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Roasted Corn & Chorizo Chowder

February 2, 2019

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With much of North America and Europe sitting in a deep freeze, there is little to do by way of coping but make soup. We’ve tried it every which way. Just this week: French onion (makes the whole house smell like onions), pasta e ceci (so good but not substantial), and then, finally, last night, this. A gift in a bowl. Spanish sun on cold-blistered skin.

This is one of the best soups I’ve made in ages. No, it’s one of the best soups I’ve had in ages. It may appear fussier than an average weeknight soup because you have to roast the corn and whip up a little crème fraîche topping, but it’s actually super straightforward and that garlic-infused crème fraîche? It’s the secret sauce – it adds immense amount of flavor, depth and authenticity.

So if you’re somewhere thinking of ways to get through these last 6 weeks of winter, I recommend this garlicky, hot Spanish hug in a bowl. Winter may be long and dark, but that doesn’t mean dinner has to be, too.

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ROASTED CORN & CHORIZO CHOWDER

I got this recipe from The London Cookbook, and did not mess with it much other than not bothering to make my own sofrito (see below for original sofrito recipe if you want to go above and beyond) and not removing the chorizo from the soup as it cooked. The original is posted below with my minor changes. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter; serving with good crusty bread is a must. 

  • 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh Spanish chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup peeled and diced potato (I used one large potato)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade (I used a lot more than this)
  • 2 cups sofrito (I used 1 smallish jar of store-bought sofrito, but see below for recipe)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted piquillo peppers
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • Hot paprika or sweet smoked paprika, to taste (I used a big shake of smoked)
  • Red chile flakes, to taste (I didn’t use)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. If using thawed frozen corn kernels, pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Toss the corn with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and then spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the corn for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the edges are starting to turn a golden brown. Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, and set aside.

Slice the chorizo or remote from its casing and crumble. Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chorizo and sauté until browned. Transfer the chorizo to another plate. (NB: I didn’t bother removing the chorizo [see: lazy] and it worked just fine.) Toss the potato into the pot and cook, stirring, letting it absorb some of that chorizo goodness. Add the stock, sofritopiquillos, and roasted corn and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer about 20 minutes, until the vegetables soften but haven’t yet lost their texture.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche with the chives, garlic, paprika, and chile flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Slide the chorizo into the soup, stir in half of the crème fraîche mixture, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Ladle into warmed bowls, dollop with some of the remaining crème fraiche, and lightly dust with paprika (I sprinkled some chives on top, too).

If you have a ton of time on your hands or can’t find store-bought, here’s the recipe for homemade sofrito, also from The London Cookbook:

SOFRITO

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh or canned whole tomatoes
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Toss in the onions and garlic. Cook gently, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent but not colored. Peel the bell peppers with a vegetable peeler and add them to the onions. Continue to sauté for another 20 minutes, until they too are soft.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, grate them on the largest holes of a box grater. If you are using canned tomatoes, pulse them in a food processor until they are somewhere between diced and pureed.

When the bell peppers are soft add the tomato and bay leaf and cook at the merest simmer for 25 minutes longer. Add the sugar, season with salt and pepper, and give the sofrito a final stir.

If you are making the sofrito ahead, let it cool completely. Pour into a jar, cover with a thin layer of olive oil, close the lid, and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

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Lemon Almond Raspberry Layer Cake

January 17, 2019

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It’s dinner party season*, the season for heavy drinking and eating, the season for trying our best to be happy indoors. Dinner parties need, in my opinion, either the simplest desserts (a huge block of Callebaut chocolate and a knife) or the most comforting (bread pudding with whiskey sauce, hot-out-the-oven chocolate chip cookies with spiked milk, layer cake).

Dinner party season tends to coincide with lemon cake season. If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that lemon cakes are kind of my thing. (Actually, citrus cakes in general.) The craving tends to hit at this time of year: the darkest, dreariest time, when citrus reminds people that not all places in the world are cold and inhospitable. We grew somewhere, they say, far better than wherever we are now.

In this specific iteration of my usual wintery citrusy cake craving, I wanted a lemon cake that wasn’t fluffy or frivolous, something with weight and import. I wanted it to have layers and frosting and maybe – no, definitely – a layer of raspberry jam in the middle.

The cake I got was everything I wanted:

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a lemony cake made with some almond meal for a little flavor and a lot of texture and depth, filled with a (butter-free!) frosting that holds its own.

