Friday, 26 August 2016

'A Cake for Midsummer' from Nigel Slater

This was a much more successful recipe from Nigel Slater - a rich almond sponge studded with fresh apricots and raspberries. I've made the cake twice in quick succession this month - once to try it out and again for a Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) meeting. The only changes I made to the recipe, the second time, was to add a few drops of almond extract to the cake batter and sprinkle some flaked almonds on top, to increase the almond-ness of the cake.

The theme for the CCC meeting was 'the third suitable recipe in one of your baking books' and I was stumped for a while, as few of my baking books had suitable recipes. In terms of CCC, 'suitable' means a full-sized cake - not a dessert, brownie, tray bake, small cakes or a tart. Suitable in my case meant something I actually wanted to make!

Most books dealing exclusively with baking go through variations of sponge cakes first, so many books were discarded on the grounds that a basic sponge was too ordinary. Others were discarded because the recipes were too difficult, or I'd already tried that recipe and didn't like the result, or I couldn't get hold of particular ingredients, or even that it didn't seem right for the season. I'd discarded all but two of my baking recipe books when I decided to look at recipe books not exclusively about baking, and found this recipe in Tender: Volume II (Fruit). Being called 'A Cake for Midsummer' made it doubly appropriate for an August meeting.

This is basically a sponge cake with fresh fruit folded in - the only online copy of the recipe coming directly from Nigel Slater uses peaches and blueberries - so it wasn't a difficult recipe to follow. I found I needed to use a tablespoon or two more milk than in the recipe, to loosen the batter enough to fold in the fruit, but other than that there were no problems.

The apricots and raspberries tasted good together, and the almonds kept the cake moist. Adding the flaked almond topping and almond extract to the second cake was a definite improvement, both in taste and appearance

We ate one portion of the cake as a dessert, with the raw fruit left over after making the cake,  and it surprised me that the cooked apricots tasted more intense than raw ones, whereas raw raspberries tasted better than the cooked ones!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Lemon Coconut Cake

The batter for this Lemon Coconut Cake has to be the quickest to mix, ever! If you start by melting the butter in the microwave, it can take less than 5 minutes to get the cake into the oven and baking, as by the time all the ingredients are weighed into the bowl, the butter is ready to add. The only thing holding you up would be pre-heating the oven, which may not be necessary with a fan-assisted oven.

It has to be said that this isn't the lightest cake ever, but it is tasty and makes a good mid-week 'cake-tin filler'. I decided not to add a frosting, so made a drizzle by dissolving a tablespoon of caster sugar in the juice of a lemon (the one that I'd taken the zest from) by heating them together in the microwave for a few seconds. I pierced the top of the cake using a cocktail stick, as soon as it came out of the oven and spooned the hot lemon syrup over, then sprinkled on a little extra granulated sugar.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Tahini Brownies with a Sesame Praline Crust

I recently bought both tahini and sesame snaps for a cake recipe which I then decided not to make, so I had to think of another use for them. This recipe for tahini brownies with a sesame praline crust was the result. None of the sesame/tahini brownie recipes I could find online were quite what I was looking for - many used tahini to make dairy-free brownies and even more were so-called 'healthy' brownies, using raw ingredients or unusual grains instead of wheat flour. All I wanted was brownies with the flavour of sesame seeds!

In the end, I took inspiration from my recipe for brownies with a hazelnut praline crust, substituting tahini for some of the butter, and grinding the sesame snaps to make a praline topping. The results were very good - the brownies were very soft and gooey, and although the tahini flavour in the brownies wasn't very strong, the topping more than made up for this, adding a sweetened sesame flavour and crunch..

100g sesame snaps
90g butter
140g 70% plain chocolate
50g tahini
300g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
160g plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 20cm/8" square brownie tin with baking parchment.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large mixing bowl, over a pan of simmering water.
While this is happening, use a food processor or pestle and mortar to grind the sesame snaps to a fine praline crumb.
When the butter and chocolate has melted, stir in the tahini, followed by the sugar. Stir until smooth and evenly blended, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Sieve the flour and cocoa over the chocolate mix, and fold in.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and level the mixture, then sprinkle the sesame praline evenly over the batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a probe comes out with just a few damp crumbs sticking to it.
Cool before cutting into pieces of the desired size.

