Baked Apples with Walnuts and Sultanas

The Plain Kitchen baked apples

It is very long overdue, but it seems that supermarkets are in fact starting to cotton on to the fact that a lot of us don’t worry about a wonky carrot or dented potato, and these sorts of vegetables and fruits are starting to become more readily available across the board. I do generally tend to shop at Lidl for fruit and vegetables, because there seems to be a natural inclusion of random and slightly non-uniform fruit & veg which I find refreshing. However, I bought the most gorgeous looking apples from Waitrose the other day: labeled as “weather damaged”, these were a deep deep fairytale red, and I had to have them. I wasn’t disappointed- delicious to eat, but when I baked them, that’s when they really came into their own: the beautiful colour on slicing through the apple was just lovely; the heat creating a gentle ombre as the pink skin had bled into the pale fruit.

Serves 4-5

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients:

4-5 apples, dependent on size. Mine were medium sized, but if you’re using large ones, 4 will do

1 cup walnuts, chopped

½ cup raisins or sultanas

50g salted butter

50g cream cheese

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tbsp demerara sugar

The Plain Kitchen Baked Apples

Method

Using a very long, pointed sharp knife, core the apples, not just removing the core, but making a good sized hole in the top of each apple, so that you have enough space to squidge the stuffing in later.

Place the apples upright in an oven proof dish: ensure they are snug.

Mix the other ingredients together- except the demerara sugar, and stuff each apple well. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the apples, and bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. Allow to sit in a warm place for 10 minutes before serving with cream or ice cream.

Baked Raspberry Custard

The Plain Kitchen Baked Raspberry Custard

The sweet comfort of a custard combined with the sharp hit of a raspberry makes for a perfect little pudding: again, I have made a large custard here, and not made individual ramekins, as there is something convivial and cosy about dishing a pudding up fro a bowl for friends and family.

Of course, making a custard can be tricky, especially, if like me and my beloved Stanley, your heat control is a little awry. You must try very hard not to overheat the custard on the final stirring and mixing stage, as it will curdle. This can of course be remedied by plunging the pot of custard into a tub or bowl of cold water and whisking vigorously- to of course slow down the “cooking” process, but really, try not to overheat the custard in the first place. The modern addiction to phones and the like has meant that I have, on many occasions, become distracted while stirring and yes, I have allowed the custard to curdle, much to my annoyance. I now allow myself a little dream while I stir the custard on a very low heat, gradually allowing it to thicken slightly- resisting the urge to multitask is a difficult, but good for us all at times, I think.

Use a shallow oven proof dish for this: I used one approximately 12 cm in diameter and 2-3 cm deep.

Serves 4-6 people

Preheat oven to 160 degrees

Ingredients

5 egg yolks

65g caster sugar

15g cornflour

350ml full cream milk

1/4 cup double cream

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 small punnet raspberries

Method:

Whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour until they are pale and fluffy: about 3 minutes in a Kitchenaid, or similar appliance using the whisk attachment should do it.

Gently heat the milk, cream and vanilla over a very low heat. Do not allow this to boil: it must just have the slightest steam to it, the tiniest bubbles beginning to form, and you should be able to test the heat with your finger- and it shouldn’t burn you! Once the pot of vanilla milk and cream is sufficiently warm, remove from the heat and pour into the whisked egg yolk mixture, and whisk again for 30 seconds or so to combine it all well.

Pour the mixture back into the pot: and now begins the gentle stirring process. Your custard may appear frothy: don’t worry, as you stir with the spoon, the bubbles will disappear, and you will be left with a smooth custard (as long as you keep the heat low and stir- I know I am going on about this, but it’s important!).

Keep the heat low, and stir the custard with a wooden spoon. You will need to keep stirring for about 5-10 minutes: by this stage you will see that the custard has thickened slightly. It will still be runny, but will coat the back of your wooden spoon with a light custard layer. Remove from the heat and pour into a suitable sized oven proof dish (I used a glass pie dish for my pud). Dot the custard with raspberries. Place the pie dish in a roasting pan and fill with boiling water till the water comes halfway up the sides of the custard dish. Place in a preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes in a warm place, and then serve immediately.

Bakewell Slice

The Plain Kitchen Gluten Free Bakewell Slice

I know I have posted a recipe already for Cherry Bakewell cake: well, this is yet another version of the divine combination. I fancied something that wasn’t too full of icing, and I wanted a “slice”: this recipe worked just perfectly. I use a swiss roll tin for it, and line the tin with baking parchment which makes removal very easy and safe. It’s also quite a showstopper: I didn’t serve it as a pudding, but I imagine you could decorate it with fresh cherries, or simply sprinkle it with icing sugar and serve with custard: sublime.

Serves about 10 people

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients

For the cake:

250g butter, at room temperature

200g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

100g self raising gluten free flour (I use Dove’s)

50g buckwheat flour

3 eggs

1 tsp Almond essence

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

¼ cup milk

For the topping:

¾ cup cherry, raspberry or strawberry jam

1 cup flaked almonds

1 cup fondant icing sugar

Juice of 1 small lemon

½ tsp Almond essence

Method

In a Kitchenaid, or similar appliance, beat the butter and sugar for about 8 minutes. Remember to stop the mixer every few minutes, and use a spatula to scrape the sides back into the bowl, and then continue mixing. Add the almonds, and the essence, and beat briefly. Then add the eggs and flours, alternating between the two, and give a brief beat in between each addition. Add the yoghurt and milk at the end, and give one final mix.

