Monday, 29 May 2017

Wholemeal Banana Breakfast Muffins

As soon as one labels anything 'healthy' the sense of apprehension becomes almost palpable. But just because something is relatively virtuous, that doesn't mean it's not equally as delicious and satisfying, often even more so.

These muffins are a very nommy breakfast treat and packed with wholesome ingredients that will keep you firing on all cylinders until lunchtime. Don't worry though, there's still one or two cheeky nuggets of naughtiness to keep your tastebuds on their toes! ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
200g Wholemeal Flour
1.5tsp Baking Powder
1.5tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1.5tsp Ground Cinnamon
125g Granola (Crush any large lumps of this up with your hands)
100g White Chocolate Chips (Or Raisins, Sultanas or anything else you fancy!
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
150ml Natural Yoghurt
50ml Rapeseed Oil
100g Runny Honey (Plus a little extra for drizzling)
2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Did I mention this one is a DODDLE to prepare? So no excuse not to get cracking! Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lining a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, 75g of granola and chocolate chips (or whatever alternative you decided on). Mix together to combine, then make a large well in the centre.

Pour in the eggs, yoghurt, oil and honey, then add the bananas and vanilla extract. Don't worry, you can do this all in one go. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together to form a consistent batter, then spoon equally into your paper cases. Sprinkle the rest of the granola onto the top of each filled case, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until the muffins have risen and are slightly springy to the touch.

When you are happy the muffins are baked remove from the oven, leave in the tray for ten minutes, then carefully transfer each to a wire rack. Drizzle each with a final lick of honey and leave to cool completely. Finished!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Honey, Lemon and Almond Cake

This recipe is the perfect accompaniment to the early summer sunshine that's becoming ever more frequent (and more welcome) as the weeks drift by. Honey and lemon is a tried and tested classic, but I've thrown in some almonds and coconut oil alongside to add another delicious dimension. What really makes this one special though is the sweet syrup, as you'll be DRENCHING the surface with it!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
150g Golden Caster Sugar
50g Runny Honey
3 Large Eggs
The zest of 2 Lemons
200g Greek Style Yoghurt
100g Coconut Oil (Melted)
200g Ground Almonds
150g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

For the Syrup
125g Runny Honey
The juice of 2 Lemons

Cake time! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a deep 20cm baking tin with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the caster sugar, honey, eggs and lemon zest. I usually do this by hand for a solid 60 seconds. Add the yoghurt and coconut oil, then fold through. Follow this by adding the ground almonds and sifting in the plain flour along with the baking powder. Continue folding through until you a left with a lovely consistent cake batter. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove it from the oven and leave in the tin, on a wire rack. For the syrup add the honey to a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Once small bubbles start to appear on the surface of the honey add the lemon juice and turn up the heat. Let it bubble away whilst stirring for about 60 seconds until syrupy, then remove from the heat. 

Poke holes all over the top of your cake and spoon over about half of the syrup. Leave for about 5 minutes to soak in, then repeat for the rest of the syrup. Leave the cake to cool entirely, before carefully removing from the tin. It's now ready for slicing and nomming!  

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies

As much as I LOVE Nutella on my toast in the morning it's just too naughty to eat regularly as part of a balanced diet. Subsequently, I've been looking at ways to use up the large jar of the chocolatey hazelnut spread that until recently has been tormenting me with temptation. I've gone super nutty by combining it with peanut butter in a cookie dough, which when baked gives the cookies an incredible flavour and a soft, super moreish texture!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 60 Mins Chilling time)
Baking time: 12-15 Mins
125g Nutella
100g Smooth Peanut Butter
75g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Baking Powder
100g Plain Flour

To the kitchen! Begin by combining two large, flat baking trays with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the Nutella, peanut butter and sugar, then beat in the egg along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the baking powder and flour, then mix to a sticky dough. Spoon the dough onto a sheet of clingfilm, wrap up and leave to chill in a fridge for 60 mins.


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grab your dough from the fridge. Break off a small handful of the dough, roll into a ball and place on one of your prepared trays. Repeat for the rest of the dough, evenly spacing your balls apart, then press each to a fat disk with the palm of your hand. 


Bake in the centre of the oven for around 12-15 minutes, until just cracking on top and darkening at the edges. When you are happy the cookies are baked remove from the oven. They may have domed slightly on top, so with the back of a spoon press down on each. This will give the cooled cookies a lovely firm and chewy texture. 

Leave the cookies to cool on the trays for around 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Your work is done. ;-)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Oh bread, how I love thee...


Bread is by far my favourite food, both to eat and to make. The process is a joy, from the tactile pleasure of kneading and shaping the soft dough, to the nervous anticipation of the rising and baking. It is tremendous fun and every bread I bake fills me with both satisfaction and pride.

