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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Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake

It was a rainy evening. Somehow British summers always end up a little disappointing in this respect. A couple of weeks of blazing sunshine, followed by constant, unfailing miserable weather that makes it feel more like October than July (I say this like it’s a bad thing, but I’m already looking forward to autumn). I’d been super ill that week, and felt exhausted. I’d eaten like crap and slept badly, and sometimes you just need to clear your mind, bake, and then sit and eat some damn good cake.

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I proceeded to make the following cake three times in the space of about two weeks. This is no bad thing, although I think the first cake tasted the best and the second looked the neatest (I will add here that I didn’t eat all three by myself – however bad things get I think I’ve yet to eat an entire cake to myself).

This is one of those cakes that makes you feel comforted as soon as you start eating. It’s a cake to be eaten with coffee or after a good meal, or sometimes as breakfast, because it does have fruit in it and that’s definitely okay. The recipe originally comes from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, however I have revised it slightly with each bake. I have yet to be adventurous enough to try it with a different fruit (although the first version I made was blueberry & raspberry), but there’s time for that. I’m pretty sure it’d be great with blackberries, and after all, tis the season etc etc.

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Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake (from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen)

300g blueberries (or other soft fruit)
50ml elderflower cordial
4 eggs
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
125g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
125g Greek yoghurt
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3-4, and grease a 23cm springform tin. Wrap the outside of the tin in a layer of foil to create a seal to stop fruit juice leaking out.
  2. Spread the blueberries evenly over the base of the tin, drizzle with the elderflower and leave to macerate.
  3. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a mixer/hand whisk for 5-8 mins until pale and fluffy. When you remove the whisk, the trail of mixture it leaves on the surface should remain visible for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Mix the melted butter and yoghurt together. Gradually mix the melted butter/yoghurt and dry ingredients into the beaten egg mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients until combined.
  5. Pour the batter over the blueberries and bake until the top looks golden and feels springy and firm to the touch. This seems to be anywhere between 40-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Pierce with a skewer to check it’s cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for as long as humanly possible before releasing the springform and flipping the cake upside down onto a plate (original recipe says leave for 15 minutes – this was not long enough to stop my first cake breaking in half)

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

Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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This week has been my reading week, which naturally meant that I got ill, because I needed to spend my time writing essays. Typical. On the bright side, Taylor Swift’s new album ‘1989’ came out, which I have been dancing to all week (in between sneezes). Time is flying by, and now that Halloween has passed, it feels like Christmas is just around the corner – which quite frankly is terrifying. The last 8 weeks of this year are going to be incredibly busy for me – I have an insane amount of work to do in the coming weeks, and I’m already tired.

Toffee Apples didn’t happen..I looked at the recipe, saw it (unsurprisingly) involved boiling water and sugar together, and I didn’t really have time for disasters this week, so instead I decided to look for more ways to use the pumpkin puree I have still. These cookies are really quick and easy, and I chose to do the cranberry pumpkin ones because they seemed the most autumnal, but you can add chocolate chips or other dried fruit or nuts or anything you want really! To be honest, the pumpkin doesn’t add much flavour (unless you add your cinnamon,nutmeg and ginger), but it does give the cookies a nice yellowy colour inside. The original recipe is for tiny tiny cookies, and suggests it yields about 48-60 cookies – I made mine slightly bigger, about 3 inches across, and got 26, which seems a more manageable number to me (and a more satisfying size of cookie).

This recipe is in cups, but if you need conversions into grams or ounces, this is the best place.

 

Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Fall Baking – November 2011)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups plain flour

3 cups oats

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl beat together butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add flour. Stir in oats, pumpkin and cranberries until combined. Chill the dough if you want/if you have the time.

2. Drop heaped dessert spoons of dough onto lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Leave to cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Plum Pie

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We’re a little lacklustre this week due to moving house. Two trips to Norwich so far, a couple more to go before I’m fully settled. It feels weird having two houses, hell, it is weird having two houses. One which I have loads of stuff to do in, and the other that I have hardly anything to do at all. Apart from bake. So I took some plums and my pie dish and my scales up to Norwich and made some pie. Baking is a welcome constant, as well as watching the West Wing – they offer comfort in a time of not really being sure what on earth I’m supposed to be doing with my time. 

One thing I did forget was my rolling pin, so the pie was decidedly rustic-looking, and then managed to spew plum juice all over the oven whilst cooking. There’s nothing like endearing yourself to your new housemates by burning plum juice onto their oven. I should’ve known better really, as plums are particularly juicy when cooked, and pastry isn’t a great sponge. Oh well. 

Next week I will be continuing my travels back and forth, trying to find a job before I go out of my mind with boredom, and baking Coffee and Chocolate Loaf. 

 

Plum Pie (from ‘Appetite’ by Nigel Slater) 

This is one of many variations of pie. Basically if you get any fruit and put pastry over the top of it, you will have this pie. 

