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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Maple and Bacon Scones

This week has been a week of much baking. I was given some free plums, so I decided to make breakfast crumble. Calling it breakfast crumble makes me feel better about the fact that I am essentially eating pudding for breakfast. But if Deb does it, it’s okay. I’ve also made banana bread, and birthday brownies for my friend Catherine. Earlier this month I’d tried Peyton & Byrne’s brownie recipe, but split the chocolate, half plain, half orange-flavoured. They turned out really well, so I decided to repeat (I have forgiven P&B for fail crumpets). Nothing quite like a chocolate orange brownie. As for the banana bread, best new recipe! I never thought I’d want to make anything other than Nigel Slater’s chocolate banana bread, but a contender has appeared, and can be found here (icing an unnecessary extra – 3 of us got through a whole loaf in an evening. That’s how good it is.)

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As for the thing I’d actually planned on making this week, I’m actually kind of disappointed. From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook comes “Maple and bacon scones = not as good as I was hoping”. Nothing went wrong, they were just kind of dry (which I suppose is always a danger with a scone), and I expected them to be laced with mapley goodness, and they just weren’t. I suppose this is the interesting thing about choosing 52 recipes just because you like the sound of them – there’s a higher rate of failure/disappointment, because I’m not just sticking to the things I’m familiar with and I’ve tried and tested before. But then, it’s no fun if everything works all the time. 

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Anyway, after totally selling maple and bacon scones to you, if you’d like to make them – here’s the recipe! 

85g bacon (about 3 rashers)

4 tbsp maple syrup

190g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

55g butter

4 tbsp buttermilk

1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Pour the bacon fat into a measuring jug so you can see how much you have (should be about 2 tbsp). Freeze the fat until solid. 

2. Chop the bacon into small bits, and place in a bowl with the maple syrup. Stir and set aside. Remove bacon fat from freezer. 

3. Preheat your oven to 220C/Gas 7. Line a baking sheet. Mix the flour, raising agents and salt in a bowl and rub the bacon fat and butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the bacon/maple syrup mix and the buttermilk and blend together until evenly moistened. 

4. Knead a couple of times (as little as needed). Pat out to 2.5cm thickness, and cut into scones with a 5cm cutter. Place on baking sheet, and bake for 12-14mins until puffed and golden. 

 

Next week: Vanilla Bread! (but I reserve the right to change my mind…)

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…