Plum and Ginger Frangipane Upside Down Cake

You may not be aware of this, but it’s plum season, most definitely. You may not be aware because, unlike my family, you probably don’t have at least ten plum trees in your garden. If you don’t have at least ten plum trees in your garden (a ridiculous amount for any family of five, let’s face it) you won’t know what it feels like to be completely inundated with plums every day.

IMG_5128 IMG_5134

We didn’t plant these plum trees. We inherited them with the house, along with the mammoth harvest we collect every July.

IMG_5140  IMG_5126

Not that this is a bad thing, of course, plums are delicious and everyone’s happy. It’s just that they grown and ripen much faster than we can pick and eat. There’s always a surplus which turns into a huge waste every year.

IMG_5170 IMG_5184

So, every summer, we spend hours harvesting plums and then trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Most, admittedly, become jam. Others turn into tarts. Some become things like upside down cakes. Again, everyone’s happy. Including the bees, who also are left a great many plums to delve into; and my dog, who too has discovered the tastiness of plum juice, and has taken to jumping up and pulling plums off the trees with her mouth.

IMG_5172 IMG_5189

Plum and Ginger Frangipane Upside Down Cake 

IMG_5168 IMG_5176

Ginger Frangipane:

100g butter

100g caster sugar

1 egg

100g ground almonds

80g plain flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Beat together butter and sugar until creamy and light. Mix in egg. Add almonds, flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon and stir well. The mixture should be a bit stiffer than a cake mix, but less crumbly than crumble.

IMG_5182 IMG_5159

Cake:

120g plain flour

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

40g butter

120 ml milk

1 egg

IMG_5142

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter together until everything is combined and they resemble bread crumbs. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until combined.

Whisk the egg and remaining milk together in a separate bowl, then pour into the flour mixture and mix well until everything is incorporated.

IMG_5188

To assemble:

Grease and line a cake tin well- this is important if your upside down cake is going to end up the right way up! Cut your plums (you’ll probably need about eight juicy ones) in half and remove the stones. Place cut side down in the tin. Pour the frangipane over the plums and, using your fingers, push down around them. This frangipane is deliberately a bit dryer than normal, more crumble-like than cake-like.

IMG_5148

Pour your cake batter over the frangipane and bake for about 30 minutes, or until it is golden on top, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

IMG_5153 IMG_5155

Flip your cake over so that the plums are on top.

IMG_5195

Enjoy warm, maybe with a cup of strong coffee after a summer supper in the garden.

IMG_5127 IMG_5166

xxR

Pear Tarte Tartin with Blackberry Caramel

My grandparents have a house in the Loire Valley in France. It’s a really old farmhouse, surrounded by fields of cows and sunflowers; the nearest house is a working farm at the end of the lane. It is rural living at its most rural. Days are spent reading in the garden, swimming and sailing on the lake and browsing the markets for the finest cheese and olives.

IMG_4951

When we were children living in America, we went there every summer, after our annual visit to London.

One of our favourite activities at the house is blackberry picking. The lane is overgrown with blackberry bushes, which, by August are laden with fruit, perfect for picking for jam and tarts.

IMG_4959

The blackberries always reminded my mother of the Blackberry Fairy from the Flower Fairy poems by Cicely Mary Barker. (I was a very fairy obsessed child and we had all the Flower Fairy books.)
‘I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,
And scratch your arms and hands and knees’
the poem goes. It’s not lying. The best, biggest, juiciest blackberries are always right at the top, just slightly out of reach. Attempting to pick them always results in scrapes and cuts, which still seem worth it in pursuit of the fruit.
‘I’ll stain your fingers and your face,
and then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.’

Blackberry-Flower-Fairy-200x300
Also true. Blackberries are notorious for their stains. Take this tarte, for example. Okay, I’ll admit, these blackberries were not painstakingly picked from brambles on a lane (in fairness, it is not quite wild blackberry season yet!) But rather were handpicked off a shelf in a shop.

IMG_4960

But the thought is the same! And the juice that turns everything a shade of deep purple. Fingers and pears alike.

