Monday, 6 March 2017

Chocolate and banana cake

I was "commissioned" (I use inverted commas because I wasn't actually paid) to make a cake for a colleague's birthday. 

It was the first time that I've created a cake by completely drawing on elements that I have previously used. The cake used all recipes that I have used before just in a new combination.

The specification was based on the recipients preferred flavours: chocolate and banana with come caramel thrown in to round things out.

It turned out quiet well, despite being an "assembly" job.

 (Yet again, I forgot about taking photos so rushed...)

The flavours all worked really well together. I was worried that it might be rather too sweet, but that fear was definitely not realised. The banana cream brought a freshness with a depth of flavour coming from the chocolate fudge icing. There was a pleasing banana "aroma" permeating through the whole cake. Despite each mouthful being comprised of different elements, the whole thing worked rather well. It has a well-rounded flavour that was long on the palette. 

I initially thought there many have been some benefit it using a butter-based chocolate cake rather than oil-based. however, this was based on trimmings of the cake in isolation. In combination with the other elements, however, I don't think anything need to change.

The recipe drew on the following elements:

Chocolate cake: Banana, chocolate and peanut butter cake with an added 100g melted chocolate added to the batter


Chocolate fudge icing: Half the amount of Icing 4 from the wedding cake tasting with an added 1tsp of cocoa
 

Caramel icing: Twice the amount of the external frosting from the Caramel cake

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Pancake Day 2017

I love Shrove Tuesday. Any day where an entire nation celebrates a single food stuff is good with me. Most people go down the dessert route: crepes with lemon and sugar as pudding. You can't argue with a classic like that.

I prefer to fully embrace both the pancake and day aspect of the event: three meals, means three opportunities to eat pancakes.

Breakfast - Banana pancakes with banana caramel sauce
 

Lunch - Herb crepes filled with smoked salmon and creme fraiche with capers and cornichon.


Dinner - Layers of pancakes dowsed in maple syrup and stacked with black pudding, bacon, sausage and steak. Topped with a fried egg.


I admit I did go American twice but the toppings were significantly different to justify it and make for a very tasty day. Roll on 2018...

Monday, 30 January 2017

Strawberry gateaux

As part of my annual January task of "eating the freezer", I am often confronted by items that are quite difficult to find a discrete use for. One such item was some strawberry puree which I made with the remains of my glut of strawberries after my first adventure to a PYO last summer.

I was jammed out and had been stuffing myself for days with the beautiful berries and couldn't face any more. I pureed the remaining half pound and popped it in the freezer where it had quietly sat.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the puree but once the idea of a strawberry cake stuck me, there was no going back. There are many American recipes available but the vast majority seem to include "jell-o" to get the requisite taste and colour. I was determined that jelly should play no part in my cake.



I was pretty pleased with the result. The cake itself clearly tasted of strawberry although it was more subtle. The jam added "smash-you-in-the-face" strawberry hit. There were clearly strawberries in there. The cake was rich and buttery with a slightly close  texture but it was still light. It wasn't too sweet (which I had feared) and the tang of the cream cheese in the icing was welcome.

The odd thing was the crazy grey-ish colour! I put this down to it being all natural ingredients - no colourings used (although I was tempted!). I'm aware it's a bit dull from the outside, I'd decorate with fresh strawberries, if they were in season.

I wonder if I used an oil-based cake rather than butter the flavour, and colour, might be more pronounced. Perhaps I might even make a foray into the world of chiffon cakes. I'll need a lot more strawberries though...

