Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sugar Free Banana Tea Loaf

I delight in something sweet with a cup of tea, but now I'm trying to cut down on my refined sugars it can be quite a challenge to find things that hit the spot like a fat piece of cake. Thank heavens then for treats like this tea loaf, as it is sooooo deliciously satisfying and sweetened only with dates and bananas. I love mine with a thick spread of peanut butter. Hey, I said I was cutting down on refined sugars, not EVERYTHING naughty ;-).

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus steeping time for the dates)
Baking time: 70-75 Mins
200g Medjool Dates
200ml Strong Black Tea
250g Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Medium Eggs (Beaten)
2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed)

You'll want to get the dates going a good few hours in advance, ideally overnight if you can. Pit and chop your dates then cover with the hot black tea. Leave to steep for at least 4 hours, until the dates are all syrupy.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a 2lb loaf tin with a greaseproof loaf tin liner. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour and baking powder. Make a well in the middle, then pour in the dates and steeping liquor. Add the vanilla extract and beaten eggs, then mix well to combine. Add the mashed banana and mix again until you are left with a lovely consistent batter. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 70-75 mins, until nicely risen and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the loaf.

When you are happy the loaf is baked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for around 15 mins. When a touch cooler tip the loaf from the tin and leave to cool until warm on a wire rack. I love this one warm from the tin, but it'll also keep for several days for when the need arises! 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Coffee and Rum Syrup Cake with Toasted Hazlenuts

As much as I like the idea of drinking coffee, I just find it so ghastly! I'm sorry if this offends any of my coffee fueled cohorts but what can I say, I'm a leaf tea gentleman through and through! Coffee cake though? Well that is a whole other story indeed. I LOVE it! I guess it just goes to proves that one can stomach even the most unpalatable things if they are turned into a dirty great cake!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus some soaking time)
Baking time: 50-60 Mins
For the Cake
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
185g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
215g Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
75g Toasted Hazelnuts (Chopped)
1tbsp Cocoa Powder
1tbsp Milk

For the Syrup
100ml Cold Water
100g Caster Sugar
3tbsp Strong Black Coffee
50ml Rum

For the Vanilla Cream
250ml Double Cream
2tbsp Golden Caster Sugar
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
25g Toasted Hazelnuts (Chopped)
16-24 Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Let us begin! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep, loose bottomed baking tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl sift in the flour and baking powder, then gently mix through the hazelnuts and cocoa powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, along with a tablespoon of milk and mix to a lovely consistent batter. Pour into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50-60 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When the cake is nearly done you can start on the syrup. Add the water and caster sugar to a small saucepan and gently stir on a medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the heat up and boil for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the coffee and rum.

Once the cake is done remove from the oven and whilst still hot, prick all over with a sharp knife or skewer. Carefully spoon over some of the hot syrup, leave to soak in for around 10 minutes, then repeat. Keep doing this until you have used all the syrup. You want the top to be completely sodden with syrup! Leave the soaked cake to cool completely in the tin.

Once the cake is cool carefully remove from the tin, then you can start on the cream. In a clean bowl pour in the double cream and add the sugar. Whisk until thick, then gently fold through the vanilla. Carefully spread over the top of your cake and level to the edges, then finish with a sprinkling of hazelnuts and a handful of chocolate covered cocoa beans. Your work is done! 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies. Need I say anymore? ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 60 Mins Chilling Time)
Baking time: 15 Mins
110g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Golden Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
135g Plain Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
1/2tsp Baking Powder
150g Dark Chocolate Chips
16tsp Smooth Peanut Butter (About half a jar)

These are great to make in advance, so if time is of the essence don't worry about splitting this process in half and leaving the dough in the fridge until your ready, even overnight.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the chocolate chips and that's the hard bit done!

Take a large sheet of cling film, blob the mixture onto it, then wrap up and leave in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.

Once the mixture is firm you can preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two large, flat baking trays with baking paper. Take a small handful of the dough, shape into a ball about the size of a golf ball and place on one of your prepared trays. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, evenly spacing the balls apart. You should have around 16 from this quantity of mixture.

For each ball press your thumb into the middle to make a deep dent, then fill with a teaspoon of peanut butter. Don't worry if the peanut butter smears over the edges as you go, as this just adds to their charm! Bake the cookies in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until each cookie has spread and is just starting to crack on top. You can leave them in a little longer if you prefer a crunchier finish.

When you are happy the cookies are baked remove them from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Once cool peel each from the baking paper and you are good to go. He he he. X 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Maple Pudding Cake

Christmas may seem but a distant memory and summer so far away, but that doesn't mean you should let your pudding tin gather dust in the kitchen cupboard. This maple pudding cake in soft and sweet and lovely served either warm with custard, or cold with a cup of tea. Perfect for the grey and damp days that seem so frequent at this time of year. ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 50-55 Mins
60g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Ground Almonds
50g Light Muscovado Sugar
135ml Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
100g Maple Syrup (Plus extra for drizzling)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Soaked Mixed Fruit (You can pick up pre-soaked dried fruit easily in most supermarkets)
The Zest of 1 Unwaxed Lemon

This is such a quick and easy one to make, so let's get started. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a medium sized (16cm in diameter) pudding tin and line the base with a little disc of baking paper. Add the flour, baking powder, almonds and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix briefly to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the oil, beaten eggs, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix well until evenly combined, then fold through the mixed fruit and lemon zest. 

