Recipe: No-bake Easter Crunch Cake

Easter Chocolate Crunch Cake no-bake

A super-fast recipe just in case you don’t have enough chocolate in your life this weekend. Fun to make with kids too. If you want to make it gluten-free then you can use gluten-free digestives – they work really well.

Easter Crunch Cake no-bake

Easter Crunch Cake

Ingredients

  • 200g 70% chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 200g mini eggs
  • 50g dried cherries (optional)

Directions

  1. Line a 20cm x 20cm (8inch) baking tray (I use one with a loose bottom which is really helpful when getting the cake out of the tin) with foil or baking parchment – the liner needs to come up the sides of the tin.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a heatproof bowl with the butter. Put the bowl over a pan of water on a very low simmer and stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and the mixture is smooth a glossy. Take the bowl off the pan and leave to cool for a minute or two.
  3. Put the biscuits in a large bowl and smash them up, using the end of a rolling pin. Alternatively put the biscuits in a strong polythene bag, tie closed and bash with a rolling pin. Don’t reduce the biscuits to crumbs, you need smaller and larger pieces.
  4. Stir the syrup and cocoa powder into the melted chocolate, along with the broken biscuits and the 3/4 of the mini eggs and the cherries (if using).
  5. Put the mixture into your prepared baking tray and press down. Sprinkle the remaining mini-eggs over the cake and press them down a little.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then cut into 12-16 pieces. You will need a very sharp knife, so watch your fingers.
  7. This will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin. I tend to keep it in the fridge so it stays fairly firm.

Happy Easter to you all!

Recipe: Oat Bran Buns

This is one of those happenstance baking recipes that worked out really well. I often fiddle around with bread and cake recipes, trying to add more nutrition or use up ingredients that I bought for something else that didn’t work out. So, this time round, I had oat bran in the cupboard, and remembered how delicious the rolled oats are in my Sticky Oat and Currant Buns, so thought I would try some everyday buns for sandwiches etc. using the oat bran.

Oat bran buns header

Oat bran is one of those foods where the rather dull appearance belies the great nutritional value it has – it reduces bad cholesterol, the risk of coronary heart disease and some studies say it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes because of its calming influence on your blood sugar levels. It’s a great source of dietary fibre, contains protein, and has the effect of making you feel fuller, for longer, if you are trying to lose weight. The bran gives these buns and slightly sweet, nutty flavour which we all enjoy, so it’s a really easy way to add oat bran to our diet.

Oatbran buns recipe

I use Dan Lepard’s intermittent method of kneading bread dough (outlined in the recipe) – feel free to ignore and just knead in your usual way (or in a stand mixer) if you prefer. I also boil the milk and let it cool, rather than just bring it up to the right blood heat temperature – again, I follow the Lepard advice here, which says that boiling the milk (to destroy a particular enzyme in they whey protein) produces a lighter crumb. Again, feel free to go your own way – and of course you can use a non-dairy milk and not have to worry about this at all!

Oat Bran Buns

  • Servings: makes 12 buns
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 400g whole milk/non-dairy alternative weighed directly into a saucepan
  • 100g oat bran
  • 450g strong breadmaking flour (I use a combination of 250g wholemeal and 200g white, anything works!)
  • 50g olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast (if you want to use fresh, you need about 10g – dissolve it in the milk when it is at blood heat).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil for kneading

Method

  1. Bring the whole milk to the boil and then leave to cool until just at blood heat (you can put the pan into cold water to speed this process up). If you are using non-dairy milk, just warm it to blood heat.
  2. Measure the oat bran, flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl.
  3. When the milk is cool enough, add it to the flour/bran mix, along with the oil, and stir the ingredients together (I find a knife works really well, or you can just go in with your hands), until combined. If the dough seems a bit dry and crumbly, feel free to add an extra tablespoon of liquid – wet dough is ALWAYS better than dry. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Put a little oil on your work surface, turn the dough out onto the surface and knead for about 10 seconds. Put the bowl over the dough and leave for another 10 minutes. Knead again, then leave for another 10 minutes. Knead briefly again, then leave the dough in the bowl, with a damp cloth over the bowl, until it has doubled in size. In my always-chilly kitchen, this took another hour – but check after 30 minutes if you have a nice warm kitchen!
  5. Divide the dough into 12 pieces (about 80g each) and shape into buns. Put the buns onto a baking tray lined with baking paper/parchment, then cover and leave the buns to rise for 30 minutes or more. My usual method for this is to put the entire tray into a large carrier bag, and fold it closed, making sure the bag doesn’t touch the buns, but you could use a floured tea-towel or your own preferred proving method.
  6. Switch on your oven to pre-heat to 220C/Gas 7 part way through the second rise. The buns are ready to bake when they have risen appreciably and have batched (i.e. they will be touching each other on the baking tray – unless you have an enormous oven and baking tray of course!). To tell if they are really ready, poke one of the buns very very gently with the tip of your finger, if the little indentation stays, then the yeast is slowing down, and the buns are ready to bake – if the indentation springs back up quite rapidly, you can leave the buns for a bit longer. Don’t be tempted to rush this phase, if they are not risen properly, the buns will be leaden!
  7. Bake for 5 minutes at 220C, then turn your oven down to 200C and bake for another 10-12 minutes. If you feel that the buns are getting a little over-brown, you can rest a piece of foil gently on top of them.

