Norfolk Bramley Apple Flapjacks

These moist apple flapjacks have been my absolute best seller this week at The Mill and I wish I had have made them sooner!  Everyone seems to love flapjacks and with the added moisture and flavour of Norfolk Bramley apples what could be better!  One of my most popular haunts is the Ashill fruit farm – who sell their own apples and their own apple juice – absolutely delicious and local.

A variation would be to add strawberries and raspberries to the middle as shown here. Anything is possible!

English: Bramley Apple from Nottinghamshire Po...

The Bramley apple is a true English superstar and we should revel in its sharp tarty uniqueness.  Bramley apples originated in Nottinghamshire in 1809 and since then they have become quintessential in our baking.  The Bramley apples higher acid content and lower sugar level is the key to them retaining their flavour in cooking.

In my kitchen I always have umpteen Bramley apples ready to rustle up a pie, an apple crumble cake or some flapjacks.  I really want to get around to making apple jelly – maybe this year I will.

One tip is that if you are peeling and chopping a lot of apples in one go, fill a large bowl with water and the juice of a lemon and this will stop the apples turning brown while you wait to cook with them.

Plus you can make the easiest pudding by coring a large Bramley apples and filling it with dried fruit and syrup, cook for 20 minutes until the apple is soft and walla – one of my absolute childhood favourites (just remember to totally core the apple completely!).

Difficulty – Super easy

Makes about 16 large bars.

Ingredients

600 grams butter
150 grams demerara sugar
240 grams golden syrup about 12 tablespoons (who can measure syrup!)
900 grams of any porridge oats (well I use any)
Pinch of salt
3 large bramley apples

1. Preheat the oven to 190C.  Grease a 40 x 20cm baking tin well (don’t panic about the size, just find a tin or dish it will fit into and not overflow – there is no rise in this recipe).

2.  Melt the sugar, butter, syrup and salt in a saucepan or in the microwave.

3. Stir really well then add the oats and stir until completely coated.

4. Take half the mixture and spread in the bottom of the tin – press down well.

5. Core and peel and slice your apples and spread the apples evenly on the top of the mixture you can sprinkle an optional tablespoon of sugar over the apples if you have a sweeter tooth.

6. Add the rest of the oat mixture on top and cover all of the apples and press down with the back of a spoon.

7. You can now sprinkle another optional tablespoon of Demerara sugar over the top to create a slight crunch when baked.

8. Bake for 40 minutes or until set and golden.  If you prefer more crunchy flapjacks cook them for an extra five minutes at a time until there are how you like them.

9.  Leave to cool completely and then slice and remove from the tin.

These gorgeous flapjacks will last for a good week in an airtight container or happily in the freezer for three months.

Enjoy xx

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Apple and cinnamon hot cross buns …

Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter favourite and I want to share a recipe I have adapted that creates the most wonderfully moist and delicious apple and cinnamon hot cross buns.

History of the Hot Cross Buns

The first recorded mention of hot cross buns was in the 1733 Oxford English Dictionary.  It was in the form of a traditional ditty ‘Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns.’

The fact that a ditty was composed around these little buns lends us to believe they must have been around a long time before.  Some claim that they go back to Saxon and Pagon times and others to Roman times but there is little evidence to establish their exact origin or date of conception.

There is some debate as to the origin of the cross that appears on the hot cross bun.  Traditional breads are often indented with a cross to ensure the middle cooks properly and to break easily.  As in Irish sodabread which has a deep cross on top of the loaf to let the evil spirits escape.  Maybe the cross on top appeared through the centuries on breads and buns to aid the cooking and this has developed into a Christian tradition or then again, maybe it was a 12th century monk who inscribed a cross on his buns.  However the cross was established on the buns, they were readily adopted by the church as a traditional Easter treat.  They were treated with some suspicious in by Elizabethan puritans who no doubt thought of them as sinful and quite decadently unnecessary.  Thank goodness they can’t see Marks and Spencers Belgium chocolate ones!

Superstitious

Inevitably as hot cross buns have been around a long time there are a number of superstitious that have arisen.

– Hot cross buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil for one year. They are said to possess magical powers.  I’ll test this and get back to you in a year’s time.

– They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday – although this seems somewhat strange for a day traditionally associated with fasting.  Then there is a tenuous link between the spices in the bun representing the spices used to entomb Jesus’ body and the bread symbolising communion – I’m with the Puritans on this one.

– Sailors used to take hot cross buns as talismans to sea, to prevent a shipwreck.

