Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries

Molasses Bread is one of the many recipes featured on The Recipe Wheel, an ingenious cookbook by Rosie Ramsden which "explores recipe ideas visually". Each of the ten chapters has its own recipe wheel; at the centre of each wheel lies a basic recipe and technique. It can be bread, soup, risotto, sponge cake, custard, etc. From these cores stem new, more complex recipe ideas like Barley risotto with chestnut and savoy, three-tier vanilla raspberry cake or rhubarb treacle creme brûlée.

I was approached by the publishers at Random House to take part to their bloggers' Recipe Wheel challenge and use one of the core ingredients listed in the book (bread) in an inventive way.

Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries

From the cookbook I chose the Molasses Bread recipe, a 'no frills' bread that makes deliciously sweet and dense slices of toast.

I adapted it by replacing the white bread flour with rolled outs (which I soaked in boiling water first, then left to cool down).

The result is an aromatic and soft bread, with a smooth caramel flavour given by the molasses, a natural sweetener made from raw sugar cane.

Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries
Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries
Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries

For the Recipe Wheel challenge I prepared slices of Molasses Oatmeal Bread with almond butter and fresh strawberries, a great combination I discovered a few weeks ago and has become one of my summer favourites.

I have gradually replaced peanut butter with almond butter for breakfast, as I find it lighter and easier to digest. But I still can't get used to the taste when eaten on its own on a slice of bread; I find it very dry and often add a teaspoon of damson or raspberry jam. Adding fresh strawberries is a healthy alternative: more vitamins and less sugar!

Try this pairing of almond butter and strawberries on a slice of Molasses Oatmeal Bread as an exciting breakfast idea!

Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries
Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 7g (1 sachet) dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 3 tbsp molasses sugar
  • 250g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • oil, for greasing

 

Preparation

Mix the yeast with a tablespoon of warm water and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes to fizz and froth.

In a small bowl, add the oats and pour over the boiling water. Mix once to combine the ingredients. Leave it to cool down.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and sprinkle the salt to one side. Push the flour to the sides of the bowl to form a well in the centre. Pour in the warm yeast mixture and slowly fold in the flour. Add the oat mixture and the molasses.

Once combined, bring the dough on to a lightly oiled surface to knead. Do this for 10 minutes, until the dough feels soft and begins to bounce back when you press it with a finger.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm, then set aside for two hours in a warm place or overnight in the fridge until is has almost doubled in size.

Bring the dough back on to an oiled surface and knead again for five minutes. Gently form it into a ball shape, gently folding the sides of the dough under itself. Replace in the oiled bowl, folds facing down, and leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/fan 210°C. When the dough has had time to prove and rise, gently tip it, without knocking the air out, on to a floured baking tray, and score the top of the dough a few times with a sharp knife. Slide into the oven. Throw a glassfull of water into the bottom of the oven to help a good crust develop and shut the door.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.

Molasses Oatmeal Bread with Almond Butter & Strawberries

See all the contributions to the Recipe Wheel bloggers' challenge on Happy Foodie!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Recipe Wheel book from Random House group.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

I'm pretty sure this is the longest title I've ever used for a recipe! I found this amazing recipe on Top With Cinnamon blog and I made a double batch of the cookies on Saturday. They went down a storm at my friends' barbecue party and I have enough left at home to keep me going for the rest of the week! :)

Top With Cinnamon is a beautiful baking blog by 18 year old Londoner Izy. I started following this food blogger on Instagram a year ago, but only recently I discovered how young she was. I couldn't believe it at first, and I mean this as a compliment, because her baking and photography skills are so advanced that I just assumed she had many years of experience behind her!

Unsurprisingly, Izy won the Best Baking & Desserts Blog award at the Saveur Food Blog Awards 2014, an incredible achievement for a UK blogger and one she truly deserved one hundred percent!

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

Let's talk about these cookies! The original recipe developed by Izy is made with fresh basil and verbena leaves, but she also suggests substituting the latter with lemon zest, as I did.

I adjusted the plain/wholemeal flour and white/brown sugar ratios based on what I had available at home and I doubled the doses as I wanted to make A LOT of cookies (so glad I did)! After I finished mixing all the ingredients I found the cookie dough to be a bit too crumbly, so I added an extra egg (that's 3 eggs for a double batch).

