Archive for May, 2010

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Spice Cakes

May 26, 2010


I’ve made two different spice cakes recently. The first was the Black Pepper Spice cake (see recipe below) from my favourite Cake Keeper Cakes. I’ve made this before and knew the intended recipient was a fan of black pepper so made it again. I often feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out using a recipe I’ve tried before when baking; there are so many recipes out there to try, why resort to something you’ve made before? But I have to say the cakes in this book are so delicious and the recipes so reliable that I go back to it frequently, especially when baking for a special occasion. I upped the pepper quota a little to ensure it’s presence was felt and also left in the walnuts which I’ve omitted previously and they provided a lovely bite to the soft crumb of the cake. This time I also added the glaze which I left off previously (out of laziness I suspect) and I’m glad I did. It really added another dimension, the zingy citrus offsetting the warmth of the spices. I resolve to pay more attention to suggested glazes in recipes from now on rather than viewing them with suspicion as just another way to add sugar.

I also made this Spiced Brown Sugar Carrot Loaf but wasn’t as enamored. I think I expected something moister having baked so much with courgettes recently, and bolder on the spice front. Having said that I tried it fairly soon after baking and it may be one that develops over time like so many. If I were to make it again I would definately play around, perhaps using half courgettes, half carrots and I would increase the spices, which to be fair the author does recommend – it’s also suggested you eat spread with butter which may get around the moistness issue, and be extra delicious I’m sure! I followed the recipe apart from using half wholemeal flour half plain, and reduced the sugars slightly (light brown from 262g to 225g and the caster from 112g to 75g). I also had to employ the use of my rolling pin to give the base of the tins a pretty good whack to help get the finished loaves out, I did grease and flour the tins, but if you might want to line them too if you give the recipe a go!

Black Pepper and Spice Cake
Cake Keeper Cakes

330ml Buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 Tsp vanilla extract
300g flour
90g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 Tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinamon
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp black pepper
112g butter
225g sugar

I cup icing sugar
Juice of a lemon

Preheat oven to 180C, grease and flour a bundt tin.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer on high speed for at least 3 mins until light and fluffy, meanwhile whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring jug and combine the dry ingredients, including nuts, in a large bowl.

With the mixer on low add a third of the four mixture beating until just incorporated followed by half of the buttermilk, scraping down the sides as needed, repeat – ending with the last of the flour mixture. Turn the mixture up to medium high and beat for one minute.

Scrape into the prepared pan, bake for 40 -45 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 mins before turning out onto a rack to allow to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth mixture – it should be fairly thick to drizzle over the cake and allowed to run down the sides. Allow to set for about half an hour before serving.


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An Abundance of Bundts

May 12, 2010
How I love my Bundt tins.


To begin with I coveted these tins of beauty and mystery from afar via my laptop and all the food blogs – most of which are American – that I somewhat obsessively check daily. There was something so tantalising about them, cake in a brand new form, akin to seeing recipes familiar yet strange in their use of zucchini and arugula (an I still don’t understand the different forms of cocoa powder you can get in the US, nor which is the version we have here, but I have mastered converting from cup measures, once managed to make my own ‘cake flour’ and have grasped that a ‘stick’ of butter weighs 112g). Then I saw one for sale in Lakeland and discovered how amazing the cakes contained within these tins can be; both to bake and to eat. Versatile, simple, yet their presentation punches well above their weight. Plus (and this is a massive bonus for one not gifted with a delicate touch) their design negates the need for icing – even if a recipe calls for a glaze or ganache, perhaps a dusting of icing sugar, it can be drizzled over in a haphazard manner and most of the time it’s not needed at all. The beauty of these cakes lies in the flavour that can be packed into those beautifully designed tins.

Have I convinced you yet to go out and invest in one? If not, then just remember that most Bundt recipes can be divided into two 9×5 loaf tins.

Since that initial Lakeland tin my collection has grown, so much so that I’ve just arranged for extra shelving to be put up in my increasingly cluttered kitchen, lest the current cabinets detach from the wall under their collective weight (although the uncontrollable baking recipe book fetish may pose more of a risk).

Family and friends are grateful, not only for there now to be an entry under the heading ‘hobby’ with which to aid their gift buying, but also as recipients of the finished products. Everyone’s a winner, from the dairies that provide the many cartons of buttermilk I get through in a month, via the supermarkets that provide the rest of the ingredients, to the neighbours, friends and colleagues who receive their share of the finished goods, to Weight Watchers et al who probably owe a week or two subscriptions to the products of my insomniac Sundays. Bundts even allow me my guiltiest pleasure – their cracked and domed tops, fresh from the oven can be tested and tasted whilst warm as this will soon become the hidden base. I tell you, there’s little that these tins can’t do – including helping you to make your Sunday Roast.

My recent obsession has been baking with bananas. I’ve discovered a couple of local shops that sell perfectly ripened bananas reduced in price as they’re too perfectly ripe for most consumers, but for a baker they’re just perfect. Supermarket bought bananas can take weeks to reach this stage so I’ve taken to walking round these various shops on a Saturday collecting fruit bursting with flavour (and occasionally out of their skins – I always take a plastic bag with me now) in order to bake on a Sunday morning. I’ve tried several recipes over the weeks and I think my adaptation from Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Banana Bundt recipe is not at all bad. I’m not sure when you can claim a recipe as your own, there are plenty of additions and a couple of substitutions in this recipe, but she certainly gave me the start I needed. I’ve added spices, reduced the sugar, swapped some of the flour for wholemeal and, of course, used buttermilk. This last Sunday morning was spent with this bread’s latest incarnation prompted by the gift of some amazing miniature tins – how great are these?

