November 30, 2020

LEMON AND SULTANA BUNDT CAKE, an early birthday present and a bit of a rant about the Bake Off!

We watched the final of the Great British Bake Off last week, rather grudgingly I might add - but more of that later.  I was shocked and saddened to see the tribute to a former contestant, Luis Troyano, appear in the credits at the end.  I instantly remembered who he was, a gentle giant of a man who produced exceptionally good bread during bread week.  He was a finalist in series five in 2014 and was only 48 when he died of cancer just a few weeks ago.

As so many of the contestants do, he produced a book after that series finished and I bought it a while ago.  Until now the only thing in the book I have made is his pumpkin pie, which was, in fact, divine.  You can see that if you go here. 

48 is no age at all.  Amidst all the trials and tribulations that this year has thrown at us, the perpetual fear of impending doom, the worry, the isolation, the pandemic waistline and brain fog, the intense longing for normality, it's frightening to realise that all the other things that normally get us are still out there as well.

A sense of my own mortality set in and with gay abandon I took up Nick's offer of an early birthday present.  My birthday is only a couple of weeks away anyway but what if I didn't make it that far?  You just never know.  

I already own a Kenwood Chef which resides in France.  I took it there thinking that that's where I would do most baking and for a few years that was the case.  Oh but how I have missed it this year!  And how thrilled I am to now have this retro styled baby Kenwood!  I christened it without delay by baking my own little tribute to Luis, the recipe for a lemon and sultana Bundt cake that's in his book.


There was too much mixture for this particular Bundt tin and remembering that I read somewhere that you shouldn't fill them by more than three quarters I used the excess to make four muffins.  Bundt tins do vary in volume depending on the design so in a different tin the quantity of mixture would probably have been perfect.  (This design is called "elegant party".)

The baking time was given as one hour but after exactly an hour I would say that mine was, to quote Paul Hollywood, slightly over baked.  The top (or the bottom of the cake) had a distinctly dark appearance so next time I would check after 50 minutes.  (On re-reading the recipe it seems I overlooked the part about covering with foil to prevent burning after 45 minutes!)


And now for my little rant about the Bake Off.  Jump to the recipe if you're not interested!

The contest was in its hey day when Luis was a contestant.  The wonderful Mary Berry was one of the  judges, Paul Hollywood (the Craig Revel Horwood of baking competitions) was the other and Mel and Sue were joint hosts.  Mel and Sue were a class act, providing intelligent humour, support and comfort to the contestants and an all round feel good feeling.

When the show moved to Channel 4 and all but Paul Hollywood quit, I thought it would never be as good.  However, I quickly took to Pru Leith.  Paul was just the same old Paul but we also had that nincompoop, Noel Fielding to contend with.  His puerile sense of humour was somewhat compensated for by the clever and witty Sandy Toksvig whose silly japes I didn't mind so much, but now that she has left and Matt Lucas came along instead things went rapidly downhill IMHO.

We have found the series almost unwatchable, the inane fifth form common room jokes and pranks intensely irritating and cringe worthy.  In order to stop ourselves from throwing things at the TV we have recorded programmes and watched later so that we could whizz through most of the waffle.  I don't know what Channel 4 are aiming for but it's not the quality programme it used to be with that pair of idiots cruising round and hassling the contestants while they're having a meltdown over their crème pat.  Rant over.

So this cake was my tribute to the gentle and talented Luis Troyano.  There are lots of other really lovely recipes in his book which I highly recommend.  I shall bake my way through a few more and no doubt write about them.

His recipe for this particular cake includes a glaze made with limoncello but I thought the cake looked quite beautiful without it and turned out to be amply lemony enough as it was.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again.  R.I.P. Luis.

Ingredients

225g softened butter (I used Tesco Butterpak Spreadable)

500g caster sugar

4 large eggs

380g plain flour

1 tblsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

120ml buttermilk

120ml lemonjuice

170g sultanas (tossed in a little flour to prevent sinking)

zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

Method

Prepare your Bundt tin by buttering generously and dusting with flour or using this method here.  Preheat the oven to 190 C / 170 fan / gas mk 5.

Using your brand new Kenwood mixer (ahem!) or a hand held electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add and beat in the eggs one at a time along with a spoonful of the flour to prevent curdling.

