Friday 26 August 2011

Bunnies, Books & Giveaways...

Well, I thought it was about time that I treated my loyal readers again! But more of that later...

One of the joys of baking as a career is the fact that I can offset the cost of new cookbooks against tax! So I probably buy more of them than strictly necessary...but I reason that I really need them to keep up to date (!) That's my story & I'm sticking to it latest acquisition is...
Baked in America by David Muniz & David Lesniak...two Americans who moved here and opened a bakery called Outsider Tart in Chiswick, London. I'm not too sure that I like the way the book is laid out - cakes and the frostings for them are in separate sections of the book, a sort of mix & match idea that I find hard to read and use. But there are some good ideas there. This for example:

Peach & Cinnanmon Cake. Yum. In the book it's called Mom's Apple Cake, but at the end of the recipe there's a small mention that 'Mom's notes say this is great with fresh peaches...' which got me thinking. And 'Mom' was right! It is. Here's the recipe (also good with apples!!) Handily they all come with measurements in both US & metric versions...

Peach & Cinnamon Cake - (adapted from 'Baked in America' by David Muniz & David Lesniak)

Preheat oven to 180c/375f.
Grease and line a 10" cake tin with baking parchment

For the filling:
4 large ripe peaches, sliced as thinly as possible
6 tbsps light brown sugar
4 tsps ground cinnamon

Combine in a small bowl & set aside to macerate.

For the cake:
450g/3 cups plain/all purpose flour
450g/2 cups caster/superfine sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
240ml/1 cup flavourless oil (I used sunflower, they suggest canola)
4 large eggs at room temperature
60ml/1/4 cup whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, combine the eggs, oil, milk & vanilla. Slowly pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix until just combined.

Spoon 1/3 batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan & spread to cover bottom. Arrange 1/3 peach slices over batter...don't let  them touch the sides of the pan or they will stick. Continue layering, finishing by arranging final peach slices on the top & drizzling any remaining cinnamony juice over. The mixture does become difficult to spread & cover the peach layers...just do the best you can. When the cake rises, it will cover them beautifully. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 30 mins before removing and leaving until cold on a wire rack. I melted about 3 tbsps apricot jam with a little water and used this to glaze the top. Delish!

Yesterday I had to bake 140 shortbread rabbit biscuits for a wedding tomorrow...Debbie & Stuart are neighbours of ours and she loves bunnies! 70 are to be used as placecards for the reception, so I put them into clear cellophane bags and tied them with thin ivory satin ribbon. Debbie has attached hand-letterd luggage tags to them with the names of the guests...cute! The others are to be put in bowls around the venue for the evening party. they were quite plain - she didn't want any frosting or decoration, but I managed to persuade her that a little edible glitter would be a good idea! (NOTE: bunnies are NOT the best shape for cut out cookies....the ears are too fragile and easily snap. I made quite a few extra in case!!)

You probably remember me posting about the book launch that I went to in June...well, the author Vanessa Kimbell came up with a lovely idea on her blog . She calls it...

The idea is that when you are baking, you make a little extra and give it away to someone you might not know well, but feel deserves a little treat. I already do this...the postman always makes sure he pops by at Christmas for a hot mince pie and the checkout lady who is so kind at the supermarket often gets some surprise brownies. But Vanessa made me resolve to spread the cake love around more often! I started on Tuesday evening. I had a selection of cakes and slices left after that day's Farmer's Market, so I boxed them up...

and took them around to our local independent greengrocer & his family. Matt and Tanya have 6 children and they all (even the little ones) work really hard in their fantastic shop that is an Aladdin's cave of unusual fruit & veg - they mainly supply the local Asian and Carribean communities. Every morning I walk past them as they unload their van, on my way to deliver to the Coffee Tree. We usually have a chat about 'what's in the box'! So I thought it would be nice to treat them  to a few Cashew Chocolate Truffle Cakes...

and, of course, my famous Walnut Fudge Brownies...

which reminds me of my Farmer's Market 'Quote of the Month'. You may not believe this...but trust me, it's true! A woman hovered over my (clearly marked) sample plate and asked "Are there any nuts in your walnut brownie?" !!! No wonder I needed a good rest answer, in case you are wondering, was short and sweet. "Yes". Deep breath & big smile. It's the only way to cope sometimes...

Ok, now to that giveaway! This is a good one....
As I started this post with cookbooks, I wanted to give one of you one of my favourites...

