Marzipan-stuffed baked apples

three apples Spring is here, the cherry trees are beginning to blossom here in Rome, and I still had Christmas marzipan lurking in the fridge. Our basket of mysterious, old, or challenging pantry items to use up is shrinking (samples: Chinese salted black beans, cod liver pâté, dusty  meringues, alici piccante – spicy anchovies, which turned out to be amazing on pizza) and now it was time for that marzipan to go. It’s been sitting in the back of the fridge in a desolate row of jars with leftover bits and pieces: fondant, harissa, truffle butter, tamarind paste, and more of those ingredients that would be great for something, eventually….. No, now we had a friend coming over for our weekly TV night, and we needed an easy dessert. Hmmmmm…. I’d seen Baked Marzipan Apples on Recipe Reminiscing, a very enjoyable and highly recommended Norwegian-English blog with delightfully retro recipes, and took that as my inspiration. The original includes marzipan, rum, raisins and cream, and looks amazing! This is is a more stripped-down weeknight version.

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I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #59, with many thanks to the hosts  Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook and Mila @milkandbun and Angie@thenovicegardener.

Marzipan-stuffed baked apples for three
3 apples
70-80 grammes marzipan  (what we had left…)
2 tbs butter
2 tsp golden caster sugar

Heat the oven to 220C. Peel and core the apples. Stuff the cores with a sausage of marzipan, and slather some butter on top to seal the gap. Sprinkle some golden caster sugar on top. Place the apples in a greased ovenproof dish. Bake 15-20 min until they feel soft. Enjoy!

baked apple

Not so pretty, but these were very nice just like this, and the sweet marzipan core contrasted well with the lingering tartness of the apples. Custard or cream on the side would be good too, but our visiting friend is on a diet, so we were trying to be morally supportive (despite the marzipan).

We have TV nights on Tuesdays with this friend, and we are currently watching Forbrydelsen series 3 (with subtitles), so dessert also has to be easy to eat when on the sofa. I’m wondering if I could do chocolate stuffed pears in a similar way, maybe sliced in two and wrapped in foil to hold them together while baking? Pears are harder to core, unless I found really firm ones, but that might just work. To be tested!

Happy FF59 to all!

Fiesta Friday

Carciofi ripieni (Stuffed artichokes)

artichokesSpring is in the air, it’s pollen season already and yesterday I came home to find my husband in shorts (well, he is English). Though the rain is bucketing down tonight, winter seems to be on the way out, and I feel like packing away winter jumpers soon. Oranges are cheap and wonderful, the artichokes are still good and some terribly early strawberries have been observed. We were having Sunday lunch with visitors at Tanto per Magna, an excellent Garbatella trattoria, when I saw carciofi ripieni being carried to a nearby table. Stuffed artichokes: hmmm, interesting! Here’s our attempt to recreate that.

Carciofi ripieni (Stuffed artichokes)
4-5 artichokes
4-5 Italian sausages
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
One onion, chopped
pinch of dried thyme
salt, pepper

Buy your artichokes already cleaned from your friendly neighbourhood fruit and veg guy. Otherwise, get a small sharp knife and cut them down so the prickly outer leaves are removed. Cut off the stem as well (that is edible so save it for something else.) Boil the artichokes upside down for 10-12 minutes (you might need to weigh them down with something to stop them turning right side up.) Test with a knife to see when they start getting tender.

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Take them out, let them cool slightly, then scoop out the thistly bits in the centre with a sharp teaspoon. Try to keep them roughly intact, not always easy. Put them together in an ovenproof dish.

In the interim, crumble your sausages into a frying pan with a little salt and pepper and the onion, and cook them, draining off fat of needed. Tip into a bowl, and add breadcrumbs and cheese. You could add an egg to bind it, but ours held together well anyway.  Stuff each artichoke with as much of the cooked sausage stuffing as you can, then bake it at 200C for 10-15 minutes.

stuffed artichoke

Note: We should have cut these down further at the top before cooking them,  maybe 1-2 cm more, as they were still quite bristly after being cooked. Very nice flavour through! Next time I’d probably just enjoy the carciofi boiled without stuffing them, but it was fun to try something new. Might be nice to try these stuffed with mushrooms and breadcrumbs and the artichoke stems, with a little cheese on top. 

Rainbow Dash birthday cake

chocolate cake

The daughter of friends just turned five yesterday, and is VERY excited about this. All the things she can do now that she is five! Amazing possibilities, we hear. We were invited to the party, and also asked to provide the birthday cake. Rainbow Dash was requested by the birthday girl: some blue version of the My Little Pony plastic tat world, which is also adored by my my niece. We were happy to try. We were just as happy to pass on the actual party. Twenty feral five-year olds running around a park? No, thank you……..

Birthday checkerboard cake with cocoa frosting

3 eggs
190 grammes sugar
50 grammes butter
100 ml milk
190 grammes plain flour
2 tbs dark cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Frosting: Powdered sugar, softened butter, milk, cocoa powder
Decorations: Sugar sprinkles, sugar silver balls, fondant.

Whisk eggs and sugar until it is light and airy. (I used 4 eggs, as they were small-ish.) Add butter (melted and cooled), then fold in sifted flour, cocoa, baking powder and milk. I wanted single layers of cake to be stacked, so made this cake three times, in a parchment-lined tin 20×30 cm. In the third, I omitted the cocoa, to get a yellow layer. Bake at 180C for 35-40 min. Cool.

checkerboard cake

The next day, I cut the cake into blocks and stacked them in alternating rows, like a Battenberg cake.  It’s not a cake for carving, but worked well for this. Since we baked this the day before the party, I wanted a cake that would stay moist. The frosting was whipped up with icing sugar, softened butter, a splash of milk and cocoa powder. A little white frosting was kept aside for the edge of the top cut-out, and to glue fondant. I pieced the cake together in a checkerboard pattern with frosting between and top of the layers. The third cake was a base for the pony cut-out.

My husband patiently carved out the top in layers of fondant, after hand-colouring most of these. Blue, pink and white fondant are usually available in the supermarkets here for christening cakes, but this week there was nothing but white. Must stock up on other colours the next time I see some. The cake had to be robust, with car transport and a party in the park, on a windy day, so we popped this on a foil-wrapped oven tray, covered it in foil and sent it off, hoping for the best.

Rainbow Dash birthday cake We have not heard a report back yet, but the pack of five-year olds probably demolished this in no time at all. Chocolate! Sugar sprinkles! Artificial colours! Mmmmmm……..