I finally settled on a cake recipe loosely based on this one. (All the cakes on Ana’s blog look next level amazing…just look at this Oreo cake! Plus she explains a lot of the chemistry behind baking, which isn’t just cool, it’s incredibly helpful no matter how skilled a baker you think you are.) While I didn’t copy the recipe exactly, I did copy its use of weight rather than volume measurements and, at least for baking, I really recommend you, do, too. All you need is a cheap digital kitchen scale – they’re about $10 on Amazon – and I promise all your baking will be better. The American way of measuring out all our ingredients in cups is so inaccurate and because baking is such a science, every gram or ounce really makes a difference.

The only issue I had was a practical one – how to fill the cake with both jam and frosting without the jam squirting out the sides? There are many things I know I could have done – I could have piped frosting along the edges of the inside layer to make a “dam” to keep the jam from running out, I could have cooked the jam down or added a bit of cornstarch to make it less runny. But I’m lazy, so my jam oozed out the sides a bit. And you know what? We didn’t mind at all.

 

I’m definitely going to make this again and soon. It’s dinner party season after all.

*Who am I kidding? It’s always dinner party season around here 🙂

LEMON ALMOND CAKE WITH RASPBERRY JAM & CREAM CHEESE MASCARPONE FROSTING

I finally settled on a cake recipe loosely based on this one. (All the cakes on Ana’s blog look next level amazing…just look at this Oreo cake! Plus she explains a lot of the chemistry behind baking, which isn’t just cool, it’s incredibly helpful no matter how skilled a baker you think you are.) While I didn’t copy the recipe exactly, I did copy its use of weight rather than volume measurements and I really recommend you, do, too. All you need is a cheap digital kitchen scale – they’re about $10 on Amazon – and I promise all your baking will be better. The American way of measuring out all our ingredients in cups is so inaccurate and because baking is such a science, every gram or ounce really makes a difference. Makes gorgeously flavored and textured cake for 12. Feel free to use the cake recipe without the frosting – it’d be perfect with nothing but some jam on top. 

Lemon Almond Cake

makes enough for 2 x 8″ layer cakes

  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 235 grams sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice from 3 lemons
  • 120 grams sour cream or yogurt
  • 50 grams milk
  • 190 grams flour
  • 100 grams ground almonds (also called almond meal)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon – (don’t forget this! It adds so much.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup raspberry jam, for filling (you can substitute any jam or curd you like)

Preheat oven to 160°C/325°F. Grease and line two same-sized cake tin with with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl sift together flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. (If you can, sift it.)

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, milk and lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. (approx. 3 min). Add the lemon zest and the eggs. Add the tiniest bit of almond extract and the vanilla extract. Beat another minute or two until really pale.

Alternating between them (and starting and ending with the flour mixture), add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture with a wooden spoon, gently mixing to combine after each addition.

Divide batter between your two prepared tins and bake 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the palest part comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Allow cakes to cool for at least 15 minutes in their pans then remove and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Make the frosting while the cakes cool. To frost the cakes, top one layer with 1/3 of the frosting (recipe below) and raspberry jam (cooked down with some cornstarch if you’re worried about it running out). Put the second layer on top and frost with the rest of the frosting. There are really fancy ways to do this but, as you can see by my photos, I did not do them.

Lemon Almond Cream Cheese & Mascarpone Frosting

makes enough for a generous amount to fill and cover a cake with two layers

  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 200 g mascarpone
  • 60 g powdered sugar, sifted
  • juice of one lemon (and zest too if you want!)
  • a couple drops almond extract (really just the tiniest amount possible)
  • a big splash of vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and powdered sugar together until well combined. Add the other frosting ingredients to taste. Adding more powdered sugar will result in a stiffer frosting.

 

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Peanut Butter Nutella Blondies

December 3, 2018

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I love Christmastime for the lights, the festivities, the togetherness, the panettone and the pudding, the glitter and the glogg. But I do not love the presents. It often feels like ’tis the season for buying things for the sake of checking names off a list and for receiving things you don’t need or want. One way to bypass most of Christmas-related present-buying stress is to make three or four big batches of cookies, brownies and bars, then mix and wrap them up in paper or pretty bags and give them as gifts.* It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s cheap and people will appreciate getting a dozen homemade blondies a lot more than having to figure out how to regift that holiday themed oven mitt.

