Recipe: Apricot and oat slice

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I aways want something sweet after dinner, or sometimes in the afternoon with a cup of tea.

I found this recipe in The Biggest Loser trainer Tiffiny Hall’s book, Weightloss Warrior (How to win the battle within). It’s full of motivational advice, exercise and recipes – it’s a great book. I remember thinking that when I first read it back in 2011. But winning the battle within is damn hard and I’ve gained 10kg since then (go Alex) but that’s me, a rebel.

Anyway, there’s a recipe in Tiffiny’s book for fruity oat slice. I like to call it apricot slice as that’s the dominant fruit for me.  It is simple, healthy (well not UN-healthy) and absolutely yummy. It has no refined sugar (just lots of fruit) and it is something you could enjoy a small bit of every day. It’s not the reason I’m overweight. That would be the ice-cream with chocolate sauce, soft cheeses, etc. but that’s another story.

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Thanks Tiffiny Hall for this recipe:

Makes 16 pieces

Ingredients

240g (1 2/3 cups) mixed dried fruit (for example, apricots, figs, prunes, apple, anything) roughly chopped

150g (1 cup) sultanas

440g can crushed pineapple in natural juice

150g butter

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

100g (2/3 cup) self-raising flour

150g (1 1/2 cups) rolled oats

8 dried apple rings

1 tablespoon honey

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Grease and line a 20 x 30cm lamington tin.

Put the dried fruit, pineapple and juice, butter and spices in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Allow to cool.

Add the eggs to the cooled fruit mixture and stir well. Add the flour and oats and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and decorate with dried apple rings brushed with a tablespoon of warmed honey. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes (that’s what the book says, but for me/my oven it’s always more like 25 – 30 minutes, but just keep an eye on it).

Let it cool then cut into squares.

I tend to keep them in the fridge (in a tupperware container) after the first day, because of all the fruit.

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I made another batch recently and this time added dessicated coconut and dark chocolate pieces to the mix. I also sprinkled shredded coconut on top before baking so it came out all toasty. So good.

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Enjoy!

Do you have a go-to, never-fail slice?

Fun with puff pastry: easy apricot turnovers and mini chocolate croissants

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On Winter weekends I like to do what I can to improve my baking skills.  This particular Sunday I decided to make apricot turnovers and a few mini chocolate croissants.

If you have ready-made puff pastry in the freezer and a tin of fruit in the cupboard, you’ve got all you need for a yummy, yet simple and quick winter breakfast or dessert.

Mum accidently ate a mini chocolate croissant that I was keeping for Spider Boy’s breakfast the next day.

“It wasn’t worth the calories… but then I’m not a pastry person” Mum said when I asked her about it.

Well I AM a pastry person, and take my word for it…  warm puff pastry with fruit or chocolate is the way to go.

I have no idea of the calories. I would give up sugar (quelle horreur!) before I’d ever count a calorie – I am just not a maths person (although I can just about handle the geometry needed when working with sheets of puff pastry).

Easy apricot turnovers

Ingredients

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry

1 can apricots (or apple, cherry or whatever takes your fancy)

1 egg, beaten

a bit of sugar

a bit of butter

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C

1. Defrost 2 sheets of puff pastry for 10 minutes at room temperature.

2. Cut each sheet of pastry into four squares.

3. Place a heaped tablespoon of fruit in the middle – not too much fruit or it will burst out when cooking. Best to leave about 2cm between the fruit and the edge of the pastry.

4. Fold over the pastry square into a triangle and pinch the edges together. Make pretty markings on the pastry with a fork (it’s like art).

6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and butter it. Brush some beaten egg over the uncooked turnovers so the finished product is golden and shiny when baked. Place a few little cuts in the pastry top to let out steam when cooking. You can sprinkle a bit of sugar over it if you wish. Leave a couple of centimetres between each pastry on the tray, otherwise they’ll join together like mine did.

7. Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes (until golden brown).

Serve warm with custard, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.

Makes 8 turnovers

Mini chocolate croissants

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Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

a handful of choc buttons (about 20) or four tablespoons Nutella (or other chocolate spread)

1 beaten egg

a bit of sugar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Cut sheet of defrosted puff pastry into two rectangles, then cut each rectangle into a long triangle.

