Pretend hot cross buns

Long-time readers will know that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Easter – no hot cross buns before Good Friday; no Easter eggs before Easter Sunday. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get extremely hard to resist these things sometimes, especially when a packet of hot cross buns turns up in  your kitchen at breakfast time on a Saturday morning.
My resolve to give up chocolate for Lent has wobbled a bit in recent weeks – chocolate icecream doesn’t really count, does it? – but I’m staying strong on the HCBs. Mainly that’s because I’ve invented some you can eat at any time, guilt-free. Here’s how.

‘Pretend’ Hot Cross Buns
These lookalike ‘buns’ – really bliss balls with the flavours of hot cross buns and white chocolate crosses – have many things going for them. My favourite, though, is that you can eat them while you’re waiting for the real ones to cook (or toast). What are you waiting for?

1 cup sultanas
1 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 Tbsp honey
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped white chocolate

Put all ingredients except the chocolate into a food processor and whiz until you can pinch together small amounts. Take dessertspoon-sized heaps of the mixture and form into square-ish ‘buns’ and place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Gently melt the white chocolate – put it in a small bowl, then set this over a bowl of freshly boiled water from the kettle – and put into a small ziplock bag or piping bag. Pipe crosses over the buns and leave to set. Store in the fridge – makes about 18 ‘buns’.

Five great bakes for Good Bitches Baking

Are you a Good Bitch? I am. In fact, I’m one of many.

I’m not telling you this to show off, but to get you to join us in a kind of sweet revolutionary movement. Good Bitches Baking is an attempt to make the world a better place via the medium of cake and biscuits. It’s been set up by two amazing women, Marie Fitzpatrick and Nicole Murray, who recognised the value of the little things (and cake) in tough times.

Since September, they’ve harnessed a miniature army of around 80 keen cooks in Wellington alone who bake for people in times of strife. Recipients here so far include hospices, refuges, City Missions, a soup kitchen, boarding houses and the Neo-Natal Trust.

If you’re not a Good Bitch but you’d like to help, then you can find out more about Good Bitches Baking or visit the Good Bitches Baking GiveALittle page.

If you are a Good Bitch and you need ideas for easily made, easily transported, easily consumed home-style baking, then this list is designed to help. Here goes…

1. Big Fat Ginger Crunch
This is an excellent GBB bake, because the not-so-pretty edge pieces can find their ways into lunchboxes the next day. I use this Spicy Ginger Crunch recipe  most of the time, though Chelsea Winter’s Oaty Ginger Crunch is pretty great too.

2. Wholesome Fruity Muffins
These super-popular muffins are a not as heavy as those bran bullets of old, but they’re not pretend cakes, either. This recipe is vegan, but I’ve been making them recently with regular milk and two eggs instead of the banana.

3. Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes
Having said all that, these are definitely cakes in muffin form – a big hit of antioxidant-rich beetroot, chocolate and a fluffy hat of cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes a big batch so there may be some left over for your at-home testers…

4. White Chocolate And Lemon Bars
I can only ever make this if I know I am giving it away immediately – otherwise I’d probably eat the tray in an afternoon, all by myself. I use this Lime And White Chocolate Bars recipe, but often switch out the lime for lemon, and add dried cranberries or apricots. SO good! This recipe is also great for steamy summer/autumn days, when slaving over a hot oven makes you feel bitchy (not in a good way).

5. Old-Fashioned Fruit Loaf
Alice Arndell has a fantastic old-fashioned fruit loaf recipe in her book ‘Alice In Bakingland’ – it makes two big loaves, freezes well and tastes great. I can’t find a link to it online anywhere (you should buy her book, it’s really useful for GBB weekends – the melt ‘n mix banana cake is also a lifesaver) but this Juicy Fruit Loaf is always a winner.

Happy baking, everyone. In this case, charity really does begin at home!

Double peanut brownies

My mother used to say that the definition of willpower was eating one salted peanut. She was wrong.

At least, she was right, but I’ve got an update. The definition of willpower is having a bag of salted peanuts in your house that you ARE NOT OPENING until you have tried them in a recipe you dreamed up during a particularly dull conference call.

