I have been a little frugal with my posting lately. This is partly due to the useless light for food photography (it's pitch black outside at 5.30pm and glaringly lit within by energy-saver bulbs), but also, happily, because my mother and godmother were in town on a conference and have been recklessly indulging Tim and I in many meals out in town. Being relatively impoverished students we rarely go to restaurants and cafes so this was rather thrilling. As you may have read in my last post, I have been making a lot of soup for dinner - it's so cheap - but there has been the occasional sweet respite hither and thither amongst the lentils and wholegrains. When it's this cold outside - and inside - can you see your breath when you exhale in your house? - dinner alone isn't always enough, one needs more, more more in the form of something (inevitably) buttery and sugary.
Crumble is the pudding I always turn to when I am cold and require quick solace and am unable to ignore my instinct to continue eating after dinner. The other night, as with all nights, I was feeling that way, and decided that an apple crumble for Tim and I wouldn't be the end of the world. I plumped out the apples with a diced kiwifruit, and made a veeeerry generous topping of crumble (well, what's the point if it's only a mere sprinkling?) out of all manner of good things - butter, flour, custard powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, oats, bran...
They were, like every crumble in the world, absolutely perfect. In particular I liked the nuttiness of the oats, the creaminess that the custard powder imparted, and the sharpness of the kiwifruit...
I made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake from Nigella Express quite a while ago now but never got round to blogging about it what with one thing and another. It couldn't be easier to make and is very good, I do love canned pineapple (drinking the leftover juice straight out of the can was always something I loved doing as a child) and it caramelises nicely under the batter. Unfortunately my can of pineapple rings didn't cover the tin properly so I arranged some dried apricots here and there to fill in the gaps. Though you may think Nigella's assertion that the inclusion of pineapple juice makes the cake layer fluffier is fanciful at best but honestly, it does...
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
100g each of butter, sugar, and flour
1 can of pineapple slices in juice (by my calculations you need 7 pieces), juice reserved
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
2 T sugar, extra
Set oven to 200 C. Nigella recommends either a 20cm tarte Tatin tin or a 23 cm cake tin, I, like perhaps many of you, do not own a tin de Tatin and so used the 23cm cake tin...I think a 20cm one would be better but then I do prefer a thicker layer of cake. Anyway, if you're using a cake tin it's not allowed to be a springform or loosebottomed one - for once. Sprinkle the 2 T extra sugar over the base of your tin and arrange the pineapple on top. Then, simply throw the rest of the ingredients in the food processor (or proceed with a wooden spoon) and make sure you remember to add 3 T of the reserved pineapple juice. Spread this over the pineapple, and don't go eating any batter because there's not a lot to go round. Bake for 30 minutes then carefully invert onto a plate. Slice into golden wedges of retro-deliciousness.
Overheard In Our Kitchen:
Me: I think I might make those apple blondies again today.
Tim: (more animated than I've seen him in years) Yeah!
Me: But I mean, I don't really neeeed to make them. Butterexpensivemythighs...
Tim: You should make them.
Me: We don't even have any apples.
Tim: Yes we do.
Me: I'm gonna bake them. Now.
It's not all puddings. Sometimes a gal's just got to bake gratuitiously. Oh sure, I can tell myself it's for when Tim gets low blood sugar - and these have justified its existence in that respect more than once - but really, I just made these Apple Blondies for the sheer what-the-heckery of wanting to bake. As you can tell by the above-transcribed conversation, I didn't even truly want to be talked out of making them. I knew as soon as I saw the recipe on Kelly-Jane's blog - and see it too for reference - that I was going to make them, and soon.
The first time I made these, I reduced the sugar greatly (Well, there's 5 cups! In once recipe! *clutches pearls*) and halved the icing. They were great, but I realised the icing was there for a reason: it's frigging magical. So, when I made them again just the other day, I was a bit more careful. I reduced the sugar in the batter, and replaced some of said sugar with dark, crumbly muscovado, which is so dense and caramelly and perfect with apples. I reduced the sugar by about a third in the icing, which meant there was still a nice thick spread of it. I doubled the apple content of the batter and added some milk because it seemed quite dry, which made for a much nicer blondie than my first batch. So, I might as well give you my adaptation of the recipe, but see Kelly-Jane's blog for the original if, unlike me, you have the metabolism of a toddler. Can I just point out though, that the original recipe calls for 2/3 of a cup of butter. Are there any Americans out there who can enlighten me how you measure butter in this way? America has bestowed upon us some fabulous things - Motown, The Baby Sitters Club, Idina Menzel, Johnny Cash, the concept of peanut butter as an ingredient...but I can't fathom how measuring butter in cups is a good way of going about things.
Apple Blondies with Brown Sugar Icing
180g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar (or a mix of brown and muscovado sugar, which I recommend)
2 apples, skin on, diced
2 cups plain flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 cup milk
As many walnuts as you like...although I find Brazil nuts lovely here.
This recipe is delightfully simple. Set your oven to 180 C and line a medium brownie tin (13 x 9 inches is what the recipe says) Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy and aerated, then add the eggs. If you are using a wooden spoon like I was, this will take a bit of muscle. Next, merely fold in the rest of the ingredients carefully, adding a little more milk if you deem it necessary. At this point do not whatever you do taste the mixture or you will never make it to the finished product. It is truly delicious stuff. Spread it into your prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cool, make the icing...
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
2 T milk
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
Melt the butter and muscovado sugar together in a saucepan, then add the milk, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the icing sugar once it has cooled a little, I didn't actually measure the icing sugar at all, just stirred it in till I was happy with the consistency. Using a spatula, spread over your now-cooled blondies...
This stuff is wickedly, ridiculously, marvelously delicious. Prepare to win friends and influence people as they bid for a slice of it. If you can possibly help it, hold out till the next day (baking this at midnight if you have to) because it gets even better with a bit of time sitting round. I say this as a big fan of caramelly flavoured things, but it seems to be a crowd-pleaser across the board. Such superlatives have not been bandied about in my flat since the Chocolate Guinness Cake I made for St Paddy's.
It has been a busy week, inbetween having a lovely time catching up with Mum, Tim and I were also in our first week back at uni. So far my classes are interesting (I'm in my third year of tertiary education and 'interesting' is the best I can come up with?) but I think it will be full-on as far as assignments are concerned.
Next time: I try Quinoa for the first time, thanks to Mum for giving me a bag of it...