Sweet sweet Friday: Spelt Slice

The inspiration for this week’s sweet treat came from Emma at Frog, Goose and Bear. A couple of weeks ago she posted a recipe taken from a Bible Society cookbook which sounded so refreshingly old-fashioned and wholesome that I just knew it had to be good. But, you know, I couldn’t resist fiddling with it a bit, especially as I had a little bag of wholemeal spelt flour in the pantry just waiting for an outing. Spelt is an ‘ancient grain’ that’s kinder to the digestive system than wheat, so a lot of people find it easier on their tummies. It also has a slightly nutty flavour that I think lends itself well to baking.

Anyway, I dutifully copied down Emma’s recipe but as I was mixing it I started wondering if I’d copied it down wrong. Surely it needed an egg? By that stage of course I’d turned the computer off, so I was flying blind. Instead, my eyes lit upon a ripe banana languishing in the fruit bowl and I remembered something I’d read earlier in the week about using bananas as an egg substitute in baking. So the end result probably bears no resemblance whatsoever to Emma’s original version, (which doesn’t contain any eggs!) but I think it’s pretty good. Why don’t you make both and see what you think? Have a sweet sweet Friday and a very happy weekend… 

Spelt Slice

125g butter (or non-dairy equivalent)
1 Tbsp date syrup (or golden syrup)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or ordinary wholemeal flour)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2  cup chopped dates (or sultanas)
1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a slice tin. Melt the butter and syrup in a large pot over a low heat. Let cool for a few minutes and then add all remaining ingredients. Bake for about 20 minutes, until your kitchen is filled with warm, sweet smells. Let cool, then slice into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Do you have a favourite end of the week baking treat? Link in to spread the sweetness of Fridays.

Sweet sweet Friday: We Should Cocoa – Chocolate Caramel Bars

This week’s sugar high also doubles as my entry in November’s We Should Cocoa challenge, run by the beautiful and talented Chele and Choclette. If you’ve got a thing for chocolate, you should join in too. Every month these two set a recipe challenge, for something involving chocolate and a special guest ingredient. You can see the results of October’s challenge here, but don’t linger too long or your thighs might start expanding before your very eyes.
This month’s celebrity guest ingredient is caramel – which was music to my ears because whenever I ask the Boy Wonder if he has any special requests on the baking front, he invariably asks for these sticky, gooey, caramelly bars.

Chocolate Caramel Bars
These are a sort of deconstructed millionaire’s shortbread, with a crisp, buttery bottom, a gooey caramel middle studded with nuggets of dark chocolate and a crunchy top. Absolute decadence!

Base
225g plain flour
60g desiccated coconut
85g caster sugar
150g butter

Topping
1 tin condensed milk
2 generous Tbsp golden syrup
50g butter
80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a slice tin with baking paper. Leave a generous overhang – this allows you to lift the whole slab out of the tin when it’s cooked and saves on difficult washing up.
Put the flour, coconut and sugar into a bowl and stir to mix, then rub in the butter. I find the easiest way to do this is to grate it in. You can also do this in a food processor if you’re so inclined. You want a mixture that clumps together rather than a smooth dough.
Press two-thirds of this mixture into the prepared tin and put it in the fridge while you prepare the topping. Set the remainder mixture aside.
For the topping, put the condensed milk, golden syrup and butter in a small pot and heat gently until melted. Cook for a few minutes more, just until it starts to catch on the bottom and turns a lovely golden colour. DO NOT leave it unattended – the consequences are terrible (and then you have to go out and buy more condensed milk). Pour this mixture over the prepared base, then sprinkle over the chocolate and the reserved base. Bake for around 30 minutes, until the house is filled with delectable aromas. Leave it in the tin to cool, then cut into bars.

Do you have a favourite end of the week baking treat? Link in to spread the sweetness of Fridays…

Sweet sweet Friday: Superfruity Halloween Muffins

I’ve been haunting every green grocer and supermarket in our neighbourhood this week, looking for a Halloween pumpkin. But Cinderella’s fairy godmother must have been around and turned them all into carriages because there were none to be found (plus, of course, it’s spring here and pumpkins aren’t exactly in season).

The main reason I wanted a pumpkin – apart from the Halloween connection – was to make Aine’s Vegan Pumpkin & Poppy Seed Muffins. Aine is an actress and dedicated vegan and she has a lovely and inspiring blog, PeaSoupEats. You should check it out, even if your idea of veganism is choosing chicken instead of steak.

