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Apple breakfast pancakes (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes)

If you are having friends over for brunch, or if you are looking for something simple to cook with your kids for breakfast that is simple and tasty then this is a great little recipe!  Cooking pancakes should be straightforward and fun – if a little messy…

These pancakes are very similar to drop scones, they should be relatively small, about 10 cm in diameter making them very quick to cook.  I would highly recommend using a non-stick frying pan that has been lightly oiled when making this recipe.  If you use too much oil the pancakes will simply absorb the oil as they cook.  My tip for oiling the pan is to pour a little vegetable oil onto a piece of kitchen towel and then grease the pan all over, rather than pouring the oil directly into the pan.  Also it is always worth doing a small tester pancake to make sure that you pan is hot enough before starting to cooking the pancakes in batches.

The ‘filling’ of the pancakes is a classic combination of apple and cinnamon.  As they cook your kitchen will be filled with the a lovely fragrance that I always associate with autumn and crumbles.  The syrup adds a sweet and sharp element to the dish that makes the pancakes particularly moreish as they soak up the juices.  These pancakes are best served straight from the pan – if left too long they will start to dry out.

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Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free). Preparation time: 30/40 minutes

My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo.  Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food!  My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method.  Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food.  Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves.  So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.

Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning.  My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar.  My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old.  Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative.  My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water.  Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes.  The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin.  The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully.  What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby.  The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.

I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture.  I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?”  I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing.  So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings.  Enjoy!

Tip:  if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t!  Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.

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