Friday, 10 February 2012

Golden Apricot and Marzipan Loaf Cake

I can't believe we're almost half way through February and this only my second bake of the year (apart from a of tray muffins I made with the children).  Maybe I've just been saving up for the big cake fest I'm gearing up for next week in honour of my birthday (my favourite Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins will be one of the starring attractions - can't wait!).

This cake comes from one of my Christmas presents, the lovely Great British Bake Off: How to Bake  which has lots of delicious sounding recipes that I can't wait to try.  This one caught my eye first because of the marzipan as I had some left over from the Christmas Cake that needed using up.

This is quite a plain cake really but still lovely all the same.  The marzipan adds a lovely sweet richness and the apricot glaze adds a nice bit of zing.  Perfect for a spot of afternoon tea.

By the way, don't be deceived by the size of the cake in the picture below.  It started out as a full sized loaf cake but this was all that was left by the time I came home this afternoon!

Golden Apricot and Marzipan Loaf Cake
(adapted from The Great British Bake Off - How to Bake)

for the cake mixture
300g/10 1/2oz self raising flour
good pinch of salt
150g/5 1/2oz unsalted butter, cool and firm but not rock hard
100g/3 1/2oz golden caster sugar
100g/3 1/2oz soft-dried apricots
150g/5 1/2oz sultanas
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150ml full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
150g/5 1/2oz marzipan

to finish
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 tablespoons flaked almonds

1) Grease and line a 900g loaf tin, about 26 x 12.5 x 7.5cm (or a 20cm round, deep cake tin).  Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.

2) Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces then rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips.  Alternatively you can blitz it in a food processor for a few seconds.  Stir in the sugar.

3) Roughly chop the apricots or cut into small chunks with scissors.  Add to the bowl with the sultanas and mix well.  Beat the eggs with the vanilla and milk until thoroughly combined.  Add to the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon to make a stiff mixture.

4) Spoon one third of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly.  Cut the marzipan into 1.5cm cubes and arrange half on top of the cake mix.  Cover with half the remaining mixture, spreading it evenly.  Arrange the rest of the marzipan cubes on top of this layer then spread the rest of the mixture over the top.

5) Gently bang the tin on the worktop to get rid of any air pockets then bake in the over for 1 - 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (test in several different places because it's hard to avoid the marzipan).  Transfer the tin to a wire rack.  Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cake then leave to cool for 15 minutes before carefully turning it out and leaving it to cool on a wire rack.

6) To finish, gently warm the apricot jam with the water, stirring to make a sticky glaze.  Brush this over the top of the cake. Scatter the flaked almonds over the cake then leave to set.  Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 6th February

I haven't posted a meal plan for a while but I have a few reasonably interesting things lined up for this week so I thought I'd share.  Most of the things I've listed have been tried before but there are a couple of new things on the list too.

So this is how it looks at the moment...

Monday - Spanish Omelette with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

Tuesday - M&S Vegetarian Kievs (love these!) with rice and veg

Friday - Someone else will be doing the cooking!

Saturday - Meatballs and pasta

Sunday - Possibly Toad in the Hole

I'll also be making this Bulghar Wheat Salad to use up the rest of the feta and pomegranate seeds from the Spanish Omelette and the Lentil Stew.

If you fancy sharing your meal plan feel free to leave a comment or add a link to Mrs M's blog - At Home with Mrs M.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hotel Chocolat - The Sleekster Love Collection

Here we are in February already and that's only a good thing as far as I'm concerned.  I'm not very fond of January with it's short days and cold weather so I'm happy to take one step closer to Spring.  Plus this month brings with it two reasons to celebrate.  Firstly, it's my birthday and secondly, of course, it's Valentine's Day.  Unfortunately, the first is yet to be recognised nationally but the second undoubtedly is and you can't escape the appearance of cards and other gifts in the shops encouraging us to celebrate this day of love.

As my birthday is so near we don't tend to make a big deal of Valentine's Day, however if I was able to choose, my preferred gift would be chocolate over flowers every time. So when Hotel Chocolat sent me their Sleekster Love Collection to sample I was naturally delighted.

This is one of their more colourful boxes that I've seen, with lots of pretty pinks, reds and oranges to brighten up the chocolate browns and creams - definitely a box to appeal to the girls. As always there was plenty to tempt me - from the alcoholic Vodka, Champagne and Buck's Fizz truffles through to the more mellow Raspberry Rapture, Praline Oyster and Caramel Hearts, with lots more in between. All were of course delicious with rich, top quality chocolate surrounding full-flavoured centres (although the Chilli Caramel had quite a kick to it!).

Hotel Chocolat have plenty of other things to choose from in their Valentine's Day Gifts range, from a simple but elegant Chocolate Heart... their impressive, it-must-be-serious, Valentine's Hamper.

If you're looking to treat someone special on the 14th then you're spoilt for choice.

Many thanks again to Hotel Chocolat for providing me with this sample to review.