Ginger and coconut flapjacks

Ginger and coconut flapjacksI made these ginger and coconut flapjacks on a bit of a whim, when I knew I wanted to bake *something*, but couldn’t be bothered with anything complex. With ginger and coconut being two of my favourite flavours, I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe!

Flapjacks are incredibly easy to make, and these were no exception. I used this recipe from the Domestic Gothess, and followed it pretty much exactly. I didn’t have any stem ginger, so I swapped it for roughly 35-40g of chopped crystallised ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
The only slight problem came in the baking (I really need to get a new oven!). They took AGES to bake, and I think the recipe calls for a bit too much butter, because I could actually see it bubbling away in the tray – not something I’ve experienced with other flapjack recipes!

The mixture did harden upon cooling (thankfully), but there was a lot of liquid butter still in the bottom of the tray, and it kept oozing out of the flapjacks as they cooled – it was a bit like resting meat to prevent the juices from spoiling the plate!

Nevertheless, the flapjacks were delicious. They were very gingery and the coconut was in the background a bit – I think next time I would drastically reduce the amount of butter and add a little coconut cream to let the coconut compete a bit more with the ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
They went down well at work, at least, which is always a good sign!

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Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon bunsI don’t make anything bun-like very often. I think I’m sometimes put off by the amount of time required to make some really decent buns. However, I gave cinnamon buns a go the other week, and was pleasantly surprised by how straightforward they were (well, sort of – read on…), and how delicious they turned out to be!

I used Felicity Cloake’s recipe for the perfect cinnamon buns, as published in the Guardian. I was amazed at how much cardamom it calls for – I know cardamom is quite common in Scandinavian baking, but I’ve only ever used a tiny amount of it because it has such a big, aromatic flavour. I had to re-read the ’25 pods’ bit until I was certain that’s what she actually meant!

Cinnamon buns
I did resist the urge to use fewer pods and went the whole hog. She doesn’t specify the type of pod to use, but I assumed she meant green cardamom as opposed to the black-podded variety.

Cinnamon buns
The other slight stumbling block was the consistency of the dough. I wish I’d read the comments on the recipe before I started, because a few people said they’d found the dough very wet and difficult to work with. Et voila – I didn’t so much tip the dough on to the work surface as pour it on!

Cinnamon buns
I used the long edge of a large spatula to sort of gather it up on the work surface and gave it my best attempt at a knead where possible. It didn’t seem to come together than much, but it was a little better after the first rise (but still very wet!). Spreading the filling on the wet dough and rolling it up was, er, interesting!

The other thing to note is that the recipe doesn’t mention what to do with the beaten egg and demerara sugar – I brushed the egg onto the tops of the buns and sprinkled the sugar over them before sticking them in the oven.

Cinnamon buns
The final product was rather delicious, and very, very large (yay!). The wet dough made for a really fluffy texture, and the cardamom flavour was very, very strong – to the point where it overpowered the cinnamon, but in a nice way, because I love cardamom! The filling was a bit on the salty side for my taste, so I would omit/reduce the salt called for in the filling next time.

Cinnamon buns
I would recommend this recipe for anyone wanting to give cinnamon buns a go, but definitely bear in mind my comments above before you do…!

Review: afternoon tea at the Sculpture Hall Café, Manchester

It’s been a while since I’ve written a review! Happily, I’m back on it with two thumbs up for the wonderful Sculpture Hall Café in Manchester, where I went for afternoon tea as part of a day-long hen do in the city last weekend.

I knew I definitely wanted to do afternoon tea for my hen party, but I wasn’t sure where would be best to go. After a bit of Googling, I discovered the existence of a café within Manchester Town Hall, and knew it was the place to go after perusing its rather tempting Manchester-themed afternoon tea menu.

I do like a good ol’ traditional afternoon tea, but I’m just as keen on trying new twists on the sandwiches-scones-Victoria sponge composition of a standard afternoon tea. The Manchester theme was right up my street as it featured one of my favourite local creations – the Manchester tart, albeit in the form of a cake! I was in coconut heaven just thinking about it.

Firstly, the café itself. The Sculpture Hall Café occupies a neat little space on the ground floor of the town hall, just off a rather impressive corridor with some amazing architectural details. The café’s name comes from the number of busts and statues of famous local people placed around the space. The decor is lovely – all dark brown leather sofas and tastefully decorated walls, topped off with great views of Albert Square from the large windows.

