I can’t work out if I’m late the blackberry party or if the blackberries are hella early this year. In my mind, I associate blackberries with Autumn. I’m almost certain I remember picking blackberries as a child after school, back when September was chilli and damp. I never associate these hedgerow gems with balmy, summer afternoon walks in the woods. Maybe it’s because blackberry crumble is such a comforting, autumnal treat. Maybe it’s just climate change….
Whenever we start to see the hedge laden with berries, we make sure we always have a Tupperware with us on our adventures. Little Stink isn’t such a big fan of blackberry picking, but she has a lot of enthusiasm when it comes to consuming the fruits. There’s something really pleasant and whimsical about gathering berries. It must be our primal instinct. It even compels my husband to have a go at baking ( this is a big deal, believe me!).
If you’ve been out picking blackberries and you’re wondering what to do with them, here is a really simple, faff-free recipe for what I like to call Hedgerow Galette. It’s basically a lazy Tart. Lazy because you don’t need to take the time to line a Tart case and chill it; faff-free because this dessert is oozing with rustic charm. I’ve used blackberries and elderberries in this because the trees were absolutely dripping in these tiny, often overlooked berries. They are not essential, neither are the blackberries. If you can’t get hold of any blackberries then raspberries would be just as lovely.
For the pastry…
- 150g salted butter
- 250g plain flour
- 50g fine Polenta
- 50g sugar
- 50g milk
For the creme patissiere
- 250g milk
- 1 egg
- 30g plain flour
- 50g sugar
- Dash of vanilla extract
For the filling
- 1 Apple, sliced thinly
- 200g berries, washed and dried
- 2 tsp cinnamon sugar (optional)
- Egg wash (optional)
- Make the pastry by rubbing the butter and flour together with your finger tips to create a breadcrumb consistency. Mix in the sugar and Polenta. Add the milk a little at a time until a dough forms. You may need more, you may need less. Once you have obtained a firm pastry, wrap it in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
- While the pastry is resting, make your creme patissiere by first putting the milk in a saucepan and heating on medium flame. Mix the egg, sugar, flour and vanilla into a paste in a bowl large enough to hold the milk. When the milk is just below boiling, carefully pour it into the egg mixture, stirring all the while. Next transfer this back into the pan and heat gently whilst whisking. As soon as the cream has thickened, remove it from the heat and place it in a clean bowl. Lay cling film over the top to stop it forming a crust. Leave to cool.
- When your pastry has rested, it is time to preheat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 5.
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour and roll out your pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Trim the pastry to be the same size and shape as your baking tray.
- Carefully transfer the pastry to the lined tray, then spread a generous layer of creme patissiere over it.
- Then goes on the fruit. You can put the fruit on however you like. I prefer to go with an artful scatter, but you could fan the apples or even make stripes or other patterns. Just make sure you leave a gap of about 2cm all around the edge of the pastry.
- Next you need to fold the 2cm of pastry from around the edge up and over the sides of the Tart. Press it down with you finger tips, then starting with the corners carefully use your thumb and forefinger to crimp the pastry.
- Egg wash the pastry and sprinkle the fruits with the cinnamon sugar.
- Bake for 30 minutes, turning half way through to ensure an even bake. The pastry should be golden and baked underneath.
- Leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of vanilla ice cream or clotted cream!
Tea Loaf, not to be confused with Tea Cake is a light and juicy fruit cake. The dried fruit is re-hydrated by being simmered in black tea, giving the cake a simultaneously rich and zingy flavour.
I must confess I actually hate fruit cake; I’m not really a fan of raisins and I personally really dislike the way dried fruit tastes when it’s been soaked for days and baked into a cake for an eternity in a slow oven. But my husband loves this kind of cake, so for anyone else who enjoys a light and fragrant fruit cake to nibble on over a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine, here is my recipe:
- 300g mixed dried fruit
- 225g water
- 4 tea bags (I prefer Earl Grey, but any black tea will do)
- The juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 100g of sugar
- 50g butter
- 1 egg
- 225g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease and line a 1lb Loaf tin.
- Place the water and tea bags in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the lemon juice and zest followed by the dry fruit. Simmer the whole mix for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Take out the tea bags and discard.
- Set the pan aside for a minimum of 15 minutes to cool. Whilst the mixture is cooling, the fruit will absorb the tea and lemon.
- In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then beat in the egg.
- Mix the fruit into the butter, sugar and egg.
- Next add the flour and baking powder and stir until everything is well combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of your oven for around 1 hr. When the cake is ready it will be dark and bronzed on top and a skewer should come out clean.
- Allow to cool for around 20 minutes before you take it out of the tin.
This cake is very moist and will keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you can keep your hands of it that is!
Pistachios, Cardomom and Rose Water are probably some of my favourite ingredients to bake with. This may have something to do with my love for middle eastern food. I find it very fitting then, that this cake is called a Love cake. The exact origins of this cake are unknown, and there are countless different recipes under this name. The main ingredients of this cake have been used in Iran and the area which used to be the Persian Empired for thousands of years, not only because they are delicious and fragrant, but also for their medicinal properties.
