Friday 21st January was National Granola Bar Day according to MyLegoMan #MostlyFoodieDaysOfcalendar. I love Granola Bars, even though they can be deceptively calorific. I try my hardest not to make or eat them too much, but occasionally the temptation is too much.
On Thursday afternoon I was asked to make some Granola Bars so I found a recipe I use in an old Good Food recipe book: Traybakes. It’s a handy book which I’ve had for a few years on my shelf. I must admit I think I’ve only made one or two recipes out of it, including the Granola Bars.
I adapt the recipe to personal preferences or whatever I have in the cupboard. Sometimes I include nuts and other times I don’t, depending on the recipient. In this version I used some dried apricots and some cranberries which needed using up. I left out the nuts and sesame seeds from the original recipe. The addition of cinnamon to the recipe gives it a little bit of extra flavour.
I used extra dried fruit in place of the nuts and the sesame seeds. I guess you can play around with the ingredients and use whatever you have in your cupboard but keep to the same quantities.
As with many granola and flapjack type recipes, quite often you are fooled into thinking they are healthy because of the oat content. But you find they contain brown sugar, butter, or honey, golden syrup or maple syrup. All in moderation is my motto. I find if I deny myself any treats, then I see other people eating them and want them all the more!
When making granola bars, I often find the method is similar to that of making flapjacks. You melt the butter, sugar and syrup/ honey together in a pan and then combine with the other ingredients. When combined you press into a greased and lined tin and bake.
As with flapjacks I bake on a lower heat and bring it out of the oven before it sets. Or else, your granola bars will be like bricks and you end up worrying about breaking your teeth on them!
Do you like Granola or Granola Bars? If you do, what dried fruit and nuts do you like in yours? I definitely love cranberries but I would love pecans if I was making them just for myself.
Hi everyone! Hope you’ve had a great weekend and I hope that your Monday is going well. It’s Blue Monday and a Full Moon! I’ve definitely felt a little bit more crabby and irritable over the last day or so. Yesterday, I just wanted to hibernate, let alone go out and do anything. But I forced myself to do housework and I went out for a couple of hours for a walk with Mr S. Coming back to a warm house to bake was just what I needed.
As you’ll know from my most recent posts, I was given a #100bakes poster at Christmas by my friend and it has inspired me to get back into blogging on here. Although I make a few of the bakes on the challenge on a regular basis, there are a few things I haven’t even tried at all!
Yesterday afternoon, after our walk I had a couple of hours before I was due to start on our Sunday roast. Although that was a disaster in itself, the chicken wasn’t cooked in time with all the rest of the meal and I had the mother of all meltdowns. My body chose to have the biggest hot flush ever (I’ve not had any for a while due to HRT) and I had to go upstairs to sit in the cold bedroom. I had to get Mr S to serve everything up as I was about to end up spilling gravy everywhere.
Baking, in comparison relaxes me for some reason. But it didn’t today. Why is it that when I bake something I get comments like “Don’t bake anything, I don’t want it in the house, I’m trying to lose weight,” etc. You know the sorts of comments. Then the moment I bake something and I say it’s for a customer or it’s going to work then I get, “Oh, you never bake anything for us! Can’t I have just one piece of flapjack?” It’s when you think, just give me a break!
I bake flapjack regularly and my go-to flapjack recipe always comes out chewy and making people want more. My tip is to bake low and slow and I always leave the mixture to stand in the tin for 15 minutes before baking. I also cut it when it is still warm but left in the tin.
My Caramel Flapjacks are a twist on the regular flapjacks I bake:
For the Caramel ones, I use maple syrup in place of golden syrup and I also added in some Callebaut Caramel Chips. I buy a 2.5kg bag of these from Amazon and have used them in cookies most of the time. As they are a beige colour, their colour did tend to blend in with the colour of the porridge oats! Thankfully, the flavour did not disappear in the baking.
Makes 12 pieces
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g soft, light brown sugar
1 generous tablespoonful of maple syrup
350g porridge oats
175g Callebaut Caramel Chips
You will need a 23cm (9″) square tin greased and lined with baking parchment.
Pre-heat the oven to 150oC (I have a fan oven) but alternatively use: 170oc/ 325oF or Gas Mark 3.
Weigh out all your ingredients and place the butter, sugar and maple syrup into a saucepan. Heat until melted on a medium heat.
Pour into a mixing bowl and add the porridge oats.
Fold in the porridge oats until well coated and then finally add in the Caramel Chips until incorporated into the mixture.
Spoon the flapjack mixture into the prepared tin and then level out with the back of a spoon.
Leave to stand for 15 minutes before baking. I bake my flapjack for about 30-35 minutes until it is still “wobbly” in the middle.