I can’t tell you the fun I had, the only problem was trying to choose which of my neighbours would get which shape and size cake. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I really hope you get to try baking Bundt soon.

Banana Bread

(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in ‘Baking From My Home to Yours)

 



225g butter
100g light muscavado sugar
150g caster sugar
450g (approx 4-5) mashed, very ripe bananas
Squeeze of lemon juice
225g wholemeal flour
225g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk ( I use one 284ml carton)

Preheat oven to 180C, grease tin(s) and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl
Mash bananas and squeeze over a little lemon juice
Beat together sugars and butter till light and fluffy – about 5 minutes with a stand mixer on medium high speed.
Beat in vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary
Reduce mixer speed to low and add the banana (batter may curdle, don’t worry), then half the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk then the remaining dry ingredients.
Once incorporated scrape into tin(s) and smooth the top(s) and place in the oven.

For one large Bundt bake for 64 – 70 minutes, but be sure to check after 20 minutes or so to see if the top is browning too quickly, if it is, cover the top loosely with foil. For the mini Bundt pans I baked for 25-30 and the teeny and tiny loaf tins, 20 -25 mins.

 

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Early Morning Sunshine

May 1, 2010


The glorious weather of late April has mostly vanished, unsurprisingly, in time for the bank holiday weekend. But I can let you into a little secret … if you wake just before dawn – open your eyes as the birds are starting to stir and the sky begins to lighten – then by the time you are sat with that first coffee of the morning and are awake enough to appreciate it – the sun will be shining in a gloriously clear sky. Chances are it will be gone by 8am when most are rousing themselves for the start of the long weekend, but one of the compensations of waking so early every morning is seeing that early morning sun. No matter how wet and windy the recent days have turned out to be I have had some early alone time with the sun which goes a long way to lifting low spirits.

Another highlight of my day has been checking on my seeds. My previous attempts at ‘gardening’ usually extend only as far as placing bought pots of blooming hydrangeas around my garden, enjoying their mop-headed beauty before butchering them at the end of the season with the secateurs, a pruning from which they never quite recover. My small garden is littered with lopsided, near-corpses from previous years. To date the thing I am most proud of in my garden is not killing the poppy and christmas rose that were already established when I moved in ten years ago. I have, however, been seduced by the BBC2 series ‘Edible Garden’ something about the programme made growing my own veg, from seed, seem possible. Whilst part of the attraction of the half hour slot is coveting Alys Fowler’s beautiful garden – and wondering why I can’t manage to pull off the wearing of wellington boots in quite the same way – the big draw for me is the flexibility she conveys in how and what you can grow in a limited space. By choosing the right varieties, or just harvesting early, the smallest of spaces will hopefully provide some ingredients for my kitchen.

One thing I knew I wanted to grow was courgettes, I hope for a glut so I can bake with them, grate and add to my porridge, I’m also hoping for beetroot – again for the baking possibilities. There are radish which I hope to nibble on and I am hopeful for dwarf beans and kale. All have germinated so far, other than the beetroot which are being a little shy and the chili seeds. There’s still time. It’s all quite exciting.

So, early Saturday morning, with the earliest morning sun shining on my my seeds, me feeling so proud (and more than a little grateful that the cat hasn’t watered the trays too) I aimed for the perfect morning by baking. I had bookmarked an Orange Marmalade Tea Cake back in February from Deeba’s blog ‘Passionate about Baking’ which is one of my favourite sites. Her photo’s are stunning and whilst I couldn’t hope to recreate most of what she does in terms of presentation and styling I had all the ingredients for this cake.

I made made a few changes to the recipe Deeba lists, which she herself had adapted, I used half wholemeal flour and reduced the sugar as well as adding a little ginger. I also doubled the quantities listed for a loaf cake as I had plenty of courgettes and went with muffins for easier distribution (and less washing up). Deeba used some, no doubt stunning, homemade bitter orange marmalade and the run of the mill jar I had handy could’ve done with being a bit tarter, perhaps some additional zest would’ve added a bit more zing. If you’re going to make this and buy marmalade specifically for it I would go for a sharper variety with decent chunks of orange rind, I might even make again with a smattering of stem ginger. As they are below they are so light, with each bite offering a slightly different taste or texture due to the distribution of the orange, walnuts and chocolate chips. In honour of the hour when these were baked I have rechristened them…


Sunshine Muffins

Makes 16 muffins or 2 5″ x 9″ Loaves

262g plain flour
262g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g grated courgettes (approx 4 small)
1 cup / 375g marmalade (approx one jar)
250g caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 175C and line muffin tins with papers
Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and spices.
Mix all the other ingredients, except the walnuts, in a large bowl until combined , making sure there are no large lumps of marmalade.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet
Stir in the walnuts then fill the muffin cases to just over 3/4 full each (I used a 1/4 cup measure, the muffins don’t rise that much)
Bake for 25 minutes until the tops are starting to brown and are firm to the touch, or until a skewer comes out clean.