Monday, 1 September 2014

Recipe: Nuts about nutty tray bake



Recipe: Nuts about nutty tray bake
Source:
Delicious.

We’ve just celebrated another family occasion which called for me to get my bake on! This time, it was my Mum’s birthday, and she asked if I could make something that contained two of her favourite ingredients: dark chocolate and nuts.

There were lots of different tarts I could have made as a proper dessert but, since we were already having a BBQ and there’d be birthday cake, I decided to do something simpler and less rich as I anticipated people being too full to actually eat the fruits of my labour! As a result, I went for this Nuts about nutty tray bake from the Delicious. magazine website.


I followed the recipe exactly and used the same combination of nuts. To make up my 300g, I used 75g of each type – this didn’t make the recipe particularly cheap to make but at least I felt confident that the mix of flavours would work well together. Not all of the nuts were whole (I had walnut pieces and macadamia halves) but this wasn’t an issue. I was more bothered by the blisters I got on my thumbs from spending ages shelling pistachios! When it came to toasting the nuts, I did each type separately in order to keep a better eye on them, and found that this worked well. The macadamias, for example, were ready very quickly, although the pan was already very hot by this point. 


I’d realised well in advance that I didn’t have a baking tin that would be deep enough for the recipe but, instead of buying a new one specially, I decided to improvise with an ovenproof dish and just allow for longer cooking times.


When it came to making the base, I stupidly hadn’t twigged that I was effectively making a chocolate shortbread, so I wasn’t really sure what I was aiming for in terms of appearance or consistency. I’d spread the mixture in the dish with the back of a metal spoon, to make it nice and smooth, but I was a bit unclear after that point! Having been in the oven for 20 minutes, it felt quite soft and a little grainy and, although I assumed it would harden, I sensed that it wasn’t yet done. In the end, I baked the base for 26 minutes and, thankfully, it did firm up before I added the nutty topping.


My other concern with the base was that I wasn’t sure if I’d actually mixed it enough as it didn’t seem to look as chocolatey as the picture on the website. However, I couldn’t do much more with it, and I was pleased that it turned out ok in the end.


When it came to the topping, I had a sneaky taste of the syrupy mixture and found it tasted like a rich, almost salted, caramel. After mixing the nuts in, and topping the biscuit base, I gave the dish another additional six minutes in the oven, baking it for 16 minutes in total.


The smell that came off this Nuts about nutty tray bake was amazing – it was nutty, caramelly and buttery and reminded me of pecan pie which is a favourite of mine. Looking at it, though, I couldn’t see how it would ever serve 24. I managed to make 12–16 slices out of it easily but, when I tried to cut it smaller, bits ended up falling off so I decided not to risk going any further (even though I did get to eat the broken bits!).


I also found it was important to wait until the bake was completely cool before cutting it. I initially tried it when it was still slightly warm but this did cause a bit of breakage – I had no problems at all once it was cold. Having said that, if you weren’t bothered about appearance and wanted to try this with ice cream, it did taste delicious warm. It had a deep, sugary flavour and the nuts tasted nice too. Most importantly for me, my Mum loved it!

I knew from the quantities in the ingredients that this wouldn’t be a particularly chocolatey recipe, and that turned out to be the case. However, that did mean that it wasn’t too rich either. Several years ago I had a delicious bag of sugar-toasted cashew nuts from a food market and, to my delight, I found that the overall flavours on offer here were like that on a grander scale. The combination of nuts tasted great together and the buttery flavour was also evident. It was the caramelisation I particularly loved, though, with the experience reminding me of a particularly strong popcorn flavouring – I could quite happily munch on the topping alone in a cinema!


I was also really pleased with the texture. I hadn’t quite known what to expect so I was glad to find that the topping wasn’t chewy or like brittle. Instead, the caramel was soft, whilst the nuts were hard and crunchy and the base was crumbly – the only downside being that this combination was a bit messy to eat as the nuts shifted as you took a bite. The shortbread almost melted in the mouth and, when combined with the caramel and chocolate flavours, it reminded me a bit of millionaire’s shortbread. And if that comparison wasn’t enough, I also sensed similarities with another favourite in our family: fudge tart (although I very much doubt you good people are blessed enough to ever have experienced the wonders of that bake!).


