Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the standard banana bread recipe… Everyone loves it and its super yummy and delicious but I have discovered that the addition of some cocoa and chocolate really takes it to a whole new level, making it much more cake like, which is never a bad thing.

Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 30g raw cocoa powder
  • 2-3 bananas / ~225g peeled weight
  • 2 eggs; beaten
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pack white chocolate buttons / hearts (optional for decoration)

Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

With a sheet of baking paper line one standard size loaf tin.

In a small saucepan melt the butter, set aside and allow to cool.

Chop both chocolates into desired chunk sizes. I like to leave them around the 0.5cm diameter, no larger.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda; mix well.

With a fork or potato masher, mash the bananas until all the big chunks have disappeared. Then stir in the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and finally the cooled down butter; mix until just combined, don’t over mix or you run the risk of having a dense cake.

Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients leaving only the chocolate chunks which are to be added last.

Add the chocolate with a quick stir to help distribute them and pour the entire mixture into your earlier prepared loaf tin.

If using, decorate with some white chocolate chips or hearts.

Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.

Bake at 180C fan for 35-40 minutes or until the so called dry stick test is passed (be aware of chocolate chunks… if you hit one the toothpick will never come out clean).

Once baked remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before digging in.

The bread will freeze for up to 3 months so a good excuse to make a whole batch of them 🙂

Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.
Banana bread taken to the next level – super rich yet light and moist with a deep chocolate flavour. One definitely not to be missed.

 

The mystery of the humble bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagels

Sesame Seed Bagels

I have grown used to wonders coming from the kitchen, delightful morsels of heavenly sustenance that I look forward to whenever I hear loud music from the kitchen (the tell tell sign that Mark is creating). Well, a few days ago I was left standing in a blissful state of happiness as I chewed through a fresh baked bagel with some cream cheese and chives, OMG you should have been there it was a standout moment.

Now, I love bagels, always have done but have always bought them from the bakers or supermarket as we both thought that in some way they where a magical creation that need specialist equipment or techniques to make. In other words leave it to the professionals. With this in mind you can imagine my guarded joy when I was informed that Mark was going to recreate some in our very own humble kitchen. Oh how quick was I to judge and then to have to internally have to eat humble pie when it turned out to be such a showstopper.

Bagel recipes are not often found in cook books, maybe more of an American thing I don’t know but that is our experience. This changed recently when Mark added another cookbook to his collection, he is collecting all the books by Leith’s in their bible series that he absolutely raves about for their excellent mixture of well written recipes in addition to the wealth of informative additional information that will help you become a better cook. Well tucked in the “Baking Bible” book was the rare but legendary bagel recipe, and Mark having studied it decided to was achievable. Having tasted the results I begged him to share with me how he did it so I could in turn share it with you. You may not know it yet but today you are about to have an awesome day, read on…

The only specialist equipment you need is a plant spray bottle, or something that can turn water into a spray mist. Additionally for an even more authentic bagel a pizza stone in the oven is helpful, but not essential.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 450g strong white bread flour (organic and unbleached if possible)
  • 1½tsp salt
  • 15g yeast (fresh if possible)
  • 225ml mix or water and milk at room temperature in a jug
  • 1tsp of caster sugar
  • 1tsp malt extract or molasses
  • 1oz melted butter that’s cooled
  • 1 medium egg lightly whisked
  • Handful of sesame seeds (not essential but desirable)

Method:

Sift your flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Whisk the yeast into the milk/water mixture and then add the sugar and malt extract. I found that it was helpful to add a couple of spoonfuls of the above mix to the melted butter and stirring to make the butter runnier. The main reason for this is that you reduce the risk of the melted butter hitting the colder ingredients and seizing up into chilled lumps. Now add the butter and whisked egg to the liquid mix and give a final good whisk to make sure it’s all mixed with no lumps and everything is dissolved. Now pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the salt. Now, depending if you’re a mechanical person or a physical person you need to either knead by hand for 10 minutes or in a food mixer with a dough hook for around 6 minutes. Either way you should end up with a smooth elastic ball of bread dough that you now need to lightly coat with olive oil and place into a clean lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and then a couple of tea towels and place somewhere out of drafts for an hour or two till it’s at least double in size.

