Thursday, November 18, 2010

Berry Crumble Cake

Crumble and fruit in the same sentence...In my mind that equals goodness! Flour, butter and sugar is all you need to make a crumble topping, so simple, yet so good!

I have been eyeing down this recipe for a while from Dorie’s wonderful, big baking book ‘Baking: From My Home to Your’ and have waited for the right occasion to make it. After quickly realising that every day is simply the right occasion to try a new cake (!!!!!), I threw on my lovely apron and got busy.
I chose a mixture of frozen blueberries and cherries for this cake and although I do not even like blueberries that much, this cake tasted scrumptious nonetheless. Fresh berries are most likely even better to use but I didn’t have those available unfortunately. Next time, I may try this cake with only cherries and add a third cup to the recipe to turn the berry-ness up one notch.

What I love about this cake? The balance between the sugary, crumble and walnut crunch on top, balanced with the sweetness of the berries and the light, soft texture of the cake’s inside.
Planning on having a little, casual tea party? This is your cake!

Berry Crumb Cake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

You can eat this cake on the same day as preparation, once it has cooled down to room temperature, but it tastes even better the next day if you store it in the fridge over night.


For the crumbs:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

For the cake:
1 pint (2 cups) berries (preferably fresh, or frozen, not thawed- I used a mix of frozen raspberries and frozen mixed berries)
2 cups plus 2 tsp all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon AND/OR 1/4 orange (I only used lemon)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 teaspoon vinegar plus milk to make 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F). Grease a 8 x 8 pan and line with baking paper. Set on a baking sheet.

To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until needed. (Covered well the crumb mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

To make the cake: Using your fingertips, toss the berries and 2 tsp of the flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and, with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled — it will soon smooth out. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients.) You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the berries.

Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the fridge and, with your fingertips, break it into pieces. Scatter the crumbs over the batter, pressing them down ever so slightly.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool just until it is warm or until it reaches room temperature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Gorgeous Apple Cake

Summer time is here, which also means that it is time to whip out the fruit cakes we all love so much. Although this is definitely a year-round cake, it fits well for a summery, afternoon teatime session!

I watched the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ again recently. What a sweet movie! I admit, I am a bit biased as I love cooking, travels and blogging (three things at the heart of this movie), yet I do still believe that everyone can enjoy it. The movie gave me inspiration to try something French so I chose this recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s new book ‘Around my French Table’. Seeing the images and reading the ingredients, I just knew this recipe would be a winner. And it most definitely was. Add a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Bon Appetit!!

Marie Helene’s Apple Cake

(I made some changes: I omitted the rum. I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract instead of ½. I added 1 tsp of cinnamon. You can also top the cake with a sweet crumble mixture or simply with slivered almonds and some vanilla sugar.) 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preparation: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it's evenish.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Serving: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène's served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature and, according to my husband, gets more comforting with each passing day. However long you keep the cake, it's best not to cover it — it's too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Find the recipe here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Welcome to Ghana!

I’ve been living in South Africa for a year now and have been hoping to get the chance to see a bit more of the African continent whilst living here. The opportunity came and here I am, traveling to Ghana for two weeks!
I was two years old (1989), the last time I ran wild in West Africa and do not remember much. My memories exist through pictures and stories that my parents have told us. (We lived in Togo for two years back then). That is why going back to that part of the world was quite exciting for me.
My brother and I in Togo in 1989
“Hey Brunni! Hey Brunni!”…these are the words you hear as you walk or drive down the roads in Ghana. It means ‘white-man’ or in my case ‘white-lady’. It is as simple as responding with a smile and every Ghanaians’ eyes will light up and cheeks will part, only for you to be received with THE biggest smile! Ghanaians are extremely genuine and friendly people, something I got to experience personally over the past two weeks. Seldom have I been to places where I have felt so welcomed!
We rented a car for 10 days in order to explore bits of the country a bit better. When driving off the beaten track, the country-sides are lush and green, the roads are covered in thick red dirt and humble, little towns will pop up quite frequently, where locals appear happy going about their business.
Hey Brunni!!
We spent a few days in Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana. The city is quiet by night but springs to life early in the morning into what appears to be an insanely chaotic mess but, by some form of magic, this city works. It doesn’t just work, it throbs with life, with smells and with noises like very few other places in this world. Thousands of people line the street selling everything from ‘designer’ jeans to toilet paper, biscuits and washing detergent, to fake soccer jerseys to pillows and fruit. This action takes place along all streets that surround the heart of the city. The heart of the city is made up by the biggest market in West Africa, which can be described as a sea…no…an OCEAN of tin shacks. Once you descend into this ocean, you enter a maze and once you have entered, a feeling sweeps over you, that you may never be able to get out alive! J What a ride it was, what a testing of our senses! I loved it!
Kumasi Market

Elmina was another town that will remain in my memory. Although many sizes smaller, this town can be compared to the coastal version of Kumasi. It is a fishing town, again, throbbing with life. I may have never seen so many boats (all hand-carved by the locals, may I add) in one place. The town also holds rich history in terms of the gold and slave trade. Now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, and went through the hands of the Dutch and the British as the biggest slave trading post in the world! No one knows exactly how any slaves passed through the Door of No Return but it must have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions! This BBC article explains more. 
Elmina Fishing Town
Inside the walls of Elmina Castle
Further West from Elmina, we discovered a true little paradise in Ghana! The place is called Lou Moon Lodge in Axim.  It is something special. You drive down six km of dirt road and feel you are in the middle of the jungle, only to stumble into a haven of tranquility made up by a perfectly shaped lagoon surrounded by swaying palm trees, the greenest grass and utter bliss The lodge is in perfect, 5-star condition, the food is Michelin stars compared to what we had been eating the days before and you simply cannot help but smile…all the time!

As with all my traveling blog entries, all I can do it give you a snapshot. This is it on Ghana although words cannot express the feelings and sensations you get from traveling to such remote parts of the world, in which I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by absolute kindness and warmth. Thank you Ghana for giving me the perfect little taste of your country. Hopefully I can be back one day for more.

Baked In Love 

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