Friday, 31 August 2012

Do you Fancy a Fumble?

I'm sure you will fancy a Fumble when you know what it is - it's delicious!

A Fumble, in this case, is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's name for a fruit fool topped with separately baked crumble crumbs. As he says, its a good way to get the three elements of a good dessert - fruit, something creamy and portion of a crisp carbohydrate -  together quickly and simply. You can see his recipe for Strawberry Fumble here, along with more ideas for the 'three-piece sweet' (his phrase, not mine!).

I thought the idea was a good way of allowing the dieters in the household (sob!) to eat dessert without all the calories of a traditional crumble. Those watching calories (more sobs!) can eat a large portion of fruit, topped with low fat yogurt and a few crumble crumbs for a contrasting texture. Everyone else can choose their own balance of fruit, cream or custard, and crumble topping - as much crunch as they like!

The idea worked very well with a warm compote of eating apples and blackberries. You don't get that lovely starchy layer, soaked in fruit juices, which forms between the fruit and the crisp crumble in the real thing, but it's close enough, and the texture contrast is good even with just a few pieces of crumble. I think the combination would be just as tasty with room temperature or chilled fruit mixtures too.

The crumble mix is pretty standard, although a bit heavier on the butter than the mixture I usually use - I found I had to fork through a couple of tablespoons of water to get the mixture to form clumps rather than a fine crumb, but maybe I rubbed in the butter too much. The clumps get crisper than a traditional crumble topping, but this helps them keep well, and you could always try sprinkling them over warm fruit and letting them stand for a while to soak up some fruit juice.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Chocolate Chip, Fudge and Ginger Cookies

I'm falling into the stereotypical role of a mother - baking cookies to take to my son, when we deliver another load of his books this afternoon. I'm beginning to wonder if his room here will ever be emptied, and if you hear of a 3-storey block of flats collapsing somewhere in Cambridgeshire, you'll know it was the weight of his books wot did it!

This is another version of these lovely oil-based cookies from Cookie Madness. I used sunflower oil rather than olive oil, and instead of dark chocolate chunks and nuts, I used 30g each of dark chocolate chips, mini fudge pieces and finely chopped glacé ginger. I'm trusting it will be a fabulous flavour combination, because I'm not going to be tasting them. They certainly smelled good while baking!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Carrot Cake

Now that CT has left home, I'm getting used to prioritising other likes and dislikes when I'm baking - First Born doesn't like ginger much, would prefer me not to use nuts other than ground almonds and hazelnuts but likes fresh fruit more than CT does. However, I can't rely on her to eat at least one portion of cake a day, come what may, so I'm going to have to make smaller cakes that will be finished before the mould starts to grow!

One of her favourite cakes is this carrot cake, which is light in texture, well flavoured with orange and spices, and doesn't have any nuts in it. The other thing she likes is that it is topped with an orange flavoured  glacé icing, rather than a cream cheese frosting, which can be too rich for her.

The recipe, irritatingly given the twee name 'Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake', comes from BBC Good Food and is on their website, as well as in a handy little book called 101 Cakes and Bakes. I notice it was first published in Good Food magazine in 2002 - it has been my 'go to' carrot cake recipe for longer than I realised, even though I haven't written about it before now!

I'm often tempted by other carrot cake recipes, but when it comes to baking one, out comes old faithful, because it's delicious, feather-light, quick to make and a reliable recipe. This time, I made a double batch of cake batter and baked it in my 10" square adjustable tin, divided down the centre to make two cakes each 10" x 5". This is not much different in size to the 7" square cake suggested in the recipe, and meant both cakes could be baked together. One went off with FB to a social gathering and one is left for us to eat quickly, as it won't keep well in this humid weather.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Cherry Ripe Bars - We Should Cocoa

Phew! I got these Cherry Ripe Bars done just in time for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge to use cherries and chocolate together. I planned to use the recipe much earlier in the month, as soon as I decided that I wouldn't be using fresh cherries, but time ran away with me and I've only just got round to making them.

The recipe is from Dan Lepard's Guardian column, and is inspired by the famous Australian confection of the same name. I used naturally coloured glacé cherries, so my version isn't quite such a vivid colour, even though I added some red food colouring. I also only used 2/3 of the filling ingredients to give what seems to me to be a better ratio of cherry to chocolate layers. For economy, I also cut down the chocolate to 200g, and this still gives an ample thickness of topping. I also added a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the topping to stop it setting too crisply, as it can then be difficult to cut neatly.