– A hot cross bun baked on Good Friday and left to go hard can be grated and put in some warm milk to stop an upset tummy.

Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

I have adapted this recipe from a Paul Hollywood classic hot cross bun recipe.  All recipes are very similar but Paul proves his three times and it might seem tedious (it is tedious), but it is worth it.

Difficulty – Medium

Ingredients

300ml full fat milk plus a little extra incase the dough is too dry

50 grams unsalted butter chopped into cubes

500 grams strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

75 grams caster sugar

7 gram sachet of fast action yeast

1 lightly beaten egg

1 teabag of Lipton’s apple and cinnamon tea (or any brand – I’m just bias)

125 grams mixed dried fruit

1 finely chopped apple

zest 1 orange

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon sunflower oil to grease the clingfilm and bowl

For the cross

75g plain flour

Cold water

For the glaze

4 tablespoons of smooth apricot jam

Method

1. The day before you want to bake the hot cross buns soak your fruit in a strong cup of apple and cinnamon tea with the cinnamon and the nutmeg.  You can do this for a few days, the flavour will only intensify.

2. Heat the milk up until it is warm – not hot.

3. Add the chopped up butter to melt.

4. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl.  DONOT let the yeast and the salt touch each other in the bowl as the salt will attack the yeast and damage it’s ability to ferment.

5. Using a wooden spoon make a well in the centre of the flour and add the milk/butter mixture.  Then add the egg and mix well until you have a sticky dough.

6. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 mins until smooth and elastic.

7. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.

8. When the dough has risen add the soaked fruits, apple and zest and knead the dough in the dish and make sure everything is well distributed.  Leave to prove for 1 hour more or until doubled in size.  Cover with oiled cling film.

9. When ready roll the dough into 12 pieces weighing about 90 grams per piece.  Roll each one on a lightly floured work surface and arrange on a greased tray.  Leave room between each one for expansion.

10. Now for the third and final proving.  Leave for 1 more hour!  Nearly there and don’t forget they are worth it.

11. Pre-heat your oven to 220 conventional/200 fan/gas mark 7.

12. Mix up your paste for the crosses by mixing the flour with about 4 tablespoons of water until you have a thick paste.

13. With a long blunt knife or spatula indent a cross in the top of each bun and carefully drizzle the paste into the indentation.

14. Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.  Check them after 15 mins.

15. When ready remove from the oven and heat the apricot jam.  While it is still warm brush over the top of the buns.  This will instantly transform them into glistening buns of glory.

The basic hot cross bun dough can be adapted at the second stage to include almost anything.  Maybe add some chocolate chips or cherries.  Anything goes – give it a go and let me know how it went.  I would love to hear about anyone’s adaptations.

Teacake note – The dough to make hot cross buns is the same as the traditional teacake.  Just  don’t add any spices and flatten your dough before cooking.  Walla – teacakes.

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Soak your fruits in apple and cinnamon tea
Soak your fruits in apple and cinnamon tea
Proving by the fire
Proving by the fire
Best served toasted with yummy butter.
Best served toasted with yummy butter.
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Super easy rich fruit cake recipe …

I have never got on with making fruit cakes.  The complicated long winded ones always defeat me.  I bet if I just was more patient I would succeed but you know what, with two children, two jobs and a hell of a lot of other things to do I want simple, easy and quick.  I even once bought a Mary Berry’s Christmas special fruit cake mix in Sainsburys reduced to a fiver and guess what – I got distracted by my youngest trying to get into the cooking cupboard and eat a whole packet of large marshmallows and as a consequence I put the packet of royal icing sugar into the cake mixture instead of the packet of flour!  It didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped.

Easy Fruit Cake

Easy Fruit Cake – either make one big cake or two loaf tin cakes with this recipe.

My good friend Barbara shared her recipe with me after I told her my tales of fruit cake woes.  I love it and have used it ever since.  I would almost go as far to say that it is foolproof.  It is how fruit cakes should be, deep, rich, full of fruit and above all else simple to make!  For me anyway …

Easy Fruit Cake

Difficulty – If I can do it anyone can do it!

Ingredients

120 grams/4oz margarine

170 grams/6oz Billingtons Molasses Sugar

340 grams/14oz dried fruit – whatever you fancy, raisins  sultanas, cherries, peel, prunes, whatever!

225 ml water (you can substitute some water for black treacle for colour and added flavour)

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons of mixed spice

2 lightly beaten eggs (beat with a fork)

120 grams/4oz plain flour

Pinch of salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.

