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
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 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

Method

  1. Whisk the eggs yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Whisk in the coconut milk, pandan essence (and a splash of green food colouring if you would like it extra bright)
  3. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and flour together
  4. Whisk in a third of the flour mixture followed by a third of the oil until it’s all incorporated
  5. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar
  6. Beat until the eggs whites are they reach stiff peaks
  7. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently
  8. Pour into a non greased tube pan
  9. Bake at 160 degrees c fan for 50 minutes
  10. When fully cooked invert the tin immediately over a cooling rack and allow the cake to slide gently out of the tin as it cools
  11. 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.

51. The Legendary Crack Pie (concocted the lazy way)

Legendary Crack Pie - no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Legendary Crack Pie – no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Crack Pie the most addictive pie you’re ever going to eat. It even sounds legendary before you even know what’s actually inside it. It hails from New York so apologies this is yet another American bake in my around the world adventures. But I’m sure you will understand why I just HAD to bake this. It was originally invented by Momofuku Milk Bar’s very talented pastry chefs and coined Crack Pie due to it’s extremely moreish quality.

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to bake this pie. This excuse came in the form of the Private Pie Club. The theme for this months Private Pie was Film Pie. I managed to shoehorn my Crack Pie in under the banner of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ as the most drug fuelled film I could think of , although with it’s final dusting of floral icing sugar the pie appears much more sweet and innocent than it’s name suggests… (If you like pie you should also come along to Private Pie club and meet other pie enthusiasts!)

Fully iced Crack Pie

Fully iced Crack Pie

The original epic recipe is merely concocted from a few store cupboard essentials. This means you will probably have all of the ingredients ready to hand to bake this pie. So what are you waiting for?? Get baking! Although there is a LOT of everything in it so you may need to invest in a few more eggs…

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

The homemade oat cookie base is well worth the extra effort of making a cookie just to crumble it up and reconstitute it into a pie crust. The pie in total consists of an entire block of butter, almost 500g of sugar (brown and white) 8 egg yolks and cream! This is a gloriously decadent pie for the hungry. It’s so popular I’ve heard that they sell for $45 a pop and are couriered across the states to feed the Crack Pie habit of the nation.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter and egg

To start with I got the method a bit backwards. Despite my lack of reading ability it turned out pretty well so you too can follow my lazy method. I forgot to cream the butter and sugar together and instead whacked all of the dry ingredients together into the mixer and beat them until crumbly.

Then beat in the butter and egg to make a thick cookie batter.

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

The best bit about baking this kind of cookie is it doesn’t need to be pretty and you don’t even have to bother rolling and cutting it out! Music to my lazy baking ears. Basically whack it all onto a greased baking sheet, press it down with your fingers and bake it for 20 minutes. Job done.

The baked cookie base

The baked cookie base

The rough cookie will be a lovely golden hue after 20 minutes in the oven at 160 degrees C. Technically you should let it cool down before crumbling up the cookie but I couldn’t wait.

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

All of the other recipes I’ve found instruct you to blitz up the cookie in a food processor, but frankly that involves unpacking my food processor from the jenga game that is my kitchen cupboard and even more washing up , so I didn’t bother. I threw the roughly crumbled cookie into my mixer and beat it into submission along with an additional 55g butter, 20g brown sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

This is how the cookie crumbles

This is how the cookie crumbles

After a quick blitz with the mizer (I’m sure you could just use a spoon or an electric handwhisk if you’re feeling the strain) the cookie turn to glossy crumbs. Just moist enough to shape it into a pie crust in your 2 pie tins.

Cookie Pie Crusts

Cookie Pie Crusts

Divide the cookie crumbs into 2 and squash them into 2 pie tins giving a thin and even crust along the bottom of the tin and up the sides. If it’s not sticking you can always blend in a little more butter to moisten the crumbs. I used a 9 inch tart tin and an 8 inch round cake tin. It’s handy to use a tin with a loose bottom to help remove the pie when it’s ready for eating. But feel free to use a solid pie dish, it’ll all taste amazing anyway. Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

Blend together your sugars

Starting the filling: Blend together your sugars and salt

Now here’s the bit where I ad lib even further from the original recipe. I admit the one store cupboard essential I don’t own is powdered milk. So I just left it out of the filling. I’m not sure what impact this had on the final flavour of the pie but to be honest I didn’t miss it. Looking for a substitute all things suggested just adding actual milk. A splash of milk and a dollop of speculoos butter later and we have one tasty Crack Pie!

