As a few of you know from the past, I sometimes send out boxes of my bakes. These started because of a depressed friend needing a cheer up last year and have been erratic since then, usually for a similar reason or for the prize of a giveaway. Since the start of the year I have however been sending at least one out a month. I’ve a list of people who have asked about them, and if you want to get on it, give me a shout. My priorities are however; Friends that need cheering up, a special occasion, a commission (coming to that) and then if none of those have been met I start on the list!
Our oven is fixed. This is the best thing that has happened since I moved to London (OK, that’s a lie, but what you gonna do about it?). I can now bake things to my heart’s content. And by bake things, I mean cook pizza. To say it’s been broken I’ve still managed ok, once I got the hang of the temperature. I managed to make a Pumpkin Spiced Loaf and a Victoria Sponge for my flatmates birthdays. The sponge came out better as I’d had the practise with the Pumpkin Loaf. After the loaf I had a large amount of pecans left over. So spent some time flicking through some suggestions on Tastespotting (I spend far too much time on that site, it’s brilliant/it makes me hungry). I eventually landed on this recipe, for Maple & Caramel Pecan Pie Bars.
Proper Pecan Pie has been on my list for a very long while, but to do it properly I’ll need to do it when I’ve got more time as I want to make sure the pastry is absolutely spot on. These bars use a very, very, basic base that isn’t quite pastry, so it can be thrown together quickly and doesn’t need chilling etc. In fact I chucked all of this together despite getting in from a burger place with my workmates at about 8.45.
Make sure you don’t overbake the base. You are going to be putting the whole thing back in the oven once you’ve added the topping so the last thing you want is for it to be overcooked or burnt. Another thing I must confess is that I bought the Salted Caramel from the shop. I wouldn’t usually, for instance you can find my recipe for caramel here. But as I explained, due to time constraints and doing this on a bit of a whim I didn’t have time.
- 128g all-purpose flour
- 75g brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
- 115g unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 large egg
- 75g brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
- 80ml maple
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt, optional and to taste (consider omitting if nuts are well-salted)
- 200g pecans (I used raw, unsalted, whole pecans; use halves and pieces, salted and roasted, or your favorite type)
- about ¼ cup salted caramel sauce (homemade or storebought), for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 180°C(160°C fan assisted). Line an 8x8 tin with greaseproof paper. These get sticky.
- For the crust, rub the butter into the flour and sugar, rubbing/cutting in until there are no large lumps.
- Turn the mixture, which will have started forming in a dough, into the base of the prepared tin and, using a spatula, flatten it out evenly across the base.
- Place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for around 15 minutes, until it has coloured slightly. Don’t overbake as it’ll be going back in the oven.
- While it’s baking make the topping. In a large bowl combine the sugar, syrup, vanilla and egg. Mix in the pecans and set aside.
- Once the crust has baked gently spread the topping over the top and place back in the oven. Make sure they are spread evenly.
- Bake for between 16-19 minutes. When you try gently shaking the pan the mixture should be set.
- Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before you drizzle the salted caramel over the top.
- Slice and serve.
More fruit in things. Carrying on from the Strawberry Drizzle cake I made last week I wanted to keep with the berry and summery bake theme going. I also didn’t want to do anything overly complex. I’ve been really busy on the nights so wanted something I could bake quickly one night, hence the Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies with a Lemon Drizzled Glaze.
I also wanted to make something relatively light that gave a bit of energy. At work we’ve set up a couple of exercise bikes on the balcony and as a company are aiming to cycle the length of the Tour De France in 10 days. We managed it in 6 but we’ve been continuing to cycle anyway. I personally put in a couple of short half hour shifts. The second being 18km in the 30 minutes. Which is a personal best and I’d like to think a signal of my continued improved fitness.
Anyway, back to the cookies. I found them here. And completely agree that, while they are great on their own, the drizzle really does make them.
I’m also moving in the very near future. This may mean that my posts become slightly more sporadic, so apologies in advance.
Scott Malthouse, Senior PR Exec said: “These cookies are A-MAH-ZING.”
Puneet Mitra, Digital Marketing Exec said: “Best cookies you’ve ever made.”
- 192g cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 200glight brown sugar
- 200g granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 255g old-fashioned oats
- 100g blueberries
- 128g powdered sugar
- juice of one lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180°C(160°C fan assisted) and line a cookie tray (I only have a standard baking tray).
- Quickly whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- Cream together both sugars and the butter. Do this on a medium speed for about 3 minutes until it’s light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add in the vanilla.
- Stir in the flour mix, then the oats. Finally mix in the blueberries with a spatula, carefully so that they don’t burst.
- Using two heaped tablespoons per cookie, roll them into a ball and space evenly on the prepared tray. Spaced about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes, until they are golden brown.
