Traybakes

Healthy Rice Krispie Granola Bars

Well, I think it’s about time to make my first blog post of 2017! A very belated Happy New Year to you all ūüôā

In my last post I said I wanted to try and eat healthier and shift a bit of weight, and by some miracle I’ve actually stuck to it (thus far)! I’ve not been following any kind of radical diet, just cutting down on the amount of naughty stuff and exercising more. I’ve been going to the work gym twice a week, walking to and from the office every day and taking lunchtime yoga classes on Mondays, also at work (one of the great things about being employed by a university is the access to an array of convenient fitness facilities, and at a significant discount!)

I’ve managed to lose 6 pounds so far, which I’m really pleased about as I’m not trying to lose a shedload of weight in a short period, only to pile it all back on when the urge to eat a wheelbarrowful¬†of Dairy Milk becomes too much. I want to do it gradually while still being able to enjoy my favourite treats in moderation. To be perfectly honest, I’ve not missed eating cake that much but chocolate is proving to be very much my Achilles’ heel…

The downside to this wee health kick is that I’ve not been doing as much baking, apart from¬†a few cake requests for colleagues. However, my other half bought me the latest Bake Off book for my birthday last month and it contained a fabulous recipe for ‘Posh Granola Bars’, which I knew I had to try right away. Toasted oats, Rice Krispies, nuts, fruit and honey in yummy crunchy¬†bar form and easy on the waistline to boot – what’s not to like?

They turned out delicious, but I decided to adapt them slightly in¬†subsequent¬†batches¬†by increasing the quantity of Rice Krispies, substituting the butter for peanut butter and using raisins instead of dried cranberries. I like these ones even better, and they’re easier to cut without turning to crumbs, meaning they’re perfect to take to work for a healthy and filling mid-morning snack.

If you’re not as mad a fan of Rice Krispies as me, cut the amount down to 25-50g and up the oats to 200g, although personally I love the crunch they add! Also feel free to use¬†whatever dried fruit you like, or maybe go wild and add some chocolate chips?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 bars

  • 150g/5 oz oats
  • 70g/2.5 oz Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
  • 100g/3.5 oz mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans, walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts)
  • 50g/1.5 oz peanut butter
  • 160g/5.5 oz honey
  • 50g/1.5 oz raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan).
  2. Tip the oats and chopped nuts into a rectangular baking tray and add the cooking oil.
  3. Use your hands to combine the mixture, rubbing the oats so that they’re lightly coated in the oil.
  4. Place the tray in the oven for around 6-8 minutes until the oats become slightly dry and golden.
  5. Place the honey and peanut butter in a mixing bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth.
  6. Pour the oat and nut mixture, Rice Krispies, raisins and cinnamon into the wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly, add a dash more honey.20170212_122217
  7. Wipe the baking tray clean and line with parchment paper, then pour in the mixture and press down evenly with a spatula.
  8. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes until the top of the mixture is light brown in colour.
  9.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and then cut up into bars using a sharp knife.
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Mince Pie Flapjacks

Hurray! The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again! ūüôā Christmas is my favourite time for baking, and each year I have to meticulously plan when I want to make what as I always have so many¬†bakes I want to try – both old seasonal favourites and new recipes that I haven’t tried before.

This festive season I¬†intend to make another batch of my yummy stollen biscotti from last year,¬†the spiced fruitcake with fondant seal decorations that has become a Christmas tradition, and also have a go at creating my own lebkuchen. I’ve also recently been experimenting with different gingerbread recipes so no doubt there’ll be a repeat performance of some of those too before the year’s out.

After the success of the aforementioned stollen biscotti last year, I wanted to have a go at conjuring up another Christmas recipe of my own, and these deliciously spicy and fruity flapjacks are the result.

I made my flapjacks¬†using my mum’s marvellous¬†homemade mincemeat which is lovely and fruity and not too boozy, but use whatever kind you like, be it homemade or bought. Like¬†their traditional pie counterpart, they’re delicious served warmed with some cream (preferably accompanied by Christmas songs and a festive jumper).

This would also be a good recipe for the new year when jars of mincemeat are being sold off ten-a-penny in the shops and you’re in need of something sweet and warming to distract you from the fact that Christmas is over, you’re cold,¬†skint and have already broken all of your new year’s resolutions.

This may be my final blog post before¬†the big day¬†so I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone in the Bakeosphere a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

P.S. If you’re looking for other easy festive baking ideas, why not take a look at my recipes for chocolate gingerbread cake, low fat Christmas pudding brownies and red velvet star biscuits?

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INGREDIENTS Рmakes 15 large or 20 small flapjacks

  • 280g/10 oz oats
  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 80g/3 oz¬†mincemeat
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Half tsp mixed spice
  • 40g/1.5 oz¬†raisins or sultanas¬†(optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Put the butter/margarine, sugar and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth, stirring at each interval. Alternatively, melt together in a pan on the hob over a low heat, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir the oats, mincemeat, cinnamon, mixed spice and raisins/sultanas into the liquid mixture until thoroughly coated.

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  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until firm and slightly golden at the sides
  5. Leave the flapjacks to cool on a wire rack and then slice into squares with a sharp knife. Scoff in front of the fire or crappy Christmas TV.

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Categories: Festive, flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gooey Toffee Apple Flapjacks

Hurray, Autumn is upon us again! As corny as it sounds, is there anything more heart-warmingly lovely than taking a quiet pink-cheeked¬†walk in the¬†September/October sunshine amidst¬†a crisp breeze while taking in all the gorgeously coloured leaves, fallen apples¬†and shiny conkers underfoot? It’s at this time of year that I’m glad I can walk to work, and recently I haven’t been able to resist stopping to take photos on the way as my scenic route looks particularly stunning of an¬†autumnal morning.

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Most importantly,¬†Autumn¬†marks the arrival of one of my favourite things – scrumping season! My mum and I did our usual ritual of venturing out to the nearby fields on the first Saturday in September and came back with a glorious¬†bounty of¬†apples, blackberries and plums. The majority of the berries and some of the apples were used to make vast quantities of my beloved blackberry, apple & cinnamon jam, but it wouldn’t be right to not keep¬†a few¬†aside for some baking.

The¬†scrumped apples have¬†made a delicious addition to¬†various recipes that I’ve tried, including Waitrose’s spiced apple & walnut blondies and my go-to Weetabix loaf. However, I think my favourite 2016 Autumn apple¬†creation has to be these toffee apple flapjacks. They’re squidgy, sweet and sharp,¬†and remind me of¬†a¬†cross between a¬†flapjack and a¬†crumble – perfect for a chilly evening. They’re also yummy served warm with custard.

For another wonderfully autumnal treat where apples are the star, why not check out my Autumn Bliss cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 flapjacks

  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into¬†chunks about the size of a 10p piece
  • 60g/2 oz¬†mini toffee/fudge pieces (I used Aldi’s mini salted caramel fudge pieces), or larger toffees/fudges chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

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METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Put the butter/margarine, sugar and maple syrup in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth, stirring at each interval. Alternatively, melt together in a pan on the hob over a low heat, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir the oats, apple chunks, toffee/fudge pieces and cinnamon into the liquid mixture until thoroughly coated.20161008_132436.jpg
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden at the sides.
  5. Leave the flapjacks to cool on a wire rack and then slice into squares with a sharp knife.
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Custard Cream Flapjacks

I’m officially obsessed with flapjacks. Up until a couple of months ago, I don’t think I’d ever actually made them, but¬†after creating¬†Caramac and honeycomb & chocolate ones, I now find myself whipping up a batch or two at least every couple of weeks!

I just love how they’re both so foolproof¬†and so adaptable.¬†Simply mix together butter, sugar, syrup and oats et voila – you’ve got the base for a million varieties and you can add pretty much whatever goodies you feel like. And all without the ever-present fears of¬†over-mixing, soggy bottoms or sunken sponges.

Aside from the aforementioned types, other flapjacks I’ve attempted include Malteser, Fudge bar, cherry bakewell, white chocolate & cranberry, date & raisin, Dime bar, salted caramel, Milky Way…and many more to come I suspect.