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

I love the fact that you just have to keep adding to the one pot to make each stage of this pie. After blending together the white and brown sugar, all that’s left to do is to whisk in to the sugar the melted butter, the double cream, a splash of vanilla, a splosh of milk, and a dollop of speculoos butter. You don’t need to incorporate lots of air into this caramel custard so just whisk it until it’s smooth and everything is incorporated.

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

The caramel custard will be shiny and smooth taking on the hue of the brown sugar. Simply pour half of the custard onto each pie crust and bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees C. Then turn down the oven to 160 and bake for a further 10 minutes. I baked both pies side by side, but the larger of the pies needed an extra 10 -15 minutes of solitary baking time. The pies are clearly cooked when golden all over and only a little jiggly (like a good custard tart should be!)

The just baked Crack Pie

The just baked Crack Pie

A good tip from Mary Berry to achieve an even bake is to place your pies onto a hot baking sheet. It also means your loose bottomed tin will keep it’s bottom when lifting it in and out of the oven (I have had issues in the past with my tart tin). Also if it leaks any butter (and let’s face it with all of the butter in this pie it’s going to ooze a little) you will save a lot of oven cleaning by having your pie on a baking sheet instead.

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

The filling will rise slightly whilst baking but maintains a lovely smooth and flat top. Once baked leave your Crack Pies to cool down in their tins. They will keep well for about a week in the fridge and I hear it tastes even better the longer it lasts… (if you can reserve yourself that is!). When I took that first bite of Crack Pie I actually ‘yummed’ out loud. In public! It’s so moist, the cookie crust almost disappears into the gooey caramel filling with the edges giving that much needed bite. It’s a perfect combination of smooth, sweet caramel and oaty crumble, with a hint of spice (from the speculoos) and a tang of salt. The slice quickly disappeared before my eyes and the whole pie was gone within minutes. Without doubt a wonderful sign of an excellent pie.

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

As this is a recipe for 2 Crack Pies, you could scale it back to make just the one. But I fear one will never be enough! If you have the ingredients you may as well make two and share with friends (if you like anyone enough to share your Crack Pie with them) or alternatively gorge yourself on all of the pie. (Please eat your Crack Pie responsibly) Or even more sensibly you could freeze your second Crack Pie for a special occasion. I have my Crack Pie resting carefully in the freezer, wrapped diligently in greaseproof paper and tin foil (still in it’s tin) to prevent freezerburn and   that distinctive ‘freezer flavour’ contamination. I literally can’t wait to defrost it.

How to decorate a Crack Pie?

How to dress a Crack Pie?

Now you don’t have to dress your Crack Pie, if you don’t want to. You could leave it naked as the day it was born if you prefer, but I wanted to make it look pretty (and hide a few of the little cracks that had appeared on the delicate crust in the process of forcibly removing it from the tin) Armed with a cake stencil, tea strainer and a box of icing sugar I liberally dusted on a floral pattern, covering the entire pie. It’s the first time I’ve ever managed to stencil anything successfully! Hurrah! Cue many self indulgent shots of stencilled Crack Pie…

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

Things that I used to make The Legendary Crack Pie 

Oat Cookie (for the crust)

  • 150g plain flour (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1g baking powder (1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1g Cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon) – This should actually be bicarbonate of soda however I got the pots mixed up! It didn’t seem to do any harm so I will be using cream of tartar in the future.
  • 2g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 115g softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 60g dark brown sugar (1/3 cup )
  • 40g  caster sugar (3 tablespoons)

Step 1: Beat all of the above together until fully incorporated

  • 1 egg

Step 2: Beat in the egg

  • 90g oats (1 cup)

Step 3: Stir in the oats

Step 4: Spread onto greased baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees C (375F)

Pie Crust

Step 5: Crumble up the baked cookie and beat in

  • 55g butter (1/4 cup)
  • 20g brown sugar (1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/8 teaspoon)

Step 6: Split the crumbs in half and press firmly and evenly into 2 (approximately 9 inch) pie tins all over the base and up the sides to form a thin crust.  Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

The Caramel Custard Filling

  • 270g caster sugar (1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 130g dark brown sugar (3/4 cup and a scant 3 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • (I left the milk powder out but if you want to put it in use 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon)
  • 113g melted butter  (1 cup)
  • 285ml double cream (3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Splash of milk (to make up for the lack of milk powder)
  • 50g speculoos butter (to make up for the lack of milk powder – you could leave this out if you prefer or even use peanut butter instead)

Step 7: Whisk all of the above together

  • 8 egg yolks

Step 8: Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time until the mixture is smooth, shiny and thick

Step 9: Pour half of the caramel custard onto each pie crust

Step 10: Bake the pies side by side in a preheated oven on a hot baking sheet for 15 minutes at 17o degrees C (350F) then turn the oven down to 160 degrees C (325F) and bake for a further 10 minutes. When golden all over and only ever so slightly jiggly your Crack Pie is ready! 

