Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sticky Marmalade Loaf

This all-in-one loaf is taken from a little Good Food (BBC books) recipe book - 101 Cakes and Bakes. The original recipe calls this a tea-loaf, but it doesn't fit what I consider to be a tea-loaf, so I'm just calling it a loaf. For me, a tea-loaf is a drier cake, with reduced quantities of fat and sugar, which makes it more like a scone in texture; slices are usually buttered before eating. 

To make this cake, the ingredients are all beaten together until smooth, except for 1 tablespoon of the marmalade which is warmed and brushed onto the still-hot cake as a glaze, and 25g of the halved pecans which are sprinkled over the top of the cake before baking. I made a slight change to the recipe, substituting the pecan nuts with sultanas, as FB doesn't eat pecans and I've been baking a lot with other nuts recently. I used 75g sultanas in the cake and just the marmalade glaze on top. The loaf, in a 2lb tin, takes about 75 minutes to bake at 180C, but needs covering loosely with foil halfway through the baking time.

Ingredients - 140g thick-cut marmalade, 175g softenend butter, 175g light brown sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 225g SR flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, 100g halved pecans.

My initial reaction to the loaf was that it wasn't very orange-y, and that it would be better with the fresh zest of an orange added, but as I ate more, I began to appreciate the subtle flavour produced by the combination of the spicing and the marmalade, and decided it didn't really need the orange zest, unless one particularly wanted the orange flavour to be more dominant.

I tried to find this recipe online, as I prefer to give links rather than copy out a recipe which might be copyrighted, and once again I was surprised by how many bloggers are prepared to write out recipes as if they were original to them, or make slight alterations but fail to acknowledge the original recipe. To me, changing the marmalade to ginger marmalade, or using sultanas instead of pecans, as I did, doesn't mean you can claim the basic recipe as your own - but I do know views differ on this!

Monday, 25 March 2013


Amongst the things my thrifty nature wouldn't allow me to throw away, while I was clearing and tidying Mum's house prior to selling it, were several pots of home-made jam. I don't know why I couldn't have been more ruthless, as we don't really eat jam, but here I am with a medley of miscellaneous flavours of fruity preserves to be used. I can forsee a use for redcurrant jelly, and I just had to open the blackberry and rhubarb jam to try on a rare treat of toast - such an unlikely combination of flavours, you might think, although unforced rhubarb and early blackberries can be harvested at the same time (see this cake). It was a strangely addictive flavour, so that will be kept for more toasty treats, on the days I'm allowed to eat more than 500 calories (aren't we all doing IF?)

I was a bit more flummoxed by strawberry and gooseberry jam as I'm not keen on the flavour of cooked strawberries, although I expected the gooseberries to alter the flavour a little. Clearly a dessert using a lot of jam was called for, although something as stodgy as a jam roly poly was out of the question. A Linzertorte seemed ideal - a high ratio of jam to pastry, and capable of being eaten in small portions. I've tried Delia Smith's recipe before, and really like the extra flavours of hazelnuts, spices and lemon in the sweet rich pastry.

The nutty, crumbly pastry was not the easiest dough to work with, but a bit of careful patchwork got me out of difficulties with the base. Not being able to roll the pastry really thinly meant I didn't get many strips for the lattice work, but there were enough to give the basic appearance of a lattice.

After baking, I couldn't decide whether I liked the heavy dusting of icing sugar, which hid the jam, but after a while the sugar which was in contact with the jam had dissolved, and resolved the problem by itself!

Delia's recipe suggests cranberry or redcurrant jelly as a filling, and I do prefer this dessert when made with tarter preserves, but in this case the combination of strawberries and gooseberries in the jam worked reasonably well (although my mother's jam is incredibly sweet!), and helped reduce the jam slick a little!  Any suggestions for plum jam, anyone?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Navettes - a French Tea Time Treat

When Karen, at Lavender and Lovage, announced that the theme for this month's Tea Time Treats challenge was to be French baking, I thought it would be easy. I try to fit all my blogging challenges into my usual baking routine, which basically means not making anything which the family won't eat, or which isn't needed, or which is too similar to the last few things I've made. I also like it to be something which challenges my baking skills, if possible, although I don't always have time to try something new.

