Coconut & Fruit Flapjacks

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First of all let’s clear up the looming misunderstanding. In this recipe my use of the term “Flapjack” is as used in the UK and Ireland, as opposed to it’s North American connotation. So if you were expecting another pancake recipe you may want to move along.

I must stress the “may” part though. If you find yourself unfamiliar with Flapjacks as they appear here well then you’re in for a treat. Defined as “a sweet, tray-baked oat bar, most commonly made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup“- growing up they were the stuff of school-time treats. Like so many other bakes with a traditional heritage, a love of these oaty morsels falls into two distinct camps- soft & chewy or crunchy & crumbly. Both however offer comforting butteriness and sweetness with each rustic bite. At the end of the day it’s all a matter of time and taste.

The easiest way to describe a flapjack is to think of it as a granola bar. Like it’s pseudo-healthy breakfast cousin it’s basis is in the “slick ‘ em and stick ’em” method of ingredients. Here it’s the butter providing the “slick ’em” element with the “stick ’em” being provided by the amalgamation of sugar, corn & maple syrups, and molasses. The aforementioned ingredients and oats are the basic building blocks, carrying any number of preferred add-ins. Dried fruit, chocolate chips, caramel are all fair game here.

Having mentioned the flapjacks featured ingredient, the humble rolled oat, I feel it fair to offer a sliver of insight here. Flapjacks can be made using just the one type of oats- Rolled Oats (sometimes known as Jumbo Oats). I have found, however, that by using a mix of rolled oats and quick oats a sturdier, less crumbly flapjack is the end result, the latter oats providing a finer grain to act as an infill to the voids between the larger oat flakes.

Above all the flapjack is a bake that is easily tweaked to personal preference for taste and texture proving a lasting favorite that has stood the test of time. Once you have the essential slick ’em, stick ’em and oats in place the Flapjack World is your oyster!

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Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 sticks salted butter
  • 3/8 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon golden corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fancy molasses
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups jumbo rolled oats
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 1/4 cup dried fruit slices, chopped (I’ve used a mix of apple, pear, apricot and mango)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (350 degrees F for a crunchier flapjack). Line and grease a 9′ X 12′ baking tin with baking parchment
  2. In a large bowl combine the oats, coconut and dried fruit. Stir well to mix and break up any fruit clumps. Set aside for now
  3. In a medium pan melt the butter with the sugar, syrup, vanilla extract and salt. Stir well to combine until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Pout the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to ensure all the dry ingredients are coated
  5. Tip the flapjack mixture into your prepared tin and press evenly for a flat surface
  6. Bake in your preheated oven, middle shelf,  for 25 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crunchy, until set and golden
  7. Remove from the oven and gently score the flapjacks, not going the full way through. For the size of tin I use here, I cut so I have 3 by 4 “square” pieces (2 cuts x 3)
  8. Allow to cool completely in the tin. When fully cooled re-score where you’ve previously cut this time going the full way through
  9. If you want to lend an extra decadent touch, drizzle over some melted chocolate

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The Magic of Yeast Water

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First they came for the hand sanitizer, then they came for the TP. Finally they came for…the flour & yeast? Yeah- The Time of Covid has been a stressful, testing and, let’s face it, downright weird one. Panic induced mob-mentality has led to mass line-ups outside grocery stores and bulk buying of household items in order to weather self-isolation orders and solitude. 

Whether it’s genuine creativity or social media induced compulsion it’s also led to an exponential increase in people home-baking. Despite the majority of grocery market shelves being repopulated with once scare items, a social distance complying stroll through any baking aisle will reveal barren, flour dusted shelves that once accommodated flour of all varieties and it’s habitual partner-in-crime…yeast.

Yeast shortage bedamned! Whilst I realized that I did NOT have the space to accommodate a domestic flour mill, what I could set about investigating was yeast and it’s production. I mean- I’d had already gotten a pretty solid hold on the process of Kombucha brewing -whatever else there is NO shortage of scobies at my house! That process involved yeast and it’s cultivation so how different could growing yeast for baking be? Turns out not so much. Use of a base fruit to cause a fermentation reaction (I use raisins here) and a few more steps. Said reaction then causes the production of yeast with which you can make use of in bread-making. Seems easy right? Well technically it is. BUT don’t expect it to be a speedy process. It takes almost a week to brew the initial yeast water- and that’s BEFORE you actually start on the bread production- which is slow. It seems that making bread by using naturally grown yeast, weather via a dough starter or yeast water, is a slower process than using your packet or jarred variety. 

