Breakfast in a cookie: oatmeal, raisins and goji berries

Breakfast cookiesI was having a bit of a cold and getting tired of all the chicken soup, so I needed to take action. In oriental cuisine, the tart goji berries are used against colds (in chicken soup, but also in tea, cookies…) so I decided to make some cookies with them. I wanted something a bit “healthy” as well, so I thought rolled oats would do just the trick! I went ahead and adapted the Oat and Raisin Cookie recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook to my liking. Here’s how:

Preheat the oven to 170°C and mix 135 g unsalted butter (at room temperature) with 160 g brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg and a few drops of vanilla extract and mix well. Stir in 190 g plain flour1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda1/4 teaspoon mixed spice (the recipe calls for cinnamon, but I think it easily overpowers and I’m a bit tired of the taste) and 55 g rolled oats (you can still use your electric mixer at this point). Now stir in 80 g raisins and 40 g goji berries (or cranberries – you can also use all raisins of course or even add chocolate chunks) until evenly dispersed. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange equal amounts of dough on the tray (I roll a golfball size ball in my hand and then squish it a bit on the tray). Make sure to space them apart as they will spread while baking. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and firm. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Tastes delicious for a whole week! Enjoy while listening to I feel better by Gotye.

Use up left-over rolled oats in apple and oatmeal cookies. Use up raisins (and goji berries, cranberries…) in bread pudding or rum-raisin cookies.

Quick and tasty: Mechels cakes

Mechels cakesI haven’t been blogging regularly lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking! I’m in the middle of preparing a move (boxes everywhere) so I don’t always find the time to write everything down… Also, I’m going for fast and easy recipes now, and this is definitely one of them!

I’m getting into a phase where I’m getting more confident in baking and I’m starting to try my own variations or twists. This is such a recipe and with it comes the difficulty of finding a name! As it the shape and concept of Eccles cakes but with a more Belgian content, I opted for “Mechels cakes” as I will soon be living in Mechelen anyway (@Sophie, we’re moving in six weeks, so we should definitely go for a coffee once we’re settled in!) so it seemed like a nice reference. Luckily, not only the name sounds good, they tasted great as well (otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe of course). This time we didn’t have any leftovers for family or colleagues…

Here’s how to make it: in a small saucepan, heat 50 g raisins with 20 g dark rum and 40 g water. Put the lid on and allow to simmer for 20 min, then drain. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Chop 1 apple in small pieces and mix it with the drained raisins, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, the crushed seeds of 4 cardamom pods and 3 cloves, a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of ground nutmeg. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add 1 tbsp sugar as well.

Take a roll of shop-bought puff pastry and cut 8 cm circles from it (if you buy pastry in a block, roll it out to 2-3 mm thickness). Put a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the disks, brush the sides with beaten egg or water and bring the edges together into the centre, ‘wrapping up’ the filling. Turn the discs over, seam side down, and flatten them slightly by hand or with a rolling pin. Place on a baking tray slightly spaced apart, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Make three incisions with a knife (about 1 cm long) and bake in the oven for 20 min or until golden brown (if you added sugar, the raisins and sugar will caramelise through the holes). Allow to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy while listening to Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5. Use up leftover filling in bread pudding or in cookies.

A family favourite: bread pudding

Bread puddingI really love this recipe and it’s a great way to use up any leftover and stale bread. I grew up on this and it’s one of the first desserts I learned how to make myself. It’s really easy, very delicious and it keeps very well too, so you can enjoy it all week! You can vary the fruit to your liking as well.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Put 200 g sugar and 1/2 l milk in a bowl and heat for 3 min in the microwave. Meanwhile, tear up 300 g stale bread in another bowl (you can use white bread, brown bread, or a mix of whatever you have lying around – as you will soak it, it cannot be too fresh). Give the milk a stir to dissolve most of the sugar and pour it over the bread. Leave to soak for a few minutes while you cut 1 apple into small pieces. I usually add some dried prunes as well. If you have a pear, it works too and you can add candied peel if you prefer. Mush the bread mix with a fork until you get a thick consistency (you don’t have to be very precise). Add the diced fruit along with 50 g raisins, a pinch of cinnamon, a splash of rum and a bag of vanilla sugar (10 g – you could add the seeds of a vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract instead as well). Mix 5 eggs and pour into the bread mix as well. Give everything a good stir and pour in a 20 cm round spring form lined with baking paper. Put in the oven for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this hot, with some vanilla ice, or cold (with or without custard). It’s very moist so it will easily keep for a week. Enjoy while listening to We Are Family by Sister Sledge.

