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

Saturday, 9 August 2014

What....no brownies?!

So, although life at Sugar Moon mostly consists of brownies...
 brownies....
 & yet more brownies...
 I do often bake other things...for the Farmer's Market, for friends or just for fun!
For instance, a good friend asked me to bake a big cake for a joint 65th birthday celebration for her parents....she wanted it to be both coffee & walnut and chocolate....be big enough to feed 30 and to have a nautical theme as her parents enjoy sailing.

I didn't want to create a tiered cake... for 30 people, I find that cutting squares is much easier. People (especially after a big meal) don't usually want a huge wedge of sweet stuff. So a rectangle fits the bill perfectly...but in two distinct flavours?

I got around it by making up the two cake mixtures at the same time (!) and pouring them into the cake tin almost simultaneously. I created a foil 'divide' to keep them separate as I poured, but took this away before baking...
 this was a big cake and took almost 2 hours to bake properly (a good tip that really works when you are scaling up a recipe is to lower the oven temperature and bake for longer...so the top and sides don't cook too quickly and leave a raw middle...)
 I liked the stepped effect of the finished cake....
 and then the decoration. I made a whipped white chocolate icing, which takes colour very well...this only needed a tiny teaspoon of royal blue paste but gave a great effect! The 'sand' is light brown sugar...
 which I adhered by brushing that portion of the cake with a sugar syrup..
 only the yacht, candles and shell are inedible. I was very pleased with the result...
and luckily so was our friend! I'll hear reports of the party later...

Meanwhile, I thought you might like a recipe? This is the Hazelnut & Fresh Apricot Cake that I baked for our recent Farmer's Market.
It was absolutely gorgeous....ideal, of course, with coffee or tea as a snack...but it would also be brilliant as a dessert with some creme fraiche or even ice cream I think. It will keep well for a few days, in the fridge (as the apricots are fresh ones) and will be even nicer the day after baking, when all the flavours have melded together...

Hazelnut & Fresh Apricot Cake

280g soft light brown sugar
270g ground roasted hazelnuts (I buy the skin-on ones, cheaper & fine for this recipe...& most others too! Simply toast for about 5 mins in a hot oven until golden and smelling very nutty! Then cool before grinding in a processor to a fine crumb)
50g ground almonds
50g fine semolina or polenta
75g self-raising flour
5 eggs (medium, free-range)
1 tsp ground cinnamon - optional but tastes lovely!
225g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a little
a punnet of apricots..(exact quantities don't matter for this but roughly 5/6 fruits. It also doesn't matter if they are slightly underripe as they are being cooked)

Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan/Gas Mark 4
Grease & line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.

Simply mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the butter and eggs and mix well. I use my stand mixer for this, as there is quite a lot of mixture...but you could do it by hand with a wooden spoon, of course! Scrape into the prepared tin. Roughly chop the apricots, removing the stones (I actually just pull them apart with my fingers...I prefer a rustic look for this cake. You could slice them and arrange them evenly in a pattern if you'd like it to look more formal) and scatter or place gently over the surface of the batter. Don't push them in, the cake will rise around them beautifully.

Bake for about an hour, until it's golden brown and slightly pulling away at the sides. Check it after 45 minutes and rotate the tin in the oven if you need to, to ensure even baking.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack, then push up the bottom and remove the lining paper from the sides and bottom before transferring to a serving plate (run a palette knife under the base to help remove the base paper.)

Enjoy it...and have a wonderful weekend!