Posts Tagged ‘Dried Fruit’

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Short & Sweet

November 4, 2011

I have been baking almost exclusively from Dan Lepard’s ‘Short & Sweet’ since it arrived a few weeks ago. A comprehensive compilation of recipes from choux to pita; muffins to meringues and tarts to tapenade dinner rolls. The ‘tips & techniques’ at the start of each  chapter – whilst present in any decent baking book – I’ve found more enlightening than usual. For example pointing out that ripe bananas are alkaline and may need the addition of more baking powder to stop the finished cakes turning out on the heavy side (noted Mr Lepard).

Dan writes a weekly column ‘How to Bake’ for the Saturday Guardian magazine. A regular cut-out-and-keep for me, my collection of his recipes are tucked between the pages of other baking books, and now they will have a place of their own. What I’m particularly pleased about is that the book isn’t just a collection of the recipes already available online and, as was recently pointed out in another review – the book stays open at the page required making life just a little easier.

 

 

 

I have now twice made the savoury choux pastry recipe and Black Olive Gourgeres (mini choux bites with thyme, garlic, parmesan and kalamata olives – divine). A chance to revisit the choux first attempted at River Cottage and to hone those skills. The gourgeres are a fantastic pre dinner party nibble as they can be made ahead and reheated easily before serving. They’re messy buggers to spoon onto a baking tray (line that tray with parchment) but they don’t need to be too uniform in shape as the their rough edges crisp up and add wonderful crunch.

 

 

 

The savoury choux paste with added parmesan and a hint of mace along with the cayenne (top spice tip from River Cottage – try it) was easier to work with although my quenelle-ing skills need a fair amount of work. I was able to try out my theory that a filling of horseradish creme fraiche would go well with the spicy buns. I can confirm it does make a lovely pairing; the light and crispy pastry, warm with gentle heat from the spices and parmesan compliments the smooth zingy and firey mixture of creme fraiche (I used low fat)  and horseradish (the English Provender Co makes a great substitute for the fresh stuff) lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Make your mixture and chill in the fridge before piping into the cooled buns. A great mixture that goes wonderfully well with beef or smoked fish too. Top tip of my own – remember to warn guests that the buns are filled. Chances are they will be eaten with glass in one hand and the eater’s focus on conversation – the spilling potential would seem to be moderately high.

 

 

 

From the sweeter end of the recipe selection I made the Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake for a neighbours birthday. A fine crumbed cake containing condensed milk it’s better for a day left well wrapped but pretty damn tasty straight away if it calls to you from the kitchen.

 

 

 

Another day found me looking at the collection of dried fruits in my baking cupboard. First off was a Cinnamon Honey Fruit Cake which I baked in a tray, all the better for portioning to share out (a suggestion made by Dan that I can confirm works well). This too benefits from sitting for a day or two and I really would leave it if you can, a far moister cake awaits you if you can resist. I used a mixture of prunes, figs and apricots as well as adding 100g of whole blanched almonds, which in the tray form didn’t have the opportunity to sink – mind you the batter is thick enough with chopped fruit that they should stay suspended even in a deep tin. The discovery of a nut adds delightful texture and interest to the bites of cake.

 

 

 

For me though the star of the show so far has been the Marrakesh Express Loaf Cake. Containing coffee, lots of walnuts and sesame seeds, rich sticky dates and pomegranate I felt sure I would enjoy it, but the layers of taste are amazing. Like a complex perfume it has a deep earthiness from the coffee and walnuts surrounded by the sweet dates and then the syrupy top notes of the pomegranate syrup float around your mouth. Dan says that treacle could substitute for the pomegranate syrup but I can’t believe the flavours would then dance around your palate in quite the same way. The syrup is worth getting if you can, a little goes a long way and if you enjoy middle easter food or follow the Ottolenghi column adjacent to Dan’s in the Guardian then you will find plenty of uses for it.

 

 

 

The recipe states half wholemeal or spelt flour and half hemp flour – I just used all wholemeal and it turned out fine, although I might just have to get me some spelt and hemp and see if the flavours can be any better.

 

 

 

There is still so much to try in the book and I know from last year that the Caramel Christmas Cake is a winner and sure to make another outing, or four, this year.

