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
- 200g 70% chocolate
- 100g butter
- 200g digestive biscuits
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 200g mini eggs
- 50g dried cherries (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour, then cut into 12-16 pieces. You will need a very sharp knife, so watch your fingers.
- 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!
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 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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- Measure the oat bran, flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Hope you enjoy these!
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My last Christmas recipe for you before I take a blogging break for the next few days. But it’s a real goodie, I promise, and so quick and easy to do. These Christmas-spiced muffins, scented with the warm flavours of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice and packed with the deliciously sweet chunks of marzipan and sharp fruitiness of currants, really hit the spot if you are a fan of a Christmas stollen but haven’t got round to making/buying one. They’re also brilliant if you love those rich spicy flavours of Christmas, but fancy something a bit lighter for festive breakfasts and coffee-time treats.
If you don’t have marzipan spare, or you don’t like marzipan (NO!) you can add more currants, or other dried fruit, or some almonds maybe, and up the sugar content to 75g. I have included a list of spices to add – but another option is to use a level teaspoon of a pre-mixed Speculaas spice mix, or a level teaspoon of the leftover spice mix from my recipe for speculaas cookies.
If you want to line the muffin tin with baking parchment rather than muffin cases – here’s how to do it.
Spiced Christmas Muffins with Marzipan
- 250g self raising wholemeal flour (you can use white flour if you prefer, or a mix of the two)
- 50g butter
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- pinch of ground coriander
- pinch of ground allspice
- pinch ground ginger
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 50g granulated sugar (75g if you aren’t using the marzipan)
- 100g currants
- 50-100g marzipan (whatever you have spare is fine), cut into small 1cm cubes
- 2 eggs
- 250ml buttermilk (or half and half plain milk and natural yogurt, or even just milk will do)
- handful of flaked almonds for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5 or 190C (170C fan). Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.
- Rub the butter into the flour until you have a fine sandy mixture. You can do this by hand or machine, either is fine.
- Stir in the baking powder, spices, sugar, currants and marzipan chunks.
- Measure the buttermilk (or equivalent) into a jug and then beat in 2 eggs.
- Add the liquid mixture to the flour and stir very gently until just combined. Don’t beat it, and don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy – the key to a good light muffin is to stir as little as possible.
- Fill the muffin cases, sprinkle with the flaked almonds and then bake for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are firm to the touch and just lightly browned.
- These are best eaten while fresh and warm from the oven. If you want to eat them for breakfast you can prepare the dry ingredients and the wet (keep the milk/egg mix in the fridge), and line the muffin tin the night before, then they only take about 30 minutes to get ready in the morning. They also freeze well and can be reheated after freezing by wrapping them in foil and putting them in a hot oven (Gas 7/220C (200C fan) for 5-7 minutes.
Hope you enjoy these over the Christmas holidays! Have a wonderful time. 🙂