Spread the mixture into your lined Swiss Roll tin, trying to ensure it is as even as possible. Give a good bang on a kitchen counter to attempt to level it out further. Bake for 25-30 minutes: ensure the middle is done by using a skewer to test the inside of the cake.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before very carefully lifting (or sliding) it out of the tin onto a cooling rack to cool further.

While the cooling is happening, get on with the topping. Toast the almond flakes in a non stick frying pan until golden brown, and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the fondant icing sugar, essence and lemon juice. The icing shouldn’t be very runny: rather, when you lift the spoon up, it should fall slowly in a ribbon back into the bowl, not run off the spoon in a quick fashion. If it is a little too runny, just add a little more icing sugar to thicken it.

When you are ready to ice the slice, find a suitable platter for serving it on, and then you will need another platter, or tray, or plate, which is of similar size to the cake: this is to flip it, ensuring it doesn’t crack. I place a tray over the top of the cake, then flip the cooling rack over, so that the cake is now upside down on the tray. I then carefully peel the parchment away. Then I use the platter I will be serving the cake on, place this on top of the bottom of the cake and I flip again. Remove the tray and your slice is now the right way round on the platter.

When the slice is absolutely cool, spread the jam on top of the cake, followed by the flaked almonds, and then drizzle the fondant icing, Pollock style, all over the cake. Serve in slices.

Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread from The Plain Kitchen

I can already hear you: yes, like the butternut squash and the pecan nut, banana bread is pretty much a South African staple. South Africans love all sorts of cakes: Carrot, Chocolate, Victoria Sponge: we are pretty cosmopolitan in our patisserie and confectionary knowledge, I’ll have you know: but we really do make a lot of banana bread.

I suppose the reason is a pretty obvious one: bananas were always to hand growing up, and, in the hot climes, went brown pretty quickly, so the best way was to use them up was in banana fritters (ooh- I know- sounds delicious doesn’t it?) banana bread, fried bananas with a full breakfast, and of course, smashed and spread on hot buttered toast. The latter was a boarding school favourite: we were fed like kings at the boarding school I attended, but still we loved our banana toast. I do blame a host of dietary fixations on my Dining Hall experiences at boarding school, although my experiences there did cement my love of cooking and eating, so it wasn’t all bad.

Of course, if you fancy a non-gluten free loaf, substitute the gluten free flour for normal wheat-based self raising flour, and omit the xanthan gum.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Line a long, 35 cm loaf tin with baking parchment at the bottom of the tin and butter the sides very well.

Makes one large loaf: about 12 slices

 Ingredients:

200g soft salted butter

100g soft light brown sugar

2 Tbsp golden syrup

3 eggs, separated

350g mashed, ripe bananas (about 3 large or 4 medium bananas)

250g self raising flour: I use the Dove’s Gluten Free

100g chopped pecan nuts, with another 8 or so kept whole for decoration

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla paste

¼ cup milk (full cream or semi-skimmed, preferably)

 Method

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then set the whites aside.

Using a normal mixing attachment, mix the butter, sugar and golden syrup until pale- about 4 minutes should do it. Add the bananas, and egg yolks. Beat again- the mixture may curdle a little, but this is ok. Then add the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, nuts and vanilla paste and mix well. Add the milk, mix again, and then, using a spatula, fold in the egg whites carefully. Pour into the large loaf tin, and line up the whole pecan nuts on the top for decoration.

Bake at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes- although, depending on the tin you use, you may need to bake for a little longer. Use a skewer to test, and if it is still a little sticky inside- pop it in again for five minutes.

Gluten Free banana Bread from The Plain Kitchen

Barnaby’s Bars

Fruit and Oat Bars, The Plain Kitchen

These are a lunchbox staple now in our house: because so many schools have a no-nut policy for lunchboxes, it can be difficult to find appropriate snacks for children to eat- most cereal bars contain nuts of some sort. I came up with these as a solution to the nut-free rule, and they are brilliant, with or without the chocolate. Use any dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, apricots, apple, peaches- all will work. I do try to use dates where possible, as they are sticky and sweet, and add to the texture of the bars. I also use the packets of milled linseeds which one can now buy as a cereal topper in most shops- I get ours from Lidl, and love it in this recipe, as it helps to bind the bars together.

Makes 24 bars (one baking tray, approximately 30cm x 20cm, full)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Line a Swiss Roll tin, or similar baking tray, that is about 1cm deep, with baking parchment.

Ingredients:

200g oats

50g milled linseeds, or similar cereal topper

25g sesame seeds

25g sunflower seeds

100g soft brown sugar

2 tbsp maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla paste

½ tsp cinnamon

130g butter

200g mixed dried fruit- I used chopped dates and sultanas in this recipe

For the chocolate topping, if required:

100g dark chocolate

50g milk chocolate

Method

Spread the oats, linseeds and seeds onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, but keep checking on the oats, and shake the tray about to ensure even browning and toasting occurs.

In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter and sugar slowly- about 3-4 minutes should do it, over a low heat. Then add the syrup, dried fruit, cinnamon and vanilla, and bring the heat up, until the mixture is bubbling gently. Let it bubble for 5 minutes, and then take off the heat. Mix in the toasted oat mix very well, until all the oats are well covered in the sticky mix. Pour the mixture into the baking tray (still lined with parchment) and flatten out with a spatula. Allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate over a low heat (or in the microwave) and mix well. Pour the chocolate over the oat mix, spread out evenly with a spatula, and then allow to cool properly, before cutting into bars.

These will keep in a tin for a week.

Oat and Fruit Bars with Chocolate The Plain Kitchen