Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Strawberry and Almond Crumble and Being a Bonafide Marathon Runner


I did it! I did it! I did it, did it, did it! If you're wondering what 'it' is, duh, 'it' is the Virgin London Marathon 2012. I did it! Ran it (with a bit of walking ;p), completed it, crossed the finish line and am currently in possession of a nice bit of  gold bling (medal) to show for my efforts as well as a t-shirt which I've slept in every night since and intend to sleep in for the rest of my life!

It was tough! I walked more than I would have liked, and sooner than I would have liked but I expected it to be tough. What I didn't expect it to be was fun! When people talked to me about the atmosphere and enjoying it, truth be told I was thinking "It's a marathon crazy person! How the heck am I supposed to enjoy running 26.2 miles?!" But I did! I really did! The first 15 miles were honestly fun! Running through residential areas where everyone had come out of their houses with sweets, music, banners, home baked treats and orange segments, hi fiving outstretched children's hands as we ran past, singing along to "I'm Slim Shady, yeah I'm the real Shady, all you other Slim Shadies are just here maintaining so won't the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up, please stand up" and running next to my sister who pretty much danced the whole way, I honestly felt like I was at a party. Albeit a party full of crazy people whose idea of a good time is running!

And then mile 17 hit and it got hard. I was way past halfway and felt like I was almost there till I did the math and realised that I had 9 more miles to go. And it was kinda a long hard slog from then but you know what? The good definitely outweighed the bad! Or maybe it's like childbirth and the adrenalin has made me forget how tough it was?  Whatever. All I know is there are definitely more marathons in my future!

I made this the day before the marathon as part of our huge carb-loading lunch. It's from the lovely Nigella Lawson's book 'Kitchen'.

Ingredients

For the filling
500g strawberries, hulled
50g caster sugar
25g ground almonds
4 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping
110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g cold butter, diced
100g flaked almonds
75g demerara sugar
Double cream or vanilla ice cream to serve


1 - Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Put the hulled strawberries into your pie dish (approx. 21cm/10in diameter x 3cm/2in deep and 1.25 litre/2 pints capacity) and sprinkle over the sugar, almonds and vanilla extract. Give the dish a good shake or two to mix the ingredients.
2 - Now for the crumble topping: put the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and rub in the cold, diced butter between thumb and fingers (or in a freestanding mixer or food processor). When you've finished, it should resemble rough, pale oatmeal.
3 - Stir in the flaked almonds and demerera sugar with a fork.
4 - Tip the topping over the strawberry filling, covering the strawberries in an even layer and pressing the topping in a little at the edges of the dish.
5 - Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, by which time the crumble topping will have darkened to a pale gold and some pink-red juices will be seeping and bubbling out at the edges.
6 - Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
7 - Serve with chilled double cream or vanilla ice cream.
Tip: The crumble can be assembled one day ahead. Cover with cling film and store in fridge until needed. Bake as directed in the recipe, but allowing an extra 5 - 10 minutes' cooking time. Check crumble is piping hot in the centre.
Crumble topping can also be made and frozen in resealable plastic bags, for up to 3 months. Sprinkle the topping direct from the freezer over the fruit, breaking up large lumps with your hands.
Alternatively, the assembled but unbaked crumble can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of cling film and aluminium foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost for 24 hours in the fridge and bake as above.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

White Chocolate Chip Blondies

Happy Easter all! And if you were about to accuse me of being late to issue those wishes, I'll have you know that today is Greek Easter and as I'm half Greek, I'm in fact right on time :)

How did you all spend your non-Greek Easter? I have to say it actually passed me by as I was in New York and lots of people over there don't have the Friday and Monday off work like we do here and on the Sunday, we were making our way back to NYC from a wedding in Maryland so yeah, I barely even noticed it was Easter. I didn't even get a chocolate egg :(

NYC was amazeballs as usual! I stayed with the amazing Onada and her husband (thanks again!) My time there flew by and I wasn't ready to come back but not to worry, while I was there, I sampled lots and lots of cupcakes! See my list below! This is in no particular order as they were all really good!

1) Sprinkles: I had the Brown Sugar Praline cupcake and it was yummy! Caramel cake with brown sugar frosting and topped with crunchy praline! Their cake was light and fresh and the frosting not too sweet!
2) Magnolia: I went to the shop in Bloomingdales and had a lemon cupcake! It was filled with lemon cream and tasted exactly as a lemon cupcake should! I'mma search through my two Magnolia baking books in search of this recipe!
3) Crumbs: Seriously huge cupcakes! And soooo many flavours! If you're intending to buy only one (like I was), this could be one of the hardest decisions you ever have to mae! Did I mention that they're almost all filled cupcakes? I can't remember what I had but it was really good!
4) Two Little Red Hens: This is a really cute bake shop with wonderful looking layer cakes. I had a yellow cake with meringue frosting which I wasn't too keen on. It's the meringue frosting which is so popular in the US that was the problem. It tastes like butter! Give me good old buttercream or cream cheese frosting any day! But I went back and had a Boston Cream Pie cupcake which was very good! The sponge fluffy and light, the pastry cream tasty and covered in chocolate ganache.

Anyway, back to reality - where I have to bake my own desserts.

These blondies were supposed be funfetti (American word for sprinkles) blondies but I guess my sprinkles were too small (unlike the probably massive sprinkles the Americans have - y'know, with everything being bigger there and all) and melted into the batter. Head on over to Beantown Baker's blog to see what they look like with sprinkles. They were very very good though! The almond extract gives them a really special flavour. I can't wait to make them again!

Ingredients

198g butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4 / 350F
  2. Line a 9 x 13inch pan with greaseproof paper and grease lightly
  3. In a large, microwave safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. Allow to cool for 5 minutes
  4. Mix the sugars with the melted butter and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then the extracts.
  5. Add salt, stir in flour and baking powder. Stir in white chocolate chips.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Bake for 24 - 28 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool on rack before cutting.