Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Apple crumble bars

Continuing my baking bonanza last Saturday, I was on the lookout for something appley to bake. I had a couple of Bramleys stored in the garage that, athough were fine, wouldn't have lasted that much longer. I thought about making apple and cinnamon muffins, but decided that they were too spongey after having made the coconut and cherry banana bread. I really wanted something more of a bar, or slice, so I had a quick look through my Hummingbird Bakery books and found the recipe for apple crumble bars. My son, Theo, is the world's biggest fan of apple crumble so he was delighted that I was making these. He was even more delighted about being able to take them to school for his healthy(ish) snack!

Whilst these were delicious eaten fresh, they are a somewhat fragile affair, and therefore do benefit from being stored in a tin for a few days. Next time I make them, I think I'll use more butter than the recipe suggests, as this will ensure a clumpier base and topping and an altogether sturdier cake!


200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
quarter tsp salt
200 unsalted butter, softened
250g soft light brown sugar
120g rolled oats
300g apples
4 tbsp cornflour
3 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

One 22cm x 31cm baking tray

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/gas mark 3, and line the tin with baking parchment.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, add the butter and rub together until the consistency of breadcrumbs (you could do this in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment if you prefer), then stir in the sugar and rolled oats. After mixing, press half the mixture into the prepared tin and set aside.

3. Peel and core the apples, then cut into slices and mix together with the cornflour and spices. Place the coated apple slices in rows on top of the oat mixture in the base of the tray...

...spoon the remaining mix over them and press down gently.

4. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown.

Allow to cool in the tray completely before cutting into slices to serve. Enjoy!

This recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days

Coconut and cherry banana bread

Saturday was one of "those days." The weather was uninspiring and Simon and Theo had gone into town to have a look in the new (expensive) toy shop in The Brooks Centre. Not wanting to trail along with the boys on their shopping trip, I decided to stay at home and bake. I had, and still have, lots of ingredients in the cupboard left over from Christmas baking, which included half a pack of desiccated coconut. I also had a few glace cherries left over from the Christmas cake so I set about browsing through my many cookbooks looking for a suitable recipe. I came across the coconut and cherry banana bread in Nigella Lawson's Kitchen, a perfect recipe for using up some of my left-overs. To me, it's one of those old fashioned cakes, not much to look at but tastes gorgeous. The bananas keep the sponge moist, the coconut gives a great texture and the cherries add a little extra sweetness. It's quick, easy and perfect for a tea time treat or to pack in lunchboxes. A real winner that I'll definitely be making again!


125g soft, unsalted butter
4 small-medium bananas
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
half tsp bicarb
100g dried cherries (I used glace which worked perfectly)
100g desiccated coconut

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/gas mark 3. Put a loaf liner into your tin, or line it with baking parchment.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and take it off the heat. Peel and mash the bananas in a bowl.

3. Beat the sugar into the cooled, melted butter, then beat in the mashed bananas and the eggs. Fold in the flour, baking powder and bicarb. Finally add the cherries and coconut.

4. Fold well so that everything is incorporated, then pour and scrape into the lined loaf tin and smooth the top.

5. Bake for about 50 minutes. When ready, the bread will be coming away from the sides of the tin and should have a hearty bounce when pressed.

6. Once out of the oven, leave it in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully slip the cake out of the tin (still in the liner) onto a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Cuts into 10-12 slices. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Strawberry cheesecake valentines cupcakes

I'd been pondering for ages what cake(s) to make to celebrate Valentine's Day. I'd been intent on making some vanilla cupcakes with white fondant icing, then festooned with red hearts. But when I thought about it more carefully, I decided that vanilla cupcakes weren't special enough. After all, when I'm not baking something with chocolate and bananas, I'm more often than not baking something vanilla flavoured. With cupcakes in mind, I flicked though my Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and fell upon their Strawberry Cheesecake cupcakes. The fact that they have fresh strawberries in them probably means they are more of a summer cake, but I knew that my local Waitrose would have them so my mind was made up. I also knew that I could still get away with decorating them with red hearts. All in all, a Valentine's day winner!

Coincidentally, and through our regular three-way tweeting, I established that I wasn't the only person baking a Hummingbird recipe yesterday. Two of my best Twitter buddies, @dickybundock and @lilmssquirrel were tweeting about how they were busily baking another of their recipes, a rhubarb and almond loaf. What good taste the three of us have!



120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 and a half tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
120ml whole milk
half a tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
12 large strawberries, chopped into small pieces
200g digestive biscuits - you really don't need this quantity...I used about 6 biscuits!


300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter
125g cream cheese

Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with paper cases.

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/gas mark 3.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

3. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and beat on a medium speed until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the egg and beat well for a few minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

4. Divide the chopped strawberries between the paper cases...

...then spoon the cupcake mixture on top until two-thirds full...

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until light golden. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tin before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

6. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld whisk) on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is fully incorporated. Turn the mixer up to a medium-high speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. Don't overbeat as it can come become runny.

7. Roughly break up the digestive biscuits and put them in a food processor. Process until finely ground. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the frosting on top and finish with a sprinkling of the biscuits. Enjoy!

This recipe can be found in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Nutella and banana bites

Back to the chocolate and banana combination again, I made these as a lunchbox treat for the children, but we ALL ended up eating them. After all, who can resist the lure of nutella, chocolate, bananas, marshmallows and rice krispies?! Although not included in the recipe, I added a couple of handfuls of chopped dates to the rice krispie mix, just to give a little more flavour and texture. These delights are super quick and easy to make and don't require any baking.

The recipe can be found in Edd Kimber's book The Boy Who Bakes.

Rice Krispies, marshmallows, butter and chopped dates, all packed into the tin...

A layer of chopped bananas covers the rice krispie base...

Melted chocolate and nutella...

...which is then spread over the top of the bananas...

Once the chocolate topping has set, cut into small (or in our case, large!) squares and enjoy!

Maple and pecan muffins

Maple syrup and pecan nuts are a classic combination and a match made in heaven. Both ingredients have been in existence for thousands of years, indeed the pecan nut started growing in America long before the first settlers arrived. The syrup in these muffins helps to keep them lovely and moist which means they keep well in the tin for several days.

I made these muffins, which are from the Hummingbird Bakery, a few weeks ago now and chose them because I haven't made them before. I wanted to make something that I knew we would all love and which didn't include chocolate or bananas! We'd had pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast one Sunday recently so I think it was them that really inspired me to have a go at these. We all agreed that that they were extremely delicious and the best thing about them, for me anyway, was biting the nut off the top of the cake before devouring the rest of it, and the gooey syrupy bit that could be found at the bottom of the muffin case. A perfect excuse to pick it up and lick it!


350g plain flour
160g caster sugar
three quarters tsp salt
1 and a half tsps baking powder
half tsp bicarb
375ml buttermilk
1 egg
half tsp vanilla extract
70g butter, melted
240g shelled pecan nuts, chopped, plus 12 halves to decorate
200ml maple syrup

Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/gas mark 3.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

3. Put the buttermilk, egg and vanilla in a jug and combine together. Slowly pour into the flour mixture and beat on a slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.

4. Pour in the melted butter and beat until incorporated. With a wooden spoon, stir in 100ml of the maple syrup and the chopped pecan nuts until evenly dispersed.

5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and drizzle the remaining syrup over the tops. Finish with a pecan half in the centre of each one.

6. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the muffins to cool for a while in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

This recipe can be found in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook