Thursday, 27 February 2014

Beautiful Bread: Daring Bakers' February 2014 Challenge

It's Daring Bakers' posting day again - I remembered in the nick of time. It would have been a shame to be late with this one, since I'm more than a little bit proud of what I baked!

Blog-checking lines:
Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Bread. My Dad makes awesome bread. I have tried to make various breads over the years, and they have, at best, been mediocre. Clearly I've not got the family bread making magic. However, this is definitely, undoubtedly, my best bread to date. It had the right texture - cooked all the way through, and pretty into the bargain!

I'm not going to post the recipe here, but instead point you to the Daring Kitchen website, where you can find the very good instructions that made creating this bread beauty so easy. They're here.

Of course, as usual I didn't quite follow the recipe!

I used the Cinnamon Sweet Bread recipe, but instead of spreading cinnamon, sugar and butter between the layers, I spread a garlicky carrot puree. So it was instead a slightly sweet savoury bread, and we had it along with soup - delicious.

I baked on a cold miserable day, and my dough took about 3 hours to double during the rise - the joys of Scotland! But on the plus side I was able to go out for a run (in the rain), come back, have a shower, drink a cuppa and read 3 chapters of my book before it was ready. I should point out that I made this on an impromptu flexi day-off from work. My days don't normally work out like that - there's generally a lot more getting up at 6am and going to work in the semi dark, and needing 3 cups of coffee to wake myself up, zero running and no bread making. Before anyone gets the wrong impression!

Not burnt - honest! Well, the bread wasn't - the outer layer of the carrot puree got a little bit crispy, that's all
Thanks for an lovely challenge. I didn't have time to try the other shaping method in the instructions, but it also makes another very pretty round. One to remember for another day.

Thanks for such a satisfying challenge - it's great to make something that turns out better than you'd been expecting.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Are pancakes a staple food?

They pretty much are in ours.
Mini-M is a big pancake fan. In fact they were one for her first favourite foods, which I exploited by chucking a whole load of random additions into - tomatoes, ham, peaches, peas, bananas, oats (but definitely not all at once!).

Pancakes - filled, folded, drizzles and ready to be eaten
Usually we make pancakes of the  drop scone variety. Sometimes we shape the batter using a squeezy bottle to make flowers, stars, random abstract squiggles (when Mini-M is in charge) and of course, "M"s. The mind boggles when I think of how many pancakes I've flipped in the past 3 years, and in honour of pancake day next week, we made crepes on Sunday morning for snack.

Photobombed by Mini-M who hasn't quite mastered smiling naturally for the camera
They were inspired by Nalesniki z Serem - Polish pancakes stuffed with curd cheese and raisins. However… no cheese around here - so technically I suppose they are Nalesniki z "Serem" (Pancakes with "cheese") or even Nalesniki bez Serem (Pancakes without cheese)!

Instead of cheese, I made a ground cashew cream. But I have to confess my Polish doesn't extend to incorporating that into my title!

Polish-style stuffed pancakes with cashew cream and raisins (Serves 3)

  • 85g cashew nuts
  • 6 tbsp apple juice
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 65g plain flour
  • 1 small egg
  • 150ml almond milk
  • pinch salt
  • oil for greasing
  • 1 tbsp syrup for drizzling - I used Sweet Freedom light

Put the cashews and apple juice in a jug / mug and blend to a smooth paste. Add a little more liquid if necessary - you're aiming for the consistency of cream cheese.
Stir in the raisins.
Heat a small frying pan and grease with a little oil.
Meanwhile beat together the flour, salt, egg and almond milk until the batter is free from lumps.
Once it is hot, pour around 2 tbsp of the batter into the pan and swirl around to achieve as thin a coating as you can.
Cook for about a minute, then flip over and cook for another minute on the other side.
Transfer to a plate, spread 1 tbsp of the cashew raisin mixture to cover half of the pancake, then fold into quarters.
Drizzle with the syrup just before serving.

Photographed in daylight - shame I didn't take a better picture...
As far as pancake recipes go, this one is pretty versatile. It's easy to make it gluten free if you need to - just substitute a GF flour blend. I'd hazard a guess that you could probably sub the egg for ground flaxseed fairly successfully too, and any type of milk would work just fine. Honey or maple syrup would also be delicious drizzles.

It's also healthy, since it's primarily sweetened with apple juice, save for the little syrup drizzle at the end, and the cashew nuts give it a protein punch - so a guilt free pancake day treat, and perfect for little people too.

We ate ours with a little bit of chopped banana too, since by the time snack time rolled around, Mini-M was starving as usual.

