Many a weekend I have spent wandering around farmers’ markets enjoying the wonderful fresh food on offer whether it be vibrant vegetables, freshly picked fruits, creamy cheeses, home baked breads or different cuts of meats. It reminds you what wonderful produce we can generate at home in the UK.
It’s also a fantastic opportunity to get inspiration and get the creative juices flowing when you see all the different baking goods on offer. It never ceases to amaze me just how appetising a simple brownie can look and how you can’t help but go up for that little taster mouthful which then always results in you asking for a slice to take home for later… or just nibble straight from the bag!
I’m very spoilt to have two farmers’ markets on my doorstep at the weekend. Every Saturday there is one in Barnes in the local doctor’s car park which is always a buzz of people whether rain or shine. I always wander through looking what there might be new to try and will regularly pick up something that I might then try to replicate at home. It’s always particularly hard not to end up going home with a sausage roll for Will (his favourite) or joining the long queue for sausage and bacon sandwiches cooked to order for you.
The second farmers’ market is just across the river in Chiswick which is beautifully laid out on the green and has lovely stalls of breads, cheeses and oils to dip and try. I also ended up at the one in Kingston this weekend, where had I not been so short of time, I’d definitely have had a pancake as the smell wafting from the stand was just divine.
Early on Saturday I picked up a couple of punnets of beautifully fresh dark blackberries from the Barnes famers market.
I feel like I’ve eaten plenty of raspberries and strawberries over the summer but blackberries really haven’t featured that much in my cooking. I decided therefore it was about time I changed this and once I got home I started leafing through some recipe books and a recent edition of the BBC Good Food Magasine.
I came across a recipe by Jane Hornby, Blackberry and apple mallow traybake and knew I’d found what I was looking for.
The result was a wonderfully moist cake which was dimpled with juicy blackberries piercing the sponge with dark purple splashes of colour.
Apple and blackberry is always going to be a winning combination and the addition of ground almonds keeps it so light and fluffy that actually you don’t need to serve the cake with anything.
It’s perfectly light and moist on its own that even the addition of crème fraiche can overpower the simple yet perfect flavour combination.
The rippled marshmallows are light, fluffy and sweet which deliver a bright white contrast with swirls of blackberry through them sitting proud on top of the creamy speckled sponge.
The blackberries are tangy and tart. The apples are sweet and delicate. The mallows are little clouds of heaven. And the sponge holds together a delightful mouthful.
Need I say more.
Blackberry and apple mallow traybake
Makes about 16 squares, or 8 more generous slices.
For the cake:
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
1 eggs and 2 yolk, beaten together
½ tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ½ tsp ground)
1 large Bramley apple (about 200g), peeled and sliced (to give about 140g)
125g fresh blackberries
For the mallow:
100g white caster sugar, plus 1 tsp for the ripple
2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
For the mallow topping:
Start with the blackberry sauce which you will use to ripple through the mallow.
Put 25g blackberries and 1tsp of sugar along with a tsp of water into a pan and soften over a low heat. Once softened, mash well until saucy and leave to cool.
For the cake:
Heat oven to 160°C.
Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm square traybake tin, leave some overhang.
Using a kitchen aid mixer or electric whisk, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until very pale and creamy, then beat in the egg and yolks, followed by the vanilla. Mix the flour, almonds, baking powder and nutmeg and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl, then fold into the wet ingredients until you have a thick batter.
Fold in the apple, then spoon into the tin and smooth over the top. Scatter with the blackberries, poke them in just a little, then bake for 45 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. After removing, leave the oven on.
Back to the mallow topping:
You’ll need a large piping bag with a 1cm nozzle, or a food bag with a corner snipped off.
Whisk the egg whites, lemon juice and a pinch of sale to stiff peaks. Add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well after each spoonful to make a shiny, stiff meringue.
Ripple with the cooled blackberry mix (only a little as you don’t want to turn your meringue purple) then spoon into the bag.
Pipe 16 evenly spaced, walnut-sized meringues on top of the cake, scatter with flaked almonds, then bake for 10-12 minutes until the meringues are just set.
(You’ll have a bit of mallow left over, which I then piped onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment to make lots of extra blackberry mallows. You just need to put them in the oven for half an hour at 160°C and then turn the oven off and leave them in there for a few hours).
Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Cut into square, slices, whatever size takes your fancy.
It is a wonderfully moist cake that can be eaten as is, or add some crème fraiche.