Thursday, 8 October 2015

Raspberry Poke Cake

A couple of days ago our allotment friend, Arthur, gave me a bowl full of beautiful raspberries.  They were picture perfect and smelled delicious.  

Now I have a little confession to make.  I have a 'thing' about berries.  I love the way they taste.... I LOATHE the seeds.  I sat down to have a think.  What could I do about those seeds? 

Then I remembered an old fashioned recipe my Mom used to make.  It was called a Poke Cake.  The idea is you bake a simple cake, poke holes in it with a skewer and pour liquid Jello over the cake to make it extra moist and flavourful. Now, if there is anything I like less than seeds it's Jello, but the idea is a good one and the inspiration for my version of Raspberry Poke Cake.  

Begin by making a simple raspberry sauce:

Fresh or frozen raspberries
Sugar to taste

Place a cup or two of raspberries into a small sauce pan. Add a few tablespoons of water and cook over a low heat until the berries soften and begin to break down. 

Using a fine strainer, drain the juice into a bowl.  Stir gently to extract every last drop.  Add sugar a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is as sweet or sharp as you like.  I used about 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, icing sugar will work, too.  Set this aside while you make the cake. 

To make the cake you will need the following :

2/3 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup room temperature butter or baking margarine
2 eggs - room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup corn starch (corn flour)
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk

Heat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter a 9x5 inch loaf tin and line it with baking paper. 

Pour the milk, yogurt, and vanilla into a jug and stir well to combine.

Place the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, corn flour) into a bowl and stir to combine.

Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer set on a medium to high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry ingredients.  Gradually pour in the milk/yogurt and continue to mix JUST until the batter is well combined and smooth. 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without any wet batter. 

While the cake is still warm and in the baking tin, poke holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer.  Slowly spoon the raspberry sauce over the cake making sure the sauce oozes into the holes.  Allow the cake to sit in the loaf tin until it is completely cool and all the raspberry sauce has been absorbed into the cake.  

There you have it...Raspberry Poke Cake, sweet, saucy, and not a seed in sight!  Thanks, Arthur!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Easy Apple Jelly

Autumn is my favourite time of year and apple picking time is one of the best things about autumn.  We only have two tiny, espalier apple trees growing in pots but they produce lots of lovely apples. 

The apples are all different shapes and sizes.  Some are a large and perfect. Some are a bit bug bitten and spotty.  It doesn't matter.  The perfect ones I eat for a treat.  The less than perfect get baked into cakes, crumbles, and scones. The smallest ones are made into jelly. 

If you've never made jelly before, apple jelly is a good place to start.  It's probably the easiest jelly to make.  Apples have a high pectin content and pectin is the magic ingredient that makes jelly 'set'.   You don't have to buy expensive apples, windfalls will do.  There are hundreds of apple trees growing along the roadside and in the open spaces around our little town with fallen apples free for the taking. 

You don't have to fuss with the apples too much. Give them a wash and make sure there aren't any critters inside the less than perfect apples.  Chop them into small-ish pieces and put them into a large pan.  Add enough water to JUST cover the apples.  Grate in a the rind of a lemon and cook over a medium heat until the apples are VERY soft.  Leave the apples to cool a bit before pouring them into a jelly bag to strain out the juice.   

I must confess,  I don't have a jelly bag.  I use a colander lined with a linen cloth I keep just for making jelly. I give the linen a short boil in a sauce pan to sterilize it before using it.  Place the lined colander over the biggest bowl you have, pour in the apple pulp and leave it to strain for several hours or overnight. DO NOT squeeze the bag ...I know, you want to...but don't.  Just let time and gravity do the work.  Squeezing will make the juice cloudy, not a sin but jelly should be as bright and clear as possible. 

So far, so easy, right?   Now, let's turn that apple juice into jelly.  The recipe is really a ratio of juice to sugar.  I like to make small batches of jelly and don't have a giant jam making pan.  To make a larger batch, simply double or triple the ingredients.

600 ml of apple juice
225 grams granulated sugar
225 grams jam sugar (contains pectin)
Juice from 1/2 lemon 

Pour the juice into a large pan, add the lemon juice and sugars.  Stir over a low heat until the sugars have dissolved.  Increase the heat a little and slowly bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.  You must be patient, if the heat is too high you will burn the sugar and ruin the jelly. Let the jelly boil for about four or five minutes then test to see if it has set.  

There are several methods of testing if the jelly has set. I like to use the flake method. Dip a wooden spoon into the jelly, remove it from the pan and let the liquid drip from the side of the spoon.  If it makes a wobbly drip that doesn't fall from the spoon then the jelly has set. This is called a flake.  