You need two baking sheets that have been lightly oiled for our bagels to grow on.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagels

Through this next stage try and use as little extra flour as possible on the dough as it will make the finished product heavier and tougher. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back (punch it) and then knead it for no more than 30 seconds to get the air out. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal sized portions and roll them into balls. Take a ball and squash gently between your palms and then poke a finger through the middle to make a ring shape. The dough will naturally tend to try and shrink the hole as it contracts so you need to either stretch it gently and evenly so keep the hole around 4-5cms wide or stick it on your finger and spin it so centrifugal forces do the job for you (this is a skill that takes some practice!) Now place the newly formed baby bagel on your oiled baking sheet and then grab the next ball of dough, repeat this step till they are all done. Finally cover them with another sheet of lightly oiled clingfilm and set aside somewhere warm and draft free for 20-30 minutes till they are all big and fluffy and soft bagel looking.

You want to cook your bagels near the top of the oven so in your cold oven place two shelves one in the top 1/3rd of the oven and one just below. Place your pizza stone on the top shelf and on the lower shelf place an empty roasting tin, close the door and allow to heat up to 220C or 425F.

Whilst you’re waiting we can set up the poaching bath. For this you need a large saucepan ¾ filled with water. Add 1 tablespoon of malt extract and then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly so that you have bubbles rising to the surface every few seconds. It is essentially that it is not boiling to energetically as the bagels want a relaxed bath or they will lose some of their puffy wonderfulness that you have so patiently cultivated.

Fill a kettle up and boil it.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered - Sesame Seed Bagels

When all is ready take a single bagel and gently lift it from the baking tray and place in the water, after 10 seconds and not a second longer flip the bagel upside down, after another 10 seconds gently remove with a slotted spoon and return to the baking tray to drain a bit, sprinkle your sesame seeds over the top.

Top tip if the bagels come out of the water flat and deflated to much then you have left them in too long and need to reduce the time spent poaching, you can’t help but lose some of the air in a kitchen environment but we want to minimise the lose.

Once you have finished poaching them all that’s left to do is the baking part. Now depending on how confident you are about handling the uncooked bagels without “popping” them you can either pick them up and place directly on the pizza stone in your oven or you can do what we did and just put the entire baking tray straight into the oven, again on top of the pizza stone. Take your boiling kettle and pour into the empty roasting tin below the pizza stone. Finally give the bagels a good spray of water from your plant mister bottle and shut the oven door.

Set your timer for 15 minutes. Now another quick note, a normal oven is best for cooking the bagels, if however you have a fan assisted convection oven then reduce the oven temp by 10 degrees and the cooking time by a couple of minutes.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagel

Every minute for the first 5 minutes quickly open the oven door and spray the bagels with a light mist. After five minutes you can stop with the spraying. After 15 minutes check on your creations, if they are all puffed up and golden brown open the door and tap one, it should sound hollow. If any of these conditions are not met then cook for a few more minutes. When you happy they are done remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

When cold, cut in half and toast, butter and spread with some cream cheese, welsh rarebit or if your posh smoked salmon and dill and let your taste buds flood your brain with gratitude.

Home Baked Sesame Seed Bagels

Shop bought bagels will never taste the same…

What’s Cooking – Homemade Pita Bread

The wonder of the Pitta Bread
The wonder of the Pitta Bread

Every now and then you remember something that is easy to make yet makes a wonderful versatile meal that you wonder how on earth you could ever forget about it.

This happened the other day when rooting through the cupboards trying to figure out what to have for dinner. We had tomatoes and a bunch of fresh coriander and even a couple of avocados that had unbelievably finally gone soft. So salsa and guacamole where on the cards, but what to have with it? A couple of chicken breasts recovered from the back of the freezer and an onion and a lettuce procured from the local shop and a meal was forming. All that is required is a vessel to carry all this lovely food from plate to mouth for munching, and that was when it happened, the penny dropped and voila the concept of pitta breads was remembered.

With the right equipment the humble pitta bread is a super easy, fun and surprisingly tasty bread; let me now remind you how easy they are.

What you will need to make a dozen:

  • 450g of strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 30g of fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 260ml of water
  • A good glug of olive oil

Optional – for variety just before kneading add some toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds or chilli flakes, you have a blank canvas so experiment!

