Banana Blueberry Muffins

Banana Blueberry Muffins

In my hunt for sugar-free cakes and cookies and other such treats, I found a recipe for banana blueberry muffins. It looked good. Banana cakes usually are; blueberries are quite a good ingredient for such things. I thought I’d give it a whirl. What could possibly go wrong?
I collected the stuff required. I did, though, make one change to the recipe. It wanted about 125ml of water, but since I had about that much of cream left over from my chocolate making at the weekend, I thought I’d use it up in the cakes. I mashed banana and stirred in flour. The process went along in a cakey kind of manner. The oven warmed up as it should, the berries managed to spread out relatively evenly throughout the mixture, I didn’t even make too much mess pouring it into cake cases.
I tidied up while they baked. I do like the smell of things baking! They continued in a merry, cake-like fashion. They rose happily and became nice and golden on top. The berries didn’t sink like stones to the bottom, and I even managed not to burn them. All in all, a successful experiment.
However, the reason I am not at this moment sharing the recipe, is that, while edible and not unpleasant, they leave an interesting, soapy kind of aftertaste. It is peculiar, but not disgusting. I feel, though, that this recipe needs further experimentation. Please bear with me while I try to work out what went wrong…

Apple and Cinnamon Chocolate

Apple and Cinnamon Chocolate

Today, I figured that I needed a chocolate which was less bitter than the dark stuff I made last week. The cacao liquor gave an almost overpowering taste. I thought this time I would go all the way to the other extreme, to the chocolate which some people say isn’t really chocolate. To White Chocolate.
Normally, white chocolate is largely sugar and milk. I can’t have the sugar, so mine will be mostly cream (double; I rarely do such things by half) and cacao butter. Since we still have some of the apple juice left over from the flapjacks, I add a splish of that too. It all goes into a saucepan over a low heat to melt and mix together. I add a generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon as well. The butter melts and it all gets well and truly stirred. I pour the mixture into my well-used moulds and leave it to set on the side.
Turns out, I may have used a tad too much liquid. The chocolates don’t fully set. They are, in fact, slightly crumbly, but quite creamy. A bit like the cream cheese that my mother used to make. But tasty. I prefer it to the dark chocolate I made last week, I must say. Next time, I must remember to use less cream and juice. Now if only I knew precisely how much I used this time….!

Sugar-Free Apple Flapjacks

Sugar-Free Apple Flapjacks

I was hunting recipes the other day. I needed something sweet, but without sugar or other sweeteners because of my Lenten fast from such things. This is usually all well and good (I’m not having any cravings or anything) except for that moment in the month which all women have because of hormones. My friend and I went on a hunt and we found this…It’s really good. Really good. And smells fantastic while you cook it.
Ingredients – I think we made about a dozen with this…
• 3 apples, cored and chopped – we used Bramleys
• 100% pressed apple juice – enough to cover the apple pieces in a saucepan. Half a litre, maybe…
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon – meh. Just sprinkle as much as you like in.
• 2cm piece fresh root ginger, grated – or more, if you like ginger.
• 250g whole rolled oats
• 30g sunflower seeds – we skipped these. We used more raisins instead…
• 160g raisins
Preparation method
Oven: 180C/Gas 4; decent sized lined greased tin.

Slice and core the apple , but leave the skin on for a good source of pectin. Place the apples in a pan with the juice and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Puree in a food processor or with a hand-held mixer. We didn’t find this necessary. If the apple is properly stewed it should be nice and mushy anyway, in which case smoosh it a bit more with the wooden spoon you were stirring it with and it’ll be fine.
Stir the grated ginger, cinnamon, oats, sunflower seeds and raisins into the apple puree and mix well, then tip it into the tin and spread out evenly.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until firm and golden brown. Cool slightly, cut into wedges then leave the flapjacks to cool completely in the tin. Or, if like us you can’t wait that long, give it about 15 minutes (enough time to finish the washing up and stick the kettle on), scoop some out into a bowl (it’ll fall apart) and add some yogurt/sour cream/double cream/ice cream/whatever and enjoy!
Substitution
Other healthy alternatives include swapping the raisins for dried cranberries. Or when making the puree swap the apples for prunes.

Chilli Chocolate

Chilli Chocolate

So. Having made some really dark chocolate – think like 80% and higher – and having had it taste-tested by various people, the suggestion was put forward for it to be flavoured with chilli. Now, ok, this isn’t an original idea – apparently chilli is one of the flavours the Aztecs etc. used – but it’s still an idea with merit.
I’m currently still sort of basking in the glow of having managed to make edible chocolate. It’s a first for me. I’m impressed by the intensity of the flavour, given that there’s maybe a quarter of a pint or more of double cream in it. OK, there’s not much else, just cacao liquor and butter and vanilla essence, but still. There’s nothing milky about this chocolate. And it seems to snap cleanly too, which is odd because I don’t think I tempered it.
But anyway. The chilli chocolate idea takes hold. Since I’m still just experimenting at this stage, I figure I won’t lose anything by just melting the plain chocolate down and adding a decent sprinkling of the mild chilli powder currently in the cupboard. So that’s what I do. I know, complicated, right?
Once melted and stirred to mix in the powder properly, it gets poured into moulds and set in the fridge.
And then I build pyramids with them…

Cheese Biscuits

Cheese Biscuits

You know, I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I’m getting a funny sort of feeling about this Lent…It goes along these lines, this feeling: I’m not allowed anything sweet so I must substitute the sugary stuff I normally eat. I shall substitute this sugar with…wait for it…CHEESE! I may have to branch my experimentation out further to fully embrace a sugar-free existence.
I’m not saying, by the way, that cheese is bad. Of course not. I love cheese, especially a good, strong cheddar (I particularly like the Snowdonia Cheeses…). I’m just saying that I might be limiting myself by not trying other ingredients for cakes and biscuits…
Having said all this, for my first foray into savoury biscuits, I’m starting with this nice simple cheese biscuit recipe. Mostly because it involves a whole three ingredients: butter, flour, and cheese. The actual recipe I found called for Parmesan, but meh. I have a nice cheddar in the fridge that’ll do.
So you will need: 150g of plain flour; 120g of butter; 130g of grated cheese.
Basically, rub it into a good dough, leave to chill for at least an hour, roll out and cut shapes, then bake at 180C for 15 minutes or so, et voila! Cheese biscuits. I suppose you should let them cool before consuming, washed down with a nice cuppa…
And yup, these are Hallowe’en shapes…It was that or stars…These are way more cool…

There Be Dragons…!

There Be Dragons...!

I’ve always liked dragons; dragons are awesome. There’s something so wonderfully graceful and elegant about the fire-breathing winged lizards. And they’re nearly always beautiful jewel colours. You don’t often find a pastel pink dragon sleeping on (probably) her stash of silver. Not even the dragon in Shrek was a pastel colour.
My dragon, whom I have named Fáfnir, came about because I felt that the black coffee table was, frankly, boring and required livening up. Fáfnir is the dragon from the Saga of the Volsungs/Nibelungenlied/Wagner’s Ring Cycle who steals the Rhine-gold which causes lots of problems. So I gathered poster paints and glitter glues and paint brushes, found a picture of a dragon which I could copy and drew a dragon on the table top. Then I settled down to listen to Radio 4 as I painted. Fáfnir has been varnished to help protect him from the dangers and rigours of life and one day, I plan to cover him with a glass pane. Just don’t steal any of his treasure-hoard! Don’t even try…