Blondies: I think I am in Love

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This week I have ended up with half of my week in Melbourne for a team offsite (tough life I know), and I knew that I wouldn’t really have time nor the supplies to do any sort of baking or cooking from my hotel room. I mean, although a lot of the apartments in Melbourne come with basic kitchenettes, it’s a little hard to work some cooking magic good enough for my readers from a hotel room. Plus, when in Melbourne, one has to take the opportunity to eat at the amazing range of delicious restaurants, why would anyone want to cook? So I decided I needed to figure out what I was going to make before I went to Melbourne, and as such I am now writing this blog post from the plane! It’s certainly providing a new atmosphere for my writing, with the whirring of the propellers and a free glass of red wine in hand. Makes for a rather relaxing evening! Hopefully this blog post still makes sense by the time I finish writing it!

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It actually worked out well, because it gave me a reason to bake something delicious to bring into work to sort of thank my team for supporting me while I am gone/baking for my boyfriend who I’m leaving in Brisbane while I get to be in amazing Melbourne. I mean, you know I will take any excuse for baking, but it was really nice to put a smile on the faces of my team at work and my partner.

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So I guess the question from there was what should I bake? Well, for quite some time I have been looking at recipes for these weird and wonderful things called ‘blondies’. Now I think these must be a little bigger in America than they are here, because I’d never really heard of them until I started taking an interest in food recipes, and I know a lot of the people at work also didn’t have a clue what they were. I guess the best way to describe them that I worked out was they are a brownie without the chocolate. Being a self-proclaimed chocolate addict, this to me doesn’t seem that great, I mean who doesn’t love a delicious, chocolatey brownie? But hear me out, because these ended up being so delicious I think I have been turned from my chocolate ways.

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I decided to give this recipe a go, because as much as I absolutely love chocolate, I also adore peanut butter. I find it strange when people tell me they don’t like peanut butter, because it is pretty much the best invention since chocolate. When I saw this recipe for peanut butter blondies, I decided that, with my newly bought peanut butter, it would be the perfect time to give a blondie recipe a whirl! I was really proud of myself because I was getting a bit carried away with pimping out my blondie recipe, and was about to add chocolate chips. But then I decided that I needed to show control and just calm down a little. I am always up for adding in whatever I feel like at the time to recipes, and for once I decided to put the chocolate down, and let these blondies shine all on their own!

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The resulting blondies were absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe to you how amazing the smell of the batter was as I was mixing it. It smelt like next level peanut butter caramel, and it took a lot of my will power to stop myself from eating it before cooking. But I am so glad I didn’t, because these blondies were next level good! I also made these gluten free, and you can’t even tell the difference! This made the girls who can’t eat gluten at my work very happy, and I was even able to pull one of them off her diet for the morning…whoops. And the best part was, I only used one bowl, was able to mix the batter with a kitchen spoon, and it only took 20 minutes to bake! You couldn’t ask for an easier, more delicious recipe! So here it is, especially because the girls at work were desperate for the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Caramel Blondies

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Adapted From Gal on a Mission
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 12 blondies

Ingredients

·         ½ cup of unsalted butter, melted

·         1 cup of packed brown sugar

·         1 egg

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

·         ½ cup of peanut butter (I used crunchy for an extra texture, but smooth would work just as well)

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         1 cup of gluten free flour (if you don’t want to make these gluten free you can use 1 cup of plain flour)

·         1 packet of boiled caramel lollies (I used gluten free ones but you don’t have to)

Method

1.       Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line a baking dish (I used a square one that was nice and deep) with baking paper and set aside.

2.       In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, mixing with a spoon until combined completely.

3.       Add in the egg and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined.

4.       Mix in the peanut butter and stir to fully incorporate into the wet mixture.

5.       Sift in the salt and flour and mix until completely combined, ensuring all flour is pushed down from the edges of the bowl.

6.       Stir in the caramels until evenly mixed throughout the batter.

7.       Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula or the back of the spoon.

8.       Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

9.       Allow to cool and cut into even pieces.

10.   Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.

And that’s all there is to it, I told you it was simple! Maybe a little too easy to make, because now I know they are this easy I will find it hard not to whip them up all the time. I was surprised by how much people loved them given they aren’t really something we know about in Australia. Everyone went nuts for them at work, and they were gone before lunch time which I see as an indication of how delicious they were! My partner ate about 3, and said that when I get back from Melbourne I should make more because they were so delicious. I don’t believe anyone would complain if I did!