Recipe for Strawberry Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing (adapted from Happy Foodie recipe)

Ingredients:
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
210g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
25g cornflour
225g strawberry puree
1tsp vanilla extract
Strawberry jam for the filling
For the icing:
4oz butter
4oz cream cheese
4oz white chocolate
100ml double cream
2oz icing sugar

Method:
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in. Sifting in a tbsp of flour with each egg will stop the mix splitting.
3. Beat in the strawberry puree and vanilla until combined.
4. Sift in the cornflour, flour and baking powder.
5. Divide the mix between two 8" lined cake tins and bake at 180°C for 25mins, or until done.
6. While the cake is baking, make the icing.
7. Melt the cream and chocolate together in a bain marie. Leave to cool.
8. Beat the butter until soft and pale. Gradually add in the  sugar. Beat in the cooled chocolate and cream mi.
9. Beat thoroughly and refrigerate to cool and thicken.
10. Once the cake and icing are cooled, it is time to construct.
11. Spread a generous layer of jam over one of the cakes. Followed by about a generous helping of the icing (no more than a third) and sandwich the cakes together.
12. Spread a thin layer of icing around the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate. 
13. Once the base layer of icing has set, slather on the remaining icing. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lime and pistachio cake

This was a cake I made for a leaving do at work last Autumn, but I've been asked for the recipe so it's a very belated write-up.

Sorry about the picture, I blame taking it at work...

I was asked for a vegetable cake and carrot was just to obvious. Once my thoughts turned to courgette, I then got thinking about how to decorate. And green was the only way to go, hence the lime and pistachio. I wanted to try and make the cakes actually green but pistachio paste is very hard to get hold of in SE London! Nonetheless, it went down a treat. A lovely moist cake, with a rich cream cheese icing cut with lime and the occasional crunch from a sweet pistachio.

Lime and pistachio cake

Ingredients:
250g butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 2 limes
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
300g courgette (skin on), grated and left to drain in a sieve
75g pistachio + 25g chopped pistachio to decorate
Lime curd filling:
3oz caster sugar
1 eggs, well beaten
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2oz butter
Lime cream cheese icing:
50g butter
200g cream cheese
85g icing sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime

Method:
1. Grease and line two 8" cake tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until combined. Add some of the flour after each egg to prevent the mixture splitting.
4. Beat in the vanilla extract, lime zest and juice.
5. Sift in the remaining flour, baking powder and salt and fold until combined.
6. Fold in the grated courgette and pistachios.
7. Divide the cake mixture between two 8" greased and lined cake tins.
8. Bake at 180°C for 25 minutes until the sponge is cooked (the top will spring back and the sides will have come away from the sides of the tin).
9. Whilst the cakes are baking and cooling make the lime curd. Place the ingredients in a heat proof bowl and suspend over a saucepan containing hot water. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 20 minutes.
10. To make the icing beat the butter until soft.
11. Gradually beat in the cream cheese until completely combined.
12. Beat in the lime juice and zest and sugar. (Add sugar to taste).
13. To construct the cake, spread lime curd over the top of one of the cakes.
14. Invert the top cake and spread half the cream cheese icing over the bottom of the cake. Turn this cake the right way up and sandwich the two cakes together.
15. Spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake.
16. Decorate with chopped pistachios and lime zest.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Pastel de nata

Pastel de nata (or just simply "nata" when you're in a bakery) is the Portuguese name for their legendary custard tarts. Having just come back from Lisbon, I can confirm that they are absolutely delicious (and absurdly good value at less than two euros for a pair of delicious mouthfuls). Best eaten fresh as possible from the oven when the pastry is as crisp as can be and the custard gently warmed. 

Clearly I had to indulge my obsession to the max: a mere two a day (and the rest) was not enough, I had to search out the best!

I went to the two oldest bakeries in Lisbon the Pasteis de Belem and the Confeitaria Nacional both founded in the early 19th century but with the Belem establishment claiming to be the originator of the nata. I had fresh tarts at both as well as taking a half dozen away with me. Let's be clear about this though: these things are not for keeping. They are best eaten as fresh as possible while the pastry is crisp and the inside gooey. Although if you are going to take some home with you, buy them on your last day and warm them in the oven before eating at home.


