Archive for the ‘Fresh Fruit Cakes’ Category

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A Plum Job

August 17, 2011

This year promises to be a good one for fruit trees. The English apple season has started earlier than ever before thanks to the freezing temperatures of winter which put the trees to sleep meaning that they awoke in the unuaully warm spring with vigour ensuring lots of blossom and good pollonation. I would imagine that this reasoning extends to all fruit teres and a friend’s plum trees were certainly laden and I came away from an afternoon visit with bags of fruit, sweet eating plums that vanished quickly and a sharper, darker variety that begged to be baked.

I always forget just how lovely plums can be, the hard, tasteless fruits found in supermarkets are nothing in comparrison to those picked ripe from a tree. My tiny garden enables me to play with pots of compost and seeds resulting in harvests of salad leaves, slug ravished radishes and of course the essential courgettes. But what I would love, more than anything, would be a fruit tree. A tasty variety of pear or even apple would be a thing of joy, the blossoms, the fruits, the weeks of pies and chutneys, baked goods and compotes.

But a plum tree would be just perfect.

Eager to get started with the bags of fruit I came home with I looked for something quick and easy, this Oat Slice recipe from Delia.

I added some ground cardamom (from about 8 pods) as it pairs well with plums and is one of my favourite spices, I reduced the cinnamon slightly to a level teaspoon rather than the suggested heaped one to make it a bit more balanced. This really took no time at all to bring together, the nutty oats contrasted beautifully with the sharpness of the plums and the earthiness of the spices. You could adapt this to use a wide variety of fruits and I bet the addition of some chopped nuts in the oat layer would be divine.

There were still plenty left and a weekend poker evening meant hungry guests to share with. I didn’t want the stress of pastry and a pie, and a crumble, whilst one of my favorite puddings wasn’t right either. Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume II provided the recipe for a pudding like cake. There was homemade ice cream brought by one of my guests and  I popped some of the remaining plums in a pan with the juice of an orange, a table spoon of sugar, a cinnamon stick and some crushed cardamom pods and reduced them to make a sharp yet deep and spicy compote to cut through the richness of the cake. I upped the spices from the original recipe by once again adding cardamom and also half a teaspoon of ginger and  teaspoon of vanilla. I also used butternilk rather than milk.

Honey, Spice and Plum Cake

(slighty adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe in Tender Volume II)

250g plain flour

Tsp baking powder

Tsp bicarb

Tsp cinamon

1/2 Tsp ground ginger

Ground cardamom from about 10 pods

Tsp vanilla extract

200g golden syrup

2 tbsp honey (NS specifies ‘thick’ but I used standard runny honey which was all I had to hand)

125g butter

125g light muscavado sugar

250g plums, halved (or quatered if large) with stones removed

2 large eggs

240ml buttermilk (or milk)

Preheat your oven to 180C, grease and line a 24cm square tin

Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices

Gently heat the golden syrup, honey and butter until the butter is melted then add the sugar

Whisk together the eggs buttermilk and vanilla extract

Stir the syrup mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon then the egg and milk mixture, stirring until no traces of flour remain

Pour the mixture into the tin then drop in the plums (vague)

Bake for 25 minutes then cover loosly with foil and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Switch off the oven but leave for a further 15 minutes then remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.

I can’t help but wonder how Nigel comes up with these recipes – is it based on one tried and tested perhaps handed down or has he (or a minion) experimented with different baking times and options? I’ve not come accross a recipe before that states you should leave a cake in a cooling oven as part of the baking process.

I’m not sure whether a little longer was needed in the oven – you can see the dense moist crumb, and that the plums have sunk to the bottom, but it didn’t taste under done in any way. Not that there was any way to test this theory but I suspect well wrapped it would keep well being so moist. This one disappeared swiftly.

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Crammed with Cranberries

November 29, 2010

For my birthday, which fell on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I decided to honour the theme and the season with two cranberry laden cakes to take into work. As a great deal of my baking inspiration comes from the blogs I read, most of which are American, there was no shortage of potential recipes to be found in the weeks leading up to the 25th. I always have frozen and dried cranberries in the house but bought two bags of fresh that have appeared in the shops recently to use in the recipes below. I would imagine frozen would work just as well with b recipes, you might just need to extend the baking time by a couple of minutes and give them a quick toss in flour to help with the additional moisture.