I've got a banana and I'm not afraid to use it - take one step closer...
Evil banana
Happy pancake day when it comes!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

An edible Valentine

It's Valentines day on Friday. We have a card covered in glitter and all things red and hearty home from nursery to prove it.

In case you've not had such a subtle reminder, don't worry, there's still plenty of time to make a home made gift to treat a loved one.

Packaged up and ready for giving
A note of dietary caution - these recipes are in no way healthy!
I often try to post recipes that, whilst still cake, have some nutritional merit. Tablet has pretty much none - bar a huge amount of sugar, which makes it great for taking hill walking and rewarding yourself with when you reach the top.

Oreo chunk fudge
I've experimented with a lot of tablet options over the past few years. Many to sell for charity fundraising at work, and some to try to get a dairy free tablet fix. All have been sweet. All have been tasty. Some have admittedly had a slightly better texture than others.

Half of the peanut butter fudge seems to have gone missing….
I've got 3 recipes in this post: tablet, biscuit fudge and peanut butter fudge.

Hobnob fudge
Tablet can successfully be made dairy free - sub coconut oil or margarine for the butter and non-dairy milk for the regular milk. You'll need to keep stirring and watch it carefully, but it should be heated to the same temperature and sugar stage, then beaten in the same way. When it sets it will set slightly harder. Sometimes the milk solids will separate out a little when melting / boiling - worry not, the finished product will still be fine. I've successfully made tablet with coconut milk, oat milk, soya milk and almond milk, with coconut oil or dairy free margarine as the fat. Experiment!

Pack it prettily in a gift box - job done!
I've not attempted a batch of dairy free fudge using this method. The only possible hope might be using thick coconut cream, but I'm still not convinced it would quite work unfortunately. You never know though…

The peanut butter fudge is dairy free - I've not tried to make it using dairy, but it should work perfectly fine. It is completely amazing.

Right - down to business.

Tablet (Makes 1 tray (approx 8x13in))

  • 1kg granulated sugar
  • 3/4 pint milk
  • 4oz butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease your tin well with butter.
Really really really slowly melt all of the ingredients together in a very large, heavy bottomed pan.
Once there are no grainy bits of sugar left at all, bring to the boil and boil hard, stirring occasionally (unless your are doing a non-dairy version, in which case stir frequently) until the soft ball stage is reached. (If you're using a sugar thermometer, this is around 116C, however it is usually marked on it).
Take off the heat and beat until the consistency changes, the mixture starts to thicken and leaves a trail on the surface, then very quickly pour into your prepared tin. The amount of time you need to beat for depends on how quickly it cools - but it can take 15-20mins so you at least get a work out into the bargain!
Once it has cooled a little, take a sharp knife and mark into squares, then leave it until completely cold before turning out of the tin and breaking into pieces.

My tablet-boiling set up (and my first blog animation!)
Tablet made with coconut oil and A2 milk - yum!
Biscuit Fudge (Makes 1 tray (approx 8x8in))

  • 450g caster sugar
  • 400g double cream
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 biscuits of your choice (shortbread, hobnobs, ginger nuts and oreos all work well, although possibly not all at once!)

Grease your tin well.
Crush your chosen biscuits and scatter over the bottom of the prepared tin.
Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan, and very slowly melt over a low heat.
Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil until the soft ball stage is reached (around 116C).
Take off the heat and let it sit for 5 mins.
Beat until the mixture starts to thicken then pour over the crushed biscuits in the prepared tin.

Crushed oreos ready to be covered in fudge
Anyone for a gingernut?
Warning - make a double batch at your peril…..
Strawberry Peanut Butter Fudge (Makes 1 tiny tray approx 3x5in - or double if you think you can resist temptation and make it last!)

  • 30g non-dairy margarine
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml almond milk
  • 50g crunchy peanut butter
  • 100g strawberry icing sugar

Grease the prepared tin.
Melt the margarine in a small saucepan.
Add the brown sugar, milk and vanilla extract and stir until dissolved then increase the heat and boil gently for 3 minutes without stirring.
Take off the heat, add the peanut butter and stir until combined, then add the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
Pour into the prepared tin and allow to cool for a couple of hours, then stick in the fridge for a couple more before cutting.
If you can't get strawberry flavour icing sugar, just use regular - it'll still taste amazing and peanut-buttery, but the strawberry does add another dimension of deliciousness.

Peanut butter fudge - with a knife to hand for easy slicing
So - there you go - the possibilities are endless! Get boiling :o)


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