Brown Butter Banana Sheet Cake with Salted Peanut Icing

Cakes

You can’t go wrong with banana and peanut butter, and as there are lots of families at home at the moment, I thought I’d  post a recipe which delivers on that flavour combination but is super simple to make and portion. I’ve added brown butter to the batter but you could just melt it normally, and feel free to substitute the spelt flour with plain (although spelt is actually all I could find in my local supermarket and works well in this recipe).

Ingredients (makes 10-12 good sized cake bars in a 7×10 inch tin)

  • 150g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 medium sized bananas (or 3 large), very ripe and roughly mashed up
  • 75g Greek yoghurt, full fat
  • 130g light brown soft sugar
  • 225g spelt flour
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 1/2tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt

Peanut Buttercream

  • 115g smooth peanut butter
  • 115g softened butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • pinch salt

Extras

  • Handful of salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Extra cinnamon, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 7×10 inch high sided baking tin.
  2. Place the butter in a saucepan and gently melt, then turn up the heat and let it brown until it foams and smells nutty. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, mashed banana, yoghurt and sugar. Once the butter is lukewarm stir that in too. Briefly whisk the spelt flour, baking powder, spices and salt together in a separate bowl then add to the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined then pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake the cake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the peanut buttercream. To do this place the butter and peanut butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and mix with electric beaters (or the paddle attachment) until well combined and slightly whipped. Add the icing sugar and salt and briefly stir with a wooden spoon (to prevent a cloud of icing sugar), then return to beating on a high speed until you have a light and fluffy consistency.
  6. To assemble, take the cooled cake out of the tin and roughly ripple the buttercream all over the top. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and a little cinnamon. Slice up and serve.

Orange Roast Rhubarb and Rose Meringues

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Brilliant pink forced rhubarb is back in season (about time, I’m getting so bored of the UK’s perpetual wash of grey). For this recipe I very simply roasted the rhubarb stems in orange and sugar, then paired it with lightly whipped rose cream and mini button-meringues; the perfect bite!

Ingredients (makes 20-24)

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar

Orange roast rhubarb

  • 2 large stalks forced rhubarb
  • 6tbsp caster sugar
  • zest and juice 1 orange

Rose cream

  • 300ml double cream
  • 4-5tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 1/2- 2tsp rose water (taste often and add a little at a time)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 120c. Line a large baking tray (or two) with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk to medium-stiff peaks. Add a small amount of the sugar at a time, whisking constantly, until it’s all well incorporated and you have a smooth glossy meringue (rub a little of the mixture between your thumb and index finger and if you can’t feel any sugar grains, it’s ready).
  3. Pile the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle. Pipe 20-24 little mounds of meringue onto the prepared trays, then take a teaspoon and press into the centre of each one to create a dip. Bake the meringues for 40-50 minutes or until they’re crisp and peel away from the paper easily. Turn the oven off and leave to cool in there for about an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170c. For the rhubarb, slice the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces and toss in the sugar, orange zest and orange juice. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until tender but holding it’s shape. Set aside.
  5. For the cream, just whisk together the cream, rose water and icing sugar until softly whipped. Scrape into a piping bag.
  6. Pipe a little cream into the dip in each meringue then top with a piece of rhubarb.

Sesame, Miso and Chocolate Tart (Vegan)

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This tart (using ‘tart’ as a loose term for this- there’s no pastry or baking involved) is so easy to put together but makes for a really delicious plant based dessert. The crunchy base is laced with tahini and sesame seeds so the earthy flavour really comes through, and the filling has a savoury note thanks to miso paste, and is super smooth and creamy courtesy of my favourite plant based brand- Oatly.