I had to bake a bundt as they’re my favourite type of cake and I’m glad did as on the morning of my birthday I received my ‘I Like Big Bundts’ badge from Mary the Food Librarian  which I earned by baking on National Bundt Day on the 15th of this month you can see the round up of all those bundts baked in honour of the day, including mine, over at her site. Thank you Mary for taking the time to post one of these all the way over to the UK, I actually squealed with delight when I opened the envelope, along with my birthday cards, on the morning of the 25th.

Both recipes are courtesy of Joy the Baker, chosen for their main ingredient of cranberries, and also because I thought the two together offered a nice contrast of flavours and choice for my colleagues; the richness of a cake laden with fruit, spices and bourbon offset by the zing of lime zest in a light muffin. The original muffin recipe states whole milk, but I had buttermilk to be used. I worried initially that it might be a little too sharp a flavour on top of the cranberries and  lime zest, which is why I kept in the sugar topping, a step I often leave out. I really don’t think it was too sharp, these muffins were light and tasty and possibly my favourite thing for a long time. However,I have a confession, I didn’t manage to brown my butter. It’s not something I’ve done before and it just didn’t seem to be happening.  I’ve no idea how long it actually takes to brown butter but I seemed to be standing over the pan for ages. I had my iPhone and googled hints and tips but my impatience won out and I just used un-browned melted butter. On a positive note, this means I will have to make them again once I’ve established what I was doing wrong.

For the bundt, the apples and bourbon go together nicely, but I think I would perhaps try using a brandy next time, I even have some orange flavoured rum that I need to experiment with. I just used apples I had in the fruit bowl which were British coxes

Browned Butter, Cranberry and Lime Muffins

Joy the Baker

for 12 Muffins:

100g melted butter

1/3 cup of buttermilk or whole milk

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Grated zest of a lime

225g plain flour

140g caster sugar

3.4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups / 162g fresh or frozen cranberries

40g muscavado sugar for topping

Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with cases.

Brown the butter by melting over a low heat until brown bits appear, once the cracking has subsided it will brown quickly so remove from the heat (or just stand stirring for a while then remove melted, un-browned butter from the heat)

Whisk together the milk or buttermilk, whole egg and additional yolk, vanilla and lime zest in a large jug. Add the browned butter and whisk in.

Whisk together the flour, sugar baking powder and salt in a large bowl and then add the wet ingredients, gently but thoroughly combining.

Fold in the cranberries, spoon into muffin cases, sprinkle with a little of the extra sugar and bake for 18 – 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the trays for 15 mins.

The batter seemed very cranberry heavy – almost as if there wouldn’t be enough muffin to encase them all once cooked, but I needn’t have worried, the cranberries were perfectly encased in the batter although they did need a little over the 20 mins to brown nicely.

Apple, Cranberry and Bourbon Cake

Joy the Baker

450g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil

3 large eggs

337.5g granulated sugar (I used caster)

87.5g muscavado sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon dark rum/ bourbon /orange juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 apples; peeled, cored ad cut into 1/4″ pieces (approx 245g) and a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them browning

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a large (12 cup) bundt pan.

Whisk or sift together the flour, bicarb and salt.

Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugars, spices rum and vanilla in a large bowl.

Fold the dry ingredients in to the wet and then fold in the fruit. Joy points out that the batter will be thick and heavy and it’s definitely one that needs to be spooned in the pan rather than poured.

Bake for 60 – 74 minutes (it was 60 for me) and then allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrap to cool completely.

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Sharing the Love

November 9, 2010

I’m under no illusion about the reasons behind my baking, there is absolutely nothing altruistic in my providing treats for those around me. It is a fair and equal exchange between me, the baker, and those that receive the finished goods (bakee?).  If I didn’t live near such lovely people, or work with those whose company I enjoyed, I would bake far, far less. Or weigh far, far more. But I’m lucky. I have good neighbours, friends and colleagues and they enable me to indulge in my hobby and I know that they are lovely people, whose company I enjoy through, my baking.

