Archive for November, 2009

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Citrus Cakes for Birthdays

November 29, 2009
The past week has seen the creation of two citrus themed birthday cakes. The first followed a request for a lemon birthday cake and I went with another Mary Berry Recipe. Her Crunchy Top Lemon Cake is a lemon infused sponge with a sugar and lemon glaze pasted onto the piping hot cake, as usual I substituted the milk in the recipe with buttermilk, I really need to start making comparison cakes to see exactly what difference this makes.

The second was for my 35th Birthday and I recently bookmarked a recipe for a lemon cake with gin drizzle from Madalane of The British Larder (not sure if I was searching for cake or gin at the time – either is likely). I think because this cake was going to be for me I felt able to be more adventurous and decided to play around a little more than I usually do. Having made a fair few lemon cakes over the year I didn’t really want one for my birthday but the gin was fitting. My mother had a recipe for a Gin and Grapefruit Sorbet that was part of every Christmas celebration I can remember and one of my favourite party dishes. It’s a wonderfully sharp and refreshing way to cut through the richness of any feast, whilst ensuring that your alcohol levels remain topped up – and no feast is complete without gin in my opinion. Deb from Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for a Grapefruit Yoghurt cake so I went about combining the two. I baked it for about 35 mins and this was a little too long, the edges had started to brown so I will check earlier next time. The ‘drizzle’ is just that, however the original recipe had more icing sugar (100g) and less gin (10ml) so was more of a glaze, it was poured over the cakes after they’d been turned out of their tins (after 5 mins, so while still warm), I may try this next time as the photos of the originals look so pretty.

Gin and Grapefruit Cake
120g butter
170g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs
60mk buttermilk
Zest of 2 grapefruit
Juice of half a grapefruit
1/4tsp of salt

Grease and flour a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180C
Mix butter and sugar until light and creamy, combine buttermilk and eggs in a jug then add to batter in stages.
Add zest and juice then sift in flour, baking powder and salt and combine without over mixing.
Bake for 30 – 35 mins

The Drizzle
Juice of one grapefruit
70g of icing sugar
15ml (ahem) gin, I used Tanqueray of course

Keeps well for a couple of days wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight container.

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It Must Be Sunday

November 15, 2009
I know I named this blog Spatulas at Dawn because of my early starts and love of filling the small hours with the smell of baking, but I really think that a 4 am start in November is taking things a little too far. Dawn was still several hours away when sat with coffee and recipe books I tried to decide which cake to bake in honour of National Bundt Day which is celebrated on the 15th November in the US.

I love my Bundt cake tin (and I’m hoping that Father Christmas might be able to fit another in my stocking this year – are you reading this Ces?) and rarely need an excuse to use it. As I mentioned the other day Mary, The Food Librarian, set herself the challenge of baking a bundt cake every day for the month leading up to National Bundt Day and I had a tin of pumpkin puree (thank you Waitrose) set aside for the day itself. After all, what could be a more fitting ingredient for this most American of bakeware than pumpkin? I already had my eye on a recipe for a Pumpkin and Chocolate bundt from the list on The Food Librarian’s site and my newest of books Cake Keeper Cakes (as recommended by Nicole at Baking Bites) had an almost identical one for a loaf cake. The average 9″ by 5″ loaf tin recipe can be doubled to fill a bundt so that’s what I did – see below. The original recipe called for milk but I used buttermilk and I also reduced the sugar slightly. Apologies for the mixture of measurments in US cups and metric, with some ingredients it’s easier to measure out in the original cups so I didn’t bother weighing to get the equivalent measure, sorry if that’s irritating, but it was early!

The resulting cake is so moist from the pumpkin and moorish with the differing textures I’m not sure how to do it justice here and hope that you give it a try soon.


Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chatman

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarb
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • generous pinch of nutmeg
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • one 15oz can of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of milk chocolate chips and chopped 70% Green and Blacks)
  • 2 cups of chopped walnuts

  • Preheat oven to 180C, grease your bundt tin and dust with flour
  • Mix flour, spices, bicarb, baking powder and salt
  • Beat sugar and butter until fluffy then add eggs one at a time, scraping the side of the bowl as needed
  • Stir in pumpkin and vanilla then the buttermilk
  • Add the flour in three batches, scraping the side of the bowl and then finally stir in the chocolate and walnuts
  • Pour batter into the bundt tin of your choice and bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean, cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wore rack. Allow to cool completely before attempting to cut

Should your bundt be reluctant to release itself from the tin (as mine was today as I forgot the all important ‘dust with flour’ step) pop the tin back into the oven for a few minutes to help release it (you may also require the help of several implements to aid the process, I used a knife, a rolling pin, a plastic spatula and a bit of brute force)

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A Win and a Fail

November 10, 2009

Another gathering for a night of ladyboy poker provided another baking opportunity. In a search for inspiration a brief email poll of participants returned the single word ‘chocolate’.
I had recently bookmarked a recipe for Chocolate, Coffee and Cardamon Cake with a view to a dinner party/poker dessert (rather than a bake and take to work kind of cake). I had fresh pods in the cupboard from the gingerbread earlier in the week and the pictures on Spice and More’s blog screamed dense richness, just what you need with a good bottle of red to induce a lucky hand. I followed the recipe on the site, using the reduced amount of sugar suggested, with 70% chocolate (I had Green and Blacks in the cupboard). I have a Gaggia coffee machine (possibly my most prized possession) so brewed a double espresso then strained the crushed cardamon pods and seeds which I’d simmered in water into the coffee before adding all the liquid at the point stated. The type of tin wasn’t specified but you’ll need a deep springform for this one. I didn’t bother with a ganache (and this wasn’t because of previous disasters, I believe I now have a foolproof recipe) I just didn’t think it looked like it needed it, the top of the cake looked so moist and was slightly cracked and I worried about masking the cardamon with more chocolate. When it came to serving, additional chocolate definitely wasn’t needed, it was so tasty on it’s own.

