Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gingerbread Brownies

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The festive season is well and truly upon us and I love this time of year especially. The build up to Christmas for me is the best time. It’s the anticipation of what is about to come. Time spent with loved ones, gorgeous food of course and maybe the odd present or two! Back to that seasonal food however…

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

This is a very simple recipe which can be knocked up in no time at all if you have guests coming over for a mug of cocoa. It combines the flavours of chocolate and ginger which go so well together, although I’m not a huge lover of chocolate gingers. In my opinion, my recipe for gingerbread brownies packs in those warm, comforting flavours in a much better way.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The recipe is an easy brownie mix with ginger added three ways – ground ginger, grated fresh ginger and crushed up ginger nut biscuits (or gingersnaps depending on where you are in the world).
The biscuits are crushed up and stirred through the brownie batter at the end before the whole mix is baked.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The result is a fudgy, gooey brownie in the centre and crispy edges too, but with crunchy biscuits throughout. The addition of ginger gives that gingerbread hint to the chocolatey squares with a slight tingle from the ginger at the back of your mouth.

My ginger root looked like a hippo - what do you think?

I added some golden glitter to the top of the squares with a wee gingerbread man I bought in a supermarket, just to bling them up a bit, bit that is entirely optional of course.

Here’s how I made them…

print recipe

Gingerbread Brownies
Chocolate brownies with three kinds of ginger going on!
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 225 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50 grams plain flour
  • 35 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root
  • 100 grams crushed ginger nut biscuits
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line an 8”x8” baking tin with greaseproof paper.Place the ginger nut biscuits in a zip-loc bag and crush up so they are broken into pieces but not like crumbs – you want pieces of biscuit throughout.In a small bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.In a large bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, sugar and eggs with a whisk until smooth.Add the dry ingredients from the smaller bowl and fold through with a spoon or spatula. Grate in the ginger and mix this through.Lastly add the crush biscuits and stir these through also.Pour into the prepared baking tin and smooth the ingredients out.Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is slightly cracked.Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing into 12 squares.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 brownies

I'm adding these brownies to this month's Treat Petite hosted this December by my co-host Kat, The Baking Explorer.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Some Seasonal Inspiration

The big day is only a couple of weeks away, and if you are anything like myself, you are struggling to know what to get folks.

I find it much more difficult these days, and I often look online for inspiration.  I have been sent a few bits and bobs which I have trying out and would like to share with you, possibly providing you with a spot of inspiration in the gift department.

First off we have the couch coaster. This would be a great gadget for anyone who loves sitting on the sofa, watching TV with a drink at their side. It’s made from silicone and has weighted ends which grip to the side of the arm of your chair. Your drink fits in the cup holder, which even has a notch for your cup handle. There is a detachable insert for smaller cups or glasses, so it will accommodate most sizes. A handy piece and ideal for entertaining too if you don’t have enough table space for for all those glasses. £19.99 from the Couch Coaster website.

Next, possibly something to put in said couch coaster, Parley rum. If you are partial to dark rum, you will love Parlay which is described as ultra-black. The rum is flavoured with cherries, vanilla, raisins and tangerines. It is a unique rum, but will be loved by those with a taste for the dark side. Available online from the official Parlay website at £28 for a 500ml bottle.

Now we have a few kitchen gadgets from Joseph Joseph which would be a great addition to anyone’s stocking.

Firstly we have the Gusto, the flavour infusing spoon. I plan to use mine for Christmas dinner. It’s a spoon with a compartment built in to put herbs and spices. You can then stir your gravy for example and infuse the flavours from the spoon which has holes in it to allow the flavours to come through. At the end of the spoon is also an integrated herb stripper which you pop the stalk through, pull and all the leaves come off ready to bundle into the spoon. How good an idea is that? £6 from the Joseph Joseph site.

