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Baking with Autumn’s Bounty

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Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Read the rest of the poem

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Damsons, pumpkins, blackberries and apples. Fruits of Autumn’s bounty, blended with spices and baked to luscious perfection. This blog is all about food. And Autumn. But mostly food…

DAMSONS

The damson is a variety of plum. It is identified by its oval shape (though slightly pointed at one end), smooth-textured yellow-green flesh, and dark blue to indigo skin colour. My sister’s mum grew damsons in her garden. Every year, we were treated to deep purple home-made damson jam. Most damsons are too tart to eat off the tree but they make wonderful preserves and cakes. Plums in general are rich in antioxidant phenols, which protect our cells from free radical damage that causes ageing and disease. They are also rich in vitamin C, which keeps collagen healthy and helps the body to absorb iron.

Sonja’s damson cake combines ripe fruit with vanilla and cinnamon. Vanilla pods come from the vanilla orchid. Vanilla contains antioxidant, aphrodisiac and soothing properties. It increases levels of catecholamines, including adrenaline, and is thus mildly addictive. (I think it’s addictive because it’s deeeelish!) Cinnamon is also more than a fragrant spice. It can be helpful for digestive disorders, blood sugar problems, circulation issues, colds, painful periods, and more.

Sonja’s Damson Cake (also known as Pflaumenkuchen, a traditional German recipe)

Preparation time: approx. 30 minutes plus 2 hours for dough to rise

Baking time: 35 minutes

Temperature gauge: Centigrade

First, make vanilla sugar (below). Then make the cake.

For the dough

350g plain flour
1tsp dry yeast
125ml milk
A pinch of salt
50g sugar
50g butter
1 egg

For the topping

2kg ripe damsons (substitute Italian prune plums or another variety if you can’t find damsons; just make sure whatever you use is ripe)
50g sugar
2tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Method

Mix the ingredients for the yeast dough and let it rise for 2 hours. Grease a 9 x 13-inch (32.5 x 23-centimetre) baking pan, or similar. Roll out the dough and flatten it onto the pan. The dough will start to rise again. While it’s doing so, wash the damsons and cut them in half to remove the stones (do not peel). Arrange the damson halves on the dough. Be generous with the fruit and let the plums overlap, as they will shrink during baking.

For the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Strew half the mixture over the cake. Bake for 35 minutes at 200°C. Sprinkle the remaining sugary spicy stuff on the cake when it leaves the oven. Serve. Eat.

How to make vanilla sugar

The bakeries of Eastern Europe are paved with vanilla sugar but Ireland has lamented its absence … until now!

Quick vanilla sugar

I tsp vanilla extract (use an organic Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey; the flavour of vanilla extract is far superior to vanilla essence)
1 cup of caster sugar

Sprinkle the vanilla extract over the sugar and mix well. Voilà!

Slower (but more authentic) vanilla sugar

1 vanilla bean (preferably Ndali, which has a deep, complex flavour that transports you straight to Heaven)
1 cup caster sugar

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the flesh into the sugar. Chop the bean into four pieces and bury in the sugar. Store in an airtight glass container (e.g. a Mason jar) for 2-3 weeks before use to allow the flavour to infuse. Mmmm!

PUMPKINS

The pumpkin is a gourd-like squash from the same family as courgettes, melons and cucumbers. Pumpkins are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids and zinc. They taste great in sweet and savoury dishes and, when properly prepared, scare the hell out of trick-or-treaters.

Sonja’s Grandfather’s Pumpkin Bread (a recipe from pre-war Germany)

Preparation time: approx. 30 minutes (more if you aren’t used to gutting pumpkins) plus 2 hours for dough to rise

Baking time: 60 minutes

Temperature gauge: Centigrade

Ingredients

280mls liquidised pumpkin
450g plain flour
50g sugar
50g butter
1 tsp dry yeast
A pinch of salt

Method

Choose a medium-large pumpkin at the market. Scoop out and reserve the flesh and seeds, either by halving it in the traditional manner or carving a jack-o-lantern and excising its innards.

Keep the zinc-rich seeds for future toasting (yum!).

Liquidise the pumpkin flesh. You can do this either by heating up diced pumpkin in a little water until it’s mushy, or simply by blending raw pumpkin. If you find yourself short of 280mls of pumpkin, top it up with milk. Put the pumpkin in a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Knead until all the ingredients have combined to form a smooth yeast dough. Add a little extra flour if needed. Let it rise for 2 hours. Then knead the dough again for a couple of minutes to shape it into a bread loaf. Bake for 60 minutes at 180°C.

Pumpkin bread tastes lovely spread with butter!

Note: It is possible (but perhaps not wholly recommended) to make a semi-wholemeal version of this loaf. If you wish to add brown flour, make sure it comprises no more than 50 percent of the flour component; otherwise, the bread will fail to rise and endanger your un-dead teeth. For best results, follow the recipe above.

Vegan tarts take over your kitchen

The Post-Punk Kitchen is a fab resource for vegan culinary arts. The good laydeez are currently running a feature on vegan baking, paying special attention to egg and dairy substitutes. Make vegan versions of the above recipes and see what happens…! No guarantee they’ll work. However, the kitchen is where the mother of all invention resides, so who knows what classics you might create?

