Monday, 19 December 2016

Black Forest Cheesecake Swirl Brownies - recipe by Bex

I made this recipe for my Baking Club Christmas do recently and was really pleased with it despite having preheated the oven for 3.5 hours!  (The kids woke from their nap far too early and I kept trying to get the brownies ready to bake, including the kids in helping, but I didn't manage until they went to bed again that evening - an hour early!!)

Anyway, I had the idea of brownies with cherries and had always wanted to try baking something with a swirl of cheesecake so I googled and combined a couple of recipes I found.  One from the American/Ukrainian Let The Baking Begin Blog for the cheesecake part as I liked the sound of adding sour cream but I couldn't be bothered converting all the measurements for the brownie batter too so I used one from Olive Magazine for the main brownie batter, although I did adapt it slightly by adding dried and tinned cherries as well as changing the method after a wasted pan of seized chocolate mixture!

Below you will find my combined and adapted recipe for my version of Black Forest Cheesecake Swirl Brownies:

For the cheesecake filling:

225g cream cheese
80g sour cream
70g sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg

For the brownies:

200g butter, plus extra for greasing
225g light soft brown sugar
200g golden caster sugar 
125g cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
¼ tsp salt 
2 tbsp kirsch or cherry liqueur
4 eggs
125g self-raising flour 
100g dried sour cherries
1/2 tin cherries (optional), de-stoned & halved

For the cream:

whipping cream 300ml
kirsch 2 tbsp (I added 4)
icing sugar 3 tbsp, sifted
1/2 tin cherries (optional), de-stoned and chopped


Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla extract and beat together until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and beat until smooth again.  Put aside.

Preheat oven to 170oC.  Butter a 20 x 30cm baking tin and line with baking parchment.  (I only had square tins so split my mixture between two 20cm square tins, I still baked them for 30 mins.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan then add the sugars and continue stirring until they start to dissolve.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring occasionally as the chocolate melts.  Add the cocoa powder and stir to combine.

Cool for 5 minutes then beat in the salt, kirsch and eggs until smooth again (I did this part in my Kitchenaid).  Stir through the flour and cherries, then scrape into the prepared tin(s) and bake for 30 minutes.

While the brownies are baking, prepare a roasting tin of iced water that will fit the brownie tin inside it.  When the brownies have a crisp top and only a slight wobble to the centre still, lift the tin from the oven into the water bath – this will keep the centre soft, but set.  Cool completely in the water.  Run a knife under hot water before drying and using to cut smoothly.  The brownies are nice and gooey which makes them stick to the knife.

To serve, whisk the whipping cream with the kirsch and icing sugar until softly peaked then stir through the cherries.  Dust the brownies with a little icing sugar and cocoa if you like, and add a dollop of kirsch cream with extra fresh cherries to serve.

I was really pleased with how these turned out!  They were squidgy, gooey and rich.  The Kirsch/cherry brandy was a nice addition and the dried sour cherries add a lovely bit of chewy bite to them.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Rag 'n' Bone Man for Christmas No.1!

You have probably heard of Rory Graham aka Rag 'n' Bone Man by now, he just won the BRITs Critics' Choice Award for 2017.  His single Human is just amazing and was recently covered on The X Factor so you might recognise it as it's been getting even more radio play since then.

I don't often write about music but I do love a good tune and Human is one I adore!  Not only that but Rory is a local guy from Uckfield, my new town.  We love it here, it's a wonderful community and so many people are behind him so I wanted to do my bit.  If you haven't yet heard his current single, Human, give it a listen here and then go and download it on iTunes for just 99p!  ;)

I love his soulful voice and the lyrics!

He is currently in the No.2 spot and in with a real chance at being Christmas Number 1 so I thought I'd see if I could help round up a bit of support for our local musician who deserves so much success!  

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dragon Tails by Tired Bear - A review by Bex

I recently came across a local company called Tired Bear who make absolutely gorgeous costumes for little ones.  They caught my eye at a Christmas Fair, I loved all the bright colours and had a look on their website that evening.  I absolutely love the designs and completely agree with Anna's philosophy about bright colours being for all children.  "Most of my costumes are a bright mix of colours that aren't gender specific because boys shouldn't always be blue and girls definitely shouldn't always be pink!"

