Sunday, 28 April 2013

Random Recipes 27: Number Generator Muffins

The theme of this month's Random Recipes Challenge, dreamed up and hosted by Belleau Kitchen, was to use a random number generator to come up with the cook book number, and page number to determine which random recipe to cook.

I was full of enthusiasm at the start of the month when the challenge was launched, used the number generator, found my book and recipe, then did nothing until the middle of last week. Oops! By which point I'd forgotten entirely what my random book number had been. The recipe page number was a bit easier, as I'd bent the corner over - 56!

My book was the Australian Womens Weekly "Muffins" book. I've made a fair few of the recipes in this before, however not the one on page 56 which was for Hazelnut Plum Muffins.

I did remember to buy hazelnuts for this - success, however my shopping didn't stretch to plum jam, since we had a jar of 'Country Berry' open in the fridge and needing to be used up (it's too seedy to meet with Mini-M's seal of toast approval!).

As usual, I switched ingredients to make it dairy free, and reduced the quantities. So here's my version:

Jammy Hazelnut Muffins (Makes 8 medium muffins)

  • 45g dairy free margarine
  • 185g Self raising flour
  • 30g hazelnuts (mine had skins on)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 110ml soya milk
  • 8 tsp jam

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Line your tin with cases (I used large cases in a bun tin to get medium sized muffins).
Blitz the hazelnuts in a food processor or with a hand blender until they resemble coarse ground almonds.
Melt the margarine in your mixing bowl by giving it a quick zap in the microwave.
Stir in the sugar and hazelnut meal, then beat in the milk and egg.
Add the flour and beat until combined.
Put a small dollop of mix in the bottom of each case, then top with a teaspoon of jam, and another dollop of mixture.
Bake for around 18mins until risen and golden on top.
Cool on a wire rack (unless you like scalding your mouth with burning jam, in which case dive straight in...)
Oops - didn't do a very good jam hiding job - no wonder it oozed out during baking!

I really liked these - the hazelnuts give it a great flavour, even from a relatively small amount, and the jam makes them fun. In fact, if I'm really lucky, there might still be one lingering slightly stale in the bread bin to take to work tomorrow and rejuvenate with a quick zap in the microwave come coffee time! That'd make for a happy Monday morning :o)

I wonder what next month will bring...?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Chocolate Orange Nakd Scones

I'm continuing my foray into the realms of 'things you can bake with Nakd bars' after being sent some to try by Natural Balance Foods.

So far we've had...

Baked plums with Nakd Ginger Crumble
Apple and Rhubarb Crumble, Nakd Style

And last weekend I baked some Chocolate Orange Nakd Scones, using a Nakd Cocoa Orange bar and a bag of Nakd Orange Infused Raisins.

Scones and a veritable plethora of topping options!
They were lovely, light and fluffy, studded with zingy raisins and chewy chunks of the chopped up bar.

We enjoyed them with friends in a civilised grown up manner, used then to successfully avert a mid-afternoon-I've-not-had-a-nap-overtired-and-hungry meltdown from Mini-M and used the few that were left the following day to conduct a family 'who likes what on their scone' survey!

Lovely Nakd bits (ooh err!)
The basic scone recipe I used was a new one to me, from the Great British Bake Off 'How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom' book and I have to confess I was sceptical. It is the first scone recipe I've seen that aims to blitz all the pieces of fat into tiny pieces - I was under the impression that it was larger pockets of fat that caused the scones to rise well. However I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt since it was a quick and easy food processor job, and it did indeed produce lovely light fluffy scones - even after I'd substituted out the butter and milk (and tweaked the quantities just a teensy bit!)

