Baked Oatmeal: Bank Holiday Bliss.

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I woke up this morning and knew I had to make this. It has been on the radar for a while and suddenly it just had to be done.

I love brunch. For a while I thought it was my favourite meal (always a hotly debated topic if you are me) until I realised it leaves an awkward mid- afternoon hunger in its wake. No matter. I’m sure it’s not a problem that can’t be solved by a slice of cake healthy snack.

This baked oatmeal is like a non-sweet crumble/ porridge amalgamation. It feels nourishing and each of its ingredients- oats, milk, banana, berries- scream breakfast. I need to get back on the brunch bandwagon- it’s always a sociable, happy meal whoever you are making/ eating it with.

Today I will mainly be baking. I might throw in a gym trip if I feel like mixing with the predatory men who seem to live at my new gym. At least I can retreat to my kitchen sanctuary afterwards for a very happy afternoon. Not that I’m one to perpetuate the male- female stereotype.

I highly recommend this recipe. Feel free to use whatever fruit is in season- plums or peaches would be awesome. Next time I will add sultanas too.

Baked Oatmeal (adapted from the amazing Poires et Chocolat)

Serves 2-3 (depending on appetite)

100g rolled oats

30g brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch salt

230ml milk

1 egg

20g butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 banana, thickly sliced

75g mixed berries (frozen are fine)

Maple syrup, if desired

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Butter a baking dish.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

3. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

4. In another bowl mix together the egg, milk, vanilla and butter.

5. Arrange the banana over the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle 2/3 of the berries over the top of the banana. Next, add in the oat mixture so it covers the fruit. Pour the milk mixture over the top so that all of the oats are wet.

6. Sprinkle over the remaining fruit and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and set. Serve hot, drizzled with maple syrup if desired.

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Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding

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Oh. My. Goodness.

This is one of the most delicious things I have made in a while. We’re talking weak-at-the-knees, humbled-by-its-presence good.

Go and buy Krispy Kremes now.

Run.

Steal money from a kid if you have to.

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This amazing take on a traditional bread and butter pudding comes from Rosie at Sweetapolita. I have a huge blog crush on Rosie. Her cakes are astonishingly creative (check out her asparagus cake) and she takes stunning photos. AND she’s really pretty.

I have never really liked Krispy Kremes very much. I find them dry, overrated and altogether a bit uninspiring. But when I saw this recipe it immediately went to the top of my to-do list.

When I visit my family I often buy Krispy Kremes on the way, so I knew that this would be the perfect thing to make when visiting them this weekend.

This recipe is very easy to make and the result is sweet (but not too sweet), warm and completely addictive. It is extremely, extremely comforting. All soft on the inside and crunchy on top. I fell asleep for 3 hours in the middle of making this so we ended up eating it with plain cream rather than Rosie’s espresso cream. I don’t think anything was lost. Next time I might try adding some maple extract or cinnamon in somewhere.

Rosie made this as a breakfast dish (only in Canada?). Much as I would like to pour scorn and a whole load of sugar-free muesli on that idea, I can’t. I think we have all eaten fridge-cold spoonfuls of the stuff this morning. It was unexpected but I have lost all dignity to this pudding.

LOVE YOU ROSIE.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding (as blogged about by Rosie at Sweetapolita)

1 1/2 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts cut into sixths

1 litre double cream

500ml milk

10 large egg yolks

2 eggs

125ml condensed milk

125ml brewed espresso

1. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.

2. Place the doughnut pieces on two lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp on the outside and semi firm on the inside.

3. Raise the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

4. In a large bowl whisk together 500ml of the cream, the milk, egg whites, eggs and condensed milk. Add the doughnut pieces and let soak for about 1 hour.

5. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch dish and spoon the doughnut mixture into it and cover it will foil. Put the dish in a large roasting tin and add boiling water until it is halfway up the side of the baking dish.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, remove the foil and then bake for a further 20 minutes or until the pudding is set.

7. Whip the remaining cream until it forms soft peaks, then stir in the espresso. Serve with the warm pudding.

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Armenian Nutmeg Cake

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Monday 23rd April: a succinct message pings into my Outlook at work 5 minutes after I have left cake out for my department. It is from one of my contemporaries. ‘Sarah there is a queue for your cake’.