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If you’re looking for the perfect medley of giftable treats, I recommend my biscotti, some kind of classic cookie, and these peanut butter Nutella blondies. As far as effort goes, it’s next to nothing. I made these last night while waiting for the pasta water to boil, true story.

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PEANUT BUTTER NUTELLA BLONDIES

These are one of the best things I’ve ever made. Never have I received so much praise for such little effort. They take no time, no effort, no cleaning up, just a very healthy amount of our favorite things: butter, sugar and chocolate. Below recipe adapted from this one on Averie Cooks, where peanut butter chips are used instead of chocolate chips and only Nutella is spooned on top. It’s super adaptable, so use what you have or what you feel like! 

1/2 cup (115 grams/1 stick) butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup chocolate chips

peanut butter

Nutella

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Prepare a baking tin by coating the bottom and sides in butter. If you don’t have a tin you can use a tray.

In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, egg and sugar until creamy. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the flour and chocolate chips. Plop the batter into the prepared tin. Spoon big dollops of peanut butter and/or nutella on top, as much as you want.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Wait until almost completely cool before slicing.

*If you want to give more substantial baked goods, check out my pumpkin bread, which makes perfect little loaves.

The Best Meatballs for Spaghetti

October 5, 2018

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I am fully aware as I start this post that there’s pretty much zero possibility of me getting through it without making at least one ball joke so I think it’s best for everyone if I keep it short. I often find that the simplest things are the hardest to make. Meatballs seems so straightforward but so often they’re bland and hard and….I’m done…just gonna bow out here and save us all. Here is the best recipe I’ve ever found and the one I turn to time and time again for meatballs. Nothing funny about that.

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SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS

This is my own lazy version of a popular recipe by Kittencals I originally found here but can no longer access due to EU data protection laws. In any case, it’s great and easily messed with. Leave things out you don’t have already, add things you do. This recipe makes a ton of meatballs – enough for 8 people at least – but it freezes so well, you might as well make a big batch.

For the meatballs:

3.5 pounds ground beef & pork (I use about half beef, half pork and meat with the highest percentages of fat)

3 eggs

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup milk

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano (I skip this when I’m too lazy to grate it)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1.5 teaspoon salt (don’t skimp!)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

For sauce: (you want to make sure the meatballs are mostly covered, use however much does the trick)

1 large jar (700 g) passata (unseasoned tomato puree)

1 large can peeled tomatoes

1 small can pizza sauce (seasoned tomato puree)

salt

To serve: 2 pounds (1 kg) very al dente spaghetti & lots of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Start by making the meat mixture: For the meatballs, mix all the ingredients except the meat together in a really big bowl with a whisk. Then use your hands to gently but thoroughly mix in the meat.

Next, make the sauce: in a very large pot (preferrably with a wide bottom), mix all the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer while you form the meat mixture into balls of a similar size.

Plop the balls directly into the bubbling sauce. Cook over low heat, covered, and don’t stir for at least 15 minutes or else the meatballs will break. Remove cover and gently stir so the meatballs all have time to cook under the sauce. Don’t turn up the heat or the meat will stick to the bottom and break. Continue cooking until meatballs are cooked through, at least 35 minutes, and until sauce is reduced to your liking. (It’s OK if it’s a little watery, as you can undercook the pasta and the finish it in the sauce, which will be soaked right up.) You can make this a few days ahead of time, just keep the whole cooled pot in the fridge until you need it. Just remember to stir gently.

To serve, mix very al dente spaghetti with the bubbling sauce, cook together for a minute, stirring gently. Top bowls of pasta mixed with sauce with the meatballs and ample freshly grated parmigiano.

 

Asparagus & Garden Pea Risotto

July 2, 2018

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I’m not an asparagus person. There’s something unpalatable to me about the stringiness, the taste and the smell that pops up hours – days! – later when you least expect it. But this risotto has me on an asparagus kick and wondering what else lives in Asparagus World that I should be eating. But because I am now the mother of THREE human children (two of whom are under the age of 2 and do not sleep through the night) and I’m typing this out while watching the World Cup quarter finals and eating frozen chocolate chip cookies (it’s hot) (not that it has to be hot to eat them frozen, I always eat them frozen) I’m going to skimp on the newsy opening blurb and just get to the point: this risotto is really good. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks and am planning to make it again.

