Archive for the ‘Spice Cakes’ Category

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Short & Sweet

November 4, 2011

I have been baking almost exclusively from Dan Lepard’s ‘Short & Sweet’ since it arrived a few weeks ago. A comprehensive compilation of recipes from choux to pita; muffins to meringues and tarts to tapenade dinner rolls. The ‘tips & techniques’ at the start of each  chapter – whilst present in any decent baking book – I’ve found more enlightening than usual. For example pointing out that ripe bananas are alkaline and may need the addition of more baking powder to stop the finished cakes turning out on the heavy side (noted Mr Lepard).

Dan writes a weekly column ‘How to Bake’ for the Saturday Guardian magazine. A regular cut-out-and-keep for me, my collection of his recipes are tucked between the pages of other baking books, and now they will have a place of their own. What I’m particularly pleased about is that the book isn’t just a collection of the recipes already available online and, as was recently pointed out in another review – the book stays open at the page required making life just a little easier.

 

 

 

I have now twice made the savoury choux pastry recipe and Black Olive Gourgeres (mini choux bites with thyme, garlic, parmesan and kalamata olives – divine). A chance to revisit the choux first attempted at River Cottage and to hone those skills. The gourgeres are a fantastic pre dinner party nibble as they can be made ahead and reheated easily before serving. They’re messy buggers to spoon onto a baking tray (line that tray with parchment) but they don’t need to be too uniform in shape as the their rough edges crisp up and add wonderful crunch.

 

 

 

The savoury choux paste with added parmesan and a hint of mace along with the cayenne (top spice tip from River Cottage – try it) was easier to work with although my quenelle-ing skills need a fair amount of work. I was able to try out my theory that a filling of horseradish creme fraiche would go well with the spicy buns. I can confirm it does make a lovely pairing; the light and crispy pastry, warm with gentle heat from the spices and parmesan compliments the smooth zingy and firey mixture of creme fraiche (I used low fat)  and horseradish (the English Provender Co makes a great substitute for the fresh stuff) lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Make your mixture and chill in the fridge before piping into the cooled buns. A great mixture that goes wonderfully well with beef or smoked fish too. Top tip of my own – remember to warn guests that the buns are filled. Chances are they will be eaten with glass in one hand and the eater’s focus on conversation – the spilling potential would seem to be moderately high.

 

 

 

From the sweeter end of the recipe selection I made the Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake for a neighbours birthday. A fine crumbed cake containing condensed milk it’s better for a day left well wrapped but pretty damn tasty straight away if it calls to you from the kitchen.

 

 

 

Another day found me looking at the collection of dried fruits in my baking cupboard. First off was a Cinnamon Honey Fruit Cake which I baked in a tray, all the better for portioning to share out (a suggestion made by Dan that I can confirm works well). This too benefits from sitting for a day or two and I really would leave it if you can, a far moister cake awaits you if you can resist. I used a mixture of prunes, figs and apricots as well as adding 100g of whole blanched almonds, which in the tray form didn’t have the opportunity to sink – mind you the batter is thick enough with chopped fruit that they should stay suspended even in a deep tin. The discovery of a nut adds delightful texture and interest to the bites of cake.

 

 

 

For me though the star of the show so far has been the Marrakesh Express Loaf Cake. Containing coffee, lots of walnuts and sesame seeds, rich sticky dates and pomegranate I felt sure I would enjoy it, but the layers of taste are amazing. Like a complex perfume it has a deep earthiness from the coffee and walnuts surrounded by the sweet dates and then the syrupy top notes of the pomegranate syrup float around your mouth. Dan says that treacle could substitute for the pomegranate syrup but I can’t believe the flavours would then dance around your palate in quite the same way. The syrup is worth getting if you can, a little goes a long way and if you enjoy middle easter food or follow the Ottolenghi column adjacent to Dan’s in the Guardian then you will find plenty of uses for it.

 

 

 

The recipe states half wholemeal or spelt flour and half hemp flour – I just used all wholemeal and it turned out fine, although I might just have to get me some spelt and hemp and see if the flavours can be any better.

 

 

 

There is still so much to try in the book and I know from last year that the Caramel Christmas Cake is a winner and sure to make another outing, or four, this year.

 

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Sharing the Love

November 9, 2010

I’m under no illusion about the reasons behind my baking, there is absolutely nothing altruistic in my providing treats for those around me. It is a fair and equal exchange between me, the baker, and those that receive the finished goods (bakee?).  If I didn’t live near such lovely people, or work with those whose company I enjoyed, I would bake far, far less. Or weigh far, far more. But I’m lucky. I have good neighbours, friends and colleagues and they enable me to indulge in my hobby and I know that they are lovely people, whose company I enjoy through, my baking.

The rewards extend beyond the pleasure I get from the recipe books I hoard, the planning and baking and even beyond watching others enjoy what I have created; my relationships with neighbours especially, have developed in part because I needed people to offload the products of my kitchen onto, which in turn has led to some good friendships.  At work, the baking provides a framework for connections and small talk, leading what can be odd office dynamics to develop into something more genuine.

