Monday, 25 November 2013

Sugar Apple Cake

Another apple post. I told you we'd collected a lot.

I found this recipe online in the hunt for a apple-y dessert for a family meal a few weeks back. This cake is delicious. Rich, buttery, sugary, caramely, topped with apple, it's wonderful served warm with ice cream or cream, but is equally as delicious cold. It looks impressive and is really easy to make - the perfect dessert for autumn.

I don't know whether it was my oven, or the fact that I used a round, deeper tin than the one in the original post that was square, but my cake ended up a little different from what I was expecting from the pictures. It also took a lot longer to cook, over two hours, compared to the 1.5 that the recipe suggested. Because of this extra cooking time, the crust of the cake turned more buscuity and crunchy than soft, but gave the dessert a really interesting contrast of textures, everyone commented on it, so I think the cake was all the better for it.

The middle of the cake stays moist and soft, because juice from the apples seeps into the cake while it's cooking. 

I was doubtful at first of trusting such a thick batter, normally I find that thicker batters work best for my cakes, and stay fresher and nicer for longer, but this was almost a dough. I had to add some milk to get it anywhere near a pourable consistency. The original poster mentioned that the mix would seem unusually thick, but promised that the cake would turn out well. Which it did, luckily! I suspect the thick batter had something to do with the delicious crust that formed as well.

This cake is a really lovely autumn dessert, perfect for when cooking apples are in season. It's not overly sweet, and gives a welcome change to chocolate cakes and heavier puddings. It's just as good cold the next day as it is straight from the oven, and needs little else but a scoop of ice cream or some cream to finish it off wonderfully.

Next time I make this I'll experiment with adding different flavours to the cake batter. I only had vanilla on hand when I made this but I know cinnamon would be lovely as well for a spicy warm kick. You also have the option of adding sultanas and almonds to the batter, both of which I left out from the original recipe, becausue I wanted the focus to be on the apples, not other flavours (plus, I'm not that keen on almond flavour anyway).

Sugar Apple Cake

125g butter/margarine
2 large eggs
225g caster sugar, or a mix of caster and brown or demerara for a more caramely taste
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk, for thinning
350g Bramley apples
demerara sugar

1. Preheat oven to gas mark 3. Grease and line a 8'' loose bottomed cake tin. Peel, core and slice apples into thin wedges
2. Mix all cake ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will most likely be very thick. Add a few splashes of milk until you get to the right consistency - a thick but smooth batter that will pour, but that will not be self leveling. It will also smell incredible!
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, and arrange the apple slivers on top. You can be neat and pretty about this or you can just dump them on - it all tastes the same at the end of the day.
4. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of demerara and bake until cooked through. The original recipe says this will take about and hour and a half but it took over two hours for me. If the cake is taking a really long time reduce the temperature slightly to prevent burning.A knife inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean, and the top will be golden brown.
5. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and serving. 

Store leftovers in the fridge once the cake has cooled completely.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Apple Crumble

Apple crumble is easily my favourite dessert. Probably even above chocolate cake.
And it's got fruit in it so, yunno, it's healthy?

This is a follow on from the previous apple sauce post, use that as a filling, freeze any left overs.

Crumble topping is so easy to make, and it only takes a few ingredients and some patience. The technique is really easy and anyone can do it. Great for getting kids involved in baking, I'd imagine, as there needn't be any heat or sharp knives involved.

Crumble is all about the ratios. Crumble:filling, and flour:sugar:butter. Personally, I love a 50/50 split of fruit to topping (the crumble is the best bit!) but feel free to go for less (or even more) if you should so desire.

The crumble mix is really easy to remember: 3 parts flour, 2 parts sugar, 1 part butter/margarine. You can also add in or substitute some oats for the flour for texture and flavour, plus maybe even some health benefits too!? (I wish!) Use whatever you want to measure out the ingredients, just make sure you use the same container to the same level for each set of ingredients. For a smallish crumble (see picture), I used three heaped serving spoons of flour, two of sugar, one of butter. Adapt the recipe as needed for the quantity you want.

Raw crumble mix also freezes extremely well, so if you have any left over, pop it in a freezer bag and save it for a rainy day.

Crumble Topping

3 heaped spoons of plain flour
2 heaped spoons of caster sugar
1 heaped spoon of butter
a few spoons of rolled oats (optional)
vanilla sugar/more caster sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. Place all ingredients (excluding the sugar for dusting) in a large bowl. Rub together with your fingertips, lifting the mix out of the bowl.
2. Continue to rub the butter into the flour/sugar/oats until there are no large chunks and all the butter is incorporated (somewhat quicker with margarine).
3. When all the butter is incorporated, spread the crumble mix on top of prepared filling.
4. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or cold with ice cream, cream or custard.

