Tag Archives: baking

Apricot upside down cake

23 Jul

When life gives you apricots, you should just eat them. But when you still have more apricots than you know what to do with a week later, and they are in danger of going off, you should make cake with them.

A soft, caramelly number would be perfect. Perhaps with some ground almonds to give a hint of marzipan and add extra moistness.

And if it was served with vanilla ice cream it would be just about perfect.

So, that’s what I intended to do yesterday, with some urgency once I discovered that the Captain’s daughter was coming over for lunch with her 2 year old daughter too. But we had no butter. So the Captain was instructed to get a pack of butter when he picked up the papers. And it had to be real butter, not some spread masquerading as butter.

He returned with a plastic tub, which did not bode well. But he proclaimed that it was Lurpak, so it had to be ok. It was Lurpak Spreadable, in my mind not quite the same as butter. And when I looked at the ingredient list, it was clear it wasn’t actually butter – it is only 69% butter, with 25% vegetable oil. That’s what makes it spreadable, adding a product which is liquid at room temperature.

However, on closer inspection it said that it could be used in baking, so I gave it (and the Captain) the benefit of the doubt.

Upside down apricots in a cake

For the upside downy bit:

  • Some apricots – at least 6, preferably about a dozen, Or of course you could substitute all manner of other fruit – pineapple, peach, apples, cherries would all be nice
  • About 2oz Lurpak spreadable, or softened butter
  • About 2oz soft light brown sugar

For the cake mix:

  • 6oz Lurpak spreadable (or use softened butter)
  • 6oz soft light brown sugar
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • 5oz SR flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz ground almonds
  • A splosh of almond extract (optional)

Butter the sides of an 8” square cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5.

  1. Beat together the 2oz sugar and ‘butter’ until nice and soft and spreadable
  2. Spread this mixture on the base of the cake tin, in an even layer
  3. Cut the apricots in half and place them cut side down on top of the sugar-butter mixture
  4. Beat together the remaining butter and sugar
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the almond extract
  6. Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a bowl and then add to the buttery mixture, and beat all together
  7. Dollop the cake mixture into the tin, on top of the apricots, and spread it into the corners. Ideally, create a small well in the middle, which will keep the cake from rising too much in the middle.
  8. Place the cake tin on a baking sheet, in case some of the caramel overflows. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the centre of the cake feels firm, and no longer wobbly. You may need to cover the cake with a tin foil hat for the last 10 minutes or so, if it looks like it is getting too brown (burnt).
  9. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin. To turn the cake out slide a palette knife around the edge of the tin, to loosen the cake from the sides, then place a plate on top of the tin and carefully, but swiftly, turn it over so the tin is now on top of the plate. If you’ve buttered the tin properly it will glide out. If not, you’ll be having jigsaw cake with the bits all vaguely squidged back together. It’ll still taste nice though.

If you’ve managed to plan your day well, then this will be delicious served warm with some thick greek yoghurt, or crème fraiche. Or the aforementioned vanilla icecream.

And who knew? Substituting butter for Lurpak spreadable works perfectly well – this cake was more moist and much lighter than I expected (perhaps also due to the addition of baking powder). The flavour of butter and caramel was strong enough to come through the dominant almond-ness, but as a fan of marzipan that really worked for me. And the apricots? Well, they looked great, and the sliver of soft fruit melted in the mouth and eased my conscience, contributing towards my five a day.

All in all, a success.

Sweet scones for Wimbledon

8 Jul

So, rain delayed play in the Federer v Murray final this afternoon. And I decided it was probably a good time to make some scones, so there would be scones and strawberry jam with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea to help us get through to the end of the game.

Apologies that this is partially metric and partially old school. But it’s just how it is.

