This Easter Andrew is at an age when he has just enough of an attention span to have a go at some simple crafts. Of course if it involves chocolate he’s very keen to help, and his attention span is somewhat increased when it comes to edible molten gooeyness – I wonder why?! But he’s also very into stickers and sticking, so I knew we could also have a go at making some cards that involve sticking.
Chocolate mini (or pinny) eggs
Andrew has been calling mini eggs ‘pinny eggs’ since he first had one a couple of weeks ago when we baked these cupcakes. I’m not quite sure why, given that he can say ‘m’ (as in mummy) and I’ve only ever called them mini eggs, but he’s obviously just got it into his head that they are pinny eggs. The ‘p’ sound is made with the same part of the mouth as the ‘m’ sound – the lips coming together and then opening again – but the ‘m’ also involves air being let out through the nose (it’s a nasal consonant). Anyway, that’s enough of a linguistic digression!
I was given some moulds for making chocolate mini eggs a few years ago. This year we made some white chocolate ones with Green and Black’s lovely vanilla white chocolate, and some dark chocolate ones with Asda Extra Special 75% cocoa dark chocolate with cocoa nibs which give a lovely crunchy texture (we made these as presents but had to sample them of course!) The moulds create half eggs when you pour molten chocolate into them, and then we sandwiched each pair of halves together using some milk chocolate. We left them to set in the fridge overnight between each stage and also before packing them up into presents.
We used cupcake cases to put a few of each type of egg in. Here they are all ready to give to Andrew’s grandparents (who have been told not to read this until tomorrow!)
Egg collage cards
These were really simple to make. First I cut an egg shape out of some yellow card – my tip for getting a nice even and symmetrical shape is to fold a rectangle of card in half lengthways and cut a semi-oval around the opposite side to the folded edge, then unfold it and you have an egg. I then stuck strips of double-sided tape all over the egg and removed the backing to the tape, which left a sticky surface all over the egg. We chose various scraps of paper, tissue paper, felt and mesh from my craft stash, in nice bright and spring-like colours, and I cut them into small squares and rectangles. Andrew then had fun sticking them all over the egg, with a bit of help from me. He found it ‘really funny’ (his words) that his finger tips kept sticking to the egg as he stuck bits on 🙂 When it was all covered, I stuck it onto the front of a pre-folded white A6 card with double-sided tape. It was a simple as that.
I wanted to bake something special for Tom this week. Partly because it’s Valentine’s day coming up, though we don’t usually go in much for this over-commercialised excuse for card shops and chocolate manufacturers to make a killing, and mainly because I wanted to show him that I appreciate all his help this week whilst I’ve been poorly and he’s done even more around the flat and looking after the boys than usual. When I asked him a while ago what kind of cake he likes the most when I bake, he said ‘anything chocolatey…. well, anything at all, but anything chocolatey in particular’! So chocolate was on my mind when deciding what to bake this week.
I hadn’t made brownies for a while, and I’d also bought some white chocolate recently (some of which I used on the Thomas the Tank Engine cake), so I came up with the idea of making some classic brownies with dark chocolate and some blondies with white chocolate. As I looked in the cupboard for flour, I realised that I still have some wheat-free self-raising flour that I bought a while ago when I baked some cupcakes for my mum-in-law who came to stay (she is wheat intolerant) and it really could do with being used, so that got added to the mix rather than the usual wheaty variety. I find the wheat-free stuff has quite a distinctive flavour but when you mix it with plenty of strong (particularly dark) chocolate, this is less noticeable. Another thing about wheat-free cakes is that they tend to be stodgier and less light and airy than their wheaty counterparts, but brownies are supposed to be stodgy, so they work well with wheat-free flour.
Cutting the brownies and blondies into hearts was slightly tricky and I didn’t get that many which came out in a clear heart shape because they were so soft and gooey – as they should be in my opinion – even after some chilling in the freezer. The blondies turned out even gooier than the brownies – maybe something to do with the consistency of white chocolate compared to dark chocolate, or maybe the different tins that I used to cook them in. I used some of the very gooey trimmings from the blondies to shape into hearts using the biscuit cutter as a mould. But we ate all the trimmings so none of it went to waste.
If you fancy having a go for Valentine’s day, or any other day, here’s the recipe…..
70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
100g dark chocolate
50g chopped nuts
70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
100g white chocolate
50g dried strawberries
Method – the same for both types
Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan), and prepare a cake tin – for the brownies I used I rectangular swiss roll tin lined with greaseproof paper and for the blondies I used a round silicone cake mould as I wanted to compare how both turned out.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Mix in the sugar and flour until well combined.
Stir in the chopped nuts / dried strawberries until evenly distributed.
Melt the margarine and chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, then add it to the rest of the mixture and stir until smooth.
Pour into a cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Ideally you want them still gooey, if you like them that way at least, so don’t overdo it in the oven – there’s a very fine line between being raw and overdone for brownies.
Allow to cool to room temperature in the tin, then use a heart-shaped biscuit cutter to cut some hearts; before removing them from the tin, place in the freezer for about half an hour to firm up the brownie/blondie a little so that the hearts are easier to get out in one piece.
Eat as fresh as possible, or leave in the freezer until you want to eat them at a later date (as if…!)