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 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
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