Something simple and delicious for you this week which is also, my favourite detail, hugely adaptable. Confession: calling this a brownie is probably a bit of a liberty, especially if you’re a purist/expert like my sister. Nevertheless it is moist, richly in flavour, with the oats giving both texture and satisfaction. It can also be wheat free – gluten free if you like – containing just a tablespoon of regular flour. I’ve made it with white flour, gluten-free flour, barley flour, potato flour, more cornflour…honestly, the quantity is so small, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just there to soak up any excess moisture. Because it is so dry , adding an extra tablespoon of cocoa is probably the most delicious alternative.
The other unusual aspect is the dairy element. I’ve made it with cream cheese, fat-free quark, and curd cheese, just to see what effect each had on the texture. I was surprised to find that the curd cheese made it rather firm – too firm to be a brownie, but not hard enough to be a flapjack, but the texture of the brownie made with quark was almost as tender as the one made with cream cheese. If you’re not a fan of overly squidgy brownies, you can also firm up the end product by using a pan of larger dimensions, thereby spreading the mixture thinner. Totally your call.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing, bells-and-whistles showstopper recipe. However, alongside another perennial favourite recipe – Jamjacks – it’s simple, quick, delicious, and can be made with ordinary ingredients you probably have in your cupboard/fridge.
And that’s a winning combination.
NB I don’t have an overly sweet tooth, so the quantity of sugar is on the low side. Add an extra 50g if you like. I’ve merely listed ‘flour’ below, so you can add whatever you have to hand/prefer. Same with the milk and butter.
150g steel-rolled oats
1tsp baking powder
200g soft cheese – cream cheese/quark/curd cheese
100g butter – melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
- Warm the milk until almost boiling, then add the oats and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a baking tin of dimensions 20cm x 20cm x 5cm (roughly, within 2-3cm is fine).
- Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix in the cheese, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
- Lastly stir in the oats and milk.
- Pour into your prepared tin and smooth over.
- Bake for 1 hour. After 30 minutes, turn the tin around and cover lightly with either baking parchment or foil, to prevent the edges from getting scorched.
- Cool in the tin.
 Who still gave it a solid 7 on her scale of Brownie Excellence!
 Using gluten-free oats, obvs.
 Which is why, if you want to Chocolatize™ anything by adding cocoa, you then need to remove an equivalent quantity of flour, otherwise you’ll alter both the texture and taste of your bake.
 I made my own curd cheese (only because no shops nearby sell it), with vegetable rennet and rich Jersey milk, drained it exceedingly well, then pressed it under a weight, so it was very dry. Deli curd cheese might be less dry.
 If you like them squidgy, you could bake for a shorter time – I suggest 45-50mins.
As a complete contrast to the glitz and glamour of the New Lemon Meringue Pies, the enjoyment in this recipe is the simplicity.
As we rush headlong through autumn, the apple harvest is in full force and I thought it appropriate to celebrate the abundance with a twist on the classic apple pie.
In the UK we’re blessed with the Bramley Apple, a gloriously sharp cooking apple that cooks to a cloud of apple froth. Unfortunately, this quality means that pies baked with Bramleys invariably end up somewhat hollow: the glorious mound of sliced apple that entered the oven emerging having deflated into a small pile of apple froth. Still delicious! But also a bit of a disappointment.
This recipe sidesteps using the classic Bramley in favour of apples of the dessert, or eating, variety, which are sweeter and hold their shape better. There are so many different British eating apples, you can ring the changes with this recipe merely by changing the type of apple you choose. Russet apples have a golden skin dotted with rough patches, and a rich, almost nutty flavour that goes exceptionally well with cheese (and nuts, obvs.). My daughter’s favourite is Worcester Pearmain, glorious red skin that blushes into dazzling white, juicy flesh, and a flavour reminiscent of lemons and strawberries. Whichever variety you choose, remember to sugar accordingly. The quantity given below is more of a general guideline – use less if you prefer a sharper taste, or if the apples you have are rather sweet.
The other twist in this recipe is the pastry, which I’ve crisped up with the addition of oats (my love of crunchy oats is well documented in the blog). I’ve also added a swirl effect by treating the pastry like cinnamon bun dough: brushing with butter, sprinkling with sugar and spices and then rolling up. Once chilled, the pastry roll is cut in half (one for the top, one for the bottom) and sliced into disks. The top and bottom pastry sheets are created with a patchwork of these swirls, placed close together and then rolled with a rolling pin until they form a continuous sheet of pastry. The pastry is fabulously crunchy and the swirl of sugar and spiced compliments the filling perfectly.
Simple. Autumnal. Perfick.
