Lemon, Almond and Pistachio Loaf Cakes

Sometimes baking is all the better for a close connection with nature. I remember several years ago, cycling to a nearby farm from my parents’ house to buy duck eggs, then collecting primroses out in the woods to be painted and sugared at home. It was a delicious cake, the duck eggs adding a rich golden lustre to the sponge, so simple yet wonderful.

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Although it’s been a while since I last popped out for a walk just because, this Spring the weather has been so glorious that I couldn’t quite help myself. It’s just wonderful to be outside right now. Mossy little dells carpeted with tiny golden and white flowers, violets peeping between hedgerows, and clusters of primroses everywhere.

So really, I just felt like baking something sweetly simple. A citrussy cake, laced with ground pistachios, almonds, drenched in zesty lemon syrup, and finished off with some flaked almonds.

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Next time I would put the flaked almonds straight onto the cake before baking, instead of toasting and sprinkling on afterwards.

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Lemon, Pistachio and Almond Loaf Cakes

Adapted from River Cafe Cookbook Easy

For the cake:

  • 125g lightly salted butter
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g plain flour
  • 50g pistachios, finely ground
  • 60g ground almonds
  • flaked almonds

For the syrup:

  • 30g golden caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 150˚C.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Then gradually whisk in the eggs until completely incorporated. Whisk in the lemon zest and vanilla extract, then fold in the flour and ground nuts until completely mixed in. Spoon the mixture into mini loaf cases and sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Bake for 25 minutes until golden and springy on top.

Set the cakes aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine the lemon juice, zest and sugar into a small pan. Over a medium heat, cook the liquid until it has reduced and become syrupy. Using a teaspoon, spoon the syrup over the cakes.

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Almond Slices

An almond slice looks an old-fashioned sort of treat. Perfect with an old-fashioned sort of cake stand.

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I’ve been catching up with Poldark, and racing through the first five books on my Kindle. I may have gotten repetitive thumb injury from pressing the page turn button, but that’s neither here nor there. With the weather being as nice as it is, can I go to Cornwall please, and just spend the next three months reading the remaining Poldark books? Anything instead of going back to work tomorrow.

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Well, I can dream. Have another picture of one solitary almond slice. I’ve only got pictures of the one, because all the others got eaten so fast. This is the last little survivor, om nom nom.

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I actually made up these slices as a way to use up leftover marzipan, and was so pleased at how well they worked out, I might even buy some marzipan just to make them again.

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What I did was I tore up the marzipan, mixed it up with some softened butter into a paste, then added a little extra sugar, an egg, and some flour to bring it all together. I spread the mixture into a square baking tin, then topped off with a good sprinkling of ground almonds.

It’s utterly delicious warm from the oven. It’s a cross between a cake and biscuit. In terms of taste and texture, very much like a galette breton, minus the layer of jam inside. In fact, I think this would be even tastier with a jammy layer sandwiched in the middle!

Almond Slices

Makes 16

  • 250g marzipan
  • 120g salted butter
  • 70g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • flaked almonds, to finish

Preheat the oven to 180˚C, and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.

Beat the softened marzipan and butter together until it forms a thick paste, then beat in the sugar. Stir in the egg, and finally the flour and baking power to form a very soft sticky dough. Press this into the lined tin, and smooth the surface with the wetted back of a spoon. Sprinkle over a liberal quantity of flaked almonds and lightly press into the surface of the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden-brown. Mark into slices, then leave to cool in the tin.

Mini Bakewell Tarts

On a dark November evening, the air wrapped thickly with fog, my street becomes transformed. As I run, everything seems muffled, and all I can hear is the wet dripping of shadowy trees above me. I find myself jumping at loud noises, easily startled by large shapes that suddenly emerge to simply reveal an old lady holding an umbrella walking her dog.

I also see glimmers of festivity creeping into sight. Bright lights are starting to sparkle around houses, it’s glowy and glittery in shops, and there are signs for Christmas trees for sale. It’s also an excuse for even more baking than I normally get up to. I’ve got a cluster of bakewell tarts cooling in the kitchen, and I can’t wait to tuck in.

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I love the combination of crisp buttery pastry, tart raspberry jam, fluffy almond sponge, and crunchy toasted almonds. It’s that combination of four amazing things into something even greater than the sum of its parts.

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I much prefer a light almond sponge to the denser nut-heavy versions that are also floating about in recipe-land. As with other sponges, the trick really does seem to be gallons of patience. First, waiting for the butter to soften, then an arm of steel to cream the butter and sugar into a pale, almost meringue-like cloud.

It seems a billion times harder to get butter to soften in the cold Winter months, and by the time I was finished, I had a very sore arm and a blistered finger to boot!

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It’s always worth it though. To me, bakewell tarts always seem to have a bit of air of festivity around them. A bit more than just your ordinary tea time treat! I reckon that with Christmas coming up, you could happily turn these into a boozy mincemeat version that could be the best of both worlds!

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Mini Bakewell Tarts

  • 200g shortcrust pastry
  • raspberry jam
  • 110g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 55g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • milk
  • flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Roll out the pastry and cut out circles with a cookie cutter. Press them into the holes of a muffin tin. Prick the base of each pastry circle with a fork.

Make the almond sponge filling by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs and almond extract. Finally fold in the flour and ground almonds, and add a little milk to loosen the mixture to softly dropping consistency.

