Monday, 30 July 2012

Almost All-in-one Fudgy Chocolate Cake

I'm always delighted when I find a new recipe which uses oil instead of butter in cakes, as although I'm quite good at adapting recipes to produce variations, I'm no good at all at producing recipes from scratch. I think part of the problem is the fear of wasting expensive ingredients if things go so wrong that the result has to be thrown away.

That, and the fact that I'm always baking because we need something to eat - if things go wrong, we go without! I sometimes envy those who bake for work colleagues - if they get baked goods they are happy, if nothing appears, they just assume the baker had other things to do, and don't know, or care, whether there's a disaster back in the kitchen.

Which leads me to this super easy to mix chocolate cake; called a fudge cake by Good Food, I think it probably only deserves that name if you add the frosting. It is a dense, rich cake, but ever so slightly on the dry side (although I might have overbaked it slightly - I knew I should be checking it earlier when I could smell it baking, but was distracted by other things). Although there was nothing wrong with the cake, I think it would have been better with a frosting - I chose to serve it with just a dusting of cocoa and icing sugar.

I've called it an 'almost-all-in-one' cake as everything but some chopped plain chocolate was mixed together at the same time. You do need a measuring jug and a small bowl in which to dissolve the coffee, but there are no stages to mixing the batter. The chocolate is chopped in a food processor too, making this a really quick cake to prepare.

The coffee is there as a flavour intensifier - it can't be tasted in the finished cake. I was in two minds about chopping the chocolate - should I leave it as rubble or reduce it to grated filings? I left it as rubble, meaning little pockets of chocolate were detectable in the cake - I'm not sure if this was the intention, or whether a smooth texture was what was needed. I'll try it the other way next time, and decide which I prefer! This is definitely a cake to repeat, especially when something more rugged than a delicate sponge is needed.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Random Recipes

plus Chocolate and Cherry Cake

I don't really have time for researching or cooking new recipes at the moment, and I've even resorted to buying cakes during the past week, when I've been both short of time and too hot to want to bake. However, I did produce yet another variation of this lovely recipe - this time leaving out the all the lemon elements and adding 75g chopped dark chocolate and 75g  dried cherries - I chopped these too, as they were huge. I also added a few drops of almond extract to increase the almond flavour, which goes so well with cherries.
I also found time to photograph my cookbook shelves, so that I could enter this month's Random Recipes, set by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, which doesn't involve any cooking at all! To give us all an easy assignment, Dom asked us to photograph our cookbooks, to give each other an insight into our home lives and influences. The rules of the Random Recipe Challenge are set out here.

I have two cookbook sites, both in the living room.
One is the bottom two shelves in a larger bookcase, and is mostly filled with the books I had when we moved in almost 10 years ago. These were once arranged into categories, but  a lot of migration has occurred, and the shelf spacing is also set so that any really large books must go on the bottom shelf. Quite a few of the books here date back to the 70s and early 80s - the early days of marriage, when I had an interest in food but not enough time for experimental or adventurous cooking, especially once I had two fussy children to feed. These are the books I learned to cook with.

The other site is in the corner of the room, between a filing cabinet and the desk where I have my laptop set up. Most of the books here have been bought out of an interest in cooking and cookery books; very few of them were bought new, most are from the shelves of the various charity shops in town. Many have never been cooked from, but were bought because they were classics of their type, or would be valuable reference works - all of the recipe books have at least had every page looked at, although I can't say the same of the reference books!  A few of my old classics have migrated here, as they are closer to hand as reference works. My daughter's cookery books are on these shelves too - most of the early Nigel Slater books, Economy Gastronomy and a few others, including one on baking. They will go when she goes again!

The most recent books have been fiiling up the top shelf of this bookcase - while they don't exactly give a representative picture of the aspects of cooking that I find most interesting, they were bought because I thought they were a bit different from the usual run of the mill stuff found in the cookery section of most bookshops; Egon Ronay's autobiography is one of them, as well as a book on Middle Eastern Food written in the 80s, and one which explores the legacy of France in Indian regional cuisine through recipes from La Porte Des Indes restaurants in London and Brussels. The Slow Cooking book was an attempt to get me to use my slow cooker more often!

The baking book which influences me most is Short and Sweet, by Dan Lepard - I've been following his column in the Guardian for years, and I can't think of any baker whose craftsmanship and inventiveness I admire more. Even though nearly all the recipes in this book can be found online, they may not always be there, and looking at a computer screen is not the same as holding a book! This is one of the few books I have bought brand new and hot off the press! The two volumes of Nigel Slater's Tender, at the other end of the shelf were two more, and couldn't be more different!