Along with the cake I also offered to cook the main. I have the Leon book and love it so much that I gave it to several people as Christmas presents last year, my sister is currently spreading the Leon love by giving copies as gifts. I needed a one pot veggie dish and the Egyptian Tamarind stew looked appealing, filled as it is with roasted aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and chickpeas (or fava beans if you can find them). I Googled it for additional hints and tips and discovered that it had been part of the Guardian’s cookalong series with the added bonus of a pilaf recipe to accompany it. You can get the transcript and recipes here. I used agave nectar rather than honey, partly to just use it and partly because I’m not a fan of honey and wasn’t sure how strong the taste of it would be. I think the agave worked, I added a little more tamarind than suggested and I think that I would split the chillies to get a little bit more of a kick. The smell of the pilaf was amazing as the heat hit the spices and everyone enjoyed it.

So, two wins on the food front were joined by two poker wins – yes I won both games! Unheard of. Only that day I’d been moaning that I was feeling a little despondent as I rarely won a hand never mind games or cold hard cash and was pretty much only going along for the company and baking opportunity. But win I did, and it felt good.
There was a baking fail though, perhaps fail is too strong a word as colleagues at work seemed to enjoy it, but I can’t say I was taken with the Cardamon Vanilla Bundt featured on the Food Librarian’s ‘I Like Big Bundts’ series (in the lead up to National Bundt day on November 15th). It was heavier than I expected and whilst it smelt divine whilst baking, the end result didn’t have enough vanilla or cardamom for me. Do check out the series though, there are some fantastic looking cakes on there.
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Gingerbread for an Autumnal Afternoon

November 2, 2009
I have just spent a lovely weekend with my brother, his family and their amazing new kitchen. I am still suffering from severe kitchen envy, the whole space was a thing of beauty, from the fridge that I’m sure I could fit inside to the cutlery drawer that would placate the most obsessive compulsive urges. Luckily he has yet to purchase a Kitchen Aid mixer or I may not have coped at all. After a long walk in the beech woods around Box he prepared a the most divine beef bourguignon and I, with help from my niece, nephew (and a perfect G&T or several) made the Apple and Date Cake from a few months ago this time with a handful of chopped pecans – a good addition should you wish to add a little crunch.

Anyway, an early shift at work today meant a few hours free this afternoon and I need to spread a little love and reconnect with my small, yet (almost) perfectly formed kitchen. I know Parkin is the order of the week, it being Bonfire Night on Thursday, but once again a tub of buttermilk dictated the recipe somewhat and I had bookmarked this Gingerbread recipe from Shauna at Bay Area Bites. I don’t remember how or when I came across it, but the range of spices she uses appeals and led to it being put to one side for autumn and here we are. As I type it’s cooling in the pan, I followed the recipe below with a few very minor changes which are in italics. Other than the grinding of the cardamon seeds (anyone know where to get ground cardamon? I can’t seem to find it anywhere) this came together in no time and was baked in 40 minutes.


SHUNA’S FAMOUS GINGERBREAD


18 ounces All Purpose Flour (I used half wholemeal)
6 ounces Sugar (
golden granulated but I wonder what a soft brown would be like)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
3 Tablespoons + Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Ground Cardamon (
I only had pods of which I ground a generous teaspoons worth of the seeds as I wasn’t sure if the ground seeds would be stronger than the pre-ground stuff)
1 teaspoon + Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon *optional: Ground Coriander* (
I didn’t use)

8 ounces Unsalted Butter
3 1/2 ounces Blackstrap Molasses
6 ounces Simple Syrup **recipe in instructions** you may substitute Lyle’s golden syrup or light corn syrup (
I used golden syrup)

3 each Large Egg Yolks
2 each Large Eggs
8 ounces buttermilk you may substitute sour cream or use a mixture of them both to create the eight ounces


**To make simple syrup place equal parts sugar and cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil until mixture is clear. For a thicker syrup boil for at least 10 minutes or increase the amount of sugar. For this recipe 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water will be sufficient.**


1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
2. Butter desired baking vessels. {Sometimes I coat with raw or white sugar inside as you would flour for a cake.}
3. Sift all dry ingredients except salt and pepper into a large bowl
4. Whisk in salt and pepper until mixture is uniform and create a “well” in center
5. In a medium non-reactive saucepan bring butter, molasses and simple syrup to a boil slowly {this mixture is feisty and will boil over if the heat is on too high or your saucepan is crowding it}
6. In another bowl whisk together egg yolks, eggs and dairy
7. When mixture on stove comes to a boil, shut off heat and let rest for a moment
8. Pour this hot mixture all at once into the center of your bowl of dry ingredients
9. Using a whisk, mix dry ingredients into liquid, from center out, carefully
10. When batter begins to seize, pour in second bowl of wet ingredients
11. Whisk batter until smooth and uniform. Batter is loose
12. Pour batter a little over halfway into buttered baking tins
13. I set my first timer for about 15 minutes, {unless you are making muffin-size or smaller}, so that I can turn the pan around for a more even bake (
I used a Bundt tin and it was done at 40 mins)
14. Gingerbread is done when sides pull away from the pan, middle bounces back to the touch and/or a cake-tester inserted in the center comes out clean
15. Cool at least until warm before slicing.