October 13, 2018

CHERRY PIE

cherry pie3

Our cherry trees did really well this year, producing a lot of fruit, so I looked through my cook books for a recipe for cherry pie and chose one from “Say it with cake” by Ed Kimber, a former GBBO winner. 

The end result was reminiscent of the pies and crumbles I used to make years ago using those tins of cherry pie filling – only much, much better. 

cherry pie2

The only faffy part of making this pie is stoning all the cherries, a process that is made only slightly easier by the use of my not very efficient cherry stoner.  After half an hour and when beginning to lose the will to live, I wondered whether I should just leave the stones in but remembered that a mouthful of stones takes away the joy of most fruit puddings so soldiered on.

cherry pie

I did find a recipe for cherry pie by Ed on the internet here, but it’s not quite the same as the one in the book, using arrowroot, almond essence and with other differences.  It’s not in his first book either, which has the same title as the web page, and is dated later than both of the books were published.  So he seems to have tinkered with his earlier recipe but in any case, this one was delicious and I would definitely make it again.

Probably next year when the cherry tree is groaning under the weight of fruit again!  Speaking of which, I really should have done this post when cherries were in season and easily available fresh in the shops – but you could use frozen ones and make it at any time of year, with the added advantage that you then wouldn’t have to spend hours removing all the stones!

Ingredients

For the filling

200g caster sugar

800g fresh or frozen pitted cherries

zest and juice of 1 lemon

45g cornflour

For the pastry

400g plain flour

1 tsp salt

2 tblsp caster sugar

200g cold unsalted butter

Also, 1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tblsp water for the egg wash.

Method

Put the sugar, 600g of the cherries and the lemon zest into a large pan over medium heat.  Mix the cornflour to a paste with the lemon juice and add to the pan when the cherries start to release their juice.  Bring to the boil gently and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until thickened.  Remove from the heat and add the remaining cherries.  Set aside to cool while you make the pastry.

Make the pastry in the usual way, divide into two portions, one slightly larger than the other and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Grease a 23cm pie dish or plate.

Roll out the larger piece of pastry to a bit bigger than the dish and drape it over, pressing into the base.  Trim so the overhang is about 2.5cm all the way round. 

Roll the other piece of pastry and cut into strips 2.5cm wide. 

*The recipe at this point says to chill the pastry again but I didn’t have time. 

Tip the cherry filling into the pie.  Brush the edges with egg wash and lay the strips of pastry over the top in a lattice pattern.  Brush again and fold the overlap in so that it covers the edges of the strips.  Crimp the edges together with finger and thumb.  Brush the pastry all over with egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is browned and the filling bubbling.

Serves 6-8

October 11, 2018

CARAMELISED APPLE CLAFOUTIS

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This is one of those desserts that might not look much but it tasted divine.  I love a good clafoutis and over the years have tried several different recipes for the batter and various fruits.  In fact I once came close to writing a post called “a tale of two clafoutis” which compared two different recipes, one of them by Raymond Blanc – and he should know how to make a good one - but it got forgotten and the photos remain in my “posts that never quite happened” file.

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This recipe comes from an M&S booking called “Baking” which I think was a Christmas present many years ago.  I have had success with a few of the recipes from it and I have a hunch that it’s from the Australian Woman’s Weekly stable of cookery books.

When it comes to fruit puddings I’m more of a “chuck it in the dish and add a topping” kind of cook so the idea of caramelising the apples in a pan first seemed like a step too far but it was absolutely worth it.

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The quantities made a huge pudding and in fact I kept some of the apples and the batter aside rather than overfill the dish.  I also thought it might not be a good idea to pour all of the caramel in either so I also reserved some of that to pour over a second pudding later.  I’m looking forward to making a small mixed fruit clafoutis with the reserved fruit and batter later today.

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And here it is, clafoutis revisited.  I used the few reserved apple wedges, one nectarine and two apricots, poured over the reserved caramel (about a tablespoonful) and batter and baked for 30 minutes.  Delicious!  It also proves that a dessert doesn’t have to be glamorous to be really yummy!

Ingredients

For the fruit

6 medium dessert apples (900g)

50g unsalted butter

110g light muscovado sugar

For the batter

50g plain flour

50g self raising flour

75g caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten lightly

160ml milk

160ml cream (I used Elmlee light double cream)

80g unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Grease a large, shallowish 2.5 litre baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan.