I used dark bitter chocolate with no sugar that my mum bought in Mexico. Because of this strong bitter taste, I decided to bake the second cookie batch without sea salt and I preferred that version. However if you are using sweet or semi-sweet chocolate chunks, then the sea salt creates a nice flavour contrast.

As with any recipe, experiment with ingredients, doses and baking times to find the perfect combination that is right FOR YOU.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

Ingredients

(for about 20-24 cookies)

  • 4 tbsp fresh basil leaves
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 140g butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 115g plain flour
  • 115g wholemeal flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g white sugar
  • 140g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sea salt sprinkling (I used Maldon)
  • 1 egg
  • 200g bittersweet dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the roughly chopped basil and lemon zest. Heat continuously it on medium heat until it foams up and smells nutty, then stir in the vanilla extract. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then strain it through a sieve to remove the basil and zest.

In a stand mixer or a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Pour in the cooled butter and beat until the dry ingredients are completely mixed. Add the egg and mix in for a few seconds.

Chop the chocolate and add it to the cookie dough. Gently mix with a spoon until the chocolate chunks are well distributed.

Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, take out some of the dough and roll it in your hands to create a round ball. Place it onto a cookie tray lined with baking paper, spacing them 3cm apart. Repeat with all of the cookie dough. Put in the fridge for at least one hour before baking.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

Take the cookies out of the fridge and sprinkle them with a pinch of sea salt flakes. Bake for 8 minutes or until the cookies have set edges and a soft centre.

Leave to cool on the baking tray until the chocolate is set, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool down completely. Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Basil Brown Butter & Sea Salt

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

This month I have been invited to take part to a 'Recipe Challenge' in collaboration with Westfield London to promote their We Are Dining campaign.

The campaign, which started on the 20th of January and will run until the end of February, supports the many restaurants, cafés and food counters open inside the Shepherd's Bush shopping centre. As part of the promotion, Westfield is offering exclusive vouchers to use in the centre and recipes to recreate your favourite restaurants' dishes.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

We’ve got something for everyone at Westfield London. With over 60 places to eat and drink, visit Westfield London to discover some of the most delectable tastes from around the world. Whether for a quick lunch or shopping and dinner, with offerings from Italian to Malaysian, Japanese to American, and Mexican to the British classics there is sure to be something you’ll love.

Official Website

Having spent many hours shopping in Westfield centres in London, I have had the opportunity to try out different food options. From the coffee and eggs royale at Grind, or the frozen yogurt at Snog and Pinkberry to the burgers at Byron, from the chicken souvlaki at The Real Greek to the Neapolitan pizza at Franco Manca. The food and drink choices at Westfield London and Stratford are both varied and good.

My challenge as part of the We Are Dining campaign was to try a dish from one of the Westfield restaurants and recreate it at home, trying my best to beat the original of course. I decided to recreate one of the cupcakes from the Buttercup Cake Shop.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Buttercup is a cupcake shop which opened in Kensington seven years ago and now also has two shops inside the Westfield centres. They sell fresh and hand-made cupcakes prepared with the finest ingredients.

At the counter in Westfield London the shop assistant assembled the cupcake in front of me, adding the frosting to the cake as soon as I placed the order. Their website says: "the person helping you will always be a cake enthusiast". Just like the Buttercup Cake Shop founder Donna Egan!

I loved their "Elvis Presley" cupcake: banana cake with a peanut butter buttercream, topped with roasted peanuts.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

My two objectives when making the Buttercup Cake Shop "Elvis Presley" cupcakes at home were: recreating the original flavours and matching their style.

The difficult part of the taste-matching was finding the right balance between sweet (of the banana cakes) and salty (of the peanut butter frosting). Let's say I tasted a good amount of frosting as I was making it, adding more peanut butter or cream as needed.

The other task – recreating the look – was also challenging as I consider cake decoration to be my Achilles' heel. Despite attending a fantastic cupcake decoration workshop, I lack the patience to handle a piping bag properly and carefully.

Overall though I think I did a good job! My cupcakes taste really good and maybe with a lot of practice I could one day beat the originals. :)

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients

For the banana cakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 5 small ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 large eggs (yolks and whites separated)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the peanut butter frosting

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup double cream

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter. Add the mashed bananas and egg yolks, and mix. Add the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gently fold them into the cake batter. Fill paper cake cases and bake for around 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool down completely.