2. Grease and line (twice!) an 8 inch round cake tin or you can make a couple of 2lb loaf cakes with this mixture.  Just grease the tins and don’t bother lining if loaf tins.

3. Put the margarine, sugar, fruit, water, spice and bicarbonate of soda in a saucepan and over a medium heat bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.

4. Allow to cool.

5. Add your eggs, flour and salt to the mixture and stir well.

6. Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes and if it looks like it is browning too much on top, place a piece of brown paper over it.

7. It is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.  Check a couple of times in case you have skewered a raisin!

8. Allow to cool and slice or decorate with some marzipan and icing.

This cake is very forgiving!  Trust me you can’t go too badly wrong.  Well if you do let me know so I can sympathise with a fellow fruit cake battler.

TIP – If you want to add some extra extra flavour pre-soak your fruits in whiskey, brandy or apple juice for a few days.  When ready to use, pour any left over liquid into your measuring jug and top up with water and use in the cake.

Fruit topped Christmas Cake

An easy fruit cake for Christmas topped with fruit and nuts and glazed with apricot and brandy.

 

Have fun decorating your fruit cake!

Have fun decorating your fruit cake!

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Gooey Chocolate Brownies – delicious!

These brownies are the best I have ever tasted! Ok so self praise is no praise.  Give them a go and let me know how you get on.  I had never realised how varied brownies can be –  from brownies more like chocolate cake to gooey oozy brownies, and a million different ways in between.

English: Cocoa, Cocoa powder, on a sheet of pa...

English Cocoa

Once you have your favourite base recipe you can adapt it to add any number of little extras.  Maybe some nuts or raspberries for a little tartness or add extra chocolate drops!  Not even I could eat these brownies with extra added chocolate!

My brownies are nice and gooey on the inside with a light crust on top. Yum.

Difficulty – medium

Ingredients

100 grams cocoa powder

250 grams butter

500 grams caster sugar

4 medium lightly beaten eggs

100 grams self raising flour

50 grams coconut (optional – it’s more for the texture)

Icing sugar to dust

Method

1. Heat oven to 180 conventional, 160 fan.

2. Grease a 21cm square tin.

3. Melt the cocoa, butter and sugar in a microwave or over the hob until the butter has melted.  Give it a good stir to all the ingredients are combined.

4. Cool slightly while you beat your eggs lightly with a fork.

5.  Stir in the eggs, flour and coconut and mix well.

6. Tip it all into your tin and bake for about 45 mins.  It will be ready when the top has a nice crust but you can still detect a very slight wobble underneath.  If there is no wobble they will still taste great but be a bit less gooey.

7. Here is where you can get more technical.  When you remove the brownies from the oven and to stop them cooking any further immediately place your tin in a bowl or sink of very cold water.  Only a few millimeters, to come no more than half way up the tin.  Do not let the water touch the brownies.

8. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the tray.  Do not try to slice or remove them while hot or even warm as they will be too gooey and will stick like no mans business!

9.  Once completely cool slice and carefully remove.  They should come away nicely once cold.

They freeze wonderfully and quite often when I have the children’s friends and mothers around for tea I pop a couple in the microwave for a minute and serve with ice-cream.  Absolutely divine!

Give them a go – you won’t be disappointed.

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Afternoon Tea Series – Raspberry and Almond Slice

This was the most favoured cake on the afternoon tea menu.  It is deliciously moist and uses fresh raspberries to cover the base although I am sure you could use a variety of fruits.  There are three components to the recipe and each one is very simple.  I am glad I chose to bake this as the delicate almond flavour complimented the afternoon perfectly.

This cake freezes beautifully.

Difficulty – Easy/Medium

Ingredients

For the Base

1 packet of sweet shortcrust pastry

6 tablespoons the best raspberry jam (look for a high fruit % on the label)

150 grams fresh raspberries

For the Sponge

200 grams softened butter

200 grams caster sugar

100 grams ground almonds

100 grams self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 medium sized eggs lightly beaten with a fork

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

For the Topping

30 grams or so of flaked almonds

4 tablespoons of apricot jam

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Butter a traybake tin or oblong dish, about 18-20cm x 30cm.
  3. Unroll your bought pastry or roll out your homemade pastry to fit the bottom of the dish and fit neatly around the corners.  You can freeze any excess pastry for another baking session.
  4. So you don’t need to use baking beans prick with a fork and chill in the freezer or back of the fridge for 20 mins.
  5. Now you can pop the pastry into your preheated oven for 8-10 mins until it’s cooked but not too coloured.
  6. Cool for a few mins and turn down the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  7. Spread roughly the raspberry jam over the pastry and scatter over the raspberries.
  8. For the sponge, put all the other ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until soft and very well mixed. Spoon this over the raspberry layer, then smooth evenly. Give it a gentle tap on the worktop to even it out.
  9. Scatter over the flaked almonds
  10. Bake for 35-40 mins until golden and firm.
  11. Melt the apricot jam with 1 tbsp water and brush over the top of the sponge to give a beautiful french sheen.
  12. Leave to cool completely before you cut and serve.

