Saturday, 14 April 2012

Oatmeal Bread

What's the worst part of going on holidays for a week?  Apart from the suitcase full of dirty laundry, no food in the house and a car full of grumpy people moaning something suspiciously like "I don't want to go home", it's gotta be the knowledge that the lazy days of ice-cream, chocolate, red wine and take-aways have come to an end.  Someone once told me that none of these foods contain calories when consumed on holidays and I've used this advice as my mantra ever since - although my jeans probably dispute the theory!

Once home, time to cheer everyone up (there's only so much of the grumbling you can take before it wears you down).  I decided on something semi-healthy as a way to break us into the normality of being home.  This Oatmeal Bread is more a loaf cake than an actual bread.  The recipe takes a leaf out of Nigella's book by substituting applesauce for some of the sugar and butter.  I wouldn't dare call it super healthy but its a step in the right direction.  Don't feel the need to add the sugary, nutty topping, the cake is sweet enough and doesn't necessarily need it but it's an delicious bonus. 

This cake is moist and full of flavour.  Maybe I'll have a slice or two for breakfast in the morning - it's gotta be as good as a bowl of porridge.  Yeah I know, I'm totally in denial and intend to stay that way for another few days until I ease myself gently back into the swing of things.  Now, which of you ate my King Size Snickers?

Oatmeal Bread, adapted from Dorie Greenspan, "Baking From My Home to Yours"


For the topping
50g light brown sugar
30g chopped pecans
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the bread
2 large eggs
300g apple sauce *
80ml vegetable oil
60ml buttermilk
150g wholewheat flour
150g sugar
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
75g dried apricots or any dried fruits of your choice
100g rolled oats

* I just stew some chopped eating apples in a little water until soft, blitz them in the processor then put into ice cube trays and freeze until needed.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F) and grease a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin.
First make the topping by combining all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs, apple sauce, vegetable oil and buttermilk together in a bowl or jug.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and spices together.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.  Fold in the apricots and oats until just mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the topping.  Press down slightly with your fingers so that it sticks to the bread.
Bake for 55-65 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Energy Bites

I'm totally in awe of the people who excel at something other than their day job.  Everyone knows the guy who is effortlessly good at playing guitar in his spare time or the shy reserved girl who can produce an amazing singing voice out of nowhere.  Unless you'd count making jigsaws with 2 year olds, changing babies nappies or pushing kids on swings, it's safe to say I'm just an Average Joe.

I run quite a bit but I'd never call myself "a runner".  I'm more of a slow plodder, someone who will keep going but will never ever win anything.  I try to get do 10km 4 times a week (children and husband permitting!).  Although sometimes if I listen hard enough I can hear my body saying something like "You big fool.  You get one hour to yourself, would it not be better to spend the little spare time you have sitting in front of the TV and not be hauling your sorry ass out into the streets in lycra?".  It has a point and sometimes I'm tempted to listen to it but I usually but nothing beats the feeling of finishing another run - I'm ready to take on the day.

If I go for a run in the morning, I'm always starving for the rest of the day.  These little bites are great for bridging the gap between breakfast and lunch.  They're a perfect energy boost for anybody in training for a marathon or charity run or even when you fancy something sweet before dinner.  They taste quite chocolatey even though there is only 1 tablespoon of cocoa in them and the dates and honey make them quite sweet.

Energy Bites, adapted from BBC Good Food magazine, April 2012.

