Some of you may realize by now that I'm always reading baking and pastry books and lately have been thinking of ways to increase my use of nuts, seeds and whole grains in my baking endeavors. Often my projects come about as a way of using up ingredients I happen to have in my fridge or cupboard. What's not to like about that, eh?
This time I was intent on some apricot purée that's been in my freezer for a few months - time to make something tasty! And, to top it off, I had some buttermilk in the fridge that simply HAD to go into something hearty, healthy and delicious.
This is my take on a pretty basic tea cake recipe that turns out deliciously moist with a bit of crunch from nuts and pumpkin seeds. It actually reminds me of both date nut and Boston brown bread that we used to eat when we were kids - hard to describe the fruity side of those, but if you've eaten those particular goodies, you know what I'm talkin 'bout.
For this project I used both whole wheat pastry and all purpose flours, along with some of my favorite spices, coriander and ginger, plus a dash of cinnamon. I generally tone down or don't use cinnamon at all in my baking, since the Steve-meister holds an odd aversion to that particular spice.
It's a straight forward cake process - whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars, add the fruit puree, add the eggs, then alternate the addition of the dry ingredients and buttermilk. Pretty basic. With this one, some of the chopped walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds are added to the dry ingredients and a small portion are set aside for garnish before baking.
Two of my favorite straight-sided Silikomart flexi-molds were given the honor for the baking process - one smaller/taller and one wider/shorter - both muffin style and shapes I find just so right for tea cakes.
These babies baked up moist and dense from the presence of the apricot purée, and the nuts and pumpkin seeds added just the right crunch.
Here's the recipe which makes two 9"x5" loaves or many small cakes, depending on the size mold you choose. Ingredients coming right up!
- Approximately 45 g (1/2 cup) each walnuts and pecans (or choose your own nuts)
- 85 g (scant 3/4 cup) pumpkin seeds
- 290 g (2 1/4 cup) all purpose flour
- 150 g (1 1/4 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- several fresh grates of nutmeg (you decide - I prefer my nutmeg on the subtle side)
- a pinch of cinnamon (or more to your taste)
- 227 g (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 185 g (scant well packed cup) brown sugar (I used light but try dark if you'd prefer)
- 200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
- Approximately 350 g (~12 ounces) apricot puree (or try pear or pumpkin!)
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 180 ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
1. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Spread walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds on a sheet pan. Toast for about 10 minutes until fragrant. Once cooled, do a medium-fine chop.
3. Reduce the oven to 325ºF. Have your silicone molds at the ready (no buttering necessary), or, if using two 9"x5" loaf pans, butter and flour them.
4. In a separate bowl whisk together the two flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Stir in the chopped nuts and seeds but reserve a few tablespoons for garnish.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugars and mix on medium high until will blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
6. Add apricot purée and mix for a couple of minutes until incorporated. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing each until blended before adding the next.
7. Now add the flour/spice mixture alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined and finish off by hand with a spatula.
8. Pour the batter into your chosen molds or pans, smooth tops, sprinkle reserved nuts/seeds on top and pop into the oven.
9. Bake small cakes around 20 minutes - remember - it's your job to keep an eye on things! You're looking for a tester inserted in the center to come out clean. Large loaves bake 50-60 minutes.
10. Let your cakes cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before unmolding, then let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. These will keep at room temp for several days, or wrap and freeze them for up to two months.