Sunday, 30 October 2016

Chai Swirl Loaf Cake

My local branch of The Clandestine Cake Club held it's most recent meeting to coincide with the Great British Bake-Off final. I think it was an inspired idea from our organiser as it was fun to watch the final in the company of other enthusiastic bakers.  A very brief video of our meeting was even shown on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show the following day, during her tribute to GBBO and it's demise from the BBC.

For me, the final was a bit of an anti-climax, as it lacked the tensions of the previous weeks. Without an elaborate show-stopper which required assembly, there were no nail-biting moments when collapse looked imminent, and after the picnic finale, it seemed to me that Candice won more because of the others' soggy pastry than anything really outstanding on her part, which isn't how it should be.

Our brief for taking a cake to the Clandestine Cake Club meeting was any recipe from any of the GBBO contestants over the 7 years of competition. I have to admit that I don't own any books by any of the contestants (although I would like Chetna Makan's book), so I had to trawl the internet to see what I could find. I wanted something unusual in flavour, but not so fancy or complicated that I wouldn't enjoy baking it.

Because of her time as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper, there were a lot of Ruby Tandoh's recipes available. I made one of the recipes she published during that time and wasn't very impressed with the result, which rather put me off trying any more, but when I couldn't find anything else suitable from other contestants I had another look and found this recipe for a Chai Swirl Loaf Cake. It's based on the classic sponge cake proportions, and has a swirl of marbling made by adding brown sugar, and the spices traditionally used to flavour chai, to a portion of the batter. The recipe adds a cream cheese frosting, but I didn't use that for the trial bake.

For the trial I simplified the recipe by making an all-in-one sponge with SR flour and an extra half teaspoon of baking powder. Experience has shown that for simple cakes the all-in-one method works as well as the traditional creaming method, as long as the butter is very soft. I decided to add an extra tablespoon of milk to slacken the batter slightly, so that it would spread more easily in the cake tin.

The recipe suggested dolloping alternate spoonfuls of batter into the cake tin, and running a knife through to marble the two mixtures together, but the accompanying photo showed a cake produced by layering the batters alternately and letting the convection currents within the batter swirl the mixture as it cooked. I prefer this method which gives a much smarter appearance. So, starting with the plain batter, I layered up four layers of batter alternately with three layers of flavoured batter. Each layer was roughly two heaped tablespoons of batter, and needed to be eased towards the sides of the tin, although the weight of each successive layer helps spread those beneath.

The spices used in the flavoured portion of batter were cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper and they came together with the extra sugar to make a really unique mixture - warm, mellow, and sweet, with a slight mouth-tingling kick. I didn't think the cake really needed any frosting, as it was light and tender, but I did add a cream cheese frosting to the cake I make for the CCC meeting, although not Ruby's recipe, as I have a very reliable recipe from Dan Lepard. As usual, baking a cake for others didn't go as smoothly as the trial bake - for one thing, the cake stuck to my baking parchment liner - how could that have happened? - and the swirls weren't as well defined, but those who tried it really liked the unusual flavour.

This cake may not have been a show-stopper in appearance, but it was certainly a star when it came to flavour!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Blackberry and Coconut Crumble Cake

This cake is based on this recipe, although I made a few minor changes along the way. For a start, I didn't have enough butter in the house, so I decided to use coconut oil instead. As I reduced the amount of fat used in the recipe, to compensate for coconut oil being 100% fat, I thought I would need more liquid in the cake batter, but I only needed about half the volume of milk suggested in the recipe (and a couple of tablespoons of rum), to give a good dropping consistency. If I'd used the amount of liquid originally suggested, I'm not sure the blackberries would have stayed on the surface.

These are the ingredients I used to make the sponge base, which was spread into a 22cm springform tin: 160g coconut oil, 170g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, 2 tablespoons rum, 150g SR flour, 150g plain flour, enough milk to give a dropping consistency (about 100mls). On top of this I spread 230g blackberries in a single layer, then topped with a crumble mix made from 75g plain flour, 50g butter, 55g light muscovado sugar and 45g desiccated coconut. This was baked at 180C for 85 minutes, covered with foil after an hour.

I wasn't expecting a light sponge, as there was double the amount of flour to fat and sugar, and half of it was plain flour, but this really was a dense cake! It was very tasty though, as it wasn't over-sweet and the tang of the blackberries was still evident. The coconut in the crumble added a good flavour and texture, and it was nice to use blackberries with something other than apples.

