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.