Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

If there is one thing I’ve learned from hosting several cake stalls both for WI and personally, it is that chocolate sells.

These Nutella Fudge Oat Bars were no exception when I ran our WI stall at Hornsey Music Festival last weekend. Halfway through the morning when sales were beginning to lag a taster of these Nutella bars were set free amongst the masses, and we sat back in wonder as their fudgey oatiness did their work and brought in the crowd. It was noticeable that the eyes of the children picking over what to have on the stall lit up as soon as they spied the Nutella. I’ve a confession to make, so did mine. Out of all the delights on the cake stall, including victoria sponges, ginger parkin, cupcakes and lemon cakes it was one of these Nutella bars which I saved for myself as a treat on the way home.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Did you know Nutella is having a bit of a resurgence? It’s 50 years old this year but she isn’t showing any signs of age. According to the BBC, a nutty 365 million kilos were sold last year. Sales are increasing every year and Pinterest and Instagram are prolific with thousands of ways to incorporate this chocolate spread into your baking.

When I was 13 I spent a term in France with my school, and my overriding food memory, aside from being force fed vegetable ‘potage’ every day, was spreading lashings of Nutella over my fresh croissants in the morning. I don’t think I really ate it before then and I’m not sure if I’ve particularly eaten it since, but that doesn’t mean that Nutella isn’t intrinsically now part of my food heritage thanks to those three months mainlining it at a particularly impressionable part of my life.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Oats make even the most indulgent of treats feel like you are being kind to yourself and this is no exception. It’s an adapted version of these Bramley Apple and Cranberry Oat Bars I made earlier this year but I amped up the oaty mixture as a counterpoint to the creamy chocolate interior. I added extra chocolate to the Nutella to temper down the sweetness and amp up the chocolate factor, it worked without losing any of its innate Nutelleriness. A substantial amount of oat mixture is pressed into the base of the baking tin, then the fudgey middle spooned thickly on top. Instead of crumbling the rest of the oat mixture on the final layer, I made sure it completely covered the oozing chocolate to protect it and hold it all together. It crisped up deliciously in the oven and if you leave it to cool in the tin it is a dream to cut. It went down extremely well at the cake stall with children and this adult in particular.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

300g butter, at room temperature
275g plain flour
200g rolled oats
300g soft light brown sugar, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
200g Nutella
80g dark chocolate
75ml evaporated milk
pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease a rectangular baking tin 9” x 13”.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the butter, flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt and rub together with your hands until everything has come together to form a light dough.
  3. Press ½ the dough into the base of the baking tin to form an even layer.
  4. Melt the chocolate, Nutella and evaporated milk together in a double boiler, mixing together until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spread the Nutella chocolate mixture on top of the first layer of dough.
  6. Crumble the rest of the dough on the top and press down lightly into the chocolate, don’t worry too much about it spreading out evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins until the top is golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for an hour or so before removing from the tin and cutting into bars.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
When I think of Wensleydale cheese I think of Wallace and Gromit and it’s not long before I’m thinking of Wensleydale that my unique Yorkshire accent is produced for all and sundry to enjoy.  I love a good accent and take great pride in butchering every one I attempt.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

If you are not terribly familiar with Wensleydale it might be because you live in Stroud Green, it took me an absolute age to track down some of this wonderfully traditional British cheese that wasn’t contaminated with cranberries or apricots.  This is such a delicate summery cheese that it’s a shame it only comes into full force at Christmas as a novelty item on the cheeseboard.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was on the Wensleydale hunt particularly for this delicious scone recipe which I made for our last WI meeting.  We had thrown open our doors to the public for all and sundry to come and listen to author Gillian Tindall give a talk on our local historical building, Stapleton Hall, and we took pride in our WI reputation by providing homemade cakes and bakes for everyone to enjoy.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I will often take a punnet of scones to a potluck or a picnic as they transport excellently and if you stuff enough cheese into them they will always be better received than a sweaty cheese sandwich.  However, I wanted to add a bit of something extra this time round and bake the jam into the scone, which would certainly save room in the picnic basket.  If you have any bacon jam in the fridge, as you absolutely must if you have learnt anything from food bloggers over the last few years, then do use that, or have a go at my new bacon jam recipe which I posted yesterday.  I will confess now that I made the bacon jam especially for these scones.  I wanted a very British scone where the ale in the jam could pair delightfully with the Wensleydale baked into the dough.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

The only way to eat a savoury scone is to crack it open at the middle, pulling the warmed dough apart and liberally spreading with whipped butter.  As I say, to eat at a picnic is an absolute joy but to eat at home is a luxury as then you can warm your scones up lightly in the oven so the steam rushes out when you break it open and the butter melts with abandon.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

Wensleydale, and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
Makes about 18 scones

550g strong bread flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g Wensleydale Cheese
Black Pepper
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g Bacon Ale Jam
200ml milk
1 free-range egg, beaten, for the egg wash

