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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Scrumptious summer shortbread

I have been asked by Nielsen-Massey to use some of their flavours and extracts. Vanilla is easy, it goes in lots of things and always tastes amazing. I love vanilla extract, but really don't like the cheap stuff I don't think it's even made fom vanilla. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it comes from some kind of tree bark. So, splash out on the nice stuff, you won't need to use much so it will last a long time.
Something I've not used in my baking before is lemon flavouring. So I tried to get a bit creative and came up with a Lemon and Lavender shortbread.  Both perfect summer flavours. 

Ingredients:
250g unsalted softened butter
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp lemon flavouring
250g plain flour
100g cornflour
1/2tsp salt

Method:

Blitz the sugar, lemon flavouring, lavender and butter together in a food processor until creamy. Add the flour, cornflour and salt. Pulse the food processor until the mix beignets to come together in clumps and turn out onto a floured surface.
Bring together fully into a ball being careful not to over work the dough as that will prevent the end biscuit being 'short' and crumbly.
Roll the dough out to a 25cm circle, use a cake tin or plate as a guide and trim around to get a neat edge.
Use two fingers to crimp the edge. 
Using a fork mark out 8 even slices in the dough.
Place on a tray and put in the fridge for 30 mins.
Transfer the tray to a pre heated oven to 189c/160 fan/ gas 4. Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Leave the shortbread to cool completely on the tray, then using a sharp knife divide into peticoat tails along the lines marked out by the fork prior to baking. 

The lemon gives a lovely citrus refreshing flavour with a slight aftertaste and scent of the lavender. Enjoy with a cup of tea in the garden.



Banana bread - a healthy(ish) option

I've deliberately not been baking much recently. As for various reasons that I won't go into I have put on around 7lb over the past year, and I'm struggling to get it back off.
So when I found myself with 8 bananas that had been delivered on my online shop a bit squished and bruised I needed to try to find a healthy(ish) way of using them rather than waste them. I didn't just eat them as I hate bruises and brown bits on my bananas. 
I turned to the tried and tested banana bread. It's the easiest way I know of using up past their best bananas. 
I tweaked the recipe a bit to keep it as saintly as I could, well actually it could be better as I could have used honey in place of sugar but I didn't have enough in the cupboard to do that.

I used 0% fat Greek yogurt in place of half of the butter. I don't believe it's possible to completely replace the butter as baking is a bit of a science and needs certain properties to be present for the right chemical reactions and therefore the right results. Which is one reason I don't use sweetener when I bake, I don't think it works as a proper substitute for sugar and the end result is in adequate. Also, I don't skimp on my Greek yogurt, I don't like Greek syle yogurt, it's watery and doesn't taste anywhere near as good. The only time I use Greek style is when making curry. This recipe uses a very small amount, so you might think it's a waste to spend on it, but Greek yogurt and honey with fruit is a delicious snack/breakfast/dessert.

This is a recipe that you could have the kids helping with, so perfect for rainy days. With the added benefit of knowing that the snack they will be eating won't be full of additives and things you can't pronounce.

Ingredients:
285g/10oz self raising flour
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
55g butter (I used flora ex light)
55g 0% fat Greek yogurt
170g/6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 bananas mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract (Nielsen Massey is the best)
85ml/3fl oz of buttermilk or milk with a dash of lemon juice added to it.

Method:

Sift together the flour, salt and bicarb. Set to one side.
Then cream together the sugar, butter and yogurt until light and fluffy. 
Add the bananas, eggs, milk and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter mixture. Stir until everything is incorporated. Don't go too mad with this part though as the banana needs to stay a bit lumpy (the way I like it anyway). 
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, just until the flour cannot be seen anymore. Over doing it at this stage will stretch the gluten in the flour resulting in a dense chewy cake. 
Pour the batter into a greased and lined 400g loaf tin. 
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180c/160 fan/gas 4 for around an hour, or until well risen and golden brown.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.

Littlest baker likes hers served with some peanut butter spread on it as a treat.