The M-Cuisine popcorn maker, comes from Joseph Joseph’s microwave range and, you’ve guessed it, makes popcorn in the microwave. This is such a handy and healthy item to give someone. Popcorn popped without fat, which this gadget does, is a super healthy snack. Simply pop in some popcorn kernels, set the microwave for 5 minutes and listen to all those kernels popping. It has an integrated kernel sifter to get rid of those annoying unpopped bits. Then you can flavour if you wish straight in the bowl. So easy! £20 from the Joseph Joseph site.

Joseph Joseph also sent me their in-sink washing up brush Brush-Up. This item has a sucker on one end that you stick in your sink and the other end is a brush, ideal to scrub your glasses or cups. I use mine before popping the glasses in the dishwasher to get rid of those annoying bits of red wine that cling. A useful tool for those without dishwashers and those with also! £8 from the Joseph Joseph website.

Lastly Ulster Weavers sent me a selection of their bright and cheerful Frosty Garland range. In the box was a a double oven mitt, a stylish apron and tea towel all featuring their new Frosty Garland design which is full of bright colours of blues, pinks and features lots of wee birds in wreaths. Very cute. The apron retails at £16, the double oven glove £13 and the tea towel £6.50 all from the Ulster Weavers website.

And there we have a few great items which have made their way into my home and I hope have inspired you in your last minute Christmas gift buying.

Disclosure Statement: I was sent the above items free to review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Canadian Butter Tarts

canadian butter tarts

One last Canadian inspired recipe before we get into the full festive flow!

Butter Tarts are apparently a popular baked treat in Canada, but seemed to have passed me by. Until our trip to Toronto last month that is.

One day, cousin Lawrence took us over to the home of a friend of his, Janice, whom he worked with in the past and has kept in touch with.

Janice, originally from England, was keen to meet us and have us over for a spot of lunch one day. It was a gorgeous day when we ventured over to Janice’s home and we had lunch in the garden.

It was a lovely spread of breads, cheeses, quiche, cold meats, salad and lots more. All washed down with copious amounts of gin, which we hadn’t had elsewhere in Canada. It’s not a ‘thing’ there – yet – like it has become so popular in the UK.

Anyhoo, for dessert Janice had bought butter tarts for us, which were topped with fruit and nuts and were just delicious. To be honest I didn’t really pay much attention to what the tart was, I just know I enjoyed it.

When we got back home, one day I happened upon a Canadian cooking show on the television called ‘Best Recipes Ever’ where the host was making butter tarts. This time I paid more attention and discovered these were indeed a Canadian classic, but not full of butter as one might imagine. Instead they have a sugary, almost toffee like filling. Most common in the bottom of the tarts seem to be raisins and on occasion some pecans too.

Of course, I had to give them a go and I opted for a recipe, adapted from, which gave a ‘set’ filling rather than a runnier one, which is also quite acceptable.

canadian butter tarts

I used both raisins and chopped pecans in mine and I loved the result of brown sugar, butter and egg, baked into a pastry shell. I used shop-bought pastry rather than make my own, but if you are so inclined….These didn’t look quite as professional as the ones Janice had bought for us, from her local baker, who have probably been making them for years. Nor did I top mine with berries or more nuts. Instead, we had them ‘as is’ and thoroughly enjoyed them.

canadian butter tarts

Give this easy Canadian classic a try!

print recipe

Canadian Butter Tarts
Traditional Canadian baked good - sugar, butter, eggs with raisins and pecans
  • 200 grams dark brown sugar
  • 45 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 medium egg
  • 30 grams pecans, chopped
  • 30 grams raisins
  • 1 sheet ready rolled shortcrust pastry
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).Cut out circles from the sheet of pastry, big enough to line a cupcake tin hole.Press each pastry circle into each cup of the cupcake tin and with a fork run this round the edges to make a design.Divide the raisins between the 12 cups and scatter them in the bottom of each.In a saucepan, add the sugar and butter and heat gently until both melt and are liquid.Add the flour and mix this in quickly with a wooden spoon.Add the egg and beat in very quickly so it doesn't scramble. You should have a glossy mixture.Stir through the pecans.Divide this mix equally between each of the pastry cups. Wipe up and spills before baking.Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The mix will bubble up.Allow to cool before removing from the tin. They should pop out by gently turning the tarts in the pan.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 tarts

canadian butter tarts

Monday, 28 November 2016

Treat Petite November 2016 Round Up

We have had a bumper selection of entries into Treat Petite this month. Without further ado, let’s see what lovely treats were entered…