Ingredients

Base

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 75g tahini
  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 50g finely chopped mixed nuts (I used cashews and pistachios)

Filling

  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 30g vegan butter (I used Stork)
  • 300ml Oatly cream alternative
  • 3tbsp maple syrup
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3tbsp white miso paste

Sesame shards

  • 75g sesame seeds
  • 100g caster sugar

Method

  1. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin. For the base, place the chocolate, tahini, maple and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t allow the base of the bowl to touch the water or the chocolate may burn). Gently melt all the ingredients together then stir through the sesame seeds and chopped nuts. Scrape this mixture into the lined cake tin and spread out into one even layer. Place this in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  2. For the filling, roughly chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl along with the vegan butter. Set aside. Put the Oatly cream, maple, salt and miso paste in a saucepan and, stirring often, heat to just below boiling point. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and butter and allow it to sit for a moment before stirring together to form a smooth glossy ganache. Let this cool then pour it over the chilled base. Transfer to the fridge again and chill for another hour or until set.
  3. While the tart is chilling, make the sesame shards. Before you start, place a piece of greaseproof paper on a large baking tray. Now put the sugar in a small saucepan. Allow the sugar to melt, swirling the pan occasionally, then, once the caramel is golden take off the heat, stir in the sesame seeds and spread into an even layer on the greaseproof paper. Leave to cool and harden, then break into shards.
  4. Slice up the tart and serve with shards of sesame caramel and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Chocolate Fudge Cake (Vegan)

Chocolate

Although I enjoy experimenting with different flavour combinations and ingredients, a wedge of proper classic chocolate fudge cake is always a winner. With that in mind and in the spirit of hashtag Veganuary I thought I should probably develop a plant based alternative. The resulting cake is made up of moist well risen sponges (with espresso and salt used to bring out the chocolate flavour), salted bitter chocolate ganache and sweet cocoa buttercream. I defy anyone to do anything but ask for another slice.

Ingredients

  • 120ml aquafaba (the starchy water from a can of chickpeas- one 400g tin supplies around 120ml)
  • 375g plain flour
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt, plus extra for the top
  • 40g ground flaxseed mixed with 60ml water
  • 325ml oat milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 3 heaped tsp instant coffee dissolved into 300ml boiled water
  • 100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled

For the ganache

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200ml vegan cream (I used Oatly)
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • pinch sea salt

For the buttercream

  • 200g vegan butter (I used STORK)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 4 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3-4tbsp oat milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. You’ll need two bowls and some electric beaters (or, even better, a stand mixer with whisk attachment). Place the aquafaba in one bowl (or the bowl of the stand mixer) and whisk until stiff peaks form (about 10 minutes). In the other bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  3. Once the aquafaba has reached stiff peaks, whisk in the soaked flaxseed. Make a well in the dry ingredients bowl and add the oat milk and vegetable oil. Mix together using a balloon whisk until just combined, then very slowly mix in the boiling water and coffee, followed by the melted chocolate. The mix will look very loose but that’s fine.
  4. Finally, fold in the aquafaba mixture. Distribute the batter between the two prepared tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins.
  5. While the sponges are cooling, roughly chop the dark chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan along with the salt and caster sugar and heat to scalding point to dissolve the sugar. Pour the cream over the dark chocolate and leave to sit for a couple of minutes before stirring together to form a smooth glossy ganache. Set aside to cool completely.
  6. For the buttercream, simply place the vegan butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until fluffy. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt and cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, then beat until well combined (this will avoid a sugar cloud- if you’re using electric beaters, just mix in most of the icing sugar with a wooden spoon before whisking at a high speed to avoid a face full of icing sugar!). Add in the milk and beat again until very light and fluffy.
  7. Once all the components are cool, slice the sponges in half horizontally, leaving you with four even layers. Top the first layer with 1/3 of the buttercream, followed by the next sponge. Repeat until you’ve used up the sponges, then cover the whole cake in the ganache (which will have thickened as it cooled). Finish with sea salt or nut brittle, if you like.

