chocolat shop in the Arndale Centre. All in the name of research of course. My goodness that shop is amazing! It feels like you're walking into a posh boutique. The walls are covered with chocolate {not literally of course, the boxes are all neatly lined up on shelves!} Unfortunately I didn't see the Salted Caramel Egg Sandwich that I was waiting to arrive. But I was too busy drooling over the huge Easter eggs, the thick chocolate slabs and the massive luxury boxes!

Well it arrived on Tuesday and I ripped opened it immediately. I nibbled a bit in secret in the kitchen before I shared it with the Hubby and the darlings!

Firstly, it looks beautiful. It comprises of two halves of a hollow chocolate egg attached to a very thick slab of milk and dark chocolate which is beautifully decorated with chocolate chips and salted caramel pieces.

My first thought was how creamy it tasted. The salted caramel is an interesting flavour if you like that kind of thing, but for me the jury's still out on the whole concept of salty caramel/chocolate. But if you're a fan you'll love it. Having said that, I liked that the salted caramel pieces in the chocolate gives it a slighty crunchy texture. It really is wonderfully luxurious and decadent and would be a real treat for Easter. I asked Oliver what he thought of it and he said 'very good'!

At £8 it's a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for in my opinion, and this is in a totally different league to your average supermarket Easter egg!
Hotel Chocolat has a brilliant range of Easter goodies. If anyone wants to buy me one, I'll have this Egglet Extra Thick Easter Egg...  pretty please!

*Disclaimer: I was sent the Hotel Chocolat  Easter egg for the purpose of the review. All views and opinions are 100% my own*

Brownies with Chocolate Fingers and White Chocolate Chunks

19 March 2013

I shouldn't really confess this on a baking blog {but what the hell it's my blog!} but I'd rather eat a good chocolate brownie than a cake or cupcake. And I mean a GOOD chocolate brownie. I'm very critical of brownies. I believe they should be a rich chocolately flavour and really moist and squidgy in the middle. If they're not squidgy then they're not even brownies, they're cake. I recently tried a brownie at a large chain of coffee shops and it was dire. It was tasteless and hard. I also tried a brownie at the cake sale at work and was not impressed. It was quite tasty but had the texture of three day old brownie.

Anyway this isn't supposed to be a post slagging off everyone's else's brownies!

On Saturday afternoon, Hubby took Oliver to the park while I stayed at home as Lydia was having her nap. I was planning on doing some housework (groan) but she didn't sleep for long so I decided we'd do some baking. Any excuse. I was after a chocolate fix so it had to be brownies. But I wanted to add a little something extra to them , so a quick rummage through the cupboard and I discovered some Cadbury's chocolate fingers. Lydia was a fab helper (for a two year old!) she broke up the chocolate fingers and scattered them over the top of the brownie mix with white chocolate chunks. Perfect.

Brownies with Chocolate Fingers and White Chocolate Chunks

Makes 16 {or 9 if you want really big brownies!}
Preparation time 15 minutes
Baking time 30 minutes

200g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
120g plain flour
75g white chocolate
15 Cadbury's chocolate fingers

Preheat oven to 180C {350F} gas mark 4. Line a 25 x 20cm baking tin with baking paper or foil.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water or in a microwave on 50% power in 30 second bursts. Give it a really good mix and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until really thick and creamy. Beat in the chocolate mixture, then add the flour and fold in gently, until the flour is just combined. Pour into the prepared tin. 

Break each chocolate finger into 3 or 4 pieces. Chop the white chocolate into quite large chunks (about 1cm squares). Sprinkle both over the top of the brownie mixture in the tin.

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes. When ready it should be set and crispy on top but still gooey in the middle. 

Leave to cool for at least 2 hours before you even attempt to cut it. If you cut it up too soon, the brownie will leak all over the place. Cut into squares and give the squidgy middle slices to those you love the most.

Mummy's Day Out

18 March 2013

On Friday I had a very rare day all to myself. Yes a whole day child-free. It doesn't happen very often so I have to make the most of it! 

A couple of weeks ago my friend Michelle and I were talking about having a day out shopping so we both booked the day off work and decided to go to Manchester. We set off early and got the train over so we could have a few drinks with lunch! Unfortunately it was pouring down but we weren't really bothered as we spent all morning in the Arndale Centre and Selfridges. It was mostly window shopping but I did buy a few bits including this scarf to add to my already huge collection.

By lunchtime we'd worked up an appetite so popped into the Red Hot World Buffet for lunch. We'd already pre-booked our table online, thank goodness as it was packed. There are restaurants in lots of big cities around the UK and it's an all-you-can-eat buffet serving Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Cajun and Mediterranean food. Have you ever been? All I can say it is INCREDIBLE! I tried a bit of everything but the Chinese food was my favourite. And the desserts. Oh my god. Well just take a look for yourself!

