Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Spelt Flour Gingerbread

I've alluded to health problems within the family in a few of my recent posts, which have cut down on my free time and resulted in very little baking taking place. I'm sad to say that I'm now entering a new phase of my life - living on my own for the first time ever. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour in June, after becoming ill while on holiday in France; an operation failed to halt its aggressive growth and he passed away last week, just 4 months after diagnosis.

I'm not sure what this will mean in terms of this blog - I love baking, but a small cake suitable for two to eat over a few days is too much for me to get through, especially as I'm prone to gaining weight easily. I could bake things suitable for freezing, but if I'm taking slices of cake, or rolls of biscuit dough, out of the freezer, that still means fewer opportunities to try new recipes. We'll have to see how things work out!

This gingerbread was baked when I was expecting family to visit over the weekend; what wasn't eaten was taken home by my children. It is as good as a traditional gingerbread, which gets a sticky top over time, but uses oil instead of butter. My original recipe uses plain flour, but this time I used a mixture of plain wheat flour and spelt flour - only because I haven't managed to keep my storecupboard well stocked lately, and didn't have enough plain flour. Because of the strong flavours of the spices and treacle in the gingerbread, I don't think the flavour of the spelt was evident at all, but it's nice to know the recipe worked with one of the more 'fashionable' grains.

150g plain flour
200g spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
250mls of roughly equal amounts of golden syrup and black treacle, mixed with 250mls hot water (ie 500mls liquid in total)

Preheat oven to 170C (150C fan), and line a 20cm (8") square deep cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the flours, bicarb, spices and salt into a medium sized bowl and whisk together to distribute the spices evenly.
In a large bowl whisk the oil, egg and sugar to a smooth emulsion.
Add alternate portions of the flour mix and the syrup mixture to the emulsion in the large bowl, stirring just enough to blend the mixture together - no need to beat.
Transfer the batter to the cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the baking tin.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Date, Apple and Walnut Cake

I bought walnuts for my last bake - Nigella's Emergency Brownies - and I know that they don't keep fresh for long, so decided to use them in this cake too. I added a twist to the traditional British autumnal flavours of dates, apples and walnuts by using date syrup in place of some of the sugar and adding a little rosewater too.

100g softened butter
75g caster sugar
3 tablespoons date syrup
*1 teaspoon rosewater
2 large eggs
150g SR flour
50g chopped soft dates
50g chopped walnuts
1 small eating apple, peeled cored and chopped
a sprinkle of demerara sugar for topping (optional)

*or to taste, depending on the strength of the brand you are using

Preheat oven to 180C (fan 160C) and line a small 450g (1lb) loaf tin. I used a loaf tin liner, but baking parchment can be used too.
Put the butter, sugar, syrup, rosewater, eggs and flour into a large bowl and beat together until the mixture is smooth and light. If the batter seems too thick, add a little milk or water to give a dropping consistency.
Stir in the dates, walnuts and apple pieces.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the surface and sprinkle on the demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for about 60 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using the date syrup intensified the date flavour, and deepened the colour of the cake crumb, which I was pleased about. I liked the flavour combination of dates, apples and walnuts with rosewater, but it became a summery cake rather than an autumnal one. Probably fitting, as we seem to be having a bit of an Indian summer at the moment, but for a really seasonal cake a little cinnamon or other spice would have been better than the rosewater.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Nigella Lawson's Emergency Brownies

Many people I know are at a stage of their lives where they don't need to cook for large numbers; for whatever reason most of their cooking is done for only one or two people. This is something that makes baking particularly difficult, at least for me - a standard sized cake can take 4 or 5 days for 2 people to eat. I could freeze slices of cake, but my freezer organisation is notoriously bad so I'm sure I'd end up with a drawer full of slices that had dried out and grown ice crystals, so would have to be thrown away in the end.

It seems that Nigella Lawson may have found herself in the position of craving cake and/or chocolate, but being unwilling to bake something large, as her new book, At My Table, contains a recipe for these Emergency Brownies - a recipe based on one egg and making only 4 generously sized brownies (or even fewer if your craving is really strong!).

I can't link to the recipe as it's not online anywhere yet, but I'm sure it will be soon appear once the TV series accompanying the book is shown, and the book is being more vigourously promoted. Suffice to say that butter, sugar and syrup (I used Maple) are melted together gently to dissolve the sugar. Then a mixture of plain flour and cocoa is beaten in, an egg and vanilla extract added, and finally chopped walnuts and chocolate chips added (I used chopped plain chocolate with orange pieces). The batter is baked in a foil tray which is approximately 18 x 11cm (I couldn't find that exact size, but it's roughly the same as a 1lb loaf tin, or this size of container from Lakeland).

20 minutes baking left these brownies still slightly gooey in the centre even when completely cold. They were very rich - I ate two pieces and felt I had reached my limit - and quite heavy; not the best brownies I've ever eaten but a really good small-scale recipe. I'll certainly be using it again. The orange flavour from the chocolate I used was a nice note alongside the walnuts, but I can see this recipe working well with all the flavour variations I use in brownies - different nuts, spices etc