If the liquid pours from spoon, leave it to boil for a minute or two and test again. 

You can also use the 'saucer' test.  Place a saucer into the refrigerator before you begin the jelly making process.  Drop a little bit of hot jelly onto the cold saucer, allow it to cool for a minute or two.  If it crinkles when you push it with your finger, the jelly is set.

Once set,  remove the jelly from the heat and give it a good stir to settle down the bubbles.  Carefully pour into sterilized jam jars and screw on the jar lids. Let the jelly cool completely before eating.  It's really best if you can wait a day or two. 

For a real treat, make a batch of GINGERBREAD JELLY. Click HERE for the recipe.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Tinkering Around The Edges and Apple Loaf Cake

I have a friend who loves it when I bake brownies.  I've given her my recipe but she swears they just don't turn out like mine when she bakes them.  I tried and tried to figure out what was going wrong; was the oven temperature too hot, the baking tin to small?  Then, by accident, I found out she was using self rising flour.  

My recipe calls for plain flour.   No wonder her brownies are more like cake. Self rising flour has more raising agent in it than the recipe requires.  The point I am trying to make is by changing just ONE ingredient you can change a recipe beyond recognition. 

Using a different size or shape tin will also change the way a recipe turns out. My father called this deviation from the prescribed method 'tinkering around the edges'.  I do a lot of tinkering when it comes to baking.  For example, I did a little tinkering with this recipe for Apple Loaf Cake:

1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cups white (caster) sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature 
2 eggs 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 apple - peeled and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 175C/350F.  Grease a 8x5 inch loaf pan and line it with baking paper. 

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.

Beat the white sugar and butter together until they are light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Add the vanilla.

Place the flour and baking powder in a bowl and stir well to combine.  Turn the mixer down to low speed.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter, eggs and sugar mixture.  Mix at low speed until the flour is just combined. Pour in the milk and mix to make a smooth batter. 

Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin.  Sprinkle over half of the chopped apple and half of the cinnamon-sugar.  Top with the remaining batter. Smooth the batter to the edges of the pan, sprinkle over the rest of the apple pieces and the rest of the cinnamon-sugar.  Using a table knife, cut through the batter a few times to give a 'swirl' to the batter. 

Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out without any wet batter.  Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely before serving. 

Now for the tinkering around the edges,  I substituted a large spoonful of cornflour (corn starch) for some of the flour to lighten the sponge.  Instead of using 1/2 cup milk I used 2 ounces of plain yogurt and 2 ounces of milk.  Baking margarine was substituted for the butter.  

These changes will make a lighter textured cake, different from the original but just as delicious.  Of course, one could always avoid the tinkering and just follow the recipe.  

**** Flapjacks are also featured in the first photo.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Apple Harvest 2015

Ask any gardener and they will tell you, this has been a tough summer for growing fruits and vegetables.  We've battled bugs, cold nights, and dry days. The tomatoes are dismal. The strawberries were sparse.  Somehow, the two little apple trees managed to give us a good crop!

Some are a bit wonky, bug bitten, and small but there are lots of them.  I'll use the spotty ones to make apple jelly.  

Some will be baked into cakes, muffins, and crumbles.  None will go to waste. Best of all, we had the pleasure of watching them grow from delicate pink blossoms into fragrant autumn apples. I love apple picking time! 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Hot Lips!

My great aunt Gwen gardened for at least 80 years and never lost her sense of wonder.  She considered every germinating seed to be a miracle.  

That's how I felt today when I saw the Hot Lips salvia cuttings I'd taken about six weeks ago had two tiny blossoms.  Magic! 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tiny Dancer- A MUST SEE video!

Let me apologise in advance.  Under normal circumstances I would NEVER post a video of a commercial product BUT this made me laugh out loud.  Bear with me, have a look, and see if you aren't as entertained by this video as I was...well, I apologise again.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Ted's Bread

There is an old saying that food is love.  Think about it, we feed the things we love most; our family, pets, friends, and the plants in our gardens.  If food is love, then baking is the ultimate expression.  Cooking regular meals is a necessity. Baking is optional.  

Baking takes time, skill, and a certain financial investment.  It is no coincidence that cakes are universally the food of celebrations.  A wedding or birthday party without a cake is unthinkable!

Cakes, cookies, and pastries are treats for special occasions.  Home made bread is the little bit of love that can be consumed with every meal.   That is the story behind Ted's Rolls.  CLICK HERE for Sara James' recipe for Ted's Rolls.


They are a delicious 'everyday' treat ....

And the main ingredient is love! 

Thank you, Sara, for allowing me to share your special recipe.