Baked Custard Apple Cake

DSC_0551This simple apple cake, topped with a baked soured cream custard, is a household favourite and has won approval on very many occasions, least of all by myself because it is so very quickly made. It’s also the perfect way of using limp apples towards the end of their shelf life.

Butter a 24 cm wide deep two-part baking tray, one of those where the sides and bottom come apart one way or another. Set aside.

Whip 75 g soft butter with 100 g sugar and seed from half a Vanilla pod, or an equivalent amount of vanilla extract. Gradually add 2 whole medium sized free range room temperature eggs, 100 g regular white wheat flour, 50 g corn starch and a good teaspoon of baking powder. Mix this well until the mix is smooth and silky.

Spread into one even layer in the baking tray.

Peel some semi-sharp apples, cut into quarters, remove the core. We love Russets, but a sweeter apple may need a sprinkling with lime juice. Braeburn are normally perfect for the job.

You need enough apples to cover the surface of the baking tray. Press the apple pieces slightly into the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes at 180 C.

Mix 300 ml soured cream, two heaped tablespoons of sugar (40..50 g) and two eggs (medium sized, free range, room temperature), adding an additional egg yolk for extra luxury. Pour this over the cake and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until the surface has just the right colour: deep golden with light brown patches.

Remove from the tray after cooling down a little, then let cool down completely. Finish with a good icing sugar dusting and enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

Brombeer Rahmkuchen

This is perfect all year round, but it is particularly attractive now, before the first soft fruit ripens and the larder wants emptying of last year’s jam.

Brombeer Rahmkuchen, as we call it, or Blackberry Baked Custard Cake, as you might want to call it.

This works with more or less any kind of jam so long as it isn’t too runny, provided that you rename the cake appropriately.

Make a sweet yeast dough cake base from 200 g of flour for a simple 28 cm round backing tray.

Line the baking tray with baking parchment. Roll out the dough, transfer onto the parchment and into the tray.

Whip up a medium-sized jar of Blackberry jam and spread evenly across the top, then let the dough with topping recover for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Whip up half a pint of double cream with 2 or 3 free range egg yolks and a tablespoon of vanilla-infused sugar, then gently pour on top. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon, then bake until it looks right, approximately half an hour if memory serves me right.

Take it out a few minutes before it becomes as dark as the one in the picture.

Let cool down on a rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.

Linda’s Biscotti

20151128174447Friend Linda declined the honour, but she gets it anyway as she introduced me to these very lovely Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti. They are easy to make, lovely looking, perfect with the coffee after a meal, or just at any time.

It’s an American recipe and comes in cup measures, but I added a translation. This is my version of it:

2 cups white wheat flour (250 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter (110 g)
3/4 cup sugar (100 g)
2 large free range eggs
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shelled pistachios (two handful)
1 cup dried cranberries, alternatively dried cherries or blueberries (two handful)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Roast the pistachios lightly in a non-sticking frying pan. Wrap the hot pistachios in a tea towel and rub the chaff off, then set aside to cool down a little.

Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the seeds from the vanilla pod. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Toss the berries with the cinnamon. Add the pistachios and fruit to the dough mix, stir in well.

Cover a flat tray with baking parchment. Form two logs from the dough, about 1 inch high and 1 .. 2 inch wide. Leave 3 inches between the logs.

Bake at 160 C (325 F) until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool down at least for 30 minutes, then slice and bake the slices for approximately 7 minutes on each side until they begin to colour.

Standard Shortcrust

DSC_0447Another base recipe for which I keep forgetting the proportions, so here’s my standard shortcrust base for the record:

200 g white wheat flour,
100 g butter (soft but not runny).

Whisk together vigorously with an electric mixer, adding one egg and a teaspoon of cold water over time.

This makes a sticky dough.

Many suggest to clingfilm it, then chill and roll when cold.

I prefer to get it done there and then. I roll it immediately between two sheets of baking parchment or greaseproof paper, then cut to size. Now I let it rest in a cool place until I need it, for example when making Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert.

I suppose you might be tempted to sweeten the dough for a sweet cake, such as a thin apple cake glazed with Calvados and apricot jam. I don’t have a very sweet tooth and usually find that the sweet topping is sweet enough so I don’t need to add sugar to the base but it’s up to you!

Black Forest Gateaux

DSC_0773.JPGFollowing is for a 240 mm round baking tray. You need a springform tray (one where the rim can be removed) or one of those where the bottom comes out.

100 g dark chocolate (go for quality and high cocoa content)
150 g soft unsalted butter
150 g sugar
4 free range medium size eggs

50 g ground almonds
50 g corn starch
50 g normal white wheat baking flour
50 g fine dried bread crumbs

1 tablespoon of baking powder (unless you use self-rising flour)
1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar (or equivalent amount of vanilla extract, aroma or genuine vanilla)

Process:

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or *very* carefully in the microwave oven at very low power setting. This works quicker but it is easy to burn the chocolate in the micro.

