Now when I say pancakes I am betraying my nation. Technically I mean dropped scones. Or Scotch pancakes. But nobody outside of England (and probably inside England too) knows what the hell that is. I’m talking the thick, fluffy American pancakes, not thin English crepes. Actually I have a good recipe for those too which I’ll put up when I get round to it.

But anyway. American pancakes, if you will. I’ve failed with these so many times. My boyfriend will never let me forget the first time I made them for him and ended op with greasy stodge which he manfully ate anyway (then laughed uncontrollably for the next four hours). So I have tried and tried to get the perfect recipe. And I have succeeded.

The problem is, I never let them get to the pile-up stage cos I am eating the things out of the pan. So all my photos are singular. See what I mean?

But anyway. They are delicious. The secret is don’t skimp on the baking powder. And I have found that equal parts milk and flour is bullshit. You want a thick batter, so I keep adding flour til I am happy.

Ingredients (for one fatso):

85g flour (wholemeal if you’re feeling healthy)

100ml milk

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp melted butter

pinch salt

Makes 4-5 pancakes, so for one fattie or two skinnies.

So if you mix that lot up you’ll get pretty unbeatable pancake batter. Whisk in the flour to make sure there are no lumps, and dollop tablespoons of the mix into a pan.

First secret (apart from the baking powder bit): grease your damn pan, but don’t have it swamped with oil. Add just a bit of butter between batches to make sure they don’t stick. I love to use salted cos I like a salty-sweet edge to my pancakes, but a little knob will do. Although my host dad did make absolutely orgasmic pancakes in obscene amounts of oil which were almost sinfully crispy. Ahem. But there’s enough calories in these anyway without deep frying them.

Another secret: a nice hot pan. Let it heat up before you drop in the batter, or the mix will absorb oil and be greasy and colourless. Also it won’t rise so well, and everyone loves a fluffy pancake. They should take a couple of minutes on each side and take on a lovely golden colour.

So this is the basic mix. You can play with it a little – add chocolate chips or blueberries or a teaspoon of vanilla, stick in chopped nuts or cinnamon or a fruit of your choice. Go nuts and put in a bit of cocoa powder to get super chocolatey pancakes. It’s really pretty versatile. Or you can stick to the plain recipe and go crazy with toppings – I  love banana and caramel sauce, or raspberries and chocolate syrup, or applesauce – I go nuts for applesauce and cinnamon. Or I put grated apple in the batter the other day. OMG. Anyway, the point is, this is a vehicle for great things. Take a look at what I made for fancy brunch the other week:

Raspberries (frozen and warmed in a pan) and homemade caramel sauce. Awesomely tasty! And yeah, I already ate like twelve before I took this photo, hence there only being one.

Of course there are a million pancake recipes out there including some super healthy ones, vegan ones, horrfyingly calorific ones, even cute little pancake batter cups which you can fill with stuff. This is just a basic recipe everyone should have for those emergency days where you just need pancakes.

Happy brunching 😀

I wish I could take credit for this recipe. I really do. But in reality, I have the wonderful blog Sally’s Baking Addiction to thank and I just had to make them. For the full recipe, instructions, etc. see here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2012/05/14/sky-high-apple-pie-muffins/

What I can take credit for was the epic apple-picking adventure including climbing an apple tree in a dress and getting attacked by a spider who thought it was his apple. I won. Muffins contain no spiders.

So anyway, I’ll just show you how my beauties came out and record my slightly tweaked recipe for ease of access. The raisins are an addition I think works fantastically. I made me 18 muffins but next time I think 12 will do (or I’ll get super fat) so I’ve scaled the recipe down to make 12:

Ingredients:

250g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

150ml milk

85g brown sugar

30ml yoghurt (I used strawberry cos it was all we had)

30ml applesauce (I made my own, if it is from the store use unsweetened or reduce sugar)

2 large eggs

21/2 tsp baking powder

2-3 apples, chopped

handful of raisins (optional)

pinch of salt

Streusel topping:

50g brown sugar

4 tbsp flour

4tbsp oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 or 2 tbsp butter

Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes

Sally’s blog has a lot of tips for the highest, prettiest muffins you could ever wish for. I followed her advice and mine were perfect! Take a look.

