A Dog – and Blog – Birthday

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Aimée is one today. The little three-month-old puppy we brought home in September has grown up into a beautiful, long-coated adult dog. Despite technically being out of puppyhood now, she isn’t trustworthy yet, as shown by her decision yesterday to take one of my best shoes off the shoe rack. Fortunately, I rescued it before she did any damage! Continue reading

Advertisements

Spiced Fruit Scones

October is upon us and with it, the colder air of autumn. It’s a great time of the year to bake things with apples and cinnamon, such as these spiced fruit scones. I made two batches of them this week: they are very moreish!

I adapted the recipe to make the scones without refined sugar and decided to use spelt flour as a change from regular wheat flour. If you don’t have coconut sugar and spelt flour to hand, you can simply use all-purpose flour and brown sugar.

Recipe adapted from p. 39 of The Vegetarian Cookbook (1985) by Doreen Keighley

This quantity of mixture makes 8 scones.

Ingredients:

1 lb (3 1/3 cups) wholegrain spelt flour

4 oz (1/2 cup) margarine

4 oz (1/2 cup) sultanas

4 oz (1/2 cup) unrefined coconut sugar

1 dessert apple

2 eggs

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C). If you have a convection oven, lower the temperature to 390 F (200 C).

2. Mix the flour together with the baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon; then rub the margarine into the flour.

3. Beat the eggs and whisk the sugar into the eggs.

4. Grate the apple and add it to the flour mixture, along with the eggs and sugar.

5. Mix together to form a dough, adding the sultanas.

6. On a floured board, roll out the dough and divide it into eight pieces.  Shape the pieces into scones.

7. Place the scones on a greased baking tray, brush the tops with a little milk or beaten egg, then bake for 15 minutes until they are golden brown and your kitchen smells delicious!

Chocolate cake…..without the guilt!

My sister introduced me to The Unrefined Kitchen when she made their refined sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate cake for my niece’s 2nd birthday. It was scrumptious, so much so that I made one myself this weekend! As this chocolate cake is sweetened with honey and has no refined sugar in it, perhaps it should be renamed the “Eat-As-Much-As-You-Like-Without-Feeling-Guilty Chocolate Cake”. 😉

For the cake recipe and many more delicious recipes, click here to go to the Unrefined Kitchen.

The best apple cake you will ever taste

Okay, maybe the title of this post is a little hyperbolic, but the apple cake recipe I am about to show you definitely merits recognition!

My young nieces go to a kindergarten which is run along the lines of the Waldorf philosophy of education developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s (if you’re interested, you can read more about Waldorf education by clicking here).

Waldorf has German and Austrian origins and many of the recipes that the schools use are traditional German recipes. The cakes are excellent — wholesome but incredibly tasty. I have long wanted to visit Austria just so I can sample the amazing kuchen and torten! The preschool/kindergarten, teacher recently gave my sister this recipe and she passed it along to me. It’s a perfect recipe if you have apples in abundance — simple, quick to make and delicious with a cup of coffee.

GERMAN APPLE CAKE

Ingredients

270 g butter or margarine
180 g brown sugar
5 medium eggs
270 g flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 – 4 peeled cooking apples, either sliced in small cubes or thin slices.
80 g raisins or sultanas

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). If you’re using a convection oven, you may need to slightly reduce the temperature.
2. Mix the butter/margarine and sugar until it is well blended. Gradually add the beaten eggs and continue to mix together.
3. Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and finely slicing them. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sultanas/raisins and apples. Mix together.
4. Line a square or oblong baking dish with baking parchment/greaseproof paper. Pour your cake mixture into the dish and level it with a spoon.
5. Bake for around 45 minutes. You might need to reduce the temperature slightly during the last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking to ensure the top does not brown too much.
6. The cake is done when you can insert a knife into it and it comes out clean. Cut into squares and enjoy!

A delicious autumnal breakfast & brunch recipe

Just a few months ago, the apple trees were covered in blossom.

Apple blossom in the garden. Collage created with photovisi.com. Photos Grace @ Cultural Life copyright 2013

Apple blossom in the garden. Collage created with photovisi.com. Photos Grace @ Cultural Life copyright 2013

Now, they are heavy with fruit.

I love baking and making recipes with apples so when I saw this amazing Dutch apple pancake recipe, I knew I had to make it. I prepared it for brunch last Sunday and it is a delicious way to use up apples from the garden. The scent of apple slowly cooking with cinnamon and brown sugar is divine and the finished result is even better. It is a wonderful breakfast or brunch recipe which is perfect for this time of year.

Apple Pannekoeken (Dutch Pancake) – with thanks to Jill from Dulce Dough for giving me permission to reprint the recipe here. Do pay a visit to Dulce Dough; Jill has many more lovely recipes there.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar (optional)

For Topping

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter

Instructions

1. Make sure your oven rack is in the middle of your oven, then put butter into an oven-safe skillet or pie plate, place into the oven, and preheat 425°F.

2. While waiting for the butter to melt, prepare your batter by beating the eggs in a large bowl; add the salt, milk, and flour and continue to beat until smooth.

3. When butter is melted, remove skillet or pie plate and tilt to coat with butter, then carefully pour in the egg mixture.

4. Bake for about 15-18 minutes without opening the oven door. (The pannekoeken will puff as it bakes and is ready when it is browned and crisp around the edges.)

5. To make the apple topping, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl.

6. Add the apples to the bowl and mix gently to coat; set aside.

7. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.

8. Add the apple mixture and cook over medium heat until the apples are tender.

9. Carefully spoon apple topping over hot pannekoeken, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.

Do you have a favorite apple recipe you would like to share? Let me know by leaving a comment on this post.

