Flapjacks

I love flapjacks.  Slightly chewy, not too soft, not too crunchy, a blissful mixture of both.  And, I can kid myself they are healthy. Well, relatively so.  I mean oats, nuts, seeds….!

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On the face of it, a more easy recipe would be hard to find.  Melt the butter and syrup, add the oats and seeds / nuts / fruit and slap it in the oven. Yet somehow, this is a recipe I cannot master.  Mine barely hold together.  I follow the recipe exactly (yes, really I do!) I squash the mixture down hard in the baking tin, I cut the slices whilst still in the tin but leave it to cool completely before turning out. And still they crumble.  I have googled this many a time, I am using the correct oats, the correct balance of other ingredients. I just don’t know what I should do to make them slightly less crumbly.

But, as I said, I do love flapjacks and so I decided to give them another go.  I figured if it failed completely I would use them as a crumble topping for a fruit pudding.  Think laterally, and all that!

I added pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pecan nuts to the mixture. The result?  A partial success. Partial in that some of the mixture stuck together, but a lot of it crumbled.  The squares that seem to hold together fall apart too easily in the hand though. I will not be defeated! One day I will find a recipe that I can bake with success!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

 

Stuffed Focaccia

This is a recipe I always feel smug about.  It is so simple and easy, but the end result makes me feel as if a whole lot more skill and effort are required to achieve it.

It is, put simply, focaccia dough, filled with grilled vegetables, Parma ham and Taleggio and then baked. The filling however is very flexible, you can change the ingredients to taste.   I think Taleggio is the perfect cheese for this, but again, there are many cheeses which would also work with the ingredients. When I first saw this recipe, it called for a packet of  focaccia bread mix.  But honestly, there is no difference in effort required when making the bread from scratch or making it from a packet.  I choose to make it from scratch because I know exactly what is going in to it, and there will be no preservatives or additives.

The first task is to grill your chosen vegetables.  I have used courgettes, red onions and mixed peppers.

Aren’t the colours just beautiful?

I have also chosen to add mushrooms and tomatoes to the mix.  I bought a bottle of mixed mushrooms with herbs in oil.  This is because I have never mastered the art of cooking mushrooms so that they don’t end up oozing water. The tomatoes I have used are a pack of sun-dried tomatoes in herbs and oil.  I always find the flavour of these is a bit more concentrated, and therefore ideal for this kind of recipe.

Then start on the focaccia dough and leave it to do its first rise for around two hours.. Once it has doubled in size, knock it down and divide into two pieces, one piece just slightly larger than the other.  Roll out the smaller piece of dough and place on a baking tray.

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Yes, I know this looks a bit rough and ready, I ended up with a few holes I had to patch up!

Then spread a thin layer of sun-dried tomato paste over this, leaving a clear centimetre around all the edges. Now you can begin by layering your ingredients.  First a layer of Parma ham, and then the courgettes, peppers, Taleggio, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and a final layer of Parma ham.  Roll out the last piece of dough and carefully place it over the vegetables, pressing down the edges to meet the base layer of dough.  You want to seal the edges so that the filling does not leak during cooking. Bake at 200°C (180°C fan) for 30 to 40 minutes.

This is a dish that can be eaten hot or cold, but is at its best when just warm.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing I hope you  have a peaceful day 🙂

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fondant Icing

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My thoughts are turning back to baking.  Apart from the greed factor – I LOVE cake – there is something very comforting and satisfying about baking. It’s a combination of the idea, combining the ingredients, the delicious aroma as it bakes, and the wonderful end result. I was torn between tweaking my brownie recipe and baking cupcakes.  The latter won.

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Vanilla – or plain – cupcakes have their moments, and the recipe I found includes ground almonds in the ingredients, which just gives these lovely cakes their extra ooomf!  In fact, I prefer this version to any previous ones and it’s super-easy to make.

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I might have mentioned before that I am an icing girl, and there are not many times I prefer a cake un-iced.  With this particular recipe I like to use a fondant icing, as it compliments rather than detracts from, the cake itself.  I confess that I buy my fondant icing, it is just so much easier to open a packet and roll it out. With the help of a stencil and some edible lustre in blue, pink and gold (of course, gold!!) I have the finished result.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you all a peaceful weekend 🙂

 

Whisky Mac Cake

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I haven’t baked for a while because the horrors of real life intervened. But in a desperate attempt to restore some sort of normality to my life, I have been going over all my recipes.  It has been tempting to rely on an old favourite.  A many times tried and trusted recipe.  But curiosity overcame me when I saw a recipe for a sticky ginger loaf……and I thought “how can I tweak that recipe….”

A whisky mac is a lovely warming gingery drink and so I thought I’d see how it translated into cake form.  I suspect, like the boozy banana bread recipe, that it will be subtle, but hopefully give the cake just a little something extra.

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This recipe still needs tweaking (I can’t help myself, can I!). I want to swap the butter for oil, maybe add extra dates, and see how I go from there. In the meantime, it is a lovely gingery, slightly sticky cake. Mmmmm….breathe in deeply.