100g toasted pecans
75g chopped dates
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp wheatgerm
1 tsp brown linseed (poppy seeds, sesame seeds or any other small seeds would work here)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp honey
50g desiccated coconut

Blitz the pecans in a food processor until they are fine crumbs.
Add all of the other ingredients (except the desiccated coconut) and pulse until it is all combined.
Shape the mixture into golf ball sized balls and roll in the coconut until fully coated.
Place the balls in the fridge for 20 mins. to firm up.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Oaty Banana and Butterscotch Muffins

I wanted to make a healthy breakfast muffin so I settled on a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe for Banana and Walnut Muffins but when I couldn't locate agave syrup and was all out of maple syrup, the original recipe went a little bit pear shaped.  I substituted my own ingredients, a little bit smug that I was still as healthy as good old Gwyneth, therefore there was a slim chance that I'd soon look like her.  As I chewed on the last of my King Size Mars bar, I realised I'm never going to be a tall leggy blonde so I chucked a fistful of these butterscotch pieces into the batter.  Little did I know that this recipe was fast turning into a Nigella Lawson recipe (a quick google just a few minutes ago confirmed it). Starting out with a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe and ending up with a Nigella recipe is the baking equivalent of trying on a pair of Manola Blaniks but leaving the shoe shop with the comfiest pair of trainers ever.

If you want these to remain super healthy, just replace the butterscotch pieces with some walnuts or a combination of walnuts and raisins. Otherwise, ditch the Gwyneth regime (who are you fooling!) and bake these today.

Banana and Butterscotch Muffins, HUGELY adapted from Banana and Walnut Muffins from Gwyneth Paltrow "Notes from My Kitchen Table"

125ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
250g/9oz spelt (or wholegrain) flour
50g/2oz soft brown sugar
25g/1oz dark brown sugar
75g/3oz oatmeal *
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed
100g/4oz butterscotch pieces

*To make oatmeal, just blitz the equivalent quantity of rolled oats (not the quick cook oats) in the food processor until very fine.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).  Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper liners.
Lightly whisk the vegetable oil and the eggs in a jug.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, oatmeal, bicarb and baking powder together.  Add the vegetable oil and egg mixture and the mashed banana and mix together.
Stir in the butterscotch pieces.  Spoon the batter into the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 mins. until golden brown.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Semolina and Almond Cake

We were in Edinburgh for the weekend, without any of the 3 little ones.  A whole 2 days and 2 nights without being referred to as Mammy and Daddy.  No baby wipes, nappies, bread sticks, teddies or scooters stuffed into my handbag.  No walking around with sick on my shoulder as I look for somewhere to change a dirty nappy.  I even had time this weekend to paint my nails green - oh, the sheer luxury of it.  The best part of the weekend?  Two unbroken nights sleep and being able to sit in a cafe reading the Sunday papers - totally minor things to most people but pure bliss to me.

Our reason for going to Edinburgh was tinged with sadness.  We were at a fundraising night for a very sick little 3 year old.  He has a rare and aggressive form of cancer with a shockingly low survival rate.  How his Mum and Dad can face each day so positively is beyond me but they are taking one day at a time and sometimes even one hour at a time.  Regardless of the level of care and love of the medical staff, no little 3 year old should have to spend their days in hospital, being pumped with drugs.  No little 3 year old should have to remain in isolation because of infection and not see his 2 year old brother for weeks and months on end.  We all hope and pray that a cure can be found for little Alex - fast. 

You never know what's around the corner.  As a great philosopher once said, "Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it".  I came home on Sunday afternoon and hugged my little demons so hard that I may have hurt them.  We have a lot to be thankful for. 

You can have a look at this link for more info. on brave little Alex.
I had this recipe bookmarked for quite a while so I made it as a treat when I came home.  It's a Nigella cake that I've changed quite a bit, although I've kept to the core ingredients.  Semolina is used in place of flour which gives it a lovely crunchy texture that you'd expect from using polenta.  The original recipe calls for cardamom in the cake but instead I've used ground cinnamon and almond extract.  Also, a cold lemon syrup is poured over the hot cake and although Nigellas original recipe uses orange blossom water and rosewater, I left them out.  The result was an extremely most lemony and almond cake, with a subtle hint of cinnamon.  Delicious.

Semolina and Almond Cake, adapted from Nigella Lawsons "Sticky Semolina Cake" recipe.


