Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Urban foraging leads directly to tasty birthday cake

I made this cake twice this week, one for my birthday, and the other to take to visit our Vet Friends to see their new Vet Grub (he's three months old but we were all variously busy before now). Plus both Junior Sis and Junior Bro picked up a clutch of good grades in their AS-levels and GCSEs in the last week, so lots of reasons to make and eat this cake. It was borne from a foraging trip with Lauren last weekend, which resulted in lots of wild urban plums, some sloes (sitting in the freezer to be made into sloe gin later on), and some elderberries. I am always worried about mistaking edibles for something horribly poisonous, but Lauren used to want to be a herbologist (I didn't even know that existed outside Harry Potter and am very taken with it), so I felt safe in her hands.

I found the recipe for this cake while looking for alcoholic recipes that used plums. It had great reviews, and hit a happy nerve as my great-grandmother used to make a German plum cake which Munchkin Granny remembers from her youth. It was very easy and I doubled the quantities to make both cakes at the same time. It turned out to be a gloriously moist and fruity cake - not too sweet (there isn't too much sugar in it, and just an extra dusting with some cinnamon on the top). It wasn't the prettiest but it got good feedback in the pub on my birthday, and from Vet Dad the next day. Definitely a keeper.

Festival of Quilts booty - brown spotty fabric to make this dress (thanks, Roisin!); apple fabric to make a bag/apron; bags of felt to make the cute bright cushion cover kit - birthday present from Doc Eco Sis (thanks Doc Eco!); assorted fat quarters for unspecified quilting projects

On my actual birthday I went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC with Vicki and Doc Eco Sis. We had a really good day, and I did come away with a bit of a stash of goodies. In the evening we went to the cake-welcoming pub with friends and had more good times :)

Giant crochet granny square and small granny square cushion cover (made in Vancouver), sitting with birthday present knitting books from Vet Friends (thank you!)

And on the goodies front, here are a couple of other craft projects I've been finishing off recently.

Appliqued apron - it used to be a pinafore dress I never wore - recognise the apple from the fabric stash above??

Granny star getting stamp of approval from a passing pook

Plum cake recipe here (and they have some good fruity alcohol recipes there too)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Raspberry stress meets banana stress - and has a happy ending

I made this cake about a week after the huge all you can pick raspberry trip, and I don't mind admitting that they were beginning to weigh on my mind a bit. I even found myself thinking about what to do with raspberries when I woke up in the night, and over-exposure was even slowing my rate of snacking off them straight from the fridge. To make matters worse, there was a whole bunch of bananas beginning to go over-ripe in the fruit bowl. To avoid a complete head explosion, I searched for some recipes which could use both, and which could then be stashed out of sight in the freezer. This was the only one I photographed but the other one may yet get a feature when I can next face a raspberry muffin.

I found the recipe on, of all places, a mums forum, which isn't somewhere I usually hang out. I made a few tweaks to cut down on the refined sugar - subbing fruit sugar instead, and using coconut oil instead of butter. I also upped the ante with the berries - this was no time to start getting stingy. The original recipe was for muffins, but I made it as a loaf and it worked out really well. The banana flavour was nice and strong, and the berries nice and tart. It also defrosted well when I took it out a few days later for a visit from Kiwi Sis (and a lovely visit it was too :) ). After my double baking session I crammed all of the rest of the berries into the freezer on various cookie trays and then bagged them up (they stay separate rather than form a huge clump that way). I'm glad they won't be wasted, and this way I can get my berry mojo back and appreciate them properly again. In a few months time, maybe.

Banana and raspberry loaf (adapted from askamum)
120g plain white flour
80g plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp fruit sugar
150g raspberries
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g melted coconut oil
100ml soya milk
1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line and grease a loaf tin.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and raspberries.

Beat together the egg, vanilla, coconut oil and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients with the mashed banana, and stir briefly, to combine. THe mixture will be quite lumpy, but there shouldn't be any unmixed flour. Spoon into the tin.

Bake for about 40 minutes, covering after 25 if the top is starting to darken too much. It should be risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Happy Raspbirthday!

Kate made me laugh with a comment on my last post - that she has to read my blog at lunchtime to avoid drooling on the keyboard :) Well, I hope this one has the same effect as it concerns the biscuits I made her for her birthday last week. This took place during my raspberry glut, but it also gave me the opportunity to try out a recipe for some really pretty little pink treats I'd cut out from an old copy of Prima magazine. They're little butter biscuits sandwiched together with a creamy, white chocolatey, raspberry filling. I didn't manage to get too good a photo of them but they did look very dainty tied up in a little bag. I halved the recipe but made the whole batch of filling, since that's where the raspberries came in. I used some of the rest to ice some chocolate cupcakes - also birthday presents for a certain little Birthday Buddy and his brother, Almost Birthday Buddy, whom I saw in Cambridge last weekend. They were much appreciated. And I had a lovely day with my old friends Tracy and Julie, too :)

Raspberry creams (from Prima magazine)
[full quantity - makes 16]

75g butter, softened
125g icing sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

125g raspberries
1 tsp sugar
5 Tbsp double cream. whipped
150g white chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Cream together butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla, then mix in flour, baking powder and pinch salt until smooth. Between two pieces of clear film, roll out to £1 coin thick. Chill for 1 hour [I chilled it in a ball and rolled it out afterwards].

2. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut chilled dough into rounds with a 4cm cookie cutter and place on baking tray 5cm apart [cookies don't spread much]. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until very pale gold Cool on baking sheet for 5 mins, then transfer to rack to cool.

3. Blend berries and sugar, then sieve to remove seeds. Whip cream and raspberry juice into white chocolate. Chill for 1 hour. Sandwich cooled biscuits together with berry filling [the filling in the magazine picture was *much* pinker than mine - either use more berries or add a few drops of pink food colouring if you want it really pink]

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A very English flapjack

I interrupt raspberry transmission with another blog post for the Norse Goddess. It turned out when we were visiting in Vancouver that she hadn't come across a flapjack before - or not an English type one anyway. So in the spirit of sharing culture, I hastened to make some so I could share the recipe.

Yes, I am pretending I've made M&S flapjack bites. What of it?

I've made flapjacks several times recently but have never actually blogged about them. Plus I've never made the same recipe twice and so don't have a particular favourite. Even Marcus Wareing's (which I mentioned in passing as a gamers' treat) was felt to be 'as good as another flapjack but not outstanding' by my Scientist Connoisseur of All Things Butter and Syrupy. He's quite strict in his requirements for flapjack, which actually, are quite similar to his requirements for trifle: keep it simple. I found a good and simple recipe on the website of Lyle's Golden Syrup - (so many good words) - makers of sugar and syrup, and felt there was no better a place to start my search for the latest offering for the Gamers.

Flapjack, is essentially, melted butter, sugar and golden syrup with oats stirred into it, and baked. You can see why it's a favourite really, can't you? In America, however (as I learnt here) it is a sweet flatbread cooked on a griddle. Madness. It's no wonder the Norse Goddess was confused. The smell of all that lovely golden meltingness does smell pretty alluring even for someone like me who's not so fussed about eating the finished product. This recipe evidently got its proportions just right as the flapjacks were a hit and I am happy to make it my go-to fave. Of course you can add all sorts of extras - dried fruit, seeds, nuts, chocolate all work, and there are approximately a squillion other recipes on the web featuring other goodies. But not if you're eating it in this house, ok?

Lyle's Golden Syrup recipe here