For the fruit, peel and halve the apples.  Remove the cores with a melon baller or sharp knife and cut each half into four wedges.

Melt the 50g butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the apples and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the brown sugar and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. 

Tip the fruit into the dish and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Make the batter while the fruit is cooling by sifting the flours into a large bowl.  Add the caster sugar and mix together.  Gradually whisk in the remaining batter ingredients with a balloon whisk, until smooth, and pour over the fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Serve warm with pouring or whipped cream.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.

Serves 6.

October 10, 2018

SAVOURY MINI MUFFINS

mini muffins

Whenever I find myself eating a scrumptious mini muffin at a friend’s house I make a mental note to make them more often myself.  The trouble is, I feel I need the right occasion.  With friends coming round for the afternoon I felt that both cake and savoury nibbles were called for and a batch of mini muffins seemed just the right thing.

I used my pear and goat’s cheese recipe that you can see here and adapted it for what I had in the fridge.  On this occasion I therefore made mushroom, bacon and onion mini muffins and they went down a treat.

mini muffins2

As I was filling the holes in the mini muffin tin I realised I had been more generous with the mixture than usual and it would probably not stretch to a second 24 hole tin.  Then I remembered my 12 hole tin which was a charity shop find from last year.  It was apparently brand new as it had no sign of wear and tear or previous use (so many things in charity shops seem to be on the shelf sporting a few bits of the previous owner’s last meal – yuk) and for 50p it was a real bargain.  I knew it would come in handy eventually.

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This basic recipe is very useful and can be adapted for lots of different fillings.  It makes a light and fluffy little muffin, just right for a one or two-bite mouthful and very moreish.

They are best eaten on the day they are made but will freeze well if you simply put them in a bag.  Defrost thoroughly and warm gently for a few minutes in a low oven (140 C) before serving.

Ingredients

280g plain flour

1 tblsp baking powder

a large pinch of salt

black pepper

2 medium eggs

250 ml milk

6 tblsp sunflower oil

a 100g pack of smoked lardons

4-5 medium sized mushrooms

1 small onion

a handful of grated Emmental cheese (optional)

Method

Chop the onion and mushrooms and add with the lardons to a frying pan.  Cook until the lardons are cooked.  You may or may not want to add a little oil, depending on how fatty the lardons are.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°fan/ gas mk 6.  Grease two 24-hole mini muffin tins.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Stir in the cooked lardons etc.  Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

Lightly beat the eggs and mix with the milk and oil.  Add to the other ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Scatter the grated cheese over the top.

Bake for about 15 minutes until risen, golden and firm to the touch.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 36-48 mini muffins (depending on how well you fill the holes).

October 8, 2018

A TALE OF TWO APPLE CAKES and that thing about the icing again.

scrumpy cake

For our cake club meeting last month I decided to try a recipe that I had had my eye on for quite a while.  It’s called “country apple cake” and you can see it on the BBC Good Food website here. For the meeting I called it “scrumpy apple cake” because the apples in it were scrumped from a friend’s garden.  (Actually she invited me round to pick them but that’s by the by.)

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The recipe had intrigued me because it contains chocolate in the form of cocoa powder as well as spices and of course the apples.  Having found my coffee apple cake a great success I assumed this would be just as good, but what a disappointment.  It had a lovely texture and held together well for a cake containing plenty of chunks of apple but the flavour was extremely bland.

I had my doubts when I licked the spoon after putting it in the oven so I attempted to perk up the finished cake by adding a cream cheese topping and some apple leaves and chocolate raisins for decoration.  Unfortunately even that was not enough to rescue a really average cake.  Another recipe I should revisit and tweak?………maybe, one day when I have run out of recipes to try……..although it did have a lovely texture.

apple and apricot cake

Now enter stage left, this cake to a recipe by Mary Berry.  She calls it “American apple and apricot cake” and it appears on the internet in numerous places as well as in her “Baking Bible” and “100 cakes and bakes”.

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In my quest to find the perfect apple cake recipe, this would have to be the strongest contender so far.  It was dead easy to make, essentially an all-in-one method.  I snipped the dried apricots quite roughly and sliced the apples directly from my hand into the cake mixture. 

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My cake sank a bit in the middle but tasted divine.  The combination of apricots, apples and almonds is one that really works well it seems – and in fact most of the almond flavour comes from a splash of almond essence rather than ground almonds.

