Sunday, 11 June 2017

Peanut Butter and Honeycomb Biscuits

I regularly visit some of the Australian food websites, such as Australian Good Food, and the Australian Women's Weekly website (Food to Love), and it was on Food to Love that I noticed this recipe for Peanut Butter and Honeycomb Biscuits. I assumed - perhaps incorrectly - that Violet Crumble Bars were the same as our Crunchie Bars, and made a batch of biscuits as soon as I'd acquired the Crunchie Bars.

It was a really simple dough to mix, and the biscuits were quick to cook. My biscuits were slightly larger than they should have been, as I only got 24 out of a batch of dough, rather than 30, but they were about the size I'd expect a biscuit to be, so I wasn't too worried about that. The longest wait, as usual, was for the drizzle of melted chocolate to set, so that the biscuits could be packed into an airtight container.

The biscuits were tasty and had an interesting texture, neither crisp nor chewy - more melt in the mouth crumbly. However, I was disappointed that the Crunchie pieces had melted to become little pockets of chewy sugar, rather than retaining the crisp honeycomb texture. I'd half expected this, but it does seem a waste to add the honeycomb when this happens during baking. The recipe would have been just as good - perhaps better - with small pieces of chocolate fudge or soft toffees used instead.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Apricot, Date and Ginger Flapjack

Flapjacks are often my 'go to' recipe, when I need something quick to mix and bake. In this case it was after an afternoon working in the garden, so that the flapjacks could bake while I was getting dinner ready. Once you have melted the butter and sugars together, it only takes a few more minutes to get the tray into the oven. The other good thing about flapjacks is they are ideal for using up the last remnants of bags of dried fruit, to stop them building up in the store cupboard.

Ingredients
60g dried apricots
40g dried dates
30g crystallised ginger
160g butter
70g golden syrup
100g light muscovado sugar
240g porridge oats

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, and line a 20cm (8") square shallow baking tin with a single piece of baking parchment, folding it into the corners, so that the sides of the tin are lined too.
Chop the dried fruit and ginger into pieces about the size of a sultana.
Melt the butter,  golden syrup and sugar together - I find it easiest to use a mixing bowl in the microwave, but a saucepan on the hob is fine too.
Add the oats, dried fruit and ginger and mix together thoroughly. Tip into the baking tin and spread evenly, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden. This baking time gives a chewy flapjack; if you like yours crisp, then add a few more minutes.
Cut into squares or fingers while still hot, but cool completely in the tin before removing.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Smoky Vegetable Slice


This is a dish based on the classic Australian recipe for Zucchini (Courgette) Slice, which I first saw on the blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I've used Celia's version several times, so usually follow her guidelines for quantities of ingredients and cooking instructions, although a bit more or less of any of the vegetables doesn't make much difference. The Zucchini Slice is very similar to a frittata, but the addition of SR flour and oil makes it sturdier and more filling. It's excellent when eaten as a main meal with salads, or as a picnic food.

I made this version in an attempt to use up some vegetables which were lingering uneaten in the fridge. A sudden rise in temperature, after a spell of wet, cold weather meant that we couldn't face hot meals for a few days. Instead of courgettes (or a mix of courgettes and carrots, as Celia uses), I used equal quantities of grated sweet potato and broccoli.

Ingredients
150g sweet potato, peeled then coarsely grated
150g broccoli
1 small onion
100g smoked cheddar, grated
100g smoked bacon pieces
5 eggs
125ml sunflower oil
130g SR flour
plenty of black pepper to season, plus a little salt if desired (both the cheese and bacon will be salty)

Method
Preheat oven to 190C, 175C fan, and line a 23cm (9") round baking tin, or a 20cm (8") square one, with baking paper.
Fry the bacon pieces gently until just cooked through.
Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain, rinse in cold water and allow to dry off. Slice the stems thinly and chop the florets into small pieces.
Finely chop the onion.
Put all the vegetables into a large bowl, add the cheese and bacon.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, then make a well in the centre and break in the eggs and add the oil.
Mix everything together until no dry flour is visible, adding pepper and salt (if using) as you do so.
Transfer the mixture to the baking tin, level the surface and bake for about 40 minutes until golden and firm.
Best served at room temperature. You'll get 4-8 portions, depending on what else you are serving.

This was a really tasty version of a vegetable slice. The cheese and bacon added a subtle smoky flavour which we both really liked, and the sweet potato and broccoli made a good combination of vegetables.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Coconut Chai Traybake

I'd had this recipe, from BBC Good Food, bookmarked to try for quite a while before I finally got round to baking the cake. It was only remembering to put full-fat coconut milk onto the shopping list which stopped me making it sooner, as all the other ingredients are usually in my storecupboard.

I followed the cake recipe exactly, and also added the icing drizzle, which I topped with chopped stem ginger and a little extra desiccated coconut, rather than coconut shreds and pistachios. I thought the recipe made too much icing - by the time I used most of it, there was hardly  any cake showing, which isn't really the point of a drizzled icing! Other than that everything seemed fine.

