Apricot and Rhubarb Oat Bars

Child 1 is cooking at school again and joy of joys the teacher has introduced the idea of developing their own recipes!

Initiative in baking, and cooking in general, I believe is an essential ingredient (!) in the art of being a confident cook.  Cooking instinct can be acquired with practice as well as be a raw talent but reliance on clear instructions, whilst helpful in the learning process, if always needed will leave cooking in the chore category and not elevate it to carefree hobby status or allow for ‘using up stuff’ a bit of a must for anyone on a budget, which frankly is most of us after all. My better half trained as a chemist and therefore following detailed and extensive recipes backed up with accurate weighing and measuring equipment presents him with no problems. Vague generalisations and scant instructions basically stresses him out particularly as he thinks I will have ‘something to say’ about his finished offering if not perfect. He confuses constructive advice with criticism.

So anyway, Child 1 sees the advantage in this as he can adapt recipes with ingredients he’s not keen on to include those he prefers…….

He brought home a version of the above with chocolate chips instead of apricots and strawberry jam instead of rhubarb. You couldn’t actually cut a slice as such, more heap a couple of spoonfuls into a bowl and eat it with a fork as apparently he was distracted at some crucial point and there was a step skipped with the topping…… Anyway like with a lot of these type of bars: it tasted great!

I was so intrigued with the basic recipe and had apricots and rhubarb lying around so I had a go at the weekend and this is the result; I have to say it is divine and Child 1 (despite the lack of chocolate) announced he liked mine more. I almost spat out my mouthful.

You will need (makes 12 bars):

For the base: 100g Plain Flour, 35g Self-Raising Flour, 100g Butter (at room temperature), 1 Egg Yolk, 110g Caster Sugar,

160g Jam: I made mine as I had rhubarb with 450g Rhubarb, 450g Sugar, 1 tsp Ground Ginger, juice of 1 Lemon, 50 ml Water

Topping: 60g Golden Syrup, 30g Maple Syrup or Honey, 50g Butter, 135g Rolled Oats, 40g Corn flakes or Special K, crunch up a little, 35g desiccated Coconut, 125g Apricots chopped, fresh or dried.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C and grease and line a 23cm (9″) square brownie tin or similar. Lining square tins can be a bit of a faff. Either scrunch up an appropriate sized piece of greaseproof paper into a ball and them smooth out and line the tin or cut a square which again is larger than the tin and then cut in toward the center on the diagonal from each corner for a few centimeters then line the tin overlapping the paper at the corners.

Jam: you can buy rhubarb obviously, or to make it, put a couple of saucers in the freezer for the testing process and make sure to have a couple of sterile jam jars handy for any excess (wash in dishwater at 60°C), then slice the rhubarb and add to a saucepan with all the other ingredients. Allow the sugar to melt over a medium heat and then turn up the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and test if done but adding a teaspoon to a very cold saucer. Give it a sec and then push the blob up the saucer with your finger. If the skin wrinkles, it’s done. If not boil for a few for minutes and test again. Pour into the sterile jar(s) and allow to cool a little.

To make the base: Cream together the sugar and butter in a mixer and once light and fluffy at the egg yolk and beat for a couple more minutes. Add the flour and fold into the creamed mixture. You will find you to need to finish this off with your hands to achieve a ball of dough.

Press into the base of the tin to give an even layer and bake for 15 minutes. The top should be browned. Remove from the oven.

To make the topping: Melt together the golden syrup, maple syrup/honey and the butter and stir to combine. Put all the other topping ingredients into a separate bowl and pour in the buttery mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the dry with the wet.

Spread an even layer of jam over the base and then carefully spread over the topping. Pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes. It should be lightly brown once done. Cut into bars whilst still warm and leave to cool in the tin.

If you have made jam don’t forget the wax covers and a tight-fitting lid. It’s delicious instead of marmalade.

Fragrant Rhubarb Muffins

50th Post. How exciting. To celebrate I have added another page up top.

I seem to remember somewhere back in my memory banks that the rhubarb season ends at the start of July. Something about leaf toxins making their way back down the stems after that time, but don’t quote me on that.

Crumble seems to be the main response to a rhubarb glut and more sophisticated desserts such as Creme Brûlée and elaborate tarts don’t really use enough stems to make the fiddling worthwhile. It turns out you can make jam; equal quantities of rhubarb and sugar, boil for 15 minutes with the juice or 2 to 3 lemons and additional flavourings of your choice. Haven’t tried it but I might do this week. Being a baker I naturally turn to cakes and at some point I might try a loaf cake but for now my response to too much rhubarb is muffins and a little polenta inspiration from Violet Cakes has produced the following.

These are very lovely and rhubarb frozen in batches can keep you in these confections throughout the summer at least. They are not a classic muffin recipe in as far as the whole ‘mix as little as possible’ is not required, but muffins would be their closest relative.

You will need (for 12 muffins): 220g Plain Flour, 30g Polenta, 90g Caster Sugar, 1 tbsp Baking Powder, pinch of Salt, 1 scant tsp Ground Ginger, zest of 1 Orange, 1 large Egg, 125g melted Butter, 175ml Milk, 2 to 3 stems of Rhubarb washed, cut into 1-2 cm pieces, and stewed gently in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of Brown Sugar.

Make sure the rhubarb is stewed and soft but still with some pieces retaining their shape. Drain in a colander once cooked to allow the runniest of the juice to dissipate.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180-190°C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

  • Melt the butter gently in a saucepan.
  • Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the zest,  and mix to combine.
  • Having made a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the egg, milk and butter and mix well with a fork to combine thoroughly and leave you with a smooth batter. You may wish to switch to a spoon.
  • Dollop dessert spoonfuls of mixture into each paper case, then add a heaped teaspoon of rhubarb, then another dessert spoonful of batter, then a final teaspoon of rhubarb.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

Best served warm with icing sugar sprinkled over as there will be a wonderful citrus, ginger aroma as you break into them. The polenta helps to soak up any residual juice and imparts a lovely nutty texture. Yummy.

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