Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banoffee blondies...sheer heaven

Ok, so if you haven't ever eaten banoffee then you are really missing out on one of life's greatest desserts. I mean banana and toffee were really just made for each other and that's where the whole banoffee idea came from. This version of banoffee is a little different to the pie version but it still has all the amazing flavours in there. The only problem I have with making these is the use of the dulce de leche because as we all know it involves boiling the be-jeepers out of cans of condensed milk for hours and hours. However, luckily for me, I got to have the cheaters way out as I was able to get my hands on some soft toffees which I could melt down in the microwave and put into the blondies. I love when you get an easy way out!

Banoffee Blondies (from raspberri cupcakes, makes approx 20) 

115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 1/2 cup (110g) packed light-brown sugar 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 large egg 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup ripe banana, mashed (about 1 medium banana) 
1 cup (130g) plain flour (spooned and leveled) 
1 tsp salt 
1 cup chocolate chips 
1/4 cup dulce de leche or soft toffees

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 9 x 9 inch baking pan with a piece of baking paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper. 
In a large bowl, lightly whisk butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg and vanilla and mashed banana. Add flour and salt; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Use a teaspoon to place dollops of dulce de leche (or melted soft toffees) over the top of the batter. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean (25 - 30 mins). Leave to cool on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Lemon poppy seed gluten free waffles

I'm on a pretty big waffle kick at the moment as I find them a great way to start the day. I can make a whole batch and then wrap and freeze them and take them out when I feel the need. Anything that makes my life easier when I have to wake up at 5.45am is always good.
I'm also trying to experiment with gluten-free eating so I was particularly excited yesterday when I found a small bag of gluten-free flour in Ranch market yesterday. I also wanted to try a different flavour for my waffles as mostly I've just been doing a banana cinnamon flavour. So remembering my little bag of poppy seeds in the fridge and how great poppy seeds are in all things lemon I figured that was the way to go.
Waffles can be whipped up pretty quickly and once you have a waffle maker (naturally!) you just pop your cup full of batter in there and let the maker do all the work. These are crispy waffles with a soft interior. I like my waffles crispy so I tend to cook mine on a higher setting. They are also light and I don't get that ridiculously full feeling from eating one.

Lemon Poppy Seed Gluten Free Waffles

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp molasses sugar
2 tsp poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk (almond, soy, regular, up to you)
1 tsp vinegar
Zest of a lemon
Juice of a lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put all your dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk briefly to make sure there are no lumps.
Mix the vinegar and milk and leave to curdle. Add eggs, zest and juice of lemon, olive oil and vanilla.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined.
Cook according to your waffle maker.
Enjoy with blueberries, strawberries or just nude with a drizzle of maple syrup. A great start to the day!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Almond butter granola bars

So, I've been struggling recently with sensitivities to gluten and yeast and have been making a big effort to seek out healthy alternatives. I mean just because you have to reorganise your diet shouldn't mean you have to cut out everything mildly delicious. I've always loved granola bars. They are a handy inbetween meal snack that makes you feel full and satisfied. However, the ones sold in supermarkets are full of strange ingredients and lots of sugar. So, I decided to make my own. Truth be told, these are even more delicious than ones I've bought in the supermarket. Perhaps tasting even better because I know exactly what went into them. I based these on a recipe I found online but changed the nuts/seeds that went into it.

I started off by making my own almond butter by just chucking a load of almonds in the food processor and remembering to be patient while the nuts go through their various stages before reaching butter. Then this goes in a pot with two mashed bananas and is heated gently to soften it up. I like to add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon to ring out flavours. While the butter and banana is gently heating I throw into a bowl lots of nuts, seeds, some wheat free oats, cranberries and to be just a little bit naughty some chopped up dark chocolate. 
Then pour your melted butter and banana onto your oat and but mix and mix thoroughly. Then put into an oiled brownie tin and press down. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Slice up into bars and refrigerate. These last in the fridge for quite a while and I usually get a week out of them.

Almond Butter Granola Bars

1/2 cup almond butter
2 bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup cranberries
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
80g chopped dark chocolate

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Oil a brownie tin.

Heat banana and almond butter until soft and well combined.
Place nuts, seeds, oats, chocolate and cranberries in a bowl and mix together.
Add banana and butter and mix thoroughly. Press mixture into tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Cool and slice into bars.
Store in the fridge and devour shamelessly when hungry.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Brownies to die for...

