Friday, 28 February 2014

Biscuit Barrel February 14 Round Up

With a theme of chocolate I knew I couldn't go wrong. I mean, it's chocolate. The joint most wonderful food on this earth, strawberries being the other one - I may have mentioned this once or twice in my posts. If I could eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and not have it affect me apart from making me subliminally happy, I absolutely would. And these recipes would definitely get a look in while I was pondering which of the thousands of chocolatey recipes I've looked at to bake next!

First up we have these Strawberry and White Chocolate Hearts from Kate at The Gluten Free Alchemist. Whether you agree with Valentines Day or not it doesn't really matter because any excuse is good enough to bake these ever so pretty biscuits. A sweet white chocolate dip pairs well with the fruitiness of the freeze dried strawberries. A pretty good match I'd say.

Next is Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog with these Zebra Biscuits. Having made these myself a while ago I can attest to how good they are, with both white and dark chocolate in the doughs, layered together and sliced. However, I'm very jealous, in the most supportive of ways, because Choclette has made them look so good where mine were rather messy!

Another thing I may have me tend before is how much I love the combination of chocolate and caramel so these Chocolate and Caramel Whoopie Pies from Corina at Searching for Spice had me right from the start. Filled with a mascarpone toffee cream and studded with more toffee bits, I could definitely eat one of these for pudding.

Tina from The Worktop provides these Double Chocolate Love Cookies now for lovers of deeply chocolatey sweet goods. It has taken years to tweak and get just right but these are finally the perfect crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside sort of cookie packed full of flavour and love.

Elizabeth's Florentines (from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary) start off with a lovely story. Ideal if you want to spend a day in the kitchen, as well as for using up bits and bobs from your cupboards, these biscuits contain fruit, nuts and of course a layer of chocolate. Could those pretty wavy lines be any more perfect?!

Rebecca from BakeNQuilt shares these Chocolate Dipped Pistachio Lace Cookies now. As soon as I saw them I wanted to make a cup of tea, grab a plateful  and sit down with a good book. Buttery nuts combine with honey and chocolate to create something pretty tasty. Rebecca suggests serving them with ice cream and I couldn't agree more. 

Alexandra from The Lass In The Apron has once again come up with a clever entry in these Pumpernickel Tuiles. A delicate cookie with an intense flavour, Alexadra adapted a recipe to include orange and chocolate as well as caraway - a spice which was once on her list of hated flavours but is now turning up in foods that she really likes. 

What with one thing and another I was later than normal in submitting my own entry in the form of these Dark Chocolate Muffins. I've been searching for a winning muffin recipe for a while now and if you want something with a darkly chocolate flavour I'd go with these. They freeze really well and heated up in the microwave so the milk chocolate turns molten and the white chocolate practically caramelises, they are a perfect finisher to a meal. 

It has been an aboslute age since I made anything with Smarties and as soon as I saw Cheryl's Golden Syrup Oat Biscuits with Smarties at Madhouse Family Reviews I wanted to go out to the shops to buy some and get baking. A good alternative to flapjack, these sticky treats use granulated and dark muscovado sugars to add a balanced caramel flavour.

Goji berries are one of theose foods that you hear about in little snippets all over the place but very rarely see in baking. Janine from Cake of the Week has provided an excellent example of how they can be used though with these Goji Berry and White Chocolate Cookies. The chewy and sweet but almost smoky berries pair well with the chocolate and I for one wouldn't mind one of these to finish my lunch with because after all, they are healthy with those superfruit berries in!

After the success of a previous recipe, Julie from Julie's Family Kitchen made these Chocolate Drizzle Shortbread Hearts which are undeniably pretty and make me want to reach into the photo to grab one. A classic buttery biscuit to match the dark chocolate drizzled artistically over the top - I wish I could get my drizzles so nneat and perfect!

So there you go. Lots of wonderful chocolate filled and dipped recipes for you to peruse and hopefully make. The only problem now is choosing which to try first. That and trying to not eat the chocolate before it makes it into the oven.

Come back soon for the March Biscuit Barrel Challenge!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dark Chocolate Muffins

If a muffin can have a split personality this would be the one. 

Probably not the most flattering opening line to a post but I needed to express the contrast between the dark and brooding yet soft interior that hides chunks of white and milk creamy sweetness within. I knew it was a risk trying this recipe but it was worth it.

