Almost mid-October and the evenings are drawing in so quickly...where has the year gone? I sat in our kitchen at home yesterday afternoon, thinking up the recipe for a suitably autumnal cake to post here...but my mind kept wandering as I looked out of the glazed doors that lead to the garden and watched as the first little yellow leaves from the silver birch next door swirled before they landed on the deck. Although often it's still bright and sunny, the wind carries a real chill now and the shadows fall differently in the garden...it's a time of year I adore. New beginnings, new possibilities. Abundance. Harvest. Spices. All good things.
I devised this recipe for a Plum & Walnut Cake - at least, that's what I used here. But it is easy to adapt to what you have, or prefer. Perhaps apples and hazelnuts? Or pears and almonds? As long as the properties are the same, it should work...so do experiment.
I adore walnuts. Of all the gorgeous Sugar Moon brownies flavours,theWalnut Fudge are my absolute favourite. We make sure there are lots of them inside and out, as I can't bear alleged 'walnut cakes' that just have a measly few nuts inside them...or, worse, sprinkled only on top!
So, for this cake you'll need:
200g butter - slightly softened if possible, but don't worry too much
200g light soft brown sugar or golden caster sugar (or just regular sugar if that's all you have - the golden versions add more caramelly undertones which are delicious, but all sugars will sweeten the same!)
3 free-range eggs
100g shelled walnuts
150g self-raising flour
50g wholewheat rye flour (if you have none, don't buy it specially....make up the difference in weight with an extra 50g self-raising flour instead. I just love the nuttiness of rye, so it's lovely if you have some handy!)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice (or cinnamon if you prefer)
good pinch of sea salt
About 4 firm but ripe plums, de-stoned, quartered and then very thinly sliced to make crescents
About 1 dessertspoon of unrefined demerara sugar, for sprinkling.
Grease and line a 23cm/10" cake tin (I used a loose-bottomed one for ease of removal)
Preheat oven to 175c/350f
Put all the ingredients except the plums & demerara sugar into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth...there will, of course, be little lumps of walnut visible...but otherwise the mixture should look silky...
Scrape into the prepared tin...
...and arrange the crescents of plum in concentric circles, filling in any gaps as artistically as you can! It's important to lay the slices on the batter, rather than pushing them in...otherwise they may sink during baking.
Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and then bake for around 1& 1/4 hours until well risen and golden brown...you can test for doneness with a metal skewer or special cake tester if you like. There should be a few crumbs clinging to it, but no obvious 'wetness' or sign of uncooked dough.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling properly....
...or you could, of course, serve it with cream or ice-cream for pudding while still a bit warm.
It's a delicious cake...not too sweet, a tender crumb and full of Autumn!
There's another reason I love October so much - it's my birthday month. And this year is a big one. I can hardly believe it, but I'll be 50 in a few days. I've just been going through photos on the computer, and it's a bit like whizzing through my life! Lots of fabulous memories of people and places and times...some long gone. My grandparents...my Dad....schoolfriends whose names I can't quite remember now...boyfriends...pets...houses we've lived in. Such a journey!
And now, time to reflect, to take stock and also to look ahead and make plans.
Sugar Moon will be taking a short break to celebrate and re-calibrate from Monday 17th -Sunday 23rd October. Last orders will be 10am on Friday 13th through the website and normal service will resume on Monday24th. You can still order while the kitchen is closed - but please do be aware that no orders will be baked and sent until Monday 24th.
Here I am (on the left in the white socks and the stylish plaid mini dress) about 45 years ago playing tug-of-war with my little sister, cousins and two uncles...it's all gone so fast! Here's to the next half century!
Thanks so much for your continued support and great custom xx
September.....already! How did that happen? It's been an incredibly busy summer here at Sugar Moon ...brownies parcels flying all over the country plus lots of wholesale orders to cope with the school holiday rush. We've enjoyed every minute - and managed to grab a few days away too, which you can read about soon on my personal blog.
As most of the UK schools went back today (I know that Scottish ones have been back for a while already), I thought that it might be fun to reflect on my uniform.
Now, I must confess that in the unit kitchen my outfit is strictly practical and neither fun nor photogenic! It consists of an all encompassing white coat and closed toe heavy duty clogs. Nothing to see there!