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and line two large baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Tip 500g of the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the butter then rub them together with your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  3. Crumble up the Wensleydale into the bowl with the black pepper. Rub the larger lumps of cheese in a little bit into the flour.
  4. Then add the baking powder, mixing in well.
  5. Pour in the beaten eggs and turn it into the mixture with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
  6. Then add in the bacon jam and the other 50g of the flour. Use the flour as a carrier for the fat in the bacon jam and rub into the other ingredients.
  7. Once the bacon jam is evenly dispersed, pour the milk in carefully, stirring in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will become quite wet.
  8. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and pat the mixture together, if the dough is still too wet add in a little more flour, folding and turning the dough until the flour is incorporated. You want to work this dough as little as possible.
  9. Once the dough is dry enough to work with then roll out to 1 inch thickness and cut out circles using a 68mm round pastry cutter.
  10. Place the scones on the baking trays, then brush with the egg wash.
  11. Bake the scones in the oven for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.
  12. Serve with plenty of whipped butter.

Notes From The Larder

This is a little something I am hoping to keep up to date with every so often, mainly because since I work from home I only have the three little monsters to discuss last night’s TV and my latest Amazon purchase with. The idea is to give a vent to everything I am currently obsessing and getting overly excited about. As a note, it might generally involve trashy teen TV programmes and nail varnish. It gives my husband a break from receiving this information via annoying calls at work at least.

I am on the committee of Stroud Green WI and this month we had one of my favourite meetings so far. We were joined by Sof McVeigh author of ‘Treat Yourself Natural’ and founder of ‘The Homemade Company.’ She demonstrated how to make homemade natural lip balm and we made our own sea-salt body scrub to take home. I care so much about the natural food I eat, why don’t I care about the nasty petroleum I put on my lips on a daily basis? Well, I do now and henceforth homemade lip balm is the only way forward. The best thing about making your own lotions and potions is that it’s like cooking but without the calories. Very Whole30.

HomemadeI discovered Pop boutique in Covent Garden this week and bought my new favourite jumper as a souvenier of my two weeks working in town. The bad thing about working from home is that you can happily wear the same clothes several days in a row and no one will notice. It practically had to be wrestled off me to be washed. Thanks to the clemency of our weather it was dry in one afternoon and back on it went. I think I might have to get it in more colours, or a perhaps a perspective?

BleakerMy new nail colour is called Cute as a Button by Essie and it is so therefore so am I. It’s just logic.

Cute As a Button by EssieDid you know you can revisit the early 2000s, throw on that wifebeater, get those fists pumping and go to Chino and back with Amazon Prime. I am not embarrassed to say I have been reliving my Ryan thumping and Summer/Seth shipping this past month having re-watched all four melodramatic seasons of The OC. Californnnniiiiiaaaaa, here I coooooooooommmeeee!

Another equally dramatic TV (although admittedly the stakes are a little larger than will Summer find out about Seth’s Spring Break Shaving Foam Incident) I’ve been charging through is Orange is the New Black. I finally finished the second series this morning having unapologetically mainlined the whole thing over the past few days. My lunchtimes have been fuelled by black market dealing, backstabbing, deception and heartbreak, all the while undercut with humour and moments of undeniable triumph. I loved the second series just as much as the first and the only problem with this kind of binge watching is having to wait a whole year to find out what happens next.

I am a horrible sucker for the downbeat pop song revisit, the kind that Greys Anatomy mine so well; who knew We Built This City as sung by Jill Andrews and Aron Wright could sound so melancholy, a bit of a departure from the singing kitty. Ditto for Lana del Rey’s Maleficent release of Once Upon A Dream. The film itself may be disappointing around the world but I love her noir rendition of this classic Disney trilly song.

I’ve mentioned before how my heart belongs in the American Deep South and last year I made a mini pilgrimage to Nashville to soak in the music. It goes without saying that Nashville the TV programme is a complete must watch for me, I fell in love with Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights but I just simply love her and Hayden Panettiere on Nashville. As well as the twisty turny soapiness of it all, the music is just my brand of country. If it ain’t Nashville I ain’t listening to it.  Not totally true, but nearly. I am plugged into the Nashville season 2 soundtrack which was released this week on Spotify. Every song brings back the memories of my evenings spent eating sweet potato fries and listening to acoustic guitar at The Bluebird and the grand showmanship of The Grand Old Opry.

The Bluebird

OpryRestaurantwise I might have visited Song Que Café in Kingsland Road twice in the past 5 days, but their salads are sooo good.

Finally I am ever so grateful to Capital Dog Walkers who have looked after the puppy so well these past couple of weeks, picking him up every morning, taking him to frolic in the fields of Hertfordshire and dropping him off without fuss or bother in the evenings. He has been loving running free with his pack and they have taken such good care of our cheeky little monkey. The best thing about his daily jaunts is that he is so tired in the evenings that he is only emptying our wastepaper baskets and running rampant with my slippers half heartedly.

