Tag Archives: Raisins

A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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Keftas with raisin & almond couscous

One of the things I love about New Zealand is the lamb.  The lamb here tastes wonderful.  So I was rather pleased when a lamb recipe was thrown my way by this month’s Random Recipes challenge.  The theme for this month was “random birthday number” – we had to use our birth date to pick our book – in my case, the 14th book on the shelf, which was Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant, a French student cook book which was a gift from my French aunt and uncle.  It’s a good book because it has a range of straightforward recipes for one, two and groups of people, so covers all sorts of occasions.  The random number button on my calculator directed me to page 147, which is a recipe for keftas, or North African lamb meatballs.

Now, the original recipe calls for ras-el-hanout, but I couldn’t find any – I have seen some here, but I can’t remember where, which is obviously super helpful.  So I had to make up a substitution based on various articles online.  Thankfully it worked out and the meatballs were actually fantastically delicious, although perhaps a little too oniony, so I’ve reduced the amount of onion in the recipe here.  What I also love about these meatballs is that they can be fried or baked (I personally preferred baked), and they’d probably work wonderfully on the BBQ as well.  I served the keftas with a side of raisin and almond couscous, which is easy to prepare whilst the meatballs are cooking.  I’m also submitting these keftas to this month’s Simple and in Season over at Fabulicious Food! since lamb is in season here, and this recipe is definitely super simple to prepare!

Keftas with raisin & almond couscous

Serves 3-4
Keftas adapted from Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant
Couscous recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

I thought there was a little too much onion when I made these, so I’ve reduced the quantity in the recipe given here (so yours won’t look quite as oniony as the photos in the post).  Don’t be put off by the number of spices in the recipe – if you’re missing one you can probably get away with leaving it out, particularly if it’s a spice that you don’t often (or ever) use.  The skewers are optional, but fun.  I’ve read that you should soak skewers in water before using them so that they don’t burn when cooking, but I forgot to do this and didn’t have a problem with burnt skewers.

Ingredients

For the keftas:
½ tsp Cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g minced lamb
1 medium onion
Bamboo skewers (optional)
1½ tsp olive oil (if frying)

For the couscous:
75g raisins
½ tbsp olive oil
150g wholemeal couscous
50g flaked almonds
Knob of butter
Salt & freshly ground pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Fresh parsley, to serve

Directions

1.  Place the raisins for the couscous in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water.  Leave to soak whilst preparing the rest of the meal.

To make the keftas:
2.  If cooking the meatballs in the oven, pre-heat to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.

3.  Add the spices to a large bowl and stir together.  Add the lamb to the bowl and mix well with your hands so that the spices are evenly distributed.

4.  Finely chop the onion and mix it in with the lamb.  Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls, slightly flattening them.  Slide the meatballs onto the skewers (this is optional, particularly if baking the keftas, but recommended if frying them or cooking them on the BBQ).

5.  If baking the meatballs then place them in an oven-proof dish and bake for about 25 mins until browned all over and cooked through.  If frying them, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  Add the meatballs and fry for 7 mins before turning them over and frying a further 7 mins.  If BBQing, you’ll have to figure it out yourself.

To make the couscous:
6.  Meanwhile, prepare the accompanying couscous.  Drain the raisins and pour the soaking water into a measuring jug. Set the raisins aside.  Top the raisin soaking liquid up to 175 ml with water and to a saucepan.  Add the olive oil and bring to the boil.  As soon as it begins to boil, add the couscous, stir, cover and remove from the heat.  Allow the couscous to soak up the liquid (this should take about 10 mins).

7.  Toast the flaked almonds until fragrant in a frying pan over a medium heat, taking care not to let them burn.  Once the couscous is ready, add a knob of butter and fluff up the grains with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper and add the ground cinnamon, raisins and almonds and stir through.  Cover to keep warm until the keftas are ready.