First off my pal ‘Fanny’ from Keep Calm and Fanny on entered these Les Petites Pyramids – which sound odd, but are made from coconut, eggs and sugar (a bit like macaroons). They made me reminisce about the Bangles tune ‘Walk like an Egyptian’!

Next was little ol’ me with my pumpkin oaty bars filled with a pumpkin pie type filling sandwiched between a cookie type mix. Very seasonal!

Sarah, from Takes from the Kitchen Shed, was next with her Bahlsen Biscuit Brownies. These sound fantastic bursting with the Bahlsen Pick Up minis!

Kate, The Gluten Free Alchemist, made sundried tomato, parmesan and walnut pastry swirls with gluten-free pastry from Jus-Rol. Gluten free or not, I love the combination of flavours in these swirls.

Caroline at Caroline Makes reached for her inner Star Baker and made these pistachio and white chocolate churros from the Great British Bake Off cookbook. I’ve loved churros for ages, but I think they are even more a favourite now after featuring in this year’s GBBO.

Johanna, our antipodean blogging friend made spooky cookies – or Chocolate and Black Tahini Cut-out Biscuits with some black tahini paste. I am amazed how dark these turned out with the addition of this paste.

Next, Choclette at Tin and Thyme made Carrot Cake Flapjacks – I just know my mum would love these as she is a sucker for carrot cake in any form!

Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen was making a vegan Welsh menu and part of that menu were Welsh cakes. These are a traditional Welsh treat, which you cook on a griddle. Love the sounds of these!

Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary made these Chocolate Fudge Masquerade Party Cupcakes. How fun are those chocolate masquerade masks which adorn the frosting? They sound and look gorgeous.

Caroline at Caroline Makes also entered these chocolate and caramel brownie mini cheesecakes – they were inspired by a cheesecake she had on honeymoon and used Turtles – the sweet variety – in them. Sound so decadent.

Charlotte, in her Lively Kitchen, made RaspberryTrifle Cupcakes. These are a bit like the ones I made a few years back, but look so much better!! Filled with raspberries and custard these would also be perfect for upcoming Christmas parties.

My Treat Petite co-host Kat from The Baking Explorer, entered her salted caramel fudge with sea salt scattered all over it. The amount of salt depends on how salty you like it, and it cuts through the sweetness of the fudge. Sounds heavenly!

Kate, The Gluten-Free Alchemist, also made ‘raw’ chocolateand raspberry fudge. Made from wholesome ingredients such as cashew nuts, cacao powder, coconut oil and freeze-dried berries, this is a more virtuous type of fudge which still packs in lots of flavour.

Lastly we had Lucy, Baking Queen 74, who entered her Cherry,Almond and White Chocolate Flapjacks. These contain all the aforementioned ingredients plus golden syrup! A hearty snack I would love in my lunchbox!

Thanks to everyone for taking part in Treat Petite. Join Kat next month for December. Even though we are now ‘theme-free’ I’m sure there will still be oodles of Christmas inspired baked I am looking forward to.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Our Trip to Canada (Part 2)

If you remember, my post about the first part of our trip to Toronto was building up to our wedding day...