Leftovers (should you have any) will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Exciting News...

When I was at home over the weekend, I was asked to make a wedding cake for my cousin next July. Very exciting. It'll be a joint effort between my Gran and myself, as the couple want a combination of fruit and sponge cakes (you know how I feel about fruitcake). This will also mean lots of experimenting with fondant (a lot less forgiving that the buttercream of my first wedding cake trial run) hopefully, we'll learn together. Still, this is most exciting, and fingers crossed I'll be able to try out a scaled down version over Christmas! I'm looking forward to the chance to make another full-scaled cake creation, and have already started gathering ideas for a practice run... 

Watch this space!

If you're interested, there are plenty more pictures of wedding cakes, decorations and pretty wedding things on my Pinterest board.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Apple Sauce

One of the perks of coming home for the weekend? Getting to use your Dad's DSLR. I must get me one of these. Check out the blur.

I made the long (and extremely perilous) journey back to Wales during my University's 'opportunities week' (I know right, what a joke) this weekend, and, after unpacking, my first thought was 'what can I make for the blog?' I feel bad for the lack of posts on here of late, but it is extremely hard to get round to making things here, when you have no cake tins, mixing bowls or flour. All pretty important for baking. Also when your kitchen looks like this:

Shield your eyes, Mum!

Honestly, I leave for THREE days and look what happens.

My parents have an apple tree growing at the cottage they inherited a few years ago, and, on one of their many visits up there to paint this half term, found time to collect some of the fallen fruit. Having already made about 50 jars of chutney and several bags of apple sauce for the freezer, my Mum and Grandma were getting a bit stumped. That's where I came in. More than happy to spend a morning up to my elbows in apple peelings, I jumped at the chance to create something for you, dear readers.

I think I'm in love with this camera...
Apple sauce is great. You can keep it chunky and use it in crumbles or pies, or you can make it smooth and serve it with your dinner. It's also delicious in a any form with ice cream. It freezes brilliantly and will last a while in the fridge. You can spike it with any number of flavours: cinnamon, vanilla, blackberry, to name a few.
Yup, it's love.
It's also ridiculously simple to make, just a little time consuming. Just peel and core the apples, chop them up, and simmer with a splash of water, some sugar and a little lemon juice. Leave to soften for 10-15 minutes and you'll have a few bags of crumble filling ready at a moment's notice!

I will say though that the quantity of apple you use can be misleading. I have no idea the weight of apples that I used but it was about this many:

It may look like a lot, but all of those apples made one crumble and two small bags of filling. So I'd recommend getting more than you think you need, just in case. I also have no idea what kind of apples these were, as I said they were from a tree in the back garden of the cottage. I would liken them to granny smith maybe? Or definitely cooking apples will give you the same result. Go for something that will go soft pretty quickly when you cook it. Not eating apples, they rarely work in crumbles because they don't soften as well. Trust me.

Measurements for this recipe are, as always, quite vague. Amounts of water and sugar will vary depending on your personal taste and how thick you want your apple sauce to be. Be warned though that the apples will release a surprising amount of moisture when they are cooked, so I'd say add less water to start them softening than you think you need (the water is to help the apples cook and to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan).

Apple Sauce

A bag of apples suitable for cooking, such as granny smith
3-5 heaped tbsp sugar
1/2-1 mug of cold water
squeeze of lemon juice

1. Peel and core all of your apples. Do this all in one go. You'll probably get fed up halfway through but you'll regret it if you don't finish them all, you'll be trying to stir, sweeten and peel all at the same time and the apples won't cook evenly if you add some later.
2. Chop the apples into chunks. Leave some pieces in cubes, some in slices, this means you'll get a lovely smooth sauce with some larger pieces in your crumble. If you're making a sauce, slice the apples thinner.
3. Add the apples to the pan with the lemon juice, sugar (to taste, go easy, you can always add more later), and water. Start off adding about half a mug, again, you can always add more later if the apples start to stick. Remember the apples will release a lot of liquid themselves.
4. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn't stick. Add more sugar to taste, and more water if necessary.
5. Your sauce is done when the chunks of apple are tender and a knife will go through them easily. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.

Use in crumbles, portion into bags and freeze or store in a jar/container in the fridge. Frozen apple sauce will keep well for about 12 months in the freezer. Defrost well before use.

Keep an eye out for a delicious apple cake coming soon, as well as a recipe for crumble topping!