Apple Pie Brunch Bars

September – back to school, a return of routines, darkening evenings and the buttoning of coats against an encroaching winter coldness.

Life sometimes takes unexpected turns and catches us by surprise. When I leafed through the first copy of a local magazine for parents back in June, I certainly had no inkling that my own writing would appear on these pages only three months later. But it was a time of high energy and I was planning to take on the world. Offering to write a food article for publication seemed to be the obvious course of action.

Kirsten, editor of Families North Devon and Exeter, took my enthusiasm in her stride and together we discussed ideas for a back-to-school article on healthy packed lunch boxes. Feeling slightly daunted by what I had taken on in a moment of reckless over-confidence, I ummed and aahed and dragged my heels for a while before taking up the virtual pen of Microsoft Word.

I wanted to feature a recipe for a lunchbox treat that could easily be tackled by both children and their parents. I had the notion that baking together in this way would inspire enthusiasm for the whole dreary business of daily sandwich-wrapping (something, I have to confess, that I have largely avoided by stubbornly insisting that all three of my children have school dinners every day).

My recipe-testers were keen to help out with this more practical side of writing the article, and so these Apple Pie Brunch Bars were born (with grateful thanks to Jon for joining me in a name-brainstorming session).

The article itself appeared in the September/October 2012 edition of the Families North Devon and Exeter Magazine. It is available online on the Families website, and also here as a pdf:

familiesmagazine

Apple Pie Brunch Bars

These Apple Pie Brunch Bars are easy to make with children, travel well, can be stored for several days and provide a sweet and delicious lunchbox treat without any added extras (you know exactly what goes into them!).

2 apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
310g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
113g butter
140g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, and line a 33cm x 23cm baking tray with baking parchment.

Peel, core and dice the apples, then mix them with the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a mixing bowl and whisk them to incorporate fully. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Put the sugars in a large mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Use a metal spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the apples and stir just until evenly mixed.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking tray and bake for 25 minutes until golden and the top springs back when pressed lightly.

Leave to cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool fully before cutting into bars.

The Wooden Spoon Adventures

Let’s all sing …

Happy 5th Blogiversary to A Merrier World,
Happy 5th Blogiversary …

Hmmm. Maybe not. It doesn’t quite scan, does it?

But it really is my blog’s 5th birthday (despite the fact that the Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake above has seven candles. I was never very good with numbers).

Five years ago today, I clicked ‘publish’ for the first time and held my breath as my chocolate brownie tentatively announced my new, official status of ‘food blogger.’ Since that day, I have discovered friendships among an online crowd of passionate food bloggers and bakers, I have entertained Rose Levy Beranbaum and her assistant, Woody Woolston at home and abroad, and even conjured up a surprise at Dart’s Farm for two of my most loyal readers over the years, Melinda and Jeannette. My Great Pumpkin Cake seems to have spread far and wide across the internet whilst my Rainbow Cake and Unicorns post has inspired other Mums looking for party ideas for their young children. And WordPress tells me that this is my 150th post (gosh, how did that happen? A nice round, significant number like that? 😉 )

To celebrate this milestone (and five years is not so very short a time in terms of internet history), I’m sending a wooden spoon off into the big wide world to stir up some trouble.

Here’s the plan …

A few weeks ago, I snail-mailed a wooden spoon to one of my first-ever blog readers, Melinda. She had very generously agreed to come out of blogging retirement to write a post on her own blog about the adventures this wooden spoon would have with her when she used it to bake a tasty, local treat. She had also agreed to hound down, pester, cajole or bribe another willing food blogger to accept this wooden spoon afterwards and to take it on a further baking spree.

True to her word (for which I will be forever grateful), Melinda has introduced my wooden spoon to the delights of a Lemon Blueberry Buckle, nostalgically reminiscent of her roots in Oregon. She has also coined a new word – spoonee. Thank you, Melinda, for being such a wonderful first spoonee!  Next stop, Portland …

And so the wooden spoon’s adventures will hopefully continue, passing from baker to baker around the globe and whipping up a storm of regional specialities.

If all goes well, I will chart the Wooden Spoon’s Adventures here on A Merrier World by building up a page of links to all the delicious recipes the spoon has met on its culinary travels.

As for the lavishly-named, seven-candled Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake … here’s the recipe as a special birthday present from me to A Merrier World and its readers 🙂 .

Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake

Cookie Base
3 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
5 oz plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.

Gradually beat in the vanilla and egg.

Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough in the base of a 9″ springform pan. Put in the fridge while making the brownie batter.

Brownie
3 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
5 1/2 oz plain chocolate
4 oz butter
1/4 tsp coffee granules
5 oz caster sugar
2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir in the coffee granules.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the caster and muscovado sugars until completely combined.

Take the bowl off the pan of hot water and whisk in 1 egg, the egg yolk and vanilla.

Whisk in the second egg, but be careful not to overbeat at this stage.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and fold in with a spatula.

Pour the brownie batter over the chilled cookie base.

Bake for 25 minutes until the brownie is just setting. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Wanted: Slow Cooker Recipes!

My parents gave us a new toy for our 13th wedding anniversary yesterday – a crockpot!

Thank you 🙂 .

Now, here comes the question (no, not the ‘will you marry me?’ question – we’ve already done that bit) …

The question now is …

Does anyone have a favourite slow cooker recipe they could share …? Any suggestions …?

Okay – that was two questions.

But I’d love to know what sorts of tasty dishes you cook up in one of these things …?

And just to say too – Happy Anniversary, dear O.

De Peixos, No En Plouen

Let’s talk about the weather.

No, let’s not. It’s raining. Again.

Is it really July? Without the endings that bring expectations of holidays and sunshine – the end of ballet classes, the end of the school year, the end of chorister duties …

– we could easily be hoodwinked into building bonfires and counting down the days to Christmas.

The BBC called us ‘deluged Devon‘ today. Apparently, a month’s worth of rain – up to 80mm – fell in the past 24 hours and more bad weather has been forecast. Thanks.

This eternal drizzle makes everything difficult. Bookbags and papers get soggy, hair turns frizzy, cooped-up children become grumpy. Okay, that’s probably more a description of my own problems with the weather than of anyone else’s … but I’m sure you know what I mean.

What’s that saying …? When life deals you something-or-other, make something-or-other? Fry fish? Make bagels? There’s a saying there on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite get hold of it.

Never mind. Here’s another I’ve just made up on the spot: when it rains instead of shines, make apple and plum pie.

Which is made just like Gooseberry pie really, only bigger. But if anyone wants the exact recipe, give me a shout.

Mirem més ensota que endalt; de peixos, no en plouen.

Recipe for a Diamond Jubilee

Take one Queen …

… and a splash of rain.

Leave to mature for 60 years …

… before stirring in a fresh glug of seasonal rain …

… and a generous spread of celebratory home baking.

Pack all the ingredients together tightly …

… and bake for 2 to 3 hours until springy and highly excitable.

And if you’ve made it right, you’ll know it …

… because it’s not like anything you’ve made before!