Now these custard tarts are not an what is known as an English custard tart. You know the dessert with the short crisp pastry and the just set custard served in slices dusted with nutmeg. No, these are made with puff pastry and offer a short, sumptuous, sweet hit, at any time of day.

Natas from Lisbon: On the left from the Confeitaria and on the right from Belem.

The thing is these things are bloomin' lovely. It's a hardly an arduous task to be deciding which of two lovely things is the loveliest. For my money though the Belem edges it. Fresh out of the oven the pastry is impossibly crisp and if you manage not to get any flakes on you, then you're a better person than I. The custard is so rich and only just set. It seems to have a more complex flavour with overtones of caramel. It's entirely satisfying as well as delicious.

Let's face it, if you haven't been to Lisbon them you should. You'll be entirely happy with whichever of these you go to. The Confeitaria is right in the centre of Lisbon if you can't be bothered to get the short train or tram to Belem. Just get yourself to Lisbon and fill your face with as many of these beautiful little delicacies as you can.

One last thing. Don't pretend there's any point in "being good" (or some such similar nonsense) and ordering just a single nata at a time. Quite simply as soon as you've finished the first you will berate yourself for not having ordered another...

Monday, 6 June 2016

Malteser cake: The revenge!

A while ago I tried out a Malteser cake. It was a mixed success:
  • Decoration - epically good
  • Taste - not quite the malty party in your pants I was after, more like a mingle in your mouth
I can't quite remember how a Malteser cake came up in conversation at work, but it did. Never one to shirk an opportunity to right a cakey-wrong, it meant this weekend the time was ripe to give it another go. 

 

It's fair to say it's not quite such a looker as the previous attempt (do you realise white Maltesers are about as rare as hens teeth?), but in terms of taste I think this is one of those occasions where there's a meme for that:


The flavour profile was everything I had hoped for: deeply malty with a really long finish. The perfect accompaniment to chocolate. I put it down to using malt extract (available from Holland & Barrett) rather than Ovaltine and in particular substituting some of the sugar to reduce the sweetness. This did mean the cakes were more delicate and needed a slightly longer bake, but that shouldn't be any cause for concern. Anyway you'll soon see what I mean >when you try this recipe yourself.

Malteser cake 
Ingredients:
For the sponge:
8oz butter
5oz Muscavado sugar
2oz caster sugar
4tbsp malt extract
4 eggs
7oz plain flour, sifted
1oz cocoa, sifted
2tsp baking powder
For the filling:
60g white chocolate50ml double cream
15g butter aka a small nob 
For the frosting (this will make plenty to cover the top and side):
8oz butter
150g icing sugar (approximately)
1.5tbsp malt extract
1tsp vanilla extract
Decorate with as many Maltesers as you dare (I used 6 packs)

Method:
1. Make the sponge in the usual way by creaming the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs and the malt extract. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and cocoa.
2. Divide the batter between two 8" pans and bake for about 20-25mins at 180°C (or until the top springs back to the touch, the sides are coming away from the tin and a skewer comes out clean from the middle).
3. While the cakes are baking and cooling make the ganache and frosting.
4. For the ganache, melt the white chocolate and cream together in a bain marie. Once melted, take off the heat, add the butter and stir to mix together. Allow to cool..
5. To make the frosting, beat the butter and sugar together until soft. Add the vanilla extract and malt extract and beat together. Add more sugar, if required, to suit your tastes.
6. Once the cakes have cooled, sandwich togther using the white chocolate gnache.
7. Cover the cake in a thin layer of icing (the crumb layer) and refrigerate to set.
8. Once set, use the remaining frosting to ice the cake liberally.
9. Decorate with as many Maltesers as you want.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

War on Waste

Hopefully you saw "Hugh's War On Waste" on the BBC recently.

It ended with a call to arms to get supermarkets to address food waste.

The supermarkets will only change if their customers, us, tell them we want them to. To make that happen you can sign the pledge at https://wastenotuk.com/.

Nearly 250k people already have, please add your name too.
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