Apple Slice with Oat Swirl Pastry
300g plain flour
100g rolled oats
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large yolk
50ml-ish milk, creme fraiche, double or sour cream to mix
For the swirl
30g unsalted butter
100g sugar (any kind, I like demerera)
2tsp spice (a mixture of whatever takes your fancy: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.)
2-3tbs apricot or plum jam, or marmalade
You can double the filling quantities for a positively towering appley slice. The quantities below give were used to make the bake in the picture above.
1kg dessert apples (6 or 7)
2 rounded tablespoons cornflour
lemon juice (optional)
- Put all the ingredients for the pastry except the milk/cream into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to crumbs. Gradually add the liquid and mix until the whole comes together.
- Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead smooth.
- Roll out thinly (3-5mm), keeping it in a neat rectangle (30cmx40cm-ish).
- Melt the butter and paint over the surface, using a pastry brush.
- Mix the spice with the sugar and sprinkle over the whole surface of the pastry.
- Starting from one of the long sides. roll yp the pastry into a long sausage shape.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes. You might want to cut the roll in half now, for ease of storage.
- Remove half of the pastry and slice the roll into ‘coins’ 1cm thick.
- Line your traybake tin (Mine is a 25cmx35cm springform tin) with baking parchment, folding the sides to the exact size of the tin. Repeat with a second piece of parchment.
- Using the folds as a guide, arrange the swirls of pastry over the bottom of one of the pieces of parchment
- Cover with clingfilm and roll with a rolling pin, until the pastry spreads and joins together. Feel free to trim the sides and patch any holes with the trimmings.
- Lay the parchment and the pastry into the bottom of your traybake tin. Brush with the jam/marmalade.
- Repeat with the second half of the pastry, again, using the folded parchment as a guide. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Peel, core and grate the apples. A mandolin is perfect for achieving apple ‘matchsticks’. Toss in lemon juice if using.
- Mix the cornflour with the sugar, and stir into the apples.
- Once mixed, pour the apples into the traybake tin and press down firmly.
- Slide the top pastry onto the apple filling and press firmly. Trim off any excess.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the tin around after 25 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Allow to cool completely in the tin. The apple filling WILL settle as it cools, so keeping it in the tin will allow it to hold its shape.
- When completely cold, cut into portions with a sharp knife.
- Serve warm with a little cream, or enjoy cold in your packed lunches next week.
I spent a lot of our holiday in France prowling around patisseries and artisan boulangeries with eyes like saucers, admiring the delicate and stylish combinations of cream and fruit and chocolate and truffle and glaze and, and, and…. More of which will, no doubt, surface later on the blog as I shamelessly appropriate their ideas and flavour combinations for my own.
However, in order to get there, it is rather a mammoth road trip, so I generally make sure I’ve got a handful of recipe books with me in the car to while away the hours – eyes on the road at all times is SO overrated….
Yes, I’m kidding. I’m actually in charge of sitting up front and paying the tolls at the end of various motorway stretches, because all the machines are on the left-hand side.
With no other reading matter to hand, I find it’s a good way to make sure I actually READ some of the hundreds of books on my shelves and I invariably discover something I’ve overlooked before. Sure enough, this year, yet again, I have re-discovered a recipe in a dusty housewives’ pamphlet from umpty-plonk years ago that reveals itself to be a real gem and, despite my hopeless and complete admiration for the exotic and awe-inspiring patisserie creations of France, I am enchanted all over again by British simplicity.
The recipe for these cakes was so brief I almost passed it by, yet curiosity caused me to pause and read it over, wondering what ‘trick’ there was; surely the small paragraph didn’t contain making, baking AND decorating instructions?
Sure enough, it didn’t, because the recipe was for cakes MADE with cream. Specifically, substituting cream into the mix instead of butter.
So simple – flour, sugar, eggs, cream, baking powder. I just had to try them.
And they were delicious, and a complete breeze to make; no fretting over whether the butter is soft enough, or whether the sugar is dissolved sufficiently. They rose magnificently domed in the oven and are as light and tender of crumb as….. well, a very light and tender thing. Hey, I haven’t had any coffee yet today, gimme a break!
If I had just one niggle, it was that they were sweet. Tooth-achingly so. I couldn’t resist tweaking them a little. Even the sugar-pop posing as my daughter prefers this version. Of course she ate the sweet batch too, but she prefers these.
There’s no added flavouring – you could add some if you like, but I urge you to try the recipe just once, with farm-fresh eggs and rich double – or even clotted – cream.
The simplicity, lightness and flavour will be a delight.