The next day we went back and had a chat with Anna who is just lovely and the twins each chose a dragon tail.  As if to prove our point, Kalyan chose Pink with yellow (pink and orange seem to be his favourite colours) and Priya went for purple with green.

On Tuesday we went for one of our favourite walks to take a few photos of the tails to really show them off.  I adore them!  They'd make fantastic Christmas presents and would last such a long time as part of a dressing up box.  The dragon tails cost £20 and with wings are £35.  They come in red, blue, yellow and green as well, each with a contrasting colour for the spines.

The twins absolutely adore their tails!  They love to wear them and they look pretty comfy too.  I am very impressed with the quality.  They're made from lovely soft fleece and have a nice thick waist band with velcro most of the way around so they'll fit for years.  They can also be machine washed at 30!  They are all hand made by Anna and you can tell a lot of time goes in to the making of each one.

My brave little pink dragon was quite happy wandering off down the path which leads to cake!  (Oast Farm Cafe is this way!)

And into mystical dragon caves...

Until we realised it was Tuesday and Oast Farm Cafe is closed on Tuesdays - eeep!  

What do you mean there's no cake?!

And Anna doesn't just make dragon tails.  She has wings to match, as well as butterfly wings, shark and killer whale costumes complete with fin and tail, angel wings, dinosaur tails and even a unicorn with a rainbow tail, wings and pink horn.  She's even made an awesome Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon!  The dragon tails do make good shadows though!

They've worn them loads already.  I love the fun they add to our walks, pretending to be dragons exploring.

We received two dragon tails from Tired Bear in return for writing an honest review.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Kids Christmas Jumper round up 2016 - by Bex

I already listed the adult Christmas jumpers I like but here's the kids' version!

My all time favourite is this one from Asda which not only has rainbow Christmas lights embroidered on but has ACTUAL lights and is only £8!!!  I love the Merry and Bright caption too, even the font.  Sadly, it's already sold out so I am scouring Asda stores looking for some for the twins.  It only starts in size 4-5 years but I love it so much I plan to invest for the future!  I REALLY wish they made it in adult sizes too.  PLEASE do it Asda!!!

Kids Christmas Lights Sweater - £8 - now sold out online :(

As for other kiddy ones, Asda has plenty on offer and here are a few of my favourites:

I thought these ones would be fab for the twins:

There are some much more tasteful, subtle ones too:

Alternatively you could go for the full on Christmas family jumper set.  Think of the Christmas Card photo you could get - cheese fest!

And there's this awesome sequin one with "nice" one way and "naughty" when the sequins are swiped up!

Naughty or Nice Christmas Sweater - Asda £8

And I just had to include this cute little hoodie with the polar bear peeking out of the pocket:

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas Jumper round up 2016 - by Bex

I have found SO many Christmas jumpers I like this year.  Some of them are already sold out so I thought I better get a post up quick to let you know about my favourites!  Plus, it's December now so time for some blog festivities!

Some are on the cheesier side but when we're talking Christmas jumpers, that's often the point!  I have, however, found a few more tasteful versions as well and I for one am having trouble deciding which to invest in!  I have ordered a couple to see them in the flesh before I make my final decision!

Clockwise from top left: Bauble tunic - Asda £18Bauble jumper - Asda £14Bauble jumper - M&S - £45Bauble jumper - M&S - £29.50

I also like these embellished ones with glitter and sequins and found loads with an animal theme (I saw the bunnies on a weather presenter on ITV after I ordered it):

And there are a few Christmassy slogan versions I like too: 

Another embellished one I like is this big sparkly bow from M&S:

There are also some fab sequin ones which have alternative messages if you sweep the sequins up or down.  There's a kids' one which I featured yesterday and this cracker one which can be a cheery Merry Xmas or a dull Bah Humbug, depending how you're feeling!

Merry Xmas/Bah Humbug Sweater - Asda £12

And for even MORE embellishment, these ones light up!  I grabbed the reindeer one in Asda the other day, their noses light up red!

A lot of the above are unisex but here are a couple more subdued "manly" ones:

And for those not into the Christmas jumper spirit:

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