Chocolate Orange Nakd Scones (makes 6 medium sized scones and few toddler snack sized ones)

  • 1 Cocoa Orange Nakd Bar
  • 1 bag of Nakd Orange Infused Raisins
  • 250g Self Raising Flour
  • 30g golden caster sugar
  • 60g dairy free margarine (I used Pure Soya)
  • 110ml non-dairy milk (I used almond) plus a splash extra if need be
  • Beaten egg for glazing

Preheat the oven to 200C (Fan 190C) and line a baking tray with parchment, or grease and flour.
Put the flour, butter and sugar into the food processor and blitz until the margarine is completely obliterated and the mixture is fine and sandy.
Tip into a bowl.
Chop the Nakd bar into chunks, then add to the bowl along with the raisins.
Pour in the almond milk and mix with a knife blade (to avoid over working it) until just mixed. Add a splash more milk if it isn't coming together properly, but don't go overboard.
Tip it out onto a floured work surface and give a very quick knead (literally two or three wedges).
Roll or press out until 2-3cm thick, then cut out rounds and carefully move to the prepared tray.
Wedge together the trimmings and repeat, trying to avoid working the dough too much.
Brush the top of each scone with beaten egg - try hard not to let it drip down the sides, as this will stop it from rising as much by anchoring it to the tray.
Bake for around 15 minutes, until risen and golden.
Cool on a wire rack - but they are delicious whilst still warm too.

Guess whose scone is whose?
In a turn up for the books, Mini-M the junior jam fiend decided she wanted hers with almond butter. Well, she asked for peanut butter, but we're run out, and she didn't notice the difference. This is kid who will sit and eat a piece of fish, exclaiming 'yummy chicken".... Mr E (aka Jam Fiend Sr) stuck to form and went with a hearty dollop of apricot conserve. I kept the chocolate theme going with some dairy free dark chocolate spread.

Make it snappy!

A wee while ago, whilst enjoying a catch-up weekend with good friends (in the not so glamorous, but still rather lovely surroundings of Northallerton!) whilst having a cup of coffee, we challenged each other to bake - or possibly, I pressurised the other two slightly into agreeing to bake, with my general over enthusiasm for all things cake.

Anyway the long and the short of it was, that my baking task was to make brandy snaps (the others were tasked with swiss roll, and lemon polenta cake).

Brandy snaps are pretty much equal quantities of butter, sugar, syrup and flour. As always the butter was a problem! After thinking about it for a while, I decided to go with coconut oil rather than soya margarine, since it's more similar in consistency to butter, and is properly solid at room temperature, which I had a feeling might have been an important factor in the final snap. Whilst soya margarine is fine on toast, it's got quite a lot of water in it, and tends to separate when you heat it, and I didn't think there would be enough flour to bind it.

Sprinkles improve everything. Fact!
So here's my recipe, (adapted from the non-dairy-free version on the BBC Good Food Website).

Dairy Free Brandy Snaps (Makes 6-8)
  • 15g coconut oil
  • 25g soft brown sugar
  • 25g golden syrup
  • 25g plain flour
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 tsp brandy
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Weigh the coconut oil, syrup and sugar into a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the ginger.
Pour in the melted mixture, then add the brandy and lemon juice and beat until well combined.
Dollop 3-4 heaped tsp of mixture onto each prepared tray. (They will spread a lot so leave plenty of space!). Don't worry if you've only got one tray, the mixture will still be fine after the first batch comes out and you can re-use that tray after letting it cool for a minute or two and re-lining with greaseproof paper.
Bake for 8-10mins until golden brown and lacy in appearance. They will still be pretty soft. Don't be tempted to cook them until they are hardened otherwise you'll never be able to shape them!
Leave for a minute, then when they are starting to firm up a little and are just cool enough to handle, roll around the handle of an oiled wooden spoon into tube shapes.
You might need to hold each one in shape for a few seconds to encourage it to set it place.

Cooled and kept in an airtight container, these will keep for around a week, however once filled they will soften quite quickly. The traditional filling is lashings of whipped cream - but having substituted out the butter to make it dairy free, it would have been slightly pointless - so instead I filled them with squirty 'SoyWhip' from a can. Sacrilegious in some ways, but it tasted good - and it provided the required cool creamy middle to snap into with each bite.

