Along with caramelised roast pumpkins; crisp, foggy mornings and that first smell of woodsmoke, cooking apples signal Autumn proper for me. Making apple sauce is child’s play. Roughly chopped and simmered down with a spot of butter, sugar and water and maybe a pinch or two of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cloves; the transformation from crunch to mush is impressive. The hardest decision is then whether to stir your sauce into cake, serve it up with roast pork, stir into breakfast yoghurt or make a time honoured, quintessentially British comfort pudding: apple crumble.
I’m afraid I can’t give you quantities for a crumble. I make it differently every time, only half relying on any number of recipes at the start of each autumn to remind myself what I’m doing. I stew apples with butter and sugar and maybe stir in fresh blackberries or frozen blueberries if I’ve got any. Meanwhile I ring the changes in the basic topping (butter, flour and sugar) with oats, spices and/or nuts.
I winged the custard today too with equal measures of full fat milk and double cream gently warmed, then a paste of cornflour, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla whisked before heating to just below the boil. Not gonna lie. It was my best yet. I’m looking forward to the leftovers once my daughters have gone to bed!
I have two types of cake I can knock up in a hurry, without really thinking about it, and with a 99% chance of the right ingredients already residing in my kitchen cupboard. The first is a tray of brownies, the second is a batch of muffins. Both are adaptable, can be on the table in about forty minutes and, above all, are guaranteed crowd pleasers. I’ve already “done” brownies this week so when my gorgeous sister-in-law offered to pop by this afternoon with my baby nephew I decided to go the muffin route. Half an hour later the house was filled with the fragrance of coffee and chocolate; which is always a Good Thing!
Should you require a “little something” at short notice, you could do worse than these babies. They are adapted from a recipe of Susannah Blake’s in Muffin Magic. Please note that you can substitute gluten-free flour and/or non-dairy milk without any problems, I’ve done both.
In a big bowl mix 300g self-raising flour, 120g caster sugar, two teaspoons each of cocoa powder and instant espresso powder and 50g chopped dark chocolate.
In a jug beat 200ml milk, two tablespoons yoghurt, 1 egg and 85g melted butter; and then pour into the bowl of dry ingredients. Lightly and barely mix. If you under-combine with streaks of flour mixture still present you’ll get lovely light muffins. If you mix thoroughly, as you would a cake batter, your muffins will be rubbery. You don’t want that!
Spoon the mixture into twelve medium sized muffin moulds (I have two six-hole, silicon muffin trays. If you aren’t using silicon you’ll need to line with paper cases) and pop into a preheated 200C oven for twenty minutes.
Plump the cushions, hide that pile of paperwork, stick the kettle on and then hope your guests arrive before the muffins go cold. If they do cool too much remove from the tins/trays and stick in a hot oven for about three minutes. IF there’s any left you can do this for breakfast the next morning too, but don’t count on it…
I do like a nice slab of homemade carrot cake. Smugly virtuous carrots, raisins and walnuts held in a moist crumb that sings with spices and zest; topped with unctuous cream cheese icing. What’s not to like?*
Here’s my recipe, slightly adapted from Liz Franklin’s in Brownies and Bars.
Beat 125g soft butter with 125mls olive oil, 200g caster sugar and, gradually, 4 eggs. Add 300g gluten free self-raising flour, 3 good sized organic carrots, a handful each of walnuts and raisins; the zest and juice of an orange and whatever spices you’re in the mood for (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger is good).
Combine and bake in a greased 20x30cm tin at 180C for 45 mins.
Cool and top with a mixture of 200g cream cheese, 200g icing sugar and the zest of half a lemon.
Ideally you should serve this carrot cake up with a mug of tea in a warm house when it’s gloomy and raining outside. On this particular occasion the forecast drizzle was absent and we were forced to pretend. The mug of tea, however, is not really optional.
*please note that this is a retox recipe and is not intended for anyone undergoing nutritional therapy with me!