BREAD IS NOT BORING

To eat freshly baked bread is a sensory feast without parallel. There is nothing quite like the smell of bread baking in the kitchen. Both comforting and seductive, the mouth-watering aroma is as tantalising as it is possible to be. Research has shown that the smell of bread not only makes us hungrier, but happier, even kinder and that is with good reason.

Every bread you make will be an individual, no two are alike and the sight of a freshly made, just baked loaf will always cause a stir amongst your guests, friends or family. The sound of the crisp crust shattering as it is torn or sliced only further intensifies the excitement of what is to follow. And what is to follow is nothing short of spectacular.

To describe the taste and texture of just baked bread is an impossible task, with a near limitless palette of possibilities at ones disposal. Be it nourishing and satisfying, rich and complex, sweet or savoury there is a bread for every occasion and each delicious and distinctive in it’s own way.

For me though that is what makes bread so special. Everyone I know loves bread, from young children enjoying a jam sandwich at lunch, to top restaurants employing the most complex artisanal techniques to produce unusual and original creations. It’s accessible to all, unpretentious and simple to make, yet even starting with the easiest of recipes the possibilities are endless...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sugar Free Hot Cross Buns

I used to be so cynical about the times of celebration and festivity that occur throughout the year, but as I have matured (or maybe that should be immatured ;-)) I've come to not only embrace such occasions as Christmas and Easter, but downright love them! They are such a welcome departure from the stresses, strains and routine of daily life and an excellent excuse (not that I ever need one) to indulge in a naughty treat or two.

Saying that, these hot cross buns are not actually as naughty as they could be, a consequence of me trying to cut down on those refined sugars that are so very bad (and not in the good way). I've sweetened the dough instead with a dash of agave syrup, as well as glazed the top with a lick of the same. Worry not though, for they are still buttery and rich and most importantly, yummy!

Prep time: 15 Minutes to prepare the dough, plus a few hours proving and rising.
Baking time: 20-30 Mins
7g Fresh Yeast
100ml Tepid Water
250g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1/2tsp Salt 
1/2tsp Mixed Spice
25g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1 Egg Yolk (From a Large Egg)
2tbsp Agave Syrup (Plus an extra tablespoon to glaze)
125g Mixed Dried Fruit and Peel

For the crosses
1tbsp Plain Flour
1tbsp of Water

Making bread dough is such fun, so let's get started. Crumble the fresh yeast into a jug, pour in the tepid water and mix to dissolve the yeast.

Add the flour, salt and spice to a large mixing bowl, mix briefly to combine, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the butter, yolk, syrup and fruit. Bring together with a flat bladed knife, then tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Bring the dough together with your hands, then knead for around 8-10 minutes, stretching the dough away from you, folding it back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Once the dough is smooth and elastic place in a lightly greased large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for around 90 minutes. 

Once the dough has doubled in size you can make the buns. Uncover the cling film then, with a lightly oiled hand take a small handful of the dough. On a clean, dry surface, roll in a circular motion, holding the dough loosely with the top of your hand to form a sphere. Once rolled place on a greased baking tray and press lightly to flatten a touch. Repeat for the rest of the dough, which should be enough for around six buns. Once the buns are all on the tray, evenly spaced apart cover gently with a sheet of lightly greased clingfilm and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes to rise again.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. I tend to not go any hotter than this as I find the buns will scorch before having time to bake properly. Take the buns from where you have left them to rise and carefully remove the cling film. Mix the plain flour and water to a paste, then using a piping bag or tube pipe a cross onto the top of each one. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins.

Once the buns are nice and golden you can remove from the oven. Lightly brush each bun with a final glaze of agave syrup and leave to cool on the tray for about 15 minutes. They are then ready to serve, fresh and warm and delicious!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Vegan Banana Trail Mix Cakies

These cakies are so called as they sit somewhere between a cookie and a little cake. Fear not though intrepid cake adventurer, for I shall spare you any sort of Jaffa Cake style debate. However you wish to classify these naughty treats, the one thing that is indisputable is that they are VERY moreish. Oh and I did I mention they are also entirely vegan? ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus 60 Mins chilling time)
Baking time: 13-15 Mins
100g Coconut Oil (Melted gently)
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Ripe Banana (Mashed)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
250g Fruit and Nut Trail Mix

If you're ready, then let's begin. Grab a large mixing bowl and pour in the coconut oil. Add the sugar, banana and vanilla extract, then mix to combine. Add the flour and baking powder, then mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the trail mix, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 60 mins.

Once the dough has chilled it's ready to cakify, so preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two large flat baking trays with baking paper. Take your dough from the fridge and divide into 18 little balls. Place each evenly spaced apart on your baking trays, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 13-15 minutes. By this time they should have spread, are golden brown and just darkening at the edges.

When you are happy the cakies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 mins on the tray. Peel each carefully from the baking paper and leave to cool entirely. They are now ready to enjoy. X

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!