For the syrup
250g granulated sugar
150ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
For the cake
300g semolina
150g granulated sugar
125g butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 heaped tablespoons natural yogurt
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
25 whole blanched almonds

Make the syrup first.  Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and place on a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the lemon juice and turn up the heat and boil for 5 minutes.  Take off the heat and allow to cool.  Then place in the fridge  to chill.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and butter a 23cm square baking tin.
Place all the cake ingredients (except the whole almonds) into the food processor and blitz until it forms a batter.  Pour into the prepared tin and level the top.
Dot the cake evenly with the almonds in 5 rows of 5.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden.
Pour the cold syrup over the hot  cake and allow to cool in the tin.
Cut into 25 squares, with a whole almond on each slice.
This cake will keep for at least 5 days wrapped in parchment paper and kept in an airtight container.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Mango Bread

I was sick in bed last weekend with a combination of flu and smallbabywontsleepitis. Leaving my husband to do the housework scared me a little since I know that the ceiling would have to fall on the kitchen table before he'd feel the need to put a wet cloth anywhere near it. So I sent him random texts from my sick bed "Put the bin out, x", "Don't forget to sterilise bottles, x", avoiding the obvious one of "Please feed the kids periodically throughout the day, x". I signed off every text with a little "x" to take the sting out of the command.

While I was in bed, I was going through the contents of the fridge in my head so that I could send him a text to tell him what to make for dinner. I knew I had a mango that was coming a little close to being chucked in the bin unless it was used to make something. For some reason I thought Mango Bread would be nice so I put a reminder in my phone to google a recipe the following day.

This is the recipe I came up with and I added lime zest and some ground ginger.  The result is a really moist loaf cake. It's quite sweet and when I'm making it again, I think I'll soak the raisins in some rum for even more flavour and add a little dessicated coconut for more texture.

Mango Bread, adapted from this Kitchen Runway recipe.

3 medium eggs
180ml (3/4 cup) flavourless oil (I used Canola)
375g  (2 1/2 cups) plain (AP) flour
225g (1 cup) granulated sugar
60g (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large mango, peeled and diced
150g (3/4 cup) raisins
zest of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Grease and line a 2 lb (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, bicarb and spices together in a bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and oil together.  Add the flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon.
Add the mango, raisins and zest and mix until just combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Happy St. Patricks Day

It's time to fly the flag.  We have a great little country at the edge of the world.  We're the masters of freckles, pale pasty skin, red hair, soda bread, potatoes, Irish stew and all the bland food you can shake a shamrock at.  But we're so much more than the stereotype.  Times are hard for everyone just now, global recession, mass unemployment bla bla bla.  It's time for us Irish to stand up and be proud of who we are, what we have and all the brands we have exported far and wide.  It's time to fly the flag.

1. So many internationally recognised people and brands that are truly Irish; Riverdance, Padraic Harrington, Jedward (cinge!), Westlife, Mary Robinson, Father Ted, Terry Wogan and Graham Norton.

2. We'll always be the natural home of Guinness, it never tastes as good anywhere else in the world.

3. The phenomenon that is U2 will always call Ireland their home.

4. We offer somebody a cup of tea before they're even properly in the door.  "Yes, I'd love one" is the only answer we're prepared to accept.

5. We don't see anything wrong with having 3 types of potatoes with dinner - mashed, roasts and chips, what's not to love about it?

6. We spawned a type of pub that's replicated worldwide.

7. We're known for our oxymorons.  Seachtain na Gaelige (Irish week) is in full swing just now and it's a 2 week event - huh?

8. We can boast the fastest and possibly the most dangerous, sport in the world (hurling).

9. We can ask a policeman "Any craic?" without fear of being arrested.

10. We're a big enough lobby group, as Nike found out earlier this week when they released their "Black and Tan" trainers.

