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Monday, 15 March 2021

Cooking with Honey

I have known Carol for probably getting on for ten years now. We met because I was looking for some local honey to go into local food hampers I was putting together but we quickly became friends and I thoroughly enjoy standing on the doorstep nattering for an hour. Yes, I would invite her in but she always insists she won't stop! 

Carol's honey is an essential ingredient in my Honey & Lemon Marmalade and during February's monthly orders I sold all the stock I had of that and I could have sold more. So I emailed Carol to ask to buy another jar so that I could make a fresh batch. To my surprise she rung me up to say that she had some honey that would be suitable for cooking that I could just have.

The smell and flavour of honey varies tremenously depending on what the bees forage from. This is why Scottish Heather Honey is so prized, of course, but sometimes the foraging isn't quite so desireable. Honey foraged from ivy, for example, can have a flavour that no everyone likes. Carol didn't know what the bees had foraged on for this particular batch but it had an unusual smell that she felt some people wouldn't like and, although it tasted nice, she thought a customer opening a jar and getting that aroma might be put off.

A short while later she dropped off half a bucket of the honey and said I was welcome to have it for cooking. She also gave me a sample of some flapjacks she had made with it to demonstrate that the flavour wasn't unusual when used in cooking.

With good quality honey being a relatively expensive commodity, I was excited to have a larger than expected quantity available to me and an invitation to use it in cooking. Normally I would use a cheap supermarket honey in cooking and even then be fairly sparing with it.

I sniffed it and tasted it and, although I could see Carol's point about the smell being slightly odd, it wasn't unpleasant. In fact, it reminded me of the complex floral notes you get when sniffing real ale. From my experience with that I know that what I can smell bears very little resemblance to the flavours I taste, and so it was with the honey, which was very mild and just generally pleasant.

Happy with my tests, I used some to make the batch of Honey and Lemon Marmlade. After that it was time to experiment. 

The first new recipe was steamed honey puddings for dessert on Saturday. I made individual puddings that we served with custard and it was a delightful, light sponge.

On Monday, whilst my youngest daughter filled some time before her return to school, she made a honey cake to refill the cake tin for the week. We ate a slice in the afternoon as a snack. It was a little underdone in the middle, which was my fault as I had judged it cooked. However, the gooey middle was like a sticky sauce, similar to the "sauce" in a chocolate fondant. Later, when I came back from a walk to the postbox, my eldest asked what the cake was. She'd had helped herself to a slice whilst I was out and had puzzled over the flavour as it was almost like a ginger cake but she had liked it, unlike ginger cake. It is true, the complex flavours in the cake are deceptive, and suggest that a subtle combination of spices were used. She also said that the gooey middle was the best bit!

On Thursday I made some honey biscuits to have with my elevenses and for my husband to enjoy was his after dinner cup of tea. These proved to be soft and chewy, again with hard to pindown flavours.  Over dinner my eldest told me she liked the biscuits I had made, which puzzled me as I didn't know she had tried one. Turns out that she had seen the photo I had posted onto Instagram and had fancied eating one, then gone into the kitchen whilst I had been answering the door! 

After that she asked if I could made some honey flapjacks - nice thick and properly sweet ones, not like the "healthy" ones I often make. So on Friday afternoon I whipped up a batch of flapjacks too! 

Wow! What a sweet week but a lovely week of experimenting and creating.

Individual Steamed Honey Puddings 

(makes 6)

100g plus 12 tsp honey
100g unsalted butter, softened.
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
110g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder

Butter 6 mini pudding basins. Put two teaspoons of the honey into the bottom of each pudding basin. Cream together the butter and sugar then stir in the 100g of honey and then the eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and stir well until a smooth batter in formed. Divide the mixture evenly between the six pudding basins. Put the lids loosely on the basins or cover with foil then stack on a trivet inside a pressure cooker, with two cups of water in the base. Put the lid on and bring to pressure then cook for 40 minutes. Leave for the pressure to release naturally then remove the puddings to cool. When ready to serve, reheat in the oven for 30 seconds for each pudding and serve with hot custard.

Honey Cake

250g honey plus extra for glazing
225g unsalted butter
100 dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
300g self-raising flour

In a pan, melt together the butter, honey and sugar over a low heat. Once melted, increase the heat and boil for 1 minute then set aside and leave to cool for 20 minutes. Preheat then oven to 170°C and line a circular cake tin. Pour the cooled mixture into a large bowl then beat in the eggs. Add the flour and stir until it forms a smooth batter. Pour into the cake tin then bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so then turn out onto a wire rack. Glaze the top of the cake with honey until sticky. 

