Mocha squares

It might surprise most that the Finns are the world’s number one biggest coffee drinkers, consuming a whopping 12kg of coffee per capita a year. After knowing this fact however, it will probably not surprise anyone that these Mocha squares, chocolate cake with chocolate and coffee topping, is one of the most popular cakes almost anyone from teenagers to adults know how to make.

Sponge
500 ml plain flour
4 eggs
300 ml caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
200 ml milk
200g butter, melted
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder
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Topping
250-300g icing sugar
50g butter, melted
5 tbsp strong coffee
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Heat the oven to 200°C / 392°F. Melt the butter, and let it cool. 

2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy.

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3. Mix the flour, baking powder and coco powder together. Taking turns with the milk, add to the eggs / sugar mix. 

4. Pour the melted butter into the mix. Once fully incorporated, pour the mixture into an oven tray, lined with baking paper.

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5. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven, and let the cake cool fully before mixing the topping ingredients together, as they will set fairly quickly. 

6. Once the cake base has cooled, melt the butter and add the vanilla essence and coffee. 

7. Mix, or even better, shift, the icing sugar and coco powder together. Then mix together with the wet ingredients. Once smooth, pour over the cake and let it set. For visual effect, some cake decorations are often sprinkled on top.

Beef and chorizo empanadas

We first had empanadas when holidaying in the Dominican Republic, and have loved them since then. They aren’t that complicated to make, and I don’t think they can get any better than the ones this recipe is for. And the great thing is that you can easily adjust the filling to your own liking.

Pastry
375 g plain flour
1 tsp salt
225 g butter
2 eggs + 1 for coating the empanadas for baking
100 ml cold water
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Filling
100g cooking chorizo 
300g mince beef
1 onion
handful of fresh coriander
handful of fresh parsley
2 tsp ground paprika 
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp tomato purée 

1. Mix the flour, salt and butter together until crumb-like, then add the eggs and water. Knead the dough until smooth. It will be quite soft, however if it’s sticky, add a little more flour. Cover with cling film, and rest in the fridge for around 20 minutes.

2. Place the mince beef in a bowl. Chop the chorizo into small cubes, and add to the mince. Finely chop the onion, parsley and coriander, and add to the bowl, followed by the paprika, cumin, chilli flakes and tomato purée. Mix well together. Put a little cooking oil in a frying pan and heat. Add the mixture into the frying pan, and fry until cooked. Let the mixture cool.

3. Heat the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan). Divide the dough into four pieces (this just makes it easier to work it). Roll each piece, one at a time, to thin sheets, about 5 mm thickness. Then cut into circular shapes.

4. Place cooled filling from the centre towards one side of the round (as the other half will be turn over to cover it). The amount of filling depends on the size of the circles, you want to put enough filling, but so that you can still securely close the halves together, without the filling seeping through. Dip your finger in a bowl of water, and run it around the circles’ edge. You may need to repeat a couple of times for each one. Then fold the empty half over, and press the edges together. With a fork, press the edges together. 
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5. Once all the empanadas have been prepared, brush them with beaten egg, then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Puff pastry

During the first wave of the Covid lockdown in the UK, one of the food items that was hard to get your hands on was puff pastry. Because of this, I started making my own, and I was so surprised how simple it actually really is. Now, I tend to always make it myself. I  can use the same all butter puff pastry for savoury or sweet foods just fine, and now I’m just thinking that why on earth did I not start making my own sooner?

225 ml plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter
150 ml cold water

1. Mix  the flour an salt together in a bowl, then put in the fridge for a few minutes, whilst cutting the butter.

2. Cut the butter into cubes. Put the cubes into the bowl with the flour, and stir with a spoon, until all of the cubes are coated with the flour.

3. Pour the water into the butter and flour, them mix all quickly to a rough dough. You will still have some cubes of butter in the dough mix. Put some flour on you work space, and tip the dough on the table. Shape the dough into a log, and press the log flat with your hands, but don’s knead it. Wrap in a cling film, and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

4. Place the chilled dough log on a floured surface, and roll to a thickness of about 1 cm to a rectangular shape. The length should be about three times the width.