Now the process required to make them. I trust you are the proud owner of a pizza stone, if not go get one they are brilliant especially for baking. If not you will need to find something big and heavy that you can use such as a heavy baking sheet or even a cast iron frying pan etc. Whatever you choose pop it into the oven near the top of the oven and turn the heat up to around the 230C or 450F or gas mark 8.

Put the water in a jug and pop into the micro wave and nuke for 45 seconds so that it is warm but not hot. Add the sugar and yeast and give a good stir till everything is dissolved and put somewhere warm for five minutes.

Sift the flour into your mixing bowl and through the salt in and pour the olive oil over the top. When your yeast mix is bubbling away and starting to foam when stirred throw that into the bowl as well. Now if you have a food mixer, with a dough hook beat for five to ten minutes till the dough is smooth and elastic. If you don’t own a mixer then time to get your hands messy!

When the dough is finished being kneaded then coat the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil and the ball of dough, place in the bowl and cover with cling film and a T-towel and place somewhere draft free and warm till its doubled in size.

Lightly flour your work top and place the risen dough in the middle. You now need to punch it till all the air has been knocked out of it. Knead by hand for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a log. Use a knife to cut into half and then again each piece into half. Finally cut each of the four sections into thirds to make twelve balls of dough all roughly the same size. Cover with your cling film again and leave for another 15 minutes to relax.

Again, lightly dust your work top and take a ball of dough, squash it down and press it flat. With a rolling pin roll out the ball till it’s roughly pitta bread shape, dust with flour and set aside, repeat with the other eleven balls of dough. When done cover and leave till ready to cook.

almost time...

Just before cooking uncover the pitta bread and re-roll out if they have shrunk.

off to the oven they go

When the oven has been up to temperature for a while place a couple of the pitta breads on the pizza stone (or iron pan, baking sheet etc) and cook on one side for 3 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes.

What a beauty

Look upon your creations and marvel at the way they have puffed up perfectly and be sure to call the family to your side so they can marvel at the wonder too! Remove them from the oven and wrap in a clean T-towel till ready to eat.

Cut a slot in the side of one and pack with your chicken, salad, guacamole, salsa and maybe a spot of soured cream and grated cheese!

Delicious!

Our Pita Bread

Link up your recipe of the week

Review – Family Favourites – Soreen

001

Every family has their favourite in regards to food, for us it is Soreen. We all love it and enjoy every mouthful.

So what is Soreen?

For all of you who don’t know, never seen it or have never tried it – Soreen is a fruity malt loaf; soft and sticky, extremely tasty, surprisingly nutritious and even more surprisingly low in fat. I have heard people referring to is as “sticky bread”, “black bread” or fruit bread”.

Soreen has been baking fruity malt bread for 75 years now. The original recipe one is still the same but there are a lot of new additions to the Soreen family:

  • Soreen Limited Edition Chocolate Malt
  • Soreen Lunchbox Loaves
  • Soreen Toastie Loaf
  • Soreen Snackers
  • Soreen Banana
  • Soreen Apple & Sultana
  • Soreen Snack
  • Soreen sliced
  • Soreen Cinnamon & Raisin
  • Soreen Fruity-Five
  • Soreen Go Bar

That’s a great choice and everyone can pick something for themselves. Different flavours and different sizes of loaf – perfect for every snacking occasion, from the family breakfast where we can all share one loaf to single serving’s for the school lunch box.

Soreen Toastie Loaf
Soreen Toastie Loaf

From this huge selection of Soreen goodies I have found a few new favourites myself. One of them is the Toastie Loaf. The main reason I prefer it just a bit more over others is the fact that is it not messy. It comes in a big pack, already pre-cut into thick slices perfect for toasting. I don’t have to spend 5 minutes trying to cut it into perfect slices, which is only possible with original loaf after years of practise (don’t get me wrong I still love the original loaf as well, but I’m not always in the mood for sticky bread wrestling… sometimes I just want to eat… now). Also because of its size it makes a perfect toastie… hence the name of the loaf I guess 🙂 and with a bit of butter… yummy… I think I just made myself hungry again…

