When the weather is cold and blustery head into the kitchen and whip up some bakes. Adding some fresh fruit will enhance their appeal. However, baking is an exact science. Here are some tips.
•Use level metric measures.
•Spoon flour lightly into a measuring cup and gently level the top with a spoon. Do not pack it in. The only ingredient normally packed firmly is brown sugar.
•To measure dry ingredients by the spoon, fill the spoon then level the top with the straight edge of a knife.
•Lightly grease or oil cake pans. This helps the baking paper cling to the pan.
•The raw cake mixture should fill the pan about a half to two-thirds. If the pan is too big then the cake will not rise properly. If the pan is too small then the batter may overflow before it sets.
•Cakes are usually cooked when they pull away from the edges a little. To test, insert a thin skewer or toothpick in the centre. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
•Stand the cake in the pan for a few minutes on a wire rack. Then remove and let it cool thoroughly before storing or icing.
DELICIOUS ORANGE CAKE
Gluten-free. If you have an extra-large food processor bowl, use it to combine the entire mixture. This makes a very large cake and it — or wedges — can be frozen successfully.
3 medium oranges
9 medium eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
400g (4 cups) ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
Place the oranges in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for 2 hours or until soft. (Change the water three times during cooking.) Cool.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease and line a 25cm cake pan with baking paper.
Halve the oranges and gently squeeze out any excess liquid absorbed during the cooking process. Discard the pips and place the oranges in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Add the eggs and sugar to the food processor and mix until smooth.
Combine the ground almonds and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in the orange mixture. Mix well.
Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool before turning out. Serves 12-16.
PERSIMMON & DATE CAKE
1 cup pitted dates, halved
1/2 cup each: boiling water, canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
2 persimmons, peeled and grated
Topping: 1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 180° C. Lightly oil a round 20cm-21cm loose-based cake pan.
Place the dates in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Cool completely.
Place the oil, vanilla essence and eggs in a bowl and beat until well combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the oil mixture then add the sugar. Beat well.
Peel and grate the persimmons. Add to the flour and oil mixture with the cooled dates and water. Mix well.
Pour into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping by mixing the coconut, sugar and egg well. Dot evenly over baked cake and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until golden.
Grate the rind from the lemon first and reserve for the topping.
25g butter, chopped
4 medium pears, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
juice 1 lemon
125g sweet short pastry
Crumble Topping: 3/4 cup plain flour
100g chilled butter, chopped
1/4 cups caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup rolled oats
finely grated (reserved) rind 1 lemon
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pears and caster sugar. Stir then cook gently until the pears are soft. Make a paste with the cornflour and lemon juice and stir in. Simmer until thickened. Cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 30cm x 20cm slice pan with baking paper.
Roll out the pastry to fit the pan. Press into the pan and refrigerate until required.
Prepare the topping by combining the flour and butter and sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough water to form a crumbly dough. Add the rolled oats and lemon rind.
Spread the pear mixture evenly over the pastry base. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and top is golden. Cut into squares to serve. Serve warm with yoghurt or ice cream. Makes 24 squares.