5. Fold the top third of the pastry down, on top of the middle third, then fold the bottom third over these.

6. Turn the dough block in a way that the open edge is to the right. I also tend to turn it over so that the last fold is at the bottom. Add flour on the surface if required.

7. Repeat the dough rolling and folding process 4-5 times. If the dough starts getting too sticky, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a few moments, before continuing.

8. When using the dough, roll to about 1/2 cm thickness, add the filling of your fancy, brush with egg wash and cook in the oven at 200°C / 392°F for about 15-30 minutes, depending on the food. Below pictures are some examples I’ve used my puff pasty for: raspberry pastry, chicken pie, sausage rolls and Finnish Christmas prune tarts.

Carrot cake II

 

I posted my other carrot cake recipe quite a long while ago (Click here to view), and completely forgot that I was going to put the other recipe I also use on here. But better late than never! This cake comes as an extremely fluffy, moist piece of cake, and for sure would impress even the toughest cake critics!

175g light muscovado sugar
175ml walnut oil (you can replace this with vegetable oil)
3 large eggs, beaten
175g carrots, grated (~2 large carrots)
100g raisins
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan) / 320°F.

2. I usually prepare all of the ingredients first, as the batter making steps are very quick. Put the sugar, eggs and oil in your main mixing bowl.

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3. Measure the raisins in a bowl, peel and grate the carrots, and grate the orange peel.

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4. Measure all the dry ingredients (flour and spices) in a separate bowl, and mix them together.

5. Mix the sugar, eggs and oil together lightly. I use a food processor on level 3 for 2-3 minutes. If you don’t have one, it’s fine to mix by hand.

6. Add raisins, orange peel and grated carrots, until everything are nicely mixed together.

7. Add the last remaining dry ingredients. There is no need to over mix this, just until it’s all mixed together.

8. Pour in your baking tray. I use a silicon one, so no greasing is required, however, if using a metal tin, it would be a good idea to grease your tin.

9. Bake for about 45 minutes. I use a metal knitting needle to check that the cake is fully cooked through. Stick the pin all the way through to the centre of the cake. Once you pull the pin out, if the pin is clean, the cake is cooked through. If some dough has got stuck on the pin, it will still need some more baking.

10. Once the cake is cooked through, remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool. Squeeze the juice of the orange. Prick holes onto the cake with a needle, and pour the orange juice over it. Once the cake is fully cooled, remove the cake from the tin, turning it upside down. Dust with icing sugar.

Pitta bread

I’ve been wanting pitta bread and hummus (Click here for homemade hummus recipe) for a couple of days now. I often wake up much earlier than my husband on the weekends, so I’ve decided to make these today as a Sunday breakfast.

makes 8

350g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
200ml lukewarm water

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Put the water and oil in another bowl / jug. Pour the liquid onto the dry ingredients, then knead for 10 minutes. You can do this by hand, or use a food processor. I use the machine, on strength 1.

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2. After kneading time, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. I usually use a metal mixing bowl, put some hot water at the bottom of the sink (about 2-3 cm / an inch), then place the bowl in the water.

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3. Place the rested dough on a slightly floured surface, and cut into 8 pieces. Shape the pieces into balls, then cover with oiled cling film and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

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4. After the resting time, flatten the balls with floured hands. Using a rolling pin, roll to oval shape flat breads, about 15cm (6 inches) long and 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Cover, and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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5. Preheat the oven to 220°C (fan) / 430°F. Bake the breads for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

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Plum and custard tart

I don’t bake and make dessert often enough, so I’m consciously trying to make more of an effort with this. I love this plum custard tart, and I think this would also be excellent with other fruits, such as figs. This is currently one of my favourite things I’ve been making quite a lot.