Sweet scones

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2oz cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 130ml milk
  • another egg and a slurp of milk to make an eggwash
  • a couple of TBsps granulated sugar
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 9, or as hot as you can get in whatever oven you own
  1. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a nice big wide bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into it, in wee chunks
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour till it resembles sand. As you rub in the butter lift the mixture up high, and let it fall through your fingers, getting lots of air into the mixture
  4. Now make a well in the centre of the mixture
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk, then pour the combined mixture into the well 
  6. Now you’re going to get your hands dirty. Make your fingers ‘stiff’ so your hand is like a wee shovel and use your hand to quickly mix all the ingredients together
  7. Once they are all combined stop mixing and go and wash and dry your hands
  8. Sprinkle flour on a board, and tip out the scone dough
  9. With your hands bring the dough together into a neat round, about 1.5″ thick
  10. Use a cutter to cut into rounds and set aside
  11. Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and put the sugar in a bowl
  12. Brush the eggwash on each scone and then dip their tops into the sugar to give them a scrunchy sugary top
  13. Place spaced a wee bit apart on a baking sheet 
  14. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes
Eat warm with butter and homemade strawberry jam. Or that tasty gooseberry and elderflower jam I made last weekend… Or clotted cream and blackcurrant jelly. Or rhubarb compote with whisked cream. Or perhaps some lemon curd and a mini scoop of vanilla icecream.
And if you don’t eat them all straight way then pop them in the freezer. They’ll only need about 20 – 40seconds in the microwave to defrost and reheat them. Delumptious.

Shiny cake

24 Jun

Bear with me here.

This cake isn’t especially shiny, but it is possibly the most delicious cake I’ve ever made. It also can pretend to be healthier than some cakes, as it is chock full of pineapple and banana. So, I think that means I can call it shiny cake if that is what I want to call it, or just because an old girlfriend could never remember that its real name was Cookie Shine Cake, and it was always referred to as the Shiny Cake.

A cookie shine is what Scots used to call a tea party. I’m a Scot and don’t recall ever hearing of a cookie shine, but Sue Lawrence tells me it is so, so it must be true. She does mention that it was mostly used in the 19th century and that it is now pretty much obsolete, so perhaps I’m forgiven for never having used it; I’m not THAT old.

The cake is moist and sweet, like a luxurious, tropical carrot cake, covered in luscious creamy cream cheese icing. Go on, it’s simple to make, uses up that desiccated coconut and the tin of smushed pineapple you have in the cupboard. Oh? Is it only me who has a random tin of crushed pineapple in the back of the cupboard?

This recipe comes from Sue Lawrence’s Scottish Kitchen. She’s a great cookery writer providing foolproof baking recipes for all manner of classic scottish homebaked goods, such as shortbread, bannocks and scotch pancakes. But there is so much more to her books than classic scottish high tea fare – not only does she provide a bit of social history around her recipes, and her travels around Scotland, but she also has great go-to recipes for almost every occasion, from quick weekday suppers to outdoor eating (yes, in Scotland!) and smart dinners. Go on, buy one of her books and see what I mean.

Anyway, here we go:

Shiny Cake

  • 250g / 9oz SR flour
  • 275g / 9.5oz light muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225ml / 8 fl oz sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 1 432g can of crushed pineapple, in natural juice, drained
  • 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and squished
  • 50g / 1.75oz desiccated coconut
  • 75g / 2.75oz chopped roasted hazelnuts
 Icing
  • 100g / 3.75oz butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g / 7oz cream cheese (full or low fat, you decide)
  • 300g / 10.5oz golden icing sugar
  • 1 TBsp chopped roasted hazelnuts

Prepare two 8″ cake tins (or one deep loose-bottomed tin) and preheat the oven to 280C / 350F / GM4

  1. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a big bowl
  2. Add the eggs and the oil
  3. Add the pineapple, bananas, coconut and hazelnuts and mix well together
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin/s and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. You’ll need slightly longer if you are using one cake tin, so do check it’s ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s ready. If not, give it another few minutes and test again.But remember if you are opening and shutting the oven door on your cake, do it gently – you don’t want to blast in any cold air into the oven, or the cake will flop.
  5. Leave to rest in the tin for about 30minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. While it’s cooling you can get on with the icing.
  7. Cream together the butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese, using an electric beater, till smooth.
  8. Start adding the icing sugar a little at a time and keep beating till all the icing sugar is added and the icing is smooth and luscious.
  9. If you had one cake, split it in two. Sandwich the two halves together with icing and then cover the top with icing too. Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts round the outside edge of the top, or all over. Or not at all.