But as I do a lot of cooking and recipe testing and experimenting at home, I thought I'd show you what I wear there. I'm quite fussy about aprons. I really don't like cutesy, fussy ones with frills and furbelows. I like a nice functional shape with a big deep pocket - or pockets- at the front. And it has to look good, because I spend so much time in it, as well as being hard wearing and easy to wash at high temperatures. In short, it has to withstand a bit of bashing!
If you have been to our website, you may recognise this apron. Unfortunately, I think it's been discontinued in this form. It's from Simon Johnson in Sydney - a fab small chain of high-end delicatessen and kitchen supply shops. I've always loved it as it's more like a pinafore dress...
...with really easy ways to adjust the waist and shoulders. They do sell another colourway (dark grey & pink) on their website, but it's hard to see from the photos whether the fastenings are the same as these ones. The next one is my absolute favourite apron of the moment!
It's handmade by Victoria Whitfield of Field & Found. I think this denim version was a special edition for the Hay Festival (Field & Found has a retail outlet at The Old Electric Company in the town of Hay-on-Wye), but she has some beautiful similar ones on her website.
They aren't cheap - but they are handmade and quality utilitarian garments. This one washes brilliantly too and is easily adjustable - the pocket at the front is perfect for tucking recipes or tea towels into. I wear it so often and love the heaviness of the gorgeous denim. If you wear aprons a lot, I'd really recommend having a look at the site.
This one is an indulgence, pure and simple. But I adore it. It's by Toast and comes in several colours...I have almost bought the orange one too, but I'm trying to be good! It's more like a dress really - made from heavy linen, and it feels luxurious and special.
I must confess that I don't wear it that much though - it looks fabulous, but I'm a bit scared of making it dirty and greasy! When I cook, I cook. And I'm just nervous to really let go in this apron! So I really reserve it for presentation and finishing off.
This one is bearing a few marks I'm afraid, as I wore it all weekend and it's just about to go into the wash. But I probably wear it as often as the Field & Found one, I alternate them really. It's just a normal 'butcher's apron' from a catering supplier. Nothing special about it BUT there's a reason that these are so ubiquitous. So practical - plenty of material to wrap around, plenty of tie to secure the waist, plenty of length to cover.
Not particularly pretty, but it WORKS!
And talking of pretty - there's this...
You can see that I favour the cross-back apron. I think it's because they are so easy to take on and off without using hands - I also love the look of them (influenced too, I think, by my love of Ma in the '70s tv show 'Little House on the Prairie' who always seemed to wear one!)
This one is lovely, although more lightweight - good for summer days. It's pure cotton and made by Ulster Weavers who carry a huge range of home and kitchen textiles. I bought it at the wonderful Foodie Bugle shop in Bath. They are currently situated in Margarets Buildings, right by the Royal Crescent but will be moving next week further into the centre of the city, right near the Abbey (Abbey Green to be exact!)
This is how the shop looks now from outside...
...and I'm sure that the new one will be equally, if not more, beautiful! Full of treasures, vintage and new - and a great place to stop for coffee or a pot of tea together with a slice of cake or a light lunch.
So...a brief look into my working wardrobe. And now, back into that un-beautiful white coat!!
Hope you all had a brilliant summer...I love the warmer months, but I must admit that I think there's something very special about the autumn. Excitement and new beginnings - anything and everything is possible!
My friend and Sugar Moon customer Deborah - you can read her beautiful blog here , where she writes about her life in West Wales (and takes fabulous photos!) - recently set me a challenge. She wondered why she (and several of her friends and neighbours) could no longer obtain good results when using Philadelphia cream cheese to make cream cheese frosting and recipes from U.S cookbooks, such as cheesecake. There was no problem with U.K recipes, just American ones. She wondered whether there was a different formula to the British product (and suspects it has changed recently, although she had no answer from Kraft when she contacted them to ask!) This really intrigued me, as I have never had a problem. At Sugar Moon , we don't use cream cheese in general...but I do when baking for friends and family and I almost exclusively bake from U.S cookbooks too. So I decided to experiment!