Melting Chocolate and Clementine Snowflakes with Salted Cardamom Honeycomb

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I’m not usually one for novelty shapes but when Nordic Ware sent me a six hole snowflake baking tin I couldn’t resist (it is Christmas after all). Chocolate fondants never fail to make me happy so I thought a simple festive twist on the classic melt-in-the-middle puddings was in order; the snowflakes themselves taste predominantly of dark chocolate, spiked with a little clementine zest, but the honeycomb really makes for a well rounded dessert full of flavour and texture. Add ice cream too for optimum indulgence.

Ingredients

Makes 6-8 puddings

  • 1-2tbsp cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 140g 70% dark chocolate
  • 140g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, 2 egg yolks
  • 125g plain flour
  • Zest 3 clementines

For the honeycomb

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch salt
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Brush the moulds inside with melted butter then coat in cocoa powder, tap out any excess and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool a little.
  3. Place the eggs, yolks, sugar and clementine zest in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk until pale and thick.
  4. Add the flour and mix together briefly, then add the chocolate mix, a quarter at a time. Mix well between each addition. Split the mix between the moulds then chill for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  5. Meanwhile, make the honeycomb. To do this line a medium high sided baking tray with baking paper then place the sugar, syrup, salt and ground cardamom in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a golden, slightly simmering liquid, then add the bicarbonate of soda, remove from the heat and mix (just a few seconds, until the bicarbonate of soda has disappeared.). It will rise up quickly and go foamy. Tip into the prepared tin and leave to set hard.
  6. Take the puddings from the fridge and bake for 9-11 minutes for the perfect saucy middle. Break up the honeycomb and serve a few shards with each pudding.

 

Winter Citrus Pavlova with Dark Chocolate and Spice

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Pavlova is a Great British classic, and although we usually associate it with summer days and strawberries, it’s a really versatile dessert which can be adapted for any time of year simply by changing up the seasonal fruit toppings. I love this variety as the fresh winter citrus and spiced mascarpone combined with a pop of pomegranate makes for a fresh alternative to a heavy Christmas pudding; perfect after a mammoth Turkey feast.

Ingredients

For the meringue

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 75g dark brown soft sugar 
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp corn flour

For the toppings

  • 400ml double cream
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 4or 5 clementines, zest and flesh
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3-4tbsp icing sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g pomegranate seeds
  • 75g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 figs, sliced (optional)
  • Thyme and rosemary, to garnish (optional)

Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
    2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk to medium peaks and start adding the sugar, a spoonful at a time. Once all the sugar (both brown and caster) has been added whisk until stiff peaks form and you’ve got a glossy, non-granular meringue. Stir the corn flour and white wine vinegar together in a small cup and mix into the meringue.
    3. Pile the meringue onto the prepared baking tray and roughly spread into a 30x20cm rectangle. I think the more wild and asymmetric the better. Place the tray in the oven and reduce the temperature to 120c immediately. Cook for 1 hour or until the outside is crisp, then turn the oven off and leave to cool in there for at least an hour (this prevents the meringue cracking too much which can happen when the temperature suddenly changes).
    4. Once cooled, set aside and prepare the toppings. For the cream, whisk together the mascarpone, cream, clementine zest, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and icing sugar.
    5. Meanwhile melt the dark chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Slice the clementine flesh into rounds.
    6. To assemble the pavlova pile the cream onto the meringue, then arrange the clementine pieces and figs (if using) on top. Drizzle over the dark chocolate then sprinkle on pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios. Finish with sprigs of rosemary and thyme, if using.

 

 

Hand Rolled Chocolate Truffles, 3 Ways

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Hand rolled chocolate truffles are the perfect homemade gift for Christmas, and are fun to make with kids too (although obviously omit the alcohol if they’re going to be enjoying them!). Below is my base recipe, which can be adapted and altered to create infinite flavours. I’ve listed three of my favourite varieties below; spiced apple and hazelnut liqueur, tahini, pistachio and clementine and coffee liqueur and smoked salt. These will last for at least a week in the fridge, but are great to freeze for up to 3 months (pre-coating).

