Saturday, 1 August 2020

'Bounty Bar' Shortbread Squares

Yet another version of one of my favourite recipes! 

We've been trying to carry on our local Cake Club online, and although it's nice to see what other people have been baking, it's not the same as meeting up and tasting each others' offerings!

This time the theme (or perhaps that should be 'challenge') was to use a maximum of 5 ingredients. As no-one else would be sharing my bake, I wanted to make something that would either keep well, or that I could freeze in portions. As I have a designated 'cake drawer' in the freezer, and it was rather full at the time, I decided to make something that would keep well enough for me to eat over several days.

These layered shortbread squares were the obvious choice - I really like them, they are quick to make and the filling seems to be infinitely variable. I've made them with jam, purée made from reconstituted dried fruit, mincemeat, chocolate spread and caramel. The only thing I've yet to try is fresh fruit compote, which I fear may be too wet.

This time, I could only add 1 ingredient to the 4 which make up the shortbread - flour, semolina, sugar and butter. 

I decided to take a leaf out of my '4-Ingredient Cookbook', which is occasionally somewhat elastic when it comes to defining an ingredient. Marzipan, for example, is one ingredient, even though you need at least three ingredients to make it, and a cup of mixed fresh herbs only counts as 1 ingredient too!

I decided to use chopped Bounty Bars as the filling layer,  to give the flavour of both coconut and chocolate! The idea worked really well, although if I make them again, I'd add 100g more chocolate, or get hold of some dark chocolate Bounty Bars, to maximise the chocolate flavour.

170g SR flour
170g semolina
170g butter
85g caster sugar
200g Bounty Bars - 8 treat sized bars - finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/170C fan, and lie a 20cm square shallow baking tin with parchment.
Place the flour and semolina in a large bowl. Warm the butter and sugar together in a small pan, just until the butter has melted and sugar dissolved. Pour this onto the flour mix and stir well until evenly combined.
Put 2/3 of the shortbread dough into the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly.
Sprinkle the chopped Bounty Bars evenly over the dough.
Crumble the rest of the shortbread mixture evenly over the surface and pat down lightly - it won't give complete coverage but will spread while baking.
Bake for 25 minutes, until surface is golden brown. Leave to rest for only 3-5 minutes, then cut into squares or bars. Do not remove from the tin until completely cold, or the bars will crumble.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Spiced Chocolate Bundt Cake

I last made this cake, from Sainsbury's website at the end of 2014, as a pre-Christmas treat. This time I made it for a birthday tea for myself and my two children, held in the garden to comply with Covid-19 guidelines. Both my son and I have July birthdays, close together, so usually share a cake. The three of us enjoyed the cake, and the warm sunny afternoon - until the flying ants came out! 

As before, I didn't top with the ganache from the recipe, but with Mary Berry's fudgy chocolate frosting. You can see the details here - nothing has changed. The cake was a little crumblier than I remembered, but that might have been because not all of my eggs were large. The flavour was still very good.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Flapjacks with Blueberries and Cranberries

A friend gave me a box of 8 sachets of  'Super Goodness' Porridge, with ingredients designed to boost the immune system. As the freeze-dried fruit was only 10% of the porridge, I'm not sure how much effect it would have (3.5g of fruit in each serving), but I suppose if you ate porridge for breakfast every day you're not going to do any harm, and might gain some benefits! There were some added vitamins too, which never hurts!

However, I don't like porridge, but could see the potential for the mixture to be used for flapjacks. The oats in the porridge were wholegrain rolled oats, not instant oats, so I figured they would work as a direct substitute for plain oats. The only adjustment I made to my usual recipe was to reduce the added sugar to compensate for the sugar already in the porridge mix (16%).

160g butter
70g golden syrup
50g caster sugar
280g Quaker Oats 'Super Goodness' Porridge with Blueberries, Cranberries and Guava.

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan and line a 20cm square shallow cake tin with baking parchment.
Melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar together  - I do it in the microwave, but a saucepan on the hob is fine too. Don't boil the mixture, just heat enough for the butter to completely melt.
Stir in the porridge mixture and mix thoroughly. 
Transfer the mixture to the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes then mark into bars or squares, but allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.

Despite the fruit content of the porridge being only 10% (and 2% of that was guava powder), there was enough to give the flapjacks a strong fruit flavour. I think being freeze-dried makes the fruit lighter than ordinary dried fruit, so there's more volume of fruit in the 28g in the recipe - it certainly looked a lot!  These flapjacks were a little crisper than those made following my basic recipe, but they were still chewy enough!

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Date and Coffee Loaf

This post should really be called Date and Coffee Loaves, as the recipe makes 2 x 1lb loaves. One loaf was sliced and frozen for future use, the other eaten over the course of a few days.

The recipe comes from Lynn Hill, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club, who has recently renamed her website Traditional Home Baking. I've been a member of CCC and a follower of Lynn's work for several years, but this is the first time I've made one of her recipes.

The recipe was straightforward to follow, although the instructions regarding the dates are a little confusing. I didn't have Medjool dates so used Deglet Nour dates instead. These were already quite soft and didn't absorb all the coffee when the two were heated together. I added the dates and the residual liquid to the cake mix, but later found out from Lynn that all the liquid should have been absorbed, so I either should have simmered the dates for longer to evaporate excess liquid, or discarded the excess. 

As it didn't spoil the cake (although too much liquid might have done so) it wasn't a problem in this case, but the written instructions might have mentioned that there shouldn't have been any residual liquid after cooking the dates, rather than just say the liquid should be reduced (by how much?).

This cake was delicious; both the dates and the coffee could be tasted and the flavour combination was very good. The loaf was quite light too; I had expected something like a tea loaf in texture but this was more like a sponge cake.