The only thing I had to tweak was the streusel – I made more and decreased the butter cos when I followed the instructions, I just got butter city. Tweak it to get a consistency which makes you happy.

I often have super strong food cravings. Right now, it is vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables. And oatmeal raisin cookies. Guess which one I ended up caving with. Well, both actually, I looked like a mobile grocer’s coming home from the supermarket today. But safely nestled under the broccoli and carrots were some oats, some raisins, and all manner of other cookie ingredient goodness.

Now there are many excellent oatmeal raisin recipes out there, some more healthy than others. Mine is as healthy as I could manage without risking any compromise to the texture – I wanted them soft, dense and chewy. And oh gods, they were all that and more.

Don’t they look pretty? So anyway, the recipe. I took a quick look around at my favourite baking blogs, and my recipe is based on the one you can find here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2012/07/03/thick-oatmeal-raisinet-cookies/

I’ve made a few tweaks, though, to make it, um, ‘healthy’, and just for personal taste.

Ingredients you will need:

100g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

120g oats

120g brown sugar (I used what I am pretty sure is the German equivalent to demerara, unrefined)

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla (I used a vanilla sugar actually)

1 tsp cinnamon

60g butter

60ml olive oil

pinch of salt

100g raisins

170 degrees, about 10 minutes

I made about 20 cookies. I started eating them before I had time to count.

So what I really think makes the difference with these is the baking time. If you like your cookies soft, bake them a few minutes fewer, if you prefer them on the crunchier end, add on a couple of minutes. I baked mine for exactly ten minutes, and they were soft on the inside, a little crunchy around the edges. Perfect.

So this is another nice simple one. Cream the butter and sugar, add the oil, vanilla, egg. In another bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients into the first mixture, then once it is nicely combined, thoroughly stir in the raisins. If you want to add some nuts, be my guest. I love nuts. I just can’t afford them.

Once your cookie dough is mixed and the raisins more or less evenly distributed, put it in the fridge. That’s right, you have to wait for your delicious cookies. Put them in for about an hour til the dough is well chilled. Here, look, this is mine, crammed into the smallest fridge known to man:

While the cookie dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 170 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with baking paper. After that excrutiating hour, take out your dough and spoon nice generous dollops onto the sheet. They won’t spread, so feel free to pack them in nice and snugly. Flatten them with your spoon or your fingers into whatever shape tickles your fancy. I went for cookie shaped. I’m just crazy that way.

So there you have it. Put them in the oven for around ten minutes, and you have yourself the best cookie known to man. Don’t eat them all at once 🙂

Tortillas. Those soft, flour wraps which contain so many sexy Mexican delights. Unfortunately I don’t have photos right now for these make-from-scratches, just the nice, easy, no-fuss recipes.

So there are a few things which are simple and cheap to make yourself, and which you can feel really good about not having bought in a packet. Well, I feel that way at least. This will be a series of super-easy, basic things which it’s good to have a master recipe for. So this first one is one I’ve tried and failed with a million times. I’ve had globs of flour sticking like glue to my fingers; I’ve had a kitchen which looks like a bag of flour just sneezed everywhere. And, worst of all, I’ve had tortillas which are bland and breaky. But don’t fear – this recipe is one I found, somewhere, which makes a gorgeous tortilla. And if you live in the Czech Republic, you have to make them from scratch if you have a boyfriend with a Mexican addiction, because damn are they expensive in the store. So here goes.

Ingredients:

300ml milk

300g plain flour (wholemeal is pretty good in tortillas)

pinch salt and pepper

pinch sugar

1tbsp butter, melted

1 heaped tsp baking powder

This will make you about 8 tortillas, depending on size.

Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted and pour into a bowl. Add the seasoning and sugar (it won’t be sweet; somehow it adds a nice flavour) and the baking powder. Then add the flour bit by bit until you get a thick, stretchy kind of dough. If it is sticking like hell, add a little more flour. Once you’re satisfied with your dough, tear off small chunks – or you could just divide it into as many equal sized balls as you want tortillas, I’d recommend 8, 10 if you want them smaller.

