Posts Tagged ‘Lemon’

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The Anxiety of Birthday Baking

April 23, 2010
I have made several cakes recently for colleagues and friends that have been for birthdays (or on one occasion a leaving do) and I think I may soon stop. Usually, I bake, allow to cool , then cut and portion the cakes at home before leaving on the doorsteps of neighbours or taking into work to share. But when, for a particular person or occasion, I take the cake into work whole, without cutting into it, so I can’t tell how it’s turned out. I’ve had a couple of baking fails where the finished product looks and smells divine – the batter was tasty and enjoyed from the bowl – but when I’ve cut into it the inside has been leaden, dense and uncooked – inedible. The image of these stays with me, as does the disappointment at the waste of the time, effort and ingredients. Then there’s the confusion over what went wrong, or worse the frustration at realising the stupid, and avoidable error.


I made Nigella’s Quadruple Chocolate Cake (although mine technically is only a triple version as I didn’t finish with the chocolate curls, but hey there’s still plenty of chocolate in there) in bundt form for a colleagues birthday a while ago. I’m fairly confident that doubling loaf cake recipes makes for a good large bundt (and the reverse) and have made this cake before, albeit in loaf form and did my usual of substituting the sour cream for buttermilk. I have no idea what I was doing when making this but I did think, as I spooned the batter into the pan, that the recipe direction of ‘pouring’ was a little off but it wasn’t until the cake was in the oven and I was reviewing the recipe to check baking times I realised that I had missed out an entire step; adding the boiling water. 250ml of boiling water, not a tablespoon or a piffling amount, but 250ml.


I stared at the cake in the oven a fair amount whilst it was baking, trying to imagine what this error might mean. The cake came out of the oven fine, it felt a little heavy, but it’s a chocolate bundt, not a chiffon cake, it was hardly going to be a light and airy thing that I held in my hands. I couldn’t work out how this might have affected the finished cake and spent an evening of anxiety, trawling the net for advice, asking the question on the Serious Eats Talk board (a great resource and an enjoyable and compelling read, there are some great threads on there and some very knowledgeable, helpful and amusing people on there). I eventually cored out a small section of cake from the underneath, which whilst dense seemed ok – in fact it tasted great. It was cooked all the way through which was my main fear, so I decided to risk it. Everyone commented on how rich and moist the cake was, and whoever got the slice with the missing section didn’t say anything!


I have also made Smitten Kitchen’s lemon cake twice recently. I’ve had this cake in my ‘Cakes to Make’ folder for months and when you look at the recipe and photo’s you’ll understand why it’s a cake to make. I have yet to come across a recipe from Deb that hasn’t not only been reliable, but also absolutely delicious. She has such a loyal and proactive following that reading the comments below her posts in full is always worth it for the revisions and suggestions. The reason this cake had remained in the folder rather than in my oven was due to the quantity of lemons needed. I usually have a couple of lemons in the fruit bowl ready to lend their zest to a cake (or, of course, to contribute to a Saturday evening G&T) but to have 8 at one time takes planning. I discovered that a colleague, due to leave work, liked lemon cakes so I had time to plan and purchase enough lemons. It was more than worth it.



So much so that I made another later the same week, with the frosting, for a good friends birthday. The syrup should brushed on slowly over a cake pierced multiple times with a toothpick or skewer – it’s worth the effort of taking the time to make sure as much as possible is absorbed as the difference it makes to the taste and moistness of the cake is considerable.


Another, more recent citrusy, request was for a Tart au Citron. For the recipe I reverted to the trusty Leith’s Baking Bible as I’m anxious about the technicalities of pastry and despite the success of December’s Gin Mince Pies was still hesitant. The recipe for the Pate Sucree was for one to be made by hand and there were no tips on converting to be made in a food processor, an essential adaptation as these hands were not for pastry making made. Once more Serious Eats helped me out and I ended up with pastry that came together well. I suspect I didn’t quite leave it to chill for long enough before trying to work with it, or perhaps it was because I was trying to bake in the evening rather than the morning, so unbalancing the natural order of things, but I didn’t have the time to leave it for that long and the recipe was vague, with only the direction to ‘chill’. When I came to roll it out it cracked and split and was an absolute disaster. I tried to rescue it by putting it back in the fridge but was too tired and frustrated too leave it long enough. I toyed with the idea of using to make little mini jam tarts but to be honest I had lost the will to bake and just gave up. I went to bed intending to nip to the local French Patisserie to buy one of their spectacular tarts to give along with the story of my disastrous effort. However, I woke at 5, and decided to have a go at another lemon recipe from Smitten. Not something I would usually make, but when searching the site for a lemon cake it had come up. Oh the anxiety! It’s been a while since I made shortbread, I’ve not made lemon curd before and to top it all off the pictures of the finished recipe weren’t displaying properly so I couldn’t see how it should turn out. And of course I had to take the bars in the tin they were baked in as they would not have travelled well so I had no opportunity to taste to see what they look like. In my anxiety to get this ready in time to take to work I didn’t manage to take a photo, but I have a plan to make them again in the near future and will make sure there are pics. Oh, and it was enjoyed.



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Crack Open the Cardamom

January 31, 2010


I bookmarked this recipe for a Cardamom Citrus Cake on Good Life Eats before the new year, I’ve used cardamom a few times recently in various cakes and am quite taken with it. I’m always on the lookout for Bundt recipes and I had yet to use the new rose tin my sister gave me as a Christmas gift.


I also came across a Nordicware Sunflower tin in a sale whilst on a trip to the Cotswolds and seeing as the pestle and mortar were going to be in use to grind the cardamom I wanted to make the most of it and so chose the Black Pepper and Spice Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes to christen this one. My post Christmas baking lull was broken by an early Sunday morning and I set about greasing the tins. This is not easy with the patterned Bundt tins – particularly the Rose. I learned for later use to melt a small about of butter and brush over the tin to ensure you get into all the ridges and don’t end up with globs of butter stuck to the outside of the finished cake.