Yes, you heard die for...Here in Indonesia, the term 'brownies' is used very loosely to describe a number of chocolate-y items. Mostly they are chocolate cake cooked in a tray. They are spongey and lacking in taste or flavour. To be blunt, they are vile. I wouldn't eat them personally nor buy them for friend or even foe. They are that bad, probably due to the fact that lots of cakes here are baked using this terrifying substance called 'Blue Band' which I suppose is a type of margarine but tastes synthetic and the other frightful ingredient would be 'chocolate compound' again synthetic-like and tasteless...I like to call it plastic chocolate. 
Brownies, should NEVER resemble in any way 'cake' for they are in a category entirely of their own. There is nothing spongey about brownies. Instead there is a crunchy, chewy exterior and a soft, gooey interior. That, to me, is the perfect brownie texture. I chuckle like a snob behind my palms when someone plops a spongey, mildly chocolate square in front of me and dares to be so bold as to call it a 'brownie', the audacity, really! How can they not know? Then whoever has created the spongey square tries to cover up the lack of flavour by smearing some chocolate frosting on the, no, no. The beauty of the brownie is in its spectacular ability to stand alone and yet fully satisfy. A sprinkling of icing sugar on the top is purely for decorative value, the best of brownies needs nothing else.
However, when a friend arrives to visit and brings a bag of pure bliss (aka Reese's peanut butter cups) I find myself trying to find a worthwhile recipe to use them in so I don't just sit down in a quiet corner and devour the whole bag shamelessly. Enter the brownie and not just any brownie but quite possibly the most delicious brownie I have tasted in a long time. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen blog and it sounded too good not to try. I stuck to it exactly with the addition of the pure bliss (aka Reese's peanut butter cups) being the only change. Oh much for my great idea...when these brownies came out of the tray I found myself wanting to seek out that quiet corner even more and devour peanut butter cup brownies instead. Luckily I work with a number of people and I forced myself to slice up the brownies promptly and hide them away in a tupperware to bring to share, delighting at every piece that crumbled a bit as I cut it and made me have to do some evening out...the uneven bits being entirely for me, of course.
If you make one batch of brownies in your life, it really must be this one. That's all I need to say to you. What? You are still actually reading this? Just go! Do it now!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Baby Banana Bundt cakes with dark chocolate icing

Yes, it's been awhile since I posted on here but then again I did move and start a new job. The new job was nothing compared to the new city I find myself in. Jakarta, or as some call it 'the big durian' is a melting pot of everything - people, food, traffic, noise, street sellers, motorbikes and it never sleeps. You can find out more about my adventures in Jakarta here.
However, the good news is that I managed to find myself an apartment to live in with a gas oven. I don't have a huge amount of experience working with gas ovens so the first few cooking adventures have been a getting to know you better experiment. Gas ovens get very hot. When you put them in an apartment that is average sized but has an open kitchen concept. Well, it turns the whole living space into, well, an oven. It gets insanely hot. Plus I have found things cook very quick with gas.The heat seems so much more intense than an electric oven and I guess that's because under there is a whole circle of flames.
Nevertheless, I will not be deterred and I will conquer baking with gas.
Today, I wanted to make some banana bread. I love banana bread. There is something so comforting and satisfying about it. I found a recipe on a blog called Cannella Vita which I started following recently and the recipe seemed so simple but yet got such good reviews. I like simple, especially when I am too busy worrying about the oven part of the baking process. 
If there is one thing ican say with my hand on my heart, it is that I have found THE perfect banana for baking banana bread. It grows here in Indonesia and is called pisang ambon or Ambon banana. Yes, when you go to the supermarket here in Jakarta you can find up to five or six different kinds of bananas for sale. They range in size, thickness of skin and shape. However, pisang ambon is the king of them all in my eyes when it comes to baking. I made banana bread back in Dublin but it never had the same taste or colour as banana bread here. This particular banana turns the bread this lovely dark golden colour compared to the paler shade I always got in Ireland.
This recipe turned out just perfect. The bread was very moist and the only difference I made to the recipe was to add a half teaspoon of cinnamon (because for me it goes so well with bananas) and a teaspoon of vanilla (because it goes well with everything). I also baked it in my fabulous, best buy ever, mini Bundt silicone tray. This silicone Bundt tray bakes everything perfectly and lets face it, who doesn't want to have their very own portion of banana bread shaped in a cute little Bundt.
Of course, to really pimp up banana bread there is nothing like a good smear of dark chocolate spread and a sprinkling of walnuts to send it over the edge. Yum...