Last week a colleague shared with me more apples from her garden, these apples have been a real bonus and  have provided a wonderful autumnal theme to recent baking sessions. I won’t repost the recipes in full, but this weekend I took the latest batch of apples and made a stock of apple sauce as per Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Most went into the freezer for future use, but one batch was saved for Sunday’s pre-dawn (I’m looking forward to spring already) baking session and her Spiced Applesauce Cake. I didn’t bother with the frosting and I really don’t think it needs it. It’s so easy to bake and only takes 35 minutes in the oven, there’s a tartness and moistness from the applesauce that I really enjoyed especially against the toasted nuts.

If you read here with any regularity you’ll know my affinity for courgettes and spotting Nigel Slater’s cake that combined the two was the highlight so far of his latest book.

This is a wonderfully easy cake to make, and the moistness from the courgettes and apples are offset by the crunch of the nuts. I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans and you could play around to your heart’s content with the nuts and dried fruit combinations. Having baked so much recently from American recipes the ‘pinch’ of cinnamon seemed overly cautious, and you could add nutmeg or mixed spice quite happily I think. I hint of citrus might not have gone amis either, the zest of an orange would do wonders to lift it slightly – perhaps judge on the tartness of your apples? I would avoid any juice as additional liquid content might cause problems with the water from the courgettes and apple (top tip only discovered after I’d made this, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness is to put the apples and courgette in a salad spinner to remove the excess water – might have to make this cake again to try it out – let me know if you use this method).

So, whilst autumn makes its presence known with the reversion to GMT and leaf-blocked guttering, step into your kitchen and bake this to share with your family and friends. Or perhaps make new friends and connections by wrapping up to give to neighbours and colleagues.

A Cake of Apples and Courgettes

Nigel Slater; Tender Vol II

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g/2 small courgettes

1 small apple

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of cinnamon (be generous)

60g pecans, roughly chopped

60g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm x 12cm x 9cm loaf tin (I doubled quantities and made several smaller loaves – all the better for sharing and also gave me chance to try out the tin liners from Lakeland)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 mins in a stand mixer

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl

Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture

Coarsely grate the apple and courgettes (I used a processor – far quicker and less messy, especially if you have juicy apples) and then squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove excess water

Fold the courgettes and apples into the mixture then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined

Add the nuts and sultanas, scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for oner hour or until it is golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin

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Ginger and Apples – what’s not to like?

October 22, 2010

Autumn has arrived, the leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping, and I have spent most of a Sunday making my Christmas Cakes. Whilst I will have to wait weeks to sample those, below is a recipe for something that is simply Autumn wrapped up in a muffin case.

I still had plenty of the apples donated by my colleague, and knowing how much my Dad likes ginger cakes went looking for an appropriate recipe. As always Smitten Kitchen is one of my first ports of call and Deb doesn’t disappoint with her Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake recipe. I adapted the recipe to fold the apples into the batter so I could make into cupcakes and chopped the apples into 1cm square pieces rather than the wedges suggested for the cake, forgoing the ‘topping’ although I suppose you could caramelise the apples before folding into the batter. These are beautifully moist and the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea on an afternoon.

Can I also point out my current favourite thing – the small green patterned board that the muffins are sitting on in these photos. Something I brought back form my recent trip to Norway. I’m in love with the colour and patterns, a different one on each side. It sits on my kitchen work surface and makes me smile on these ever darker mornings.

 

Gingerbread Apple Cakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 apples (1 3/4 lbs) peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces, less than 1cm

112g butter

112g light muscavado sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup molasses (treacle)

1/3 cup honey

1 cup buttermilk

375g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

In a large jug combine the egg, treacle, honey and buttermilk

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, bicarb, salt and spices

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer on high-speed until flight and fluffy (approx 8 minutes)

Add the flour mixture and the wet mixture in batches  alternately to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated

Finally fold in the chopped apples before spooning into prepared muffin tins

Bake for 35 – 40 mins until a springy to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.

I was wary of over-filling the muffin cases as gingerbread mixture can rise a lot, however these didn’t, probably due to the fresh apple, so be generous when filling.

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Great British Bake Off

October 7, 2010

Did you watch The Great British Bake Off? I did, and true to form bought the tie-in cook book straight after the first episode. I loved the series but the book is a little odd. A fairly random selection of recipes seem to have been chosen, including some that didn’t work on the show or were criticised by he judges but with no notes to show amendments or updates. Other recipes are not from the series at all and it’s not clear who authored them. However I have Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and find it reliable, although having head her declare in the final that she’d never baked using fresh ginger (and worse seemed sceptical at the thought of it) I feel a little less confident in her.

I’ve only tried one recipe so far, although several tags flutter from the page edges and I think it was a success.  A recent early morning coupled with a return of the much missed baking mojo led to a recipe for a Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf. Perfect for two reasons; one I could finally use the jar of marmalade that was bought for guests and has since been languishing in the fridge. I know it will keep – but unused jars pain me – I feel sorry for them, as if they’re aware of their wasted potential and berate me with every opening of the fridge door. Reason two is that the recipe needed really soft butter, as in – blast in the microwave for a bit – so the fact that I was unprepared and the butter was still sat in said fridge was not a problem. The reason for the soft butter is that all the ingredients are combined in one bowl with a trusty wooden spoon (I have a wooden spoon that I trust – do you? In fact I have two trusty wooden spoons, one for curries and one for cakes, plus many other wooden spoons that have yet to be elevated to trustworthy status). Having baked so much with the Kitchen Aid and beating together butter and sugar for many minutes until light and fluffy, I was wary of combining in this way, but needn’t have worried.

