Spiced honey tea loaf

Spiced honey tea loafAfter a few weeks of making lots of little things, I fancied baking something nice and large last weekend. After flicking through some recipe books, I settled on this rather lovely spiced honey tea loaf from Luis Troyano’s Bake It Great.

It’s incredibly easy to make – if you remember to soak the dried fruit in the tea and honey the night before! I ended up soaking it for around 6 hours during the day, and this seemed to be just about long enough, as I could taste the tea in the fruit when I had a warm slice just after removing the tea loaf from the oven.

Spiced honey tea loaf
The recipe calls for the fruit to be soaked in Lady Grey, but as my teabags were looking a bit old, I used loose leaf Earl Grey instead. For the fruit itself, I used raisins, chopped prunes and dried cranberries. Once most of the tea and honey has been soaked up, all you have to do is add some flour, an egg and mixed spice before tipping the lot into a loaf tin and baking. Once it’s out of the oven, glaze the top with some more honey.

Note that there’s no butter in this recipe, making it more like a loaf of bread than a loaf cake!

Spiced honey tea loaf
I was a bit concerned that my tea loaf didn’t seem to rise very much, but it was definitely cooked in the middle, so I was happy. I had my first slice with butter and it was LOVELY. Luis also suggests trying some with cheddar and chutney (like you might with a fruitcake), but it was good enough with butter for me!

Spiced honey tea loaf
Unfortunately, the recipe doesn’t seem to be online anywhere for me to link to, but it’s well worth buying Bake It Great anyway – there are so many fantastic recipes, and this one is actually in a chapter dedicated to honey! There’s also another section on Spanish baking with some intriguing-looking bakes. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider making the investment.

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Banana and Malteser spread muffins

Banana and Malteser spread muffinsAs usual, my first thought on realising that my one remaining banana was too far gone to eat was: “What can I bake this into?”. I decided to adapt my trusty recipe for banana and Nutella muffins by swapping out the Nutella for…. *drum roll* Maltesers Teasers spread. Et voila! Banana and Malteser spread muffins.

If you haven’t yet seen this wondrous creation in the shops, the Maltesers spread is basically a jar of chocolate spread with lots of little malty bits in it.

*gets a spoon*

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:30am PDT

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I KNOW.

Anyway, the muffins were very easy to make, as always. There were only two issues: 1) I should have made more than 8 muffins, because some of them had a really pronounced muffin top, even for actual muffins. 2) The Maltesers spread wasn’t particularly malty after the muffins had baked, which was a shame. But they were still nice.

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
I think that if I was to make these again, I wouldn’t combine the spread quite so well with the rest of the mix as I did the first time. Keeping the spread as big solid lumps of chocolatey, malty loveliness should make the muffins a bit more Malteser-y… hopefully!

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
Still, as you can see from the photo above, the muffins turned out lovely and moist, and they tasted very much of both banana and chocolate, which is always a good thing. Just be sure to follow my instructions below if you want to detect a bit more of the malt.

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
Banana and Malteser spread muffins recipe

Makes 8-12 (depends on how much mix you end up with!)

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tbsp Maltesers Teasers spread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g melted butter
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/180 C fan and line 8-12 holes of a muffin tin with paper cases or squares of baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  3. Beat together the egg, vanilla extract, butter and milk in a separate bowl or jug.
  4. Add the egg mixture and banana to the flour mixture and stir until only just combined (you should still see streaks of flour in the mix).
  5. Spoon half of the mix into the muffin tin, then divide the Malteser spread equally between each hole, dropping the spread into the middle of the mix.
  6. Spoon the rest of the mix over the spread in the muffin tin.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Mince pies

Mince piesI’ve been using Dan Lepard’s quick mincemeat and extra rich pastry recipes for my mince pies for the last few years. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve already made two batches to this recipe this year (what can I say? I’m keen!), but I decided to go with a straightforward sweet shortcrust pastry for my third batch earlier today, mainly due to running out of ground almonds!

Mince pies
For this, I adapted a Nigel Slater recipe I found online, while using the last of the mincemeat I made to Dan Lepard’s recipe (albeit with a few variations – see below). Nigel Slater’s recipe is largely fine except for two things: 1) there’s no sugar in it and 2) he doesn’t call for the pastry to be chilled before rolling out. I added some light muscovado sugar and chilled the pastry for 20 minutes just to make doubly sure all would be well… and it was!

Mince pies
As you can see above, I’ve also been making sure to properly fill my mince pies this year – not that I’m usually stingy with the mincemeat, but as I tend to make slightly thick pastry, it’s always nice to balance it out with a generous helping of the filling.

Mince pies
I have to say, the mince pies turned out very well indeed. The pastry is lovely – crisp, buttery and not too sickly (even with my addition of sugar!). The mincemeat I made this year was properly boozy, but also sharp and flavoursome, which is pretty much perfect in my eyes! I need to make some more, but I don’t think I’ll stray too far from my tried-and-tested formula.

Mince pies
Mince pies recipe

Makes approx. 15 pies

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 375g mincemeat (I use Dan Lepard’s recipe – this year I substituted the cherries for dried cranberries and used Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale, as well as 2 tbsp dark rum and 2 tbsp calvados for the spirits at the end. The recipe makes enough for around 3 batches of mince pies.)
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the sugar, making sure to break up any large lumps.
  3. Add the yolk and 1 tbsp of the milk to begin with. Mix and press together until the mixture resembles a rough dough. Add another tablespoon of milk if it looks dry.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until it comes together properly to create a smoother dough.
  5. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Grease a muffin tin. Cut some baking paper into strips that you can place in each hole of the tin to help you get your pies out more easily (see the third photo above).
  7. Unwrap the chilled pastry and roll out on a floured surface to around 3mm thick. It’s easiest to split the dough into two or three pieces and roll each bit out separately.
  8. Use two cutters to cut out two discs of pastry for each of pie – one large disc for the base of the pie and a smaller one for the lid. I use 68mm and 88mm cutters for this, but the sizes you use will depend on your muffin tin. It’s best to cut one big disc, then one small disc, then one big disc, and so on, to make sure you have enough pastry for the same number of base and lid discs.
  9. Gently place the larger discs in the holes of the muffin tin (ensuring that there’s a strip of baking paper underneath), pushing them down to the bottom and ensuring the sides are level. You should have baking paper sticking out on opposite sides of each pie.
  10. Fill each pastry-lined hole with mincemeat, trying to be as generous as possible without overfilling (keep the filling level with the edges of the pastry).
  11. Brush the edges of the pastry with cold water, then place the pastry lids on top, pressing around the edges to close any gaps.
  12. Use a skewer or the tip of a knife to cut a small hole in the middle of each pie.
  13. Bake the pies in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, until they start to brown on top.
  14. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then use the ends of the strips of baking paper to lift each pie out of the tin and onto a baking rack.
  15. When the pies are nearly cool, sift a little icing sugar over them and serve.