B is for…Banana Loaf

 

Bananas are, apparently, the most sold item in supermarkets in the UK. I certainly buy them every time I do a supermarket shop. Unfortunately (or otherwise) I often seem to buy just a couple too many, and by the end of the week they are simply crying out to be baked with rather than eaten. I’ve used a variety of banana based recipes over the years, often involving muffins and chocolate chunks. However, I’d like to share with you my absolute go to banana recipe. It’s super simple, very tasty and contains such basic ingredients that I think I’ve always had them in, and so haven’t had to do a quick nip to the shop. (This cannot be said when it comes to most of the banana muffin recipes that I used to use, which mostly seemed to need sour cream or natural yoghurt, which I am less likely to have in the house). The recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food.

Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 140g butter, softened, plus extra for the tin
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and 40g of the flour.
  3. Fold in the remaining flour, baking powder and mashed bananas. Pour into the tin and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then remove to a wire rack.

Delicious served warm, and super tasty cold the next day too. 

Photo: “Bananas”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bananas.jpg#/media/File:Bananas.jpg

A is for…Apples

Welcome to my new series: Alphabites. The idea is simple: each post will be about a different food, or something related to food that begins with the next letter of the alphabet. It’s just a way of bringing together lots of different things that I want to write about. And also to challenge me a bit to come up with ideas for some of the trickier letters, and to write a bit more regularly.

So, here goes.

A is for…Apples

I love the idea of ‘living off the land’, but given that I struggle to keep on top of mowing the lawn, and plants have yet to live long under my care, tending a vegetable patch is probably not an obvious calling for me right now. However, recently I have received an abundance of apples from trees of family members (family trees??), and even a few from a small apple tree in our garden. So I set about finding a variety of apple recipes and then got busy in the kitchen. Here’s what I made:

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What’s so Great about the Great British Bake Off?

I’ve got a confession to make: this is only the third series of GBBO that I have watched. I’ve known about it from the start, in fact a friend even sent me an application for the first ever series (this was before anyone had any idea of the crazy high skill levels of the bakers!), and I’d watched bits and pieces of the occasional episode here and there but I hadn’t got in to it. I didn’t know the bakers. I didn’t love the bakers. It all seemed, quite frankly, a bit dull. I just didn’t really get it. But two years ago I started watching from the start of the series and became absolutely hooked. I think ‘knowing’ the bakers from the start really helped. As I was driving to work this morning, already looking forward to tonight’s show, I was thinking to myself ‘what is it that makes the GBBO so great?’ So, in no particular order, here are ten of the reasons I love it so:

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The Great Brownie Experiment – The Results

So, the results are in. (For the introduction to this important experiment click here.)  The data has been collated and we have a clear winner. I was planning on presenting the findings by writing a brief review of each recipe and announcing which category they had won. However, it turns out that one single recipe won in every single category. I did not see this coming. But it wouldn’t be fair to just tell you about that brownie, and I want to make some graphs. So, here we go:

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The Great Brownie Experiment – Introduction

I started trying to write this up in the style of a science experiment report but I got a bit confused by which bits should go in which section, and the fact I was meant to write in the third person etc. But don’t be fooled – just because this is not written up in Official Science Format, it is still Very Important. This is probably the most important experiment I have ever undertaken. Some would argue that it is the most important experiment ever undertaken, full stop. I think they are probably wrong, but we are all entitled to our opinions.

So, the aim of this Experiment was to find The Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe. An important and challenging task, but one which somebody must be willing to undertake. But where to begin? There are so many brownie recipes out there, and so many claiming to be The Best. Well, I started off by asking friends who were willing to share their ‘Best Ever’ brownie recipes with me to do so. I was inundated with recipes, as mentioned in previous posts. After a brief detour via some healthier and ‘free from’ brownies, I collated all the recipes I had received and picked out 6 with which to make a start. I tried to include recipes which included a range of ingredients and cooking techniques, but stuck to the basic ‘chocolate brownie’ theme. (I will do a later experiment on exciting additions and slants on chocolate brownies, but for this experiment the only additions consisted of chocolate chips, chocolate chunks and Minstrels.)

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In Praise of the Full Fat Brownie

A few months ago I began a journey to find The Best Brownie Recipe, but I got a little side tracked. Side tracked by things like black beans and sweet potatoes. I was inundated with brownie recipes which were packed full of sweet sounding delights, lashings of butter, mountains of sugar, and more ‘best quality’ chocolate than you could ever dream of. But for some reason I decided to try out some of the ‘healthy’ or ‘free from’ alternatives. I’ll keep going on that detour, but this evening I returned to The True Path.

I was baking 4 batches of brownies for a wedding this weekend. Initially I thought this would be a great time to try out 4 different recipes. I even picked 4 from my friends and made a little hand drawn spreadsheet of the ingredients, detailing how much of each thing I would need for each recipe and then totalling it up at the end. But then I realised this was possibly not the time to undertake this experiment. For the experiment to be Truly Scientific I will need Score Cards, and I will need everyone to try every brownie. I’m not sure that it would be right to turn the wedding into a Highly Scientific Brownie Experiment. So, I put my spreadsheet to the side (it will be used later, don’t you worry) and stuck to my trustworthy recipe.

And, you know what, it was a bit of a relief to return to this old friend. A brownie recipe that contains chocolate. And sugar. And flour. And butter. And even eggs. And lots of all those things. (Except the flour – there’s not much flour). Maybe one day I’ll be a Healthy Brownie Convert, but for now I’ll just run further tomorrow*.

(*I will in actual fact not run tomorrow at all, I haven’t run for about 2 weeks. A girl has to prioritise and sometimes Baking wins. But it’s the thought that counts….)