It highlights fresh garden peas (the ones you buy still in their shells) and asparagus, two things best bought in spring when they’re harvested. The pea flavor is revved up here by using a super simple broth made from boiling the pea shells rather than a chicken broth to make the risotto. The asparagus flavor is highlighted by pureeing boiled asparagus stalks (which aren’t as nice to eat as the tender tips anyway) and then mixing that “asparagus cream” into the risotto at the end.

If you’re low on time/energy or you have a life and can’t be bothered to shell a kilogram of peas (it takes…a while) or it’s not garden pea season, you can definitely substitute frozen garden peas and forgo the pea broth and use the standard chicken or veggie broth. If you can’t be bothered to puree a bunch of boiled asparagus stems, it’s whatevs. This is risotto: the only real rules are in the method and the rice.

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ASPARAGUS & GARDEN PEA RISOTTO

A fussy but worth it vegetarian risotto that really shows off spring’s bounty. 500 grams/1 lb of risotto rice should be enough for 4 – 6 people. Some of the steps can be skimped on (see: shelling 1 kilogram of peas) but I’d definitely recommend making the asparagus stem puree to add a ton of flavor. 

3 – 4 bunches asparagus

1 kg / 2.2 lbs garden peas (in their shells)

2 shallots, diced

500 grams / 1 lb risotto rice (carnaroli or vialone nano; arborio is far inferior here)

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

1 cup white wine

a big pot of broth (can be homemade pea broth made from the pea shells, see below, or chicken broth)

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

about 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

  • Shell and Boil the Peas: Remove the peas from their shells; save the shells if you want to make pea broth. 1 kg of peas in their shells takes awhile so make it a group activity if you can. Bring a pot of water to boil and boil the peas for 2 minutes then immediatly strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. NB: garden peas need to boiled separately; don’t try to cook them from raw in the risotto. If you’re using frozen peas, just add them at the very end of cooking the risotto, a minute before you “mantecare” it.
  • Make the Pea Broth (optional): To make pea broth, simply cover all the shells, a chopped carrot and a chopped onion with a dash of salt in a lot of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 mins. Set aside and reheat when ready to make risotto.
  • Make the Crema di Asparagi: Cut off the delicate tips of the asparagus and reserve; you’ll be frying these up as a garnish. Boil the asparagus stalks until very soft, about 20 mins. Remove most of the water then blend with a handheld blender until completely smooth soft creamy. Set aside for later.
  • Make the asparagus garnish: Fry the tips of the asparagus in a little olive oil and salt, covered, until browned and almost crispy, about 20 mins. Turn often. Set aside.
  • Make the risotto:
    • heat the broth in a pot so it’s steaming; you’ll be adding hot broth to the rice. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter or olive oil and add the diced shallots. Don’t let them brown. After a few minutes, when the shallots are fragrant and no longer opaque, add the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir over medium heat for a few minutes to toast, then add the wine. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the smell of alcohol has cooked off.
    • Now start to add the heated broth, one ladleful at a time, cooking over low-medium heat. Wait until one ladleful is mostly absorbed by the rice before adding the next, stirring most of the time so nothing sticks to the bottom and the rice cooks evenly. Grate your parmigiano while you make the risotto.
    • After about 15 – 20 mins, start taste-testing the rice to see how al dente it is. You’ll want to stop adding broth when it’s still a tiny bit undercooked, with a lot of bite left in it.
    • When it’s still just a few minutes underdone, add the crema di asparagi and stir it all in. When rice is al dente, turn off heat. It shouldn’t be liquidy at all. Now quickly add the peas (pre-boiled garden peas or frozen peas), the chopped butter and most of the parmigiano. Mix with only 2 or 3 big stirs then COVER AND LEAVE IT for 5 full minutes. This is called “mantecare” and is the key to a perfect risotto. Set your timer and walk away. Clean up a bit, drink some wine, gently heat your asparagus tips and wait.
    • After five minutes, uncover the risotto – it should be perfect. Scoop into individual bowls and top with the fried asparagus tips that you’ve warmed, the remaining grated parmigiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

The Apple Cake

February 14, 2018

 

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I’ve forever been on the hunt for The Apple Cake. Like The Bran Muffin, the homemade version has always, invariably eluded me. (For a historical explanation, feel free to read this post about my moist apple cake, which has been kindly filling the void where The Apple Cake should be. Or you could try this pleasant, apple-rich version that will use up lots of apples but won’t blow your mind. I once made this absolutely beautiful and delicious meld between an apple tart and cake, though it isn’t exactly – or even remotely – The Apple Cake I’ve been looking for. Over the years, there have been countless other contenders that I’ve never bothered to post about [but had no problem eating] in the quest for The Apple Cake.)

