May 19, 2017

RHUBARB AND ALMOND CAKE

rhubarb and almond cake

The rhubarb season is in full swing and long gone are the days when all I made with it is a crumble or a pie.  This cake with rhubarb and orange is a classic combination and with the moistness given by the almonds it makes a delicious cake, or dessert if served while still slightly warm with some cream, custard or crème anglaise.

rhubarb and almond cake2

The recipe comes from the Sainsbury’s website and this is the first time I have made it.  I made and wrote about a similar cake last year which also contained rosemary and amaretti biscuits, but I think I prefer this one, which is easier and quicker to make. 

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In fact it takes little more time and trouble than making a crumble, but looks and tastes good enough for guests as well as being a slightly special rhubarb pudding for a family meal.   You can see the original recipe here.  I used a slightly smaller tin than suggested in order to make a deeper cake.

rhubarb and almond cake4

Ingredients

150g softened butter or spreadable butter such as Flora Buttery

150g golden caster sugar (plus 2 tblsp extra)

2 eggs

200g ground almonds

100g self raising flour

zest of 1 large orange

1 tsp baking powder

400g rhubarb, trimmed, wiped and cut into roughly 4 cm lengths.  Also slice in half along the length of any pieces that are very thick

2 tblsp approx flaked almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a 21cm round springform or loose bottomed tin and line with baking paper.

Cream together the butter and 150g sugar with an electric whisk.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Add the ground almonds and orange zest.  Sift over the flour and baking powder and mix well to combine.

Spoon half of the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  Arrange slightly less than half of the rhubarb on top.  You needn’t be too particular about the arrangement as this layer will not be seen but keep the rhubarb away from the edge of the tin.  Sprinkle over about 1 tblsp of the extra sugar.

Carefully spoon the rest of the cake mixture over the fruit and level the top.  Arrange the rest of the rhubarb in circles on top, again keeping it away from the sides.  Sprinkle over the remaining 1 tblsp sugar and the flaked almonds.

Bake for about an hour until golden brown.  Test for doneness and cover with foil to bake for a further 10-15 minutes until done.  (Mine was done in just over the hour.)

Cool in the tin.

Remove when still slightly warm if serving as a dessert, otherwise leave to cool completely before turning out.

Cuts into 8 good slices.

May 9, 2017

MOCHA AND AMARETTI MOUSSE

mocha and amaretti mousse

This recipe comes from the little book of chocolate recipes written by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, called “The little book of Chocolat”.  It’s a lovely book, full of very well written and doable recipes, each one styled on a character in the novel “Chocolat”.

mocha and amaretti mousse2

I have made chocolate mousse before, several times and with great success.  This one is different because it contains espresso coffee, thereby making it “mocha” and a layer of crushed amaretti biscuits.  As it was just after Easter, I adorned it with some micro chocolate eggs for decoration and, of course, added crunch and chocolate.

It was very easy to make and, as it needs to be well chilled before serving (a bit like me before dinner), I made it well in advance.  The wonderful thing is that not only was it excellent, the crushed biscuits still being crisp and crunchy after several hours in the fridge, but it was still excellent two days later. 

It makes six portions and there were five of us for dinner so one portion languished in the fridge for a full two days before we remembered it was there.  The biscuits were still crunchy, the little chocolate eggs had not sunk.  That tells me that it’s a very useful recipe indeed.  Maybe two days before serving is pushing it a bit but I would not hesitate to make this the day before a dinner party, knowing with confidence that it will still be delicious.

The serving glasses are my charity shop find from around Christmas which I am very pleased with.  The very small glass plates are from a stack of no less than twelve that I spotted on a table at a vide grenier (brocante) at Angles-sur-l’Anglin last month.  At five euros for the lot they are most definitely a bargain.  Especially as I have since remembered where I saw them for sale in a shop and for 1.50 euros each!  According to my maths that means, taking into account that I might just have bought them at full price if I had seen them,  I have roughly 13 euros to spend on more bargains……

Ingredients

100ml double cream

4 tblsp freshly made espresso coffee

200g dark chocolate, grated (using a food processor grating disc makes this part a lot easier and quicker than by hand)

4 eggs, separated

100g amaretti biscuits

Method

Gently warm the cream in a medium saucepan, remove from the heat and add the espresso and chocolate.  Stir until all the chocolate has melted and is well blended.

Whisk the egg yolks and add to the chocolate, stirring until blended in.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.  Mix about half into the chocolate mixture then fold in the rest.

Put the amaretti biscuits into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until crushed to small crumbs.

Fill six serving glasses about half way with the mousse and add a layer of amaretti crumbs.  Make sure you reserve some crumbs to decorate the top of each mousse.  Divide the rest of the mousse between the six glasses, filling carefully so as not to disturb the layer of crumbs.  Dust the tops with the remaining amaretti crumbs and add other decorations if you like.

