59. Pandan Chiffon Cake – South East Asia & Gluten Free

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Searching for a suitably exotic and challenging recipe I remembered a wonderful recipe I was given by a fellow cake clubber. Her family recipe for Pandan Cake.  Not to be confused with Panda cake. Although a Panda Pandan Cake would be immense.

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

Pandan is a traditional flavouring used in South East Asia. (You might find Pandan Cake in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.) It comes from the leaves of the Pandan plant. It is also used to help flavour dishes such as jasmine sticky rice.  If you can get a hold of some Pandan leaves you can make your own extract by boiling the leaves in a small amount of water. Pandan cake is usually green because of the chlorophyll from the leaves  but as the leaves aren’t readily available everywhere most Pandan essences contain some bright food colouring to help recreate the glorious green sponge at home.

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

In search for Pandan paste I found Pandan essence and Pandanus Glutinous Rice flour which contained the elusive Pandan extract.  As rice flour behaves in a slightly different way to normal plain flour I had to modify my recipe to accommodate the changes. You don’t have to use the green flour if you can’t find it. You can use self raising or plain. But if you prefer gluten free go for rice flour.  Glutinous rice flour (despite it’s name) is gluten free. The glutinous bit means the rice belongs to the sticky rice family.

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

Now upon extra research I realised that this is a chiffon cake. Those Great British Bake off fans will remember this as one of the technical challenges that was a bit tricky to bake! And considering my oven’s unpredictability this may not be the best choice to bake for our first Clandestine Cake Club gathering of 2014. But I do like a challenge!

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

This has a lot of eggs in it so you will need 2 big bowls but doesn’t take as long to make as you might think. (Only if you stop to take photos along the way does this take a long time! ). Whisk 8 egg yolks with 100g of sugar until light and fluffy

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk along with the pandan essence/paste/extract.  If you’re worried it’s not going to be green enough add a dot of green food colouring gel.  It will soon become a frothy fluid batter with a green tinge to it.

Adding the Pandan Essence

Adding the fluorescent Pandan Essence

Sift in the flour ( whatever type you prefer) along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  If using self raising flour you will not need as much raising agent.  Whisk a third of the flour into the batter followed by a third of the oil. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour - How bright is the batter!

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour – How bright is the batter!

Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Then gradually add 100g of sugar and continue to whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Fold a dollop of egg whites into the green batter to loosen the mix and then carefully fold the egg whites in to preserve the air in the mix and help the cake rise evenly.

Carefully fold in the egg whites

Carefully fold in the egg whites – Love how green the batter is!

As uncomfortable as this seems (it screams against all baking experience)  pour the mix into a NON GREASED tube pan (looks like a flat topped Bundt tin). Apparently chiffon cakes need to cool upside down and grip the sides of the tin so they slowly slide out of the tin as they cool. If removed straight away the cake will concertina up and end up as a dense pancake.  Greasing the tin would make the cake slip out too quickly so try not to grease it

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it's un greased tube pan

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it’s un greased tube pan

Now with all that wonderful air in the cake the sponge springs up magnificently in the oven almost escaping the tin. With the hole in the middle the cake will cook quicker and more evenly which can only be a bonus in my oven.

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

You will need to keep an eye on the cake to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Bake it for 50 mins at 160 degrees c ( fan) but if it is cooked through sooner take it out (or leave it longer if it needs it.) I made the mistake of sticking cocktail sticks into the cake too often to check that it was cooked. This meant I deflated the cake slighty. Also pausing to mess around taking photos of the cake meant that I didn’t invert the cake tin quick enough and to my horror saw the cake sag down inside the tin. You can see on the cooled cake that it has a little ridge around the bottom of the cake (a bit like a muffin top over spilling someone’s jeans). Note to self: check it’s cooked and tip the tin upside down immediately when taking it out of the oven!

Despite it's saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Despite it’s slightly saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Once the cake cooled completely I found that it didn’t slide out of the tin as easily as I had hoped, as the cake was clinging on a little too tightly to the tin. I coaxed it gently out of the tin using a sharp knife and running it around the edge of the tin, allowing gravity to do the rest of the job. This meant that the cake didn’t have a shiny finish to it, but  I think this is how it’s supposed to look.

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

What a magnificent cake the Pandan Chiffon Cake is! It is extremely light and soft to the touch, more like a tasty pillow than a cake. I’ve never eaten a cake that actually melted in my mouth before until now. It’s moist and airy and keeps for at least 3 days after baking it. (That’s as long as I managed to save my final piece until.) It’s worth slicing the cake with the sharpest knife that you have to preserve it’s shape as much as possible as it is very delicate. (I may have been a tad heavy handed when slicing it up as I squished it slightly.)

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan is an unusual flavour. It perfumes the air whilst managing to taste both sweet and savoury at the same time. It’s similar to Green Tea (Matcha) cakes but like nothing else that I’ve ever tasted before. I will surely be baking this again. It really doesn’t take as long as you might think, perhaps 30 minutes to prepare and as it doesn’t need any dressing up, you don’t need to spend time decorating the cake. Icing would be overkill. It’s a deceptive cake. It looks rather plain and boring from the outside, but that first slice releases the pandan perfume and the glorious green chiffon . It’s a much more complex and interesting cake than you might initially think. If you’re going to attempt an exotic cake I can’t recommend the Pandan Chiffon Cake enough!

An empty plate speaks for itself!

An empty plate speaks for itself! – The Pandan Chiffon Cake disappeared very quickly

Things I used to make my Pandan Chiffon Cake

Batter

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 140ml coconut milk
  • 170g pandan flavoured glutinous rice flour (you can use plain rice flour if you prefer)
  • 3 tsp pandan essence (1tsp paste)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • (Green food colouring if you wish)

Egg whites

  • 8 egg whites
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Bake at 160 degrees c fan for 50 minutes

Invert immediately

Slice with a very sharp knife and store in an airtight container

Starting Sourdough with James Morton

Meeting James Morton - the King of Sourdough

Meeting James Morton – the King of Sourdough

My friend Kate very kindly offered to drive us to Glasgow for James Morton’s ‘Stollen Moment’ show. Armed with James’s new book, a cheese board, a selection of homemade scones, sticky buns and a flask of tea we trotted off merrily to Glasgow to enjoy the show and meet the lovely Great British Bake Off finalist in person.

My new favourite bread book and now it's even signed by James

My new favourite bread book and now it’s even signed by James

What a great show. James patiently answered our questions whilst demystifing the art of bread and sourdough baking and making a lovely sourdough stollen on stage for us to sample. He explained how it’s not really scary and you don’t actually have to knead your bread all that much to get a brilliant loaf! You can prove it in the fridge and save your energy for more important things like eating the bread. Music to my ears. We even got to take away a bit of James’ sourdough starter home with us.

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact!

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact! Check out that golden crust and even crumb! Success at last!

Mine is merrily bubbling away in it’s jar fed with equal amounts of flour and water with some sultanas thrown in for good measure. (You take them back out again once the starter is bubbling and frothy again. Yet another great tip on reinvigorating a tired sourdough starter from James)

I’ve tried and failed so many times before to make sourdough. I now realise where I’ve been going wrong, I never threw any of it away! I was merely accumulating large quantities of floury water. Resulting in a very weak yet well fed sourdough which produced rubbish flat, doughy bread. My loaves were rather mishapen and usually split along the side so the top normally fell off. Yum. Delicious (!)

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They're rather filling!

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They’re rather filling!

I’m now wise to it. You’ve got to dispose of a third of your starter before you feed it, every time. This gives a much stronger and active sourdough. One that can actually rise bread and give a glorious sour note to the loaf too. I’m simply using a cup measure to throw in a cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do) and a cup of water. Then I give it a good stir with the handle of a wooden spoon. (My jar is quite tall so the handle works best)

Mincemeat sourdough crown

Mincemeat sourdough crown

I feel a little guilty pouring large amounts of sourdough down the sink, so have started sharing my cast off starter with friends too which they can just feed as normal. Do let me know if you fancy a bit! I can provide sandwich bags and I’m than happy to share the sourdough joy. (But it’s not that difficult to make your own too… have a look below.)

