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. 

 

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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. 

 

Little Blueberry Pies

More blueberries this week – once again I bought them questionably cheap from the market, and once again found a handful of squishy/mouldy ones. But it’s kind of worth it because as long as you’re using them the same day, they still work out cheaper than buying them anywhere else, even if you do have to throw some away.

These blueberry pies come from Nigel Slater’s Tender vol. II, a book filled with fruit based recipes that make me long to have the kind of garden he has, because he seems to grow pretty much everything you could think of. These have the loveliest shortbread-type pastry that is super crumbly and delicious – you could eat it by itself, never mind the blueberry filling. I tried to roll out the pastry and then realised why the recipe told me not to – long as I had worked to get the pastry into a ball in the first place, it fell apart as soon as I took a rolling pin to it. This has to be cut into pieces and then pressed into tartlet tins to best avoid inevitable crumbliness.

I wasn’t too overwhelmed by these though, to be honest. They’re nice and all, but they haven’t exactly bowled me over. That said, I haven’t tried one warm with cream yet (which I feel is how they’re probably supposed to be eaten) – just cold at lunchtime. So maybe I’ll reserve my total judgement of them.

Also, apologies, these pies aren’t exactly photogenic – photos will be uploaded soon when I take some that don’t make them look disgusting…

Next week – continuing blueberry season with Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

 

Little Blueberry Pies (from Tender, vol. II by Nigel Slater)

140g butter

1 egg yolk

230g plain flour

50g icing sugar

300g blueberries

60g ground almonds

3 tbsp redcurrant jelly

juice of half a lemon

1. Grease four 8cm tartlet tins with removable bases.

2. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, then mix in the icing sugar and egg yolk. Bring the dough together and squeeze into a round, then roll into a short, fat log before putting in the fridge for half an hour to chill.

3. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4. Toss the fruit together with the redcurrant jelly, almonds and lemon juice. Cut the pastry into four. Flatten each piece on a floured board and use to line the tart tins. Leave surplus pastry overhanging the edges. Pile the filling into the tart cases, then loosely fold over the overhanging pastry (I did not do this, see photo…).

4. Place the tarts onto a baking sheet and bake for 25 mins until the pastry is biscuit coloured and the fruit is bubbling. Dust with a little icing sugar and eat warm or cool.

Pecan Pie (and 100 followers!)

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I’ll start with a THANKS this week – I realised a few days ago that I’ve reached 100 followers – yay! Thank you for reading and liking and commenting and hanging around – it is much appreciated :).

I also have good news, and bad news. The bad news is, that my oven isn’t fixed. It seems to have some kind of intermittent fault which it doesn’t show off when the electrician comes around. That said, the electrician did believe us when we told him it was rubbish, so he’s recommended that the landlord buy us a new one. I am in full agreement with this decision. But, these things take time, so who knows when we’ll actually get a new one. All I know is that my cooking plans are continually thwarted by only having a hob to work with (although, I suppose that’s better than nothing at all and having to buy takeaway).

The good news is that I think I do actually have some recipes on my list which don’t require an oven, so I’m going to decide on one of those and hopefully it won’t derail my blogging plans too much!

On to the pecan pie!

I made pecan pie for my dear mother for Mother’s Day this year. I actually ended up making it first thing Monday morning, because by the time I got to my parents’ house after work on Sunday they were in the midst of making awesome roast dinner, and with a tiny kitchen, it’s hard for people to be doing two different things at the same time, so I figured it was best to wait. It’s been a while since I’ve baked in that kitchen, and it was kind of weird having to try and remember where everything was kept, having to ask my brother where the flour now lived etc. But it all went off without a hitch – hurrah! Part of me was expecting to get to the potential egg scramble stage and get it wrong and have to start over, but after my recent pastry cream making, I think I’ve learnt the art of adding hot liquid to eggs, and so it was all fine. One very happy mother (and father and brother and sister).

pre-syrup adding
pre-syrup adding

Pecan Pie (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

200g caster sugar

250ml golden syrup (or preferably dark corn syrup if you can get hold of it)

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

60g unsalted butter, cubed

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

100g pecan nuts, chopped, plus extra to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 170C/Gas 3. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour, and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Line the prepared pie dish with the dough and trim the edges with a sharp knife. (I believe in blind-baking pastry – this recipe doesn’t call for it, but I think it’s better, so you can line the pastry with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans (or rice) and bake it for 15 mins or so before putting the mixture in)

2. Put the sugar, corn syrup (or golden syrup) and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool down slightly (I left it for 10-15mins, and that seemed to work fine).

