Monday 31 October 2011

The first morning of a new life!

So that's that! After 8 years and 3 owners...the Coffee Tree has once again changed hands, but the new people have decided to go on without me. They have their own plans and ideas. A new broom! I wish them every good thing....but I can't pretend that the past week hasn't been a strange one!
For the final few days, I thought I'd deliver some old favourites from the past...cakes that have been requested and loved many times...

like good old Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins...

and Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake....
In the middle of the week I also had the Farmer's Market - it was half-term too, and I thought the Hallowe'en theme was appropriate!

and if you read my last post, Robin's banana date cake sold out by lunchtime!

Then it was back to thinking of the Coffee Tree's final days. There was a farewell drinks party on Friday evening at the shop, full of everyone I many sweet comments and people who's lives I've shared a little of over the years. I was given cards & presents...a beautiful white orchid...I shed a few tears.
And Saturday dawned - a beautiful, sunshine day. I was up early as usual, as I wanted to make sure that everything was perfect for my final delivery - the most popular items of all, really:
Victoria Sponge Cake (with non-traditional decoration...but I couldn't resist!)

my famous cheddar scones....(pictured on their stand at the shop)

and finally...I wanted something fun, so I made these vanilla cupcakes...

that said it all in as many ways as I could think of!  I popped in a few times that day- some customers who had moved away made a special journey back to say goodbye, so I had coffee and a chat with old friends. And then it was time to really say goodbye, with a hug and a few sobs! Thanks to Sue & Barry, Roy & Sandra for being such fabulous, loyal customers. We've shared so much over the years - while supplying them I've got married, had a heart attack, two nephews have been born...we've all been through good times and bad together and supported each other through everything. I wish them all a happy & fulfilled retirement!

Monday morning - today felt very strange, will continue to feel so for a while yet, I think. I have been so programmed into always thinking of the next thing to bake for them, searching for new ideas to try out, planning my work day around them. The only customers who never gave me an order - I always just baked what I thought (hoped) would be right...and, thankfully, it usually was! A great freedom, but also a great responsibility in that arrangement.

Anyway...I'm looking forward now, as always (the only way to look!) So much to do and accomplish - I have a book to finish, I'm baking christmas cakes this week, and I have so much to plan and prepare. But I'll always think fondly of my time with The Coffee Tree...and everything it's given me over the years.

I hope you have a wonderful week and a faaaabulously spooky Hallowe'en! xo

Monday 24 October 2011

A cake for Robin...and ending an era...

One of my favourite things about blogging is the amazing people you 'meet' through it. I have made so many new friends...foodies,restaurateurs, hoteliers, creative whizzes, authors, poets and all round sweethearts! And I was particularly thrilled to find the blog of actor/writer, Francophile & wonderful cook Robin Ellis... Robin has been a hero of mine since he starred in the 1970's drama 'Poldark' which captured my mind and heart when I was about 10 and has stayed there ever since. A fabulous swashbuckling saga of love, shipwrecks, tin-mining & treachery in late 18th century Cornwall....made in the days when TV drama serials developed the storyline properly, over 3 months or so...leaving the viewers with a cliffhanger each week and something to look forward to and anticipate on Sunday evenings. Robin played the male lead, Ross Poldark - a dashing, non-conformist maverick of noble birth. Unforgettable!
He & his wife, Meredith, now live in a beautiful part of south western France where they enjoy a somewhat quieter life! Robin was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 12 years ago and has managed to control his blood sugar levels by changing his diet to a healthy, Mediterranean based one and increasing the amount of exercise he takes. He devises many of his own recipes and recently published a book of them: Delicious Dishes for Diabetics. I have a copy...even though I'm not diabetic, the recipes are suitable for anyone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle and there are some great ideas in there.
Inspired by the book, I have created a no-sugar Banana Date Cake...based on a recipe my Grandfather (who also had type 2) gave me years ago. I've adapted it slightly, and it will be on my Farmer's Market Stall tomorrow. I find that there are more & more people suffering with diabetes...also gluten & wheat allergies. So I try to offer something for them, too, on the stall. Why should anyone miss out on cake?? My youngest nephew, William, adores this - and my sister is happy for him to eat plenty as there are only good things in it!