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Apologies for my lack of bloggage over the last few weeks. I’ve been very busy, painting decorating and moving house, celebrating our first wedding anniversary (where has the time flown!?) and baking vast quantities of Christmas puddings and sourdough bread in all forms over the holidays. (Think rosemary foccaccia, wholemeal pizzas, buns, loaves and rolls!) The freezer is full of enriched doughs, mincepie rolls and scones. I can’t wait to try out the rest of the recipes. I think we’re going to need more flour!

My Basic Sourdough Starter

It’s still going strong one month on!

  • 1 cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do)
  • 1 cup of cold water
  1. store in a non air tight container at room temperature (Take the rubber seal out of a kilner jar to avoid nasty sourdough explosions with all the built up gases!)
  2. discard a third of the mix and feed every day if you’re baking regularly
  3. or store your starter in the fridge and feed once a week if your baking less frequently
  4. feed it the day before you want to use it (or when it’s really bubbly)
  5. stir in some sultanas to reinvigorate a tired (flat) starter. (pick them out again if you don’t want sultanas in your bread)
  6. use 200g of sourdough starter in your dough when wanting to make a full sourdough loaf
  7. or add 100g of sourdough to other breads alongside instant yeast to give a subtle sourdough flavour

Basic Sourdough Bread

Since this post I’ve experimented more and created another sourdough recipe ‘Hot Pot Sourdough’ which also works a treat.

  • 500g strong flour (I like to use a combination of whatever I have in the cupboard which is usually strong white flour, rye flour, malthouse brown, and some wholemeal chapatti flour)
  • 10g salt
  • 200g sourdough starter
  • 300g (or ml it’s the same if you’re using a electronic scale) water
  1. Knead the mixture together and allow to prove over night in the fridge. (Yet another life changing tip from James. You don’t have to knead your bread very much if you leave it for a long first prove. Chilling it means the bread proves slowly and allows the bread to develop a more rounded sour flavour!) My fridge is now always filled with a loaf proving, ready for the next day.
  2. Knead the dough to shape it and add some seeds for more texture (I like to use linseed, sunflower and poppy seeds)
  3. Allow it to prove at room temperature for an hour or so, or over night in the fridge
  4. Bake at 220 degrees C for 10 minutes then reduce to 200 degrees and bakes for a further 20- 25 minutes
  5. wrap in a tea towel whilst still hot, to soften the crust and eat with whatever your heart desires! Maybe, hot soup, butter, jam, nutella.

Please note: I’ve taken elements from a couple of my favourite bread recipes here to make something that I know I and my oven can handle. It’s a slightly wet dough which compensates for the drier brown/wholemeal flours but not too liquid  so it can be handled and shaped. I can’t recommend James’ book enough if you haven’t already bought it. I’ve learnt so much from it and I’ve only read the introduction and tried a couple of recipes so far. (And I haven’t been paid to say that!) I’m still yet to master some of the more advanced bread recipes in James’s book but I’m enjoying practising and getting a lot of dough up the walls and in my hair in the process.

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading my blog! I promise there are more international bakes to come as soon as possible once I’ve got the hang of my new oven which unfortunately no longer has the temperatures on the dial! An oven thermometer is winging it’s way to me now as I type.

53. Triple Layer Sachertorte – why have 1 layer when you can have 3?

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte in Berlin

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but this is one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte that I ate in Berlin

What’s more indulgent and luxurious than a Sachertorte? Surely a triple layer Sachertorte beats them all hands down. Why have merely one layer when you can have three? The Berliners had the best idea and yes I stole it, nay, lovingly recreated it at home for my friend Adam’s 30th birthday present.

Oh dear it's all gone a bit wrong, but here's my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills...)

Oh dear it’s all gone a bit wrong, but here’s my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills…)

Sachertorte was invented in Vienna, Austria and although I’m still yet to visit the country I thoroughly enjoy it’s food. One of my very first around the world in 80 bakes, bakes was indeed a 4 foot pastry monster, also known as the Viennesse Apple Strudel.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

After all of that I had to make myself a one too … just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

A very rich and dense chocolate cake, two layers of Sachertorte are usually sandwiched together with apricot jam and chocolate ganache. But for this extra special version I made 3! Well it is a special birthday after all and I had been promising Adam a triple layer Sachertorte for sometime.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

It’s an almost flourless sponge, made mainly from almonds, so it can cope with a bit of handling (or slicing into more layers). It also benefits from a heavy layer of ganache to retain moisture in the sponge.

Melt the chocolate

Melt the chocolate

There’s a lot of real chocolate in this cake, so it’s as chocolately as it’s ever going to get, rather than just adding cocoa powder. This is the real deal. Using a bain marie is the best way to melt chocolate (in my opinion) without burning it. Melt the chocolate gently with a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water.

Beat together the sugar and butter

Beat together the sugar and butter

Once the chocolate is melted, leave it to cool slightly whilst you beat together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy.

The slightly cooled chocolate can then be beaten into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla extract.

Beat in the chocolate - sachertorte

Beat in the chocolate

Then whisk in the egg yolks one by one until the mixture is nice and thick.

Beat in the eggs - sachertorte

Beat in the eggs

The ground almonds and flour can then be introduced and folded into the chocolatey egg yolk mix.

Whisk egg whites

Whisk egg whites

If like me you have a stand mixer you can do a little cheat here. I used my hand held electric whisk to the egg whites to a fluffy state whilst I set my Kitchenaid to task whisking mix the chocolate and egg yolks together in a separate bowl. This helped to save a bit of time and energy on my part. Don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer however you could easily whisk your egg whites after you’ve finished the egg yolk mix.

The egg whites need to be whisked to incorporate as much air into them as possible as this cake doesn’t have any other raising agent to help it do the job. The whites should be whisked for about 2-3 mins at a slow speed until frothy and bubbly. Then increase the speed to high and continue to whisk for about 4-5 minutes, until the whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold into the egg whites

Fold the chocolate mix into the egg whites

Add a good dollop of the chocolate egg yolk mix to the egg whites and fold in gently to help loosen the mixture up. Then carefully spoon the rest of the chocolate mix into the egg whites and fold in, very gently ,to preserve as much air as possible in the mixture.

Pour into the tin

Pour into the tin

Once it’s all combined (and there’s no tell tale spots of egg whites floating about) the batter is good to go. Carefully pour the batter, (holding the bowl as close to the tin as possible so you don’t knock any of the air out of the mixture) into a greased and lined 9 inch round tin and smooth the surface down with a spatula, making sure there’s no holes or lumps. Bake the cake in the centre of your preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes.

Baked Sachertorte

Baked Sachertorte

Once the cake is thoroughly cooked, you can tell this as a cocktail stick when inserted will come out clean, the cake will shrink back from the sides of the tin slightly and when pressed in the centre the cake will spring back. Leave it to cool in the tin slightly and then tip it out onto a wire cooling rack.

You may remember the Sachertorte from the Great British Bake Off technical challenge in series 2. Mary Berry insisted that you had to use the top of the cake so it had to be as flat as can be. I’m not that strict so I use the lovely flat bottom of the cake as my smooth top, although either end of the cake would be fine to use, as it was in fact rather flat.

Sliced in 3 layers

Sliced in 3 layers

The cake really needs to be entirely cold before you take a knife to it. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way and broken many a cake cutting into it while it’s still warm too eager to start the layering process. It always ends in tears and much smaller cake than I envisioned. So patience my friend and a really sharp knife.

I find it easier to swivel the cake round and hold the knife in the same place to (attempt) to get an even slice. I find it easier to cut the top layer off first and work my way down. Using a palette knife to support the cake to carefully lift each layer off and pile them up on a plate.

Ganache Mixing

Ganache Mixing

While your slicing up your cake into 3 layers, pop the cream in a pan and heat  it to almost boiling point. Take it off the heat and add two thirds of the the broken dark chocolate. Keep stirring the ganache until the chocolate is fully melted and add the final third of the chocolate. Continue to stir until it’s glossy and smooth.

First layer all jammed up

First layer all jammed up

As this was a birthday present I bought a cake board to pile the cake onto. I sterilised the board with a little orange brandy, to get the party started. Taking the bottom layer (which technically was the top of the cake previously when it was baking in the tin…confusing?) I sat the sponge on top of a splodge of warm apricot jam on the cake board to hold it in place. The jam must be heated to make it extra runny and also to sterilise it, as you want your cake to keep well. 40 seconds in the microwave should do it, but don’t boil the jam!