Step 11:  Allow your pies to cool and dress with icing sugar. Then reward yourself for all of your efforts with a slab of pie. Enjoy!

*The Momofuku Recipe was published by the LA Times recently if you want to see it in all it’s glory

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.

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

38. South Korean Sweet Potato Cake with Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

This recipe was inspired by what I had left in my fridge. One lonely sweet potato. Upon returning from holiday to Amsterdam I needed a quick and exotic bake for my sister’s birthday. I wasn’t entirely sure that everyone would enjoy a South Korean sweet potato cake but hey, this is what you get when your little sister sets up an international baking blog challenge!

This was actually quite quick to make, the most time being spent peeling and dicing the sweet potato so it could be boiled and mashed into a gloriously orange mush.

Mushed Sweet Potato

I love sweet potatoes and have been eating them a LOT in my preparation for the Great North Run which is (gulp!!) next Sunday!! They promise many vitamins (A, C and B6), antioxidants AND they have anti inflammatory properties! Perfect for soothing those aching joints and muscles post running! ..So this cake is (almost) practically healthy!

Creamy butter and sugar

I started by creaming the butter and two types of sugar together with my handheld electric whisk for about 5 minutes until it became lighter and fluffy.

Then add one egg at a time and vanilla and keep on whisking

Then add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time,vanilla and keep on whisking until they’re incorporated completely. It take about 5 minutes to whisk the mixture up until it’s very light and fluffy.

Lots of fluffy eggs, sugar and butter

Then onto the dry stuff. In a separate bowl I mixed together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Dry stuff, flour, baking powder and salt

Then to stir in the milk to the sweet potato along with the syrup (as I don’t keep maple syrup in my cupboard I substituted it for golden syrup :)

IN with the syrup!

Stir it all together until it’s a milky sweet potato soup

Sweet potato soup

Then to gently fold in a third of the flour to the fluffy eggs and butter mixture

Folding in the flour

And then fold in a third of the sweet potato soup

Folding in the sweet potato soup

And alternate folding in a third of the flour and a third of the soup until all the ingredients are incorporated creating an orange flecked liquid batter.

All in!

The original recipe was to make two 9 inch round cakes. But I wanted one big cake and I love my lazy cake pan (PushPan) and use it at every opportunity I get! It really speeds up the process as it’s really non stick and leak proof! AND my favourite bit! No lining required! No wasted paper and effort. Just a quick spritz with cake release et voila! One quick cake! I wish I could afford more of them.

Just baked. Look at that deep brown!

I used one 9 inch tin to cake all of the batter in a 180 degrees C (or 350 degree F)  oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Until it’s baked evenly, with a golden top. This cake shrank back beautifully from the sides of the tin too to tell me it was ready for eating. I made sure it was done by sticking a cocktail stick in it and it came out clean on my check.

I always leave a cake to cool in it’s pan for at least 15 minutes before turning it out to cool fully on the wire rack. I learnt this the hard way as I once took my Christmas cake out of the tin straight away and it fell into 3 massive chunks in my hands. I did shed a tear at this after waiting patiently for it by the oven for 5 hours. They definitely need a bit of cooling to hold their shape! (Luckily I managed to stick my cake back together with jam and a bit of marzipan to cover the cracks and no one knew the difference!)

Tester sweet potato cupcakes

I was worried that this cake might be a bit odd on our English palettes so I made some tester cupcakes alongside my large cake. I needn’t have worried! It was delicious! I has only meant to try the corner of one cupcake and 2 minutes later the whole thing has disappeared into my tummy. It’s quite a sweet and slightly savoury sponge. A bit like carrot cake but without the grated carrot texture. It’s also a lot more moist than carrot cake.

You could stop here as the recipe didn’t give any sort of filing or frosting and the cake is sweet enough to eat as a sponge in it’s own right. HOWEVER if like me you want to take things a step further I found an amazing recipe for Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting, which is very reminiscent of rice pudding with a whole can of evapourated milk but with dessicated coconut instead of rice. Delicious! And what I love even more about this recipe is it takes 15 minutes with no trace of icing sugar to be swept up from every corner of your kitchen afterwards! This is a great alternative to buttercream which my family aren’t a huge fan of.

Throw into a pan egg yolks,  evapourated milk, sugar and vanilla

Choosing my heaviest sauce pan I added the sugar, egg yolks and milk to it along with the vanilla and stirred it all together

Continue to stir over a medium heat for 12 minutes until it thickens

Once it reaches the ‘pudding’ stage (it’s as thick as pudding) take the pan off the heat, throw in the dessicated coconut and Bob’s your uncle you’ve made coconut custard!

