Sunday, 27 September 2009

Raspberry and Coconut Breakfast Bars

My poor husband has been badly in need of a breakfast now that the cooler mornings are rolling in, but unfortunately he's just not the kind of person that can stomach eating at 7.00am.

So I needed something that I could send him out the door with in the morning, something that would hold together well in a lunchbox and more importantly something that I could throw together once or twice a week and not have to worry about sorting something out from scratch each morning.

These breakfast bars are perfect for the job.

They hold together perfectly and because they're dense and almost a little fudgy you don't need much to send you on your way during the day. They're not too sweet either which is perfect for my husband because he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth.

They're also the simplest and quickest bars ever to throw together and they keep really well in an airtight container.

You will need;

4 cups of rolled porridge oats, the quick cook variety.
1 cup coconut (I used dessicated and shredded is fine too)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup melted butter
1 cup warm jam (in this case raspberry)

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F or 160C fan assisted).

I measured out my butter and jam into a microwaveable dish and heated it for a minute to melt everything. I keep my jam in the fridge, but if you don't then you don't really need to worry about warming it, as long as you can mix it into the oats.

Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until completely combined. This doesn't take long at all.

Press the mixture into a well greased (and lined if you prefer) 9 x 13 inch pan (10 x 12, a couple of 8 x 8's whatever you happen to have on hand) and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, the bars will be golden in colour and the jammy bits will have darkened slightly. Allow the bars to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes before turning out and cutting with a sharp knife. I cut this batch into 15 bars, although I think cutting into 18 will still give a good sized bar. One of these is plenty for Chloe and I although Robert will happily munch through two at a time.

One the bars are completely cool, store them in an airtight container and use for breakfasts and lunches through the week, repeat as necessary.

I've tried these so far with raspberry jam and orange marmalade and both work really well. I think blackberry or bramble jelly would also work really well in these bars although if were to use strawberry I may cut the sugar down to 2/3 or 3/4 cup to help balance the sweetness.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing

You just have to have gingerbread at this time of year, don't you? Now I'm talking about gingerbread cake here rather than gingerbread biscuits.

The cake is very easy to make, although I will admit that it does leave a few more dirty dishes than my usual cakes (ie one bowl and a cake tin), for this one you will also need a good heavy pot, you can do it with a lighter one too, but you will have to stand over it and stir constantly to avoid it catching on the bottom.

For this cake you will need;

150g butter
125g dark brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g treacle (don't worry if these two aren't exact, its near impossible to weigh while pouring it from the tin)
1tsp grated fresh ginger
1tsp ground ginger (dried)
2tsp ground cinnamon
250ml milk
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour

Preheat your oven to 170C (150C for fan assisted).

Sieve the plain flour and bicarb into a large bowl;

Put the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle and spices into your heaviest pot and melt over a low/medium heat, stirring to make sure the sugars don't catch on the bottom of the pot, if they do catch dump it and start again because the finished cake will just taste burnt even from the smallest catch.

Once melted, remove from the heat for a minute or two. It should look thick and glossy, like melted chocolate;

Add the milk to the sugar mixture first to cool it and then add the beaten eggs, while stirring.

Then just pour this mixture into the bowl along with the flour and bicarb and mix well to combine. Pour the mixture into a well greased (and lined if you prefer) large cake tin. The one pictured below is a 12 inch tin.

Put the cake immediately into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Test the cake after 45 minutes. It will be ready when moist crumbs stick to the skewer when testing. It is a very moist cake. Invert the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

I always use wooden skewers, so you may have less sticking to a metal skewer but the crumbs should look something like this.

Once the cake has completely cooled, mix up a quick batch of lemon icing using;

200g icing sugar
1-2tbls lemon juice

make an incredibly light and free flowing icing sugar which accepts a little more liquid than other brands like McKinney's or Tate & Lyle which are a often a lot more compacted (and in my mind already contain a little moisture because they're packed in paper rather than plastic). Start off by adding just 1 tablespoon, you want the icing quite thick but still spreadable, add as much as another tablespoon of lemon juice if needed. I find it depends on the brand, SilverspoonSilverspoon is always my very first choice when it comes to baking for all sugars.

Spread the lemon icing across the top of the cake and (if you can contain yourself) although to set somewhat before serving.

**Update - Since baking this cake I have baked it again, except this time I divided the batter into two 1 pound loaf tins and baked them for 35-40 minutes. I didn't ice the cakes and instead served them thickly sliced and spread with good butter. I really enjoyed the gingerbread loaves as did the rest of the family and I'll be making them this way a lot more often, perhaps with a little less milk and a little bit of grated raw apples added to the batter. I'll let you know how that one works out.