Delicious on it’s own or with some custard!  Very English.

Image

Blind bake your pastry straight from the freezer or fridge until just cooked but not brown.

Spread your jam and raspberries onto your cooked pastry.

Spread your batter on top of the raspberries and scatter with flaked almonds.

By the time I took the photo it was dark! The cakes turned out beautiful and the apricot glaze gave them a wonderful sheen.

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Afternoon Tea Series – Lavender Shortbread

I love lavender and when my good friend Barbara gave me a big jar of Waitrose lavender sugar I couldn’t wait to use it.  Consequently it stayed in my cupboard for a good few months before I decided what to use it for!

Lavender Shortbread

Lavender Shortbread – some have been painted with a french glace icing to create a nice sheen.  Others are sprinkled with lavender sugar.

Lavender embodies that afternoon tea in the garden feeling and when The Mill and myself decided to hold an afternoon tea classical recital this was the first recipe I knew without a doubt I wanted to bake.

Difficulty – Easy

Claire’s Lavender Shortbread

125g lavender sugar

225g unsalted butter softened

300g plain flour

50g semolina

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/Gas 4.

  1. Line two baking trays with non stick baking paper.
  2. Pour the sugar into a bowl and butter in a mixing bowl and cream together.
  3. Sift the flour and ground rice into the mixture and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Using floured hands bring the mixture together to form a dough.
  5. Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently until smooth. Pop the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up and rest.
  6. Roll the dough out to a about ¼in thickness, and cut out biscuits using a round cutter. Place the shapes onto the baking trays, and sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Carefully place the biscuits onto a cooling rack., sprinkle with extra lavender sugar and set aside to cool completely.
  8. While cooling whisk up a small batch of buttercream and dye the buttercream with a touch of violet gel food colouring.
  9. Once the biscuits are cool you can sandwich them carefully together and pipe a small rose on the top using a small star tip and starting from the inside and piping out.
Lavender Sugar

Lavender Sugar

Roll your dough out and cut your shapes.

Roll your dough out and cut your shapes.

Put carefully onto a buttered tray and sprinkle with sugar

Put carefully onto a buttered tray and sprinkle with sugar

Pipe your buttercream onto one side of a cooked biscuit and sandwich with another. Pipe a small rose on top and srinkle with sugar.  Alternatively make up some glace icing and drizzle over the top.

Pipe your buttercream onto one side of a cooked biscuit and sandwich with another. Pipe a small rose on top and sprinkle with sugar. Alternatively make up some glace icing and drizzle over the top.

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Afternoon Tea Menu …

We have been very busy at The Mill for the last two weeks preparing for our afternoon tea and classical recital launch.  It was a lovely afternoon with a classical recital from Alison Sparrow on violin and Simon Ireson on piano accompanied by mini sandwiches, lots of cakes and of course tea, coffee and champagne.  Alison was wearing the most beautiful sequinned dress and the most stunning shoes covered in diamantes and with Simon in his tuxedo it really was beautiful to watch.  Check out Simon and Alison performing.  They were both unbelievable and we are planning another afternoon tea classical recital very soon!

I worked very hard on getting the afternoon tea menu just right with the perfect balance of flavours and portion size.  Over the next few days I want to share that menu step by step.

History of Afternoon Tea

Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o’clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Later friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields.” Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.
(ref; http://www.afternoontea.co.uk)

Classical Recital Afternoon Tea Menu

6 Finger Sandwiches – choice of ham and mustard, smoked salmon, egg and cress and cucumber on brown and white bread with crusts removed.

1 Buttermilk Scone served with homemade jam and cream
1 Mini Individual Sponge Cake
1 Edi-bug filled with homemade lemon curd
1 Lavender Shortbread Tower
1 Bakewell Slice
1 Mini french tartlet

Choice of tea’s, coffee or champagne.

Next – Lavender Shortbread Tower

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