Thursday, 12 October 2017

Date, Apple and Walnut Cake

I bought walnuts for my last bake - Nigella's Emergency Brownies - and I know that they don't keep fresh for long, so decided to use them in this cake too. I added a twist to the traditional British autumnal flavours of dates, apples and walnuts by using date syrup in place of some of the sugar and adding a little rosewater too.

Ingredients
100g softened butter
75g caster sugar
3 tablespoons date syrup
*1 teaspoon rosewater
2 large eggs
150g SR flour
50g chopped soft dates
50g chopped walnuts
1 small eating apple, peeled cored and chopped
a sprinkle of demerara sugar for topping (optional)

*or to taste, depending on the strength of the brand you are using

Method
Preheat oven to 180C (fan 160C) and line a small 450g (1lb) loaf tin. I used a loaf tin liner, but baking parchment can be used too.
Put the butter, sugar, syrup, rosewater, eggs and flour into a large bowl and beat together until the mixture is smooth and light. If the batter seems too thick, add a little milk or water to give a dropping consistency.
Stir in the dates, walnuts and apple pieces.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the surface and sprinkle on the demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for about 60 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using the date syrup intensified the date flavour, and deepened the colour of the cake crumb, which I was pleased about. I liked the flavour combination of dates, apples and walnuts with rosewater, but it became a summery cake rather than an autumnal one. Probably fitting, as we seem to be having a bit of an Indian summer at the moment, but for a really seasonal cake a little cinnamon or other spice would have been better than the rosewater.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Nigella Lawson's Emergency Brownies

Many people I know are at a stage of their lives where they don't need to cook for large numbers; for whatever reason most of their cooking is done for only one or two people. This is something that makes baking particularly difficult, at least for me - a standard sized cake can take 4 or 5 days for 2 people to eat. I could freeze slices of cake, but my freezer organisation is notoriously bad so I'm sure I'd end up with a drawer full of slices that had dried out and grown ice crystals, so would have to be thrown away in the end.

It seems that Nigella Lawson may have found herself in the position of craving cake and/or chocolate, but being unwilling to bake something large, as her new book, At My Table, contains a recipe for these Emergency Brownies - a recipe based on one egg and making only 4 generously sized brownies (or even fewer if your craving is really strong!).

I can't link to the recipe as it's not online anywhere yet, but I'm sure it will be soon appear once the TV series accompanying the book is shown, and the book is being more vigourously promoted. Suffice to say that butter, sugar and syrup (I used Maple) are melted together gently to dissolve the sugar. Then a mixture of plain flour and cocoa is beaten in, an egg and vanilla extract added, and finally chopped walnuts and chocolate chips added (I used chopped plain chocolate with orange pieces). The batter is baked in a foil tray which is approximately 18 x 11cm (I couldn't find that exact size, but it's roughly the same as a 1lb loaf tin, or this size of container from Lakeland).

20 minutes baking left these brownies still slightly gooey in the centre even when completely cold. They were very rich - I ate two pieces and felt I had reached my limit - and quite heavy; not the best brownies I've ever eaten but a really good small-scale recipe. I'll certainly be using it again. The orange flavour from the chocolate I used was a nice note alongside the walnuts, but I can see this recipe working well with all the flavour variations I use in brownies - different nuts, spices etc

Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Glory


I'm really looking forward to harvesting these 4 quince, in about a month's time. My fruit growing book says they should be left on the tree until the end of October.

I think I will peel, core and slice them, then poach until tender and freeze in small batches, so that they can be added to things like pear or apple desserts over the winter.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Raisin and Coconut Flapjack

Various family issues have meant that baking time has gone out of the window at the moment. I haven't really baked much since sometime in Spring, when Hubby said he wanted to cut down on cakes and puddings to lose a bit of weight. Nearly all my posts since April have been clearing a backlog of things which hadn't been written about. However, I did want to make something for the Bank Holiday weekend, as a little indulgence seemed acceptable.

I've said before that flapjacks are a really good way of using up ends of packets in the baking storecupboard, and this sometimes leads to exciting flavour combinations that work really well. This time I also had a pack of granola breakfast cereal that needed using up - it was just a basic granola containing raisins and almonds, so I added some golden raisins and desiccated coconut to up the flavour a bit. Granola already contains quite a lot of sugar, and often some fat too, so my basic flapjack recipe had to be adjusted a little to compensate for this.