8.  Serve the keftas immediately, accompanied by the couscous, sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

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Greek yoghurt & honey cake: Deliciousness guaranteed, sharing optional

A large portion of this blog wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my trusty electric whisk.  All the macarons, the seal cake, the meerkat cake and most of the cupcakes – basically anything involving whisking egg whites into peaks or creaming together butter and sugar (which I’m too lazy to do by hand – shocking, I know).  The whisk also had a stick blender attachment, which made it ideal – only one appliance to make both cakes and soups saves on storage space – and was why I commandeered it from was given it by my mum when I moved up to St Andrews for uni (maybe also because it was free).  I forget whether it was my mum’s just before or just after she was married, but either way, it was older than me.  By several years.  And yet it still worked wonderfully.  It served me well whilst I was in St Andrews, and I loved it to bits, but by the time I started packing for my move to NZ, it was nearing the end of its (long) life span.  The motor was clearly just a few icing sugar explosions away from giving up (I’d had a couple of scares towards the end of my time in St Andrews).  Rather than shipping it over, having it break and then having to get a new one, I figured I’d skip the first two steps, give the whisk/blender an early retirement and just get a new one when I arrived here.  Simple as.

Well… in theory.  Apparently electric whisks with a stick blender attachment are few and far between now, and those that do exist have pretty poor reviews.  Damn.  So I’ve had to buy an electric whisk and a stick blender separately, which is slightly frustrating in terms of storage, but I guess that now I can whisk egg whites or make buttercream icing and blend soup at the same time.  Because that would totally end well…  I’m just hoping that they last me a long time (although their predecessor has set the bar pretty high).  It’s taken me four months to actually get round to buying them.  Four months of getting excited about recipes until realising they require egg whites to be whisked into soft peaks.  Four months of no soup (I like my soups smooth).  A bit ridiculous really, but when I realised that my Random Recipe entry for this month involved whisking egg whites I finally had to get my act together (thanks Dom!).  And it turned out to be a fantastic recipe to test out my new electric whisk.

Following on from last month’s theme of “first and last,” the theme for this month’s Random Recipe challenge is “the middle.”  I randomly picked A Treasury of New Zealand Baking as my book, which has 232 pages of recipes, so I turned to page 116, which houses a recipe for… Greek yoghurt and honey cake with a raisin lemon syrup.  I’ve been rather lucky with my Random Recipe entries over the last few months, and it seems that the streak continues.  I’m not complaining!  The cake turned out rather scrumptious.  It’s wonderfully moist and full of flavour thanks to the syrup that gets poured over the top at the end.  It’s excellent for breakfast (the amount of whisky in the syrup is minimal and it gets simmered anyway), for morning tea, for afternoon tea and for dessert.  I can say that with confidence, because I’ve (enthusiastically) tested all those options out personally.  I know, I know, I totally took one for the team.  It also keeps for a good few days, and it’s almost tastier after a couple of days as the flavours in the syrup pervade the cake over time.  Confession: this cake is so tasty that it’s a little difficult to share.  I had originally planned to take it in to the lab, and well… that never really happened.  Ahem.  I’ve had great breakfasts this week though (it has raisins, thus it’s totally breakfast food…  Don’t judge).  I think next time I’ll tell them I’m bringing cake so that I have to actually follow through with it.

Greek yoghurt & honey cake, with a raisin, lemon & whisky syrup

Serves 8-10 as a snack, 5-6 for breakfast
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The syrup would also work wonderfully with spiced rum instead of whisky, or alcohol-free if necessary.  It’s quite dense so it works wonderfully for breakfast or as a snack (in smaller portions) accompanied by tea.  The cake is kept moist by the yoghurt in it, so it’ll keep for a good few days (in fact, I think I preferred it after a couple of a days as the flavours of the syrup develop).

Ingredients

240g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
240g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
3 tbsp honey
Zest of 2 lemons
4 eggs
240g unsweetened Greek yoghurt

For the syrup:
180ml water
120g caster sugar
120g seedless raisins
Juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp honey
1 star anise

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the lemons into a large bowl (keep the lemons to use the juice in the syrup later on) and add the cubed butter, sugar and honey.  Beat together until light and creamy.  Then beat in the egg yolks one at a time (put the egg whites directly into a large clean bowl for later).  Once all the egg yolks are incorporated, add about a spoonful of the flour mixture and beat in, followed by about a spoonful yoghurt, and continue alternating between the two.

