Caramelised White Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies

I was going to do a completely different recipe this week, but we’ve ended up with caramelised white chocolate and hazelnut cookies, slightly by accident. In last week’s Taste Test post, I mentioned caramelised white chocolate in passing. I got a surprising number of reactions, ranging from ‘I have never found a white chocolate I like so I am intrigued by your caramelised white chocolate and don’t believe it will change my opinion’, to ‘Please post a recipe for caramelised white chocolate. Please.’

Lots of people are very opposed to white chocolate, and I can see why. There’s the old argument that it’s not really chocolate, as it contains no cocoa solids, being made instead of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids. Poor quality white chocolate is often blandly sweet. I would argue, though, that good quality white chocolate certainly has its place, and when caramelised it becomes a true delight.


When caramelised, white chocolate progresses beyond bland sweetness, and develops a deeper, warmer flavour. It reminds me of caramel (well, duh) and peanut butter. If you start with a good quality white chocolate (I’d recommend at least 30% cocoa butter) with a hint of vanilla, then add a good pinch of sea salt before caramelising, you get a grown-up treat.

You can then do any number of things with your caramelised white chocolate. If you leave it in liquid form, it makes an excellent ganache, an enhancing icing ingredient, or the beginnings of an amazing ice cream. You can also do what I did here: let it set solid, then break it up into pieces. That way, you can put it into cookies, use it to decorate cakes, or (let’s be honest) just straight up eat it. I won’t tell.


This is a twist on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted on the site ages ago. The main point of this post is to tell you all that caramelised white chocolate is amazing, but this is also a really great base cookie recipe that definitely deserves your attention. If I can’t convince you to jump on the caramelised white chocolate bandwagon, you can always use other chocolate and make the cookies anyway.


The base cookie recipe here is minorly adapted from The Violet Bakery, by Claire Ptak.


This recipe will yield around 20 generously sized cookies. They will keep well in an air-tight container for three or four days. If you have more willpower than we do.

Caramelised white chocolate is very easy to make, but it does take a little time. This time is basically all passive though – you just need to let it do its thing and check in now and then.


for the caramelised white chocolate

200g good quality white chocolate (I actually caramelised 400g so that 200g could go into the cookies and 200g could be reserved for other purposes)
good pinch of sea salt

for the cookies

250g butter, softened
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or, if you have it on hand, vanilla bean paste
3 large egg yolks
325g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g blanched, toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Method – Caramelised White Chocolate

  1. First, caramelise your chocolate. Heat your oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Break your chocolate into pieces if it’s in a block, put it on a (clean, dry) baking sheet with a rim, sprinkle it with a pinch of sea salt, then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to melt. Take it out, smooth it and spread it around with a (clean, dry) spatula, then pop it back in the oven.
  2. Keep going for around 40-60 minutes, taking it out and stirring it around every 10 minutes or so to ensure it’s caramelising evenly. It might look like it’s going lumpy or chalky, but give it a stir and it’ll sort itself out. Everyone’s oven is different so I can’t say precisely how long you want to keep going for, but you’re aiming for a peanut butter kind of colour. Keep tasting it! Stop when you are happy. You can see in my video below how the chocolate thickens and darkens – I’ve taken this one pretty slowly on a low oven, but you can push it a little faster if you’re confident.
  3. If you get to the end of the process and your chocolate has lumps you’re not happy with (more likely if you are using a chocolate with a low cocoa butter percentage) just pop it in a blender and give it a quick whizz with a teaspoon or two of flavourless oil. Never add water! If you want the chocolate solid, spread it out on baking parchment or silicone on a cool tray and leave it to set, or pop it in the fridge if you’re impatient.

Method – Cookies

  1. For the cookies, line a baking tray which will fit in your freezer with parchment paper. In your largest bowl or in a stand-mixer, beat the butter and both types of sugar together until just combined and even, then beat in the vanilla and egg yolks – all at once is fine. Add your flour, salt, and bicarbonate, then mix to form a stir, firm dough. Finally, fold in your hazelnuts, then break your white chocolate into rough pieces and fold them in too. I like to reserve a few pieces and press one into the top of each cookie.
  2. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into cookies and pop them on your lined tray. You’ll have fairly large scoops of dough – mine were around 45g. Freeze for an hour, or up to a month.
  3. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and take the cookies out of the freezer. Spread the frozen dough between three or four lined baking trays – you need to give them a lot of space to expand. Let them rest at room temperature for five to ten minutes while the oven heats up, and then pop them in. Bake for 15-20 minutes (it was 16 in my oven), until the outsides of the cookies are baked and crispy, but the insides still feel soft and underbaked. Let them rest on the counter to firm up for at least 10 minutes.

