Category Archives: Sweet things

An attempt at healthy biscuits

Whilst I think being single is healthy on so many levels, I’m starting to wonder whether there is something about living alone that makes me eat and drink far less healthily than I should. Firstly, I’m out more, which needless to say leads to eating and drinking in quantities that I’d like not to think about. But also, when I’m at home I tend to wander between the living room and the fridge, substituting my desire to constantly spew forth banalities with other ways of keeping my mouth full – the most popular of which I’ve found to be stuffing food into it (to be honest I’m not sure there are many other options but I’m open to suggestions).

And so it was that I came upon the novel idea of making biscuits that would fill said mouth while maintaining some sense of healthiness and still, hopefully, tasting rather good.

Chocolate chip ginger oat biscuits

I’ve never been very good with measuring quantities, so every time I’ve made these, they have been slightly different. I think the key is just to get a good balance between sweetness (syrup & honey), ballast (flour & oats), moisture (oil or butter) and interesting bits (chocolate chips & raisins).

Anyway – start with a mixing bowl, into which you put the following: at least two inches of fresh ginger, grated finely (more if you like it spicy), a handful of raisins, 100g of green and blacks dark chocolate broken into little pieces (before you open the pack, smash it a few times on the kitchen counter – that should do it), three handfuls of organic porridge oats and one of plain flour. Now add four tablespoons of honey, a tablespoon of syrup and a few good glugs of sunflower oil (this is me trying to be healthy by avoiding butter, which to be honest would probably taste much better, but as the whole point of this was to be healthy, bear with me and use oil (or ignore me completely and substitute for butter, then tell me how much better yours are than mine). Thinking about it, you could use a little butter and a little oil. You decide. Mix it all together well (I use a kitchen aid mixer at this point).

Now this is where you come in – what you are looking for is a moist but not too sticky biscuit dough that comes together in your hands in one big ball. It should also taste good, so this is the time to add more honey/sugar/syrup/oats/oil to get the flavour and consistency you prefer.

Once you have it, flour a suface, roll out the dough to 8mm thickness (I think the ones in the photo are a little too thick), and cut into biscuits. Bake in the overn at 180c for about 10 minutes, but keep your eye on them – they are inedible if you overcook them. They should go golden brown but still be a little soft when they are done. They’ll continue to harden once you take them out. And be careful of the burning hot melted chocolate when you put them on the cooling rack. If you like, sprinkle a little caster sugar on top of them while they’re still hot.

Once cooled, they are like a cross between a flap jack and a chocolate cookie. But without the butter. So they’re healthy. Kind of.

Random tortes

We’re a week away from launching The Week. James Murdoch has just been labelled the only mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise (you may think me biased but Tom Watson really is a nasty, chippy little man – is it possible to be any more bitter?). Oscar just had his 11th birthday party. Frankie cockosa was just thrown out of the X factor in a last-ditch attempt by the producers to bring a grain of intrigue into a programme that would be more compelling if the entire roster of artists were replaced with a selection of week-old cow pats. Geeks around the world have just celebrated the fact that 111111×111111=12345654321 (including me). Siri can’t tell the time in Enfield – can it do anything? I have the shorts with me (upstairs) and I’m reminded of a really good pudding that Immie and I made together a few weeks ago –

Chilli chocolate torte

The chilli works really well in this recipe – it gives it a depth and intensity that really appeals to me. I thoroughly recommend giving it a try – embrace the heat…

Start by greasing a loose bottomed cake tin (about 10cm in diameter) and lining the bottom with greaseproof paper. Now for the base – I’m not sure I have this completely right yet, so I’ll update this bit when have the best bottom, but so far two options: One is to finely crush amaretti biscuits and the other is to use galettes au buerre. The key is to get a rich, crispy base that will give the torte a little crunch. You need just enough for a base of about 1.5mm, no more. Next time I’m going to add a little melted butter too so that it binds together. Spread the crushed biscuits evenly on the base of the tin and put it in the fridge.

Now break up 100g of Green and Blacks milk chocolate and 100g of a good 70% cocoa dark chocolate into a bowl above very gently simmering water along with two tablespoons of dark rum, a small fresh medium hot red chilli, very finely chopped (with all the seeds removed) and three teaspoons of liquid glucose. Turn off the hob so that the bowl doesn’t get too hot – the latent heat from the steam in the pan will be enough to melt the chocolate.

Whip about 300ml of double cream into soft peaks. Take a large spoonful of the cream and mix it gently into the melted chocolate (make sure the bottom of the melting bowl isn’t too hot at this point – if it is, you can dip it into cold water) – this will loosen it a little so that you can now very carefully fold the remainder of the cream into the mixture, ensuring mix the cream and chocolate thoroughly (best done with a large metal serving spoon).

Now pour the chocolate over the top of the base, smooth the top with a knife and leave it in the fridge for a few hours. Before serving you can either dust it with cocoa powder, or grate more chocolate over the top (I prefer the latter). Oh and make sure you take it out of the tin before you do this – I find removing the torte from the edges of the tin, turning it upside down onto a plate, lifting the tin base and baking paper from the bottom of the torte, putting your serving plate on top of the upturned torte and then flipping the whole thing back the right way around is the best approach. Hope that didn’t sound too confusing.

Serve with single cream and eat with gusto…

 

Cakes in a pan

pancakes

I was just on the phone to the shorts who unexpectedly wished me happy pancake day, reminding me about a post that I have been meaning to do for some time. So now I’m madly rushing to get this published in order to to help you lot in your quest to provide something appropriate for your kids to eat on what Unilever would like us to believe is Jif lemon day.