Drizzle a little maple syrup into the base of your tin. Pour the cake mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50-55 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes.

Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of the cake to release it, then upturn onto a heatproof plate or dish. Carefully peel off the disc of paper, finish with a final drizzle of maple syrup and the pudding cake is ready! Huzzah!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Vegan Banana and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Fear not all you carnivores, omnivores and any other vores that happen to be out there, I've not abandoned you. However at the moment I do find myself enjoying the challenge of making some of my favourite recipes more inclusive of those with special dietary requirements. I'm not sure why I've not tried a vegan biscotti recipe sooner to be honest, as with only a single egg it's a relatively easy one to tweak. Instead I've bound the dry ingredients with a mashed banana and just a dash of oat, soya or almond milk. The results are super delicious and very easy to prepare. The only consideration really is the time they take to make, so give yourself a couple of hours and then you won't have to rush.

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins (Baking), 30 Mins (Drying)
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Golden Caster Sugar
150g Dark Chocolate Chips
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Ripe Banana (Mashed)
0.5-1Tbsp Oat, Soya or Almond Milk

To the kitchen! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and chocolate chips to a large mixing bowl and give them a mix around to combine. Add the vanilla extract, mashed banana and half a tablespoon of milk to the mixture. Mix briefly, then get your hand in there and bring together to a firm dough. If the mixture is too dry then you can add a touch more milk but be careful not to overdo it! The amount you will need will really depend on how big your banana is (Yes I did giggle as I typed that sentence).

Using wet hands form the dough into a fat sausage, about 20cm long and place in the middle of your baking sheet. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until the dough has spread slightly and is a lovely golden brown all over. When you are happy the dough is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool on the paper for around 15 mins.

Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Carefully peel the baked dough from the baking paper and place on a chopping board. At the same time line your baking tray with a fresh sheet of baking paper. Using the sharpest large knife you have slice the dough into thin biscotti and place each on the baking paper (on their side). Take care here as the biscotti will be rather fragile until they have dried out. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then flip each onto the other side and bake for a further 15 minutes. This dries them out and gives them that amazingly dunkable texture. 

Once the biscotti have dried out on both sides remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray. You could transfer the biscotti to a wire rack if you prefer, but I've had no issues leaving them on the tray and it's one less thing to wash up after. Once cool you are ready to serve them up, although if you can't restrain yourself they are also fantastic whilst still warm. ;-)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Vegan Peanut Butter Hobnob Tiffin

Aside from the ever growing range of vegan ingredients now available, there are a surprising number of 'accidental' ones too, such as the hobnob biscuits I am using in this recipe! They form part of a delicious biscuit tiffin that I'm topping with slightly sweetened peanut butter and melted dark chocolate. Just a single word of caution however, double check the chocolate you choose is in fact vegan, as some are not!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking Chilling time: 3 Hours
300g Hobnobs
50g Cocoa Powder
135g Coconut Oil
100g Golden Syrup

300g Peanut Butter
75g Golden Caster Sugar (You can adjust this slightly to taste)

300g Dark Chocolate (Melted either over a bain-marie or in the microwave)

I love making tiffin, it's just so easy! You'll need a 21cm square cake tin for this, although if you don't have one a similar sized rectangular tin will do just fine. When you have your tin to hand, take a large sheet of baking paper and press it into the corners to line it, leaving a small amount overhanging over the edge.

In a large mixing bowl pulverise the biscuits to crumbs, then stir through the cocoa powder. Add the coconut oil and golden syrup to a saucepan and stir over a low heat until melted together. Pour the syrupy oil over your biscuit crumbs and mix through to combine. Tip into your prepared tin and press firmly to the edges. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Once the bottom layer has chilled you can prepare the super indulgent toppings. Mix together the sugar and peanut butter, then spread over the top of the chilled base. Drizzle over the melted chocolate and return to the fridge for a further 2 hours.

Once fully chilled remove from the fridge and using the edges of the baking paper, carefully lift the tiffin from the tin. Using a very sharp knife slice into bars or squares. Peel each carefully from the paper and you are ready to serve. You can either present these to your greedy guests full chilled or at room temperature. Either way, they will go down a storm. :-)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Gnarly Cakes (Gluten, Dairy and Sugar Free)

These little beasties may look all gnarly and haggard but are still very yummy and (bonus!) are gluten, dairy AND sugar free. This doesn't quite mean you can nom down as many as you want, but they are slightly more virtuous than normal (well, normal for me anyway). I liven mine up with ground hazelnuts, mixed spice and fragrant extracts but there is plenty of room for experimentation if you want to try other combinations. How about a coffee version with chocolate chips for instance? Or if you used only ground almonds you could make them heady with lemon or orange zest. The possibilities are, well not quite endless, but numerous at the very least!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
100g Ground Almonds
100g Ground Hazelnuts
1tsp Baking Powder
50g Gluten Free Plain Flour
25g Desiccated Coconut
1tsp Mixed Spice
75g Coconut Oil (Melted on a low heat or microwave if in solid form)
125g Natural Fruit Based Sweetener Syrup
3 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Lemon Extract
1/2tsp Almond Extract
1 Apple (Cored, but grated with skin on)

Line a twelve cup muffin tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Add the hazelnuts, almonds, baking powder, flour, coconut and mixed spice to a large mixing bowl and mix together to combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, sweetener, eggs and extracts, then mix together until evenly combined. I'd like to say there were lots of fancy techniques involved in making these, but honestly you could get away with just throwing all the ingredients in a bowl and a giving it a good thrashing with a wooden spoon!