After lunch we rolled ourselves back up to Debenhams and plonked our bursting bellies down at Nails Inc. for a manicure. I went for a minty coloured polish called Royal Botanical Gardens which I love and is still looking fab with not a single chip after 3 days. Oh and it matches my new scarf!

After that it was time to go home. I nearly had a little snooze on the train, had it not been for getting cramp in my shin from holding my leg in a funny position to stop it rubbing against the knee of the old bloke sat across from me! 

I had a fabulous day but it was just wonderful to feel the darlings little arms around my neck and their sloppy kisses on my lips when I got home. I can't help missing them like crazy even when I'm only away for a few hours.

Silent Sunday

Chocolate Orange Cake

13 March 2013

It was the hubby's birthday on Friday and he's now the grand old age of 32. Let's do the maths... I'm 37 so he's five years younger than me which makes him my toy boy! It's no wonder I'm obsessed with beauty products and trying to keep myself looking young.

Anyway, I made him his first ever birthday cake. Well, the first birthday cake I've ever made for him.

Can you guess what sort of cake it was?! My chocolate orange cupcakes recipe is one of my most popular posts. Words can't describe how much I adore chocolate orange so I'll admit this cake was partly for me. For me the only thing better than chocolate cake is chocolate orange cake.

So I started to look for a recipe. And I looked... and I looked. Nothing. Not one single recipe for chocolate orange cake could be found in any of my recipe books. What's wrong with these people! There was a choc orange mousse cake in one book but that wasn't what I wanted.

So I decided to take my new favourite chocolate cake recipe and throw in some orange zest and juice. Simple. It did the job perfectly. 

It's rich and moist with a mega-chocolatey flavour plus that distinctive orange undertone. I used regular ganache but maybe next time I would try adding some orange flavour to that too. Is it even possible to add orange zest and juice to ganache? I don't know if it would work. Help me out if you know. Maybe I'll just give it a go and see what happens.

Chocolate Orange Cake

Serves 12
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes

50g cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 large eggs
100g softened butter
275g caster sugar
50ml whole milk
175g self raising flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
Zest and juice of 1 orange

200g plain chocolate
100g milk chocolate
300ml double cream

1 whole Terry's chocolate orange

Preheat oven to 180C {350F} gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm {8inch} deep cake tins and line the bases with baking paper.

Sift the cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the boiling water and mix together until a smooth paste forms. Add the eggs, butter, sugar, milk, orange zest and juice and beat with a hand held electric mixer until fully combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat again until the mixture becomes a smooth thickish batter.

Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes. The cakes will be ready when a skewer instered in the middle comes out clean and when gently pressed with a finger, the cake springs back. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the ganache. Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces. Gently heat the cream in a saucepan until it starts to bubble, remove from the heat, then add the chocolate and stir like crazy until the mixture is completely melted and there are no chocolate lumps left. Leave to cool for about 2 hours until the mixture has thickened. 

Place one of the cakes onto a plate or cake board. Spread about 1/3 of the ganache onto the cake then place the other cake carefully on top and spread 1/3 of the ganache onto the top and smooth with a pallet knife. Then spread the rest of the ganache around the sides of the cake until it is fully covered. You should have enough ganache to give it a good thickish covering.

Decorate by placing the chocolate orange segments around the edge of the cake. {Try really hard not to eat the segments you have left over. Fail miserably!}

My Mothers Day

11 March 2013

Do you know why I love my blog? The memories. Yesterday I looked back at my post from last years Mothers Day. It was fab to have a reminder of what a lovely day I had and the fab presents and cards that I received. I'd totally forgotten that I went to the Spa too!

I had a lovely day yesterday but let's start with the cake! I baked this carrot cake for my mum, and covered it with cream cheese frosting which I piped in swirls and added some pink flowers that I had left over from Lydia's birthday cake. It was the first time I had ever tried piping frosting onto a cake like this. It was far from perfect but not bad for a first effort and I had loads of great comments about it when I posted photos on Facebook and Instagram.

The darlings and I, and my sister and nieces all went round to my parents house for tea. We had a slice of the cake for dessert and it was quite funny as none of the children liked it! Oliver's verdict was that he only liked the pink flowers on it! 

As for presents, I got some more Body Shop skincare products. I'm currently on a mission to really  look after my skin and I love their Vitamin E moisturising range. 

I got some gorgeous beads from Oliver. His school had a Mothers Day shop last week so he took some money in to buy a gift for me. He was so happy when I opened them and proudly told me he'd been into the big school to get them {he's in the pre-school}! They're not my usual choice but I love them because my little boy chose them especially for his mummy and I'll be so proud to wear them.

