The blog has become quite a foodie one recently as I seem to have done quite a bit of baking both with and without Andrew, and of course there was the Shrove Tuesday pancake fest! Last week we went to our local National Trust house and gardens, Anglesey Abbey, for the umpteenth time since we’ve lived here. We never tire of its beautiful gardens, where Andrew can run around or ride his bike, and the spacious cafe never fails to entice us in for a cuppa and cake. It wouldn’t be a NT location without a gorgeous selection of cakes – the only trouble is you have to decide which one, and that inevitably leads to me holding up the queue of other cake pilgrims awaiting their turn to deliberate as I um and err and um again and err a bit more! And I can’t forget the kids’ play table, a veritable treasure trove of books, toys, crayons and other random paraphernalia that keeps Andrew amused for hours, and there are even two, count them TWO, toy Brum cars from his favourite TV programme.
After much deliberation, last week I went for a Bakewell flapjack as my cake. It was, as you might guess, a cross between a Bakewell tart and a flapjack – a pastry base with jam on, but for the filling there was an almond flavoured flapjack instead of an almond flavoured sponge. I wasn’t disappointed, it was amazing (not that a NT cake has ever failed to deliver for me). So this week, instead of baking one of my usual flapjack recipes (blogged about here and here) to replenish my snack box – all in the name of breastfeeding of course – I made my own Bakewell flapjack inspired by the NT one. The base is a basic crunchy suet pastry, which I filled with strawberry jam and almond flapjack. It was simple to make and turned out really well; dare I say it, was good enough to rival the one that inspired it. Not that I’m planning on competing with the NT – I would surely fail.
Here’s the recipe if you fancy having a go yourself…..
100g self-raising flour
50g vegetable suet
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp almond essence
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (fan) and prepare a round cake tin or tart dish by greasing it.
First make the pastry, by mixing the flour and suet together in a bowl, then add some cold water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together into a dough ball.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to just a bit bigger than your tin/dish, and put the dough circle into the tin/dish, pressing it into the corner where base meets side.
Spoon some jam onto the base and spread around until evenly distributed and generously thick.
Then make a start on the flapjack, by melting the margarine, sugar and honey in the microwave.
Add the oats and almond essence and stir until well combined.
Pour the flapjack mix onto the base and spread around until it’s all covered.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into slices.
I’m no good at lying, so here I am being honest about the fact that these delicious ‘crumblies’ I made started out in my head as shortbread biscuits. They look or feel nothing like shortbread, but they taste just as good if not better, because they have that lovely ‘melt in the mouth’ quality, they just crumble as (but not before) you bite them. Hence the name change to ‘crumblies’. It was always my intention to make half chocolate dough and half almond dough, and then make square biscuits with a contrasting-coloured heart in the centre. If you use your imagination, you can just about see this plan worked for the chocolate squares with almond hearts, but the almond squares with chocolate hearts were a bit of a flop (or a run if you like) – in appearance that is, but not taste. Oh how I wish I could post samples so that readers would believe me.
I suspect part of the reason why the dough ran so much (unlike the firmness of shortbread) was that I used all cornflour. I used to make shortbread with half cornflour, half plain flour; I expected that using all cornflour would make them more fragile and crumbly, but I didn’t expect the dough to go so runny whilst cooking and therefore lose the shape of my hearts. My inspiration for doing this cornflour thing was seeing gluten-free shortbread on sale at a tea-room I visited with my mum-in-law who is wheat/gluten-intolerant; so I thought I’d have a go at another wheat-free recipe with her in mind. The results are not bad. The perfectionist inside me is annoyed that they don’t look so pretty, but the time-pressed realistic mum inside me has come to accept that as long as they taste good (which they do, did I mention that?!), that’s all that matters. If you fancy having a go at these yourself, here’s how I did it.
125g corn flour
125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
60g icing sugar
few drops almond essence
45g cocoa powder
80g corn flour
125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
60g icing sugar
Start with the almond dough (so you can use the same bowl for the chocolate one – think about it, the other way round and you’d get brown bits in your yellow dough). Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with a metal spoon.
Add the cornflour and almond essence and combine until you get a thick pasty dough. As it gets thicker, use your hands to bring it together into a ball.
On a large flat surface, sprinkle some cornflour. Roll out the dough until about 1cm thick. (I suspect that making it thicker would have been better.) Cut out some squares with a biscuit cutter, until you’ve used all the dough.
From each square, cut out a small heart using a biscuit cutter. I got mine from Hobbycraft back in 2008 (I know the date because I got them to cut out hearts from card for the orders of service at our wedding!)
Place the squares (minus hearts) on a greaseproof-paper-lined baking tray. Put the hearts to one side.
Do the same with the chocolate dough. Cream butter and sugar, then add cornflour and cocoa powder.
When you have a tray of almond and a tray of chocolate squares, place the opposite type of dough heart into the heart-shaped holes in the squares.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C for 10-12 minutes. When you take them out they will still be quite soft.
Allow to cool on the trays and they will become firm. Once cooled and firm, remove from the trays and store in an air-tight box.
The chocolate taste is nicely strong and not too sweet, which contrasts well with the sweeter almond taste. So if you’re more in the mood for something chocolately with a hint of sweetness, I’d recommend one from the ‘good’ option, and if you’re more up for a sweet bite with a bit of chocolate thrown in, I’d go for the ‘ugly’ but still yummy option. My willing tasters (aka my boys) approve, which is reassuring to know. I’d be more than happy to get suggestions of why it went so runny, other than the cornflour. I’m a bit of an experimental baker; sometimes things go right, sometimes wrong, but I don’t know much of the science behind why something went wrong unless it’s obvious like I left out a key ingredient by mistake.