Monday 1 September 2014

Recipe: Nuts about nutty tray bake

Recipe: Nuts about nutty tray bake

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:
Overall score:
Bake again?

1 comment:

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