Blackberry & Apple Loaf Cake

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Autumn is here. I tend to forget how quickly summer can end, how the chill in the air appears overnight and the nights start to draw in. The weather is wetter this year, but the same change comes, the trees are turning shades of orange and gold, which spells time for a slightly heartier cake that warms you on cooler days.

IMG_5185tThis is that cake. A wonderful nutty cake with warm fruit and a crumble topping. It’s basically two puddings combined into a joyous concoction that will warm your soul. There had to be some self-control to stop us demolishing the entire thing in an afternoon. IMG_5192t
I’ve rarely used hazelnuts in a cake before, almonds are usually the recommended nut of choice. After this, I will be making more cakes with hazelnuts in because, seriously, wow! Forget hazelnuts and chocolate in your cake, hazelnuts with fruit is where it’s at. This is destined to become a staple cake, one that I make again and again throughout the autumn and winter.  Continue reading

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Apple Week #2

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I made apple cakes this week! Now that I’ve handed in my essay and things are temporarily slightly less crazy, I managed to spend time baking, and it has been lovely. The first cake I made was a Peyton & Byrne ‘Discovery Apple Cake’ which was delicious and moist, with a hint of cinnamon. The second cake (which literally just came out of the oven) is a Nigel Slater recipe, with raisins and marmalade, which is richer and has a more fruitcake-y flavour, rather than overwhelmingly apple. My house smells of freshly baked cake. Nothing quite like it. Unfortunately my enthusiasm resulted in me taking it out of its tin too soon after it came out of the oven, and it split it half :(. But it is truly delicious, a proper autumnal cake.

I used whisky marmalade in the Nigel Slater cake, which gives it the slight hint of alcohol you get from Christmas cake. If you don’t have some whisky marmalade lying about (kind of unlikely…), then I can definitely recommend you soak the fruit in a shot or two of whisky or rum if you want that extra flavour. Also I find apple cakes are way better made with brown sugar or dark muscavado sugar, because it gives them a more caramel-y flavour that is great with apple.

Christmas is looming now, which means I’m starting to think about all the things I want to bake – I always make gingerbread, because it’s awesome, but I’ve just been looking through Peyton and Byrne and I saw a recipe for honeycomb I’d really like to try. I’m still a little weary of boiling sugar on the hob in this house after my experience making toffee sauce the other week, but maybe I’ll be brave and give it a go. There are a bunch of Christmas themed recipes in Scandilicious as well, which I might write about in the coming weeks.

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Continue reading

Apple and Courgette Cake

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I’ve only baked with courgette once before. It’s one of those vegetables that doesn’t really scream “bake with me”. In fact, I had a lengthy discussion with my colleague about the merits of baking with courgette. I couldn’t really think of any apart from one – it’s moist. Also, it has quite a subtle flavour – which means if you’re making, say, a cake with apple and sultanas and pecans in it, then it’s not overpowering. In fact, kind of the opposite. The most noticeable contribution the courgette made to this cake was the pretty green lines in the cake when you cut it. All of this said, I am in no way disappointed with the courgette, I just don’t think it’s particularly versatile to bake with. Prove me wrong why don’t you. Obviously I chose this recipe because I liked the novelty of using courgette – and to be honest, it’s pretty good. It comes from Nigel Slater’s Tender, Vol II which is an excellent book.

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

150g courgette (about 2 small or 1 medium one)

a small apple

200g plain flour

a pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of ground cinnamon

60g pecans

80g sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Butter and line the base of a loaf tin approx 20cmx12cmx9cm.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Lightly beat the eggs and beat them in a little at a time, making sure each bit is fully incorporated before adding the next. Coarsely grate the courgettes and apple. Squeeze them with your hands to remove any excess moisture, then add to the mixture.

3. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together and gently fold them into the mixture. Stir in the nuts and sultanas. Transfer to the lined loaf tin and bake for about an hour, until golden and firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.

