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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Honey and Pistachio Semolina Cake

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Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

I’m BACK!

Canada was incredible and beautiful and just an excellent holiday all round. We saw the best of what South Saskatchewan had to offer, spent time in Banff National Park (amazing), and most importantly got to see our friends Jordi and Robbie and their ADORABLE baby Leo. He is so lovely. I really miss him :(.

I got back to England early on Monday morning, and then spent two days getting over the most horrible jet lag, which meant I didn’t really do much apart from watch the West Wing and go food shopping. Now I am finally back to normal, only to prepare myself for the next adventure, which is moving house. This will probably involve me having to do another spate of baking which I will then post over several weeks, as I haven’t worked out when I’ll be in Cambridge and when I’ll be in Norwich, and most importantly, when I’m moving my kitchen stuff.

One of the benefits of moving is that it gives you the opportunity to clear out your cupboards and get rid of stuff you don’t use anymore – this applies to food as much books, DVDs and clothes. So this week I made blackberry cordial from some blackberries and strawberries that I had left in the freezer.

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Cordial is really straightforward to make – boil fruit with water, add sugar, dilute when you drink it (I recommend with lemonade). I managed to spill a lot of it over my kitchen when I tried to put more liquid into the bottle than it would actually hold. Genius. But I’m looking forward to drinking the stuff that didn’t end up on the floor.

Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday, so I made him honey and pistachio semolina cake. I was hoping the cake would turn out more green inside than it actually did, but it still tasted pretty good, although the syrup didn’t make it quite as moist as I was hoping, and it wasn’t really thick enough either, and no matter how long I boiled it for it didn’t seem to reduce quite enough. Oh well, these things happen.

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 Next week: Plum Cupcakes

 

Semolina Cake with Honey and Pistachio (from ‘Homemade’ by Clodagh McKenna)

4 large eggs

150g caster sugar

125ml vegetable oil

110g plain flour

110g semolina

1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

175g pistachios, finely ground

1 tsp grated lemon zest

2 tbsp pistachios, chopped

 

for the syrup

300g honey

250ml water

1 tbsp lemon juice

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl, and beat together with an electric mixer on high speed for about 5 mins. Reduce the speed and slowly pour in the vegetable oil.

2. Tip in the flour, semolina, baking powder and salt and mix well until it comes together. Fold in the ground pistachios and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into a greased 24cm tin and bake in the oven for 30-35mins.

3. Meanwhile, make the syrup by stirring the honey, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and place over a high heat. Leave the syrup to boil and reduce by half, which takes about 10 mins. Use a skewer to poke deep holes in the cake whilst it’s hot. Drizzle half of the syrup evenly over the top, allowing it to be absorbed, then pour over the remaining syrup. Leave to cool completely, then sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Serve with a dollop of mascarpone cream.

On Blackberries

 

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**note: I meant to post this at least two weeks ago, but then life got busy and I, for some reason, have not got around to uploading photos and etc – so here it is now. Pretend it’s the beginning of September again and that you’re super excited that blackberries have just come into season. Then expect that there will be a post or two more in the coming days as a catch up for all the time I’ve missed.**

 

Blackberry season is on!

When I was young I used to spend ages at the bottom of the garden picking blackberries, trying to work my way around the brambles to get the ripest, biggest ones. There were always plenty that were out of my reach, and it always felt a shame that because I couldn’t get to them, we wouldn’t get to eat them. September evenings were filled with blackberry crumble and freshly made bramble jelly, and it was delicious and wonderful.

Last week I found myself reliving the blackberry picking of my childhood – in a different garden (my boyfriend’s parents). I spent many happy hours picking away, gathering bowls and bowls full of them. I think I did three separate picking sessions, and the quantity of blackberries were just endless – but it made me sad to leave them, so I kept picking, even though I hadn’t really thought what I should do with them…. In the end I managed to pick 2.5kg of blackberries. And then I resolved that I would find more creative things to do with them than make jam. Part of me wishes I’d made jam.

As it turns out, I never thought I would have enough of blackberries. But there’s still 500g of them in my freezer that I can’t bear to take out because I’ve had enough, okay, I’ve had enough. Sorry beautiful childhood memories, but there is such a thing as too many blackberries.