The rewards extend beyond the pleasure I get from the recipe books I hoard, the planning and baking and even beyond watching others enjoy what I have created; my relationships with neighbours especially, have developed in part because I needed people to offload the products of my kitchen onto, which in turn has led to some good friendships.  At work, the baking provides a framework for connections and small talk, leading what can be odd office dynamics to develop into something more genuine.

Last week a colleague shared with me more apples from her garden, these apples have been a real bonus and  have provided a wonderful autumnal theme to recent baking sessions. I won’t repost the recipes in full, but this weekend I took the latest batch of apples and made a stock of apple sauce as per Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Most went into the freezer for future use, but one batch was saved for Sunday’s pre-dawn (I’m looking forward to spring already) baking session and her Spiced Applesauce Cake. I didn’t bother with the frosting and I really don’t think it needs it. It’s so easy to bake and only takes 35 minutes in the oven, there’s a tartness and moistness from the applesauce that I really enjoyed especially against the toasted nuts.

If you read here with any regularity you’ll know my affinity for courgettes and spotting Nigel Slater’s cake that combined the two was the highlight so far of his latest book.

This is a wonderfully easy cake to make, and the moistness from the courgettes and apples are offset by the crunch of the nuts. I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans and you could play around to your heart’s content with the nuts and dried fruit combinations. Having baked so much recently from American recipes the ‘pinch’ of cinnamon seemed overly cautious, and you could add nutmeg or mixed spice quite happily I think. I hint of citrus might not have gone amis either, the zest of an orange would do wonders to lift it slightly – perhaps judge on the tartness of your apples? I would avoid any juice as additional liquid content might cause problems with the water from the courgettes and apple (top tip only discovered after I’d made this, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness is to put the apples and courgette in a salad spinner to remove the excess water – might have to make this cake again to try it out – let me know if you use this method).

So, whilst autumn makes its presence known with the reversion to GMT and leaf-blocked guttering, step into your kitchen and bake this to share with your family and friends. Or perhaps make new friends and connections by wrapping up to give to neighbours and colleagues.

A Cake of Apples and Courgettes

Nigel Slater; Tender Vol II

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g/2 small courgettes

1 small apple

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of cinnamon (be generous)

60g pecans, roughly chopped

60g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm x 12cm x 9cm loaf tin (I doubled quantities and made several smaller loaves – all the better for sharing and also gave me chance to try out the tin liners from Lakeland)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 mins in a stand mixer

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl

Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture

Coarsely grate the apple and courgettes (I used a processor – far quicker and less messy, especially if you have juicy apples) and then squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove excess water

Fold the courgettes and apples into the mixture then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined

Add the nuts and sultanas, scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for oner hour or until it is golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin

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Ginger and Apples – what’s not to like?

October 22, 2010

Autumn has arrived, the leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping, and I have spent most of a Sunday making my Christmas Cakes. Whilst I will have to wait weeks to sample those, below is a recipe for something that is simply Autumn wrapped up in a muffin case.

I still had plenty of the apples donated by my colleague, and knowing how much my Dad likes ginger cakes went looking for an appropriate recipe. As always Smitten Kitchen is one of my first ports of call and Deb doesn’t disappoint with her Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake recipe. I adapted the recipe to fold the apples into the batter so I could make into cupcakes and chopped the apples into 1cm square pieces rather than the wedges suggested for the cake, forgoing the ‘topping’ although I suppose you could caramelise the apples before folding into the batter. These are beautifully moist and the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea on an afternoon.

Can I also point out my current favourite thing – the small green patterned board that the muffins are sitting on in these photos. Something I brought back form my recent trip to Norway. I’m in love with the colour and patterns, a different one on each side. It sits on my kitchen work surface and makes me smile on these ever darker mornings.

