Loganberry and apricot loaf for two

Juicy berries can be messy eating. I’ve mentioned in the past how I’m just not one for white clothing as I constantly spill food all over the front. This is especially true when it comes to berry eating (cue COS white t-shirts now ruined and in the bin). This past summer, I have eaten my fair share of berries – mostly blueberries because I kept stumbling on farms where you pick your own for cheap. I also happened to discover the loganberry. These lipstick-hue berries are something else. A cross between a raspberry and blackberry, they are altogether juicier and sharper in flavour, and even better when cooked. I bet loganberries would make a beautiful jam with a hint of rose geranium (another new favourite! Post to follow shortly on the wonders of rose geranium).

Sometimes, if it’s just you and one other person in the house, you can’t be bothered getting your ‘bake on’. But I don’t think we should miss out, and besides, who says small can’t be better? I really advocate making just enough to eat and savour and not too much that it goes to waste. I always enjoy making mini-versions of bakes that will be just right for two greedy mouths. Plus, these daintier bakes don’t last long enough for you to get sick of them, and then you can swiftly move on to the next recipe you’ve Post-it noted. This recipe has been adapted from a Claire Ptak cake recipe, which featured in The Guardian column. You could basically use any fruit that you like and adjust the sugar to suit. I prefer to balance the fruit between one that releases a fair amount of juice when cooked (such as berries) and one that merely softens (such as apricot or stone fruit).

Loganberry and apricot sticky loaf

Makes 1 small loaf

75g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

75g caster sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

100g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the fruit

120g apricots

40g vanilla sugar, or caster sugar

seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

90g loganberries

Greek-style yoghurt, to serve (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a small loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

Slice the apricots into wedges and combine in a bowl with the sugar and vanilla seeds. Arrange in your prepared tin, alternating the apricot pieces with the raspberries however you like.

For the sponge, beat the butter and sugar until light in colour and delightfully fluffy. Add the egg, mixing well until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Gently mix this into the butter mixture until only just incorporated. Spread over the fruit and smooth over the top carefully.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few tiny damp crumbs attached. The top should be golden and springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes, in the tin. To serve, run a knife along the inside of the tin and turn the loaf out on to your serving plate. Slice up and serve with yoghurt if you like.

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Give me a salted chocolate cookie any day

All my life I have been searching for two perfect recipes: shortbread and chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t yet found ‘the one’, but I think this recipe for chocolate chip cookies comes a close second to the real deal. The only reason it’s not dubbed ‘perfect’ (although I’ve made these twice already) was because I needed them to be more soft and squishy in the middle. I like my cookies piping hot out of the oven (I have inherited my mum’s asbestos mouth), with a crunch just around the edge of the cookie, then slowly getting more and more chewy and unctuous in the middle. For me, the best bits are the melting oozy bits of chocolate that, mind you, always leave inevitable stains on the only good white shirt I own (I can’t wear white just because I am a terrible messy drooler!)…

I’m kind of glad I haven’t found the be all and end all of chocolate chip cookies yet. Life is nothing without the endless chase for the next recipe to better the one we have now (the grass is always greener after all), so I look forward to writing more on this topic later.

This recipe is from superstar Claire Ptak, who has just published her debut cookbook The Violet Bakery Cookbook, which is brilliant. I had the pleasure of working with Claire on a couple of books, while I was working in London and editing food books, and she has always had such a way with food not to mention the rare ability to style it so well. The key to this recipe, as Claire says in her book, is in the egg yolk – no egg whites allowed here. The yolk is just so important in terms of creating the rich and gorgeous texture of these cookies. It’s like those tasty treats you find in real French bakeries; I always sit there wondering, how do they get it so right? Well, it’s all about the yolk people! Throw away those whites to the wind. This recipe makes so many cookies so I would actually recommend halving the amount and using one super large egg yolk instead of one and a half. I think this cookie wouldn’t be so bad with the odd macadamia nut thrown in too. Oh god … I might have to go bake some now.

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Egg yolk chocolate chip cookies

Makes about 16 large cookies

250 g soft unsalted butter

200 g light brown sugar or dulce sugar

100 g caster sugar

1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

3 egg yolks

325 g plain flour

1¼ tsp fine sea salt, plus extra to sprinkle (I am in love with David’s Kosher Salt)

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

250 g milk chocolate (use really good-quality stuff if you can), broken up into chunks

Beat the butter and sugars with an electric hand-held beater until combined but not too creamy. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Add this to dry mix to the bowl with the egg mixture along with the chocolate and mix well.

