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!

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.

Rock cakes

Rock cakes
I fancied making something quick and easy the other week, so I opened my newly acquired Delia’s Cakes book and landed on this recipe for rock cakes.

I can’t really remember the last time I had a rock cake, but I had a vague idea of them being a bit cakey and a bit biscuity (but most likely to be biscuity if they’re not homemade). This recipe actually gets the balance spot on – especially when you have one that’s still a bit warm from the oven!

Rock cakes
The main flavours come from mixed dried fruit, nutmeg and mixed spice. I used flame raisins and mixed peel for the dried fruit, and stuck to the spices specified by Delia (although you could use anything you like, really).

You start making the dough as if you’re making scones or shortbread – by rubbing butter into flour and sugar to create ‘breadcrumbs’. Everything else goes in to create what Delia calls a “stiff dough”, but what I call a bit of a crumbly mess! Luckily, it’s a crumbly mess that holds together long enough to shape into rough peaks.

Rock cakes
The rock cakes were baked in just under 20 minutes and were ready to eat not long after that. They were absolutely delicious – buttery and soft on the inside and crumbly on the outside. The fruit and spices went very well together – the flavours reminded me a bit of Christmas! I can imagine the recipe working well with other spices too, such as cinnamon and cardamom.

This is a great recipe to make if you want something nice with a cup of tea, but can’t be bothered making a proper big cake – and do try the rock cakes warm!

Rock cakes

Dorset apple cake

Dorset apple cake
I’ve had some Bramley apples lying around for a while – I’d bought some to make mincemeat with, but Asda delivered way more than I needed due to their weird substitution rules. I recently acquired a fancy tarte tatin dish thanks to the folks at my old place of work, but I reluctantly decided that I couldn’t very well make a 30 cm tarte tatin just for myself and still keep to a post-Christmas sensible eating regime. Instead, I made this Dorset apple cake.

It’s a delightfully simple recipe (by Edd Kimber of GBBO fame) and contains raisins and cinnamon as well as the apple, making for some lovely flavours. You can serve the cake warm from the oven with custard or ice cream, or have it cold at teatime – it’s equally delicious either way.

Dorset apple cake
The only trouble I had with the cake was (as always) the baking time. Perhaps I didn’t cut the apple into small enough chunks, but my Dorset apple cake took well over an hour to properly cook through, as opposed to 30-40 minutes! Still, it meant that the house smelled rather deliciously of cooking apples for quite a while, which was very pleasant.

The cake was a little fragile while still warm, so if you make this do be careful when releasing it from the tin and slicing it up. It does become slightly sturdier when it’s completely cool, though.

Dorset apple cake
I made the cake yesterday and have so far had it warm with custard and cold on its own. I have one (big) slice left after distributing the rest to my mum, which I’m going to try warm with ice cream in the interests of trying all possible combinations so I can decide which is best. The things I do for this blog! :o)

The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Good Food website here. I used raisins instead of sultanas.

Raisin spice cake

Raisin spice cake
I’m hell-bent on going about my life as if it was proper autumn, rather than this strange sort-of-autumn-but-actually-still-a-bit-summer we’ve been having. This includes baking, and this raisin spice cake really is a rather lovely autumnal bake perfect for a chilly evening with a nice cup of tea.

I’ve made this cake once before, but I didn’t have a ring tin at the time, so I just made it in a standard round tin. I think it looks much nicer as a ring cake, even if it is a bit more of a faff to get out of the tin!

The recipe is very straightforward – make the topping and place it at the bottom of the tin (I used a bundt tin), then put the cake mix on top and bake.

Raisin spice cake topping

Raisin spice cake topping, pre-baking

The topping is a rather lovely combination of chopped hazelnuts, spices and demerara sugar, and there’s a good amount of it, so you’ll definitely appreciate it when the cake is out of the oven and ready to eat.

The cake itself has yet more spices and raisins plumped up with a bit of orange juice, which makes for a lovely flavour that propels the bake above your average fruit cake.