Complaints about my obsessive blackberry picking aside, I did manage to make the following things:

1! Blackberry Upside-Down Cake – this was by far the best use of blackberries. I should’ve made five cakes (in fact this recipe is what I’m planning to use the last of the blackberries on once I’ve recovered a bit). Delicious. At first I didn’t really see the point in the syrup, because the cake tastes pretty damn good by itself, but if you, like me, spent your childhood eating bramble jelly, well, that’s what the syrup tastes like (duh) and as soon as I realised this I was pouring it all over the cake, and then suddenly the cake was gone…(I promise I didn’t eat it all myself). Recipe can be found here.

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2! Blackberry and Apple Turnovers – I don’t know when I started not reading recipes properly. I feel like it’s quite a recent occurrence, because too many times have I thought I’ve known what I’m doing and then I look again and it turns out that I shouldn’t have put the blackberries in with the apple to soften. Whoops. As a result the filling became more liquidy and difficult to put into pastry and then disaster after disaster, I cut pastry circles too small and the filling came out of the sides. Just to add insult to injury, when I took them out of the oven I realised that all the filling (apart from the large lumps of apple) had basically evaporated, leaving blackberry flavoured pastry. Total failure, but I did discover that if this does happen, you can always warm them up and eat them with cream and just pretend that’s how they were supposed to be. Definitely works.

Recipe (for people who read them, unlike me – from Nigel Slater’s Tender: Vol II):

For the pastry:

55g butter

55g lard

225g plain flour

cold water

a little egg and milk for glazing

an egg white

caster sugar

For the filling:

1kg cooking or dessert apples

4 tbsp sugar

150g blackberries

cream or custard to serve

– Rub the fat into the flour, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until it combines into a dough. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

– Peel the apples, discard the cores and cut into small chunks. Put in a pan with the sugar and a few tablespoons of water. Cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly, until they soften. Tip in the blackberries and set aside. Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

– Divide the pastry into 6 pieces. Roll each into a disc about 12cm in diameter, using a saucer as a template. Brush the edges with beaten egg and milk, then put a small heap of the filling on to each disc of pastry. Fold the dough over to make a semicircle, then press hard around the edges to seal.

Transfer the pastries to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush all over with beaten egg and milk. Cut a couple of steam holes in the top of each pasty to prevent them bursting. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Lightly beat the egg white with a fork until it starts to froth. Brush lightly over the hot pastries then scatter with caster sugar and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Eat warm with cream or custard.

3! Blackberry and Fig Tarts – usually I find that Nigel Slater recipes are a) awesomely tasty, and b) always successful. These were less so on both counts. His Tender vol. II is very useful if you have too much of a certain fruit and you don’t know what to do with it, but you couldn’t really taste the figs, and there was far too high a ratio of filling:pastry, so it just ended up being a mass of purple stuff that wasn’t particularly exciting to eat. I’m really showing the success of blackberry picking here, right? But just so we can all agree about why I decided to make these awful pies, they look amazing here, shame mine looked nothing like that….

The recipe is linked above, but one comment I would make about it (other than they might be nice if you make them better than I did?) is that unless you have the world’s biggest egg, one yolk isn’t going to be enough to bring the pastry together. It’s quite likely you’ll need a splash of water too.

4! Blackberry and Apple Crumble – because you can’t go wrong with crumble. It’s true, and this one did actually go right, mostly because there was very little to go wrong. I used some of the leftover filling from the disaster-turnovers, and then added as many blackberries as the dish I had would take, along with a sprinkling of raspberries, and voila! I have no idea what quantity of fruit I used, I would imagine it was somewhere in the region of 800g, and the crumble recipe is as follows:

110g butter

110g brown sugar

180g plain flour

50g oats

Rub the butter into the flour and sugar, then add the oats, sprinkle over your fruit, and bake for around 35-45mins.

 

The next in season fruit I’ll be getting excited about is greengages. Just to warn you. Although unfortunately (kind of) greengages are never as abundant as blackberries, so I don’t think I’ll get so overwhelmed next time…