4.  In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites into soft peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.

5.  Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1h05 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Making the syrup:
6.  Whilst the cake is in the oven, start prepare the syrup.  Add all the syrup ingredients, except for the yoghurt, to a small saucepan and allow to marinate whilst the cake is baking.

7.  As the cake is cooling, heat over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 mins until thickened and syrupy (a syrupy syrup – my descriptive abilities amaze me sometimes).  Allow to cool a little, but not completely, and fish out the star anise.  Once the cake is completely cool, slide it onto a plate and then gently pour the syrup over the top and spread the raisins out evenly.

8.  Serve warm or cold, with a large spoonful of yoghurt if desired.

Enjoy!

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Cinnamon & raisin pinwheels

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I began looking for a recipe book of New Zealand recipes, preferably one categorised by seasons because as I’ve mentioned previously, I was having difficulties convincing myself that apricots in February were totally seasonal.  However, this wasn’t quite as straightforward as I’d expected and even the guy in the bookshop that I found that specialises entirely in cookbooks (uh-oh…) said that there weren’t really many books like that around.  However, apparently there is a big baking tradition, and judging by most of the recipes, this seems to have been brought over by British settlers.  So I walked out of the aforementioned bookshop with A Treasury of New Zealand Baking (after paying, obviously), which is made up of recipes by a whole host of the top Kiwi chefs, bakers and food writers, and there’s a range of recipes for all occasions, importantly using ingredients and fruits available here.  I hadn’t baked from this book yet, so I picked it for this month’s Random Recipes, the theme of which was “If I knew you were coming…” which meant we had to bake something to celebrate the 2nd birthday of Belleau Kitchen.  Happy blog-birthday, Dom!

The random number button on my trusty calculator referred me to page 200, which were the variations on a scone recipe.  I decided to go for the cinnamon pinwheels option, because, well, they sounded delicious.  I’ve never made scones before – to be honest, they’ve always intimidated me a little (a lot).  Scones just seem to be one of those baked goods that are straightforward, but can go wrong so easily, and if you do them wrong, they can turn out inedible.  So I was a little daunted at trying this recipe out, but rules are rules, so I got on with it…

I decided to throw some raisins in, so they turned into cinnamon and raisin pinwheels, and they turned out rather tasty.  I was expecting them to rise a little more than they did, but I think this might have been because I don’t quite have the “lightness of touch” required for scone-making.  I’m sure it’s a skill I just need to practice…  Don’t be surprised if scone recipes start popping up on Sharky Oven Gloves left, right and centre (and if you never see another scone recipe again… you’ll know that the “lightness of touch” skill is still eluding me).  I’m also entering these into this month’s Breakfast Club, being hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, who happens to be a Kiwi living in the UK (and I’m sure she can correct me if I’ve got the Kiwi food scene completely wrong!).  She chose “Sweet treats and pastries” as the theme – these might not quite count as a pastry, but they definitely count as a sweet treat!

Cinnamon & raisin pinwheels

Makes 12-14 pinwheels
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

These make a delicious breakfast, although they do take a little bit of time to put together.  You can make them the evening before and they’ll keep if wrapped well.  It is important to work these lightly or they will lose their lightness.  They didn’t rise quite as much as I was expecting, but I think that might be because I wasn’t quite as gentle with the dough as I should have been – they were still delectable though!

Ingredients

6 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
375g all-purpose flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp icing sugar
Pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, cold
100g raisins
1 egg
300g unsweetened natural yoghurt
Milk, to brush

Directions

1.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 240°C/fan oven 220°C.

2.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a little ramekin.  Set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, icing sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir together.  Dice the cold butter and rub into the flour mixture using your fingertips.  Stir in the raisins.

4.  Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl.  Add the yoghurt and mix together, before pouring into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork to bring the dough together into a soft, sticky dough (add a splash of milk if the mixture is too dry, but it will get stickier as you roll it).

