Friday 25 April 2014

Brit Decor: Bakes / Cheesy Twists

All images / Mike Ahern

Yes you would be right in thinking that savoury recipes are few and far between on Brit Decor as I am, after all, a self-confessed sweet-tooth. However, yesterday I whipped together these little cheesy treats for some tasty snacks to accompany pizzas. The puff pastry means that these are perfect for those tear and share moments with friends too, or 'sociable snacks' as I like to think of them! 

As with many of the bakes on the blog, this one is very time-light but also quite therapeutic. I love the process of rolling out the pastry and the light and fluffy feel of the grated cheeses and freshly chopped Thyme, and finally the really fun part of gently twisting the pastry strips. 

80g Parmesan cheese (grated)
100g Swiss Gruyere cheese (grated)
1tbsp Fresh finely chopped Thyme
Ground black pepper
250g Raedy-made puff pastry
1 egg
Plain flour for dusting

How to make
Preheat your oven to 1800C and line two trays with baking paper. Gently beat the egg in a small bowl and place to one side. Lay the ready-made pastry onto a lightly floured surface and roll-out into a rectangular shape, then glaze the surface with the beaten egg mixture. 

Finely chop the fresh Thyme and add this to the grated cheeses - mix together before sprinkling onto the puff pastry. Gently press the topping into the pasty to help keep all of the ingredients in place. 

Take a knife and cut out approximately 12 strips before twisting each one and placing onto the trays. Cook in the oven for around 15 minutes. Serve with ground black pepper (to taste).

Are you a tear and share person?

Friday 18 April 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Devil's Chocolate Nests

All Images / Mike Ahern

Devil's Chocolate Nests
Easter has become a particularly spectacular time for chocoholics like me, temptation stares out at me at every turn in the supermarket, it's leaping out of adverts all around me and, crucially, it's in my refrigerator (yes I like mine chilled). So when I created this latest batch of cupcakes especially for the Easter break, I thought it very apt to name these 'Devil's Chocolate Nests' because they may look like sweet and innocent little chocolatey nests, but these are seriously sinful! But we all need a treat now and again, right?

The combination of the chocolate sponge with the contrasting white chocolate chunks, topped with the silky smooth chocolate frosting and crispy coated mini-eggs is definitely suited for one of those 'I'm going to sit down and seriously indulge' moments. Of course, you can easily redeem yourself by sharing these devilish treats with your friends.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

150g Unsalted butter (softened)
150g Caster sugar
160g Self-raising flour
15g Cocoa powder
3 eggs
100g White chocolate

For the frosting:
150g Unsalted butter (softened)
250g Icing sugar
2 tbs Cocoa powder
2 tbs boiling water
100g White choc mini-eggs

How to make:
Preheat your oven to 180oC and line a 12-section cake tray with paper cases. Chop up the white chocolate into uneven chunks and leave to one side. Meanwhile simply place all of the other cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add the white choc chunks to the mixture and stir gently with a spoon. Divide the mixture evenly between the cases and place in the oven to bake for around 20 minutes.

Once the baked cakes have cooled, mix together the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and boiling water with an electric mixer. Whisk until smooth and creamy before piping onto the cupcakes. Finally, decorate with the mini-eggs and lightly dust with some cocoa powder.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Brit Decor: Spring/ Howkapow!

Images 'above' / Howkapow

There are so many things to be positive about right now with Spring in the air and one of these has to be Bristol-based online store Howkapow. I stumbled across this brand on Twitter several months ago and this is undoubtedly one of those feel-good stores with a range of quirky and bold designs, which always bring a smile to my face. Of course, this is helped along by the equally smile inducing owners, Rog and Cat How - now we're beginning to sense where the name Howkapow came from, right? Add their love of loud and flamboyant design and you have How-meets-Kapow!