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You wouldn’t even know that these blondies were gluten free. They were gooey and delicious, full of peanut butter and caramel flavours, exactly what you want when there is no chocolate involved. I think these are a pretty good contender for brownies in general, because even though they didn’t contain chocolate, they held their own on the taste front! I think it also added a little extra to include the caramels, as these gave the blondies a texture and flavour to compliment the peanut butter.

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I would really consider making these again. They were so easy, as brownies normally are, and there was so much opportunity to add flavours. Who would have through that the blondie would make for such a delicious cousin of the brownie! I have always been a brownie fan and I think that now my eyes have been opened to a new world full of opportunities for delicious baking! I love how easy and quick these were to make, and you could really add any flavours you felt like having in them. I think next time I might try chocolate instead of caramel to make them taste a bit like Reece’s Pieces. That would be a delicious experiment!

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Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

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Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Gluten Free Double Chocolate CookiesOn Monday night I was really feeling like baking, because I’ve done a whole two weeks without baking and I was having serious withdrawals. So I decided that a baking session was seriously in order, but what to bake? I mean, there are so many seriously delicious treats to bake, and so little time to bake them all. There are almost too many options when it comes to baking, and I almost need to narrow it down by what I feel like making, how much time I have and of course what is on hand. And when I went to my pantry I noticed that I was seriously lacking what you would normally need as staples for baking i.e. flour, caster sugar, cooking chocolate.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Most people at this point would give up, as it was a Monday night and I could have put the TV on instead and forgotten about the whole thing. But not me, I was determined to bring baked goods into work to improve everyone’s Tuesday! So instead I rallied and figured out how I could get creative with my baking! And it ended up being a really fun, and delicious, experiment.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

I decided on a recipe for cookies (because you know how much I love cookies) that were made using almond meal, because despite not having flour, for some reason I had a lot of almond meal. This was a positive as well as some of the girls in my office can’t eat gluten and so it meant they could enjoy the cookies too! I ended up finding a recipe for double chocolate cookies using almond meal which looked really delicious. And who doesn’t love chocolate? I feel like anything with just singular chocolate in it is good, let alone DOUBLE chocolate! And it was such a shame that all I had on hand was Lindt chocolate, because it made the cookies about one million times better!

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

I would have to say, these may be my favourite cookies that I’ve ever baked. Which is weird, because all things considered they aren’t that bad for you. The batter was a perfect Monday night treat, and the cookies themselves were so good I had to keep going back! I think if you are looking for a chocolatey, delicious cookie recipe, you should look no further than this recipe, it is seriously good!

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Adapted From Gourmande in the Kitchen
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 9 minutes
Serves 28 cookies

Ingredients

·         200 grams of bittersweet dark chocolate – I used Lindt 85% chocolate for melting, and 90% chocolate for the chocolate chips. You will be melting half and using the other half for the chocolate chips. Roughly chop half of the chocolate

·         1 ½ cups of almond meal

·         ½ cup of unsweetened cacao (or cocoa if you only have this on hand)

·         ½ teaspoon of baking soda

·         ½ teaspoon of sea salt, finely ground

·         112 grams of butter cut into cubes

·         1 cup of coconut sugar

·         2 large eggs

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method

1.       Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius (350 degrees F)

2.       Fill a saucepan with a bit of water over a medium heat, and place half the chocolate in a bowl. Place the bowl over the top of the water so it completely covers the saucepan. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring until completely liquid. Remove from heat.

3.       In a bowl, combine the almond meal, cacao, baking soda, salt and sugar, and use a hand held mixer to combine.

4.       Add the cubed butter to the mixture and process until it is completely brought together. The dough should look a bit wet and darker.

5.       Add the eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate and process until the dough is smooth. It will be quite wet but still firm enough to use a spoon to form balls. Fold in the chopped chocolate to the mixture.

6.       Line two baking trays with baking paper. Using two tablespoons, drop heaped balls of dough onto the baking sheets, keeping a few inches between each cookie.

7.       Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just set (don’t overbake as they will firm up when you take them out of the oven)

8.       Cool completely on a wire rack, and enjoy!

This recipe was really simple and ended up having minimal washing up – you only need to use two bowls and your mixer! They also ended up being really healthy all things considered – dark chocolate is really good for you and they didn’t have any refined sugar or flour in them. The result was super chocolatey, gooey cookies with the most amazing texture! Everyone at work was commenting about how delicious these were, and I loved them because they weren’t overly sweet, they had just the perfect amount of sweetness that you didn’t feel really gross after eating one, or four.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

As these are technically chocolate chip cookies, I am going to rate them on my chocolate chip cookie scale (If you have only just started reading, here is the original post explaining my hunt for the perfect cookie). Even though these are a little different to a classic chocolate chip cookie, I think they still have their place in the great cookie hunt!