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I don’t know what it is about it that makes it “American” but I would just call it “apple, apricot and almond cake”.

Mary suggests it’s best served warm but I served it at room temperature and didn’t fall apart like some apple cakes do.  It kept well in a tin for a couple of days, too.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again and again.

Apple, apricot and almond cake

Ingredients

250g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp almond extract

150g butter, melted

225g apples, peeled*

100g ready to eat dried apricots

25g flaked almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 C / 140 Fan / gas mk 3.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm round loose bottomed tin.

Put all the ingredients except for the fruit into a large bowl and mix well together to combine then beat for one minute.  Snip the apricots and slice the apples into the bowl and gently mix them in.  Spoon into the tin and level the top.  Sprinkle over the almonds and bake for 1-1½ hours until done. 

Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*The recipe says cooking apples but I used some more of my scrumped dessert apples from my friend’s tree and they were fine.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

September 30, 2018

COURGETTE AND GOAT’S CHEESE POTS

courgette and goat's cheese pots

Our courgette plants are still providing us with a few courgettes so when I was thinking about what to make for a starter when friends came round recently I felt compelled to use them.  My first thought was to make one of my roasted courgette tarts but pastry was also on the menu for a dessert so that was a no-no.

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Then I remembered reading somewhere about a crustless quiche and an idea came into my head.  I put the roasted courgette slices along with some lardons and onion in the bottom of some ramekins, added a slice of goat’s cheese, poured in the quiche liquid filling, topped them with half a cherry tomato and there we have them. 

They puffed up in the oven like a quiche filling often does and looked very tempting.  I served them warm with some crusty bread and they went down a treat.  I didn’t quite know what to call them as “crustless quiche” sounded a bit clumsy and they weren’t exactly a soufflé.  So I called them “pots”.  Our guests said they were delicious and they would have been pleased to have eaten them in a restaurant.  I’ll take that as a compliment!

Ingredients

1 medium courgette, green or yellow, wiped and sliced thinly

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 pack of lardons

4 small slices or chunks of goat’s cheese

2 eggs

a spoonful of double cream (or crème fraîche)

about 100ml milk

2 cherry tomatoes

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.  Scatter the courgette slices and chopped onion over a baking tray and scatter the lardons on top.  Roast for about 15 minutes until the lardons are cooked, shuffle them around about half way through.

While the veg are roasting, put the eggs into a jug with the cream or crème fraîche and make up to 250ml with the milk.  Add salt and pepper and beat with a fork until combined.

When the veg are cooked, divide between four ramekins and add a piece of cheese to each one.  Pour over the eggy liquid, being careful not to overfill.  Drop half a cherry tomato on top of each one and return to the oven for about 20-25 minutes until puffed up and set.

Serve warm.

Serves 4.

September 29, 2018

QUINCE TARTE TATIN WITH DULCE DE LECHE ICE CREAM

poached quince tarte tatin

Last week my friend Gaynor gave me some quince.  I have been intrigued by this fruit for a long time and was excited to get my hands on some and do something with them. 

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I knew they could be challenging to cook with and the only home made dish I had tried so far was quince jelly – made by another friend, not me.  Occasionally they turn up on a restaurant menu and I have eaten them in both sweet and savoury dishes.

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This is how they grow.  This tree in the next village was positively dripping with fruit, not quite ripe yet.  I thought I would see how I got on with cooking them before I considered sneaking back to scrump some of the ones dangling outside the owner’s garden….

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I have to say that they are the devil’s own job to prepare.  I decided to use two recipes by David Lebovitz and he warns about the dangers of grappling with them.  The peel comes off quite easily and the flesh is firm like an unripe pear.  The core however is very woody and puts up a hell of a fight.  It took me the best part of an hour to core this lot.  Consequently I have given the recipe a faff factor *** as it is not for the faint hearted!

First I poached the pears using the recipe that you can see here, although I changed the quantities to suit the number of pears I had.  To make the tarte tatin I reduced some of the poaching liquid in the tatin tin until it began to caramelise then arranged the pears on top.  You can see the recipe here.

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I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry for the crust rather than make my own – to save time, having already spent much longer than I expected on preparing the fruit!

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The quince changed colour spectacularly when they were cooking in the oven and on turning out the tarte this fabulous pink creation emerged like a butterfly from its chrysalis. 