Sunday, 7 June 2020


Regular readers will know that yeast and I don't get on together well, which makes it all the more surprising that I haven't come across this simple flatbread recipe before.

I guess it's popping up a lot online because strong bread flour and yeast are difficult to get hold of at the moment, although you're lucky if you can find any sort of flour in the supermarkets. Fortunately, I still have half a bag of SR flour, which is the type of flour needed for this recipe.

All you do is mix equal weights of SR flour and Greek-style yogurt (I always have full-fat yogurt in stock) and knead lightly; if the dough is too dry at this stage add more yogurt a teaspoon at a time, if it's too wet sprinkle over a little more flour and knead in.

Then divide into portions (I got 4 individual breads from 200g of flour and 200g yogurt), roll out as thin as you like, brush very lightly with oil (optional), then cook on a hot griddle pan (or in a heavy non-stick frying pan) until golden brown.

I added some flavourings, as I was serving the bread with a curry, and wanted it to taste like a Nan bread. The first time I made the bread, I added salt, pepper and a teaspoon of nigella seeds to 200g of flour. The second time, I added more nigella seeds (a teaspoon to 100g flour) and a 1/4 teaspoon of each of ground cumin and ground coriander, as well as the salt and pepper.

My first attempt tasted fine, but I didn't roll the breads thinly enough. The second attempt, rolling the dough out to around 0.5cm thickness, worked much better, both in terms of flavour and texture. I think it would be difficult to tell that you weren't eating a yeasted bread.

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made in small quantities, which means I can make just enough for 1 meal, and not be tempted to eat too much. The dough can be mixed and cooked as quickly as you'd cook rice or potatoes, so doesn't mean extra time in the kitchen either.

The top photo shows the four flatbreads made  in the first batch, which were too thick. They were cooked on a cast-iron ridged griddle for about 3 minutes each side. The bottom photo shows the two I made on my second attempt, when the 100g portions of dough were rolled out to twice the size as the first time. These were cooked on a smooth griddle and took less than two minutes on each side.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Malty Prune Flapjacks

In line with government recommendations, I'm trying to shop as infrequently as possible. Where I live, supermarket shopping is the least safe activity - I have plenty of open spaces and wide pavements when I go out for exercise, but I can't avoid needing food.

I'm fit and healthy, and don't yet fit any of the categories of people who should be taking extra precautions, so haven't tried to get any supermarket delivery slots, preferring to leave those for the more vulnerable members of the community. It's taken a while, but I've now figured out the quietest times to shop, so I take a list and shop as quickly as possible.

This is a big change for me, as I loved to browse the shelves, looking for bargains, new products or just what looked good that day. I used to go out almost every day and just buy a few bits and pieces, as I needed them. As I don't drive and have to carry my shopping a mile back home, what it also means is that, for the moment, I'm only buying the basic essentials, as fruit and vegetables and other necessary fresh foods are quite heavy when you're buying everything at once instead of spreading it out over several trips.

This is starting to impact on my baking (even though I'm not baking very frequently) - aside from what seems like a permanent lack of flour, there aren't always eggs or sugar available, and I'm running low on things like dried fruits and nuts. So wanting to bake means looking through the cupboard and seeing what's there before making decisions.

This time I found some 'out of date' prunes which still tasted OK and the scrapings from a jar of malt extract which could replace golden syrup if I made flapjacks. I'd been looking at malt loaf recipes but didn't have enough malt extract, so the idea of something malt-flavoured was still niggling away at me.

I followed my usual recipe, just substituting 50g of the golden syrup with malt extract, although I'd hoped to have enough malt extract to replace all the golden syrup.

First, melt together 160g butter, 50g malt extract, 20g golden syrup, and 100g caster sugar. This can be done in a saucepan, or in a large bowl in the microwave. Try not to let the mixture boil - it just needs to melt the butter completely. Then stir in 240g of porridge oats, 50g sultanas, 70g soft prunes (cut into pieces the same size as the sultanas) and 1 teaspoon of mixed spice. Mix thoroughly.

Tip this mixture into a 20cm square cake tin, lined with baking parchment. Level the mixture and press down firmly, then bake at 180C for 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then mark into squares or bars while still hot. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

I like flapjacks to be chewy, and these were gloriously chewy! More so than when I make the recipe with golden syrup. Additionally, the slight bitter edge to the malt extract cuts the sweetness a bit - you're not reducing the sugar you consume, but it tastes as if you are! The prunes worked well here too - they have a strong enough flavour to be tasted over the maltiness.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Dairy-free Gingerbread

The only time I get to make a large cake these days is if I can bake for someone else. At the end of last year I joined the Friends of my local Library, and had been baking for their monthly coffee mornings. That's all on hold for the moment, of course, with Libraries closed and no mass gatherings taking place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Because so little is known about this particular virus, or what are the most effective ways of staying safe, I've been sewing face-masks for me and my two children, in case they are eventually needed (even though I don't really think much of the efficiency of home made ones). I decided that when I delivered their masks to them, I could include some cake, to cheer them up a bit in their isolation.

It was hard to decide what to make, as the three of us have very different tastes, but eventually I decided on gingerbread.

I used this oil-based gingerbread recipe, rather than the best traditional recipe I have, because I didn't want to open a litre of milk just for the small amount that was needed for the cake. The oil-based recipe is very similar to the traditional recipe - it gets a nice sticky top after a few days - but isn't quite as rich as it has less fat and fewer eggs. Using oil, and water instead of milk, has the added advantage of making the cake dairy-free too.

The bottom photo shows the 20cm square cake divided for sharing. As you can see, the three of us vary in how much cake we can eat over a few days; the biggest portion was for my son and the smallest (missing) portion was for my daughter. I was left with the long narrow piece - it  made a delicious dessert when reheated and served with rhubarb roasted with ginger, and natural yogurt.