Spread a small dash of jam into each pastry case, and top with a spoonful of almond sponge. Sprinkle with ground almonds and bake for around 15-20 minutes until golden. Unmould from the muffin tin, and set onto a cooling rack to cool before eating.

Raspberry Bakewell Tartlets

Reading back on my earlier blog posts conjures up funny feelings. I wrote in a different, more burbly style, in a voice that undoubtably sounds more teenagery than my current one (although I was sadly, not). The first time I posted this Bakewell Tart feels like an age away. I was still a student, stressed about exams and training for a marathon I never actually ended up running. I was living in the tiniest room in central London, where all my furniture had to be carefully rearranged if I was to attempt to do so much as a push-up. I could hear every word of the intimate midnight conversations of the flat below me. And my neighbours had a propensity for neon pink boxer shorts.

Well now it’s increasingly like Autumn, although I baked these tarts when it was still Summer. I live in a house again, instead of a flat, and I’m sure I would have to shout quite loudly for my neighbours to hear what I was saying indoors. So when I baked this Bakewell Tart again, it was with rather different feelings in mind.

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It’s funny that Bakewell Tart should be so very English in nature, when essentially, it’s a frangipane tart (which we think of as being French) with a layer of jam inside. Its so much better with the extra jam though! I had a lack of flaked almonds, which I usually use as a topping. Instead I plopped a handful of raspberries onto each tart, and it worked really well.

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I really like the way the raspberries on top have added a wonderfully complementary burst of juicy fruity flavour. They also kept their shape marvellously. Previously I used blueberries for a similar tart, and they disappeared during baking, leaving rather odd looking black pock-marks on the surface of the tart. I thought the flavours might be too rich for the little ones around, but they wolfed the tarts down and begged for more! Awww, brings a warm glow when my baking gets that kind of response!
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To save reposting the recipe, you can find it in my previous post on Bakewell Tart.

The Perfect Bakewell Tart

Bakewell is a pretty little place way up north in Derbyshire. It’s not too far away from Chatsworth House, a mansion well-known as being Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley in her novel, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I think Bakewell is mentioned in the book, if only in passing.

Anyway, Bakewell is a lot more famous for being the birthplace of the beloved British dessert – the Bakewell tart.

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This is not to be confused with Bakewell pudding, also invented in the same locality. Bakewell tart is a delicious relation to the frangipane tart: a rich shortcrust pastry encasing a layer of jam, followed by thin layer of almond-rich sponge, which is topped with flaked almonds and baked until golden.

For a classic recipe, there are hundreds of riffs on a standard theme. Felicity Cloake in her Guardian “How to cook the Perfect…” series adds a little lemon zest for her Perfect Bakewell Tart. The Hairy Bikers add ground almonds to their pastry. Nearly everybody, like James Martin, goes for raspberry jam, but you get a few recipes that go on a bender with apricots and blackcurrants.

I’ve tried all kinds of pastry. Plain pastry in a 2:1 ratio of flour to fat works really well. Then I discovered a wonderful keeper of a pastry recipe in the making of apple pies, and now it’s my firm favourite.

You can use all kinds of jam, but I think raspberry treads the balance between sweet and tart absolutely perfectly. Strawberry doesn’t quite achieve that element of sharpness. It doesn’t have to be a fancy jam – in Bakewell Tart I like ones with a pretty firm set.

 

Most Bakewell tart recipes use very little flour in the almond sponge. All the recipes use predominantly ground almonds. I prefer a higher ratio of flour, as the almond sponge bakes to a light, yet substantial finish, which is much better than the overly damp, heavy almond frangipanes I have disappointingly produced in the past.

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I’m not a fan of icing so no glacé for me, but I can’t resist a good sprinkling of flaked almonds. It adds extra flavour and crunch, and sets the whole tart off perfectly!

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Just wonderful with a good book!

The Perfect Bakewell Tart

  • 200g shortcrust pastry
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 120g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • milk
  • flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a tart tin with the shortcrust pastry, prick all over with a fork, and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 180˚C.

Make the almond sponge filling by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs and almond extract. Finally fold in the flour and ground almonds, and add a little milk to loosen the mixture to softly dropping consistency.

Spread the jam over the base of the tart. Top with the almond sponge and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with ground almonds and bake for around 25-30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and then unmould from the tart tin. Cut into slices, and serve.

Cranberry Amaretti

It’s no secret that I LOVE Ottolenghi’s cookbook. None of his recipes that I’ve tried have gone totally tits up for me.

So here’s another recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. It can also be found on The Guardian. Simply some ground almonds mixed together with egg white, and some lemon zest. The original recipe called for dried cherries, but I didn’t have any of those, so substituted cranberries instead. I think the biscuit would be a wonderful vehicle for candied peel/pistachios/whole almonds/the whole dried fruits and nuts supermarket aisle. But not the cocoa nibs, because let’s face it – I hate them, and nothing will taste nice with cocoa nibs in – ever.

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Bakewell Tart

Ah the Bakewell Tart. Beloved dessert of mine. I just can’t resist a scrummy slice of pastry, jam and frangipane. Oh, and the flaked almonds. Mustn’t forget those. I used leftover Pierre Herme pâté sucrée in the freezer, but I would use a plainer shortcrust pastry  or adapt the recipe to avoid the hints of vanilla that clash with the almondy frangipane.

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