As I love anything custard cream related, I decided that these yummy biccies would form the basis for my next flapjack experiment. The results were deliciously vanilla-y, moreish, and heartily demolished by my colleagues!

Oh, and if you’re also a custard cream fan, why not try my custard cream cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 large flapjacks or 15 small flapjacks

  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp custard powder
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 100g/3.5 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 custard cream biscuits, roughly crushed

    METHOD
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter/margarine, sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract together Рeither in a saucepan on the hob or in a large mixing bowl in the microwave Рuntil smooth.
  3. Stir in the oats, white chocolate and custard powder until evenly coated.
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  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly brown (the mixture will will firm up as it cools).
  5. Leave to cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes and scatter the crushed custard creams over the top while still warm, gently pushing larger bits into the flapjacks.
  6. When completely cool, slice in squares using a sharp knife.
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Honeycomb & Chocolate Flapjacks with Marzipan Bees

I’m a huge fan of The Great British Bake Off’s 2013 champion, Frances Quinn, who captured my heart with her incredible culinary creativity when she appeared on the show. She is an idol of mine as I love how she always thinks outside the box and is constantly¬†coming up with quirky new twists on recipes.

There are lots of brilliant cooks out there, but¬†I’ve never come across another with¬†Frances’s talent of taking baking to the next level by¬†slathering¬†it with an extra layer of fun and Willy-Wonka-like wonder. A big jam sandwich recreated in Victoria sponge, biscuit¬†matchsticks, squirrel cake and a giant Swiss roll cigarette were¬†among her wonderfully imaginative creations on the show, proving that it is indeed possible to combine both style and substance. I’ve never seen another contestant come close to her in terms of visual presentation¬†before or since, despite the hundreds of showstopping bakes produced over the years.

Needless to say, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of her book, Quinntessential Baking, when it was released and it has become a firm favourite. Instead of churning out recipes for the same old ‘best ever chocolate cake’, blueberry muffins and¬†yet another pavlova that hardly differ from the offerings of the dozens of other cookbooks that clamour for attention among the saturated culinary market, I adore the way in which she outlines a set of base recipes and then tells you how to¬†transform them¬†into something wonderfully ingenious with a few simple touches. Some delightful examples include a wall of Bourbon ‘brick’ brownies, white chocolate candles, meringue swans and bonfire cupcakes with spun sugar flames. And, as a fellow lexeme¬†lover, her cute puns and wordplay make me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Anyway, despite my rambling ode to Ms Quinn’s fabulousness,¬†this post doesn’t actually include one of her recipes. However, the¬†creations I’m sharing here were very much inspired by her. Some¬†the gorgeous adornments Frances¬†suggests in her book are marzipan bees, which I’ve copied here and¬†which inspired the idea of¬†honeycomb flapjacks. I realise it’s hardly the most original concept in history, but I like to think of them as a little homage to the Queen of Creative Baking. And they taste absolutely bee-rilliant (sorry…)!

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 large or 18 small flapjacks

For the flapjacks:

  • 130g/4 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 4 x standard Crunchie bars, chopped into small cubes (as in the picture below)Untitled

For the bees:

  • 3 tbsp marzipan (approx.)
  • Chocolate or black writing icing
  • 10 flaked almonds

METHOD

For the flapjacks:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter/margarine, sugar and honey together – either in a saucepan on the hob or in a large mixing bowl in the microwave – until smooth.
  3. Stir in the oats and chopped up Crunchie bars until the oats are all evenly coated.20160409_162606
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly brown (the mixture will will firm up as it cools)
  5. Leave to cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars with a sharp knife. If you’re very patient you could cut them into individual hive-esque hexagon shapes!

For the bees:

  1. Tear off pieces of marzipan around the size of a 50p piece and roll into balls with your palms.
  2. Use the writing icing to pipe three horizontal stripes and two eyes, as in the picture.
  3. Gently push two flaked almonds into each bee so that they resemble wings.
  4. Arrange artistically on top of your flapjacks!
Image of Quinntessential Baking book copyright Amazon.co.uk
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Pinkies (Strawberry Milkshake Blondies)

I’m not really sure how this idea popped into my head. Perhaps it was because I had pink on the brain from helping to organise my gran and stepgrandad’s 10th wedding anniversary celebrations,¬†which featured the colour as a theme (including a pink rosewater cake as a centrepiece, made by yours truly).