Please don’t think that I’m nay-saying the process. Quite the opposite in fact. Is the slow lengthy process of brewing and proofing so bad after all? In world now fraught with anxiety and frustration, is spending time on things so bad? Basking in the mindfulness of a task or hobby is hardly disadvantageous. I mean- time isn’t one of those things in shortage right now? Although a lengthy effort to make and bake with yeast water I can definitely say it’s one heck of a rush of elation and satisfaction when cutting in to the final baked loaf.  And I will say it’s a delay well worth waiting for once you taste the final protracted fruits of your labour. Using natural yeast adds so much more character and dimension to your loaf that you’ll never get with the speedy but banal convenience of quick yeast again.

Another positive aspect (if more practical) is that once the initial yeast water is brewed there is minimal, if none at all, upkeep of it in comparison to it’s celebratory sourdough starter cousin. “Apparently” it’s just a process of just drain off the fruit, storing the yeast-rich water in the fridge, using it when needed. You only need to add more components when the source water runs low and you need to make more. (I say “apparently” as I’m in the middle of this process myself – so expect updates!)

I’m still testing out varying methods of dough proofing and crafting, and in doing so am trying a various hodge-podge of principles and methods “a little of this, a little of that”. Initially I used a sourdough method of using a starter and levain. As this method resulted in success (see the final video) it’s the one I detailed here.

*Later in the recipe I use a bench scraper to help with the procedure. Whilst not essential, you can use your hands, it does make the job easier.
I also make reference to something called  “50/50 mix”. This is a half and half mixture of bread flour and rice flour. The smaller, coarser grains of the rice flour helping to overcome dough sticking

 

Yeast water base
  • 4 Tablespoons raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup tepid water
  1. Add all ingredients to a 1 litre bottle (in the photogrpahs below I started off in a Kilner jar but later transferred to a bottle). I’ve used a spare SodaStream bottle but the main thing you want is something that can be sealed and airtight. Mix to shake and leave to ferment in a warm (room temperature) place. I leave it in my pantry. Over the next 4 days shake the bottle at least once a day to ensure than the contents remain mixed and to avoid mould growth on the fruit. Over this time you will gradually see the fruit starting to float and a layer of bubbles form on the surface of the liquid
  2. After the forth day release the cap carefully as the contents will be choc-full of carbonation and fizzing. You should also notice an odour reminiscent of beer/ over-ripe fruit. You’ll know it- it’s pretty distinctive. Once the contents have settled add an additional 4 cups of water and shake to mix the contents. leave overnight in your selected warm location
  3. The following day, again carefully release the cap and wait for the carbonation to subside. Add in a further 1 tablespoon of raisins and 1/2 cup of water. Shake again and set aside for at least 4 hours before initial use

Starter dough

  • 30g Bread Flour
  • 30g Yeast Water (drained of any fruit)
  1. Mix these two ingredients together in a jar and set aside overnight in the same location as your yeast water. If you water is successful (ie alive!) the mixture should have increased in volume and be quite bubbly. If not I’m afraid it’s pack to the drawing board for you. Perhaps try fresh fruit instead of dried? I’ve read of some recipes where figs, dates, and even apples have been used. Also see my note below*

Levain

  • Rested Starter dough, as above
  • 60g Bread Flour
  • 30g yeast water 
  1. Transfer you starter mix from the jar to a large bowl. Add in the bread flour and additional yeast water. Stir to combine well (the mixture should be like a thick slurry paste). Leave this to rest for minimum 6 hours in the same location as your yeast water. The next step is were you’re actually going to make the bread dough! (A word to the wise here – select a bowl large enough to contain you’re final amount of dough after proofing)

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Bread dough

  • Rested levain, as above
  • 400g bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 350g tepid water
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using your hand in a “claw” shape mix them until they are well combined. Cover with oiled cling wrap or a plastic bag and set aside for 30 minutes (this is called the autolyse)
  2. After 30 mins remove the covering and again with your hand in a “claw” shape mix the dough. Continue for another few minutes until it gets to the stage where the dough is a roughly a single ball/ lump in the centre of the bowl and is “cleaning” the sides of the bowl of any residual mixture. It should still be quite sticky
  3. Transfer the dough from the bowl onto a counter top. I find there is no need to flour or oil it as this way helps it stick- enabling stretching and gluten strand formation. This are is where you’ll develop your own technique for kneading the dough. As a heads up while you knead the dough it will become firmer and dryer, sticking less to the surface. My method of kneading is to grab the dough by either side and pull it up, away from the counter surface, causing the centre to stick to the surface. If the complete doughball comes away slap it to the counter surface whilst still holding either end. Then fold either end back on top of the main body of dough and repeat. I think this part of kneading is quite specific to the person doing it- almost like a signature. I continue this for 15 minutes by which time the dough has become firmer, dryer and holds it’s shape a lot better. At this point transfer back to the large bowl for First Proof. Cover loosely with oiled cling wrap and leave in a warm location (you guessed it- same as your yeast water!) The proofing of this will be rather slow so I’ve left mine overnight until it has more than doubled in size. 