 

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Getting Fruity with Hugh

January 5, 2011

The pain of last night’s lack of sleep is still too raw (a long, dull story involving new smoke alarms that are ‘charging’. Loudly). However I did at least have Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and his Date and Orange Cake recipe from last Saturday’s Guardian to keep me company at 4am this morning, that and my lovely new Microplane zester.

Look at it, isn’t it lovely?

The perfect Christmas gift from my brother and family it made short work of zesting the three oranges that go into this moist cake. The recipe was part of a section in the Guardian last weekend about Christmas left overs. Now, I always have dates and oranges in the house for baking purposes but I did actually have a pack of medjool dates still  in their little paper cases, bought for a Christmas treat that didn’t get eaten.

As one of the commenters on the link above noted, and as I’ve found before with Hugh’s recipes, the butter pooled out of the bottom of the tin. Luckily I had placed the tin on a baking tray so it was caught and I didn’t have to spend time scrubbing away at burnt fat on the base of the oven (that would not have improved my day). I would try reducing the butter, to 250g perhaps, but I also wonder if it’s the nuts in the cake that makes it less absorbent especially as these were pulsed from whole blanched almonds so were coarser than pre-ground almonds – of course that’s still reason to reduce the butter should you wish.

I kept the pieces of dates fairly large as they were deliciously moist but have to confess I had only the smallest of tastes of the finished cake from one small section that had stuck to the base where the parchment had come loose. I took the finished cake into work, let it be known it was in the kitchen, and in no time it was gone.

I was fairly sure, in that post-Christmas time of abstinence a rich cake such as this would’ve been nibbled in thin slivers or shunned entirely leaving me time to taste, but it went before I could cut a slice. It went  down well though. Perhaps if you make it you could let me know what you think?

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Brand New Spatula at (pre) Dawn

December 10, 2010

Winter means that even a modestly early morning in the kitchen is spent facing darkened windows, although this last Saturday the freezing cold snap (might have to revise the use of the term snap as that implies brevity) meant that there was at least the sparkle of ice and snow in the pitch black of my garden at 5am. I was glad to wake early as I had a morning free from builders, a recipe and a brand new spatula (gifted to me on my birthday) to try out.

I really enjoy Dan Lepard’s ‘How to Bake’ series in the Saturday Guardian, it’s one of the first pages I turn to frequently one to cut out and add to the stack slipped into various notebooks and recipe books. I always hope for a cake rather than a bread or pudding recipe and the previous week I was rewarded with a festive fruit cake recipe that was immediately pinned up in the kitchen as ‘one to make soon’ rather than tucked away.

I made my Christmas cakes, in mini loaf form, some time ago to the same Mary Berry recipe as last year and have been tending to them ever since, feeding with Brandy and trying to resist picking at their fruit and nut studded tops,

So I really don’t need another fruit cake in my kitchen –  what a ridiculous statement!

I originally baked this as a gift to take to a family gathering that I’m going to this weekend, and once cooled I double wrapped it ready to be stored for the week. But I just couldn’t resist. The thought of the figs, prunes and walnuts contained in the caramel cake was just a little too much. Plus, I had to cut into it to get a photo so I could properly blog about it didn’t I? Then, of course, the tasting is all important to ensure the feedback I leave here is accurate. I’m not sure at what point photographing and tasting became munching, but my god, this is a tasty cake. So I had to bake two more on Sunday morning. Cake number one has been distributed and devoured by a couple of people, cakes two and three are wrapped and ready to be transported and cakes four and  five are in the planning! This will definitely be my stand by fruit cake from now on.

This has no booze in it (although you could feed afterwards) and no pre-soaking of the fruit so there’s not a huge amount of preparation. In fact with the figs being taken care of with kitchen shears rather than chopping (handy tip that) the prep was quick, especially as the cherries are left whole (although I did give them a rinse) and the walnuts remain in their halves. What you end up with is a cake rich with delicious fruit with wonderful texture from the nuts and whole cherries – I’d even go as far as to say that the addition of alcohol might detract from the soft, warm richness from the caramel.