Take out of the oven and put on a wire rack to cool (still in the tin!) Leave for about 10 minutes or so. Cut the flapjack into pieces. I’ve done mine into 12 but you don’t have to do this!
Remove from the tin when cool and leave on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (they don’t last that long in our house!)
According to My Legoman’s Mostly Foodie Days Of 2022 calendar, yesterday (January 8th) was National English Toffee Day. It’s a day late as yesterday I was holed up in bed full of the shivers, fever, aches and pains after having my Covid Booster on Friday afternoon. Thankfully I feel a lot better now, although my FitBit decided to send me an alarm telling me my heart rate was too high for someone resting. At the time I felt a bit feverish but it did put the frighteners on me.
I love toffees and whenever we get a pack of mixed mints for long car journeys on holiday in the UK, I always grab the mint toffees first! I couldn’t think what to bake with toffee, apart from a recipe I have for Mint Toffee Choc Crispie Squares. And what’s more, it’s a no-bake recipe and so quick to make!
If you don’t like mint, you could always substitute for plain toffees and use plain chocolate instead of mint chocolate. I know lots of people love mint (it’s my favourite flavour) but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. My late Dad loved mint chocolates and I’m sure he would have loved one of these to try. The only thing is with the mint chocolate is you have to look out for the bars which contain little mint pieces and not fondant centres. Alternatively, you could always use dark chocolate and up the mint flavouring with some peppermint extract if you have that.
Did you know that January 6th is #NationalShortbreadDay? I didn’t until I got a My Legoman Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar for my kitchen wall. Or rather, its framed but still on the floor in my office until I can move pictures around in my kitchen and have the space to put it up!
I also noticed that Shortbread was one of the bakes on the #100bakeschallenge so this was bake number two scratched off the poster. If you’re wondering what I am on about, I got a Christmas present from my friend which is a fabulous poster made by Crumbs by Collette linked to a baking challenge. You post your results on social media using the hashtag #100bakeschallenge. I have seen that some people are giving themselves a year to do it in. I think that is achievable but quite a lot of my bakes are repetitive depending on my customer’s needs, my own time and my family’s personal preferences.
Shortbread has always been one of my favourite bakes to make as well as to eat! I love how you can turn four basic ingredients into something just utterly sublime. Then if you don’t like it plain, you can add extras to make it even more delicious. I bake lots of shortbread to send to customers and also for friends. It’s a shame that this day falls in January in a way, as shortbread does get made a lot in my kitchen for Christmas. It’s ideal for presents and for bringing out when you have visitors if they don’t like mince pies.
I absolutely love the cranberry and white chocolate combination and you name it, I have used it in other bakes where I can. It’s my brother’s favourite cookie flavour and he gets a vegan version every time I see him. I had to test it out in shortbread and oh my it looked lovely. I made extra to take to work as well.
CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD
Serves 12-16 depending on how big you like your pieces.
Grease and line a 23cm/ 9″ square baking tin while you make the shortbread dough.
I make my shortbread dough in my KitchenAid as it stops me from handling the dough so much.
Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer until it becomes light and fluffy.
Add the plain flour and cornflour to the mixture and bring it all together to form a ball of dough. Then fold through the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
Press the shortbread dough into the prepared tin ensuring that it is evenly spread and into all four corners of the tin. Prick the dough with a fork.
Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes. The shortbread should be lightly golden. After about 10 minutes, cut the shortbread up into however many pieces you would like and let it cool down on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove from the tin and sprinkle with extra caster sugar. Although I forgot to do this on this occasion as I was trying to do about ten things at once, this is what I usually do!
If you bake this recipe, do let me know how you get on with it. Do you use other ingredients in your shortbread or add extra flavours?
There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.
I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.
My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.
250g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
250g plain flour
125g rice flour or cornflour
Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.
There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:
100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.
I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.
If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.
Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.
Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!
The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.
What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?
No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
Triple Chocolate Brownies
White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
Malt Chocolate Fudge.
What recipes will I pass on?
Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.
I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.
Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.
I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.
As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.
The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.
For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.
Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!
As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.
Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!
The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.
Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.
My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:
Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
Jammie Dodger Blondies
Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
Lemon and Blueberry Scones
Caramel Mocha Macaroons
What I’ll pass on:
Hard Candy Lollipops
Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!
As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.
I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.
Whenever I take brownies to work they always go down really well. I get fed up of baking the same things over and over again and like to try new things, though.
When I was looking through Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off and thinking what I’d like to make next, I found a brownie recipe in the Chocolate Chapter for Chocolate and Salted Caramel Brownies. I’ve made Salted Caramel Brownies before but have done it with a ready made jar of caramel sauce. I’ve never had the confidence to bake it myself. So I thought I’d have a go.