Add all the other ingredients and beat until well combined.  Pour into the tin and level the top, remembering not to fill by more than three quarters.  Give the tin a few sharp taps on the worktop to ensure there are no air gaps and bake for about one hour.  Cover with foil after 45 minutes and check for doneness after 50 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Depending on the design of your tin, cuts into 15-20 slices.

November 19, 2020

APPLE AND ALMOND PIE


This pie began with a visit to the local DIY shop.

Where we live in Derbyshire we are very lucky to have an old fashioned hardware shop in the town.  In the "olden days" you would have called it an irongmonger's.  To be fair, it is principally a DIY shop but it sells everything from pots of paint, tools and ladders to pots and pans.  It's a wonderful shop.  Well, for someone like me it is anyway.  I have rarely come out without what I went in for and on the few occasions that they didn't have what I wanted they got it for me from the wholesaler a few days later.  How good is that?


Since the lockdown in the spring it has remained open and served customers from the door.  It's a big shop but well crammed with so much stuff that self distancing is virtually impossible once inside.  Customers have queued good naturedly outside on the pavement come rain or shine while staff would search the shop for what they wanted and bring a selection to the door.  They have been busy all year.

So, imagine my joy when, the other weekend, I arrived at the door ready to request a replacement light bulb only to find that I was invited inside!  Woo hoo !!  For the first time in eight months I could browse the bin liners and buckets to my heart's content.  

That's when I set eyes on this Pyrex flan dish.  It's a giant, 28cm version of one I already have and used for my second attempt at the rhubarb and almond pie you can see here.  "Aha" thought I.  The recipe might actually work with a dish that big.  And for only £3.25 it was definitely worth a punt.  Did I mention that the prices are also very good in our local shop?


I now have this flan dish in three sizes, 21, 25 and 28cm.  As the smaller two came from charity shops for a pound or two each, I'm well set up to bake any size of flan/quiche/tart/pie for very little outlay on equipment.

And indeed, the big size worked perfectly.  I had to use brioche finger buns for the base as by the time I got to the supermarket after visiting the DIY shop there were no brioche loaves left.  They worked fine.  


I used apples as per Mary Berry's recipe in the book "Simple Comforts" but slightly less ground almonds and more flour, a combination that I prefer.



It was yummy.  I glazed it with apricot jam to give it that patisserie look and it looked a million dollars.  An excellent dessert for a large gathering - or for just the four of us with ample leftovers.  Delicious warm with cream or cold with custard.  Or for breakfast - 28cm is a large pie and will go a long way.

Ingredients

4-5 slices of a brioche loaf or 5-6 brioche finger rolls
175g spreadable butter (I used Lurpak spreadable)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
150g ground almonds
3 eggs
50g plain flour
1 large or 2 small eating apples, cored but not peeled.
2 tblsp apricot jam for glazing the pie

Method

Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Butter a large, shallow baking dish about 28cm dia.

Press slices of brioche into the bottom of the dish, filling in gaps but not overlapping.  If using the rolls, slice off the top and bottom crusts then slice in half horizontally.

Slice the cored apples into thin wedges.  I find the easiest method is to halve the apples then use a melon baller to remove the central core, then slice each half into wedges.

Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and whizz until light and fluffy.  Add the extract, almonds eggs and flour and whizz again until nice and smooth.  Spread the mixture evenly over the brioche base and arrange the fruit on top.  

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and the centre is firm.  Warm the jam in a small saucepan to make it runny then brush it all over the top of the pie to glaze.  Serve warm or at room temperature, with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

November 16, 2020

ORANGE AND SULTANA CAKE

 


I had had my eye on this recipe for months and, with the birthday season upon us again (there are a lot of winter birthdays in this family) the need for a birthday cake arose.  


Considering how the year has dragged in some ways, my dad's and Nick's birthdays seem to have come round just as quickly as ever.  When I think of all those weeks spent in lockdown, sitting in the garden in glorious sunshine, sipping rosé wine and wishing we were in France, time passed oh so slowly.  Before we knew it, our precious eight weeks in France came and went and now seem a lifetime ago and here we are in the grey and dismal months again.  As we hurtle towards Christmas we pass several birthdays along the way.  Of course we are now in a form of lockdown again, but it doesn't seem as harsh.  We must be getting used to it or maybe have adapted to a new kind of normal.