Irish Flag Cupcakes

As ever, I was rushing but I managed to make a quick batch of cupcakes this morning from this recipe.  I just divided the batter into 3 and added green colouring to one batch and orange to the second and left the third batch without any colouring.  When they were cooked and cooled, I cut them horizontally into 3 and filled them with the mascarpone cream (without the coffee) to make the Green White and Gold of the Irish flag.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ginger and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think I've just started a new love affair with crystalllised ginger.  I've only recently discovered it and I go to bed every night thinking of recipes to use it in.  Fair enough, Crystallised Ginger Brown Bread or Crystallised Ginger Curd may not make the grade (yeah, some things are best kept in my head!), but just now I'm lovin' the chocolate & ginger and the chocolate & lemon combination.

Crystallised ginger is one of those Marmite type ingredients, you either love it or hate it, there's no in-between.  But if ginger is your thing, you've gotta try these cookies.  Ina Garten even goes so far as to say they're the ultimate ginger cookies. I'd definitely agree.  These. Cookies. Are. Amazing.  They're extremely gingery, they're chewy, they're sweet and they most definitely scratch my crystallised ginger itch.

Ginger and White Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
Makes 16 cookies
270g (2 1/4 cups) plain (AP) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
170g (1 cup) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
80ml (1/3 cup) black treacle
1 large egg, at room temperature
130g (1 cup) chopped crystallized ginger

150g (1 cup) white chocolate chips
Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat until well incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and chocolate chips and mix until combined.
Scoop the dough with 2 tablespoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Ginger and Lemon Scones

Best comfort food ever?  It's got to be a cup of tea and a scone.  Not very rock n'roll I'll admit, but I long ago became that person who doesn't care  if I'm "with it" or even know any more what constitutes being "with it".

There's just something so homely about sitting down to a scone with real butter.  It's familiar, it's easy, it's tasty and you don't feel the same guilt about eating a scone as you would a piece of chocolate cake.  Maybe it's just me and my crazy calorie guilt!

Scones are such a basic treat to make. If you were to take a week long baking course, scone baking would probably be covered in the first 10 minutes.  They're so easy to make, you can have warm scones on the table within 25 minutes.  Having said that, it's really difficult to get the perfect scone recipe. If you add an egg and you get a cake-like scone - not good. If you leave out the egg, you need to be careful that you don't overmix, otherwise you'll end up with a scone that's as hard as a football - not a particularly good outcome either.

This recipe is perfect, the scones are crumbly and soft and oh so tasty.  I'm not a fan of Jamie Oliver.  It's not that I don't like him, it's just that the word "over-exposed" comes to mind whenever I see him on the TV.  Having said that, this recipe is without doubt the best scone recipe I've ever tried and I've made scones with this recipe hundreds of times without fail. 
I mess around with the flavours all the time but since the ginger and lemon works so well in these scones, I decided to post this recipe.

Ginger and Lemon Scones, adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Makes 8 medium scones or 6 large scones.

225g (8oz) plain (AP) flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
50g (2oz) butter, very cold
25g (1oz) granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp crystallised ginger
200ml milk with a little extra to brush over the scones

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).  Line a baking tray with parchment paper (or you can just sprinkle it with a little flour).
Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger.  Using your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour.  Add the sugar, zest and crystallised ginger, mix them in quickly with your fingertips.  Add enough milk to mix into a soft dough.  Once the dough has started to come together, stop mixing.
Flour a surface and then gently roll scone dough out until it is about 1/2 inch thick.  Don't knead the dough, the less handling it gets the better. 
Cut into rounds and place these rounds on the baking sheet.
Brush over with a little milk.  Bake for about 15 / 20 minutes until golden.   
Allow to cool slightly on the baking tray before letting them cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Quinoa Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins

Why do I do it? I buy ingredients with absolutely no recipe in mind so they stay in the back of my cupboard for months. Anyone for evaporated milk, Dulce de Leche, sugar paste - anyone ............... anyone at all?  It was the same with a packet of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah or ke-NO-ah, but I guess you knew that already!). I didn't buy the quinoa for any particular recipe, and to be honest I didn't even know if it was a baking or a cooking ingredient (like I said before, I don't get out much!).   I just figured it would be a nice addition to my already jam packed baking cupboard.