The cakes in the photo are made in mini layer tins I bought in my local The Range, 4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50 (also fab for Yorkshire Puddings) and I put 100g of batter into each one, and made six. If you’re using large cupcake/muffin tins, I suggest just 50g of batter per ‘hole’, and thus twelve cakes. Cooking time is the same for both sizes.
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and whisk in.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients – the balloon whisk/attachment is best for this, less washing up too!
- Grease and line your tins, or use cupcake cases.
- Spoon your mixture into your tins. Spread the batter to the sides, leaving a hollow in the middle. They will still dome up during cooking, but this way it should be a little more controlled.
- Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- I think these are delicious served warm, lightly dusted with icing sugar and with a drizzle of cold cream poured over and a few fresh berries on the side. You can also split them and fill with whipped cream and berries or jam, or indeed any way that takes your fancy!
Back when I started this blog, one of the first posts I made was for Pulled Pork. Not saying I’m a trendsetter, but it would seem that the rest of the UK has now caught up and Pulled Pork is everywhere: in sandwiches, on burgers, in supermarket ready meals… This last would no doubt have the American devotees of barbecue staggering around clutching their chests at the heresy and I’m not really going to improve things by this post, because once again, I’m employing a slow-cooker rather than the traditional aromatically wood-fired barbecue.
I hadn’t actually planned this as a post at all, but in the true spirit of That’ll Do Cookery™ what I ended up throwing together was so simple and so delicious, I thought you might all enjoy. I recently bagged a couple of beef brisket joints at a bargain price, not remembering that the freezer was full, so when I got home, I had to do something with them immediately, and this is the result.
There’s a little bit of work once the meat is cooked if, like me, you prefer your pulled beef very lean, but it is so fall-apart tender, this is merely the work of moments. The 8 hour cooking time makes this a delicious meal to come home to, if you switch it on in the morning. Alternatively, cook it overnight and shred the meat in the morning, and portion it into freezer bags for fast meal solutions at short notice.
Barbecue Pulled Beef
Beef Brisket that will fit in your slow cooker – I used 2 x 1.5kg joints
300ml Barbecue Sauce
1 beef stock cube – I like the jelly-style ones
500ml tomato passata or chopped tomatoes, pureed
- Using a pastry brush, generously ‘paint’ your brisket all over with the barbecue sauce. Put the meat into the slow cooker.
- Add any remaining barbecue sauce, the stock cube and the pureed tomatoes.
- Add sufficient water to just cover the meat.
- Cook on ‘Low’ for 8 hours.
- Lift the joint(s) from the sauce and allow to cool a little. Shred the meat, either by hand or with two forks, removing all fat and connective tissue.
- [Optional] Chill the sauce and skim off the solidified fat.
- When ready to serve, warm the sauce and taste. Adjust the flavour to your own personal taste, if necessary, with pepper, salt, more barbecue sauce, Worcester sauce, hot sauce, etc.
- Return the meat to the sauce and heat thoroughly before serving.
Hope you’ve been good, because here’s a real treat for you – and with no butter AND a hefty wodge of fruit, it’s practically health food!
The secret is prunes – no, wait! Stop! Come back! It’s good, I promise you! Look, it has chocolate and alcohol in it too! *waggles bottle enticingly*
This is similar to the Luxury Brownies of before Christmas, but instead of butter, we have a puree of prunes which not only pairs fantastically with chocolate, it also adds a delicious Squidginess™ to each mouthful, and with a baking time of just 20 minutes, it can be whipped up in a flash.
I’ve soaked the fruit in alcohol to add moisture, but you can just as easily use fruit juice – I suggest orange.
Fat-free Truffle Cake
200g of ready-to-eat prunes
150ml port/madeira/rum/fruit juice
150g 60% dark chocolate
4 large eggs, separated
100 grams of sugar
100 grams of flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50g 60% dark chocolate
50ml port/madeira/rum/fruit juice
cocoa powder for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a 24cm spring-form tin. Alternatively, this quantity will make 12 cupcake-sized servings. NB If you’re wanting to garnish each individual cake with a prune, you’re gonna need to soak more prunes!
- Put the prunes into a small saucepan. Check that the stones have been removed – I always find 1 or 2 that have been missed, even if the bag says they’re pitted. Add your liquid of choice, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and set aside.
- Melt the chocolate over a water bath or in the microwave.. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the melted chocolate. Be careful, because the yolks will cook if the chocolate is too hot.
- Pick out 6 prunes for decoration, then puree the rest with their soaking liquid and stir into the chocolate. I fine a stick blender is best for this, as the puree gets really smooth – the small quantity of fruit makes a food processor unsuitable for this task.
- Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Whisk the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar a little at a time. Whisk to soft peaks.
- Add the whisked eggwhites to the chocolate mix and incorporate fully. This is best done by adding 1/3 of the whites and STIRRING gently with a WHISK. This is better at retaining the volume of the whipped whites than the cutting motion of a spoon using the ‘folding’ technique. The first third will necessarily sacrifice volume, as it will initially be difficult to incorporate the thick chocolate mixture, but the next two additions will stay beautifully billowy.
- Add the flour mixture using the same method – slowly stirring with your whisk until fully incorporated.
- Spoon your mixture into your tin of choice and smooth the top. There’s little rising during cooking, so try and make the surface as level as possible without actually deflating the mixture.
- Bake for 20 minutes if making a single, large cake, 16-18 minutes if making cupcakes.
- Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- When cold, wrap in cling-film and leave at room temperature overnight. This resting will allow all the flavours to mingle and for the prunes to work their magic on the texture. There’s nothing WRONG with eating it immediately, it’s just better if you can wait.
- To serve:
- Boil the milk and pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. If it’s not full melted, zap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to help it along.
- Stir in the alcohol/fruit juice.
- Dust the top of the cake with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Add the reserved prunes, one per slice – or per cake.
- Drizzle the sauce over the cake, or serve alongside each slice for people to help themselves.
It’s that time of year again, where heart-shaped food is everywhere, and this dessert suggestion is no different. Valentines Day falls on a Saturday this year, so I’ve gone for simplicity in that there’s no actual baking involved, thereby freeing up the rest of the day for a constant stream of romantic gestures. It’s also not the original recipe I had planned for you, but that other one, although unusual, simple and delicious, delicately plucked from the fading pages of a centuries old manuscript…. involved peeling 20 grapes and who needs that kind of stress on the weekend???
This is basically a refrigerator cake with a posh frock on, where frock = booze, although you can use orange juice/zest if you prefer. A quick dip in some melted chocolate, a sprinkling of freeze-dried strawberry powder and it looks quite the picture of elegance.
This quantity makes two, admittedly quite thick, hearts. I initially made them thinner, but promptly got into all sorts of bother/mess trying to dip the tops and bottoms in the chocolate and still keeping them looking neat and well finished. So for ease of dipping, I’d recommend making just two – after all, you don’t have to eat ALL of it in one go and a Valentine token for your beloved isn’t supposed to require a batch bake!
You won’t need all of the chocolate, but using this amount makes dipping easier. You can keep any excess for use in other recipes.
125g Rich Tea biscuits (about half a packet)
30g softened butter
30g caster sugar
15g cocoa powder
60g dark fruit conserve or jam – cherry, raspberry, damson, etc.
2tbs port, fruit liqueur, or zest/juice of an orange
200g dark (60% cocoa) chocolate
20g vegetable oil
freeze-dried fruit powder
- Break the biscuits into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles crumbs. Because that’s exactly what it will be. Tip into a bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and either mix by hand, with a spoon, or with a stand mixer fitted with the standard paddle.
- It should come together quite easily, and hold together when pressed. Tip out onto a silicone mat (it will be rather sticky).
- The easiest way to form the hearts is to divide the mixture into two and press it into a heart-shaped biscuit cutter.
- Once the mixture is packed tightly, a gentle press will ease it out of the mould.
- Carefully wrap the two hearts in cling film and place in the freezer for at least an hour, or overnight, whichever is most convenient.
- Break the chocolate into a bowl and melt, either over hot water or in the microwave in 1 minute bursts, stirring after each minute.
- Add the oil and stir thoroughly.
- Remove the frozen hearts from the freezer and unwrap. Lay a sheet of baking parchment or silicone baking sheet next to the bowl of chocolate for putting the hearts on, to set.
- Dip the top of each heart into the melted chocolate about 1cm. Lift it out and turn it on its side, letting the excess chocolate run off the side, leaving the surface smooth and even. When it has stopped dripping, turn the heart upright and set onto the baking parchment. The coldness of the biscuits will cause the chocolate to set within a minute.
- When firm, carefully lift the hearts, keeping your fingers away from the chocolate top, to avoid smudging. Dip the bases. Set aside to cool completely.
- Decorate with freeze-dried powder sprinkled inside a mini heart-shaped cutter, or make a ribbon by laying two sheets of paper across the chocolate heart and sprinkle the fruit powder between. Carefully remove the sheets and shake the excess powder back into the sachet.
Here is your 2014 Festive Food Ready Reference page for all your holiday menus!
Click on the text to go to the recipe page.
I hope you all have a fab time and let’s meet up again in 2015 to do it all over again!