It’s ridiculously easy and probably a little patronising to be including this here, but I’m going to include it anyway, if for no other reason than to honour Saint Shrove…

Pancakes

Take a mixing bowl and into it sieve some flour – I have no idea of the weight, but probably enough to fill a mug, followed by milk and a couple of eggs. The amount you put in is completely up to you – you can have lovely thin pancakes for which you will want a runny batter, or big fat ones which will require something a little thicker. Mix it all together well with a whisk and leave it in the fridge to settle for about half an hour (this bit is important).

To cook the pancakes, take a small frying pan (a good condition non-stick one please) and get it very hot. Add a smidge of oil and then ladle in some of the batter and cook your first. Flip it over (a silicone fish slice tends to work well), cook until golden brown. then chuck it. Or eat it yourself, but whatever you do, don’t serve it to anyone – it will not be good.

Then just start churning them out, thick, thin, small, wide (with a little oil from time to time)… and as you finish them, pop them in a warm oven on a plate, stacking them on top of each other little by little until you have a small mountain of pancakes.

Once you’ve finished the batter, serve the pancakes with whatever you like. The shorts prefer either lemon and caster sugar (like the old days) or sliced banana and chocolate spread (I put the pot of spread in the warm oven to loosen it up a bit and turn it into a sauce – seems to work well). Oh – and maple syrup for the Canadians…

Enjoy.

Times Plus and the best breakfast

It’s 10am on Friday and we’ve just spent the last 24 hours giving birth to the particularly troublesome child that is Times Plus (it’s uncanny how many parallels there are between having a baby and launching a website – the only notable exceptions being that the conception is considerably less enjoyable and the birth involves slightly fewer fluids).

Anyway, now I’m hungry. I’ve spent the last two weeks having this breakfast every weekday morning and it is so good, although perhaps a little too simple.

Granola with blueberries and yoghurt

At the start of the week, buy a 500ml pot of natural yoghurt, a 425g pot of granola (Lovedean is my favourite) and two punnets of blueberries.

Then each morning, take a few large spoonfuls the granola, a few spoonfuls of the yoghurt and a good handful of the blueberries. Put them in a bowl. Eat them. Then feel good about yourself for the rest of the day.

Do this every morning and, if you got the measures right, on Friday you can take the yoghurt pot with hopefully a welcoming glut of uneaten yoghurt looking up at you and tip in the remaining granola and blueberries – perfect.

The idea that I end the week having eaten everything I started the week with – and in the pot I bought it in – panders nicely to my need for symmetry

(By the way – you don’t strictly need two punnets of blueberries, but I like to allow for the theft off the odd sneaky handful for when I need perking up during the day…)

It tastes better than it looks...

Easter holidays

It’s been far too long and this is but a brief return to dad at the weekend – I will be back though – just give me a few weeks and I’ll return from the land of the homeless and kick off again…

So here we are in Dartmouth in the heart of the English Riviera – a lovely seaside (or should it be estuary-side?) town full of anorak-clad tourists and resentful natives (which is bizarre given that the majority of the natives are only able to feed their families thanks to the anorak-clad tourists). We’re visiting Grandpa and Sally and good food is at the top of the agenda (after swimming, crabbing and generally playing havoc with my fathers customers in the gallery).

My job was pudding – and I decided to make something I haven’t made for years – Tiramisu – as taught to me by Barbara and Carol – two Italian friends who, like most Italians, know which side of their ciabatta is oiled.

For the uninitiated, there are two big Tiramisu debates – alcohol vs no alcohol; and Savoiardi vs Pavesini. According to the Barbara and Carol school it’s no alcohol and its pavesini every time (unfortunately the shelf stacker in Dartmouth’s shiny new Sainsburys didn’t have a clue what I was talking about so last night’s pud was made with sponge fingers – generally the closest a briton can get)

Anyway here goes –

Tiramisu
Separate four large very fresh organic eggs and add 6 tablespoons of caster sugar to the yolks (or more if you want it sweet) and beat with a whisk until they have roughly doubled in sized a turned from bright yellow to a rich creamy colour.

Now take two 250g tubs of mascarpone and mix in with the beaten egg yolk mixture.
Whisk half of the eggs whites to stiff peaks (I’ll come back to this in a mo)
Brew a pot of very good very strong black coffee – enough to fill a large mug.

Next, take a suitable dish (best rectangular and not too deep) then take the biscuits and submerge each one into the coffee ensuring they get a good soaking but don’t get completely soggy (I normally dip for about a second) and place each one into the dish, side by side covering the bottom. After a little while check that they have gone spongy – if they haven’t just dribble a tiny bit of coffee over them to wet them a little more.

Now – this is where I departed from B&Cs recipe (and I think it worked) – firstly, add a few drops of vanilla extract into the mascarpone egg mixture, then fold in the two stiffly beaten egg whites. The latter makes the pud just a little lighter (so you can eat more).
Then spoon the mixture over the biscuits.

Depending on the size of the dish, you can either do a single layer, or two layers of biscuits – but you must end with a good thick layer of the mascarpone mixture on top. If in doubt stick to one layer.

Now put the whole lot in the fridge until about 20 mins before serving…
…and then comes my final departure. B&C would go for a simple dusting of cocoa powder just before serving (tastes lovely but if you leave it too long before serving it can get damp and looks bad). Last night however I went for finely grated Green and Blacks milk chocolate, which not only tastes brilliant, it also stays looking great however long you leave it.
That’s it – perfect with an orange muscat. (and even better a day later straight out of the fridge for lunch)

I hope you enjoy it Sally!