Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Great British Bakeoff

I watched the bake off this evening and, I'm afraid that I predicted that Becca would go. It's a pity as she has worked so hard and I think that what she has made has been terrific.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Plums and apples the flavours of autumn

In recent years I feel that we have lost sight of the seasons. The supermarkets bring us whatever fruit or vegetables that we want at any time of the year. Strawberries at Christmas being a good example of what I mean.  So, for this post I want to cook exactly what's in season and today that is apples and plums. The apples were given to my by a dear friend and the plums come from our garden in Italy. We picked them ourselves after waiting eagerly for them to ripen up to our satisfaction.

I decided to make small tartlets as I can contain myself to one rather than scoffing a large piece of a tart. I also wanted them to look pretty. Not too sure that I achieved that though. They certainly look homemade.

I tend not to weigh out too much when it comes to the filling as I just make use of what I have on hand.  If I make too much, I freeze it until I can use it up in a different way.

  1. Make the filling by peeling, quartering and cubing some apples. I used Bramleys.
  2. Remove the stones from an equal weight of plums and mix in to the apples. Add enough sugar to sweeten to your taste. I like mine sharp so I don't add too much. You can always taste after they are cooked and add more.
  3. I cook mine in the microwave for as long as it takes to soften the fruit. All microwave ovens will differ.
  4. Cool the mixture before using it to fill the pastry shapes.


200g plain flour
120g butter
60g sugar
1 egg

  1. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar.
  2. Add the egg and bring the mixture together into a ball of dough. If there is not enough liquid try adding a small spoonful of water at a time until the ball of dough forms.
  3. Put the dough into the fridge to firm up. About 30mins should be enough.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

On a floured surface roll out the pastry until it is about 3mm thick. Cut into rounds big enough to fill small muffin tins. Line the tins with the pastry.
Fill the moulds with enough of the apple and plum filling to just below the top of the moulds.
Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into strips. decorate the tops of the tartlets with the pastry.
Cook in a preheated oven until well browned.
Wait until the tartlettes have cooled a little before turning out.

Now for some custard or should it be cream?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Kugelhopf or Gugelhupf call it what you will.

Two ways of spelling one cake. Well it all depends on where you live in the world. So you can go with whichever name you choose. When it's spoken I believe that the pronunciation is almost the same.

This piece of deliciousness is a rich yeast leven bread although you could be forgiven for thinking it a cake. I first saw them in the Alsace in France and I just knew that I had to make one or eventually two or three. The first hurdle was getting the right pan. They are traditionally baked in a terracotta mould that is glazed on the inside so that the bread does not stick. However, you know me, I prefer to use silicone and this year when I was in a market in Borgo Val di Taro, I saw just what I was after and snapped it up straight away.

This recipe that was given to me by a friend fits the shape perfectly and it has the benefit of being really, really easy. What more could you ask for?

So let's get cooking

20g fresh yeast or 1 pack of dried
500g Plain Flour
8 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
80g Sugar 
125ml milk
125g Dried apricots. I used the semi dry variety.
 50g Sultanas
3 Eggs
grated rind of half a lemon
a pinch of salt
50g Flaked or whole almonds
dusting sugar to finish

  1. Warm the milk to body heat and crumble in the yeast with a spoonful of sugar. Cover and leave somewhere warm to rise for about 10mins. If I am sure that the yeast is active I frequently miss out this step and carry straight on as soon as the yeast has dissolved. 
  2. Beat the eggs with the sugar to break them up and mix into the yeast mixture. You are not aiming for a foam here, just mix enough to disperse the egg mixture.
  3. In a large bowl put the flour, lemon rind, remaining sugar, oil and salt. Pour over the milk mixture and mix really well to incorporate everything. This is not really kneading as the mixture is too soft, but you will need to beat it until it is smooth.
  4.  Cover the mix and leave it to rise somewhere warm for about 45mins to 1 hour. It should at least double in size.
  5. Cut the apricots into smallish cubes, about 1 cm is good. Pour some boiling water over the sultanas and leave to cool. Strain. The sultanas should have plumped up by now.
  6. Add to them both to the yeast mix along with 30 g of the almonds.
  7. Butter the gugelhupf mould well. Yes even if it is a silicone one. sprinkle with the remaining flaked almonds. Distribute the mixture into the mould. Cover and leave to rise for at least 30 mins. 
  8. About 10 minutes before the gugelhupf is to go into the oven turn it on to 200 degrees C. Cook for about 45 mins. Cover with greaseproof paper if it is getting too brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 mins. Then turn out onto a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar. If you can get it high humidity sugar is best as it remains white. Icing sugar often disappears into the cake.
Eat for breakfast with some butter and apricot jam.

Mushroom Time

The wonderful porcini have finally made a decent appearance. They have been scarce of well hidden up till now but hubby came home with a good haul on Sunday and boy was I pleased.

Now, picking the mushrooms is only the first step. Drying them is equally important as, if you don't do it, they will decay and turn to mush. Not good.

Recipe suggestions:

Sugo con Fungi Porcini