5.  Turn out onto a floured work surface and pull the dough together quickly so that it is soft and smooth.  Lightly roll out into a rectangle of about 20 x 40 cm and 1cm thickness.  Brush the dough with a little bit of milk.  Keep aside about 3 tbsp of the cinnamon sugar mix and sprinkle the rest evenly over the dough.  Roll the dough up from the long side and gently pressure it to make it an even thickness along the roll.  Cut into 2.5cm slices, and place cut side up on the prepared baking tray, leaving about 2cm between each pinwheel.

6.  Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for 12-14 mins or until risen and golden.

Enjoy!

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Wunderbar stollen, natürlich ja, genau

Over the last 12 years or so and across three different postings, I’ve somehow managed to amass a small collection of German friends.  During my last three years in St Andrews, my flatmate was even German.  Since I’ve been periodically surrounded by Germans speaking German to each other for quite a few years now, it would be logical to assume that I’ve have picked up a fair amount of German and can hold a basic conversation.  If you have a vague grasp of German, you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this post that this really isn’t the case.  Aside from being able to swear in German (because that’s always the first thing you learn in any language), declare my love to people and throw out a few random words, my ability to speak German is more or less limited to “Achtung!  Ich bin eine Kartoffel!”  Which translates to “Warning!  I am a potato!”  Really useful stuff, right there.  If I ever get hopelessly lost in Germany and have to ask somebody for directions, I’ll have to choose between declaring my love to them, telling them I’m a potato or swearing at them.  Luckily I can read maps quite well, so hopefully that particular situation will never arise…

Whilst my friends may have failed miserably at teaching me any useful German, they have successfully introduced me to some rather delicious foods, including stollen.  I’ve been a big fan of this Christmas bread-like fruitcake for quite a long time now, and I always look forward to it in December.  It was a treat that I’d only get if I was round at a German friend’s house, which made it that little bit more special.  Now of course, it’s quite easy to find stollen in the UK, which makes it a little less special, but I still love it.  I considered trying to make some last year but realised that it involves yeast, which scares me a little – I’ve attempted to bake with yeast a few times, but it never seems to turn out how it should.

This month’s Breakfast Challenge is hosted by Krithi’s Kitchen and she’s chosen “Bread” as the theme, so I decided to give baking with yeast another go.  I’m not sure whether stollen is technically classed as bread, but it’s very bread-like and involves yeast, kneading and a bunch of waiting around, so I think it makes a suitably bread-like entry, right?  I’m going with yes.  I don’t actually know if stollen is considered a breakfast food in Germany.  I rather suspect that it isn’t – based on the Germans that I know and have had breakfast with, breakfast seems to be more of a savoury affair (edit: it’s been kindly pointed out to me on Twitter that, as with any country, breakfast foods vary widely across Germany and that some families do eat sweet things for breakfast, including stollen at Christmastime.  I clearly just managed to make friends with those that eat ham and cheese!).  But I love stollen, so when it comes up to Christmastime I’d happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I thought that was a remotely balanced diet.

So, did I manage to conquer the yeast?  You may have guessed from the photos that I did!  I decided to make the stollens with marzipan down the middle, and they worked perfectly.  Kat, Craig and I reunited in St Andrews last weekend, so I took one of the loaves up with me and tested it on them, just like old times, and they gave it their seal of approval (“über-wunderbar, ja!” “Genau!” – which may or may not be real German…).  Although rather time-consuming, the recipe that I used turned out to be really quite straightforward, and after such delicious results, I’m less scared of baking with yeast.  I wouldn’t exactly say I’m confident yet, but I won’t automatically disregard recipes that involve yeast, which is quite a step forward…

Stollen

Makes 2 large loaves
Stollen recipe slightly adapted from The Daring Kitchen
Marzipan recipe from Je Sais Cuisiner
Crème d’amandes recipe adapted from delicious. (Dec 2011)

I know this looks like the world’s longest recipe, but it’s worth it, I promise!!  The marzipan is optional – just leave it out when rolling the pastry up to make the loaf – but I’d leave the crème d’amandes (unless you’re allergic to almonds or something, obviously!) in, as it subtly moistens the loaf a little bit.  The dough for the stollen can be made up to the end of step 8 and kept in the fridge for up to a week, then baked on the day required (or the day before).  The finished stollen also keeps very well for several days, wrapped tightly in tin foil and stored at room temperature.