Ingredients
140g butter
50g golden syrup
80g light muscovado sugar
165g granola breakfast cereal
100g porridge oats
35g golden raisins
35g desiccated coconut

Method
Line a 20cm (8") square shallow baking tin with parchment, folding it so that the sides of the tin are lined too. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together. I usually do this in a large mixing bowl in the microwave, but a saucepan on the hob is fine too. The mixture doesn't have to boil, just get hot enough for the sugar to dissolve.
Stir in the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Transfer to the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly.
Bake for 25 minutes, until just turning golden brown. This timing gives a chewy flapjack - if you like it crunchy, then bake for a little longer.
Cool for a few minutes, then cut into fingers or squares, but don't remove from the tin until completely cold.
 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Blueberry and Lemon Polenta Cake

gluten-free

We planted two blueberry bushes earlier this year, but we weren't sure whether or not they would bear fruit straight away. Fortunately they did, although the fruit doesn't all ripen at once, so I'm picking 100-150g every five days or so. I've also found out that I really prefer cooked blueberries to raw, so I've made blueberry sauce for some cheesecake pots, and added some to baked rhubarb.

I decided to put the latest pickings into a cake, but had to find a recipe using a small amount. I also had some lemons that needed using, so a blueberry and lemon cake seemed in order. I soon found this Sainsbury's recipe for a lemon and blueberry polenta cake, which only used 100g of fruit. I had to adapt the recipe a little, using vanilla yogurt instead of natural. As I was using a yogurt with a separate topping of toasted oat flakes (about a tablespoonful), I sprinkled them on top of the cake too.

This was a deliciously light cake, although I think it could have taken another 50g of fruit, as the blueberries were very thinly spread. The zest of another lemon would have improved the flavour from my point of view but I do like a tart lemon cake - others might appreciate the subtlety of a milder flavour.

It's also nice to add another gluten-free cake to my repertoire.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Chocolate Chip and Orange Cookie Bars

 Despite knowing that recipes existed for baking cookie dough in a tray, it seemed quite difficult to find a suitable recipe, even on blogs and websites well-known for cookie recipes. Perhaps I was using the wrong search words, as it wasn't until I looked at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial that the word 'slab' cropped up! Or perhaps I was just being fussy - I needed a recipe to suit my store-cupboard ingredients, as I didn't have an opportunity to shop.

I used half quantities of Celia's recipe, (also here for ingredients, and method for making individual cookies) and baked in a 20cm(8") square tin. I made a couple of minor changes - I used 180g plain chocolate, roughly chopped, and added the finely grated zest of an orange. A classic flavour combination that's hard to beat!

Cookie Bars don't have the aesthetic appeal of individually baked cookies, but, boy, are they quicker to make! These were particularly tender, with a 'melt-in-the mouth' texture, so I'm sure I'll be using the recipe again.

Ingredients
200g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
large pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 1 orange
110g light muscovado sugar
50g caster sugar
125g softened butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g 70% chocolate, roughly chopped

Method
Preheat the oven to 150C fan setting, and line a 20cm (8") square baking tin with parchment.
Whisk flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and orange zest together in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl cream the sugars and butter together, then add the vanilla extract, egg and a tablespoon of flour (to prevent curdling) and mix until just combined.
With the mixer on a low speed, add the rest of the flour mix, and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate pieces by hand.
Transfer the dough to the baking tin and spread evenly, using damp fingers, or the back of a large metal spoon.
Bake for 25 minutes, until firm and just beginning to colour. Cool in the tin, then cut into bars.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Red Gooseberry and Orange Crumble

I wouldn't normally add a post about what is essentially my usual crumble recipe, but I haven't baked anything for over two months now, so need to keep the blog alive! 'Not-baking' started with a need for both of us to lose a little weight before going away to France, so that the inevitable excesses of holiday eating didn't have too great an impact. Unfortunately, we then returned from holiday to face a family health crisis, which hasn't left me with any time to bake.

But, however little time you have, the garden continues to demand attention - this weekend it was the red gooseberries which needed harvesting. There was only 300g of fruit on  the bush, not quite the amount I usually use, so I added a chopped up orange segments to the gooseberries, and the zest of the orange to the crumble mix. It added an interesting dimension to the flavour.

Ingredients
80g plain flour
80g porridge oats
80g light muscovado sugar
80g butter, in small cubes
1 orange
300g prepared gooseberries
50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground rice (to thicken the fruit juices)

Method
Put the flour, oats, muscovado sugar and butter into a large bowl, and add the finely grated zest of the orange. Rub in the butter to make the crumble mix.
Cut the peel and pith from the orange, over the dish in which you are going to bake the crumble to save any juice. Cut the orange into small pieces, then mix with the gooseberries, caster sugar and ground rice, in the baking dish.
Scatter over the crumble mix and press down lightly.
Bake at 200C (180C fan), for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.