If you didn’t watch the series this was one that didn’t work, it sank in the middle and led to the contestant, Mark, being eliminated in the first week, it did also earn him a hug from Sue Perkins. I doubled the recipe and made one regular loaf and two smaller ones in part because of my compulsion to double any batter recipe but also because I wanted to make one nut free version.

Mine did not sink in the middle, however the full-sized loaf was over baked at the recommended 60 minutes so I would check earlier – and I did need to cover with foil. I can’t be certain of the baking time for the smaller loaves as I managed to leave the oven door ajar! I’d suggest checking after 30 minutes to see if they need any foil and check after 40 with the trusty toothpick to see if they’re done. The result was a tasty, moist cake that might benefit from a dash of whisky perhaps to add a little zing to accompany the spices? The amount of marmalade in the cake and sticky glaze mean there are ample opportunities to play with taste depending on the type of marmalade used and you can play around with your choice of nuts I used a mixture of walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans and hazelnuts, all roughly chopped in a processor.  There are spices in the cake, but I think a little stem ginger either in a marmalade or separately. Definitely one to make again.

 

Mark’s Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 175 light brown muscovado sugar
  • 100g chopped mixed nuts (*optional as the cake works wonderfully without should you need a nut free version)
  • 175g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • 140g marmalade (preferably home-made)
  • 900g Loaf tine, grease and the base lined.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gm 4
Sift together flour, baking powder and spices, stir in sugar and nuts (if using).
Add the softened butter and eggs and then all but 1 tablespoon of the marmalade that you will need later for the glaze
Mix all the ingredients well using a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined and then spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
Bake for 60 – 75 minutes (I would check earlier) until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover the top of the cake after 40 minutes to prevent over browning.
Carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool for 5 minutes while you make the glaze by heating the reserved marmalade with a couple of teaspoons of water in a small pan over a low heat.
Brush the glaze over the still warm loaves – allow to cool before slicing

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A Summery Ginger Cake

June 26, 2010
The recent warm weather, as glorious and much needed as it is, doesn’t lend itself to baking. Even recently at dawn, whilst it may still be cool, the thought of cranking up the oven and creaming butter and sugar has not been appealing (I make sound like I stand over the ingredients with a wooden spoon laboriously mixing by hand – no way, not whan I have a thing of beauty). It’s a shame really, there are few things in life that lend themselves to a sense of collective goodwill but, espeically here in the UK, a few days of consistent good weather, some positive sporting results (I type this on Saturday evening watching Murray beat Simon and before tomorrow’s ‘match‘) and a fresh, home baked cake are definately some of them. Whilst I didn’t quite manage the trifecta, two of the three met wonderfully last weekend when I went to visit my brother and his family.


A ginger cake is not something that would be at the top of any summer baking recipe list, but last Saturday morning, with the sun already warming the day, I was in need of a cake that would do for a pudding, rather than a snack, and could be easily transported down the M5. I have David Lebowitz’sReady for Desert‘ on my shelf and have baked from it, but had spotted this recipe blogged recently which served as a reminder (I had also bookmarked it a few months ago on The Food Librarian but just hadn’t got round to it yet). I had fresh ginger in the fridge, from my recent rhubarb compote fetish and the quick prep and baking time (not to mention the ‘leave to cool in tin’ instruction) made for a potentially perfect recipe.

To be honest I had no idea when I chose this recipe that this moist ginger creation wold be quite the light thing of delight it turned out to be. Married, by accident, with fresh strawberries and creme fraiche it made for the perfect end to the evening (and was damn fine for elevenses the next day too – apparently). I can imagine the original suggested accompaniment of whipped cream with lemon curd would also lift the cake wonderfully.


Fresh Ginger Cake
David Lebovitz

115g fesh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
250 mild flavoured molasses (treacle)
200g sugar
250ml vegetable oil
250g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
250ml water
2 tsp bicarbinate of soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 175C
Butter bottom and sides of of a 9″ 23cm tin and line the bottom with parchment

Chop the ginger very finely in a food processor or with a chefs knife (I went for the safer processor option)
Mix the treacle, sugar and oil in a large bowl
Whisk the flour and spices together in a medium sized bowl
In a small saucepan bring the water to the boil, then stir in the bicarb
Whisk the hot water into the treacle mixture, then add the ginger
Gradually sift the flour mixture over the treacle mixture, whisking all the time
Add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined
Scrape into the prepared pan and bake until top of cake springs back or a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean – approxamately 1 hour
Leave to cool completely in the tin before running a knife around the sides to loosed.

This will apparently keep for up to 5 days at room temperature, but I doubt you’ll have the chance to test this theory.

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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.