Sticky Toffee Traybake

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my favourite desserts; I've made it as a cake so thought I'd have a try and make it as a traybake with a toffee sauce on top.
My son was coming for a meal so he was the guinea pig; he loved it and took a large slice home. I miss baking for my children – they were always great critics, good and bad!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 Grease and line a 20cm square tin.

Put 175g dates with 175ml boiling water and ½ tspn bicarbonate of soda in a pan and heat gently for 5 mins till the dates are soft.

In a bowl cream together 85g butter and 140g caster sugar then add a lightly beaten large egg, ½ tspn vanilla extract and the date mixture. Add 175g sr flour and gently mix together.

Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 40 mins. 

Meanwhile make some toffee sauce – put 85g soft brown sugar, 40g butter and 2 tbspn milk or cream into a pan and heat over a low heat till the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Simmer gently for a few mins stirring all the time.

Prick the cake all over using a cocktail stick then pour the toffee sauce over and spread using a spatula. Leave to cool completely, then cut into squares .

A good texture - firm but moist. The flavour is just what you'd expect for a sticky toffee pudding , and the toffee topping works well. A nice cake with a cuppa, or as a dessert with some ice cream or crème fraiche.


Bakewell Flapjacks

Two of my favourite bakes are Bakewell Tart and Flapjacks of any kind, so I decided to combine the two and try and make some Bakewell flapjacks. I was very pleased with the result, as were my children who ate some then took the rest back with them! I just managed to get a photo before they all disappeared!

 I didn't make any pastry as you would with a tart, but used the flavours of a Bakewell and the ingredients of a flapjack.

Preheat oven 190C/gas5       Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Melt 150g butter, 50g caster sugar and 4 tbspn golden syrup in a pan. Then add 200g oats, 50g ground almonds and 1 tspn almond extract. Mix together.
Spoon half of this mixture into the tin and flatten till smooth. Spread 3 tbspn jam [ I use blueberry, but you could use, strawberry or raspberry] over the mixture leaving a frame round the edge.
Spoon rest of mixture on top and spread so it covers the jam. Sprinkle over a handful of flaked almonds.
Bake for 15-20 mins till the edges start to go golden.
Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares - the flapjacks will still be moist, so cut them carefully.

I found it a bit difficult to spread the jam over the bottom layer; maybe leaving that to harden a bit would make it easier? It's also quick sticky even after leaving it for several hours and again I think it's  because of the jam layer.
But, you get a good almond flavour as you would in a Bakewell, then the sweetness of the jam, the lovely oat mixture and then the crunch of the almonds. Something I'd make again.


Caramel Pear Teabread

I love baking with Autumn fruits, and I bought some pears before we went on holiday to try out this recipe, another one from my friend's American mil. I think the US has a much better range of ideas for baking with fruit than we do in the UK. 
 I love tea breads of any kind, so one with pears, especially salted caramel pears, was a 'must bake'. 
It's a typical teabread mixture with added pears, and then a streusel topping.

For the pears:

In a large saucepan melt 30g butter and add 450g diced pears and mix together. Add 2 tbspn muscovado sugar, 1/2 tspn salt and 2 tbspn double cream. Stir together gently, then cook on a low heat till lightly golden. Watch the pan as the pears will be bitter if they burn. Take off the heat and cool.

For the cake:

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease a 900g loaf tin well.

In a bowl put 200g plain flour, 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda, 1 tspn baking powder, pinch salt, 1/2 tspn cinnamon, 1/4 tspn allspice, 1/4 tspn ground ginger, and a pinch of nutmeg and mix together.
In another bowl put 2 tbspn [30g] melted butter, 170 ml milk, 1 beaten egg and  65g muscovado sugar. Add the flour mixture to this and mix together gently, but don't overmix. Gently fold in the pears.

For the streusel:

Put 30g oats, 2 tbspn plain flour, 3 tbspn light muscovado sugar, 1/4 tspn cinnamon and pinch salt. Cut 60g butter into pieces and rub in - don't make the crumbs too fine, leave it a bit clumpy.
Sprinkle the streusel over the cake mixture and bake for 45-50 mins.

                                                       Leave to cool on a wire rack.

As you can see, I didn't dice the pears too small as I wanted them in chunks. The tea bread has a lovely moist, spicy flavour with a touch of salted caramel and the soft pears. Then you have the texture of the streusel. A good recipe for using pears, which is slightly different from the norm.



Hazelnut Squares with Chocolate Sauce

It's nearly the end of my using up odds and ends from my baking cupboard - not much left to use up now. I found a bag of ground hazelnuts bought for some recipe or other and only half a bag used, so what to make?
I fancied a cake of some kind, something plain, so had a browse through my cuttings folder and found a recipe from 'Family Circle' magazine, one I used to buy regularly till they stopped printing it.
One ingredient I found intriguing was skimmed milk powder. Why did the recipe use this? I did a bit of research and found that it's often used in bread and cakes to give a softer and more even crumb.

Preheat oven 160C/gas3                     Grease and line a 20cm square tin [or a 28 x 18cm tin if you prefer]

Put 75g ground hazelnuts [or grind them yourself ]. 175 skimmed milk powder, 1 tbspn cocoa powder and 190g light brown sugar into a bowl and mix together.
Melt 100g butter in a pan over a low heat, then pour over the hazelnut mixture in the bowl. Mix together well. Add 3 beaten eggs.
Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and scatter over 35g chopped hazelnuts.
Bake for 1 - 11/4 hours then cool on a wire rack.

