January 28, 2017

“GERMAN” APPLE CAKE and a conundrum.

german apple cake

This cake forms another adventure in my quest for the perfect apple cake.  It’s good, in fact very good.  The recipe is one of Rick Stein’s and I saw it in one of his recent TV programmes, in the series “Long Weekends”.  This featured in his weekend in Berlin and as soon as I saw him make it I decided I had to make it too.  I easily found the recipe on the BBC website but Nick then came home from a shopping trip with the book from the series, bless him.  (I suspect he was making up for being unable to do any Christmas shopping.)

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Watching Mr Stein make the cake on the programme I thought he was actually a bit slap dash, not scraping out the bowl completely and not measuring stuff accurately.  It’s the cheffy way I suppose and the end result looked good so who cares?

But…….one of the things that annoys me about cooking programmes is the lack of proper continuity.  In the programme he most definitely did not peel the apples yet in the recipe it says you should.  Looking at the picture that goes with the recipe on the website and the full page one in the book, the apples still have their peel on.  So when I made my cake I didn’t peel the apples either.

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Another thing that didn’t seem right was the size of tin.  In the recipe it says 23cm but watching him make the cake and talk about the tin as being one of his old favourites, I thought it looked smaller than 23cm to me.  I have actually made this cake twice and the first time I used a 23cm tin and I thought the cake was a bit thin.  So this time I used a tin that measures 21cm (probably supposed to be 20cm) and I thought it looked better and more like his.  So there we are.  In any case it’s a very nice cake.

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I’m not sure whether a German apple cake should have apple inside the cake as well as on top or not.  Both ways appear in recipes on the internet as well as in my cook books. Rick Stein’s version has apples only on the top and no other added flavour such as spice or vanilla in the cake but it has a lovely, buttery flavour and perfect, even texture.  The spice is in the topping which gives the cake a nice slight crunch.  Definitely a contender for my favourite apple cake recipe so far, I think.

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You can see the recipe on the BBC website here.

Now for the conundrum.

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These wineglasses had been for sale in a local charity shop since well before Christmas.  I had looked at them several times but if anything is certain, one thing we do not need is more wine glasses.  In the end I weakened and could resist them no longer. At £2 for four of them it was hardly a big deal, space to keep them is more of a problem.  (I have since seen them for sale on Ebay for ten times that amount so mine were a bargain.)  BUT……what does the logo “GENETE” mean?  It’s presumably some kind of drink and an internet search suggest a mixture of champagne perry and gin but nothing specific.  Also possibly dating back to the 1960’s .

The only champagne perry I have ever heard of is Babycham, which seems, as far as I know, uniquely sold in the UK, especially in the 60’s and 70’s.  Because these glasses have the logo “Genete” on them, I think that suggests a ready made apéritif or cocktail of some kind, rather than one you would mix yourself.   If anyone has ever seen, or even tasted Genete, I would love to hear about it!

Here’s my version of the cake recipe:

Ingredients

2 small fruit bowl apples

juice of ½ lemon

125g unsalted butter softened, or Lurpak spreadable (I used Lurpak Lighter)

140g golden caster sugar

3 large eggs, beaten together

225g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

5 tblsp milk

For the topping

1 tblsp demerara sugar

scant ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method

Cut the apples into half and remove the core using a melon baller, metal measuring spoon or teaspoon.  Cut each half into about eight thin slices.  Set aside in a bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice.

Butter and line a 21cm springform tin.  Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk 3.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, about half at a time, beating until smooth.  Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in carefully until combined.  Add the milk and mix in thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.  Arrange the apple slices overlapping in a circle on top.  In a cup or small bowl, mix together the demerara and cinnamon and sprinkle this evenly over the apples.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the sponge appears golden brown and springy and passes the skewer test.  Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove and cool on a rack.

Serve warm with cream for dessert or cold with a cup of tea (or a nicely chilled glass of sparkling wine, champagne perry or other drink of your choice).

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

January 24, 2017

“FRENCH” APPLE CAKE

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I am on a mission to find the perfect apple cake.  I have no idea why this mission has happened to me but I seem to be drawn to apple cake recipes lately and have tried a few – but have yet to find the perfect one.