Monday, 1 July 2013

Orange poppy seed Bundt cake...orangelicious!

I baked this awhile ago and realised I hadn't posted the photos. This cake was delicious with a rich orange flavour and the addition of those lovely blue poppy seeds gave it a real earthiness. Although the glaze was a simple orange and icing sugar mixture, when I make this again I would go for a marmalade glaze instead. I think marmalade would make it tangy and particularly pretty with the orange rind in it. I do have the recipe somewhere on my phone but I'll have to dig it out. I do remember it being quite similar to the lemon Bundt cake recipe I used but of course all lemon ingredients substituted with orange. The key is to find delicious, juicy oranges for that rich flavour and we are lucky at the moment in that we are inundated in the supermarket with amazing big Spanish oranges. There was a fight between household members to slurp the remaining juice out of the squeezer it was that good! By the time I got around to trying to photograph the inside of the cake, well, you can see what was left!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake...full of chocolate love!

With my dads birthday approaching I knew I needed to find a whopper of a cake to bake for the occasion. I clicked and searched and searched and clicked and finally stumbled across this genius recipe. You can find it here
What a sheer revelation! Even the name of the cake caused a giant grin to spread from one ear to the other. How could this not go down a treat in a hungry household?
It was a breeze to make, popped it in the oven and did have a few moments of worrying whether it was overcooking or not. After all, we couldn't very well have a tunnel of fudge cake with no fudgy tunnel! Anyway I held off until the 45 minutes then whisked it out. I left it for the full half an hour in the tin and it came out so easy. The chocolate ganache was deliriously good and I had to stop myself from just pouring the whole lot into my mouth rather than putting it on the cake. I did find that the bottom was a little crispy when I took it out, however with the chocolate ganache this helped soften it up. What really set this cake over the edge was a 20 second blast in the microwave to ensure the middle was gooey and two scoops of vanilla bean ice-cream. Warm chocolate cake and vanilla ice-cream...bliss! I really did die and go to heaven. So did everyone else. If you make one chocolate cake...make this. Just make sure you don't scrimp at the supermarket. Buy good expensive chocolate, it makes the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary cake. You wont regret it!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lemon poppy seed muffins...don't eat too many!

Ok so there is nothing like a lovely muffin to kick start your day. I saw some lemons lying in the fruit bowl and thought I'd make some muffins to have ready in the morning. As I was browsing the Internet for inspiration I saw some muffins that had poppy seeds in them and how well they seemed to pair with lemon. So, why not? My dad came back from the local supermarket with blue poppy seeds! Blue? Yes indeed. The poppy it would seem comes in many shades and sizes. So I did a bit of a google in the hope of finding that the blue variety were perfectly acceptable ingredients in a muffin. Well, not only did I find that the blue hued poppy seed is fine in baked foods, I found something far more interesting...
Although the drug opium is produced by "milking" latex from the unripe fruits ("seed pods") rather than from the seeds, all parts of the plant can contain or carry the opium alkaloids, especially morphine and codeine. This means that eating foods (e.g., muffins) that contain poppy seeds can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test. However the results provided will not be the same for someone who abuses opiates.

Well, 'phew' to that, is all I can say! But, how interesting too! I wonder if I ate all 12 muffins if I would test wickedly high on the opiate scale. So fascinating that something that tiny could be so potent. Of course, I clicked here and there and was fascinated by the studies done on the mere poppy seed. It's actually banned in some countries! 
Anyway, I digress, the muffin was delicious (or was that the morphine talking?). With Greek yoghurt in the recipe, it made the muffin incredibly moist. 
I did the drizzle on the top as the muffin itself had a lovely strong lemon flavour and wasn't too sweet so the drizzle just added an extra zing. When I cut into it, those blue poppy seeds looked fabulous dotting the muffin here and there.
They didn't overpower the muffin and instead I found gave it an 'earthy' taste which I really liked. During my research, I discovered that poppy seeds aid sleep. So I ate my muffin and did my taste test before heading to bed. So here's to a good nights sleep. Maybe we can rearrange the world view so muffins can be a supper snack instead...just make sure you don't forget to go heavy on the poppy seeds!