Muffins are something I've had problems with in the past. I've either had a mixture which was too thin or have overmixed the wet and dry ingredients so the texture has been all wrong. These however I was pretty happy with. The recipe (from Roger Pizey's World's Best Cakes - brilliant book!) uses 200g of 70% chocolate for 12  muffins (though I only did a half batch) which sounded a lot to me but I promise you, after the first bite you will not be able to resist taking another and another until pretty soon you don't have enough left to get a decent picture of the insides of the muffin. Just me was that?

I know these won't be everyone's ideal muffin but I really think you should try them. They have a wonderful texture and there is no mistaking the deep, chocolatey flavour. I wondered if the mixture could take a few lot more chocolate chunks but I do like to push chocolate things to the limits. And why not? It is one of the best foods on this planet after all. That's a recipe idea all in itself - Overloaded Chocolate Chip Muffins. Hmmmmmm....

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Dark Chocolate Muffins
A darkly chocolatey muffin tempered with the sweetness of large chunks of milk and white chocolate.
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 175g semi-skimmed milk
  • 100g 70% chocolate, melted

1. Set the oven to 220 C/200 C fan and line a muffin tray with 6 to 9 muffin cases depending on their size.2. Mix the flour, baking powder and caster sugar in one bowl, then the butter, egg, milk and melted chocolate in another before mixing the two together about half way. Stir in the chopped chocolate until just a few bits of flour remain.3. Divide between the cases and bake in the preheated oven for 5 mins before turing the temperature down to 180 C/160 C fan and baking for another 13 mins ish until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.4. Remove from the oven and cool until safe to remove from the tin then cool until you can't resist eating one any more. 
Adapted from World's Best Cakes by Roger Pizey

I can't help but share these with a few baking challenge this month. I set the theme to my own Biscuit Barrel challenge as 'chocolate' this month and there is plenty in this recipe to qualify. The same can be said of Tea Time Treats, where Karen at Lavender and Lovage is hosting this month, alternating with Jane at The Hedgecombers.

Choclette at The Chocolate Log Blog, hosting We Should Cocoa and Dom from Belleau Kitchen hosting Random Recipes have joined forces this month so both challenges have the theme of random chocolate recipes. How I chose my recipe for this was to pick the book from my stack that caught by eye, turn to the index and scan the chocolate section until a recipe jumped out at me. If I'm really honest the first one that got my attention was a very large concoction that I couldn't legitamise making so I was thankful the second was viable! 

Finally I think I can just about get away with entering these into Calendar Cakes, currently hosted by Rachel at Dollybakes but jointly with Laura of Laura Loves Cakes. The theme is 'Oh L'amour' and anyone who has a love of chocolate will really love these muffins.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Traybake

My housemate Lauren adores lemony things and especially lemon drizzle cake. I know I've already got a post on here about lemon drizzle cake (which I'm not going to link too because it is an early post which I'm very embarrassed about but can't bare to get rid of) but this one is so good I had to put it on here. Sometimes things just work and that's it. As is the case here, usually the stuff you aren't planning on taking into university to share with people but still. This is damn good.
This is the last part of Lauren's Christmas present where I said I would make her a batch of biscuits, a batch of scones and a traybake of her choice. I've already reported on the Gluten Free Shortbread and the Spiced Sultana Scones but this is the thing I'm most pleased with. And when word comes back to me that Lauren's Mum described it as the best lemon drizzle she has ever tasted...well. I'm pretty sure I blushed.
Credit must go to Aimee from Wallflower Girl for this recipe which I of course played around with because I'm far too meddlesome for my own good. Moist beyond belief from the almonds and the juice syrup I poured on then topped with the zingiest glace icing possible, this cake has lemon flavour exploding out of every delicious bite.  That golden hue flecked with spots of yellow zest tempers the tanginess to give something which should satisfy everyone, gluten intolerant or not. Dig in. 

