my kitchen

Sticky toffee apple cake

This Halloween was probably my spookiest to date. I attended a party which was decked out to the masses- broomsticks hanging out the windows, sharp toothed vampires, weird big babies with milk squiriting out of bottles, jack o’lantern sculptures galore and, of course a Halloween bake off.

Baking has been the focus of social gatherings for like ever, but never as inventive and complex as these days. The world’s gone bake off mad lately. When we’re not worrying about Brexit, we are worrying who will be the next Mel and Sue, and how Paul Hollywood could sell out to Channel 4. I haven’t watched this latest series, but was excited at the prospect of a seasonal bake- I love a good theme, and so at the annoucement of a Halloween bake off I went in search of autumnal flavours. Toffee apples are symbolic of this time of  year for me, one of wrapping up warm, getting out in the fog to see the fireworks and breaking your teeth on illuminious red toffee apples. Or rather, like this year, staying in trying to be all smug and #hygge but proceeding to sweat over various mixing bowls, concocting a monster of a cake. This one is complete with a Snow White style poisonous apple and sharp edged confectionary to truly capture the spirit of Halloween.

 

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I wanted to make something quite carrot cakey- sweet and spicy with cream cheese frosting, and found this amazing recipe from the Sylvia’s kitchen blog. I followed this,  but found it was quite dense- more of a banana bread texture than a fluffy sponge, due to the huge measures of dates and apple. Fine, but a bit stodgy when you have a 2 layer 9 inch cake to get through. So if you want a lighter version, with less fruit, less soggy bottoms and cream cheese over buttercream, try out my recipe…

sponge:

200g chopped dates

400g cooking apples peeled and grated

350g self raising flour

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tsp mixed spice

250g soft brown sugar

4 large free range eggs

150g butter, melted

a mug of english breakfast tea (no milk no sugar)

Salted caramel sauce-I used a jar of the Tesco Finest one (soz but this recipe takes long enough without knocking out a caramel)

icing:

80g butter

280g cream cheese

100g icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc and grease and line two, 8 or 9 inch cake tins.  (You could also use half this recipe and 6 inch tins and a reduced baking time of 25-30mins)
Put the dates in a saucepan with the mug of tea and slowly bring it to the boil,  let it simmer and bubble for five minutes, then whizz in a blender until smooth.  Whisk the eggs and sugar and together for a good five minutes until they are nice and pale and fluffy-this is important to really get the air in!- then gradually whisk in the melted butter.  Fold in the apple and date paste, then sieve over flour, bicarb and mixed spice. Gently fold it in so you don’t knock all the air out, and then split evenly between your two tins and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle.

When you take your cakes out of the oven, prick all over with a skewer and drizzle some of the caramel sauce over both sponges, then take out the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile… make the icing. Soften your butter very briefly in the microwave and beat it up until smooth. If you have a kitchen aid that is helpful. I don’t and broke my whisk in the process. Add the cream cheese and mix further, and then sieve in the icing sugar. Blend it all together- a hand blender is ideal for this- then put it in the fridge to firm up. You could also add some salted caramel sauce here and take it up a level. I forgot to do this and was gutted.

When the cakes are cooled, sandwich them together with a good generous layer of the icing in between and the rest piled on top. Then the fun part- decoration. Contrasting textures to the cake are good so i went for ahopped up Crunchie, which looks quite like little twigs and forest debris when artfully arranged, see above. Fudge chopped into mini chunks were also scattered which worked well. You might consider drizzling some of the sauce over in a nice pattern, decorating with crushed Werther’s Originals, or foraging some cinder toffee to ‘shave’ on top. Whatever fanciness you decide, if it is caramelly or salty it will taste great.

 

This is the ultimate cake to see you through from Halloween  to Bonfire night- literally that entire week given the size of it! Let me know how you get on if you give it a go x
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my kitchen

Banana Loaf 

  

Old bruised bananas in their finest form- if you have some ready for the bin spare them a thought and make this loaf cake which requires very little baking finesse!

