Apricot and Ginger Loaf

I haven't made a loaf cake for a while, but having a sort out of my baking cupboard, I found some wholemeal flour, stem ginger and a bag of dried apricots that needed using. Thought they'd make a good combination in a loaf cake. I find using just wholemeal flour make cakes too heavy for my taste, so I always do half wholemeal and half white.
It's a quick loaf to make - preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4 and grease a 900g loaf tin.
Put 115g wholemeal flour and 115g plain flour in a bowl with 11/2 tspns of baking powder. Add 150g soft light brown sugar, 115g butter, 2 eggs, zest of a lemon and 2 tbspn of milk. Beat together using an electric mixer for about 2 mins then fold in 175g of dried apricots [not the ones you have to soak] which have been chopped. Finely chop 3 pieces of stem ginger and you need 4 tbspns of the syrup from the jar, Add these to the cake mixture. Thinly slice 1 more piece of stem ginger. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and level the top, then arrange the slices of ginger down the centre.
Bake for 1-1/4 hours and cover the top with some foil if it's getting too brown.
Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for a while then put it on a wire rack.
I decided to ice it with some glace icing using 115g icing sugar and 1 tbspn of lemon juice.

I think the stem ginger gives the loaf a much better flavour than ground ginger. The apricots worked well with the ginger, and I think the lemon icing gave it the finishing touch. 


Blueberry Buckle

Have been trying to unravel the difference between various American words used in desserts - slump, grunt, cobbler and buckle. I've made a cobbler a few times, cutting out scone-like cobbles to put on top of the fruit but what's a grunt or a slump? Great words, and what  pictures they conjure up.
I found a recipe in an American book I bought from 'The Works' years ago, for a Blueberry Buckle. This sounded intriguing so I had to make one. What is it? It's a cake mixture with the fruit added which is put into the bottom of the cake tin, and a streusel type mixture is spooned on top. The name Buckle is supposed to have been used because the top of the baked dessert looks like it's buckled under the heat  - it does, so maybe there's some truth in this idea.

I altered some of the amounts in the recipe, as there seemed to be too much flour in the cake part. I'll certainly make the recipe again, but I'd use less sugar in the topping as it was way too sweet for our tastes.
I should also have tossed the blueberries in some flour before adding them to the cake mixture, as most of them sank to the bottom of the cake.

If you want to try a Buckle, then here's my adapted recipe - the original was in cups, so I converted it to grams, and it worked out fine.

The original recipe came from a book called 'The Big Book of American Recipes' -  it has no named author and was published in 1992

150g sugar
                                                                55g butter [in the original recipe they used shortening]
1 egg
125ml milk
                                       200g plain flour [original used 300g]
                   2 tspns baking powder
   1/2 tspn salt
                   about 250g blueberries

Preheat oven 190c/gas 5
cake mixture - cream the fat and sugar, beat in the egg; mix the baking powder and salt into the flour and add to the mixture, alternating with the milk. Add the blueberries and spoon into a 8" square cake tin, well greased.

   100g sugar
45g flour
  55g butter
                                                1tspn cinnamon [my addition as I love it!]

 topping - rub the fat into the flour and add the sugar and cinnamon. Don't rub it too fine - you need it a bit lumpy. Spoon this over the cake mixture in the tin. Bake for 25-30 mins.

You can see how most of the blueberries have sunk to the bottom of the cake layer.  I loved the contrast between the soft cake layer with the juicy berries and the crunchy topping.  It's a delicious dessert, warm or cold, and OH ate his with cream.
Oh, I forgot to say that a slump and a grunt are the same thing; different parts of the USA use different names for them. It's stewed or baked fruit with a scone-like topping rolled out over the top [or put underneath in some areas with the fruit on top!]. This is one definition of them, but I'm sure other people would disagree and have their own ideas.


Plum tart

This is a really quick dessert I did to use up some plums which were going soft. It was in a supplement in Woman's Weekly magazine ages ago, and I've made it with various fruit - apricots, pears, apples as well as the original plums. I add cinnamon as we love it. It uses bought puff pastry and store cupboard ingredients, plus the fruit.

You need 500g puff pastry, 10 plums which you halve and stone, 4tbspn ground almonds, 1 tbspn icing sugar, 1 tbspn vegetable oil, a tspn cinnamon, about 55g flaked almonds, 2 tbspn honey and milk or beaten egg to brush around the edges of the pastry.
You can also use 100g marzipan which you grate, but I didn't use any.

You preheat oven 190C/gas5 and you need a baking sheet.

Roll the pastry out to a 30x20cm rectangle. Score it 2cm in from the edge all the way round, but don't cut it through.
Put the ground almonds, icing sugar and oil in a blender a make into a paste. I used a little more than 1 tbspn oil as my paste wouldn't come together. Then you spread this over the pastry, inside the lines you've scored, and sprinkle with the grated marzipan. Put the plum halves face down on top of this and sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Drizzle with some honey. Brush the edges with milk or egg wash.and bake for 25-30 mins till the pastry's golden and the plums are soft.
Cut into 8 slices when cool.

A nice easy, quick dessert.


Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

When living in France, I loved the homely cakes my French neighbours baked, as opposed to the great patisserie you buy in the specialist shops. We took it in turns to make a traditional cake to have with coffee or tea. If it was with tea, it was always a fruit flavoured one or a tisane, never our black tea [except in our house]. This is one my next door neighbour made regularly; it's her grandmother's recipe, and she called it a 'Gateau au chocolat a l'ancienne'. I make it in a loaf tin instead of in the usual 'moule a manque', the traditional round French cake tin. It's great with an afternoon cuppa, or as a dessert with some ice cream or creme anglaise. It's normally made using cooking or dessert chocolate [of which there are many good makes in France], but I use dark chocolate from a supermarket, not an expensive bar.
Here's the recipe - it's so easy to make and is delicious.

150g dessert or plain chocolate
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
60g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
50g ground almonds
80g butter
also some butter to grease the tin

Preheat oven 200C/gas 6

Grease a 900g loaf tin [or a 20cm round one if you prefer] with some butter.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt over a saucepan of simmering water with the 80g of butter and 5 tbspn of water.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar till it's white and fluffy. Then add the flour with the baking powder, the ground almonds and the melted chocolate. Mix well together.
Pour into the tin and bake for 30-35 mins.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins before putting on a wire rack.

I forgot to say that I added a few nuts, but I didn't have enough, so in hindsight, it would have been better without them! That's my Mum's old flour sifter in the photo, but I use it for icing sugar, otherwise I make an awful mess!
The cake is light and has a good chocolate flavour. It's a useful recipe to have when you want a quick cake.

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