Apricot, Hazelnut, & Dark Chocolate Cake

This apricot, hazelnut, and dark chocolate cake was one of the very first cakes I made for local literary event Short Stories Aloud, which means I must have been making it for a few years now. Which is frightening, because I feel like I only discovered it a couple of months ago. Time seems like it’s rushing by in disconcertingly huge dollops these days.

The joy (well, one of many joys) of Stories Aloud is that if you bring a cake then you get in for free. This almost feels like cheating to me, because I bring cake pretty much everywhere, whether or not it is wanted, so being given entry to an event in return feels pretty jammy, not going to lie. This is typical of the Stories Aloud mentality though. It’s an event quite unlike any other that I’ve attended, full of intelligent, warm, generous, funny people. It helps that it was founded by the wonderful Sarah Franklin, who is a totally top human being. Making cake for them each month has forced me to get my act together and produce something on more than one occasion. Everyone is always unfailingly polite and appreciative of my efforts.


This cake certainly didn’t look quite like this when I first started making it though. I fiddled and embellished and mucked around and was inspired by a Victoria sponge (which was also made for Stories Aloud, funnily enough). Now, suddenly, we’re at this odd hybrid of a cake. It’s studded with rich dark chocolate and sharp, fresh apricots, and stuffed with toasty chunks of hazelnut to give it a bit of satisfying crunch. We’re in apricot season round these parts and my are they glorious. Apricots are one of my favourite fruits when you catch them at their best.

This cake is simple enough to whip up with relative ease, but probably pretty enough for a birthday or a special gathering if you cover it in a loads of miscellaneous bits and pieces, like I did. It is robust, and keeps well, and is unusual enough to be a nice change from a standard recipe, if you’re into that sort of thing.

In short, I would thoroughly recommend it.



Adapted from the chocolate, pistachio, and apricot cake in Anne Shooter’s excellent Sesame & Spice.


Obviously I have covered this cake in all manner of stuff, because I am in the habit of gilding the lily. Here, the cake is topped with buttercream, raspberries, apricot slices, pomegranate seeds, chopped hazelnuts, and edible flowers. Related: they have started selling edible flowers in Sainsbury’s! I am overjoyed about this. If I need a large or specialist order of edible blooms then I buy from Maddocks Farm Organics, but only for special occasions. Since I don’t have a garden and can’t grow anything myself, I am very pleased that I can get edible flowers cheaply and easily at Sainsbury’s for more casual cake-decorating needs.

Anyway, do of course feel free to skip all this rubbish and simply leave the top of the cake plain, or dust it with some icing sugar. It will still be delicious. I’m just a crazy person.


200g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
100g whole blanched and toasted hazelnuts (or take the skins off yourself, if you prefer, but who has time for that really?)
150g softened butter
150g golden caster sugar
around 10-15 cardamom pods
3 eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 ripe apricots, stoned and diced

for the filling

100g softened butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 jar of apricot jam


  1. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line two 18cm (or thereabouts) cake tins. Either blitz your chocolate and nuts in a food processor until they are rubble, or chop them together fairly finely.
  2. I do this next stage in a Kitchen Aid, but it would be fine with a hand whisk or simply a wooden spoon if you prefer. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Crack open your cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, then remove the seeds and grind them until fairly fine. Beat the cardamom into butter and sugar. Beat your eggs together then add them gradually to the butter and sugar mix, beating all the while. Finally, beat in your flour, salt, and baking powder, then fold in your diced apricots, chocolate, and nuts.
  3. Divide the mixture as evenly as you can between your two tins, then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm and passing the skewer test. Let your cakes cool completely while you make your filling.
  4. For the filling, beat the butter until very soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar until you have a smooth, fluffy buttercream. Beat in 2 tbsp of the apricot jam (or more, to taste). When your cakes are totally cold, cover one with remaining apricot jam, then either pipe buttercream on top of the jam or simply spread it onto the other cake and sandwich them together. Leave plain, or decorate however you like with fruits and nuts.

