Wednesday 19 June 2013

A baking cupboard clear-out

At least twice a year I feel (or rather see) the need to clear out my "baking drawer" - usually when it's so full of small bags, packets and pots containing the dribs and drabs of various types of nuts, dried fruit, biscuits etc that it doesn't open and close anymore! And then there is the vast amount of chocolate - which is mainly due to my Swiss father who sends (literally) kilos if it for every birthday, Christmas and Easter. (However, him being the most "frugal and thrifty" shopper on this planet, all these are supermarket own "bargain of the week" brands of mainly slightly dubious varieties - all proudly displaying their "Promo" stickers and ALWAYS just shy of their expiry dates... Oh, but one memorable massive Easter package contained nothing but ca 30 golden Lindt bunnies of various sizes - they were such a bizarre sight and sound (of their little bells all ringing) that my (then still very young) children ran away in fear! And, of course, they had all been marked down by 50% - because he'd bought them straight AFTER Easter the year BEFORE...) But what to do with all these left-overs now? One brilliant way is to turn them into this classic, easy - and most delicious and versatile - treat:

Rocky Road chocolate squares

400g of chocolate (I use all dark if it's (mainly) for adults, but any mix is fine if at least 50% is dark)
200g of mixed unsalted nuts, dried fruit, marshmallows, (plain) biscuits, dried coconut etc.
2 tbsp of butter

Put the chocolate and butter into a microwaveable bowl. 
Microwave on medium heat for ca 2 mins (checking/stirring every 30 secs) until melted.
Put the nuts and biscuits into a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. Cut up the fruit and marshmallows into small pieces.
Add the nuts, biscuits and fruit to the chocolate and stir well to mix.
Pour the mixture into a lined ca 23cm x 30cm tin and spread. 
Let cool until set. Then cut into pieces.

Once I've cleared out the baking drawer, I move on to the "breakfast cupboard" - which is habitually jam-packed with more cereal packets than even Jerry Seinfeld ever owned... (The first "A mother's rule of food shopping" is surely "The day you finally buy that multipack/extra-large box of your child(ren)'s favourite cereal is the day BEFORE they inform you that they don't "like" it any more ("You didn't know? I thought you knew..."). This time there were LOADS of different coco pops boxes left - plus some white chocolate and dried cranberries from the baking drawer which I turned into these tasty littl'uns:

200g white chocolate
30g (1/2 cup) of coco pops
50g (1/3 cup) of cranberries
1/8 tsp salt

Melt and mix the ingredients as for the Rocky Road squares. Then spoon walnut-sized balls of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet (or into small praline cases) and leave to set.

However, my work that day was not done yet as next to the cereals two tired and unused-for-a-long-time jars of peanut butter and Nutella were lurking (the latter maxi-size - see "A mother's rule of food shopping" above...). These were soon transformed into the most gooey and rich:

Nutella and peanut butter brownies

225g (1 cup) butter
400g (2 cups) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
125g (1 cup) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
85g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
125 g (1/2 cup) Nutella
125 g (1/2 cup) peanut butter

Pre-heat your oven to 180°.
Melt the butter in the microwave as for the recipes above.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract until well combined.
Add eggs, one at a time and mix in thoroughly.
Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and whisk into the butter mixture until fully combined.
Add the Nutella and peanut butter and mix well.
Pour the mixture into a lined 23cm x 30cm baking tin.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out almost clean.
Let cool completely before cutting.

The 400g chocolate - 200g nuts/fruit ratio gives a luxurious fudge-like confection - but you can of course add more "solids" (including cereals) for a muesli bar-like consistency.

The slight sourness of the cranberries works perfectly to counterbalance the sweet- and richness of the white chocolate so I don't recommend substituting it with other dried fruit.

If the Nutella and/or peanut butter is too dry to get out easily, you can soften them (in their jars) in the microwave for 30 secs intervals on medium heat - just make sure there are no metal paper bits still sticking to the rims!