There are certain recipes for me that instantly herald the beginning of a new season: asparagus folded through a zesty spring risotto; the first strawberries of summer smashed with chewy meringue and whipped cream; the first mince pie of the festive season.
Autumn brings with it a bounty of new ingredients, an army of uniquely coloured pumpkins and root vegetables ready for kitchen glory. After nearly five years of perma-sunshine in LA, we are savouring this change of season. Slowing down and taking the time to notice the seasons as they pass is important to us and something we want to instil in our boys.
We took them blackberry picking a couple of weekends ago, one strapped to me and the other dancing through the long grass. Despite more blackberries ending up in our two-year-old’s mouth than the basket, the magic of picking little bursting berries straight from the hedgerows was not lost on him.
Folding chopped nuggets of crisp apple through a smooth cake batter always feels like the start of autumn to me. The sweet little apple cakes here are an ideal dessert to bake with the bevy of apples in season now. Slathered with a rich caramel sauce and topped with a whiskey cream, they are all the indulgence you need for a weekend feast.
A true highlight of my weekends is delving into some of my favourite cookbooks. For seasonal desserts, the late Theodora FitzGibbon was a true connoisseur and has many desserts in her books that make the most of autumn’s ingredients. Her recipe for blackberry amber is one I treasure and is somewhat similar to a queen of puddings recipe topped with meringue and filled with fruit soaked sponge.
For a final sweet treat to start your weekend, a seasonal twist on the kanelbulle, my wife Sofie’s favourite childhood treat from Sweden. Made a little more special with a blackberry and white chocolate filling, these little buns are a perfect weekend baking project.
Blackberry Swirl Buns
Cook time: 15 mins
A sweet dough filled with blackberries and white chocolate to make irresistible little fluffy knots drizzled with a simple glaze.
For the buns:
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
75g caster sugar
375g plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
50g flaked almonds
For the filling:
50g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
100g white chocolate, finely chopped
75g icing sugar
1. Firstly, melt the butter in a large pot gently on a low heat and then add the milk. When the mixture is lukewarm, remove from the heat and add the sachet of dried yeast, whisking to incorporate.
2. Mix the sugar, flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well and pour the wet ingredients in. Using a wooden spoon mix until you have a rough dough. When the dough has taken shape and is no longer sticky, turn out onto a clean floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes. Transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough with a little oil also, cover with cling film and a towel and let it rise for an hour in a warm dark place.
3. To make the filling, mix together the butter and sugar with the vanilla paste in a small bowl and set aside.
4. When the dough has risen, turn onto a surface and roll into a 30cm square, about 3mm thick, and then spread the butter all over, using an offset spatula. Mash the blackberries a little in a small bowl, and with a fork arrange these across half the dough along with the white chocolate.
5. Fold the side without the blackberries over the other.
6. Cut out 3cm/1″ thick slices,to give you 10 in total, then cut each strip down the middle leaving a little at the end holding it intact. Twist each strip to expose the filling slightly and then tie into a rough knot. Arrange on two baking trays lined with parchment paper. Cover and leave to prove for another 45 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 8.
8. Once risen and puffed a little, coat with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove and leave to cool.
9. While cooling, mix together the icing sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of water until smooth. Drizzle over the buns and serve.
Theodora FitzGibbon’s Blackberry Amber
Cook time: 50 mins
A simple and rather satisfying dessert, particularly if you have a glut of blackberries.
A little water
75g and 50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
4 tbsp milk
3-4 sponge cakes or double sponge fingers
1 egg white
1. Cook the blackberries, water and 50g of caster sugar, then put the fruit and some, but not all, of the juice into a buttered pie dish. Beat the egg yolk with the milk, cut the sponge cakes in half and soak in the egg and milk mixture.
2. When the sponge cakes have absorbed the egg and milk, lay them over the blackberries to cover. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and cook for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
3. Meanwhile, whip up the egg white, add 75g castor sugar, take out the amber (the fruit and sponges) from the oven, and spread egg mixture over the top.
4. Turn the oven down to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1 and put back in the oven, leaving for 15 minutes or until the top is amber-brown. Serve hot with cream. You can also make a blackberry and apple variation.
Mini Caramel Apple Cakes
Cook time: 60 mins
I love these comforting apple sponge cakes but the salted caramel sauce makes them special.
For the cakes:
110g butter plus extra for greasing
150g soft brown sugar
2 large free-range eggs
100g plain flour
110g wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g peeled, cored and diced cooking apple
For the caramel sauce:
150g soft dark brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
150ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
For the whiskey cream:
3 tbsp sifted icing sugar
3 tbsp Jameson whiskey
8 dariole moulds
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease 8 dariole moulds.
2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until they are incorporated. Fold through the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir through the apple and place the batter into the dariole moulds. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out of the moulds and leave to cool on a wire rack.
3. To make the sauce, place the butter, sugar, and golden syrup into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream, vanilla and salt and whisk together, simmer for 3 minutes until the sauce is thick and sticky. Use right away or transfer to a jar and refrigerate when cool. The sauce will keep for up to seven days refrigerated.
4. For the whiskey cream, whisk the cream into soft peaks. Dissolve the icing sugar with the whiskey in a bowl and then add to the cream, folding to combine.
5. To serve, place a cake on each individual plate, spoon some whiskey cream on top and pour some salted caramel over.