Thursday, 6 December 2018

Banana and Coconut Flapjacks

Just occasionally, I need a mid-morning snack before going out to do something energetic, such as a long walk or a session of lifting and carrying crates of food at the local Food Bank, where I do some volunteer work. In my normal daily routine, I'm quite happy to go without breakfast and have a early lunch at noon, but if I'm using extra energy I need food beforehand. I usually have a banana topped with a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt, a sprinkling of granola and a drizzle of date syrup.

As I don't eat bananas at any other time, I sometimes end up with one that needs using up, which is what happened here. It's difficult to find recipes using one banana - banana breads, cakes and muffins seem to need a minimum of two - so I decided to add it to a batch of flapjacks. I followed my usual recipe but reduced both the butter and sugar slightly to allow for the banana although I wouldn't claim it made the flapjacks any healthier!

125g unsalted butter
50g golden syrup
80g caster sugar
200g rolled oats
50g desiccated coconut
100g golden raisins
1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved - the mixture will feel smooth under the spoon with no grittiness from the sugar - and the mixture is just beginning to bubble.
Meanwhile, weigh the oats, coconut and raisins in to a large bowl.
Tip the hot butter mix over the oats and mix together thoroughly, then stir in the mashed banana.
Transfer the oat mixture to the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Cool for 10 minutes then mark into bars or squares while still warm. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.

These were delicious, with a good balance of flavours between the banana and coconut. My only criticism would be that although 25 minutes is the right time to bake my usual flapjack recipe, these were underbaked and a little too soft. Another 5 minutes, to compensate for the additional moisture from the banana, would have made them a little firmer but still chewy. If you like crisper flapjacks you might need 35-40 minutes baking time, but watch they don't get too brown.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Cookie Bars

I've been really busy lately, helping my son clean and redecorate his new flat before he moved in. I made these cookie bars in a quiet moment - probably waiting for paint to dry before I could do anything else. I found this recipe, which originally came from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog, a while back, and it's really useful for cookies in a hurry.

Because I didn't want to add to my store cupboard of cooking ingredients, I bought a 120g pack of ready-mixed 'add-in' morsels marketed by Whitworth's. It was a mix of 35%  cranberries infused with cherry juice, 25% dark chocolate, 20% cherry infused apple and 20% raisins, called Dark Choc Cherry mix 'n' bake. I added 30g chopped roasted hazelnuts to add a bit more flavour and crunch. I used these in place of the chocolate and the orange zest in the recipe.

Although it was quick and easy to use a pre-packed mix of chocolate and fruit, infusing cranberries and apple pieces with cherry juice didn't give the same intense flavour that using dried cherries would have done, and there wasn't really enough chocolate in the cookie bars to satisfy a chocoholic! Not a bad idea for a speedy bake, though, particularly if you don't want to accumulate lots of opened bags of dried fruit and nuts.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Chocolate Peanut Buddy Bars

It's over eight years since I last wrote about these Chocolate Peanut Buddy Bars, but I can't believe that I haven't made them in the intervening period. It's possible, of course - daughter has a peanut allergy, so I wouldn't have baked them while she was living here, and I cut down on the amount of baking I've been doing when my son first moved out in 2012.

Either way, they popped into my mind again when trying to decide what to make for the weekend. I wanted something that would get me through the start of the week too, when I don't have time to bake. These seemed ideal as the 30 x 20cm traybake cuts into around 24 pieces. I use a baking tin that is slightly smaller than specified in the American recipe (8 x 12" instead of 9 x 13") as that's the size of tray I have; I think standard sizes are slightly different in the USA. I added another 5 minutes to the baking time to compensate for a deeper mixture.

The only other change I make to the recipe is to use plain chocolate - about 70% - as it does cut through the sweetness of the cookie bars and gives a stronger chocolate flavour. In this blog post I've 'translated' the cup volumes to metric weights, with 150g of chocolate going into the bars, and 200g being used for the topping.

Unfortunately, I must have covered the bars before they were completely cold - when I went back the next morning to photograph them, the top was covered with little pock marks, which I can only assume was condensation dripping from the aluminium foil covering the tray overnight. It didn't affect the flavour, but did spoil the photos a bit.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Almond and Orange Cake, with Chocolate Chips

At the moment, I'm baking more frequently; my son is staying with me for a few weeks, as he had to sell his flat before he could complete on his new purchase, so that he didn't lose his buyer. He could eat cake several times a day, and not have to worry about putting on weight.

This recipe is based on the proportions of a Madeira Cake - more flour than butter and sugar - which makes a sturdier but more satisfying cake, which keeps well. I added ground almonds for moistness, and a little almond extract to make sure there was a good almond flavour. Classic flavours which work well together!