At this stage it helps to chill the balls for a bit, but hey, I’m impatient. You need to roll them really thin, nobody likes a stodgy tortilla. There are a few ways you can do this – a well-floured board and rolling pin is classic, or you can roll them between two sheets of baking paper to avoid the flour mess. There’s also the very fancy presses you can get, but if you’re poor and lazy, squish the things under a heavy saucepan, obviously with a bit of flour to prevent sticking and disasters.

Beware, the things tear like tissue paper, so don’t throw them around. It can take a bit of trial and error, but once you have the knack, it’s pretty easy. My warnings are: don’t use a sticky dough. It will stick. Add a little more flour and knead it until it is smooth and stretchable; roll it into a ball beforehand to keep the round shape, and roll from the centre outwards if using a rolling pin; don’t put too much flour down or they will taste like flour, blah. Just a sprinkle, flip the tortilla, another little sprinkle. You’ll get there.

Once rolled, all you have to do is dry-fry them in a pan for about half a minute on each side, then you can stack them on a plate ready and waiting for the delicious Mexican filling of your choice.

I went to bed last night with a huge craving for moist, tasty, delicious, light and dreamy chocolate cake with absolute lashings of creamy, fudgy frosting. I woke up this morning with the determination to do something about it.

This was my very own recipe, but in the future I think I’d forget trying to keep it healthy(ish) and just go for full fat yumminess – with the entirely-not-at-all-healthy frosting they were fantastic, but the cakes themselves were not 100% the moist and tasty cupcakes of my dreams. Good, especially if you want to cut down the butter, but not perfect.

Ingredients you will need:

Cupcakes:

225g plain flour

2tsp baking powder (11/2 would do)

75g cocoa powder

150 g sugar

60ml milk

60ml hot water (I’d have used coffee, but I did not want caffeinated children. Not even a little bit)

2 eggs

60g butter

30ml natural yoghurt (We only had cherry, so I used that and cut the sugar a little)

20 minutes at 180 degrees, makes 12

Frosting:

100g butter, softened

icing sugar to taste (100-200g probably)

50g plain chocolate, melted (I used couveture for shiny, sexy frosting)

So they are really simple to put together. A four year-old could do it. In fact, a four year-old mostly did. Mix the flour, baking powder and cocoa in one bowl and everything else in the other (cream the butter and sugar first), then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix. It made a lovely, thick batter which looked just incredible.

In future, I think I’d eliminate the water and use 100ml milk and 50ml yoghurt, and 1tsp baking soda, and halve the baking powder to 1tsp instead of 2. I also think, since the batter was very thick, I’d try replacing the butter with oil. If I ever get round to making these again – chocolate cake isn’t usually my thing.

Anyway, it makes 12, line your cupcake tin and stick them in the oven for 20 minutes, then test with a skewer – if it comes out clean, yay. If not, then cook for a few more minutes.

Then comes the frosting. Get your butter nice and soft, and whisk it like crazy until it is fluffy (or in my case, melty). Add icing sugar bit by bit until it is sweet enough for you. Melt the chocolate – you know how, bowl above a pan of hot water, go look it up if you’re not sure. Then mix that in and set it in the fridge to cool and harden a little. You can ice it all fancy, or I just got my four year-old to do it again – heaped teaspoon each, spread a little, one for the cupcake, one for you. Ahem.

Then sit back and enjoy with a cup of coffee. Or, if your coffee machine is broken, go search the garage for 40 minutes, fail to find the spare, and sit back with a cuppa instead. Either way, the cakes are good.

These developed from the entire lack of butter in the house, and the incidental leftover bowl of toffee sauce which I made for my yummy american-style pancakes a few days ago. It is adapted from an a recipe I found online.

