Monday, 18 October 2010

Apple and Cranberry Flapjacks

In London, we never seem to ‘suffer’ from seasonal gluts of strawberries and raspberries. My family is not presented with the problem of a complete summer overflow of nectarines, blueberries or peaches. We manage to grow the odd bunch of raspberries or loganberries – enough to be picked and eaten, there and then, warm in the sun. But certainly not enough produce to find that even after baking a cake, a crumble, eating gallons raw, and finishing off with some cookies that our stash is still languishing in the garden. This all changes round about this time of year.DSCF7895 The English climate is much much better at producing Autumn gluts – apples, plums, pears. Lots and lots of apples. Our cottage in Suffolk has a massive apple tree in the centre of the garden, and its constantly full of fruit all season. Every time we visit, we fill bags and bags of fruit and cart them back to London. And once back in London, there’s two more (way smaller but still plentiful) trees to harvest. And so the baking must begin…DSCF7896I didn’t want to repeat another apple cake (fab as they are) and wanted to try something a little different. I hadn’t made flapjacks before but these weren’t the traditional version. The addition of a huge grated apple keeps the mixture moist and makes the flapjacks last, whilst the handfuls of dried cranberries gave the flapjacks a little extra tang which I definitely liked. I considered adding a chocolate drizzle to the top – and whilst this might be nice I decided to keep these as they were – fruity, oaty, delicious. The recipe is from Hannah’s book and is one which I highly recommend :)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Banana Cake

Bananas are a divisive fruit in my family. My Mum and I like them, my Dad and my sister don’t. When my sister was little, my Dad told her bananas were horrible and so she’s grown up not liking it. Be careful what you tell 3 year olds! Even at school, bananas get strong reactions. They seem to be like Marmite: you either love them or hate them. For this reason, we don’t have bananas much at home. With only two ‘eaters’ it seems a bit excessive to buy lots even before we get to the idea of baking with them. But, with my Mum’s friends coming round and my Dad away (and therefore unable to moan about the bananas) – an exception was made.DSCF7878 This banana cake is sort of a jazzed up banana bread – the addition of some dried fruit and bright glace cherries makes it a little more luxurious than a bread. This cake also has a sweet honey glaze, giving your kitchen a bit of shine on a dull October afternoon. The recipe is an old favourite of my Mums, and is easy to make up. The key factor with this cake is really careful baking: my oven is quite hot and so after only 1hour out of the 1.5hours specified the cake was already slightly overdone. I’d start at 50 minutes and check it accordingly – as when it is still moist and slightly sticky. If I were to bake it again, I might use slightly riper bananas and up the sultana content to give it a punch more flavour :) DSCF7884Banana Cake (makes one 9x5x2inch loaf )
Ingredients: 225g (8oz) self raising flour
1tsp salt
100g (4oz) butter, cubed
175g (6oz) caster sugar
100g (4oz) sultanas/dried berries
100g (4oz) glace cherries, halved
2 large eggs
500g ripe bananas
50g honey (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas Mark 4 and line your loaf tin with a strip of parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour until crumbly/pea-sized pieces. Add the sugar, sultanas/dried fruit and cherries and create a hollow in the centre of the mixture.
  3. Crack the eggs into the hollow. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, or whizz in a food processor, until fairly smooth. Add the banana to the flour hollow.
  4. Fold the mixture all together into a smooth cake mix, and pour into the prepared tin.
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50mins, then check. The top should be golden and a skewer should come out mainly clean (provided you didn’t go through a sultana). It may need up to 1hour15mins, depending on your oven.
  6. Melt your honey in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, spread over the top of the cooled cake. Cut generous slices!DSCF7871

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Great Brownie Bake Off!

The Great Brownie Bake Off was an event I went to in London yesterday. The Great Brownie Bake Off (GBBO) was organised by Louise Thomas who has the amazing job of a Chocolate Consultant! It was held at the cool cafe/bike-shop, Look Mum No Hands which was packed with chocolate fans! 25 foodies entered their own recipe for the best brownie, which were judged by 11 judges! The judges took the process very seriously – sniffing each brownie, examining texture, colour and taste and much more. Whilst this went on, there were demonstrations…DSCF7923The first demo I saw was by Edd Kimber. Edd is the winner of the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, a fab recent TV series that inspired the days Brownie Off.  Edd demonstrated banana whoopie pies with chocolate ganache and was superb against the tricky audience (distracted by free brownies!) – plus it was his first demo. I wasn’t quick enough to try one but they looked gorgeous and the recipe is now on his lovely blog so I look forward to trying them!DSCF7929 The other demo that I saw was by Stacie Stewart, a finalist from Masterchef. Since Masterchef, Stacie has set up The Beehive Bakery and her own cookery school.  She demonstrated chocolate and mascarpone cupcakes and taught me two interesting baking tips:

1) the reason butter has to be soft for cupcakes is it allows the fat molecules to expand, making your cake soft and light instead of heavy and dry.
2) sugar should be added to a cupcake mix slowly, not all at once, again for a softer cupcake.

I entered the fun with my brownies – I knew were too vanilla-y (accidentally used vanilla sugar!) and didn’t dare pick up my score card but I liked how they looked…DSCF7902 Congratulations to Louise M, the brownie champion, and a huge thank you to Louise Thomas for organising the whole day! It was so exciting seeing the people I’ve watched avidly on TV in the flesh, and tasting many fab brownies. Can’t wait to attend my next foodie event very soon…