Monday, 7 May 2012

Lil Ms Squirrel's Hellman's Banana and Raspberry Blondies

I've written before about wondering how you can claim a recipe as being your own rather than someone else's.  I still don't quite understand the rules.  Having done a little research, opinion varies from website to website and person to person.  The most sensible advice I found was that if you change at least two ingredients (or quantities of an element - but not just doubling or halving the entire recipe) and then write the method in your own words, then technically you can claim the recipe as your own.

Cake for just 92 cals per piece?  Oh, go on then!
Of course, if you're a lovely and decent person, you might just want to provide references to books and if the recipe is online a link to it (or link to the book on Amazon or similar).  And if you're not lovely and decent then you probably should add references anyway - just in case the publisher comes a-calling with a nice shiny lawsuit.

I've tried to stick to this principle on my blog (although can't guarantee the earlier posts adhere to that because I never really thought about it at first).  And I hope that in doing this, the publishers have made the odd pound or two.  Certainly Fourth Estate who publish Short and Sweet have had lots of publicity from me on this blog now I've made 24 of Mr Lepard's recipes.  And given that I've since found the majority of them on the Guardian website where I could've gotten them for free, they were lucky to get £8 out of me.  Hell, I love it so much, I may even still buy the Kindle edition once my original copy falls apart.

Anyway, enough mentionitis about Short and Sweet.  On to my bake today.  Back in January when I decided to shed a few Christmas pounds, I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food website for 'Guilt Free Brownies' which I duly tried in this post.  I remember having seen this concept in an ad by Hellmans in a magazine and at the time thought 'Euuuuuw' but in my post Christmas desparation for something sweet and healthy and with a blog to write, I thought 'In for a penny, in for a pound'.  And they weren't actually that bad.  Less than 100 cals per piece and they freeze well too.

The cynic in me wondered if Hellman's had sponsored the recipe under the BBC banner given that the Beeb are now allowed to do product placement (I think?  Or is that just ITV).  But it was funny that the recipe specifically referenced Hellman's without saying 'Other low fat mayos work perfectly well too'.  And then I wondered if Hellman's had actually given the recipe.  But I've not seen it published in print since to compare like with like.  I just realised as I was typing I could check the Hellman's website - but I can't be bothered right now.

The not-so-secret ingredient.  Other mayos are available!
Moving on, now I've decided (again) that I need to address the amount of cake and other unhealthy stuff I eat, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to make a recipe of my own.  I mean really make it.  Not just accidentally forget to add something that the recipe said I should and find that it either did or didn't really matter that I forgot.

So I decided to makeover the made-over brownies and see if they worked as blondies instead.  As blondies don't really appeal, the only recipes I've ever perused are in the Original Hummingbird Bakery book and Short and Sweet.  I couldn't tell you whether or not the Hummingbird ones contain banana, but Dan Lepard's do.  So I guess that this recipe could be kind of linked to his.  Except the only similarity is that they have bananas in.  Oh and whilst trying to figure out if I should use baking powder (like Dan does) or bicarb (like the Good Food recipe does) I noted that rather than mashing his bananas, he chops them.  So I did that too.  And, having spent several hours reading up on the pros and cons of bicarb vs baking powder vs the pH content of bananas in varying states of ripeness, I settled for baking powder.  End of similarity as I used more in the end.  If you want to make Dan's - which will no doubt work perfectly and taste amazing (but be full of calories), you can find the recipe here.

Chopped, not mashed.
In the end, I guess I cheated a bit by using the same quantities as the BBC recipe does for a lot of the ingredients.  At the end of the day, however, certain recipes always require certain components.  Like a Vicky sponge always having a ratio of around 60g of butter, sugar and flour to every egg you add.  Plus a bit of vanilla essence.  When I make these again, I may adapt the recipe slightly once more.  I might try a little more flour or a little less sugar.  I left out additional liquid as I was using fruit.  I used self-raising flour as it was all I had (poor planning!) and then I added extra baking powder after reading up on the need for cakes to be roughly pH neutral and that the riper a banana, the more alkaline it is - and the more chance you have of your cake not rising.

Interestingly, I also finally discovered why I detest things that have bicarb in them.  Apparently certain brands contain an aluminium component which some people can taste.  I must be one of them as many a good biscuit has been ruined for me with a slightly soapy taste, even when I've followed a recipe to the letter.

I digress.  Back to my recipe.  All in all, it worked out just about okay.  The brownies are a little too sticky for my liking. And a little damp underneath which I attribute to the raspberries.  If I make them again, I'd either use dried cherries or just serve the raspberries on the side of the plate with a brownie and a little dollop of low fat yogurt.  I doubt they'll keep for more than a day or two (they won't have chance to anyway!) and I won't try freezing them as I expect the dampness will spoil them when they defrost.