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Ingredients you will need:

2-3 ripe bananas

2 eggs

250g plain flour

3 tsps baking powder

150ml milk

5tbsp sunflower oil

100ml caramel sauce (you can get the shop-bought kind or look up a recipe online, mine was sugar, butter and double cream)

180 degrees, 20 minutes

Actually I really didn’t measure the caramel sauce at all. I just had about half a cereal bowl left and poured the lot in. It might even be just fine to add about 150g sugar to this recipe and just use the caramel for the swirling part. But anyway, read on and you can decide.

First thing you want to do is get two bowls. In one, put the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt (I also put in a sachet of vanilla sugar for the hell of it) In the other, put the milk, the beaten eggs, the oil, the bananas (mash in a separate bowl) and combine it. This done, add this bowl to the first and mix it with a wooden spoon, just enough to combine. Don’t overmix it, you don’t want to kill your muffins.

Once you have the mix, it’s caramel time! Actually my mix may have been a little wet, so possibly add a bit more flour for a firmer mix. Add about three quarters of the caramel to the mix and give it a few stirs so it is swirled but not completely gone. This works better with a thicker caramel and a thicker batter; mine all just kind of combined, but it still tasted amazing. Still, I was going for little swirls of toffee in my muffins which didn’t quite happen.

At this stage, it’s time to put the batter in your muffin tray. I just greased it, cos the tin I used was a funky shape and I couldn’t be bothered to mess about with greaseproof paper, and they came out no trouble. About three quarters filled should do it, mine made a perfect dozen.

At this point, it’s time to do the fun bit – my caramel swirls didn’t pan out so I put an extra half-teaspoon of caramel on each muffin and swirled it a little bit with a skewer.

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This gave them a nice bit of sticky toffee on the top, which is my favourite part. You could also save some to drizzle over the top once cooked, though, I thought about it, but by that point I was running low on caramel and I wanted to eat the rest with a spoon.

Stick them in the oven (which you preheated even though I forgot to mention that part) and give them 20 minutes then test them with a skewer to the centre – you know the drill, if it comes out clean, they’re done. If not, stick them back in for a few more minutes.

These are highly recommended. They were moist and tasty, with a nice caramel flavour. Note there’s no sugar, the caramel and banana give it plenty of sweetness. Like I said, bought caramel is fine too. I recall you can buy it in a can. Enjoy!

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My boyfriend and I lived in Prague for a year. One of the best desserts I have ever eaten is this cake, which is sold in the supermarkets (although it is very expensive and I never bought it) or in pretty much any cukrarna, which is basically a patisserie, for the equivalent of £1 per slice. It’s a miracle I didn’t turn into a honey-scented whale with the amount of temptation I was subjected to.

But anyway, it turned out, miraculously, that my boyfriend liked this honey cake too – don’t ask me to explain his reasoning when it comes to desserts – and he wanted me to make it. I would say us, but, well, me.

This is a recipe I found online and tweaked a bit. It may not be the neatest cake ever, but it was even better than bought, and that was pretty damn good in itself. On the minus side, it was pretty labour-intensive, and not terribly cheap to make. But if you are bored and want something different, try it out.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

2 eggs

120g golden caster sugar

3tbsp liquid honey

1tsp baking soda

100g butter, melted

250g plain flour

For the filling:

1 can condensed milk

3 eggs

2 tbsp honey

60g butter

125ml sour cream

For the topping: Crushed cookies (cinnamon ones are great) and 1tbsp honey

So pay attention. I’d make the dough first if I were you, cos that part takes ages. Combine the sugar and eggs, then add the honey and baking soda and mix it all up. Melt the butter and add that too, then add the flour in instalments – it should be really thick and not too sticky, so you can leave off adding flour or add more flour if needed. Use a bit of milk if you want to loosen it a bit, but it should be rollable.

I had no idea how many layers I’d need, so I just broke off layer-sized chunks. Ours were quite thick, but actually that worked fine for me, I think we had around 6 or 7. Anyway, break off decent-sized chunks and roll them out into vaguely round shapes, as big as you want your cake to be (or a little bigger) and about as thick as an american pancake (I just can’t do centimetres and inches, as thick as you want it, ok?)