I made my usual cream cheese frosting - a staple of the Blue Angel Bakery repertoire, essential for Carrot Cake, Mango & Coconut Cake and many others. I used full fat Philadelphia ('light' versions just will not work as there is too much water and other ingredients in there...you need the fat!)
I always make the frosting in my trusty Magimix Pro food processor. I started with softened unsalted butter...
...added icing sugar....
...then I processed the two together to mix thoroughly before adding the cheese...
...now, it does tend to go a little runny to start with. But I just left the motor running and pretty soon (within a minute or two), it all came together to make a thick, smooth and shiny frosting...
Voila! As a balance, I also made exactly the same recipe but used a tub of Sainsbury's own-brand full fat soft cheese. Although this actually had a slightly higher fat content (25% as opposed to 21.5% in the Philadelphia) it didn't work nearly as well...
As you can see from the photo above, it 'split' slightly and had a grainy unpleasant texture.
Back to the Philly version. I wanted to check that it would pipe well and stand up as a proper frosting, so I filled a disposable bag and...
...it did the job perfectly. So I hope that helps, Deb? It kept well and was just as good texture-wise three days later (kept in a lidded plastic container in the fridge). I would say that several things definitely help; use a food processor if at all possible, because it works so quickly and seems to help with the mixing and texture of the finished frosting. Also, I think mixing the butter and sugar together first helps too. And lastly, perhaps, the proportions? The temptation when it's a bit runny is to add more icing sugar to stiffen it up, as this works so well with fondant or glace icings. But more sugar just makes cream cheese frosting runnier. It's the fat content that keeps everything firm...
The proportions I use are:
butter - 50g
icing sugar - 125g &
cream cheese - 1 family size tub which is 280g (and yes, Philadelphia, I have noticed that it used to be 300g for the same price....!)
Scale up as necessary depending on how much frosting you need!
I will test a US cheesecake recipe next and post it on our Facebook page for all those that are interested!
And after my last post ended with my lunchtime sourdough & tomato bruschetta, I thought I'd end this one with my Saturday (and many other) breakfast! More toasted sourdough - I really adore it - with homemade hummus (chickpeas soaked and boiled,plenty of flat leaf parsley, tahini, garlic and lemon juice) sprinkled with a little Maldon seasalt , lots of black pepper and a glug of olive oil. My favourite summery way to start the day (preferably eaten outside!)
We baked, packed and sent a LOT of Father's Day brownie boxes today...so their should be many smiling and chocolate-filled Dads on Sunday! If your Dad is still with you, or your children have a lovely one, or you have someone you think of as a Dad - make sure to give him a VERY big hug on Sunday. They are precious things!
To celebrate the real start of Summer (and as I write this, the sun has just broken through the clouds at last!) I thought you might appreciate a new recipe. Sugar Moon has just taken a week off to rest and recuperate...you can read more about where we went here....and, as usual I came home itching to get into the kitchen straight away! Work doesn't begin properly until tomorrow, so these were made at home, and use the best of the current fruits - you can easily adapt this recipe to use whatever you like best. Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries will all work well here - perhaps adjusting the sugar levels in the topping if the berries are very tart.
Apricot & Blueberry Bars Base:
150g wholemeal spelt flour (you can use regular plain flour or even gluten-free if you prefer)
1 (preferably free-range) egg yolk
100g ground almonds
20g whole hazelnuts (or whole almonds if you prefer them)
75g light soft brown sugar
pinch Maldon or other sea salt flakes (optional, but so good!)
Additional ingredients for topping:
50g wholemeal spelt flour (or other flour as above)
50g whole hazelnuts (or almonds as above)
1 tbsp light olive oil (or other vegetable oil if you don't like the taste!)
50g soft light brown sugar (optional, depending on tartness of your chosen fruit)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180c
Line a 23cm square foil tray (or equivalent tin) with baking parchment
For the base: pulse ground almonds and whole hazelnuts for a few moments in a food processor until whole nuts are in small pieces...
Add the rest of the base ingredients to the processor...
( This is the spelt flour we usually use...I love its nutty flavour and great texture...but do feel free to substitute as it won't make much difference to the finished bars!)