3. Place four choc buttons near base of each triangle (about 2cm away from edge).

4. Roll up triangles from base to tip, with choc buttons inside. Fashion into classic croissant shape.

5. Eat one choc button for each mini croissant you roll up. I’ve factored in one choc button sneaky nibble per croissant in my ingredients list.

6. Brush with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar if you like.

7. Bake, as per the apricot turnovers, at 180C for about 15 minutes (until golden brown).

Makes 4 mini chocolate croissants.

Warm choc-cherry coconut muffins

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The mornings are getting chillier and the days shorter, reminding me that Winter is almost here. That means muffin season! Either as a sneaky treat with hot butter and cup of tea, or something extra in the school lunchbox, muffins are a wonderful tine in the fork of my baking adventures.

I love baking muffins because of the potential for variety; you can add fruit or veggies to them to really pump up the nutrients, or combine flavours for a more decadent muffin like white chocolate and raspberry, or caramel and date.

One of my favourite flavour combinations is chocolate and cherry. I’d had The Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Cooking book open on my recipe stand for weeks, on the apricot and coconut muffins page. This morning I happened upon a can of cherries in the cupboard, and thought of the dessicated coconut in the fridge. Cherry, plus coconut, plus chocolate (there is always a bag of choc-bits in the cupboard) equals a Bounty bar and Cherry Ripe combo in a cake, basically!

Whenever I bake something, I have a ready-made helper in Spider Boy. Today, he got his fingers into the buttery coconut crumble topping, he had a go of folding instead of mixing (in keeping with the lumpy muffin-mix ideal) and got the choc-bit to muffin mix ratio just right.

Ingredients

415g can cherries

1/2 cup choc-bits (give or take)

2 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup cherry jam

Coconut topping

1/4 cup plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1/3 cup dessicated coconut

30g butter

Method

Muffins

1. Preheat oven to moderate. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. Drain cherries.

2. Make coconut topping and set aside.

3. Combine flour and sugar in large bowl; use a fork to stir in cherries, then combined egg, buttermilk, oil and jam. Add in choc-bits. Mixture should look lumpy, so don’t overmix

4. Divide mixture among prepared muffin tin holes; sprinkle coconut topping over each muffin mixture. Bake, uncovered, in moderate over for about 25 minutes. Stand muffins in tin for 5 minutes; place top-side up on wire rack to cool.

Coconut topping

Combine flour, sugar and coconut in a small bowl; use fingers to rub butter into flour mixture.

Makes 12 muffins.

The proof of the pudding

They weren’t ready after 25 minutes, so I gave them another 10. The result was perfect. Or as perfect as one of my baking adventures gets.

After the extra 10 minutes baking time, they were cooked perfectly. I’d had a wedge of paper in the broken oven door (I’ve been baking that way for a few months, the spring on the door has gone but is soon to be replaced).

The muffins were moist with a golden crumbly crumble topping. The tartness of the cherry perfectly balanced the chocolatey sweetness of the choc chips.

I met my friends Lulu and Mr. M later that day, so it was nice to be able to give them 1/2 the batch of freshly made muffins. Lulu texted later that she ate hers warmed up with ice cream.

My mum said, “You could sell those”,  which is a real compliment as mum doesn’t say anything unless she really thinks it.

Recipe based on apricot and coconut muffin recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Cooking.

Baking with yoghurt: Mango and vanilla yoghurt cake with white chocolate ganache

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I love cake, but in my efforts to be healthier, I’ve been thinking about ways I could reduce the fat. No butter? Yes, it is possible to make a cake without butter. But let’s not get too crazy. This cake does have some butter in it. But less than normal because today I’m substituting some of the butter for low fat yoghurt.

I don’t think about calories anymore. I am trying to shift my thinking from units of measure (I was never good at maths anyway) to good nutrition and balance. In other words, I would never let a few (hundred) pesky calories get in the way of me and my cake. But I do acknowledge that when food is lower in fat, without sacrificing texture and flavour, it’s a winning combination. Baking a cake using yoghurt is a way to achieve that.