Oatbran buns recipe close up

Hope you enjoy these!

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Book review: Energy Balls by Christal Sczebel

I am a big fan of the delicious energy balls that I get to order at our local superfood bar, Rawr – they are scrummy sweet treats packed full of nutritious ingredients – I love them, and they are just right for a little something to go with a lovely herb tea or golden milk (never tried golden milk? You should, it’s delicious!). So I was really pleased to get hold of a review copy of Energy Balls: Improve your physical performance, mental focus, sleep, mood and more by Christa Sczebel and published by Chronical Books.

energy-balls-recipe-book-cover

I have no idea about the health claims made for these recipes, but I know for myself, I always feel better in body and in mind, when I am eating food that is packed full of nutrients. These days, where previously I might have gone for a piece of cake, a Wispa bar (my all-time favourite!) or crisps for a snack, although I still have those now and again, I’m much more like to go for something like this. So it’s great to have an opportunity to make some for myself, and learn more about the benefits of some of these ingredients, especially the ones which are new to me.

toasted-coconut-fudge-energy-ball
Toasted Coconut Fudge

All the recipes are 100% vegan, no-bake and gluten free. And having recently tried to find vegan and gluten-free sweet treats that weren’t packed with an awful lot of undesirable ingredients in my local super-market, I can really see the appeal of a book like this, where you can have complete confidence in what you are putting into your food.

hazelnut-superfruit-energy-balls
Hazelnut Super-fruit

As you can see, the styling of the book is lovely – it’s fully of really tempting pics, especially as I imagine it’s rather difficult to take delicious-looking photos of lots and lots of things that all look quite similar!

The book is divided up into sections with different recipes for Breakfast, the Lunch-Box, Brain-Boosting, Performance-Enhancing and Bedtime. It’s packed full of information about the nutritional content of the ingredients, calorie content and a run down of the benefits of the ingredients used.

general-info-about-brain-boosting-energy-balls

I tried a couple of recipes. The first, Salted Caramel and Chia, was delicious, but I found the mixture very difficult to work with – it was so wet – possibly due to my inexperience in making this kind of food. I’m hoping this will get better as I get more experience of what different mixtures should look like – a bit more information or some step by step photos would have been helpful.

chia-salted-caramel-energy-balls
Salted Caramel and Chia

The second, Cinnamon Raisin, I didn’t like as much, finding the recipe almost impossibly sweet – although the little snacks all seemed to disappear soon enough, so SOMEONE around here liked them.

double-chocolate-fudge-energy-balls
Double Chocolate Fudge

One down side, if you are on a budget, and haven’t experimented with this type of food previously, is that there is an awful lot of non-standard ingredients (i.e. not what you’d have in your store-cupboard or even at your local supermarket) and expensive ingredients, like dried whole bananas, nut butters, coconut nectar and chocolate protein powder, and lots of them used in only one or two recipes.

strawberry-shortcake-energy-balls
Strawberry Shortcake

The other issue is that you need a really decent blender or food-processor. I have an Kenwood food-processor, that works ok to blend everything up, but it makes a dreadful noise as it does so. But if you are a person with a snazzy high-powered blender, then this might well be a book to add to your library.

chocolate-ginger-energy-balls
Gingerbread Dark Chocolate

I felt slightly put off by the above caveats about the expense and the lack of helpful detail in these recipes. But, as I flick through the book again for this review, it has renewed my enthusiasm to try some more recipes, and invest in a few more of the ingredients. I really like the sound of Lime and Coconut, Carrot Cake, Toasted Coconut Fudge and Vanilla Chai Latte… and plenty of others too, and I can see them becoming part of my weekly eating, if they taste as good as they sound.

Have you had experience of this kind of ‘cooking’? I’d love to hear about any favourite recipes you might have.