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Just Say No to Banana Bread

Just Say No to Banana Bread

Hey there housebound Amblers! Well, we’ve made it through a whole month of lockdown now (creeping towards two) and what was first a novelty has become the new normal. We’ve worked out with Joe Wicks, we’ve partied on Zoom and we’ve consumed more banana bread than we ever thought possible. If you’re as done with it as I am and looking for something a little more interesting to make, then you’ve come to the right place.

As most of us seem to have a lot more time on our hands at the minute, there’s plenty of room to try out some new recipes. The first one I want to share with you is my recipe for pecan, dark chocolate and ginger cinnamon rolls. They’re fluffy, gooey and delicious and you can fill them with any flavours you like. It does take a little time for the dough to proof, but I promise it’s not as complicated or scary as it seems.

Then, if like me you’re struggling to find flour at the minute, my flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are for you. They’re super simple to make and highly addictive! They can also be made with ingredients most of you will already have in the house.

Saving the best for last, I figured we could all use a drink during this trying time. As the sun is out, what better way to treat yo’self than with a watermelon and mint daiquiri? It’s super refreshing and can even be made as a slushie.

Cinnamon Rolls

I find people are often nervous around recipes involving yeast and I can understand why. It’s a bit of a fickle being, but if you treat it with care you should get the result you desire. Yeast needs four things to do its job: moisture, warmth, oxygen and sugar. To start with make sure your yeast is in date. That packet you found at the back of the cupboard, which expired in 2016? Bin it; it’s dead.

The biggest thing to watch out for is temperature. With active dry yeast you need to proof it for 5-10 minutes in lukewarm liquid before adding it to the mixture. Too cold and the yeast won’t be activated; too hot and you’ll kill it off. Keep yourself right by using a thermometer to test the liquid before you add in the yeast. It should be between 40-45°C.

One of the biggest causes of failure in recipes containing yeast is impatience. The dough needs time to rise and that rise is entirely dependent on the environment. An industrial proofer is usually set between 30-45°C with a humidity of around 80%. Obviously that’s not attainable in a home setting, so the best that can be done is to find the warmest spot in your house (for me it’s the attic room with a skylight) and wait it out. This then means that the guidelines for times can be hit or miss. The cooler it is, the longer the yeast will take to rise, but it will get there. What you’re really looking for is that your dough has doubled in size. If you move on too quickly, your cinnamon rolls will be dense and chewy rather than light and fluffy. Wrapping the covered bowl with a warm towel can also help at this point.

Now for the fun part: the fillings! I’ve filled mine with toasted pecans, dark chocolate and stem ginger as well as the cinnamon sugar. You can use a wide range of fillings including berries, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and chocolate or even change up the spices or add some zest. If you want to keep things simple, the cinnamon sugar alone is delicious and maybe even double down on it for extra gooeyness.

When it comes to rolling your cinnamon rolls, always roll from the short edge along the longest edge, leaving a gap of unsugared dough at the opposite short end so the roll can be sealed. This will allow you more of a swirl inside. You can use a knife to portion out the rolls, but my preferred method is to thread it. Using a long piece of thread or unscented dental floss, place it under the roll where you want to make the cut, bring the ends straight up and cross over the top, then pull tight in opposite directions to cut through the dough like cheese wire. I find this gives the neatest cut without dragging as much of the filling.

A few other things to note, bread flour is preferable for a fluffier mixture, but plain flour will also work well. Brown sugar will give a little more depth of flavour to your filling, but if you’ve only got white sugar, that’s absolutely fine. This method is with active dry yeast, but you can also use quick rise (instant) yeast. In this case, it’s not necessary to proof it in the liquid beforehand. Your dough may also rise a little quicker, so keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t over-proof. Any spices can be changed or adapted depending on your chosen filling too. Eggs are best used at room temperature, as chilled eggs can reduce the temperature of the dough and slow down proofing.

Ingredients (Makes 12)

180ml warm full fat milk (40-45°C)

1x 7g packet active dry yeast

50g caster sugar

1 egg plus 1 yolk (room temp)

55g butter (melted)

390g bread flour

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

oil for greasing (sunflower/veg/olive)

60g very soft butter

90g light brown sugar

½ tbsp cinnamon

½ tbsp ground ginger

50g dark chocolate (roughly chopped)

2 chunks stem ginger (roughly chopped)

50g toasted pecans (roughly chopped)

2-3 tbsp apricot jam (to glaze)


Stand mixer with  beater and dough hook (or large bowl)

Large bowl for resting

Measuring jug or small bowl

Saucepan if required

Rolling pin

Thread or dental floss

Baking dish (approx. 9” x 12”)