Chill for at least two hours before serving.  Can be made well in advance.

Serves 6.

April 21, 2017

FISH AND CHIPS BIRTHDAY CAKE

fish and chips

I was recently asked to bake a birthday cake in the shape of a plate of fish and chips for someone whose favourite meal was…..fish and chips.

fish and chips2

Naturally I was pleased to be asked and began planning how I could do it.  As it happens I had a fish cake tin, bought from a French brocante a couple of years ago.  I used my easy lemon drizzle cake recipe and it turned out just right. 

Of course, the fish would have to be covered in batter to look authentic.  Getting the colour of the buttercream right proved to be tricky, especially here in France where baking supplies such as food colouring can be hard to find.  In the end I used a combination of apricot jam, prune jam and a tiny dash of gravy browning to get something approaching the right shade!

fish and chips3

I baked another batch of the lemon cake in a swiss roll tin and cut it into strips to resemble the chips.  For the peas I used marzipan coloured green with food colouring.  The vinegar was apple juice darkened with a little dark rum, the salt pot contained caster sugar and for ketchup I added a little pot of strawberry jam.

With the lights dimmed and the birthday candle lit, the birthday boy really did think for a moment that he was getting a plate of fish and chips.  He loved it, and I really enjoyed making it.

March 22, 2017

MARGARITA DRIZZLE CAKE

tipple9d

I made this cake for a boozy themed CCC event last year.  The basic ingredients for a margarita are lime juice and tequila so you get the gist of this cake.

I adapted a recipe for a lemon drizzle Bundt cake I’d used before and simply exchanged the lemon for lime and tequila.  It worked very well and turned out of the tin beautifully, giving lovely sharp lines.  This is such a good cake tin, the “heritage” design from Nordic Ware, a mixture of fun, frivolity and elegance all rolled into one.  The first time I set eyes on it, in the very blog that the lemon cake recipe comes from, I knew I had to have one.  It was a good investment, as a tin like this can turn an ordinary cake into a showstopper, with or without any kind of icing.  Just a sprinkling of icing sugar is really all that’s needed, if anything.

Ingredients

225g softened unsalted butter, or spreadable butter

400g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

4 large eggs

2 tsp baking powder

350g plain flour

175ml milk

3 tblsp tequila

zest of 2 limes

For the drizzle

juice of 2 limes

1 tbslp tequila

150g icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.  Butter and flour a Bundt tin.

Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. 

Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder, alternating with the liquids, and mix until smooth.  Add the lime zest and combine thoroughly.

Spoon carefully into the tin, pushing the mixture into the nooks and crannies, and smooth the top.

Bake for about an hour, until done.  Cool in the tin for ten minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack.

To make the drizzle, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in the lime juice and tequila.  While the cake is still warm, pierce all over with a fine skewer and spoon the drizzle over so that it soaks in.

Serves 16 plus.

March 13, 2017

DORSET APPLE CAKE

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This is another cake in my search for the perfect apple cake.  It comes from a book by Paul Hollywood called “British Baking”

The instructions say to make the cake in a 20cm square tin but I wanted a round cake which raised an interesting question.  If the instructions are for a square tin, what size should you use if you change to a round tin, and vice versa?

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There is a clue in Paul Hollywood’s recipe as he says to use a 20cm square or 22cm round tin.  I did a little research and found a simple rule that works best if you think of tin sizes in inches rather than centimetres.

If you imagine a square tin of say 9” and put a round 9” tin next to it you will see that the round tin could fit inside the square tin, leaving the corners empty.  In other words, the surface area and therefore the volume of a square tin is bigger than that of the same size round tin.  It’s obvious when you think about it.

So, in order to have a tin of about the same volume you have to go up a size in a round tin and vice versa.  For an 8” square tin use a 9” round tin.  For an 8” round tin use a 7” square tin.  And so on.

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Back to the cake itself.  The rubbing in method was easy and quick to make but the final mixture was a bit stiff so I added a good splash of extra milk to make it workable and to get it into the tin. 

This was a good cake.  It was, if anything, not quite as moist as I would have liked.  I attribute this to the variety of apples.  They were some kind of dessert apple but I can’t now remember which exactly and in any case I find French apple varieties very confusing.  One day I will no doubt be more familiar with them but for now it’s pot luck when I buy them in the supermarket.

The original ingredients say two dessert apples and one Bramley, which would of course reduce to mush and therefore presumably make the cake more moist.  I used three of the same dessert apples as you never see Bramleys in French shops, and they remained very firm.  This was good in the sense that there were distinct apple slices in the cake but not so good for adding moisture, or so I guess.