Shape into a cylinder and wrap with clingfilm. Put into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Cut the cookie dough into rounds and place on the lined tray, leaving enough space between each one so they can expand as they bake. Sprinkle with a little more sea salt flakes and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the centre of a cookie is slightly soft but the edges crispy. Remove and cool on the tray for a few minutes or just eat them immediately being careful not to burn your mouth too much.

(Recipe slightly adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak, Square Peg, 2015)

Upside-down Plum Cake

I haven’t blogged in over a year. Time really has flown by. Also, I should probably mention that I have been busy moving countries! This time last year I was sitting in my small but quaint London flat dreaming about being back home in New Zealand. Now, after eight years we finally took the leap and moved back home. It’s been amazing getting to grips with the culinary trends of this often unknown (well, at least for the culinary delights) part of the world. I love the food here. There is just something so unpretentious, ahead of the curb, yet rustic about it. Not to mention my favourite supermarket of all time Moore Wilson’s is here in Wellington. Everything at the vegetable and fruit market smells fresh. It looks vibrant. It’s affordable. And there is space to roam.

One of my first bakes was this upside-down plum cake for our new neighbours who kindly gave us a bag of fresh eggs from their hens on our big move in day. The eggs were the best I’ve ever had! The yolks were just orange perfection and I knew I had to use them in a cake. I’m a huge fan of Alice Waters. Her writing is as good enough to eat as her food; she epitomises recipe writing at its best and reading her recipes are a lesson in the craft of food writing. I am all for Alice’s advocation of eating within the seasons and as I acclimatise to the produce available south of the equator, it’s exciting to be blogging about the discoveries. Black Doris plums are available in the height of summer here and they are juicy, dark plums that are perfect for jams, puddings and of course, cake.

This cake can easily be made with any stone fruit. I’ve also been wanting to try it made with feijoas but I keep eating them up before having a chance to bake with them …

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Upside-down Black Doris plum cake 

170g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of flaky sea salt
2 eggs, separated
100ml milk
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla seeds

For the topping:
50g unsalted butter
100g brown sugar
50 ml orange juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
about 6-7 plums, stoned and sliced

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Lightly grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
First, make the topping by combining the 50g butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter melts and starts to bubble. Add the orange juice and lemon zest and stir well. Pour into the prepared tin. Lay the plums on top in a circular pattern, beginning at the edges.

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In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat the softened butter with the sugar and cream until very light and fluffy, about 10 minutes using a hand-held beater. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla until well combined. Using a large metal spoon, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with one third of the flour. Stir until just combined and no more.

Beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the mixture until combined, then carefully fold in the remaining whites. Pour the mixture over the plums in the tin and smooth over. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out just about clean leaving only a couple of crumbs. Take the tin out of the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the tin and invert the cake onto a plate to serve.

(Recipe adapted from Alice Water’s Cranberry Upside-down Cake in The Art of Simple Food, Michael Joseph, 2007)

The perfect shortbread

Shortbread is one of those elusive things in life. Sometimes you make it and it turns out amazing. Other times it’s a huge disappointment and your baking confidence takes a plummet. Shortbread really should not be underrated. Many people prefer more bells and whistles to their biscuits, but a truly great bake should not be messed with. I like how confident and classic it is. A good recipe – and I mean really good – will never go out of style.

I am quite fussy about how I like mine. Throughout my life I have tried to bake THE perfect shortbread. To me, the paragon of that perfection comes in the form of (bear with me because it’s true!) shop-bought Walker’s shortbread. I love them for their butter. Butter is the key: it really is the source of all things happy and good. This year, I have decided to bake as many shortbread recipes as I can in the search to find my ultimate shortbread. It has to be a little bit brown on top, crunchy, short and buttery (and I mean buttery to the point that it leaves your fingertips greasy afterwards). The important thing to remember about shortbread is that like pastry you cannot overwork it. You need light, quick, deft hands.

My first go was a terrible recipe I won’t mention because it wasn’t worth posting about. There was waaay too much flour. My second attempt was this lovely, rough and ready one. Based on a recipe from the Daylesford Farm cookbook, A Love for Food, I substituted grated lemon zest with bergamot zest and this made it all the better for dipping into my Fortnum’s smoky Earl Grey tea (I am not an old fuddy-duddy lady but like Sally in When Harry Met Sally like my food the way I like it).

