September 18, 2020

AN EXPERIMENTAL POST


 I'm trying again, after Nick suggested I use Google Chrome.

That seems to work.


I have even been able to edit the post!
Woo hoo !!

However, having randomly selected the first picture for experimental purposes, I have no idea what cake it was.  It looks rather good to me.  Rhubarb cake of some kind by the look of it, baked on 8th Feb this year.  So much for my idea of taking a picture of the recipe each time....grrr.......

September 12, 2020

A SUMMER FRUIT CAKE (apple, pear and strawberry cake)

 
Until not very long ago the only fruits I used to put in a cake were raisins, currants and sultanas.
 
 
Certainly as a child a fruit cake meant just that, a cake with dried fruit in it, an occasional Sunday treat.  I can't imagine my mum contemplating putting anything else in a cake, not even apples.  Apples only went into pies or crumbles, as did rhubarb or blackberries. 

 
More recently I have made all kinds of cakes containing fresh fruit.  This turned out to be one of the best.  I spotted it in a blog somewhere and remember that it was adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe for a summer cake.  You can see that recipe here.  He used peaches and blueberries but I used what I had in stock; one apple, one pear and a few strawberries.

 
I also added a dash of something I got in Waitrose for extra fruitiness - raspberry flavouring.  It was a lovely cake, nice and fruity with a good crumb, not too moist or crumbly, just right in fact.
 
Ingredients
 
175g unsalted butter or spreadable butter
175g caster sugar (I used half golden and half white)
2 large eggs
175g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp raspberry flavouring (optional)
300g fruit - I used apple, pear and strawberries but a mixture of stone fruit or berries would be fine.

Method

Peel and core the apple and pear and chop into 1cm dice.  Put into a bowl and sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent them from discolouring.  Wash and cut the strawberries into similar sized chunks.

Butter and base line a 20cm round cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat in.  Beat in the vanilla and flavouring.

Sift in the flour and fold in, followed by the ground almonds.  Put the chopped fruit into a sieve and drain off the lemon juice then add to the mixture and stir in.

Transfer to the tin and level the top.  Bake for about an hour until done.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

Thanks to the New Blogger system for writing a post I no longer seem to be able to update the "pages" section in the blog.  Which is more than just a nuisance, having spent hours compiling it not very long ago.  It's really, really annoying and I am close to giving up.

September 8, 2020

A QUICK PLUM PIE and la saison du brame.


We have had several barbecues since we got to France six weeks ago, just because we can and because the opportunities for it are so rare in the UK - especially in September. 

When we were kids we only ate outdoors if it was a family picnic.  Then it would be sandwiches from a biscuit tin lined with greaseproof paper, buns from another, all washed down with flasks of tea or bottles of pop.  No alcohol was involved unless we stopped at the pub on the way home; parents, aunts and uncles sipping respectively pints of beer and Babycham outside at wooden benches while kids and cousins waited in the car, satisfied with more pop and a bag of crisps.  It was the 1950's and 60's and "al fresco" was a term we were yet to hear.

In my twenties I only ate outdoors if there was a barbecue.  Munching crozzled sausages and burgers in buns before they got too cold, scarves and cardigans handy as the air grew chilly.  I was 28 when I got my first British Visitor's Passport from the Post Office in order to go to Paris for a long weekend.  That was the first time I actually ate a proper meal outdoors, served by waiters at a table on the pavement.


The vendage (grape harvest) has come early this year, starting as soon as the last week of August in some vineyards to the north of us.  To our delight so has le brame - the rutting of the deer.  A week ago we were finishing our meal outdoors, thinking of donning our jumpers, listening to the crickets and the foxes in the surrounding fields.  It was a full moon and we heard the first call not long after the sun had gone down and the moon still rising.  It's an unmistakable, deep and mournful mooing noise.


