Category Archives: Cakes

Fruit, nut and olive oil cake

A bit of a moveable feast this cake – a very stiff batter made with olive oil holds together tons of fresh and alcohol soaked dried fruits and nuts. It’s a rustic, crumbly, friendly kinda cake, so no elegant serving needed. I imagine chunks of this wrapped in foil being devoured as just rewards after climbing a local hill – picnic food at its best. But, in my house, it’s just as often eaten (ok, only eaten) at tea time, and my dad requested it as his birthday cake this year, so it really covers all the bases. Thanks to Nigella and Anna del Conte.
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Crostata of peaches and crema pasticciera

Crostata of peaches and crema pasticciera

I’m just back from two weeks in Tuscany, slap bang in the middle of Chiantishire. Before you hit command-W and wish me the pox in a fit of schadenfreude, it rained every single day. In fact, it’s rained pretty much every day there for five weeks, proving utterly true those proverbs that seem to exist in every language about how rain on just one unassuming day in May can completely bugger up your tan.

So what’s a girl and her mum to do? Well, close the kitchen door, put the telly on with the particularly italian programming blend of boobs and gastronomy – and cook!

This recipe is adapted from a wonderful book called “Ricette di Osterie d’Italia – I Dolci” published by the Slow Food guys. It’s a real insight into the way Italians cook their desserts – very simple ingredients mostly based on nuts, lemons and dried fruits, combined in perfectly honed ways to create subtle but delicious flavours, never overly sweet.

The crostata that follows (a really rich pastry topped with an easy creme patisserie and fresh peaches) was a doddle but was so impressive that we kept eating just to make sure we’d tasted it right. Continue reading

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The quest for scone perfection

I’ve got a really atrocious reputation for making scones. The one time I presented my husband with a batch his description was something like “plutonium-filled depth charges”. So, not great then.

But today, I tried a new recipe and they came out brilliantly – my better half could only come up with “crumbly” as a criticism (I can live with that!), and he had to go back for seconds just to be sure. They were light, delicious and golden, and the secret, according to Nigella, is the Cream of Tartar. I’ve no idea what’s in this mysterious substance, but as soon as the scones go into a really hot oven they immediately start billowing up. The best thing about scones? Only 10 minutes in the oven and by the time you’ve split them open and covered them in jam they’re ready to eat.

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Emergency pear and blueberry cake

Blueberry and pear cake

This recipe is taken from:

“The Kitchen Diaries” (Nigel Slater)

It was a super day today up until about half an hour ago. Suddenly the sky has turned grey and cloudy, and the two enormous pine trees outside my window are waving around like crazy. There’s a storm coming, and that means only one thing – an excuse for tea and cake! And all the better if it’s an emergency cake like this that takes, ooh, about 7 minutes to put together before shoving in the oven (and that’s if you bother to do the fiddly bit and line the tin).

I went out especially to buy the ingredients for this cake, but as the recipe points out, all it consists of is a basic cake with equal fat, sugar and flour, topped with any fruit that takes your fancy. The cake underneath rises around the softened fruit, so that you get a tender crumb, made moist by the fruit juices encased in a firmer golden crust around the edges. I had an inspiration – after doing the shopping of course – that blackberry and apple would be gorgeous here, perhaps with a streusel topping sprinkled over too a la Delia Smith – but I’ll just have to wait for the next rainy day to try out that idea! Meanwhile, I’ve got a cuppa to make…

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Almond and orange cake

This recipe is taken from:


“Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes: The Best of Anna Del Conte” (Anna Del Conte)
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This is a delicious moist and fragrant cake from Anna Del Conte’s wonderful collection of her best recipes. It also keeps well, as I found out after leaving it behind, not very well wrapped, before going away for the weekend; it was still great on Monday morning.

She suggests that you blanch, peel and chop/grind your own almonds rather than using readyground nuts. I did as she suggests, but I do find that it’s difficult to get the almonds finely ground enough without them turning to paste. It might just be practice, but I think next time I’ll just use ground almonds from a packet. I used fantastically juicy tarocco oranges which gave lots of bright pinky orange juice.

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