According to folklore, this cake was first baked as a romantic gesture for a prince. Quite appropriately then, it has been a very popular choice for weddings for a couple of years now. I even baked it myself for my best friends wedding!
For this bake, I’ve used a silicon mini cake pan. It gives really neat, rectangular cakes instead of the usual round muffin shape. The advantage of using a mini cake mould is that you don’t have to worry about portioning the cake before you serve. Also, everyone gets to enjoy the chewy, caramelised edge which forms whilst baking. The quantities on this recipe will yield approximately 18 mini cakes, but will happily fill an 8″ cake tin. I would not recommend trying to make this cake too deep, as the recipe is only 50% cake flour which means it has a really delicate crumb structure, and although delicious and light, is also prone to sinking.
- 200g Sugar
- 200g butter
- 150g pistachios (shells removed)
- 150g plain flour
- 5g baking powder
- 1 tbsp rose water
- 3 eggs
- 5 Cardomom pods
- 100g white chocolate
- 50g double cream
- Dried rose petals to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
- Grease your silicone muffin pan with a little butter and dust with flour.
- Place your pistachios and Cardomom pods in a food processor and blitz as finely as you can. Add to this the flour and baking powder and pulse until combined.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a large mix no bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the rosewater.
- Beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
- Fill each cell of the muffin pan with the batter until it is 2/3 full.
- Bake on the middle tray of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning the tray around after 15 minutes to ensure even colouring. When baked, the cakes should be lightly golden on top and springy. To check for raw batter, insert a clean metal skewer into the middle.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove. Sprinkle the cakes with a little extra rose water if you really want to intensify the floral scent.
- While the cakes cool, make your ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the white chocolate. Stir until all the lumps have melted. Set aside to cool to a spreadable temperature.
- When the ganache is the right consistency and the cakes have cooled, spread a little chocolate over the top of each cake and top with rose petals, chopped pistachios and any other pretty additions you have in your kitchen. I’ve used freeze dried raspberry pieces.
It is a well known fact that nobody can say no to an iced bun. They’re nothing special, but the sweet simplicity of an iced bun is irresistible. Maybe it’s the way that the soft, enriched white bun with its layer of sweet icing is quite simply ‘enough’. Enough softness, enough chewiness, enough sugary sweetness. And ‘enough’ is all anyone really wants from life, isn’t it?
Maybe it’s their magical powers of taking us back to our childhood. Every time I make iced buns they are greeted with delighted cries of “I haven’t had these since I was a kid”. I know I certainly have many fond memories of eating iced buns as a child. They remind me of family picnics, of Sunday afternoons and of squashing around my grandmas kitchen table, elbow to elbow with my cousins.
- 325g strong white flour
- 150g warm milk
- 40g butter
- 40g caster sugar
- 5g salt
- 10g fresh yeast
- 1 egg
- 200g icing sugar
- Egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt and a dash of milk)
- To make your dough, place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg and butter. Dissolve the yeast into the warm milk and pour in to the bowl. Mix for approximately 7 minutes, until a soft and elastic dough has formed. This dough will feel a little sticky.
- Leave to prove in a warm place for a couple of hours. Sweet doughs will often take a little longer to prove because of the extra fat, but just be patient.
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Divide your dough into equal portions. I scale mine to 50g as I prefer a daintier bun, but if you like a larger bun weigh out larger portions.
- Using your hand and as little flour as possible, roll each portion of dough into a ball. Then roll each ball into a sausage shape.
- Place the shaped dough on a lined baking tray. They need to be about 1.5cm away from each other to ensure they batch. This simply means that they touch at the sides whilst they bake. It means you get soft fluffy edges and it also encourages the buns to be taller.
- Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark 6.
- Before you bake the buns, give them an egg wash to make sure they come out shiny and golden.
- Bake the buns for 10-15 minutes. They should be well risen and golden in colour.
- Whilst the buns are in the oven, make the icing by adding water a drop at a time to icing sugar. It needs to be quite thick and spreadable.
- Allow the buns to cool,completely before icing them.
If you follow me on Facebook or instgram you’ll have seen that last week I was on holiday with my family in beautiful Marrakech. We spent our time lounging on rooftops and mooching around the souks in the thirty degree heat. Coming back to th UK to find that winter has finally arrived was certainly a shock.
In Marrakech we saw orange trees everywhere and the smell from the many orange juice vendors in Jmaa el Fnaa square is divine. We wandered around the labyrinth of alleyways in the Medina and got pleasantly lost, stumbling across shops selling exotic treasures. I particularly loved the spice souks; the heady smell of rich spices piled high and shaped into cones and the sight of shops laden with dried chillies and things I couldn’t even identify was magnificent.
This Spiced orange cake is inspired by the flavours that remind me of Marrakech. It’s gluten free, using Polenta and Almond, and can easily be made dairy free by substituting the butter for a soya based margarine. As usual, I’ve used whole spices and ground them myself to make sure they are as fresh and fragrant as possible. If you’re not a fan of the spices I’ve used, leave them out or substitute them for whichever spices you prefer. I’ve chosen to ice this cake with an intense orange icing, but it’s sweet and moist enough to be simply dusted with icing sugar. It is also really delicious served warm from the oven, with mascarpone or ice cream.