As I suspected, not everyone had enough room to try this tasty treat as they were all too full from the birthday cake my sister had made (the Chocolate salted caramel marble cake, as it happens!). However, those who did really liked it, and I was very pleased with the delicious results from what was an incredibly simple recipe. You obviously do need to be a fan of nuts to like this but, if that’s you, you can’t go far wrong.


Ease of recipe: 10/10
Finished product:
9.5/10
Overall score:
9.75/10
Bake again?
Yes

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Huttons of Windermere Old Bank House Chocolate Shop: Milk chocolate bar



Product name: Huttons of Windermere Old Bank House Chocolate Shop: Milk chocolate bar
Purchase details:
Old Bank House Chocolate Shop
Country of origin:
England

I was recently given this 100g bar of chocolate from my sister and brother-in-law as a thank you for looking after their cat when they went to the Lake District.


Confusingly, the Huttons of Windermere website says they make their own chocolate, but the base of the simple, gold cardboard box said my bar had been made by Whitakers Chocolates Ltd – confusing!


The milk chocolate contained a minimum of 25% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids and was divided into seven very chunky pyramids with a stripy design.


Bizarrely, there seemed to be an element of mint in both the aroma and the flavour – I think it was my imagination rather than contamination! On the whole, though, it had the milky taste of most souvenir chocolates of this kind.


The pieces were a bit too big for the mouth but they did have a nice, thick melt. I tended to get bored part way through and chew the remainder, though, as I loved the snap and density of the chocolate.

 
I very much enjoyed this bar of chocolate and hope to visit the Old Bank House Chocolate Shop myself one day to see what other treats I can find!

Appearance: 7.5/10
Aroma:
6.5/10
Taste:
7/10
Texture:
7.5/10
Overall score:
7.13/10

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Maltesers Teasers (chocolate spread)



Product name: Maltesers Teasers (chocolate spread)
Purchase details:
Tesco
Calories:
108 per 20g serving
Country of origin:
UK

Last week, I learned of a new product that had the potential to change my life: Maltesers Teasers (chocolate spread). I was so excited about this concept that I ended up having various conversations with colleagues about how amazing it sounded. To my surprise and delight, one of them came into work after the bank holiday weekend and handed me a jar she’d found in a Tesco in Anglesey. Apparently it was worth it for my reaction alone...


The ‘chocolate spread with crisp honeycombed pieces’ came in a 200g jar which was meant to provide ten servings. We’ve decided it’s an early housewarming present (for the house I haven’t even bought yet!) since, once it’s empty, it’s the kind of jar that can be re-used as a drinking glass once the red Maltesers-branded label has been removed – bonus!


The spread looked amazing. It was thick, chocolatey (containing 5.2% reduced fat cocoa powder), and full of little bits. Only 12% of the product was the honeycomb, but these little balls (the same kind used in products like the Teasers chocolate found in Celebrations) were still abundant. They made the product a bit weird to spread, actually, as they were understandably bumpy and I had to be careful not to press too hard as I didn’t want to crush them. The aroma wasn’t the strongest but it did have the rich, milky scent of standard chocolate spreads.

When we first discussed this spread, the colleague who bought me the jar made an inexplicable comment: ‘I don’t know what I’d eat it with.’. Me and another colleague looked at each other and responded: ‘Er...a SPOON?!’...so it would have been rude for me not to have tried it in this way! It was really thick, sweet and so chocolatey. There was nothing about the flavour, though, that made me think of Maltesers, but the texture was great, with the ‘malty crunchy pieces’ providing some excitement.


The good thing about chocolate spreads is that they’re versatile. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy them as a low-calorie evening treat, as I obviously did! My trick is to use a bread that is also low in calories – the lowest I’ve found is Warburtons Milk Roll which is only 47 calories per slice. I then weigh the bread on its own, add the spread, and weigh it again to work out how many grams of product I’ve actually used. On my first sampling of this spread, I didn’t have many points spare, so I only used 7g of this Teasers goodness. However, despite being a relatively thin scraping, I thought it still went a long way and I didn’t feel hard-done-by at all. Even with this small portion, it was immediately obvious just how unusual the small honeycomb pieces made the texture – I felt like I’d merged two breakfast foods together and put Rice Krispies in a chocolate spread sandwich! However, there was a slight difference in that these malty pieces were a little bit firmer than rice cereal.


