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!

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Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

Ginger, pecan and rum browniesThis is definitely not a bake for anyone trying to be even vaguely healthy at the moment. I made 20 of these ginger, pecan and rum brownies and only let myself have one – they’re so rich, but oh so good!

I suppose the flavours are a bit wintery, but we haven’t exactly had a lovely sunny summer recently, so I felt perfectly justified in making these brownies. I also hadn’t made brownies in aaaages before these.

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
I found the recipe on BBC Food, and was instantly drawn to the combination of stem ginger, rum and dark chocolate. It’s a typical brownie recipe – melt the chocolate and a huge amount of butter together, stir into a whisked mixture of eggs and sugar, then fold in a miniscule amount of flour and the other ingredients.

I used a smaller tin than called for in the recipe, so I was prepared for these to take longer to bake than stated. I was a bit worried about overcooking them, but they turned out pretty perfectly texture-wise – phew!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
Like I said, I only had one brownie (the rest went to work and my husband), but I’m not going to forget it in a hurry! The ginger and rum together are SO nice (and yes, I added a splash more rum than called for. What?) and the pecans add a welcome crunch. I used some dark chocolate with about 85% cocoa content, so the brownies were very chocolatey too. Yum!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

First bake: rum and mint brownies

Rum and mint brownies

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in so long! In my defence, I’ve been laptop-less for a while as it’s away being fixed, and I’ve also been to Berlin since my last post. Anyway, let’s move on to more important things.

I like chocolate, rum and mint, but I don’t think I’d ever had them all together until I made these lovely brownies from a Dan Lepard recipe. I’ve been meaning to bake these for a very long time and finally took the plunge when it was my turn to bake for the office last month.

What intrigued me about the recipe was not just the flavour combination, but also the use of cream cheese as a carrier for the mint flavour. I wasn’t sure how well this would work, but it did indeed work wonderfully.

The method involves creating the cream cheese and brownie mixes separately and then combining them in the tin before baking. Lepard recommends a particular type of peppermint oil for these, but I just used good ol’ peppermint extract from the supermarket. For the rum, I used my favourite, Captain Morgan’s Spiced (which is golden rather than dark, but I like to rebel).

Rum and mint brownies

Everything went to plan, although my brownies looked nothing like the ones in the recipe! This didn’t seem to affect the flavour, which was pretty damn good – the chocolate and mint is very After Eight-y, with the rum adding an interesting note. They went down a treat in the office and I do think I’ll make these again!

The recipe

Can be found on the Guardian website here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/may/14/rum-mint-chocolate-brownie-recipe

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.

First bake: rum and raisin biscuits

Rum and raisin biscuits

I had yet another week last week where I was determined to give the baking (and my sugar levels) a rest for one weekend, but swiftly changed my mind after spotting another brilliant recipe. The culprit this time was a recipe for rum and raisin biscuits on the excellent Caked Crusader blog. Rum and raisin is a combination I find utterly delicious, yet I rarely get to indulge in it. So on Sunday I left my visiting boyfriend (read: baking widow) sitting around in the living room while I tried to turn these out.

Rum and raisin biscuit mix

Rum and raisin biscuit mix

The recipe is extremely simple and straightforward. The mix (above) came together beautifully, so I didn’t need to add much more rum to it (although I did add a little, of course, just for extra booziness). The raisins themselves were soaked in the rum for nearly two hours, rather than overnight as recommended. However, they were certainly boozy enough after just two hours, so I wouldn’t worry about soaking them for ages if you want to try this recipe while in a rush.

Rum and raisin biscuits, pre-baking

Rum and raisin biscuits, pre-baking

The Caked Crusader says the recipe is supposed to make 30 biscuits, yet she only ended up with 13 (I’m guessing they were massive!). I managed a respectable 25 with my mix, and they only took 15 minutes to bake – perhaps a little less for the ones that weren’t quite as brown as the others. Consistency-wise, they turned out a little more cakey than I would have liked (a bit more like cookies than biscuits), so I’ll press them flatter next time. Taste-wise, they were amazing! Very boozy but with enough sweetness to counteract the rum. The healthy (or unhealthy) amount of butter in the recipe also helped lend these a moreish flavour.

If you love biscuits and the combination of rum and raisin, you honestly can’t go far wrong with these! Expect to see these turn up in the re-bake category soon…

Rum and raisin biscuits

The recipe

From the Caked Crusader blog here: http://thecakedcrusader.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/rum-and-raisin-biscuits.html