Sugar Free Rhubarb, Strawberry, and Hazelnut Cake – Bake Off Bake Along Week 5

Okay, so I realise I am essentially begging the universe to smite me down now, but when I saw last week’s episode, I thought ‘Well, that’s doable!’. I mean, not the dairy free Arctic roll, because I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I wasn’t hugely keen on making the gluten free pitta breads, because they didn’t look massively thrilling and any gluten free pitta I made would be immeasurably worse than one I could buy. But sugar free cakes? No problem. Anyway, I did the technical challenge last week, so I figure that gets me off the hook for a little while.


They were actually playing it pretty fast and loose with their definition of ‘sugar free’, I reckon. I mean, just because a cake doesn’t have actual granules of caster sugar or muscovado sugar or whatever in it, it doesn’t necessarily make it sugar free. Agave is still a processed, refined sweetener. Fruit has sugar in it (annoyingly). By the show’s definition, I actually make sugar free cake fairly regularly. The very first recipe I posted on this blog is sugar free. I bake sugar free banana bread for James every couple of weeks. I mean, you basically just substitute sugar for an equal weight of maple syrup or honey and go along with a regular cake recipe.

Wasn’t it great to see Nadiya win star baker? She really deserved it, and it obviously meant a huge amount to her. Plus, you know, it was boring seeing Ian win it every week.


I’ve wanted to make a cake with roasted rhubarb for a while, and I know we’re just about out of the season now but I couldn’t quite resist it. Strawberry and rhubarb is a classic pairing – very American, I believe – as sharp rhubarb is rounded out well by something very sweet. The vanilla goes well with both and provides a complementary background note, while the hazelnuts are a strong and textured base.

I have to say, I am loving this bake along. Not only is it great getting to see what everyone has made each week, but it’s also wonderful being challenged to make new things. I find I am watching the programme in a different – more involved – way, because I am planning what on earth I am going to scrape together every time. Thanks so much to Amanda and Ala for setting it all up.

Source: This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s Love Bake Nourish, which is an excellent place to go if you are looking for more sugar free cake ideas.

Notes: I don’t know whether to blame my oven or my inattentiveness, but these cakes browned incredibly fast: I admit, I wasn’t watching them like a hawk. I don’t know if the honey or even maybe the nuts make the cakes prone to catching, but I had to cover them with foil for the last ten minutes of the bake. They came out fine; just a little darker than I would have liked.


115g blanched hazelnuts
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
260g butter, soft
4 eggs
130g honey
130g maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

to decorate

350ml double cream
3-4 tbsp honey
100g strawberries, hulled and halved
100g rhubarb


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas mark 4, and grease and line two 20cm cake tins. If your hazelnuts aren’t toasted already, do that now. Whack them in the oven on a baking tray for about 5 minutes, until they are just starting to change colour and are smelling delicious and nutty. Then, using a food processor, grind them into a fine meal. Watch you don’t blend them for too long and make hazelnut butter.
  2. This is an all-in-one cake, so sift your flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then beat in your hazelnuts, butter, eggs, honey, vanilla, and maple syrup until everything is evenly incorporated. Divide the mixture between your tins and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.
  3. When your cakes are well risen, golden, and pass the skewer test, take them out and leave them to cool. Leave the oven on. Cut your rhubarb into even pieces an inch or two long, and place them in a baking tray. Toss them around with 1-2 tbsp of honey, and then cover the baking tray with foil and pop it in the oven. Roast your rhubarb for 10-15 minutes, or until soft but still able to maintain its shape.
  4. When the cakes and rhubarb are completely cool, assemble your confection. Whip the cream into peaks, and the whip in the remaining honey. Add more if you prefer a sweeter cream. Spread half of the cream onto your base cake, and top it with half of the strawberries and rhubarb. Pop your other cake on top and finish with the rest of the cream and fruit.

Trio of Chocolate Cheesecakes – Bake Off Bake Along Week 4

Confession: before this week, I had never made a baked cheesecake. It was one of my page-turners. Everyone must have page-turners, right? You know when you’re flicking through a recipe book (or, in this day and age, more likely a blog or online magazine), and you see a certain ingredient or instruction and automatically think ‘No, thank you!’, turn to the next page, and move swiftly along? Well, every time I see instructions to wrap a springform tin in cling film, then in foil, then fill it with cheesecake mix, then sit it in a water bath, then bake the cheesecake, then leave it to cool with the oven door oven, then let it sit overnight… well, I tend to think ‘Sod that’, and go and make a fridge-set cheesecake instead. It’s a combination of fear and laziness, really.