Ingredients

For the stollen:
170g raisins
Dark rum to cover the raisins
770g all-purpose flour
115g caster sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
60 ml lukewarm water (around 43°C)
14g dried active yeast
240 ml milk
140g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
135g mixed candied peel
100g flaked almonds

For the marzipan:
200g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
1 egg white

For the crème d’amandes:
75g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
20g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
5 tsp dark rum (use the rum that the raisins were soaked in)

For the glaze:
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp dark rum
About 15 tbsp icing sugar

Directions

To make the stollen:
1.  Place the raisins in a small bowl, and just cover with dark rum.  Cover with foil and leave to soak for about 12 hours, stirring regularly (you can also soak them in a sealed jar and shake it regularly).

2.  In a large mixing bowl (use the largest you’ve got), sift together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in the lemon and orange zests.

3.  Pour the lukewarm water into a small bowl (I didn’t bother faffing with a thermometer to get the exact temperature, I just used water that felt warm against the inside of my wrist) and gently pour the yeast over the top of it.  Allow to sit for about 5 mins before stirring to dissolve the yeast completely.

4.  Gently heat the milk and butter together in a small saucepan until the butter has melted.  Set aside to cool for about 5 mins until lukewarm.

5.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla and lemon extracts with a fork.

6.  Pour the yeast mixture, eggs and milk and butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir together (I used a spatula in order to be able to scrape the bowl better) until the dough comes together.  This should take about 3 mins, and the dough should form a soft, but not sticky, ball.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 10 mins.

7.  Add the mixed peel, flaked almonds and drained raisins to the dough and mix them in using your hands.  Dust the counter with flour and turn the dough out onto the counter.  Knead for about 8 mins to distribute the dried fruit throughout the dough (add more flour if necessary).  The dough has been kneaded enough when a few raisins start falling off the outside of the dough ball – the dough should be tacky, not sticky.

8.  Lightly oil a large bowl and add the dough ball, rolling it around to coat it in the oil (I used organic rapeseed oil since I find that it’s flavourless).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  The dough will harden, but it will rise.

9.  Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to rest for about 2h in order to warm and soften.  Whilst waiting for the dough to warm, line a large baking sheet (or two small ones) with baking paper and prepare the marzipan and crème d’amandes.

To make the marzipan:
10.  Add all the marzipan ingredients to a mixing bowl, and mix with your hands until it comes together (it will be dry at first, but it will get stickier as you work the ingredients together).  Set aside.

To make the crème d’amandes:
11.  Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl, using a fork and set aside.

12.  In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter using an electric whisk, until soft (it helps if the butter is already at room temperature, but this isn’t necessary).  Add the sugar and mix with the electric whisk.  Once fully mixed, add the ground almonds and mix.  Once fully incorporated, add the flour and cinnamon and beat together until fully mixed.  Add the egg and mix again until fully incorporated. Finally, add the alcohol and mix until smooth.  Chill the crème d’amandes in the fridge for about 15 mins until required.

To put together:
13.  Punch the dough down (no really, give it some serious punches.  But don’t hurt yourself).  Turn the dough out onto the counter (it shouldn’t need to be floured), and punch it into a vague rectangle.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle of about 40 x 60 cm.  It should be about 5mm thick.  Cut the rectangle in half along its width (so you should have two rectangles of about 40 x 30 cm each).

14.  Evenly spread half of the crème d’amandes over one of the rectangles of dough, leaving a 2cm border all the way around.  Take half of the marzipan and carefully work it into a cylinder of about 27 cm long (the marzipan will crumble if you try to roll it, so it’s easiest to gently squeeze it into a cylinder).  Lay the marzipan roll at one of the short ends of the dough (it should be just shorter than the dough), and roll the dough up tightly around the marzipan.  Pinch the ends to close them a little.  Transfer the stollen to the prepared baking sheet, with the seam sitting underneath.

15.  Repeat for the second half of the dough, using the remaining crème d’amandes and marzipan, and transfer it to the baking sheet (make sure there is space between them for them to increase in size, both before and during baking).