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
a few drops of almond extract
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
200g SR flour
50g ground almonds
a little milk, if necessary
100g dark chocolate chips or 70% cocoa solids chocolate, roughly chopped*
a sprinkling of flaked almonds for topping, optional

* I prefer to chop a bar of chocolate as I like the mix of large and small pieces of chocolate, plus the tiny speckles which splinter off, in this type of cake

Preheat the oven to 170C, and prepare a 20cm(8") round deep cake tin. I use non-stick springform tins with a parchment base liner.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of the weighed amount of flour. Beat in on a slower speed, if you are using a hand-held mixer.
Fold in the flour, almonds, almond extract and orange zest, adding a little milk, if needed, to give a soft dropping consistency. Finally, fold in the chocolate.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the top, and sprinkle over the flaked almonds, if using.
Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean and dry.
Cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to complete the cooling.

This cake would be easy to remove from the base of the cake tin, as it's quite sturdy. I just leave it on the base for convenience - it makes it easy to move in and out of the storage container.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Brownies with Caramel Flavoured Biscuit 'Nibbles'

I admit it - I only bought McVitie's 'Caramel Flavoured' Digestive Nibbles to make this batch of brownies more interesting for my blog post. I was scanning the biscuit and confectionery shelves in the supermarket, thinking that adding Oreos or Maltesers was no longer original enough, when I noticed Nibbles - little chocolate covered balls of biscuit a little smaller than Maltesers. This Caramel flavoured version also had a layer of caramel cream between the biscuit and the chocolate coating.

After tasting a few (for quality control purposes only, of course!), I just added the rest of the pack of biscuit pieces (around 110g) to my favourite brownie recipe:

For a 20cm (8") square tin: Melt 140g of butter and 140g of dark chocolate together in a large bowl, over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool if necessary, so that you can add the eggs without cooking them. Add 300g light muscovado sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Next, add three eggs, one at a time, and beat in to give a smooth batter. Sift 160g plain flour and 3 tablespoons of cocoa into the bowl, and fold in, followed by the biscuit pieces. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking tin, level the surface, and bake at 180C for around 30 minutes. Cool in the tin, then cut into fingers or squares, whatever size you like.

What surprised, and pleased, me was that the two layers of coating around each little ball of biscuit kept their integrity during baking, so that you could both see and taste that the caramel flavour was part of the biscuit pieces, and not in the brownie mixture.  When I realised each 'Nibble' had the caramel flavour in a coating, I had expected it to melt away during baking, and just give a mild caramel flavour to the whole traybake.

I was also happy that the biscuits kept their crunch for the three days that the brownies lasted; I expect this was also down to the coatings not melting away, thus protecting the biscuit pieces from the moister cake surrounding them. The caramel flavour was quite mild, but noticeable, and when combined with the crunch of biscuit, certainly elevated this batch of brownies from basic to interesting.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Chocolate Spice Gingerbread

This is a really light gingerbread cake, flavoured with Green and Black's Maya Gold Chocolate, which contains spices, orange and vanilla. More spices and chopped prunes are added, along with more dark chocolate to increase the depth of the chocolate flavour.

Even though other spices are added, the unique taste of Maya Gold is still the predominant flavour. I have tried this recipe with orange zest and extra spice, instead of Maya Gold, and although it's still very good, it's not the same!

I made two of these delicious cakes, one to keep and one to donate to a Macmillan Coffee Morning event. Fortuitously the recipe used half a pack of prunes, half a bar of Maya Gold chocolate, and just a tad over half a pot of buttermilk (I just added a tablespoon of natural yogurt to the second cake to give the right volume) so it was good to make the second cake instead of having leftovers to worry about, particularly as Maya Gold chocolate isn't one of my favourite 'eating' chocolates.

Personally, I prefer a heavier, denser gingerbread (the sort which grows a sticky top over time), but as an amalgamation between gingerbread and chocolate cake, this particular recipe is hard to beat.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Wholemeal Pear and Ginger Cake

My local Cake Club (set up following the demise of The Clandestine Cake Club, which now only has a Facebook presence) set the theme of Autumn for the most recent meeting. I was torn between this recipe or a courgette cake, but went with this Pear and Ginger Cake because it has been a more reliable recipe over the years.

This is one of those cakes where the basic recipe can be altered by using different fresh fruit, dried fruit and jam - the original cake, a Nigel Slater recipe (scroll down the page), used apples, sultanas and orange marmalade, and I've also successfully made it with apples, dried cranberries and cranberry jelly and in this version, pears, golden raisins and ginger preserves. There were slight adjustments to the other flavours too - I used lemon zest instead of orange and added extra spice (half a teaspoon of mixed spice and two teaspoons of ground ginger in addition to the cinnamon).

I  don't usually decorate this sort of cake, but because this was for a special occasion, I used poached pear slices and slices of stem ginger on top of the cake, plus a dusting of icing sugar, just to relieve the brownness. I was disappointed that, even with poaching in acidulated water, the pears discoloured so badly!

Despite using wholemeal flour, and adding fresh fruit, this is a very light cake, with a soft texture. The ginger preserves and added spices give a gentle warmth which doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavour of the pear. The photo of the cut cake isn't pretty, but it does show the good texture!