This recipe was nice but definitely not “the one” for me.  It comes from a truly delightful blog called “Life’s a Feast” and sounded as though it should be absolutely wonderful.  It almost was but, for me, it needed some spice.

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I followed the recipe exactly and the cake looked fabulous.  It had a dense and moist dessert cake texture and the apples were beautifully distributed through the cake.  It was almost, but not quite, perfect for my quest.

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We had it for lunch with guests one Sunday and it tasted lovely and kept well for a day or two, until it was all gone.

Some apple cake recipes are heavily spiced and I was attracted to the idea that this one was all about the apples and not the spice, but I felt that it was ever so slightly too bland.

I realise of course that there are apples and then there are apples.  According to one website I was reading, these days apples are grown and the varieties tinkered with to produce apples of perfect, blemish free shape that keep well.  In other words, they keep for a long time and look good in the fruit bowl but don’t have much flavour.  Maybe that’s the mistake I made here.

I can’t quite remember what variety of apples I used for this cake but as I was in France it most certainly would not have been cooking apples.  More likely a mixture of fruit bowl apples of various types depending on what I had bought or been given, and what needed using up.

I would make this cake again, for its lovely texture and appearance, if I could be sure of having some really appley flavoured apples to hand.  I might also cheat and add a tiny smidgen of spice.

You can see the original recipe here.

January 22, 2017

BROCCOLI AND STILTON SOUP

broccoli soup

We have without doubt had a trying time recently.  With Nick having had his minor heart attack last month and being in hospital before Christmas, my dad then had a slight stroke last week.

It never rains but what it pours, as they say, but this time I am glad that luckily we were still in Derbyshire to pick him up and dust him down.  He’s fine, having had a narrow escape and something called a subdural haematoma.  There seem to be no lasting effects and we’re keeping fingers crossed that his GP will pronounce him fit to continue driving.

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Just to add to the challenge I have had a stinking cold for the last two weeks.  I have always felt that a cold is a truly miserable illness, not least because everyone thinks “it’s only a cold” and therefore you should be able to carry on more or less as normal.  Everything you do is so much harder when you have a cold, when you can’t breathe properly, can’t speak more than a couple of sentences without breaking into a debilitating coughing fit, are permanently drained because you can’t sleep, have zero energy and generally feel absolutely rotten.  With a non driving husband to look after and a father in hospital to visit I was at quite a low ebb in the middle of the week and the cold, grey and miserable weather did not help one bit.

By the weekend things were looking up.  My cold was getting better, Nick was driving again, my Dad came out of hospital and I found a replacement for my stolen camera on EBay.  Yesterday we went for a walk around the park at Matlock, just for some fresh air and exercise, somewhere I haven’t been for many years.  Bits of Matlock haven’t changed since I was a child.  Riber Castle still stands overlooking the town and the park is as neat and tidy as ever – or as it can be in the middle of winter.  We used to live a couple of miles over the other side of the hill from the castle and a walk up to it was a regular activity after Sunday dinner.

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The cinema is no longer a cinema but an Indian restaurant, with a genuine tuk tuk perched over the entrance.  I seem to remember it was a Chinese restaurant for a while before that and hasn’t been a “picture house” for a very long time.  If I had a sixpence for the number of times I have sat and watched a picture in the 1/3d’s – it probably wouldn’t amount to enough to buy one cinema ticket nowadays!  Somehow “going to the pictures” on the bus to see the picture that was on for the week sounds so much more special than driving to the nearest cinema complex and choosing from six different movies.

Showing my age again……!

Anyhow, with the weather grey, cold and miserable, soup, or the making of soup, is very appealing.  What could be better than delicious aromas filling the house and a bowl of lovely warming soup on the table?  I haven’t been doing much real cooking lately due to lack of time and energy and a carton of broccoli and stilton soup was one of the things that got randomly purchased to fill the fridge.  Whilst I was eating it I had a strong urge to make it for myself as soon as I had the time and this recipe is based loosely on one found on the BBC Good Food website.