Ganache Layer

Ganache Layer

Smear a generous coating of warm apricot jam onto the sponge, to act as a barrier against the ganache so it doesn’t seep too far into the sponge. Then add a nice layer of ganache and plop the next sponge layer on top. Repeat for the next 2 layers.

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

The final layer will need to be neat and tidy so pour the ganache all over the top of the cake and using a palette knife and gravity encourage the ganache to run down the side of the cake. You may need to even things up a little, holding the palette knife vertically and pressing it gently into the side of your cake, run the knife around the side of the cake to straighten up the edges.

Hairdryer at the ready

Hairdryer at the ready

The ganache may start to set before you want it to, so keep a hairdryer to hand (yes a hairdryer- I haven’t lost my mind honest) to heat the ganache a little and allow you to continue to work with it. You can always tip the cake slightly to let the ganache flow around the top of the cake.

Ganached and glossy

Ganached and glossy

Undoubtedly you will get ganache everywhere at this point, on your face, in your hair, up your arms and all over the kitchen, but that’s part of the fun. Keep some paper towels close by to mop up any spillages and to wipe excess chocolate off your palette knife. You’re also going to need a damp paper towel (or 10) to wipe the excess ganache off the cake board. Apparently it’s a really clever idea to put pieces of greaseproof paper under the sponge to catch the ganache which can then be disposed of later on. Or if your cake board is entirely flush to the cake (like mine), you could pop it on a wire cooling rack and let the ganache drip onto a plate underneath, ready to be used again, or eaten with a spoon (I’ll let you decide).

Sack the chef

Sack the chef

The pièce de résistance. The chocolate ‘Sacher’ signature. The name of this wonderful cakes creator. You need milk chocolate to contrast against the dark ganache, melted and in a piping bag. Or like me you may use a sandwich bag with the tip snipped off. You only have one attempt at this, unless you fancy re – ganaching your entire cake, so no pressure. I made a right hash of it (sorry Adam) as my piping/sandwich bag exploded half way through dripping unslightly chocolate onto the cake which then had to be incorporated into the signature.

oh dear it all went a bit wrong but here's my SacHERtorte...

Sack the Chef. Check out my very neat s – a and c

Well my signature is certainly distinctive. But on a positive note the ganache is extremely glossy and mostly smooth. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead… Please note how nice and neat the ‘S’ ‘a’ and ‘c’ are. Maybe it’s a subliminal message to myself SacHER!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Anyways I’m sure your chocolate handwriting skills will far surpass mine. I’m assured that it tasted lovely despite how rustic it actually appeared…  I boxed it up and delivered it complete with sparkler candles to wish Adam a very happy 30th Birthday!

Cake delivery!

Cake delivery!

I wanted to try making a traditional one layer Sachertorte just to make sure I could definitely do it right, second time round and definitely not because I’m a greedy guts. I absolutely love this cake. It’s a moist sponge and improves (as most cakes do) when left for a day or two to cut it.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

I did another one… just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

I must admit that home made was actually more moist than the shop bought cake we sampled in Berlin. The apricot jam infuses the chocolate with a gorgeous fruity flavour, balancing out the slightly bitter dark chocolate ganache with the sweetness of the jam. The ganache is smooth and luxurious and means the sponge keeps really well.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

One thing to note, if you store your cake in the fridge your ganache will lose it’s shine so it’s best to keep it at room temperature if you want to see it glisten in the birthday candle light. It’s a classic celebration cake that will be loved by everyone.

Things that I used to make my Triple Layered Sachertorte

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
One greased and lined 9 inch round tin

  • 140g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 140g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 55g plain flour

Bake for 40  minutes at 180 degrees C

The Ganache

  • 140g plain chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

The Filling

  • One jar of apricot jam, heated

The Writing

  • 25g melted milk chocolate

IMG_20130801_094101

47. A Thousand Layer Cake – Indonesian Spekkoek Spice Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’ve had my eye on this gorgeous Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake (Spekkoek) for quite some time. With it’s perfectly symmetrical stripes of spice interwoven with ribbons of vanilla. Spekkoek or lapis legit is a rich layered cake and is very expensive to buy due to the amount of time it takes to create it, so it’s normally eaten at special occasions and celebrations such as Christmas, weddings or festivals in Indonesian.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

It requires a bit of planning and preparation and a lot of hitting the pause button if you choose to watch a film whilst trying to bake it, as each layer is baked individually for 11 minutes precisely. But it’s well worth the effort.

Most recipes for a Thousand Layer cake ask for up to 30 eggs! I thought this was a bit extreme and not the most healthy of cakes so scaled it back to a mere 10 eggs. Much more affordable too. It’s definitely a special cake lavished with lots of love and attention it had to taste wonderful.

If you’re going to attempt this cake I recommend

  • You own an electric whisk – this would be quite an ordeal to whisk by hand!
  • You have at least 2 large bowls to whisk the eggs in
  • You add lots of spice!
Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

I’m lucky that I own a Kitchenaid and it could take the strain of whisking the egg whites for me whilst I busied myself whisking the yolks. But you could do it in 3 separate stages if you like. You don’t have to multi task to the extreme if you don’t want to. Me, I enjoy adding a bit of danger to my bakes. Doing everything at once. I’ll balance my bowls on top of many ingredients on the work surfaces and hope for the best, like spinning plates, but in my case it’s batter.

Whilst whisking the egg whites with about 100g of the sugar with a hand held electric whisk I set the Kitchenaid away to whisk the egg whites until fluffy.

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Once the whites start to stiffen add 100g of sugar (bit by bit) and continue to whisk until they reach stiff peaks and look glossy.

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Then as if you’re not busy enough, beat together the remaining sugar, with the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

You’re going to need the biggest bowl that you own to incorporate all of the ingredients together. Start with mixing the egg yolk batter and the butter/sugar paste together.

All together now - butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter

Butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter all together

Once all of the ingredients are mixed well (I used my electric hand whisk) the delicate process of folding in the egg whites to the batter can begin. Using a metal spoon fold in gently the egg whites to preserve the air in the batter.

There's a lot of egg whites to fold in!

There’s a lot of egg whites to fold in!

It will start to look like scrambled eggs but persevere until the batter looks smooth.

Yum scrambled eggs!

Yum scrambled eggs! Keep going with the folding

Next up is the relatively small amount of plain flour considering how much egg and butter is in this cake! It also needs to be folded in carefully to the batter with a metal spoon.

Fold in the flour

Fold in the flour

To achieve the two tone and two flavour effect half of the batter needs to be flavoured with spices and the other half left to be as it is, with a hint of vanilla.

Fold in a vast quantity of spice

Fold in a vast quantity of spice to half the batter

Split the batter in half (you’re going to need yet another bowl here!) and fold the spices into half of the batter.

Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

Vanilla batter – Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

The spiced batter should look slightly browner in colour. this will help you to remember which layer you’re up to when it comes to cooking the cake!

Spiced batter

Spiced batter

With your two bowls of batter ready, it’s time to spoon a thin layer (about 5mm) into greased and lined baking tin. I used my new extra long German loaf tin 30cm x 10cm. Make sure you push the batter into all of the corners and smooth it down. Give it a very gentle tap on the worksurface to remove any air bubbles and pop it in the oven for 11 minutes. Some recipes say to follow this bake with a minute under the grill, however my oven doesn’t have a separate grill and oven.  The grill would have to be warmed up each time which to me seemed a bit too laborious. Instead I added an extra minute to the baking time to compensate for the lack of grilling and it worked a treat.

The first layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first vanilla batter layer in the extra long loaf tin

It’s a bit tricky to get the first layer into all of the corners as the batter is quite stiff. I wiped the inside edges of the tin round with a clean finger to remove any extra batter to avoid any smudging of the layers later on. The last thing you want is a smear of burnt batter up the sides your beautiful layer cake.

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

After 11 minutes in the oven the first layer should be slightly golden brown and evenly baked. Ready for the addition of the next layer straight on top of the hot cake. The heat from the first layer helps to melt the butter and spread the batter evenly around the tin. Remember to alternate your batters! One layer vanilla, one layer spice and repeat.

