Warming and delicious: apple and spice muffins

apple and spice muffinsI already knew that apple and cinnamon make a great combination, but on a recent holiday I had it as a hot drink with added ginger. I’m a huge ginger fan in any way or form so I immediately loved the taste and decided it would be equally delicious (if not better) in a muffin. For extra indulgence, I decided to top the muffins with a crumble topping, so easy and totally yummy! Usually I freeze half of my muffins (wrapping them one by one in tin foil, you can take them out of the freezer in the morning to take to work and they will be perfect for lunch) but this time they were all gone before I could wrap them up! Here’s how to make them:

First, prepare the crumble topping: stir 50 g light muscovado sugar with 50 g plain flour25 g porridge oats (or rolled oats) and 1 tsp mixed spice together in a bowl, then rub in 50 g butter with your fingertips until clumpy.

For the muffins: preheat the oven to 180 C and line a muffin tin with paper cases. In a bowl, mix 375 g self-raising flour with 220 g sugar and 1 tsp baking powder. Make a well in the center and add 125 ml vegetable oil (sunflower or rapeseed work best, avoid olive as you will taste it), 125 ml milk1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod). Give the liquids a good stir to break up the egg yolk and bring the dough together in a few stirs.

Now add 300 g chopped apples (about 3 apples in total, if you only have say 200 g that will work as well), 2 balls stem ginger (chopped – you could also use 5 pieces of candied ginger or just double the ground ginger), 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground ginger and stir again to disperse them evenly. Distribute the dough over the 12 muffin cases and add 1 to 2 tbsp of the crumble topping on each of them (if you are too lazy to make the crumble topping, just give them a good sprinkle of granulated sugar instead to get the extra crunchy top layer). Put in the oven for 30-35 min until golden brown and springy to the touch (cover with tin foil for the last 10 min if they brown too easily). Enjoy!

Simple and comforting: apple and blueberry cake

Apple and blueberry cakeSummer in Belgium seems to be well ad truly over… it’s often raining, it’s still dark when we get up in the morning (but then we do already get up at six, which we can’t seem to get used to anymore after a short week of relaxing by the pool in Tuscany) and it gets dark earlier and earlier at night. In addition, it’s the final weeks of strawberries (said the vendor to me) and we’re getting lots of apples know. As we tend to sometimes forget we even bought apples, I’m always looking for recipes to use them, and this is a really simple one by Donna Hay. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven tot 160 C. Place 225 g self-raising flour, 165 g sugar, 125 g softened butter (just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds if it comes straight from the fridge), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 125 ml milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until just combined. Spoon into a greased 22 cm springform tin lined with baking paper (my tin is 20 cm, which worked just as well, just use a bit less apple in that case). Thinly slice 1 apple and use it to top the cake, together with 110 g blueberries (can be fresh or frozen – no need to defrost). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar and bake for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

PS: Donna Hay suggests to serve it with ice-cream! It’s best eaten on the day or the day after when the top is still crunchy, as soon as you start storing it, the crunch will get softer. Use up the rest of your fruit in bread pudding or go for the best ever blueberry muffins.

Quick and tasty: Mechels cakes

Mechels cakesI haven’t been blogging regularly lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking! I’m in the middle of preparing a move (boxes everywhere) so I don’t always find the time to write everything down… Also, I’m going for fast and easy recipes now, and this is definitely one of them!

I’m getting into a phase where I’m getting more confident in baking and I’m starting to try my own variations or twists. This is such a recipe and with it comes the difficulty of finding a name! As it the shape and concept of Eccles cakes but with a more Belgian content, I opted for “Mechels cakes” as I will soon be living in Mechelen anyway (@Sophie, we’re moving in six weeks, so we should definitely go for a coffee once we’re settled in!) so it seemed like a nice reference. Luckily, not only the name sounds good, they tasted great as well (otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe of course). This time we didn’t have any leftovers for family or colleagues…

Here’s how to make it: in a small saucepan, heat 50 g raisins with 20 g dark rum and 40 g water. Put the lid on and allow to simmer for 20 min, then drain. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Chop 1 apple in small pieces and mix it with the drained raisins, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, the crushed seeds of 4 cardamom pods and 3 cloves, a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of ground nutmeg. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add 1 tbsp sugar as well.

Take a roll of shop-bought puff pastry and cut 8 cm circles from it (if you buy pastry in a block, roll it out to 2-3 mm thickness). Put a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the disks, brush the sides with beaten egg or water and bring the edges together into the centre, ‘wrapping up’ the filling. Turn the discs over, seam side down, and flatten them slightly by hand or with a rolling pin. Place on a baking tray slightly spaced apart, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Make three incisions with a knife (about 1 cm long) and bake in the oven for 20 min or until golden brown (if you added sugar, the raisins and sugar will caramelise through the holes). Allow to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy while listening to Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5. Use up leftover filling in bread pudding or in cookies.

Chewy with a hint of cinnamon: apple and oatmeal cookies

Apple and oatmeal cookies
Apple and oatmeal cookies

Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookbook. It’s in the section “rainy day treats” but you don’t have to wait for a rainy day to make them! If like me you have some apples that need to be eaten fast, this recipe will do just the trick. It got the “delicious” approval of all my colleagues as well!

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Cream together 135 softened butter, 80 g caster sugar and 80 g soft light brown sugar. Add 1 egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. Add 190 g plain flour in two batches, adding 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda with the second batch. Mix until a dough forms.

Peel and finely grate 2 apples (preferably Granny Smith) and squeeze all of the liquid out of them, discarding the liquid. Add 60 g rolled oats and 60 g of the grated apples to the cookie dough and stir by hand. Break off small pieces of the dough (size of a big marble), roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (leave some room between each cookie as they will spread while baking). Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 min or until the cookies are a light golden brown. Leave to cool and set for about 10 min before transferring them to a wire rack.

They keep very well for several days. Enjoy!

Bake it your way: summer fruit cake

Blueberry cakeHere’s the situation: you were going to bake a nice elaborate tart for a birthday party, but it turned out you missed some vital ingredient and it was sold out in the local supermarket. By the time a solution was found, there was no more time to bake it, so here came plan B: this delicious summer fruit drizzle cake! I found the recipe in the latest GoodFood magazine, and it was an instant hit. What’s great about this recipe, is that you can put whatever fruit in it you want! So it’s a great way to get rid of those apples lying around. I went for the blueberry version, but here are some other fruit suggestions: apricots, blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, a mix of berries, redcurrants or blackcurrants, apples, pears, strawberries… the list goes on and on! Make sure to dice the larger fruits and you’re good to go.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Put 175 g very soft butter, 175 g caster sugar, 250 g self-raising flour, 2 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 min until pale and creamy. The mixture will be very thick.

Spread one-third of the cake mix into the tin, then scatter over 50 g of the fruit (you’ll need 175 g fruit in total). Carefully spread another third of the cake mix on top and scatter with another 50 g fruit. Finally, add the rest of the cake mix and level the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 1 hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

In the mean time, put the remaining 75 g of fruit in a bowl with 140 g sugar and 2 tbsp citrus juice (I used lime, but you can use lemon or orange juice as well). Stir with a fork, mashing the fruit a little as you go. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke it all over with a skewer and spoon the fruit and sugar mix on top. Leave in the tin until the cake is cool and the topping is set and crisp. If you prefer, you can also freeze the cake (without the topping).

This is definitely going to become a much used recipe to get rid of any ripe fruit! I can’t tell you how long it will remain fresh… it got eaten to quickly!