So what is The Apple Cake I’ve been looking for? It’s moist and full of big chunks of fruit. It’s a little sweet but plain enough for breakfast and possibly topped with a simple crumble. Seems simple but it’s usually the simplest things that are the hardest to get right.

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When I stumbled across this recipe, called Heavenly Apple Cake, while looking for something (chocolatey) to make for Eric’s birthday, I couldn’t not make it: not only did it have perfect reviews, but it might, just might, be It. Plus, at 39 weeks pregnant, I’m listening to my cravings and all my cravings point directly to cake. After a bout of sinusitis that robbed me of tastebuds for a month, I’m back on the Eating All The Things Wagon, baking cake at a rate of about one every two days. So this would also be a little break from the lemon drizzle cake I’ve been really, really (really) into recently.

So how is it? It’s definitely a keeper. It’s a good, solid, everyday cake. Every time I walk into the kitchen, I can’t help but take another slice. It’s absurdly easy to make and clean up after – it’s a one-bowl, no-creaming, no-fancy-stuff wonder. You just mix some flour, sugar, baking soda and spices with melted butter, eggs, apples and brandy-soaked dates. That’s really it. The result is a very moist, very flavorful cake with a crunchy top and a soft, fruity middle. Its real beauty is in its adaptability – the apples can be substituted with any fruit, the dates with prunes or raisins, the brandy with any other liquid. The way I made it, with apples (and a pear), dates and brandy, it is really sweet and really boozy. If I sub the dates with raisins and the brandy with orange juice, I think it’ll be even better. Maybe I’ll switch out a little of the flour for almond meal next time I need to make this cake/tomorrow…

But is it The Apple Cake? You know, with some tinkering – and maybe a little crumble – it might just be.

UPDATE: I made this cake again (literally two days after the first time) and it’s nearly perfect. The recipe below now reflects what I did the second time around and what’s what I think makes as close to the perfect Apple Cake as I may ever find.

UPDATE No. 2: I have recently been using this recipe every time an apple cake craving hits (sooo about every other day). I make a ton of changes – I add about 1- 2 cups grated apple, reduce the sugar to 1 cup, reduce the oil to 1 cup, don’t add raisins or nuts, and just throw all the batter ingredients in a big bowl with an enormous quantity of roughly chopped apples and bake it. Sometimes I add a lot of chopped, grated and ground ginger. Is it better than the below recipe? I don’t know. But does it even matter?

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APPLE CAKE 

Adapted very liberally from this recipe , aptly called Heavenly Apple Cake. It’s supremely easy to make – it’s just one bowl, no creaming, almost no clean up, an eyes-closed kind of recipe. I’ve made it three times now and no matter how I tinker – no spices, adding vanilla extract, adding some ground almonds and almond essence, adding a crumble on top – it’s been delicious. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar but I found that sickly sweet so recommend you reduce to 1 cup sugar (or even less if you prefer). I love my booze but I found the taste of brandy in the original way too pronounced, so now I orange juice and was really happy with it; feel free to soak the dates in another liquid, like apple cider, tea or apple juice. You could also add nuts if you’re in that. I also found the baking soda called for in the original a little on the metallic side, so substituted half with baking powder. I have a feeling this recipe is made to be messed with.

1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dates

1/2 to 3/4 cups apple or orange juice (or brandy, as called for in the original recipe)

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar (any combo of white and brown is fine)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

some sprinkles of cinnamon and a little nutmeg (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 – 8 apples, roughly chopped (you can use pears)

1/2 cup (125 grams/1 stick) butter, melted

3 eggs, beaten

Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with whatever liquid you’re using. Add a little more liquid if they soak it all up.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C. Using butter, grease a loaf tin, cake pan, or bundt pan (or combo…I used a standard loaf tin and a small bundt). I also recommend throwing a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Add the chopped apples, dates/dried fruit in their liquid, melted butter and the eggs; mix well. It’ll look like a ton of apples held together by a little bit of thick batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan(s), and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (the bigger your pan, the more time it will need). Don’t worry too much about over-filling the pans as the cake won’t rise much. It will be done when it’s a dark tan color, springs back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted comes out with crumbs on it but not gooey.

