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)
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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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Strawberry & Rhubarb Syrup

Summer is here! (It’s forecast to rain tomorrow, but 3 days of sunshine and 20+ degree heat is good enough in the UK). To celebrate all the sunshine and possibility of sitting outdoors without a jacket, I made some delicious, delicious syrup. It was one of those recipes you see and think to yourself “I need that in my life”. And I wasn’t disappointed. I took some rhubarb from my parents’ garden, bought some strawberries and a lemon, and a cute milk bottle, and after very little effort, I had this:

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It’s great as a summer drink mixer – use 2-3 tbsp of syrup and add sparkling water, or my personal preference, bitter lemon. If you’re feeling like you need some alcohol, add 2 shots of gin, and maybe a few crushed mint leaves. Beautiful.

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Cooking for One

Day of food joy #lunch #pasta

A post shared by Lizzie Erwood (@l.erwood) on

Cooking for one. It sounds like something sad and lonely, someone without a partner, family or friends to cook for, but often it’s just a fact of life.  For the last 2.5 years I’ve lived with housemates, but we haven’t cooked together or for each other, so I have cooked for myself every evening. I love to cook, I love making the effort to cook a delicious meal even if it is just for myself. Over that time I’ve also stopped cooking meat for myself, which has presented a challenge in finding new things to make. My friend has recently moved, and she, like me, lives with someone else, but is cooking for herself. We’re in our mid-20s, don’t earn much (or anything at all, in my case), but we want to eat well and we don’t have the luxury of spending a lot on food, nor can we afford to waste it.

So few recipes cater for cooking for one. I know the obvious thing is to just reduce the quantities, but so often that means using bits and pieces of vegetables and trying to work out something inventive to do with the leftovers, or having to eat the same thing several nights in a row, which is tedious. Recently I ate tomato and lentil soup for lunch four days in a row because I had vegetables to use up and I was trying to save money. By the third day I was truly sick of it. This is how things often are when you’re just cooking for yourself. But it shouldn’t be. Food should always be awesome, even when cooked in smaller portions. This is what I’m looking for, for my food to be exciting every day, even when I’m trying to use stuff up.

I’m going to start writing my dissertation in a few weeks, which means a stretch of about 3 months where I have plenty of work but no pressing deadlines. I’m going to start thinking a lot more about how I cook for myself, and because it will be almost summer there will be loads of amazing vegetables coming up soon. This will be my new challenge – to find more variety and excitement in cooking for one, and writing about it here. Watch this space.

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.

Lemon Bars

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What a week! It’s still super hot here, which means it’s even hotter where I work, and we’ve been busy doing window displays and making things pretty for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party themed day. I got up at 7am yesterday and made 40 jam tarts before 9:30 and then went to work. And I’ve been helping Oli clean his house, which he moved out of yesterday. All in all I’m pretty tired, but luckily I made these lemon bars earlier in the week when things were less busy – but I’ve also been too busy to eat them. That will change today.

I got my food processor on Monday, which is very exciting, although I haven’t used it yet, because somewhere in my head I thought that making lemon bars would require a food processor. Nope. One day I will learn to read recipes. So as it turned out they were pretty straightforward, and just involved a lot of zesting of lemons (managed to grate my thumb – safety warning). I have eaten one, and they were good, and very lemony (duh), but other than that, not that exciting. When I was making them I was thinking of the tartest lemon tart I ever had which was made by Jordi, it was delicious but also made you pull a face every time you took a bite because the lemon was so strong. I thought my lemon bars might turn out like that, but almost disappointingly, they didn’t.

This time next week I will be on a plane to Canada, so if my to do list before then doesn’t stop me (seriously, I have so much to do), I will be queuing new posts whilst I’m gone and it will be just like I’m here. Except I won’t have much interesting to report. Maybe I’ll edit them with exciting Canada updates. We’ll see. I’m not committing to anything here.

As a final note, I will apologise for a lot of the recipes being from the Hummingbird Bakery at the moment. It will get more varied come autumn when we’re doing apple, fig and pear recipes, promise.

