On Apple Tea Cake, art making and embodiment

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I made this pretty cake a week or so ago for the lovely couple who couriered my electric scales from Sydney to Vancouver. It is an old recipe from a church community cookbook that my mum has had in our family collection since I was tiny. Simple but pretty with the cinnamon crusted apple slice topping, it has graced many an Election Day school cake stall. I doubled it – the original recipe fits one of those tiny 50s style cake tins you may recall from older Home Economics classrooms – and added the alternative apple stripe pattern. I also swapped milk for milk powder – otherwise it remains true to the version Margaret Lack shared with the St Mattew’s Anglican church community in my childhood. I was glad mum could find the recipe for me and imagine that it will be making a few more appearances in the next little while.

One of my classes at the moment is called ‘Christian Imagination’ – it is the first of the Arts courses at Regent. We have been reflecting on the Ash Wednesday call to ‘Remember that you are dust’ – considering the nature of our dusty-‘flesh’-clothed humanity. We are makers of art, collectors of ideas, broadcasters of beauty, fixers and joiners of ‘stuff’ – because first and foremost we ourselves are ‘stuff’. Embodied, we ‘do life’ in this world, interacting and engaging with other bodies, other things, other stuff. Food is just one aspect of our everyday-walking-around-lives, and this recipe is just one example of gratuitous* human creation … but I hope that you’ll try it and that it will bring you (and those you share it with!) nourishment and delight in all senses of the words! .

Ingredients:
2 cups plain or all-purpose flour (300g)
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup castor or fine granulated sugar (240g)
4 tablespoons of milk (80ml)
50g butter
2/3 cup water (170ml)
2 eggs
1 green apple (granny smith)
1 red apple (try and choose a variety similar in size to the green)

For Finishing:
20g butter
1 1/2 tbs castor or fine granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbs cinnamon

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350F).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar.
3. Melt the butter, and once cooled slightly, combine with milk, water and egg. Whisk to combine.
4. Gently mix the wet ingredients though the dry.
5. Grease (and line if that is your preference) a 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin. Pour the batter in.
6. Slice the apple very thinly (I quartered mine then sliced the quarters so they were still fine wedges but each slice was of a similar width). Arrange the slices on top of the cake alternating red and green slices.
7. Bake for 50-60 minutes or till golden and ‘done’ when tested.
8. Melt extra butter and paint over the surface of the cooked cake while it is still warm.
9. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the cake.

*things that are non-necessary, we do them ‘just because’

 

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Streusel cake (gluten and dairy free)

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I thought I would share this rather successful experiment with you. With increasing numbers of friends who avoid/are allergic to gluten and/or dairy, this was my attempt at making a dessert that everyone could enjoy. I began with a blueberry muffin recipe which I joyfully chopped and changed till I had something I thought might work – both in terms of universal-friendliness-of-ingredients and deliciousness. I am sure it could do with a little refining, however, even this ‘first draft’ was a very acceptable dessert contribution. Fingers were licked. I imagine that you could continue to mess around with the different flours used to suit your preferences, I think I was particularly limited by the amount of almond meal I had at home that day! Anyhow, perhaps it will inspire you to do something new with a recipe (I find muffin ones quite forgiving if you don’t change the fat or sugar content too much) – or do some baking for a friend!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light olive oil (or another light flavoured cooking oil of your choice)
1/2 cup brown sugar – loosely packed
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup almond milk
1 2/3 cup self-raising gluten free flour
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
3/4 cup frozen blackberries

Streusel topping:
1/3-1/2 cup quiona flakes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup buckwheat groats

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180oC, line a square cake tin with baking paper.
2. Whisk the oil, sugar, eggs and milk to combine.
3. Stir the dry ingredients through wet mix gently.
4. Pour most of the cake batter into the cake tin, reserving perhaps 1/2 a cup.
5. Stir the frozen berries through the remainder of the batter.
6. Dot the berries over the top of the rest of the cake batter – try to achieve even coverage!
7. Lastly, blend the remaining streusel topping ingredients and sprinkle these over the surface of the cake.
8. Bake for about 40 minutes – check on it to ensure it doesn’t brown too quickly around the edges and protect the top with foil if the centre needs further cooking.
9. Enjoy warm with greek yogurt or a dollop of mascarpone cheese.