I’ve baked with strawberry milkshake powder before¬†and I love the delicate rosy shade it delivers. And, despite being a vaguely gothic looking 28-year-old, I always think of pink as a fun colour that carries the promise of something devilishly sweet and exciting when it’s used in an edible context.

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Why limit yourself to dark and white chocolate brownies and blondies, I thought, when there’s room in the great Bakeosphere for other flavours? I’m happy to say this whimsical idea paid off, despite my initial worries that the finished product would be too synthetic, too soggy, or just downright vile. The strawberry flavour is quite subtle and really complements the white chocolate batter, adding a novel twist on the much-loved blondie.

So, don’t be shy – grab the Nesquik and have some fun with these cheery pinkies! And, if you like these, why not¬†check out my strawberry milkshake biscuits?

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 18 squares

  • 200g/7 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g/3 oz self-raising flour
  • 120ml/4 fl oz cooking oil
  • 100g/4 oz white cooking chocolate
  • 5 tbsp¬†strawberry milkshake powder (I used Hello Kitty brand but any will do!)
  • 2 tsp strawberry extract
  • Quarter tsp red gel food colouring
  • 18 sugar butterflies, to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  • Briefly whisk the sugar, eggs, oil and¬†strawberry extract¬†together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Chop the chocolate into small chunks and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water or place in the microwave and heat in blasts of about 1 minute until smooth, then pour into the mixing bowl.
  • Fold in the flour,¬†milkshake¬†powder and gel food colouring until you have an even, pale pink hue, and then¬†pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

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  • Pop in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are wrinkled and very slightly brown and a cocktail stick inserted into the cake comes out pretty much clean.¬†Leave to cool.
  • Cut into squares using a sharp knife and gently push a sugar butterfly into the top of each pinkie.

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Caramacjacks (Caramac Flapjacks)

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately as I’ve not been doing as much baking as usual, and the few bits I have done have been either from cookbooks or things I’ve made a million times before that I’ve already posted on here. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve also been trying to eat a bit more healthily and cut down on refined sugar but, admittedly, my¬†desk drawer¬†at work that’s groaning under the strain of the office biscuit/chocolate/jaffa cake stash is hindering my efforts somewhat…

Another reason in part for my lack of culinary activity is due to my recent rekindling of my passion for painting, something I hadn’t done in years until the other week. I’m so glad I’ve got back into it though as I’m enjoying it hugely, and I’m never happy if I’m not working on some kind of creative¬†project. If you fancied checking out some of my work, I’ve started uploading it to my new DeviantArt account here: http://www.cloudninepointone.deviantart.com ūüôā

caramac__92528Anyhow, back to the subject in hand – Caramac flapjacks! Or, as I have christened them, ‘Caramacjacks’. Weirdly enough, I’d never actually made flapjacks before but my friend at work had a birthday approaching and I decided to have a go at them as she’s not hugely keen on cake (I know, shocking!) and I wanted to make something that I could stick candles in. Like me, she’s a big chocolate fan, and there were two multipacks of the enticing sweet, golden ingots¬†in question lingering in my pantry, so the result was a no-brainer.

P.S. If you’re crazy for Caramac, why not check out my cupcake recipe?

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 16 small flapjacks (or one big one!)

For the flapjacks:

  • 330g/11.5 oz oats
  • 150g/6 oz butter or margarine
  • 150g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 100g/4 oz golden syrup
  • 100g/4 oz caramel chocolate buttons or white chocolate buttons, chopped

For the topping:

  • 5 x standard Caramac bars
  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 75g/3 oz dark chocolate

METHOD

For the flapjacks:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 gas) and line a square or rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter/margarine, sugar and syrup together, either using a saucepan on the hob or by placing them in a heatproof bowl and heating in the microwave in 1-minute blasts.
  3. Stir in the oats and chopped caramel/white chocolate buttons.
  4. Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking tin and pop in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  5. Transfer onto a wire rack and allow to cool before adding the topping.

