26 September 2017

Matcha Madeleines

I toyed with idea of calling this post Matchaleines, but my sensible side prevailed. I love madeleines. They're just the perfect size cake with your afternoon cup of tea and who doesn't like the pretty shell shape? I much prefer little cakes to massive slices of layer cakes. I've not made huge amounts of madeleines, but I have always found them easy to make. I was going to say they're the French equivalent of a victoria sponge, but there is a bit more to them, to get the 'bump' in the middle.

So, madeleines come from Commercy and Liverdun, in the north east of France. Traditionally, they're made with a Genoise sponge, which means the sponge rises due to air incorporated in the mixture rather than baking powder. They would also usually have ground almonds in them. I have used baking powder and haven't included any nuts. Ooops.

I find that resting the batter for enough time makes a difference with the end result. In this recipe, I rested it for about four hours. It's also a good idea to make sure your eggs and milk are at room temperature (this goes for almost all recipes, actually). I found using a tablespoon measuring spoon gave the right amount of batter for each mould. It can be easy to overfill, so that's a handy way to know you've got it right.

Matcha is another thing I'm quite keen on. It's made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves that are then finely ground into a powder.  The preparation, serving and drinking of matcha are the basis of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha has more health benefits than regular green tea because you are ingesting the whole leaf. It seems to be quite good for your health, which is always nice when you also like the taste of something. There are different grades of matcha, the cheaper being bitter usually. I have made the mistake of using a cheaper matcha in the past and it can be quite unpleasant. My matcha comes from Pure Chimp and it's not at all bitter. It's lovely in matcha lattes and baking. You might be quite shocked by the price of matcha, but it really is a false economy buying the cheaper ones because I found them pretty inedible.

These madeleines probably have the biggest 'bumps' out of all the recipes I have tried so far. As long as you make sure the top springs back when gently pressed, they shouldn't lose the 'bump' in the cooling process. The flavour of matcha comes through beautifully and isn't overpowering. And, of course, the colour always adds to any recipe.

Matcha Madeleines (from Just One Cookbook)

113g unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp for the tins
133g caster sugar
120g plain flour, plus 1 tbsp for the tins
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp matcha
A pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp milk, at room temperature

1. Gently melt the unsalted butter. Once melted, pour into a small bowl to cool.
2. Using a large bowl add the caster sugar and salt, then sift the flour, matcha and baking powder. Whisk all the dry ingredients to combine.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until they are frothy.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until it's just combined using a spatula.
5. Gradually add half of the cool melted butter, making sure it's mixed well before adding the second half. Be careful not to overmix and mix until just blended.
6. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
7. Preheat oven to 190C fan/375F.
8. Melt the 1 tbsp butter then use a pastry brush to coat the moulds. Sift 1 tbsp plain flour over the tins, then tap to shake off any excess.
9. Fill each mould using a 1 tbsp measuring spoon, but don't smooth over the batter.
10. Bake for 8-13 minutes (original recipe says 11-13, but mine were done in 8) until the edges look done and top springs back when you light press it.
11. Remove from the oven and leave madeleines in the tin for 3 minutes. Use a fork to gently release madeleines from the tin and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.
12. Serve the madeleines slightly warm or at room temperature and dust with icing sugar if you like. They're best eaten within 24 hours, but will keep for a few days in an airtight tub. To freeze, wrap them individually in clingfilm and put in a freezer bag for upto 2 months. Defrost at room temperature.

22 September 2017

Tropical Breakfast Bars

Sometimes I like to make things that are a bit more functional than others. We can't eat macarons and cake all the time, can we? We do eat quite a few granola and cereal bars in this household and anything with oats gets my vote. Some cereal bars are healthier than others, though. The better ones tend to be very expensive and the cheaper ones bulked out with things you'd rather not have. I'm not into clean eating at all, but if I'm going to eat a cereal bar, I want a cereal bar not something as unhealthy as a chocolate bar masquerading as something healthy. Besides, I'd rather have the chocolate bar in those situations!

I first made these a couple of years ago because they were a bit like flapjacks, but low enough in fat for the gallstone sufferer of the household. They have no refined sugar in the recipe, if you're into that kind of thing. As far as I'm aware your body doesn't process refined and unrefined sugar differently, but obviously getting sweetness from dates has other benefits than sugar. They have fibre and vitamins, but I think the best thing about dates is the lovely toffee flavour you get from them. They are what makes a sticky toffee pudding great, after all.

These bars have tropical fruit, but I'd really like to try some variations in the near future. I think I'd keep the base of dates, coconut, banana and oats the same, but vary the fruit add-ins. Dried apple, sultana and cinnamon spring to mind or perhaps dried sour cherries and chocolate chips for something a bit more exciting. I suspect you might be able to substitute ground nuts for the coconut, if you really hate it, but I haven't test it. I love coconut, so it's not a problem for me and they don't dominate the final product.

They are easy to make (well, unless your stick blender dies during the process....) Cutting the fruit is quite labour intensive, but nowhere near the levels of some other recipes I've made. As well as being great for a healthy burst of energy, they can be frozen. The recipe could easily be doubled or tripled if you wanted to make a bigger batch.

Tropical bars (from Recipes From a Normal Mum)

Makes 10

1 ripe banana
150g dates
20g dessicated coconut
70ml boiling water
95g dried figs
30g dried mango
30g dried pineapple
160g oats

1. Preheat oven to 160C fan/180C and grease & line a 8"/20cm tin.
2. Roughly chop the banana and dates then put into a jug with the coconut and boiling water. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes.
3. Blend the banana, date and coconut mixture to a purée using a stick blender (be careful not to splash yourself with the hot mixture).
4. Mix together the puree, chopped fruit and oats, then press into the prepared tin.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges are starting to go brown and the top is firm to touch.
6. Remove from the tin and move to a cooling rack. Cut into 10 bars with a sharp knife.