Tag 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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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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Bake: Sour Cherry and Peach crumble

AmereneThere were many highlights to our Italy adventure but one of my favourite discoveries appeared in the garden just outside our apartment in San Benedetto.

We took a small apartment in the grounds of an ‘agritourism’ farm set in the mountains of Emilia Romagna where we arrived as weary travellers on a sunny saturday afternoon and our host greeted us with free wine before showing us to our home for the next 4 nights.

The apartment was small and almost perfectly formed but we planned on spending our time outside, relaxing by the pool and eating alfresco. So once our bags were dropped we set about exploring the grounds, beginning with the garden.

The garden had many hidden treasures, plenty of fragrant herbs and flowers including lavender, sage and thyme, apple trees with the beginnings of fruit getting ready for autumn and trees bearing what appeared at first glance to be suspicious red berries. “Are those cherry trees?” I asked our host who confirmed that they indeed were and went on to describe them as “Amerene” or “bitter cherries” it was then that the penny dropped, our garden was filled with at least half a dozen sour cherry trees with just ripe fruit.

Having only ever encountered Amerene dried and packed into vacuum sealed bags on supermarket this was pretty exciting and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bake with these little beauties. Self catering always presents interesting challenges when it comes to cooking, we were of course without scales, whisks, a sharp knife or a fully functioning oven, so this recipe was developed without these tools and the question of what to make became a difficult one as it needed to be kept simple. Never the less I was determined that there would be dessert and it would include our newly discovered amarene.

The peaches were acquired from the local supermarket in San Benedetto, a modest store – imagine your local co-op but fill it with freshly baked sourdough loaves, freshly made pasta, every variety of cheese you could hope for and all those illusive vegetables you can never track down such as courgette flowers, aubergines the size of your head and heritage tomatoes, all in a shocking array of different sizes. Yes, we ate like kings in Italy, they just do food so well.de stoning sour cherries

To Make Sour Cherry and peach crumble you will need

  • 2 peaches
  • 100g sour cherries
  • 2 sprigs lavender
  • 180g honey
  • 200g butter
  • 130g semolina
  • 300g plain flour type ‘0’
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • lavender and sage flowers to garnish
  • yoghurt to serve

Remove the stones from the cherries and slice the peaches, mix together with 80g of the honey and the flowers from the lavender sprigs. Place all together in an ovenproof bowl and set aside.

Place the remaining honey, butter, semolina, flour and the leaves from the thyme sprigs together in a bowl and rub the ingredients together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Scatter the crumble mix over the top of the prepared fruit and place in an oven pre-heated to 160°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

to finish, scatter over the sage and lavender flowers and serve with yoghurt.

peach and sour cherry crumble

This is a simple dish that celebrates fruit, it’s definitely best enjoyed in the sunshine!

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Do: Strawberries, Jam and Tarts

strawberry season It’s that time of year again. So far we have had a traditional rainy Glastonbury, the heatwave we all hoped for (yet in reality, perhaps not so much fun?!) Sunburn, Wimbledon, and of course, the arrival of the celebrated English strawberry. Now available at a farm shop near you by the punnet load. This is British Summertime. B, C and myself headed out on a sunny Monday morning to Whetstone Pastures for a pick your own stint. A little local knowledge for the people of Leicestershire, Whetstone pastures is closed on Mondays. This is clearly stated in the small print on the website, yet all three of us failed to pick up on it. No to be perturbed we headed to the nearest farm shop, saved ourselves a few hours picking and headed on to play crazy golf in the sunshine. (I Won!) Yes, I forgot my suncream. yes, I got sunburnt. Armed with several punnets of English strawberries and for me a winners glow (Quite literally) we went our separate ways, each with a few ideas of what to do with our strawberry hoard. Have you ever eaten a strawberry in winter and been left with an underlying feeling of utter ‘meh’ disappointment? The reason behind this is simple. Apart from the summer months our strawberries are imported from far reaching continents with warmer climes. Warmer climates mean fast ripening strawbs, fast ripening strawbs means the flavour of our treasured fruit doesn’t quite ripen at the same pace. Therefore the strawbs are lack lustre and a little bland. One thing that our delightfully unpredictable summer months are perfect for is slow ripening strawberries. A little rain, a little wind, possible blizzards and perhaps a little sunshine means only one thing. No one does Strawberries like British summertime. No one. Of course it makes perfect sense why we love them so, but really, don’t buy them out of season. Seriously, don’t even sniff them. No! So, whether scones and clotted cream are your poison, jam tarts, or maybe you’re planning an afternoon tea party in celebration of Wimbledon, here are a couple of ideas for hoarding strawberries over the coming months and even take these very English summertime fruits into winter also….. English strawberries To make  Strawberry, Black pepper and balsamic jam you will need:

  • 3 250ml- 300ml capacity jam jars and lids800g of strawberries
  • 400g jam sugar
  • 30ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1tsp black pepper

Place the strawberries and sugar into a heavy based sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil. Heat gently at boiling point for around 25-30 minutes until the jam reaches a temperature of 104°C. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the jam as it comes up to temperature. Thoroughly wash the jars and their lids in hot soapy water. Rinse clean and place the jars on a baking tray then transfer the tray into an oven pre-heated to 180°C for 5-10 minutes. Once the jam is heated to setting temperature, add the balsamic and black pepper, stir well to combine. Decant the jam into the measuring jug and pour straight into the prepared jars while they are still hot. Place a silicone paper circle onto the top of the jam to create a seal and then screw the lid tightly onto the jam jar. DSC02394 To make Strawberry jam tarts you will need:

