Weirdly, I’ve started doing a bit more baking lately. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a particularly competent baker. I don’t really have the patience needed for really great results, but I spend a lot of time at home these days and it’s a nice thing to do to pass the time.
Now that the newborn fog has finally cleared and I’m feeling a little bit more “me” again, we’ve been trying to get back on track with meal planning and cooking. This is mainly on my part, Matt loves it and needs no motivation, but I find it hard to think of something new and exciting to make everyday without a bit of forward planning. Buying ingredients for one bake a week with our regular shop means we’ve always got a sweet treat to hand if we want one, and it’s also a great time filler for a dreary afternoon.
Baking is actually a really fun activity for the girls too – I usually sit them in their bumbo seat or lie them on the kitchen table facing me, giving them a little of each ingredient as I go. They just pat their hands in it, get to know the texture and maybe give it a taste (no raw eggs, obvs). It’s fun for them, and educational, and as parents I guess we have a pretty laid back attitude towards weaning anyway so we don’t mind if they give any of it a little try. We’re planning to start Baby Lead Weaning in a few weeks when the girls hit six months, and I think it’s important to get them feeling enthusiastic about food as early as possible.
Tray bakes are always a good option for me because there’s little to no pressure (minimal rising, very few fancy techniques to master, just mix it all up and shove it in the oven etc). Over the past few months I’ve made rocky road, my Fail Safe Blondies and flapjacks. Yesterday was the turn of the Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake. They’re a nice sweet and salty treat and you can cut the pieces as big or as small as you like. Plus the recipe is customisable so you can add all your favourite extras! I’d like to try it with bigger chunks of chocolate and maybe some mini marshmallows for a s’mores-esque vibe.
I basically only use Le Creuset bakeware these days *hair flip*. Because I’m no aficionado, I find I only use a few tins anyway, so I’d rather spend money and get quality in return. So far I’ve got my excellent 9×9″ Square Cake Tin (£20) which I used for these, and I have my Kugelhopf (£30) for cakes, as well as mousses and jellies. Next I think I’ll replace my simple round Sandwich/Sponge Tins, then my loaf tin and my muffin tin and I’ll be pretty much set. The Afternoon Tea Set (£78.40 down from £112) is actually really good value and currently on sale, so that’s worth checking out. I love the Le Creuset bakeware because it’s thick and sturdy, plus it’s really easy to clean. I promise they’re not sponsoring this, as always I just love them!
- 250g Plain Flour
- 220g Unsalted Butter, melted
- 150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
- 110g Caster Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- 1 tsp Table Salt
- 175g Dark Chocolate Chips, split into one 100g and one 75g portion
- 100g White Chocolate Chips
- 60g Salted Pretzels, in 2 x 30g portions (I used Penn State Pretzels - deelish!)
- Preheat your oven to 180ºc or if you're using Fan, go for 160.
- Grease a square baking tray (mine's 9x9") and line it with greaseproof paper ready for the filling.
- Pour your melted butter into a medium sized bowl (or a mixer, if you have one) and stir in the Muscovado and caster sugar until combined.
- Next, add the eggs one at a time, then split the vanilla pod and scrape out its insides. Add it to the bowl and mix in.
- Now it's time for the dry ingredients. Stir in the flour, followed by the salt until it's just combined. Don't over-mix.
- Follow that with any extras you might like - I used 100g each of dark and white chocolate chips, along with the first 30g of salted pretzels, which I snapped into smaller pieces. Mix well until they're well distributed.
- Scrape the batter into the tin (it'll be super thick - almost like caramel!), smooth it and press the remaining 30g of pretzels into the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean.
- While it cools, melt the remaining 75g of chocolate chips over a bain marie or in the microwave until smooth. When the bake is completely cool, drizzle over the melted chocolate with a spoon.
- Wait for the chocolate to set and cut into 16 squares (or however many you fancy!). Store in a tin for up to 5 days.
I waited until nap time and tucked into two of these with a steaming cup of tea and Lunch Lady – it’s an awesome blog and print magazine all about food and family. It’s packed with fab photography and great recipes, I love it. In Leeds, I buy my copy from Colours May Vary.
Giving these a go? Let me know how it goes! You can reach me easily down in the comments, or over on Twitter or Instagram at @whiptuntilfluffy. Happy baking!