BLACKBERRIES

I walked the cliff path from Bray to Greystones recently and sampled lots of juicy blackberries. Those facing the sun were the plumpest and sweetest. Blackberries are notable for high levels of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and manganese. They are also one of the richest sources of antioxidant polyphenols, which fight degeneration and disease. Blackberry seeds contain lots of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, protein, fibre, carotenoids and antioxidants.

Vegan Gluten-Free Blackberry Cobbler (Crumble)

The following recipe comes from the website Manifest Vegan. It uses American cup and spoon measurements, which are available from kitchen stockists and homeware stores. Don’t use a teacup and tablespoon instead; the measurements will be off. (An American tablespoon is closer to a dessertspoon than to the good old Irish tablespoon of Sunday lunch fame. I always got that wrong at Weight Watchers ;-) )

Preparation time: approx. 30 minutes

Baking time: 45 minutes

Temperature gauge: Fahrenheit

For the batter

½ cup white rice flour
½ cup tapioca flour
1 cup sorghum flour (OR use 1½ cups rice flour and ½ cup tapioca flour and leave out the sorghum)
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup vegan margarine, cold
1 cup almond milk

For the blackberries

1 cup sugar
2-3 cups blackberries
1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble topping

½ cup sugar
¾ cup sorghum flour (or use a mixture of rice and tapioca flours, as above)
4 tbsp vegan margarine, cold

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch (25.5 cm) round cake pan, or a small 8-inch x 12-inch (20 x 30 cm) Pyrex baking dish.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the white rice flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour (if using) and xanthan gum until well blended. Add salt, baking powder and sugar. Using your hands, mix in the margarine until crumbles form. Stir in the almond milk until a frothy batter is created. Set aside.

Rinse the blackberries and drain. In a separate bowl, toss the blackberries with 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Transfer the fruit to the prepared baking dish, covering the bottom of the dish evenly with blackberries. Drop the batter in large spoonfuls on top of the blackberries to create an even layer.

Make the crumble by combining all the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Mix with your hands until it is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the batter.

Place in a preheated oven on the central rack and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving.

APPLES

Begged, bought or (classically) stolen, apples tempted Adam into sssin and keep the doc an orchard’s length from the house. Powerful fruit ;-) Whole raw apples are rich in polyphenols and pectin, a soluble fibre. The synergistic effect of the nutrients found in apples creates manifold health-promoting properties. Antioxidant and cardiovascular benefits; blood sugar regulation; anti-cancer, anti-asthma and anti-inflammatory qualities; and many other good things can be attributed to Eve’s favourite fruit.

While the raw fruit contains the most nutrients, there’s nothing like a baked autumnal apple. This vegan version is adapted from Michelle’s recipe on the VegFamily website.

Baked Apples

Preparation time: approx. 20 minutes

Baking time: 45-50 minutes

Temperature gauge: Fahrenheit

Ingredients

4 medium eating apples, washed and cored (Gala, Fuji or Braeburn)
1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup raisins
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tbsp mulled wine spice

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coarsely chop the walnuts/pecans with the powdered cinnamon in a food processor or coffee grinder.

Combine the nut mixture with the raisins in a small bowl. Fill each apple core with the fruit and nut mixture until overflowing. Place the apples in a baking dish just big enough to hold the fruit and the juice.

Mix the apple juice/cider, maple syrup and cinnamon stick or mulled wine spices in a small bowl. Pour over the fruit, thoroughly covering each apple. Cover the pan loosely with aluminium foil.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Continue to baste the apples with the juice mixture while they are baking.

Serve warm with a plant-based cream of your choice. Pouring cream is particularly nice, as it melds with the juices. If you like, you could try one of our delectable nut cream recipes below:

Basic Cashew Cream

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews

3 large medjool dates, stones removed

1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence)

Pinch sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt

Method

Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with pure filtered, distilled or spring water. Put the dates in a separate bowl and cover with 1 cup of pure water. Soak the nuts and dates for 20 minutes. Drain the cashews and pour them into your blender. Add the dates, date soak water, vanilla extract and salt. Starting on low and increasing to high speed, blend until you get a smooth cream. If you prefer a silkier texture, squeeze it through muslin, a nut milk bag or a clean (!) knee-high before serving.

Russell James’ Ginger Cream

Russell is one of the most gifted raw vegan chefs ever. (Russell: please let us know if you’d prefer us not to reproduce your recipe here. Our only desires are (a) deliciousness and (b) spreading your influence right into the corners of the globe. Thank you!)

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews

4 tbsp cashew butter (our hint: you need raw cashew butter here, not roasted; if you can’t find it, try grinding 4 tbsp raw cashew nuts in a coffee grinder with a little melted coconut butter until a smooth paste forms)

1/2 cup agave

1/4 cup virgin coconut butter/oil (our hint: we like Barlean’s for its clean taste!)

1 tbsp fresh ginger root

1/8 tsp ground clove

2 tsp vanilla extract (not essence)

Method

Blend all the ingredients until a smooth cream forms. (Our hint: if you live in a cold climate, you may need to melt the coconut butter in a bain-marie first.)

A Final Word

Don’t come back until you’ve baked something and given us a bite. No vampires, please.


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