Make the frosting by beating together the peanut butter and vanilla extract. Add the icing sugar, mixing on low. Once all the sugar is combined, add half of the cream. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining cream if needed and beat until fluffy.

Fill a piping bag with frosting and decorate the banana cakes. Add two or three peanuts on top to complete the decoration.

Disclaimer: This post was done in collaboration with Westfield. All views are my own.

Milk Bread Loaf

With the new year, I have taken up a new routine of baking a loaf of milk bread every week.

It all started on Christmas day, when I used The Little Loaf recipe to make a loaf to serve during lunch. I have made bread many times before, but I never found a recipe so good and so foolproof, like this one. I love milk bread and I think it is perfect to have for breakfast!

Milk Bread Loaf
Milk Bread Loaf

So a few days later I made it again, but this time I didn't have enough bread flour left in my pantry, so I added some kamut flour I had bought to make gingerbread cookies.

The result was great, the kamut flour adding nuttiness to the bread!

I have been making this bread every week ever since, mixing 50% of strong white bread flour with 50% of kamut flour. I usually make the bread without sesame seeds on top, but that's just a personal preference.

Milk Bread Loaf

We love this bread so much, it has now become our breakfast of choice (with a thick layer of jam, peanut butter or Speculoos spread)!

Milk Bread Loaf

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white bread flour

  • 250g kamut flour

  • 10g salt

  • 25g caster sugar

  • 10g dry yeast

  • 30g unsalted butter, softened

  • 320ml warm full fat milk

Preparation

Tip the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the softened butter and three quarters of the milk then bring the dough together with your fingertips. Slowly add the rest of the milk to bring the dough together.

Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for five to ten minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky.

Milk Bread Loaf

Roll into a ball then leave in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel or cling film until doubled in size. This should take an hour or so.

Brush a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin with a little olive oil. Tip your risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back the air by folding inward repeatedly on itself. Form the dough into an oblong by flattening it out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Roll the whole lot up so that the top is smooth with the joint running along the base then put into the prepared tin. Slash the top lengthways then brush with a little water.

Milk Bread Loaf

Cover the tin with a tea towel and leave to prove for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 210 °C.

Bake the loaf for 25 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Milk Bread Loaf

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Lately, my Pinterest feeds have been invaded by pumpkin-related recipes: soups, curries, pies, cupcakes…it doesn’t stop! I noticed that here in UK or in US (unlike Italy) pumpkins and squashes are a very traditional autumn vegetable, used in savoury and sweet dishes. As far as I know and experienced at home in Italy, pumpkins (zucche) are used mainly in soups, pasta and risotto, so the idea of using pumpkin in baking got me very curious and I decided to give it try over the weekend.

Here are my Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting: an official welcome to the autumn season.

All the recipes I found required canned pumpkin puree; not just any type, specifically Libby’s Pumpkin Puree. While searching for this product online, I stumbled upon a recipe for Pumpkin and Cinnamon Cupcakes by Maison Cupcake.

In her blog, Sarah explains that pumpkin puree can be found in London in selected branches of Waitrose (or online at Ocado) only in this time of the year, ie. in the leading up to Halloween. Unfortunately my local Waitrose didn’t have it and a trip to Wholefoods in Clapham also proved unsuccessful. I finally found Libby’s pumpkin puree in a different branch of Waitrose, for only £1.36 a can (450g).

I used Maison Cupcake recipe to bake Pumpkin Cupcakes last Friday evening. I prefer to take photos of my recipes in day light, so I waited until the next morning to make the frosting and decorate the cakes. The cupcakes looked so pretty without the frosting, and smelled so good, that we couldn’t resist having one for breakfast! ;) After tasting the cake, me and my husband agreed that it would pair well with chocolate, so I made a last minute decision to replace the cinnamon buttercream of the original recipe with a chocolate frosting.

The end result was good, although the chocolate was covering up too much of the pumpkin taste. Also, I found that the pumpkin puree makes the cakes very moist and thick, so in my opinion it doesn’t work well for cupcakes, which should be soft and airy. Perhaps this recipe would work better to make a cake, with crushed nuts to add texture and served with a mascarpone cream to enhance the pumpkin flavours! :) Nonetheless, these cupcakes tasted very nice and made for a nice treat to have over the weekend.

Ingredients

Makes around 18 small cupcakes.