It was simple, quick and easy to prepare and absolutely delicious.  I used less stilton than the recipe suggested as Nick is not a huge fan of blue cheese and a hint of it is enough for him.  In fact more would have overpowered the soup I think.  The soup is fairly thick and can be blitzed completely smooth or left slightly lumpy as you like.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 leek, wiped and thinly sliced

1 stick of celery, washed and thinly sliced

1 medium or 2 smallish potatoes, peeled and diced

1 litre vegetable stock made with a stock cube or powder

2 tbsp rapeseed oil or vegetable oil

1 large knob of butter

1 large head of broccoli

A good splash of dry sherry

110g stilton cheese, rind removed and chopped

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stock pot, add the onion and cook gently, lid on, for 5 minutes.

Remove the florets from the broccoli and set aside.  Remove the woody bits from the stem and cut it into thick slices.  Add the slices to the pan with the leek, celery and knob of butter.  Put the lid back on and cook gently on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the veg are soft.

Add in the florets, potatoes and stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently, lid on, for 15 –20 minutes.  Remove from the lid, stir in the stilton and cook until most of it has melted into the soup.  Add the sherry and season with black pepper before blitzing to the smoothness you like using a stick blender or by transferring to a food processor.

Reheat if necessary.  Serves 4.

January 8, 2017

FESTIVE FRUIT CRUMBLE

festive crumble

We are fans of the Great British Crumble in this house.  As a child I had crumble for pudding after Sunday Dinner most weeks and my mum would make it by hand from self raising flour and margarine.  She never used butter in baking as it would have been far too extravagant, using lard for pastry and margarine in puddings and cakes.

Once I was old enough – or tall enough – to help with the baking, the rubbing in was often my job – a good way to keep a child occupied and quiet as we listened to “Two Way Family Favourites” on the wireless and she got the rest of the dinner ready.

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We were later than ever in icing our Christmas cake this year and it didn’t get done until the day after Boxing Day.  Nick said he felt up to it so I let him get on with it.  Unfortunately he was tired afterwards and didn’t feel up to doing the clearing up…..hmmm….

Looking at some apricot jam leftover in the saucepan and some scraps of marzipan an idea came to mind about not wasting them.

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I have been a fan of using bits of marzipan in pies, crumbles and cobblers ever since I watched Ruby Tandoh do it on “Bake Off” a few years ago.  She was the young contestant that had a habit of becoming tearful and emotional at regular intervals but she was a very good baker and made it as far as the final I think.  I can’t remember what it was that she made but she put chopped marzipan into whatever it was and it sounded like a good idea and I have been doing it occasionally ever since.  It melts and adds an almondy sweetness which is never a bad thing.

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So, to make this crumble there isn’t really a recipe, just a concept.

I smeared the melted apricot jam in the bottom of a buttered baking dish, just to use it up.  The crumble would have been just as good without it but any jam that needs using up would probably do.

I peeled and sliced some dessert apples into the dish, using enough apples to come about two thirds of the way up.  I always add the apples the way my mum did.  She never cored them or used a chopping board but she would cut slices from the apple straight into the dish, leaving the core behind in her hand.

I then dotted some bits of chopped marzipan amongst the apples and blobbed some spoonfuls of mincemeat on top.  I didn’t add any more sugar as I thought the mincemeat would make the crumble plenty sweet enough and it did.

I then sprinkled some crumble mix over the top and baked for about 25 minutes until the crumb was golden brown and the filling bubbling around the edges.

As for crumble mix, I often make much more than I need and keep leftover mix in a bag in the freezer.  It’s ready for instant use without any need to defrost it.  I’m also not averse to using ready made packet crumble mix when I’m pressed for time. 

We had our festive crumble with custard but cream, ice cream and leftover brandy butter would would also have been good.  There is still some mincemeat left in the jar so I’m sure there will be more festive crumbles to be enjoyed this winter. 

Looking at these photos, I realise that the camera I bought to replace my stolen one (it was in the handbag that some toerag took in Barcelona last October) is nowhere near as good as I had thought it would be.  I bought it because the price was about the same and I thought it was enough to pay, but, thinking about it later, the original one was half price in a sale about ten years ago which could make it about four times the cost of the one I bought to replace it.  I always believed that you get what you pay for and this proves it.  Hey ho.