Base recipe for plain chocolate truffles (makes 16-20)

  • 200ml double cream 
  • 60g light brown soft sugar 
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. Roughly chop the dark chocolate and butter then place in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat the cream and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and the cream just comes to scalding point, then pour all over the chocolate and butter. Leave to stand for a minute or so then stir together until smooth. Stir in salt to taste then leave to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 2 hours.
  3. Once the mix is firm, remove from the fridge and stand for 20 minutes, then scoop up balls, hand roll and dip in any coatings you fancy. 

Apple and Hazelnut Liqueur 

  • 600ml apple juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick, cracked
  • 3 cloves
  • 150ml double cream
  • 40g light brown soft sugar
  • 3-4tbsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 50g butter
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • pinch salt
  • 100g toasted crushed hazelnuts, to coat

Method

  1. Place the apple juice in a pan and boil until thick and syrupy (you’ll be left with around 50-100ml). Set the apple syrup aside to cool a little then add in the cream, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves. Stir and leave to infuse for half an hour, then bring up to scalding point and pour (straining out the spices) all over the chocolate and butter. Leave to stand for a minute or so then stir together until smooth. Add hazelnut liqueur and salt to taste then leave to cool to room temperature. 
  2. Follow the same cooling and rolling steps as in the base recipe, then finish by coating in the crushed hazelnuts.

 

Pistachio, Clementine and Tahini 

  • 150ml double cream
  • Zest 3 clementines and the juice of 2 
  • 60g light brown soft sugar
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 75g tahini
  • pinch salt
  • 100g toasted crushed pistachios, to coat

Method

  1. Roughly chop the dark chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl along with the tahini.
  2. Place the double cream, clementine zest and juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat to scalding point until the sugar has dissolved. Pour all over the chocolate and tahini. Follow the same stirring, cooling and rolling steps as in the base recipe, then finish by coating in the crushed pistachios.

 

Smoked Salt and Coffee Liqueur

  • 200ml double cream
  • 80g light brown soft sugar
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 3-4tbsp coffee liqueur
  • Large pinch smoked salt 
  • 4tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. Roughly chop the dark chocolate and butter and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and the cream just comes to scalding point, then pour all over the chocolate and butter. Leave to stand for a minute or so then stir together until smooth.
  2. Add a generous amount of smoked salt and coffee liqueur to taste and then follow the stirring and cooling steps then coat in cocoa powder and extra smoked salt, if you like.

Coffee Halva, Pear and Walnut Loaf Cake with Salted Tahini Butter

Cakes

It’s no secret that I love anything laden with sesame, so was thrilled when Sesame Kingdom sent me some of their delicious coffee halva, halva spread and tahini. I’m going to incorporate each of the products into a bake, and thought I’d start off with the halva, which I’ve used in brownies, ice cream and chocolate cakes before. I thought this time it made sense to try it out with some seasonal fruit and nuts and it works really well in this understated loaf format (especially warm, thickly sliced and smothered in salted tahini butter!).

Ingredients

  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tbsp instant coffee, dissolved in 2tbsp just-boiled water
  • 175g self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 75g walnuts
  • 2 Conference pears, peeled and diced
  • 150g coffee halva, mine was by Sesame Kingdom (plain would work too)

For the tahini butter

  • 75g butter
  • 75g tahini
  • large pinch salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin. 
  2. Place the butter and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition and adding a small amount of the flour if the mix looks like it may curdle. 
  3. Fold in the remaining flour, salt and coffee using a large metal spoon. Add 2/3 of the walnuts and pear pieces and fold again. Scrape half of the batter into the tin then sprinkle over half of the halva. Add the remaining batter then top with the last of the halva, walnuts and pear pieces.
  4. Bake for 34-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Beat the butter, salt and tahini together until light. Serve the loaf warm with a generous helping of tahini butter.