For the sauce - put 125ml double cream into a pan over a very low heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Take it off the heat and add 115g dark chocolate broken up into small pieces. Stir together till melted.
Serve the sauce with the cake, either poured over or separately.

This made a great dessert. The cake texture was lovely and soft, but with a good hazelnut flavour. The crunchy hazelnuts on top added another texture, and the sauce made it so rich and decadent. The cake on its own would be great with a cuppa.


Apple Dapple Cake

It's always good to have a new apple recipe to try, and this one was given to me recently by a friend. It was given to her by her American mil and has been changed from cups.
It's a nice easy cake which doesn't need a mixer. You mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, add the fruit and nuts and mix.
It's made in a tube pan, one of the reasons I decided to make it, as I've just bought one.
The cake has a lovely brown-sugar glaze, the same idea as the topping on a lemon drizzle.

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Grease a 25cm tube tin.

Put 420g plain flour, 1 tspn  bicarbonate of soda and 1 tspn salt in a bowl and mix together.
In another bowl put 350g granulated sugar and 320ml vegetable oil and beat together. Then add 3 large eggs and 2 tspns vanilla extract and beat together till well mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix together carefully until just combined, as you do with muffins.Stir in 250g chopped pecan nuts and 3 medium apples which have been peeled cored and chopped into medium sized dice. Mix in.
Pour rhe batter into the tin and smooth the top.
Bake until the top is golden brown - about an hour. Put tin onto a wire rack.

For the glazed topping:
 Put 180g dark brown sugar, 125g butter and 85ml of double cream in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil stirring until the sugar has melted. Carry on boiling and stirring till the mixture has thickened - about 3 more mins.
While the cake is warm and in its tin pour the glaze over and leave to cool completely.
To get the cake easily out of the tin, run a knife round the inside.

It's a big cake and I froze some of it - not sure if this was the right thing to do, but we'll see what happens. It's a nice moist cake, and the apple gives it a soft texture, then you get the crunch of the nuts. The topping is sweet and adds another element to the cake. One to add to my apple recipe collection.

Off on holiday on Saturday, so no post next week.


Coffee Walnut Layer Cake

My daughter recently changed her job, so when she came to stay last weekend, I made her favourite cake to celebrate. This version of a coffee and walnut cake is slightly different in that the filling isn't the usual sickly buttercream, but is fresh cream and espresso with a little bit of added sugar. The cake is iced with the usual coffee icing and decorated with walnuts. I decided to  make life more difficult for myself and bake it in a 900g loaf tin, then cut the cake into 3 layers.

To make the cake :

Preheat oven 190C/gas5               Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Sift 225g sr flour into a bowl with 1/2 tspn salt; add 225g light muscovado sugar, 225ml vegetable oil, 4 egg yolks, 50ml cooled espresso coffee and 50ml milk and beat it all together till smooth.
Whisk the 4 egg whites till stiff and fold into the batter. Stir in 75g chopped walnuts.
Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 50 mins.
Leave cake to cool in the tin for 5 mins then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.

The espresso filling:

300ml double cream, 1 tspn espresso coffee and 1 tbspn caster sugar

Put the 3 ingredients into a bowl and whip together till stiff.

Cut the loaf into 3 layers; spread the filling over the 2 bottom layers and sandwich together.

The Icing:

100g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbspn espresso coffee.

Spread this over the top of the cake and decorate with some walnut halves. Leave to set.

A nice moist cake with a good coffee flavour. I liked the filling which was creamy but not too sweet.


Chocolate and Orange Cheesecake

As we had family coming for lunch yesterday, I decided to follow this week's GBBO theme and make a cheesecake. I'm not a great fan of the usual biscuit bases, so decided to make mine like a chocolate crumble mixture. I also wanted a thicker base layer, so would make a decent amount of the crumble. I love the flavours of chocolate and orange together, so the topping would be orange flavoured.

I used a 23cm springform tin, so it made about 12 good sized slices.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 and line the 23 cm springform tin with some baking parchment.

For the base:

Cut 175g of chilled butter into cubes, then melt another 50g of butter and put aside. Put the butter cubes into a processor with 150g light muscovado sugar, 3 tbspn cocoa powder and 250g plain flour. Blitz till it becomes breadcrumbs. Pour in the melted butter and pulse till it's mixed.
Spoon into the bottom of the tin and smooth the top using the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 35 mins till risen a bit, but don't overbake. Take it out of the oven and leave to cool.

Reduce the temperature to 150C/gas2

For the topping:

Grate the zest of 2 large oranges then squeeze out the juice - you need 150ml.
Put 800g cream cheese, 250g mascarpone cheese, 4 eggs, 225 caster sugar, orange zest, 2 tbspn cornflour and 1/2 tspn vanilla extract into a big bowl and beat together with an electric hand beater till mixed together. Add the seeds from a vanilla pod and the orange juice and keep beating till the mixture is nice and smooth.

Pour filling over the cooled base then bake for about 1hr 30 mins or until the cheesecake is light golden, just set round the edge, but is still wobbly in the middle. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake inside with the door ajar to cool for about an hour, . Take it out and cool completely then put in fridge to chill in the tin.

Remove from tin and decorate the top with some dark chocolate curls - I used some Green and Black 80% chocolate.

I was really happy with the result. A good third of the cheesecake had a nice crunchy chocolate texture, then the smooth orange flavoured creamy filling, very rich, but not sickly. The dark chocolate curls gave it another texture and the bitter chocolate was a good contrast to the filling.
It was a great success with the family, and there was some left over for them to take home.