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Fig and Walnut Cake



It’s fig season and I have just picked up a lovely box of figs at a good price. Up until now they’ve been a little pricey, but February seems to be the start of fig bounty which will last till the end of March.

I made this cake at almost the same time in February last year. I’m posting again as I think the recipe is pretty good, and in preparation for the new fig creation that is to come from the aforementioned box of figs!

This recipe for walnut cake is based on my almond cake recipe that I usually make with stone fruit. I have a couple of versions on this blog. This time, I used walnuts, as I was looking for a robust flavour to go with some caramelised figs. In the almond cake recipe, I use bought ground almonds, whereas in this recipe I take whole walnuts and whizz them in the food processor to make ground walnuts with some little nutty bits still remaining. This gives the cake a nice texture. 

The cake is drizzled with a coffee caramel syrup, and figs which have been poached in this syrup are placed on top. I also put some fresh figs on top which worked well too. But the caramelised figs are nicer.


Ingredients

Cake
150g butter
100g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
150g walnuts
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Coffee Caramel 
3 tablespoons caster sugar
75mls good coffee liqueur- I used Mr Black from Botanica Distillery in NSW, a cold brew coffee liquor. Any liqueur is fine!
A few splashes of water up to 50mls to thin syrup to pouring consistency
3 figs, cut in half for poaching, or 2 or 3 fresh figs.

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse, stopping every so often to make sure you don’t over process. You want some chunky bits as well as some fine ground walnuts. Set aside, but don’t bother washing the processor!

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse well.
Fold in ground walnuts, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put the mixture into the springform and bake for about 45 minutes  or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

While the cake is baking, make the caramel.

For the coffee caramel, put the caster sugar in a small frying pan or saucepan and dissolve the sugar gently over a low heat. Don’t stir the sugar or it will crystallise! Once the sugar is dissolved, cook until it turns light brown, sort of tea coloured. Take it off the heat and add the coffee liqueur carefully, as the caramel is hot. You can add some water if the syrup is too thick. If the caramel has already turned to toffee, don’t worry. Just gently heat the caramel with the liqueur over low heat and the toffee will dissolve. 

Put 6 of the fig halves into the coffee syrup and poach for a couple of minutes over a low heat until the figs are slightly softened.

Once the cake is out of the oven, and while it is still hot, pierce the top a few times with a skewer and pour a few teaspoonfuls of the syrup over the cake.

Serve the cake with the poached figs on top, with a little more syrup drizzled over the figs, and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or decorate the cake with the plain figs, or a combination of poached and fresh, and a little of the syrup and yoghurt or cream. Either way it’s delicious.

Summer Plum Muffins

Sydney in summer, January 2020. And what a summer. The drought and the bushfires dominate the literal and emotional landscape, as we swelter through hot, hazy and humid days.

Despite these conditions, there is still amazing summer fruit in abundance, to bake, preserve or simply to devour fresh as an antidote to the heat.

I love stone fruit in high summer. I’ve been jam making with apricots and with blood plums, fantastic for their rich ruby red colour.

I made muffins a while back with yellow fleshed plums, using my current go-to muffin recipe adapted from Matt Stone’s The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste. Here is the recipe from 2018.

This recipe celebrates plums, baked in the muffin mixture and also as plum pieces on top of each muffin, but you could just as easily make it with other stone fruit – apricots, peaches or nectarines.

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

140g raw sugar

1 Granny Smith apple unpeeled and grated

1 plum, diced

75ml vegetable oil

10-12 pecans, chopped (optional)

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

3 plums, cut into segments, to decorate

A few pecan halves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and when  the mixture is foamy, slowly pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size.

Whisk in the apple, diced plum and oil. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger  and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. Even leaving the mixture for a few hours in the fridge is beneficial.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced, 180 degrees C non fan-forced.

Grease a standard muffin tin and line 6 holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture, adding as many plum segments as you like on top to decorate, and pecan halves, if using.

Put the muffin tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the muffins at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes from there, using a skewer to check if cooked. From my experience, in my oven, they take about 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin and place on a wire rack. I leave the baking paper on as the muffins are easier to store.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Great on their own, as they are so moist, but also good with butter, or Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

Very Berry Eton Mess

Strawberries, cream and meringue – summer on a plate.

