Chocolate Babka

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Babka is a rich brioche dough filled with cinnamon and dark chocolate.  I first had this decadent treat in an Israeli cafe in London and swiftly fell in love. It’s not quite a bread nor a cake, and the rich chocolate filling with hints of cardamom taste amazing straight out the oven.

It took me a while to put together this recipe, as most of the recipes I found online recommended using an electric mixer with a dough hook. My recipe can be made completely by hand. I also found that cardamom wasn’t a common ingredient, but I feel it makes a massive difference to the finished product, hence why I added a homemade cardamom syrup to the babka after baking.

Prep time: 4-5 hours
Cook time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 100 ml milk
  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the filling:

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze and syrup:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 50ml water
  • 40g sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods, lightly bashed

Method:

  • Heat the milk in a saucepan until it’s just warm. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and a pinch of salt. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can mix it in there.
  • Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture and add the milk, egg and butter in the middle. Mix together to create a dough using a spoon to swirl the flour mixture into the well. After a while you might need to start using your hands. Shape into a ball and then knead by hand on a well floured surface for 15 minutes until you have a soft dough that springs back when pressed.
  • Oil the bowl by patting a small amount on a paper towel and wiping it inside the bowl, then return the dough to the bowl and cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours (I normally turn my oven on for 2 minutes – make sure you turn it off again – so it’s slightly warm and then place the bowl in it to prove). The dough should be doubled in size after proving.
  • While the dough is proving, make the filling by melting the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
  • Once the dough has proved, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle approximately 50 x 30cm. Spread the filling over the dough, covering it completely, but leave a small border. Roll the dough up tightly from one of the longer sides into a sausage shape (for a demo on how to roll and plait the babka, this video is really helpful from 4:45).
  • Cut the dough in half lengthways so you have two long pieces with the inside exposed (I cut mine into 4 and made 2 babka loafs as I didn’t have a loaf tray which worked fine too). If you are finding it difficult to work with the dough at this stage, chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to make it easier to handle.
  • Twist the dough into a braid and push the ends together. You can either put this in a loaf tray, if you don’t have one like me, you can lay these on a baking tray covered in baking parchment. Loosely cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.
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Plaited babka

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4. Brush your dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes until deep golden, loosely covering with foil towards the end of cooking time if it is getting too dark. If you have done one large braid rather than two seperate braids like I did, it may need an additional 10 minutes of baking.
  • Whilst the babka is cooking, make the cardamom syrup. In a small pan, add the water and cardamom pods on a low heat. Once the water is lightly bubbling, stir in the sugar until it dissolves and then reduce to a low heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to infuse for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the loaf from the oven, brush with the sugar syrup and leave to cool.

Chocolate Orange Cookies

Out of all the cookies I’ve ever made, these cookies are probably my favourite. They are rich and gooey and melt in your mouth, whilst still being crispy on the outside. The decadent chocolate orange flavour is one of the best combinations, in my opinion, well done Joe! (Joseph Terry, who founded the chocolate orange in York in the 19th century – fun fact)

Prep time: 10 mins

Makes 20 small/medium sized cookies

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 whole Terry’s chocolate orange, chopped into chunks

Method:

  1. Line your baking tray with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F
  2. Using an electric mixer (if you have one, otherwise by hand will do!) mix your butter and sugars together until combined
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla essence
  4. Add the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and orange essence and mix until you have a cookie dough.
  5. Fold in the chocolate orange pieces
  6. Roll into balls and place on a baking tray. For small/medium sized cookies I use a heaped teaspoon sized ball. You can make these any size you like, just make sure they are all the same size so they bake uniformly.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

Apple and Oat Pancakes with Sambazon Acai Compote

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes

I was gifted a packet of Sambazon’s acai compote and asked to prepare some delicious pancakes with it.  Sambazon have found that traditional syrup is full of a lot of sugar, so they’ve added some superfood punch to a fruity compote to use as a pancake topping.  The acai bowl has recently become insta-famous worldwide, and their packets can be used to recreate them yourselves at home too. If you’re wondering where their interesting name comes from, Sambazon takes its name from its core goal: Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon. It aims for and represents a positive future of global food consumption that makes a positive impact on local communities and protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.

The pancakes are oat and apple pancakes, full of the same warming flavours of an apple pie. I found these went well with the fruity flavours of the compote.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sambazon Original Superfruit Pack
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 45g oats
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. To make your pancakes, put the cinnamon, coconut oil, oats, sliced apple, honey and egg into a food processor and blitz for around 1 minute, until a sort of paste forms.
  2. Spoon on to a frying pan on a medium heat in round circles and cook for about 1-2 minutes and flip and repeat.
  3. To make your berry mixture, in a sauce pan, add blueberries/blackberries and Sambazon Original Superfruit and cook down on medium heat, stirring often until you have a thick syrup.
  4. Spoon on to the pancakes and enjoy!

