Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Balancing Act

Choose-your-Fruit and Almond Tray-bake: cuts into 16-24 slices
This can be made using blackberries, raspberries, plums, cherries, chopped peaches, pineapple, mango, even apples. A doddle to make as the basic mix is thrown into a food processor (or mixed by hand) and very little else to do.
9 oz (259g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
8 oz (200g) butter, diced
10 oz (280g) gran. sugar
2 oz (50g) dessicated coconut
2 eggs
12 oz -1lb (350-450g) fresh fruit of your choice
Put the flour, gr.almonds, sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz until coarse crumbs. Remove 3 rounded tblsp of the mix and add this to the dess. coconut. Set aside. Add the eggs to the remaining mixture in the processor and give a quick whizz (or mix with a wooden spoon). The mixture does not need to be smooth. Spread this mixture over the base of a greased oblong cake tin 12"x 7"x 1" (31x17x3cm) or thereabouts, then scatter half the fruit over the top. Sprinkle with the coconut mixture and bake for 40 mins at 180C, 350F, gas4 then lightly press remaining fruit into the cake and bake for a further 15 minutes. Cool in the tin and cut into slices. Will keep up to 3 days in the fridge.

Blackberry and Apple Tray-bake: serves 8
6 oz (175g) butter
10 oz (300g) plain flour
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
284ml carton whipping cream
3 eggs
1lb 12oz (800g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, sliced
10 oz (300g) blackberries
Put the butter and cream into a pan and heat until the butter has melted, bring to the boil then remove from heat and set aside. Whisk together the sugar and eggs until they turn pale and thicken, this takes from 3 - 5 minutes. Then whisk this into the cream mixture and fold in the sifted flour until smooth. Pour this batter into a greased 12" x8" (30x20cm) tin (a roasting tin is ideal). Arrange the apple slices on top and cover with the blackberries. Bake for an hour or slightly less, at 200C, 400F, gas 6. When cooked the mixture will have shrunk from the sides of the tin. Remove from oven, cool in the tin and cut into squares. Keeps up to three days in the fridge.

The following recipe was taken, some years ago, from an American magazine. Useful because it uses oil (not butter or marg), and contains no eggs. It can either be made as a tray-bake or spooned into muffin cases. As with most muffin recipes, you can make up the dry mix in one bowl and put the wet ingredients into a jug, let them stand overnight and then combine the next day. Thus saving time when it matters, and also means the oven can be used when heated for something else. As always with American recipes cup measurements are used 1 cup being the equivalent of 8 fl.oz (225ml). Easy to measure out if you use a Pyrex measuring jug marked with fl.oz. or ml.
No-egg Orange Cocoa Cake: makes 9 servings
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 tsp bicarb. soda
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semi- or skimmed milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sunflower oil
icing sugar for sifting
Mix together the dry ingredients (includes the orange zest but not the icing sugar). Put the wet ingredients (the milk, orange juice and oil) into a jug. When ready to make, mix the two lots together until well blended. Pour into a greased 8"x 8"x 2" (20x20x5cm) cake tin (or could use a 9" (23cm) round tin. Alternatively spoon into 12 muffin tins filling the paper cases 2/3rds full. Bake at 190C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 - 35 minutes (slightly less for muffins). Cool on a wire rack. Sift with icing sugar.

The Australians also use cup measurements in their recipes and I am liking this measuring-by-volume method more and more as it seems much easier than the imperial or metric. I was reminded of this cake when watching a recent TV programme (think it was 'Neighbours'), so dragged out my huge Australian cookbook, sent to me by my friend in Oz (the postage alone must have cost more than the book) in which, of course, appears the following recipe:

for the cake:
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup self-raising flour
pinch salt
1 1/2oz (45g) butter, melted
3 tblsp boiling water
for the icing:
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tblsp cocoa
1 oz (30g) butter, melted
4 tblsp boiling water
2 cups dessicated coconut
To make the cake beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Sift flour and salt and fold in, then mix together the melted butter and boiling water and quickly fold into the batter mixture.
Pour into a greased and floured 11" x 7" (28" x18") lamington tin (I think this has fairly deep sides) and bake in a hot oven 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 mins. or until cooked through. Cool on a wire rack and cut into squares. Note: this is best left for a day before cutting.
To make the icing sift together the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, and add the melted butter and boiling water and mix until smooth. Then stand the bowl in a pan of very hot water. Put the coconut into a shallow dish. Using two forks, dip each square of cake into the hot chocolate, letting the drips fall off, then into the coconut, turn until coated on all sides. Leave in a cool place for icing to firm up.
Tip: If a tin is not deep enough, improvise by lining a shallower tin with two sheets of foil large enough to come well up the sides of a shallow tin to the height you want, fold over the top to make it even firmer, then grease and flour in the normal way. To make really firm sides, tuck in foil-lined pieces of cardboard between foil and sides of tin.

Two more interesting recipes in that you can play around with them adding different ingredients if you so wish.

Oat and Fruit Cookies: makes 18
6 oz (175g) butter
6 oz (175g) gran. sugar
4 oz (100g) golden syrup
3 oz (85g) plain flour
1/2 tsp. bicarb. soda
9 oz (250g) porridge oats
1 tsp cinnamon
4 oz (100g) each no-soak dried apricots and stem ginger
75g pack dried cherries
2 tblsp boiling water
1 egg, beaten
Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Sift together the flour, bicarb. and cinnamon, and add to the pan together with the oats. Chop the dried fruits and ginger and stir these into the mixture. Fold in the water, and finally stir in the egg. Leave to cool. Using wet hand, rolls the mixture into 18 balls then lay these, well spaced apart on to as many parchment lined baking sheets as will take them. Flatten with a knife, fork or the ball of your hand to biscuit shape - they will spread. If aiming for a softer chewy biscuit, bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15-20 minutes until golden. To make crisper biscuits, reduce heat to 160, 325, gas 3 and bake for 5 - 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool on their trays for five minutes before lifting onto a cake airer. Store in an airtight tin (separate layers with parchment to prevent sticking together) and they will keep for up to a week.
Variations: use different dried fruits, add nuts, use different sugars, treacle instead of syrup, include orange zest. Make each batch different and then choose your favourite.
Tip: Instead of using fresh parchment each time you bake, buy some 'magic carpet' ( it comes in a roll which can be cut to size). This can be used many, many times (I have used the same ones for years) and all it needs is to be wiped down after each use.

Fruity Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf
12 oz (350g) plain flour
good pinch salt
1/2 tsp bicarb. soda
4 0z (100g) dried fruit (sultanas etc)
1/2 pint (300ml) buttermilk*
Sift together the flour, salt and bicarb into a bowl. Add the dried fruits. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk mixing lightly and quickly with a fork to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a ball, handling as little as possible gives a lighter result. Place dough on a well-floured (but not greased) baking sheet and press lightly to form an 8" (20cm) round. Score the top across top to bottom side to side and then in between to make 8 wedges, and bake for 30-35 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 or until risen and golden. When baked, wrap in a clean towel to keep the crust soft. Although best eaten warm the day it is made, it is very good toasted on the following day.
Variations: omit the fruit and have just a plain loaf. Make a brown loaf by using half plain white flour and half wholemeal flour. Instead of the fruit use the same quantity of chopped nuts to either the white or the brown loaf.
* Buttermilk is traditional when making soda bread, but a good substitute is skimmed milk.