Serve warm with boozy whipped cream for dessert or at room temperature for breakfast or tea. Stays fresh for days.

 

Extremely Lemony Lemon Drizzle Cake

February 7, 2018

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In my fitful sleep, I dream of lemons. Not just lemons. Limes, too. Lemon-lime flavored gummies and jello, cookies and cake. Lemon-scented candles, lime-scented cleaning supplies. Pretty much anything lemony and limey. I’m not sure how but there’s no doubt that my citrus obsession relates to my current state of being really, extremely pregnant and really, extremely congested. And probably isn’t unrelated to the fact that London is in the middle of a record-setting cold snap with which our 150-year-old house is finding hard to compete.

IMG_7603.jpgI am ready to have another baby. Like, really ready. At 37.5 weeks pregnant, baby is fully cooked and I’m fully over it. This pregnancy has not been especially difficult but for a raging sinus infection that has tortured me (and destroyed my ability to breathe, smell and taste) on and off for the last few months. Yes, months. Since early November. The doctors I’ve been to all assure me that for reasons unknown sinus infections are super common in late pregnancy and will clear up as soon as I deliver. “Not long now!” they say with a smile as I storm out of the office, under-prescribed, under-medicated and unimpressed.

With nothing to do but self-medicate, I woke up this morning from another lemon-infused dream knowing that I needed to make the lemony-est cake possible. Something even I, with my nose completely out of commission, could tell was lemony. Something bright and sunny, the opposite of a head cold in an English winter.

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And so this cake. Compiled from a bunch of different things I found online (but mostly this recipe), it has the loveliest, moistest, lemon-infused crumb with just the right amount of lemon syrup soaking through, capped by lemon icing.

So if life gives you lemons – or a sinus infection you can’t medicate away – rest easy knowing you can always make this extremely lemony lemon drizzle cake. It’s everything I dreamt it would be.

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EXTREMELY LEMONY LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE

I lost track of the number of lemons that went into this cake, but I wouldn’t start making it with less than 8 or 9 on hand. Just buy a lot of lemons and be ready to juice and zest. I even topped the cake with zest because I honestly cannot get enough lemons. The thing that makes this cake so special, though, is the crumb. It’s just really, really good. When I’m not on such a lemon-kick, I’ll come back to it for other things, perhaps substituting the lemon juice with orange juice or milk.

ED note: I have made this recipes many more times, sometimes substituting limes for lemons, and it’s always perfect. 

Makes the equivalent of 2 big loaves.

LEMON CAKE (makes the most delightful crumb)

250 grams/2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups sugar (this can be reduced to 1 1/2 cups)

4 large (or 5 medium) eggs

1/3 cup lemon zest (this was about 4 lemons + a lime)

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)

1/2 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup mik + big splash vinegar (or 3/4 cup buttermilk)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

LEMON SYRUP

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

LEMON GLAZE

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

juice of 1 – 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease 2 loaf pans or a bundt pan plus some other small pans. I lined the bottoms with parchment paper in them, too, and they were super easy to remove from the pans.

First, make the cake: In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the eggs and lemon zest. Beat together until very pale and creamy, about 3 minutes.

In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk & vinegar to make a curdled buttermilk-like thing (otherwise, just use 3/4 cup buttermilk). Mix with 3/4 cup lemon juice and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine.

Using a spoon or spatula, alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, until just combined. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 – 45 mins, testing after 30 mins. They’ll be ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out mostly clean or with a few dry crumbs. After a few minutes, carefully remove cakes from pans and cool upside down on a wire rack set over a pan to collect the syrup and glaze drippings.

Now, make the syrup while the cakes cool for a few minutes. In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice over medium heat, until sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Let the glaze cool for a minute or two, then spoon it over the bottoms of the cakes, letting it seep through.

Finally, flip the mostly cooled cakes right-side-up on the wire rack and make the glaze. Whisk together the sifted icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick, smooth glaze. (Mine came out yellow because I used unrefined icing sugar. Drizzle or pour the glze over the tops of the cakes, letting it drip down the sides.