Thursday, 15 October 2020

'Hodge Podge' Shortbread Squares......

 ...... or, clearing the store cupboard!

One of the reasons I keep returning to this recipe, besides how delicious it is, is that it is so quick to make, and doesn't require any fresh ingredients such as eggs or milk. The filling is very adaptable, as witnessed by the filling I used this time, in an attempt to use some of the remnants of my baking supplies, lingering in jars and packets. 

I followed the recipe here, including adding chopped toasted hazelnuts to the topping. This time the filling was:

the last of a jar of mincemeat - 200g
the scrapings from a jar of ginger curd* - 50g
currants - 50g
two balls of stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of syrup from the stem ginger jar

*the ginger curd was lemon curd with added fresh ginger, but it didn't taste strongly of either lemon or ginger, although it was tart. It was a disappointment, flavourwise, but I wasn't going to waste it if I could find a use for it.

Adding the other ingredients to the mincemeat toned down it's spiciness and sweetness, but I still didn't get as much of the ginger flavour as I'd hoped for. That didn't stop the shortbread squares being as good as usual though! The crumbly shortbread, subtly spiced filling and crunchy hazelnuts in the topping all blended together well. 

Friday, 2 October 2020

Garibaldi Biscuits, with a flavour twist

I don't often fiddle about with biscuits, although I have become a fan of tray-bake cookies, where the dough is baked in a tray and cut into bars after baking. However, this recipe,  for Garibaldi biscuits, from last year's GBBO winner, David Atherton, intrigued me because of the flavours used - barberries, hazelnuts and fennel seeds, in addition to the usual currants.

I followed the recipe exactly, but as I didn't need any extra milk for the dough, I brushed the biscuits with water before sprinkling on the final dusting of caster sugar. Saved me opening a carton of milk just to use a splash of it.

Overall the recipe, and the results, were disappointing. I found it really difficult to handle the dough once it had been rolled to a rectangle of the correct size - it was almost paper thin at that point. Once the filling ingredients had been added, it was impossible to roll out the rectangle to the correct size a second time, because the amount of the filling just wouldn't allow the dough to be rolled out far enough. I managed to get it large enough to cut out 12 biscuits, but they didn't look anywhere near as neat as in the photo accompanying the recipe, as I couldn't cut through the filling layer cleanly.

After baking, the biscuits proved a huge let down, apart from the flavour - I really loved the combination of the tart barberries, the crunchy hazelnuts and the aniseed warmth from the fennel seeds. However, the biscuit dough was brittle, and again, the amount of filling created a problem in that, in places, the layers separated because there was too much filling for the top and bottom layers of dough to make contact when rolled out. This was necessary to hold everything together.

After this disappointment I checked other recipes online. The ever reliable Delia Smith uses a very similar dough - a bit more sugar and more milk instead of egg - but less than half the filling. I think this would enable all the currants/filling ingredients to become properly embedded in the dough. 

David Atherton seems to specialise in 'healthy' recipes, judging by those published in The Guardian newspaper, so I can see why he reduced the sugar in the dough, added the egg and increased the amount of filling, but for me the change in proportions between the filling and the biscuit dough spoiled the recipe instead of enhancing it.

I won't be trying this recipe again, but now that I've tried barberries for the first time, I'll be using them again in my baking. I think they'd make a lovely addition to Christmas mincemeat.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Salted Caramel Brownies

 My children and I made good use of the unexpectedly good weather in the middle of the month, and had tea and cakes together in my garden. It was the day before the guidelines changed to the 'Rule of Six', after which we could have mingled our three households indoors, but we'd made the arrangement with the good weather in mind, so didn't change it. It makes Covid hygiene and cleaning simpler if no-one comes into the house too.


I made these salted caramel brownies, using a tin of caramelised condensed milk and a pinch or two of sea-salt crystals - some directly on the caramel layer, then just a little more sprinkled sparsely over the top. They weren't as successful as the original recipe, as the caramel didn't stay oozingly soft after baking, but they were still very good.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Ginger, Oat and White Chocolate Cookie Squares


I think I've found a new favourite recipe for cookie bars or squares. It's another recipe from Lynn Hill at Traditional Home Baking. Lynn has published several recipes using this basic cookie dough, but the only one for which I had the 'add-in' ingredients already available was this one for Ginger and White Chocolate.

The recipe was simple to follow and easy to make. The only worrying moment was when it looked as if the beaten sugar and butter mix wouldn't take all the dry ingredients, but a little perseverance soon put that right!

I was slightly annoyed that I didn't have a baking tray anywhere near the right size for this recipe - I had to use my deep adjustable cake tin to make one which was nearly correct, but the deep sides made it a little more difficult to spread the dough easily. 

The texture of these cookie squares was very short, but made a little more substantial by the addition of the oats. It was this combination of 'melt in the mouth' but chewy which I liked so much!

As both white chocolate and glacé ginger are very sweet, I found these bars a little too sweet, but I'm looking forward to trying a version with dried fruits and/or nuts. Lynn has a recipe using apricots and almonds but there are many other variations that I can think of.

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.

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

Method
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%).

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


Method
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!