The following day

  1. Your next step in dough production! Tip the risen dough out on to a clean counter top lightly dusted wit a 50/50 mix of bread flour and rice flour. You don’t actually want to knock it back too much here unlike when you ‘re making a standard bread loaf. Using a bench scraper gently scoop up and fold the dough in on itself. You’ll want to do this all around the dough ball. I usually end up doing it at between 6 to 8 times. What you’ll end up with is a dough ball with a very smooth, tight bottom (!) and it’s seams gathered at the top. Gently scoop the dough ball up and transfer it to a prepared banneton (heavily dusted with 50/50 mix) or bowl lined with a heavy-dusted cloth. Cover the banneton/ bowl with oiled cling-wrap, return it to your “yeast water” place and leave to proof/ rise for a second time. I’ve had to wait up to 6 hours for this to happen. When it has risen and doubled in size it’s now time for the next step

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  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F at least 15 mins before wanting to bake. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Dust the top of your dough (in the banneton) with 50/50 mix. Place your lined baking tray over the top of the banneton/ bowl and quickly invert. The dough should fall out onto the prepared tray. If not it may take some gentle coaxing with flour dusted fingers. Once your dough has turned out onto the tray, slash/ score the top of it (as fancy or as plain as you like) and you good to go!
  2. Place the dough in your preheated oven and bake for 20 mins. After this time reduce the temperature to 390 degrees F and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes. Your loaf should develop a hard, crisp out crust and sound hallow when tapped from below. Remove from the oven and leave to full cool before cutting

*If your initial yeast water doesn’t come to life another factor that may be effecting it is your choice of dried fruit. I’ve read in a few places that using organic dried fruit can result in a speedier process. This is due to the lack of potassium sorbate which an be used in some dried fruit to stop it spoiling. It’s a preservative that stops yeast from reproducing, and prevents any renewed fermentations from other yeast or bacteria.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Okay this was a surprise hit which a lot of you have been asking about. I made it as I was itching to bake but given current times I’m having to be somewhat frugal with particular ingredients, namely flour and yeast. My yeast problem I appear to have solved (there’s a post coming on that) but flour is still a questionable item, which appears to elude me.

Flourless chocolate cake seems to be one of those things that always pops up on a menu, appealing to all and sundry. So it seemed a pretty perfect fix here. I’ve tried it a few times with varying results across the board from fudgey & brownie like to cakey (and to be honest pretty dry). The recipe here results in the former-  fudgey and reminiscent of the best brownie, just thick enough to whisper indulgence but thin enough not to push you over the edge of regret. A surprise addition of instant coffee granules helps amplify the chocolate flavour without pushing it in to the realms of mocha flavoring.

I tend to like the cake just as is, with a snowy dusting of icing sugar. But feel to dress it up anyway you like – a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream perhaps? or maybe a drizzle of booze-laden cream maybe? The rules are yours to make…or break.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • Icing sugar, to dust (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and line an 8″ cake pan. Set aside until needed later
  2. Combine the chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl, and heat for 30 seconds. Remove stir and heat again for another 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. (or you can melt them together in a heat-proof bowl over a double-boiler)
  3. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract and stir to combine well
  4. Add the beaten eggs and stir until smooth and uniform in color
  5. Finally add in the cocoa powder and instant coffee granules. Stir until just combined- be careful not to over-mix here
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan, gently smoothing the top. Bake at the preheated temperature for 25 minutes, or until the the top has a thin crust and the centre reads 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack fro 10 minutes. After this time use an offset spatula (or butter knife) to run around the edges of the cake and loosen it from the pan.
  8. Place your serving plate on top of the cake in the pan and carefully turn it upside down to invert the cake out onto your serving plate. Let the cake cool completely, either at room temperature or in the fridge. If cooling in the fridge remove it at least 30 minutes prior to serving to allow it to come to best temperature.
  9. To serve dust the top of the cake liberally with icing sugar if desired.