Let me explain the origins of this unusual cake. 3 weeks ago, after a tense month of waiting, I gained approval to become a ‘Daring Baker’. The somewhat clandestine ‘Daring Bakers’ community comprises baking bloggers who every month are set a baking challenge which they all blog about after a certain date.

And there are rules. Blog about or reveal the challenge early and you’re out; miss more than 4 challenges a year and you’re escorted out of the building. What can I say, I like to live life on the edge.

This month’s challenge- Armenian Nutmeg Cake- was set on 1st April. I had never heard of Armenian Nutmeg Cake before but I suppose that’s the point of the Daring Bakers. I was pleased that my first challenge was a straightforward one- we will see what next month brings. This cake turned out better than expected and apparently went down a treat. It’s unusual, moreish and goes very well with a coffee or two. My only quibble is with the sugar content- my eyes watered when I read that I had to add 400g of brown sugar.

The Monday morning email kept me amused all week. I was told by someone else that I might never be allowed to move department- I laughed uneasily. I’m not sure they will still be thanking me four months down the line.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake (adapted from a recipe by Jason at DailyCandor.com)

240 ml whole milk

1 teaspoon baking soda

280g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

400g brown sugar (I used dark but light would probably be fine)

170g unsalted butter, cubed

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg

Sunflower seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line a 9 in/23cm springform tin.

2. Mix the baking soda in with the milk.

3. In a food processor, whizz together the flour, baking powder and brown sugar.

4. Add the butter and continue to mix.

5. Take half the mixture out of the processor and press into the base of the springform tin with your hands to create the crust (the mixture will resemble crumble topping).

6. Break the egg into the remaining mixture and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. Continue to mix.

7. Finally, add the milk and blend until the mixture is well combined.

8. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about an hour. Cover with foil if it is browning too much. It is done when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

9. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds as soon as it is out of the oven and cool in the tin.

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Guinness- Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

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Sunday morning: I am lying in bed eating ice cream out of a whisky glass. I think of the hundreds of people running the London Marathon not far from me. Call me lazy and uncharitable, but I know where I’d rather be.

In December I impulse purchased an ice cream maker. I dabbled with it over winter, making white chocolate ice cream and chocolate- hazelnut ice cream with varying degrees of success. Now that it’s spring I have high hopes for sunshine and ice cream experimentation.

Since buying David Lebovitz’s ‘Perfect Scoop’ a month ago I have been paralysed with inaction. The book has so many inventive ice cream recipes that in the end I resorted to eeny- meany- miny- mo (I am clearly mature enough to make straightforward decisions now that I am nearly 25).

This ice cream is WOW. Silky smooth and (sorry) melt in the mouth. It would make a killer milkshake. If it had a tv ad, sultry eyes, leprechauns and the M&S voice would all feature somewhere.

I have made chocolate Guinness cake in the past, which is wonderful in it’s own way. Although the Guinness does something spectacular to the texture of the cake, the taste of Guinness is not perceptible. Not so here- this ice cream achieves a perfect balance of both flavours and has a yeasty, zingy aftertaste (which sounds wrong but really work).

I can only apologize that I don’t have a better picture to present you with. Ice cream is a cruel mistress to photograph.

Stay tuned for further ice cream instalments.

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz’s ‘Perfect Scoop’)

200g milk chocolate, broken into chunks

250ml whole milk

100g sugar

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

250ml double cream

180ml Guinness

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Put the chocolate in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.

2. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour the warm mixture over the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mixture back into the pan.

3. Stir continuously over a medium heat until it thickens. Pour over the chocolate and stir quickly until all of the chocolate has melted.

4. Mix in the cream, Guinness and vanilla.

5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Ottolenghi Love

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Sometimes a girl just wants to be surrounded by beautiful things.

It’s been a week where very few things haven’t gone a bit pear shaped. Over the weekend three things have done an excellent job at shaking me out of my numb, disinterested existence- walking past a beautiful flower stall, browsing pretty clothes shops and a trip to Ottolenghi. I realise that sounds horrifically insipid. Rest assured that I feel more than a little queasy admitting that all. Am I failing at life? Probably.

My Ottolenghi trip was entirely pre- meditated and I even spent an extra ten minutes running yesterday in the name of Ottolenghi cake. It was the easiest extra mile of my life. Strangely, I haven’t wanted anything sweet recently, so I opted for a cake with cheese-cakey icing.

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(window display at Ottolenghi)

Ottolenghi cakes are achingly beautiful (if you can use that term for food) in both style and substance. This cake may look like a heart attack with a strawberry on top (it is top heavy to say the least), but it’s actually not very sweet at all. A far cry from the American style cupcake, then. The icing is a very light whipped mascarpone/ cream combo (I suspect).

I am pleased to confirm that order was restored at 5pm today, in bright sunshine and to Paolo Nutini’s dulcet tones.

It’s good to know that when everything else is a whirlwind, cake is a constant.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting

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Happy Easter everyone!

I hope this finds you all suitably stuffed with lamb/chocolate eggs/ hot cross buns.

This weekend I am in the Scottish Highlands celebrating Easter and my big brother’s birthday.

I am very grateful for my brother. Though we may be chalk and cheese we agree on everything important; when it comes to food, we are the dream team.

Though he is slowing in his old age, throughout his late teens and early twenties my brother displayed staggering cake eating abilities. Having such a sibling is always excellent, excellent news for someone like me. When I tried today to think what it would be like to have a brother who didn’t like cake, everything went black and I was filled with doom.

Looking back, the cake used to disappear so fast I’m not sure he would have tasted it. Neither am I sure that the cake actually got eaten, his waist line remained so unyielding. In any case, I chose to construe the cake’s disappearance as a compliment, and without that encouragement I probably wouldn’t be baking today.

Needless to say that this one’s for him. Happy Birthday big bro!

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting (adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes as blogged about on Sweetapolita)

4 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

3 cups cake flour

2 cups sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz butter

Frosting

6oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled

4 1/2 cups icing sugar

12 oz butter

3 tbps whole milk

3 tbsp double cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Grease and line 4 cake tins.

3. Put the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl. Mix in the vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk.

4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk and whisk well until light and fluffy (about two minutes with a hand held electric whisk).

5. In 3 parts, add in the egg mixture and continue to whisk until just combined.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins. You don’t want them too full as flat rather than domed tops are desirable when making layer cakes!

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.

8. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out on to wire racks.

9. To make the frosting, throw all of the ingredients in a food mixer and blend until smooth.

10. When the cake has cooled completely, lay one cake round on a flat surface. Spread frosting on top of it, then place the next round on top. Repeat this process with the other cakes. Finally, spread the frosting all over the cake and around the sides.

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The $250 Cookies

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They say that a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand, and this week I discovered what a work-life balance is: getting home in time to make said cookies.

‘Work- life balance’ is a bit of a buzz phrase. Everyone knows what the term means, of course. Or do they? What does it actually mean?

I for one didn’t realise I had been unaware of its meaning until last Monday, when I left work early enough to make cookies. I found myself positively bouncing into the supermarket to fetch the ingredients. Yes, I thought, this arrangement is quite alright by me.

The story behind these cookies is that a woman ate one at a Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas and asked if she could purchase the recipe. The waitress replied in the affirmative, saying that it would cost ‘two fifty’. The customer realised later that her card had been charged $250 rather than the $2.50 she had been expecting. She went public with the recipe- praise the Lord (Texas is a Bible Belt state after all)- when the store refused her a refund.

Cookies are the only baked good with which I have an entirely monogamous relationship; I have not looked twice at another cookie recipe for five years. With everything else I’m a too-many-recipes-too-little-time kinda gal. Sure, I have old favourites, but the temptation to experiment is ever-present, ever- troubling.

It crept up on me but I guess this is ‘it’: this is the recipe that nourishes and fills fulfils.

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These cookies are super easy to make, and the shopping bag to tea towel cycle can be completed in under 30 minutes. They are chewy on the outside and oh-so-soft on the inside. They freeze well too. They are different- maybe even better – straight from the freezer. Yes, that’s right- I hold my hands up and proclaim that I have eaten these frozen. Think cookie dough ice cream, but just the good part- there’s no tub fodder here.

On Monday I made a batch with Mini Eggs on top. I took them to work on Tuesday and received more than one recipe request.

I entreat you to make them.

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Neiman Marcus Cookies (adapted from ‘500 Cookies’ by Philippa Vanstone)

115g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla essence
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
200g chocolate chips (half milk, half white)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius

2. Beat the butter and sugar together, and add the egg and vanilla essence.

3. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients, including the coffee powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix in the chocolate chips.

4. Roll into balls. Use your fingers to flatten onto a non-stick baking sheet 5cm apart.

5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.

6. Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

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