SMS: Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

I'm afraid I'll be leaving you a fleeting post today, dear readers.  I'm awaiting my ride to the Newcastle Quayside Market along with several hundred cupcakes, brownies and cookies.  Fingers crossed for a good one.

These toasted almond lemon bars were one of the very first recipes that caught my eye in the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  Since that day I've been waiting for someone to notice how special they sounded.  At last, my prayers were answered by Rebecca from Indecisive Baker.

Despite how delicious these bars are, I found the recipe a little too much of a faff to ever try again.  The dough was a nightmare to work with, so soft even after allowing it to chill in the fridge.  Trying to sculpt the sticky mess up the sides of my baking tin almost drove me to insanity, I must have washed my hands about twenty times. 

So, my search for the perfect lemon bar continues.  Do you have a reliable recipe?  I'd love to give it a try.

Raspberry Loaf with Lime Drizzle

There's something oddly comforting about a loaf cake, every scrumptious mouthful just reminds me of a warm and secure hug from my dear mother.  Strangely enough, I only ever seem to bake loaf cakes when faced with the grey and miserable weather that has become some synonymous with my fair city.  It must be something about overcast skies that leave me craving for something homely.

Sure it's hot in Newcastle at the moment, well not so much hot as muggy, clammy, see where I'm going.  But with the heat has came rain, in bucket loads.  Never before has living by the river been so scary.  My phone is constantly buzzing with complaints from friends about the horrid weather, how fed up everyone is of being stuck in doors and how they wish they were sunning themselves on a beach in the Caribbean.  I'm almost ashamed to admit that I love it, almost.  Warm rain is my very favorite kind of weather, closely followed by cold rain.  I just love the rain, especially when its beating my windows, lulling me to sleep.  Ahhhhh.

This sudden onslaught of Autumnal weather has left me wanting, and the thing I want is loaf cake.  In an almost hypnotic trance I began collecting ingredients from the fridge and laying them out upon my kitchen counter.  I was faced with a punnet of raspberries, a handful of strawberries a little past their best and 4 limes, probably left over from a gin and tonic binge a few nights previous.  I decided the strawberries would be better used in a breakfast smoothie so banished them to the freezer and set about making a raspberry and lime drizzle loaf cake.  Why not.

Man oh man was this delicious.  The tangy bite from the fruit was perfectly reminiscent of the summer we are supposed to be experiencing but the dense, crumbly crumb was just perfect for what we're actually getting.  This really is the ultimate rainy summers day recipe.  Give it a go!

Raspberry Loaf Cake with Lime Drizzle
(adapted from Sainsbury's Magazine)

225g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 large eggs
zest of 2 limes
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
125g raspberries

Juice of 2 limes
50g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line a 2lb none stick loaf tin with nonstick baking paper.

Put all of the ingredients, except the raspberries, into a large bowl and beat together with an electric hand whisk or mixer, until smooth and combined.  Stir in raspberries by hand.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top.  Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the loaf.

While the loaf is cooling mix together the lime juice and caster sugar.  Poke deep holes into the loaf using a baking skewer and spoon the mixture over the top of the cake.  Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

Walnut Brownies, an ode to nuts

You know what really grinds my gears.  People not liking the idea of something rather than not liking the actuality of it.  Brownies with nuts fall right into this category.  I'm sure you've all experienced this scenario before:

Mr Hungry: Ohhh, are those brownies?
You: Sure are!
Mr Hungry: Oh, but are those nuts?
You: Uh-huh....
Mr Hungry: Urgh, I'll pass.
*Mr Hungry walks away shaking head*

Now, if you've tried nuts in your brownies and just can't get away with them, that's fine. Each to their own and all that jazz.  But, if you just assume you don't like nuts to roll with the majority, you're no friend of mine!

Come on guys, lets unite, lets be friends even.  Just give nuts a chance.  For me.

Thanks to Tiffany of A Spoonful & A Heap for these delightfully nutty beasts! You're slowly helping me convince my boy that nuts are tasty too :)

Cinnamon Buns, just for you!

I've recently developed a new addiction, no it's not food, it's not even reading about food.  Watching food shows? You got it!  But, this is no ordinary food show, this is Man v Food!  Since discovering this show on the Good Food channel I've been mesmorised by giant versions of real American cuisine, especially the giant cinnamon buns from Lulu's Bakery in San Antonio!  As I don't have a giant oven, giant rolling pin and access to the worlds biggest food mixer I decided to try my hand at the regular sized versions. 

Is there anything better than a cinnamon bun fresh from the oven? If there is, I've yet to experience it.

Cinnamon Buns
(from delicious magazine)

  • 500ml milk
  • 150g butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing
  • 800g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of sugar cubes, lightly crushed
  • For the filling
  • 75g butter
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g golden caster sugar

Measure the milk into a glass or plastic jug and add the butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes until warm. (Alternatively, put the milk and butter into a saucepan and put over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm.) Set aside.

Put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, yeast and caster sugar. Pour the warm milk and butter into the flour mixture. Start mixing with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to mix the dough until it gradually forms a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and tip the dough out onto it. Stretch and pull the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with a greased piece of cling film and set aside.

Make the filling. Weigh out 25g butter, put it in a small plastic or glass dish and microwave on high for 30 seconds to melt. (Or melt in a pan over a medium heat.) Put the rest of the butter in a bowl with the cinnamon, caster sugar and melted butter, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Take a large sheet of baking paper and put it onto a clean work surface. Sprinkle with flour, then take a rolling pin and lightly sprinkle it with flour. Uncover the dough and roll out on the baking paper to a large rectangle (about 30cm x 40cm).

Using a palette knife or flat-bladed knife (I found this part quite difficult so I got right in there with my mits and showed that dough some love), spread the cinnamon butter all over the dough, right up to the edges. Lift up the paper along the longest edge of the dough: as you lift, the dough should roll over. Keep lifting the paper until the cinnamon swirl is completely rolled, like a big Swiss roll.

Cut the cinnamon swirl into 2cm thick slices – you should make 18 slices. Ease a knife under each piece, then lie on its side in a muffin case so you can see the swirled effect. Transfer to lined, deep-hole muffin trays. (If you don't have any muffin cases, put the cinnamon swirls directly into a non-stick, deep muffin tray.)

Crack the egg into a bowl and mix with a fork. Brush over the cinnamon buns, then sprinkle with the crushed sugar cubes. Cover the whirls with a greased piece of cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Discard the cling film and bake the cinnamon swirls for 8 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.
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