Category Archives: Bake

Bake: Granola Bars

granola bars

I’m off on a little road trip for work soon, this will involve a trade show and a few nights in a hotel. All very exciting stuff apart from the fact I will be away from my kitchen for 3 days, three whole days! Whilst most would relish the prospect of not having to cook for 3 days the reality has sent me into a bit of a panic.

Cooking is one of my greatest pleasures, I cook every day. It’s my way to relax and unwind but mainly I’m a big fan of knowing what goes into my food, it’s important to me to know the origin of the ingredients going into what I eat and indeed that there are no unnecessary ingredients included, preservatives, stabilisers and what have you. life is busy, and whilst it’s not always possible to know exactly whats going into your food and it’s not always convenient to make food from scratch I do, where possible, try and champion homemade and try to source ingredients for my kitchen that are local, british or of fair trade origin, and above all, healthy. I bake my own bread, I buy my meat from the butchers and vegetables from the market and try to spend as little money as I can in supermarkets.

So, what to do? The outlook is grim and i’m facing the unnerving reality of fast food for three days. My colleagues, who know my pack lunch habits and cheese obsession have assured me this is not the sort of trade fair where there will be a hall of fine cheeses to sample (those are the best sort of trade fairs, right?!) How will I cope without a slice of homemade bread and a selection of fine cheeses at lunchtime? I had to take action.

This morning I set about baking myself a batch of granola bars so if i’m really in trouble I can reach for the comforts of home cooking direct from my own kitchen. C has also very kindly bought me some apples to take on my journey. I shall also be preparing some cheesy nibbles to take. I’m feeling better prepared now, yet still apprehensive. Seriously, no cheese?

granola bar ingredients

To make granola bars you will need:

  • an 18cm round cake tin lined with baking parchment
  • 100ml coconut oil
  • 100ml agave nectar or honey
  • 50g almond or peanut butter
  • 150g oats
  • 50g chopped pecan nuts
  • 50g mixed seeds-I used pumpkin and sunflower
  • 50g dried fruit of your choice, sour cherries or cranberries are mine

This recipe makes really delicious gooey, chewy granola bars, be sure not to bake them too long so they don’t dry out. A note on coconut oil, make sure you buy cold pressed extra virgin for maximum ‘superfood’ effect. The flavour is strong and can overpower, so for those who don’t like coconut butter or oil can be used instead.

Pre-heat the oven to 145°C Weigh all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the agave, coconut oil and nut butter together in a pan until they are all melted, then pour the melted oil, agave and butter over the dry ingredients and mix all together to combine. Place the ingredients into the prepared tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the mix down so it’s nice and compact. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, (don’t try to cut it when warm as it will crumble) Once completely cool cut into 6-8 portions. Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Perfect for Breakfast on the go.

speedy breakfast granola bars

Further reading for the travelling cook:

B’s guide to eating healthy on the road

Miriam nice fellow blogger and author of cooking without a kitchen

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Looking Back: 2015

Happy new year to all! As we head into 2016 we thought we would have a little look back at all the Make, Do and spend activities over the last year…..

sharpen pencils

January 

Getting Organised

blood orange and pistachio cakes

February

Blood orange, almond and Pistachio Cakes and Rhubarb Rum

b outfit 2

March

The Big Clothes swap  & an exclusive interview with Richard III on the day of his burial

036

April

A guest Post from our Friend Holly Loves Cake & Those Doughnuts 

bluebells

May

Bluebell Woods

elderflower sugar 1

June

Elderflower Sugar & Mango Frozen Yoghurt 

Positano

July

B & E do Italy, plus Jam Tarts  & Macarons

watermelon cake 5

August 

Watermelon Cake

Nyhavn

September 

B Visited Copenhagen, E made Elderberry Vodka

rolling

October

Pumpkin & Spice Sugar Buns

November

What November?!

grown up hot chocolate

December

Amaretto Hot Chocolate

All best wishes for 2016!

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Bake: Pumpkin & Spice sugar buns

love an ornamental gourd

Autumn sees the return of a most versatile root veg, the humble pumpkin/squash/gourd. Each year I have a little word with myself and promise not to get over excited when the gourds finally hit the stores, and yet, every year come October I have a veritable collection. So far this year I have managed to restrain myself to just the above, along with several butternuts that were of course purely for recipe development purposes and not because I need as many pumpkins as I can possibly lay hands on to deck my halls.

