25 mars 2015

Blueberry Streusel Loaf

I try and buy seasonally, but I have to admit to having a passion for blueberries. They were on offer last week in my usual supermarket, so had to buy some. I know they don't taste anything like the ones I grow in my pot in the garden, and that they'd been shipped half way round the world, but I still love them. 
I've been eating some every morning with my porridge, but decided I wanted to make a cake. This is one of our favourite loaf cakes, but with a streusel topping. The original recipe was from an American website so has been converted from cups - hence the odd amounts. I've tweaked the recipe because it had way too much sugar in the cake. I like making cakes with oil - makes me think they're healthier!

So, preheat oven 190C/gas5

Grease a 900g loaf tin.

Put 80g granulated sugar in a bowl with 60ml sunflower oil. Mix together with an electric mixer, then add 1 egg, 250ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat till smooth and creamy. Fold in 280g plain flour which has been sieved with 3 tspns baking powder. Mix to a batter without lumps. 
Put 220g blueberries in a bowl and add 1 tbspn flour and coat the berries with it. Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Pour into the tin and smooth top [ batter should fill about 2/3 of the tin or it will overflow when baking]. Mix 60g granulated sugar with 50g flour and 50g butter and rub in to make the streusel. Sprinkle this over the batter and bake for about 50mins-1hr. After about 30 mins I covered the top with foil to stop the streusel burning. Cool on a wire rack.

It make a nice treat with a cuppa, and keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. I like the contrast in textures between the cake and the streusel and the softness of the fruit. If you like, you could add more topping, but for me, the ratio is just right. A nice easy cake to make.

19 mars 2015

My Nearly Far Breton

Far Breton is a French speciality from Brittany. The Far bit comes from the Latin farina or flour [hence the french farine I guess]. Doing a bit of research, I found that it was orginally eaten by farming labourers who took it into the fields for their lunch, and it was a savoury flan - a Farz Fourn [oven baked far in Breton].

 It's similar to a clafoutis - a baked custard, and is usually made with prunes. I've gone rather off piste and made the custard then topped it with salted caramel sauce. So I suppose it is a Far, but not a true Breton one - except the caramel sauce is from a jar I brought back from Brittany, and which was made locally there.

Preheat oven 200c/gas 6. Grease a 20cm cake tin [not a springform one in case the custard leaks]  or an ovenproof glass dish .

I find this mixture works best if you mix well between each addition. I have seen recipes which use a food processor, but haven't tried this.

Beat 3 eggs in a bowl, then beat in 130g caster sugar. Add 130g flour and stir in well.

Pour in 200ml of milk and beat well, then when it's well mixed and there's no lumps, add another 200ml of milk and beat this in.

Pour into your tin, then spoon about 12 tspns of caramel sauce over the top. As I said, mine comes from a jar I bought, but you could make your own. 

Bake for 15 mins at the 200C then turn the oven down to 180C/gas 4 for about 35-45 mins till the top is golden brown.

I served this with more of the caramel sauce poured over which I'd warmed gently in a pan -delicious! You have a lovely custard which is soft and smooth, then the moreish caramel sauce. A good variation to the usual Far Breton. 

If you want to make the traditional one, add 100g of prunes after you've added the milk to the batter. You can soak the prunes in rum beforehand for an extra delicious Far.

12 mars 2015

Coconut and Chocolate Squares

My daughter has been staying for a few days and wanted to do some baking. She wanted to make something retro! This recipe was a great family favourite, which happily Mum had written down in her notebook. There's a nice chewy coconut layer on a chocolate biscuit base, so not sure if it's a biscuit or a cake. Either way it's good.
It's also simple to make - a bonus for my daughter!

Preheat oven 190C/gas5 and grease and base line a 20cm square cake tin.

