Sugar Free Banana Bread

This is an unusual one for me. I am all about sugar. I mean, I eat a lot of vegetables too, but when it comes to cake, I am a purist – it’s got to be full of butter and sugar. That’s what cake is about, right?

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A few weeks ago one of my colleagues went on a sugar free diet, and a couple of the others were just generally trying to ‘eat better’…I think we’re always striving for this in my office, but there’s a pretty consistent balance between the amount of cake and the amount of fruit consumed – recently there has been a pretty steady stream of Creme Eggs being consumed. But, I digress! To my colleague, sugar free meant no cake, so I decided to look into making sugar free cake (because an office without sugar is no fun).

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And behold! I found a recipe that I like. This is pretty straightforward, and I’ve played around with it a bit – most recently I have added chocolate to it, because that still counts as low sugar, right? But what I’ve found is that in banana cake you don’t really need sugar. Granted, it makes it look a bit more appetising (for whatever reason this cake has come out a slightly grey shade of brown every time I’ve made it), but it tastes just as good because bananas are super sugary, especially if you leave them until they’re really brown. I’m not going to start advocating a sugar-free lifestyle, but, this banana bread is pretty good if you want to try it.

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2014 – a year of baking

Well, once again this is a bit late due to essay writing. But now I am finally done, and apart from having to go to work the next three days, my Christmas break has officially started!

I didn’t manage to bake anything new or exciting this week though (predictably), just more gingerbread, and some brownies for my housemate’s birthday. So instead, I thought I’d go through all the stuff I’ve baked this year and talk about some of my favourites. 2014 has gone quickly, but looking back to January feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then – not least that I have proven to myself that I can post regularly on a blog for a year (well, I’ve still got a couple of weeks until its officially a year, but let’s call it that anyway).

So without further ado, here are my ten most favourite things I baked this year…

10. Plum Cupcakes – a celebration of all things autumnal!

9. Gingerbread Cupcakes – brought festive deliciousness

8. Rhubarb and Almond Loaf – this was a really good late spring bake, which I made multiple times because it was so tasty.

7. Suksessterte – perhaps the tastiest thing that I didn’t get to eat, but was made in celebration of my lovely friends getting engaged ❤

6. Peanut Butter Cookies – there should always be peanut butter cookies

5. Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels – these are the best breakfast you will ever had. And best snack you will ever have.

4. Peach Jam Scones – peach jam is the best jam ever, and it’s even better when you put it in a scone.

3. Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart – I can’t even. Every time I think about this I want to  make it and eat it all by myself

2. Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake – see above. Also, the tastiest thing I didn’t write a proper post about.

AND THE WINNER IS….

1. The Pancaken!!! – literally nothing will ever beat this – the most frustrating and rewarding thing I have ever baked. I don’t know if I’ll bake another one for Pancake Day 2015. Part of me wants to, and the rest of me is horrified at the prospect of spending hours making pancakes and burning myself repeatedly.

I hope you all had a great 2014, and have a Happy Christmas!

Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart

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I think often the wondrousness of walnuts is underestimated. Can we just talk about this for a minute? I mean, first, there was the caramel walnut upside down banana cake, and now there is this walnut, chocolate and honey tart. Know what they have in common? WALNUTS. Also, plenty of sugar and butter. But even so. It’s all about the walnuts. If there was ever a contender for the banana cake, it would be this tart. No word of a lie. It’s at it’s best when left at room temperature (or slightly warmer, seeing as before it started raining it was actually quite hot this week), but if you put it in the fridge it becomes like fridge cake – like, rocky road or something, which is still equally good. And it’s just sweet and gooey (apart from when refrigerated) and just delicious and full of WALNUTS.

I will stop talking about walnuts now.

This is definitely one of my favourite things that I’ve baked this year, if not ever. Did I mention how delicious it is? I’ve been drawing it out, having small, yet somewhat frequent portions of it. To be honest the only reason I haven’t finished eating it all yet is because I spent two evenings this week at Cambridge Beer Festival where I was too busy drinking beer and eating Pieminister pies to think about this tart. Although I did have a slice for breakfast this morning to cure my (mild) hangover. Which means I can now add this tart to my list of hangover cures, which otherwise consists of strawberry milkshake. Anyway, I had some exceptionally nice beer, Adnams’ Fat Sprat and Woodforde’s Flagondry and…some others… Rachel and I marked the ones we wanted to try on the beer list, but somewhat sadly and inevitably, they never have all the ones you want to drink on. Although, Rachel did have some excellent grapefruit beer. So good.

