A little over four years ago I wrote my first blog article. In a victory for quantity over quality I concluded my 149th publication last month with a review of my Cleveland Way experience and thoughts have since turned to an appropriate subject for my 150th blog. Since my return from Yorkshire there have been no adventures. I seem to have spent a lot of time pre-occupied with domestic affairs and I’m not inspired to write about the re-felting of my shed roof despite the fact that two of my heroes – John Shuttleworth and Arnold Rimmer – would approve of this.
Instead I’m going to bow to the seasons and write about one of the ways in which I have tried to put to good use the glut of fine fruit harvested this autumn. My own plum tree may have remained fallow this year but thanks to several donations I have made plum slice, plum and port jam, baked plums with star anise and latterly the Viennese Plum Cake described below. You can never have too many plums…
Instant yeast sachet
100g granulated sugar
175ml full fat milk
350g strong white flour
1 large egg, separated into yolk and white
60g salted butter
Plum jam (optional)
1) Wash and quarter the plums, removing the stones. Then get the yeast started by dissolving a teaspoon of sugar in warm water, adding the yeast.
And leaving awhile to froth up.
2) Zest the lemon. I use a zester which is another of those kitchen gadgets rarely used but priceless when you need it. There are few smells more evocative than that of freshly zested lemon.
3) Warm the milk slightly and add to the yeast. Put the flour, sugar, lemon zest, egg yolk into a bowl.
4) Gradually pour the yeast liquid into the flour bowl and mix well will with a wooden spoon. Keep working the mix with the spoon – it should develop into a doughy consistency that doesn’t stick too much to the bowl sides. Add a little more flour if the mix is too wet. Cover the dough with a tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or so.
5) Line a baking tray (approx 35 x 25cm) with baking paper. For some geeky reason I always enjoy this bit. I flip the tray upside down, place the paper over the base, fold over the edges and then use scissors to snip each corner. Now work approx three quarters of the risen dough into the tin.
6) Now – optionally – heat up some plum jam and brush it generously over the doughy base. I think it’s better this way but then I do have plenty of plum jam kicking around. Next arrange the plum segments on top of the base. At this point it should all start to make sense!
7) Next another fun step – create a dough lattice. Roll the remaining dough into a long string around 1.5cm in thickness. Lay it over the plums into a lattice. You could be more creative if you wish and lay it into spirals or perhaps reproduce a Matisse pencil portrait, but nobody loves a smart arse. Brush the exposed dough with the egg white and leave the tray somewhere warm for another 20 or so minutes of rising again.
8) Heat the oven to 190 degrees and bake for around 35 minutes. As with all baking keep an eye on proceedings and be prepared to alter the temperature or cooking time depending on progress. My cake was perfectly cooked albeit a little darker than I would have liked on top. Once cooked shake some icing sugar over and leave to cool.
9) Slice the cake, make a cup of tea and invite the vicar or for authenticity serve to an Austrian pfarrer with a cup of fresh coffee and a glass of tap water on the side. Close your eyes, bite into the zwetschkengermfleck and dream of Café Drechsler. A suitable way to mark my 150th blog I think!
This recipe was originally billed as a cake and while I may have modestly tweaked it the outcome was more bread-like in my opinion. This is not a criticism – the proof of the pudding is in the eating after all and the sight and taste of this simple cake/bread takes me back to Vienna. I have vowed to return one day but until then there’s always Viennese cookery from the comfort of my kitchen.