Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Wholemeal Pear and Ginger Cake

My local Cake Club (set up following the demise of The Clandestine Cake Club, which now only has a Facebook presence) set the theme of Autumn for the most recent meeting. I was torn between this recipe or a courgette cake, but went with this Pear and Ginger Cake because it has been a more reliable recipe over the years.

This is one of those cakes where the basic recipe can be altered by using different fresh fruit, dried fruit and jam - the original cake, a Nigel Slater recipe (scroll down the page), used apples, sultanas and orange marmalade, and I've also successfully made it with apples, dried cranberries and cranberry jelly and in this version, pears, golden raisins and ginger preserves. There were slight adjustments to the other flavours too - I used lemon zest instead of orange and added extra spice (half a teaspoon of mixed spice and two teaspoons of ground ginger in addition to the cinnamon).

I  don't usually decorate this sort of cake, but because this was for a special occasion, I used poached pear slices and slices of stem ginger on top of the cake, plus a dusting of icing sugar, just to relieve the brownness. I was disappointed that, even with poaching in acidulated water, the pears discoloured so badly!

Despite using wholemeal flour, and adding fresh fruit, this is a very light cake, with a soft texture. The ginger preserves and added spices give a gentle warmth which doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavour of the pear. The photo of the cut cake isn't pretty, but it does show the good texture!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Jalapeno Cornbread

I was in a baking mood, but couldn't really justify baking a cake when I'd got a dozen or more individual portions of cake from previous bakes laying in the freezer. Cornbread to accompany my planned batch of chilli seemed a good idea - I could satisfy my urge to bake and sort out several evening meals in one go without feeling guilty; some sort of carbohydrate was needed and it would be a tasty change from rice.

I used this recipe by Ben Mims, which has been the most successful recipe of several I've tried previously and one that Southern Living calls perfect. As I only wanted a few portions, I halved the recipe and baked it in my small cast iron skillet, which is only 16cm in diameter at the top. From previous attempts I knew that I was happier with a bit more seasoning and a tiny touch of sugar, so I added 10g of caster sugar, a teaspoon of dried oregano, a good twist of black pepper and a tablespoon of finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers.

I think this was the best cornbread I've made so far; the texture was just what I wanted - moist but not too stodgy, but not too crumbly either. The added ingredients stopped it being bland and there were just the right amount of jalapenos to give a spicy kick, without becoming too hot. It went really well with my inauthentic chilli, which contained pork meatballs and a courgette I picked on the edge of turning to a marrow!

Friday, 31 August 2018


Apologies to everyone who posted comments over the last few months, but didn't see them published promptly. Blogger stopped sending me emails informing me that there were comments awaiting moderation, and has only just recently asked me if I'd like to carry on receiving notifications. As  the number of comments has dropped off  over the last year or so anyway, it didn't occur to me to check if I'd missed any. Normal service should be resumed now!

I tried ruby chocolate for the first time recently; its supposedly fruity flavour seemed very subtle (too subtle, in fact) to me. In its favour, it wasn't as sickly sweet as white chocolate, but it's too expensive to buy regularly, and I still prefer dark chocolate, with or without added flavours.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

- for the final We Should Cocoa

We Should Cocoa, a monthly link-up for chocolate recipes started 8 years ago, when Tin & Thyme was still Chocolate Log Blog, and Choclette shared her hosting duties with Chele at Chocolate Teapot. Amazingly, I have been participating since the first link-up, although not very regularly recently. According to my records, I've contributed to 65 out of a possible 95 events. This month will be the 96th We Should Cocoa - and Choclette has decided to call a halt.

For many years the link-up had a theme, so I decided to check on the first, in August 2010. It turned out to be raspberries. I made Chocolate Frangipane Tartlettes with chocolate pastry and raspberry jam in the base - a kind of chocolate bakewell tart. At the same time, I made some similar tartlettes, with Nutella in the base, which we preferred. I thought it would be a fitting end to these events to base my entry on the first thing I made, so decided to go with a tart with Nutella in the base and a hazelnut frangipane on top. I also added more chocolate to the filling, so that the final tart had both the chocolate and hazelnut flavours of the Nutella ramped up.

150g plain flour
100g butter
25g icing sugar
25g cocoa
1 egg yolk
cold water to mix

110g softened butter
110g caster sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 tablespoon plain flour
110g ground hazelnuts
150g chocolate hazelnut spread
25g plain chocolate (I used 100% cacao) grated*

to finish - 40g plain chocolate (about 70%)

* 100% cacao is very hard, and when grated on a fine microplane grater, 25g goes a long way. If you are using  70% plain chocolate, or a coarse grater, you might need as much as 50g to get enough grated chocolate to cover the base.

Make the pastry by sifting the icing sugar and cocoa into the flour, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and enough cold water to make a soft but not sticky dough, kneading briefly. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough thinly and  line a 20cm (8") tart tin. Refrigerate again while you make the filling.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put a baking sheet into the oven while it is heating.
Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, then slowly beat in the egg, egg white and flour. Fold in the ground hazelnuts.
Warm the chocolate spread slightly (just a few seconds in the microwave, or in a bowl over hot water) and spread over the base of the pastry case, then sprinkle over the grated chocolate. Spoon the hazelnut frangipane filling into the pastry case and spread evenly.
Put the tart onto the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C and bake for a further 25 minutes until the frangipane is set and golden in colour. Cool in the tin.
Finish the tart by melting the 40g of plain chocolate and drizzling it over the cool tart - I put the chocolate into a small plastic bag, then put that into a mug of hot water (seal the bag first, of course). When the chocolate has melted, snip off one corner of the bag to allow the chocolate to dribble out.

This tart was delicious! The extra dark chocolate in the base cut through the sweetness of the chocolate hazelnut spread, and the hazelnut flavour of the frangipane came through strongly. The only thing wrong was that the frangipane appeared to have separated a little as it cooked, leaving a pale set custard-y layer at the bottom. Although this didn't affect the flavour, it did affect the appearance; I have no idea what went wrong.

So, it's the end of an era! I'm sending this recipe to the very last We Should Cocoa link-up. Although I don't bake as much now as I did 8 years ago, I can thank WSC for stretching both my skills and my imagination. Over the years I've used ingredients that I would never have thought to pair with chocolate (some more successfully than others, I must admit) and tackled more complex recipes than I would usually handle. I believe Chocolette intends to keep the WSC archive, and has a Pinterest board, so we can still look there for inspiration.

Thank you for 8 years of fun, Choclette!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Tropicana Banana Cake

This banana cake with tropical flavours is another Dan Lepard recipe which I've used, and written about, before. As the years go by, the flavour of this cake varies according to whatever semi-dried exotic fruits I can get hold of - this year I used apricots, pineapple and mango - as fashion in dried fruit seems to change quite quickly. I bought dried mandarins, intending to add them too, but although I loved the taste, their texture didn't seem right for a cake.

As well as exotic fruit, the other flavours added to this cake are coconut and orange, and some ground  almonds are used too, to keep the cake moist. The method for making the cake is a little tricky, and this is one time when it pays off to be well organised and have all the ingredients prepared and laid out in a logical arrangement before you start mixing.

As I've noted previously, the cake takes quite a bit longer to bake than suggested in the recipe - I added at least another 20 minutes before I was happy that the cake was fully cooked. The raw batter also almost fills a standard 2lb (900g) loaf tin, so if you've something slightly larger, it might be less worrisome to use that - I kept checking the oven, expecting to see the rising batter overflowing the tin.

Because I was taking this cake to a meeting of my local Cake Club (a replacement for the active branch of the Clandestine Cake Club, which now only exists on Facebook) I decided to pretty it up with a very light drizzle of orange glacé icing, made with icing sugar and some of the juice from the orange which provided the zest for the cake.

Everyone loved this cake - the blend of flavours worked really well with the dominant flavour being the coconut (although it wasn't overwhelming), the fruit was soft and chewy and the texture of the crumb was tender and moist.

There was one other banana loaf cake at the cake club - this one had added raspberries and chocolate chunks - along with several cakes based on lemon, a chocolate and vanilla marble cake, a custard slice and an apple and pecan cake. Now that the rules of the Clandestine Cake club don't apply, and we're not limited to large cakes, we hope to get more variety at future meetings, as pastries, biscuits and small cakes can be made - anything edible really!

Monday, 30 July 2018

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Cake

To be honest, this Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Cake is nothing more than an assembly job, consisting of just creme fraiche, bought meringues and lemon curd on a sponge cake base.  However, it's been a useful dessert to have in the freezer, especially during the sort of summer we're having at the moment. It slices easily from frozen, and only needs a few minutes to soften enough to eat. I found that the meringue pieces become less noticeable with time, but it still tastes good.

If you want to make it more complicated, you can make your own cake layer for the base - and I have done this in the past - but a good bought madeira (or even ginger) cake is perfectly acceptable. Another good addition, if you're only feeding adults, is a little limoncello sprinkled on the base, and stirred into the lemon curd. Homemade lemon curd would, of course, vastly improve the dessert too!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Chocolate Tart - free from gluten and lactose

I've used this recipe before, when I needed a gluten- and lactose-free chocolate tart. I really liked it the first time I made it, and didn't want to play around finding a different recipe, as we were are in the middle of a heat-wave and having too much cake/dessert around isn't good for me at all, especially with no-one to help me eat it!

I find gluten- and dairy-free pastry shrinks more than usual when baked blind, but the recipe I use makes a sweet shortcrust pastry case which doesn't stick to the baking tin, doesn't seem to suffer from soggy bottoms and has a good 'short' texture which doesn't become too hard, which seems a good trade-off to me. The dough starts out stickier, and needs careful handling - you can find the details here. Instead of adding the tart filling to a raw pastry case, as in that particular recipe, the pastry case is baked blind once the clingfilm is removed.

When baking blind, the only thing I do differently, compared to regular shortcrust pastry, is to dry out the pastry case for a little longer than usual, at a lower temperature. I initially bake the case, lined with baking parchment and filled with baking beans, at 200C for about 12-15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160C, remove the parchment and beans and return the empty pastry case to the oven for about 20 minutes.

The filling for this tart is dense and fudgy, but as you don't add much extra sugar, it allows the flavour of the chocolate to dominate, so you need to choose a chocolate that you are happy  to eat on its own. The addition of the coffee is to further bring out the chocolate flavour, but I can't see any reason why other flavours couldn't be used too, such as orange zest. And, of course, if you don't need dairy/lactose-free, make it with butter and regular double cream.

As you can see, I served this tart with raspberries and there was also raspberry coulis and cream available.