Monday, 6 May 2013

White Toblerone Bundt cake...

So, what do you do when you get given one of those massive Toblerone bars? You instantly go in search of a way to turn it into something even more divine like a Bundt cake. I do like Toblerone but I must admit that I find the white chocolate a bit sickly and sweet on its own. However, when it becomes the base for a Bundt cake it becomes transformational. This cake was so moist and soft. It melted in your mouth. The intense sweetness of the chocolate had gone and instead it made the cake rich and flavourful. There was 200g of Toblerone in this, which was half of one of those giant bars. I could easily have just sat and sliced another five slices of this and gobbled them down. Self-restraint is not easily accomplished around this cake. Make at your own waistlines risk!

White chocolate Toblerone Bundt cake

Melt in a double boiler :
250g butter
200g white Toblerone
1 cup milk
1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Leave to cool. Once cool add 2 cups plain flour, 2 and half tsps baking powder and 3 beaten eggs.

Pop in the Bundt pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes though. You don't want to overcook and lose that lovely moistness. Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out onto a cake stand. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Devour shamelessly!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Melt in your mouth jam sandwich biscuits...

There is something so insanely comforting about a jam sandwich biscuit. It's such an old school biscuit that believe me, something that has been around that long, has to tickle your taste buds. So, let's not try for a second to imagine that biscuits in a packet are going to taste anything like the ones you can make from scratch. The only real fiddley bit in making your own is the actually assembly of the biscuits. However, once I had a method to the madness it moved along quite easily.
So, first you start with your shortbread - 1 cup butter creamed with 1/2 cup icing sugar, then add a teaspoon of good vanilla extract, finally 2 cups plain flour. Mix until it comes together, shape into a disc and refrigerate for an hour. Once chilled, roll out and use your cutters to get as many biscuits as you can. Use smaller cutters to cut out centre pieces. Bake for 10 minutes. Once cooled, spread jam on the full biscuits. Sprinkle the cut out biscuit with icing sugar and sandwich on top. Devour shamelessly! Taking comfort in each is never enough!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A little bit of spice...vegetable curry puffs

Oh I adore ready made puff opens up a plethora of baking opportunities. This evening I felt like something hot and spicy to pick me up so what better way than to pop some curry vegetable and potato filling onto a square of puff pastry. Fold it over, press down edges, cut a few breathing slits and into the oven. They're ready in about twenty minutes and are really best eaten on the day. A lovely satisfying savoury snack.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Easter morning breakfast of champions!

So what do you feed a hungry family on Easter morning? A breakfast of champions, of course. And what might a breakfast of champions be? Baked French toast with homemade blueberry syrup.
Baked french incredibly easy and so fabulously delicious. The real difficulty is not locking yourself in the nearest cupboard and devouring the whole tray of it yourself! The trick is to prepare it the night before and leave it in the fridge for the bread to soak up all the flavour. Pop it in the oven when you wake up and it will be ready in an hour. When it comes out try ad wait patiently for it to cool slightly before slicing a big square, spooning over your blueberry syrup and digging in. You really couldn't ask for a more satisfying morning treat.

Baked French toast

Half a sliced loaf of bread (I used regular sliced pan but the 'big slices' variety)
5 eggs
1.5 cups of milk
.75 cup of cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg

Cut up the bread slices into squares and squeeze them into a well greased baking tray. Don't worry too much about the placement just squeeze in as much as you can.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and nutmeg.
Pour over bread and cover.
Leave overnight in the fridge.

Streusel topping
.5 cup flour
.5 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
.5 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter

Put flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

Next morning, heat oven to 190c and sprinkle the streusel topping over bread. Pop in the oven for an hour.
Take out and devour deserve it (especially if you gave up sweet things for Lent!)

Blueberry syrup

1 cup fresh blueberries
.75 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in some hot water

Put blueberries, sugar as water in a pot. Bring to the boil and simmer until blueberries are soft. Add dissolved cornflour to blueberry mix and stir until syrup has thickened. Pour generously!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Brown rice flour banana bread...experiments into the healthier side of life continue...