16.  Allow the stollens to prove for about 2h at room temperature, until about 1½ times their original size.

17.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Bake the stollens for 20 mins, rotate the baking sheet so that they bake evenly (separate them if they’ve joined a little in the middle) and bake a further 20-30 mins until a dark mahogany colour.  The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Remove to a wire rack.

18.  Whilst the loaves are baking, melt the butter for the glaze in a small saucepan.  Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the rum.  As soon as the loaves have been transferred to the wire racks, brush their tops with the melted butter, and sift a layer of icing sugar over the top, followed by a second layer 1 minute later.  A few minutes later, brush more melted rum butter over the top of the icing sugar (this looks totally messy and unpresentable and icing sugar will go everywhere, but don’t worry), and sift another layer of icing sugar over the top.  A few minutes later, brush the remaining melted rum butter over the top of the icing sugar and immediately sift another layer of icing sugar over the top, followed 1 minute later by a final layer.  Allow the stollens to cool completely before serving or wrapping tightly in tin foil to store.

Enjoy!  (Natürlich ja, genau…)

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Breakfast Club #13: Banana, raisin & chocolate Crispy Minis crumble muffins

The challenge for this month’s Breakfast Club was to do something exciting with Cereals.  When I first read the theme of the challenge, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours, nothing particularly inspiring sprang to mind.  After a few weeks of thought, I decided to fall back on the fail-safe, but still wonderful, option that is the muffin.  I ignored the minor detail of not really knowing how I was going to incorporate cereals into a muffin recipe up until yesterday when I realised I should probably get round to actually giving the muffins a go.  Whenever I bake something, I’ve usually at least roughly planned it and can make sure that I have all the required ingredients, but these muffins ended up being rather haphazardly thrown together…

There was a rather lonely-looking, very ripe banana sitting in the fruit basket which I decided would be perfect to go into the muffins, and would keep them moist.  Plus fruit is healthy, so ya.  Since the muffins were to be for breakfast, I also decided that some dried fruit would be a good addition, being energising and all, so I decided I would throw in some raisins, too.  I still wasn’t really sure how I was going to include cereals (or even which cereals I was going to use), but decided that was still a minor detail and set about looking for a suitable recipe.  I have a muffin recipe which contains banana and porridge oats, and on reading that I suddenly realised that perhaps I could substitute crushed cereals instead of the oats and then sprinkle some crushed cereal over the tops of the muffins to give a slightly crunchy topping.  Problem solved!

I only had about half the amount of banana required for the recipe, but I couldn’t really halve the whole recipe since only one egg was required and I wasn’t about to start faffing around trying to measure out half an egg, so I fiddled around with the quantities of dry ingredients.  Out of the three boxes of cereals in the cupboard, I decided that the Weetabix chocolate Crispy Minis (that I inherited from my flatmate when she moved out of St Andrews and had sort of forgotten about – I don’t tend to eat much cereal) seemed the most promising choice, with the bonus that chocolate goes well with both banana and raisins.  Sorted!  So I enthusiastically crushed the cereal, substituted it for porridge oats, messed around with the quantities of flour and sugar, threw it all together and hoped for the best.  Much to my astonishment, the muffins worked wonderfully and were delicious both as an afternoon snack (I made them yesterday afternoon – I obviously had to taste one…) or for breakfast!  Although I must say that by breakfast this morning the topping was a little less crunchy than it had been yesterday afternoon.  Sad times, though still totally yummy!

Banana, raisin & chocolate Crispy Minis crumble muffins

Makes 9 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

These can be made the evening before, left to cool and then stored overnight in an airtight container ready for breakfast the next day.  I used Weetabix chocolate Crispy Minis, because that’s what I had, but any other flavour or similar cereal would probably work just as well.  Sprinkling cereal over the top gives a slightly crunchy top layer which is balanced by a lovely, moist muffin.

Ingredients

50g all-purpose flour
45g wholemeal bread flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
80g Weetabix chocolate Crispy Minis (or similar)
60g butter
80g light muscovado sugar
1 very ripe banana
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
45g very hot water
70g raisins

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.  Line a muffin tin with 9 liners or lay out 9 silicone moulds on a baking tray.