I told you it was lacklustre. 

180g plain flour

100g butter

cold water

350g-500g plums

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Combine flour and butter until crumb-like in consistency. Slowly add water until the dough comes together. 

2. Destone and chop up plums. Place in pie dish. Roll out pastry and lay over the top of the dish. Brush pastry with milk or egg.

3. Bake for 40-45mins. Beware excessive plum juice. 

 

Plum Cupcakes

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This week I spent a few days staying with Laura in Gloucestershire. Laura lives on the edge of the Forest of Dean, where  everything is beautiful and green and just downright lovely. We picked plums in her garden and made perhaps the tartest plum crumble ever. When I start picking fruit I never want to stop if there’s more to pick – which lead to us picking about 3-4kg of plums – including some that weren’t quite ripe enough…hence the tartness. But the joyous result of my excessive picking was that I got to bring some back home with me! So on Friday I got down to making a small batch of plum jam (also a little tart), which I then used to make plum cupcakes. I still have another 500g or so of plums left, so they’ll be used to make plum pie next week. 

I’m also moving next week, and so I’ve spent the last couple of days going through things and packing stuff in boxes. My room looks bare, and there’s an ever-increasing pile of boxes in my living room. You never realise how much stuff you have until you have to pack it all up. I haven’t even started on my kitchen yet (that’s not happening for another week or two), and so by the time I’m all done, the pile will probably have doubled. I’m trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have, but as a lifetime lover of books and CDs, some things are just too hard to part with. The only good news is that most of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the two years of living here is useful stuff, like kitchenware, rather than just random crap. 

But back to lovely plum cupcakes! Despite my complaints about Hummingbird the other week, I have gone back to them, yet again. I’ve messed about with the recipe a bit though, and I thought the cupcakes looked so good with jam oozing out of the top when I took them out of the oven that I decided not to ice them. They’re sweet enough already, who needs vast quantities of icing? 

Next week: Plum pie

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Plum Cupcakes (adapted from ‘Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days’ by Tarek Malouf)

This made 12 + 1 tiny one, but I used large muffin cases, so it’d probably make about 16 if you’re making little ones.

120g butter, softened

340g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

360g soft light brown sugar

180ml buttermilk

200g-270g (approx.) plum jam (if you want to make your own, see here)

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line a muffin tin (or two) with paper cases. 

2. Using an electric whisk (or your fingertips), mix together the butter, flour, baking powder and salt until like crumbs. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, buttermilk and 120g of the jam until all ingredients are combined. Add half of this to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, then add the rest and mix until smooth. 

3. Fill each paper case 1/3 full with batter, then top with 1 tsp of jam, followed by a similar quantity of batter, so the cases are about 2/3 full (my jam filling ended up a little higher than this). The jam will create a filling as the cakes bake. Bake for around 20 mins, or until the tops spring back when pressed. Leave to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool. 

 

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

BLUEBERRIES: ROUND #3

I realise this has been a blueberry-heavy time. But then, isn’t it? Summer is here (despite the questionable weather) and blueberries are everywhere. As are peaches. In fact the only thing not summery about this is the cobbler part, which rings more of cold evenings than summery nights. Even so, it’s still delicious, peaches and blueberries are a match made in heaven (who knew?) and the topping is all light and scone-like and just very tasty. And much more photogenic, so this week we actually have pictures!

The next few weeks are going to be a little craaazy. Got a lot going on – having a very full-on birthday weekend next week, and I am also in the midst of training a replacement for me because I’m leaving my job in 3.5 WEEKS. For those of you who don’t know, I’m going off to be a student (for the second time, except this time I’m actually going to university instead of it coming to me). It’s kind of terrifying, I’m moving city for the first time ever, and I just have so much to do it’s mental. Plus it’s only 4 weeks now until I travel to Canada to see my wonderful friends and their darling baby. So if I miss a week, or I post late, I’m sorry. I’ll probably be letting myself down more than anyone else, because I’m amazed I’ve managed to post every Sunday for the last 26 weeks. I’ll try not to break the chain.

Anyway, for your cold summer evenings, have some peach and blueberry cobbler – you won’t be disappointed. Eat with plenty of double cream. I hope all your summers are as amazing as I think mine will be.

Next week: Brooklyn Blackout Cake

 

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler (from Tender, vol.II by Nigel Slater)

150g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp caster sugar

80g butter

142ml soured cream

3 large, ripe peaches

350g blueberries

juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

1. Set the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Rub the flour, a pinch of salt, baking powder, sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles soft, fresh breadcrumbs. 

2. Slice the peaches, and put in an ovenproof dish. Toss with the blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and flour. 

3. Mix the soured cream into the crumb mixture until it forms a soft dough. Break off walnut sized pieces, flatten them lightly and lay them on top of the fruit. Dust the rounds of dough with sugar, then bake in the oven for 25 mins until the cobbler is golden and the fruit is bubbling.