Baking round-up: coffee and walnut cake + chocolate flapjacks + upside down blueberry cake + snake pie!

I can’t believe it’s been over 5 weeks since I last posted! Did you miss me?! I haven’t been away or anything – just lazy about updating the blog, and I also seem to keep losing time to playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild (it’s seriously, seriously great).

I have, however, been baking…

Coffee and walnut traybake


This is a Mary Berry recipe (of course) that is very similar to the coffee and walnut cake recipe used on Bake Off a while ago. The only difference is that this is a single layer traybake as opposed to a two-layer round cake.
The recipe calls for coffee essence, which I’d never heard of and couldn’t find in the supermarket, so I made up a small quantity of very very strong coffee instead, and stirred that in.

The coffee flavour ended up being somewhat subtle, but it didn’t seem to matter because the sponge was just beautiful – exceedingly light and fluffy and very more-ish. It didn’t last long, I can tell you!

Double chocolate flapjacks

I had a strangely specific urge for exceedingly chocolatey flapjacks a couple of weeks ago, so I dug around the internet until I found this recipe.

I tinkered with the recipe a little by pouring the melted chocolate on top of the flapjacks instead of dipping each one into it. I also (rather randomly) chopped up a couple of Penguin bars and threw them into the flapjack mix for extra crunch and chocolateyness.

The flapjacks ended up slightly overbaked, but they were still delicious! I can’t say I particularly noticed the Penguin bits in there, but I’m sure they didn’t hurt.

Upside down blueberry cake

Confession: I made this so long ago that I have no idea where I got the recipe from – sorry! However, it was pretty straightforward and very similar to pretty much any other upside down cake. The cake itself contained ground almonds, which added a nice summery flavour to the proceedings.
It was a delicious cake; I only wish I could remember the recipe so I can make it again…!

Moroccan snake pie

My husband and I (mainly my husband!) made this for a Moroccan-themed meal at his mum’s house recently. Also known as m’hanncha, snake pie is basically a lot of filo stuffed with a sugary, buttery, almondy mix that is then rolled up and coiled around to form a ‘snake’, before baking.
It was a little labour-intensive and there was a panic when the pie started leaking in the oven, but it turned out really well and was warmly received by all! The recipe is a Jamie Oliver one and can be found here.

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Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks + other bakes + an odd October

I can’t believe my last post was at the start of the month. A lot has happened since then! See below or skip straight to the bottom for my fig, pear and ginger flapjacks recipe.

Also, happy Diwali to everyone who celebrates!

Literary stuff

I had a great time going to three events at the Manchester Literature Festival. I’ve never been before, but there were quite a few interesting events on this year.

I went to events for The Good Immigrant (a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Britain); an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and edited by Tracy Chevalier; and an examination of writing about the Lancashire coastline, featuring Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney) and Jenn Ashworth (Fell). They were all really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about as someone who would like to write a book one day!

I also nabbed a free, signed copy of Jenni Murray’s A History Of Britain In 21 Women as part of a festival giveaway, which I’m rather chuffed about!

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Outside of the festival, I also went to see the wonderful Becky Chambers talk about her two books – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (READ IT NOW IT’S SO GOOD) and the newly released A Closed And Common Orbit (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out before I read it, but also READ IT NOW). She’s a really funny, intelligent woman, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk about video games, science and what it’s like to write a novel.

Goodbye, Bake Off

I did, of course, watch GBBO to the end, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end of the final (it’ll never be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue).

I was originally rooting for Benjamina to win (that pina colada roulade… oof!), but I’ve also loved Candice throughout, especially since That Pub, so I threw my support behind her when Benjamina left.

Credit: Radio Times

Credit: Radio Times

I’m thrilled that she won in the face of a stupid amount of abuse on social media over her looks, as well as the fact that *gasp* she obviously wanted to do well in the competition – rather than being all British about it and pretending that it didn’t matter if she won or not. OF COURSE it matters when you take months out of your life to practice making ever more complicated baked goods in an effort to please Paul and Mary. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t.

I’m rather gutted that there’s no GBBO at all next year, but I’m hoping that the BBC will film Candice and Jane’s baking road trip and screen that instead next summer!

As an aside, the final technical challenge was brilliant and exactly what a technical challenge should be (none of this ‘make something you’ve never heard of’ malarkey).