I’ve also had a couple of non-diet days since I’ve had this jar so I’ve been able to have fun with much more generous portions. I’ve tried the spread on toast which made the textures less prominent due to the bread already being crispy. Eaten this way, I also found that, due to the way the spread melted slightly, the flavour was even more chocolatey and tasty. However, I still didn’t think it tasted any different to normal chocolate spread.


I also tried a larger portion on bread where I did my favourite ‘trick’ of folding the bread in two and squishing it together to form extra chocolate goo. In this case, this caused the crispy texture to be more of a feature, and I was pleased that it also provided the occasional hint of Maltesers in the taste too. On the whole, it did mainly provide general chocolate spread flavours, but I did quite enjoy the slight stickiness left behind in the teeth which was very much like a normal Maltesers experience.

Then I decided to have some real fun...

I once had a brainwave and decided to mix a bag of Maltesers into a bowl of peanut butter. I think it was simultaneously one of the best and worst things I’ve ever done. ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing’, I thought ‘if I made a Teasers and peanut butter sandwich?’. So I did...


Oh. My. Actual. Days! I tried it on bread and toast, in both cases applying the peanut butter first, and found the Teasers was a little bit harder to spread on top of the toast due to the meltage. They both tasted incredible, though – unbelievably good! The saltiness of the peanut butter lessened the Teasers’ sweetness and, if you’re a fan of chocolate and peanut butter anyway, this is a combination you’ve just got to try. I probably preferred it on bread as the thickness was maintained but, in both cases, the highlight for me was that I’d used crunchy peanut butter even though I usually opt for smooth. The contrast of the crunchy nuts and crispy honeycomb was just heavenly.


Hats off to Mars for this product. It was a shame that the honeycomb didn’t provide any additional flavour but, despite not tasting unique, this was still an excellent product. It was the texture that made it particularly special and, having tried the spread with peanut butter, I’ve found one of the few products that, so far, has made me genuinely concerned about putting back on all the weight back I lost several years ago. For that reason, I couldn’t make this a regular purchase, but it will certainly be an occasional treat.

Appearance: 8.5/10
Aroma:
7/10
Taste:
8/10
Texture:
8.5/10
Overall score:
8/10

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lorenz Snack-World Nicnacs



Product name: Lorenz Snack-World Nicnacs
Purchase details:
£0.85 for a 40g bag (monstersweets.co.uk)
Calories:
212 per bag
Country of origin:
Germany

I thought I might have been a bit silly to buy these Lorenz Snack-World Nicnacs as they were described as ‘double-crunch peanuts’ and I don’t actually like peanuts on their own! The red and yellow wrapper had shown that the second crunch came from some kind of shell coating, though, so I hoped this extra flavour would transform the nuts.


There wasn’t much information given in English on the packaging so I obtained the nutritional and ingredients information from the brand's website. Apparently, the ‘full-on peanut power’ came from 49% peanut kernels, whilst flavouring included spices, ‘smoke flavouring’ and cheese powder.


The thick coating on the nuts was orange and crumby and did look like they could be cheese flavoured. However, texturally, I didn’t think they looked that much different from standard roasted peanuts. What surprised me was the impact of the smoke flavouring – the aroma was like peanuts mixed with bacon!


The shells tasted very savoury. Again, the smokiness gave a meat-like illusion, but there was also an element of onion, and even the tiniest spicy hint towards the end of each mouthful. It was really enjoyable to suck this coating off as it had a satisfying juiciness, although its salty aspect did make me feel thirsty! I also found that, when eating this way, the odd nut had a particularly tangy cheese flavour. Overall, the seasoning tasted like the kind you’d find on crisps.


The peanuts inside each shell were whole and tasted standard. The coating was by far the main feature but this didn’t cancel out the flavour from the peanuts and I found the balance just right. I also loved the combination of the crispy shells with the crunchy peanuts – for me, this was a far more enjoyable method of peanut consumption.

I definitely didn’t make a mistake in ordering these Nicnacs. I’d found the wrapper hard to open but I ended up liking its design as it prevented me scooping up handfuls at a time. I’m sure they would have tasted nice that way too but I’m glad that I was able to savour them instead.

Appearance: 7/10
Aroma:
7/10
Taste:
7.5/10
Texture:
8/10
Overall score:
7.38/10
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...