Defrosted bananas - not pretty!
I had also intended to use some bananas that I'd previously frozen and defrosted just for the recipe.  This is a really good thing to do if you've got bananas that are too ripe for eating - just freeze them and then use them in banana loaf recipes or for cookies (I used this technique for Dan Lepard's Banana Fudge Cookies).  But when I clocked the result of these ones, they looked so icky and brown on the outside that they just didn't seem to suit the blonde ethos so they have been used in another banana loaf for the hubby and I used fresh ones for this recipe.

But I did like them a lot.  The sponge is really lovely and vanilla-y.  I think next time I might use a little less vanilla, but it certainly wasn't offensive.  The chunks of banana were all lovely and fudgy when they were baked.  I also didn't get those horrid little brown streaks - so commonly seen in baked goods containing bananas.  Dan doesn't say if this is because the bananas are chopped rather than mashed, but I did read that it can be to do with the use of bicarbonate of soda causing a reaction with the bananas - another reason I went with baking powder instead as I think that's quite ugly, especially in a bake that uses white rather than brown sugar.

Having just polished off my third as I type, I realised that they actually taste just like a fruit trifle.  My stepfather would love them, with the vanilla being reminiscent of the custard and the sharp contrast of the raspberry representing the jelly.

And best of all, according to, they come in at just 92 cals per piece.  Even less if you use Hellman's extra light.  I cut mine into 16 pieces, which is plenty enough (I ate the three spaced over several hours).  But you could cut them into 12 for 123 cals each or be really greedy and cut them into eight large bars and it would still only be 184 cals.  Far healthier than some Lorraine Pascale Granola Bars I calorie counted the other day which tipped the scales at a whopping 504 cals each! (But the blondies are probably less healthy)

I would also consider using chopped macadamias - which I love - in place of the raspberries.  Using the same 75g quantity that Lepard uses in his recipe would add another 40 calories to the 1/16 blondie and if you went for making the toffee to encase the nuts, the extra sugar would add another 20 calories so you'd be looking at 152 cals per piece.  Still not bad for a small, sweet treat.  I am definitely going to try that on another occasion and will duly report back.

Well if you've gotten to here, you have the patience of a saint.  The recipe is coming up very shortly, but first, a couple of good links about the whole baking powder vs bicarb argument that I found whilst idly surfing at 4am this morning.

First is an excerpt from a book called The Farmer's Wife's Cookbook by Voyageur Press which came back as a Google Books search result (hopefully the link works for you).

Second is an article by Giovanna Zivny which delves into the chemistry a little more.

Finally (yes the recipe is coming!) I am hoping to get this included in Alphabakes, a monthly blog challenge hosted by Ros and Caroline.  Each month they challenge bakers to submit the product of baking recipes (of their own, or someone elses) that start with a particular letter.  I'm hoping to be cheeky and get these in under H for Hellman's.  Of course, other mayo brands work perfectly well!  Check out Caroline's great blog, 'Caroline Makes' where you'll find the round up of this month's challenge from the 25th onwards.

Right, on to the recipe!

Makes 16

  • 85g white chocolate, broken into squares
  • 85g self raising flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (because I like the flecks, but vanilla extract is fine)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g Hellman's light mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 200g bananas, divided into four lengthways and then chopped into small pieces
  • 100g raspberries 

Really - serve these as a side rather than baking them in!

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5.  Line a 20cm tin with foil backed baking parchment (I use Lakeland's - but regular baking parchment will do)
  2. Put the chocolate into a medium sized bowl.  Add about an inch of water to a saucepan that the bowl will sit over (without the base of the bowl touching the water) and heat until simmering.  Place the bowl over the water and turn off the heat.  It's really important to melt white chocolate carefully as the low cocoa content can cause it to go grainy or burn.
  3. Once melted, leave to cool for about five minutes.
  4. Once the chocolate has cooled, beat in the vanilla and sugar.  It may go a bit grainy, but this is fine.  Beat in the egg and mayonnaise which will slacken off the mixture.  Don't worry if you have the odd small lump or two of sugar (but not loads!)
  5. Stir in the banana pieces then sift the flour, salt and baking powder into the bowl and mix until combined.
  6. Finally, carefully fold in the raspberries (or leave them out and just serve them on the side once the brownies are cooked).
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level out.  You will need to scrape every last bit out of the bowl as this is a low fat recipe and bowl licking is prohibited.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes until well set but slightly wobbly in the middle.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into sixteen and serving.


  1. hi Rebecca,
    I think that definitely counts as an entry for 'H' as Hellman's mayo is one of the main ingredients! That's a really interesting write-up, I didn't know you could freeze bananas or the difference between baking powder or bicarb of soda. I've sometimes wondered why some recipes say to use both as I assumed they were interchangeable!
    Thanks for taking part in Alphabakes :-)

  2. I agree with Caroline - Great 'H' entry for AlphaBakes. I've made Hellman brownies in the past and they actually tasted quite good. I'm impressed that you made your own recipe - I think you can definitely call it your own! I have the same issue with older posts on my blogs but now I'm more vigilant about linking and asking for permission. Really interesting read too on baking powder vs bicarb and freezing bananas as I bake with them all the time.


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