Soreen Snack
Soreen Snack

The second product which in my opinion deserves special recognition is the Soreen Snack. This is Soreen for lazy people and I sometimes belong to that group (don’t deny it, you do to). A Soreen Snack equates to two slices of Soreen fruity malt load, already buttered and neatly packed in a single serving wrapper. This is a perfect product for when you’re on the go. The packet itself is small enough to fit into your handbag, backpack, or even your pocket so you can retrieve it and munch away whenever needed. Perfect as an energy booster at home or in the office when you pushed for time and every minute counts. It is also great as an emergency snack in the car… imagine you are all stuck in a traffic jam, which seems to be every journey now a day’s, wishing you had something to eat… a Soreen Snack is just perfect for those moments, I know I have the T-shirt…

Soreen Lunchbox Loaves
Soreen Lunchbox Loaves

The third product which I would like to describe in more detail is the Soreen Lunchbox Loaves. These are mini loaves of original or banana flavoured Soreen. A Multi-pack contains five individually wrapped bite size loaves. Each bar provides less than 100 calories and less than 0.3g saturated fat. These are perfect for school lunch boxes or just as a quick snack. Again, this product is an ideal choice for an “on the go” snack, when we need a quick energy boost or just fancy a small bite.

004

Taking into consideration all the flavoured Soreen available like Soreen Banana, Soreen Apple & Sultana and Soreen Cinnamon & Raisin – I have decided that the banana one is my favourite. We tried them all when they first came into our local shop. We bought one each just to check them out and see if they are as tasty as the original one… surprise, surprise they are. What is the most pleasing thing about them though, they really taste of the fruits stated on the pack. Soreen Banana is much lighter in colours and tastes like squished bananas… again yummy, and again I am hungry…

I never tried the Soreen Chocolate… I have no idea how I could have missed that one! Yet obviously, I did. A fact that will soon be rectified, trust me.

An added bonus about Soreen – you can buy it almost everywhere. Every supermarket or food store chain stocks it… ok they may not have the full selection, but they will always have something from the Soreen family.

And if you are a fan of Soreen you might want to follow them on Twitter @SoreenHQ; where at this moment they have a fantastic competition – win a year’s supply of Soreen! Wouldn’t that be just awesome!

So, are you a Soreen lover? Which one is your favourite?

.

I received a selection of loaves from Soreen for review purposes. All opinions expressed in this review are honest and my own.

What’s Cooking – Double Corn Bread

Our Double Corn Bread
Our Double Corn Bread

It may just be us, but have you ever found yourself in the position of having some nice yummy soup to eat but not a scrap of bread in the house, no crusty buttered roll on the side for us. Well I think we may have found the solution…

The next time you find yourself in the above situation or something similar you need just under an hour to resolve the predicament. Here is the recipe for Double Corn Bread, quick to bake, easy to make and delicious! It has started to prove an indispensible addition to our plate on a common basis.

This is all you need to make this lovely bread
This is all you need to make this lovely bread

Ingredients:

  • 80g plain white flour
  • 150g yellow cornmeal
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 50g melted butter
  • 250ml milk warmed
  • 3 large eggs
  • Small tin of sweetcorn

Method:

Turn your oven on to a temperature of 200C

Grease and line a deep 20cm springform cake tin

In a large bowl sift your flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder; sprinkle the sugar over the top. In a jug whisk the three eggs and slowly add the melted butter and warm milk, whisking constantly.

And this is how you make it
And this is how you make it

Now simply add the wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and stir till just combined. Sprinkle your sweetcorn over the top and stir a couple more times. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and straight into the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until you can stick a wooden toothpick or chopstick into the middle of the cake and pull it out clean. It should have risen and be a nice golden colour on top.

All done - time to eat!
All done – time to eat!

Remove the cornbread from the cake tin and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. I say slightly because this is something best eaten whilst still warm.

Variations:

Try putting some butter on your wedge so it is all melted and dripping, it is wonderful.

How to get corn from your corn on the cobs...
How to get corn from your corn on the cobs…

If you are a big fan of corn, especially this time of year as you can currently get your hands on some fresh corn on the cobs, you can try this truly scrumptious alternative. Instead of using tinned corn, use a fresh corn on the cob, lightly oiled and put on a griddle until toasted, alternatively pop it into the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked and cooled enough to hold, with a large knife cut the corn off the cob into a bowl and add that them to the recipe above.

Mark says the supreme version involves the BBQ and wood chips, but I think I will write about that another day…..

***