Saturday, 11 October 2014

Catching up with Apples, Plums...& Ernest!

 Such a busy few weeks, so apologies for the lack of posts...but it's lovely to have so much to do! October now, and Autumn is really here. This afternoon, I baked this Apple Cinnamon Shortcake. It's perfect for now. Warm from the oven...it looks deceptively plain....
 ...but when you cut into it, a cinnamon-y apple compote is revealed! Because it's fully enclosed by the shortcake, it doesn't ooze out...and the shortbread is light with a slight crunch on the top and sides.
 It's based on a recipe from one of my very favourite bakers, Dorie Greenspan , whose new book 'Baking Chez Moi' is out very soon and already on pre-order! Her huge and beautiful tome 'Baking, From my Home to Yours' is a constant source of inspiration and comfort...she thinks like me (and we have the same haircut, which is entirely coincidental but somewhat reinforces my secret belief that we are kindred spirits!)
 I used my all-time favourite apple, the Egremont Russet for the recipe...because it's so British and so in season right now! Make the compote by coring and thinly slicing around 3 medium apples...no need to peel (yay!) and simmering gently with a tbsp or two of water, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a tbsp of brown sugar until they are a thick puree, although with a few lumps of apple still visible..not too smooth!

Set aside to cool a little. Then...get baking!

Cinnamon Apple Shortcake - with love to Dorie Greenspan !

200g/ 13 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g + 2tsp / 1 cup + 2 tsp light soft brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 extra egg yolk
100g/ 1/2 cup polenta/cornmeal
300g/ 2 cups plain/all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180c/350f
Grease & line a 23cm/10" round loose-bottomed or spring form tin with baking parchment

In a stand mixer, using the beater attachment, cream the butter and larger amount of sugar until pale. Add the whole egg and yolk & beat well. Scrape down the bowl, then add in all the remaining dry ingredients (still reserving the 2 extra tsp sugar, though!) Mix until just combined. The dough will be very soft. Roughly divide into two halves and press the first half lightly into the base of the prepared tin - it's easiest with clean fingers. Try and get it as even as you can, and push the dough a little way up the sides of the tin too, if you can (this just helps to really enclose the apple filling.)
Now spread the compote over the base - I used the back of a spoon for this - trying to leave about 2cm/ 1/2" space all around the edge. On a lightly floured board, use your fingers again to start pushing the remaining dough into a rough circle. Try and get it so that it looks about right for the tin size (it will be easy to adjust later) and then carefully lift it and place over the layer of compote. Pat into shape, making sure that the apple is completely covered...you can even 'tuck it in' a little if you have room! Brush the top with a little water and scatter over the saved 2 tsp brown sugar. Bake for a total of around 40 minutes - I rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even browning. It will be golden brown and firm on top when cooked through. Cool slightly on a wire rack in the tin, before releasing the sides. Lovely cold, of course...but really delightful still slightly warm. Perhaps with a big spoonful of creme fraiche or clotted cream on the side?! Why not...

Another thing I am in love with is this handmade jug-bowl. It came from a wonderful website created by a fabulous woman...Silvana de Soissons. The Foodie Bugle Shop is full of beautiful, practical food-related gifts...it also has a brilliant vintage section, perfect for one-of-a-kind presents. Every parcel comes wrapped beautifully and tied with real, old-fashioned string...the way all good parcels should be but never are!
 This gorgeous thing was made by Paul Jessop of Barrington Pottery in Somerset.
 I just love looking at it and holding it...it's very heavy & tactile. But I know that it will get a lot of use (eventually) too!

September's Farmer's Market was warm and sunny....which was brilliant after the rain & chill of August! People flocked to the stalls and I wasn't the only one to sell out. My good friend Charlie, one half of The Grumpy Bakers sold 79 loaves by 1pm....a brilliant day! Among my bestsellers were these...
 ...Fresh Plum & Almond Tarts....
 ...delicious! We will have more of these for sale in October.

And finally....I made a vat of Salted Caramel Sauce at the beginning of the week. The Sugar Moon kitchen gets through a lot of this. Litres, in fact!
 It's the main ingredient in our famous Salted Caramel Brownie, of course, which is rapidly becoming the bestselling flavour on the website ...threatening to overtake Double Chocolate any day now! Among their many fans are these two...
Christine Kavanagh and Nigel Havers who are currently starring - with a fab ensemble cast including Sian Philips, Cherie Lunghi & Martin Jarvis - in The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde's legendary play. This new production cleverly incorporates an extra 'play within a play'...adding even more interest and much laughter! We enjoyed a great night's entertainment earlier this week, as the company are currently touring. And, I'm thrilled to say that the company greatly enjoyed their Sugar Moon Brownies too! This photo, tweeted from the dressing room, will keep me smiling for many days to come....Encore!

Have a wonderful weekend!

NB: After 'sleeping on' the recipe overnight, I woke up thinking that using ground hazelnuts would be even more delicious! I think they could successfully substitute the polenta/cornmeal and would add a new depth to the cake. So I will be trying that next time! I have just eaten a slice, the 'day after'...and if anything it's even nicer than yesterday! The compote would work with many fruits...raspberries, plums, blueberries, persimmons....pears would be good, too! Experiment and let me know if you do!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Courgettes & Christmas...in September!

