Friday, October 30, 2015

Autumnal Apple, Pumpkin and Walnut Cake

It has become a habit of mine to post a recipe or two around this time of the year featuring pumpkin purée as a main ingredient. Pumpkins are brilliant, versatile, delicious and very healthy. In baking pumpkins do wonders to the texture of cakes and of course add subtle, autumnal and  comforting flavors; flavors that keep you coming back for more.  Pair this ingredient with the smooth and wonderfully spiced apple butter, sprinkle in some walnuts and you're in for a superb autumnal cake that will surely please everyone!

The recipe is perfect for less a gory Halloween celebration or for a sweet finish to your next thanksgiving dinner but it's also perfect for any rainy day when all you want to do is just cuddle under your blanket, drink tea and enjoy a sweet piece of moist  and delicious cake with a soft and creamy frosting. Sounds perfect, right?

Let´s start baking then.

For the cake (6 to 8 persons) you need :
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 210 g brown sugar
  • 150 browned butter (the French call it beurre noisette)
  • 9 g baking powder
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 210 g cake flour
  • 115 pumpkin purée
  • 115 apple butter
  • 100 g lightly toasted and roughly ground walnuts (leave some big chunks if you like)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spices (cloves, star anise, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg)
  • dash of salt

Start by combining the flour, walnuts, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.

In your mixing bowl beat the eggs on a high speed and add the sugar, when the mixture triples in volume and becomes pale and thicker add the browned butter at low speed and mix until combined.

With a spatula add the pumpkin purée, the apple butter and the maple syrup, mix again and lastly fold the flour mixture.

Pour the batter in three 15cm pre-prepared pans (or in two 23cm) and bake in a preheated oven (175C) for 25 minutes. Remember that the baking time might vary so check on the cake after 20 minutes.

For the frosting you need:
  • 250 g soft butter
  • 250 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 220 g powdered sugar
  • flavoring: 1 tsp maple syrup, 1/4 tsp mixed spice or just use vanilla essence.
Combine all ingredients and beat for about 5 min until creamy and fluffy.

Smear some frosting on your cake tray or stand. Put the first cake layer and pipe a generous amount of frosting. Add the second layer and repeat with the second and third layer. Cover the last layer with the frosting. 

I decorated the cake with marzipan apples, pumpkins, acorns and leaves and colored the frosting to go along with the painted fruits and leaves.

Do take some time to make this cake and I´m sure you will like it.
Finally I wish everyone a Happy Halloween.
For more pumpkin recipes click here, here and here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Autumnal Treat: Apple Butter.

Apples are incredibly useful fruits and I always make sure to have some in my kitchen. Apples come in many different colors, textures and sweetness to please even the pickiest of eaters. You know how some fruits are just meant to be consumed fresh? Luckily apples are wonderful as fresh and get even better when cooked or baked. Apples go so well in way too many sweet recipes and what's more, they make wonderful ingredients in several savory dishes.

Nowadays we can have apples all throughout the year, however, the best apples are had during autumn. During this time of apple-plenty, one thinks of ways to capture the essence of apples while they are at their best. Apple jams and preserves is one way but another and perhaps lesser known way is apple butter. Spicy with a silky soft butter like texture, this preparation is a wonderful addition to many sweet and savory goods.

During old times, apple butter was seen as a way to make use of excess apples and since then many recipes have been developed. I opted for a simpler and quicker recipe that delivers the flavor and texture expected from apple butter.

Next time you have lots of apples, make some "butter" for yourself and for others, as it makes a great gift: autumn in a jar!!

To make the apple butter you need:
  • 1 kilo of  peeled, cored and cut into chunks apples (I used different types of apples like granny smith, russet, red delicious, royal gala and fuji as this will provide a mix of sweet and tart flavors)
  • 40 g dark brown sugar, 40 g white sugar (you can adjust the amount to your liking)
  • mix of spices, 1/4 tsp of ground cloves, ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground all spice, ground star anise, ground nutmeg, orange zest and 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • squeeze of lemon

In a pot, mix the apples, sugar, salt and the lemon, add a tbsp of water and cook on a gentle heat until soft. Process the apples into a purée. I used a hand blender and it took me just a few minutes.

Add the spices and cook again until you get the desired thickness. The cooking time will depend on the kind of apples you use, mine took about an hour before adding the spices, and after that they needed about 10 to 15 minutes.

Now you´re ready to fill the apple butter into your sterilized jars. Once cold leave in the fridge.

The uses of this butter are unlimited. Put some in a melted cheese sandwich or with chicken, on a pizza instead of the tomato sauce with arugula and Parmesan and many more. But for me this apple butter really shines in baked goods and I invite you to make it and experiment with its uses. I'm pretty sure you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sour Cream, Vanilla and Red Berries Cake

As I have already mentioned before, sometimes I buy more than I need and I end up with ingredients piling up in my fridge.  Every now and then I feel compelled to tidy up the fridge and use the ingredients that I have before rushing to buy new ones!

I had some sour cream that needed to be used before hitting its expiry date. Sour cream is such a wonderful baking ingredient; it enhances the texture and adds lightness and subtle flavor to baked goodies. With that in mind, I baked a vanilla and sour cream cake and I was so pleased with the flavor and texture that I had to do it again and share the recipe.

This cake is so moist, rich, melts in your mouth and carries the wonderful flavor of vanilla. Add some frosting, the fruits you like and you'll have a great cake to share with family and friends or just for the self-indulgent you!

Let's get going and make this cake.
For 6 to 8 servings you need:
  • 3 large eggs (60 to 70 g) at room temperature
  • 240 g sugar
  • 210 g cake flour
  • 150 g melted butter
  • 150 g sour cream at room temperature
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp baking soda (about 3 g)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract or vanilla paste 

First sift the mix the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Whisk the eggs with the vanilla and when frothy add the sugar and beat for about 5 minutes until you have a tick and pale mixture. Add the butter and sour cream and beat at the lowest speed. Once well combined turn off your mixer and with a spatula fold in the flour mixture. 
To bake the cake I used three 15 cm pans but if you don´t like a high cake use two 23 cm pans. Cover the pans with baking spray, or butter them, place a baking paper on the bottom, lightly spray again and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes in a preheated oven (180C).
Check after 20 min with a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake and it should come out clean if the cake is ready; if not bake them for few additional minutes.

Leave the cakes to cool for 5 min in the pan, then remove them and let them cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:
  • 200 g soft butter
  • 50 g sour cream, room temperature
  • 200 g sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
Combine all ingredients. Start whisking slowly then increase the speed and beat for about 5 min until creamy is almost white.

Smear with a bit of cream the serving plate you're going to use and put the first cake layer. Pipe a generous amount of frosting, put the second cake layer and repeat the process. On the final layer I added just a bit of frosting and arranged a mix of red fruits.

Cut, serve and enjoy a moist and super delicious cake.