The very first time I heard it was a few years ago, on moving to our house in the middle of a field, the noise woke me up at about two in the morning.  My first thought that there were no cows anywhere near us but soon more deer joined in, the noise coming from all sides, from every bit of forest surrounding us.  It took me a few sleepy minutes to work out what it was.  It went on for hours and we climbed out of the bedroom window in our pyjamas onto the roof of the well house to hear it properly and see the shadowy shape of a stag moving about in the moonlight.  Magical stuff.


For this outdoor meal I rustled up a quick plum pie.  A couple of days before I had baked in the oven some nectarines and a few odd plums of all colours that were left over and past their best, rather than throw them on the compost heap.  I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry (pâte brisée) to line a deep Pyrex pie dish, spread the plums into it and topped it with a quick, all-in-one sponge made with 4ozs flour and 2 eggs.  Delicious.

 
Ingredients
 
approximately 500g of mixed plums and nectarines
2 tblsp demerara sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry
4oz spreadable butter
4oz self raising flour
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
 
Method
 
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.
 
Halve the plums and quarter the nectarines.  Lay in a single layer in a baking dish and sprinkle with the demerara sugar and ground cinnamon.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until tender.
 
Line a deep 20cm pie dish or tin with the pastry.  Spread the plums on top of the pastry.
 
Put the butter, caster sugar, flour and eggs into a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  Beat in a splash of milk if the mixture seems stiff. 
 
Spread the sponge mixture over the fruit and level the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the sponge is golden brown and done. 
 
Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar if liked, with cream, custard or ice cream.
 
Cuts into 8 slices.

August 29, 2020

COURGETTE, LIME AND COCONUT CAKE

 
I made this cake recently for a friend's birthday.
 
It's an adaptation of a recipe which I've used before and you can see here.  On that occasion (two years ago) I was using up a glut of courgettes but this year we have none at all, which is very sad indeed.
 
Last year's wasn't a great harvest either, largely because during a spring storm the wind blew over two of our four plants, the green ones, and broke the tops off.  Luckily the other two plants gave a reasonable supply of small yellow courgettes.  This year we were in the UK drowning our sorrows in Italian rosé wine at the time when we should have been planting courgette plants in our French garden.

 
Fortunately we have friends who have some to give away so we're not going entirely without courgettes this year. 
 
Unfortunately I wasn't able to taste the cake after I had given it away.  Good for my lockdown waistline but it would have been nice to be able to verify that it tasted as good as my friend said.  It may seem odd to post about a cake that I haven't actually tasted but it wouldn't be the first time!  The main reason is that so I can remember how I made it for next time.  It's a further adaptation of Nigella Lawson's recipe for "Flora's courgette cake", adding some coconut instead of the dried fruit.
 

I made the cake again, just to check it was good.
 
 It was!
 
Ingredients
 
250g courgettes, unpeeled
2 large eggs
125ml sunflower oil
150g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
50g desiccated coconut
zest of 1 lime*

For the topping and filling

2-3 tblsp lemon curd**
zest and juice of 1 lime*
100g cream cheese
50g butter, softened
50g icing sugar

Method

Grease and line the bases of two 20cm sponge tins.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.
 
Wipe the courgettes clean with damp kitchen paper and grate them, unpeeled, using the course side of a box grater.  Squeeze small handfuls of the grated courgettes and place in a sieve over a bowl to allow any more liquid to drip out.
 
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, oil and sugar with an electric whisk until light and creamy.  Sieve in the flour, baking powder and bicarb and beat again to combine.  Stir in the courgettes, coconut and lime zest until well blended.
 
Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for 30 minutes until firm and golden brown.  Cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
 
While the cakes are cooling, put the lemon curd into a small bowl and mix well with a dash of lime juice to sharpen it if needed**.  Set aside.
 
In another bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, beat in the butter and icing sugar and a dash of lime juice to taste.  Refrigerate until needed.
 
When the cakes are cold, place one of them on a plate or stand and spread with the lemon curd.  Place the other on top and spread with the cream cheese topping.  Sprinkle a few strands of lime zest over to decorate.  Add a few edible flowers for decoration if you like.
 