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

As your cake bakes it will probably shrink back from the sides of the tin a little, so don’t be alarmed if some of the raw batter disappears down the sides of the cake and into the layer below. A liberal dusting of icing sugar hides all manner of mishaps to a finished cake!

The second spiced layer

The second spiced layer, smooth and ready for the oven

Keep alternating the batters. Repeating the layering, spreading, baking and even more layering until you’ve no more batter left. This process is not for the time restricted or feint hearted. Baking the cake took at least 4 hours, but it’s almost like a work out, leaping up off the sofa to take the cake out of the oven every 11 minutes.

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity... It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

Let the cake cool in the tin for about 2o minutes before gently loosening the cake from the tin with a palette knife and attempting to remove it from the tin. I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

The final long layered cake out of it's tin

The final long layered cake out of it’s tin

I must admit I was a tad alarmed at how dark the cake was when I removed it from the tin. I did wonder how the initial layers would hold up after being baked time and time again. Would they be burnt and tough? I baked at least 18 layers into my cake, that’s a whole lot of oven time for the first few cms of the cake.

Indonesian Layer Cake

Indonesian Layer Cake

The liquid batter did seep under the greaseproof paper inside the tin. The cake had baked around the paper which made it a his made it a bit difficult remove, but not impossible. However this meant the top was a little uneven, so I trimmed it slightly and dusted it with icing sugar! (shh no one will know!)

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

The white icing sugar gave the layers an extra lift against the contrasting spice. I baked my Indonesian Thousand  Layer Cake for a special Clandestine Cake Club ‘Here comes the sun’ themed event. I was hurrying along to the cakey gathering but just had enough time to slice up some homemade candied orange and lemon citrus peel (Thank you Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles for the how to!) in long thin strips to create my very own sunburst effect, adding a trio of star anise (one of the key spices in the cake) to bring the summery spicey cake to life. As Mary Berry always says, you should include a bit of what’s inside the cake, outside the cake to whet people’s appetites.

Here comes the sun - Indonesian Layer Cake

Here comes the sun – Indonesian Layer Cake

As the tin that I used is supposed to be for bread, I don’t own a cake stand or plate big enough to house such a lengthy cake. I resorted to carrying the cake ,open topped on a chopping board instead. Note to self, icing sugar sitting on a cake will not stay there for long on a windy day. Precariously seated on my passenger seat and me also liberally coated in icing sugar we made our way to the Clandestine Cake Club!

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’m so pleased I took the time to attempt the Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake cake although technically not exactly 1000 layers it feels close enough! A challenge of the patience and my washing up ability it may be but this cake promises so much more than a frustrating time in the kitchen. It is such an unusual tasting cake, quite delicate and surprisingly light, I guess due to the sparse amount of flour and the endless whisking.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

This cake is magic. There must be something in the enormous amounts of eggs that go into the batter that prevent the layers from burning or drying up to a miserable shrivelled mess. It’s moist, spicy and sweet, although not too sweet. It’s a proper grown up cake, sophisticated in it’s beautiful layers and exotic taste. It also improves with age. I had half a piece left from the Cake Club which I shared with Chris 4 days after baking it and it was delicious not dry in the slightest. I think spice cake always deepens in flavour with time. If you want to savour the cake you can even peel each individual layer and eat them separately. I enjoyed devouring it with a strong coffee. I will be baking this again when I have an afternoon to spare and maybe attempting more stripey cakes in the future. I think I’m hooked!

Things I used to make my Indonesian Layer Cake

  • 375g sugar (100g added to egg whites, 100g added to egg yolks, and 175g added to butter mixture)
  • 10 egg whites
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cassia bark
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 of a grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g butter
  • 185g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In separate bowl – Whisk egg whites til fluffy add 100g sugar gradually. Whisk til shiny and stiff
  2. In separate bowl – Cream 175g sugar and the butter together til light and fluffy
  3. In separate bowl – Whisk egg yolks and 100g sugar together til fluffy
  4. In a big bowl – Whisk egg mixture and butter mixture together
  5. Fold in egg whites
  6. Fold in flour
  7. Split the batter in half
  8. Fold the spices into one half of the batter
  9. Pour a thin 5mm layer of vanilla batter into tin
  10. Bake for 11 minutes at 160 degrees C.
  11. Pour a thin layer of spiced batter onto cooked layer
  12. Bake
  13. Repeat alternating the batters until all the batter is cooked.
  14. Cool, remove from tin, decorate and eat!

44. A Healthy Christmas Pudding? – a very English recipe

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Can this be real? Is there such a thing as a healthy Christmas Pudding when you soak your fruit in booze and add copious amounts of sugar? Well according to the Great British Bake Off (series 2 cookbook) it is. So what’s the difference you may wonder? It’s breadcrumbs, would you believe and no suet!!

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Obviously I can never leave a tried and tested recipe alone so I accidentally modified it… I decided to make it nut free, adding the equivalent amount of dried fruit in place of the nuts to soak in the booze. Then promptly forgot about my decision and added the nuts as well. This will surely be an extra fruity pudding!

I have only attempted one Christmas Pudding, an original Bero recipe, full of suet and other wonderful stuff. However it didn’t cook all the way through despite it’s initial 3 hours of steaming and the additional steaming on Christmas Day itself.

I got a bit carried away when purchasing fruit for my enormous wedding cake   (which actually turned out to be a good thing – it’s a LONG story- but in a nutshell I ruined 3 cakes in the process of baking my 5 tiers so had to bake 8 fruit cakes in the end!) Even with the additional 3 cakes bakes I still had enough dried fruit to bake 2 Christmas Puddings! Hurrah! (I also have plans for my rather sad 3 wedding cake tiers, they will not go to waste!)

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As with all good festive fruit recipes I started with soaking the fruit in Booze, Brandy to be exact, along with some lemon juice. The recipe only requires a soak over night but I decided to soak it in a tupperware pot in the fridge for a few days instead. Surprisingly the most effort in this entire pudding is the weighing of ingredients and bread crumbing. (Totally discounting the watching of the pot bubble for 3 hours of course…)

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The breadcrumbs required a little preparation so a quick blast in the hello kitty toaster and a whizz with the blender makes some lovely breadcrumbs and decorates the kitchen beautifully in bread dust.

Whilst the bread is toasting you have time to whisk together the butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. Then to whisk in each egg individually. The more you whisk the lighter the pudding, so whisk away!

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Whisked up and fluffy butter, sugar, honey and eggs with a smattering of grated apple

Then to stir in the grated apple, spices, (nuts) and brandy soaked fruit.

Stirring in the spices, nuts and grated apple

Stirring in the spices, nuts and grated apple

With the grand finale stirring in the toasted breadcrumbs along with the dried fruit.

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This forms quite a pale and loose mixture Once it’s all mixed together well it’s ready to be spooned gently into your pre prepared greased pudding bowls.

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This recipe is enough to make two Christmas puddings. I used a 1lb bowl and a 3/4 1 lb. bowl.

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Fill the pudding basins until at least 3/4 full and make sure the pudding is level by pushing the mixture level with a spatula and tapping the bowl gently on the worksurface to release any air bubbles.

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Then for the exciting bit! I’ve read so much about wrapping puddings in greaseproof paper with a pleat (a double fold about an inch wide) in it to allow room to expand as the pudding steams, but never before have I actually had a go at it!

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Both puddings needed a lid made out of a layer of greaseproof paper and tinfoil (both with wonderful pleats) before being trussed up like a turkey in lashings of my trusty cotton string.

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There is definitely a knack to this technique. My theory is always to tie stuff as tight as possible, it needs to be water tight, (you don’t want to drown your pudding when you submerge it in your pan of boiling water) and when in doubt add more string and tin foil. I added a full coat of tin foil, wrapping the pudding basin from the bottom to ensure the water couldn’t seep into the pudding. It seemed to do the trick. I added an additional length of string, tying it to the string around the edge if the puddings to create a handy handle for lifting out in and our of the pot too.

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Dinner plate face down in the pan

I had planned to economise and steam both puddings together however I failed to measure the pan…. So 2 separate pans were required to steam the little beauties.