This evening I am going to eat multitudes of sausages in an attempt from my friend Susie to prove that Lincolnshire sausages are better than any other sausage, a fact that the rest of us are contesting. And so ends an incredibly unhealthy but joyous week of eating and drinking.

Next week it is Oli’s birthday, which means what I’m making is SECRET just in case he reads this (50% chance).

Go, make this tart. You’ll thank me for it. And Nigel Slater ❤

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Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart (adapted from Tender vol.II by Nigel Slater)

For the crust:

150g butter

200g plain flour

1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

150g butter

180g set honey

180g dark muscovado sugar

80ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

140g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

200g walnuts, roughly chopped (I left mine in quite big bits, but cut them finer if you prefer less of a nutty crunch)

1. To make the pastry, cut the butter into pieces and rub into the flour, then mix in the egg to give a firm dough. Roll out and use to line a 22-24cm tart tin. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least 20 mins. Set the oven at 200C/Gas 6.

2. Cover the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Cook in the preheated oven for about 10 mins, until the pastry is lightly coloured. Remove the paper and beans, and bake for a further 5 mins until dry to the touch.

3. For the filling, melt the butter in a large pan, add the honey and sugar and then pour in the cream and vanilla extract. Boil hard for two minutes (it will bubble up), then remove from the heat and lightly fold in the chocolate and walnuts. Pour the filling into the tart case. (It’s worth setting the tart tin on a tray, as the filling in mine bubbled over slightly).

4. Turn the oven down to 190C/Gas 5 and bake for 20 mins or until golden. Remove and leave to cool for a good half hour before serving with creme fraiche or cream, or just eaten as quickly as you possibly can before someone else eats it.

 

 

Brownies! (and a Herman update)

Another incredibly busy week has passed. I have made brownies for a reading that was taking place at the bookshop I run, and I made red velvet cupcakes as well (which didn’t turn out so great, and I didn’t have time to ice them, so they weren’t taken along to the reading)

There were plenty of brownies left over – due to lack of people to eat them. I’ve been slowly munching my way through them over the last couple of days as they’ve been sitting on my desk. These are brownies which never disappoint. Brownies come in so many varieties – the solid sugary ones, with nuts, without nuts, fudgey or gooey or hard on the outside and soft in the middle. I am a fan of the kind of brownies that make you feel sick after only having one, that are so gooey that they practically fall apart in your hands (particularly when it’s hot and your shop has no air conditioning…). This recipe is for those kind of brownies – instead of flour they have ground almonds in them, which gives them that extra squidgy consistency

225g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids is the best)

200g butter

200g sugar

3 eggs

150g ground almonds

2 tsp vanilla essence

100g chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a low heat

3. Take the pan off the heat, mix in vanilla essence and sugar, and let it cool a little.

4. Beat eggs in with chocolate mix, then add the ground almonds and walnuts.

5. Put in a 24cm square tin, and cook for 25-30 mins, until the top is set, but the inside is still gooey.

6. Once cool, cut into squares.

One of the other great things about these brownies is that they keep well for a while (if they don’t get eaten) – they don’t lose any of their flavour – eating a couple today, I can certainly say they taste as good as they did when I made them on Tuesday evening.

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In other news, Herman is doing well. I’m going to be splitting him into three tomorrow, and giving parts of him to two of my friends (who I actually still need to make aware that they will be receiving some Herman tomorrow). He’s smelling pretty strongly of yeast still – I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I guess I’ll find out on Sunday when I bake him. My friend Catherine, who kindly passed Herman on to me, has also commissioned the first cake I will ever bake that someone will pay me to make. I think it’s going to be a carrot cake, but I’m not 100% on that yet…

The other exciting thing that I’ve done this week is sign up for Foodie Penpals. I got my first penal yesterday, and am really excited to put together my first parcel and send it off. Sending and receiving post is one of my favourite things to do – I really love coming home to find there are letters for me (even when they’re bank statements, although I suppose that will wear off after a while). I feel like technology has taken over so much now, it’s easier to send people emails to catch up – but so much more rewarding to send post. No one’s going appreciate you sending an email as much as they’ll appreciate a package of stuff you’ve picked out and put together for them. Just writing this is making me want to send post! So getting to do this each month is going to be great fun. And it’s food related, so even better!

Talking of post, and completely unrelated to baking, I ordered some CDs from Barsuk last week, and they arrived on Wednesday. I finally own the (not so) new Mates of State album, Mountaintops, which is such an awesome album. I will be listening to it all summer.

Next week it’s my birthday, which probably means I will be receiving cake instead of making it, which is nice.