- 200g butter, melted and cooled
- 200g fine Polenta
- 100g ground almonds
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 7g gluten free baking powder
- The zest of one orange
- 1 star anise, 3 cloves, the seeds of 5 Cardomom pods, a small piece of ginger and a small piece of cinnamon, all finely ground.
For the syrup:
- The juice of one orange
- 100g sugar
- 100g water
- 3 star anise, 3 cloves and a small piece of cinnamon, left whole.
For the icing:
- 200g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- Zest of half and orange
- Juice of half an orange
- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3. Grease and line an 8″ cake tin.
- Mix together the butter, sugar, spice and zest.
- Add the eggs and whisk well.
- To this, add the Polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 mins. The cake will feel springy when it is baked, and a skewer will come out clean.
- Whilst the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid into a syrup. Leave to cool with the whole spices infusing. This will intensify the flavour.
- When the cake is baked, poke several holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the syrup. If you are using a loose bottomed tin be sure to place the cake on a tray or plate so that should any syrup escape out of the bottom it doesn’t make a sticky mess all over your kitchen.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, the gently remove and place on a serving plate. Do not place on a wire rack as this will allow all of the syrup to escape. Because there is no gluten in this cake, it is very delicate so move as carefully as you can and as little as possible.
- If you are icing the cake, leave to cool completely.
- To make the icing, place the icing sugar, honey and zest in a bowl. Add the orange juice a little at a time, mixing as you go. The icing should have a thick but still gloopy consistency.
- When the cake is cool, carefully spoon the icing over the cake and use the back of a clean spoon to smooth it out. This cake is very delicate, so be careful not to tear up the top.
Anyone who has shopped in a British supermarket will know that it is nigh on impossible to buy ripe and ready to eat stoned fruit. We get these ‘ripen at home’ punnets of lies which, after languishing in the fruit bowl for a few days, seem to magically go from rock solid to growing their own civilisation in the blink of an eye.
I bought some plums the other day, took them home and nestled them in amongst my bananas. A week later, there was no sign of ripeness, so I decided to bake them into a cake. The sourness of the underripe plums is actually perfect in this cake and lifts the flavour of the spices wonderfully. I like this still warm from the oven, with a hearty dollop of clotted cream.
- 200g butter, melted and cooled.
- 200g sugar
- 150g ground almonds
- 150g self raising flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 3 Cardomom pods, seeds removed and crushed
- 8 medium plums, halved and pitted
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees C
- Mix the sugar into the melted butter, along with the spices. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
- Whisk in the eggs, followed by the flour and ground almonds.
- Pour into the cake pan.
- Arrange the plums on the batter, pushing them down a little. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if you have any to hand.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springy.
Now I know you’re probably thinking: is this a cake recipe? Because it sounds more like a roast chicken. But just trust me ok?
Lemon, Olive Oil and Thyme are such good buddies. They have everything: sweet, sour, savoury and bitter. The use of oil in place of butter in the cake batter is great because it adds moisture to the cake, which in turn increases its shelf life. It also gives the cake a really nice, light texture. I’ve used extra virgin olive oil for a more distinct flavour, but if this sounds a bit far out for you, just use light olive oil or even vegetable oil. I love the fragrant Thyme in this recipe, bringing a rather grown up, more complex flavour to what is essentially just a Lemon Drizzle cake. I only had common garden thyme, but if you’ve got lemon thyme growing in your garden then even better!
Lemon and Olive Oil Cake with Thyme
- 100g ground almonds
- 200g self raising flour
- 200g Olive oil
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 large free range eggs
- Zest of 2 lemons
For the syrup:
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 100g water
- 150g sugar
- Handful of fresh thyme
For the Icing:
Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 4/ 160 degrees c
Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin
- Place all of your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir together to combine.
- Add the olive oil, eggs and lemon zest and mix well.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking tin.
- Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden on top and springy. Insert a knife or skewer to check if you’re not sure.
- While the cake is baking, make your syrup. Place the lemon juice, water and caster sugar into a sauce pan. Heat gently and stir to dissolve the sugar and add the fresh thyme (stalks and all).
- Continue heating until the syrup reaches 110 degrees c (it should have reduced a little and gone syrupy….obviously).
- When the cake comes out of the oven, remove from its tin and place on a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Use a tooth pick to pierce several holes in the top of the cake.
- Spoon over approximately 3/4 of your syrup.
- To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and add your reserved syrup a teaspoon at a time, until the icing is smooth. It should be thick enough to drizzle elegantly down the sides of your cake, but not so runny that it decorates your floor. Add some minced thyme leaves for extra flavour.
- When the cake is completely cool, place on your serving plate and pour the icing straight down the middle. You may not need all of it. Decorate your cake with lemon zest, flaked almonds, sprigs of thyme and edible flowers.
- Enjoy in the garden on a sunny afternoon with Earl Grey tea.