 

Also, over the last week I have been using up old granola and muesli to make muesli bars. Or granola bars. Gransli? Muenola? (That sounds like a disease). I made some granola a while ago, and then got on to a porridge breakfast phase, and now it’s gone a little soft, and I didn’t really want to eat it, but it was also a giant waste to throw it away. So, I decided to make granola bars (I’m just going to say it’s granola). So I mixed 250g granola (recipe can be found here), 250g muesli (you can make your own, but I had some Dorset Cereals stuff) with 200g butter and 200g sugar and a spoon of either honey or golden syrup (I made two batches, one with each, and I think honey works better). You melt the sugar, butter and honey together in a pan, then stir it into the granola/muesli, put it into a tray and bake for about 10-15mins on about 200C. Wait for it to cool, then cut into squares, and it tastes delicious and comes out looking something like this:

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Next time – Black Bottom (cup)Cakes

Autumn Baking

I love autumn. Autumn autumn autumn, you are my favourite season by far. Cycling in to work on crisp, bright October mornings makes me happy. Leaves changing colour, winter setting in. But the best part is the fruit. Autumnal fruits – blackberries, apples, plums, pears (as well as many more) are fruits which I associate with my childhood – memories of my mum making plum jam and bramble jelly from the fruit in our garden, picking up apples to make apple pies (although there were always far more apples in our garden than we could ever use), and waiting to see if the pear tree would give any fruit that year (most years it didn’t, but when it did, it was good).

I always took autumn fruit for granted, as something that just came with my house. But many years ago the plum tree was cut down, and about a month ago I moved out, missing the blackberries completely, without apples readily available, and not even knowing if the pear tree gave us any fruit this year. So I’ve had to make my own autumn fruit season instead. My first discovery were figs. Figs are something which I have always been unsure of – something which until a few weeks I don’t think I had ever consumed (which meant that I kind of assumed I wouldn’t like them). But figs are GREAT. The first time I bought them I didn’t know whether they were supposed to be soft or not, so picking them out from the market was an interesting process (I decided in the end that as the majority of them seemed to be squidgy, it was reasonable to assume they were supposed to be like that). I took them home and baked them in honey for 10-15 minutes and then ate them with goat’s cheese. So good. After that I made fig jam, which I’ve yet to try, but looked pretty good (and was super easy, my first jam-making experience).

Plum and pear crumble is something else I have been making and consuming on a reasonably regular basis, and I’m planning on making more pear based things in the near future.

Greengages, which are technically only in season during August and September, are still hanging around on my local market, which makes me so happy, because greengages are one of my favourite fruits, but they’re so rarely available to me. I found an excellent recipe for greengage and elderflower muffins in my Scandilicious recipe book, and they were fantastic. The recipe says you can substitute the greengages for plums, which I’m going to try next (I have a lot of elderflower cordial to use up).

In other news, today I registered myself as a sole trader. I am working through applications for the council to come and check my kitchen. I started a Facebook page. Self-promotion is one of my failings in life, so I don’t know how much it will be used, but if you want to like me, click here. All these things feel equally overwhelming and exciting, and I’m not sure where the next few months will lead, but hopefully they will be mostly good. Watch this space.

Greengage and Elderflower Muffins

12 ripe greengages

40ml elderflower cordial

3 medium eggs, beaten

150g caster sugar

200g plain flour

50g ground almonds

1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp bicarb of soda

1/4 tsp salt

200g creme fraiche

50g butter, melted

1. Line a muffin tray with paper cases and preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.

2. Quarter the greengages, remove the stones and place in a bowl. Drizzle the elderflower cordial over them, stirring to ensure they’re well coated.

3. Mix the eggs and sugar together. Put the flour, ground almonds, raising agents and salt in a large bowl and stir to distribute the raising agents evenly. Make a well in the middle and pour in the egg mixture, the creme fraiche and melted butter. Stir 4-5 times to mix everything together, and then tip in the greengages in their elderflower cordial. Mix 4-5 times more. Don’t overmix the batter.

4. Fill the cases three-quarters full, then sprinkle extra sugar on top (brown is definitely best).

5. Bake on the upper-middle shelf for 10 mins before turning the heat down to 190C/Gas 5 and baking for a further 5-10 mins or until the muffins have risen well and are brown on top. Cool on a wire rack. These keep for a couple of days in an airtight container, or you can freeze them in foil for a couple of months – reheat from frozen at 150C/Gas 2 for 15mins.