Apple and walnut crumble

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You cannot go wrong with an über buttery sweet dessert. Adding fruit makes it vaguely healthy, even…

Apple and walnut crumble (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients 

For the filling

  • 100g roasted walnuts
  • 1.25kg apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
  • 50-100g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

For the crumble

  • 225g plain flour
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g caster, granulated or soft brown sugar
  • 75g medium oatmeal
  • 100g grounded almonds (optional)

Method

Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in an oven preheated to 180C for about 5-7 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through, until just beginning to colour and develop aroma. Leave to cool, then chop very roughly.

To prepare the crumble, you can your own hands or use a food processor, at it fits better. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers (or pulse briefly in the processor) until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in the sugar, oatmeal and ground almonds, if using. If you prefer to have a chunky crumble, squeeze a few handfuls in your fist to make lumps

Put the apples in a large bowl, sprinkle over the sugar, to taste. Add the walnuts and the cinnamon, if using, and mix roughly. Spread in a pie dish or other ovenproof dish, getting the fruit as compact as you can.

Scatter the crumble over the apples in a fairly even layer and bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned on top.

Serve hot, with cream, custard or ice cream; or, once it is cold, serve it with  a thick, rich yoghurt.


Leek, gruyère and thyme pie

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Perfect brunch dish… can be made in advance, is delicious and has the exact amount of richness for a semi-festive meal. It has nothing but very simple and humble ingredients, which work well together, for a very versatile dish. Leeks are in season, even…

 Leek,  gruyère and thyme pie (as seen in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
  • 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
  • A knob of butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 20ml  cream
  • 150g  grated gruyère cheese
  • 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
  • 1 egg, for washing

 Method

Heat an oven to 180C. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.

Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, gruyère and thyme leaves and season well.

Place one circle of puff pastry on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.

Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven.

Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.


Chouquettes

chouquetes

Truth to be told, this is far cry from the true chouquettes you can buy in Paris. The multicolour beads of sugar are missing, to start with, they are too big, they were not as airy as they should have been. But, also truth to be said, while these chouquetes are a travesty of the real ones, they were still delicious. They came out as small slightly sweet breads, ideal to eat with a little butter and ham or cheese. No complaints heard from the mobile calorie intake units, at least…

Chouquetes (adapted from Elizabeth Bard‘s  Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes )

Ingredients

  • 120mL all fat milk
  • 120mL water
  • 120g of butter without salt, cut in cubes
  • 2 spoons of sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 120g all purpose flower
  • 3 tablespoons of coloured  sugar beads (or regular sugar)

Method

Pre heat the stove to 220 oC.

Line two baking trays with parchment paper

In a large saucepan with a heavy bottom, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt on a low temperate. Once the it is well mixed, bring to a gently boil and remove immediately from the heat. Add the flour spoon by spoon dstir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a tight dough forms and pulls away from the side of the pan. It should feel like a tight dough, with a texture similar to marzipan.

Quickly add 2 eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add the remaining two eggs and mix until you have a sticky soft mixture.

Using two teaspoons, make small mounds of dough, leaving enough space between them (you can also use a piping bag with a plain tip). Sprinkle with the granulated sugar or the coloured beads.

Put the trays  in the stove one at a time and let cook for about 12min at 220oC. Then lower the heat to 200oC and let the chouquettes bake with a the over door slightly open (using a wooden spoon to hold the door will do).


Bacon, figs and parsley savoury cake

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It was a totally random purchase, in an airport bookstore. I had a couple of minutes to grab a book to read in the plane and this one just got my attention. It looked like yet another expat experience with yet more live changing experiences inducing snooze fest. For extra  cynicism, I only found broken hearts in the city of love… But it were the recipes that caught my attention. A love story with recipes? Never mind it is even in Paris – that is totally worthwhile reading. And it was… It is a quick, funny and light read. For a quick sum up of traditional home style french dishes, it is also excellent. I feel I will come back to this book over and over again.

Bacon, figs and parsley cake (adapted from Elizabeth Bard‘s  Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes)

Ingredients 

  • 120g of all purpose flour (about 1 and 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 200g sliced bacon or pancetta
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 120 mL olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • 120 mL full fat milk (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8 soft dried figs
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 100g of grated Gruyere cheese

Method 

Pre-heat the stove to 160oC

Sift the flour with the baking powder to a bawl.

Butter and flour a baking dish (or use a non stick baking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.

In a small frying pan, fry the bacon strips until all fat is gone. Take them out of the pan and pat them dry with kitchen paper.

In a medium size bawl, beat the eggs with the salt. When they are mixed, add the milk and olive oil. Carry on beating until you obtain a light fluffy structure.

Fold the flower into the mix until is incorporated (be careful  not to over mix  – a couple of time will do).

Add the remaining ingridients  (fried bacon, parsley and grafted cheese)  gently mix then in.

Put the batter in the baking dish and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 1hour. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should came out dry.

Take it out from the dish while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.


Tea and fruit bread

tea fruit cake

Even food bloggers have really bad kitchen days… Everything seemed going OK until I bumped into the mother of all disaster recipes. Without going into too much detail, the whole thing ended up in the trash bin. Then, I realised I was missing the key ingredient for the next bake. In despair, I turned to google to guide my way out of this mess. “Tea and fruit bread”, said the oracle. “You cannot get this one wrong”. She was right: it is super easy, quick and more importantly, fool-proof.  A couple of hours later everything was fine again…

On a side note, this is very close to what my Grandmother used call English cake and insist on buying every Christmas. Us kiddies never thought the point of it – all that crystallised fruit was unappealing. We would patiently wait for it get too dry to eat, so my Mother could convert into a much more appetising bread pudding made with custard.

Tea and fruit bread (adapted from a recipe found in nigella.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black tea
  • 250g  mixed dried fruit
  • 250g white flour
  • 2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 125g of caster sugar
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade

Method

Grease a  loaf tin (about 650g)

Preheat oven to 180oC

Put the fruit in a small bowl, and pour in the tea. Let it soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit is swollen.

In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade. Then, fold in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl.  Mix thoroughly

Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour

Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin


Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

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Nothing like a happy chocolate-y orange-y and super rich-y cake moment to cheer up the day. Never mind the calories – they are all worthwhile.

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 160g of soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 250g raw cane sugar
  • 120g of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • the zest of 2 regular orange and juice of 1 (1/3 cup)

Method

Preheat the oven to 165oC.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

Beat the already soft butter with the syrup and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth cream (you probably will still feel a bit of grit; should look like a large weak coffee with milk).

Mix the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder together.  Sift the equivalent of a 1 tablespoonful of these dry ingredients into the sugar and butter. Mix well before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg.

Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the orange juice. At this stage, the batter may suddenly look dimpled, as if slightly curdled – if this happens, do not worry.

Pour and scrape the batter into the load pan and put in the stove for 45 minute. Test with a knife before taking it out.  A cake tester won’t come out entirely clean, as the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner stickiness. Let cool a little in its pan on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.


Apricot, walnut and lavender cake

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It was love at first sight. And, timing couldn’t have been better. I was just looking for my annual super baking project when I bumped into this recipe.  It was so delicious, I will have to bake it again. And again… and again. Never mind the Modern Art Cakes – this the one I want I want for my birthday. Truth to be said, it is not particularly difficult dish.  But the flavours, oh!, the flavours….  It were layers upon layers of fresh, summery and nutty flavours, each mouthful different.

Apricot, walnut and lavender cake  (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 120g ground walnuts
  • 90g plain flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
  • Salt
  • 600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed

For the icing

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 Method

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.

Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.

While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.