* 110g unsalted butter, softened
* 240g soft light brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 75g canned pumpkin puree
* 125g self-raising flour, sifted
* 120g plain flour, sifted
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp ground ginger
* 110ml milk
* juice of half lemon

For the frosting

* 85g unsalted butter, softened
* 400g icing sugar
* 40ml milk (additional milk if required)
* 25g unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tray with cupcake paper cases.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree until combined. Add ground cinnamon and ginger.

In a small jug, stir the lemon juice into the milk (for the cake mix).

Sift one-third of the flour over the cake batter and stir until combined. Add half of the lemon juice/milk mixture. Add another third of the flour, then the second half of the lemon juice/milk and finally the last third of the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling them to two-thirds full. If using full size muffin cases, bake for 25 minutes; for smaller cases, bake for around 18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool down in the tray, before transferring them to a wire rack.

To make the chocolate frosting, cream together the butter and cocoa powder. Add half of the icing sugar and mix until well incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla, beat until well mixed and then add the remaining sugar. Add extra milk if required.

When the cupcakes have cool down completely, decorate them with chocolate frosting, using a piping bag.

The Full English Breakfast

When in Somerset last weekend, we spent 3 nights in a clean, pretty and well-equipped caravan overlooking the Bristol Channel. I would have loved to stay in a B&B, but we chose the caravan to save money and to be able to cook our own meals in the evening.

My mum was looking forward to this mini-trip to the countryside to eat a Full English for breakfast, but staying in the caravan meant no one was there to cook it for us! So we took the matter to our hands and decided to make our own Full English!

I didn’t follow any particular recipe: I simply bought the ingredients and let my mum do the cooking. We are Italian and this was the first time we cooked an English breakfast, so I don’t pretend it to be authentic*. But, having eaten a fair share of Full English in the past 6 years, I can say that this one tasted good and looked great too!

I am sharing our own recipe here, but you can also refer to other online recipes, such as these ones by Jamie Oliver and BBC Good Food.

We bought the sausages, bacon and eggs from the Somerset Farmhouse shop in Williton, as I wanted to make sure we were using fresh, good quality and local produce.

Ingredients
Serves 4 people

* 4 pork sausages
* 8 rashers of dry cured back bacon
* 6 free range eggs
* 300gr mushrooms
* 8 tomatoes
* 1 tin of baked beans
* 4 slices of granary bread
* salted butter
* garlic
* fresh parsley
* olive oil

If you are vegetarian, you can use vegetarian sausages.

Preparation

Clean the mushrooms with a wet cloth (don’t wash them under water as they would love the flavour). Slice them thinly. Heat a pan with garlic and olive oil, add the mushrooms and stir regularly for about 20 minutes. Mushroom release water, so close the pan with a lid to let the water evaporate. When cooked, add chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

In a frying pan with olive oil, cook the sausages for about 10 minutes and the bacon for about 5 minutes, until crispy. For a healthier version, you can cook them in the grill without using the oil.

Cut the tomatoes in half, sprinkle with salt, place on the grill rack and cook for about 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, pour the beans into a saucepan and simmer gently until they are hot, but not overcooked.

Cook the eggs fried or scrambled to suit your taste. Toast the bread, cut each slice in half diagonally, spread with butter.

Finally, arrange everything together on a plate and serve with a cup of English Breakfast Tea.

* We decided not to have black pudding and hash browns.

Banana and Peanut Butter Muffins

I can’t believe I have already reached recipe n. 7 of my Food for Runners series!

Last month, I set myself the challenge of trying a new recipe a week for 10 weeks to support my fiance’s marathon training. So far, I have experimented with breakfast ideas like porridge smoothie and bagels, snacks like granola bars, post-run meals like chicken burgers, prawn and asparagus stir-fry and caramelised onions couscous.

For today’s recipe I have prepared Banana and Peanut Butter Muffins, taken from Runners World magazine.

These muffins provide a delicious pre-run energy boost and have less than 200 calories per portion, against the 400 of your average Starbucks muffin.

Ingredients

* 200g self raising flour
* 25g oats
* 75g light brown muscovado sugar
* 3 medium ripe bananas
* 100g crunchy peanut butter
* 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
* 25g melted butter
* 125ml semi skimmed milk

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.

Mix the flour with the oats and sugar. In a separate bowl mash the banana and mix in the peanut butter, eggs, butter and milk. Add the flour mixture.

Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20′ or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.