Honey Biscuits (makes 10-12)

100g unsalted butter, softened
50g light brown sugar
25g caster sugar
2 tbsp of honey
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mixed spice
150g self-raising flour
30g oatbran

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet. Cream together the butter and the sugars then mix in the honey and the egg yolk. Add the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Use an ice-cream scoop to remove a ball of dough then place it on the baking tray. Don’t squash it flat. Repeat with the rest of the dough then bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Honey flapjacks (makes 12)

200g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
200g honey
400g oats
Pinch of salt
50g sunflower/pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 20 by 30 cm tin. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar and honey. Remove from the heat and add the oats, salt and seeds. Stir well then spoon into the tin and level out. Bake for 15 minutes then turn out the oven and leave for another 5 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and cut out 12 bars then leave to cool in the tin.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Over ripe Bananas

Normally I buy 5 bananas a week and my youngest eats one banana every day at break when at school. I know that it became a bit of a joke during Lockdown 1 that everyone was making sourdough and banana bread, but I just stopped buying bananas and we didn't have any over ripe bananas to worry about. However, in Lockdown 3, my daughter decided to make herself elaborate breakfasts of chopped fruit in natural yoghurt, flavoured with vanilla extract and maple syrup. As such, I bought different combinations of fruit each week, including blueberries, nectarines, grapes, melon and bananas.

My husband likes a banana too... occasionally. Mostly he doesn't eat bananas and then suddenly he will fancy one - particularly if the bananas in the fruit bowl are the perfect ripeness for his tastes. This, as you might imagine, is hard to cater for. When I only buy 5 bananas during school times, he knows that if he eats one our daughter will go without at break time. However, if I buy extra, especially for him, he may not fancy one at all during the time that they are in the fruit bowl.

One week recently, I bought five bananas and he decided he fancied eating bananas again, so that week we had eaten all the bananas before the end of the week. As such, the following week I decided to buy 10 bananas... but that week he didn't really fancy any and then they went overly brown and he definitely doesn't like an overripe banana - or banana bread for that matter.

As you can imagine, it has been very hard to buy the correct number of bananas during Lockdown 3 and as such I have had over ripe bananas to deal with on numerous occasions. Yeah, I have a banana bread recipe but I don't make that very often because I have other recipes I prefer - banana and fudge yoghurt cake, banana and carrot cake, banana and maple muffins, chocolate banana loaf cake, and so on. Usefully the muffins and the yoghurt cake freeze particularly well so I can make them before the bananas go completely to mush and freeze them for another day regardless of what we already have in the cake tin.

In fact, in the middle of last week, my daughter made a chocolate banana loaf cake using three over ripe bananas, leaving 2 in the fruit bowl, demanding attention. As we already had the chocolate cake to be eating, I figured I would make a banana and mincemeat loaf cake at the weekend and stick it in the freezer until the chocolate cake was finished. 

It seemed a particularly useful recipe because it would also get the half a jar of mincemeat off the work surface that had been knocking around since Christmas. So that's what I did, except I forgot to freeze it and two days later we had finished the chocolate cake anyway so we went straight on to eating the mincemeat one. Probably just as well, as I still have 24 muffins and a loaf cake in the freezer anyway!

Banana & Mincemeat Loaf Cake

150g unsalted butter, softened
90g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
Pinch of salt
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
150g mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 2lb loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time. Put in the dry ingredients, then the bananas and the mincemeat then give it a thorough stir until well combined. Spoon into the tin and bake for 1 hour. Test with a skewer and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Banana Loaf Cake

3 over ripe bananas
3 eggs
100ml sunflower oil
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate chips

40g softened butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 160°C and line a 2lb loaf tin. Put the mashed bananas, eggs and oil into a large bowl. Add 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks to the mixture in the bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the two egg whites until stiff. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in the large bowl and combine until just mixed. Fold in the egg whites. Spoon into the loaf tin and backe for 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. In the meantime, make the butter icing with the butter, remaining cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Once the cake is cool, thinly ice the top of the cake with the butter icing. 

Carrot & Banana Cake

150g sunflower oil
150g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g sultanas
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
100g carrots, grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease and line the bottom of a 20cm square tin. Add all the ingredients in the order listed, stirring where appropriate. Once completely combined, spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Banana & Fudge Yoghurt Cake

2 pots of self-raising flour
1/2 pot of light muscovado sugar
1/2 pot of sunflower oil
1 pot of natural yoghurt
2 eggs
4 tsp maple syrup
1 over ripe banana
50g vanilla fudge, cut into small pieces

For this recipe you will need a 120g pot of natural yoghurt and then you will need to use the yoghurt pot as the measure. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 2lb loaf tin. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Spoon the batter into a loaf tin and bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

Banana & Maple Muffins (makes 12)

115g softened butter
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
225g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 190°C and put paper cases into a muffin tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the syrup. Stir in the bananas. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon into paper muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.