As this photo shows, it was still difficult to cut this traybake into neat pieces - the chocolate was thick and the middle layer squidgy, which resulted in broken chocolate, squeezed out middles and fingerprints and crumbs everywhere. This is definitley not something to impress with its looks, unless you know the secret to neat, precise cutting - which I evidently don't!

This is a really delicious treat! The base is a cross between pastry and a chewy cookie and the filling is sweet and sticky, with the mix of cherries and coconut giving a surprising flavour which tastes more of coconut than cherries. However, I have never eaten glacé cherries in bulk - I think I expected a stronger flavour - more like the old fashioned pink liquid antibiotic! Using a strongly flavoured 70%+ chocolate on top helps balance the sweetness of the filling. They are very rich - I cut them into small squares of roughly 3cm, and found it difficult to eat two at a time!

We Should Cocoa is a monthly chocolate challenge hosted alternately by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, and Chele at Chocolate Teapot. This month's challenge to use cherries with chocolate was chosen by guest host Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen, who will also be publishing a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Streusel Topping

This apple pie is ideal for for picnics or other outdoor feasting, as the apple filling is baked in a sour cream custard which sets solid when cold. This makes it easy to transport, and more importantly, easy to eat, in situations where there might be no cutlery and flimsy disposable plates. There are no dripping juices or sloppy filling to fall out onto your plate, or even worse, your clothes or the floor!.

This makes it an ideal entry to the Tea Time Treats August challenge, which is for Picnic Pies. When I first saw the challenge, I had ambitions to create something savoury, and although I made a very tasty and spicy sweet potato pasty filling, the pastry itself didn't work out too well. So when I was presented with a kilo or so of windfall apples which needed using quickly, I grabbed the opportunity for a second chance at the challenge.

I don't know where this recipe came from, as I've had it written on a card in an index box file for over 30 years. I had no idea, that long ago, that one day it would be important to be able to attribute recipes!

The pastry is a basic shortcrust made with 180g flour, to which I added the zest of half a lemon and one dessertspoon of sour cream from a small carton (150mls?) before using cold water as necessary to make a dough. This is used to line a 9" pie plate, and then chilled - no need to bake blind - while the filling and topping are assembled.

The filling is made by mixing the rest of the sour cream with 1 egg and a tablespoon of lemon juice, then adding sliced apples  - the recipe stated 750g of eating apples, weighed before peeling and coring, but because the apples were small, there was a disproportionate amount of peel and core, so I added a couple extra. Once the filling is in the pie case, a streusel topping made from rubbing 60g butter into 60g plain flour, 60g demerara sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon is sprinkled over. The pie is baked at 200C for 20 minutes, then at 170C for roughly another 40 minutes, until the custard seems set. I placed the pie onto a pre-heated baking sheet, which helped the base to stay crisp.

I prefer to eat this pie at room temperature or chilled, so that the filling is set; it's delicious with creme fraiche or natural yogurt but is moist enough to be eaten on its own. The pie really needs to be made with eating apples, as there is very little added sugar (only in the stresel topping) and you need to see apple slices set in the custard when you slice the pie. I think cooking apples might make too much juice and spoil the custard.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly blogging event that requires entrants to produce something for the tea-table using the featured ingredient or style of cooking. It is hosted alternately by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked.  This month, Kate chose Picnic Pies, and she will feature a round-up at the end of the month.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Toblerone Brownies - AlphaBakes

This month's AlphaBakes Challenge is the letter T, which I found more difficult than expected. Apart from Tea, I couldn't think of many ingredients beginning with the letter, and it's not a huge section of the index of most of my baking books either - or at least, not for sweet baking. In addition, I'm fast running out of time for any of my usual baking challenges this month, so had to somehow fit this one into something I wanted to bake anyway.

I wanted to bake a batch of brownies for CT to take back to his place for the weekend, so was pleased when inspiration suddenly struck, and I remembered Toblerone. Little did I realise that it's very hard to get hold of Toblerone outside of Christmas or Father's Day - where are the plain and white varieties that are around then?

