A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Plum time......

I have a tree in my garden, it has been there since I moved to this house 14 years ago. In early spring it has delicate blossom, I usually cut a branch or two for my Easter eggs to hang from. In July, if I am lucky, fruit, round jewels in abundance and in the autumn leaves that turn scarlet to brighten up the gloomiest day.  The fruit bounty does not happen every year or even every other but it seems my tree likes to give up its gift after a cold winter. Now this winter was colder than ever known, in fact a white Christmas was had, a rare and magical occurrence. To that end my tree has fruited like never before, sweet juicy cherry plums bursting with flavour after just the right proportion of rain and sun.  So, the last few weeks have found me collecting and bagging fruit for friends, colleagues and neighbours. Baking German plum cakes for eating and freezing, making plum jam and chutney. My window cleaner knocked on the door and asked if he and his family could have some, and I have spied many a dog walker pick and pop one into their mouths. But as the supply far exceeded my own requirements I was more than happy to share.  The last time this happened my youngest daughter set up a plum stall selling them by the pound but this no longer seems fun as now a teenager, friends and horses are much more interesting.  
Last Saturday my friend and I spent a wonderful afternoon in the sun picking all we could reach, with breaks for tea and cake, so she could take them to work on Monday, she runs the garden at Holton Lee, http://www.holtonlee.co.uk/, where one of the lady volunteers makes jams and chutneys to sell for fundraising.  Seeing as much of the fruit used as possible makes me happy, I also love to see the blackbirds clearing the path daily of windfalls. Sadly my apple tree has fallen foul of its own abundance this year, so heavy are its boughs that the trunk has split in two and is un-savable.....
Here is the recipe for the cake, it is easy and good, a friend who had a German Granny took a bite and said it transported her back to childhood and her Grannies kitchen where everything seemed to be made of plums!

German Plum Cake
Feeds 6 Takes 50 mins

Plum cake is the sort of everyday cake you see throughout Germany and Austria, usually baked in a humble pie dish or tray tin, or even a small roasting tin I use a 25cm square tin. Serve warm as a pudding with cream, or cooled as a cake.

180g butter
160g sugar
4 eggs
½tsp vanilla essence
100g plain flour
125g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
10 small plums or apricots
2tbsp icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 3. Butter and paper a baking tray or pie dish measuring 28cm x 20cm.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in the vanilla essence. Sift both flours and salt together, then beat the flour into the batter until well mixed. Spoon the batter into the baking tray or pie dish.

Cut the plums or apricots around their circumference, twist apart and remove the stone.

Arrange the fruit, cut side up, in neat rows on top of the batter. The fruit will sink a little and the cake will rise and puff up around it.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a thin skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool, dust with icing sugar, slice and serve.

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