Following Cat's graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2010, the creative duo launched Howkapow, and together with their creative team, Rog and Cat work from the studio-meets-showroom in Bristol's Artisan quarter, Stokes Croft. (Oh and they're on the look out for a the perfect shop location too!). The images 'above' were taken from their recent pop-up shop at the city's Cabot Circus shopping centre and gave a tantalising taste of what me might expect in the future, with exciting gallery walls, pick-me-up products and a collated collection of fun and exciting works from new talents, including one of my favourite Illustrators, @luciesheridan.

Whilst there is a multitude of colour to explore at Howkapow, today I'm in the mood for some high-contrast with Spring-bright yellows and daring reds, so here's what I picked out 'below'. I love the sharp red triangular detailing of the 'Big Top' cushion (no.1) and the bumblebee palette of the aptly named 'Sensation' print (no.2). My stationery addiction is showing no sign of letting up and no wonder with this 'Daring' notebook (no.3); red and grey are another favourite colour combo of mine!

The faithful owl continues to be a must-have home accessory, and this oh-so cute walnut owl (no.4) needs to find a place to nest in my home! Fun, quirky, mid-twentieth Century style, this 'Sunshine Dip' (no.5) lamp ticks all of the right boxes and would look awesome placed on a sideboard. Finally, I defy any kitchen not to look brighter with this gorgeously sunny yellow 'Silk' canister (no.6).

Thanks for the inspiration @howkapow

1/ Big Top cushion £40 /2 Sensation print £20 /3 Daring Mood notebook £15 /4 Walnut Owl £28
5/ Sunshine Dip lamp £115 /6 Medium Silk canister £12

Monday 7 April 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Hot-Cross Biscuits

All Images / Mike Ahern

Brit Decor Bakes: Hot-Cross Biscuits

If somebody had told me a week ago that I would soon be spending over 24 hours in bed, I probably would have laughed and then possibly rather liked the idea of some much needed down-time. However, in reality I picked up some kind of nasty virus towards the end of last week, which left me totally incapacitated. Far from being fun or extravagant, those 24 hours in bed were painful, boring and very frustrating. On the plus-side, there was something slightly liberating about surrendering my body and mind over to complete rest, and this gave me plenty of time for reflection. In short, I think I burned out which made me susceptible to any old germs that were going - lesson learned (the hard way).

I'm feeling more human again now and it's a great buzz to be back with you, albeit at a slightly slower pace, but then we could all probably benefit from downshifting a gear or two every now and again, couldn't we? I am now focussed on the approach to the Easter break - that great half way marker between Christmas and the Summer, so in the spirit of that Spring holiday feeling, I couldn't resist cooking up these hot-cross biscuits for you - a traditional favourite with a crunchy twist! These have all the exciting spicy taste of the bun version but in a biscuity format - and delivered in a lot less time, which will leave you a little bit more 'me' time.

150g Plain flour
30g Cornflour
125g Unsalted butter (softened)
40g Light brown sugar
40g Caster sugar
1 Egg yolk (keep the white to one side for later)
2 tsp Finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp Mixed spice
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
80g Currants
60g Icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice

Piping bag
7-10cm cookie cutter

How to make:
Start by preheating your oven to 200oc and lining two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Add the  butter and sugar to a bowl and mix together. Now throw in the egg yolk (keeping the white to one side) and mix well before adding the spices (Mmm love that smell), flour, and the cornflour. Mix in the currents and the lemon zest - your mixture should be taking on a dough-like consistency but if it feels a little dry at this point, add a tiny drop of the egg white.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of no more than 1cm and use the cookie cutter to cut-out your biscuits. Lay these onto the trays and use the remaining egg white to lightly glaze the tops of the biscuits. Pop into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes before removing again to cool on a wire rack.

Now mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice before piping the mixture onto the fully cooled biscuits - if you don't have a piping bag to hand, just drizzle the icing from a teaspoon, there's more fun in imperfection!

So on that note, I wish you all a very happy, very chilled, Easter break.

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