Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Freshly Picked, Freshly Eaten, Freshly Baked

I remember when Hans and Kirstie used to go blackberry picking. We were still living in our old house and not far from us, were several, large blackberry bushes. When August rolled around, it suddenly seemed as though the whole neighborhood was taking advantage of this seasonal free-for-all. I would sometimes look out my window and see whole families armed with baskets, happily picking away. We were also able to get in on the action and after their picking trip, Hans and Kirstie came back with a few bowls of fresh, plump fruit. We had a lot of blackberries for desserts, jams and cakes. Unfortunately, when we moved, we had to leave the blackberry bush behind. I don't know what I found sadder, that or also having to leave the huge hazelnut tree we had in the garden.
As much as I love markets, nothing compares to picking your own produce. Whether it grows in the wild or right in your own garden. I sometimes wish I knew a little more about mushrooms and lived somewhere in Italy or France where I could head into the forest to score a basketful of wild mushrooms. Until that day arrives, I try to grow as much fruits, vegetables and herbs as I possibly can in my own small garden. When that doesn't yield enough, I head to a good, local market.
This Saturday, for example, I was lucky enough to find a stall selling a wonderful selection of mushrooms. Ceps, chanterelles, portobellos, shiitake's! They were the first of the season and I was as excited as a kid on Christmas. I treated myself to a small bag of ceps and cooked them in what I think is the most perfect way- a simple, buttery omelette topped with fresh parsley. And yesterday I happened to bump into the prettiest blackberries I had ever seen! Almost as pretty as the ones that grew by our house. They were quite dark, almost black, juicy and tasted sweet as honey. I stood there debating what to use them for and was suddenly inspired to make a simple tray cake to serve with our afternoon tea. I've always thought of the combination of sweet blackberries and tart apples as an autumn classic, so as far as I was concerned, the cake also had to include a Granny Smith apple. The recipe couldn't be easier and the taste couldn't be more seasonal. You'll especially love the crunchy topping courtesy of the light sprinkle of raw cane sugar.

Blackberry and Apple Tray Cake
Serves 9

150g fresh blackberries
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and chopped
100g soft butter
130g raw cane sugar, plus 2 tbsps for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
100ml full fat yogurt
1 tsp baking powder
180g all-purpose flour

Butter and flour a square 20x20cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream the butter and sugar with a standing or hand-held mixer until pale and creamy. Add in the vanilla and the eggs one by one while continuing to beat. Fold in the yogurt using a wooden spoon. In a bowl, combine the baking powder with the flour. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Put the apples and blackberries into the prepared cake tin and pour the batter on top of the fruit. Gently combine everything in the tin and sprinkle with he two tablespoons of sugar. Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into 9 squares.

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