Banana Date Cake
150g dried, chopped dates
450g very ripe bananas (peeled weight)
2 eggs, beaten
200g spelt or wholewheat flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g ground almonds
300ml buttermilk or plain yoghurt

Grease & line a 23cm round tin with baking parchment & preheat oven to 175c

Put the dates in a small bowl or measuring jug & cover with hot water (from the tap is fine) Leave to soak for about 10 mins, then drain and squeeze out the excess water (I use my hands for this!) to leave a thick paste.
Mash the bananas well in a large bowl and stir in the dates, along with the eggs. Fold in the dry ingredients and then finally stir in the buttermilk or yoghurt. Turn into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 45mins-1 hour. It will be a lovely brown on top and pulling away slightly from the sides of the tin when ready. Cool in the tin before turning out. It's even better if you make it the day before you eat it...the banana flavour intensifies and the dates get stickier! It keeps very well for a few days in a tin or wrapped in foil.

This week is bittersweet for me. Saturday will be the last time, after almost 8 years, that I make my daily delivery to The Coffee Tree. The current owners, Barry & Sandra and Sue & Roy have decided to retire...and I shall be leaving with them. I feel sad already! This morning was my last has all been such a big part of my life for such a long time. But everything moves on - and change is good. I will miss it, them and the customers (who have become friends) very much, though. Next Monday will feel very strange!
I am delivering Old Favourites this week.. I've had.many requests for cakes & pastries that I've made over the years, so watch for that update next week. I'll still have plenty to occupy my time - including a book to finish!
And there have been some recent creations, of course:
Cinnamon Apple Cakes...filled with creme fraiche and home made apple sauce (from local Bramley apples)

delicious (though I say so myself...)

Plum Cake, with a damson jelly glaze (which looks quite bright in the flash - but it's just pure fruit, honestly!)

and my favourite Florentine Bars....

chewy fruit & nuts in a maple caramel on a shortbread base.....

And Brownie of the Month on the stall tomorrow will be....

ta daaaa....Peanut Butter Swirl. I used no sugar wholenut peanut butter, which contrasts beautifully with the very chocolatey brownie...and plenty of roasted peanuts too.
It should be a good day on the stall...I hope the weather stays the way it is today - sunny, mild and blustery. Perfect!

Enjoy your week xoxo

Sunday 9 October 2011

New books, new cakes...& an old favourite too!

I baked this good old Coffee & Walnut Cake last week...baking usually cheers me up no end...but I  was feeling especially blue. You can read why here, on my other blog...
As most women will agree, a little retail therapy in these situations works wonders. But I'm not really a shoe-&-handbag type of gal. It's cookbooks that do it for me...and I succumbed to a bit of an indulgent splurge!

Dan Lepard is a bit of a star in the food writing world, & my kind of baker. Innovative and verging on the healthy, his recipes are inspirational. I made the delightfully named Marrakesh Express loaf cake (although I called it Middle Eastern Date Cake for The Coffee Tree...and mine wasn't a loaf cake!) which tasted absolutely gorgeous...and also created these Sour Cream Cupcakes with Banana Caramel -

which were received very well and are a hybrid of several different recipes in the book! I shall be using 'Short & Sweet' a lot!
Jamie is Jamie...a national (& becoming international) institution. He writes a book, I buy it. I always will. Love him!
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey (not absolutely enthralled by the title...) by Jill O' Connor jumped out at me, partly because it's published by one of my very favourite US publishers, Chronicle Books (their publications are just so beautiful...) and the recipes are really good and interesting too. I made (but forgot to photograph, doh) the Chewy Lemon-Pistachio Financiers last week...gorgeous! Another one I'll be using a lot, I know.
Australian Women's Weekly (confusingly published monthly...!) is to Australia what Good Housekeeping is here in the UK. You know that the recipes will work as they're all triple-tested and totally reliable. And this book, The Cake Stall, has some great also looks beautiful and is no-nonesense, which can be really useful when I just need a quick jolt of inspiration for the next day.
So, that was my cheer-up...and it worked!
I produced these creations of my own too...

Blackberry, Apple & Cinnamon Muffins....perfect for the autumn weather we're now having...and a new recipe I devised for my forthcoming baking book (I don't talk a lot about it - too scared! - but it's on it's way...more soon!)

Fresh Rhubarb Macaroon Cake...with a chewy toasty top. Delish!
Now time to plan next week's orders...
I hope you're having a wonderful weekend....x

Tuesday 4 October 2011

A cake mountain....!