Now, get yourself a nice cake plate and serve your cake, preferably with a pot of Earl Grey tea and proper porcelain tea cups.

I have to say that Sue Lawrence is very particular about her half ounce measurements – I am not. I still prefer to cook in ounces and pounds. I know what 4oz of butter looks and feels like; I can measure out an ounce of flour just using spoons and hardly need to use the weighing scales. This recipe, I’m pleased to report, seems to be fairly forgiving – so if you want to round up or down with your ounces please do so. But don’t blame me (or Sue Lawrence!) if it doesn’t quite work.

The cat’s whiskers

17 Jun

Not really, it’s cat’s tongues. Or Langues de Chat biscuits. But I’ll come to them in a minute.

We had some friends over for supper yesterday. We were going to barbecue, which is lovely and simple and just involves prepping a variety of things and then bringing it all together in a communal cook-a-thon on our most excellent portable barbecue (an upcycled old wheelbarrow).

But it’s Scotland in mid-June so the skies opened and it didn’t stop raining all day long. Add that to a cold wind and it was clearly no evening for a barbecue.

Plan B was homemade burgers. So we had a totally retro meal with prawn cocktail to start (with bought-in iceberg lettuce, because when I went to pick lettuce from the garden I discovered the rabbit had been there before me. Grrrr), and strawberry ripple ice-cream for afters, with langues de chat biscuits.

I could get seriously addicted to these biscuits, so it’s just as well that they are ridiculously easy to make. As far as a biscuit goes, I think these deliver the max on Ease of Making vs Tasty Loveliness. And if you’re careful you can make them look utterly professional in a uniform sort of a way.

Langues de Chat

Preheat oven to 200C / GM6. Lining a baking sheet (or two) with greaseproof paper. Find your piping bag, and fit it with a plain nozzle.

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g softened, unsalted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 120g plain flour, sifted
  1. Beat together the icing sugar and butter, till it is soft and fluffy
  2. Add the vanilla and then the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. Fold in the plain flour
  4. Dollop it all into your piping bag (you know that the easiest way to do this is to put the whole bag into a tall container, folding the bag over the edges, a bit like how you’d line a bin with a bin liner)
  5. Squeeze the mixture onto your baking sheets (if you’re a true professional, you might have drawn lines on your paper, so all the biscuits are the same length. I’m not).. you are probably looking for 2″ long squeezes. They expand a bit on cooking so leave enough room for them to spread out.
  6. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden and going nicely brown at the edges.
  7. Leave for a minute or two on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These are perfect with ice cream. Or a cup of coffee. Or a bowl of strawberries. Or made into sandwiches with jam, or lemon curd, or chocolate ganache (but do this just before you serve them as they’ll go soft after a wee while).

As an aside, the ice cream I made didn’t work. It turns out that if you don’t put enough sweet stuff in with the cream it stays too hard and feels like solid cream with ice crystals in it. Bah. And in the past I’ve made such nommy ice cream. Never mind. The biscuits were great. So was the company.

Note to self These biscuits only help weight loss if you don’t eat them, or any of the raw mixture. Or perhaps if you limit yourself to only one or two. And I mean only one or two in total, not just one or two at a time. They are seriously more-ish!  But seriously, they come out as such teeny wee light wee biscuits that they might be good for some people on a diet – one or two biscuits might give you enough of a wee sugary hit, without breaking the calorie bank.

Quick and tasty soda bread

10 Jun

Yesterday we went to Galloway, to Mum and Dad’s. We had a lovely lunch (as ever) and pootled about a bit in the garden, had a cup of tea and then came back again, via Kilnford Farm Shop just outside Dumfries which I’ve been meaning to visit for ages.  It’s a lovely shop, with a large range of interesting local products a nice deli counter and the most superb butchers, with a great selection of meats with the lowest carbon footprint you can imagine. And, it’s not just nostalgia, but I do love Galloway Beef. And I liked that fact that there was a blackboard at the front door telling us that there was a Beltie Galloway calf in the field next door if we wanted to go see what our meat used to be. It didn’t say the bit about the meat, but the message is pretty clear to me, and I like that.