I have photographed Dan's book alongside my newest book - bought this morning from a charity shop and as yet unexplored. But what three words could be more enticing to a chocoholic, cake-oholic baker than Chocolate, Coffee and Caramel?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chocolate and Orange Marmalade Loaf

I first saw this recipe for Chocolate and Orange Marmalade Loaf  in a magazine, while in a hospital waiting room with my mother. I frantically scribbled it down at the back of her 'medical' notebook, which I keep to remind me what the docs say, hoping for once that her appointment wasn't on time!

The recipe is taken from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, a book about Scandinavian Baking (as if you can't work that out from the title!) Some of the other recipes published on the Daily Mail website look pretty good too. I'll have to check out the book when I'm next in a book shop - I try to avoid entering bookshops too often, as new books are too hard to resist!

I followed the recipe exactly, using a mix of honey and golden syrup, and fine cut marmalade. It's quite a complex recipe - I used 5 bowls just assembling the ingredients before mixing. The batter was quite wet very liquid, and it was probably a providential accident which lead me not to notice the chopped chocolate until the batter was in the cake tin. I scattered the chunks over the top of the cake, and left them to float or sink, as fate dictated. Most sank, but at least they didn't all settle at the bottom!

The cake took all of the suggested baking time, and even after 50 minutes, I wasn't sure it was properly cooked as it was so moist. Luckily I have one of those cake testing probes which changes colour when the centre of the cake has reached a high enough temperature, so I used that to test this cake. I don't always like using it, because it leaves quite a large hole, but this cake was going to be spiked after baking, so an extra hole didn't matter. Although the recipe warned that it might dip in the middle, it's very disheartening to see a cake deflate after it's taken from the oven.

Despite a lot of added sugar, in the marmalade, honey and the syrup, this cake wasn't oversweet - the natural bitterness of oranges used in marmalade balanced the sweetness, helped by the cocoa and coffee. However, although some people would argue that you can't have such a thing as a chocolate cake which is too moist, I think at some point it changes from a cake to a pudding - and that's what happened with this recipe. The excessive moistness made the texture just a bit too sticky, rather than having an open crumb.

Because it tastes really good, so I think it's a recipe worth tinkering with to see if the moistness can be reduced a little. For a start, I can use sugar instead of syrups next time, and possibly leave out the boiling water, and sift the cocoa into the dry ingredients instead.
As most people love the chocolate and orange combination, I think this would be a good recipe when baking for a cake stall, especially if the ground almonds were removed and more flour or some polenta used instead. I'm never happy about nuts in cakes for sale on cake stalls, even if they are well labelled. So I'm entering this cake into this month's Tea Time Treat Challenge, where we were asked to produce something suitable for cake stalls at summer fetes. Tea Time Treats (rules here) is a monthly challenge hosted alternately by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate, at What Kate Baked. Karen is the host at this month, and will be posting a round up of entries at the end of the month.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Blackcurrant Jam Cake

with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Things are busy at the moment; CT is moving out (eventually) but his new place needs some work on it first, and he's not very practically minded, so needs our help. There are the also the contents of his room, and his new things, to move into his home - although he can carry his own books up two flights of stairs! In addition, my mother is getting old and frail, and needs more help with errands and the increasing number of hospital appointments. Then there's the battle between the garden and the weather - the weeds are growing fast at the moment, so there's always work to do out there. With all this vying for my attention, time is running out to take part in my usual monthly baking challenges.

Luckily, this odd cake fits the brief for two of the challenges that I take part in regularly - We Should Cocoa (using chocolate and blackcurrants together) and AlphaBakes (where W is the randomly generated letter). I was going to include it in the Tea Time Treats challenge, as a traybake suitable for a cake stall, but decided that anything with nuts in carried a risk of triggering an allergy, so was best avoided, even though I do label my cake stall donations with an ingredient list.

Blackcurrants  are a fruit that I've never considered pairing with chocolate before this We Should Cocoa challenge, and even after scouring the internet for ideas, I couldn't come up with anything using dark chocolate that sounded a good way to combine them. White chocolate seemed a much better option. There was also the not inconsiderable problem of not finding any fresh fruit in my usual supermarkets, so having to use a processed version instead - in this case, jam. However, my searches threw up 'jam cakes', a speciality of the southern states of the USA, although I did find one reference to them also being a wartime adaptation to deal with sugar shortages here in the UK - presumably using jam laid down in the years prior to rationing.

