Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Secret Treasure in the Orchard and a Plum and Almond Cake

My mum and I have just been for a really lovely walk with the dogs on a route that my brother and I named, quite a few years ago, the ‘Christmas Walk’; So-called because it was the walk our Dad would take us on every Christmas Eve in the afternoon. The walk had 2 very distinct purposes. The first was to get us out of the way of all the cooking and preparing that my Mum and Gran were doing as, although we liked to help, I think we probably got in the way quite a lot as well. The second was to try to tire us out, so that we would at least sleep a little on Christmas Eve-this walk being a lot longer than the usual ones we would go on together. My brother and I still do the Christmas Eve walk together every year and we love it.

We don’t tend to do the walk at any other time of year but we decided to go today and it just reminded me how different a place can look in the country depending on the seasons. The brilliant coppery shades of Autumn are just beginning to emerge and for some reason they reminded Mum that when we got back, we would have to check in the orchard to see what had happened to the tree we discovered a couple of months ago which had, almost overnight, produced a mysteriously tiny, apple green fruit that was hard and sour. We decided we would leave it and check it in a few weeks to see if there had been any miraculous transformations. Well, we forgot about it and today is at least a month or so since we found the little unidentified fruits. So, when we went back we were both really excited to see the tree was full of the tiniest and sweetest purple pink cherry plums!

I love almonds with fruit so, once we’d eaten enough of our orchard finds, I decided I would make a tray cake full of ground almonds, their flavour enhanced with some almond extract. I dropped some of the stoned and halved plums into the batter before I baked it. We ate it warm for tea with just some icing sugar on top but I think it would be lovely, too, as a pudding with cream or even by itself with a cup of tea for a decadent breakfast.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Apples from Gran and a Crumble with Cream

Gran called in today with a big basket of the greenest apples I’ve ever seen from my Uncle’s trees. I love it when people bring us fruit and vegetables from their gardens. There’s something really old-fashioned about it and I think it always tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the shops- but I’m sure a big part of that is because I know it’s fresh and hasn’t been treated with anything nasty.

We have some friends staying over tonight so I’ve made a big Apple Crumble with some of the lovely apples. This is my favourite apple pudding, probably because we ate it so much when we were little and it was one of the first puddings I learnt how to cook. I think the simplicity of it is its real charm and that also means there are so many ways you can alter it to make it your own. I like to add cinnamon, stem ginger and raisins to my apples which I coat in a butterscotch sauce before topping them in a crumble of brown sugar, oats and whole wheat flour. The latter give it quite a nutty depth of flavour and allow me to trick myself that, as far as puddings go, it may be half good for me!

Cinnamon Butterscotch and Apple Crumble
Serves 4


For the Apple filling:
1.2 kg Cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
50 g Brown sugar
4 Tablespoons water
2 Teaspoon cinnamon
100g Raisins

 For the Butterscotch Sauce:

200g Soft brown sugar
200g Golden syrup
75g Butter
225ml Double cream
75g Crystalised ginger, chopped into 1cm approx' dice

For the Crumble:
150 gWholewheat flour
100g Self raising flour
75g Oats
150g Brown Sugar
150g Butter (softened)
Half teaspoon baking powder

1.       Put the apple filling ingredients in a saucepan and heat them over a medium heat until the apples are soft and fluffy.
2. Add all the butterscotch ingredients to a saucepan and heat over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the butter melts and all the ingredients have been incorporated-take care not to let the mix catch the bottom of the pan as it can burn easily. Combine the apple mix and the butterscotch mix and spoon the finished mix into a shallow dish;
2.       For the crumble, add all the ingredients (exept the sugar) to a mixing bowl and rub in the butter using fingertips until the mix is crumbly and the fat has been evenly dispersed. Stir in the sugar.
3.       Spoon the crumble over the fruit and spread it out evenly-don't press it down though. Bake for around 30 minutes until the top is slightly browned. Let it cool very slightly before you serve it;
4.       I like this with cold double cream or a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Bread, Jam and Autumn Sunshine

I love making bread and tend to make it every couple of days at least, as we seem to eat a lot of it in our house. I tend to vary the flours, the flavours and the shapes I make so we don’t get bored! This weekend, it was a wholemeal loaf with raisins and walnuts. This is such a versatile bread-it’s equally gorgeous with cheese or with jam and my favourite way to eat it is toasted the day after, like a teacake, with lots of butter. You can easily vary it too if you don't like nuts by adding in some chopped dried prunes or figs. The recipe for this one is set out at the end.