Anyhow, here’s the recipe that I’ve been using for all these years:

Ingredients:
200g butter (or marge, or stork, or value spread – it’s all the same if you ask me!)
200g dark chocolate (again, value is just fine!)
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
112g plain flour
200g white chocolate (value fine, again!) chopped into chunks
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp vanilla essence

Bake in:
Approx 12.5 x 8 inches baking tin lined with baking parchment

Method:
-Preheat oven to 170 degrees C and line tin with parchment
-Melt dark chocolate and butter together in microwave
-Beat eggs and sugar together until pale. Add the melted choc and mix well until blended
-Add flour, salt, white choc, vanilla essence and stir all together
-Pour into tin and bake for about 30 mins, poss a bit longer. Top will look cracked and you want it to be ever so slightly gooey still on the inside.
-Enjoy!!

Three simple kitchen gadgets that have improved my life

At the risk of sounding incompetent, lazy and paranoid (although I am, in fact, all of those things) I would like to share with you 3 simple kitchen gadgets that have improved my life.

In third place:

The Rice Cooker

No more over-cooked or undercooked rice; no more soggy or dry rice. We have a small 2 person rice cooker which makes cooking rice a breeze. I’d used them in the past when cooking for large quantities, but it’s just as effective for 1 or 2. Make sure you rinse and soak and rinse and soak and rinse and soak and rinse the rice well before hand for the ultimate rice experience.

Coming in at number 2:

The Tea Tongs

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So simple, yet so effective. No more burnt fingers (come on, we’ve all done it – taken the tea bag out with our fingers. trying to grab that little bit that’s floating up above the surface, only to have the bag keep sinking under the hot tea. Why am I so lazy as to not just go and get a tea spoon?!); or having to squeeze the tea bag between the cup edge and back of the tea spoon; or dripping tea across the floor as you carry the tea bag to the bin. Not with these nifty little tea tongs. Simply use them to pick up the tea bag, squeeze it out and then carry it to the bin. I know it might sound a bit ridiculous. I thought it was at first, but I am thoroughly converted.

And, in first place:

The Meat Thermometer

 

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After years of dry chicken and chewy pork; overly cooked sausages and other unidentifiable meat; all driven by an irrational paranoia of poisoning my friends, we got a meat thermometer. Such a simple little device and what a difference it’s made! Now, instead of waiting until the juices definitely run clear; and there is no hint of pink; and the meat is therefore rather dry, I just pop in the thermometer and check the temperature. Once it’s hit the right temperature (generally about 74 degrees C – but look this up – it varies from meat to meat) in the middle it’s ready. And the result is much tastier, less dry and much better meat, which isn’t going to cause me to lose sleep, wondering if I might have poisoned people.

Better Bites: Black Bean Brownies

My poor long suffering colleagues had another disrupted break time today as I walked around the office with my latest brownies in the line of experiments. ‘Eat this’; ‘Give me honest feedback’; ‘No, I won’t tell you what’s in it’; ‘Guess what’s in it’, ‘Stop having important conversations and pay me more attention!’

They are very obliging so I got lots of useful feedback. And lots of guesses as to the ingredients. Carrot. No. Beetroot. No. Courgette. No. Porridge oats. Yes, actually. Fig. No. Sweet Potato. Not this time. Potato. Again, been there, done that, no. In the end they got bored and we all got back to work.

Now the difference between these brownies and the last batch is that these ones actually tasted quite good. And they tasted of chocolate too. Result. They, like the last batch, were still gluten free, egg free, and added sugar free. They did have a bit of dairy in them, but that could easily be substituted. In case you haven’t read the title of this post (and who doesn’t love a bit of alliteration?) the ‘secret ingredient’ was black beans.

I’m not going to share the recipe just yet as I want to try out a few tweaks, but I will seek to do so soon. But I am very excited about my (late) discovery of black beans in baking produce. I feel like a whole world of baking opportunity and gluten free joy has opened up to me.

Watch out, colleagues, more black bean baked goods coming your way!

‘Come on you…ooo cake’

Sometimes I bake without using food colouring. This, however, was not one of those times. Lionel supports Harlequins rugby team so for his birthday I decided to make him a Harlequins themed Battenberg style cake. Fortunately, the Quins have a checkerboard with their colours in. Unfortunately these colours include brown and grey. Mmmm, grey cake.

I got hold of my tried and tested Battenberg recipe (adapted from BBC Good Food), along with some pink, blue and black (for the grey) food colouring, and some cocoa for the brown section. (If one needs to eat brown cake then it should at least be chocolate flavoured).

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Brownies’ Honour

I am on a Quest. A Mission. A Journey of Great Importance. A Voyage of Discovery. Call it what you will, I am trying to find the best brownie recipe out there. The brownie recipe to end all brownie recipes. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

You are probably reading this and thinking ‘let me save you the hassle. I’ve got the best brownie recipe. I’ve been using it for years. It’s been passed down my family for generations. In fact, my family invented chocolate brownies.’ In which case, please send it my way. But the thing about brownie recipes is that almost everyone has one which they could (more or less) say that about. I think this is possibly more true for brownies than any other baked good. Many of my friends have their own special brownie recipe, and some of them will take it to the grave with them, convinced that theirs is The Ultimate In Brownie Recipes. And, I confess, I am one of those people. I’ve been using the same recipe for about 12 years. It’s my go to recipe for the classic Hen Weekend Recipe Book and many people have requested to have it, after tasting the brownies. (Thankfully I’m not one of those ‘take it to my grave’ people. The recipe wasn’t even mine in the first place).

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