Billy Buddy

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

This recipe is not yet gluten-free

The reason I have been absent from posting for a few days is a very good one.  I have been baking this lovely Chocolate Gingerbread Cake extravaganza with stem ginger frosting and decorated with gingerbread houses, each representing one of beloved buildings in Stroud Green where I live.

IMG_3127I was asked by our WI President to make the cake for our Christmas outing to the panto.  A big group of giggling women trooping off to the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park to see Sleeping Beauty is an occasion in and of itself and we definitely made our presence known.  However, the cake was also in celebration of the two year anniversary of the founding of Stroud Green WI.  It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages and backgrounds and we meet once a month for a catch up about local events and charities that we are involved with and also for some brilliant activities.
Stroud Green WI Cake

This year has been an amazing year for our WI, we have has some fascinating talks about design and forensic science, a visit from Wildes Cheese, dress-making lessons from Clare-Louise Hardie from the Great British Sewing Bee, quilting, sugarcrafting, a local history walk, a summer picnic.  And a hell of a lot of cake, which is the most important thing obv.  So I was only too happy to bake this cake and I wanted to make sure it was really special.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake7

The templates for the houses were made the WI way, using card and a craft knife.  The sizes I went with were 10cm x 4cm for the tall thin houses, 10cm x 6cm for the stations and big buildings like Rowans bowling alley, 9cm x 5cm for the average sized buildings and 8cm x 4cm for the diddy ones.  To calculate how many you will need, wrap a piece of string around the circumference of the cake tins then measuring it against a ruler.  I then divided the circumference into the various widths I had chosen, deciding which houses would fit best where.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake3

The Stroud Green WI banner was made with sugarpaste, hung on string and tied to cake pop sticks.

To assemble I placed one half of the 23cm cake on a 25cm cake drum, spreading a good layer of frosting on before putting the second layer of cake on top.  I then lightly frosted all over for a crumb coat.  I did the same with the 20cm cake but built it on top of a 20cm cake board.  I put both cakes in the fridge to set overnight.  The next morning I gave them both a second layer of frosting, inserted four dowels around the centre and into the 23cm cake to act as support then placed the 20cm cake carefully on top.  I added a white sugarpaste border to the cake drum and also a ribbon to the side.  Next I stuck the gingerbread houses onto the cakes which clung to the sticky frosting.  Finally I erected the Stroud Green WI banner onto the top of the cake, pushing the cake pops down as far as they would go so the banner would stay upright.  Then I took along to the panto where it was swiftly demolished – just like our local landmark Rowans bowling is soon going to be (an absolute travesty – what can we do!!??!!)

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake6

Oh, and in case you are wondering – the panto was excellent too!

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake5

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

For the cakes:

495g plain flour
180g cocoa
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
360g unsalted butter
300g light brown sugar
335g caster sugar or golden syrup sugar
9 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
180g dark chocolate with ginger, melted then cooled
360ml whole milk
360ml boiling water
70g dark chocolate with ginger, chopped into chips

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease 1 x 23cm round cake tin and 1 x 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the butter and the sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. At this point the mixture usually looks curdled but don’t worry it will come back together.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed.
  7. Pour in the boiling water and mix until just combined.
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tins, then scatter the chocolate chips on top, pushing them down slightly into the batter. Bake for 45-50 mins but do check after 30 mins and if your cakes are browning too much then place some foil over the top for the rest of the baking. Check they are ready by inserting a metal skewer into the cakes – it should come out clean.
  9. Leave the cakes for 10 mins in their tins before removing then cool on a wire rack completely before cutting in half width ways then frosting.

For the stem ginger frosting:

300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
680g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 balls of stem ginger, chopped very finely or whizzed up in the food processor
1 tbsp of the stem ginger syrup
Good pinch of salt

  1. Heat the egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, the stem ginger plus the syrup and the salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.

For the gingerbread houses
Makes about 28 houses

680g plain flour
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
180g treacle
1½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and bicarbonate of soda together.
  2. Rub in the unsalted butter with the tips of your fingers so it resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the sugars with the eggs, treacle and vanilla extract until fully combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and bring together with your hands to form a dough until everything is combined and you can pat it into a smooth ball.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Whilst it is chilling you can make your templates.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and start your rolling and cutting. I rolled just a small amount of dough at a time due to space.
  8. Form each piece of dough into a round ball then roll out using a silicone roller to avoid sticking. The dough will be a little tough at first but will soon start rolling out beautifully.
  9. Use 5mm spacers on either side of your dough so you can ensure it is all evenly rolled to exactly the same depth.
  10. Place your card templates on the dough then cut out with a knife.
  11. Place each house on a baking sheet with about 2½ cm gap in between. They shouldn’t spread out but it’s good to be careful.
  12. Put the baking sheets in the fridge and chill for 30 mins.
  13. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180°C.
  14. Bake the gingerbread houses for about 6-8 mins each. They are ready when you can barely see the corners just start to crisp but the middle of the biscuits should still be a pale golden brown.
  15. Leave to cool on the trays.
  16. Decorate with royal icing any way you wish.