These were my cards from Oliver. He chose the gingerbread man card himself and made the other one at pre-school. If you can't read the writing on the photo it says "My mummy likes.... cooking... she does rice and chips and sauce" haha! He could have said cakes, cupcakes and biscuits but no! Thanks Oliver!

Oliver chose the In the Night Garden card for Lydia {because she loves it!} and I helped Lydia make the cards with the hearts on at our toddler group. You can't see it on the photo but she's done lots of little scribbles on it!

And because I was so busy with making the cake for my mum and focussed on buying her cards and presents from the darlings, I totally forgot to buy her a card from me! I didn't realise until yesterday morning so instead of shooting out to buy her one, I decided to make one instead. I like the persoal touch of hand made cards anyway and my mum loved it.

Silent Sunday

This Month I'm Loving.... Make-Up

7 March 2013

If I wasn't a mum/foodie blogger I'd definitely be a beauty blogger. I've always loved make up. When I discovered make-up at the age of 14, I used to get in trouble for wearing it at school.  Did you know I used to be a make up artist too? Yes I did, and I loved it.

Since the darlings came along, my make up obsession has been taking a bit of a break. Until now. I read lots of beauty blogs and get serious make-up envy for all the gorgeous products they have. So I've recently treated myself to a few new items. Well more than a few actually!  
I've wanted this for soooo long. Every beauty blogger has one. I spend way too much time watching video tutorials of ways to apply different combinations of the eye colours. Now I've got one... my life is complete.

MUA Undress Me Palette
This is a so-called dupe of the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette. But for £4 is it such a brilliant alternative if you don't want to spend big bucks on the original.

1. MUA Eye Primer
Another fab inexpensive product. I dab a couple of spots onto my eyelids and blend with my foundation brush. It seems to make my eye make up last longer. 
OMG this is incredible! It makes your skin feel like the most delicate silk. You smooth it over your face before applying foundation and it smooths and 'perfects' your skin and helps your make up stay put for longer. Love it.
I use this to conceal the dark circles under my eyes, which are getting worse by the day {note to self: go to bed earlier} For me it works better than YSL Touche Eclat which I've used for years but recently seems to have stopped working for me.

I'm loving The Body Shop at the moment. I really needed some new lip colours and they were on offer buy one get the second half price. I went for shade 01 cheeky coral and 02 shell pink which are both subtle sheer colours that give a lovely dewey coverage.

A girl can never have too many lip balms right? So I got 3... one for home, one for work and one for my bag! They make my lips lovely and soft and have a light tint of colour and they smell and taste gorgeous.

The Body Shop vitamin E sink in mask
I know this isn't make-up but I wanted to share this gorgeous skin care product too. I have quite dry skin and the Vitamin E skincare range is amazing at keeping it hydrated. I tried this as soon as I got it and my skin felt so nourished and soft afterwards. My skin needs a bit of TLC so I've just ordered a few more of the Vitamin E products.
Do you love make-up or rarely wear it? What are your must-have make-up products?

Blondies aka White Chocolate Brownies!

5 March 2013

I have a lovely friend at work who doesn't like dark or milk chocolate. I know. But not everyone is a complete chocoholic like me. Recently I went on the quest to bake the perfect chocolate orange brownies and my lovely work colleagues were my {very willing} guinea pigs. I felt slightly bad that she was left out of the testing though and she's had a few bits of bad news recently so I really wanted to cheer her up with something yummy. 

So one day the idea of baking some blondies for her popped into my head. She'd never heard of blondies but I explained what they are and she liked the sound of them as she does like white chocolate. So she agreed to be my official tester.

They're more 'cakey' than dark chocolate brownies but the copious amounts of brown sugar and butter give them a lovely butterscotchy taste. You could add all manner of things to them too such as macadamia nuts or raspberries or even more chunks of white chocolate.

And yes, she loved them!

White Chocolate Blondies

Makes 16
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes

125g unsalted butter
250g white chocolate, broken into chunks
4 large eggs
1 tsp salt
250g light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour

Preheat oven to 170C {325F} gas mark 3. Line a 25 x 20 baking tin with baking paper or foil.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water or in a microwave on 50% power in 30 second bursts. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until really thick and creamy. Beat in the chocolate mixture, then add the flour and fold in gently, until the flour is just combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes. It should be set on top but still gooey in the middle.

Leave to cool completely  then melt a small amount of white chocolate and drizzle over the top of the blondies. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

Don't forget that I'm running a giveaway this week. Click here for your chance to win a copy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.