Cuts into 8-10 slices.
 
*the unused lime juice can be used to make margaritas which would go well with a slice of this cake!
**the jar of lemon curd I used, French from SuperU, seemed already quite sharp to me so I didn't add any lime juice to it.

August 18, 2020

PLUM CRUMBLE CAKE AND FIG UPSIDE DOWN CAKE.

 

I know what I said in the previous post but.....when visitors come for lunch one has to provide a dessert!  This plum crumble cake was made using this recipe here.
 

 
On another occasion I made a fig upside down cake using this recipe here.
 
Both of these cakes are fast becoming my equal favourites for entertaining.

August 6, 2020

NEWS FROM ABROAD

 
We have now been back in France for two weeks and what a joy it is to be here.
I haven't posted about any baking for a while but that doesn't mean it hasn't been going on!
 
 
Just before we left for France I made a smoked sausage, pea, tomato and goat's cheese quiche.
It was delicious and used up bits and pieces from the fridge.  You can see the general method for this kind of quiche here.
 
 
I also made a mango and raspberry upside down cake using this method here.
I used tinned mango slices for it and they worked really well, making a change from the more traditional pineapple upside down cake with cherries.
 
 
I made it again for a lunch party we hosted chez nous which you can read about here.  I also served a raspberry trifle and a plateful of raspberry puffs which you can see here.

 
Also, just before we left for France I used some rhubarb from our flourishing rhubarb patch and some strawberries that needed eating up to make a rhubarb and strawberry jumblefruit pie.
It's essentially fruit sprinkled with sugar to taste and covered with a layer of pastry trimmings frozen from all the quiches that have been made!  You can see the general idea here.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
However, I'm not sure how much baking will be going on in the near future.  During lockdown I have definitely acquired a "lockdown waistline" due to spending too much time in the garden during the fine weather, drowning my sorrows with rosé wine and home made cake!  (I had no idea before this that the Italians made such a delicious Pinot Grigio rosé!)
 
On arriving here and meeting up with friends after what seems like forever it's noticeable that several of them have spent their time much more sensibly and lost a serious amount of weight.  Five of them have lost one and a half stone each - as opposed to the half stone I have gained, which I could ill afford to gain as I had intended to spend the winter losing weight, not gaining it!  Then along came something that turned our world upside down - a simple virus.  (It's probably a very complex virus for all I know but what havoc it has wrought.)   What with the virus, Brexit, and my elderly father to worry about I went in for stress eating and drinking big style.  I can forgive myself for it in some ways but on the other hand am kicking myself for not getting to grips, knuckling down and "taking back control" of my calorie intake.
 
"The time has come" as the walrus said and there may be fewer baking posts for a while!

July 16, 2020

RUSTIC PLUM AND APPLE PIE


I hadn't made one of these in a while but I had a pack of ready made, ready rolled pastry in stock.  I fancied a fruit pie for pudding.
 
 
This kind of pastry comes supplied as an oblong in the UK, which is great for an oblong tart or quiche but not easy to use for a double crust pie in a round pie dish.  I then remembered this recipe for an open kind of pie, sometimes called a galette.  (Although to me a galette in France is a kind of savoury filled pancake made with buckwheat flour.)
 
You don't really need a recipe as such for this, just a guide. 
 
It's a sheet of ready made shortcrust pastry, placed on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and topped with two apples, peeled and sliced, three plums and a couple of nectarines, stoned and sliced. 
Scatter the fruit evenly over the pastry leaving about a 2" margin all the way round. 
Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of sugar (I used demerara) and fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating the edges so they stick together to form an almost complete lid.
Brush the pastry with milk and sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar.
Bake at 200C / 180 fan for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit cooked and bubbling slightly.
 
Delicious served warm or cool with whatever you fancy - custard, ice cream, cream, crème fraîche.