 This is a time of year for abundance...our tomatoes are ripening so fast, that I pick them twice a day...
I have given many away, but they keep coming! 4 types this year...marmandes, plums, golden cherry & little grape ones, like mini red lightbulbs...so sweet, we eat them straight from the vine. A neighbour has the same 'problem' with courgettes...too many ripening at once to be able to use them quickly enough! So we did a swap...and after using some in conventional recipes, I thought I would bake a courgette cake. After all, we use carrots & beetroot quite routinely in baking nowadays, so why not? I turned for the recipe to an old friend...
 ..as you can see, my copy of Nigella's brilliant book has been extremely well-used! Her version of the cake is baked in round layers and has a lime curd filling and cream cheese frosting...but I wanted a plainer cake, a loaf cake to slice for everyday tea...so a little adaptation went on (as always!) I also added lemon zest and a lemon syrup glaze to finish (I almost forgot to say that made this way it is also dairy free if that's important to you!)...so here is the recipe for a

Sugar Moon via Nigella Courgette Cake"

2 medium courgettes (about 250g) grated - but not peeled
2 large free-range eggs
125ml sunflower oil
150g caster sugar + 1 tbsp extra for the lemon syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract - I use pure vanilla powder from Ndali
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp each baking powder & bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
zest & juice of 1 unwaxed lemon

Line a 2lb/1kg loaf tin with baking parchment
Preheat oven to 180c/350f

First place the grated courgette in a colander to drain off any excess water...(for best results, grate them by hand on the coarse side of a regular box grater)


 In a large bowl, place the oil, 150g sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest and mix well together - I do this in my stand mixer using the beater attachment...
 Next measure the remaining dry ingredients...
 ...and add to the liquid...
 ..mixing until well combined...
 ..it will be quite thick and glossy. Now mix in the grated courgette - I use my silicone spatula because it gets right down to the bottom of the bowl...
 ...and scrape into the prepared loaf pan.
 Bake for about 45mins - 1 hour...this depends on your oven, but it should be well-risen, golden brown and spring back in the middle when pressed gently with a finger...
 Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Make a syrup by gently heating the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of sugar and brush over the surface of the warm cake to glaze...

 Leave to cool completely before slicing...
 ..it is gorgeous inside, with emerald flecks...very light and moist. It won't keep for too long because of the fresh courgette, but definitely for a couple of days if well wrapped and airtight. Or you can freeze it for up to a month...
ENJOY!!
We have also started baking Christmas cakes! These are really popular on the farmer's market stall, where some are sold undecorated to be passed off as home-made (and why not?!) and others will be glittered and glazed and gilded...
 I started off by baking the really rich, alcoholic cakes as these have the best keeping qualities..
 French brandy, Jamaican rum and Portuguese port goes into these babies...the fruit is soaked in all three for a whole week first....then they are 'fed' with yet more rum & brandy after baking...before being double wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place for the next 3 months. I will unwrap and feed them with alcohol a few more times. So they are really quite special!
There will be other versions too...some with no alcohol at all...but these smell absolutely divine and started me thinking about more Christmas baking. But then I looked out at the warm, golden September afternoon...and resolved to forget about it for just a few more weeks!

I hope you will try the courgette cake...and if you bake anything from the Sugar Moon Blog, we'd love to hear how it turns out! It was great to get your views and comments on the blueberry brownies and other flavours...Have a great week...and if you would like to try some of our remarkable brownies, then do visit our website here!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Blueberry brownies...and a question...with a prize!

 September is a week old already...and here at Sugar Moon we're experimenting with some new brownie flavours and combinations. One of our customers, and fellow blogger , Guillaume suggested we try fresh blueberries...
 ...so we did! There are dried sour cherries in there too, for extra flavour...
 and milk chocolate chips on top, as well as milk & white chocolate chunks inside...
 ...the colour combinations are quite beautiful, I think....
 ...and the tray is currently cooling on the rack before being chilled overnight prior to cutting...
I think this will be a very 'juicy' brownie - and, of course, I'm really hoping it will be delicious.

Now, for a disclosure and a question. My confession is that I'm not terribly fond of 'wacky flavoured' brownies. Some I have seen for sale elsewhere seem to contain everything but the kitchen sink! I've seen Tiramisu, Black Forest, Ginger, Strawberries & Cream, Carrot Cake....in brownie form. I love anything nutty - I think every nut just goes beautifully with chocolate...and strong, single flavour notes - like Espresso or our bestselling Salted Caramel. But we don't only bake brownies for ourselves! So my question is...what are your views on this (if you have any?!) and what is your favourite brownie flavour?

I'd absolutely love to know...so if you'd like to, please leave a comment! To act as a little thanks, I will send 6 of the blueberry brownies above to the poster of my favourite UK comment (the other 6 are being sent off to Guillaume, for his great idea...) and the best comment from 'the rest of the world' will win a little something too. But these brownies won't wait too long - so, British readers, I need those comments by midday tomorrow please so I can get them in the post in great condition! Rest of the world...you have until the next post!

