Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Squidgy chocolate brownies packed with caramelized white chocolate

The simple magic of an oven will never cease to amaze me.

Subjected to its heat, pudgy rounds of dough become crusty loaves, liquid batter rises into golden-crowned cakes, pastry puffs, biscuits bake and incredible aromas escape around the edges of its door.

Normally baking requires some sort of skill, an understanding of the alchemy of ingredients and an ability to weigh, whisk, beat and blend. Butter, sugar and flour are combined, flavours and textures far greater than the sum of their parts created. Whether an amateur cook or a professional chef, it’s satisfying to know that baking is both a science and an art. Continue reading

Salty Bourbon Pecan Squares

blondies

Squidgy, chewy squares with added crunch

When I was younger, owning a drinks cabinet felt like the sort of thing I’d do when I became ‘a proper grown up’. Rather than purchases for a specific purpose, wine bought with only immediate consumption in mind or the bottle of booze that inevitably gets polished off at a house party – if only by some random stingy student that a friend of a friend invited – I loved the idea of a proper wine cellar and being able to choose from my very own wide selection of spirits.

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Millionaire’s shortbread with maldon sea salt

salted_millionaire's_shortbread

Millionaire’s shortbread with flakes of sea salt

A couple of weeks ago one of our friends managed to shatter his leg jumping off a wall.

Ouch.

This weekend just gone we went up to visit, and I wanted to bake something suitably delicious to take his mind off things (this littleloaf isn’t really a bunch of grapes kind of girl). Sugar is a good remedy for trauma – hot sweet tea always seems to be offered up to people in shock – so maybe it was some kind of subconscious association which directed me to this restorative, tooth-itchingly sweet recipe. That, or the fact that the ‘short’ from which ”shortbread’ takes its name has been used to describe a ‘friable, brittle, crumbling texture’ since medieval times . . .

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Crema catalana, turrón and a recipe for blondies

blondie_recipe_spanish

Blondies with turron

Spain isn’t a country renowned for its desserts. On a recent trip to Barcelona, the majority of our sweet consumption was split between flaky treats from the local pastelerías at breakfast time and a requisite daily ice cream; justified as compulsory thermostat control on the sweltering beach or busy streets. Maybe the rest of the food and drink on offer is just too good; after wedges of tortilla, melting plates of jamón, rich, creamy croquetas and raisin scented sherry, dessert might well be the last thing on your mind.

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Lucky Tickets: A review of Ferran Adrià’s Tickets and 41°, Barcelona

tickets_outside

The hottest Tickets in town . . .

Barcelona is a foodie haven. Sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean, its menus combine the very best of land and sea; from tiny mouthfuls of tapas to huge plates of paella, there’s enough to keep even the greediest of gastronomes happy. Variety is the order of the day, and spontaneity a must – there’s nothing more fun than diving into a random bar for a plate of pinxtos and cheap copa of cava.

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Dan Lepard’s fudgy tahini flapjacks

Flapjacks

Fudgy tahini flapjacks

When I was growing up, my Mum had a fairly puritanical approach to pudding – possibly one of the reasons I now have such a sweet tooth. She was always the one on the doorstep at Halloween, popping packets of Sunmaid raisins into the goodie bags of expectant trick or treaters . . . if they were lucky enough to get anything at all.

One enduring food memory from my childhood was a fruity surprise my Mum used to make – essentially a large cooking apple, hollowed out, stuffed with raisins and baked. For a child whose idea of the perfect pudding was chocolate, ice cream, chocolate ice cream or any variation thereof, this healthy treat wasn’t exactly top of my list. And quite strange considering my Mum has a bizarre aversion to apples, cooked or raw, and can’t bear to eat them herself (when my Dad first took her home to meet his apple farming mother for the first time, many years ago, my Grandma knew it must be some kind of ironic fate, and that this would be the woman he would end up marrying).

Fudgy_flapjacks

Having said all this, my Mum is a fabulous cook, and when she did turn her hand to a proper sweet treat, the results were, and still are, delicious. One recipe she used to rustle up as an after school snack was tahini flapjacks. Packed with oaty goodness, and rendered fudgy and sweet (without copious amounts of butter) by the combination of sesame paste and honey, they were a healthy treat that kept the hungry little loaf and her brother more than happy.

I’ve posted quite a lot of chocolatey stuff on thelittleloaf, and this week I wanted to try something different. So, with a packet of barely eaten Rude Health oats sitting in the cupboard (who am I kidding, I’ll never bother with porridge for breakfast when there’s a homemade loaf to munch), I decided to have a go at those after-school teatime treats just like Mum used to make.

Without her recipe to hand, I turned to Google, and immediately found Dan Lepard’s halva flapjack recipe from The Guardian website.  With a couple of little tweaks, including a slight reduction in sugar (is that my Mum I hear applauding me?), what follows can only be described as the ultimate flapjack recipe.  Carniverous boyfriend, who is doing a crazy protein only diet at the moment, with just one carb packed treat meal each week, declared them ‘delicious’ and devoured two in about as many minutes. Praise indeed.

fudgy_baked_delicious_flapjacks

[Adapted from Dan Lepard's halva flapjack recipe]

100g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
200g sweetened condensed milk
75g tahini
50g honey
100g chopped dried dates (you could substitute with dried figs, raisins, or even cranberries for a zingier result)
100g chopped walnuts (I think pecans or hazlenuts could also work well)
25g sesame seeds
200g rolled oats (I used a Rude Health oat mix including pumpkin and sunflower seeds)

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C if it’s fan-assisted like mine)/350F/gas mark 4.

Oat_Mix

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in brown sugar and condensed milk until everything is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the tahini and honey, then the dried fruit, nuts and sesame seeds. Now stir in enough rolled oats until the mixture just holds its shape – the more oats you add to the mix, the firmer the finished flapjack will be.

flapjack_recipe

Line a 20cm or 25cm square cake tin (or similar) with buttered foil and pack the flapjack mixture into the base. and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the flapjack is just beginning to turn golden on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before slicing.

fudgy_flapjack_treats