17 April 1998

Baked & tray, tray bon

TRAY-BAKES are so useful. They cut into large or small slices, store well, add variety to the usual cakes and are so much more inexpensive than commercial slices or chocolate biscuits, says Sybil Norcott.

Tray-bakes soon become a favourite in childrens lunch boxes. They are an excellent way to use up the out-of-favour breakfast cereal and the ends of packets of dried fruit, even the marshmallows that are passed by in preference for the jelly bears. Some of these recipes were concocted after I tidied the dry goods cupboard – a job I didnt intend to do but started by searching for a slab of dates I knew I had.

Should the sultanas or raisins be hard, soak them overnight in orange cordial or better still, cheap sherry (but for adults only). If the recipe you are using has liquid as an ingredient, then save and use any available when the fruit has been well drained and tossed in a tea towel to absorb extra dampness. Weigh the fruit before soaking.

Drying fruit helps intensify both the flavour and the fibre, especially chopped mixed peel.

Glace cherries and other types of glace fruits that usually need to be rinsed and dried for fruit cakes, to prevent them sinking, can be used straight from the tub as the depth of filling or topping on the tray-bake is much shallower. Lining the tin with baking parchment makes for easy removal of the slices. If the mixture does not quite fill the tin, make a wall of foil thus keeping the correct depth of filling in place during cooking.

Pecan nuts and walnuts have a similar flavour but both are expensive. In some cases chopped peanuts can be used as a substitute.

Never bake a tray-bake at too high a temperature or for too long a period. Remember the mixture will set during cooling when left in the tin. Over baking dries out the fruit and it becomes charred. Some tray-bakes should be cut while still warm and left to cool.

The mock Florentine squares recipe was first demonstrated on a TV Farmhouse Kitchen programme and much to my familys amusement, I had a letter from a gentleman in the south telling me that they were as near to the true Florentines as I was to Sophia Loren!

Apricot and date slice

175g (6oz) butter or margarine

100g (4oz) dried apricots, snipped

250g (8oz) plain flour

165g (5.5oz) soft brown sugar

75g (3oz) desiccated coconut

60g (2.5oz) chopped dates

Soak apricots for 30min in boiling water, drain.

Place butter in pan and melt over a low heat. Place all other ingredients in large bowl, pour over the butter and mix well until all is combined. Press evenly into baking parchment lined Swiss roll tin 18cm x 28cm (7in x 11in). Bake for about 25min at 180C (350F, Gas 4) or until firm to touch. Allow to cool in the tin before icing.

Ice with icing sugar mixed with lemon juice in preference to water, or cover with a lemon butter icing.

Lemon butter icing

75g (3oz) softened butter

200g (7oz) icing sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat together until light and creamy, using a little more lemon juice if needed. Spread over cold slice, fork top to decorate. Cut into bars.

Chocolate rum raisin bars with chocolate frosting

100g (4oz) butter or margarine, melted

1 teaspoon rum essence or 1 tablespoon dark rum

100g (4oz) self-raising flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

100g (4oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) desiccated coconut

75g (3oz) raisins or sultanas, chopped

Chocolate frosting

150 (5oz) icing sugar, sifted

4 teaspoons cocoa powder

15g (half oz) butter, softened but not melted

4 teaspoons of water

Melt the butter in a large pan, remove from heat and add the rum or essence. Mix together the dry ingredients then add to the pan and stir until well blended. Press the mixture evenly into a baking parchment lined 23cm (9in) square tin. Bake for 20-25min in a moderate oven at 180C (350F, Gas 4). Allow to cool before frosting.

To make frosting, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa powder, add the butter and the water. Blend then beat until it becomes a creamy consistency. Spread over the tray-bake, running a fork across the surface to decorate. Cut into serving pieces.

Rocky Mountain slices 200g (7oz) plain chocolate biscuits, crushed

100g (4oz) butter, melted

Topping300g (9.5oz) melted chocolate, slightly cooled

250g (8oz) pink and white marshmallows cut into small pieces

40g (1.5oz) desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons chopped pecan nuts or walnuts.

Mix together the crushed biscuits and melted butter. Press into a baking parchment lined 18cm x 28cm (7in x 11in) Swiss roll tin. Place in the refrigerator until firm. To make the topping combine chocolate, marshmallows, coconut and nuts in a bowl and blend well. Spread over biscuit base and allow to set. Cut into bars.

Hints: Place biscuits in plastic bag, seal with wire tie then gently crush with the rolling pin. Use kitchen scissors to cut the marshmallows.

Mock Florentines

250g (8oz) plain cooking chocolate, melted

50g (2oz) margarine

100g (4oz) soft brown sugar

1 egg

5 heaped tablespoons desiccated coconut

3 heaped tablespoons chopped nuts

2 heaped tablespoons chopped glace cherries

2 heaped tablespoons chopped, mixed peel

2 heaped tablespoons sultanas

Melt the chocolate and spread over a baking parchment lined tin 18cm x 28cm (7in x 11in). Leave to set. Beat together the margarine and sugar. Beat in the egg, add all the other ingredients. Spread over the set chocolate base. Bake in a moderate oven at 170C (325F, Gas 3) for approximately 30min. Allow to cool in tin. When cold cut into slices using a hot knife.

Hints: Fill a tall jug with hot water, dip in the knife for a few seconds, wipe dry and cut the slices. The heat prevents the chocolate base cracking and the slices keep their shape.

When melting chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water, never use a high heat or allow the water to be above the base of the bowl. The chocolate should be melted by the gentle steam of the heated water. This way it will maintain its shine.

No-bake cereal slice

100g (4oz) butter or margarine

125ml (5 fl oz) cream

3 tablespoons honey

75g (3oz) soft brown sugar

100g (4oz) puffed rice or cornflakes

40g (1.5oz) crumbled bran flakes

100g (4oz) flaked almonds

100g (4oz) chopped dried apricots

100g (4oz) chopped glace pineapple

100g (4oz) chopped glace or stem ginger

175g (6oz) sultanas

75g (3oz) chopped raisins

Place butter, cream, honey and sugar in large pan over low heat, stir constantly, until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved. (Melting can be done in the microwave, stirring periodically.) Gently bring to the boil. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Spread the mixture evenly into a baking parchment lined Swiss roll tin 18cm x 28cm (7in x 11in). Smooth the surface then place in the refrigerator until set. Cut into desired shapes.