Yes, we’re big fans of pumpkins here at make, do and spend. We hold an annual pumpkin carving party which usually involves good food, friends and some outrageous pumpkin creativity. Highlights of which include last years winner Walter White, enchanted forest scenes and my personal favourite, the bread bus which was born out of a Narborough Rd wide pumpkin shortage!

pumpkin carving party

So theres always quite a bit of pumpkin to be eaten at this time of year and it lends itself particularly well to sweet treats. I’ll be eating these little buns for breakfast this week, these are my kind of comfort food. At this time of year enriched buttery doughs are what I crave, particularly when combined with dark sugar and spice!

To Make 12 Pumpkin and spice sugar buns you will need

  • 430g strong bread flour
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 7g salt
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 10g yeast
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 130g pumpkin puree- this is around half a pumpkin squash, roasted to the below method

for the filling

  • 30g butter at room temporature
  • 2 tbls dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbls ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbls ground ginger

for maple and cream cheese topping

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 30g maple syrup

how to roast pumpkin

To make the pumpkin puree pre-heat an oven to 180°C and cut the pumpkin into chunks leaving the skin on. place in a roasting tray and pour about 1/2 an inch of water into the base- this will add steam to the roasting process and help break down the fibers of the pumpkin. Roast the pumpkin for around 20-30 minutes until soft. Allow too cool, then peel off the skins and puree using a  blender.

To make the dough warm the milk to blood temp, so it’s cool enough to comfortably hold your little finger in for a few seconds. Add the yeast, stir until both are well combined and set aside.

Place the flour, pumpkin puree, salt, sugar, butter and egg into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment. Start the mixer on a slow speed and stream in the yeast and milk mixture slowly until all the ingredients come together to form a dough, turn the mixer up a little and knead the dough for around 5 minutes so the butter is well incorporated and the dough smooth and shiny. Allow the dough to prove for 1 hr or so until doubled in size.

rolling

Once proved transfer the dough to a well floured surface and roll the dough into a rectangle measuring around 30cm x 55cm.

dot the butter across the surface of the dough then sprinkle over the sugar and spices.

Starting with the long edge roll the dough tightly into a long sausage then divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

cinnamon buns rolled

Lightly grease a muffin tin with butter or non stick baking spray and place each bun into the tray, cut side up so the swirl of the sugar and spice is visible, allow the dough to prove for a further 30 minutes and pre-heat oven to 160°C. once the buns have doubled in size transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the buns make a hollow sound when tapped on the base

just baked

Allow to cool whilst preparing the cream cheese topping, in a mixing bowl combine both the cream cheese and maple syrup and fold together. place a spoonfull of the topping over each bun and smooth with the back of a spoon.

for the frosting 3

What are your favourite pumpkin recipes?

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No bake: Watermelon cake

watermelon cake

This week saw the return of The Great British Bake Off to our TV screens, it’s one of my very few must watch programmes and i’m very excited to be tuning in every wednesday over the next few weeks to watch the competition unfold. It was great to see the series kick off with some magnificent cakes, (And some less so!) its also a hot topic of conversation amongst my foodie friends, so strangely enough all this baking got me thinking about not baking.

Sometimes there just isn’t time, sometimes one of these fabled warm weather days arrives in the UK and the thought of turning the oven on is just a little too much to bear and sometimes its good to have a healthy cake on the menu. It just so happened that this weekend the weather has been a little brighter and a summer BBQ was called for to celebrate this momentous occasion. C and I planned a feast, pork belly, burgers, sausages, meat, meat, meat basically! So we decided watermelon would provided the perfect antidote for desert

We live on the Narborough rd in Leicester, Aka “the Narb” to us locals where one can pretty much acquire anything your heart desires, it’s entirely possible to exist solely on the offerings of the Narbourgh rd, should you want to.

I’ve spotted quite a few enormous watermelons on my weekend strolls and decided that this was to be the weekend to purchase the largest watermelon I could find. 10kg to be precise.

So, I carried the Watermelon,

In a blue plastic bag Down the Narbourough rd, it wasn’t terribly glamorous but my head was spinning with ideas of what to make. Watermelon vodka is always a winner at adult BBQs but I was tempted to try something a little different and created this refreshing three tier watermelon cake instead.

watermelon cake 1watermelon cake 5

The good news is watermelon cakes are pretty simple to make, all you really need is a good sharp knife. Here follows an explanation of how to achieve this for next time you have an enormous watermelon handy. There are many virtuous qualities to this cake also. It’s vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, nut free so no need to feel guilty about diving in!

