Good evening my fellow bakers! Autumn has more definitely arrived here in Edinburgh, although we’ve been lucky enough to have some glorious autumn sun the last few days – long may it last! At least autumn heralds the return of comfort food – and baking!
While I’ve pottered about the house the last two days, Mr. Bandit has been pedalling around the north of England. Before he went on his merry way, I made some flapjacks for all the boys taking part, to keep them going as they cycled along. These are utterly delicious sweet treats for any time, but have the added bonus of the slow-release energy of the oats, dried fruit and nuts, and are quite robust – a good thing in a cycling jacket pocket! This recipe has been modified from the BBC Goodfood website:
You will need: 140g unsalted butter, 120g soft brown sugar, 3tbsp of golden syrup (or honey if you prefer), 175g porridge oats, 75g pistachios (shelled and unsalted), 140g dried apricots chopped into little pieces, packet of white chocolate drops (from the baking section of the supermarket – you can use buttons or half a bar of white chocolate if that’s easier).
- Start by melting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan. Keep the heat low and make sure that the sugar is totally disolved. Don’t let it start bubbling or you’ll end up with a very sticky pan!
- While that’s going on, chop up the nuts and mix with all the other ingredients in a heatproof bowl. It looks lovely even like this!
- Once the mixture in the pan is completely melted, let is cool a little, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. It’ll be very stiff, but make sure it’s all mixed in properly.
- Then spoon into a lined 20x20cm tin, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Pop in the oven at 140/160 degrees for 35 minutes.
- When you take it out the oven it will be runny, so don’t try and take it out the tin. Leave it to cool completely, then remove from the tin and cut into pieces. I went for nine good-sized portions.
These are quite sweet, and would be just as nice without the white chocolate if you prefer something less tooth-decay inducing! If you leave out the chocolate, up the sugar a little bit to 140g.
I also made some bourbon biscuits (so much better than shop bought!) which would be equally good for an energy boosting snack on the move. Don’t they look scrummy?
My next baking experiment will be a biggy – its my grandma’s 80th birthday and I’m making the birthday cake! I feel I better do a test run, so I’m going to use it as an excuse to make a scaled-down version of the lemon wedding cake I want to use. Two birds…one stone… you get the idea! So cross your spoons and wish me luck!
The problem with baking is that it often leads to more baking. Yesterday I blogged about delicious triple nut cupcakes. As a result of these little morsels of loveliness, I ended up with a load of unused chocolate ganache. Not wanting to waste, and not wanting to resort to eating it with a spoon in the middle of the night (experience tells me this could happen), I decided to make some quick little treats that Mr. Bandit and his work colleagues could enjoy to cheer up the inevitability that is Monday.
I didn’t want to do too much work though, so I came up with these little, quick tarts. Who doesn’t like a tart after all?
INGREDIENTS: A quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry, leftover chocolate ganache, a banana, a can/jar of caramel. THAT’S IT!
I would buy sweet shortcrust pastry in the supermarket, rather than bother to make it, because the supermarket ones are really good these days and, frankly, who wants to make pastry on a Sunday? Sadly for me, I couldn’t find any, so was forced to make my own. So if you do want to make it yourself I use the following recipe:
- Put 100g of cubed butter (straight from the fridge – cold is important!) and 200g of sifted plain flour into a food processor and whizz until you get a breadcrumb consistency. It should only take a second.
- Whisk an egg, and pour half of it into the food processor and whizz again. This may be enough, but if the pastry doesn’t start to come together, add a bit more. Its not an exact science and depends on your eggs. The mixture will start to come together but will be quite dry.
- Use your hands to form it into a ball and cover in cling-film. Pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Once you’ve got your pastry, and its cold, you need to choose a tart tin. I don’t have proper tart tins, so I used a muffin tin. You want them to be deep enough to keep the filling in, so don’t go for something too shallow. In the end, I went for a muffin tin and an 8cm pastry cutter to make the tart bases.
- Roll out your pastry as thin as you can without it breaking, and use a pastry cutter to make big enough circles to give at least 1.5cm in height once you pop the pastry into the tin. Fill as many holes in the tin as you need and prick the bases of each tart.
- Cover each hole in pre-scrunched baking parchment (makes it pliable) and then fill with baking beans or rice.
- Pop in an oven set to 180c for 15 minutes, then remove the paper/beans and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. The tart cases should be crisp on the bottom with some colour. (if you wanted to make one big tart, blind bake for at least 20-25 minutes with the beans in before you remove them for 5-10).
That is the hardest bit!
- Get a teaspoon full of caramel, and plop it into each tart, spreading it all around the inside. The add a slice or two of banana. If you fancy, add a little more caramel over the bananas, but make sure you leave enough room to cover the lot with chocolate.
- Then just pour the chocolate mix over the top until the tarts are full! If you had the ganache in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 50 seconds to melt it down.