Unsurprisingly, being a) sweet and b) filled with a fake dairy soya product (she is a big fan of soya milk, yoghurt and custard) they were a hit with Mini-M who particularly enjoyed slurping the cream out through the middle like a giant straw!

They were definitely a dairy-free substitution success though - no discernible taste difference (from what I can remember, since the last time I actually ate a brandy snap was probably about 10 years ago - they're not a regular feature on many peoples' menu rotations I'd not have thought).

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Spring Surprise Ingredient Swap Roundup

I shall start this post with a slap on my own blogging knuckles - I'm two days later than I said I'd be at posting this, after realising at almost-bedtime that I'd forgotten, and deciding sleep was more important - two nights running.

But I'm writing it now, and that's the important thing!

Back in the gloomy days of February, I suggested a Spring Surprise Ingredient Swap. Due to some blogger commenting glitches, it almost didn't go ahead, however at the last minute, enough people jumped on board the Surprise Ingredient Swap bandwagon to get going :o)

The premise is fairly basic - swappers are paired up, make contact, discuss the practicalities of likes, dislikes and allergies then each purchase and post an ingredient to their swap partner. Once the swap parcels have arrived, the swappers then have to make something with their swap ingredients - simple!

So off we go...

I think the first swapper to post their creation was none other than Mr E who blogs at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes - where you've guessed it, all his recipes contain only four recipes. He made these Simnel Parcels full of gooey marzipan and dried fruit - his swap ingredients.

Next up chronologically was me: I made Spring Bling Yoghurt Cupcakes (soya yoghurt of course!) which were ably decorated by two mini kitchen helpers, using the edible glitter I was sent as my surprise ingredient. I love the toddler cake decorating philosophy - more is more, then add some more, and stick a candle on top, preferably more than one.

Next is Jean from Baking in Franglais who used the dried rhubarb and hazelnuts she had been sent to make this lovely moist looking Rhubarb Hazelnut and Honey Cake which I'm imagining would be absolutely perfect with a cuppa - I'm a sucker for anything rhubarby!

Dom from Belleau Kitchen then rustled these gorgeous and zingy Lime Sherbet and Rose Cupcakes with the rosewater which he was sent as his swap ingredient. They're at the opposite end of the cupcake sophistication spectrum from my offering, that's for sure!

There was a flurry of activity on the 11th April with two swap posts. Since trying to work out who posted first seems a) unnecessarily competitive, b) impossible and c) involve time differences, I'll go alphabetically...

Fiona at Let Them Eat Cake rustled up this delicious looking Honey Streusel Crumb Cake with the honey she was sent. Packed with nuts and spices along with the honey it's another one that would be fantastic with a cuppa, and apparently keeps well too, if it lasts that long!

Then Tamara at What's for Dessert? used the chestnut flour she was sent to make a decadent looking Chestnut Cheesecake - it's definitely a step up from the usual crushed digestive biscuit base, and I'm sure the chestnut flour added a fantastic nutty flavour.

Next up is Please Do Not Feed The Animals who was sent hazelnuts and cocoa nibs which were combined into some perfectly pretty Florentines (which tasted pretty perfect too!). What a fab cake stand too!

And I'm rounding up the round up with two entries from my family, who are awesome cooks, (and who I incidentally think would write awesome blogs - hint hint!).

Continuing the biscuity theme, Grandad A rustled up these Orange Oat and Sultana Cookies which got rave reviews and were polished off in record time!

And lastly, adding a savoury twist, Auntie L contended with an unexpected power cut and still managed to make these fab looking Bean Burgers with the Parsely, Chilli and Pumpkin Seeds she was sent. In fact, she's even written up the recipe, which I shall blog here on her behalf soon!

Thanks to everyone as always for joining in!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Daring Cooks April 2013 Challenge - Make No Bones About It!

