Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Little Book of Treats - Part 2

As part of the review of 'The Little Book of Treats', available exclusively from M&S Cafés and sold to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, as part of The World's Biggest Coffee Morning,  I decided to try a couple of recipes straight away. I was a little constrained by what was already in the store cupboard, and by the fact that I'd already made a batch of our favourite low-fat brownies, for the weekend, so didn't want another chocolate bake.

My first choice was Fabulous Flapjacks, a recipe which contained a little less fat and sugar than I usually use. This used add-ins which I often use in my flapjacks - dried apricots, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds - but added orange zest and juice and some mixed spice.

The flavours worked really well together but I found the flapjacks a little too crisp for my taste, although this could be due to the 5 minutes extra baking I gave them before I got a golden colour on top. The mixture didn't really hold together well either - the downside of trying to reduce the fat and sugar, I think - so the flapjacks crumbled when eaten. I used a tangerine instead of the orange stipulated, so may have been a little short of enough orange juice, which might have contributed to the crumbliness.

This is one of my quibbles with this particular recipe - the imprecise nature of the measurements and instruction! "Add orange juice to taste" said the recipe - well how am I to know how much it needs, and whether it's a vital part of holding the ingredients together, or just a flavour addition? An instruction which makes sense to the recipe owner, who may have developed the recipe over several years of changes, may not mean much to anyone else trying the recipe, without the experience with it. I'd also much rather have weights of syrups, rather than tablespoons. It's also difficult to measure dried apricots in tablespoons! OK, they need chopping, but if I chop them first and then measure out 3 tablespoons, then I may chop too many and end up with waste. In the end I decide two apricots would fill a tablespoon, so chopped 7 of them (one for luck!).

The recipe - melt 125g butter in a pan, adding 60g unrefined demerara sugar (I used light muscovado) 1 tablepoon of golden syrup and 1 1/2 tablepoons of honey. Stir in 250g porridge oats, 3 tablespoons chopped dried apricots, 3 tablespoons dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon of mixed spice, 1 teaspoon salt (I left this out as I used salted butter) and the zest of an orange. Finally stir in the juice of the orange, to taste. Spoon the mixture into a shallow base-lined 20 x 18cm tin (I used a 20cm square tin, lined with baking parchment), press down firmly and bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until golden on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and cut into squares. (I marked the flapjack into squares while still warm, then cooled in the tin, as I usually do!)

The second recipe I chose was Butterscotch Apple Meringue, a dessert of apples cooked in a butterscotch sauce and topped with meringue before baking. This was pleasant enough to eat, but lacked any textural contrast. It would have been more than twice as good in a crisp pastry case! We ate it still slightly warm from the oven, but I thought it was better the next day, after a night in the fridge, when the apple flavour was more pronounced.

The recipe - Preheat the oven to 150C. Cook 450g (weight before peeling and chopping) of chopped cooking apples in a little water, until tender, then drain. Blend 40g cornflour with a little of the milk from 450mls. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil with 1 tablespoon golden syrup, 50g light muscovado sugar and 25g butter. Add to the cornflour mixture then return to the pan and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons single cream and two egg yolks, then remove from the heat before the mixture boils again. Fold in the cooked apples and pour into an oven proof serving dish (you need a pie or flan dish about 20cm in diameter). Whisk the 2 egg whites until stiff then whisk in most of 100g caster sugar (I whisked in about 2/3). Gently fold in the rest of the sugar, then spread the meringue over the apple mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the meringue is crisp and golden. Serve hot or cold.

NB - I received a free copy of The Little Book of Treats, from Macmillan Cancer Support,  but have tried to give an impartial review of the book, and the recipes I've tried.


Chele said...

Must get my hands on this book! That meringue sounds a real treat.

Kate said...

The flapjacks are my recipe, sorry about the vagueness! You're right that it probably makes more sense to me! They are quite crumbly, I'm not sure if this is due to the orange juice...? I like the taste of them tho, so can put up with the crumbliness I think! :)

Suelle said...

I liked the taste too, Kate! I guess it takes a certain amount of experience to write recipes for other people to use easily. Well done on having your recipe included!