On the morning of the wedding, Disneyboi and I ventured over to the Starbucks (where else?) across from Lawrence and Emmy’s apartment. I think we were a bit tense, a bit nervous about the forthcoming ceremony!

on the way to get wed!
We went back to the condo and got changed into our wedding garb, then headed down to the ferry port with L&E where we met our officiant Adriana. We had skyped Adriana previously to arrange our service and it was great to finally meet her. We were cutting it a bit fine and got to the port in the nick of time. We got to Ward’s Island where the Rectory cafĂ© is situated and where our ceremony would be held.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, we couldn’t have asked for any better really. When we got to the venue we were greeted by our server Danielle who made us feel very welcome. The ceremony then took place after a few formalities. It was a quiet, discreet humanist service which we both wanted, neither of us being religious. I welled up a bit!

the service with our officiant Adriana

We had lunch afterwards with some fizz, appropriately from the Ontario region, then Lawrence took some wedding photos at different locations around the island. Before long we were back aboard the ferry and back into the city, then off on our next adventure.

We changed into more relaxed clothes and packed our bags ready to catch a bus to Niagara Falls. This was our mannymoon! We were exhausted and fell asleep on the bus.

At the Falls!
We got a taxi from the Niagara Falls bus station to our hotel and then went out for dinner – a pizza place – not very classy for a wedding night I know. But it ended up we couldn’t manage very much and we headed back to the hotel after our busy day!

The next morning we spotted an IHOP (an International House of Pancakes) which we love and had an extortionate breakfast ($50 for some pancakes and coffee!!) before grabbing a cab out to Niagara on the Lake.

This is such a beautiful little town, 20 minutes drive from Niagara Falls and so, so different. The Falls can be a bit overwhelming with neon lights and loud music but Niagara on the Lake is a picturesque town with quaint written all over it.  There are beautiful shops, restaurants, the Shaw Festival Theatres and it is surrounded by beautiful Lake Ontario.

The Shaw Cafe at Niagara on the Lake
We literally spent all day in the town, just wandering around, buying bits and bobs (we were in the Christmas shop several times) and eating ice cream (I had scoops of maple pecan and pumpkin spice). We had dinner in the evening in a lovely little restaurant called Corks then called a cab.

The Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake
We headed back to the Falls in time for the fireworks and a light show which they have a couple of times a week, then we headed for a quick drink before heading back to the hotel.

The American Falls all lit up
The next morning was Saturday and our last day in Niagara, where we ended up on the Hornblower cruise going into the falls. We were given red ponchos and got wet, but not as wet as you might think. Nor was the boat ride as choppy as we had feared.

On The Hornblower

We shopped a little, of course, the Hershey Store at the Falls is very cool with a Kiss on the roof and a bar of Hershey's outside!

Hershey Store, Niagara Falls

Time was against us and after a late lunch with a stunning view, we were soon back on the bus to Toronto where dinner was waiting for us at L&E’s.

That weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and on the Sunday we had a family gathering at Disneyboi’s other cousin, Evelyn’s home.

Thanksgiving dinner
There were 20 people for dinner and it was a great social gathering, quaffing lots of wine, eating turkey and all the trimmings plus pumpkin pie (and a very yummy chocolate cheesecake affair made by a lovely lady called Imelda). It really was a fun evening which was over all too soon.

A farewell photo

Our holiday was nearing it's end and over the next couple of days we did a few more touristy things and I arranged to meet up with fellow food blogging friend Stephanie from Kitchen Frolic. Stephanie gave us a lovely wedding gift of Squish Artisanal Wedding candy and a cookbook 'Street Food Diaries' by Matt Basile who is Toronto based.

me and Steph from Kitchen Frolic
We had a wander with Steph around the city and over to a Michaels craft store which I had been keen to visit. It was lovely to meet Steph and I want to send her a big thank you for the lovely gifts she gave to myself and Disneyboi.

Our last night was Tuesday and we went out for a final dinner with our hosts Lawrence and Emmy who had been so kind to us during our stay. We cannot thank them enough and it was sad to be saying farewell to Emmy who was going to work the following day and we wouldn’t see before jetting off.

On Wednesday, after a gorgeous breakfast at a very retro diner called the Patrician,  we picked up a few last minute purchases and had a last minute beer with Lawrence. We were then back on the plane before we knew it!

And that was that - our Canadian marriage vacation was over far too soon sadly. We were shattered but had the best experience ever. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip and sharing some very special memories with us.
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