I adapted my usual low saturated fat brownie recipe to accentuate the almond and honey flavours of Toblerone - I replaced 50g of the white caster sugar with honey, 30g of the flour with ground almonds and used a few drops of almond extract instead of vanilla. I added a chopped 100g bar of milk Toblerone instead of any other chocolate or nuts, and sprinkled on a few flaked almonds before baking.

This was an interesting variation, but I had wanted to use dark and white Toblerone for a better visual effect, and I wasn't too sure that I liked the use of honey in the batter - the flavour wasn't quite right for my tastes although no-one else mentioned it.

AlphaBakes is a monthly challenge hosted alternately by Caroline from Caroline Makes, and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker. The challenge is to use the randomly chosen letter as a main ingredient or part of the name of the product you make. This month T was chosen by Ros, who will publish a round-up of entries at the end of the month. The general rules can be found here.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake, with Plums

I don't make this cake often enough, but when I do, I'm reminded of how perfect it is for using a glut of late summer or early autumn fruit. In this case it was some yellow plums from my mother's tree which needed to be eaten as soon as possible. As their arrival coincided with a lull in the recents weeks of frenetic activity, and I no longer have to worry about CT not liking fresh fruit, it seemed an ideal opportunity to return to this cake.

By the way, I'm ashamed to say that I was too wrapped up in getting my mother to and from hospital, as well as moving CT into his new flat over the last weekend, that I didn't have time to bake him a 'Good-bye' cake! He had to make do with a 'reduced to clear' chocolate croissant from Tesco's. (It was very tasty though!) He still has to return to sort and pack more books, and pick up the rest of his clothes, so I think a batch of something chocolate-y to take back with him will be in order.

But back to the Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake! This is another of Dan Lepard's recipes, from his Guardian column. Considering it's popularity among bloggers, it's quite a surprise that this recipe didn't make it into his recipe book 'Short and Sweet'.

I've previously made it using peaches and raspberries, but almost any fresh fruit can be used successfully. It's a very tender cake, not too sweet and subtly flavoured with lemon zest. The fruit, their juices and the extra sugar combine to make a soft, slightly sticky topping when the cake is turned out. It can be eaten both as a cake and a dessert, in which case a spoonful (or two) of creme fraiche is a good accompniment

I used just over half a kilo of plums, with 225g chopped for the cake, and the rest sliced and arranged neatly in the base of the tin. I only had two lemons, but this was enough to give a gentle lemon flavour to the cake batter. It's really important to line the cake tin with a leak-proof liner so that the juices aren't lost during cooking. This time I succeeded with the tin foil, as suggested, but the crumpled foil doesn't make for a very neat cake when it's turned out. This might be a case for a pre-formed cake tin liner, although I usually begrudge spending money on this sort of thing!

I'm really pleased I remembered this cake - it was an excellent way to use the plums, and made a change from the usual quick crumbles which I tend to make with fresh fruit.

Hopefully I'm now back into baking mode, as life can slow down a little now that CT is into his own place. There's still work to do there, which he will need help with, but all the really urgent tasks have been done. Thank goodness - we both need some rest before we tackle changing his room here into our new bedroom!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Pine Nut, Almond and Lemon Cake

We're fast approaching the date when CT will be moving out. This might be the last time I bake a  'low saturated fat' cake with his dietary requirements in mind (although I suspect I will still be baking him things to take back home when he visits!). Next weekend it will be something celebratory - lots of butter and chocolate - but for now, I'm delighted to have found another recipe that works well with oil. In this case I actually substituted oil for the melted butter used in this recipe for Pine Nut, Almond and Lemon Cake - this hasn't always worked well in the past, but it was fine this time.

In place of the 250g melted butter, I used 200mls of sunflower oil and an extra 50mls buttermilk; I didn't have 100g of ground almonds, so I used 50g of almonds, 50g polenta and a few drops of almond extract. Apart from these two changes I followed the recipe exactly. It was a really simple recipe to follow - mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet ingredients, and the cake was baked in the time given.

I was pleased with the amount of rise, although the texture had more holes than I like to see. The flavour was really delicate, with the pine nuts adding both a crunch to the texture and something extra to the flavour. This was one cake where using a flavourful extra virgin olive oil might have been an improvement over sunflower oil.

So, once again my baking is entering a new phase - FB has quite different tastes to CT - she doesn't really like ginger, prefers me not to bake with nuts other than almonds or hazelnuts, but does like fresh fruit more than CT. Watch this space!