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Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Traybake
A gluten and dairy free traybake that couldn't have any more lemon flavour if it tried. A moist crumb, studded with lemon zest, doused with lemon syrup and coated in zingy glace icing.
For the cake:
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 75g polenta
  • 1 rounded tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 1tsp xanthan gum
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice
 For the drizzle and icing:
  • Icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and lline an 8" square cake tin.2. Whisk the oil and caster sugar together until pale ad foamy. Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.3. Mix the dry ingredients into the oil/eggs in batches, alternating with the eggs. Add a splash of milk if the mixture is too thick then fold in the zest.4. Pour into the tin, level off and bake in the preheated oven for around 35 mins until a cake tester comes out of the centre clean. 5. As soon as the cake come out of the oven, mix about 30g icing sugar with half the lemon juice, heat to dissolve, use a cake tester to poke holes in the top of the cake and brush on the syrup. Leave to cool. 6. When completely cool, mix the remaining lemon juice with enough icing sugar to get your desired consistency of icing then spread over the top of the cake, leave to set then slice and serve.

Whether it is an obvious choice or not, I don't care because I'm still gutted I missed the last Alphabakes challenge so I'm sharing this cake this month where the letter is 'Z' because it is full of zest. Caroline from Caroline Makes is this months host, alternating with Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker.

I'm also sharing this cake with a new challenge this month, run by Ness from JibberJabberUK. The first theme of Love Cake is Baking with Passion. Well, I certainly love cake as everyone who knows me can testify to and I'm really passionate about this one because it turned out so well. My housemate is pretty passionate about it too!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Gluten Free Shortbread

There is the smallest chance I may have mentioned before how much I like shortbread, how much of a role shortbread play in our family. With the chocolate shortbread, I had to convince my mum that it would work but one taste and she knew I was right. With the apricot and walnut shortbread I knew I was taking a risk but I think the chunks of fruit and nut worked wonderfully. The brown sugar shortbread added a hint of caramel which I was always going to love and the ginger iced shortbread has proven itself several times over now. You'd think that de-glutenising shortbread would be a no-brainer - no gliadin and glutenin to form and develop the gluten would make it extra short, perfect. Yet the mass producing factories have had it all wrong. My coeliac housemate should know. She has sorely missed good tasting shortbread for ages.

I have tried making gluten free shortbread once before using the method where you chill a log of dough then slice off discs to bake because I thought that would sop it crumbling, along with the egg I added for structure. I don't know what I was thinking. I should have kept it simple, stuck to the true recipe. All it needed was a little xanthan gum - try it and you'll see. Lauren was over the moon when she saw the box of biscuits waiting for her on the table when she got back from a weekend away though said box didn't last long at all.

Personally I thought the dough behaved quite well. The only minor oddity was that it puffed up a lot during baking. With regular shortbread I know that is usually a sign the oven is at too high a temperature or the butter and sugar has been creamed too much but neither of those were an issue here. Whatever caused it, it settled back down and pretty soon it was baked, cooled and cut like a dream.

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Gluten Free Shortbread
A recipe that couldn't be any more classic adapted to bring as much enjoyment to those who can't eat gluten.
  • 4oz softened butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 6oz gluten free flour
  • 1 generous tsp xanthan gum
1. Set your oven to 170 C/150 C fan and grease a 8" sandwich cake tin or loose bottomed flan tin.2. Cream the butter and sugar together until combined (not light and fluffy like for a cake). Sift in the flour and xanthan gum and mix in. 3. Bring the dough together into a ball, kneading slightly if necessary. Press into the tin and smooth out until level. Mark into pieces and press holes in with a fork.4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins until lightly browned. If it puffs up, gently press back down and lower the oven temperature by 10-20 degrees. 5. Cool on a wire rack then turn out of the tin and cut into pieces.
This months Four Seasons Food challenge is 'Food from the heart' and as I really wanted my housemate to have something she enjoyed and couldn't get in the shops to her liking then I think these count. Anneli from Delicieux is hosting this month, alternating with Louise from Eat Your Veg.

For the same reason, I'm sharing this shortbread with Treat Petite where the theme this month is 'Loved Ones'. No matter how much we drive each other mad, Lauren and I are still good housemates and furthermore, making from scratch something that a gluten free loved one has had to go without is a good way to show you care I think. Stuart from Cakeyboi has the reigns this month, alternating with Kat from The Baking Explorer

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge - February 14

Well January didn't hang about did it? Things have been somewhat hassled here and I've really struggled to decide on a theme/ingredient but I finally decided it was time to use one of my two favourite foods of all time and so the theme this month is
I couldn't resist and I think this month will be a good time in particular for it what with Valentine's Day being just around the corner. Your bakes don't have to be Valentine's themed though - whatever you fancy making with chocolate in there is fine by me and I can't wait to see how many people get as enthusiastic as I am about chocolatey stuff.
Remember, if it fits into a biscuit container of some description, it counts!