As this is the only chocolate baking I've done this month, and I was so pleased with the result, I'm sending this to August's We Should Cocoa link-up, hosted this month by Choclette at Tin and Thyme. As for July, the theme is 'Anything Goes'

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Apple and Orange Cake

In the absence of any better ideas, and with no inspiration to be found in any of my books, I fell back on this family favourite. The recipe makes a shortcake style dough which sandwiches a layer of fresh and/or dried fruits. Almost any fruit can be used, although fruit which releases a lot of juice during cooking is best cooked and drained first. This time the filling was three sliced eating apples, 100g mixed dried fruit (including raisins and cherries), 100g thick-cut orange marmalade and the zest of a large orange.

The dough is made by melting 150g butter and mixing in 150g caster sugar and 1 large egg. When everything is blended together tip in 300g SR flour and mix to a soft dough. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the base of an 8"(20cm) springform cake tin - just spread it out with your fingers, trying to get an even thickness. If you think the filling might release a lot of juice, you can build up a small wall of dough around the edge of the tin, but this isn't necessary with this particular filling as the dried fruit absorbs any juices from the apples. Mix all the ingredients for the filling together and spread out on the dough. The remaining dough makes the topping - break it into small pieces and drop on top of the fruit, then flatten the pieces to cover as much of the fruit as possible. There may well be small gaps but the dough spreads while baking, so most of these will fill up, and any gaps look quite attractive, anyway! There's a bit more detail on making this cake, with some explanatory photos, here.

Bake for 50 - 60 minutes at 180C until the cake is golden brown and feels firm. Cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before removing the sides of the springform tin. Dust with icing sugar before serving, if liked. The cake can be served warm as a dessert, or at room temperature as a cake.

Adding the orange elements - marmalade and orange zest - gave this cake a light refreshing flavour and made the mixture of apples and dried fruit more suitable for a summer cake.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Courgette Cake

There was nothing really wrong with this cake - it had a pleasant flavour and contained sultanas and pecans for variations of texture (chewiness and crunchiness) - but there was nothing there that excited me! It was just 'pleasant', which is low down on my judgement scale for cakes!

I used this recipe from Nigel Slater. The recipe was easy to follow, although my loaf took a few minutes longer to cook than the time suggested in the recipe.

I think the basic problem is that I want courgette cakes to be light and fluffy, like many carrot cakes I've tried, including my favourite from Good Food, but because there is so much more moisture in a courgette, even after squeezing out as much as possible, this just isn't going to happen. Adding apple probably only makes things worse, in this respect. If anyone has a recipe which does make a light sponge-like cake, please let me know!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Gingerbread Cake

This is a recipe that I found when I first started baking with oil instead of butter. Health messages have changed since then, although low saturated fats are still advised by many dietitians when cholesterol levels need to be managed. I'm happy to bake with butter, but I really like this recipe, as it is quick and easy to put together, and makes a light but traditional tasting gingerbread - one where the top get stickier with time!

My recipe is an adaptation of this recipe for a Molasses and Olive Oil Gingerbread Cake, which I found to be too bitter and not spicy enough when I first tried it. I substituted golden syrup for some of the molasses/black treacle, increased the ginger and used sunflower oil rather than olive oil, as the flavour of olive oil is lost in a strongly flavoured cake.

350g plain flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda 
3 teaspoons ground ginger 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
90mls (6 tablespoons) sunflower oil 
150g caster sugar 
1 egg
250mls of roughly equal parts golden syrup and black treacle and 250mls hot water (mixed together in a measuring jug).

Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a deep 20cm (8") square cake tin with baking parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar and oil until emulsified.
Add alternate portions of the flour mix and the diluted syrups to the egg mixture, stirring just enough to mix evenly, but not beating.
Transfer the batter to the baking tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack.