Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brandy Truffles

Deep, dark and chocolatey, these easy-to-make truffles are spiked with heady brandy and rolled in cocoa. The addition of digestive biscuit crumbs makes them less sticky so they are easier to roll. 

This week my Sunday Supper group is bringing you some great gifts from the kitchen and nothing says Have the Merriest of Christmases like a gift of chocolate and booze! These pretty little truffles have both in spades. Make sure to scroll down to the bottom of my recipe to see all the other great gifts from the kitchen. Many thanks to my friend, Renee from Magnolia Days for hosting this special event.

7oz or 200g semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup or 175ml whipping cream
5 tablespoons brandy
1 1/4 cups or 100g cocoa powder
 8 3/4 oz or 250g digestive biscuits (Graham crackers can be substituted but since they are drier, you might not need as many.)

To serve or gift: small paper muffin cups

Tip the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in the microwave or in a pot on the stove until it is just about to boil.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until all the chips are melted.

Add in the brandy and stir well.

Pop the mixture in the refrigerator to cool. Set a timer for 20 minutes and stir the mixture when it goes off and put the bowl back in the refrigerator. Keep doing this until the mixture is completely cool.

Meanwhile, put your digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them to a fine powder.

When the chocolate/cream mixture is cool, stir in the digestive biscuits a few spoonfuls at a time, until you reach a consistency firm enough to roll into balls and hold their shape. I used all the biscuit crumbs in mine.

Put your cocoa in a bowl and use a teaspoon to scoop out some of the truffle mixture. Roll it between your palms to create a smooth ball and set it in the cocoa. Shake the bowl gently to move the truffle around so it gets coated with the cocoa.

Remove the cocoa-coated truffle from the bowl and place in a small paper muffin cup. Continue rolling and coating until all the truffles are made.

A friend was helping me so she insisted on using gloves.

These are a great gift to take along for a holiday party, especially if arranged on a pretty Christmas plate.


Do you need inspiration for more gifts from the kitchen? We’ve got you covered!

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Desserts and Sweets


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef and Guinness Stew - or Pie

When weather turns chilly, my thoughts turn to my slow cooker and a nice beefy stew with Guinness. Serve the warming bowls of deliciousness as is or top the stew with puff pastry and bake for a beautiful beef and Guinness pie. 

Whenever we are traveling and have the chance to eat a pub lunch, my husband almost invariably orders the beef and Guinness pie, if there is one on the menu. He loves the filling and the flaky puff pastry top. When decent pub grub is not available, I make my own. For stew beef to become tender, slow cooking is the way to go, so I like to use my crockpot to make the filling. After browning the meat, everything goes in the pot and I can get on with other projects like baking his favorite apple rhubarb strawberry pie. Pie for dinner and pie for dessert and he’s a happy man.

For the stew:
5 slices streaky smoked bacon
2 lbs or 950g braising or stew meat
1.1 lb or 500g marrow bones (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons or 15g flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large onion (about 7 oz or 200g)
1 large carrot (about 5 1/2 oz or 155g)
1 large parsnip (about 5 1/2 oz or 155g)
1 can (14 oz or 400g) chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 can (12 oz or 355 ml) Guinness stout
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper

For the pie:
1 sheet puff pastry (8 oz or 230g)

Cut your meat into bite-sized pieces, removing any gristle you can see.

Lay it out in a single layer on your cutting board and season it with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle it with the tablespoon and a half of plain flour and toss it around with your clean hands until well mixed.

Peel and cut the parsnip and carrot into pieces. Cover the parsnip with water in a small bowl until ready to use, to stop it from turning brown. Chop your onion roughly.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy in a non-stick pan. Remove the crispy bits from the rendered bacon fat and set aside.

Fry the meat in the bacon fat until browned on all sides, in two or three lots so that the pan doesn’t get crowded.

If you put too many pieces in at once, it will just steam instead of browning. As the batches get browned, remove them to a bowl.

Now you are ready to put everything in the slow cooker.

Start with the meat, then add the onion, parsnip and carrot. Top with the bacon, thyme and bay leaf. Pour the canned tomatoes in and then the can of Guinness.

Tuck the marrow bones down into the vegetables, if using.

Cook on high for three to four hours or until the beef is tender. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

This can be served exactly as is or it can be baked as pie topped with puff pastry.

If you cooked your stew with the optional marrow bones, these can be put under the broiler or grill in the oven to brown. They are lovely served as an appetizer with toast on which to spread the marrow.

To make the pie, preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Spoon your beef and Guinness stew into a baking pan and allow it to cool a little while your oven preheats. I like to use a small pan that holds the beef and vegetables with a good amount of the broth that is created while the stew slow cooks. Then I thicken the rest of the broth with a little flour and serve it as extra gravy with the pie.

Slice the outside edges off of your puff pastry sheet and cut a few slits in the middle.

When your oven is up to temperature, cover the filled baking pan with your puff pastry. Fold the sides up so they don't hang over the edges. Press down all around the edges to seal the crust to the pan. You can use the trimmed pieces to decorate the top, if you want.

Pop it in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden.

To serve, cut a piece of the puff pastry off the top and fold it back. Scoop the stew into your bowl and top with the puff pastry.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Almond-Stuffed Date Muffins #MuffinMonday

Almond-stuffed dates are a particular treat in the Middle East, especially at holiday time. What better way to celebrate the upcoming UAE National Day than with almond-stuffed date muffins? 

I’ve been thinking about these muffins since back in October, planning ahead for the 43rd UAE National Day on Tuesday, 2 December. I decided that rather than posting them next Monday, it would be better to post early, in case anyone wants to make them for next week. I can highly recommend the classic combination of almonds and dates. They make tender, tasty muffins, and pretty decorations on top.

If you'd like to read more about my time in the United Arab Emirates, check out my date syrup muffin post from last year's National Day.


2 cups or 250g flour
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 8 3/4 oz or 250g dates stuffed with almonds
1 cup or 240ml whole milk
1/4 cup or 60ml canola or another light oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Grease or line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

Set aside 12 stuffed dates and then use a sharp knife to chop the rest of them into small pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a smaller bowl, beat together the milk, egg, oil and vanilla.

Add in the chopped almonds and dates to the liquid bowl. Use a fork to break up the sticky dates into their individual pieces.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and fold gently until just mixed through.

Divide the batter between the cups in your prepared muffin pan and top each with one of the reserved almond-stuffed dates.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Leftover White Wine Syrup

Sweet vanilla orange syrup with a tart finish from the dry white wine is beautiful drizzled over ice cream, soaked into a pound cake or stirred into an after dinner coffee.

Leftover wine? 
I can hear you now because I have said similar, “What is this leftover wine of which you speak?” Does. Not. Compute. But if you are having a dinner party, and guests bring wine, chances are that several bottles will get opened because one person prefers un-oaked Chardonnay and another likes a sweeter Riesling, while a third guest’s tipple of choice with turkey is a crispy Sauvignon Blanc. Put me in that last category, unless you are offering a quality red, which I will take over any white, any day, even with poultry. The fact of the matter is that sometimes, when the guests go home in a timely fashion, you can tidy the kitchen and put your feet up with the last glass of your preferred wine, but you might still have leftovers in the bottles you aren’t crazy about.

Here’s the solution: a white wine syrup with sugar and vanilla and orange peel that can be served over ice cream or used to drench a pound cake or can even be bottled up as a hostess gift for the next round of parties. And that’s what I call thinking ahead!

Today our Sunday Supper group is looking ahead to Thanksgiving leftovers and making them into more fabulousness. Many thanks Jennie of The Messy Baker for hosting this event. Make sure you scroll down to see the whole link list.

