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THE SWEET STUFF

While pregnant with Billie my desire to bake returned, with a vengeance. For the first time since I was in school my attention turned to baking.

First it was muffins - pear and ginger were very popular. Then during our ante natal classes I discovered my partner Miles harbored a love of home-baked cookies. So for the next class I made 50 macadamia, pecan and dark chocolate biscuits.

After Billie was born I decided cakes gave you more bang for your buck. I didn't even have a tin at first - thanks Emily for meeting me on a street corner with a tin in hand so I could finish making Miles' birthday cake. A rather ambitious task with a newborn in the house. Then I got smart and remembered why I used to bake slices with friends after school.

THE RETURN OF THE SLICE

Slices are fantastic. No need to make dozens of little cookies to cook in relays, no creamed butter and sugar needed, no worries about saggy cakes that get stuck in the tin. You can whip up a slice while your dinner guests digest their main course. And, best of all, because they are not quite such a delicate chemical reaction as other baked goods, you can experiment. Drop ingredients you don't have in stock or don't fancy, and replace with an equivalent. The first recipe below I created immediately after telling my dinner guest that you must follow the book when baking. Not necessarily so...

CHOCOLATE NUT/COCONUT  SLICE

180g caster sugar
120g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
65g nuts - walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan - any or a combination (or swap for coconut)
3 tblspn cocoa
120g butter, melted

Preheat oven to 180, regular not fan bake. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder into bowl and add sugar. Chop nuts in food processor or by hand - a course grind with some chunks is good. Add melted butter and mix with fork. Press into a greased tin (about 18cm x 30cm or 25cm x 25cm).

Bake for 15 mins or until it is browning slightly around edges and is a little puffy in middle. It may take longer - it takes about 20 mins in my oven.

While it's cooking. prepare the icing. Cool in tin for about ten mins then ice. Cut into small pieces while still warm and store in an airtight container once cooled.

Icing:
50g icing sugar
3 tblspns cocoa
30g melted butter
1/2 tspn vanilla essence
1 tblspn hot water

Sift cocoa and icing sugar into bowl and then blend in butter, vanilla and water. Spread over the slice while still warm.

WARNING: Very tempting to eat most of it fresh from oven, but it improves with age. Worth saving plenty for the next day, or a good few hours later.





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