We could choose from a standard afternoon tea or a champagne afternoon tea. This being my hen do, most of us went for the latter option! I was pleasantly surprised when we were served with small bottles of champagne rather than having a tiny amount of fizz poured out for us – I think someone worked out that each bottle was equivalent to a glass and a half of champagne.

Sculpture Hall Cafe afternoon tea
The food was beautifully presented on tiered stands. The order of the food on the tiers was a little different to what I’m used to – the savouries were on top, with the cakes in the middle and the scones on the bottom.

The savouries were excellent. I had a vegetarian version of the afternoon tea, so my options were cream cheese and cucumber on rye (not pictured because I only remembered to take photos after I’d scoffed it!), a mini carrot and cheese sandwich and a mini Lancashire cheese and leek tart topped with a little chutney. All of it was delicious, but the tart was probably my favourite (especially as there was a lovely cheese crisp embedded in it).

Sculpture Hall Cafe afternoon tea

Carrot and cheese sandwich + Lancashire cheese and leek tart

There was also some sort of choux filled with mushrooms, but as I’m not a fan of mushrooms, I left that to one side. The savouries were served alongside hummous, piccalilli and ham hock for the meat eaters, which could be spread on slivers of bread.

Then it was on to the scones, which were filled with a variety of dried fruit (I think cranberry featured quite heavily) and not as mini as the menu makes them sound! They were scrumptious, as were the mini Eccles cakes, which contained a heavily spiced filling dominated by ginger. Just beautiful!

Next, it was time for the middle tier, which featured the aforementioned Manchester sponge cake . The coconut sponge was one of the best I’ve ever had – buttery yet light at the same time, and complemented nicely by the rich buttercream and dab of jam in the middle.

Sculpture Hall Cafe afternoon tea

Top: Vimto delice and Manchester cake. Bottom: fruit scones and Eccles cakes.

However, it’s not often that something beats coconut in my culinary affections, but the Vimto delice ended up being my favourite. Imagine a thin layer of sponge covered with a dome of Vimto-flavoured mousse and covered with a quite frankly amazing, tart, jelly-like Vimto glaze… oof! It really was something special and the perfect end to the meal along with a nice cup of tea (and the last of the champagne).

Before I wrap up, I just want to stress how good value our afternoon tea was – it’s an incredible £12.50 per person for the standard afternoon tea and £19.95 with champagne. I’m used to seeing prices in the region of £15-20 without champagne and £25+ with champagne, so it was truly refreshing to see such low prices for brilliant quality food.

All in all, the Sculpture Hall Café was a wonderful discovery for us and provided one of the best afternoon tea experiences I’ve ever had (it’s probably only rivalled by Northcote). Excellent food, amazingly low prices, lovely staff and magnificent surroundings – perfect! I’ll definitely visit again.

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam fillingI seem to be gravitating towards lemon-based recipes a lot at the moment – it must be the onset of spring that’s making me crave some lovely lemony flavours. I made these lemon yogurt muffins with a strawberry jam filling on the spur of the moment, when I was feeling a bit stressed/sad and just needed the joy of baking to pull me out of it.

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
They were really easy to make – I found a basic for the muffins online and just added the jam. I’ve made some adjustments to my recipe (at the end of this post), as I think the original recipe didn’t call for quite enough sugar, and the baking time could have been reduced – you can see from these pictures that my muffins are a bit browner than usual!

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
Aside from that, these muffins really are deliciously tangy and nicely soft thanks to the yogurt. Definitely go for the full-fat stuff here – low-fat yoghurt just won’t cut it, I’m afraid! The jam adds some much-needed sweetness considering the low sugar content of the original recipe – the muffins could still do with a bit more sugar though! (Apologies to your dentist).

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling recipe

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 240g full-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 100ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • grated zest of 2-3 lemons
  • 60g strawberry jam (or another jam of your choice)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Beat together the eggs, sugar, yogurt and oil in a large bowl.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, then add the lemon and stir until just combined (do not overmix).
  4. Spoon half of the mixture into the muffin cases.
  5. Place a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each dollop of muffin mix in the cases.
  6. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the jam, making sure it’s well covered to prevent leaks.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.
  8. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.