But French baking still sounded OK, as there is so much to choose from. Additionally, I've always wanted to try making macarons, the classic and currently fashionable, French treat. The fact that they were reputed to be difficult to make only added to the challenge, and made them a more suitable thing to try. It was after the fruit of a morning's labour ended up in the rubbish bin that I realised I was in trouble. If that wasn't going to work, what else would fit my own requirements?

There were eclairs - but I didn't want the fuss of choux pastry after going wrong with macarons. How about palmiers? Unrolling a sheet of puff pastry was hardly in the spirit of the challenge, was it? Gateaux were too fussy for a mid-week bake, and besides, I wanted to save the more extravagent bakes until Easter. Similarly, not eating desserts midweek ruled out things such as lemon and chocolate tarts, glazed fruit tartlets, and pithiviers, which is something else on my 'to do' list! Madeleines - I'd need to buy a tin! Cake salé - FB didn't like them!

Then I remembered that Phil, from As Strong as Soup, was keen on traditional French baking - perhaps I could find inspiration there! I ruled out his plainer cake recipes on the grounds that they were similar to a lot of the cakes I've made recently, but his biscuit/cookie recipes caught my eye. In particular this recipe for Navettes looked very appealing. Further investigation found some more interesting stories, other than Phil's, about the origins of the shape and name of these biscuits - either they were named after the boats in which Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Martha were travelling when they reached Provence, or they were shaped and named after the shuttle used on weaving looms - also navette in French. You can judge from the picture above whether that's likely.

Most of the recipes I found were very similar to Phil's - the only question was whether or not to add baking powder? In the end, I chose a recipe which didn't use it. I followed the recipe exactly, and needed 450g of flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. The recipe wasn't exact on the amount of flour as it's the feel of the dough that's important.  I was a little worried that my orange flower water had lost it's potency, so I added a few drops of lemon oil extract as well.

After glazing and baking, I wasn't entirely happy with the appearance of the biscuits, as I realised I should have glazed the whole biscuit, not just the flat tops. To rectify this, I dusted them with icing sugar before serving.

These were strange little biscuits - quite hard and dry, but richly flavoured due to the butter and eggs. The texture reminded me of biscotti after the first baking, and they were good as a dunking biscuit! I tried them with my evening coffee rather than wine! The flavour was very delicate - I think I was right about my orange flower water, and I should have added more lemon oil to compensate.

Tea Time Treats (rules here) is a monthly baking challenge co-hosted by Karen, of Lavender and Lovage, and Kate, of What Kate Baked. Each month a theme is chosen on which to base our production of food fit for a tea-table. Karen is this month's host, and all the delicious French baking submitted to the challenge will be posted in a round-up on her blog, at the end of the month.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Italian Pine Nut Tart

This months random letter choice for the AlphaBakes challenge turned out to be the letter I. This is a really limiting letter - I didn't find any ingredients beginning with I and the only entries in the indexes of most of my books were 'icing' or 'iced'. I decided to follow the advice of this month's host (Caroline of Caroline Makes) and think geographically. I also decided I would only pick a recipe if it was labelled with the country of origin in it's name eg I wouldn't choose tiramisu, and then post it as Italian tiramisu, or make an Irish Guinness cake.

After much studying of my cookery books I found a recipe called Italian Pine Nut Tart with Chocolate Spread in my Green and Black's book of chocolate recipes which looked really tasty. It is described as a cross between a biscuit and a tart, and can be filled with almost anything, but a book of chocolate recipes had to go with a chocolate filling - a lot of chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella).