The horrible bit

The biggest low this month was being mugged on my way home from the Becky Chambers event earlier in the week. I wasn’t hurt, but was rather shaken up by having my bag snatched and being pushed over by two blokes bigger than me who could just jump out of and into a car and speed off.

It’s made me quite anxious about leaving the house and getting home from work, especially as the nights are drawing in, but I’m hoping that I’ll get over it soon. I can’t very well stay indoors for the rest of my life!

The thing I’m most angry about is that they took things that wouldn’t have had any value for them (although they did manage to squeeze £45 out of my bank card), but meant a lot to me. I also resent going through the long and expensive rigmarole of having the locks changed, replacing my phone and other things that were in my bag, notifying the relevant people, etc. All so some low-lifes can no doubt buy some cheap booze and fags before doing it again to another unsuspecting soul.

Baking!

I have also been baking this month, so don’t worry! Unfortunately, all of the photos were on my stolen phone, so I’ve only got some snaps from Instagram to share.

Mary Berry’s lemon and poppy seed traybake

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This was a really easy cake to make. I settled on this after my husband requested something lemony for my next bake.The sponge was wonderfully light and soft, with plenty of flavour. I deviated a little from Mary’s recipe and put the zest of two lemons instead of just one into the mix – it really made a difference to the flavour, I think.

The recipe is on Mary Berry’s website.

Banana, raisin and rum drizzle loaf cake

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This is pretty the same as the banana, rum and raisin loaf I’ve made before, except that I made a rum drizzle (50g icing sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp of dark rum) to pour over the top of the warm cake. This seemed to make the cake exceptionally boozy, which I’m sure Mary Berry would approve of!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks

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Last week I really wanted to bake something, but couldn’t be bothered going to buy particular ingredients, so I made do with what I had in – dried figs, a pear from my mother-in-law’s garden and my trusty store cupboard. I pretty much just jazzed up a basic flapjack recipe, with good results!

The flapjacks were wonderfully autumnal, if not a little soft due to the fruit – but still very nice if you don’t mind bits of flapjack falling everywhere! The recipe is below.

Makes 16 flapjacks

  • 1 pear, peeled and diced
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar (I used 40g golden caster sugar and 135g dark muscovado sugar)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup (I used 2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Toss the diced pear in a little lemon juice and sugar, and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and cloves, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, figs, drained pear pieces and stem ginger.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. It may still be soft in the middle at this point, but it should firm up as it cools.
  7. Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and slice into 16 squares.

Here’s to a more normal November!

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks

Strawberry and coconut flapjacksWe’re well and truly into summer fruits season, which suits me down to the ground because it means I get to gorge on beautiful British strawberries for the next few months! I’m normally perfectly happy to just eat them on their own, but I decided to put them in a bake last week and came up with these strawberry and coconut flapjacks.

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks
I used a recipe I’ve previously used to make blueberry flapjacks, swapping the berries and adding some dessicated coconut. The recipe makes for a fairly chewy flapjacks, as opposed to a sturdier one, but you could leave them in the oven for a bit longer if you prefer them to have a harder texture.

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks
Baking with strawberries is always a bit weird – because they’re quite wet, they have a tendency to go mushy very quickly. Thankfully, they seemed to stay fairly intact in these flapjacks, but you do still need to eat them up within a couple of days before they turn your flapjacks into a sort of cold porridge!

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks
The flapjacks were delicious – the strawberry flavour really came through and made what are otherwise fairly autumnal flapjacks nice and summery!

I think I could have added some more coconut, as the flavour was very subtle, so my recipe below accounts for this and ups the quantity of dessicated coconut from what I used. You may need to add a little more butter/syrup to make sure it holds together sufficiently – see how well the mix holds together in the pan before you transfer it to the tin.

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks

Strawberry and coconut flapjacks recipe

Adapted from this Vegetarian Living recipe

Makes 12 large or 16 small flapjacks

  • 150g butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 275g rolled oats
  • 75g dessicated coconut
  • 125g fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a shallow 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat, stirring regularly. Add the lemon zest and stir.
  3. Stir in the oats and dessicated coconut.
  4. Gently fold in the strawberries.If the mix looks like it won’t hold together, add a little more melted butter and golden syrup.
  5. Turn the mix into the tin, level the top, and press the mixture evenly and firmly into the corners of the tin with the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then cut into 12 or 16 pieces while the flapjacks are still warm.
  8. Cool completely before turning the flapjacks out and cutting again with a sharp knife.

