Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Its all about Hot Cross Buns this Easter

Marks and Spencer's have went crazy with their Hot Cross Buns range this Easter. When we called into our local Marks and Spencer's store this week we were amazed to see such a great range of Hot Cross Buns. We're already massive fans of anything baked with fruit in it so we didn't need an excuse to want to try them all!

Hot Cross Buns use to be a more prominent Easter sight in British supermarkets but in recent years chocolates and other Easter treats seem to have pushed these gorgeous buns off our radar. We're excited to see Marks and Spencer's releasing such a great and different range of Hot Cross Buns to suit all tastes.

Before you stop reading this article because you're one of those people who don't like raisins or dried fruit keep reading, there's even a hot cross bun for you!!

So we'll start with the traditional hot cross bun....Marks and Spencer's have went one further and ensured the most indulgent hot cross bun by releasing their Luxury Hot Cross Bun in both regular and mini sizes. These mini buns are so cute, but not so cute you won't want to eat them all. Packed full of juicy fruit, mixed peel and a perfect balance of spices these buns are sure to please a hot cross bun connoisseur.

We don't want to keep you dried fruit hating people in too much suspense so we'll cover the hot cross bun you've been waiting for next in our review. Revealing the Toffee Fudge and Belgium Chocolate Hot Cross Buns! The name says it all really, these hot cross buns are packed full of toffee fudge and Belgium chocolate pieces in a rich buttery hot cross bun. Toast these and add a bit of butter for the ultimate evening indulgence.

For the muffin lovers Marks and Spencer's have released a special Hot Cross Bun Muffin variety which sees the traditional hot cross buns flavours combined with a rich and moist muffin to enjoy straight out of the pack. These come in generous packs of four. Full of juicy Turkish sultanas, Greek currants and citrus peel....delicious!

One of our favourite varieties the Cherries and Berries Hot Cross Buns sees the traditional hot cross buns studded with extra berries and cherries making these treats super moist and sweet. Packed with cherries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries. Enough berries for you?

To finish off the varieties of hot cross bun products we tried from Marks and Spencer's this year is the amazing Hot Cross Bun Loaf. We love this for convenience when you want a slice of something just that little bit different. Toasted with butter these are divine.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Mud Cake

With the abundance of chocolate left after Easter we decided to write a chocolate cake recipe which you can use any extra chocolate you have. We decided to call this cake Mud Cake as it is extremely fudgy like a brownie. We include beer in this Mud Cake for extra flavour. We used the Innis and Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish. The chocolate ganache on top is thick and luxurious. An extremely decadent cake but simple to make.

The Ingredients:
The Cake:
220g NEILL'S® Plain Flour
80g Cocoa Powder
200g Caster Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
175g Sour Cream
115ml Vegetable Oil
1tbsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
100ml Warm Water
80ml Innis and Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish Beer

The Ganache:
175g Double Cream
115g Dark Chocolate
115g Milk Chocolate
(You can use all dark or all milk if you choose)

Recommended Equipment:
Sage Appliances Scraper Mixer Pro

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 175c.
Grease and line a standard 9-10 inch cake tin.
Sieve all the dry ingredients into the mixer or a large bowl.

Start folding the sour cream, oil, water, beer, eggs and vanilla extract.
Slowly fold the mixture together until its consistently mixed together and you can no longer see any loose ingredients. 

You can use a mixer for this part of the process if it includes a speed for folding. We use the Sage Appliances Scraper Mixer Pro which includes this brilliant feature.
Transfer the cake batter into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out without any uncooked batter. It may still show some chocolate as the cake is very moist and fudgy. Do not over cook.
To make the ganache heat the cream in a saucepan or microwavable bowl until it begins to simmer.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. The smaller the better.

Place the chocolate in the bottom of the mixer bowl and pour over the warm cream.

Allow to sit for 2-3 mins. This gives the chocolate time to melt.
Turn the mixer on its lowest setting and mix until the ganache becomes thick, glossy and smooth.
Pour over the cake while still slightly warm and allow to set.

You're Done!


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Easter Gift Guide 2015

Each year we put together seasonal gift guides to help you in those difficult decisions. At BakingBar we take these guides very seriously, only recommending the best products we have tried and would happily purchase ourselves as gifts. This is our Easter 2015 gift guide. We have some great gifts to tell you all about. So grab a coffee and enjoy the read.

Marks and Spencer’s
Marksand Spencers never fail to come up with great gifts at Easter and this year has been no exception. There are simply so many incredible items in this years selection from Marks and Spencer's we have chosen just a few to share with you to give you an idea. You can find a full selection in all stores right now. The first item we chose to feature was the beautiful Spring Garden of Assorted Chocolate Eggs which is a selection of milk, dark and white chocolate eggs beautifully presented in a gift box. Similarly the new Chocolate Egg Selection box features three eggs each with a different flavour. The box contains a milk chocolate butter crunch egg, white chocolate and raspberry pavlova and milk chocolate popcorn and popping candy egg. A great combination of different flavours. Marks and Spencer's have a great range of eggs for kids this year, or adults alike! We love their new character eggs including the Coco Panda and Nancy Hen. Both wonderfully crafted into egg characters. Kids will love this! Not to mention Colin the Caterpillar egg which is the Easter Egg variation of the Colin the Caterpillar cake! A great idea. We love this. Marks and Spencer's also released some great mini treat this year for Easter including a pack of 9 Bunny Biscuits which are decorated with vanilla and raspberry fondant. This year they also released a bag of Popping Candy Chocolate Eggs and individually wrapped Caramel Crunch Easter Egg bars. We also love the carrot shaped bag of orange flavoured Jelly Carrots. So cute.

Lindt always knows how to do Easter well and in our opinion no Easter is complete without receiving some Lindt chocolate. This year Lindt released a wonderful Lindor Shell Egg which is made with decadent milk chocolate and includes 8 mini Lindor egg truffles which contain the traditional irresistibly smooth Lindor filling. If you just fancy a box full of wonderful Lindor truffles then the Lindor Mini Eggs Assorted Canister is the perfect gift for you, filled with a mixture of your favourites including Milk, Stracciatella, Coconut and Strawberries & Cream. Easter simply wouldn’t be Easter without receiving a Easter Bunny from Lindt. This year they have released a Milk Chocolate Lindt Gold Bunny as well as a Dark Chocolate Lindt Gold Bunny and a White Chocolate Lindt Gold Bunny.

Thorntons is another well-known and reputable brand known by children and adults alike for decades! Thorntons was set up by Joseph William Thornton in 1911 who then handed the business to his two sons who made it into what it is today. Thorntons have released a wonderful Easter range this year and we found it difficult to pick what we wanted to feature in our gift guide. We eventually settled on their new Caramel Cheesecake Easter Egg. This is surely an Easter egg we conjure up in our dreams. Embedded in this Easter egg are thick fudge pieces combined with cruncy biscuit. Oh and the egg itself is made of caramel milk chocolate. Incredible. If you’re after a more simple traditional Easter egg look no further than their White Chocolate Harry Hopalot Easter Egg which is made of white chocolate with a milk chocolate imprint of Harry Hopalot on the front of the egg.

We love companies who have long, established and illustrious histories and Bettys is one of those companies. There is a lot of history behind the business and even a little mystery around where the name Betty actually came from! Its far too much to explain here so grab a tea or coffee and pop over to Bettys website to read ‘The Bettys Story’ about where this fabulous company came from here. Bettys always produce wonderful seasonal ranges and this Easter they have not failed to disappoint. We made the difficult decision and chose to feature two of our favourite items. We have browsed their fabulous selection of Easter treats and decided to feature. The first item is something we consider essential in our house at Easter, a Simnel Cake. Last year we showed you how to make one yourself but if you don’t feel up to it this year Bettys is the next best alternative! Wonderfully moist and packed full of juicy fruit topped with soft delicious marzipan. Easter wouldn’t be complete without some white bunnies and Bettys have created a wonderful White Chocolate Easter Bunny made with some of the finest white chocolate.  If you’re after a finishing touch for an Easter gift these Hand Painted Ganache Eggs are the perfect gift. Beautifully finished and filled with luxurious chocolate ganache. Delicious!

Butlers Chocolate
Butlers Chocolate is Ireland’s favourite luxury chocolatier for over 80 years, being originally founded in Dublin in 1932 by Marion Butler and then bought in 1959 by the Irish Sorensen family who still own 100% of the business today. Butlers Chocolate takes pride in their heritage, even offering the ‘Butlers Chocolate Experience’ which allows you to see behind those secret chocolate factory doors. This years Christmas range contains a lot of classics, but classics done exceptionally well. This Easter we picked some key items to feature which caught our eye. The first is the beautifully presented Large Green Wrapped Egg, With Mini Eggs, this is a wonderful milk chocolate egg filled with a selection of mini eggs which are themselves filled with caramel, dark truffle or vanilla truffle fillings. We just love the Large Boxed Milk Chocolate Easter Egg With Two 100g Bars which is another milk chocolate egg in a box with two 100g bars of dark chocolate, almond and orange and a bar of milk chocolate honeycomb crisp. We also spotted the wonderful Egg Tin which is filled with an assortment of filled chocolate eggs in milk, dark and white chocolate with a range of fillings including Caramel, Lemon Truffle and Praline.

Whittard of Chelsea
We love Whittard of Chelsea’s illustrious and long history as one of the most prestigious suppliers of tea and coffee products. We have selected three of our favourite products which are also in their Easter Gift section this year. Chocolate is of course the theme of our selection. We absolutely love the new luxury 60% Cocoa Flaked Drinking Chocolate. This hot chocolate is pure gold. Incredibly indulgent but perfectly balanced between the richness of dark chocolate yet still allowing the rich fruity notes to come through. Why not have some more chocolate with your hot chocolate. Whittard have launched a fantastic range of luxury chocolate bars. Our favourite is the Vanuatu44 Milk Chocolate which has beautiful hints of hazelnut and coffee with notes of milky caramel. To finish things off why not try Whittard’s Dark Chocoalte Flavoured Black Tea. Yep tea! This loose leaf tea has chunks of dark chocolate throughout and creates a wonderfully smooth and rich cup of tea. Worth a try if you’re a chocolate fan.

This is the first time we have featured Aldi in one of our gift guides. When we seen what they had in store for Easter we just had to share this wonderful idea.  Aldi has combined two of three of life’s pleasures, wine, cocktails and of course chocolate. Aldi has guided us on pairing three different award winning Moser Roth chocolate bars with each a wine or cocktail to complement their flavours. First of all we paired the Exquisite Collection Australian Shiraz (£5.99) with Moser Roth 70% Cocoa (£1.19). This pairing works exceptionally well. Why? The supple texture and relatively low levels of mouth drying tannins smooth out the cocoa solids in the chocolate and the red and black fruit flavours refresh the palate. Secondly we paired the Old Hopking Dark Rum or Chevalier Cognac with the Moser Roth Mousse au Chocolat. This works exceptionally well together as Cognac with a little addition of some orange zest cut through the chocolates richness yet compliment the airy orange mousse chocolate. Truly an adult treat at Easter!

Rococo Chocolates
We first discovered Rococo Chocolates just before Valentine’s Day last year and we haven’t looked back. Their passion and drive to create the best chocolate delights time and time again is inspiring. This year they have a wonderful selection of chocolate rabbits all themed as part of a Rococo Bunny Band! The bunny quartet is made up of a saxophone player, a drummer, an accordion player and a banjo player. Which one will you choose? These bunnies are wonderfully moulded using the finest milk chocolate with dark and white chocolate used for some finishing touches. All bunnies available via the Rococo Chocolates website closer to Easter.

Joe and Seph’s Popcorn
Remember the days when you only really ate popcorn and it was always the same generic bland flavour, well Joe and Seph decided to change all that and it’s been a massive success! They air-pop their corn opposed to the normal traditional British method of oil and sugar mix. They have also developed a wide range of different flavours. In a quirky alternative to normal Easter gifts Joe and Seph have decided to release two special flavours for Easter. These are Trio of Chocolate and Gingerbread. The trio of chocolate popcorn has flavours of white, milk and dark chocolate creating a mouth-watering illusion that you’re having chocolate. The gingerbread flavour is wonderful and combines the flavours of caramel, ginger spice finished off with stem ginger, creating a great flavour for a popcorn.

Cocoaloco is one of those special chocolate companies where you know a lot of love and passion goes into the crafting of their chocolates. All Cocoaloco’s chocolate is organic; they even use packaging which makes minimal impact on the environment. Sarah and Rory of Cocoaloco set out to make their company “build a premium treat reputation around words like approachable, affordable and genuine choice” and they have certainly done that! With a new website this year Cocoaloco’s range is even easier to order and browse through. We selected just a few items from the Easter range. The first item is a beautiful traditional Marbled Chocolate Easter Egg which is made from the finest dark, white and milk chocolate and filled with chocolate buttons. The other items we selected are all a bit of a twist on the traditional selection. The cute White Chocolate Raspberry Pigs are adorable and a great surprise gift for Easter. With Similar flavour but different design idea are the equally cute White Chocolate and Raspberry Mini Eggs which come in their own egg box style packaging. We also spotted the Easter Chicken in a Nest which is a quirky alternative Easter gift made with milk chocolate with dark and white chocolate decoration.

Easter doesn’t have to be all about indulging in chocolate. And we know not all of you can if you are on a specialised fitness plan or regime. But thanks to MyProtein there are alternatives which are not as calorific and will count towards some of your fitness nutrition needs. Keeping along the theme of chocolate of course, why not try their delicious Chocolate Protein Balls or Chocolate Protein Cluster. Both amazingly tasty. We’re also massive fans of their Protein Cookies which come in a variety of flavours which obviously includes chocolate mint, chocolate orange, double chocolate and white chocolate almond. We find it hard to choose our favourite. If you’re after something warm for a cold frosty night then their Protein Hot Chocolate is the choice for you.

Hotel Chocolat
Hotel Chocolat are well known for their luxury chocolates and innovative flavours and they certainly have not failed to impress this Easter! There is a huge selection of gifts suitable for Easter on the Hotel Chocolat website, whether in the Easter range or not. We have chosen several of our favourite items this year to suggest to you. We absolutely love the Egglet Sleekster Box which contains 30 delicious egglets with fillings such as pecan praline, 65% cocoa raspberry supermilk and some other new flavours from Hotel Chocolat. The other item from the Easter range which really caught our eye and made us laugh at the same time is the Caramel Easter Egg Sandwich which is not only designed to look like a sandwich but is packaged like one too! This Easter egg alternative is made from decadently smooth caramel chocolate.

Prestat with Chocolate Trading Company

Prestat is one of London’s oldest chocolate shops and has been awarded not one but two Royal warrants over the years it has been serving the people of London and beyond. Prestat pride themselves on the very best quality and craftsmanship creating chocolates of incredibly quality and flavour. It would be a shame not to include such an illustrious company in our Easter Gift Guide so we choose three of their incredibly Easter Eggs this year available through Chocolate Trading Company.  The Prestat Marc de Champagne Truffle Egg consists of a beautifully packaged and presented chocolate egg filled with delicious Marc de Champagne truffles. Similar in design and of course quality is the Prestat Milk Chocolate Truffle Egg and Prestat Dark Chocolate Truffle Egg which both come filled with wonderful Prestat truffles. Sure to bring a smile to anyone this Easter. If you’re looking for quality you can find it with Prestat.