Anyway, I managed to come away having purchased only sensible things: some new potatoes, a couple of plain beefburgers, a couple of tomato and olive beefburgers and a peri peri chicken breast fillet. Oh, and some olives. And now, 30 hours later, we’ve eaten the lot. Nom nom nom.

However, all of this is just a digression. The main reason for mentioning I was at home in Galloway at all is to say that my brother was there, and he’d contributed his homemade spelt bread to the lunch. So, we got talking about making bread: bread machine bread, hand-made bread, sourdough bread and SODA BREAD. Mum has a great soda bread recipe from her big sister who lives in Ireland. It involves measuring things in saucers.

But I didn’t get her recipe from Mum yesterday. I just forgot really.

But when I got home I had an urge to make soda bread. So this morning I looked up Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills cookery book (oh, it’s just one of the most glorious cook books, ever… and I have a large collection of cookbooks, so this is praise indeed). She, of course, has many soda bread recipes, and I settled for her Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread. It’s scrumptious and quite the easiest thing in the world. Go make some, you’ll be eating it in no time. And then making a second batch to share with friends.

I slightly adapted the recipe, as I didn’t have quite enough buttermilk, so I made up the remaining volume with a mixture of plain yoghurt, milk and lemon juice. I also used slightly more white flour, and less brown.

Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread

  • 14oz stone ground wholemeal flour
  • 3oz plain white flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBsp sunflower oil (I used rapeseed)
  • 1 tsp honey, or treacle, or soft brown sugar (I used heather honey)
  • 3/4 pint buttermilk, or soured milk
  • sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Prepare a loaf tin 9″ x 5″ x 2″ and preheat oven to 200C / 400F / GM6.

  1. Put all ingredients into a large bowl, and mix well.
  2. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and buttermilk.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid.
  4. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary – the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds if you’re in the mood for them.
  6. Bake for about an hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped on its bottom.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This basic brown bread can be pimped up with the addition of a mixture of seeds, such as: 1TBsp each of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and kibbled wheat. Just add these to the dry ingredients, and a similar mixture should be sprinkled over the top before baking.

So, there you have it. The easiest bread in the world.

But of course now I want to try her White Soda Bread recipe.

White Soda Bread

  • 1lb white flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 12 – 14fl oz sour milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 230C / 450F / GM8

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl
  2. Make a well in the centre
  3. Pour most of the buttermilk in at once and use your hand to mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary
  4. The dough should be softish and not too wet and sticky
  5. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work surface
  6. Wash and dry your hands so the dough is easier to handle – while you’re at it, put water in the bowl so it’s easier to wash later
  7. Tidy up the dough and flip it over gently, then pat it into a round about 1″ deep
  8. Cut a deep cross in it and then prick it slightly with the tip of a knife in each of the quadrants (according to Irish folklore this lets the fairies out, but it also enables it to cook all the way through better).
  9. Bake for 15 mins then turn the oven down to 200C / 400F / GM6 for 30 minutes or until cooked.

This same mixture can be cut into scones and cooked for 20 mins. Dip the tops in sesame seeds or cheese before you cook them, or a mixture of seeds and grains.

Or pimp up the original bread recipe by adding chopped herbs, or olives, or sundried tomatoes – about 2 TBsps would be about right. Or 3oz raisins, or 1-2 tsp curry powder, or a couple of TBsps of caraways seeds, or fennel, or really whatever you’re in the mood for. Or have in your cupboard.

So, off you go, and make some bread now, you really have no excuse.

Gin and tonic muffins

12 May

It was bound to happen one day.

I have a bottle of Caorunn Gin on the counter in my kitchen. And it was inevitable that one day while I was baking, the urge would become too great and I would end up with gin and tonic flavoured baked goods. Yesterday was that day.

But first of all let me tell you a wee bit about Caorunn Gin. It’s Scottish, and it’s delicious. That’s almost all you need to know, but not quite. It’s a small batch gin, and infused with the most deliciously delicate array of botanicals: rowanberry, heather, bog myrtle, dandelion and coul blush apple. And you drink it with a slice of apple, not lime or cucumber or even lemon. And preferably Fentiman’s tonic. It’s my gin of choice these days, although I’m sure I could be persuaded to drink almost any other brand if necessary.