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While it was baking in the oven I got on with making the ice cream.  I had spotted this recipe on Phil’s blog called As Strong as Soup and had a strong desire to make it immediately!  I had to wait until Nick and I had found all the various parts of our ice cream machine and then let the bowl chill in the freezer for twenty four hours before I could start.

The ice cream was utterly delicious.  I used a whole jar of Bon Maman “confiture du lait” and it made a good sized box of ice cream that continued to delight us long after the tarte tatin was finished.  The tarte was also delicious, a great hit and a very impressive dessert when both are served together.

For the poached pears

5 large quince, peeled, cored and quartered

1.5 litres of water

150g sugar

100g honey

1 lemon, halved

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 vanilla bean, split lengthways

Method

Bring the water, sugar, honey, lemon and spices to a gentle boil and add the quince.  Cover with a circle of baking parchment with a walnut-sized hole in the middle and simmer gently until they are tender.  Mine took an hour.

Remove the fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Strain and reserve all the liquid, discarding the lemon and spices.  The poached fruit will keep for about a week in their liquid in a sealed container in the fridge.

For the tarte tatin

Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan.

Put 300 ml of the strained poaching liquid into a tatin dish or ovenproof frying pan and cook on the hob until it is reduced and thickened.  Mine took quite a long time to reach this point and suddenly bubbled up like caramel.  At that point I quickly removed it from the heat.

Arrange the pears cut side up in the pan, packing tightly and filling any gaps with pieces of pear.

Carefully lay an unrolled circle of puff pastry over the pan, tucking in the edges, remembering that the tin will be hot so be very careful not to burn yourself.  Prick the pastry with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes before placing a serving plate upside down on top of the tarte and carefully turning out.  If any fruit is left behind in the pan it’s an easy job to replace it in the tart.  Spoon any syrup left behind in the pan over the tart as you don’t want to miss any of its deliciousness.

Serve warm or at room temperature with the dulce de leche ice cream.  Or of course any ice cream of your choice but you really should try this one.

Serves 8.

For the ice cream

See Phil’s recipe here.

September 11, 2018

A TALE OF TWO COCONUT CAKES and a reminder that you should never judge a cake by its icing.

coconut cake2coconut cake

I am a fan of coconut in cakes and for our July Cake Club meeting where the theme was “flowers” I decided to make a coconut and rose cake.  Decorated with fresh roses and sitting on one of my favourite cake stands on the table, it looked very pretty but when I took a bite of the first slice it turned out to be an embarrassing disappointment.  There was rose water in the cake and the icing but you could hardly taste it and the cake itself was very dry.

Goodness only knows what I did wrong but you can see the recipe here.  I was so miffed that it turned out so badly that I’m half tempted to revisit the recipe and try again, maybe with a little tweak or two but in reality it will probably never happen.  Unless of course I just take a simple, reliable, coconut cake recipe and add some rose water…..hmmmm………

coconut cake3

Anyway, in sharp contrast this rather ordinary looking cake turned out to be absolutely gorgeous!  It’s a coconut and banana cake and I found the recipe on the Telegraph website here.

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Included in the recipe are instructions for a Malibu drizzle and/or a Malibu and coconut buttercream filling.  The first time I made the cake unexpected guests turned up and the cake got cut without its drizzle.  It was delicious.

The second time I made the cake was for a charity event and I gave it away, complete with the drizzle, so didn’t get the chance to taste the difference.  I imagine it would have been lovely but I’ll have to make it a third time to confirm!  That will be no hardship of course, although there are very few cakes that I make more than once…….so many cakes, so little time.  I’m not sure I would bother with the buttercream but you never know – I might even have to make the cake a fourth time to decide if it really needs it or not!

Which just goes to show that a gorgeous looking cake can disappoint but an ordinary one can be delightful.  Never judge a cake by its icing!

Banana and coconut cake

Ingredients

170g caster sugar

170g softened butter or baking spread

170g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

100g desiccated coconut

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the drizzle

2-4 tblsp Malibu (or you could use fresh lime juice)

125g icing sugar

Method

Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin (I used a paper liner).  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk3.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time with a spoonful of the flour and a spoonful of banana.

Sift in the remaining flour, add the coconut and banana and mix well to combine.

Pour into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until done.  Leave in the tin for ten minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.

While the cake is cooling, make the drizzle by mixing together the Malibu and sifted icing sugar.  Pour over the cake.

(Refer to the recipe in the link if you wish to fill the cake with the coconut buttercream.)

Cuts into 10-12 slices.