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!

Fresh blueberry flapjacks

Fresh blueberry flapjacksI was feeling a little bored last Sunday evening, so, of course, I decided to bake something. I just wanted to make something quick and easy, but also something vaguely good for you. As I had some blueberries in the fridge, I decided to go with these incredibly simple but delicious fresh blueberry flapjacks.

I found the recipe online on the Vegetarian Living website, and followed it to the letter – sort of. I didn’t have quite enough oats, so I made up the difference with oatmeal. I don’t think the substitution made much of a difference to the flavour or texture of the flapjacks!

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
I really like the use of lemon zest in this recipe – lemon and blueberry is such a classic combination, and goes really well with the sweet oats.

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
My fresh blueberry flapjacks went down a storm when I took them into the office the next day. Ok, so this recipe is only half healthy – fresh fruit and oats and oats are all very well, but when you sugar, butter and golden syrup the bad-for-you foods seem to cancel out the good-for-you ones… oh well! The flapjacks are still super tasty and very easy to make, and surely they’re still a better option than a sponge cake bursting with cream and jam…?!

Mincemeat flapjacks

Mincemeat flapjacks
Happy new year to you all! Up until yesterday I hadn’t baked since I made my final batch of mince pies for 2014 on Christmas Eve, but I still had some mincemeat left over, so I decided to make these mincemeat flapjacks to use up the last of it.

If you’re well and truly sick of mincemeat by now, this probably isn’t the recipe for you. However, I have to say these flapjacks aren’t particularly Christmas-y, despite the mincemeat. I think it’s the oats that dilute the festive flavours somewhat, which is perhaps wise in early January.

Mincemeat flapjacks
I found this recipe, which I followed to a certain degree, but I adjusted the quantities to suit what I had (see my recipe below). The flapjacks were a doddle to make (like most flapjacks!) so I imagine this would be a nice recipe to follow with the kids, if you have any who are partial to baking!

If you’re on a January diet, each flapjack is only 174 calories, so they won’t derail you too much…

Mincemeat flapjacks
The recipe

Makes 16

  • 200g mincemeat
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 300g porridge oats
  • 50g glace cherries, halved

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line a 20cm x 20cm square tun with baking paper.
  2. Place the mincemeat, butter and syrup in a saucepan and melt gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the oats, making sure that they’re well coated, then stir in the cherries.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the tin and press it down with a spatula, making sure the mix gets into the corners is and is level on top.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until the oats start to brown around the edges.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to completely cool in the tin, then slice into 16 squares.

Honey and coconut flapjacks

Honey and coconut flapjacks

It’s an odd time of year at the moment – not quite summer, not quite autumn, at least weather-wise! These honey and coconut flapjacks I made a couple of days ago are quite a nice expression of this seasonal limbo, with the oats being decidedly autumnal/wintery and the coconut and honey adding a splash of sunshine.

It was a very easy recipe to make, which is just what I wanted after a long day at work. It was just a case of melting the honey, sugar and butter together, then stirring in the remaining ingredients. I didn’t have quite as much as demerara sugar as called for in the recipe, so I used half demerara and half golden granulated sugar.

Honey and coconut flapjacks

Oddly enough for me, I refrained from adding more coconut than specified. I KNOW. I felt that this would overwhelm the honey flavour somewhat, so I managed to hold myself back.

I used a slightly smaller tin than the recipe asked for and you can see this from the height of the flapjacks. They were definitely done within the specified cooking time, though.

I really like these flapjacks – the honey flavour is fairly delicate but definitely there, while the coconut is, of course, a lovely addition. The original recipe says you can use dried fruit or nuts in place of the coconut, and I can imagine this would work well too.

The recipe

Adapted from this recipe on BBC Food.

Makes 15

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g golden granulated sugar
  • 200g honey
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 50g dessicated coconut

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 8 inch x 12 inch tin (I used a 7 inch x 11 inch tin and it was still fine).
  2. Melt the butter, sugars and honey in a very large saucepan, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in the oats and coconut and mix well. If your saucepan isn’t very big, transfer the melted butter mix to a large bowl before adding the other ingredients, as there are a lot of oats to stir!
  4. Spoon the mix into the tin and flatten the surface, making sure it’s relatively even.
  5. Bake the flapjacks for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden around the edges but still pale and a bit soft in the middle.
  6. Cool the flapjacks in the tin then cut into 15 squares.