It’s now only a few weeks until I start my training as a pastry chef. This fact is generating as much trepidation as it is elation. I can’t wait to work in professional kitchens and to spend my days discussing the nuances of dough formation with other baking nerds. Of course, I don’t look forward to long days on my feet, unbridled criticism and hours spent commuting to London and back. Whatever my worries may be I am investing myself in this process and aim to come out the other side with, if nothing else, a refined skill set and a host of ideas and connections. In the meantime I’m relying on the generosity and patience of my Grandmother who has taken me in whilst I study and who is more than encouraging of my baking habits, “We should do some baking, it’s good for us!”
I agree, it’s good for me. It’s so grey and dull and tragic outside, I’m feeling under the weather in more ways that one. Tired bones meant that the process of deseeding and peeling an enormous squash was arduous. I roasted it in sizzling, golden chunks before staring at my wares and pondering what to do with a surplus of cooked squash. Pumpkin and squash, like banana, carrot or courgette, make excellent cake contributors. Squash adds fudgy moisture to a loaf cake and when teamed with treacly brown sugar and spices can result in a soul-soothing slice of buttered warmth. I went heavy on the ginger, to the point of heat, but have toned down the measurements for the recipe below. The sunset hue of this cinnamon-scented bullion is comfort in itself, glowing fiercely on a cold, dark day.
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
220g light muscovado sugar
225g cooked squash (or pumpkin)
1) Preheat oven to 170C degrees. Line or grease a 2lb loaf tin.
2) Place flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices into a bowl and blend together well.
3)Cream butter and sugar together.
4)Beat the egg.
5) Add the flour mix and the egg, alternating a large spoonful at a time to the beaten butter and sugar (this method is to prevent curdling, but if using a food mixer and feeling brave just bung it all in).
6) If mixing by hand you will need to blend or mash the butternut squash before folding it into the mixture. If using a mixer just add the pieces and blend into the batter.
7) Drop the batter into the loaf tin and swirl to flatten.
8) This is a long bake. It needs about 1.5 hours but check after 1 hour and use a skewer to check whether the cake is cooked through. Allow to cool slightly before putting the kettle on and buttering the first slices…
9) Allow to cool slightly before putting the kettle on and buttering the first slices…