 

Gingerbread Apple Cakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 apples (1 3/4 lbs) peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces, less than 1cm

112g butter

112g light muscavado sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup molasses (treacle)

1/3 cup honey

1 cup buttermilk

375g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

In a large jug combine the egg, treacle, honey and buttermilk

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, bicarb, salt and spices

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer on high-speed until flight and fluffy (approx 8 minutes)

Add the flour mixture and the wet mixture in batches  alternately to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated

Finally fold in the chopped apples before spooning into prepared muffin tins

Bake for 35 – 40 mins until a springy to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.

I was wary of over-filling the muffin cases as gingerbread mixture can rise a lot, however these didn’t, probably due to the fresh apple, so be generous when filling.

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Autumn Apples

October 8, 2010

The Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf from my previous post used up the jar of marmalade that had been mocking me from the fridge shelf. So I promptly went out and bought another one – because you can’t not have marmalade in the house can you? I am aware of the contradiction but should state that unopened jars in the cupboard do not elicit the same anxieties as open ones housed in the fridge – am I revealing too many neuroses in one post here?

I’m glad I did replenish my stock though, because my new copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender V2 arrived and one of the first recipes I flagged was his Apple and Marmalade Cake. I had been given an enormous bag of apples harvested from a colleagues tree so the ingredient gods were smiling on me that day.

I have made this cake again since, doubling the ingredients and making many small loaves as I wanted to give them away to neighbours – it works just as well.

 

Wholemeal Apple and Marmalade Cake

Nigel Slater

220g butter at room temperature
210g light muscavado sugar
4 eggs
250 g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
200g (peeled & cored weight) apples chopped into pieces less than 1cm
100g sultanas or raisins (I used a mixture of both)
125g Marmalade
Zest of an orange
Demerara sugar for sprinkling on the top
Pre heat oven to 160C and crease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Combine flour, cinnamon and baking powder
In a separate bowl combine the marmalade, raisins and/or sultanas, apples and zest
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the beaten eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary
fold in the flour followed by the fruit and marmalade mixture
scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle with Demerara sugar
bake for 1 hr 15 mins (my double recipe made 5 small loaves which I baked for 45-45 mins)

I have also used the apples to make Deb’s Wholewheat Apple Muffins which I first tried last year . I was disappointed last time, but the addition of mixed spice added the depth that I think was missing previously (I reduced the cinnamon to 1/2 a teaspoon and added a teaspoon of mixed spice) I also made sure that the apple pieces were a little smaller, more suited to a muffin. Make sure you fill the muffin cases well, these do not rise that much in the oven so you need to be generous with the batter.

I have found more use for the many apples gifted to me including an apple and date chutney that is currently maturing before I can review it, and an apple and gingerbread cupcake that I will share with you shortly. I have my eye on an apple and courgette cake from Tender (courgettes currently earmarked for my morning porridge though) and of course,  apples and autumn also mean it’s nearly time to make my mincemeat in time for mince pies!

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Many Muffins

June 9, 2010

I’m enjoying this recent spate of muffin baking I’m on. As much as I adore my Kitchen Aid there’s something to be said for the ease with which a batch of muffins can be brought together. I also seem to be braver when it come to adapting recipes, something about the end result being distributed amongst 24 paper cases rather than the trepidation of all those ingredients going into the one bundt tin. The reduced baking time can be a bonus (although doesn’t quite leave enough time to clean the bathroom -thank god for portable kitchen timers) as is the reduced cooling time and the fact that they’re perfect for easy distribution. All of which mean that there’s time to whip up a batch before work in the morning rather than having to wait until the weekend in order to allow enough time for prepping, baking and cooling.

For a basic, and adaptable, muffin recipe I found this from Joy of Baking. I was going to play around, but then remembered the packs of blueberries in the freezer and used them straight off. The feedback was great and I really can’t stress how quick and easy it is. The important thing about making muffins is not to over mix the dry ingredients into the wet. A full explanation of why can be found on the link above, but 10-15 ‘stirs’ should be enough to incorporate the flour, you may still have the odd dry clump and streaks of flour, don’t worry!

