Fruit and Spice

…and all things nice is what this winter fruit cake is all about.

Actually, it is more like your classic Anglo-Saxon gingerbread in texture, made with pureed fruit (apples, pears, quinces or plums), preserved in the autumn and full of mellow fruitfulness. The fruit puree is what makes the cake wonderfully light and moist.

And the glazed walnuts on the top are reason enough on their own to make it!

Those lucky enough to live in my vicinity will find it in my (German language) pop-up shop this winter, the rest of you will have to make it yourself – here’s the recipe:

Winter Fruit and Spice Cake

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Pureed fruit

(apples or pears or quince or plum all work well)            300g

All-purpose flour                                                                        300g

Baking powder                                                                              2 tsp

Salt                                                                                                   1 tsp  

Cinnamon                                                                                       1 1/2tsp

Ground cardamom                                                                       1 1/4tsp 

Unsalted butter, softened                                                          120g

Rapeseed oil                                                                                   120ml

Light brown sugar                                                                         300g

Large eggs                                                                                        

Crème fraîche                                                                                 80ml

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C and butter and flour a ring tin (26 cm).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter, oil, and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each egg. Add the crème fraîche and fruit puree, stirring to combine. Fold in the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared ring tin. Bake the cake until golden and cooked through, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Allow to cool before glazing, if desired.

For the glazed walnuts and browned butter glaze:

Walnuts                                                      about 12 whole walnuts

Unsalted butter, soft                              6 Tbsp

Icing sugar                                                  150g

Milk                                                                2 to 3 Tbsp

Pinch of salt

  1. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Let the butter melt completely and begin bubbling. Add the walnuts, turning them to cover them on all sides in butter. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the walnuts are lightly browned and the butter begins to smell nutty and darkens in color. Remove the walnuts and set aside. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Beat in the icing sugar and a pinch of salt followed by enough milk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. If the glaze breaks or curdles, add a bit of warm water to help it re-emulsify. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, arrange the walnuts on top and allow to harden slightly before slicing

 

Garlic Walnut Bread

“A bubble of warm air” is how our local German weather forecaster described the nearly double-digit temperatures we enjoyed last weekend, so that had us out in the orchard for a round of winter “grilling”, to use the literal translation from the German.

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And on the fire, apart from the ubiquitous “Bratwürtschen”:

Garlic Walnut Bread

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Made using my

Garlicky Cheese and Walnut Dip recipe

– which will of course work just as well indoors.

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Which is where I  shall be this coming weekend as we have quite the opposite of a “bubble of warm air” coming in for the start of the new year:

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Twelfth Night in the Orchard

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night, depending on which strand of this ancient European tradition, marks the end of the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…

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It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

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The English tradition of wassailing in the orchard on Twelfth Night has its parallels in other European traditions as well when the remains of the Yule festivities (bread and cake) were laid at the foot of the fruit trees as offerings in return for a good harvest. The English tradition sees the fruit trees showered with cider while bread and cake are hung from the branches. The tree trunks were sometimes beaten with sticks in a symbolic act intended to encourage the sap to flow, while the villagers would sup on mulled cider and serenade the trees with the Wassail song:

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee

And hoping thou wilt bear

Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls

And a little heap under the stairs

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

(Source: Orchards, by Claire Masset 2012, Shire Books)

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We refrain from beating our trees from sticks, but the mulling and the cake … and perhaps the serenading … do feature while the winter pruning is going on!

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Forest Fire at Fifty

Black Forest Gateau x 5, candles x 50 = 1 BIG flame!

(Note fire engine bottom right 🙂 )

Such were our festivities in Hermann the German‘s honour yesterday, most appropriately on the eve of the shortest day here in the northern hemisphere:

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Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

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and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

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Christmas Mince Pies, Orchard Style

A widely-circulated “organic” food magazine here in Germany is currently featuring a recipe for “Mini Nut Pies”, described as an “English speciality”, with a list of ingredients based on dried apricots and “nut mix”… oh dear, oh dear… not what the English would recognise as their Christmas mince pies!

In the interests of improved culinary integration, here come my orchard-style Christmas mince pies…

Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat

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encased in almond pastry – these are alcohol-free (no brandy) and vegetarian (no suet) but still very close to the original “English speciality”:

10418394_10204265921821260_8817699170069391702_n Mince Pies

Image courtesy of www.taylorsphotosafaris.co.uk

Almond Pastry

Plain flour                                                 225g

pinch of salt

Butter                                                        110g

Ground almonds, blanched                140g

Sugar                                                          45g

Beaten egg

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the ground almonds.
  2. Stir in the sugar and add enough beaten egg (probably one whole egg) to just bind the mixture together. Knead lightly. Chill before use then roll out, cut out rounds, fill them with Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and bake at 200°C until golden brown

Flammkuchen Orchard Style with Pumpkin and Quince

Related to roses, apples and pears, the tantalising quince was almost certainly the “apple” of the Garden of Eden fame say those more expert than I.

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For me, quinces are all about “…the scent of buffet tables laden with bobotie, breyanis and bredies, sambals and salads, frikkadels and Cape Dutch Chicken Pie, melktert, Malva Pudding and koeksisters… in cool, character-filled rooms set in rolling green sunny spaces…

Thousands of miles and many thousands of days… all it takes is a quince.”

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Heralding the start of the quince season here north of the Alps,

Flammkuchen with pumpkin, quince and bacon:

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Toffee Apple Cake

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A combination of two English classics: toffee apples and sticky toffee pudding.

Toffee Apple Cake

Butter                             50 g

Sugar                              180 g

Dates                              180 g

Water                              250 ml

Eggs                               2

Bicarbonate of soda           1 tsp

Self-raising flour               180 g

Pinch of salt

Vanilla essence                  to taste

Apple                              1

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  1. Start by finely chopping the dates – or blitz them in a blender, you want them as fine as possible to avoid date lumps in the sponge. Combine the chopped dates with the 250 ml of water and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cream the butter and the sugar together, add the vanilla essence to taste and then beat in the eggs one by one.
  3. Remove the boiled dates from the heat and set aside for a moment.
  4. Peel and core the apple, slice into rings and then slice the rings to produce slithers.
  5. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the boiled dates (it will froth).
  6. Combine the flour with the pinch of salt and beat into the egg and sugar mixture alternately with the boiled dates. The mixture will be fairly runny, but fear not, it will bake!
  7. Pour the cake mixture into a buttered round cake tin, ideally loose-bottomed, and arrange the apple slithers in concentric circles on the top.
  8. Bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how deep your cake tin is.
  9. Remove from the tin to cool and either serve as is

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or, if you need an added toffee touch, I can recommend a topping I have been using since I was about 8 years old:

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In my Make & Bake book it was the topping for chocolate brownies to which it is not suited and I have a much better brownie recipe now –but the topping has stayed with me, on and off, for a good few decades!

September Season

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Mustard Apple Pickle from Mantua: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/mustard-apple-pickle-from-mantua-la-mostarda-mantovana/

22_07_2012 Nürnberger Apfelkuchen

Nuremburg Apple Cake: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/nurnberger-apfelkuchen-nuremberg-apple-cake/

Pontack

Pontack, Ye Olde Englishe Elderberry Sauce:

 https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/pontack-ye-olde-englishe-elderberry-sauce/

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Ginger Pears Swedish Style: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/ginger-pears-swedish-style/

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Apple Rings: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/apple-rings-remember-them/