So, I thought this week would be a good opportunity to finally get over my baked cheesecake prejudice and make one. Well, make three. I don’t have enough ramekins for crème brûlée, and I’m certainly not going out to buy them. And although I do like meringue, I don’t think anyone could really like meringue enough to get through a whole Spanische Windtorte. Also, it would leave me with a dozen egg yolks that I wouldn’t know what to do with. Somehow, making three cheesecakes started to seem like the most sensible option.

Spoiler alert: it was definitely not the most sensible option. It was actually a huge hassle, and all of our friends will be eating cheesecake for days.


Nonetheless, I made three baked cheesecakes and managed to stack them into a tower that didn’t collapse, so I am definitely calling this a win, despite the fact I had to literally buy a kilogram of cream cheese to make this and nobody should ever really be doing that.

I’ll be really interested to see what everyone else tries to make this week, because I imagine lots of you will have the same problems and reservations that I did regarding crème brûlée and Spanische Windtorte, but making three tiers of cheesecake doesn’t exactly feel like the easy way out. Oh, how I miss cake week. Next week is free-from baking – you know, sugar free and gluten free and such – and I can’t imagine that will be any easier.


Can we also just take a moment to mourn the departure of Sandy from the tent? She was never one of my picks for the final, but she was definitely one of my favourite bakers. Some of the things she said literally made me laugh out loud.

Also, Ian winning star baker is now getting boring. Three weeks in a row?!


So, on to the cheesecakes. I will admit that these are not going to be winning any beauty contests. By the time it got to the decorating stage, I was short on time and very stressed, so it was all a bit of a rush job and I am terrible at tempering and piping chocolate, so I basically threw things on top of them and hoped for the best. I also had to move the delicate cheesecakes around so much – first to stack them and then to separate them – that they started to crack a bit. Nonetheless, they were really delicious. Once I have gotten over the trauma of this, I might actually make a baked cheesecake again.

On the show, Paul and Mary kept complaining about fruit bleeding into cheesecake, but what’s wrong with that!? I actually like that, and purposefully mashed up my fruit a bit in the cheesecake batter to encourage the pretty colours rippling into the smooth, pale cheesecake.


Source: I started with a plain baked cheesecake recipe from Leiths How To Cook and then adapted it. A lot.

Notes: I very much doubt that anyone wants to be as insane as me and make this whole recipe start to finish, so I am not going to give any instructions for stacking or decorating, which is all common sense in any case. The method is exactly the same for all three cakes, only with different quantities and some variations on ingredients, so I am going to provide the ingredients for each cake and only write out the method once.

One of the reasons I went for this particular base recipe was that it didn’t ask you to mess around with a water bath or wrapping the tin, and I am inherently lazy. It seemed to work out fine just bunged in the oven like a regular cake.

This would have looked far better if I’d had a smaller top tin, but I didn’t, and didn’t want to buy a new one just for this, so such is life.


for the little white chocolate, blackberry, almond, and ginger cheesecake (16cm)

for the base
50g butter
65g ginger biscuits
20g ground almonds

for the cheesecake mixture
3 tbsp caster
10g cornflour
240g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 medium eggs
90ml cream
100g white chocolate
100g blackberries

for the medium milk chocolate, hazelnut, and raspberry cheesecake (20cm)

for the base
85 butter
125g oat biscuits
25g chopped skinned hazelnuts

for the cheesecake mixture
5 tbsp caster
15g cornflour
415g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
100ml cream
200g milk chocolate
150g raspberries

for the massive dark chocolate, apricot, and pistachio cheesecake (23cm)

for the base
100g butter
150g digestives
30g roughly chopped pistachios

for the cheesecake mixture
6 tbsp caster
20g cornflour
500g cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
200ml cream
150g dark chocolate
4 apricots, stoned and chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6, and grease and line your tin. Melt the butter for the base. Crush the biscuits, either by beating them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or whizzing them in the food processor. Put them in a bowl and mix in your nuts. Add the butter, mix, and then press the mixture evenly into the base of your tin. Bake the base in the oven for ten minutes, then remove and leave it to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/ 130C fan/ gas 2.
  2. For the topping, set aside 2 tbsp of the sugar. Put the rest in a large bowl with the cornflour and beat with the cream cheese and vanilla to combine. Separate the eggs, and then beat the yolks into the cream cheese along with the cream.
  3. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to medium peaks, and then whisk in the saved 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently fold it into the cheesecake mixture, along with the fruit.
  5. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until just set with a slight wobble. Leave it to cool in the tin. Chill in the fridge.