In late September in Sydney we are experiencing 30 degeee days and lots of sunshine. It feels more like summer than spring! This is a happy time when the climate of the two hemispheres is somewhat aligned. Late summer in the north meets early summer here.

So let’s celebrate strawberries in all their glory! Here’s an Eton Mess, more procedure than recipe. My version has a mixture of cream and mascarpone, a pink meringue, some strawberry goo (strawberries cooked with a little sugar until gooey) and strawberry powder sprinkled on top, the latter a serendipitous find at @TheSourceBulkFoodsBalmain, my local providore for nuts, grains, dried fruit etc.

Here is the procedure. I am not giving quantities – just use your judgement as to how much you want of each ingredient.

Ingredredients

Strawberries

Cream

Mascarpone

Crushed meringue

Strawberry fruit goo* (you could just as easily use strawberry jam)

Strawberry powder

Method 

Layer individual glass dishes or one large trifle bowl with  hulled fresh strawberries, cut in half if large, or left whole if small.  Add cream to some mascarpone until the consistency of whipped cream – add a little cream at a time so you can find the “right” consistency.

Pile spoonfuls of the cream mixture onto the strawberries, then sprinkle over some crushed meringue. Add a little of the strawberry fruit goo.  Add more spoonfuls of cream, strawberries and larger meringue pieces.

To finsh, sprinkle over some strawberry powder.

So there it is – Eton Mess with a very berry theme!

*Strawberry fruit goo – cook 250g of very ripe strawberries with 50g sugar in a pan over a medium heat, stirring the mixture until the sugar dissolves, mushing the strawberries a little. Cook until the mixture has reduced and you have a sticky jam like consistency.

 

Boozy Fruit or Hoarder’s Jam

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Hoarder’s Jam? I love this name and I dedicate this post to those friends and family, who are Hoarders. You know who you are…

This is not a jam – and I wonder why this delightful concoction ever got called jam! It’s boozy, fruity and a great way to preserve summer fruits. It’s less of a recipe than some simple instructions on how to combine fruit, sugar, spices and alcohol. The instructions are adapted from ‘The Women’s Weekly Made from Scratch”, a very handy source of some good recipes.

Lovely summer fruit like plums, peaches and apricots can be preserved, and the bonus is the fruity preserving alcohol is a great tipple or the basis of a champagne cocktail.

Ingredients 

Any mixture of stone fruit to make up 6 pieces:

Plums, apricots, peaches

250 g caster sugar

1 long piece of orange rind

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

330 ml alcohol: brandy, rum or gin

Method

Cut the plums  and apricots in halves, the peaches in quarters. Place the fruit and the sugar in china or glass bowl and leave for 1 hour.

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Transfer the fruit and sugar mixture to 1 litre glass jar with a strong lid. Place the orange rind and vanilla bean in the jar. Pour the alcohol into the jar. The fruit should be covered; top up with a little more alcohol to make sure all the fruit is covered. If the fruit won’t stay submerged, fill a small ziplock bag with a little water, seal and place on top of the liquid to keep the fruit under the liquid.

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Make sure you note the date of preserving on the jar. Keep in a dark cool pace for a minimum of 2 weeks or up to 3 months.

You can turn the jar occasionally, or VERY gently shake the jar. This is to help the sugar dissolve. After 1 week, the colour of the liquid begins to deepen, and a lot of the sugar is dissolved, with a residue still sitting on the bottom of the jar.

After 2 weeks the liquid in the jar has turned a deep ruby colour and all the sugar is dissolved.

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I opened the jar after 2 weeks and used the fruit to make my deconstructed crumble, recipe below and also here in an earlier post.

Refrigerate after opening, although I’m inclined to believe the fruit is well and truly pickled and should survive quite well for a few days in the cupboard. I’ll give you an update on that one!

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Crumble

Ingredients

100 gms plain flour
75 gms  butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt
50 gms dark brown sugar
25 gms golden syrup
50 gms rolled oats
20 gms chopped macadamias and almonds or any nuts you like

Method

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl, and rub the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture forms coarse breadcrumbs.
Place mixture into the bowl of a food processor, add golden syrup, oats and chopped nuts, and pulse gently to combine.
Turn out the crumble mixture onto the lined baking tray, spread the mixture evenly and bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time, until the crumble is toasted.
Remove from oven, and when cool, break up any large pieces. It’s important to have a combination of small and large crumble pieces. The crumble is ready to use, or store in an airtight container, or it also freezes well.

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