Apple Pear and Rose Cake

I’ve never made an apple cake before but it’s autumnlike and blustery and it seemed like a good time. I threw pears into the shopping basket too and when at home, wondered if they wouldn’t work well together, with the right augmentation.

According to Niki Segnit, author of the Flavour Thesaurus, apple can contain surprising elements such as nutmeg and anise, as well as nutty notes near the core which can be reminiscent of almond. She flags apple and pear as a very well established pairing, and quince is another pome fruit. That she credits with apple, pear, rose and honey tastes. Hence the roundabout inspiration for this cake.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe by Allegra McEvedy which was in the Guardian, which I went for mainly because of the quick prep and cooking time.  It turned out to almost more like a clafoutis than a cake but I thought calling it that would just confuse matters. Not that I encourage this sort of thing, but I imagine it would work well with a dollop of cream and a grating of nutmeg. Or some thin, rich, eggy homemade custard.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 175C.  I used a 25cm square tin, and spray oil to grease it.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, preferably organic
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 250g flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 150g butter
  • 240ml water
  • 1 large Bramley apple, chopped
  • 2 large Conference pears, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Rose Essence
  • Light brown sugar to garnish

Method

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick
  2. Sift in the flour and baking powder, using a whisk to mix gently until incorporated
  3. Melt the butter and honey in the water and add in the mixture
  4. Drop the fruit into the batter
  5. Shake sugar over the top
  6. Bake for 40-50 mins until a cake tester comes out clean, and leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins
  7. Slice around the edges to free the cake, then upside it onto a plate and flip again so the apples are on top

You may want to tone down the rose but it seemed to go down well with the Baked Goods  Tester Panel so I’ve left the quantities as I made it.


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Chocolate Banana Pantry Cake

I have a problem with bananas. The problem is that I buy them, forget about them and then I’m compelled to bake with them. Yeah, I know, the epitome of firstworldproblems.

This started off as a banana loaf cake idea and then the Green & Black’s cocoa fell out of the cupboard (I really should tidy up more) and it seemed worth trying.  Then it turned into pantry cake when I started pulling more things out of the press, including cherries and walnuts. The cherries melt a little like dates and led to the tasters asking if there was booze in there. Not this time….

Makes a 1lb loaf. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4, 180c.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 35g of slightly salted, very soft butter
  • 50g demerera sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g cherries, chopped (the natural ones)
  • 50g chopped dark 70% chocolate
  • ½ tsp good vanilla extract
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

  1. Mash the bananas and butter together
  2. Add in the egg, vanilla, sugar, cherries, chopped chocolate and walnuts and mix together
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt together and add into wet ingredients
  4. Cook in a lined loaf tin for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean

Improves over a day or two too.

Caramel Popcorn

A little air-popped popcorn never did anyone any harm, right? It strikes me that it’s a great snack, and given that it’s diet time around here, it’s a no-brainer. Though probably not this popcorn.  These little anti-diet morsels of crunchy toffee goodness are turning into something of an addiction, with tweaks to the different source recipes abounding.  Peanuts, no nuts, salted, flavoured caramel… I’m not convinced about bacon, but perhaps…

I use microwave popcorn.  Never said I wasn’t trashy. The quantities below (the molasses contribution comes from the new Baked book – it makes for a smokier flavour than other versions I’ve tried but I also tried Orangette‘s recipe and really liked it) are enough to cover two bags of popcorn but I think using even more popcorn would be better as it’s quite dense, sticky stuff when you pour it over. Half-coated pieces of this recipe would probably work just as well, or better.

Make sure you have the ingredients weighed out, the unpopped kernels discarded, and a sugar thermometer ready before you even think of showing the butter to the pan.  The baking powder causes the mixture to fizz magnificently so make sure it’s a big enough saucepan to accommodate.

Ingredients:

  • Microwave popcorn – 2-3 bags (depending on your hunger levels and how coated you want it to be) or similar yield from kernels
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g brown sugar
  • 150ml light corn syrup*
  • 2 tbsp unsulphured molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 100g salted jumbo peanuts, chopped
  1. Pop the corn, preheat the oven to the lowest temp, 130C/250G/Gas Mark 1. Lay the popcorn out in a non stick roasting pan.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the salt, sugar, corn syrup and molasses
  3. Bring up to ‘Soft Ball’ stage on the candy thermometer
  4. Remove from the heat and add the salt, baking powder and vanilla extract (and watch it go ‘whoompf’)
  5. Pour over the popcorn, stir around for coverage. Scatter the chopped nuts – and maybe some sea salt – and put in the oven.
  6. Bake for 35 mins, removing it halfway through to stir and redistribute the caramel.

I’d like to try this with more vanilla/omitting the nuts and using orange essence instead of vanilla/with caramel and cracked pepper.  I see a lot more of this in my future…and don’t be tempted to omit the oven stage. The slow melt allows you to get much better coverage – and should you have the restraint of a jockey making weight, it keeps well in an airtight tin. Apparently.

*you can get this online or in Selfridges Food Hall in London

Banana Date Loaf

This was kind of an experiment.  I had spotty bananas lurking malevolently in the fruit bowl, gassing the other residents, and a recipe that a friend had recommended.  All good so far. I started off with the first steps of the method and then realised that the butter in the ingredients list was missing from the method. Um… I’d had long conversations this week with (professional and could-be-professional bakers about how baking is a science and you can’t fudge quantities and methods. Then set about fudging the recipe*.

Banana Date Loaf

This makes for a pleasantly squidgy loaf with a slight nuttiness from the spelt flour.  I used a four pans on a six mini-loaf tray – substantial small cakes that are good to slice and eat in squares.

Ingredients:

  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 30g honey
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 110g muscovado sugar
  • 170g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • 50g any dried fruit – I used chopped apricots

Method:

  1. Cream together the sugar and eggs to light ribbon stage
  2. Wonder what to do with the butter
  3. Think “Sod it”, chop the butter up really small and add in, and blitz again
  4. Think “This will never work”
  5. Stick the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds so it becomes more of a batter, and the butter relents
  6. Put the chopped dates in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and heat gently til the dates ‘melt’
  7. In another bowl, mash the honey and banana and add in any dried fruit
  8. Sift the flour and baking powder into the egg/sugar mixtures, then add the banana mix and the date mush.  Incorporate without overmixing.
  9. Put in lined tins, somewhat sceptically, bake for 20-25 mins or until a cake tester comes out clean
  10. Taste with some trepidation… they say “Woo-hoo! ‘Tis good!”

It should be fine to keep in an airtight tin for a few days, but there’s none left to test that theory. But next time I make it I’m going to try slicing and freezing a couple of the loaves, as well as working out when the butter should go in.  Assuming the cakes are around long enough to be frozen.  I think it would also be good lightly toasted, once defrosted.

*apart from the hit-and-miss method, I did largely substitute ingredients so it wasn’t that fudgy I guess

Here are the instructions I started with:

Preheat oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Place eggs and brown sugar in electric mixer and whisk to light ribbon stage. Sift flour/baking pwdr into separate bowl. Mash bananas with honey. Combine all, but don’t overmix. Spoon into
tins and bake for 30-35 mins.