Crush 225g of dark chocolate digestive biscuits in a bag using a rolling pin - or put them in a processor an whizz.
Melt 75g of butter in a pan and stir in the crumbs  till they're all combined.
Press this mixture into the base of your tin.
Beat a 170g tin of evaporated milk with 1 egg, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 25g caster sugar till smooth. Add 50g sr flour and 125g dessicated coconut and mix well.
Pour this over the biscuit layer in the tin and level top.

Bake for 30 mins till the top is firm and starting to turn golden.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins then mark into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Turn out onto a board or plate and finish cutting into squares. You can freeze then for up to 2 months - defrost at room temperature. In an airtight tin, they'll keep for about 4 days, then get very soft.

Sorry the photo is a bit blurred - was in a hurry to take a photo so we could eat some! 
You can melt some dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top if you fancy, but we like them just as they are. There's a nice soft chewy layer, then the firmer chocolate biscuit layer. A good combination.

The topping tastes rather like the coconut pyramids my Gran used to love and made regularly; took me back to my childhood Ahhhhh!

5 mars 2015

Honey Cake

I went to a local farmer's market the other week and found some local honey. I wanted to use it in a cake, and found this recipe in one of my folders. I think it came from a Woman's Weekly magazine. It makes good use of honey, both in the cake and in the topping. It's made in a 23cm tin, so quite a big cake, enough for about 10 good slices.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4, and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

For the cake - beat 225g butter with 95g of soft brown sugar and 1 tspn vanilla extract till light and fluffy. Add 175g honey and beat well. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, then fold in 300g sr flour and 1 tspn cinnamon. Stir in 250g sour cream of crème fraiche gently with a metal spoon. 
Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 45-50 mins till golden.
Leave cake to cool in tin for 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.

For the topping - put 30g butter and 260g honey in a pan and bring to boil, stirring. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 mins.
Take off the heat and stir in 90g of toasted flaked almonds.
When the cake is cool, spoon the almond mixture over the top and let it run down the sides.

To toast the flaked almonds I just put them in a dry frying pan and watched them carefully till they browned slightly. The cake has a good texture and a really lovely honey flavour. It's also moist. The almonds give it the extra bit of crunch, and I love the combination of the butter and honey in the topping - very rich and delicious. A good use of my lovely honey!

25 févr. 2015

Chocolate Pie Traybake.

I was in an experimental mood yesterday, so found this American recipe given to me by a friend. It's a sort of traybake pie, with pastry top and bottom and a chocolate filling. I love chocolate in any form and this sounded interesting.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4           Grease and flour a 18x30cm cake tin.

To make the pastry put 250g flour, 250g butter of margarine, an egg yolk and 4 tbspn of water into a processor and blitz. Wrap in cling film and put in fridge to rest.

For the filling beat 6 egg whites till stiff; add 200g caster sugar gently. Mix in 5 egg yolks, one at a time. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract, 140g grated or melted dark chocolate and  the juice a a lemon and mix together carefully. Fold in 80g ground hazelnuts or walnuts with a spatula or spoon.

Cut pastry in half and roll out one piece to fit the tin. Spoon over the chocolate filling then top with the other piece of pastry.

Bake for about 30 mins till golden.

You can make a white glacé icing or just sprinkle with icing sugar. Cut into squares when cold.

It's a very short pastry and not too easy to roll out. Maybe the amount of butter is wrong? I rolled it between 2 pieces of clingfilm. There's quite a lot of filling, so I think if I did this again I'd make the slices much smaller. It's very rich with a nice contrast of textures between the pastry and the filling. The chocolate layer isn't too soft; it's given some body by the hazelnuts. There's a hint of lemon in the background.  An unusual traybake which makes a good dessert.

18 févr. 2015

Cinnamon and Apple Madeleines

I seem to have made quite a lot of calorific pudds lately, so I wanted to make something simple but delicious. I love French madeleines, so decided these would be just right. I know that Proust's plain madeleine is perfection, but I wanted to make them different, so decided to add one of my favourite flavour combinations - apple and cinnamon. [I'm in apple mode atm!] I used a jar of apple purée instead of bothering to cook some.