First, I had to make the salted caramel sauce. This was made by heating caster sugar and butter until it dissolved and melted then adding double cream to the pan. This was then brought to the boil and kept on a rolling boil until thickened. You had to stir the mixture constantly so that the caramel didn’t go grainy or stick to the bottom of the pan. It seemed to take absolutely ages to get to where I wanted it to be and then it looked more like fudge than caramel! When it was ready, I let it cool down while I made the main part of the brownies.
Compared to my regular brownie recipe, this recipe contains more chocolate. I used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate mainly because that was all I had in my cupboard. Lindt had had a special offer on their 100g bars in Morrisons so I bought two dark bars and two milk ones. Usually I only use one bar of one kind of chocolate and add in some little extras, such as chocolate chips or nuts. The rest of the ingredients were the same: brown sugar, eggs, plain flour, baking powder and butter. I didn’t use cocoa powder either.
As with all brownie recipes I always start by melting the chocolate and butter together. To the melted butter and chocolate I add the caster sugar and mix that in, followed by beaten eggs. I did not add any vanilla extract this time either. Finally, I folded in the flour and baking powder.
I spooned all the brownie mixture into a prepared loose bottomed square tin. The caramel was then spooned into the mixture and poked in so that it wasn’t just sitting on the top. It did look very pretty with its marble effect.
After half an hour’s baking the brownies were ready. I left them to cool down on the wire rack while I started making dinner.
Whenever I make brownies I find that I’m asked “Can I have one?” before I’ve even cut them up. This was no exception. I cut them up then made sure that I took four out for my family before boxing the rest up for work.
These were so yummy that I will make these again. I think I’ll cheat and use a ready made sauce if I’m short of time, though!
Hot on the heels of baking my successful Lemon Drizzle Traybake, I wanted to try something slightly different to take along for my work mates to enjoy as an alternative to the lemon drizzle. I’ve lost my baking confidence recently and have found recipes I’ve baked time and time again going wrong. I have always managed to bake brownies, though and I thought that I would be fine with the second recipe I wanted to try from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. I wanted to have a go at the White Chocolate and Hazelnut Blondies as I love blondies. So moreish! But I didn’t have any hazelnuts so had to think of some substitutions. I had also seen a recipe with Jammie Dodgers put in the blondies so I thought I’d add those in instead.
The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes is the latest book spin off from the last Great British Bake Off series. It came out in October 2019.
To make the Blondies, I weighed out plain flour, some ground almonds (as I didn’t have any ground hazelnuts), some sea salt flakes and baking powder. I mixed them together in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl I melted some butter in the microwave. To this, I added a mixture of caster sugar and dark brown muscovado sugar.
When this was mixed in, I added beaten eggs, along with some vanilla extract and then folded this all into the flour mix.
At this stage I was also meant to add in some chopped hazelnuts which I didn’t have. I just put in the white chocolate chips which the recipe suggested. At this stage I didn’t read the recipe properly and noticed it asked for 2 tbsp of agave syrup or runny honey. This was meant to be brushed onto the still warm but cooked blondies. Instead I put two tablespoonfuls of honey in the mixture before cooking.
Finally, I used mini Jammy Dodgers to poke into the top of my blondies. Each of these mini packs contains four mini Dodgers and I used four of the packs to use sixteen biscuits in the blondies. I was expecting them to sit nicely on top of them. I couldn’t wait to taste the blondies.
But my excitement was shortlived. I didn’t have the 22cm square tin as needed. Mine is an 20cm square one and not loose bottomed. The blondies were meant to be baked at 180oC for 25-30 minutes. I had them in for the recommended time but the blondies were still looking raw and wet in the middle. I also didn’t like how the edges had puffed up around, leaving the middle flat as a pancake.
I put the blondies back in the oven for another ten minutes but they seemed to be even more runny and slimy than before. I admitted defeat and took them out of the oven. The recipe said to leave the blondies in the tin for 10 minutes to cool down. This I did but they began to collapse. I was so frustrated as this doesn’t normally happen to me with brownies or blondies. The temporary baking confidence I got from making the lemon drizzle traybake had taken a nose dive again!
Baking disaster: you can make out the slimy and uncooked batter despite my oven being at the correct temperature and the brownies being in the oven for ten minutes longer than the recipe stipulated. This was the best piece out of the whole batch: one of the corners! The rest looked like road kill!
I would love to know where I went wrong with this recipe. Was it because I didn’t use hazelnuts or that I added the honey to the mixture before baking? I must admit I did not like the taste of the blondies and I was disappointed with how they came out. I asked Mr S what he thought of them and he said he thought the ones around the edge looked ok but he tasted one. He said it tasted very sweet and jammy!
I will test this recipe again at some stage but I’ll try with hazelnuts and leave the Jammy Dodgers out instead!