I read in a New York Times article that quinoa could be used in baking, perfect for using my quinoa - I'd have to wait another while to get rid of my packets of red and blue of sugar paste!   Quinoa is a seed that can be used in place of rice in your diet.   It has a very high protein and iron content and is high in magnesium, phosphorous, copper and manganese.   It seems to be fast becoming the new super food and from a quick trawl of the internet, it's journey into the baking world has been relatively recent.

Quinoa seeds have oil in them so they can be substituted for part of the butter in a recipe, while the germ part of the seed replaces some or all of the flour.  For my first time baking with quinoa I wanted to bake something simple so that if it turned out horribly wrong, at least I wouldn't be wasting ingredients and time making it all. So I picked Chocolate and Peanut Butter Muffins. The cooked quinoa replaced all the flour and the butter content is very low (only a total of 60g, including the peanut butter).

Overall, I was really happy with these muffins.  I could probably have cooked the quinoa for a little longer as the overall texture of the muffin was a little bit too crunchy - I'll know next time.  Also, they didn't rise as well as flour based muffins.  But they were perfectly cooked inside and tasted exactly as you would expect Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins to taste.

If you can get your hands on these Peanut Butter Chips, then grab them all.  They really change an ordinary peanut butter muffin, biscuit, brownie etc into something amazing.  I got these in Fallon & Byrne in Dublin but you can also get them on-line

Quinoa Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins (extremely) loosely based on a Mary Berry recipe for American Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 10 muffins

30g butter, softened
30g crunchy peanut butter
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs
200g of cooked quinoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
150g plain chocolate, roughly chopped
50g peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Grease and line 10 muffin holes or line with paper cases.
Beat the butter and peanut butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Using a wooden spoon, mix in the quinoa and vanilla, then add the cocoa powder and baking powder together.  Ensure that it is well incoroprated into the mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.
The mixture will be much thiner than a normal muffin mixture but persevere and it'll turn out fine!
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.
These still tasted great 3 days after they were baked.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Spicy Apple Rye Cake

Things are a little bit hectic in our house just now and there's not a lot of time for baking.  Let's not stop at baking, there's not a lot of time for putting on make-up, waxing legs, adult conversations - I could go on but no-one likes a moaner.  They say things get easier when the kids get a bit older - I'm not sure if  my personal hygiene (or my tolerance of Peppa Pig) can wait that long!

I decided to lock myself into the kitchen on Sunday morning while everyone ran feral around the house.  They'd have to find the breakfast cereal by their sense of smell.   I've had a packet of rye flour in the cupboard for far too long with a best before date fast approaching. I knew I wouldn't have the time, patience or inclination to make a loaf of bread with it so when I saw this recipe I figured it would do nicely - it's the "one pot wonder" of the baking world which was perfect before the wolves started banging down the door demanding food and clothes.
A little bit of tweaking here and substitution there and you've got yourself a Spicy Apple Rye Cake. The syrup is brushed onto the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven and it gives it a lovely moistness and a nice shiny glaze.

Spicy Apple Rye Cake adapted from this Waitrose recipe

For the cake
200ml sunflower oil
zest of 1 lemon
100g dark brown sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs
125g rye flour
75g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 apples (I used Pink Lady) peeled and cored. Chop 2 apples into chunks and the remaining apple into half moons

For the syrup
100ml apple juice
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a 23cm springform tin with parchment paper. Gently whisk the oil, zest and sugars together. Add the eggs, one by one and whisk until fully combined. Fold in the flours and spices until well combined then add the apple chunks until well distributed.
Pour batter into prepared tin and place the half mooned apples into the batter and press down slightly. Bake for 50-60 mins, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
20 minutes before the cake is cooked, start making the syrup. Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the apples and the cake with the syrup.
Allow to cool in the tin.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Oaty Coconut Nutella Secrets

I've always been a little smug that very little TV is watched by little people in our house.  Sometimes I'd give my right arm to sit them in front of Peppa Pig or Fireman Sam for an hour while I sit down and have a triple espresso and a can of Red Bull to kick start fading energy levels.  But in a vain attempt to be a martyr, instead I'll get them to help me bake a batch of biscuits.  What could be better for them than helping me mix all the ingredients, roll the dough into little balls, lick the bowl, then eat a biscuit as soon as they're cool from the oven - right?  I deserve a pat on the back or even a medal - hopefully the National Parents Council, or the like, will see this post!! 