Opinions from the recipients on the cakes were divided – but only in so far as which was their favourite. I think the Cardamom was mine, but the shape of the tin made the filling layer difficult to distribute easily and it ended up being too thick in places, a more regular shaped tin would’ve been better for this particular cake. I may also up the zest a little, the oranges I’ve been using recently haven’t had that much a zing. As I’ve been doing with most cakes recently I’ve reduced the sugar, I’ve put the original amounts in brackets, but I really don’t think it needs it. I’ve put in metric weights for the dry ingredients but find it easier to continue to use cups when measuring wet ingredients.

Citrus Cardamom Bundt Cake
Adapted from Good Life Eats

450g flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking sodaBulleted List

3/4 teaspoon salt

175g (225g) granulated sugar

90g (112g) brown sugar

zest of 1/2 large orange

150g butter, softened

1/2 a vanilla bean split open and seeded or 1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup buttermilk (original recipe called for sour cream)

Filling

zest of 1/2 large orange

100 (112g) cup brown sugar – I used a mixture of light and dark brown as this was all I had

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 180C, grease and flour your tin.

Place the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl and rub the zest through the sugar and spice mix so that the oils from the zest release.

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom in a bowl and set aside.

Beat Sugars and butter till fluffy – about 4 minutes in a stand mixer then add the vanilla and eggs. Continue beating for two minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.

With the mixer on slow add a third of the flour, followed by half the buttermilk, then repeat, ending with the last of the flour.

Spread half the batter into your prepared pan, sprinkle with the filing mixture and then cover with the remaining batter.

Bake for 50 – 60 minute, cook for 20 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack before turning out to cool completely.

Black Pepper and Spice Cake

Cake Keeper Cakes p106

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

3 Large eggs – room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

300g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground black pepper (I would use more next time)

112g unsalted, room temp or softened butter

225g sugar

(The original recipe also has 1 cup of toasted walnuts, cooled and chopped which I omitted. There’s also a lemon glaze – 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tbsp lemon juice, combined and drizzled over the cooled cake which I didn’t bother with so I added the zest of a lemon to the creamed butter and sugar)

Preheat oven to 180C, grease tin and dust with flour.

Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a large jug.

Combine flour, nuts if using, baking powder, bicarb, salt and spices.

Cream butter and sugar for about 3mins on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides a few times.

On low speed add 1/3 of the flour, half the buttermilk mixture and repeat, ending with flour, scrape the sides of the bowl between additions and mix for 1 minute after the last addition.

Add to prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

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The Cake That Nearly Beat Me

August 20, 2009

I couple of months ago I bought the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and one of the first cakes I made (due to a fruit bowl full of lemons and a shiny new loaf tin – thank you Lakeland) was the Lemon Loaf. The recipe calls for whole milk which I didn’t have so I substituted with buttermilk – that’s allowed isn’t it?

The cake was an unmitigated disaster.

I can’t remember how long it actually took to bake but I know I had to reset the timer in five, then ten minute intervals several times before the skewer had any hope of testing clean. The cake was so heavy that a section of the top sheared off straight from the oven revealing a centre so stodgy that I just stood staring in disbelief.

After cooling it was obvious this was not fit to be dished up, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I donated it to a colleague under the guise of a potential trifle ingredient, but accept that it probably ended up in her bin rather than mine.

I really didn’t think that making such a minor substitution would’ve had such a disastrous effect, but in the end it was my novice baking status, rather than instinct, that let me down. There’s an error in the original recipe; 560g of flour should actually read 350g. I imagine this error would be a glaring one to someone with more experience but it passed me by, it was only a chance visit to their website and a click on the innocuous sounding link for ‘further tips and revisions’ (ahem!) lead me to a PDF document with a page of tips and revisions to three of their recipes. A proof reader is in trouble somewhere I fear.

So, a Sunday waking of 4am meant several hours of baking time and the Lemon Drizzle was in my sights.

I was tempted to try again with the buttermilk substitution just to see exactly where the blame for the original failing lay, but decided that the frustration of another cake fail would be too much to bare, especially at that ungodly hour.

The baking time is 1hour 15 minutes, which is a little on the long side for a loaf tin and should’ve made me think ahead a bit, but I’m not that good at seeing the bigger picture and so placed the tin into the oven, set the timer, and popped off to clean the bathroom, as you do. I came back downstairs about 40 minutes into baking to a concerning hint of ‘burnt’ in the air. The cake had risen way above the top of the tin and was touching the element at the top of the oven. A few minutes of panic later and I’d extracted the cake with only minor damage to it and myself (and it’s never a proper baking session without an injury of some sort). After picking the smoking debris off the element and repositioning the shelf the cake was returned to finish cooking. I couldn’t believe this bloody recipe had nearly beaten me again.

The end result was a little on the ugly side because of the damage to the top, luckily it was destined to be sliced and distributed at work rather than presented whole – good job too.

An additional tip – should you want to bake this for yourself – is that I remembered from disaster no 1 that pouring the syrup over the cake resulted in a lot of the syrup being lost of pooling around the sides, so I made good use of a skewer and spent a long time drizzling slowly in intervals to ensure as much of the syrup as possible got into the cake.

Was the whole thing worth it? Well, I can’t see beyond the second near miss, and I feel that the authors couldn’t been more detailed in their instructions (error aside) but the resulting cake was moist and tart and seemed to go down well. It keeps, wrapped, for a coupled of days and would no doubt make an excellent base for a trifle!