310g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
300g chocolate hazelnut spread
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
50g pine nuts

Sift the flour and baking powder and rub in the butter, as for pastry.
Mix in the sugar, then add the beaten eggs and the water if needed, to make a soft dough. Knead gently until dough is smooth, then wrap and chill for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 23cm(9") loose-based fluted flan tin
Roll out 3/4 of the dough on a floured surface and use to line the tart tin. The dough is soft and difficult to work with but any holes can be patched up easily.
Spread the chocolate spread evenly over the pastry, and roll the remaining pastry to make a lid. Press the edges of the base and lid together, to seal.
Mix the egg yolk and milk, and brush over the tart, then sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden, watching the tart carefully towards the end of the cooking time, as pine nuts can burn easily.

This was a delicious tart. The pastry was crumbly and buttery - like a soft shortbread. The chocolate hazelnut spread was a thick enough layer to really taste and the pine nuts gave a crunchy, slightly bitter topping. Definitely one to make again!

We tried to think of other fillings which would work well, and came up with several - marzipan, creme patissiere, thick fruit compotes, chocolate ganache for nut avoiders, mincemeat, dates cooked to a purée. Other flavours could be added to enhance the tart - cinnamon or citrus zest in the pastry, for instance, would go well with a creme patissiere or marzipan filling.

AlphaBakes is the brainchild of Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker. They take turns to host the challenge, and the randomly chosen letter must be used either as the main part of the recipe name or as a main ingredient eg N is for Nuts or Nanaimo Bars. The host for the month posts a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Chocolate Guinness Cake - We Should Cocoa

The theme for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge has been set by Lucy of The KitchenMaid, and she has chosen the theme of 'fame'.

Well, putting together fame and chocolate certainly provoked a lot of thought on my part - it can have such a wide interpretation. Famous recipes? Recipes named after famous people or places? There are plenty of recipes out there, but nothing seemed very appealing. I rejected the original Toll House cookie recipe, Sachertorte, Nanaimo Bars (done those already) and several others.

It wasn't until I reached into the back of a cupboard, for a tin of Guinness stout for a beef casserole, that inspiration struck. A chocolate recipe containing a famous ingredient! What could be more famous worldwide than the drink Guinness?

Nigella's chocolate Guinness cake is the first recipe to come up on a Google search, but I didn't have any sour cream. The second recipe needed buttermilk, also not in stock, but the third, from Delicious,  looked OK, and also had the advantage of cutting down the sugar quite a bit. The accompanying photo looked good too  - the frosting made the cake look like a glass of Guinness with a good head!

Making the cake itself went quite smoothly, although my batter wasn't pourable. The cake rose well, but sank a little in the middle on cooling. I wasn't too worried about this as the photo accompanying the recipe showed a sunken centre to the cake!

The frosting was a different story! I've told my husband that if I ever pick a recipe which melts white chocolate again he has to forcibly restrain me from making it! After half an hour in a double boiler, the white chocolate (Menier brand) still showed no signs of melting and looked distinctly scorched in places. I was about to throw it away and start again when I read a tip online about adding a little butter or vegetable oil. Two tablespoons of sunflower oil worked it's magic, and loosened up the chocolate. I had to pick out one or two large scorched lumps which showed no signs of melting, and the molten chocolate was still a little grainy, but I went ahead and used it. I didn't have any sour cream, so used 4 tablespoons of fromage frais in the frosting instead. The resulting white chocolate cheesecake frosting was deliciously sweet and creamy..

The cake texture was soft and quite crumbly, but not dry. The flavour was delicious, not too sweet and very chocolatey. It definitely needed the sweetness of the frosting to contrast with the slight bitterness of the Guinness in the cake.

We Should Cocoa is a monthly cooking challenge which brings together chocolate in some form with a specially chosen ingredient. Originally hosted by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot, the challenge now often uses guest hosts, as with Lucy The KitchenMaid, this month. Lucy will post a round up at the end of the month, although entries so far can be seen on this link to the challenge.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Melting Moments - a Random Recipe

I've chosen Belleau Kitchen's Random Recipe challenge for this month for a slightly self indulgent post. Dom's challenge is titled 'Cuttings, memories and clippings' and it's the memories part that I've taken, rather than the cuttings and clippings. Dom explains the process of randomising your choice of recipe much better than I could, so go to the link if you are not familiar with this challenge.