2.  Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl.  Tip in any bran from the wholemeal flour that didn’t go through the sieve.  Place 50g of the Crispy Minis in a zip-lock bag and crush them finely using a rolling pin before adding them to the flour mix and stirring all the dry ingredients together (set the zip-lock bag aside for later).

3.  Melt the butter in a large, heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan, add the sugar and mix thoroughly.

4.  Peel the banana and mash them with a fork in a small bowl.  Add to the butter and mix thoroughly.

5.  Lightly beat the egg using the same fork and bowl that you just used for the bananas.  Mix the egg and vanilla extract into the butter mixture.

6.  Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the hot water, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.  Stir in the raisins and spoon the batter evenly into the muffin liners/moulds (don’t overfill the liners).

7.  Place the remaining Crispy Minis in the zip-lock bag and roughly crush them (not too finely!).  Sprinkle the pieces over the tops of the muffins.

8.  Bake for 30-33 mins or until the muffins are well-risen and golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container until breakfast.

Enjoy!

PS – If you read my blog regularly and are thinking that this recipe looks a little familiar, I realised halfway through making the muffins that the recipe I was adapting was, in fact, the same recipe that I had adapted when I made the banana, date and pecan loaflets for the very first Breakfast Club challenge that I took part in…  Woops?

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We Should Cocoa #9: Chocolate & rum-raisin roulade

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is a technique rather than a special ingredient.  The challenge is being hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, and she has specified that we should make a “roulade/Swiss roll.”  I’ve never made a roulade before, chocolate or otherwise, which meant I had no idea what I was doing, but I was quite excited to try it out.

Trust me to happen across a recipe involving kirsch-soaked cherries.  I was obviously going to have to try it out, but was suddenly faced with a major dilemma – whilst I do have a precious jar of Griottines (brought back specially from where I’m from in France), I realised I’d rather keep them just for eating on their own, or with whipped cream (which also happens to be an excellent back-up dessert if one’s dinner party dessert doesn’t quite go to plan…).  I was suddenly torn – to use the Griottines or not?  Next to my jar of Griottines, I have a jar of raisins soaking in rum on permanent stand-by.  Dilemma solved: time for a bit of recipe adaptation…

Having found a solution to the Griottines dilemma, time to attempt a chocolate and rum-raisin roulade.  What I quite liked about this particular roulade recipe (and several others that I came across, too) was that there are two stages which don’t take too long, with a good break between, which means that you can go off and do something between the two stages.  Case in point: I had originally planned on trying this recipe out yesterday, and was going to wander off on a little trip to the driving range followed up by lunch (I might live in St Andrews, and 10 mins walk from the driving range at that, but I can’t actually play golf to save my life.  Details, details.) whilst waiting for the chocolate sponge to cool.  However, my general lack of organisation got in the way of the cake-making bit of the plan, so that happened today instead, interspersed by a trip to the gym and the marine labs.  I feel like this recipe was remarkably unstressful to follow, and easily fitted around the rest of my day.  Having said that, although the recipe itself was easy to follow, I did a dreadful job of actually rolling the sponge, and it ended up breaking in three places, resulting in possibly the world’s least presentable roulade.  Woops!  Oh well, at least it tasted good…

Chocolate & rum-raisin roulade

Serves 8
Adapted from Waitrose

If you don’t happen to have any rum-soaked raisins, weigh out about 150g of raisins, cover them in spiced rum and leave them to soak for overnight, or longer if you are organised enough.  I found the trickiest part of the recipe to be the stage that involved rolling the sponge up, possibly because my sponge was quite dry.  Imbibing the sponge with rum would possibly make it more pliable and easier to work with.

Ingredients

150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour
150g rum-soaked raisins (reserve about 1tbsp of rum)
300ml whipping cream

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter and line a 32.5 x 23 cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

2.  Melt 100g of the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.  Stir in the melted chocolate and sifted flour.

4.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks.  Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture using a metal spoon.  Once well combined, pour into the swiss roll tin, and shake to level the mixture.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly risen and just firm to the touch.