A blogging milestone

This post marks the 100th post and the third blogging milestone for Cultural Life, after my first ‘blogiversary’ in June 2012 and the delightful surprise of being Freshly Pressed in February this year!

All milestones should have cake or some form of dessert. 😉 And so I celebrated my 100th blog post by baking this apple streusel cake:

As a Brit, I was initially confused by the name of this particular cake. If you say “coffee cake” the image that springs to the minds of most Brits is something like this: Nigella’s coffee and walnut layer cake. In England, coffee cake has coffee in it. It’s always interesting to learn how cooking and baking terminology varies on each side of the pond.

Linguistic differences aside, this apple streusel coffee cake turned out to be very delicious indeed, despite the fact that I unintentionally ignored the instructions to bake in a baking dish and not in a round cake pan. Hence, the flatness of my cake!

Recipe text from this page reproduced with kind permission from Mama’s Gotta Bake. Do check out her lovely blog….your mouth will water!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.

2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.

3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

Blog challenge roundup: the first 10 recipes

I apologize for the lack of activity on the blog for the past month. My weekly post schedule has slipped out the window but I’ve been busy, not to mention the fact that I spent two weeks of July hobbling around in pain, before having surgery on August 1st. Ideas for blog posts haven’t been flowing freely and I haven’t cooked anything exciting in the past month. But I intend to return from my hiatus this week so be sure to look out for frequent posts again and some more delicious recipes!

Recipes from around the world. Picture source: Map Of The World by Jiri Hodan

In the meantime, here is a roundup of the first ten recipes I have cooked as part of the blog challenge I set myself back in February. You can read about that in this post: I’m setting myself a challenge.

Recipe 1: Irish soda bread

For blog challenge recipe 2, Middle Eastern cuisine gave me one of my favorites: hummus

Recipe number 3. A trip to South America: Honduras

Blog challenge 4. I have a special fondness for Greek food and I was delighted by how these Greek koulourakia turned out. I have made this recipe many times since blogging about it and it gives delicious results every time! Greek koulourakia

Blog challenge 5. Nettle soup: this is an easy, money-saving recipe and, despite what you might think, tastes very good! European nettle soup

Blog challenge 6. A simple but yummy Indian curry: Indian curry

Blog challenge 7. Ah, this is possibly my favorite recipe so far from the ones I have cooked for my blog challenge: Valencia orange cake

Blog challenge 8. I threw a load of ingredients together for this and the combination worked very well: Italian-style pasta sauce

Blog challenge 9. A hearty dessert: Traditional English pudding

And finally, blog challenge recipe 10! These are too bad for anyone’s waistline but they are amazing! Blog challenge recipe 10 celebrated the Fourth of July by baking some American brownies.

I hope you will join me as I embark on the next ten recipes! These are the remaining countries and I have recipes to find and make for all of them: Canada, Australia, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Portugal, Singapore, New Zealand, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Austria, Serbia, Costa Rica, Norway, Georgia, Belarus, Romania, Slovakia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Korea and Myanmar.

Quite a challenge!

Blog challenge recipe #10: American brownies

As you all know, yesterday was the Fourth of July — Independence Day — and so it seemed appropriate for #10 of my blog challenge recipes to have a U.S. theme.

US flag. Source: Wikipedia

Brownies were invented in the US; for the history of the brownie, check out ‘The History of the Brownie at The Nibble. I always thought cheesecake originated from the US too but I read that it was actually first invented in Ancient Greece. However, I think cheesecake recipes have changed just a bit in the 2500 years since Ancient Greece! If you want to read more about the invention and history of cheesecake, this page at What’s Cooking America is very informative.

New York cheesecake is a classic US specialty and it is my favorite type of cheesecake. Deliciously creamy with a hint of vanilla is how I like mine. I also love brownies. A good chocolate brownie should have a fudgy texture, firm yet scrumptiously gooey inside. Combining brownies and cheesecake in one recipe sounds too good to be true. But you can never have too much of a good thing, right?

Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
(recipe source: this page at Frugal Feeding. All credit for this recipe belongs to Frugal Feeding)

Makes 10-16

Ingredients:

• 100g salted butter

• 40g cocoa powder, as dark as possible

• 50g dark chocolate

• 2 medium eggs

• 225g light muscovado sugar

• 50g self-raising flour

• 200g cream cheese

• 1 egg yolk

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a suitable baking tray. Melt the butter gently in a pan on the stove, to this whisk in the cocoa powder. Once added, combine this with the chocolate in small chunks until it has all melted together. In a mixing bowl, while the chocolate is melting, whisk together the eggs and sugar using a hand mixer.

2. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate in the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the flour and pour the brownie batter into the lined baking tray.

3. Beat together the cream cheese and egg yolk. Dot this mixture around the brownie mixture and swirl in with a thin knife. Bake for 25 minutes and not a moment longer, they need to have a hard shell on the outside and be very gooey on the inside.

Swirly brownie mixture

4. Leave the brownies to cool a little before turning them out. Pop them in the freezer for a little while before chopping.

The finished goods! Delicious, velvety and very, very moreish.

A culinary weekend

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend, making Italian-style pasta sauce for my eighth blog challenge recipe and traditional English barley and berry pudding for my nineth.

As well as these two scrumptious recipes, I made falafel using this recipe from Nade in the Kitchen. Nadine (aka Nade) has a fabulous food blog which I highly recommend.

And on Sunday, while the pudding was baking in the oven, I popped a loaf of bread in to bake too. For the results, see the photo below!

Tasty, golden, delicious bread — mmm!

What did you cook or bake this past weekend?