When life gives you quinces..

(Quince and Walnut Crumble Cake)

When life gives you quinces, make quince crumble cake.

It is for those days that rush by too fast. When seasons turn from singlet tops and insects thumping angrily at the screen door, to leaves tumbling onto wet pavements, the scent of wool scarves, the whirr of the stand mixer, the hum of the oven, and suddenly.. quince crumble cake.

It is also for one of those days. We’ve all had them. Usually a cup of tea, a heat pack around my neck and a little grumble to B, sets things straight. Failing that, I call upon ‘the army’.

(Soda Bread)

There are millions of recipes out there for all sorts of simple cakes and breads. I guess the ones I use are no different, but they are so reliable and so delicious that I now consider them part of my personal army. My army battles against such days that defeat and exhaust. I’ve been experiencing many such days recently, and have gratefully discovered that it’s quite soothing to be able to make something simple not only for myself, but to share with others as well.

(Chocolate Chestnut Cake)

The quince crumble cake is my version of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “apple-cinnamon crumb coffee cake”. I substituted some ingredients and modified the instructions, to simplify the cobbling together of the cake batter. Using my method, the fruit will sink into the cake but I’m okay with that. The heap of crumble on top is a textural delight.

The soda bread recipe, which has now become my daily bread, is by Fergus Henderson. No changes there; it’s as simple as it gets. The (gluten-free) chocolate chestnut cake is from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Below are two of the recipes that I hope will find a home within your own army.

Quince and Walnut Crumble Cake :

For the cinnamon crumble :
100g walnut halves
72g light brown sugar
25g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
65g plain flour
57g unsalted butter, melted

Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and rub it in or toss through to form a crumbly mixture (use your fingers to break any of the larger pieces of walnut into smaller chunks). Set aside.

For the cake :

6 quinces halves, slow cooked in a 60% sugar syrup solution flavoured with vanilla, lemon zest and cinnamon, drained and sliced or chopped into small chunks (or fresh fruit of choice)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
100g + 60g Greek/European-style yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200g plain flour
170g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 175’C.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, 60g yogurt and vanilla.

In a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and 100g yogurt. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, then mix on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Lower the speed and gradually add the egg mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then beat for 30 seconds to fully incorporate all the ingredients.

Spread the batter into a greased and lined 22cm tin. Top with slices of the cooked quince, then the crumble. Bake for about 50 – 60 minutes. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean. At about the 30 minute mark, you may want to rotate the cake pan for even browning. At this point if the crumble appears to be browning too quickly, you can also cover the top of the pan with some foil and continue baking.

Soda Bread :
(From Beyond Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly)

140g wholemeal self-raising flour
140g strong white flour
5g sea salt
10g caster sugar
5g baking powder
125ml water
125ml buttermilk

Mix all the ingredients together by hand in a large mixing bowl (it will be quite wet), then leave the dough to rest in the bowl for 5 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place on a floured baking tray. Sprinkle with flour and cut a cross in the top about 4cm long on each side and 1cm deep. Leave to rest for 10 minutes, then place in an oven preheated to 200’C. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown. To test if the loaf is done, turn it over and tap it on the bottom with your finger; if it sounds hollow it is ready. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve with plenty of butter.

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Daring Bakers Challenge : Puddings


(Manuka honey pudding with coffee, chestnut and dates)

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Pudding purists may want to avert their eyes now. As I was very pressed for time this month, a few shortcuts were taken in order to make the deadline for the challenge. I opted for one of the recipes provided that called for butter rather than suet, and instead of steaming the pudding (which would have taken hours), the mixture was (gasp)microwaved(gasp). It literally took one minute to cook the pudding, and rather pleasingly, it turned out gloriously fluffy and very very tasty.

The pudding was flavoured with Manuka honey – a decision brought about mainly by my wish to utilise that rather lonely jar of New Zealand’s finest honey sitting in the cupboard. The combination of the honey with a hint of vanilla and spice in the pudding, brought to mind classic sticky date pudding, hence the date and coffee puree, as well as a scattering of chestnut crumble (to complete that Autumnal touch), some poached dates and crispy date skins.

While this hasty pudding ended up being pretty tasty, I still kind of wish there had been time to attempt a traditional Sussex pond pudding or a steak and kidney pie – two things that just so happen to be on the list of things I want to try baking. Perhaps it will finally happen, when this hectic daze that I’m in calms down a little….


(Yogurt cake)

Meanwhile here’s another pudding I made recently when we fancied a quick and fairly healthy dessert. This wonderful Lebanese recipe is from the Moro cookbook and is incredibly easy to make. It contains only a very small amount of flour, and so can be adapted to be gluten-free as well. The pudding was so light, clean and citrussy that it practically needed no accompaniment, but if need be, I can imagine it pairing well with stewed rhubarb or berries and stonefruit.

Yogurt cake with pistachios :
(from Moro The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark)

3 large organic or free-range eggs, separated
70g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways
350g yogurt (home made yogurt, or Greek yogurt thinned with a little milk)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 orange
juice of 1 lemon
20g plain flour
30g shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped [I omitted these as I didn’t have any at the time]

Preheat the oven to 180’C and put a bain-marie of water in to warm on the middle shelf. Have ready a 25cm round or square baking dish or cake tin with a solid bottom, preferably stainless-steel, or lined with greaseproof paper.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks with three-quarters of the sugar until thick and pale. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and mix into the egg-sugar mixture. Add the yogurt, lemon and orange zest, lemon juice and the flour and mix well. In a separate bowl whisk up the egg whites with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Gently and evenly, fold the whites into the yogurt mixture. Pour the mixture into the baking tin. Place the tin in the bain-marie, making sure that the boiling water comes halfway up the tin, and cook for about 20 minutes. Then add the chopped pistachios, sprinkling them gently on top, and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes or until the top is light brown in colour. The correct consistency of the cake should be a light sponge on top with a wet custard below. Serve with yogurt.

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