I recently adapted Dorie’s Carrot Spice Muffins recipe to good effect, I think, starting with substituting courgettes for the carrots (I do love my courgettes). I worried, as I was counting out those ten to fifteen stirs, that there perhaps weren’t quite enough raisins or walnuts in the batter mix. But, the muffins were delightful with some bites delivering a nutty crunch, another the sweet taste of dried fruit with the hint of spice and moistness from the courgettes throughout.





Courgette Spice Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Carrot Spice Muffin Recipe

Makes 24 muffins

300g plain flour
300g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
120g light muscavado sugar (or light brown)
150g caster sugar
1 1/3 cup oil
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated courgettes
50g raisins
50 sultanas
75g chopped walnuts
zest of a large orange

Preheat oven 190C
Grease or line muffin tins

Mix flours, spices, bicarb and baking powder in a large bowl
Add sugars, mixing so there are no lumps
In a large mixing bowl or jug whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla and orange zest
Add in the grated courgette and combine well
Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined, do not over mix, the mixture will be lumpy and there may still be traces of flour visible
Fold in the dried fruit and nuts and fill each muffin case nearly full
Bake for 20 minutes, transfer the tins to a cooling rack for 15 mins before removing the cases from the tins and allowing to cool completely

We’ve been really lucky recently with the weather, a recent glorious weekend coincided with the local monthly farmers market. I stocked up on rhubarb so I could make more compote for my breakfast. Another recent obsession, I don’t have a recipe as such, just chop, add to large pan with juice and zest of orange, vanilla pod, couple of chunks of ginger and some sugar. How much sugar? I like my rhubarb sharp, especially as I usually combine it with yoghurt and the sweet early British strawberries that are to be found right now. Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini recommend using 10% of the net weight of rhubarb used which sounds like a good tip. Cook the whole lot for 15 mins. Remove ginger and refrigerate when cool – delicious.

But back to the baking. As with any seasonal ingredient the blogs are filled with recipes meaning inspiration isn’t hard to find. As usual I was overwhelmed by choice but in the end I adapted the Rhubarb Strawberry Pecan Loaf from Smitten and it was divine. The only problem was the muffins that I set aside to take into work on Monday morning were so moist they bordered on mushy. They still tasted divine but these are definitely ones best eaten on the day they’re baked. There are a couple of comments on the original recipe about the moistness of the loaf and I can’t imagine how you would slice it, but the muffins meant this wasn’t a problem.


Rhubarb Strawberry Pecan Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 Muffins

230g Light muscavado sugar (or light brown sugar)
117g oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
187g plain flour
187g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
450g chopped rhubarb
345g sliced strawberries
75g chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 180C
Grease or line muffin tins

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and buttermilk
Combine flours, bicarb and salt
Add dry to wet and stir until just combined
Fold in fruit and nuts and distribute between the muffin cases
Bake for 15 – 18 mins
Transfer tins to cooling rack and leave to cool in the tins for 15 mins before transferring the cases to the rack to cool completely

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Sunday Bake-a-thon

August 20, 2009


On the same Sunday morning that saw me conquer the lemon drizzle disaster I also needed to use up a carton of buttermilk. Most of the buttermilk recipes I’ve collected are bundt cake ones which I adore. I never tire of looking at (and picking at)the cracked top as it cools in the tin before turning it out and marvelling at the smooth underside. Plus they’re dream cakes for slicing and sharing.

A mixture of fresh and frozen blueberries along with just enough lemons left from the nemesis cake and I was good to go with this recipe from Bonappetit. This cake is delicious and was a hit with everyone. Don’t forget to coat the blueberries in flour to distribute them evenly throughout the batter.

And, because I can never bake just one cake I also attempted these apple muffins from Smitten Kitchen (there was also a Victoria Sandwich, but more on that another time).



I’m not won over by these muffins. I think the memory of the apple and date cake is still too wondrously fresh for another apple based recipe. I didn’t help by not chopping the apple into small enough pieces – again my lack of forward thinking meant I didn’t fully consider the end muffin sized product. However, the crumb was lovely and light and the smell alone whilst they were baking was wonderful