It was first published in the early 1990's under a different title (Memories with Food at Gipsy House, I think...) but was reissued  a few years ago...and it's wonderful. Good recipes but the real joy is the little anecdotes and stories dotted throughout by Mr Dahl himself. It was written, with his wife, very shortly before he died and is a fascinating peek into their family life. It's quite a difficult book to get hold of - but as we live near the town he lived in, there are always copies available there. I'll send this (inscribed by me to you, whoever you turn out to be) to anywhere in the world so don't think you'll be left out if you don't live in the UK.
To be in with a chance of winning, just leave me a comment on this post...I'll draw the name on the morning of 9th September (can you believe that's just 2 weeks away??)

Good luck, have a fabulous weekend (it's a long one here for us, yay!) and thanks so much for reading. Why don't you try a Random Bake of Kindness too? It really makes you feel good! xoxo


  1. Oh I love that you have taken part int eh random bakes of Kindness.. you are so lovely anyway ! .. i knew you'd be up for it !! ...

    You must come and have lunch in a few weeks when i am settled in !


  2. Rachel, such a lovely post! First off, the bunnies are adorable! What a great idea to have bunny cookies at the wedding - something different and unique. I love the idea of "Random Bakes of Kindness". I too, like to make extra to give away. Last week I made some rice pudding, some for our house, some for S-I-L and some for my in-laws' house. I also have neighbours I like to give treats to, too. I find it a little difficult sometimes to give to someone I don't know very well. Sometimes I wonder if they'll think I'm crazy or if I'm being to personal or intrusive. Still, I think it's wonderful. The Roald Dahl's Cookbook looks like such a treat. I remember your post about the Roald Dahl festival in your town. The winner of the book will be one lucky ducky. Happy Bank Holiday weekend!! xoxo

  3. What a great post. I'm canning these days. But may have to take a break and bake a peach cake-it sounds wonderful! I have a bookcase of cookbooks & love to curl up and read them. But for now, back to canning my tomato-lemon jam! (I was telling someone about an autobiography I wantto read, & she said, "Oh, who wrote it?" Her sister must live near you! Take heart-happy weekend!

  4. First of all, your walnut fudge brownies look so scrumptious, I am very upset that I can only look at them on the screen right now!
    Your nut lady at the farmer's market reminds me of the customer I had in my photography etsy shop, who received her ordered photograph of a hydrangea wreath, threw it away, and asked me when the actual wreath would arrive. Haha! Well, it takes all kinds....
    As far as the lovely idea to give extra baked goods away, I think people here in Austria would find it very odd and would look at me strangely. I had to get used to not saying 'hello' to everyone I passed on the street when I moved here, a habit that I thought perfectly normal growing up in California. The folks here always looked baffled and a bit disturbed, and Ramon finally told me I should stop.
    I do give baked goods and jams to family member and friends, though.
    Hope hope hope I win the book!! :)

  5. I LOVE the bunnies!!!! They are really precious and I agree with you that the shape is rather fragile. I'm glad you were able to talk her into a bit of edible glitter- so lovely, especially for a wedding- hopefully, she'll share a picture with you of the entire event--or maybe you are going yourself!! I LOVE the idea of sharing goodies; I oftentimes just bake for others and drop things off---people love it, really. You are the kindest most thoughtful woman---I'm sure so many people are better off because of you! I would LOVE Dahl's book, so if I am the winner, I will proudly tuck him in between all of my other beloved cookbooks....
    Keep baking!!! Love and Hugs from so faraway....but not in the heart!

  6. Peach and Cinnamon cake...oh, my...thank you for sharing the recipe!! I started sharing food, first for my parents after my mother had, when I make pasta or any portable meal, I double the recipes and share with them and also the widower next door. I agree, nothing says love like sharing a homemade meal or baked goods! And it is always appreciated...heart warming.xoxo

  7. I guess saying to that woman that your walnut brownies come with walnuts OR shoelaces would be out of the question. People can be such idiots. Once when shopping with a young friend and his baby, this old lady working in Williams-Sonoma kept asking all these insane questions as tho I was the baby's mom. She asked how much did he weigh, I shrugged and looked to Mike, who answered. After a bunch of questions I clearly couldn't answer, she asked was I breast feeding. I said yes, yes I am. Then said no his appropriate-age mom was. Her eyes didn't seem impaired but clearly her brain was.