The Flour Chronicles : 1

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There is a delightful scene in the movie Stranger than Fiction where Will Ferrell’s character, Harold Crick, woos the lovely cook Ana Pascal (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) by bringing her flowers, flours that is. Flowers, flour, baking, sharing, giving – love in brown paper packages. This my friends, is the way to a baker’s heart, or perhaps at least this hopelessly romantic baker’s heart! Asher took the cue, my gushing over this particular moment in the movie, and gave me basket of flours this year on the 14th of February. Now it appears imperative that I run a series of baking experiments to try out all the different flours! The flour kitty includes;
– besan (chickpea)
– rye
– gluten
– coconut
– barley and
– millet flour.

To start with I thought I would use the rye flour to resume my long neglected attempts at making sourdough. About a year ago Asher and I visited a very out of the way second-hand bookshop with a surprisingly extensive cookbook range. I found and bought Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef particularly for its bread recipes. The sourdough recipe looked straightforward enough and I was keen to graduate from yeasted breads. In the end, after baking a loaf that could have substituted for a doorstop and throwing away the rest of the mouldy starter, I gave up and returned to the Basic Bread Recipe a few pages earlier. Simple and more predictable than sourdough, I baked nearly all our toast-and-sandwich-bread for the rest of the year with this recipe as my guide. The consistent warmth that had upset the finely tuned balance of sourdough starter microorganisms made proving the yeasted dough a dream. It seemed our hot little shed in Geraldton was just not the place to raise a sourdough starter. Now we are living somewhere cooler and more effectively insulated I thought I would try again!

Yesterday was Monday and so, following Jamie’s Sourdough Bread recipe (p256), I began my week long experiment by mixing 500g of rye flour with enough water to make a soft dough. You then let it sit outside for about an hour – presumably to pick up some interesting yeast spores – before coving it with cling wrap and bringing it back inside.

So far, so good. Stay tuned; maybe this time we’ll be lucky!

Shirt maker

Just wanted to share a few pictures of the man’s shirt I made over the holiday break. The fabric was the model’s choice – a patchwork-quality cotton he spotted at Finch’s Nest Patchwork shop in Geraldton when we were shopping there in the closing-down sales late 2013. He asked for a shirt and I reluctantly agreed, taking six months to get myself to the shop to buy a pattern (Vogue 8759). My reticence was not about sewing for him, or even sewing generally (which I really like), but stemmed from my understanding of the complexity of making a shirt (and knowing the standards I’d hold myself to!). Well thankfully, by the end of the year sewing from a pattern was about all the creativity I could muster so I actually started to make some progress on the shirt and, a few months later, here it is! The only significant change I made to the pattern was to include a few more enclosed seams than the instructions suggested to eliminate all the raw edges of fabric I could (I didn’t have access to my over locker so it seemed like the best alternative for a neat finish). It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was dreading and it also looks quite nice on! As soon as the photos were taken it made its debut in the music teaching classroom – it seems he’s happy with it too!

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‘Back to school’ baking

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With school well and truly started for the year I thought I would quickly post this muffin recipe. Now I’m a little closer to home again, my go to book for muffin recipes is my mum’s copy of Diana Linfoot’s Muffin Magic – this is my variation on her Banana muffins recipe (p15). I love baking a batch of snacks and then squirrelling them away into the freezer for the moment when a packed lunch needs an extra special something or there is an emergency breakfast crisis. There they are, waiting only to be defrosted – just like magic! Terrible puns aside, the recipe worked really well – hope it might meet someone else’s packed school lunch snack needs!

Ingredients:
125g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 medium bananas (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup coco
1/2 cup oat bran
1/3 cup white chocolate
1/3 cup pecans (+ a few extras to decorate)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200oC.
2. Line the muffin pans with baking paper or muffin liners.
3. Blend the butter and sugar together before adding in the bananas and egg.
4. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix till just combined.
5. Transfer mixture to muffin pans and top each muffin with a half pecan.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or till cooked through and golden.
7. Enjoy as a snack straight away or freeze to use in lunch boxes thorough the week!

Holiday Baking Revisited 2/3 – Cherry Cake

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 Cherries are one of my favourite things about summer – there is something very special about the short-lived summer stone fruit season. With a birthday that shortly follows Christmas, and a similar love of the tiny dark fruit, they seemed an apt addition to my mother’s birthday dessert this year. Early in the cherry season she had talked to a lady at the green grocers with restraint enough not just to eat the cherries straight from the bag on the way home from doing the shopping (admirable indeed, in our family’s books!) – instead using them in a delicious cherry cake. Mum’s ears pricked up, and I have to admit, my interest was piqued as well. We were on a beach holiday by the time her birthday rolled around and I decided to make a first attempt at creating a baked something that was cherry inspired. Without a fully equipped kitchen I relied heavily on this simple recipe that did not require the use of electric beaters – adding the cherries and changing the oil to butter à la Julie Powell (“… is there anything better than butter?”).