Anyway, with no pumpkins to be found I thought laterally and went for the next best thing – carrots (well, they’re orange, at least). I fiddled around with Aine’s recipe and this is what I came up with. The trick with these is that they look like a treat but they’re full of stuff that’s good for you (and the little horrors in your life). Hope you have a sweet sweet Friday and a Happy Halloween.

Superfruity Halloween Muffins
The stewed apple replaces oil in this recipe (thanks for the tip Aine!) and I found date syrup in my local ethnic warehouse. You could use golden or maple syrup, but once you’ve tried date syrup you won’t go back!

1 3/4 cups white flour

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinammon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dates, roughly chopped
2 carrots
1 small overripe banana
3/4 cup low fat milk
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup stewed apple (or applesauce, or apple puree, or whatever else you call it)
1/4 cup date syrup
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses

Preheat the oven to 200C and prepare your muffin tins. There is no oil in this recipe so it pays to grease the tins well or use paper or silicone liners.
Peel the carrots and slice into coins, then cook in boiling water until soft and mashable. Mash to a puree and let cool. This should yield about 3/4 of a cup. Make it up to one cup with mashed banana (you may not need all the banana).
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, then stir in the nuts and dates.
Pour the milk and vinegar into a large jug and let it sit for five minutes to curdle and thicken. Add the other ‘wet’ ingredients (stewed apple, date syrup, molasses) and stir gently.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together gently. DON’T beat it or your muffins will be Halloween horrors.
Dollop into muffin tins (I made a dozen mini and six full-size ones) and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are springy and pass the clean skewer test. Dust with icing sugar and serve with pride.

Sweet sweet Friday: Spicy parsnip and pecan cakes

Sacha is supposed to be having a baby today. She’s been expecting him for two weeks (as a former newspaper photographer she knows all about deadlines). But last night she sent me a text saying that the baby had to stay put until Monday, because she’s shooting a wedding tomorrow and she doesn’t have time to have it today!

When the Small Girl came into our lives the thing I appreciated most was people bearing gifts of food. I felt really bad when I realised we would be gone before Sacha’s new baby came, so I made her a double batch of cupcakes and some other, more wholesome, baked goods for her freezer. She laughed her head off when I told her they were for when the baby arrived. “Do you really think we can wait that long?!”

If he knows what’s good for him, little Reed will do what he’s told and stay inside for a few days longer. In the meantime, hope you all have a sweet, sweet Friday. If you’ve got a friend in need, bake them a batch of these spicy parsnip and pecan cupcakes, topped with a caramel cream cheese frosting. Or you could make them for yourself!

Spicy Parsnip and Pecan Cakes
This recipe is inspired by one I copied out of a Julie Le Clerc book when I was a bored personal assistant with time on my hands. I’d carted it around in my notebook for years, but didn’t make it until just before the Small Girl was born (when I also had lots of time on my hands). I’ve changed the spices, swapped brown sugar for white and added nuts, but Julie’s recipe is pretty much perfect.

1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
4 cups grated parsnip
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup pecans (or walnuts), roughly chopped
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 160C and either grease and line the bottom of a a 20cm springform cake tin, or put cupcake liners in about 18 standard-size muffin pans.
Beat the sugar, oil and vanilla together to combine, then add eggs one at a time, beating until mixture is creamy. Stir in pineapple, then sift in the dry ingredients. Stir to mix, then add the grated parsnip, dates and nuts. Pour into the prepared cake tin(s) and bake for around 80 mins (cake) or 25 mins (cupcakes) – or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Ice with generous amounts of the following frosting:

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting – inspired by the Ottolenghi Cookbook
Beat together 100g soft, soft, soft butter with 75g soft brown sugar (or that lovely dark, sticky muscovado sugar, if you can get it) and three tablespoons of golden syrup. Then beat in 200g cream cheese (room temperature) until you have a satin-smooth mixture. Eat this out of the bowl with a spoon, then make another batch to ice the cakes with. I went down the piped rosette route for Sacha, but this icing looks lovely just slathered on with a generous hand.

Sweet sweet Friday: Home Sweet Home

Holidays are all very well, but it’s nice to be finally home in our new house. After a complete break from all kitchen activities for the last week or so I am looking forward to stocking the pantry and working out the quirks of our fancy new oven. Actually, there are two ovens! And gas hobs! Hope you all have a sweet weekend wherever you are…

The KitchenMaid’s new playhouse