    Meanwhile how apropos that you're making a peach cake and mentioning Dahl. I just wonder if his cookbook is filled with scary people and monsters.

    Cookies look adorable and I'm sure the wedding was a big success because of the increased darling factor they provided.

    Random baking gifts are super fun. I miss my fave neighbors who were always my #1 recipient. Now my baked goods go directly to my own hips, thighs, and big sigh double chin.

    One q: Isn't 375 kinda hot for a 10" pan that cooks 90 mins?

    And is there brownie in your brownies?

  8. Look at all these yummy treats! I love the bunny cookies. I really need to get my hands on some cookie cutters. Adorable.

    something frugal at yahoo dot com

  9. Boy that peach cake looks so yummy and of course I love the idea of bunny cookies at a wedding, especailly shortbread cookies. Funny lady, " are there nuts in your walnut brownies." Sometimes you feel like a nut sometimes you don't. So nice to share your baked goods with people in your town. xoxox

  10. I like the idea of the "random bakes of kindness" :-) But I like all ideas of giving-away little somethings for no special reason.

    About the greeting habbits in Austria - in Salzburg countryside (if it is not too touristic) you HAVE to greet ("Grüßgott")- in the city of Salzburg you don't do this. But, when we travelled to Vienna a few weeks ago, we were perceived as "country-gals" as we said please and thank you, held open doors, ... (and mind you, we got some extra treats at the greengrocery and the super market for being "normal" *bg*). Country girl, I am sorry your kindness is not appreciated in your neighborhood, maybe you should move a little more west :-)

    The cooking book looks very special - I love Roald Dahl.

  11. Love the book, love the bunnies, love the random acts of kindness. What a great idea! Would try it but the Ozzies would think I'm trying to poison them! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  12. The food llooks lovely, as usual, and I'm not only commenting to get a chance to win this book.

  13. I'm so glad to see pictures of the fragile-eared bunnies. I bet they were worth all the work. This post was delicious in many ways, but the best part for me was the laugh I got from the woman asking if there were nuts in the Walnut Brownies. I can *almost* see myself doing the same thing in a distracted moment ... but I pray I never do! :) xoxo

  14. Rachel, your goodies are as amazing as ever! Such cute bunnies!

    Roald Dahl was married to Patricia Neal, who was from my town, and a rehab center carries her name!

  15. I looove Outsider Tart - I have been a faithful fan since they opened their stall at Barnes Farmers' Market. Now it's no longer there but instead - there's the lovely shop in Chiswick which is not that far from Barnes. And I've got the book too - had been waiting for it with bated breath... I'm glad you've got it too, Rachel xox

  16. Funnily enough I was thinking of biscuits today! Gingerbread men ( and women too) to put with little tags and bags at Christmas. (I'm a bit early i know but you have to plan ahead for these things or at least I do!). Love the rabbits but KNOW what you mean about the ears!!.
    I would love to live on your route to the Coffee Tree to be allowed a peek or quick smell of your lovely bakes... A treat indeed!
    The Roald Dahl book looks really interesting, a bit different from your everyday cookbook ( of which I probably have too many considering that i don't have any tax excuses!) Isn't September coming around quickly? Take Care xx

  17. Am just now popping in to say hello, dear one! You always work so hard and make such lovely things...the bunnies are darling! And you are so kind to do the special giveaway!! So wish I lived closer to sample the home baked goodies you do! Oh, to sleep and I will be dreaming of the delicious treats!!! Much love, Sherry xx and zzzzzzzzzz.....

  18. Thanks for the peach cake recipe I have got some ripe peaches will make tomorrow. I just love your blog-you are so inspiring. Can't wait for your cookbook! Pat

  19. What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it. That cake looks amazing, I was just looking at that book in Waterstones the other day, dropping hints to my other half! And those brownies and bunny biscuits look so good. Looking forward to the next RBOK :-)

  20. Spreading cake love is such a brilliant idea and I'm so glad Vanessa's event led me to your lovely blog. I hope to join in next time.

  21. What a lovely thing to do. The cashew chocolate truffle cake sounds amazing. I've just found you via Venessa's Random Bakes of Kindness and will most certainly be visiting again. Feeling rather disappointed I've left it too late to be in with a chance of Roald Dahl's cookbook!

  22. love your RBoK - bet that yummy box of goodies went down really well!!


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