Just pop them in the fridge until the tops set. They’ll keep for a few days, but I suggest eating quickly to preserve the crispness of the pastry. Take out the fridge about 20 minutes before eating so they’re not too cold.
If you fancy some variations, maybe use a cherry mixture instead of the banana and caramel (cherries and chocolate mmmmm), or add some sea salt to the caramel and leave out the banana – that is delish!
So there you have it, a quick treat to enjoy on a Sunday. Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend.
Hello lovely blog readers and welcome back! Well, I should be welcoming myself back really after a little holiday related hiatus. Folowing a couple of crazy weeks of work, Mr Bandit and I spent a fabulous week on holiday in France. There was cheese, wine, sun, swimming and a LOT of eating. You see we went on holiday with my WHOLE family (well, a fair portion of them anyway), and everyone enjoys cooking, but mostly we all enjoy eating :). I wish I’d had the wherewithal to take pictures of the amazing French tarts (only bad innuendo I promise) and the scrumptious al fresco meals we enjoyed together as a family. But I didn’t, because I was too busy stuffing my face! I even found time to bake, although I forgot to take a picture of that too. I made a strawberry cheesecake pie. Perhaps I’ll make it again at some point or just post the recipe, it was a real crowd pleaser.
Anyway, as you’ll have realised by now, I have rather a sweet tooth, as does my mum, and one of our favorite things to eat when in France is sweetened chestnut puree. You can get it in the UK, but the really good stuff comes from France. It was on this holiday that we can across one of the best things ever, the credit for which needs to go to my gran. She found sweet chestnut puree in a TUBE! It was like a drug – a little sugary hit you could squeeze onto the end of your finger whenever you needed a hit. Amazing. Sadly I didn’t spot it anywhere, so had to settle for bringing home a big jar of the stuff (what a shame!).
So then the big question was, what to do with it? And the answer seemed to be – bake! Now I’d come across a few recipes that use chestnut puree, but none of them sounded quite right, so this was a bit experimental. I’m not normally a huge lover of cupcakes – they have too much icing and tend to be style over substance. However, I decided that as these were rather rich, making them in small portions would be best. I’ve used almonds and walnuts instead of flour, and so the triple nut (quadruple if you count the ‘nut’ in nutella) cupcake was born! In the end, the chestnut puree gives a lovely subtle flavour that could be strengthened by increasing the quantity of puree or adding chopped chestnuts instead of walnuts.
So here’s what to do….
- Heat the oven to 160 (fan) or 180 (conventional) and line a muffin tin with cases.
- Crack the six eggs into a mixing bowl and pour in the sugar. Using an electric whisk, beat until fluffy and pale. You want it really beaten – don’t skimp this stage because there are a lot of eggs and they will make the cakes light and lovely.
- In another bowl, poor out the chestnut puree. I had a runny one, but if its a thicker mix, use a fork to whisk it a bit until its smooth.
- Add half the egg mixture to the chestnut puree and mix carefully – don’t beat the air out of the eggs. It looks a little grim at this stage but have faith…
- Add the almonds, walnuts and baking powder to the chestnut mix and combine. Then add the rest of the egg mix and fold in. You’ll be left with a runny mess that looks like this:
- Use a ladle to fill the cases – its much easier! I found about half a ladle worked, but I guess it depends on the size of your ladle! Fill the cases about 2/3 full. I made 17 cupcakes, which was a bit of a random number.
- For an extra hit of naughty, I plopped half a teaspoon of nutella into the top of each cupcake. I was hoping it would sink, but it didn’t. If you want the nutella in the middle of the cupcake, I suggest using the spoon to push it down into the mix at this stage. Then you’ll have this:
Just pop them in the oven for 30 minutes and hey presto!
Last but not least was the icing. I decided that a chocolate buttercream would be too rich/sweet, but it would work fine if that’s your preference. I decided to go for a decadent, dark ganache.
- Put all the ingredients in a pan and let it all melt. Leave it on a low heat until everything is completely melted, but keep stirring or it’ll stick and burn. I decided at the last minute to add 3 tbsp of icing sugar, because I used very dark chocolate, but use a 60% cocoa solid chocolate and you won’t need to – unless you want to of course! Just make sure you sieve the sugar or you’ll get lumpy icing. PLEASE NOTE! This made a very generous amount of icing and I have leftovers in the fridge, so if you only like a thin layer, make half.
- Once everything is melted, pour it into a bowl and leave it to cool. You can pop it in the fridge for a bit to thicken up, but don’t leave it too long or you won’t be able to get it out the bowl – it’ll set hard!
- Once the cakes are cool and the icing thickening, spoon onto the cakes. You’ll have something like this:
These will need to be kept in the fridge, but take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them, because they’re better at room temperature. Any spares will keep in the fridge for a few days – if they last that long!
These were not only delicious, but have helped stem the post holiday blues a little. I suppose they aren’t French in the slightest, but they’re very yummy! Besides, I bet you’re glad I didn’t choose the pate we also brought back with us as my inspirational baking ingredient!