But back to the baking.

I’d decided on muffins. And then I had narrowed it down to lemon muffins. With poppy seeds. Well, I thought I’d narrowed it down to that, but clearly I hadn’t… my baking muse was still playing with me.

As I grated the lemon zest into the mix it dawned on me that gin and tonic was what these wee muffins really needed (I had already decided they were going to be mini muffins). And so the gin and tonic muffin was born. I really do fear that this could start a whole load of crazy cocktail themed baking. Ah well…

Gin and Tonic Muffins

Prepare muffin tins (I used teeny weeny ones, and regular ones, and this batter made 24 wee ones plus 6 regular) and preheat oven to 375-400F / 190-200C / Gas 5-6

  • 9oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2-3 TBsp poppy seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 fl oz sunflower oil
  • 4 fl oz cloudy apple juice
  • 4 fl oz gin and tonic (mostly tonic, but a good slug of gin)
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl. 
  2. Stir in the poppy seeds
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg
  4. Add in the lemon zest, oil, apple juice and gin and tonic, and beat together
  5. Pour the wet mix into the dry stuff and mix all together – you don’t want to beat it, but just bring it together, making sure there are no pockets of flour
  6. Spoon into tins and bake for 20 – 25 mins (slightly less for the mini ones)
These would work well with a wee cream cheese icing (with some gin and tonic in it) or with an icing glaze, made with icing sugar and apple juice and a hint of gin. They seemed to rise more than usual almost like a souffle which I think must be down to the fizzy tonic.
And if you’re not using Caorunn, you might want to use a different fruit juice, such as orange or perhaps grapefruit. Mind you, the grapefruit might do weird things to the raising agent? I’ve not tried it, so don’t blame me if it goes wrong!

Bready things

6 May

Some of you might know that I’ve been trying a low carb diet for the past few months. While I’ve been generally feeling less lethargic and slightly healthier, I haven’t continued to lose weight after the first month, so I’ve changed tack and am now trying weightwatchers again.

But that’s all dull. Diets are dull. People who talk about diets (as opposed to food) are dull. OK, they’re not all dull, but it’s the food that is inherently interesting, not the way my body or your body metabolises it.  Isn’t it?

Anyway, the low carb thing had meant that I’d stopped buying or making bread. I thought this would be really hard; I love bread. I love hot toast with butter. I love bread and honey. I love bread and butter pudding. I love toasted cheese on toast. I love croutons. I love fingers of toast with butter and marmite. And peanut butter. It’s really no wonder I’m overweight, is it?

However, I found giving up bread much easier than I imagined. It’s nice to have an egg for breakfast. Two is better.  Scrambled with a bit of butter and a teeny wee pinch of Maldon sea salt is divine, especially with a good grinding of black pepper once it’s served. And really, it doesn’t need toast to make it a superlative breakfast. Lightly boiled eggs for breakfast are also a winning start to the morning. And genuinely, since I started having eggs instead of toast or porridge for breakfast, I’ve found I don’t get hungry and want a snack mid morning. And that’s a good thing, as when I WANT a snack, I tend to have a snack.

But… all this is dull diet stuff.  The important thing is that I decided to quit this low carb regime, which meant a renewed interest in bready goods again. Now, if I’m going to eat bread, I’m going to eat the nicest bread I can have. And that, for me, means making it myself. It could also mean going to Strathaven and buying bread from Alexander Taylor‘s but I’m not sure I can justify the food miles every week. They were at the local farmers’ market yesterday, but I’d completely forgotten it was the first weekend of the month and forgot to go. Ah well, next month.

For a while I’ve been thinking about flour. I want artisanal flour. Yeah, I know how middle class that sounds. What I mean is that I want great quality flour which will make superb loaves almost without thinking. And, here’s the romantic in me, I want it to come from a proper mill. A watermill, or a windmill, I don’t mind. I want the wheat to be organic, and GM free.  I want to know that the millers are using time honoured traditional methods to mill my flour. Is that too much to ask?

Clearly it’s not. I researched a few places online and kept coming back to a Welsh mill, Bacheldre Mill. Take a look, I think you’ll like the cut of their jib.  They are artisanal millers of exceptional flours, so they say. And I would tend to agree.

