Monday, 14 December 2015

Not so Magic Cake, and other bits and pieces!

There's nothing wrong with the 'tiffin' style dessert pictured at the top of this post. It was made to Delia Smith's recipe for Chocolate-crunch Torte with Pistachios and Sour Cherries, following the recipe exactly, apart from using dried cranberries instead of dried sour cherries.

It was made as an quick replacement for an attempt at a 'magic' cake which I somehow knew had failed before it was even out of the baking tin. Magic cakes are so called because one cake batter separates into three layers during cooking - a thin dense pastry-like layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle and a light sponge on top.

I used the chocolate and hazelnut magic cake recipe featured in this recent newspaper article, and even though I can now see where I might have made a mistake (trying to incorporate the egg whites evenly into the batter, rather than leaving it in clumps) I don't think the finished cake would ever have looked as attractive as the photo in the article, or tasted good either. 100g of Nutella-type chocolate hazelnut spread is not enough to make a cake taste strongly of chocolate, nor give it a good deep colour. This is what mine looked like - you can just about see three layers, but it was a really unattractive shade of beige, the custard was dense and slimy and it didn't really taste of anything definite - certainly not hazelnuts or chocolate. After trying one mouthful, for research, it went into the food waste recycling - and, as I've often said, food has to be really awful for me to throw it away!

I didn't bake a cake last weekend; it was my husband's birthday, and he wanted a stollen, which I buy rather than make as my yeast doughs are very unpredictable. I made a very tasty seasonal fruit crumble though, using 3 eating apples, 100g fresh cranberries, the zest of a clementine and the clementine segments, cut in half, to make 4 portions of dessert. I also added a teaspoon of mixed spice to my usual crumble recipe of equal weights (75g) of butter, brown sugar, plain flour and rolled oats.

I also tried my hand at apple-chilli jelly recently, using the homegrown apples which were too small to peel and use in any other way. The beauty of apple jelly is that the fruit is just roughly chopped - peel, cores and pips included - before cooking with water and adding some vinegar. The cooked fruit is strained, then reboiled with sugar and sliced chillies, until the setting point is reached. I used this recipe from gardener Sarah Raven, using just the regular mixed red and green chillies sold as moderately hot in the supermarket.

After cooking the apples in water and straining the juice I had about 1.5 litres of liquid; I was a little worried, as despite my careful handling of the fruit, the liquid looked cloudy at this point. I needn't have worried though, as soon as it came to the boil with the added sugar it miraculously cleared - I just wish this had been mentioned in any of the recipes I read! I used a sugar thermometer, to be sure that the setting point had been reached. I didn't manage to distribute the chillies very evenly when potting the jelly - the jar in the photo got the most - and it looked as if all the chilli slices were going to float, until I remembered a tip I'd read somewhere about turning the sealed jars upside down for about 10 minutes, then back again, and repeating as the jelly cooled and set. This procedure eventually traps some of the chillies near the bottom, despite their inclination to float! I think the chilli slices are for decoration - there's certainly a lot of heat in the jelly alone, so even the jars without much visible chilli will taste the same.


Alicia Foodycat said...

Pretty jelly! The last chilli jelly I made crystallised, which was very unexpected.

Phil in the Kitchen said...

Puddings and cakes that separate during baking are wonderful things - when they work. I must admit that I tend to stick to a few well tried and tested old recipes because, like you, I've found some of the newer variations haven't really worked.
I've made a lot of apple jellies with chillies and different spice mixes over the years. It's one of the few things that my wife insists that I make regularly - she panics if the supply runs low. I've found that the secret (if you can call it that) to the even distribution of chillies or spices is to stir the mixture gently in the pan once off the heat and only pour into the jars when the jelly has cooled just enough to hold the pieces in suspension. Admittedly, you do then have to get the jelly into the jars quickly.

Suelle said...

Thanks for the tip, Phil, the recipe did say stand for 20 minutes, but it obviously needed longer!

Snowy said...

Those so-called magic cake recipes are very hit and miss, I find. I've made one that turned out fine and I wrote about it, but another was a complete disaster.
Your apple chilli jam looks very colourful.