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge rules:
  1. Blog about your recipe that fits in with the theme of the month, linking back to I'd Much Rather Bake Than... Include the logo in your post and add 'The Biscuit Barrel' as a label.
  2. It would be lovely if you could follow I'd Much Rather Bake Than... using the Google Friend Connect Button.
  3. Add the link to your post to the linky tool at the bottom of the post of the month (see above for themes/inks) by the 26th of the month. Don't worry, it's really easy.
  4. The recipe can be your own or someone else, just give credit where it is due.You can also add old posts as long as they have been updated to include the logo/link/label.
  5. You can submit as many recipes as you like and enter your recipe into as many other challenges as you wish as long as it complies with the rules of that challenge.
  6. Don't be concerned about joining in every month. When you have time or when you feel like it is fine.
  7. If you are on Twitter tweet your link to be @MustBakeCakes and use #biscuitbarrel and I'll try to retweet those I see. I'll also pin entries onto the Biscuit Barrel board on Pinterest.
  8. Any questions feel free to ask in a comment or email at or
  9. Most important of all, have fun!

Biscuit Barrel January 14 Round Up

Is it just me or has this month flown by? I swear the weeks are going by faster and faster which is a little scary at times. It will soon be my final year at university and I will be crying myself to sleep each night because of the amount of work to be done - or so the current final years will have me believe. 

For now though let us focus on the good things - the fantastic entries to the January Biscuit Barrel challenge! As usual you wonerful bakers have turned out with recipes that have had me wanting to forget my assignments each night and get int he kitchen. This month the theme has been SPICES as an incentive to bake something lovely and warming, to bring a little extra comfort to the cold months. So grab yourself a cup of tea and take delight in what we have to share this month.

First off the mark was Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker with these Banana, Cranberry, Pecan Oat Muffins. Mixed spice is used in these treats that Ros created to use up several end of packet ingredients an leftover fruit. They look so yummy yet they have a healthy boost too from the fruit, nuts and wholemeal flour. A pretty good way to still enjoy something sweet during a time when lots of people want to keep things on the 'good for you' side.

Kate from the Gluten Free Alchemist has used ginger in this Banana, Apple, Walnut and Ginger Bread and has proven that the recipe works just as well in small loaf cases as it does in a big tin. I wouldn't mind having one of these tucked away in my lunchbox to look forward to and I'm sure they count towards your five a day!

Not only has Corina used cinnamon as the spice in her entry but she has a perfectly named blog for this months theme. Go have a look at these Cinnamon Stars over at Searching for Spice for a great way to use up a spare egg white. The biscuits themselves are pefect for almond lovers, especially those who like a chewy biscuit. I can taste them already!

Next is my own entry of Ginger Iced Shortbread. My mum made this one year for my brother who it was a favourite for from the army nafe (I swear that's not a typo) and has made it several times since. I wanted to have a go myself but I tweaked it with the addition of more ground ginger and some stem ginger too. I love it that much I'm going to make a more fiery version at some point and maybe eat half the match with a mug of hot chocolate.

Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker is back again, proving the name of her blog is true with the Yorkshire Tea Biscuits which many of you will recognise as Fat Rascals. Similar to a scone and full of fruit with a hint of spice and citrus, Ros says they were easy to make and has got me all the more eager to try making them myself. I only hope I can get them to taste as good as the one I tried from the famous Bettys which Ros has managed to do.

In another bake, Ros has taken inspiration from an opened packet of spiced fruit and nut mix for these Cinnamon, Fruit and Nut Mix Cookies. These should satisfy chocolate, dried fruit as well as nuts fans because they contain all free and the oats and wholemeal flour will make most of us feel a little less guilty at eating one or three of these at tea break. Or is that just me?

Our last entry is Alexandra from The Lass in the Apron with these Ginger-Almond Biscuits. I think they look gorgeous with the chunks of slivered almonds showing throughout with colour from the two types of ginger. What makes these extra special though is that they were inspired by a book that Alexandra herself had written! Perfect for long journeys because of their sturdiness and keeping abilities, I don't know if they would last long enough to test that theory in our house.

Thank you very much as always to the support from everyone. I'm sorry I'm a little late with this round-up but I hope the contents make up for my lagging behind! Check back very soon for the February challenge - it's a good one!