This recipe is adapted from Real Simple.

1 vanilla bean
3 1/8 cups or 750ml assorted white wines
1 cup or 225g golden caster sugar (White sugar can be substituted but the unrefined stuff adds more flavor.)
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch sea salt

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.

Peel just the orange part off of the orange peel, making sure to leave the bitter white pith behind.

In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, orange zest and vanilla seeds and pod.

Bring to a boil.

Then reduce heat and simmer until the wine mixture is slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 cup or 240ml, 35 to 45 minutes.

Put a heatproof strainer over the pot and use tongs to remove the vanilla pod and the pieces of orange zest and put them in the strainer. Allow them to drain completely. You don't want to waste even a drop of this precious syrup.

If you want to save them for a further purpose, the vanilla bean and orange zest can be placed on parchment paper and allowed to dry completely. Add the vanilla bean to sugar in a closed container to flavor the sugar. The orange zest can be used for cake or cupcake decoration.

Pour the syrup into a sterilized jar and screw the lid on tight. It will thicken even more as it cools.

This is beautiful syrup, speckled with vanilla seeds and shimmering with delicious flavor. Drizzle it over ice cream or mascarpone with fruit for an elegant dessert.


Are you already anticipating those Thanksgiving leftovers? Frankly, the leftovers are almost my favorite part. Have a look at these great recipes that turn your leftovers into something special!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

London Porter Cake with Lemon Glaze #BundtBakers

Lovely, rich and fruity, made with porter beer, raisins and candied peel, then dressed up with lemon glaze, this Bundt cake is perfect for dessert or teatime. 

Baking with Booze
A couple of weeks back I was reviewing a beautiful cookbook called Food Truck Road Trip – A Cookbook. I mixed a morning pick-me-up cocktail made with porter beer, coffee and ginger that was absolutely delicious. Since this month’s Bundt Bakers’ theme is boozy cakes I decided to use porter in a cake as well. It has such a wonderful rich flavor that I knew it make a great cake. An internet search revealed that porter is commonly used in cakes in Ireland so what I thought was a great idea was hardly novel. Sometimes it’s best to leave some things to the experts so this recipe comes from Rachel Allen, queen of Irish cooking and baking and is slighted adapted for a Bundt pan. I’ve also added a lemon glaze because I was taking this as my dessert contribution to a champagne tasting dinner and, while the plain cake was tasty, I felt it needed a shiny glaze for such a nice evening affair. I am pleased to say that the cake was well received and enjoyed by all.

If you like baking with liquor, you are going to love this month’s Bundt Bakers round up of cakes, hosted by Lauren from From Gate to Plate. Scroll down to see the whole fabulous list of boozy Bundts.

For the cake batter:
3 1/2 cups or 450g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 225g butter, chilled
1 cup packed or 225g light brown sugar
1 pound or 450g golden or black raisins or a mixture of both
3 ounces or 75g chopped candied peel, store-bought or homemade
2 eggs
12 oz or 330ml porter or stout

For the lemon glaze:
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
1/4 cup or 60ml warm water
1/4 cup or 60ml lemon Juice
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your Bundt pan by spraying it liberally with non-stick spray for baking.

Measure the flour, nutmeg, mixed spice, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk it well to aerate and combine.

Cut the butter in small cubes and add to the flour mixture. Use the end of the whisk or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until you get a sandy texture.

Stir in the brown sugar, raisins and candied peel.

Whisk the eggs in another bowl and add the porter.

Pour the egg/porter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 65-75 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean. If the cake is browned before it’s done, cover it with foil.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the Bundt pan for about 10 minutes.

Turn it out and set to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the lemon glaze. Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.

Brush over top and sides of cake a little at a time, allowing the glaze to soak in. Keep applying the glaze until you’ve used it all or until it’s time to take it off to the dinner party.


Boozy Bundts are perfect for the holidays! Hope you find some inspiration here:


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to