LITTLE APRICOT CAKES + Sourdough Variation

Nature is such a wonderful mystery. Although I have been gardening in the same garden for over 10 years, every simple year, season for that matter, is different. Sure, there is an underlying rhythm to the seasons but the rest is completely unpredictable. Which in a strange kind of way I find some comfort from, I suppose it keeps me evolving and constantly learning. This is also partly why I rarely share garden tips here, because although I would call myself a relatively confident gardener, when working in unison with such a capricious partner like nature, anything can happen.

For example, how can it be that my Brassica plants this season – broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts – are completely free of white butterfly infestation? Usually I am checking leaf by leaf most days, first for the little yellow eggs and then for the green caterpillars that grow from the eggs that I miss. But this year not an egg or caterpillar in sight, and I haven’t done anything differently. My Brassica have never looked so well and sprightly – it will be a good autumn and winter harvest ahead.
The other great mystery in the garden this season is the lack of our stone-fruit trees setting fruit. The omega plums and white-flesh peach are fine with plenty of healthy green fruit hanging on the trees, but on our old gnarly apricot and 5-year-old golden queen peach there is only a handful of fruit (the left image above was this years measly harvest, the right image taken on a good year). Considering in recent years we have harvested around 50kg apricots and 25kg peaches, this is rather disappointing. Talking to neighbours and other local gardeners it sounds like we are certainly not an anomaly in this mystery.
So what happened Mother Nature? We have plenty of local beehives for blossom pollination, both trees were pruned last winter (particularly important for apricots as supposedly they like being pruned to an inch of their life to keep them fruiting well – this is learned from experience), and the chicken run has taken over the orchard so they get plenty of nourishment. Common speculation is that the rather fierce spring winds blew off the blossoms before they were pollinated, or maybe there was too much rain in September, or was it the wax-eyes seen nibbling on the blossoms (they must have been exceedingly efficient to eat a whole tree of them!)… but then again it could be none of these, nature is an amazing mystery while fantastically magical all at once. She is something we cannot control or predict beyond a few days, and personally I actually quite like that. It keeps life interesting and constantly changing, possibly making us more flexible to change in our own lives.
I would love to hear how your summer garden is growing, have you also experienced poor fruit set, or the unusual absence of white butterfly?

Little Apricot Cakes + Sourdough Variation

Using sourdough starter in cakes and muffins is a great way to use up excess starter so to keep the starter active for bread making. A happy starter (that will make well-risen bread) needs to be fed every 12-24 hours so I am constantly looking for ways to use up the excess. I have included many more wonderful uses for sourdough in my new cookbook available in March 2017. See the note below for the sourdough variation to this recipe.

Ingredients

3/4 cup white spelt or unbleached wheat flour (gluten-free: use 1/2 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup tapioca flour)

1 cup ground nuts - almonds, hazelnuts (or desiccated coconut for nut-free)

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 free-range eggs

3 tablespoons mild bush honey

1/2 cup yogurt or milk kefir (dairy or coconut)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

pinch of salt

50 g melted butter or extra virgin olive oil

5 apricots, halved and stones removed

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line 10 medium muffin holes with muffin cases.
  2. Combine the flour, ground nuts and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, honey, yogurt, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and melted butter. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and use a spatula to just fold together (don't over mix or the cakes will be tough once cooked). Spoon evenly into the muffin cases so they are approx. 2/3 full. Place a halved apricot on top - cut side up - and press gently into the batter. Bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Best served warm.

Notes

SOURDOUGH VARIATION Omit the flour and yogurt and add 1 cup / 200g bubbly sourdough starter (fed 6-12 hours prior) to the wet mixture. A white flour starter will result in a lighter cake but a wholemeal starter can also be used. And ensure the starter is at 100% hydration, that is fed with equal weights flour and water.

http://www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz/2017/01/11/little-apricot-cakes/

More stone-fruit inspired recipes on Homegrown Kitchen:

The Best Apricot Ice Cream… Ever!

Cherry & Hazelnut Clafoutis

Raw Apricot & Macadamia Slice

Homemade Plum & Tomato Sauce

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12 Comments on “LITTLE APRICOT CAKES + Sourdough Variation”

  1. Was just wondering seeing what to do with the big bag of apricots I got out at rabbit island and now I know! These look delicious.

  2. What a beautiful recipe Nicola…I have been lucky enough to pick some of my neighbours’ apricots (their tree is laden, so we must be lucky here in Marlborough) so will have to put them to good use! x

  3. Hello Nicola – We live in Blenheim and our daughter (her cousin, and also a friend of yours) forwarded me your link as she knows we have a ‘nil’ crop on our Moorpark apricot tree this season – yes, absolutely no fruit! We planted the tree about 30 years ago and have always had at least a bucket or two of fruit, and would have been busy preserving or making jam etc about this time of year. The tree has been pruned annually by a local expert (a man in his 80s who has pruned the tree since we planted it). We have cut a few dead branches off in recent years, but have never had a non-crop. So far, the tree has a reprieve from the axe, but I’m not sure for how long. We do have a young sapling planted, which grew in the garden from a stone off the mature tree, so we’re hoping it will produce fruit in years to come.
    On another note, we also had an excellent crop of brocolli, with not a bug in sight. We have the next rotation almost ready to harvest, so hopefully that will be clean too.
    Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda, thank-you for sharing your garden news. I am hoping it is just one of those mysterious seasons and everything will be back to normal next year. We are missing our apricot harvest, especially the lack of preserves in the pantry we would have by now. And the taste of heirloom apricots is something else, we have been spoiled! Happy summer gardening 🙂

  4. I’m in Christchurch, my garden has had much less attention, due to me starting my own small business and applying for the kids home school exemption. But we too have had a strange year in the garden. Last year I was plagued by aphids and white fly on my lettuces, this year I have almost none. Seedlings from couchettes, pumpkin and gherkins flowered when they were only about 5 cm high. Out of about 20 I only have 1 survivor. Weather has been so changeable. 30’C one day 10’C the next. White butterfly has been absent, until today.
    I only have black boy peaches, apples and feijoas, they seam to have a good amount of fruit, but we won’t know for a few more months if it will be a good year.

    1. Hi Sharon, I agree the weather has been rather changeable even in sunny Nelson. My zucchini and pumpkins are very slow this year too.
      I hope you get some good harvest from your autumn fruit. My little blackboy has a few fruit on it but not as much as last year. We can just never predict what will be. Happy gardening 🙂

  5. We (Waiheke Is.) have zero apricots this year too, very sad especially compared to last year’s full tree. The recipe looks nice, I’d like to make one big cake of it. 🙂

    1. Hi Suzanne, It is very disappointing when a favourite fruit tree doesn’t fruit. Our preserves cupboard is looking very empty 🙁
      This recipe can certainly be made into a single cake, bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Happy baking!

  6. I baked the cake with sour dough and it was delicious! I made it as a whole cake and 35 minutes was perfect, the apricots were soft and just slightly caramelised on top. I felt much happier not throwing away my sour dough mix, I feel sad throwing my pet out!

    1. That is great to hear, sometimes a whole cake is needed! I am always coming up with ways to use up the excess starter to keep it happy and healthy for baking bread. Enjoy 🙂

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