 

Maple Pecan Brownies

Chocolate

These Autumnal brownies start with my usual base of good quality chocolate, rye flour and browned butter, but I’ve added a salted maple pecan crumble (for want of a better word) into them for a nod to Thanksgiving (I’m based in the UK but we’re adopting Thanksgiving flavours and traditions more every year!).

Ingredients

  • 200g pecans
  • 4tbsp maple syrup, I used Billingtons Amber Maple
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g good quality dark chocolate (70%)
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • large pinch of salt, plus more for finishing
  • 100g rye flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease a large brownie tin and line with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the pecans in a dry pan and toast for a few minutes, then add the maple and a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Stir for a few minutes on the heat until the nuts are sticky then tip onto a piece of greaseproof paper to cool.
  3. Once cooled, whizz the nuts into a rough crumb (it will be quite moist).
  4. Roughly chop the chocolate and tip into a heatproof bowl. Place the butter in a saucepan set over a medium heat and once melted, up the heat and wait for it to foam and smell nutty. Once you reach this stage, pour it over the chocolate. Leave it to sit for a moment then stir together to form a glossy mix.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, yolk and both sugars until pale and voluminous (this is what gives you a glossy crisp top). Tip the chocolate down the side of the bowl and add the flour, then fold until everything is well combined.
  6. Tip half the brownie batter in the prepared tin, then evenly distribute the pecan crumb on top, followed by the remaining batter. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 25-30 minutes. When they’re ready, leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.

Cherry Molasses, Pistachio and White Chocolate Buns

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Cherry, super-sweet white chocolate, earthy pistachio; a pretty fool proof combination of flavours which marry together beautifully in these enriched sweet buns. I’ve added Arabica’s Cherry Molasses which they kindly gifted to me a couple of weeks back, and it brings a real tang to the overall flavour- delicious! I couldn’t resist adding cardamom to these as well; not only is it my favourite spice but it pairs really well with all three base flavours.

One thing to note before you embark on this recipe: while possible to make these by hand, it’s much easier with the help of a stand mixer and dough hook.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 150ml milk
  • 140g room temperature unsalted butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 150g strong white bread flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 sachet fast action dried yeast (7g)
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 4tbsp cherry molasses
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 60g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g white chocolate 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 150g pistachios, ground
  • Pinch salt

For the topping

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Extra handful chopped pistachios (optional)

Method

  1. Place the milk and 40g of the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Set aside to cool a little.
  2. Meanwhile mix the flours, salt, sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the warm milk mixture and the egg. Mix briefly with a wooden spoon to combine then switch on the stand mixer and beat at a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Once the dough seems smooth, increase the speed and add the remaining butter in cubes, waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding the next. You should be left with an elastic, very soft dough. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 1 hour, then chill for 45 minutes (this controls the rise and allows the dough to firm up a little).
  4. For the filling, roughly chop the white chocolate and tip into a bowl. Place the butter, light brown sugar and ground cardamom in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has almost all dissolved, then pour it over the white chocolate. Let it sit for a moment, then stir together. Set aside (don’t worry if it’s grainy).
  5. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 30x50cm) and, making sure you’ve sat the dough landscape, cover 2/3 with the white chocolate mixture, leaving the right hand side bare. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and drizzle over the cherry molasses, then fold the uncovered dough over the top and the remaining left side on top of that, pressing down firmly to form another rectangle. Roll out to around 1.5 cm thick. 
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice the rectangle lengthways, into 2cm wide strips. Take each strip and twist it several times, then wind it around your fingers to form a bun shape, finally taking the end over and under to conceal it. Place each bun on a lined baking tray, leaving room for the second prove. Once all the buns are assembled, cover with a damp clean tea towel and leave to prove for 1 hour. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 170c (fan) and brush the proved buns with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Garnish with chopped pistachio and serve warm or cold (best enjoyed on the day or the day after, reheated to refresh).