I cannot believe we’re already in the second week of February. Where time is going I really don’t know. It must be a good thing though – it must mean I have plenty of things to do. This month started with a birthday get-together for one of my dearest friends, and I know that more good things will follow. There’s nothing better than to feel positive. It’s hard sometimes because life is not only about smelling the roses but it’s the little things that make a difference. Like pancakes, just to mention one example!
Hold on, hold on, I hear you say. I know! Today I am giving you something which doesn’t normally appear much here at C&T HQ. When people ask me for alternative ingredients, or diet related recipes I usually give them links to some of my favourite blogs. I don’t do that out of laziness. Most of the time I go out of my way to look for good nutritious recipes that don’t take loads of time and faff to make. This doesn’t apply to food allergies or any other health issue. I do take issue with those who look down on others because they don’t eat “clean”. What? Are the rest eating dirty? And this is not one of those recipes, so there’s a sigh of relief! I can hear it from here.
But that is another story, or rather another blog post. Having said that I am waiting for some books on the subject to arrive through the post very soon, which I hope to be reviewing in the next few weeks. If they decide to get here, that is. I’ve been waiting for over a month now.
This week is turning out to be a good one, which considering the circumstances of the previous weeks and days, this in my eyes is quite an achievement. One of the highlights is that I managed some baking. Big whoop you say. Well for me it is. The real kind of baking – the one where I creamed sugar and butter, and mixed in eggs and flour. Not all baking has to be like that mind you, and I sure am a massive advocate for simple bakes. (I have such a great recipe coming your way in the coming weeks which is the personification of simplicity. Watch out for that. Hint: you’ll get so many brownie points if you make it for your friends, you wouldn’t believe.) Baking makes me feel cozy and makes the environment more familiar. I need that in my life right now. It’s as though I’m making friends with my old kitchen again. Not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
I have long been an admirer of Deb Perelman, a.k.a. Smitten Kitchen. What a name ha? Smitten Kitchen…That’s such a great name for a food blog. Let me tell you, I have long been smitten, but to be honest I also have been procrastinating on buying the cookbook, until earlier this year. I tried some of the recipes during the warmest of weeks, which on one hand was a huge mistake (I become a mess when trying new recipes and reviewing books) but on the other I just couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I was skipping for joy. Really.
For the first recipe I went all out for strawberries. I love the stuff so there was no doubt whatsoever about this one, and those fools were good. They took too much time to prepare, and spending a hot afternoon in the kitchen is always going to be a faff, at least for me, but they were worth the time and effort. *That* I will definitely say. The second recipe you will find here is Deb’s Rhubarb Triangles.
It also intrigued me because these are on the cover, and you know me and book covers. We have a thing. They look like and are in fact, mini jam tarts, the dough being her take on shortcrust pastry, but with almonds. (There are lots of photos in this post, so be aware!)
I know that rhubarb is not in season right now, but there photos have been in my files begging me to publish them, and it’s a special one for me too – here’s my first attempt at baking with rhubarb. I used to pass by the rack every time I visited the market, but this recipe has helped me to overcome the fear! Sounds a little dramatic, and it is, but that’s how edgy I get with new ingredients! On to the recipe, which will give a yield of about 25 mini cookies. Before you start, please be aware that you will have way too much filling, but I used whatever remained poured over vanilla ice-cream. A real treat.
- 900g rhubarb stalks
- 130g caster sugar
- 50g ground almonds
- 250g plain flour
- 65g caster sugar
- pinch salt
- 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
To prepare the rhubarb for the filling, wash the lot and trim the ends, and cut into 1cm cubes. Tip these into a large saucepan with the sugar and cook for around 15 minutes, covered on low heat. Now, on medium heat, remove the cover from the pan and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the fruit begins to break down. Remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a shallow and let it cool well.
In a large bowl, add the ground almonds, flour, caster sugar and salt, and mix. Using your thumb and forefingers, lightly work the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like small breadcrumbs. Add the egg and almond extract. Combine the lot with your hands till you have a dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a good 30 minutes.
When the rhubarb compote and dough are cold, flour your workspace, place the dough onto it, flour the top of the dough, and gently roll it out to a rough 3mm thickness. Cut out 7cm circles. Fold the edges and pinch them together to get three sides, and pinch the ends to get corners. The dough remains very crumbly, even cold, so be careful.
Using a teaspoon measure, pour the fruit compote into the middle of the pastry triangle. Repeat this step until you use all the dough. As you go along, place each one on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Before baking you could place each tray with the little tarts in the freezer, to help them keep the shape. Unfortunately my freezer is the size of a drawer so I couldn’t afford doing this. Don’t worry too much though. Just preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges turn golden. Some will open, but I didn’t mind at all! When they are done, put them on a wire rack to cool.
(Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, Square Peg, 2012.)
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know how much I enjoy a good banana bread. Those who know me well can tell you that I’m continually looking for the best recipes for banana bread around. I think that I have found the best one yet. You can find it in Signe Johansen’s book Scandilicious Baking. I bought this after trying some of her recipes from her first book, which was also my first encounter with Scandi cooking. There’s no need to repeat how much I enjoyed, and still enjoy cooking from book number one. The second book, dare I say it, is even better and I’m glad I have it now because it’s a great book to have in the run up to the Christmas season. It’s a baking book after all, and for me baking is a perfect way to spend the autumn/winter months. I have also discovered a love for spelt flour!
Two days ago, on Twitter, I read a tweet by @akentishkitchen about Signe’s Banana Spice Cake, which I mistook for the Spelt Banana Bread recipe found on the opposite page. My mistake, but if you have the book you will know what I mean. Both recipes are next to each other, and though made with the same ingredient, they are very different. I’m sure the spice cake is delicious, but here is my take on the bread recipe. I’m sure Signe won’t mind…she’s such a lovely lady. If you have some fruit which is starting to go all mushy on you, try this. You won’t regret it. Really.
- 3 medium bananas, ripe or very ripe and mashed
- 100ml milk with a few drops of lemon juice, or buttermilk for that matter
- 75g butter, melted
- 75ml maple syrup, or golden syrup
- 1 large egg
- 225g self-raising flour
- 50g wholemeal spelt flour
- 4 tablespoons porridge oats
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 170ºC or 150ºC fan (Gas Mark 3-4) and grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
In a large bowl pour in the bananas, milk/buttermilk, butter, syrup and egg, and give everything a good mix. Add both flours, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and fold till the ingredients are just mixed in, and stop right there.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and with a spatula spread the batter out evenly. Bake for around 55 minutes in the middle shelf of your oven, till the cake turns golden brown on top. To make sure that it is done, insert a skewer or knife into the centre. If it’s clean when it’s out, then it’s ready.
Allow the banana bread to cool for a good 20 to 30 minutes in its tin before taking it out on a cookie rack.
Store it wrapped in kitchen foil in an airtight container and it will keep for a good three to four days. It is good. One of the best recipes I have even tried. Thank you Signe!
(Recipe adapted from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, Saltyard Books, 2012.)