Monday, 23 September 2013

Green Tomato and Cinnamon Streusel Cake

Arriving home, sans jumper, to rainy Heathrow from balmy Lisbon a couple of weeks ago, I had to concede defeat that autumn was well and truly on the way. While dark mornings and chilly toes seem sad after such a cracking summer, there is also the excitement of log fires, red wine, Sunday roasts and steamed sponge puddings to look forward to.

The end of summer also brings a glut of unripe tomatoes, those steadfast fruits that have stubbornly remained green. While my allotment owning colleague, Oliver, assures me storing them with ripe bananas will soon turn them red, I love the crunchy, freshness of pickled green tomatoes or a good dollop of green tomato chutney on a ham sandwich. And so it was with some delight that I found a table laden with them at a recent trip to the farmer's market.

Of course, man can't live on pickles alone - although there was a point as a student, circa 1999, where I did try - so with my cache safely home, I began to think of other ideas to use them all up. Salsas, sauces, curried, fried and stuffed, the humble tomato is a pretty flexible friend in the kitchen. However, it was the idea of baking a cake with them that really piqued my interest.

While tomatoes in a cake may seem pretty grim to some, when you consider that carrots, beetroot and courgette can all make delicious baked goods, adding both texture and moisture to the batter, it doesn't seem like quite such a crazy idea. If you actually try an unripe tomato, they surprisingly taste of very little; not developing there sweet, savoury flavour that we are so familiar with until they finish ripening. Making them a perfect building block for any other flavourings you want to mix in with them.

I decided to use mine in a traditional US style coffee cake (one to drink with a cup, rather than containing the beans themselves), topped with a rubbly, cinnamon and ginger infused streusel. Internet wisdom also seems to suggest that under ripe tomatoes can happily replace both rhubarb and carrots in most cake and muffin recipes, and can even be used instead of apples in a pie. While that may be a step too far, even for me, my efforts with this cake proved surprisingly successful.

While the finished streusel cake garnered a resounding two thumbs up, being moist, spicy and crumbly, the neutral flavour of the tomatoes meant I would probably try throwing in a handful of raisins or some chopped walnuts, or both, to the batter the next time, for added intrest; all the better if the raisins have been soaked in some dark rum beforehand. If you like icing on your cake, then skip the streusel step in the recipe below and top the finished, and cooled, cake thickly with cream cheese icing.

Green Tomato Cake with Cinnamon Streusel Topping
(Adapted from Earth Outlet)

120g white flour
120g wholemeal flour
200g light brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
200g finely chopped green tomatoes
50g raisins or chopped walnuts (optional)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Set oven to 180c and grease a 8 inch square baking tin.
Put both the flours, the sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon and the ginger in a mixing bowl, add the vegetable oil and stir with a fork until you have a mixture that resembles rough breadcrumbs.
Take half a tea cup of mixture from the bowl and mix in the rest of the cinnamon. Keep to the side, as this will make the streusel topping.
Add the tomatoes, eggs, raisins or nuts (if using) baking soda, baking powder and salt to the rest of the mixture and mix thoroughly.
Add mixture to tin and scatter the streusel topping evenly over.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Leave for 20 minutes in tin before turning out onto a baking rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
The cake is very moist and is best eaten as soon as possible, but will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight tin.

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