Dan adds that the cake is ready to ice and decorate ‘as you please’ but I think the only things needed alongside a slice of this is a mug of tea, a slice of sharp cheddar and perhaps an open fire and to enjoy it by. Should you happen to have all, some, or none of the above to hand, the recipe on the Guardian’s site is definitely one to bookmark

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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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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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Fruit Cakes

February 2, 2010




I love the request for a cake – a guide to help me whittle down the recipes I obsessively bookmark from other blogs and flag in my recipe books. Choice paralyses me, I want to use the tin of pumpkin I have in the cupboard; I have buttermilk nearing its use by date. The half full pack of wholemeal self-raising flour at the back of the cupboard nags at me. How fresh are the lemons in the fruit bowl?

So, when someone simply says in passing ‘I just love ginger cakes’ or ‘have you ever made a coffee cake?’ then I have a starting point, a purpose from which a plan can be formed, and I do love a plan.

My father specifically requesting ‘a cake’ provided the impetus for this particular Sundays early morning – into mid afternoon – bakathon. He is a frequent recipient of the fruits of my kitchen labours, but he asked and I baked. My dad loves fruitcakes and with the post Christmas overstock of dried fruit languishing in my cupboard, I set about choosing one. It felt good to reacquaint myself with the British books in my collection and the bags of blanched almonds left over from decorating the Christmas Cakes meant a Dundee Cake was an obvious choice. I waivered between a recipe from Leith’s Baking Bible and a Delia but in the end settle on Delia’s and you can see the recipe here (although the instructions for lining a tin from Leith’s were most useful).

Of course I can’t make just one cake, can’t be that decisive, but I didn’t anticipate the five that came out of the oven on this day. I added ‘Jane’s Fruit Cake’ and ‘Cherry Cake’ both from Marry Berry’s Baking Bible. I also baked two Marmalade Loaves but because of my lax blogging and the delay between baking and writing this I now can’t find the recipe. I know I made it and I know it was tasty (sorry to taunt) I know the recipe is there somewhere and will update soon (ish).

I’m not sure what my father made of the stack of foil wrapped cakes that I presented him with that evening but I have to say I enjoyed the Marmalade Loaf and Dundee Cake enormously. I’m not a fan of candied peel so would probably reduce this in the Dundee and up the citrus zest to compensate. The fruitcake initially tasted a little bland to me, perhaps the memory of the extraordinarily rich Christmas Cake is still fresh and spicy in my mind, but I found that after a day or two the flavours had matured and it was quite lovely. The Cherry Cake was hit with lots of people, which surprised me, I had many comments saying it was a favourite out of them all.


Jane’s Fruit Cake

May Berry’s Baking Bible

200g softened Butter

350g light muscovado Sugar

3 large eggs

450g wholemeal self raising flour

150ml Buttermilk

350g sultanas

350g currants

50g flaked almonds for sprinking

Preheat oven 140C, grease a 23cm/9” deep round tin and line the base and sides with parchment.

The directions in Mary’s books sometimes seem a little brief; often just mix all the ingredients till combined. As I use my Kitchenaid (but the principle is the same with a handheld electric whisk) I follow the sequence dictated in many US recipes, although admittedly these tend to be for pound cakes rather than fruitcakes. Anyway, my method of mixing below:

Beat the sugar and butter until creamed – approx 3 mins on high speed

Add flour and buttermilk in alternate batches, ending on the flour and mix until incorporated

Fold in the fruit and mix well

Spoon into the prepared pans and sprinkle with the flaked almonds

Bake for 3 – 3 ½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Wrap in more parchment and foil to keep moist.



English Cherry Cake

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

200g glace cherries

275g self raising flour (I used wholemeal)

75g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

225g softened butter

225g caster sugar

4 large eggs

Oven 160C/Fan 140/GM3

Grease and line 8” deep round cake tin

Quarter the berries and wash and dry thoroughly

Beat sugar and butter until light and creamy, add the eggs one at a time scraping the bowl after each addition.

Add in the flour and mix well

Fold cherries into the mixture and spoon batter into the tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 1 ½ -1 ¾ hours

Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin then turn out, peel off the parchment and allow to cool completely on a rack.