Pastry
200g plain flour
1 tbsp caster  sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g butter, plus a samll extra piece for greasing your baking tray
1 egg
2 tbsp double cream
~~~~~
400g fresh plums
~~~~~
Filling
170ml double cream
1 egg
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Prepare the plums by quartering them. Discard the stones. I find the easiest way to get the stones off is to cut the plums with a knife placing the knife on top, pushing it in as far as it goes until it reaches the stone, then running it around the full way, until you reach where the knife started from. Do the same again in a way that it makes a cross at the top. This way the cut will be quartering the plums. You can then twist the pieces off, and cut the stone off the piece it has stuck to.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan). Grease your baking tray with butter.

3. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl, then rub in the  butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

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4. Mix the cream and egg together, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir together until mixed into a dough.

5. Place the dough into the baking tray, and shape it equally to cover the tray. Arrange the plums on top of the pastry.

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6. Bake for 25 minutes. During the the baking time, beat together the cream, sugar, egg and vanilla essence.

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7. After the 25 minutes baking time, remove from the oven. Pour the liquid over the plums and bake for a further minutes until set.

8. You can serve the tart warm or cold.

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Apple pie

There are probably as many apple pie recipes, or variations of recipes, for this favourite dessert of many nations, than there are chefs and home cooks. The below recipe is one I like. Some people prefer more filling to pastry, some like more pastry. I think this recipe gives you enough of both.

Pastry
225g butter, room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus a little bit extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
350g plain flour
~~~~~
Filling

1 kg Bramley apples
150g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp plain flour

1. Prepare the pastry first. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until mixed. Add one whole egg, and one yolk, and save the remaining egg white for later. Beat together for one minute.The mixture will look a little bit like scrambed eggs at this point. Then add the flour little by little. Tip the dough onto floured surface, and finish working the dough by hand. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 45 minutes.

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2. Whilst the dough is in the fridge, prepare the apple filling. Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples. You want the slices to be quite thin, about 5mm thickness. Lay on a baking paper, and cover with paper towels. Let dry for about 30 minutes.

3. Mix the sugar, cinnamon and flour for the filling. Use big enough bowl, to be able to fit the apple slices later.

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4. Heat the oven to 170°C / 340°F. Cut 2/3 of the dough for the base, leaving the remaining third for the lid wrapped. Roll the base out, to be big enough to cover the pie tin, with a slight overhang. It may be a good idea to place the dough between two non-stick baking paper sheets when rolling it. Place into the tin, and roll out the lid.

5. Pat the apples dry, and put into the bowl with the sugar – cinnamon mix, and mix together well, so that all the apple slices are coated with the mixture. Tip it all onto the pie tin. Wet the pastry rim with water, using your fingers. This will help the lid to stick. Place the lid over the apples, and press edges together with the base. Stab 5 slashed with a sharp knife, and brush with beaten egg white. Sprinle with some more sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes.

6. Once baked and golden brown, let rest for about 10 minutes.

 

 

Scones

Scones are very British, and traditionally eaten with afternoon tea. Go anywhere for your high tea, scones will be served after your finger sandwiches, before the cakes. You will usually have a selections of ones without raisins, and ones with them. I personally tend to prefer the ones without. I’m a big fan of using buttermilk in baking, and I do use them for scones as well. Scones are traditionally served with some jam and clotted cream (I normally prefer whipped cream). There is a long standing debate about whether the jam goes on first, followed by the cream, or vice versa. One thing is for sure: they are indeed very easy to make, and you will be wondering why you never made them yourself in the past!

makes about 10-12

350g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
180ml buttermilk
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clotted / whipped cream
jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan).

2. Measure together the flour and sugar, and mix. Add the butter pieces. Rub together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, and mix together into a dough.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface. I tend to cut the dough into half, to make it easier to handle the dough when making the scones. Shape it into a ball, and flatten with your hand. Finish flattening with a rollin pin, until about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Cut out the scones. I use a glass that is about the size I want the scones to be, about 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Repeat with all the leftover dough, to use it all.

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4. Place on a non stick baking paper and baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. After the time has passed, you can check they are cooked through by piercing one with a metal pin. If nothing sticks to the pin, they are cooked.

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5. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut in half and fill with jam and cream.