Tip: make it gluten-free by replacing the bread by gluten-free bread.

Use up leftover raisins in rum-raisin cookies, carrot cake or an apricot and marzipan twist.

A great gift: rum-raisin cookies

rum-raisin cookiesA great gift to yourself that is 🙂 These are absolutely delicious! I found the recipe in the Oxfam Christmas catalogue. I always browse it as it’s full of great gift ideas, and this year it also contained a few recipes (for which you can buy most ingredients in their store of course). When I say this one, I knew it was a winner straight away! I made it as a gift for my great-uncle, but after tasting them (as you can see in the picture, the “chef’s cookie” is already missing from action), I decided to keep quite a few for myself too… sooooo good!

Here’s how to make them: heat 150 g raisins in a mixture of 120 g water and 60 gram dark rum until it’s almost boiling. Leave to simmer for 30 min until almost all the liquid is gone. Pour through a sieve and leave to cool for 30 min.

Heat the oven to 180 C. Mix 120 g softened butter with 150 g light muscovado sugar (I used the one you need for Mojitos but I’m sure it will work with regular sugar as well) until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg and mix until fully incorporated. Stir in a pinch of salt followed by 250 g self-raising flour in 5 batches. You may need to do this by hand for the final batches. Finally, add the raisins and mix for another 30 seconds (or use your hands again). Put balls of the dough on a prepared baking sheet and flatten them a little with your hand. Bake for 12-15 min until the edges are light brown. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 min before transferring to a wire-rack to cool completely. A great gift alongside a bottle of rum, if you still want to give them away after tasting them that is! Enjoy!

A British classic: carrot cake

Carrot cakeNot quite sure if it is actually British, but it surely isn’t a Belgian classic! I discovered this cake on my visits to London and became a big fan, so it was about time to give it a go. I decided to try Rachel Allen‘s recipe from her cookbook Bake which seemed to use most of the ingredients I expected to find in it.

Preheat the oven to 150 C and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl, then add 140 ml vegetable oil, 200 g soft brown sugar, 300 grated carrots, 100 g raisins and 75 g chopped nuts (use pecans or walnuts, or leave them out if you’re not a fan). Now add the dry ingredients: 180 g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and 1/2 tsp mixed spice and mix with a wooden or metal spoon to bring the mixture together.

Pour the mixture in the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 h – 1h15 until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 min before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. You can already serve it like this, or you can add a layer of cream cheese icing.

For the icing, beat 250 g cream cheese (straight from the fridge) and 50 g softened butter  in a bowl until combined. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 275 g icing sugar and the zest of 1 orange and mix to combine. The icing should be smooth and quite thick. Make sure the butter is softened by leaving it a room temperature for a while. This time, don’t soften it in the microwave, because it will be slightly melted which is too soft. Also, this is the recipe if you use regular cream cheese (like philadelphia), which has a good consistency. If, like me, you decide to go for a tastier option by using De Brabander (by Campina) cheese, only use half the amount stated in the recipe because it’s quite runny. I’m talking from experience here, my icing ran faster then Usain Bolt! If yours is too runny, just put it in the fridge for a while to stiffen. If that doesn’t work, add more icing sugar until you reach the right consistency (you may want to add a squeeze of lemon juice as well). If, on the other hand, yours is too hard, don’t be tempted to loosen it with water or more cheese. Just dip your knife in a bowl of hot water before spreading it out. Enjoy!

Cookie monster

Oat and raisin cookies

I love cookies because they last so long. You can bake a batch over the weekend and then take a couple to work everyday and you have a great dessert all week!

These are the Oat and Raisin Cookies from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. Because of the rolled oats in it, I can fool myself into thinking they are healthy (or at least healthier than anything chocolaty).

Here’s how to make a small batch: preheat the oven to 170°C (fan or electric) and mix 135 g unsalted butter (at room temperature) with 160 g caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg and a few drops of vanilla extract and mix well. In another bowl, stir together 190 g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 55 g rolled oats (don’t bother to sift the flour, just stir well to avoid big chunks). Add this to the butter mix and mix well (you can still use your electric mixer at this point). Now stir in 110 g raisins until evenly dispersed. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange equal amounts of dough on the tray (I roll a golfball size ball in my hand and then squish it a bit on the tray). Make sure to space them apart as they will spread while baking. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and firm. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Tastes delicious for a whole week!