So apparently it is Autumn and we are meant to be rugging up and cooking a stew.. but we're still getting around in t-shirts, enjoying sunny afternoon picnics at the park and getting through the evening without the heater on - and that's just Melbourne!
With the odd chilly day creeping in, I am sure we will be complaining about the cold before too long which means big bowls of comfort food are on their way - savoury and sweet. Let's just concentrate on the sweet today. My favourite!
When I bake, I bake old school. Sugar, butter, full fat cream. All you IQS lovers can look away now. Of course, I do the healthy stuff for lunch boxes too, but the old everything in moderation is fine by me. My best attempt at making things marginally better for you with the sweeter stuff, is substituting caster sugar with brown sugar, but sometimes it just doesn't work. For recipes I know will be on the too-sweet side for me, I use about 3/4 of what the sugar measurement is. But if you're making a triple decker, double choc, choc chip, choc ganache covered mud cake then by all means - knock yourself out with the sugar.
Everyone seems mad for rhubarb at the moment. And with good reason! Delicious. I love it too, especially when your dear friend brings it fresh from her garden for you.
A new favourite of late has been this Rhubarb + Almond Cake. It's almost a cross between a cake and a slice, the texture is really lovely. I love that the rhubarb needs no pre cooking; it goes into the cake raw. Best served warm with a big dollop of double cream. And please don't substitute the currants with sultanas. That little third of a cup of little dark, flavour filled morsels are a match made in heaven with the rhubarb.
Rhubarb + Almond Cake
(original recipe by Donna Hay; quantities and some ingredients altered to make it baker and nut friendly for our daughter who is only allergic to some nuts)
250g finely chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g melted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup milk
icing (confectioner's) sugar for dusting, optional
full Fatty McFat double cream to serve
Preheat oven to 180C (355F). Place rhubarb, currants, brown sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.
Place butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, almond meal and milk in a bowl and stir to combine.
Press half the cake mixture into the base of a 22cm greased tin and top with the rhubarb mixture. Cover with remaining cake mixture and press to cover rhubarb mixture completely (use your fingers - it's a very doughy cake mixture).
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
This cake is simply delicious and really quite light (just the cake - not the cream - obviously). It stays lovely and moist the following day or two. Any longer than that, I have no idea; it doesn't last that long at our house.
Next up - Grandma's famous lemon squares! I don't know whose Grandma we're referring to but the first time I made these lip smackingly wonderful squares, I cursed her and loved her all at once. Now, I just love her.
This slice is the perfect mix of sweet, bitter and tangy, with a traditional shortbread base. You will not be able to eat just one square. Ever. I've lost count how many times I've made this one. Whenever we visit some of our very favourite friends, I always take it because she squeals with delight when she sees it! We devour it over hot cups of tea while the kids run around making a mess.
250g | 9oz | 1 cup butter
125g | 4.5oz | 1/2 cup sugar
250g | 9oz | 2.5 cups plain (all purpose) flour
pinch of salt
250g | 9oz | 1.5 cups sugar
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
2 lemons, juice and zest
icing sugar to decorate
Preheat oven to 160C (140C fan forced) (325F/gas 3). Grease and line a rectangular or square baking tray (22cm)* with baking paper.
Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and salt and mix to a smooth dough. Press the dough into the base of the tin and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked and golden.
Beat the eggs and sugar until foamy. Mix in the flour, salt, lemon juice and zest. Pour the mixture over the cooled base.** Bake for a further 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool. When cool, transfer to fridge.
Sift icing sugar to coat the top (just before serving; the slice sucks the icing sugar in fairly quickly) and cut into squares. (This is the stickiest slice in the history of the WORLD so be prepared to lick your fingers and/or your knife as you cut. Only invite people over to share this slice who don't mind a bit of a lick of the knife between friends. Or be a lady and rinse 25 times between cuts.)
*Any smaller and your lemon mixture won't fit on top of the base.
**I have never actually done this part - let it cool. The first time I baked it I had no time to let it cool so just went ahead with pouring the lemon topping over and sent it straight back in the oven and it worked just fine. Actually it was bloody brilliant.