Next week: Peaches and Yogurt Ice Cream

 

Lemon Bars (from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)

Makes about 12

210g caster sugar

3 eggs

100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tsp grated lemon zest

base:

290g plain flour

70g icing sugar

230g butter

2 tsp grated lemon zest

 

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 33 x 23 x 5cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. For the base, put the flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand). Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of the tray. Bake for about 20 mins, or until light golden. Leave to cool slightly.

3. Put the sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 mins, or until the edges are golden brown and the topping has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Peach Jam Scones

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We’ll start with an update on the disaster-chocolate custard from last week: no it never set, yes my wonderful mother still managed to ice it (very runnily by the sounds of it) and put it in the raffle, and they raised £800, hurrah! 

It has been excessively and unpleasantly hot this week. England is not designed to be 32C, and I work in a shop that has the world’s most ridiculous lighting, therefore adding about another 5C to the outdoor temperature. Needless to say, I have spent much of this week feeling very uncomfortable, and the rest of it having freezing cold showers. So, what better to do in this heat than stand over a pan of boiling fruit and sugar?! It was worth it though because peach jam is delicious. 

It feels slightly ridiculous to make an entire batch of jam just to use 70g to put in scones. If it was less tasty I would feel more resentful, but this jam is thick and fruity and you just want to smear it thickly over slabs of bread. It reminds me a lot of the plum jam my mum used to make when I was young and there was still a plum tree in the garden. It was always my favourite. The jam I ended up making was a vastly more simple recipe than the recipe in the book, because a) who knows where to find dried peaches, cos I don’t, and b) I didn’t want to buy Bourbon. Ultimately I decided it would be far easier to use fresh peaches, sugar and lemon juice. The recipe I used is here (I did a half quantity), but I will write the proper recipe out below for those of you that have dried peaches. 

The scones are light and delicious, and are best served warm, split open with MORE peach jam. I don’t know if it’s just me, or my different peach jam recipe, but 70g doesn’t feel like enough, it doesn’t make them peachy enough. Hence peach jam spread on them. Also this recipe called for 3 tbsp of baking powder, which seemed like a horrendous amount to me, so I only used 3-4 tsp, and I think they turned out fine – I mean, they’re not particularly risen, but I’d rather have that than the weird taste too much baking powder gives stuff. 

Anyway, I highly recommend these, even if you can’t stand making jam and you’re lucky enough to find some in a shop instead, use it to make these scones, you won’t be disappointed.

And I end with the big and exciting news that I just bought myself my first ever food processor! So next week we will be having LEMON BARS and lamenting the fact that I’m about to leave my job. 

 

Peach Jam Scones (from Baked in America by The Outsider Tart) – makes about 13x 2.5in scones

Peach Jam

450g dried peaches

225g light brown sugar

175ml Bourbon

120ml poaching liquid

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1. Place the dried peaches in a large, shallow saucepan. Cover with water (about 1l) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the peaches have reconstituted and are very soft. Typically this takes 20-30 mins. 

2. Strain the peaches, reserving 120ml of the poaching liquid. Return the peaches to the pan and mash with a potato masher. Add the remaining ingredients along with half of the reserved liquid. Simmer on a low heat for 15 mins or until the mixture has thickened to resemble set jam. Stir frequently to prevent the peaches from sticking. Add more of the reserved liquid as necessary.

3. Let cool to room temperature before placing in a jam jar to refrigerate. 

The Scones

600g plain flour

115-175g caster sugar (I used 115g because my jam was super sweet, and that’s more than enough)

3-4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g unsalted butter, cold and diced

70g peach jam

240-320ml buttermilk (Start with the lower amount, and add more depending on the consistency of your dough)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. 

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Piece by piece, drop in the butter and mix on a low speed until it is unevenly crumbly (you can also just rub the butter in by hand, which is what I did). 

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the peach jam, followed by buttermilk. Once the dough starts to come together, dump it onto a floured work surface. It can be quite sticky because of the jam. Pat the dough as best you can until it is about 2cm thick. Cut the scones into the desired shape and transfer to the baking sheets. 

4. Bake the scones for 18-20mins or until they are golden brown and firm. Because of the jam they tend not to rise as much.