  • 60g butter
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2 a jar of Strawberry jam

Using a handheld mixer or Kitchen aid with beater attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and blend to a smooth light batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl during mixing if necessary. Add the flour and mix until the pastry comes together to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 25-30 minutes to relax. jam tarts pre-oven Pre-heat oven to 160°C and roll the dough to a thickness of around 3mm. Cut out discs of the pastry and place into a muffin tray. fill each tart with jam, about half full- the jam will bubble up on baking. Use the remaining pastry to make decorations for the tarts, this can be anything you like, lattice, shapes, letters, get creative! tarts in the oven Bake the tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown, allow to cool and serve. strawberry jam tarts

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Bake: white chocolate, poppy seed and Lemon Easter Cake

Today we welcome the massively Talented Holly of Holly Loves Cake fame for a guest post to get you in the mood for Easter. There’s plenty to swoon over in this post, beautiful cake, photography, cute little chicks and the most gorgeous cake stand i’ve clapped eyes on in some time, so enjoy! FYI, Lily Vanilli is a follower of Holly’s over on instagram which means she’s pretty hot stuff in the cake world!

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Howdy Make, Do and Spend readers! I am Holly of Hollylovescake, I have been pals with E for a few years now and bonded over our shared adoration of cake and blogging. As a Spring special surprise, me and E thought we would have a little blog swop. I have been super excitable about appearing on MD&S blog, if not a little nervous. This is my opportunity to speak to a wider audience than my normal devoted blog fans so I want to impress y’know, it’s a bit like a first date (hopefully without the awkward silences). Due to the time of year, it was completely obvious that a yummy chocolate bake was in order. I adore Easter time as Spring is in full swing (although losing an hour to daylight saving is not cool, I feel robbed) plus it’s a perfect excuse to eat your weight in chocolate (as if one ever needs an excuse but at least you can admit to it in public without feeling the shame that normally comes after explaining that you just ate 3 Toffee Crisps and a tube of Smarties in a row) Sadly, the older you get the less eggs you receive which is a major bummer. I remember Easter day being the fourth best day of the year (after birthday, Xmas and new school shoes day), running downstairs to an Easter egg hunt and feeling like you had won the lottery when you found the Mars egg that had the mug included. Then came the inevitable eating too many eggs in one go and ending up feeling sick and then being told off for getting chocolate finger prints on every surface in the house (although this has now been replaced with being told off for getting icing sugar over every surface in the house. Eternally the mucky pup). For the past 5 years I haven’t even received one egg, not one! Not even a token Cream Egg (sad face). However, this year, my mum has bought me one! Yay! Well, it was a yay scenario until she handed it to me full of excitement, telling me she bought it from TK Maxx for half price. But I guess a discount, end of line, one that no one else wanted egg is better than no egg, right..? (Mum, if you read this, I’m only joking. Kind of.)

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This weeks bake is a lush white chocolate, poppy seed and lemon cake. The zesty lemon and creamy white chocolate are perfect partners but the addition of the poppy seeds takes this to the next level! They add a crunchy texture plus a slightly nutty after taste. If you want to do the ombre effect on the outside of the cake, there are lots of YouTube tutorials on how to achieve it. If I tried to explain, I would be taking up waaayyyy too much space on my guest spot, (I would like to be asked back again) Decorate the cake liberally with likkle chicks and enjoy!
If you like what you read you can visit my blog www.hollylovescake.com where I post on a regular basis my latest cakey creations, or check me out on Instagram @hollylovescake or Facebook

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White chocolate, poppy seed and lemon Easter cake

  • 375g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • Zest of 5 lemons
  • 100g poppy seeds
  • 6 tablespoons full fat yogurt
  • Pinch salt

Buttercream

  • 200g white chocolate
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 500g icing sugar

1. Grease and line 3x 20cm cake tins (or if you only have one or two, divide ingredients by a third). Pre heat your oven to 170°C

2. Beat your butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, this should take about 5 minutes.

3. Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. If your mix starts to curdle, add a teaspoon of your measured out flour. With the last egg, add the lemon zest.
4. Sift in your flour, bicarb and salt. Add the yogurt and poppy seeds and fold everything together until just incorporated. Divide between your tins and pop in the oven. For an even and moist bake, add a tray of hot water from the kettle on the bottom shelf of your oven, the steam will create the perfect sponge.
5. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, your sponge should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Take out the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before loosening and turning out to cool completely.
6. To make the buttercream, melt the white chocolate by placing in a glass bowl over a pan of hot water, slowly stirring until melted. Allow to cool slightly.
7. Beat the butter until smooth, add the chocolate and half the icing sugar. Beat well. Keep adding icing sugar until desired sweetness achieved. Once you have the right sweetness, beat the buttercream for 5 minutes until fluffy and smooth.
8. Take one layer of your cooled cake and level off the top with a serrated knife, slather with your butter cream. Pop the next layer on top and repeat, once built cover the whole thing with the remaining buttercream. Cover with mini eggs, some broken up meringue or chocolate shards and perhaps some likkle chicks! 081069096

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