My dad likes a fruit cake and Nick will eat a drizzle cake or one with a bit of spice.  (I will eat virtually any cake at all.)  This cake by Lynn Hill of Clandestine Cake Club fame ticks all those boxes so was destined to keep everyone happy.

It was delicious.  Easy to make, not particularly fancy but perfect for a grey and grotty day with the brightness of orange, the juiciness of sultanas and the warmth of spice.  Especially good for the "not quite Christmas yet" season.  Definitely one to make again and again.

I followed the recipe without adapting it at all and you can see it here.

November 6, 2020

LEMON DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE

 



We are lucky where we live in the UK in that we have a milk delivery.  The milkman brings two pints on Tuesdays and Thursdays and three on a Saturday, which amounts to seven pints a week or one per day which is exactly right for us.  He also brings half a dozen eggs on Thursdays.  For some reason we had not been getting through the eggs and I also had some lemons lurking in the fridge.  Every time I opened the fridge door they were calling "lemon drizzle" to me very softly and I remembered a recipe I had seen in a blog post here.  It's a Mary Berry recipe for a lemon drizzle loaf cake.

I wondered which Mary Berry book it came from, had a quick shufti through my collection of her cookbooks (I have a few) and couldn't find it.  There are plenty of other lemon cakes, including the lemon drizzle traybake which appears in several of them, is delicious and which I have made a few times (see here).  However, the loaf cake recipe appears all over the place on the internet, attributed to Mary Berry in two versions, a 3-egg version like this one and a 4-egg version and both are highly acclaimed.  So although its origin is a mystery it definitely looked like I should have a go.




I started gathering the ingredients (there aren't that many) and then discovered I was almost out of self raising flour.  Now that's a first as I'm not one for running out of flour!  A person who frequently needs an emergency cake usually has that covered!  However........

Where we now live in the UK we have lovely neighbours and our nearest, Janet and Malcolm, are also cake enthusiasts.  I can't remember how we started but we have a sort of cake exchange thing going.  We get a couple of slices of hers whenever she bakes and vice versa.  How wonderful is that?

Janet makes fabulous light and fluffy sponges and in one of our many conversations about cake she mentioned that she uses something called "sponge flour".  When the panic buying of flour had died down and all kinds of flours I had never heard of started appearing in the supermarkets Tesco had a whole shelf of Homepride sponge flour and I can honestly say I don't think I had ever noticed it before.  It's in a purple box instead of the regular blue box and I bought some.  

With my other ingredients measured out and the lemon zested I remembered the purple box and with some relief fished it out from the back of the cupboard.  I used the last of my ordinary SR flour and topped up the quantity with the sponge flour, so about half and half.  Note to self: must stock up on flour next time I do a supermarket order or feel brave enough to venture into the shop in person.

I used my new loaf tin, bought in The Range when they had a promotion on their range of pink baking tins a few months ago.  It's slightly larger than a standard 2lb loaf tin, very sturdy and as the recipe seemed to make a bit more mixture than I expected this tin was perfect.



The recipe is essentially a classic Mary Berry all-in-one type of recipe.  Marie Rayner who wrote the blog post also added a splash of lemon extract to hers, which I happened also to have in stock and as we like our lemon cakes very lemony I did the same.  The cake was delicious.  It had a lovely, even, light and fluffy crumb, just the right amount of lemonyness and a lovely crunchy topping.  It may well supersede my previous go-to lemon drizzle recipe which you can see here.

Ingredients

For the cake
175g softened butter (I used Stork for Cakes)
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 large eggs
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon

For the drizzle topping
100g granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Method

Grease a 2lb (900g) loaf tin or use a paper liner.  Also add a strip of baking paper long enough to go the length of the tin and hang over the ends to enable you to lift the cake out.  This is a good idea as the cake is quite fragile when still warm.  (It goes under the paper liner!)  

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and using an electric whisk beat together until smooth and well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until done.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for about 10 minutes.  While it's cooling make the drizzle topping by mixing the lemon juice and sugar together.  Pour the mixture over the warm cake.

After the 10 minutes carefully lift the cake out of the tin using the paper strips and transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.