Shortbread

Bergamot shortbread

125g softened unsalted butter

65g unrefined caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

120g plain flour

65g rice flour

good pinch salt

zest 1 bergamot

Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and airy. Add the flours, salt and bergamot zest and mix until it has just come together. Form gently into a ball. Place a sheet of clingfilm on the benchtop and place the dough on it. Place another sheet of clingfilm on top and roll the dough into a circular shape until it is 0.5cm thick. Carefully peel off the clingfilm and transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet. Pop this into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown. Take out of the oven and score randomly almost right through (this will make it easy to break the shortbread up once it has cooled). Leave to rest for a few minutes to firm up. Dust with sugar and break up. Cool completely on a wire rack.

(Adapted from the Lemon Shortbread recipe, A Love for Food, 4th estate, 2013)

Cinnamon cake with blackberries

I love how a recipe that might sound a bit plain at the start can end up completely blowing your mind once you’ve given it a go. This is one of those rare cakes that most people would pass by thinking it’s a bit plain, or a little bit ‘healthy’ perhaps. But shame on them as they are going to miss out on one of the lightest, most flavourful and delightfully textured cakes in the entire world. There isn’t any butter or oil in this cake but the trick is that you need to beat the eggs a lot. Even when you think you have beaten it enough, keep going and probably it still won’t be enough. I was using a handmixer (the fiancé says we don’t have room in the kitchen for a lovely KitchenAid mixer, boo) and was literally beating the eggs for almost 45 minutes!

I got a copy of Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet a couple of months ago and I have used it almost every weekend, it is that good. It’s an epic cookbook, very comprehensive and thorough without being too dictatorial or overbearing. Most of all, the recipes featured are a little different from your average baking book – featuring many rye-based and gluten-free recipes, yet never compromising on taste or flavour. A lot of the recipes have quite intriguing combinations, and I think there is an excellent balance between traditional or classic, basic and recipes that appeal to the more adventurous baker. I have already Post-it noted heaps of recipes in the book that I am planning to try in the next few months, tonight we are making the sour cream bread, tomorrow I am making the passion fruit melting moments, then later this month I’ve got my eye on the bourbon pecan brownies and that quinoa hazelnut cake … (drools).

Cinnamon cake with blackberries

4 medium eggs, at room temperature

200g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

150g wholemeal flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

100ml cold milk

a small tub of double cream

1 punnet of blackberries

icing sugar

Line the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin with parchment paper and heat the oven to 180°C. Beat the eggs with the sugar and syrup using your electric mixer until pale, extremely frothy and thick. The mix should fall like thick ribbons when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon once (adding any bran that the sieve collects back in). Add the milk to the beaten eggs and whisk, then add the flour and whisk once more until just smooth.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 35 minutes, covering the top of the cake with foil for the last 10 minutes if it gets too brown. Test for doneness with a skewer (if, when inserted it comes out with just a few tiny crumbs stuck to it this means it is done) and remove from the oven, leaving to cool. Whip the cream lightly, halve the blackberries and then slice the cake into two layers. Fill with the cream and the fruit, reassemble the cake and dust lightly with the icing sugar.

Recipe from Short and Sweet: The Best of Home Baking, Dan Lepard (Fourth Estate, 2011)

Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

Anything that lists cardamom as a key ingredient I am basically going to make. I can’t deny the lure of cardamom, wherever it makes its appearance it is always a delight. These buns are very much like the ones I had at the Scandanavian bakery near work except they were slightly less sweet. A kind of more demure version of the cinnabon (the American gooey and guilty pleasure). Tessa Kiros offers an array of amazing recipes in her book Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes. Every recipe in this cookbook is beautifully photographed and you only need to glimpse at the list of ingredients and you know it is going to be good. The cookbook itself is divided by country and this stems from her mixed cultural background (Finnish, Greek, Cypriot, South African). One favourite dish I am constantly using is the moussaka but the cakes and ice cream recipes need a mention also. The cinnamon and cardamom buns have a milky taste and the cardamom isn’t overpowering but adds a hint of something else to the traditional cinnamon bun – just delicious.

Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

For the dough

250ml tepid whole milk

100g caster sugar

25g yeast

1 egg, beaten

125g softened butter

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

650g plain all-purpose flour

For the cinnamon butter

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

50g caster sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling

80g softened butter

1 egg lightly beaten

Pour the milk into a large bowl and add sugar and yeast. Leave for 10 minutes or until the yeast activates (turning bubbly on top). Add the egg, butter, cardamom and salt and mix into the milk mix. Add the flour gradually mixing with your hands and then turn it on to a floured surface. Knead for about 5-10 minutes until the dough is very soft and silky smooth (not tacky). Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a cloth leaving it in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Now make the cinnamon butter by mixing the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Divide the butter into four portions and keep it to one side.

Now you need to roll the dough out. Divide it into four portions and work with one at a time keeping the others covered with a teatowel to stop it from drying out. Roll the first portion of dough out into a rectangle roughly about 30cm x 25cm and 2-3 mm thick. Spread a portion of the cinnamon butter on top covering the entire surface evenly. Roll up length ways to make a long sausage shape. Cut the dough slightly on a diagonal, alternating up and down so that the slices are a fat ‘v’ shape with the point of the ‘v’ about 2cm and the base about 5cm. Turn them so they are all the right way up and sitting on the fatter bases and then press on top of each one with two fingers. Along the sides you will see the cinnamon butter oozing outwards. Do all of the dough in this way and place on a lined baking sheet. Leave to rise for half and hour then brush with beaten egg and sprinkle a little sugar on top of each bun.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 180°C oven. Make sure they are golden on top and on the bottom and be careful not to burn them!

Apple and green tomato pie

When I first saw this recipe I was utterly intrigued. Is it sweet or savoury? My mind was boggled. It did make sense after all, tomato is a fruit! It was really quite hard to find green tomatoes though, unless you grow them in your backyard or know someone who does you have to hunt for them at specialist fruit and veggie market at the right time. Green tomatoes seem to be more commonly eaten in the US. I remember seeing that film back in the days Fried Green Tomatoes, where the main characters make battered fried green tomatoes. Being a kid who grew up in Dunedin where there were no such sightings of green tomatoes, I relished in the idea of biting into these delicious, almost exotic green tomatoes turned into fritter-like delights. Green tomatoes are simply unripened normal tomatoes but you hardly ever see them for sale. I lucked out and found them at Borough market—good old Borough market never lets me down.

Essentially, this is a sweet pie. It turned out a lot like apple and rhubarb pie but the green tomatoes give it a less stringy texture than the rhubarb. One of the best aspects of this recipe is the pastry. I used to make pastry in the food processor but having since then lost an important part to the food processor, I had to do this one the old fashioned way (by hand). It worked out great, I would highly recommend rubbing the butter into the flour by hand it it does lend a more authentic and finer feel to the pastry. It is slightly sweet, light and airy, flakey and rich all at once. It is truly a great sweet pastry recipe. My only slight contribution to the recipe was to make it that extra bit sweeter.

Apple and green tomato pie

Pastry

500g plain flour

pinch of salt

300g unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm cubes

25g caster sugar, and extra to sprinkle

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

2-3 tablespoons cold water

milk to brush

Filling

5 Cox’s apples

4 green tomatoes

150g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of a lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar

1. To make the pastry, sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter evenly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar and vanilla extract. Lightly beat the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl then pour this over the flour mixture.

2. Combine with your fingertips to incorporate and add a little more water if required. Form into a ball and knead lightly. Wrap in foil and chill for an hour.

3. Now to prepare the filling. Core the apples and slice them finely leaving the skin on. Slice the tomatoes into rounds and place into a bowl with the apples. Add caster sugar, lemon zest and juice.

4. When the pastry is ready, take out half from the fridge and roll this out into a 3mm thick round large enough to line the base and sides of a 20cm fluted pie tin. Press the pastry into the tin and prick the base of the pastry. Chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180°C.

5. Line the pastry with grease proof paper and baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out the base. Set aside to cool.

6. Roll out the rest of the pastry thinly into a round 5mm thick for the pie lid.

7. Stir cinnamon and sugar into the filling and pour into the pie case. Top with the pastry lid and press the pastry edges to seal with your thumbs, fluting them as you go. Brush with a little milk. Mark small incisions into the lid of the pie to let it breathe when baking.

8. Place in the oven (middle shelf) for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

9. Sprinkle the pie with caster sugar and serve with cold pouring cream, cream friache or just a dollop of vanilla icecream.

Recipe from How I cook by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille).