Tag Archives: Pecan

Apple & pecan streusel cake

There’s something about seeing boats and the sea that always soothes me, whether the sea is calm or stormy, and if I ever feel a bit down and just need to get outside, I tend to seek out a view of the ocean.  This was easy enough in St Andrews, where there was only a squat church and some rather high cliffs that separated the end of my street and the sea.  I was spoilt – there were plenty stunning sea views around town, and most of them no more than a 5 minute walk from my flat, if that.  Here in Auckland, I’m not quite as lucky, but the Viaduct harbour is a 15 minute walk from my flat, and full of beautiful yachts, so I can’t complain too much.  This weekend I happened to be near the harbour as the sun was setting, so I headed over for a wander around (incidentally, there are restaurants and bars around the harbour, so there are always people around and it feels quite safe to hang around even in the evenings).

I hadn’t realised that I’d been feeling quite so down until I got to the harbour and watched the sun set over the gorgeous yachts.  Feeling more at peace (and having satisfied my Instagram addiction for the day), I headed home and baked, just to reinforce my improved mood.  I find the process of creating something scrumptious out of butter, flour, sugar, eggs and a few added extras really therapeutic (well, when it works… which isn’t always the case).  The only problem with baking to cheer myself up is that, whilst I do have a sweet tooth, there’s no way I can eat an entire batch of cupcakes or a whole cake all by myself before they go stale (except that Greek yoghurt and honey cake, which provided me with breakfast for several days, thanks to the syrup that kept it moist and flavourful).  Luckily the issue is easily solved by bringing surplus baked goods into the lab, and they get polished off rather quickly.

My post-harbour baking choice was an apple and pecan streusel cake, a fantastic autumnal combination made with the last of the season’s apples (actually, I think the season might have just ended here, so I guess we’re now getting the stragglers that were hanging out in storage).  I love pecans, but sadly they tend to be a little expensive, so I hoard them whenever they’re on sale (which is how I happened to have 325g of pecans lying around).  The cake itself is moist thanks to the apples, with a bit of crunch running through it due to the pecans, and topped off more pecans in the form of a crunchy pecan and brown sugar streusel topping (I never said it was a healthy cake).  I really think it’s the topping that makes this cake so special.  Some of the topping fell off the cake in transport (although more of it stayed intact than I was expecting), and once all the cake was gone, fingers were surreptitiously dipping into the cake tin to pick up remaining bits of topping.  The tin was exceptionally clean by the time we were done…

Apple & pecan streusel cake

Makes about 25 squares
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

This cake makes a wonderful afternoon snack, accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee, and is delicious served both warm or cold.  It would also work very well with walnuts instead of pecans (the original recipe actually uses walnuts).  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the streusel topping:
150g pecans
110g light brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
15g unsalted butter

For the cake:
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
312g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
175g pecans
2 large apples
225g unsalted butter
4 medium eggs
250ml (230g) sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Line a 22 x 30 cm baking tin with baking paper (or if you don’t have such a large tin, use a 19 x 25 cm baking tin and a 9 x 20 cm loaf tin).  Preheat the oven to 175°C.

2.  Prepare the streusel topping.  Roughly chop the pecans and mix them together in a medium mixing bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until crumbly.  Set aside.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the two sugars for the cake.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set both aside.  Roughly chop the pecans and dice the apple into 1cm pieces.  Set aside.

4.  Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter in a large bowl for 2-3 mins until pale and fluffy.  Add the sugar gradually, and mix until fully incorporated.  Then beat in the eggs one by one, making sure to beat well between each addition.  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla (don’t worry if it looks like the mixture has curdled, this will be fixed in the next step).

5.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, but with no visible flour.  Fold in the apples and pecans.

6.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin(s), and try to spread it out more or less evenly (I found that the batter wasn’t very spreadable, but just do the best you can, and make sure to push it into the corners).  Evenly sprinkle the topping over the cake.

7.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before either cutting into squares to serve or allowing to cool fully on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve taken part in the Breakfast Club blog challenge.  There’s no particular reason for this – I can hardly say that I’ve been too busy, and I’ve certainly not stopped eating breakfast or anything ridiculous like that.  Perhaps I’ve just been lacking in inspiration a bit…  Whatever the reason, I decided to get my act together and get back into the challenge, because it’s always good to keep breakfast interesting!  The current challenge is being hosted by Sarah at A little bit of heaven on a plate…, and she has chosen “Stars and Stripes” as the theme.

Now I’d say that the US is pretty big on breakfast, so I felt rather spoilt for choice.  To me, the most utterly American breakfast just has to be blueberry pancakes – they just scream USA.  But it’s not exactly blueberry season, so I had to come up with something else…  We lived in the US for four years when I was little, and for some reason, I always associate pumpkins with the US.  Something to do with the whole pumpkin-carving tradition at Halloween perhaps, and enforced by the almost constant presence of pumpkin pie between Halloween and Thanksgiving?  Who knows why I associate anything pumpkin-related with the US, but I do.  So I thought about making pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.  Of course, if I was going to go all-out American, the obvious thing to do would be to use tinned pumpkin (Libby’s, of course), but aside from not having any, I decided that I’d feel a bit silly using tinned pumpkin when it’s actually pumpkin season.  I do try to use seasonal ingredients as much as possible, so fresh pumpkin was really the only option.  This also means that I could submit this recipe to the Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food.  So I acquired an adorable little pumpkin and set about roasting it, ready to use in some pumpkin pancakes

Now, you’ve probably noticed that the photos in this post are quite clearly not pancakes.  Not even pancakes gone horribly, horribly wrong.  And you’d be correct, because you see, whilst planning my pancakes, I may have gotten ever so slightly distracted by a muffin recipe…  A rather delicious-sounding recipe for pumpkin muffins with a surprise layer of cream cheese hidden inside.  Luckily, I also consider muffins to be a totally American thing to have for breakfast (although I feel they should be jumbo muffins – unfortunately I don’t have any large muffin moulds or tins, so I just had to make normal-sized ones), so I scrapped the pancake plan and made pumpkin and cream cheese muffins instead.  How did they turn out?  Delicious!  They’re wonderfully moist and have a strong pumpkin flavour which goes beautifully with the surprise cream cheese layer.  Basically, they taste like pumpkin pie, but in a muffin.  Being muffins, they’re also easy to eat whilst travelling, and I had several of these for breakfast whilst on the bus to St Andrews on Friday morning.  They made an excellent start to a wonderful little two-day trip!

Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

Makes 6-7 muffins
Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

I used homemade pumpkin purée by mashing-up some pumpkin that I roasted the other day, but tinned pumpkin would probably work just as well.  The chopped pecans sprinkled over the top are completely optional, but add a lovely crunch to the muffin – the original recipe called for pumpkin seeds which I’m sure would also work really well.  As with all muffins, these don’t store all that well, but they’ll be perfectly fine for breakfast if made the evening before and stored in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
60g cream cheese
20g icing sugar
90g whole wheat bread flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
130g pumpkin purée
1 egg
65g unrefined granulated sugar
30 ml milk
60 ml olive oil
¼ tsp vanilla essence

For the topping:
A few pecan halves (optional)
2 tbsp unrefined granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out silicon liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and icing sugar, and set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices together into a bowl, and mix together.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, egg, sugar, milk, olive oil and vanilla essence.  Once the wet ingredients are well mixed together, stir in the dry ingredients using a metal spoon until just combined.

5.  Add about half a tablespoon of pumpkin mixture to each muffin liner (make sure that the mixture covers the bottom but that there is enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of cream cheese in each liner on top of the pumpkin layer.  Split the remaining pumpkin mixture between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small ramekin.  Roughly chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

6.  Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden.  Allow to cool in the tin for a few mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

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Banana, date & pecan “loaflets”

I’ve discovered the Breakfast Club – a challenge to make breakfasts “more than tea and toast” with a different theme each month (you were thinking of the film, weren’t you?)  I love breakfast, I genuinely cannot function without it, so this sounds like a lot of fun to me.  I actually discovered the Breakfast Club last month, and the theme was “Yoghurt” but due to a lack of both inspiration (I wanted to do something other than yoghurt with muesli) and time, I never quite got round to it.  This month’s theme is “To Go” – so breakfast on the commute, etc.

Now, I don’t really do much commuting.  St Andrews is quite small and compact – from my flat, walking to the library takes 2 minutes, my seminars are about 8 minutes away and it takes 15 minutes to walk to the marine labs.  The only time that I tend to have breakfast “on the go” is when I’m running really late and have to grab a cereal bar on my way out the door and wolf it down whilst in a mad rush to wherever I should have been 10 minutes previously.

But that wasn’t going to stop me partaking in the “To Go” challenge.  I think if I did commute, I would probably eat a lot of muffins, just because they are so fun and I love them and if you put dried fruit and oats, etc., in them, I’m sure they would make a fairly healthy, filling breakfast.  I had some bananas that were ripening at an alarming rate, so clearly banana muffins were on the cards.  But then I realised that as much as I love muffins, they’re not the most practical shape if you’re a bit tight on space in your bag and have to take several with you.  Luckily, I have some mini-loaf tins, so I thought, “aha!  Rectangular muffins!  So much more practical to transport!”  In the end, their texture resembled that of a loaf more than a muffin anyway, thus my breakfast “loaflets” were born…

To make them substantial enough to last until lunchtime, I used a recipe that included porridge oats and wholemeal bread flour as a starting base, adding dates and pecans for energy and texture.  The crumbly topping gives the loaflets a nice bit of subtle crunch, though I suppose it makes them slightly less practical to transport – woops.  They turned out rather yummy!  I had one for breakfast yesterday and it kept me going all morning.  I’m sure these would work really well as a big sliced loaf, too.  I’ll try that out at some point and let you know…

Banana, date & pecan loaflets

Makes 6 5×8 cm loaflets
Adapted from several recipes in Mad About Muffins

These can be made the evening before, left to cool and then stored overnight in an airtight container ready for breakfast the next day.  If you’re eating them at home, they’re also yummy sliced in half and spread with butter.  If you are eating them on the go, they’re a tiny bit sticky so having a wet-wipe to hand might be a good idea.

Ingredients

For the batter:
60g all-purpose flour
50g wholemeal bread flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
60g porridge oats
60g butter
100g demerrera sugar
250g very ripe bananas (unpeeled weight)
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
35g very hot water
90g ready-to-eat dates, chopped

For the topping:
65g pecans, chopped
50g all-purpose flour
15g demerrera sugar
20g maple syrup
30g butter, softened

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.  Grease 6 mini loaf tins (I’m sure this would work as a normal loaf – I haven’t tried it yet though, so I’ll keep you posted.  Do let me know if you try!).

2.  Prepare the topping by combining all the topping ingredients in a bowl and rubbing them together to get a crumbly, lumpy mixture.

3.  Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl.  Tip in any bran from the wholemeal flour that didn’t go through the sieve.  Add the oats and stir all the dry ingredients together.

4.  Melt the butter in a large, heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan, add the sugar and mix thoroughly.

5.  Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a small bowl.  Add them to the butter and mix thoroughly.

6.  Lightly beat the egg using the same fork and bowl that you just used for the bananas.  Mix the egg and vanilla extract into the butter mixture.

7.  Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the hot water, and then mix in the rest of the flour mixture.  Stir in the dates.

8.  Spoon the batter evenly into the mini loaf tins (I over-enthusiastically filled mine right up until the top).  Sprinkle the topping over the loaflets and press it down slightly into the batter.

9.  Bake for 30-35 mins (it will be longer if you’re making a normal loaf – I’ll get back to you once I’ve tested it) or until the loaflets are well-risen and golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

10.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container until breakfast.

Enjoy!

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