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs briefly with a balloon whisk until they are just mixed. Slowly pour the warm (not hot!) syrup into the eggs, stirring briskly so that you don’t allow the eggs time to scramble.

4. Add the butter and vanilla extract to the bowl and stir until the butter has melted and is evenly dispensed.

5. Put the chopped pecan nuts into the pie crust, then pour the filling on top. Arrange the pecan halves gently on top of the filling around the edge of the pie. Bake for about 50-60 mins, or until a dark caramel colour with a slightly crusty surface. (Note: it might bubble up, so don’t be surprised when you open the oven and it’s not flat – as it cools it will go back down!)

 

Next week: whatever I can find on my list that doesn’t require an oven to make.

 

 

Summer Baking

So the other week I got all up with Smitten Kitchen on The Royal Moose, after making some truly delicious rhubarb and cream cheese hand pies. The thing about baking is that you’re never satisfied with the recipes you already have. Always looking for new ideas means that I have got an enormous amount of enjoyment from scouring the Smitten Kitchen website over the past week finding recipes I have never come across before. It was all I could do to not drop everything, go and buy a ton of ingredients, take a week off work and just BAKE. There were strawberry-ricotta graham tartlets and fudge popsicles and pumpkin swirl brownies and the HAND PIES, OH MY GOD THE HAND PIES. Then I had to stop looking at all the recipes. I thought this video was a reasonable distraction. Shout out to Allen Pope for being responsible for this.

 

But I had to restrain myself, and instead have decided that a slower approach would be better – lest all the food go to waste you see (who am I kidding, like I wouldn’t have eaten it all). So two things have been made. Ratatouille Tart. And. Peach Shortbread. (I think I might break the record for number of links to the same website in one blog post). Ratatouille tart made excellent dinner, very simple and quick and also delicious. Highly recommended. 

 

As for the peach shortbread. WELL. It looks beautiful and tastes fantastic, and the recipe is here. I started out intending to do the whole browned butter thing, then realised (after not reading the instructions properly) that I was going to have to freeze my butter. I have the smallest freezer in the world. Not possible, plus waiting half an hour for butter to solidify again – even whilst watching Andy Murray win against Fernando Verdasco – wasn’t something I wanted to do. By this point I’d already started melting my butter though. So I added it melted. Yeah. It did work though – I panicked a little, but it was absolutely fine. So there you go. Peach shortbread and I am happy. Image

The List

To get this thing rolling, I have decided to make a list of all the things I want to bake in order to shortlist potentially saleable cakes. Whilst looking for pictures of cakes I have previously baked to illustrate this post, I instead came across a picture of a cat that looks like Hitler (I’m sorry okay, but this is going to become a thing, and anyway, I couldn’t find any decent baking photos, shameful I know).

I’m thinking the list will probably be added to as time passes, but here is the initial list. There is one item which will be added at a later date once I’ve worked out if there is any level of feasibility in my creation of them.

 

The List:

  1. Brownies (the good kind, made with ground almonds instead of flour to make them extra gooey and lovely)
  2. Red Velvet Cupcakes 
  3. Small Salted Caramel Tarts
  4. Peanut Butter Pie 
  5. Carrot Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Icing
  6. Caramel Cheesecake
  7. Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake
  8. Honey & Pecan Loaf
  9. Black Bottom Cupcakes
  10. Raspberry Streusel Cake
  11. Gingerbread (in house, man or tree form – there are so many options)
  12. Baked Blueberry Cheesecake
  13. Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies (the most extravagant kind of brownie you will ever encounter. Man they are rich, but incredibly tasty)
  14. Lemon-Almond Cream Bread (YES. I just found this recipe and it looks fantastic, so why not?!)
  15. Banana Bread
  16. Lemon Curd (I know this isn’t a form of cake, but I want to make it to use in cakes, so it’s here)

 

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that I’ve forgotten, but those 16 are a start which will keep me busy for a while. 

 

Yesterday a man came into the bookshop I work in and said “I am humbled by all your books, because they make me see there is so much I do not know”. It was a pretty awesome statement to make, although I just stood there awkwardly and thought to myself “wow”.

I’m feeling a bit the same, in the sense that I’m looking around at all these other bakeries and blogs with people who are amazing bakers and have icing abilities that I will never have, and I realise that I’ve got a lot to find out, but that’s okay, because this is a journey. Even if it will be a long one. At least if it’s difficult some days, I’ve still got a picture of a tiny kitten doing the Nazi salute in a mug. That will make everything better. 

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