Because of the denseness of the sponge, this would probably have been better as a warm dessert, with custard, as suggested. I think if I made it again as a cake, I would use all SR flour to try to make it a little lighter.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Apple Pie Flapjacks

Although these flapjacks, containing fresh apple, certainly filled the kitchen with the smell of apple pie while they were baking, to me, with the texture given by the oats, they were more evocative of apple crumble, as I always use oats in my crumble mixes.

I have to admit that I was dubious about this recipe. Would adding such a large amount of grated apple put too much moisture into the mix? Would it hold together? Would the flapjacks be crisp, chewy or just a soggy mess? The oat mixture made a good thick layer in the baking tin, which was a promising start, as thin flapjacks can become too crisp.

In fact, the flapjacks were fine, while they were fresh, but they didn't keep that well, becoming progressively more moist until they were much too soft for my taste. I like my flapjacks chewy, rather than biscuit-crisp, but I don't like them flabby. The flavour was excellent though, so if the flapjacks are going to be eaten all in one go, soon after baking - at a Hallowe'en or Bonfire party, for instance - then I'd say go for it!

Adding fresh apple reduced the 'almost too much' sweetness that you can get with flapjacks too, as well as making them seem more healthy, and the flavour of apples and cinnamon came through well. If there was any criticism it would be that 50g of walnuts wasn't enough to make a real impact.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Orange and Ginger Brownies

an extra post for Chocolate Week

I wasn't going to post this recipe, as it was a hurriedly made treat for my son to take home with him after having dinner with us, and I wasn't sure I'd get time for any photographs, but I've been reminded several times on Facebook that it's Chocolate Week this week. Nearly every week is chocolate week here, but I hadn't planned a post based on baking with chocolate.

This was my basic brownie recipe, which is dense and fudgy, with the zest of an orange and some  crystallised ginger added. Delicious!

Melt together 140g butter and 140g plain chocolate. Add 300g light muscovado sugar and the finely grated zest of an orange, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. If necessary, cool this mixture a little before the next stage, so that the mixture isn't too hot to take the eggs. Add three eggs, one at a time and beat in. Sieve in 160g plain flour and 3 tablespoons of cocoa and fold in. Lastly fold in 50g (or more if you have it, I was using the last of a pack!) of crystallised ginger, chopped as coarsely or finely as you like. Transfer the batter to a 20cm (8") square tin, lined with baking parchment, and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes until just set. Cool in the tin.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Apple and Orange Fruit Loaf

When I'm short of inspiration, I sometimes look back over my blog posts to find cakes I thought were worth making again. I first tried this recipe back in October 2012, so it's taken me a while to get back to it, but it was worth making again!

When I originally made this Orange Frosted Apple Cake, I left out the nuts and just used an orange glacé icing on top. This time I made a few more changes: I used spelt flour instead of wholemeal, sunflower oil rather than rapeseed, walnuts instead of pecans, and a mix of dried vine fruits, berries and cherries. Instead of frosting the cooked cake, I sprinkled some crushed raw sugar cubes over the batter before baking to give a crunchy topping - I find the extra fat and sugar in frostings unnecessary in many cases, unless the cake is for a special occasion.

The grated apple and yogurt used in the cake add moistness, and mean that less fat - in this case, sunflower oil - can be used. Adding the apple also cuts down on the sugar needed, so this is a relatively healthy cake, especially without the frosting! The apple doesn't add much to the flavour of the cake, so in this case the walnuts and spices were the predominant flavours, with a subtle orange background note.

I really don't know why I waited so long to make this cake again, as it's a really good light fruit cake and can be varied according to which dried fruits and nuts are available.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Fudgy Chocolate and Pistachio Slice

I intended to bake this recipe, for mocha brownies on a shortbread base, but when I found myself with half a packet of digestive biscuits which needed to be used up, I decided to put the fudgy topping from the recipe onto a biscuit crumb base instead.

I think I used about 150g of biscuits and 75g melted butter to make the crumb base, which I pressed into the base of a 20cm ( 8") square baking tin, and chilled while I made the topping. The mixture for the topping was very easy to put together, as it is based on a can of condensed milk.

To a 400g can of condensed milk add: 30g plain flour, 1 large egg, 65g cocoa, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 2 teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water. When this is evenly combined, fold in 75g of chopped nuts - in this case I used pistachios. Spread the mixture over the crumb base and bake at 180C for about 25 minutes until the centre is set. Cool in the tin and cut into squares or fingers when cold.

These little treats were delicious. The topping is like a really fudgy sweet brownie, as you'd expect from using a can of condensed milk. My only criticism was that the amount of crumb base wasn't enough. I used the amount of biscuits I had available, but if I made these again I would use more biscuits and butter to make a thicker base.

I'm sending this to October's We Should Cocoa link-up, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme. Any recipe containing some form of chocolate is welcome to be added.