Raisin spice cake
Oddly for me and my temperamental oven, the cake was perfectly cooked in the time stated in the recipe, which was nice as I had to miss 10 seconds of the Great British Bake Off quarter-final to take it out of the oven!

As mentioned, it didn’t come out of the tin without bits of it coming away with the tin, which was disappointing. I did, however, make sure those bits didn’t go to waste *ahem*.

The cake seemed massive when it was baked, but my boyfriend and I managed to polish it off alarmingly quickly. It really is a wonderful cake and just the thing for autumn, if it ever gets here!

Raisin spice cake
The recipe

This is in BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes, but it isn’t on the website. It seems to be accessible via Google Books, though.

First bake: oat, raisin and fig cookies

Oat, raisin and fig cookies

Anything with oats in it sounds like it must be good for you, but rest assured that these particular oat cookies most certainly aren’t. Despite the oats and two types of fruit, the calorie count per cookie is equivalent to a small meal thanks to the ENTIRE BLOCK OF BUTTER that goes into them. Sound great, don’t they?

I came up with these cookies using a recipe in my now slightly tatty BBC Good Food book (it really is brilliant!), which I adapted based on what I had in the cupboard at the time. They were very easy to make (as cookies should be) and truly scrumptious.

I’ve only ever used figs in fruit cakes before so it was nice to throw them in something different for a change. I still automatically think ‘Fig Roll’ whenever I taste them but that’s no bad thing!

Oat, raisin and fig cookies

They do indeed taste very buttery but also extremely fruity and, of course, oaty (it’s terrible that I did an English degree and work in content marketing, yet this is the best I can come up with, isn’t it?). I would definitely make these again and would happily substitute the fruit for other things – chocolate chunks, Rolos, nuts… the possibilities are endless!

Just don’t even think about making these if you’re keeping an eye on your weight.

Oat, raisin and fig cookies

The recipe

Makes 18 big cookies, or lots more small ones

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 225g porridge oats
  • 200g dried figs, chopped
  • 50g raisins

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/160C fan. Line a baking tray (or trays) with non-stick paper.
  2. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and light muscovado sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and oats and stir thoroughly. Stir in the figs and raisins.
  4. Divide the dough into balls, place them on the tray and slightly flatten them. Ensure there’s enough space between them to allow for spreading while baking.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are golden around the edge. Cool on the tray for 5 mins then finish cooling on a wire rack.

First bake: banana, rum and raisin loaf

Banana, rum and raisin loafThere have have been a few more bananas going uneaten and therefore in a perfectly ripe state for baking with at work recently, so I took it upon myself to take some home and turn them into a piece of baked deliciousness a couple of weeks ago. The result was this rather sumptuous banana, rum and raisin loaf, which I sort of invented from this recipe.

Generally, it’s ideal to soak dried fruit overnight to make sure they properly soak up the flavours of the liquid. However, I only had time to soak the raisins in the rum for about half an hour! I don’t do very well at following soaking instructions (remember my rum and raisin biscuits?) but I usually manage to wing it as I can still taste the booze!

Banana, rum and raisin loaf mix

Banana, rum and raisin loaf mix

The rest of the loaf was very easy to make. I added a splash of rum to the mix (as I had some rum left over from soaking the raisins) but I’m not sure how much of a difference this made! However, the resulting loaf was lovely – soft, fruity and very definitely tasting of rum.

I would recommend this recipe if you have bananas to use up but would like to make something a little more grown-up than standard banana bread. The great thing is I couldn’t very well tip the leftover rum back into the bottle, so I mixed it with some ginger beer and lime juice for a refreshing drink. Waste not, want not!

Banana, rum and raisin loafThe recipe

Makes 10 slices

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 50g raisins
  • About 40-50ml rum (I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced)
  1. Soak the raisins in the rum in a covered bowl for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. Drain and reserve the rum.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter and line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding a splash of leftover rum if you want, then slowly add the eggs with a little flour. Fold in the remaining flour, raisins, baking powder and bananas.
  4. Pour into the tin and bake for about 30 mins until a skewer comes out clean. Mix yourself a nice drink with the leftover rum while you wait. Cool the loaf in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.