Slice your watermelon across the middle into 3 even slices to create the three tiers. Cut circles out of the flesh inside the watermelon, for this I used bottomless cake rings, 8″ for the base, 6″ for the middle and 4″ for the top tier. once you have the three tiers cut you can sharpen up any edges or straighten the tops of each tier if necessary so each layer stacks evenly. That being said, if the cakes are a little wonky this adds a little drama so don’t worry too much! Stack the layers on top of each other. No dowels needed as the watermelon itself is pretty sturdy. Once stacked, it’s time for the fun bit, get creative and decorate your watermelon cake with fresh fruit and berries and if you have any to hand edible flowers work a treat. Here i’ve used nasturtium, lavender, sweet peas, fennel and dahlia petals so the cake is entirely edible.

So next time you fee like baking consider this colourful, refreshing and above all healthy option, and of course you could also douse the cake with vodka too if you wanted to liven things up a bit!

watermelon cake 2watermelon cake 3watermelon cake 4

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Bake: Masala Chai macarons

macarons colours

Macarons are quite possibly my favourite sweet treat ever. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than a display of these brightly coloured almond delights all lined up in an array of exciting flavours. That being said when it comes to making them they have long eluded me. I’ve had so many failed attempts from french to Italian meringue base experiments which have often resulted in some very tasty biscuits and on one occasion, during an experiment with powdered egg white, some very peculiar miniature cakes. Through all the experiments I had never quite managed to achieve that perfect bake profile with a crisp shell and chewy centre, that is until now…..

A few months ago I decided it was time to get serious about this, how can any self respecting baker not be able to master the art of macarons? I poured over recipes and researched other peoples success stories, it seems I was not alone in my plight and a suitable method for these little tinkers is often a personal journey of trial and error.

It was around this time that I remembered a recipe given to me by my friend Liz. Post a disastrous weekend of baking Liz had offered me the french meringue recipe she used whilst working as a pastry chef in a restaurant run by her family high in the mountains of Morzine. Liz had assured me that this recipe had never let her down, even baking them at a high altitude in the heart of the French Alpes, so this was an encouraging place to start.

I followed Liz’s recipe to the T and when the first batch came out reasonably well I had to have another crack, and then another, Raspberry and chocolate then lemon and pistachio followed by chocolate and hazelnut, I was churning them out and by the time I stopped I spent around two days baking nothing but macarons! It had been a long old slog but finally I was making macarons to an acceptable standard.

I decided a masala Chai tea party was in order to celebrate my new found skill.

spice blend

To Make Masala Chai spice blend you will need:

  • half a cinnamon stick
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • half a tsp powdered cardamom – or the seeds from 3 pods
  • 2 white peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1 head of star anise – or 1/2 tsp powdered star anise

Place all ingredients into a spice blender or pestle and mortar and rind to a fine powder. For Masala Chai tea with this spice blend place 1 tablespoon of the mix into a saucepan along with 750ml milk and two black tea bags, bring to a simmer, then transfer to a teapot to infuse. To serve, strain the mix through a fine sieve or tea strainer into tea cups.

stiff whites

To Make Liz’s Macarons you will need: 

  • 1 Tbls Chai spice blend
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 50g caster sugar

This recipe makes 18-20 macarons

Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together with the chai spice and the contents of the tea bag, discard any large lumps of almond that aren’t fine enough to go through the sieve. 

Whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until stiff, then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and bring the whites up to stiff peak, and when I say stiff, I’m talking hold the bowl over your head stiff, this is key to getting the crisp shell and lift. This may take around 5 minutes.

Fold the almond mix into the whites in two halves, add the first half to lighten the mix, then add the second. Transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe even circles around an inch in diameter onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper. Once piped lift the tray up and drop it onto the work surface, this will encourage any air bubbles in the mix to rise to the surface, repeat this 5 times. If after slamming the tray there is still a point where the macaron has been piped this can be removed by placing a dampened finger onto the macaron to level it off. Allow the macrons to sit for 15 to 20 minutes to skin over.

Place the macarons into the pre-heated oven 1 tray at a time. All ovens have hot spots so the positioning of the tray in the oven can also affect the finished result of the macarons. I experimented with different shelves in the oven and for me the second shelf up from the bottom gave the best results. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the tray around after 7 minutes to ensure an even colour all over.

Once cool the macarons can be filled with a filling of your choice. I use nutella as a filling for this batch, but chocolate ganache works very well also.

macarons

macarons 1

chai teamacarons 2the end

A big thank you to Liz for letting me share her recipe. Further macaroon tips and tricks are available at Coco Cake Land and food 52

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