So it’s my dad’s birthday this week (sadly no longer with) and it is at this time of year that my mind always turns to my childhood memories. My dad was 100% bonafide German, and he loved his food…German food, English food…his life was food! And I am pretty sure this stemmed from the exceptional introduction he had to it as a child. Because my grandmother lived the most resourceful life imaginable bringing up three small boys in a tiny village in wartime Germany.
Along with Liesel the cow as her provider of dairy items, she grew everything she could herself. She had an exceptional vegetable patch providing exotic delights such as white asparagus, lambs lettuce, krauts and brassicas of every variety, and gorgeous waxy potatoes which tasted like gold! Her two cherry trees gave forth juicy fruits in almost vulgar abundance, her little garden also providing plums, apples, and apricots too – her Sauerkirschen (cherries in syrup) were the stuff of legends and an unforgettable treat when we visited. She had a cellar full of preserved treasures that Aladdin would be proud of – I can still smell the musty dankness that always meant something yummy was about to emerge!
And as for her baking – well, that was just other worldly! Upon the hour of Kaffee und Kuchen traditionally enjoyed in the afternoon in Germany, she would offer up her legendary Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry flan), Kaesekuchen (cheesecake) and on rare and joyous occasions, my absolute favourite, Zwetchkenkuchen (damson cake). How she created such things in a Kueche the size of most people’s downstairs loo I shall never know!
This probably explains why for me the perfect ‘cake’ consists of some sort of orchard fruit, a plain vanillary or even spicy base and a nice helping of crunchy Streusel or crumble on top. This combination of sharp, sweet moist fruit and stodgy base is just the perfect accompaniment to the obligatory cup of strong hot coffee! (They don’t drink tea! And if they do, it’s got lemon in it!)
These days I seldom get back to the ‘Fatherland’, but my love of German baked goods has never diminished. Sadly my talents in the baking department were not inherited from my Oma. My attempts to recreate these favourites have usually ended with disappointment, especially as the traditional recipes are often made with a yeast base – one too many processes for me!
So it was with utter delight that I discovered this particular recipe which I am sharing with you today – my super flexible fruity traybake – far from traditional, but creating the closest experience I can manage to my idea of cake heaven.
Best of all it is super simple recipe, involving just one pan, and can be adapted to use up just about any combination of left over or luscious soft or orchard fruits! Obviously I favour a plum or a damson, but it’s wonderful with peaches, raspberries, apples, apricots and even rhubarb! And throw in some blueberries if you want a modern twist! My secret is to always keep a whole 250g pack of butter in the fridge, because that’s where this starts! Here’s how you can do it too!
- 250g pack of butter
- 3 medium eggs
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300g self raising flour
- 50g ground almonds
- approx 200g of any soft fruit
- a pinch of salt
- crunchy topping – either flaked almonds, a dusting of icing sugar or ‘traditional Streusel’ or crumble!
For the Streusel:
- 25g flour
- 85g demerara sugar, plus 1 tbsp
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 50g cold butter
- 3 tbsp toasted, chopped hazelnuts
- Line and grease a tray bake tin approx 20 x 30 cm.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
- Melt the butter in a pan. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar and eggs stirring constantly.
- Add the vanilla essence.
- Add the flour and almonds, stirring constantly.
- Throw in a pinch of salt.
- Pour into the tin.
- Chop your fruit into 1cm size pieces or larger if you prefer and scatter over the top.
- Make the Streusel by rubbing together all of the ingredients either by hand or in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Scatter over the fruit.
- Bake for 30 minutes, and then cover with foil. Bake for a further 30 minutes, checking along the way.
Dust with icing sugar, cut into squares and serve!