It recently got me thinking that maybe I shouldn't be so smug.  Maybe sitting down to watch a little bit of TV might be better for their health (and weight) than tucking into a batch of sugary, buttery biscuits that we've just made. I think I should revisit my TV rule - I'm not giving my medal back though. In the meantime we'll just have to eat our way through these little beauties.

They are oaty, nutty biscuits that are crunchy on the outside and just a little bit chewy in the middle.  They have a dollop of Nutella on top and a spoonful of Nutella in the middle that's hidden away until you bite into them. I ran out of Nutella halfway through the process so had to use G&B's Chocolate Hazlenut Spread - delicious.  I made them first using a shortbread biscuit dough but I think they work better with the texture of the coconut and oats.

Makes about 15 cookies

140g (5oz) plain (AP) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g (4oz) rolled oats
50g (2oz) dessicated coconut
125g (4.5oz) butter, softened
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g (2 oz) hazlenut, roughly chopped (plus additional for decoration)
15 tsp hazelnut chocolate spread (plus additional for decoration)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Measure out the flour, baking powder, oats and coconut and set aside.  Beat the sugar and butter together until creamy, then slowly beat in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the flour, baking powder, coconut and oats, then fold in the hazelnuts.  Put the bowl in the fridge for about 15 mins to harden slightly.
After 15 mins, take the bowl out of the fridge and roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on the parchment paper.  Use your thumb to mould out a hole in the cookie until you have what looks almost like an empty birds nest (don't make the hole all the way through the cookie).  Fill the hole with a teaspoon of hazlenut chocolate spread, then use a small piece of dough to put a lid on the cookie.  Ensure the filling is covered with the lid and use your fingers to attach the lid to the base of the cookie. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden at the edges.
Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, smear 1/2 teaspoon of hazlenut chocolate spread on the top of each cookie and top this with a little chopped hazlenuts.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Raspberry and White Chocolate Rugelach

I'm turning into my mother.  Actually, it's worse than originally feared.  I AM my mother.   It wasn't meant to be like this, I'm too young for this to happen to me.  How has this manifested itself? 

1. I bring a "picnic" when we go out for the day so we don't have to spend money unnecessarily - who needs fancy food when you can have homemade jam sandwiches?

2. I have absolutely no idea what is No. 1 in the pop charts.

3. When I come home from almost anywhere, I immediately take off my "good clothes" and get back into my jeans.

4. I say things like "When I was young" and "Ah, you'll have a cup of tea".

5. My kids think I look like a clown when I wear make up.

6. I don't know how, nor do I feel the urge to learn how, to download music from iTunes.

In an effort to appear less Mummsey (yes, it's a word!) and a bit more with it, I put on my Topshop jumpsuit, wedge heels, hoopla earrings and false nails (no I didn't) and decided to bake something that not only had I never baked before, but that I'd never even heard of before (yes I did). 

Rugelach is a pastry made with cream cheese then filled with a cinnamon sugar and a variety of other things which usually include jam, nuts and dried fruits.  There are a few stages to it but if you divide the stages between two days (Day 1-Make the dough, Day 2-Form the cookies and bake) it really isn't difficult.  And it's delicious - which is always a plus!

Rugelach, adapted from an Ina Garten recipe.