Once the mixture is combined fold through the grated apple, before pouring equally into each paper case. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a sharp knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of each little cake. When you are happy the cakes are baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 30 minutes, then carefully remove each one, leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. Oooosh, all done!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Vegan Powerjacks

I often turn to these when I need a naughty treat after the gym, as they are packed with good things to help my creaking body refuel and regenerate! They are also practically sugar free and vegan, although I stopped short of calling them gluten-free, as although oats don't technically contain gluten, the protein within them (called avenin) is similar. I've used dates and coconut in my version but you can freestyle at will if you want to throw in anything else. You're the head chef in your own kitchen after all. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 20 Mins
300g Jumbo Oats
50g Quinoa Flour (You get this from most speciality shops and even supermarkets these days)
50g Desiccated Coconut
80g Vegetable Oil
200g Smooth Cashew Nut Butter (Or you could use a Natural Smooth Peanut Butter)
190g Fruit Based Natural Sweetener (I use Sweet Freedom Light)
165g Pitted Dates (Chopped)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Banana (Well mashed)

For this you'll need a large saucepan, a large mixing bowl and a medium sized rectangular baking tin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line the baking tin with baking paper. Add the oats, flour and coconut to the mixing bowl and mix together to combine. Add the oil, nut butter, sweetener and chopped dates to the saucepan and place on a low heat. Let it all melt together, stirring occasionally, then add the banana and vanilla extract. You don't want this to boil as the sweetener has a low burning temperature, so once it's all nice and loose remove the pan from the heat.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix together until evenly combined. Tip the lot into your prepared tin, press to the edges, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 20 minutes, until lovely and golden on top. When you are happy the jacks are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for an hour.

Once cooled all you need to do is carefully remove from the tin and  then slice into squares. I'll leave how big you make each square to your discretion. They should be soft and just slightly chewy, which is just how I like my jacks. Ooooh I want one right now!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Coconut Pudding Cake with Lemon Curd

THIS CAKE IS DELISH. MAKE IT IMMEDIATELY!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 50-55 Mins
175g Unsalted Butter
200g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Coconut Cream
100g Ground Almonds
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
200-225g Lemon Curd
1-2 Handfuls of Dessicated Coconut

Cake time! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a medium sized rectangular baking dish. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Mix through the coconut cream, then add the ground almonds and do the same. Sift in the flour and baking powder then mix vigorously until you are a left with a lovely, consistent batter. 

Spoon into your prepared tin and gently even to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 50-55 mins, until a metal skewer or knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and pierce the top all over with a sharp knife. Slather the top with half of the lemon curd and leave for 1 hour. Slather again (ooh I love the word slather!) with the rest of the lemon curd and sprinkle over the dessicated coconut. Leave for another hour until just warm and you are ready to serve. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm YUM!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Quick and Easy Trifle

It really does vex me when people deem 'easy' recipes as somehow less worthy than their more complicated counterparts. Sometimes the easiest things can be the most satisfying and what is more satisfying than a dirty great trifle? I've made this one child friendly, but you can always add a little sherry if you'd like to make things more grown up. And as far as the sprinkles go? You can have whatever you want, WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: About 10 Mins for the fruit and then a few hours to chill
800g-1kg of Frozen Summer Fruits
160g (8) Trifle Sponges
800g Yellow Custard (It has to be yellow doesn't it!)
600ml Double Cream
The Sticky Seeds from a Vanilla Pod
75g Caster Sugar
Sprinkles (Be it Hundreds and Thousands, Toasted Nuts, or whatever you fancy!)

You'll only need your hob for this first bit, so grab a large saucepan and tip in the frozen fruit. Leave on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until some of the fruit has burst to release its delicious juice. You don't want it to boil but get to just beyond warm. Once the fruit is all juicy, remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Take each trifle sponge, dip one side in the fruit to soak up some juice and lay in the base of a good sized trifle dish. Ladle over the fruit (and remaining juice) to cover entirely. Top with the custard and spread carefully to cover. 

In a large mixing bowl add the cream, vanilla seeds and sugar. If you want to make use of the pod itself later, then just pop it into an airtight container and cover with more sugar. You'll then have lovely vanilla sugar for whenever you need it. Whisk the flavoured cream until soft peaks form, then spoon over the custard. Again carefully spread to the edges and finish with a generous helping of sprinkles. 

Pop in the fridge, covered if you can for a few hours, ideally overnight. You're then ready for the fun to begin!