So after my success with the spelt flour cookies, I thought it was time to give the bag of brown rice flour lurking with intent at the back of the cupboard a go. You can't usually go wrong with banana bread. So I found a recipe using brown rice flour. It was fairly easy to make as most banana bread is and I had it in the oven in no time at all. I felt like my bananas could have been a bit larger but I had to make do with the two little ones in the fruit bowl. I liked the addition of the peanut butter because I think it goes very well with banana. I didn't have milk chocolate chips so I just hacked up a dark chocolate bar and put that in. It seemed to take ages to bake and I had to cover the top about half way through with tin foil because it seemed to be browning a tad too quickly. Once it was out and cooled a little, it was time for the taste test. I can't say that I particularly noticed the brown rice flour, it doesn't have a strong taste at all. I think spelt has a far more nutty taste to it than brown rice flour. There was no change in texture which I was pleased about as I had read that sometimes this particular flour can have a gritty texture. I felt the bread was a little bit dry, but nothing that a good cup of tea or coffee with my slice didn't remedy. I would definitely tweak the recipe next time to try and get a moist bread. It has however, inspired me to continue my healthy experimentations with alternatives flours and I will see what I can seek out in the local health shop.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Health kick...chocolate chip spelt cookies...

Ok, so post Christmas I generally tend to feel like a giant walking pudding! I know I have eaten way too much turkey and ham, my had has slipped into the Roses box to the point that I believe it has a will of its' own and I can't kid myself that I am just shaving bits off the Christmas cake...hell I'm slicing off chunks...then February hits and you tell yourself that a few chocolate biscuits here and there to maintain the sugar high will be easy to lose and before you know it, March smacks you in the face and your skinny jeans don't make it past your ankles. EVERYTHING feels a little too snug and the misery begins to really sink in that you only have a couple of months before the (so called) summer hits. Of course, with summer comes the bikini...the bane of every woman who has every struggled with their weight! However, if the truth is indeed meant to be out there, I'm adding one more. I like sweet things...actually no, I LOVE sweet things. I bow down to the comfort, satisfaction and sheer joy they bring. I could never give them up. NEVER. EVER. Anyone who has managed to live their life and restrict the wonder of chocolate in all its idiots! You have deprived yourself of one of the greatest foodstuffs the world has ever known. Ok, so now we have the fact that I am a chocoholic down...we get to the next point. What does one want to do when one needs to desperately have chocolate in their lives AND squeeze into the official uniform of summer? Get creative! Hence, introducing spelt chocolate chip and almond cookies. I am intrigued by spelt flour and its benefits. So much so that I decided the best way to get to grips with it was to buy a bag and see what could be done. To my surprise, the flour producers made it very easy by listing some recipes on the back. They were for bread, bread, bread and cookies....HELLO! The recipe couldn't have been simpler. The batter took about 5 minutes to get together. Now, of course, the recipe on the flour bag didn't call for almonds and chocolate chips. However, they sounded insanely healthy with just the cinnamon that I had to make an über healthy version and a sneaky little chocolate fix version. Surprisingly both were good. Sneaky little chocolate version won simply because it contained the worlds greatest foodstuff...of course. Über healthy version was also satisfying, sweet and had a good kick from the cinnamon. The wholemeal spelt flour gives quite a nutty taste and texture to the cookie, but it's good, filling and satisfying. I would recommend anyone trying to stay away from the baddies in the biccie jar to try these. After all they are gluten and dairy free but yet still taste like you are having something naughty. Also, when you make them be sure to press them down with a fork to flatten them out. They don't spread much during baking and if you don't flatten them then you are left with nice little mounds!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Post Christmas pick me up...Bacon, Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

So what do you do after you are all turkey'd and ham'd out after the Christmas? Make quiche! I love quiche. I find it incredible satisfying and perfect with a good helping of salad. The best part of it all is that it is incredibly simple to make. Especially if like me you are extra lazy and buy the ready made short crust pastry! You bake that first for about 10 mins with some parchment and baking beads on top. The rest is a matter of deciding what you would like to put in the quiche or whatever you have in your fridge. Generally I like to gently fry those ingredients first. Then I add them to 4 eggs, milk and cream. Pop in some dried herbs, add a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper and into the dish. Bake in the oven for about 55 minutes or until the egg is set. When you take it out, hold back from cutting into it. Let it cool for about 15 minutes. Then away you couldn't be simpler and the possibilities are endless! Just use your imagination...