For the dough
100g (4oz) cream cheese
100g (4oz) butter, cold
150g (5oz) plain (AP) flour

For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g (2oz) pecans, roughly chopped
50g (2oz) raisins
100g (4oz) white chocolate chips

For the glaze
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1/4 ground cinnamon


For the dough
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until it all begins to come together.  Divide the mixture in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling
Gently heat the raspberry jam in a saucepan until it becomes runny.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in one bowl.
Combine the nuts, raisins and chocolate together in another bowl.

For the glaze
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
When you are ready to make the cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take both pieces of dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll each into a 12 inch disc.  With a pastry brush (or a spoon), divide the jam between each piece of dough and spread a thin gloss over the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the jam and lastly sprinkle the nuts, chocolate and raisin mixture over each disc.
Using a pizza wheel or a very sharp knife, divide each piece of dough evenly into 16 triangles.  Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that it becomes a little crescent.  Place each piece on the baking sheets.  There is no need to leave much space between them as they do not spread very much.
Place in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  With a pastry brush, coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 20 mins until golden.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Lemon Thyme and Almond Loaf

I'm always afraid that if I add herbs to sweet baking, I'll end up with a quiche instead of a cake.  Something about "face the fear and do it anyway" made me make this cake and I'm so glad I did.  It's a zesty lemon cake but with an extra zing, almost a lemony fizz, from the lemon thyme.  I wouldn't have known the flavour was from the thyme, I would have possibly said the zest of a lime was used or perhaps a different variety of lemons.  The ground almonds keep the cake moist and the glaze (which sits on top of the cake and only slightly penetrates through the cake) is sticky and gooey.  Overall?  If you like Lemon Cake, you'll love this.

The original recipe is from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days".  I've made a few changes to it but the main difference is that I've added almonds which go so well with the lemon.

Lemon Thyme and Almond Loaf, adapted from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days"
190g (7oz) butter, softened
Zest of 2 lemons
3 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves
190g (7oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
130g (7oz) plain (AP) flour
60g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp natural yogurt

For the soaking syrup
40g (1.5 oz) granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F).  Grease a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin.
Beat the butter, zest, thyme leaves and sugar until light and fluffy.  This is easiest with a free standing mixer but a hand held one works fine too.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
Sift the flour, ground almonds and baking powder into the creamed mixture in two batches and mix together on a low speed. 
Add the natural yogurt, then pour the batter into the tin and bake for 40-50 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean (it took my cake 60 mins before I was happy that it was ready).
While the cake is cooking, make the syrup.  Put all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, allowing it to reduce by half and become slightly sticky.  Pour over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Chocolate Digestive Biscuits

I never intended to post these biscuits.  They are  one of the plainest biscuits you can buy so why would you bother posting the recipe?  When you're in the supermarket and want to pick up an indulgent treat, you don't automatically think "I'd murder a packet of digestive biscuits".  Or when you're planning a dinner party, dessert is never a toss up between Chocolate Pudding and Digestive Biscuits.

But it was a wet Tuesday afternoon.  I was under pressure to keep some little people occupied, having gotten all we could possibly get out of painting, playdo, lego and hanging up wet clothes on a clothes horse (you can make an activity out of almost anything, just depends on how you pitch it to them!).  Anyway, I decided that a batch of semi healthy biscuits from a quick and simple recipe was needed.  I've made a few recipes from The Little Loaf website before and decided to go with this recipe that she posted some time ago.

Was so happy with these biscuits.  They taste exactly as you would expect Digestive Biscuits to taste but with a little bit more texture from the wholemeal flour.  I made this batch a little bit thicker than shop bought biscuits but they were still as crunchy as they should be.  They taste so good and are so simple to make that I thought it would be a shame not to let everyone know.  For something less indulgent than you're used to making, these are the biscuits to make.  Well done Little Loaf for coming up with this one.

Digestive Biscuits taken from The Little Loaf blog

100g oats
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g light soft brown sugar
Pinch salt
100g salted butter, softened & cubed
1-2 tbsp milk
50g milk chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the oats to a fine powder in a blender then mix in a large bowl with the wholemeal flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.
Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Add the milk and mix to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in fridge to firm up for about 15 minutes.
Remove your dough from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thickness. It will be very crumbly so you’ll need to be very careful when rolling. Cut out circles of about 6mm diameter – I used a water glass to stamp out the shapes. Decorate with a pattern of your choice then bake in the middle of your oven for about 15 minutes.
When lightly golden but not too brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.  Smooth over the biscuits when cool.
Store in an airtight container.  They will stay crunchy for up to a week.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Award

The Liebster Blog Award is to blogs what the Oscars is to film and the Grammys is to music.  And guess what, my blog has just won one.  Wooooooooo Ooooooooooooooh!  I have my dress sitting in the wardrobe, my acceptance speech written and I'm ready for the awards ceremony - promise I won't cry when I'm up on stage.  Ok, so maybe I'm blowing it totally out of proportion, but it's just that I'm chuffed that anyone would even bother ready my blog, not to mind giving it an award.

Thank you to The Baking Addict from The More than Occasional Baker for giving me the Liebster Award for my blog.  These awards give small bloggers with less than 200 followers some well deserved recognition.  The Baking Addict is one of my "go to" baking sites when I'm looking for a specific or some inspiration.
Here are the rules:
  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  • Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  • Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.
  • Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
It's very similar to "chain letter" that we used to have when we were in school.  Since it's bad luck to break the chain,  it's up to me to nominate 5 blogs that I follow and really like to dip into.  Here are my 5 award winners:
1. Adrienne at Cross My Apple Tart - Beautiful writing and amazingly elaborate goodies to drool over.
2. Amee at Warm & Snug & Fat - Her photos trick you into believing you love cauliflower.
3. Colette at Cakes Bakes and Other Bits - for when you're looking for wholesome food.
4. Mona at Wise Words. A refreshing American slant on her writing and her recipes.
5. Kate at What Kate Baked. Why does everything on her blog have to look so damn tempting?

Monday, 6 February 2012

London Calling

Armed with an oversized bum bag, my "I Heart London" sweatshirt, a rain poncho, camcorder and guide book, my sis and I headed for London for the weekend.  As someone who has been brainwashed by little people into thinking that going out to post a letter is actually getting out, I'd been looking forward to this trip for months.  Too sophisticated (or so we thought!) for tours of Buckingham Palace or Tower of London or photos outside Big Ben, we decided the trip would be mostly foodie related.  So off we go.

First stop was The Hummingbird Cafe in Notting Hill.  The praline cupcake and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie was absolutely delicious but I  was a little bit disappointed with the cafe.   I was expecting more of a selection of sweet things other than tray after tray of cupcakes.

Chocolate Praline cupcake in the Hummingbird Cafe

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie in the Hummingbird Cafe

Shopfront of the Hummingbird Cafe

After that, we spent the afternoon pottering round the market in Notting Hill.
Notting Hill market

Photo encapsulates the banter at Notting Hill market

After an hour or two walking through Kensington not being able to feel my hands or feet because of the baltic cold, we took refuge in a lovely store called Whole Foods Store.  It's basically a massive supermarket of nutritious, healthy foods, some of which are organic.  The best part?  Loads and loads of free food.  Felt it only right that we left after 2 hours just in case we started looking suspicious on CCTV!

Perfectly packed vegetables at Whole Foods Store

Next up was Borough Market, stall after stall of quality food, the nicest and best stocked market I've ever come across in the world.  Was it not for the Siberian weather that morning (despite looking like the Michelin Man with all my layers of clothes!), I'd have stayed there all day.

Onions and garlic at Borough market

Main ingredient for tomorrows burgers!

Bread stall at Borough market

Next stop was Primrose Cafe at Primrose Hill.  Two dry, tasteless cupcakes later and I will definitely not be going back.
Cupcakes at Primrose Cafe

My sister took the photo below as we left the restaurant on Saturday night.  To say it was pouring snow is an understatement. 

Covent Garden in the February snow