For the topping:

  1. Chop the Caramac bars into very small pieces and transfer¬†into a heatproof bowl, then microwave on a LOW heat in¬†30-second blasts until completely melted (don’t be tempted to put it in for longer periods or turn the heat up or it will seize and turn disgusting!)
  2. Stir¬†the butter/margarine into the melted Caramac and pour onto the cooled flapjack. Spread the topping into an even layer using a palette knife. Don’t worry if the consistency of the mixture isn’t very smooth.
  3. Chop the dark chocolate into small pieces and place in a new heatproof bowl, then microwave in blasts of 30 seconds to 1 minute until completely melted (dark chocolate tends to be more forgiving than the more synthetic Caramac).
  4. The Caramac topping should have set by now but, if not, wait until it has. Then, using a teaspoon, drizzle the melted chocolate across the flapjack in a criss-cross pattern and allow to set.
  5. Cut into 16 small bars with a sharp knife – or go mad and leave it as one giant flapjack!
Caramac bar image copyright treasureislandsweets.co.uk
Other photos copyright cloud9point1
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Sundried Tomato & Feta Oat Bars with 5-Minute Microwave Chutney

I realise that I’ve been a bit rubbish at regularly updating my blog recently – what with work, writing, frantically making lots of pom pom bunting for a recent charity craft fair and the inevitable neverending to-do list that comes with the run up to Christmas I’ve been very busy! I’m planning on posting some more seasonal¬†recipes very¬†soon, but firstly I must share these¬†super scrummy but¬†non-festive (ruby red tomato flecks and snowy¬†feta¬†notwithstanding)¬†creations.

The idea for these¬†was spawned from the porridge bars I blogged¬†about¬†here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/virtuous-fruity-porridge-bars-sinful-nutella-porridge-bars/. This time I wanted a lunchbox snack that wasn’t sweet¬†but I couldn’t be bothered to make bread…which I will attempt one day; actual, proper bread, with yeast. Not soda bread. Maybe. Anyway, while the sound of tomato and cheese porridge¬†in the traditional sense¬†sounds grim at best, I couldn’t see any reason why applying the same¬†method as before, but replacing the sweet ingredients with savoury ones, wouldn’t work. I’m pleased to say that the experiment paid off and the results are very tasty, with a great medley of flavours; the closest thing I can think to compare them to is corn bread. They¬†are delicious served hot or cold and,¬†most importantly, they do not taste like savoury porridge!

I needed something with a mushy consistency to replace the apple compote/Nutella required¬†for the sweet versions and ended up¬†throwing some bits and bobs together to create a surprisingly flavoursome¬†cheat’s chutney. It took all of five minutes to prepare in the microwave so I thought I’d share this recipe too. You could, of course, just use the shop-bought kind but this is so easy to throw together using only most basic of storecupboard ingredients.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15 bars

For the bars:

  • 300g oats
  • 3 tbsp chutney (see recipe below)
  • 50g sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g feta cheese, chopped into small cubes
  • 225ml milk
  • Pinch of black pepper

For the chutney (yields roughly enough for the above recipe plus 1 small jar):

  • 3-4 apples (any kind will do)
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 0.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD

For the chutney:

  1. Peel and core the apples and cut into chunks no bigger than a 50p piece, then place in a heatproof bowl or large jug.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir, then place in the microwave on a medium to high heat for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir again and put back in the microwave for a further 3 minutes, or until the apple chunks are soft enough to squash with a spoon.
  4. Leave to cool before spooning into a clean jar.

For the oat bars:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl, then add the chutney, sundried tomatoes, feta, milk and pepper. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin then pop in the oven and bake for around 25 minutes, or until the mixture feels fairly firm and slightly crisp to the touch.
  4. Allow to cool and slice into bars with a sharp knife.
Categories: Savoury, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Low Fat Christmas Pudding Brownies

I’ve recently been compiling a ring binder of print-outs of healthier recipes that I’ve found online so that I can easily look them up when I feel like cooking something that’s not too chock-full of calories, fat and sugar. One Google result that caught my attention was the¬†original chocolate version of this recipe, which I came across here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/1107/i-can-t-believe-they-re-low-fat-brownies.aspx. It included the genius idea of adding mushed prunes in place of butter or margarine to create a gorgeously moist but less fatty cake.