Anyway, I think it’s my favourite apple cake so far.  Next time I would add a little apple compote to compensate for the lack of a mushy Bramley and I would bake it in a slightly smaller tin to make a deeper cake. 

We are inching closer to the perfect apple cake recipe I think!

Ingredients

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

100g cold unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

2 dessert apples

1 small Bramley or cooking apple

2 eggs

60ml milk

1 tblsp demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method

Preheat the oven to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line a 20cm square or 22cm round tin.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter to fine breadcrumbs.

Peel and thinly slice the apples and add to the flour with the caster sugar, stir until combined.

Beat the eggs with the milk and add to the mixture, stir until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top and bake for 40-50 minutes until done.  Cool slightly then turn out to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Cuts into 9 generous squares or slices.

February 15, 2017

“DUTCH” APPLE CAKE

dutch apple cake

In the beginning…….a cake was a cake and a pudding was a pudding.  Then……along comes the dessert cake. 

In my book, a cake is something you can pick up from the plate with your fingers and eat without having too much of it running down your chin.  You might want to use a cake fork in polite company but you wouldn’t expect to look like a bag lady after just a couple of mouthfuls.

A pudding is something you would eat with a fork or, better still, a spoon, especially if it’s accompanied by a good dollop of custard, cream or ice cream.

So where, may I ask, does the dessert cake fit in?

dutch apple cake2

This recipe comes from a book by Rachel Allen called “bake” and it’s described as a cake.  And very popular it is if you are to believe the words in the book.

I love Rachel Allen’s recipes.  They always work and I have never had a bad result with one.  But this is not a cake, it is most definitely a pudding.  Or, to be charitable, a dessert cake.

There was a clue in the recipe where it said to leave the cake to cool in the tin and serve in squares.  No mention was made of turning it out and serving it on a plate.  It was my idea to do that, thinking it was a cake because it was called a cake.

dutch apple cake3

The recipe states quite clearly that the apples will sink to the bottom and they did.  No problem with that except that that would make it impossible to eat the cake as if it was a cake.  A pudding it most definitely is.  The next time I make it – and there will be many, many next times as it was utterly delicious – I will make it in a pudding dish and serve it in slices, or even spoonfuls, straight from the dish and have done with it!

There was a nervous moment as I took it out of the oven and saw that for some reason the middle had developed an entirely different crust from the rest of it.  I presumed the middle was still completely uncooked but no, it was beautifully done.  Although it did sink in the middle.

dutch apple cake4

So, the next time I think I might make an apple crumble or Eve’s pudding, I will make one of these instead.  I won’t bother too much about how the apple slices are arranged on top because they sink to the bottom where you can’t see them.

My quest to find the perfect apple cake continues but as for a perfect apple pudding – this one would take some beating.

Ingredients

2 eggs

175g golden caster sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

75g butter

75ml milk

125g plain flour

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2¼ tsp baking powder

1 large cooking apple

1 tblsp golden caster sugar for sprinkling

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Line a 20cm square (or 23cm round) cake tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until thick and mousse-like and ribbons of mixture form when dropped from the whisk.  This may take about 5 minutes.

Put the milk and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted.  Pour in to the egg mixture and whisk in as you pour.

Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold in gently.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Peel and core the apple and slice thinly.  Arrange over the top of the mixture and sprinkle the extra caster sugar on top.

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Bake for a further 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

Cool in the tin and serve in squares or spoonfuls with custard, cream or ice cream.

Cuts into 8-9 portions.

February 11, 2017

LEMON BISCUITS

lemon biscuits

I rarely make biscuits of any kind but, with visitors expected, I decided to make some for a change.  Time was short and I thought they would be quicker and easier to do than rustling up a cake or buns of some kind, with fewer ingredients to weigh out and less baking time needed.

lemon biscuits4

I used Mary Berry’s recipe for Fork Biscuits, adding some lemon zest for flavour.  They were done in no time at all and turned out really well.

lemon biscuits2

They were crisp, crunchy, crumbly, light and buttery with a hint of lemon.  Hardly any effort at all to make and well worth it.  They were just the right size, easy to eat and kept well in a tin for a few days – until they were gone!  An excellent recipe that I will definitely be using again.

Ingredients

100g softened butter or Flora Buttery

50g caster sugar

150g self raising flour

grated zest of 1 lemon

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Lightly butter two baking sheets.

Put the butter into a large bowl and beat until light and soft.  Beat in the caster sugar and lemon zest.  Next beat in the flour.

Using your hands, bring the mixture together into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Cut it into quarters then cut each quarter into four which will make 16 balls about the size of a large walnut.

Arrange the balls on the baking trays, 8 on each, spaced well apart.  Using a fork dipped into a jug of cold water, flatten each biscuit and leave the fork pattern in the top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown.  Lift carefully off the trays and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.