So, this week we took delivery of 16kg of stoneground unbleached white flour and 4 x 1.5kg bags of their malted 5 seed flour. And oooh la la, I’m a happy baker. OK, I’ve only used the bread machine so far. Yup, I said it. I use a bread machine. And I am not ashamed of that. It is easy, it is quick (in terms of my time input) and it produces delicious bread with great texture. Most of the time.

So, on Friday night I made a 5 seed loaf. I’d forgotten there was fennel in it, which gives it that lovely almost aniseedy kick.  Great with smoked cheddar (from The Galloway Smokehouse at Carsluith) and home made apple chutney. Also great with home made blackcurrant jelly, allegedly.  I suspect it will add a new dimension to home made pizza too.

Anyway, such is my love for this proper flour that I am moved to make a new sourdough starter. I had a sourdough starter last year and loved it… but one fateful weekend I made a loaf and forgot to keep back any of the starter and that was the end of it. So, it is definitely time to make some more. I love sourdough. It doesn’t have the easy nature of the machine bread, but it rewards you with great flavour and texture. And in the end doesn’t really take up too much time, if you’re organised (which contrary to popular belief, I am).

Anyway, here is my bread machine recipe for Bacheldre Mill’s 5 Seed Loaf.

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (I used half olive, half sunflower oil)
  • 2 heaped Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Bacheldre Mill’s malted 5 seed flour
  • 1 cup strong white flour
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  1. Add the ingredients, in the order they are listed, to the tin in your bread machine
  2. Cook on 1 1/2lb wholemeal setting
Voila! You have delicious tasty bread.
I think it’s steak sandwiches later. That’s if I can resist making some pizza.

Springtime apple cake

5 May

Yes, I know apples aren’t a very springtime fruit, but I don’t seem to have anything local and seasonal in the fruit department yet. No rhubarb, no Scottish berries, not even a British apple to be had in my local supermarket today. Yes, I know, I should have shopped at the farmers’ market – but I needed to do one of those monster shops, with all sorts of store cupboard and cleaning staples, so the supermarket got my custom today.

It’s a glorious sunny day today here in the Clyde valley. Glorious and sunny in that peculiarly Scottish way of also being what you might call ‘a bit fresh’. I call it chilly. So I pootled about for a few minutes in the garden, just to check that everything was doing as it should, then watered everything in the deliciously warm greenhouse, and then decided it was time to bake a cake.

I’d thought of a hazelnut sort of a cake, but had no hazelnuts in the cupboard so that wasn’t going to happen. Then I’d thought of something with some lemon for springtime zestiness, some ground almonds for moistness, and perhaps an apple or two just for fun.

So, here we have it Springtime Apple Cake

Preheat your oven to 160C / Gas 4

Grease a 23cm deep cake tin

  • 3 apples – I used braeburns, and it will need something with a bit of crunch to it, and a slight sharpness. Cooking apples would be fine too
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g softened butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g SR flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  1. Peel and dice the apples, into wee chunks, about 1cm max. Drop them in a bowl with the lemon juice and stir them up a wee bit to coat them all in juice – this will stop them going brown while you do the rest of the cake making. It’ll give a nice zesty flavour too
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together till you get a good light fluff of a mixture
  3. Add the eggs one at a time. Add a wee bit of flour after each egg if the mixture is showing signs of splitting
  4. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients
  5. Stir in the apple chunks
  6. Dollop the mixture into the cake tin, and level the mixture.
  7. Cook for about an hour. If it smells too burny burny, then put it onto a lower shelf, or cover it with greaseproof paper to stop the top burning.
  8. To test if it’s ready, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and pull it out again. If it’s covered in soft cake batter it’s not ready, if it’s clean it’s ready. Yay!
  9. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  10. Dredge with caster sugar, and serve warm with creme fraiche. Or on its own.

You may be interested to know that if you are counting weightwatcher points (as I am currently) then if you slice this cake into 10 pieces (which I think is easily do-able) each slice has 9 points. That’s without your dollop of creme fraiche. An apple with no cake wrapped round it would be 0 points. But where would the fun be in that?

Enjoy!