Cream 130g each of butter and caster sugar in a bowl – Mix in 2 beaten eggs, 160g self raising flour, 1 tbsp of both nutmeg and baking powder and 2 mashed up bananas – Pour into a greaseproof paper lined loaf tin – Bake. Leave in for around 35 mins at 180 Celsius, or until the knife test gives the go ahead and the crust is crunchy. Dead easy! 

Add an extra mashed banana for a denser, moister texture that melts in the mouth and make it look pretty by drizzling icing over the top. The hardest part is leaving it to cool without slicing yourself a wedge.

 

  

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Cinnamon & Raisin Granola 


 

Granola is one of my favourite brekkies and the best way to jazz up rolled oats once I’ve exhausted porridge through winter. With a dollop of yoghurt and honey, it feels more of a dessert than a breakfast, and although the most thrify option is to buy it by the kilo from Tesco, I mostly avoid it as this can disappear as fast as a bag of popcorn, which is very fast in my company. If you have a good stock of nuts and seeds, I’ve found you can make your own over and over for next to nothing, and play around with combinations you won’t find in the supermarket. 

I never properly measure ingredients in cooking, not because I’m a culinary expert but simply because I can’t be arsed and am more of a ‘throw it in’ kind of girl, living by the belief that cooking is more of an art than a science of precision. As such my baking efforts are hit or miss, although I have generally aired on the lucky side having recently won the wooden spoon award at a bake off competition at work (brag alert). I estimated my granola ratios at around 3 parts oats to 1 part nuts and seeds, plus a generous gloop of honey and golden syrup- the more used, the crunchier granola you get. I love anything with a sweet and salty balance so I made this batch with a sprinkle of cinnamon and Maldon sea salt, and nuts wise opted for almonds and Brazil nuts for their buttery texture. I’ve seen recipes using whole nuts, but I found chopped made sure they were evenly distributed and toasted. 

Recipe: 

Approx 300g oats

100g chopped nuts 

50g – 100g pumpkin and sunflower seeds 

100g honey 

50g golden syrup 

3 tablespoons of coconut oil

Handful of large raisins

Sea salt and cinnamon seasoning 

Preheat the oven to 150 C. Mix all the dry ingredients including the seasoning in a large bowl. Gently heat the syrup, coconut oil and honey and pour into the oat mix, stirring with a couple of spatulas or wooden spoons. Add more if necessary making sure it all clumps together, then spread out onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in the oven for 30-35 mins, stirring halfway through to make sure everything gets toasted. Don’t be tempted to leave it in for longer as this easily burns- you will taste the burn on your nuts and seeds and you will be sorry! Once done allow to cool and mix with your raisins before transferring to an airtight container. 

Delish with coconut yoghurt and sliced banana, this definitely tastes more wholesome and flavoursome without the addtitives of shop bought granola.  If you have any more experimental granola flavour combinations for me to try, I’d love to hear them.

 

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Bombay Brunch

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Inspired by a recent trip to Dishoom, renowned in London for serving up the pinnacle of English/Indian fusion breakfasts, I decided to recreate their bacon Naan roll at home given this week’s hype for our upcoming trip to Mumbai and Goa.

Quite simply combining crispy fried honey cured bacon from Lidl with a slather of soft cheese, chopped parsley and a dollop of tomato and chilli chutney inside a hot buttery Naan, this was certainly a step up from your classic bacon butty. It was so good I made a mental note to put an alternative spin on my bacon every weekend, as I have grown tired of the HP & white bread combo, knowing but never pursuing the potential a few smoky salty rashers possesses. This would probably also work with mango chuntey but I think the sweetness of the tomato with the kick of the chilli marries so well with the bacon that this roll needs no alterations. Except perhaps a fried egg with a runny yolk and sprinkle of turmeric as the Indians would do for extra sauciness and spice.

Alongside this I served a classic Chai latte brewed with Tesco finest chai teabags, brown sugar and hot milk. I always crave something sweet and creamy in the mornings and this was the perfect weekend treat. I doubt I’ll be feasting on brekkies as Anglophiled as this in India but nonetheless this got me excited for something spicier in the mornings when I’m finally over there!

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