Sometimes I surprise myself - in a good way - and take stock and think that I'm maybe not too bad at this cooking lark! This month's Daring Cooks' Challenge - to debone a chicken and make a ballotine - was one such occasion. But then I go and demonstrate my true culinary level by making quiche with puff pastry rather than shortcrust - oops! Puff-quiche is still in the oven, however I'm fairly sure it will have a bad case of soggy bottom.

In the meantime I shall get on with my challenge post.

For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.

This was a challenge of the most challenging type - it essentially involved hacking apart a chicken, breaking bones, using very sharp knives, a fair amount of brute strength and some Girl Guide style knot tying to finish it all off!

However... I was so proud of the result - undeniably disproportionately proud, but proud nonetheless.

Once the amateur chicken butchery was completed (and if you fancy giving it a go, I wholeheartedly recommend the video, along with the exhortation that it really isn't as hard as you think it is going to be - just a little bit more icky!) I stuffed it with a mixture of couscous, spicy tomato paste, salami and dried apricots. No recipe - just lots of photos this time...

First step - clingfilm your laptop so you can pause / rewind the tutorial video without contaminating it with chicken goop.
My unsuspecting chicken nemesis
I've spared everyone the gory deboning-in-process shots - but here's a boneless chicken 'jacket'!
Spare stuffing
Spare stuffing converted into mini couscous crustless quiches with the help of a couple of beaten eggs
... and then true to form, I had to go and spoil it by 'serving' it fallen apart and dropped upside down on the plate!
Thanks for a very adventurous but equally satisfying challenge.

Incidentally, this is Mr E's first month participating in the Daring Cooks challenge. We're currently blogging in tandem from opposite sides of the living room. We ate the ballotine he made today for dinner - also awesome, and I hate to admit it, but neater, prettier and better carved than mine! And only using 4 ingredients (as all of his recipes do). He blogs at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Spring Bling!

It's time to write up my Spring Surprise Ingredient Swap entry post - a whole week before my self imposed posting deadline - phew! As the swap instigator, it would have been slightly awkward (although not unlikely!) to be late.

I was paired with the lovely Lou who blogs at Please Do No Feed The Animals.

She sent me some gold decorating glitter, and a dairy free chocolate Easter egg, with a lovely message instructing me to try the egg, and if the chocolate was any good just to eat it, rather than baking anything - and I took her at her word!

I had been pondering how to use the gold glitter dust since her package arrived, and I was undecided, however the arrival of a new baby (most definitely not ours but some lovely friends'!) at the weekend seemed like a good reason to break out the glitter - and indeed it played an integral part of the Saturday morning entertainment for the new-big-brother whilst his parents were at the hospital. I'm not sure this is entirely the level of sophistication that was envisaged when Lou chose and posted her ingredients, however it most definitely brought some extra sparkle to our weekend!

A mini-M for Mini-M
The cake recipe I used was a new one to me, and came from 'French Children Don't Throw Food' which is not a recipe book in any way, but a comparison of Anglo-English and Parisian parenting. And whilst the book was interesting, I was probably disproportionately intrigued by the one recipe it did contain, for a cake that is apparently made by small children all over France and is an important symbol of French childhood - Yoghurt Cake. Not only does it contain yoghurt, it is measured using yoghurt pots instead of scales, and that simplicity made it an ideal candidate for double toddler baking.

As usual I made the recipe dairy free, and halved it since we were making 2 different flavours of cupcakes.

Dairy Free Yoghurt Pot Cupcakes (makes 12)

  • 1 small pot of flavoured soya yoghurt (raspberry and blueberry both worked well)
  • 1 pot caster sugar
  • 1/2 pot milk olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 pots self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan - or if you are doing this with little ones, on the floor, in front of the oven, just leave it cold and turn it on once the cakes are in - they still worked fine - phew!)
Line a 12 hold bun tin with paper cases
Tip the yoghurt pot into a mixing bowl - small people can begin mixing whilst the yoghurt pot gets a quick rinse.
Add the oil and egg and mix.
Next add the sugar and give another mix
Then the SR flour.
Adults had to give a helping hand after the flour was added so that it did actually get mixed in and there weren't big clumpy bits in the finished cupcakes.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the cake cases - don't fill more than halfway as they puffed up a lot!
Bake for 15-20 mins until risen and golden and springy to the touch.
Cool on a wire rack.