5-a-day muffin style

24 Apr

Muffins are one of the easiest things to bake. Once you have a recipe, it is easily adaptable – just make sure you have roughly the same proportion of dry goods to liquid and you’ll be fine.

I don’t always manage to get my 5-a-day of fruit and veg and I know I’m not alone. So, these muffins will help you on your way. OK, they might not get you that far along the way, but they are healthier than chocolate muffin.

Tropical muffins

  • 9oz plain flour
  • 1oz porridge oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4oz soft brown sugar
  • 3fl oz vegetable oil
  • 6fl oz milk
  • 8fl oz tinned crushed pineapple (without too much of the juice)
  • 2fl oz pineapple juice (some of that juice squeezed from the pineapple in the tin)
  • 50g creamed coconut (I use one of the Patak’s sachets)
  • desiccated coconut for topping

Makes 12 standard muffins.

Prepare muffin tins. Preheat oven to 375F / 190C / GM 5.

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt. Stir in the porridge oats. This will be the bowl everything ends up in, so make sure it’s big enough
  2. In another bowl beat the egg and stir in the sugar, oil, milk, pineapple and juice
  3. If the creamed coconut is solid, warm it up to loosen it enough to pour, and add to the eggy mix bowl
  4. Pour all of the wet mixture into the dry and stir lightly just to combine. You don’t want any dry flour left in the mixture, but really it hardly needs stirring at all or the muffins will end up more solid than you’d like.
  5. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.
  6. Sprinkle generously with desiccated coconut.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops are lightly browned and spring back gently

I suspect you could substitute some of the milk in this recipe for malibu to make a proper grown up cocktail muffin. I think I may have to do a series of cocktail home-baked goods.

A Manhattan tray bake might be my next challenge.

Orange almond and chocolate cake

12 Mar

Baking for colleagues is incredibly rewarding. Baking for colleagues and asking them to make a donation to charity is even more rewarding. And when the charity is the organisation we all work for, it feels like some kind of virtuous (although slightly insane) circle.

I wanted to make a chocolatey almondy cake… and when I came across a chocolatey, orangey almondy cake recipe I knew it was The One.  I’d never tried a recipe where you boil the orange in water for half an hour and then smoosh it up in a food processor (or liquidiser in my case) and add the whole thing to the cake mixture. But I have now!  And so can you, it makes for a deliciously moist and tasty cake.

The other brilliant thing about this recipe is that it is ridiculously simple – it doesn’t need any elbow grease, beating butter and sugar till fluffy. In fact it is like a carrot cake recipe in that it uses oil instead of butter. Try it and see – but make sure you have lots of friends who want to eat it, it’s a big beast of a cake!

Chocolate truffle icing on the orange almond chocolate cake

Orange almond and chocolate cake

Pre-heat oven to 180C / GM4

Prepare a 24cm deep (or springform) tin

  • 2 oranges
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 5 eggs
  • 400g vanilla caster sugar
  • 350g sunflower oil
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  3-4 TBsp grand marnier or cointreau

for the icing

  • 350g dark chocolate
  • 225ml double cream
  1. Put the whole oranges in a pan and cover with water. Bring tot he boil and simmer for about 30 mins.
  2. Whizz them to a pulp in a food processor or a liquidiser (if you go down the liquidiser route you may have to cut them up into chunks before you put them in the goblet)
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  4. In a very large bowl (this is the bowl the cake batter will all end up in) beat together the eggs, sugar and the oil (I used a balloon whisk)
  5. Gradually beat in the orange puree, then the melted chocolate
  6. Sift the dry ingredients together (or whisk together with another balloon whisk) and then mix into the egg mixture
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes (a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean)
  8. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool, and spoon over the orange liqueur to soak in while it is cooling
The icing
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly
  3. Stir in the cream and keep stirring till smooth and glossy
  4. Set aside to cool and firm up slightly then spread over the cake with a palette knife

Serve with creme fraiche if you have any, if not, just eat it. In small slices, with a fork. It’s a VERY rich cake. But deliciously tasty – and usually I don’t approve of orange and chocolate together but this is my exception to that rule.

Nom nom nom – really moist chocolate cake

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