Good evening lovely readers!
Today has made me feel really ready for autumn – a long wet dog walk followed by some steaming tomato soup to warm up! This was followed by an afternoon of clearing out the baking cupboard, which turned up an abundance of nuts that needing using up. So using a recipe from the BBC GoodFood magazine, and adapting it to what was in the kitchen cupboards, here’s a nice seasonal cake that packs a punch of autumn-y flavours.
I have two things to apologise for. Firstly, although this cake is lovely and moist and will keep for a few days because of all the nuts, it does have rather a lot of ingredients though so you will need to be prepared! Secondly, I discovered Instagram this week (behind the times I know!) so the blog is getting even more retro!
Here’s what you need…..
INGREDIENTS: 250g melted butter, 250g caster sugar, 100g self raising flour, 50g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, 1tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice, 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 200g mixed chop nuts (I used 50g each of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios all whizzed up in the food processor), 100g chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips, 3 large eggs, 1tsp almond extract, a tin of pears, butterscotch chips (optional).
- Heat the oven to 160 (fan oven) and butter and line a 23cm loose based cake tin (this is really important because this is a slow bake and will burn at the edges without lining the tin).
- Mix the sugar, flours, ground almonds, baking powder and spices in a bowl, then add in most of the nuts (leave a few tablespoons aside for topping the cake later) and the chopped chocolate.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs, almond extract and melted butter until it thickens and foams.
- Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together. At this point I got a bit excited about all the things that could go into this cake and threw in a handful of butterscotch chips, but these are an added extra only and not vital.
- Chop the pears into chunks and fold through the cake mixture. You can use fresh pears if you want, but the ones in the tin are very soft and add a good moist texture to the cake. So if you are going to use fresh pears, make sure they are really ripe.
- Pop the mixture into a tin and bake for 45 minutes. Then cover the tin with tinfoil and bake for another 30 minutes.
- Take out the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a rack.
It should look golden but not too coloured….
Once its cooled, you’re ready for icing.
INGREDIENTS: You’ll need 200g chocolate (I used 150g milk and 50g dark), a 300ml pot of sour cream and the leftover nuts.
- Melt the chocolate slowly – I did it in bursts in the microwave but you can do it in a bowl over a pan of water if you prefer.
- Mix the sour cream into the chocolate and beat until smooth.
- Then pop the bowl of icing into the fridge until it thickens up enough to spread without flying everywhere. I was too impatient so my icing was a little runny. You could even leave it in the fridge overnight and spread it the next day.
- Once iced, just sprinkle with the remaining nuts, et voila!
As well as being a great teatime treat, this would make a great dessert. In fact, that’s what we had for pudding this evening – still warm with runny icing and a blob of natural yoghurt….
So rather than being sad at the passing of summer (did it even make an appearance?!), let us celebrate the start of autumn!
Happy baking my friends,
Hello lovely blog readers and welcome back! Well, I should be welcoming myself back really after a little holiday related hiatus. Folowing a couple of crazy weeks of work, Mr Bandit and I spent a fabulous week on holiday in France. There was cheese, wine, sun, swimming and a LOT of eating. You see we went on holiday with my WHOLE family (well, a fair portion of them anyway), and everyone enjoys cooking, but mostly we all enjoy eating :). I wish I’d had the wherewithal to take pictures of the amazing French tarts (only bad innuendo I promise) and the scrumptious al fresco meals we enjoyed together as a family. But I didn’t, because I was too busy stuffing my face! I even found time to bake, although I forgot to take a picture of that too. I made a strawberry cheesecake pie. Perhaps I’ll make it again at some point or just post the recipe, it was a real crowd pleaser.
Anyway, as you’ll have realised by now, I have rather a sweet tooth, as does my mum, and one of our favorite things to eat when in France is sweetened chestnut puree. You can get it in the UK, but the really good stuff comes from France. It was on this holiday that we can across one of the best things ever, the credit for which needs to go to my gran. She found sweet chestnut puree in a TUBE! It was like a drug – a little sugary hit you could squeeze onto the end of your finger whenever you needed a hit. Amazing. Sadly I didn’t spot it anywhere, so had to settle for bringing home a big jar of the stuff (what a shame!).
So then the big question was, what to do with it? And the answer seemed to be – bake! Now I’d come across a few recipes that use chestnut puree, but none of them sounded quite right, so this was a bit experimental. I’m not normally a huge lover of cupcakes – they have too much icing and tend to be style over substance. However, I decided that as these were rather rich, making them in small portions would be best. I’ve used almonds and walnuts instead of flour, and so the triple nut (quadruple if you count the ‘nut’ in nutella) cupcake was born! In the end, the chestnut puree gives a lovely subtle flavour that could be strengthened by increasing the quantity of puree or adding chopped chestnuts instead of walnuts.
So here’s what to do….
- Heat the oven to 160 (fan) or 180 (conventional) and line a muffin tin with cases.
- Crack the six eggs into a mixing bowl and pour in the sugar. Using an electric whisk, beat until fluffy and pale. You want it really beaten – don’t skimp this stage because there are a lot of eggs and they will make the cakes light and lovely.
- In another bowl, poor out the chestnut puree. I had a runny one, but if its a thicker mix, use a fork to whisk it a bit until its smooth.
- Add half the egg mixture to the chestnut puree and mix carefully – don’t beat the air out of the eggs. It looks a little grim at this stage but have faith…
- Add the almonds, walnuts and baking powder to the chestnut mix and combine. Then add the rest of the egg mix and fold in. You’ll be left with a runny mess that looks like this:
- Use a ladle to fill the cases – its much easier! I found about half a ladle worked, but I guess it depends on the size of your ladle! Fill the cases about 2/3 full. I made 17 cupcakes, which was a bit of a random number.
- For an extra hit of naughty, I plopped half a teaspoon of nutella into the top of each cupcake. I was hoping it would sink, but it didn’t. If you want the nutella in the middle of the cupcake, I suggest using the spoon to push it down into the mix at this stage. Then you’ll have this:
Just pop them in the oven for 30 minutes and hey presto!
Last but not least was the icing. I decided that a chocolate buttercream would be too rich/sweet, but it would work fine if that’s your preference. I decided to go for a decadent, dark ganache.
- Put all the ingredients in a pan and let it all melt. Leave it on a low heat until everything is completely melted, but keep stirring or it’ll stick and burn. I decided at the last minute to add 3 tbsp of icing sugar, because I used very dark chocolate, but use a 60% cocoa solid chocolate and you won’t need to – unless you want to of course! Just make sure you sieve the sugar or you’ll get lumpy icing. PLEASE NOTE! This made a very generous amount of icing and I have leftovers in the fridge, so if you only like a thin layer, make half.
- Once everything is melted, pour it into a bowl and leave it to cool. You can pop it in the fridge for a bit to thicken up, but don’t leave it too long or you won’t be able to get it out the bowl – it’ll set hard!
- Once the cakes are cool and the icing thickening, spoon onto the cakes. You’ll have something like this:
These will need to be kept in the fridge, but take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them, because they’re better at room temperature. Any spares will keep in the fridge for a few days – if they last that long!
These were not only delicious, but have helped stem the post holiday blues a little. I suppose they aren’t French in the slightest, but they’re very yummy! Besides, I bet you’re glad I didn’t choose the pate we also brought back with us as my inspirational baking ingredient!