Thanks so much - I can't wait to read your views!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A treat for the last day of August....

 August 31st. Already. HOW did we get here so soon?! It's been a golden day....not hot, but warm with the leaves on the ripening tomatoes beginning to yellow and the other plants starting to look a little tired. I found these very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl. They spoke to me...and the words they said were 'banana bread'! How could I resist? I made 2 big loaves, but the recipe below has been written for 1...feel free to double up and freeze one, or - as I am doing - give one away to a neighbour!

Sugar Moon Banana Bread - loosely based on a recipe by the inspirational Ina Garten

3 large very ripe bananas
250g/2 cups rye flour (I devised this recipe for my Mum, who is wheat-intolerant although not coeliac. If you prefer, you can use spelt, wholewheat or simply plain white flour. I just love the taste of rye!)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Big pinch of sea salt
50g/ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional but lovely, I think!)
150g/ 1 & 1/2 cups light soft brown sugar - muscovado if possible
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla powder or good vanilla extract
120ml/ 1/2 cup sunflower oil
120ml/ 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt....you could also use sour cream or creme fraiche of that's what you have...but don't use low-fat anything!

Preheat oven to 175c/350f
Line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or a liner...

 ...comme ca!
 This is the rye flour I use, by the way...available in most supermarkets. I use it a lot because although rye does contain gluten, it has much less and is usually suitable for those with an intolerance to wheat.
Peel the bananas and break into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the brown sugar...
 and mix, using the paddle attachment, until the bananas are properly broken up...they will never be fully smooth, but should be liquidy by now!
Add the vanilla - I use Ndali organic pure vanilla powder because it's Fairtrade and also absolutely gorgeous...
 but any decent extract will do, of course. Then add the oil, yoghurt and eggs to the bowl too...
 Mix again until well combined, then add in the dry ingredients, except the walnuts if using, and mix on the lowest setting just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the nuts and stir in using a spatula...
 Pour into the prepared tin....
 it looks and smells divine by this point, with the little specks of cinnamon & vanilla clearly visible...
 Bake for approximately 1 hour...if you have a 'hot' oven, start checking after 45 minutes and rotate the pan if necessary to achieve an even bake. When done, the cake should be well-risen and golden brown...

 Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack....
... although a barely-warm slice is absolutely irresistible....

Well, I certainly found it so! It smells almost alcoholic...probably the ripeness of the bananas...just beautiful. It freezes well for up to a month, or will keep for a couple of days if wrapped well - if it's warm where you are, store in the fridge.

I hope you make it and enjoy it....see you in September!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A Friendship Cake....

I met my longest-standing friend,Isobel, on my first day at a new primary school 42 years ago! Of course, the closeness of school years can't continue forever - those days when I would say goodbye to her on the school bus and then call her the minute I got home to continue our conversation....but we have been in each others lives in some way from that day to this. She and her husband, Brian, now run a successful & delicious crumble business based in beautiful Somerset - so our lives aren't so very different once again (although Isobel also has two young & gorgeous children to juggle!)

When she used to come to our house for tea, there was one cake that my Mum would bake that Isobel absolutely adored...& to this day my mother still refers to this as 'that cake Izy loves'! So, as the days are somewhat autumnal right now, I thought that I would reproduce the recipe here (with a few tweaks) in honour of our friendship. This one's for you, Is! xx

Blackberry Streusel Cake


For the streusel topping:
100g plain flour (you can use spelt/wholemeal if you have it)
80g butter
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
50g light brown muscovado sugar

For the cake:
200g self raising flour
100g light brown muscovado sugar
200g butter
3 free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional - but I love cinnamon!)

About 250g blackberries (preferably picked from a sun-drenched bramble bush! You can use raspberries or blueberries too, if blackberries aren't in season)

Line a 23cm square pan with baking parchment.
Preheat oven to 175c

First make the topping; just place all the streusel ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it forms large crumbs...
 tip into a small bowl & set aside. Without washing the bowl of the processor, add in all the cake ingredients (except the fruit) & whizz to a smooth, silky batter..
 It won't be too liquid as it needs to hold up the berries & topping! Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and level the top roughly...
 then stud with the blackberries...you don't have to be too precise, but try & make sure that there's an even covering of fruit all over the surface...
 finally scatter the streusel over the berries...
 distribute it fairly evenly over the top...don't pack it down, and I think it looks lovely when a few blackberries show through the crumbs too! Bake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes...the streusel will look golden brown, the middle will be slightly domed. You can test by pushing a skewer or cocktail stick into the centre & checking that no wet dough is sticking!
 Then cool in the pan on a wire rack...however, this is so delicious served slightly warm so feel free to cut it then and enjoy a slice...perhaps with cream?
 Store in an airtight container, or wrap in foil securely...it will keep in a cool place for a couple of days (not longer, as the fresh fruit will deteriorate.)
 I recommend eating a large square, with a big steaming cup of coffee,sitting in the August sunshine in a garden somewhere...if you are sharing with a friend, so much the better (it doesn't have to be Isobel, although she would be my choice....)

Enjoy! And now I'm back to the brownies...also delicious with friends! xx