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Tahini Double Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are a spin-off from my other “Go To” cookie recipe Snickers-style Peanut Butter Cookies. A few people asked if there was something similar but taking account of the omni-present nut allergy factor. Of course my mental wheels started turning!
What with being in The Time Of Covid I immediately consulted the contents of my pantry. Lo and behold! there was the answer peering sheepishly from behind a burly jar of Nutella- Tahini! Purchased once upon a time full of ignorant ambition with the sole aim of rustling up homemade hummus (which incidentally was done but received with a lacklustre reception) it was used once and then exiled to the shadowy, flour-dusted recesses of my pantry shelves.
So in an effort of waste not want not, I wondered if a like-for-like sub could be done for peanut butter? I’m very happy to report that a favorable result was achieved. So favorable in fact that they didn’t last past Day 2 after being made. If you haven’t tried tahini in cookies you’re missing out on quite a nifty little ace card to have up your seed. Whipping it in to cookies gives a subtle, nutty flavor almost bordering on earthy. The savory tones of it complimenting the overall sweetness of the cookie. The finished bake also yields a softer, almost chewier centre with the use of the sesame butter. Perfection!
Having used just one variety of chocolate in the previously mentioned peanut butter cookie, I wanted to up the stakes (and the indulgence) here. It seemed a natural choice to include both white and semi-sweet chocolate. As I state in the recipe, I definitely recommend roughly chopping the chocolate in to irregular chunks as opposed to the use of regular chocolate chips. I find that chips  detract from the uniqueness of the finished cookie with their homogenetic blandness shape. Sure they have a time and a place- but these cookies ain’t either!

So what are you waiting for? You seriously wont regret trying these out and hopefully they’ll become as much of a staple for you as they are for me here.

Makes 18-20 apx

Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature
    • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup tahini butter, well mixed
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2oz semi-sweet chocolate
    • 2oz white chocolate

Method

    1. Chop the chocolate in chunks. You don’t want too fine a piece- irregular and varied sizes look a lot better in the finished cookie. Set aside until needed
    2. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment and set aside until needed
    3. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until creamy (about 10 mins at medium speed)
    4. Mix in the egg, followed by the tahini butter and continue mixing until fully combined
    5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and whisk to combine.
    6. Gradually add the combined dry ingredients into the sugar/butter mixture. Mix on medium/low speed until fully incorporated
    7. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Mix until well mixed through the dough (I find here it easier to fold by hand rather than using a spatula or spoon. It just depends on what you’re more comfortable with)
    8. Cover the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate the dough for between 20- 30mins
    9. Preheat your oven to 325°F
    10. Using a medium cookie scoop (2 tbspn apx) shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Place the balls of dough about 2-3 inches apart on the pre-limed cookie sheet
    11. Bake at 325°F until light brown, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on their baking sheets for 5 minutes. After that, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely

*The baked cookies will keep for up to a week in an airtight container

Buttermilk & Cardamom Banana Bread w/ Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

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Ingredients

Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature, cut in to pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Buttermilk & Cardamom Banana Bread

  • 2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups mashed over-ripe bananas (about 4)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

To make the Banana Loaves

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease and line two 8.5″ x 4.5″ baking tins
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Set aside until needed
  4. In bowl of stand mixer, with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, until fully incorporated
  6. In a separate jug whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla extract and bananas until combined
  7. Add the banana mixture to the dry flour mixture from earlier. Fold well together until just combined
  8. Divide and pour into the prepared loaf tins
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 45-40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean, and the tops of the loaves are golden brown
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes before running a spatula around the sides and turning the loaves out onto a cooling rack
  11. Leave the loaves to cool completely before topping with the Peanut Butter Frosting (see recipe below)

*These loaves can be stored in the freezer, without frosting topping, for up to 3 months. Wrap in cling wrap and then tightly in aluminium foil. To serve, remove and allow to defrost to room temperature before topping with whipped frosting

To make the frosting

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment
  2. Beat on low/medium speed until all ingredients are combined
  3. Once combined increase to high speed and whip for 5 minutes until light and fluffy
  4. Use a spatula or spoon to spread on top of cooled banana bread loaves

*To store the frosting: Transfer to an airtight container. Will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. To use remove from fridge and allow to soften to room temperature to become spreadable