Tahini & Turmeric Granola Bars

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The Groovy Food Company have developed a new coconut oil, infused with turmeric, which seems to currently be the nation’s favourite spice! This combination makes their coconut oil perfect for adding to curries, stir fries or even granola bars, as I tried myself.  I was sent a jar of their coconut oil and asked to try out a recipe their team have developed for these tahini and turmeric granola bars.  Tahini and turmeric are both ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but is gradually becoming more and more popular in the UK.  I must admit, that when I initially read the recipe, I was slightly apprehensive, as these are not ingredients that I’ve commonly used to prepare granola bars! However, the end product was great, you are left with a granola bar full of warming spices, that is not overly sweet.

The Groovy Food Company also have a whole collection of other great recipes on their website using their products.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes approximately 30 granola bars

Ingredients:

  • 400g rolled oats
  • 100ml agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons The Groovy Food Company Organic Virgin Coconut Oil infused with turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 100g pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread oats evenly on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine agave nectar, tahini and turmeric infused coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander, salt and black pepper and mix well. Add dates and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine toasted oats, pistachios and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add agave and tahini mixture and mix well to ensure the oats are well coated.
  4. Grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish and line well with parchment paper. Transfer oat mixture to the lined dish and flatten using your hands (compressing the mixture helps the bars hold together better).
  5. Bake for 25 mins and leave to cool for 15 before transferring out to a wire rack. Allow a further 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes 

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Prep time:  10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration
Makes 6-8 medium sized pancakes  

Pancake day is right around the corner! So I felt it was only right to share with you a new pancake recipe I discovered at a pancake making workshop last week, these really are the best American style pancakes I’ve ever tried, and the secret seems to be in the buttermilk, as well as the fact that the batter should be refrigerated overnight before cooking. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but totally worth it when you taste the finished product. So get prepping tonight, ahead of the big day!

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Ingredients: 

  • 360g buttermilk
  • 180g whole milk
  • 6g vanilla essence
  • 380g self raising flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 12g baking powder
  • 3G bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g melted butter

Method: 

  1. Weigh out all of the wet ingredients (besides the butter) in a large mixing bowl, followed by the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until it’s not lumpy, then slowly add in the melted butter.
  3. Mix again until all combined and the batter is ready. Refrigerate overnight/at least for 2-3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, add a dash of oil to your pan (you don’t need a lot if you have a non-stick frying pan) and leave to heat up slowly.
  5. Once the pan is hot and the oil starts to sizzle, pour in your batter according to whatever size you’d like your pancakes to be. You can even buy one of these pancake rings if you’d like your pancakes to be perfectly round!!
  6. Once one side of your pancake has browned (you’ll be able to tell as it will lift off the pan with a spatula), flip it so the other side is cooked through.
  7. Stack and dress your pancakes with whatever toppings you like. My go to toppings are maple syrup and chocolate chips. But you could also try berries, whipped cream, Nutella, bananas, crushed nuts or even a savoury option like bacon.

Christmassy Lemon and Lime Possets

Prep time: 10 minutes (requires 5 hours cooling time)
Serves 6


If you’re having a last minute panic about your Christmas menu this year, I have the ultimate dessert for you.  This was recommended to me by a friend, because it’s literally the easiest dessert you’ll ever make, but still looks super festive and impressive.  It’s also really refreshing and light, so goes down well after a large Christmas roast!

I’ve added little iced snowmen to my possets (which I actually just bought from Sainsburys!!) but you could sub this with any festive decoration.

Ingredients:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 200g caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons and 1 lime
  • Iced snowmen (for decorating).  I bought mine from Sainsburys
  • 2 crushed ginger biscuits

Method:

  1. Heat your cream and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until all the sugar has melted.
  2. Bring the mixture to boil, stir in the zest and lemon and lime juice and turn off the heat.
  3. Pour into ramekins or glasses, cover, and leave to set in the fridge for at least 5 hours.
  4. Just before serving, crumble your crushed ginger biscuits on top of each posset and and add your snowmen decorations.

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves 1

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Winter is all about snuggling up with a hot drink by the fire under a blanket.   I love hot chocolate, but the sugary versions full of melted chocolate normally leave me feeling a little bit sick afterwards! So I’ve come up with a version that is free from refined sugar, is super delicious, and is full of superfoods so it’s actually nutritious.  I personally think it tastes better than the sugary version and is very nourishing during the colder months because of the additional spices I’ve added. It can be made vegan friendly and dairy free by using a milk of your choice – I used almond milk for mine.

The main ingredient is raw cacao powder, which is the purest form of chocolate you can consume.  It’s unsweetened, and hasn’t undergone all the processing that we find in normal chocolate, meaning it’s packed with antioxidants (the things that are believed to help prevent ageing, cancer and all other sorts of diseases), and is also high in magnesium and calcium.  It can also act as a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant – so can hopefully help those suffering from the winter blues.

Ingredients:

  • 350ml milk of your choice (I use almond milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or natural sweetener of your choice – you could try date syrup, maple syrup or coconut sugar)
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon almond butter

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat over a low heat.
  2. Continually stir the mixture until all the ingredients are combined (this might take quite a lot of stirring!)
  3. Once the mixture starts to boil turn of the heat and pour into mugs.  If you have a milk frother you can use this to create a foamy top.

