Learn from my failures: how not to make recipe substitutions

I nearly called this post “I can believe they’re not Nigella’s Breakfast Bars!”

Like the lipsmacking voluptuary, I’m not much of a morning eater. I also like the idea of yummy home-made snacky bars to shove down the throats of starving children. I remembered hearing that Lawson’s recipe was a good one, and a quick googlescout unearthed it here.

It involves mixing a large quantity of relatively healthy sounding muesli-ish things with a whopping great can of sweetened condensed milk. It didn’t say “sweetened” but I that’s the only kind, isn’t it? The dulce de leche kind? I had everything but in the cupboard, so I decided to make it up as I went along.

I had some evaporated (unsweetened, low-fat) milk, but it seemed utterly wrong. What I needed was a certain … an unctuousness, a delectable musky sweetness – as Nigella well might say and indeed probably has ; ) Best I could do was mixing up a bunch of fruity sugary sticky things and hoping like hell that would bind the oats, coconut, seeds, nuts and dried fruit:

nigella breakfast bar Not a can of sweetened condensed milk

3/4 C sliced dried figs
1 T apple juice concentrate
dried orange peel
1/2 C water

Bring all ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan then cover and turn the heat off. (That is if you use proper dried figs that are actually dry, not those odd “soft juicy figs” that have a weird cola aroma and no texture to speak of. If you’re using those ones just carry on and never mind waiting.)

Stabblender the cooled mix with half a cup of apricot jam, and then add water to make it up to 1 1/2 cups and stir it into your dry ingredients. Bake for an hour at 130 C, grateful that you sniffed something awry with the “250 degrees” the recipe stated on Northern hemisphere sites.

btw, THAT PICTURE IS EFFING LIES! The result was horribly crumbly – you could excavate a “bar” from the tin with some effort, but they were flaccid and unappetising. Even thought they were a complete failure in textural terms, they did turn out to be very tasty muesli once you’d properly crumbled them up. I’ve just made up a second batch for Owen at his request.

I used half (soaked) goji berries and half currants, a mixture of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and cashews in place of peanuts. To make the recipe again in the hope of making sturdier bars would require increasing the quantity of binding fluid. I’d still use the figgy mix but I’d add the sweetened condensed milk to make up the quantity (and perhaps a bit more) instead of the water I used here.

5 thoughts on “Learn from my failures: how not to make recipe substitutions

  1. You know, those breakfast bars are really quite good in the original version. I make them regularly and kid myself that they’re healthy. They’re certainly yummy. And very sturdy.

    So pleased to find you here! (Do I have to wear a burkha here too though?)

  2. People, please be very careful. Yonks ago I wrote a whiny post about how Boychild had to see a paediatric dentist. P.D. essentially told us his first teeth were fucked. He hadn’t been allowed any lollies up to then, but lots of dried fruit and fruit juice and stuff like the (points to above post). Paed Dentist reckons you might as well eat Allens Raspberries dentally speaking, although of course they are healthy once they are down in your gut, but they have to pass the teeth to get there!

    Take this as a dreadful warning from one who has forked out 000’s to have her child’s molars extracted under a General. Fortunately, she said he will not have the same issues with his grown up teeth necessarily (and now he’s only allowed juice one day a week!)

  3. Suse, I replied to your comment but it got swallowed. Weird. Anyway, very nice to see you here too!

    And no burkas – to explain for others, commenters at my personal blog who don’t have a gravatar are given this one. I had got a bit sick of right wing death beasts’ sudden monopoly on outrage against the oppression of women.

    Helen – I remembered you posting about that at Cast Iron Balcony. Scary for so many reasons. We hardly ever have juice either – maybe once or twice a week, and often watered down. I can’t believe that the rage I felt at my mother’s instructions to “have an orange and a glass of water” when I was a child was so misplaced ; )

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