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
200g caster sugar
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
280g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped, pitted fresh cherries
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (optional)
250ml plain yoghurt
120g butter, melted

Cream cheese icing:
a heaped 1/3 cup of cream cheese
2 tbsp soft butter
1 cup icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC.
2. Begin by whisking the egg and sugar together till they become thick and creamy, this will take about 3 or 4 minutes.
3. To this add the lemon zest and juice, beating till the whole mixture is combined.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg and sugar mixture, gently fold though before mixing in the yoghurt and (slightly cooled) melted butter.
5. Lastly, stir through the cherries and pour into a lined cake tin (mine was a circle about 25cm in diameter but I am sure other shapes and sizes would work with some adjustment of cooking time).
6. Bake for 35-45 minutes or till ‘done’ when tested with a skewer. Allow to rest in the tin a little before removing it and setting it on a cake rack to cool completely.
7. Blend the icing ingredients together till smooth, adjust the quantities to taste – the icing for the cake pictured was very (very) loosely measured (my only excuse is that I was on a beach holiday when I was baking it!) but I think that these quantities will give you something to go off!
8. Spread the cooled cake with this icing, decorate with fresh cherries and candles, sing and share!

Holiday Baking Revisited 1/3 – Light fruit Cake (in its Christmas incarnation!)

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… and we are back! Despite the impression that my long, long blogging holiday break may have given, I do want to keep writing and sharing some of the things I’ve been making and thinking. I’ve decided that now, in late January, I needed to share some of my holiday baking adventures before it is absolutely too late! So to begin, this is my grandmother’s recipe for light fruit cake. It is very versatile and has been used over the years to celebrate birthdays, weddings, Christenings and Christmases alike. Rich with fruit, nuts and sherry, it is a recipe worthy of celebration! It would be fair to say that my appreciation for it has grown significantly in the last few years. Although it has taken a long (long) time, I have almost become one of those grown-up people who might sometimes enjoy cooked fruit or even baked goodies laced with dried fruit. And, for me, sometimes it is really more about the preparation and process of creating something edible and attractive anyhow, especially if I know that there are others around to enjoy it for me! So, with an essay on the evolution of cake (more on this to come!) behind me and Christmas on the horizon, I turned again to my recipe books and oven to make some homebred gifts. I chose to divide the mixture evenly between three ceramic ramekins (couldn’t find small cake tins the right size … and I didn’t have to line these with lots of newspaper which you need to when using a cake tin, a bonus for me!) so I could make a few gifts in one go. Two small cakes works well too, as does one lovely big generous one! I hope you might be able to celebrate something special by sharing this cake with friends and family one day too!

Ingredients
250g caster sugar
250g butter
5 eggs
200g sultanas
150g currents
150g fruit medley
100g glace cherries
150g chopped, blanched almonds
375g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
250ml sherry (in Australia it’s now labeled Apera, true ’sherry’ is made in Spain)
extra blanched almonds to decorate

Method
1. Preheat oven to 150o.
2. Soak the dried fruit in the sherry.
3. Double line the baking tins with butter and baking paper (to protect the cake from browning too much).
4. Wrap the outside of the tin with newspaper and tie it on with twine (again, to prevent burning the sides and base before the middle is cooked, only necessary if using traditional cake tins, this step is not necessary if you use ceramic ramekins as in the pictures).
5. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy using electric beaters.
6. Add eggs one at a time, beat well till combine the mixture as each egg is added.
7. Add flour and baking powder and beat gently till combined.
8. Finally, add the sherry, fruit and almonds, mixing till combined.
9. Place mixture into the tins, dividing mixture evenly between the desired number of tins. Decorate with blanched almonds.
10. If baking one large cake*, bake at 150oC for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 100oC and continue to bake for another, about 2 hours.
11. Remove from oven. Pour over another cup or so of sherry (share this amount between all cakes if more than one has been baked) then wrap the whole cake and tin in clean tea towel and let cool slowly.

*If baking two small cakes bake at 150oC for 45mins, then reduce temperature to 100oC and cook till done, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
If baking three small cakes bake at 150oC for 25mins, then reduce temperature to 100oC and cook till done, about 1-1 ½ hours.
These are just a guide and its worth just keeping an eye on your particular cake depending on the vigour of your oven!