We went to the local food market this weekend and bought punnets and punnets of the most deliciously sweet tiny strawberries. Whenever I see summer fruit at the market, I feel like I should buy it in huge quantities and enjoy it, just to try to prolong Summer, which often seems so fleeting here. So, after bowls and bowls of just strawberries and double cream, we still had pounds and pounds left and my mind turned to jam making. I’ve made quite a few different batches this summer already but I  remembered that I still had a stash of blackcurrants and redcurrants from the garden in the freezer so I made a summer pudding-ish mix. I’ve hidden it away at the back of the cupboard for now, so it’s ready to give some summer colour to our autumn breakfasts.

Raisin and Walnut Bread

500g strong Brown flour (sifted)
200g strong White flour (sifted)
200g raisins
100g chopped walnuts
1 level tablespoon salt
2x7g sachets of fast action yeast
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
400 ml warm water
1 egg


1) pour 200ml of the warm water into a jug and add the brown sugar. Stir the sugar to dissolve it then add the yeast and leave it to froth up;
2) add the flours, salt, walnuts and raisins to a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre then add the yeast and water mix and mix together- I like to do this with a metal tablespoon at first. Add the rest of the water in stages (I find that some days you may need all of the water and others you won’t, so don’t worry if this happens), starting to mix the dough with your hands so that you can feel how wet the dough is and whether it needs any more water. The dough should not feel too sticky but it should be soft;
3) transfer the dough to a flat work surface and knead it for 10 minutes so that it is springy and elastic;
4) leave the dough to prove in the original mixing bowl covered with cling film or a tea towel in a warm place;
5) once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out and knead it for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a round (or any shape you like) and transfer onto a greased and floured tin. Leave the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes in a warm place;
6) once the dough has proved, whisk the egg and brush it over the top of the loaf (to give a golden crust);
6) preheat oven to 230c, and bake for 35-40 mins or until the bread feels hollow when the base is tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool (if you can resist not trying a slice straight away with butter!)

Scarlett x

Friday, 10 September 2010

Hamish McDougall's Oatcakes

The weather has turned rather autumnal today-all blustery winds and leaves strewn across the rain peppered garden. Monty’s sensitivity to typical British weather is such that, instead of venturing out for our morning walk, he took one look at the pigeon grey skies before deciding he was better off indoors, leaving just Porridge (our Whippet cross Collie, with a penchant for chasing our next door farmer all day!) and I to it.

So, when we got back (fairly soaked), and bearing in mind that it doesn’t take much to get me in the mood for some comfort baking, it wasn’t long before I was stood peering inside the kitchen cupboard to see what I could make out of a big jar of oats, some brown sugar and half a block of butter (I had a bit of an experimentation day yesterday with recipes for the Cakery so stocks were fairly low on anything more extravagant!)

The tins are groaning after yesterday’s sugar fuelled Bake-fest, so I thought I better try to do something savoury: time for Hamish McDougall’s Oatcakes. We are having some people over for supper tomorrow, so, as an added bonus, I thought these would go really well with the cheese. Now, as regards the name, these aren’t really made to a recipe from some canny old Scot called Hamish McDougall, I just wanted to give them a really Scottish name and this was the most Scottish name I could think of!

You can buy some really lovely oatcakes in the shops now that almost taste homemade, but, given how comparatively cheap (and easy) a batch of homemade ones are to make, I think it’s a no-brainer, if you have a spare 10 minutes, to make your own.

These oatcakes are made with a little bit of brown sugar but don’t let that put you off-they are still a savoury biscuit. The sugar just gives that lovely sugary/salty contrast.

Makes about 30 small biscuits


125g Oats
25g plain flour
25g plain wholewheat flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp salt
100g butter (softened)
12g soft brown sugar


1. Blitz oats in a food processor until they are fine;
2. Add all the other ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. I like to transfer all the mix to my food mixer and let the mixer do the hard work but you can do this by hand if you like. Also, if, once the mixer has been going for a while and the dough isn’t coming together in the mixer automatically, I sometimes find it helps to get in there with your hands and push the dough together-I think the warmth of your hands really helps at the end;
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about ¼ inch thick and cut it out with any shaped cutters you like. Place the cut outs on baking trays (you don’t need to grease them);
4. Bake in a preheated 180c oven until pale golden and firm to the touch (usually around 15 mins). Transfer to a wire rack to cool;

Try them-they taste really good!

Scarlett x

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Spotty Blog Launch!

Hello and welcome to the first Spotty Blog entry for the Spotty Dog Cakery-very exciting!

The idea behind the Blog is so that I can chronicle the setting up, launch and (hopefully!) future plans of the Cakery. Also, I thought it would be great to post some of my baking recipes (mostly cakes and biscuits) that I really love but won’t necessarily be selling through the Cakery.

See you soon with my second post-in the meantime, if anyone has any feedback, please let me know- I always love to talk Cake!

Scarlett x