Banana & Toffee Cupcakes

The last month has been crazy, full on crazy. I went to Stockholm a couple of weeks ago, and it was glorious. I never get tired of visiting Scandinavia, it’s like this paradise where everything is just lovely and full of coffee and pastries, and they have museum exhibitions about brewing beer (yes!). It also looks like this:

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On returning, we had friends staying for the Bank Holiday weekend, and then had a huge pizza party which was great, albeit very messy, because when you make 3kg of dough, and get your approx. 20 guests to all make their own pizzas, it gets…ugh. My kitchen. It was the biggest clear up job ever, and mad props to Laura and Hayden who did loads of it whilst I was still at the pub. We had some cool pizzas though – including macaroni¬†cheese pizza, potato pizza, and banana and harissa pizza (which surprisingly worked).

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Anyway, now that I’m finally less insanely busy, it’s time to write about those banana and toffee cupcakes I mentioned a while ago. I love banana cake, and I’m always looking for variations to increase its general awesomeness. This is a tale of first world problems, whereby the little Waitrose near my house stopped selling the banana and toffee cupcakes I had grown to love. They still sell them at the one 4 miles from my house, but that is no use to me. So I decided to try and make some myself. I’ve made these a couple of times, and I will say it’s still a work in progress. I think I’m basically hoping that one day they’ll taste exactly like the Waitrose ones, but in the meantime, these work pretty damn well as a substitute.

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The Reintroduction

Welcome. It’s been about 18 months since I last did this properly. I’ve resolved now to reform the habit, and stick at this. During the time I’ve been gone, I forfeited my domain, and now find it taken away from me. That’s kind of cool though, because I’d been wanting to drop the ‘bakery’ part of the name for a while (we’re now theplumtree.co, in case you didn’t notice). Not that this isn’t going to be about cake any more, because that would be pure madness. But, maybe sometimes it’ll be about other things too. I also considered starting afresh in a new place, but then I thought, hey, I’ll have to go somewhere else to find the link when I want to reminisce about the time I made a crepe cake. That’s no fun.

So, here I am. I’ll be doing some baking, and then writing about it. I’ll be doing this at least once a week for the foreseeable future. I feel like it’s good to make a commitment right at the start, no shitting about. People have asked me a lot about doing this again recently, and now after all the moving about and having my mind consumed and zapped by postgraduate study, I am ready again.

The evidence of things I’ve cooked over the last 18 months can be found on my Instagram, if you’re interested (lately it’s more pictures of pizza really), and I’ll probably keep putting other stuff up there too. A few days ago I made some not-photogenic banana and toffee cupcakes. This weekend’s task is to make some more photogenic ones. See, you already have something to look forward to, and so does my stomach. Good.

Laters.

Lemon Toasts

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I’ve had the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook for about 2 years now. No, in case you’re wondering, I’ve never used it. But it had some interesting recipes, and I liked the concept, even though I was never going to actually follow the diet. To be honest, I admire anyone who is willing to spend a weekend only eating leek soup, and have one of their breakfast staples be “magic breakfast cream”, which sounds really suspect until you read the ingredients list (yogurt, lemon juice, cereal, walnuts, in case you’re wondering). One of the main things that stood out for me from the book was the brunch section, and particularly lemon toasts. They’re basically a slightly classier version of French toast, but super tasty and REALLY filling. The recipe says to use brioche, and when I went to buy it, I was faced with plain or chocolate chip. Both the same price. Obviously I got the chocolate chip (because as can be seen here, chocolate makes everything better).

Also, because this is the most basic and quickest thing I’ve baked so far this year, I thought I’d share some of the other things I’ve been baking this week, namely apple pie, and PIZZZAAAAA. When I went back to my parents’ house the other week, I was given some apples (some of the vast stock left over from this autumn). I finally got around to using them, and even when your apples are so soft that it’s initially really difficult to peel them, they still make good pie. I got the Observer Food Monthly last weekend, which contained bread recipes from Nigel Slater. So I made a massive batch of dough (1.6kg to be precise), and made one loaf, two pizzas, and some rolls. I was going to make maple and walnut buns, but I already have so much cake-related food in my house, that I just can’t take anymore. The pizza was particularly fantastic – sausage, goat’s cheese and mozzarella, really simple to make (once you’ve got bread dough), and can be seen here. If you feel like making some bread, and focaccia and pizza and buns, then you can find Nigel Slater’s recipes here (as soon as you see the photos, you’re going to want to, believe me).

Lemon Toasts (from ‘The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook’ by Mireille Guiliano)

(serves 4 – I underestimated this,¬†but it’s definitely true. I still have some left to use for breakfast another day)

1 egg white

6 tbsp sugar

90g ground almonds

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp orange zest (or, if you’re me, 1 tsp of orange juice)

4 slices of brioche (or 2 little brioche rolls per person)

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5

2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg white and sugar until creamy. Add the ground almonds, lemon juice and zest, orange zest, and mix until smooth.

3. Place the brioche slices on a greaseproof-lined baking sheet and cover the top of each with an even layer of the lemon-almond mixture. Place in the oven and bake until lightly golden, 8-10 mins. Serve warm.

Next week: a Mother’s Day surprise!