Supreme Cookie Awesomeness Score

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Simplicity: 7

Gooeyness: 7

Tastiness: 9

Gone Factor: 8

Total Score: 31/40

They scored a little lower than the last batch, just because the ingredients are a little harder to source, and it involved melting chocolate etc. Also, they lasted a whole two days, rather than the one day that the other cookies I tried lasted. But they were equally tasty and gooey, so overall a really good score!

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

These make for a great relatively healthy treat for everyone to enjoy! What delicious chocolate chip cookies. If this is what gluten free cookies taste like all the time, sign me up! I’m sure they don’t, but man I have started attempting gluten free cookies on a high note!  I don’t know if I can make any gluten free cookies that taste better than these, but I guess I am a little biased as I love dark chocolate so much! Does anyone have any cookie recipes they think could top these? I’d love to know!

Until Next Time, Happy Baking!

Ella xx

Guilt Free Banana Bread

Guilt Free Banana Bread

I had my first request this week for something to bake, which was really exciting! We had a lot of overripe bananas left in our fruit bowl at work, and so some of the girls were wondering what to do with them rather than throwing them out. Then, they thought of me! I was happy to oblige by taking the bananas home and re purposing them into something delicious!Guilt Free Banana Bread

Whenever I have overripe bananas, I always seem to go to banana bread. I just love it so much! So I couldn’t go past an opportunity to bake delicious banana bread for the office. But I realised that lately I’ve been baking a lot of sweet things, and thought it might be time to cook something a little healthier. I mean, I can’t always bake sugar filled treats, as much as I want to. So I decided to try out a recipe for healthy banana bread, and see how it turned out.

Guilt Free Banana Bread

This recipe was really simple, quick and delicious. It ended up being gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free, which means that it is practically guilt free. I couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted given it didn’t have any sugar in the recipe, apart from the sugar from the bananas and a little bit of honey! It really surprised me that I can make something healthy that still satisfies my sweet tooth. And despite my concern that something so healthy wouldn’t go down well with my office crowd, everyone loved it! A lot of them loved it even more because they didn’t have to feel bad about eating it one bit.

Guilt Free Banana Bread

There are a lot of ‘healthy’ banana bread recipes out there, but this one was quite simple, and didn’t involve too many ingredients you wouldn’t have on hand. It is based on coconut flour, which is becoming far easier to get, and the only other thing you needed was Almond Butter. But you could easily substitute this for peanut butter or any other nut butter. I also sprinkled cacao nibs over the top, but you could easily put anything over the top, like blueberries, raspberries, banana slices or sliced almonds. It’s completely up to you! You could even put chocolate chips on the top if you wanted to make it a little more naughty!

Guilt Free Banana Bread

Guilt Free Banana Bread

Adapted From Ambitious Kitchen
Serves 12 slices
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

·         4 medium ripe bananas, mashed up

·         1 tablespoon of honey

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

·         ¼ cup of almond butter

·         2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted

·         2 eggs

·         ½ cup of coconut flour

·         ½ teaspoon of baking powder

·         ½ teaspoon of baking soda

·         ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

·         ¼ cup of cacao nibs

Method

1.      Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line a loaf pan with baking paper, setting aside.

2.      In a medium bowl combine the bananas, honey, vanilla, almond butter and coconut oil. Using an electric mixer, mix the ingredients until combined and smooth.

3.      Add the eggs in, one at a time, on a medium speed until combined.

4.      Using a medium speed, mix in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until completely combined.

5.      Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the cacao nibs over the top of the batter evenly.

6.      Bake for 25-30 minutes or until when a skewer is inserted it comes out clean.

7.      Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice into 12 even pieces.

Guilt Free Banana Bread

And there you have it! It’s such a quick recipe and simple to make. And the result was really delicious, but very good for you. You won’t feel guilty going back for a couple of slices of this one, and I am sure you will want to! It is quite sweet surprisingly, but has a really nice coconut flavour, which I really liked. And using ripe bananas really brings sweetness so you don’t even need sugar!

Guilt Free Banana Bread

You can enjoy this banana bread as it, it is quite soft and moist, but does hold its shape. Otherwise you can toast it in a sandwich press for a truly decadent experience. If it’s not sweet enough for you, you could always add some yoghurt and honey on the top.

Guilt Free Banana Bread

Let me know if you would like to try this recipe yourself, and especially let me know if you give it a go!

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

This weekend, I spent most of my time eating or baking. It was most certainly a weekend well spent! I do love eating out and trying new restaurants on my weekends, but it’s also a lot of fun cooking and baking as well. And this weekend it was my mum’s birthday on Sunday, which gave me a great excuse to spend time in the kitchen (like I really needed any).Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

My mum is gluten intolerant, and also not a huge fan of chocolate, which for me is something I will never understand. So I really needed to think hard about what cake to make her. I knew she liked more natural flavours of spices and nuts in cakes over a traditional sweet cake, so I started here. I myself have found that I’ve moved more towards these flavours when looking for cakes to cook anyway, as cakes based on nuts and spices are just so delicious!Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

I found that a lot of the recipes for almond meal cakes tend to end up requiring flour anyway, which is quite frustrating when trying to make gluten free cake. You can make these cakes without flour; it’s just that there seems to be a real lack of flourless recipes on Pinterest. But I did manage to find one that I liked in the end. I was being a bit picky, as I didn’t want to make a plain cake for mum’s birthday; it needed to have something a bit special to set it apart.Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

In the end, I found a recipe, with the help of my sister, for this lemon and honey almond cake. It appealed to me because you made syrup to go with the cake, which ensured that it had a lot of flavour and was really moist, which sometimes you lose with almond meal based cakes. The cake was deliciously sweet and zesty at the same time, and the addition of berries on the top really added to it. I also found that it rose a lot more than I was expecting, given it didn’t have any baking powder in it. All it uses is the egg whites to give it volume, which meant that the cake was nice and light. It ended up being a delicious cake that even my partner enjoyed, and he normally likes his cake full of chocolate and sugar. It actually ended up being dairy free too, if you don’t add ice cream (which I highly recommend).Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

The main thing that mattered was that my mum loved it (there she is posing above next to her bday cake). But I actually enjoyed it so much that I thought I should share it with you all. I adjusted it a little from the original recipe and the cake wound up being amazing, so I’ll share this with you and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

Adapted From Your Home Based Mom
Preparation Time 30 minutes
Cooking Time 55 minutes
Serves 12 slices (depending on the size of them)

Ingredients

Cake

·      ¼ cup of olive oil, plus extra for greasing your cake tin

·      1 ¾ cup of Almond Meal, plus additional for dusting the pan

·      1/3 cup of Tapioca starch (or potato starch if you have this)

·      ½ teaspoon of Salt

·      1 cup of Caster Sugar, divided into ½ cups

·      1/3 cup of Honey

·      4 large eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white

·      ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

·      Zest of two Lemons

·      ¼ teaspoon of almond extract

·      Berries for topping

Honey and Lemon Syrup

·      ½ cup of Caster Sugar

·      1/3 cup of Honey

·      Juice of two lemons

·      1 cup of water

Method

Cake

1.     Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Place the oven rack in the bottom half of the oven.

2.     Get your cake tin and brush the sides and bottom with olive oil. Cut baking paper into a circle to fit the bottom of the pan, and place in the bottom. Brush this with more olive oil and dust with almond meal.

3.     In a medium bowl, mix together almond meal, tapioca starch, and salt.

4.     In a large bowl, combine ½ cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of honey, lemon zest, 4 egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract and olive oil.

5.     Using an electronic handheld mixer, or a stand mixer, beat until smooth and creamy. This should take about 3 minutes.

6.     Beat in the almond meal mixture gradually, until just incorporated.

7.     In another bowl, get your 5 egg whites and whisk until foamy.

8.     Gradually whisk in ½ cup of sugar, until glossy peaks form. This should take another 3 minutes.

9.     Gently fold the egg white mixture into the cake batter until combined.

10. Pour the batter into the pan.

11. Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes, or until golden brown. The cake should spring back when lightly touched.

12. Allow the cake to cool completely, and remove it from the pan by running a knife around the edge first.

Honey Syrup

1.     Mix together the sugar, honey, lemon juice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on a high heat and reduce to a medium heat. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. The mixture should have reduced and become syrupy.

2.     Brush part of the syrup mixture over the top of the cake. I poked holes in the top with a cake tester to allow the syrup to seep through the cake more easily.

3.     Cut up berries that you have on hand and place on top of the cake. Drizzle more of the honey syrup over the top of this.

4.     To serve: serve up the cake with ice cream and drizzle a tablespoon or two of the remaining honey syrup over the top of each slice, and the ice cream.

And that’s it! My recipe for a delicious, syrupy, gluten and dairy free cake! Who said that having food intolerances has to be boring! There are so many great recipes out there nowadays, and I think this one might taste just as good if not better than a cake with flour in it! I certainly didn’t feel all heavy after eating this, which was really nice. And the cake itself will last for a few days in the fridge, if it doesn’t get eaten first!

Lemon and Honey Almond Cake

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx