Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Chocolate Chip and Orange Cookie Bars

 Despite knowing that recipes existed for baking cookie dough in a tray, it seemed quite difficult to find a suitable recipe, even on blogs and websites well-known for cookie recipes. Perhaps I was using the wrong search words, as it wasn't until I looked at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial that the word 'slab' cropped up! Or perhaps I was just being fussy - I needed a recipe to suit my store-cupboard ingredients, as I didn't have an opportunity to shop.

I used half quantities of Celia's recipe, (also here for ingredients, and method for making individual cookies) and baked in a 20cm(8") square tin. I made a couple of minor changes - I used 180g plain chocolate, roughly chopped, and added the finely grated zest of an orange. A classic flavour combination that's hard to beat!

Cookie Bars don't have the aesthetic appeal of individually baked cookies, but, boy, are they quicker to make! These were particularly tender, with a 'melt-in-the mouth' texture, so I'm sure I'll be using the recipe again.

Ingredients
200g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
large pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 1 orange
110g light muscovado sugar
50g caster sugar
125g softened butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g 70% chocolate, roughly chopped

Method
Preheat the oven to 150C fan setting, and line a 20cm (8") square baking tin with parchment.
Whisk flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and orange zest together in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl cream the sugars and butter together, then add the vanilla extract, egg and a tablespoon of flour (to prevent curdling) and mix until just combined.
With the mixer on a low speed, add the rest of the flour mix, and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate pieces by hand.
Transfer the dough to the baking tin and spread evenly, using damp fingers, or the back of a large metal spoon.
Bake for 25 minutes, until firm and just beginning to colour. Cool in the tin, then cut into bars.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Red Gooseberry and Orange Crumble

I wouldn't normally add a post about what is essentially my usual crumble recipe, but I haven't baked anything for over two months now, so need to keep the blog alive! 'Not-baking' started with a need for both of us to lose a little weight before going away to France, so that the inevitable excesses of holiday eating didn't have too great an impact. Unfortunately, we then returned from holiday to face a family health crisis, which hasn't left me with any time to bake.

But, however little time you have, the garden continues to demand attention - this weekend it was the red gooseberries which needed harvesting. There was only 300g of fruit on  the bush, not quite the amount I usually use, so I added a chopped up orange segments to the gooseberries, and the zest of the orange to the crumble mix. It added an interesting dimension to the flavour.

Ingredients
80g plain flour
80g porridge oats
80g light muscovado sugar
80g butter, in small cubes
1 orange
300g prepared gooseberries
50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground rice (to thicken the fruit juices)

Method
Put the flour, oats, muscovado sugar and butter into a large bowl, and add the finely grated zest of the orange. Rub in the butter to make the crumble mix.
Cut the peel and pith from the orange, over the dish in which you are going to bake the crumble to save any juice. Cut the orange into small pieces, then mix with the gooseberries, caster sugar and ground rice, in the baking dish.
Scatter over the crumble mix and press down lightly.
Bake at 200C (180C fan), for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.

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!