There was great concentration during the ingredient measuring - spooning the sugar and flour in until the pot was full and tipping it in the bowl. And also general excitement that the 'egg got hidden by the yoghurt' after mixing.

Sugar spooning operation in progress
As for the icing - well I had a some white chocolate butter icing left over from a wedding cake I had made at the end of last week, so that went on half, and the other half got some slightly less delicious, but conveniently dairy free instant Betty Crocker ready mixed vanilla frosting. I know - I hang my head in shame and wait to be struck down by the baking gods!

During the general hubbub I forgot to take photos of the combined masterworks, but did take a few pictures just before we ate one each for pudding that night.

And so to the gold dust - it was liberally sprinkled along with a variety of other less glamorous cake topping flotsam - and some of it even landed on the cakes. Every cake needed a candle too (well, it was a birthday after all) - some more than one.

Low accuracy on the glitter sprinkling for this one...
So thank you Lou for a fantastic surprise ingredient!

Time to blow out the candles
Hoovering up every last crumb from the cake case!
PS - a very unrelated side note... how do you spell yoghurt?! Blogger spell check does not like mine - but I'm sticking to my guns :o)

I'm also entering these for April's Tea Time Treats challenge, where the theme is Fairy Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins which is hosted alternately by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. It's Kate's turn this month - thanks for picking a topic that was easy to get on board with!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Baked Plums with Nakd Ginger Crumble

Time for another recipe featuring one of the Natural Balance Nakd bar varieties I was sent to try.

This time I oped for the Gingerbread bar. It is amazing as a snack on its own, but I'm currently more than a little bit intrigued to explore the possibilities of cooking with these dense little bars of fruity, nutty goodness, so I restrained myself and used it to make pudding instead.

Artistically served under a blanket of yoghurt!
You know those plums you get at the supermarket that say 'ripen at home' but they never ripen properly... this is a great way to use them up (or take advantage of them on special offer price, knowing it doesn't matter whether or not they ripen to juicy perfection, since a quick trip to the oven will sort them out).

I wanted to keep it a) very easy and quick and b) as healthy as I could, and the result is a pud that is ready in 15 mins and only has 4 ingredients:

2 of the 4 ingredients 
Ready to be baked
Baked Plums with Nakd Ginger Crumble (serves 2.5)

  • 4 small not particularly ripe red plums
  • 1 Nakd Gingerbread bar
  • 1 large chunky or 2 normal sized plain oatcakes
  • 2 tsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 180C
Half the plums and cut out the stones.
Place the plums cut side up in a casserole dish.
Chop the Nakd bar into very small chunks.
Crumble the oatcake into a small bowl.
Add the Nakd bar, honey and mix thoroughly.
Press teaspoons of the mixture into the stone cavity and over the cut surface of each plum.
Bake for 15 mins until the topping starts to brown.
Cool for a minute or two before serving, unless you like burning your mouth with molten plum!
Plum prints!
We ate ours with a dollop of soya yogurt and it was delicious - cooking the plums 'ripens' them even from fairly rock-like to begin with. The topping ends up chewy and delicious. But you don't have to feel too guilty enjoying them - or letting your kids tuck in. Mini-M as usual with anything fruity, was a big fan. Since I made this last week, she's asked me every day if we have any more plums left, in the hope that we can have it again. It would also work with any other stone fruits: apricots, peaches, nectarines (I can't think of any more!), or even tinned pears. Similarly, the topping could be flavoured however you like.


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