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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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)

Banana bread

Over-ripe bananas can be a real pain to use up. Even though there are countless ways to use them it always seems that at the perfect point for which you should be using them, you don’t feel like it, letting them turn from a perfect brown skin to black to utterly mouldy. I have let the banana down all too many times recently and I do love a good banana cake so decided to try Skye Gyngell’s recipe for banana bread from her new book How I cook. This book has been added to my list of best cookbooks of all time. The collection of recipes are so honest and homely and the choices of what has been included in the book seem to have been made with insight and a lot of love for quality and elegant home cooking. So of course when I found out Skye was doing a book signing in Richmond I was there in a flash. She was so nice, genuine, unpretentious and clearly had tonnes of class. These qualities are very much present in her recipes and I think, this one in particular. How could you make something that is usually delicious even more delicious I ask? well, you have to try this banana bread and you will see what I mean. It is perfect, not too sweet, not too heavy and dense and not too light and airy.  The book suggests serving this with apricot butter which really intrigues me, I think I will have to try that next time. The recipe calls for ripe bananas with a few spots but I think the browner the better—the more bruised and brown they are, the more flavour you will have. I used some that were on the verge of going black and this turned out divine.

Although I didn’t manage to get a very good picture that kind of doesn’t do the banana bread justice, I think this is the best thing I have baked all year.

Banana bread

125g unsalted butter, softened

250g plain flour

4 ripe bananas, peeled

a few drops of lemon juice

200g golden caster sugar

100g light muscovado sugar

2 organic free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

125ml whole milk

75g light muscovado sugar (for sprinkling)

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Butter and flour a loaf tin, and line the base with baking paper. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl till pale and creamy. Then beat in the eggs and incorporate the mashed bananas and vanilla.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon together into the mix. Carefully combine and then add the milk. Spoon the mix into the loaf tin and spread the muscovado sugar on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Let it cool (if you can resist) and once cool enough to cut, top with slices of cold butter.

Recipe adapted from How I cook (Murdoch).

Carrot and walnut cake

I have already gone on and on about how genius I think the Ottolenghi cookbook is but I haven’t mentioned how truly madly deeply I have fallen for the baking and patisserie section. Full of mouth-watering and fat-inducing recipes like caramel and macadamia cheesecake, lime and basil macaroons and meringues aplenty. The next thing I am planning to try is the apple, olive oil and maple cake but I couldn’t resist trying out the carrot walnut cake first. I worship Philadelphia cream cheese. I think it is the best—it doesn’t matter how fatty it is considering it is all worth it for the silky creamy taste. Don’t even try to use the 2% less fat version as no good cream cheese icing is going to taste as good without that extra kick of fat.

One thing to note about the recipe is that it could be slightly sweeter and spicier. I would up the amount of cinnamon and maybe add a little ground cardamon but don’t add more ground cloves as it will leave a bizarre aftertaste in the mouth like you have just been to the dental hygienist. This cake isn’t heavy or cloying like some and it isn’t a dense and incredibly moist one—it is more like the light and more demure cousin of the typical carrot walnut cake.

Carrot and walnut cake

160g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

200g sunflower oil

290g caster sugar

50g walnuts, chopped

50g desiccated coconut

135g carrot, roughly grated

2 egg whites

pinch of salt

Icing

175g cream cheese at room temperature

70g unsalted butter

35g icing sugar

25g honey

30g walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted

lemon zest / juice

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and spices together. Lightly whisk the whole egg with the egg yolk.

Put the sunflower oil and caster sugar in a bowl and beat for a minute on medium speed. On a low speed, add the beaten egg. Mix in the walnuts, coconut and carrot and then the sifted dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt on high till it forms firm peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into your carrot mixture in three additions, don’t overmix.

Pour the mix into the tin and bake for about an hour or so. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer and if it comes out dry (or close to dry) it is done. Let the cake cool.

Make the icing by beating the cream cheese till light and smooth. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter, icing sugar and honey and mix till light and airy. I accidentally used salted butter and it was a bit salty so I added lemon zest and a tiny bit of lemon juice to counter the salt. Fold the cream cheese into the butter mix and spread on to the cake. Sprinkle with nuts.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi: the cookbook (Ebury).

Honey wholemeal cake

Although wholemeal in anything sweet-based makes me run a mile in fear that it will lack alll the best qualities—sweetness, buttery and richness—I was intrigued to try this recipe as it just looked so utterly tasty on TV. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had his usual River Cottage series on Channel 4. I made the honey wholemeal cake for a work do and it was a great success— little did everyone know it was so easy and didn’t require complicated ingredients at all. This cake has a really moist taste and it is sweet, but not overly so. The more honey on top of the cake the better if you ask me, as when the cake cools, the honey turns into a sticky outer coating that adds another dimension to the cake overall. This recipe was actually printed in the Observer Food Monthly (my favourite monthly foodie supplement) and since trying the recipes from this, I went and got myself a copy of Hugh’s River Cottage Everyday. The main concept of the book is simply what the title suggests: River Cottage style food everyday. It has a brilliant lunch section entitled ‘weekday lunch (box)’ – the recipes are so easy yet very tasty and as always you can rely on that River Cottage rustic feel. You couldn’t get sick of the recipes as they are also seasonal and family-kitchen favourites. I am sure I will have more to say on this book to come, the next one on my list is the roast plum and sticky chocolate brownies.

This recipe is from River Cottage Everyday (Bloomsbury).

Honey wholemeal cake

300g unsalted butter (softened)

250g golden caster sugar

4 medium eggs

150g wholemeal self-raising flour

150g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

50g flaked almonds

4 Tbsp runny honey

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time and add 3 spoonfuls of flour as you go, then fold in the almonds. Sift the remaining flour into the mixture with the baking powder and fold in gently. Prepare a 23 cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Place the tin on a baking tray as some mixture may leak out during the baking process. Pour your cake mix into the cake tin and place in a preheated 170C° oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and while it is still hot, evenly trickle the honey over the top of the cake. Place on a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning out.

This is excellent served with greek style honey yoghurt or creme friache. Hugh says to serve it with some runny cream.

Serves 10.