My mother died last month and while all her family and friends were sad to lose her, we all recognised that she had given up fighting her illnesses several months ago and was ready to go, so our grief is tempered with relief that she isn't suffering any more. In the process of clearing her home, I came across the BeRo recipe book that she taught me to bake with, back in the early 1960s. It's dog-eared, stained and even scorched in places, and is barely holding together as a booklet (so probably qualifies for Dom's challenge as a collection of clippings), but it is still usable, with care. Glancing inside, I saw the recipes we made frequently were marked with pencil crosses, so decided the Random Recipe I chose would be the first marked recipe in the book. I was delighted to see that the recipe was for Melting Moments, as these, and the cornflake flapjacks (which don't seem to be on the website) are what I remember best of all.

The only difference I made to the recipe was to use butter instead of margarine; I still included the lard. I also used vanilla paste with seeds, instead of vanilla extract. I rolled the dough balls in rolled oats rather than dessicated coconut, although I have to confess that I thought they should be rolled in crushed cornflakes - another example of my notoriously poor memory, perhaps, or it might have been one of Mum's adaptations. My recipe booklet suggested marble-sized balls of dough, but I still only got 20 biscuits, rather than the 30 suggested on the website or the 40 suggested by the booklet.

These delicate little biscuits are short and crumbly, and melt in the mouth - this texture is due to the lard, I think. They are small, so are gone in a moment too, which accounts for the name! The vanilla flavour was quite intense, and the oats just gave some extra texture, rather than another flavour, as coconut would have done. These would be ideal for afternoon tea, arranged on a cake stand with other little treats.

As another self-indulgent reminiscence, I've shown these biscuits on a lone plate I found at the back of Mum's pantry, and rescued from eventually going into a skip.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Maple, Hazelnut and Lemon Loaf

Now that we've booked another holiday to Canada, I'm no longer reluctant to finish the stock of maple syrup I have in the fridge. Next time I think I'll splash out on a better quality syrup, as the brand I'm using doesn't have a strong enough flavour to compete with other ingredients. It's hard to tell what it added to this maple, hazelnut and lemon loaf, apart from sweetness. I'm sure a cake made with just sugar would taste different, but it was hard to detect the actual maple syrup flavour. Not to worry - it was still a very tasty cake.

I adapted a recipe from Chocolate and Baking, a small book by Flame Tree publishing which I picked up in a charity shop. The book is divided incongruously into two sections, one on general baking and one on all aspects of baking and dessert making with chocolate. I can't help feeling two separate books would have been better, as I hardly ever pick up the book to look at the general baking section because the title suggests it's all chocolate recipes. This time I was working my way through my baking books, looking for something "different" and this book was near the top of the stack.

The original recipe used pecans, which are often used together with maple syrup, but my nut-avoiding FB is only happy with hazelnuts and almonds, so I made a substitution. The recipe is simple to make, but the proportion of flour to other ingredients gives a dense, rather dry loaf, which might be better served as a tea-loaf (sliced and buttered) rather than iced as a cake. The cake was supposed to cook in 60 minutes, but I found it took nearer to 90 minutes, which might just have been because of the shape of my particular loaf tin, which makes a short, deep loaf.

I found several similar recipes online, using American cup measurements, which used 1 1/2 cups of flour (which would only be around 210g), so I wonder if this recipe has been mistranslated from an American recipe. If so, it makes me doubt all the other recipes in the book.

350g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g butter, cubed
75g sugar
125g pecan nuts, roughly chopped (I used 100g blanched hazelnuts)
3 medium eggs
1 tablespoon milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
5 tablespoons maple syrup.

For the icing - 75g icing sugar mixed to a smooth thick icing with lemon juice
25g chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 170C and prepare a large (2lb/900g) loaf tin.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and rub in the butter, stir in the sugar and nuts.
Beat the eggs with the milk and lemon zest and stir in the maple syrup.
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spoon into the loaf tin, level the top and bake for 60 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean (my cake took almost 90 minutes).
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to complete cooling.
Drizzle over the lemon icing and sprinkle with nuts, if using.