This is where it gets time-consuming. Each one of these little buggers needs to be baked on a baking tray for 2-5 minutes at 180 degrees, until it is a nice pale gold colour, but not too long or it will go all dry and nasty. Just keep an eye on them, ours took closer to 5 minutes and they weren’t that golden, but definitely nice and cooked. If you tear a piece apart it should have a bready, cakey texture, quite dense and a little moist. Set them aside on a plate as you go and continue till the dough is gone or you realise you’re going to have a cake the size of canary wharf.

Once you’ve got your layers you can start work on the filling. This is much simpler. Dump all the stuff in a pan (beat the eggs first though, don’t just dump a whole egg in) and stir it on a medium heat until it thickens – it should come to the boil, but don’t let it go crazy. Once you’re done, let it cool a little.

When you get to this stage you’re laughing. Grab a layer, spread some filling, stick another layer on top and so on until you’re done. I made an effort to use all my filling and at least at first I would have preferred a little less, but when it cools and sits awhile the filling soaks in a little, and the taste and texture is way better. So don’t scoff it all at once, it approves on further acquaintance.

Oh, right, and I forgot the topping. We used a Czech cookie with cinnamon and hazelnuts, forget the name now, but they were fantastic. You could probably use a plain cookie and add a little cinnamon. It’s up to you. You only need enough to cover the top, so I’d say three or four cookies’ worth. Crush them, spread a little honey on the top, and sprinkle the crumbs liberally. Drizzle the rest of the honey because it makes you feel like a proper chef.

So there you go. Medovnik. It will look pretty rustic, but it tastes great. I trimmed the sides of mine to make it neater and, well, it still looked pretty rustic. Still, when in Prague, make Prague food. When not in Prague, make it anyway cos you sure can’t find it in England. Or Germany. Or America.

This is basically a soft, buttery cookie with plenty of yummy chocolate chips. It only has four ingredients, so it is my stand-by dessert to make whenever I am out of money or out of ideas for anything more spectacular. I’ve also made them with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder to make a double chocolate shortbread, but personally I prefer the chocolate chip version. This is lazy, cheap and tasty baking at its best. And even my dessert-hating boyfriend will eat them.

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Ingredients you will need:

175g butter, room temperature is much easier to work with

85g golden caster sugar

200g plain flour

100g plain chocolate, chopped, or 100g plain chocolate chips

Bake at 180c, 10-12 minutes

Makes about 14 cookies depending on size

So it’s really a recipe which takes very little time for some very good cookies. Mix the butter and the sugar until it is creamy and fluffy, then add the flour bit by bit. It might look dry, but keep on going and you’ll get a great, dense cookie dough. You can add a bit of milk if you are impatient, it’ll help it bind, but only a dash or it’ll be a paste, and you don’t want that. This stuff should be pretty solid. Once it’s looking like a cookie cannonball you can put in your chopped chocolate or chocolate chips and mix about some more until they look more or less evenly distributed.

The next part is the fun part for me. Get the dough in your hands and shape into a log. You can be fancy and roll it or wrap it in clingfilm; I just use my hands. Sizewise, make it as short and fat or as long and thin as you like. I’m not judging those of you who want giant cookies. Go for it. I go for a standard cookie size, about the size of a chocolate digestive, then cut them thick and squidge them out so they are a little wider.

Next, it makes it much easier if you put the dough in the fridge for an hour or I guess sticking it in the freezer for twenty minutes would work too. I’m too impatient, so I just get my serrated knife and slice my log into cookies, pretty thickly, cos then I can squish them down a bit when I put them on the baking tray. It really helps keep the shape if you rotate the log 90 degrees after each cut. You may still need to do a bit of reshaping though. I usually get around 14 cookies from this quantity of ingredients.

Once you have your cookies on your baking tray (which you can cover in baking paper; I just grease it) put them in the oven, which you naturally remembered to preheat to 180 degrees earlier on, and give them 10-12 minutes. I’d check on them after about 8 and take them out when they are golden brown – the longer you leave them, the crunchier they will be. I like mine soft.

These are really pretty cookies to give as a gift. They are also pretty cookies to keep for yourself and enjoy with a cup of tea. Make two batches and then you won’t feel bad about keeping one for yourself. Enjoy 🙂