5.  Place a tea towel on the countertop, and place a sheet of baking parchment over the top.  Turn the baked sponge out onto the baking parchment, remove the baking parchment from the bottom of the sponge and carefully roll it up from the short end (be careful – this is the stage where mine decided to break into several pieces), wrapping it in the tea towel so that it stays in place.  Allow to cool fully.

6.  Drain the rum-soaked raising through a sieve, reserving about 1 tbsp of rum.  Whisk the cream with the reserved rum until starting to thicken.  Gently fold in the raisins.  Carefully unroll the cooled roulade, and spread the whipped cream across it, before re-rolling the roulade (don’t worry if it cracks).  Transfer to a serving plate.

7.  Melt the remaining 50g of chocolate, drizzle it across the roulade, dust with some icing sugar and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Too exhausted to write up lecture notes? Make muffins!

On Monday, I spent most of my day fieldworking for my Marine Acoustics module, which involved going out on the boat for a few hours to take recordings being transmitted from a loudspeaker broadcasting from the base of the pier as well as doing an echosound transect and then chilling out monitoring the loudspeaker equipment on the pier whilst the other group went out on the boat.  We were incredibly lucky with the weather – it wasn’t too cold, there was fantastic sunshine, hardly any wind (very unusual for St Andrews) and the swell was pretty minimal.  I even managed to acquire a sunburnt nose.  In Scotland.  In February.  Ya, I know, who would have thought?!  Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s proof of the sunshine:

This was followed up by a joint event between the university’s French Department and the French Society, which involved Jean-Yves Laurichesse, a French professor and novelist, reading from two of his novels followed by a Q&A session afterwards.  As President of French Soc (not nearly as impressive as it sounds), I was asked to chair the discussion, and for some obscure reason, I agreed.  I’m dreadful at (and slightly terrified of) public speaking, and I’ve never chaired a discussion before.  As a Zoology student, I’m not particularly used to literary discussions (probably my only exposure to them is the Edinburgh Book Festival – ya, I’m THAT cool).  Needless to say, I was pretty panicky about the event beforehand.  Oh, and the whole event was to be conducted entirely in French (I realise I’m fluent, but the prospect stressed me out further).  Thankfully Professor Laurichesse was very friendly, everybody was keen to ask questions and the whole event went smoothly (the wine provided by French Soc may have helped…).

I realise that our fieldwork sounds like it was a bit of a doss, but I’d forgotten quite how exhausting it is to spend long periods of time outside, particularly on the boat.  This combined with my serious stressing over the whole discussion-chairing thing, meant that by the time I’d had dinner, I was utterly drained.  I was supposed to be writing up lecture notes about thrilling things like krill, but I just couldn’t concentrate, and decided to be realistic: clearly I was getting nowhere with the krill, but it was still a little too early to go to bed.  Since the recipe seemed straightforward enough to follow in my pathetically knackered state and I happened to have all the ingredients, I decided to try out these muffins.  A brilliant decision, because they turned out rather tasty and wonderfully moist.

Apple & raisin buttermilk muffins

Makes 16 muffins
Adapted from Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 225ml of normal milk and add 1 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for a few minutes.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  I have a permanent stock of raisins soaking in rum, so I decided to use them and they added a subtle taste of rum, but normal raisins would work just as well.

Ingredients

100g porridge oats
225ml buttermilk
90g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
115g granulated sugar
85g unsalted butter
1 small apple
50g raisins
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

1.  Mix the buttermilk and oats together in a large bowl.  Leave to stand for 20 mins.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Peel and dice the apple (dice it quite finely, but not too much – you still want chunks in the muffins).

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.  Line a muffin tin or set out 16 silicone muffin cups.

4.  Once the oats and buttermilk mixture has stood for 20 mins, add the lightly beaten eggs, sugar and melted butter and mix well.

5.  Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the apples and raisins and incorporate until just evenly distributed.  Don’t over-mix.

6.  Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups/liners, making sure not to fill them more than ⅔.  Bake for 14 mins.

7.  Allow the muffins to cool in the tin or cups for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.  Sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon sugar for decoration.

Enjoy!

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