After reading a lot of recipes, I decided to use this UK recipe from Annie Bell, as she is a reliable recipe writer, and this cake wasn't as huge as those produced in other recipes. Although this recipe uses a buttercream filling, many of the US recipes use a cream cheese frosting, and it seemed a logical step forward to add white chocolate to a cream cheese frosting, which would fit the challenge brief perfectly. As well as combining chocolate and blackcurrants for We Should Cocoa, white chocolate gave me the W for AlphaBakes

I decided to bake the cake as a traybake, and use a topping instead of a filling - a wise decision, as it turned out, as the cake wasn't really deep enough to split easily. My only adaptations to the recipe were to use blackcurrant jam instead of strawberry (many US recipes specify blackberry jam - a similar dark colour) and to add dried blueberries instead of raisins. I then added a white chocolate cream cheese frosting of my own devising. I intended to bake the cake in a 20 x 30cm tray, but it was clear after making the batter that it wouldn't go that far, so I changed to a 20cm square tin.

While the cake was cooling I tried to make the frosting, which reminded me how much I hate working with melted white chocolate. Melting 100g white chocolate with 20g butter, in a bowl over hot water, left me with a thick paste in the bottom of the bowl. This was made liquid by the addition of a tablespoon of milk. After cooling the mixture a little, I incorporated 100g icing sugar, followed by 150g full fat cream cheese. The sugar made the mixture very stiff, but beating in the cream cheese turned it back to a thinner consistency which needed refrigerating to get it to a spreadable texture - unfortunately it never did set to the firmer consistency that I hoped for.

I called this an odd cake earlier because the outcome didn't really match the ingredients put in - I expected a fruitier flavour, but the spices were predominant, although even there, the flavour was quite delicate. The cake stayed an interesting purply colour and the nuts and dried blueberries added a chewy texture. The frosting was a pleasant vanilla flavour, but didn't really do anything to enhance the cake - it would have been better if had set more firmly. Overall, although we didn't dislike the cake, no-one liked it enough for it to be made again - bland and tasteless was one description, but others might think differently!

PS - July 19th. The flavour of the cake matured overnight! It was a much better flavour the next day, but it still wasn't special enough to make me want to make it again.

The We Should Cocoa Challenge (rules here) is hosted jointly by Chele from Chocolate Teapot and Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, this month's challenge, to use blackcurrants, was set by Choclette. The round-up of entries will be on Chocolate Log Blog at the end of the month.

The AlphaBakes Challenge (rules here) is a monthly baking challenge to make something  featuring a randomly chosen letter - this can be part of the name of the product or one of the major ingredients. It is hosted jointly by Caroline, from Caroline Makes, and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, who take turns to generate a random letter and collate the entries. This month Caroline is the host, and her random letter generator picked W!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Mocha Marbled Sandwich Cake

My children are getting to the age where I don't tell people how old they are, because it makes me seem so old! Suffice to say, they are both over 30 years old now.  CT is the July child - his birthday is very near to mine, so we either share a cake, or my birthday gets forgotten. That's not as bad as it sounds - we've never made a huge thing out of birthdays once the children had passsed the stage of needing novelty cakes. (The hours I spent every year with sponge cakes cut to odd shapes, templates, fondant icing, marzipan and an array of food colours will long be remembered!)

A few weeks ago, CT noticed this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe in the Weekend Guardian, and commented on how good it looked. So that was his birthday cake sorted - he's even allowed butter for special occasions.

This is basically a sponge cake made from two batters marbled together - one flavoured with coffee and the other with cocoa to give a darker batter. Both batters are made with light brown sugar to give extra flavour. The two layers are sandwiched and topped with coffee flavoured buttercream, and I decorated with a mix of chocolate stars and cappuccino sprinkles.

Gooey buttercream cakes aren't my favourite sort of cake, but they are a nice treat for a special occasion. This was a light textured and  well flavoured cake. The coffee kept the buttercream from being too sweet and the marbling of the two batters gave an interesting appearance. The cocoa was more for colour than flavour - the coffee flavour was much stronger than any chocolate flavour present.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hazelnut and Red Berry Brownies

I think I need to write this post to prove I'm still alive! Hubs and I were away the first week of the month, and I left a batch of brownies in the cake tin for the 'lodgers' - FB and CT. Since we've been back, we have been very busy, but I did manage to cook another batch of brownies from my favorite recipe.

This time I used sunflower oil instead of olive oil - I think using olive oil is an expensive waste, as the flavour of it is lost in the chocolate flavour. Instead of adding 100g of mixed chopped chocolate, I added 50g finely chopped hazelnuts and 50g of dried red fruit, from a mix called Berries and Cherries, roughly chopping the large pieces of fruit.

Adding dried fruit to brownies is unusual for me, but the result was better than I expected, as I think the fruit complimented the hazelnuts well! As usual, the brownies were moist and chewy, and richer than usual as I used a small proportion of 85% chocolate in the melted chocolate - about 1/3.

Now I really need to get thinking about this month's baking challenges, as I've lost almost half the month already!