Pastry brush


  • In a jug or small bowl, warm the milk to 40-45° (This can be done in a microwave or saucepan) Sprinkle over yeast, cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes or until the yeast has “bloomed” (it will appear frothy).
  • Transfer to a large bowl or stand mixture with beater and add in sugar, butter and the egg plus yolk. Mix until well combined.
  • Add in flour, spices and salt and mix to form a dough.
  • If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead on medium speed for approx. 8 minutes. The dough should form a ball and be slightly sticky.
  • If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for approx. 8-10 minutes. The dough should form a ball and be slightly sticky.
  • Oil the large bowl well and transfer the dough to it. Cover with cling film and place in a warm spot to rise for approx. 1 ½ – 2 hours or until the mixture has doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled, transfer to a well floured surface and roll out into a 14” x 9” rectangle.
  • Spread the soft butter over the dough, leaving a 1cm gap along one of the short edges.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and spices. Sprinkle generously all over the buttered dough, leaving the 1cm gap free.
  • Sprinkle over the other fillings, again keeping the 1cm gap clear. Gently press the fillings into the dough a little to make them stick.
  • Starting from the sugared short edge of the dough, fold over approx. 1cm to make a seam and roll tightly from there to form a roll, as neatly as you can.
  • Using a serrated knife or the threading method, trim off ends of roll to neaten, then divide into 12 rolls (approx. 2-2.5cm)
  • Grease the baking dish and gently arrange the rolls, swirl side up. Cover with cling film and place in a warm spot to rise for approx. 1-1/2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 175° Remove cling film and bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown on the edges. Cool for 5-10 mins before glazing.
  • In a small bowl mix apricot jam with 1 tbsp water and heat to dissolve. Using a pastry brush (or spoon) coat the rolls with the apricot glaze.
  • Enjoy warm!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Flour seems to be the new loo roll these days, in that it’s harder to come across than a pot of gold. Thankfully these cookies are flour free, as I’ve used the last of mine on my last batch of cinnamon buns. They’re actually gluten and dairy free, but don’t let that put you off. They’re peanut buttery and chewy and they’re highly addictive.

This is a great one to throw together with things you may already have in the cupboard when you just want something sweet. It’s a super simple recipe and easily adaptable if you don’t have the exact ingredients.  The key base is peanut butter, egg, sugar and bicarbonate of soda, after that you can adapt at will. I prefer to use a mix of dark brown sugar and caster sugar in mine, as the dark brown sugar adds a richness that works really well with the dark chocolate and the salty peanut butter. Light brown sugar would work as well though, or if you can’t get either of those white sugar is also fine. I tend to use crunchy peanut butter, as the peanuty chunks give more of an interesting texture, but you can use smooth or even a different nut butter if you prefer. The chocolate chips again are an added extra, you can use any kind of chocolate you like or leave it out altogether.

Ingredients (Makes 12-15)

260g crunchy peanut butter

100g dark brown soft sugar

100g caster sugar

125g dark chocolate (roughly chopped)

1 egg (beaten)

See Also

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Large bowl

Spatula/wooden spoon

2x baking sheets/trays with baking paper


  • Measure all ingredients into a large bowl. Mix until well combined (mixture will be very sticky).
  • Cover the bowl and chill in fridge for 30 mins – 1 hour for the dough to firm up.
  • Preheat oven to 160°C and line both baking sheets with baking paper.
  • Scoop out a heaped tablespoon of mixture, roll into a ball and flatten slightly. Place onto tray allowing a few cm all around for it to spread (they will spread quite a bit when baking).
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes. Until slightly golden on edges and cracks have appeared on top.
  • Remove trays from the oven and tap gently to flatten the cookies.
  • Allow to cool before removing from trays. Store in an airtight box. They should keep for 3-4 days.

Watermelon and Mint Daiquiris

So travel might be out the window for now, but at least the sun seems to be shining down on all of us at the minute. I personally like to sit in my garden with a pitcher of cocktail and a book and pretend I’m on holiday somewhere else. These watermelon and mint daiquiris are seriously refreshing (especially if you make them into a slushie) and definitely hit the spot for a summery treat! And when we’re finally all allowed out to play again you’ll be able to show off at your mate’s barbeque with the flashiest drinks.

I tend to opt for a golden rum for these, but white or dark rum would also work well. I’d avoid spiced rum though, as the spices would overpower the flavour of the mint and the watermelon. If rum’s not your thing (although it wouldn’t strictly be a daiquiri) you can use vodka, tequila or even gin.

If it’s an over 18s slushie you’re after, simply freeze the watermelon after it’s been cubed and blend frozen. You can leave out the ice with this one.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1/3 a small watermelon

2 limes

½ a packet of fresh mint

200ml white or golden rum

2 tbsp icing sugar (or caster sugar)

ice cubes


1 large jug/pitcher

Chopping board and sharp knife

Blender or stick blender

Some fancy glasses!


  • Using a sharp knife, remove rind from watermelon and cut into 1 inch cubes. If making slushies, freeze until solid.
  • In a blender (or large jug, using a stick blender) add rum, juice from limes, watermelon, fresh mint and icing sugar. Blend until really smooth.
  • Decant to pitcher, top up with ice and serve with a wedge of watermelon and a fresh mint sprig.

So there you have it, three more ways to keep yourselves entertained during lockdown. Be sure to tag Amble in any of your lockdown creations!

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