Friday, 2 March 2012

Gooseberry & Almond Cake

So what do you do when you have lots of fruit left over from last years allotment pickings still in the freezer??

1)    Make jam!  Made a rather scrummy blackcurrant and gooseberry jam of rather sloppy consistency due to lack of sugar (didn't check in the store-cupboard), so not enough sugar to set fully.  Still its lovely and tart and great smeared on toast or to use in cake fillings.  If you do make jam with a less than usual sugar content, keep it in the fridge, so it doesn't go mouldy.  I do feel better scoffing it down if it has less sugar and I'm sure part of my 5-a-day yeah??

2) Another option is to bake a cake......... of course!  Now I have to say you don't see many Gooseberry cake recipes flying around, even googling didn't give many options, but squirrelling through my recipes books I found a recipe I had cut out of an unknown magazine a few years ago.  So I thought I would share it with you, if you ever have a gooseberry glut and want to try something other than Gooseberry Fool.

Gooseberry & Almond Cake Recipe

125g Softened butter
200g Castor sugar
3 Large eggs, beaten
75g Sifted plain flour
75g Ground almonds
3/4 tsp Baking powder
350g De-stalked gooseberries
35g Flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5 or adjust for a fan oven.  Beat the butter and 125g of the sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs a little at a time and blend well after each addition.  If the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour.  Fold in the rest of the flour, the ground almonds and the baking powder.  Scrape into a buttered 20cm spring-form tin.  Toss the gooseberries with the remaining 75g of sugar and spread over the top of the cake.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.  The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin.  Remove the ring and base and dust with icing sugar.  Then devour!

Now me being me I was using up the store-cupboard.  So I added an extra 15-20g of ground almonds as there was no point leaving such a small amount in the packet.  Plus I didn't have any flaked almonds.  Also the gooseberries were defrosted, so perhaps my cake topping looks a a little soggier than it should.  Adding the flaked almonds would have probably helped with this too.  This was also deceiving in the cooking process as the cake top didn't brown off too much.  Convinced I hadn't cooked it enough, although the skewer came out clean, I took the risk and took it out of the oven.  Once cooled and removed from the tin the sides and bottom were nicely cooked.  It was a lovely moist cake and the gooseberries sink through as the cake cooks.  Next time I will try it with fresh gooseberries and the almonds on top. Plus maybe a smaller tin, to see whats its like as a deeper cake.  A great glut-buster!  Perhaps not suitable as a gut-buster though?

The will be more unusual baking recipes as the allotment gets going, so stay posted!

A couple of weekends ago I took my Mum up to the V&A Museum in London for a Birthday treat to see the Golden Orb Spider Silk Exhibition.  It is just amazing to think that the rich golden colour is produced naturally by the spiders.  Stunning!  Well worth a visit.  Had fun wondering around some of the other exhibits including the jewellery rooms and the gorgeous fabrics of Asia.  After a scrummy Lebanese lunch we swung through the food halls of Harrods where I headed straight to the Patisserie section.  Imagine my delight to find Portuguese Custard Tarts or "Pastel De Nata" to give them their correct name.

I bought a little box full for OH to do a taste comparison and then gave them another attempt at home a few days later.  Sadly soggy bottoms made them not my best attempt (probably due to using defrosted pastry???), so yes I'll have to try them again.  Harrods version were apparently nice, but the pastry was too dry and the filling not sweet enough.  Now there's a challenge to improve on mine :)

It always amazes me how commercially produced baked items are always so uniform, even from smaller producers.  Whenever I bake an item, even when I may have made it a few times before, it usually varies in appearance.  I guess if you think about it, its not rocket science.  I like to use eggs from ducks or hens raised by friends, so they're never going to be uniform in size (but boy do they taste good).  Or I use flour from different suppliers, butter that is more softened than at other times, varying room temperatures affecting a bread rise.  Despite weighing ingredients exactly, they are never going to be filling such strict criteria as in a commercial kitchen.  So whilst I might not have exact replicas every time, I am usually happy with my attempts.  Practice makes perfect right?

And so it seems Spring is on the way...........

Photos taken a couple of weeks ago at the lovely Heale Gardens just north of Salisbury, well worth a visit.  The snowdrop walk is stunning.

Having sprained a ligament at the top of my neck, I've been banned from hard labour, running and knitting by my lovely Physio for the next couple of days......... its torture.  So perhaps I need to take the nudge from nature and go sow some seeds for this years vegetable and flower crops.

Happy sowing!

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