IMG_4959

Pear Tarte Tartin with Blackberry Caramel

(I’m calling this caramel in the spirit of a tarte tartin, in which caramel is poured over fruit before pastry is laid on top. In reality it is just runny jam. I’ll also concede that this may not strictly be a tarte tartin for it does not use puff pastry. Really it’s an upside down pear and blackberry pie. But I have delusions of grandeur.)

IMG_4961

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
110g butter (cold)
80g caster sugar
1 egg
Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then mix in the sugar. Add the egg and possibly a splash of milk if needed to bring it together into a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes

For the caramel:
1 punnet of blackberries
3 tablespoons caster sugar
splash of water

Put the blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently cook until the sugar has dissolved and the blackberries have started to soften. Use a wooden spoon to much the blackberries slightly. Cook until you have a thick syrup.

IMG_4940

To assemble:
4 pears

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon caster sugar

IMG_4943

Peel the pears and cut into thin slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Grease and line a pie dish, then arrange the pears over the bottom of the dish. Try to keep them neat because this will be the side on show! Then pour the blackberry syrup over the pears. Finally, roll out the pastry into a thin sheet and place over the pears.

 IMG_4946
Bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Flip the tarte out of the tin, so that it is pear side up and serve warm with cream or ice cream.

IMG_4967

xxR

New Toy Chocolate Fondants

Last week was my 21st birthday. Despite the fact that, in England, the legal drinking age is 18, so 21 brings with it no real special privileges that one didn’t already hold at age 20, it’s still kind of a big deal.

IMG_5019 IMG_5022

So I did what any normal 20-going-on-21-year-old would do to celebrate: I slaved away all day in the kitchen to create the most lavish 21st/ 4th of July BBQ the world has ever seen. Or at least, that I’ve ever seen.

IMG_4592  IMG_4531 IMG_4596

But that is a story for a different time.

IMG_4583 IMG_4562IMG_4576

The story here is about my 21st birthday present. For a 21st, people (lucky people) tend to get jewelry or expensive watches or things they will cherish forever etc etc. Luckily my parents (having known me now for 21 full years) know me well enough to appreciate that jewelry and watches really aren’t my thing, and aimed for something a little closer to my heart.

And they succeeded. The morning of my birthday I opened up a brand new KitchenAid stand mixer. My mum and I have had this running joke that I will have to hold out till my wedding to receive a KitchenAid stand mixer as a gift, so opening on now was pretty surprising. (My sister will tell you that I cried- I didn’t, but it was close.)

IMG_4976

Then I went to Italy for a week (again, a story for another time) so I am finally christening it today! We currently have a guest staying from America, and my sister insisted that she tried my chocolate fondants, so they seemed as good a thing as any to bake first.

IMG_5029

Chocolate fondants are surprisingly easy to bake, and always sure to impress. The one tricky thing is timing the bake perfectly to ensure they hold their shape but are gooey in the middle.

IMG_5043

Chocolate Fondants (this is a BBC recipe)

IMG_5025

120g butter (plus extra to grease the ramekins)

cocoa powder for dusting

120g chocolate

120g caster sugar

2 eggs and 2 yolks

100g plain flour

IMG_5023

Begin by melting a small amount of butter in a saucepan, then brush liberally onto the sides of the ramekins (this recipe makes 5 fondants). Then, put the ramekins in the fridge to allow the butter to harden. Once it’s hard, take out of the fridge and apply another layer of melted butter. This step is crucial to the fondants coming out easily! Then dust each ramekin with cocoa powder and put back into the fridge.

Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

IMG_4985 IMG_4986

Meanwhile whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together until they become light and fluffy (this is where the mixer comes in handy!) Sift in the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the chocolate and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins and put back into the fridge until you want to cook them.

IMG_4995

Heat the oven to 180 degrees, and bake the fondants for 12-15 minutes. It can be a bit tricky to know when they’re done, but the top should be forming a crust and coming away from the sides. If they seem too soft, put them back in for a minute- but don’t overcook them or they will dry out!

Serve immediately with ice cream or cream, or naked and enjoy!!

IMG_5047

xxR