Just right for these “not quite yet summer” days.

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Chocolate peanut butter & caramel brownies

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I’ve had a craving for chocolate, and recently saw a new recipe for chocolate brownies which contained ground almonds.  Of course, delicious as plain brownies are, a little bit of extra “embellishment” is always good!

Brownies are comforting, dense, slightly stodgy, and very adaptable, and whilst my favourite is a chocolate brownie (I have yet to try cheesecake-type brownies, I’m sure I’ll love them too….) I thought a bit of peanut butter (Reese’s Peanut Butter Minis) and caramel (Cadburys Caramel Nibbles) would add a bit more indulgence.

I followed the recipe (unusual for me, I know!) and threw the extras in just before putting the mixture in the oven.  I didn’t have the correct sized baking tin, and so ensued a lot of pulling out, testing, putting back in, re-setting the timer…..you get the picture!

But in the end I achieved my desired, dense, chocolately, slightly sticky, indulgent chocolate peanut butter and caramel brownies.

And the house smells deliciously chocolatey in the process – breathe….. 🙂

 

Boozy Banana Bread (adults only)

I bet you’re all sick of me posting about this banana bread.  Go on, admit it!  This will be the final time I post about it (says she) as I think the recipe has been tweaked as far as I can go.  The cake is not strictly boozy but has alcohol in it.  The flavour is subtle, giving it that extra je ne sais quoi.  I have researched this recipe and each version I see of it is slightly different.  I wanted to make it with all the elements that suited me and so, with the help of some over-ripe bananas I have been experimenting, and finally here it is.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan).  Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment (I love the loaf pan liners from Lakeland Limited)

Mash 3 large or 4 small over-ripe bananas, mix in 50ml bourbon or whiskey. I have used Jack Daniels in this one, but have previously used Jim Beam Maple, and Jamesons, all of which work particularly well with the flavour of the cake.

In a separate bowl, mix 20g cake flour with 200g milk chocolate buttons – or chopped chunks of milk chocolate.  I like Galaxy chocolate for this.  I have tried the recipe using dark chocolate, but really think milk chocolate works better here.

With an electric whisk, whisk together 2 large eggs, 80g golden caster sugar, 100g light muscovado sugar and 120ml light olive oil (or sunflower oil). Whisk till well blended, about 3-5 minutes.

Add 220g cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 generous teaspoons of baking powder.  Mix together gently and then give it a good whisk again. Fold in the chocolate with remaining flour and gently mix.  Pour into loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes.

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It is done when a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave in the pan for five minutes and then remove from the pan and liner and leave on a rack to cool.

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Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, I hope you have a lovely peaceful weekend 🙂

 

 

The “C” Word (Part 4)

What do you do when you’ve had a long stressful week at work and only two hours sleep? You think it’s a good idea to unwrap and ice your Christmas cake! Yes, with barely a brain cell, and absolutely no artistic ability, it seemed like a very good idea.

Over the years I have tried various toppings / icing / decoration for my cake. Now I am an icing girl. Through and through.  Without icing there is usually very little point to anything.  I am a “would you like a piece of cake with your icing?” type of girl. Less is most definitely not more, when it comes to icing!

I do think a classic royal icing is the best, but we all remember the tooth-shattering hardness of this, and so the soft royal icing took over. I love this, you  need no talent, just put it on the cake, rough it up, and it looks like lovely peaks of snow. Royal icing however is made with egg, and I hate egg. Did I mention how much I hate egg? Bleurgh. And somehow I manage to smell the egg, when I have made the royal icing, with every mouthful of cake I detect that egg.  And guess what, fondant icing is made with egg too…..so this put me right off making my own fondant icing.

I don’t like to buy ready made icing, I need to feel I have actually made the effort, and succeeded. But, in this instance, reader, I caved. I gave in and bought ready made fondant icing.

And so, to the cake, which has been wrapped up tightly for weeks, just waiting for this day. A layer of apricot jam, and then a layer of marzipan:

and then topped with a layer of white fondant icing:

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This, you understand is just too plain. I must decorate it. Being completely devoid of talent doesn’t prevent me from having a wild imagination.  Past experience however has taught me to scale down my ambition, and I am determined, one day, to master a basic form of cake decoration so that it doesn’t look like a three-year old has done it. I have to admit, I am not doing very well on this front.  This year I set myself the task of making a fondant icing bow. I have watched countless YouTube videos of how to do this. I have even had a few trial runs (no photographic evidence!). Today it was now or never. I am not happy with my bow, it’s a bit rough around the edges, it’s just not quite right, but I have done worse.  I wanted to dust some edible lustre on the fondant ribbon, but it had a pinkish tinge to it, and didn’t look right. The blue one didn’t sparkle and shine, but somehow ended up making the ribbon look as if it was made from suede! Oh well. There’s always a next time! As for the snowflakes, no talent required, I have one of those marvellous stamp things that you punch into the fondant icing 🙂

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And so here is my Christmas cake, with fondant icing decoration. I just need to wait for it to dry a little bit before I cut myself a slice!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stay safe. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