Category Archives: Tray bakes

Apple & Blackberry

Blackberries are one of the few foods for me that really are still truly seasonal;  their flavour has the effect that strawberries used to – transporting me immediately back to the last few days of summer, and blackberry picking walks, collecting as many bramble scratches on my forearms as fruit in my soft-scoop carton.  Their inky shine and spicy mustiness is almost too exotic for an English fruit, but English it is, and as such it is most commonly found in crumbles, puddings and pies come September, often combined with its soulmate, the Bramley apple.

The cultivated variety, sold in supermarkets look fabulous – prodigiously bursting with juice, but lack the intensity of the wild blackberries, grown at the mercy of our unpredictable weather. So, imagine if you will, my excitement last August when, while walking a golf course with my family, we spotted berries with the same magnificent looks, but hanging proudly off a large clump of bushes (beneath a heavily laden apple tree – you couldn’t make it up). In a state of slightly embarrassing excitement, I commandeered every improvised receptacle in sight to collect the bounty. Several baseball hats and gathered golf towels did the trick, and we returned the following day with Tupperware to do the job properly.

There was so much fruit that I was able to make several pots of jam (combined with cherries also found on the same walk) and a couple of blackberry and almond tarts before squirrelling the remainder away in the freezer. I have been chucking the odd handful into milkshakes ever since, but pulled the rest out last week to combine with the last of the my father’s Bramleys in an apple traybake. This is really versatile as it can be served with coffee or as a dessert with custard. This is just as well, as it can’t hang around – the sugar loses its crunch indecently early – after about a day, so although it’s still good, immediate gobbling is recommended!

INGREDIENTS – makes about 10 – 12 pieces

450g cooking apples (such as Bramley)

Two good handfuls of blackberries

juice of ½ lemon

225g butter, softened

280g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

350g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp milk

demerara sugar, to sprinkle

METHOD

– Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a traybake tin (approx 27cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.

– Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and squeeze over the lemon juice.

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– Remove your blackberries from the freezer if you need to – they don’t need to be completely thawed.

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– Place the butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix well until smooth, adding the milk as you go.

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– Spread half the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half the apples and blackberries over the top of the mixture, then repeat the layers.

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– Arrange blackberries and slices of apple on top and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.

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– Bake for 45-50 mins until golden and a skewer come out clean. Leave to cool for 10 mins, then turn out of tin and remove paper. Cut into bars or squares.

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If you can you get hold of blackberries where you are, let me know how you cook with them!

Coffee & White Chocolate

When I was sixteen, and studying for my Home Economics O’ Level, (how twee does that sound?) one of the recipes we tackled was a chocolate and coffee tart. I can still remember learning how to crimp the edges ‘Paul Hollywood’ style and scoffing the lot with my friends after the class.  What I told my mother when I arrived home empty handed I do not know. However, it was the first time I had tasted the combination, and although it was probably instant coffee and Bournville, (which btw, Mary Berry swears by, so maybe I shouldn’t be so sniffy!) and I was hooked. I had only really eaten coffee as a flavouring in a coffee and walnut cake, habitually made every year for my father’s birthday – (strangely served with Maltesers on the side), but coffee creams rapidly became my preferred chocolate choice, taking over from the less classy strawberry, and reflecting my increasingly sophisticated tastes!

A couple of days ago I was intent on making some Brownies using Nespresso coffee when I discovered my chocolate stash empty.  Practically every time I shop I throw a couple of bars in my trolley so that I never run out, so I was upset with myself (or should that be my thieving husband…) for letting supplies run dry. What I did find however, stuck under a bar of unwanted Bailey’s truffle (anyone?) was a slab of white chocolate. I confess I don’t often cook with white chocolate. Not only do I find it a bit sickly, but it’s also really hard to work with  – melting to a thicker and more intransigent consistency than dark chocolate. However, beggars can’t be choosers, and I figured I wouldn’t be melting it in isolation, so I had a search for coffee and white chocolate brownies and found a fabulous recipe on Vintage Kitchen Notes via A Culinary Journey – thank you Paula!  Even better, the white chocolate was not melted but chopped into chunks, caramelising slightly in the baking, which gave these brownies (or strictly Blondies) a gorgeous fudgy texture. They were such a roaring success, that know the recipe will become a regular of mine, so allow me to share it (slightly adapted to what I had to hand) with you now:

INGREDIENTS: Serves 8

100ml Espresso Coffee

180g granulated sugar (gives that thin crispy sheen on top)

180g dark molasses sugar

180g unsalted butter

2 lg eggs, beaten

30ml coffee liqueur (I didn’t have any so I guess it’s optional)

240g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

140g good quality white chocolate, chopped into various size chunks

100g coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts), toasted.

METHOD

–        Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (350 F)

–        Butter a 10-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

–        Prepare the Espresso coffee and combine coffee and water in a small saucepan and stir until dissolved.

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–        Over a low heat, add sugar and butter and stir until butter melts. Turn off heat and let     mixture cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. You can transfer it to a bowl to speed it up. It’s important to let it cool so that the chocolate doesn’t melt when you add it.

–        Add eggs and coffee liqueur to butter mixture and whisk to combine.

–        Sift flour, baking powder and salt directly onto butter mixture and stir to blend.

–        Stir in chocolate and nuts.

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–        Bake until a tester comes out almost clean, about 35 minutes. Do not over bake or they will be tough. Do not use a square pan like me – it really needs to be a 10 inch tray bake, or your brownies will be a bit dry at the side and undercooked in the middle as the mixture will be too deep.

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–        Cool in pan on a wire rack (see the dry vs squidgy areas?)

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In spite of my pan error, they tasted amazing, and I scooped up the undercooked brownie and stirred it through some vanilla ice cream (300ml double cream, 150 ml full fat milk, 150g icing sugar and I tsp vanilla extract if you have an ice-cream maker).

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Can you believe I shot this ice-cream and then put it back into the freezer? It was only 9am however, and I was still intent on making today a ‘good’ day. . It’s now 4pm and I have failed; in the last hour alone I have consumed 1.5 slabs of the brownie and I can’t be sure how long the other half is going to survive…..

Any favourite coffee pairings you want to share?