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Health(ier) Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep time required: 15 minutes
Makes 15 medium sized cookies

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I broke my foot 7 weeks ago and was put on a strict ‘no-gym’ regime for a minimum of 3-4 months.  This means no running, cycling, swimming and even no walking initially. As someone who usually hits the gym 4-5 times a week, I’m ashamed to say that the first thought that crossed my mind when I was diagnosed was ‘what will this do to my waistline!!!’.   I initially tried to cut out chocolates and biscuits, but found it required a lot of willpower when you’re sat at home, resting your foot and doing mostly nothing all day.  All I really wanted to do was reach for the nearest hob nobs packet!

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with ‘healthy’ baking, so I could have some treats and feel less guilty.  My healthy carrot cake was my first stint at this, but if you prefer something more chocolatey I’d recommend these double chocolate chip cookies.  I can’t say that they are 100% free from refined sugar, as they do contain a teeny bit of dark chocolate, but they are healthIER than their sugar filled alternatives.  They’re great as an afternoon treat or snack for work.

Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 85g dark chocolate chips (50g melted and 35g keep aside for mixing in whole)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees/gas mark 4.
  2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla essence and coconut oil and honey and beat until incorporated.
  3. Melt 50g of your chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a boiling saucepan of water.  Stir into your mixing bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until combined.
  5. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment.
  6. Scoop tablespoon sized portions of the batter into balls and place on the baking tray.
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

 

Healthy Carrot Cake

Prep time required: 20 minutes
Serves 12 

Wouldn’t life be so much better if you could eat cake completely guilt free?  My healthy carrot cake is the answer!! It is free from refined sugar and is packed with vegetables, fruit and nuts…yet it really does taste as good as the sugary version (in my opinion).  This means its not only good as a sweet treat, but also as an afternoon snack to take to work, or even a pre-gym pick-me-up.

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Ingredients:

  • 320g carrots, grated
  • 80g dates, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g coconut oil
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
  • 160g plain flour
  • 120g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 120g chopped walnuts

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Mix the carrots, dates eggs, coconut oil and orange zest together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the rest of all the ingredients except the walnuts.
  4. Blitz the mixture in a food processor or blender and then stir in the walnuts.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 65 minutes.  You’ll know when its cooked when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

 

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Easter Rocky Road

Prep time: 25 minutes 

Makes approximately 30 squares

I love Easter (Probably because I was born on Good Friday!). But also because Easter chocolate is better than any other type of chocolate! This Easter Rocky Road recipe is full of Oreo Easter Eggs, Mini Eggs and M&Ms… And lots of other things that are super delicious and not very good for you!


These Rocky Road bites honestly taste amazing… I took a batch to the office and they were literally gone within seconds. The soft marshmallows and the crunchy biscuits provide the perfect combination of textures. The marbled finish also makes them so pretty and perfect for serving the family over Easter.  It’s so easy to make, and doesn’t even require baking!



Ingredients:

  • 200g Dark Chocolate (this can be any type or brand of chocolate – I like to use Asda’s Smartprice brand, it’s so cheap, yet is one of the best tasting chocolate I’ve tried!)
  • 200g White Chocolate (this should be a ‘best for baking’ type of chocolate, to avoid curdling)
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 90g mini eggs 
  • 90g mini Oreo eggs (these can also be substituted for mini creme eggs)
  • 160g digestive biscuits
  • A handful of pink cake decorations including hundreds of thousands and mini hearts.
  • 50g M&Ms
  • Pink food colouring 
  • Blue food colouring 

Method:

  1. Line a square cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Melt your dark chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over a low heat. 
  3. Place your digestive biscuits in a sandwich bag and smash with a rolling pin until the biscuits are around the size of 5p pieces. Add these to your saucepan and stir until all the biscuit pieces are covered in the chocolate mixture. Add half of the mini eggs and half of the marshmallows to the mixture and stir so they are mixed together.
  4. Pour your mixture into your baking tray and pat down firmly with a wooden spoon. Add a few more mini eggs and marshmallows on the top but make sure there are still some left over for the topping.
  5. Divide your white chocolate into 3 glass bowls and bring a saucepan full of water to boil. Melt the first batch of white chocolate in the bowl over the saucepan. Leave this batch uncoloured. Once melted, drizzle over your biscuit mixture in the cake tin. Add a few more mini eggs, marshmallows, Oreo eggs chopped in half, and a few m&ms on top.
  6. Melt your next batch of white chocolate and add the pink food colouring. Drizzle over your mixture in the cake tin to create a marbled effect. Add a few more mini eggs, marshmallows, Oreo eggs chopped in half, and a few M&Ms on top.
  7. Melt your final batch of white chocolate and add the blue food colouring. Drizzle over your mixture in the cake tin to create a marbled effect and add your remaining mini eggs, marshmallows, Oreo eggs, M&Ms and sprinkle your pink cake decorations over the top. 
  8. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until hard. 
  9. Cut your Rocky Road into small squares and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long!!)