Blog : baking

Pucker Up, Summer’s Here!

Pucker Up, Summer’s Here!

Summer in America is very different to summer in Northern Ireland, where I now live. You have lovely spring days that lead gradually into ever-increasing warmer days that bloom into those hazy days of summer that are so blissful and relaxing. Here, we get a week or so in May, then a week or two in September of good weather, maybe a high of 23c/75f degrees. Then, our days are pelted with rain, chilly, blustery winds, and the occasional hail shower. Summers are not known for being a great sunny season, hence the abundance of pale skin here in Northern Ireland!

But not all of life is so sour. Or at least it is, but should be celebrated not mourned! The long stretches of sunlight in May caught in between the rain showers are the perfect growing conditions for rhubarb. These jewel-toned stalks bloom within these intense bouts of rain then sun… then more rain. Although you might be tempted to think that rhubarb is only good for stewing and tarts, I invite you to take a closer look at this jewel of the garden and get creative in incorporating it into your dinners, desserts, and snacks this summer! And whatever you do, don’t forget to invite someone round to share in this tantalising, sour fruit!

 

Rhubarb & Strawberry Curd

Curds are surprisingly easy to make, yet complex and decadent to eat. Enjoy this curd as the filling for a meringue pie or as a topping for Irish scones… Or straight from the jar for a cheeky tart snack!

 

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of strawberries
  • 2 ½ cups juiced raw rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (not hot)

 

Method

  1. Chop rhubarb into thumb-sized pieces and place into a blender. You will need enough juice to produce 2 ½ cups, which is roughly 6 large stalks. Blend the rhubarb for about one minute.
  2. Place a sieve over a glass bowl. Pour the juice and pulp from the blender into a sieve and press the pulp against the sieve until mostly dry. Discard the pulp.
  3. Ensure you have enough juice. If you’re just under measurement, add a drop of water to make up the rest.
  4. Blend the strawberries and sieve them as well.
  5. Combine the juices with the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, ensuring the cornstarch is incorporated fully.
  6. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from heat. The mixture should be thickened and glossy.
  7. In a separate dish, beat the egg yolks. Slowly add a portion of the juice to the yolks, whisking the yolks constantly to prevent scrambling the eggs.
  8. Once the yolk mixture has been combined, slowly add the mixture into the saucepan, along with the warm melted butter. Return to medium heat and stir constantly until the curd has thickened considerably.
  9. Sieve the curd and refrigerate for a few hours until set. It will keep for about a week in an airtight container, refrigerated.

 

Additional Notes|Substitutions

  • I used my curd as a summery substitute for lemon curd in my meringue pie. The inspiration for this came from the house we just moved into! The house is a lovely cottage on the edge of town, with beautiful trees and plants, including a thriving patch of rhubarb. Andrena, my neighbour who owns the house, gave me the inspiration and history of this pie: Ruth lived in the house we moved into. She made a simple tart by slicing rhubarb into a pie shell and dropping strawberry flavoured gelatine in between the rhubarb. After baking, it was sweet, tart, and gooey! But she didn’t stop there. The real showstopper was a tower of sky-high meringue that floated like a sugary cloud atop the tart. It was Ruth’s father who built the house back in 1927. Ruth was a phenomenal baker, baking regularly until 2 years before she died at 97 years old! It was only fitting to allow her legacy to inspire this recipe.

 

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Although not overly healthy (or even at all), I have to share this recipe. It’s winter and there’s nothing like the scent of warm, cinnamon apples filling the house. Apples are synonymous with the holidays! Between caramel or candied apples, apple pies, apple sauce, or pork and apples, recipes are as plentiful and diverse as the varieties of apples. Although you might have a favourite go-to recipe for your Christmas or other family get togethers, I urge you to try this easy, cinnamony, upside-down comfort cake, even for an afternoon get together with friends over tea and coffee. You won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup/115g butter, softened
  • 2 cups/450g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup/240ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups/375g self-raising flour
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Icing sugar, to dust

Method

Heat oven to 350f. Grease a bundt pan. Sprinkle the 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar along the bottom of the pan. Add a few drops of lemon juice to the sugar and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, and milk.
Fold in 1 cup of flour at a time until completely combined.
Spread the diced apple into the bottom of the bundt pan.
Place batter onto the apples one spoonful at a time. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
Once cooked, cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar. It’s best enjoyed warm, fresh out of the oven, sliced with a thick spread of butter on top, a big mug of tea or coffee, and a few close friends.