- Allow them to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack.
- Once they have cooled. Combine the lemon and icing sugar until it’s a paste.
- Drizzle over the top and set aside until it hardens.
Easter is here. Which means mini eggs, everywhere. All the time. On top of everything. Inside everything (why not in brownies instead of the chocolate chips?). It also means the obligatory mini egg nests. Which is possibly one of the easiest “bakes” around and requires absolutely zero baking. Just some melting. And who doesn’t like melting stuff? (I tried to find a video of Phoebe first meeting her brother and him spending the whole time melting things, but the internet, for once, failed me).
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet just because there isn’t all that much you can say about Easter (especially as a non-religious person) and even less you can say about nests. The one thing I would say is that I prefer shredded wheat to cornflakes. It goes less soggy and gives a much better crispiness/nest look. Let me know what you’re baking for Easter in the comments below!
- 300g Milk Chocolate
- Tablespoon Peanut Butter (Optional)
- 3-4 Large Shredded Wheat
- 1 Packet of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs or equivalent non-brand.
- Either in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), melt the chocolate with the peanut butter until it’s smooth.
- Break in the shredded wheat and mix together, coating the shredded wheat well.
- Transfer spoonfuls of the mixture to cupcake cases, allowing to cool slightly before adding the eggs.
- Chill in the fridge to set.
- Eat. All of them.
- Have a good Easter.
So last week I made Shortbread, on impulse, for the first time in absolutely ages (years maybe?) and it reminded me how some of the best bakes are the most simple. I mean, Shortbread can be thrown together in the space of 50 minutes (which includes chilling AND cook time) and with very simple ingredients. I contrasted this the next day with one of the more complex things I’ve ever made, my Marmite Caramel Cupcakes. This was the first time I’d ever actually made caramel and it made me want to do it again. So the logical progressing was Millionaire’s Shortbread. The number of store bought millionaire’s shortbread I’ve had and been disappointed in are far too many to count. What’s with the “shortbread”? It’s more like the base of a cheesecake or something. Not even remotely like good old fashioned crunchy shortbread. Couple proper shortbread with well-made caramel, and good chocolate, you get something truly wonderful.
My only issue is that I made the caramel while the shortbread was in the oven. And it took absolutely bloody ages to cool down. And it needs to cool properly, as it thickens as it cools. If you don’t wait, it’s far too runny but once it’s chilled it’s thick and spreadable. So I’d recommend doing the Caramel in advance (I’m going to upload the recipe for that separately (as well). I also really didn’t want to use the condensed milk method that most places recommend.
- For the Caramel:
- 250gm sugar
- 400ml cream
- 50gm unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon of salt (optional)
- Vanilla extract (optional).
- For the Shortbread:
- 125g/4oz butter
- 55g/2oz caster sugar, plus extra to finish
- 180g/6oz plain flour
- For the topping:
- 150g Dark Chocolate
- Decent sized chunk of butter. (You can always add more)
- For the caramel:
- In the bottom of a large heavy based stew pot, heap the sugar and place over a low heat.
- As the edges start to melt, mix (using a wooden spoon) them in to the non-melted sugar. At this point my sugar started spreading out over the pan.
- Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the pan. Allow it to completely melt. It will colour at this point. The longer you leave it the more bitter it will be.
- Take off the heat. Stir in half the cream. The mixture will bubble up furiously. Be careful of any steam coming out. Parts of the mix may start to harden, but keep on stirring and it should all combine nicely.
- Add the remaining cream then return to the low heat. Add the butter and the other ingredients (if using). Keep stirring over the heat until the butter is combined.
- Take off the stove and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Pour in to jars and allow to cool. It’ll be very runny at this point but will thicken as it cools. It’ll last about 3 weeks in the fridge and you’ll have MORE than enough.
- For the Shortbread:
- Heat the oven to 190°C(170°C fan assisted). I currently don’t have a deep tin/dish (anymore, left it at my ex’s oops) for this so just did it on a baking tray. Obviously something with deep sides would be better.
- Combine together the butter and the sugar. Mixing until it’s smooth.
- Add in the flour and mix until it makes a paste. I had to use a wooden spoon to finish this off.
- Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and roll out until it’s around 1cm thick. If using a tin, cut to fit. Otherwise slice up in to a rectangle/square.
- Place on baking paper on a tray and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
- Place in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
- Once this has cooled spoon the caramel over the top and spread it so it’s evenly distributed.
- Return to the fridge while you sort the chocolate. Either in the microwave (I don’t own one!) or in a bowl over hot water, melt the butter and chocolate together.
- Spread this over the top of the shortbread/caramel and place back in the fridge until it’s set.
- Divide up in to squares.