 It's been too long since my last post...a combination of being really busy & having my sister and her children visiting from Australia....but I've been taking photos along the way, so it's time for a bit of a catch up! These Blackberry & Apple Crumble Slices were on the menu at The Coffee Tree in mid-September...while the weather was autumnal (it's been in the 80's for the past week....although cooler today)
and then I devised some Caramel Walnut Shortbread Bars...

I halved the sugar in the shortbread part, to offset the gooey sweetness of the caramel...yum!

Another old favourite was on the cake stand last weekend - my most requested cake, Mango & Coconut...

it's the one that everyone remembers....I think maybe because the cake is white & soft & very coconutty...and it contrasts so beautifully with the vivid orange of the mango puree. Whatever it is, it's always greeted with 'oohs' & 'aahs'....which is the sound you grow to love when delivering cakes!

At the end of September, our local council holds a Breast Cancer Awareness day in the town....and for the past two years, I've supplied 100+ pink-iced cupcakes which are given away in the street during the morning. Luckily, my beloved sister Esther was around this year and took over the decorating duties - anything goes, as long as it's pink!

Thanks Est!
Some of the muffins I've made recently were the Plum & Almond delights that I've posted many times before, taken from Ottolenghi's first cookbook (always gorgeous, especially at this time when the plums are at their peak) I also baked these...

Peach & Raspberry Muffins, to use up the last of the late summer fruits. Ripe peaches bake beautifully, I think...

and so I also use them in this Blueberry Peach Bakewell Pudding, which I make as a dessert for a local pub, The Crown

it's gluten-free,too, which I find is becoming an essential option on menus and the market stall these many people have a gluten or wheat allergy or intolerance. This dessert is delicate & no one will feel they've missed out!

I was sorely tempted by this Hazelnut Chocolate Shortbread...made with ground hazelnuts and topped with a dark chocolate ganache. (Almost) irresistible - it's lucky that it was for an order. A hole in the middle of the tray is a big giveaway...!

While my sister was busy decorating the pink cupcakes, I was fully occupied too...wrapping 200 Double Chocolate Brownies in cellophane and tying with silver & pale blue ribbons. These were a special order for a wedding...our friends, Olly & Claire were married on September 25th...and these were to be take home gifts for their guests...

they glittered with silver & pastel blue too (it doesn't photograph well, for some reason) Paul & I delivered them in London, in two enormous boxes...200 brownies are incredibly heavy! But the wedding went beautifully, I'm very happy to say...and Claire told me that the brownies helped to make it a wonderful day!

Banana Cake is always a favourite. My niece & nephews adore bananas, which are currently incredibly expensive in Australia (they are grown there in the Northern Territory & the crop has been badly affected by weather this year) So while they were here, they ate as many as they could! I was left with some overripe ones in the fruitbowl...and this was the result...

frosted with cream cheese. Lovely.
Chocolate & orange is such a classic combination (although one of the customers on my market stall was eager to tell me that 'they don't go together, love'!!) and I put them together again for this gorgeous cake...

that didn't last long at The Coffee Tree!

Last Tuesday was Farmer's Market day...I had two fabulous helpers in the shape of my niece, Scout & my oldest nephew, Kip...they did brilliantly, taking the money & sending everyone off with a cheery 'enjoy your cake!' My brownie of the month for September was...

Toasted Pecan & Caramel. It was VERY popular! I even tried a little myself (almost unprecedented!)

I adore pecans (actually all nuts) but one of my other very favourite cake flavours is lemon....

and this was a lemon & poppyseed layer cake, filled with fresh lemon curd...

and finished with a lemon glace frosting. Oh. My. Goodness.!

Almost the end now!! This was a fabulous creation (though I say so myself....ahem)
Coffee Caramel Cake. Coffee sponge, with espresso buttercream and a homemade caramel spread that dripped artistically...

and looked, I think, very enticing!
So that's it - a potted history of the past month. Of course, I baked lots more...but mostly trays & trays of brownies, flapjacks & carmelita bars...not very interesting to post. Let's call these the highlights!
I'll finish with a tribute to my beautiful 9 year old niece, Scout. She was so helpful during the time she was here...usually awake first and always eager to lend a hand with deliveries. She also illustrated some of the labels to go with the Coffee Tree cakes for me...

I created Australia Slice for her, and for her brothers. Delightful children. I miss them so very much now that they are, once again, 12,000 miles and 24 hours away.
But life goes on...and so does the baking!

Happy week to's great to be back xx