Madeleines look very simple, but I have had a few disasters making them. Some recipes say that you use brown butter, but you have to keep a close eye on the butter or it burns [one disaster]. Then to get the traditional hump, you need to put the batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours, and some recipes tell you to put the tin in the fridge too for an hour before using. One chef even puts his tin in the freezer. Then another says before you bake them you must heat a baking sheet in the oven, and put the madeleine tin on this. Did I say they were simple?

 Making them is unusual in that you mix the flour, sugar and egg first and then add the warm melted butter. It's a Genoise sponge mixture.

I used the basic recipe which I cut out from a Marie Claire magazine many years ago, and added apple and cinnamon.  It makes 12 madeleines, just the right amount for my tin. They're best eaten fresh.

Preheat oven to 220C/gas7

Flour and butter the tin well so the little cakes come out easily.

Beat together 150g caster sugar and 2 eggs till white and fluffy, then fold in 150g flour with a tspn of cinnamon added and stir in 125g apple purée. Melt 120g butter and add this to the mixture with a pinch of salt. Spoon a generous tbspn of the mixture into each hole and bake for 10-15 mins till golden. Don't overbake. Dust them with granulated sugar.

I should have cut one open to show the inside, but they were eaten so quickly that I just had time to take this photo! Three voracious grandsons! I love Dorie Greenspan's description of these as 'cakey cookies'. They're brown and crisp on the outside, then spongy and soft inside, and the puréed apple makes them extra soft, and I love the hit of cinnamon, not too much, just a nice hint.

11 févr. 2015

Pecan, Apple and Salted Caramel Cheesecake

If you're on a diet, this isn't the recipe for you! It's a recipe for a special occasion, and as our French friends were coming to stay for a few days, I thought this was one of those occasions.

It's another case of using up ingredients that are near their 'use by' dates; this time it was a tin of Carnation Caramel, a bag of pecans and a few Granny Smith apples.
The idea for a cheesecake came from a programme I watched on Food Network - the chef was using walnuts and apples in a cheesecake.

So what you have is the usual biscuit layer at the bottom, then a layer of the salted caramel, a layer of chopped pecans, a layer of apple purée, then the cheesecake and topping it off some whipped cream with a drizzle or so of the salted caramel. What's not to like?

You need a 23cm springform tin or the same sized pie dish. Preheat oven 180C/gas4.

To make the biscuit base - mix together 12 digestive biscuits with 3 tbspn caster sugar and a tspn of cinnamon. Melt 75g butter, add to the biscuit mixture and bring together with a fork. Press it into the tin, coming about 2/3 of the way up the sides. Bake for about 8 mins till golden, then leave to cool.

For the caramel and pecan layer you need a tin of caramel and 125g pecans, roughly chopped.
Spread a layer of caramel over the biscuit base, then sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Keep a few pecans back to sprinkle on the top. Put in the fridge.

Peel, core and slice 5 Granny Smith apples. Melt 75g of butter in a pan then add 80g light brown sugar, 1 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn salt and simmer gently for a minute or so. Add the apples till soft - about 10 mins; cool, then spoon over the pecans.

For the cheesecake - beat together 250g cream cheese with 50g sugar using an electric mixer, till mixture is smooth. Add an egg and beat again. Then add 1 tbspn lemon juice and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat in. Pour this over the apple and smooth over. Bake till the cheesecake is set - about 30 mins. Cool the cheesecake in the tin, then put in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the tin; whip 200ml of double cream and spread over the top. Drop a few spoonfuls of caramel over the cream and swirl. Sprinkle with the leftover pecans and serve.
Keep any leftovers in the fridge.

This is a rich cheesecake; maybe the cream is unnecessary, but it adds more luxury. Our friends loved it; the soft biscuit base, then the sweet caramel, the crunchy nuts, the soft smooth apple and the silky cheesecake finished off by cream and a swirl of the soft caramel. Certainly a special occasion dessert.