Using yoghurt as a substitution for butter or oil in cakes is a smart and yummy way to reduce the fat content, as well as lending a lush texture and slightly tangy flavour to the cake. Plus it’s a great way to add a little bit of protein and calcium! As I’m a maniac for mango, I used a low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt. 042

Ingredients The cake bit

150g butter (softened)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 and a 1/2 cups low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt

2 and a 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1/4 cup milk

The white chocolate ganache bit

1/2 cup cream

360g white eating chocolate, broken into small pieces (Will make about 1 and 1/2 cups)

The mango yoghurt frosting bit

125g butter (softened) 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 and 1/2 tablespoons Mango and Madagascan Vanilla Yoghurt

Method

Cake

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius /160 degrees Celsius fan-forced. Grease deep 22cm-round cake pan and line with baking paper.

2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl with electric mixer on low, until fluffy.

3. Beat in eggs one at a time

4. Fold in yoghurt

5. Sift flour into bowl and add milk gradually, stirring as you go. Add the flour and milk in two batches.

6. Dollop mixture into cake tin. Bake for 1 hour. Let cake stand in tin for 5 minutes before turning upside down on wire rack to cool.

7. Slice cake in half horizontally and spread the top of one layer with the white chocolate ganache

8. Sandwich the two halves together. While cake is baking, make the ganache and frosting.

Ganache

1. Pour cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

2. Remove from heat and when bubbles have disappeared add white chocolate.

3. Stir until smooth

4. When ganache has cooled down, pour into a bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed.

Mango yoghurt frosting

Beat butter, icing sugar and yoghurt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Spread frosting on cake with a spatula.

Serve garnished with passion fruit pulp.

Serves 12

Keep cake in fridge. 074 064 076 112

School Cake-stall Baking

I saw some really cute panda-face cupcakes on Housegoeshome,  so I decided to have a go for the recent Federal Election day cake-stall at school, because they were just so cute, and importantly, looked easy enough.

Still, when I was at the supermarket buying my ingredients, I bought a pack of ready-made cupcakes with brightly coloured icing, just in case I got lazy. I could always scrape the icing off and decorate them like pandas, right? But then I remembered we had to list the ingredients. How could I give the P&C a list with preservative numbers on it? So… I baked.

Small, but perfectly formed

Base applied, ready for panda makeover!

Base applied, ready for panda makeover!

Spider Boy and I mixed the dry ingredients, sending flour and cocoa everywhere. We mixed in the eggs, milk and hot water, exactly to the amount specified. But somehow, the mixture seemed too runny. I commented on this to Spider Boy, who said forlornly, “Oh no, it’s going to be another disaster!” dramatic much? Totally my fault.

“It’s all right,” I told him, “we’ll just add some more flour”, realising the powder spillage before might have had something to do with the runny mixture.

It all worked out in the end though – miraculously, the little cakes rose into perfectly formed little chocolate hills.

A face only a mother could love.

Facing facts: a face only a mother could love.

Big mumma

Big mumma

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Mumma and Bubba

To decorate the cupcakes, the recipe called for “white confetti sprinkles” and a “black edible ink pen” for the eyes, but I couldn’t get those things in my little local supermarket so I used a bit of vanilla frosting with a dot of black writing icing that I had in the cupboard.

I also used dessicated coconut instead of “sanding sugar” (whatever that is) to create a furry panda effect. I thought dessicated coconut looked furrier than sugar, and anyway, did we really need the extra sugar on top?  (I know, I’m constantly surprising myself). The original recipe called for 1/3 cup of oil, but being a big fan of butter, I melted some of that instead.

In the end,  the cupcakes were probably the best I’ve ever made. Great chocolately taste, melt-in-the-mouth texture,  perfectly formed.  But because my vanilla frosting contained quite a bit of butter, it did have a slightly yellowish hue, giving my pandas a slightly jaundiced look, but still, they were cute and fluffy enough.

A long way from cupcake disaster indeed.

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Now that’s what I call a six-pack

Click through to the recipe here.  Or to check out other panda-inspired food go to http://theverybesttop10.com/2013/09/13/panda-inspired-foods/

Did you have any Election day baking success?