Gooseberry and Hazelnut Bublanina

When I was young, and my dad was away working a lot of the time and my mum was in college getting her Fine Art degree, my brother and I were looked after by au pairs. There were four of them, and they each lived with us for a year, so we were covered from when I was six to when I was ten. I presume that once I was ten my parents decided I could look after myself (or maybe they were around more, I’m not sure – I find my childhood memories all tend to blend into each other quite indistinctly, and I have a hard time remembering exactly what happened when).

Anyway, the au pairs were Eszter, Petra, Daša, and Eva. After looking after us, Eszter eventually moved to England permanently and had two lovely kids, and I still see her occasionally. She’s Hungarian, but Petra, Daša, and Eva were from the Czech Republic.

I grew up hearing lots of odd snippets of different languages as, while my parents were both born in England, we lived in Russia for a while when I was young and a lot of my mother’s family were German. My parents had also lived in India before having my brother and I in Canada, and we had a lot of friends who came to stay with us from all over the world. Then there were the au pairs: part of the reason they came to England was often because they wanted to improve their language skills, but my mother particularly was always keen to learn snippets of Czech from them. To this day, my mother will often greet people with a loud ‘dobré ráno!’ and throw occasional Czech phrases into conversation. I have no idea how accurate they are, but it sounds fairly impressive.


We’d also end up eating the occasional bit of Czech cuisine. Again, I have no idea how authentic any of this was, as it was my mother’s interpretation of whatever she’d been told, but when I was little we ate a lot of bread dumplings, which I think we called knedlíky. My brother and I loved the chocolate and hazelnut Czech Kolonada wafers, and I remember there being a lot of Czech beer around.

So I have a fondness for what I know of the Czech Republic and the wonderful people I’ve met who hail from there, and happy memories of the few bits of Czech food I tried as a child. When I saw a recipe for blueberry bublanina, a Czech ‘bubble’ cake, in Anne Shooter’s Sesame and Spice, I wanted to give it a try. A lovely friend of our had a glut of gooseberries in her garden and kindly donated some to me for ‘research purposes’, and this recipe was born.


Source: Sesame and Spice, by the way, is fantastic – probably my favourite of all the cook books I have bought this year so far. Recipes that are delicious and unusual, yet achievable, are presented in a well laid out and accessible book full of beautiful pictures. I have adjusted Anne Shooter’s bublanina recipe a fair bit, adding hazelnuts and switching blueberries for gooseberries and playing with some of the quantities, but the basic principle is similar.

Notes: As with all cakes filled with berries, which give out a lot of liquid, it’s sometimes tricky to tell when this cake is cooked. I would advise you to err on the side of caution and leave it in the oven until you’re completely sure it’s done (and you won’t normally hear me say that) because it’s quite hard to dry out this cake, but very easy to leave an uncooked mess of berries and cake mix in the middle.

This is a wonderfully adaptable recipe, and will take well to any number of fruits and nuts you care to combine.


115g butter
115g light brown soft sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp milk
4 tbsp hazelnut butter
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
400g gooseberries, tossed in 1 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp chopped toasted hazelnuts
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 190c/170c fan/ Gas 5. Grease a 23cm loose-bottomed or springform tin with butter, and line with base with greaseproof paper. Cream your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – it will take three to five minutes. Mixing continually, add your egg yolks one by one, followed by the milk and hazelnut butter.
  2. Whisk your egg whites to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Fold them gently into your wet mixture, then sift and fold in the flour and salt. Gently fold in the gooseberries, then carefully put your mixture into your cake tin (trying not to knock all the air out of it), and sprinkle it with the hazelnuts.
  3. Bake your cake for around 40-50 minutes, or until it is golden and risen and passes the skewer test. Let it cool for fifteen minutes before taking it out of the tin. Dust with icing sugar if desired.