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Pudding basin balanced on top of the plate inside the pan

I popped a dinner plate (face down) into my largest pan and a saucer into my smaller pan to balance the puddings on. I boiled the kettle and carefully poured the boiling water into each pan until it reached 2/3 of the way up the side of the pudding basin. Then to pop on the pot lid (an essential bit of the steaming process to keep the heat and moisture in) and let the puddings steam gently in the simmering water. It’s a good idea to allow some of the steam to escape by creating a vent (I tilted my pan lid and as my other pan lid was broken many moons ago I used even more tin foil with a hole in the top to create a lid) This takes about 3 hours on a low heat. I had to keep my eye on the pans and top up the water a couple of times as a pan should never be left to boil dry (this can cause the pan to explode!). So please be careful! My pans and plates made a few worrying noise over the next few hours, clattering about so perhaps a smaller plate would be a better idea to avoid the rattling!)

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Double Bubble – 2 pans steaming 2 puddings simultaneously

After 3 hours remove the puddings from the pans and allow to cool. Take off their tin foil and greaseproof paper and wrap them with a fresh coat. This will help to create a seal and prevent any mould from forming on your lovely puddings. I placed a clean saucer on the top of mine to weigh down the paper and create a good seal.

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Freshly steamed and cooled pudding. Ready for a tin foil coat and a sleep in the fridge

These puddings will keep for up to a month in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer, but once defrosted they will need to be eaten within a week. If you were making a traditional pudding with suet they can be kept for about a year to mature so you can make them well in advance! I’ve just read that freezing your pudding helps to speed up the maturation process. So this could be a good option if you haven’t had a chance to prepare it in advance. My puddings are currently having a snooze in the fridge until 15th December as we’re celebrating Christmas a little early in the Prince household! I may even give them both a little drink of brandy to help keep them warm for the next 3 weeks. :)

The puddings looked a little paler than I expected after their 3 hours in their steam bath, I think this is due to the breadcrumbs and lack of flour. But I could tell that they were done as one pudding had shrunk back slightly from the side of the basin.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you how they taste yet, as I need to steam them for 3 more hours on Christmas Day (or 15th  December in my case – some of us have a wedding to prepare for and a 5 tier cake to finish decorating!) I will pop back to let you know how they turn out

Things I used to make Healthy Christmas Puddings 

  • 70g dried apple
  • 330g sultanas
  • 200g mixed peel
  • (total 700g of dried fruit – any combination could be used! I added more fruit to replace the nuts if you wanted to make a nut free version just omit the nuts below)
  • Zest of one grapefruit ( I had ran out of oranges so replaced this with the only citrus fruit I had to hand…)
  • 5 dessert spoons of Vanilla Brandy (to soak the fruit in)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (to soak the fruit in)
  • 50g sliced blanched almonds (I accidentally added the nuts which I had added more fruit to compensate for -you could reduce the amount of fruit you use by 100g if you would like to include the nuts?!)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g runny honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium apple grated (with  the skin on)
  • 125g toasted white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

(I heavily adapted this recipe to suit what I had in my cupboards. The original included pine nuts and fresh figs, so feel free to play around with the ingredients, your favourite fruit and nuts and what you can afford to include!)

  • 2 pudding basins (1lb each)
  • tin foil
  • greasproof paper
  • 2 saucepans and 2 saucers
  • Steam for 3 hours on a low heat
  • Refrigerate for up to one month or freeze for up to 3 months
  • On the day you wish to eat your pudding steam for 2 hours on a low heat before serving

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43. Polvorón – Spanish Christmas Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cakes

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Polvoron – you are always on my mind

I’ve had Polvorón on my mind for some time. I read about these crunchy little biscuits bites, months and months ago and they’ve been sitting patiently in my ‘Things to bake’ pile ever since.

They are quite an unusual discovery, something I had never heard if before. Traditionally Polvorón are eaten as wedding  cakes in Mexico made with pecans or as Christmas cakes in Spain, kind of like a Spanish Shortbread. Now I’m planning my own wedding I thought perhaps now is the time to incorporate an international flair into the festivities. Intrigued I launched into my own interpretation of the traditional recipe, basically determined by whatever ingredients I have in the cupboard.

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Chopped up dried coconut

I don’t usually buy pecans or walnuts so they had to be substituted for good old almonds (a nut which is ever present in my cupboard and life…) and chunks of dried coconut roughly chopped.

Due to the speedy baking that was necessary (and seems to be happening more and more often in my house) I improvised yet again. No time to assemble to food processor so I grabbed the nearest heavy item (a glass jar), threw the almonds into a sturdy sandwich bag and hammered them with the jar until they were delightfully smushed. Feel free to use a pestle and mortar if you wish to be a tad more refined than I.

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Beating the butter to a smooth paste

The ingredients are very similar to basic shortbread, with flour, butter and sugar.

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Thoroughly whipped butter

This is another brilliant biscuit for busy bakers as I managed to whip up the dough first thing on a Saturday morning, chill it whilst I showered. I used my trusty hand held electric whisk to beat the butter and icing (powdered) sugar together. Then to whisk in the flour and vanilla extract.

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Whisking in icing sugar, vanilla and finally flour

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My combination of ground almonds, chopped blanched almonds and chopped coconut.

And finally the nuts of your choice.

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The dough looks a bit scrambled eggy to start with…

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Take a small amount of loose dough in your hand

I completely misunderstood the recipe which calls for the dough to be chilled. I shapped the dough by hand into about 35 mini golf balls.

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squash it together and hey presto you have a ball!

I popped them all onto a greased and lined baking sheet covered them with cling film and popped them in the fridge to chill.

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All the Polvoron lined up in a row – ready for chilling

(I think you’re supposed to chill the whole dough then shape it?!) But this gave me a chance to shower so in effect helped to speed up the process.

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Delicately golden Polvoron fresh from the oven

I then spaced the little balls out evenly to give them room to spread whilst they baked. I popped the tray in the oven to bake it at 170 degree C for about 18-20 minutes, until they took on a delicately golden hue, whilst I applied clothes and make up.

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Cooled and ready for a good dusting of spicy icing sugar

Just enough time to then allow the Polvorón to cool on the tray to set their shape for 5 minutes. Then to cool them fully on a wire rack to stop the butter sweating out of them and give them sticky bottoms.

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Fully coated Polvoron

Once cooled fully I rolled the Polvorón in a bowl of icing sugar swirled with cinnamon giving them a fluffy white coat. As they set the sugar absorbed slightly into the biscuit adding an extra dimension of sweetness to the treat.

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Happy Birthday Mel!

I then quickly bagged them up, tied with a pretty ribbon and dashed off with my pretty packages of Polvorón to celebrate my friends birthday! With a champagne fueled (10 minute) train journey to Durham. Followed by more food, cocktails and Polvorón.

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Obviously I had to ensure their quality before sharing them with friends… they passed the test! Crunchy and sweet Polvoron

We declared them a tremendous cocktail accompaniment (and that’s not the frozen strawberry daiquiris talking).

Polvorón are buttery like shortbread but with an added crunch as they are smaller and denser than a traditional shortbread biscuit. The almonds brought a subtle creamy yet crunchy texture along with the coconut. I expect pecans would add even more bite to the biscuit. The Polvorón remind me a little of biscotti or amaretti biscuits which I also adore. What’s not to love about a delicious bite sized treat. Even better, as they’re so small you can obviously eat a whole handful of them in one go!

Polvoron – up close

I love the method of shaping these little biscuits into balls as I find rolling and cutting out biscuits a bit laborious  I quite enjoyed this hand made alternative and I’m already inventing my own nut free recipe for my friends who can’t eat nuts as I think everyone needs a bit of Polvoron in their lives!.

Things I used to make Polvorón

Makes about 35 small biscuits

Preparation: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 18-20minutes at 170degrees c

  • 220g butter (1 cup or 2 sticks)  room temperature
  • 250g powdered sugar (2 cups or 240 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g all purpose flour (2 cups or 240 grams)
  • 120 g (1 cup) almonds/pecans/coconut coarsely ground/chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Thank you to Sourdoughtheangrybaker for inspiring me to bake Polvoron! I had not heard of these wonderful cakes until you told me about them. Brilliant blog if you haven’t had a look already, I recommend reading.

42. Swedish Tea Ring – the cake for busy bakers

Planning to bake something in advance of an event or special occasion can be difficult. Sponge cake will dry out if baked too far in advance and if you freeze it you can’t ice it beforehand. I seem to be in a real baking frenzy at the moment. Partly because I’m in the process of baking my 5 tier wedding cake…

The teetering tower of fruit cake… shame 2 tiers need to be re-baked.

I’ve chosen fruit cake for my 5 tier wedding cake is because I love fruit cake and it will be Christmas(!) but also because I can plan it in and bake it in advance. Then take my time with icing it, hopefully resulting in a well organised and non stressful experience. Also fruit cake improves with age! The longer I soak the fruit and feed it BOOZE the better it will taste.

Swedish Tea Ring

So what else keeps well? A rich yeast dough, that’s what! Bring on another new discovery and favourite of mine, The Swedish Tea Ring!!

Marguerite Patten has been tempting me with this recipe for years and I finally found a reason to bake it! To give as a present to my friends Josh and Mark for looking after me in Manchester at the Blog North Awards last week.

It’s like a robust Chelsea Bun/Cinnamon Roll/Belgian Bun hybrid. Perfect for cinnamon junkies like me and for preparing in stages for the busy baker. I can also confirm it’s portability! It survived a 3 hour drive through lightening and torrential rain! That’s one sturdy bake.

Whisking the dry ingredients together…

One thing I dislike about making yeast doughs is the kneading time required. I no longer own a hand whisk with dough hooks attached and my food processor can only handle dough for 2-3 minutes before it starts rocking around the counter top precariously. So, in my mad baking frenzy, I improvised as best as I could do. I used my electric hand whisk and beat the dough together… Who knows if this is an acceptable baking practice?

Whisking in the egg

But despite my poor little electric whisk’s protests (it’s been through a lot this year) It managed to combine the wet dough together with minimal effort required from me. I call that a result (although the blown out birthday candle smell emanating from the little whisk’s motor might suggest otherwise…)

Whisking in the milk – making a wonderfully sticky dough

Now as Marguerite arranged each bit of this recipe in a different section of the book, I managed to confuse my recipe somewhat. I used the full rich yeast dough recipe and didn’t adjust it for the Swedish Tea Ring, which means you either make one massive tea ring or one modest sized ring (according to the recipe) and a smaller mini one for later with the off cuts. (I made 2!)

Poor little burnt out whisk – thoroughly kneading/whisking the dough

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Then whisk into the mix the butter, followed by the egg and then the milk until you get an elastic, wet sticky dough.

One thoroughly kneaded lump of richer yeast dough

Leave it in an oiled bowl and cover with greased cling film to prove. I popped mine in the fridge over night to prove slowly (although it should only take an hour or two in a warm spot).

Or if you’re in a hurry you could pop your bowl over a pot of soup on the hob to prove…

Remove the proven dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (if you have proven it in the fridge).

Fully proven dough straight from the fridge

Kneaded the full proven dough thoroughly to re distribute the heat throughout the dough.

Kneaded and shaped into a rectangle ready for rolling out

Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 inches by 8 inches about 0.5mm thick. I was feeling very precise so I even measured and trimmed the rectangle so it had straight edges, to avoid the misshapen ends I found when making Chelsea buns

Rolled and trimmed to perfection. (Note the ball off extra dough leftover…)

My favourite bit was smearing the entire rectangle of dough with melted butter. I don’t think you need to be precise here. I found a pastry brush too delicate for this job and slapped the lot on with my hand instead straight from the microwave. (It only needs about 30 seconds to melt the butter through). The more generous with the butter the more gooey your filling.

Smeared with butter

For those who adore cinnamon, don’t feel restricted by the recipe. Feel free to pour as much cinnamon into your sugar as you can handle. Give it a quick stir to combine and then throw it onto your butter dough until you have an even blanket of cinnamony wonderment. I like to use enough cinnamon to give the sugar a dark brown colour. I ran out of brown sugar so improvised with normal caster sugar. Perhaps brown sugar would produce more of a caramelised effect?

Generously coat the butter in cinnamon and sugar (I was clearly in a hurry when I took this photo – apologies for it’s blurriness!)

After watching the Great British Bake Off, I realised my rolling skills may bye somewhat lacking. I have a tendency to misunderstand which side is the long side of the dough so I took photos to make sure I can bake this again in the future. Roll the dough towards you from the longest edge to the longest edge creating a ‘swiss roll’ of cinnamon dough.

Cinnamon swiss roll

Don’t worry if some of your sugar falls out of the roll. There’s plenty in there to make it taste wonderful. Keep the roll as tight as possible and if you have some melted butter leftover, it’s a good idea to spread a bit along the longest exposed edge to help ‘glue’ the dough to itself. I would also add a bit to one end to help later on…

Keeping the roll tight with one hand and glueing with butter the dough together

Press your fingers along the join in the dough to encourage the dough to combine and stick together. Turn the roll over so the join is firmly disguised under the roll of dough. Gravity should help to force the roll to stick together and stop the sugary goodness running out whilst it bakes.

Firmly joined together – then hide this join underneath the roll of dough

This also means you have the smooth (and prettier) side of the dough roll to play with. The most difficult bit of this bake is definitely joining the two short edges of dough together as they are very sugary and don’t want to stick.

This is my Chelsea Bun attempt but it’s very similar! The swirl of cinnamon at each end makes it difficult to join but making sure you have straight edges when you roll out the dough (unlike here – look at the overlap!) makes it much easier to join

I coaxed them together with butter and nipped the edges together with my fingers until they begrudgingly worked with me.

The troublesome join

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it finally stayed in place! It could almost be one MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut at this point. But it had to have another little rest to prove again (about 20 minutes) before the next step…

a MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut

Now here my recipe reading skills escape me again. What I failed to understand was Marguerite meant for me to cut completely through the ring to create a fan of cinnamon buns in the shape of a ring, like this…

Marguerite’s Swedish Tea Ring – How it should look in real life – fully exposed cinnamon

Unfortunately the photo was on a completely different page and I interpreted the instructions like this…

Partially exposed cinnamon – my interpretation

Brandishing my sharpest kitchen scissors I snipped delicately and diagonally into the ring to partially expose the cinnamon swirls. I must admit I was nervous that this slicing would compromise the integrity of my dough join so was possibly overly hesitant at this stage.

Snippity snip

All it needed was to be placed into a moderately hot oven for 30 minutes or so, until it turned golden brown.

Swedish Tea Ring ready for the oven

As the Swedish Tea Ring is essentially a bread dough I also made sure it was baked through by knocking the bottom of the ring to listen for the resounding hollow tap.

Fully baked (and a bit more irregular in shape than Marguerite’s)

The baked Swedish Tea ring is a tempting sight with glitterring cinnamon peeking out from the dough (although not the most organised of rings it still looks inviting to me!)

Lemon Glace Icing

Once the ring cooled fully I whipped up a batch of lemon glace icing. It hides an enormous amount of irregularities and flaws, especially if you layer up your icing! Again I can;t say I followed Marguerite’s recipe exactly. I like a tart lemon flavour so I sloshed in a bit of lemon extract to give an extra punch to the icing. I also free poured the icing sugar and mixed it with enough lemon juice to create a runny yet thick icing. (This does take quite a bit of icing sugar!).

free pouring icing – balanced over a big mug

When the icing is just about right in consistency it should taste good (obviously!) not be gritty, the sugar should totally melt into the liquid and it should part when stirred in the bowl. (see the picture above) This means it’s starting to hold it’s shape a bit whilst still being runny to cascade over your tea ring and coat the cake in thick white goo.

iced and decorated Swedish Tea Ring

It’s best to pop your Swedish Tea Ring on some greaseproof paper (or a plate) before you pour the icing over it to catch the icing waterfall. It needs some time to dry and set. I iced mine just before bed so it had time to set over night before being deposited into it’s travel box. Please note you may need more than 2 hands and a palette knife to prise your cake from the paper after it’s iced!

The final Swedish Tea Ring

Mary Berry recommends decorating cakes in groups of threes. I didn’t have the traditional galce cherries in my cupboard but I always have a store of sultanas, hence the trio of sultanas dotted on each section of ring. It’s also best to add these decorations while your icing is still wet.

The Swedish Tea Ring in it’s rustic glory

I loved this bake. It was a pleasure to make, especially as I could spend an hour at a time doing each step making it a more manageable bake to do after work over 2 evenings. The contrast of the sharp and sweet icing against the warming cinnamon is so comforting, just what you need after a long drive in the winter night. Each slice reveals a beautiful cinnamon swirl…

A cinnamon swirl in every slice

I can recommend it with a celebratory gin or a cup of tea. Whatever your preference, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I enjoyed seconds, and could have even squeezed in thirds if I wasn’t being polite!

A chunk of Swedish Tea Ring

It was a good job I had baked my mini Swedish Tea Ring and froze it for later on that week for my friend’s house warming, as it then made a special appearance in a photo shoot for the Sunderland Echo who published an article on my Blog North Award. You can see the mini Swedish Tea Ring being balanced on a cake stand by me here

Double Swedish Tea Ring – Little and Large


Things I used to make my Swedish Tea Ring

1 quantity of Richer Yeast Dough

  • 7g of dried instant yeast
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 lb plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 0z butter/margarine (you choose)
  • 1 egg
  • just under 1/2 pint milk (room temperature)

Swedish Tea Ring

Use 8 oz of richer yeast dough to make one tea ring or the full quantity of richer yeast dough to make a larger ring (and a mini ring like me)

Filling

  • 1 oz melted butter
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (although I added enough to ensure the sugar was a dark brown colour…)
  • Sultanas to decorate (although it should really be glace cherries)
  • 30-35 minutes 350F, Gas mark 3-4 or 170 degrees C

Lemon Water (Glace) Icing

  • about 200g-300g icing sugar (you may need more to get the right consistency)
  • about 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • a good slosh of lemon extract (not essence)

41. Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

Welcome to Otto and Fanny’s

When choosing which island to visit in Fiji the Yasawas stood out a mile, mainly due to the lure of wonderful food at Otto’ and Fanny’s. We spent an entire week soaking up the scorching Sun, lounging in hammocks,

wandering down idyllic white sandy beaches,

The perfect beach

avoiding falling coconuts, going to bed when the electric was switched off and rising when the drums called us for breakfast. It was absolutely perfect.

Our beautiful straw bure – Home Sweet Home

In our straw bure, despite the cockroaches and millions of mosquitos, who can’t help but be happy when you’re being fed freshly caught fish which is so thick it was difficult to tell if it was fish or meat?

Bula Bula! Welcome to Fanny and Otto’s where the wine is  almost the same price as the water

And when the wine is (almost) cheaper than the water! Frankly I could spend my life sunbathing and eating if only the mosquitos didn’t love me so much…

Afternoon tea at Fanny and Otto’s was infamous with travellers making a special trip just to sample the delights. We ate banana cake and chocolate cake by the boat load with a hot cup of tea made from collected rain water.

What’s not to love?

The cake itself was worth the 5hour boat rude to reach the Yasawas. I haven’t been able to find the exact recipe to recreate the tremendous square slabs of banana cake but I reckon this one is pretty close. I also failed to take a photo of the cake in question! ( This was back in the day before I had a baking blog or the thought had even crossed my mind…)

Fijian Banana Cake

This cake is really quick to make and feeds a lot of people! It’s good by itself and even better with custard!

Step 1: Beat together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy

I use an electric whisk to get the butter really fluffy. Keep whisking until it becomes a lighter colour – then you know it;s full of wonderful air.

2. The one handed egg crack technique – multi tasking to the extreme

Whisk in the eggs one at a time. It’s taken some practice but I’ve mastered the one handed egg cracking technique now. It makes this whisking so much quicker! Don’t worry if it starts to look like it’s curdling, just keep whisking. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of your  bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is incorporated into the batter.

Keep whisking… until it’s really fluffy

Whisk in the flour

Normally I would fold in flour to a fluffy egg batter to preserve the air content and ensure a light and tender sponge, however the recipe didn’t say to do this. I was feeling particularly lazy and the thought of washing another spoon saddened me. So I reckoned I could just keep using the electric whisk. After all when Mary Berry uses self raising flour in sponge cakes she whisks everything using her ‘all in one method’ and it always works!

Add the mushed up bananas

This cake is perfect if you have a few brown bananas that need to be used up. Mash up your tired bananas and add them to the mix. Again I was already using the whisk so I thought let’s carry on regardless. Let’s whisk these bananas up too!

Pour in the coconut milk

Coconut milk is a wonderful addition to this cake. Coconut and banana goes so well together! I added slightly more milk than the recipe asked for as I chose to use wholemeal flour, which is a bit drier than plain flour. It’s also more of a healthy option. I can’t pretend that I chose this purely for health benefits however, as I had a bag of self raising wholemeal flour that needed to be eaten. It worked beautifully!

Whisk everything together into a liquid batter

With the final whisk the liquid banana batter is ready for the oven. Don;t be alarmed by how runny it is! It means the mixture spreads out really well into all the corners of your tin. Producing a really smooth surface, which is pratically unheard of in my cakes.

Pre baking

A mere 40 minutes in the oven and you have a perfect slice of Fiji on your plate. This cake is amazing. It was wonderful straight from the oven but even better the following day all by itself. It developed a sweet gloss on the top after a day of rest in my cake box. It’s a beautifully moist cake and the added texture from the wholemeal flour gave it an extra dimension.

Golden Brown texture like sun

With slivers of banana making an appearance throughout the cake it makes a wonderful breakfast cake (but then again show me a cake not fit for breakfast!), a mid afternoon pick me up or a full on pudding with custard/ice cream. Just take your biggest knife and chop it into rectangular slabs and devour.

Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

It just so happened that I was preparing for another race (post Great North Run!) The Edinburgh Great Run 10k and bananas a my favourite running fuel. This is now my favourite running cake. Delicious and nutritious.

Bananas and custard – so comforting

Things that I used to make Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

Serves more than 20 (small -ish portions)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 table spoons butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 cups of wholemeal or normal self raising flour (If using plain flour (all purpose), add 5 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 1 ½ cups of milk or coconut milk (add a bit more – 1 can of coconut milk – if using wholemeal flour)
  • 4 bananas
  • one deep rectangular baking tray (approx 9cms by 25cm)
  • bake for 40-45 minutes at about 170 degrees c

Wish you were here

40. Chinese Rice Cakes – Half way aroundtheworldin80bakes!

Hasn’t time flown? One year in and we’re already half way Around the World in 80 bakes and what better destination to reach than China, one of my most favourite places in the world!

The Great Wall – look how far we walked

China has always been my ultimate must visit country. We visited just before the Beijing Olympics. Travelling around on over night trains from Shanghai to Beijing, climbing the Great Wall (sometimes on my hands and knees  – those steps are steep!) and sampling all of the delights of tasty chicken spine (!) and dried fish skin (yum).

Chinese Street Food – we didn’t eat the seahorses on sticks

Chinese Rice cakes have always intrigued me. I found the recipe in Marguerite Patten’s book and was surprised to discover how little rice flour they actually contain! However they do contain LARD! You may recall my love of lard from previous bakes such as Wiltshire Lardy Cake

 

These are such a quick little cake to bake and the results are impressive. Paul Hollywood would be proud of my equal sized rice cakes and even bake.

Chinese Rice Cakes – Paul Hollywood would be proud, look at the consistent size of the batch!

All you have to do is sift the dry ingredients together; plain, rice and corn flour, with baking powder, salt and sugar.

Ready to rub in the lard and rice flour

Rub the lard into the flour… My least favourite bit as I still shudder at the smell of lard. It’s definitely pungent.

Lardy times

Then bring together the mixture by stirring in a tablespoon of water, almond extract and half an egg. What a peculiarly precise measurement from Marguerite! I struggled to decide what half an egg was, so I cracked an egg into my cupped palm, over a bowl. I chopped the yolk in half with my finger and slid half (ish) of the egg into the mix. Keeping the other half for glazing the cakes later on.

Sticky dough ready for shaping

Once the mixture is quite sticky it’s ready to be divided and rolled into equal sized balls and plopped onto a greased and lined baking sheet. It’s easier to use your hands to roll them into smooth balls.

Lined up and ready for my close up – Chinese Rice Cakes

Once they’re on the sheet and spaced out nicely press a blanched almond into the centre and give them a quick egg wash with the other half of the egg. This means they will flatten a little onto the sheet and the almond will stick to the dough as it bakes. You will also get a wonderful golden crust on your cakes.

Perfectly spaced and oven ready Chinese Rice Cakes

Into the oven for for 15 -20 minutes at 205 degrees celsius and…

Just baked Chinese Rice Cakes

Ni Hao Chinese Rice Cakes ah hoy!

The Final Bake – Chinese Rice Cake

What a tasty little cake! The almond extract really comes though although if I were to make it again I probably would add more almond extract and some ground almonds too for more of an extravagant bake and richer flavour. Marguerite Patten’s recipes tend to be a bit more on the economical side, using minimum amounts of ingredients as she was baking during the war and making do with rations and tight budgets. I often double the quantities to make a larger batch and feed my hungry friends and family. The lard adds the extra moisture needed to give a crumbly yet light texture when baking with gluten free flours such as corn and rice which can be a bit dry side for my liking. They keep for quite a while in an airtight container and freeze really well too. Then easy to defrost as and when needed for a rice cake fix.

All in all a very quick, efficient and consistent bake. I would definitely bake these again and know that I won’t be able to resist experimenting with the ingredients.

Things that I used to make Chinese Rice Cakes

Margeurite Patten’s Recipe

This makes approximately 15 cakes

Preparation time: 10 minutes! (My kind of preparation!)

Cooking time: 15 -20 minutes

  • 4 oz (118g)  plain flour
  • 1 oz (30g) ground rice (rice flour)
  • 1/2 oz (15g) Cornflour
  • 3 oz (88g) sugar
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz (88g) lard
  • 1/2 an egg (quite difficult to measure!)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence (I used extract as it’s stronger)
  • pinch of salt
  • blanched almonds to decorate
  • 15-20 minutes at 205 degrees Celsius

39. Bagels Bagels Bagels! Polish Bakery

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!

Bagels have been on my to bake list FOREVER! Inspired by a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (new series and I’m guessing everyone else is totally addicted to it like me too?) I uncovered my wonderful (signed) copy of  Thoughtful Bread  ‘Bread Revolution’ for a recipe I could begin late one night. (I’ve even tweeted @thoughtfulbread to let them know I was baking from their book and got some lovely late night baking encouragement.)

We were treated to a short history lesson on bagels by the Great British Bake Off. Although they are more recently considered to be an American bread, they were originally brought from Poland to England and then on to America. They are typically Jewish Food with a wonderfully chewy crust from the poaching of the dough before the bake. (My favourite bit!)

Mixing up all the flour, salt, honey and yeast

A spot of late night preparation was in order to get this dough on the road. I mixed together the flour, dried yeast and a little salt to0. I ran out of strong white flour so made up the difference with brown strong flour, so these bagels were almost healthy too.

Add the water to get a sticky dough and stir!

Then to add the water. I had to add a little more water as I worked with the dough, probably due to the slightly drier brown flour I used.

Ready for some good kneading

When I started kneading the dough I was determined to reach the elusive ‘window pane’ stage where the gluten in the flour has become all stringy and elastic  and stretches out when pulled to create a transparent window when held up to the light in the dough. Alas after the allotted 10 minutes of kneading the rather tough dough by hand I was still windowless. A further 10 minutes of kneading (tracked by my faithful hamburger timer) and I was STILL windowless… I asked Chris to have a go with his brute strength and STILL no window. So I gave up comforted slightly that the dough had been kneaded at least twice as long as it was supposed to be and it did bounce back when prodded with my finger.

Me kneading on tip toes

I think I need lower work surfaces for bread making as I always have to resort to balancing on my tip toes to get the full impact of the kneading…

proving time

I left the ball of dough to prove and double in size over night in a greased bowl covered with greased cling film. Et voila! The next morning I awoke to beautifully risen dough.

Beautifully risen dough

Punching it back I kneaded it thoroughly again (it’s a good job I do yoga press ups!) dividing the dough into 12 (equal-ish) portions I left it to rest for 5 minutes whilst I arranged the next stage. Water bath!

12 chunks of dough

Taking my largest soup pan I filled it about half way with water from the kettle.

Stage 1: The dough sausage

Then to shape the bagels. I tried a few different methods to see which worked best and I think I prefer the traditional method. Roll a long sausage about 20 cms long) of dough and shape it into a circle.

Stage 2: shape into a circle

Fold the loose ends together and squash them together.

Stage 3: Fold the loose ends together

Then put your hand through the ‘hole’ in the centre and roll the join together until the two ends are firmly merged. Then if required roll the rest of the dough ring in the same way to even up the dough and shape it into a bagel.

Stage 4: Squash the loose ends together

The other method is more modern and maybe slightly quicker. Where you shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, poke your thumb through the centre and then whilst holding the dough in your palm squeeze around the dough to widen the hole and shape the dough into a bagel.

I used for each bagel? Poor dough ring on the right is a bit more of a bagel bracelet

Once shaped the bagels need to prove for about 30 minutes under a damp tea towel or greased cling film at which point you can start to warm up the oven and water so it’s simmering nicely.

If you want to add flavouring to your bagels you can add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds after the poaching stage, but if you like your bagels fruity on the inside (like me) then you will have to add your chosen flavour before you shape the bagels. I chose to make half savoury and half sweet.

pre soaked dried fruit, apple, cranberries and raisins

I pre soaked some dried fruit, raisins, apple and cranberries overnight in a little boiling water with a dash of cinnamon. Drained off the excess water and folded in a teaspoon (or 2) of the fruit along with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon into the dough before shaping it.

Step 1: Filling the bagel

It makes the bagel a bit unpredictable with spots of fruit poking out all over the place but I found if I sealed the fruit into the dough and then shaped it, it was a little easier.

Step 2: folding in the edges to make a fruit pouch. Sealing the edges together

Step 3: roll into a dough sausage and follow the stages above to shape the bagel

Then all you have to do is plonk the bagels into your pan of simmering water for 2 minutes (turning them over half way through for an even poach).

Bagels in for a swim

The bagels do expand slightly so don’t over fill your pan, do them in batches so they have room to breathe.

Ever increasing circles

Then out of the pan an into the oven! I used my Nana’s slotted spoon to scoop the bagels out and drain off the water. Then gently pop then onto a lined baking tray (sprinkle on your choice of topping while the bagel is wet) and into the oven they go.

Ready for the oven

This means you can have a continuous run of bagel poaching and baking until all of your bagels are baked. However this meant I was waiting for my breakfast for almost 2 hours. I ended up devouring 2 hot bagels and butter straight from the oven and they did not disappoint! Hot and buttery they were just what I needed.

Fruity Bagels in for a swim

They are definitely easier to split down the middle when they’ve cooled a bit though. The plain bagels were easier to eat and even better toasted too to give an even crisp coating and chewy soft centre. I LOVED this bake. You know you’re making something special when it takes a bit more effort and skill.

Bagels! Hot from the oven

The fruity bagels were a little more moist in the middle, but this is what I had expected. You can’t put fruit into a bagel without adding a bit of moisture.

bagel splitting

Perhaps in the future when I think they’re baked I might also turn them over and return them to the oven for a few more minutes just to ensure the bagels are baked evenly. As I did find that the bagels were quite wet when they went in the oven so they were slightly soggy when they came out of the oven, but a lot of this moisture dried as they cooled (and I guess adds to their chewiness.)

Bagel goodness

I would also add more cinnamon to the bagels as they weren’t quite cinnamony enough for me. All in all a very good bake and I’m adding this to my baking repertoire now!

Bagel sandwiches

Things I used to make this recipe:

Lovingly adapted  from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company

  • 375g strong brown flour
  • 375g strong white flour
  • 3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 375ml warm water
  • 7 tsp honey
  • additional strong white flour for dusting the board

Fruit filling

  • A bowl full of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried apple)
  • cinnamon

Optional Toppings

  • I used sesame seeds and just sprinkled enough to coat the bagels on each one
  • You could use anything such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds,

Cath Kidston Flour Sifter – so handy when you’re covered in sticky dough

The Hamburger Timer – so handy for timing all those batches of bagels