Pulse until the ingredients form clumps....then press around 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared baking tray (leaving the remaining mixture in the processor bowl)...
...bake the base for about 10 minutes, until it turns a light golden brown....
...this will help prevent a soggy bottom! Then cover the base with your chosen fruit. As a guide, I used 5 apricots (stoned and roughly pulled apart) and 150g fresh blueberries...
Add remaining topping ingredients to the rest of the mixture left in the processor and pulse to combine. It won't clump together as much, but will start to stick together if squeezed between your fingers. Scatter over the fruit...
...you want it to just about cover, but I always like to see a little of the berries peeping through the crumb! That's just personal preference though. Flatten the top slightly with your palms to help it stick together a little. Then bake for around 30 minutes, turning the tray halfway through the baking time to ensure an even colour...
Cool thoroughly (preferably overnight in the fridge) before lifting from the tin using the edges of the baking paper and slicing into bars. They will crumble a little at the top, but just scoop these up with your fingers and enjoy!
Apricots are one of the only fruits that I think are better cooked than raw...I just adore them in season.
These bars would actually be gorgeous eaten slightly warm as a dessert, with cream or ice cream, too! Feel free to experiment and enjoy them. I thought I'd finish with one of my absolute favourite Summer lunches - this is usually what I would eat during the week, on a baking break (probably listening to The Archers!)
A toasted slice of good sourdough (I love Richard Bertinet's loaves available from Waitrose, if I can't find any handmade) rubbed with a raw garlic clove and topped with fresh, ripe tomatoes...here I added fresh marjoram from the garden and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes. And always, lots of freshly ground black pepper. Heaven on a plate! Enjoy the summer and all it offers food-wise....it won't be here for long! Sugar Moon is now back in full production...so do visit our lovely website if you haven't already.
It's Easter on Sunday...I can't believe that even as I'm writing it! The clocks will be springing forward by an hour and we'll start to see those wonderful long days again. It seems like yesterday that we got back from Australia...the Sugar Moon website was updated and is now more beautiful than ever...then this happened:
Valentine's Day! These were our limited edition Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Brownies, that flew out of the oven and off the shelves that week. We sent out lots of beautiful boxes, with the most romantic messages inside. It's one of the aspects of Sugar Moon that we enjoy most. Handwriting YOUR messages onto one of our specially printed postcards. Each one tells a story and they are almost always happy ones! So don't forget to let us know your message, if the brownies are for a gift. You'll find our 'gift message' box when you are checking out. Sugar Moon brownies make a lovely present to tell someone you love them, you're thinking about them...to congratulate and welcome a new baby, a new house...or just because you feel like it!
These are our brownie of the moment - Easter Mini Egg Double Chocolate. Strictly limited edition (last orders with free delivery are 10am on Wednesday 23rd March!) and absolutely gorgeous!
To order, just go to our website and choose the Taster Menu option. Then just drop us a line (or leave a note in the Gift Message box) to let us know you'd like the Easter Specials! We'll do the rest....
We are always devising new flavours for our retail outlets too. This was last week's Almond Amaretto Brownie for Laurie's Corner . A beautiful brownie, full of ground and flaked almonds with amaretto biscuits soaked in French Brandy too...
But, as ever, our very bestseller at the moment is the Salted Caramel....
...seen above while in production! A layer of our handmade salted caramel goes through the middle of the brownies and caramelises around the edges....they are fudgey and irresistible!
We do love to have an experiment now and then...
Peanut Butter Swirl are beloved by many! But not much can beat a warm Salted Caramel or Double Chocolate Brownie with a cup of something hot on a chilly Spring day...
If you haven't already do visit & like our Facebook page ,where we post new flavours and special offers as and when they are available....as well as all the latest news from Sugar Moon!
I live with my gorgeous husband, Paul and our wire fox terrier, Alice, in a small country town.I have cooked professionally for 30 years (boy, does that sound OLD!) and now run Sugar Moon, an online brownie business, as well as a small wholesale bakery, which I love. In any rare spare time I'm working on my first novel and a cookbook based on my business. I love Mozart above most things, but also adore reading, movies,visiting different countries,walking Alice, eating & all things foodie as well as spending time with my beloved friends and family....I hope you enjoy my blog!