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla, whisk until slightly foamy.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, whisk the egg whites stiff.

Mix almonds, flour, corn starch, bread crumbs. Add a tablespoon of dark cocoa for an extra boost if you want.

Check that the chocolate has cooled down but is still runny or very soft. Must be under 80 C so that the eggs won’t cook in it.

Mix the egg yolks into the chocolate.

Add the almonds, etc, to the eggs and chocolate. Mix.

Gently add the egg whites to the mix. Traditional cooking wisdom calls this to “fold in the whites” using a thin metal spoon, careful not to knock out too much air. I prefer using a whisk, just don’t use it for whisking. Instead gently rotate it to fold the egg whites into the batter mix. I find it is easier to evenly distribute the whites using the whisk; the traditional spoon method is likely to break more of your stiff whites.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Use Top and bottom heat or convected air.

Butter the form really well, especially around the corners.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Rest for 3 hours. Remove it from the tin when the time is right. Too soon and it will break, too late and it will be soggy. You need to judge and find the sweet spot, but if you have a good baking tray where the sides come off or the bottom can be pushed up, the highest risk is in that you burn your hand, wrist or arm on the hot tin. Every time…

Slice once or twice, douse with booze.

Make the filling, assemble and decorate.

Yeast Dough Cake Base

cropped-DSC_0223.jpgThis is the base recipe for a sweet yeast dough used with many traditional German or French cakes:

500g white wheat flour

40g fresh yeast (or a tablespoon of dried yeast if you must)

1 cup of luke warm milk

100g caster sugar

1 whole free range medium egg

80g warm butter (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter).

Put everything into a kneding bowl and kned, or let your kitchen machine do the kneding for you. Balance flour / milk as necessary. It’s perfect when the dough is nice and soft but just comes away from the bown easily (it is just not sticky any more).

Give the yeast 15 minutes to come alive in a warm place. Your kitchen worktop is normally just fine.

Then proceed as instructed by the recipe.

For a typical 28cm round baking tray, I use this 1/2 of the above base recipe.

Savoury Clafoutis

DSC_1736.JPGAccording to Rachel Khoo, savoury clafoutis are ze very fashionable dish in Paris. I don’t know how accurate Rachel’s trend monitoring is, but the idea made immediate sense for me.

Instead of sugar and apples, pears or cherries, use savoury ingredients such as goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes, girolle mushrooms, Swiss chard, a pinch of rosemary, a spoonful of mustard and a drizzle of chili oil.

Or, if you want to think of in in another way, you can think of it as a quiche without the base. To compensate for the lost support offered by the shortcrust base, you add two spoon full of white flour to the mix – e voila! a savoury clafoutis. Even less work than a quiche, and just as good (but a bit heavier). Here’s how it goes:

Make 1 1/2 pint of a mix from crème fraiche, yogurt, milk, double cream. I suggest using at least 50% milk so that it doesn’t get too heavy. You can also cheat with a small amount of baking soda. Add 4 eggs and one extra yolk.

Whisk in two tablespoons white flour, a teaspoon of good mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your favourite baking dish with baking paper. I use a 28cm dish, 3cm deep.

Find all suitable leftovers: Dice or crumble goats cheese, blue cheese, Reblochon or Gruyere cheese. Add cherry tomatoes, olives if you like, Swiss chard. Asparagus might work, roasted peppers most certainly will. Peeled cherry tomatoes will keep it light and moist. Be inventive! Add a sprinkle of rosemary, then pour the batter over it.

Shake the dish a few times to let trapped air escape, then decorate the top with some slices of tomato. I add a generous drizzle of chili-infused olive oil, but that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes. The time varies with the depth of your dish and the temperature of the batter when you start. It is ready when it has risen over the entire diameter of the baking dish, bubbles a little (mostly towards the edges), and has a lovely golden colour.

Remove from the heat, and let cool down in stages: first, leave on the counter, in the tray, for about 10 minutes. Then lift the whole thing out of the tray, and put it on a cooling rack. Another 10 minutes later, see if you can remove the paper, so that the bake doesn’t get water-logged from the trapped steam.

Serve lukewarm or cold. It’s lovely, it’s like a quiche, but it doesn’t even require making a base: A Saturday lunch winner!

Quiche

DSC_0028 (2).JPGReal men don’t eat quiche. All right. Fine by me. I am a quiche-eater, guilty as charged. Not a real man, according to Bruce Feirstein, but I know how to make the finest and most rewarding quiche (and enjoy eating it).

A quiche is quick to make, and always scores with the womenfolk. What are you waiting for?