Then, the definition of willpower is eating just one piece of the results. Reader, my willpower is lacking. Try these and let me know how you get on…

Double Peanut Brownie Bars Photo/Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Double Peanut Brownies
In New Zealand, a peanut brownie is a crunchy cookie with peanuts inside it. Nice enough, but nothing to get excited about. By contrast, these are proper brownies, which is to say they are soft, slightly cakey and very moreish. They use two sorts of peanuts – ordinary blanched ones (which I can report are nowhere near as addictive as their roasted, salted cousins) – and the lovely, naughty salted ones. If you don’t have the wherewithal to grind the peanuts, use ground almonds.

1 cup blanched, skinless peanuts
125g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
5 Tbsp Dutch cocoa
2 free range eggs – fridge-cold is fine in this instance
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts

Heat the oven to 180C and line a small brownie tin (measuring about 25 x 20 or similar) with baking paper.
Grind the peanuts to a fine meal in a food processor – stop before they start turning into peanut butter!
Melt the butter over gentle heat, then add the sugar and cocoa. Stir over the heat for a minute, then remove and let cool for five minutes.
Add the eggs and beat well, then add the ground peanuts, salt and baking soda. Stir to mix, then tip in the roasted peanuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes – it should be slightly wobbly in the middle. Let cool in the tin, then slice into bars. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (hide them, they won’t last long!).

Double Peanut Brownie Bars Photo/Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

After a bit of an absence, I’m joining in with my favourite blog challenge, We Should Cocoa. This month it’s co-hosted by Katie at Recipe For Perfection – and the theme (you guessed it), is brownies..

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Raw beetroot bliss balls

A dear friend of mine calls herself an alternative eater – wholefoods, no meat, no refined sugar, the whole kit and kaboodle. While that makes her a rather challenging dinner guest, she’s also one of the most appreciative people a cook could hope to create for. After I got over feeling daunted by her request for a birthday cake last weekend – especially one that could withstand a car journey and an afternoon in the sun – I had a burst of inspiration and these pretty-in-pink bliss balls were the result. 

Raw beetroot bliss balls – for Catherine

You don’t have to be an alternative eater to love these. In fact, you don’t even have to like beetroot. Soaking the almonds makes them easier to whizz up.

1 cup loosely packed grated beetroot
1 cup dates

1 /2 cup whole almonds

1/2 cup roughly chopped best quality dark chocolate or cacao nibs, optional

1/2 cup desiccated coconut, plus about 3/4 cup for rolling

Put the dates and almonds in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Tip the beetroot into a food processor and whiz until finely chopped. Add the drained dates and almonds, the chocolate (if using) and the 1/2 cup measure of coconut. Whizz until it clumps together.

Put the second measure of coconut into a shallow bowl. Form teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, then roll in the coconut. Store in the fridge. Makes around 36 small balls.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Easy coffee cake with coffee cream icing

Did you give up coffee, sugar and cake on January 1? Nah, me neither. If you did, look away now. Because here comes a lush coffee cake – that is, a cake with coffee in it, not just a cake to have with coffee – with a thick head of creamy coffee icing.

Simple Coffee Cake With Coffee Frosting Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Coffee Cake With Coffee Cream Icing
Just like this time last year, we are playing host to some of Wellington’s finest tradesmen. (Note to self: buying an old house is a dumb idea.) We’re almost old mates by now, so on Fridays I turn on a proper morning tea for them to knock back with their sandwiches at 10am. This cake vanished in seconds and one of them came inside with the empty plate to say “that was choiiiiiice!” I hope I haven’t raised the bar too high for next week.

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup rice bran oil
pinch of salt
1 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt
2 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
2 cups self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm cake tin.
Put the sugar and eggs in a food processor (or a large bowl) and whizz or beat with a wooden spoon until well mixed and slightly fluffy. Add the oil, salt, yoghurt, coffee and flour and pulse (or stir) until smooth.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then turn out of the tin and let cool completely on a rack. Cover with coffee cream icing as below, sprinkle over some vanilla grounds or finely grated dark chocolate, and serve.

For the coffee cream icing: Take 50g soft unsalted butter, 100g room temperature cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water, and 1 cup icing sugar. Whizz in the rinsed-out processor (or beat furiously in the rinsed out bowl). Try not to eat it all before it goes on the cake.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Hope the new year has been kind so far…