I really loved this particular combination of spices, which worked very well with the coconut, but the texture of the cake was a bit strange. Although the middle was light, there was a stodgy layer at the bottom which seemed uncooked (or maybe the batter had separated before it was fully cooked), and the top was very moist where the ginger syrup had soaked in. The stodgy bottom made the cake unpleasant to eat, despite the delicious flavours.

I think it's worth remembering this flavour combination, and trying to get it into a cake with a better texture, but I won't be making this recipe again.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rhubarb Vanilla Yogurt Cake

I happened upon this recipe, on the Riverford Organic Farmers website, by chance, while looking for new recipe for a rhubarb cake. I wanted one which didn't use a lot of fruit, as my crowns aren't doing well this year (I think it was the lack of a prolonged cold spell during last winter).

All I can say is that I'm thrilled to have found this recipe; it made a perfect cake! As an added bonus, it couldn't be simpler to make - dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another then combine the two and mix briefly. The rhubarb was even mixed with the dry ingredients, reducing the steps needed to mix the batter even more, as fruit is often folded in separately at the end. I think it's probably quite important to keep the rhubarb pieces small, so that they don't sink through the cake during baking, but the raw cake batter was thicker than normal, which also helps.

I did make one change to the recipe - I only had vanilla yogurt available, rather than plain, but as I wasn't adding an additional flavour, only a little more sugar, I decided to go ahead anyway. The resulting cake was light but moist, with a really tender crumb, and it wasn't too sweet either (even when using a sweetened yogurt), allowing the tart flavours of the rhubarb and orange zest to show through. It was fantastic while still warm, as a dessert, and almost as good when it was completely cold, eaten as a cake. This is definitely a cake to make again!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Zebra Cheesecake

I decided on cheesecake for an Easter dessert; more specifically, chocolate cheesecake, as I think the family would feel cheated if chocolate didn't make an appearance at Easter! A few weeks ago I saw a link to a recipe for a Zebra Cheesecake in an excerpt from Lorraine Pascale's latest book "Bake: 125 Showstopping Recipes, Made Simple" which looked ideal.

The recipe was simple to follow, and involved layering measured quantities of vanilla and chocolate cheesecake mixture onto a biscuit base. As the layers build, the cheesecake mixture gradually spreads to the edges of the baking tin, and this forms an attractive pattern in the baked cheesecake.

That's the theory! In practice it didn't work quite that way.

Firstly, the cheesecake mixture was very reluctant to spread, even with quite vigorous tin tapping. Although I did manage to get the mixture to the edges of the tin eventually, it was still domed in the centre when it went into the oven. Fortunately it levelled out before it set (with a little extra shaking).

Secondly, after 35 minutes baking - the time suggested in the recipe - the cheesecake still looked as raw and wobbly as when it went into the oven. It took well over an hour until I was satisfied that the cheesecake was cooked - set at the edges but still wobbly in the middle.

Thirdly, my cut cheesecake didn't look much like the photo accompanying the recipe. I followed the instructions, making each layer with about 2 tablespoons of mixture; this gave me, as far as I can make out from my photos, 14 or 15 alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate. I'm not sure why the layers in my cheesecake look so much thinner than those in the published photo, if that cheesecake was made following the same recipe exactly. Fewer layers - perhaps 8, using a quarter of each mixture in each layer - would give a more attractive result, I think.

After all that, this cheesecake wouldn't feature amongst the best I've ever made in terms of eating quality either! It tasted pleasant enough but it was very solid and quite dry in texture.

On the positive side - the pattern does look zebra-ish, and the cheesecake didn't crack during cooking or cooling. You can see from the photos that I made one slight departure from the recipe - I made the base using 200g plain chocolate digestive biscuits and only 80g butter. I've found that using half the quantity of butter to the weight of biscuits can make the base too solid and difficult to cut - I prefer the biscuit layer to be a little looser and crumblier.

I was disappointed that the cheesecake didn't look as attractive inside as the recipe suggested it would but even more disappointed that the baking time was so inaccurate and that the recipe didn't make a better cheesecake. This is the first recipe from Lorraine Pascale that I've tried, and it doesn't give me much confidence to try others!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Chocolate Marmalade Brownies

When I first made this recipe, for Chocolate Marmalade Brownies, almost seven years ago, I thought the recipe was a keeper. Making them again, only recently, I'm not quite sure what I saw in them in the first place. They were pleasant enough, but more like cake than a brownie, and the one word in their name that is meant to describe the added flavour is the thing I couldn't taste at all! The walnuts, cayenne and ginger (an extra addition, part of the chocolate used) were all much more prominent flavours than the marmalade.

The only changes I made to the recipe were to bake in a slightly smaller tin (20 x 30cm), which added five minutes to the baking time, and to use chopped dark chocolate containing crystallised ginger instead of plain chocolate chips.

Really, the only thing to recommend this recipe is that the brownie batter is made with cocoa rather than chocolate, which could be useful if you were short of chocolate. However, if you're the sort of person who regularly bakes brownies, I can't see you being the sort of person who runs short of chocolate - I get twitchy if there's ever less than 500g in the house!