Take one roll of deep-frozen rolled-out shortcrust pastry, available in most shops. Your own base will be lighter, crumplier, better in short:

Put 200g white wheat flour, 100g soft salted butter and one medium sized egg into a bowl and whisk (using an electric hand mixer or blender) until you have even crumbles, then keep whisking while you add one or two tablespoons of cold water. This transforms the crumble into a homogenous lump.

Spread baking parchment onto your worktop. Put the very sticky dough on top and use your fingers to spread it out approximately to the size of your baking dish. Cover with another layer of baking parchment, then finish the job with the rolling pin. Try for an even 3mm thickness.

The baking parchment trick makes handling of the very sticky base a lot easier, and saves time.

Line a backing dish with your base, using a baking parchment as a carrier. I use a 280mm diameter round baking dish, about 25mm deep.

Start the oven to 200C. Prefer top and bottom heat over circulated heat. Weigh the base down wiht pie weights or dried chickpeas. Pre-bake for about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Smoked Salmon Quiche

300g smoked salmon, cut in finger sized strips, 150g roasted artichokes or peppers (or both), a small bunch of dill. Just toss everything into the dish in a seemingly random distribution.

Quiche Lorraine

Cut two leeks into 10mm strips. Wash and rinse thoroughly. Fry up 250g of good quality dry-cure bacon or lardons. When done, add the leak, toss around for 30s, then spread the whole lot into the baking dish.

Others

A million of varieties are up for your to make. Mushrooms, spinach and bacon always hits the spot, for example.

… base recipe continued:

Now take 200ml double cream and 100ml milk. Add three free-range eggs (four if tiny), a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/3 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Half a teaspoon of stock granulates or a small teaspoon of mustard if you like it very savoury, a pinch of saffron otherwise. Allspice to taste. Mix well, and pour over the filling. Optionally, sprinkle one finely chopped fresh red chilli pepper over the top (a nice kick with the smoked salmon quiche).

Shake the baking tray gently to let trapped air escape, and pop into the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Start to watch it after 25 minutes; it might need taking out sooner if it darkens too quickly.
Take out when done. Let cool down for 20 minutes, then remove quiche from tray (just lift it out by the baking parchment), then let cool down on a rack.

Transfer onto serving plate, cut into generous pieces, serve with a green salad and a crispy white wine. Scores every time.

 

Apple Tarte Tatin

DSC_0448.JPGA delicious Apple Tarte Tatin, free from the frequently-seen puff pastry nonsense, lightly caramelised for stunning golden looks.

Tarte Tatin is an upside-down cake, with a topping of caramelized apples on a shortcrust base (but made upside down, crust on top). You need a fire-proof frying pan for it, one with a metal handle (or take off the plastic handle), as it needs to go into the oven.

Shortcrust base:

Mix 150g white flour with 70g soft butter. Add a pinch of salt, and mix thoroughly until you have fine crumbles. You can do this in the blender or using a hand mixer and a tall bowl. Now add one whole medium-sized free range egg, and a tablespoon of cold water. Mix until it forms a homogeneous glue.

Place a layer of cling film on your worktop, big enough to cover the frying pan. If necessary, have two strips of cling film overlap. Place the dough in the middle and flatten it out by hand as much as you can, then cover with the same sized cling film arrangement.

With the dough between the cling film sheets, roll it to an even 3mm.

Put flat into the fridge to rest. I never have space in my fridge for this, so I simply put it flat down onto a cool stone or tiled floor.

Topping:

Peel five firm and aromatic apples. Braeburn, Kidds Orange Red, Ped Pippin or Jazz are my favourites. Cut into quarters, remove cores. Sprinkle juice form half a lime all over, then set aside.

Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.

Preheat your frying pan on fairly high heat on your gas or electric cooker. Mix 80g white cane sugar (= 4 tablespoons) with the seeds from one vanilla pod (keep the remaining pod for later). Heat this vanilla sugar mix, just to the point where the first sugar crystals start dissolving. Add a generous knob of soft butter, then add the leftover vanilla pod, and then distribute the apples into the mix. Remember your looking at the underside, so make the apply core cut-outs face you.

Add 100ml of Armagnac, Calvados or Brandy and give it a little shake to dissolve the sugar. Take care nothing catches fire (I’m serious! There’ll be a cloud of combustible alcohol vapor, so do take care).

This should now be bubbling away merrily. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes, depending on the amount of liquid produced. You’re done when the caramel begins to get a golden colour and some of the excess liquid is evaporated, maybe after 3 minutes or so.

Remove pan from heat.

Baking:

Take dough out of cling film, and cover the apples with it. Tuck it in around the edges so that it makes an upside-down cake.

Put into the oven at 190 Celsius for approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately turn upside down onto a suitable cake serving plate. Don’t wait for the pan to cool – turn over immediately!

Service with or without vanilla ice cream (with optional plum and Calvados mix-ins).