I don’t understand why prunes are¬†so neglected as a fruit. I know they’re infamous for being used as a means of ‘keeping you regular’ and carry metaphorical connotations of wrinkles, shriveling and general lifelessness, but they’re so underrated as a food in their own right. I bought some for the first time in forever recently and had forgotten what a deliciously rich, almost caramelly, flavour they have.

Anyway, I digress (I swear I’m not being paid by some kind of Prune Advisory Board) – I’m in the grip of full-blown Christmas fever at the moment as the end of November rapidly approaches, so I decided to add a festive twist to the original recipe by incorporating some extra fruit and nuts and a dash of warming winter spice. When both my dad and I sampled them, our immediate thoughts were of Christmas pudding, hence the title!

I also reduced the amount of sugar used in the original version¬†as it annoys me when recipes are labelled as ‘healthy’ due to low fat content but include an obscene amount of the sweet stuff. I wouldn’t say these taste identical to regular brownies but they’re utterly delicious – rich, moist and full of flavour – and I really don’t think people would know they were low fat and lower sugar if you didn’t tell them. I also like the fact that they’re a healthier alternative that don’t require expensive and/or obscure ingredients. I love the new wave of inventive vegan/raw/generally all-round-saintly treats but coconut oil, agave syrup and near-industrial¬†quantities of cashew nuts don’t come cheap.

The final cherry on the proverbial cake is that these brownies are dairy free so they’d be ideal for lactose-intolerant friends.

I’ll definitely be making them again very soon!

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 18

  • 55g/2 oz plain flour
  • 110g/4 oz pitted prunes
  • 130g/4.5 oz brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 55g/2 oz raisins
  • 55g/2 oz chopped mixed nuts (e.g. pecans, almonds, walnuts)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 18 pecan halves, to decorate (optional)
  • Silver shimmer spray, to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, mixed spice and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly snip the prunes into pieces with scissors and place them in a separate heatproof bowl with the water, then microwave on a medium setting in two blasts of 1 minute until soft and mushy.
  4. Squish the prunes with a potato masher to form a paste and add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir in the cooking oil, eggs, raisins, chopped nuts and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the mix comes out mostly clean.
  7. When baked, leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into 18 squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Push a pecan half into the top of each square and finish with a festive spritz of edible silver shimmer spray, if you fancy.
Categories: Chocolate, Healthier, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Originally posted 20/12/2014

WARNING: this stuff is highly addictive!! Seriously, I made a batch with the aim of taking half into university to share with my classmates but it somehow all disappeared in a number of freak scoffing accidents before I had the chance…

The recipe below is adapted from one found in an old winter issue of Good Food magazine – I thought the original batter lacked a chocolatey flavour and didn’t really taste much different from normal gingerbread cake so I added cocoa to the mix which resulted in the perfect marriage of chocolate and spice. I also cut down the amount of treacle and syrup used as I felt the previous quantities were a bit excessive.

This cake is definitely my new festive favourite as it’s so deliciously moist, smells incredible and is super simple to make. It also keeps really well and, if anything, tastes better after a couple of days (if you can make it last that long…)

I finished this batch off with some sprinkly chocolate rings from Aldi.

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12 large squares

  • 255g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 155g/5.5 oz butter/margarine
  • 115g/4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 115g/4 oz black treacle
  • 115g/4 oz golden syrup
  • 115g/4 oz milk or dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz milk

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Place the butter/margarine, sugar, treacle, syrup and spices into a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave until smooth or melt in a pan over the hob.
  3. Roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in another heatproof bowl then melt in the microwave in blasts of 30 seconds-1 minute or over a pan of hot water.
  4. Stir the melted chocolate into the butter mixture then fold in the flour, cocoa powder and milk.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin then bake for 20-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  6. Transfer (with the baking parchment) onto a wire rack to cool then cut into squares with a sharp knife. Top with festive decorations of your choice if you wish.
Categories: Chocolate, Festive, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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