Friends who give a fig..

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake and Figs

(Chocolate yoghurt cake with sticky caramel figs)

A few days ago, a high school friend sent me an email. She was out of town, her fig tree was heavy with fruit, and did I want to go pick some before the birds got to them? It took me all of two seconds to say, heck yes. I mean, free fruit.. who (except the sugar deniers) would say no? Plus, I happen to also own a potted fig tree and it has all of two leaves left hanging for dear life on a singular branch. Sometimes I feel that branch is pointing accusingly at me for not being a better amateur gardener. Naturally, I wanted to see this bountiful tree of hers.

So now I have a small basket of doesn’t-get-fresher-than-this figs and have been experimenting with different ways of using them. A few were sliced, rolled in sugar, kissed with a blow torch, and served with a sort of Eton Mess. If you don’t have a blow torch because somehow Amelie and the whole creme brulee craze remains a complete mystery to you, then here’s another amazing way to treat figs : Melt a few spoonfuls of sugar in a sauce pan and heat to make a golden caramel. Toss in fig halves, stir gently to coat them in the caramel, then deglaze with Banyuls or balsamic vinegar to form a bit of a sauce. The whole process takes just a few minutes and the end result is sweet and slightly sour figs you can spoon over ice-cream, or serve with a simple chocolate cake such as this one.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake with Figs

This chocolate cake is a take on Tartine’s devil’s food cake, made with yoghurt instead of buttermilk. It’s one of my favourites because it has the depth of flavour of a chocolate fudge cake without being dense or stodgy.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake :

115g unsalted butter, softened
235g caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs
100g Greek yoghurt
60g milk
125g plain flour
30g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
60g cocoa powder

Grease and line a 9″ round baking tin. Preheat the oven to 175’C.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Combine the yoghurt and milk and add this to the butter mixture. Sift in the flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder and fold to incorporate. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before covering with ganache or serve simply dusted with icing sugar and eaten with a generous scoop of Greek yoghurt.

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Fig Teacake

Remember that crazy thing I said about switching from full-time to casual work? Well, can we just forget that conversation ever happened? What was I thinking? Three weeks into my holiday, and I’m suffering from serious overbake.

No kidding, both my tiny freezer and my (not so tiny) stomach are full of treats, and I’m fast running out of willing friends I can fob excess cake off to. (I think 1 cake a week is a reasonable outgoing rate for cake-fobbing, don’t you? Anything more and I’d be killing my friends softly, with sugar).

So in mid-April, I will be starting a new job, working for a very well respected Chef, at an exciting new location. For the sake of anonymity, I won’t go into the details, except to say that this job could very well manage to achieve that elusive balance between sweet work and sweet life.

Now, did someone say cake? The base of this one, which I’ve made before, comes from Helen’s ridiculously easy recipe. You really must try it. It’s incredibly versatile, and I’m pretty sure it only took me all of five minutes (if that) to put a batch together.

The idea for the topping came via a roundabout way, thanks to a friend, who loves indulging in baking related conversation as much as I do. One day, she dropped by to borrow some cookbooks and with her, I found myself leafing through books I hadn’t touched in awhile. From a book written in two languages I don’t speak or read, some beautiful fig and raspberry tarts caught this fresh pair of eyes. Seeing as it’s fig season at the moment, how can anyone say no?

I think the original had chantilly cream and perhaps a couple of other flavours, but I’ve used marscarpone spiked with kirsch instead. As for the rest of the teacakes I baked… well, those will have to wait for another day. 🙂

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