Then it needs to be cooled completely before spreading it over your cake.

Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

As Mary Berry ‘s sage advice is to include a little of what’s in your cake on your cake so I lovingly adorned the cake with slices of coconut too.

South Korean Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut Custard Frosting

I was very pleasantly surprised by this cake and the combination of coconut custard. This was my very first ever attempt at making custard too and given the opportunity (and a spoon) I could merrily eat the whole pan of it by itself. That would definitely warm you up on a winter’s night! It was so sweet and comforting. You probably couldn’t eat more than one slice as it is quite a dense cake but I’m always up for a challenge. Now I’m thinking about it again I wish I had another huge chunk to tuck into! I’m happy to report that my sister enjoyed it too!

Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut frosting a sideways glance

Things I used to make South Korean Sweet Potato Cake

  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cubed, boiled, and mashed
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (golden syrup)

15 min  Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

Things I used to make Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

  • 1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

35. Merry Christmas! Stollen – Germany

Ok, ok, this may have been a long time coming (or perhaps I’m just ultra organised for this coming  prepared for Christmas)  BUT now it’s Summer it makes perfect sense to stop by Germany for a spot of Christmas Stollen. My wonderful baking friend Julie over at Sweetgum Bakery sent me a copy of her Patisserie course workbook (all the way from Australia I may add) which had this delicious recipe. I love this  book. It teaches you the techniques to create beautiful ‘bakery products for Patissiers’ including pastries and breads. I have already had a good go at a few things like  pretty dinner rolls pretending to be a real Patissier. This Stollen recipe  encompasses everything that I love about Christmas. Marzipan, spice, RUM and dried fruit. What’s not to love??

Stollen is for life, not just for Christmas

A stollen is a sweet, rich yeast dough laced with almond paste (or marzipan) and studded with dried fruit. Perfect for your Christmas celebrations (or any tea table al year round! Why deny yourself something so gorgeous just because it’s not December?!)  I may start just eating this all year round. I bet you could also make smaller Stollen buns or a Stollen Crown loaf, or a Stollen plait, or Stollen cupcakes! I might be getting carried away but the possibilities are endless.

Stollen is a traditional European dish which originated in Germany. You can vary the filling depending on your mood (or what’s in your cupboards) with flaked almonds, poppyseeds, or sultanas and candied peel. Whatever you prefer! Apparently you can also purchase Stollen tins to help keep the traditional shape during baking, but I am yet to find one. Although I’m sure it would be a wise investment indeed as I think mine spread a little on the baking sheet, but this didn’t stop it tasting lovely.

It’s always a good idea to pre soak your sultanas in a generous slosh of rum overnight to plump them up and enhance their flavour. It also adds to the festivities.

As with any yeast based dough it requires some proving time so make sure you have some time to spend with your Stollen. The recipe calls for compressed yeast. I was using instant dried yeast so adapted the method to suit.

Yeasty flour

Mix the 20g of  flour, 7g instant yeast (normally when I make a loaf of bread 500g of flour requires 7g of instant yeast so I used 1 sachet of Hovis instant yeast) and milk (200g)  together. Mix together then leave to prove for 20 mins in a warm place.

Yeasty batter

Add the rest of the flour (380g) to the mix along with an egg, lemon zest, lemon extract and sugar (100g). Mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove until it’s doubled in size

Buttery yeasty batter

Add the butter and mix it in until it becomes clear.

Proving time

Cover and leave the dough to prove again in a warm place, for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

Dough has definitely doubled in size!

Knock back the dough and mix the sultanas, mixed peel (and optional nuts) in carefully, so as to not break the skins of the dried fruit.

Mixed Fruit

I used sultanas and cranberries (what I had in the cupboard!)

Fold in the fruit

Leave the dough to prove again for another half an hour, whilst you prepare the marzipan filling.

Making Marzipan Filling

Taking shop bought marzipan (120g) add the lemon zest and  an egg yolk and mix together to create a firm paste.

Marzipan paste

Divide the marzipan into 3 and roll into 3 long ‘logs’ (about 30cms long). I found my marzipan was a bit on the sticky side at this point so arranged it onto a sheet of cling film and rolled it inside the clingfilm. This made it a bit easier to move into the fridge to let it firm up a bit more.

Marzipan logs

Chilled Marzipan Logs

Take the dough and roll it out lightly with a rolling pin, into a rectangular shape. Aproximately 30cm long and 15 cms wide.

Flattened sticky fruity dough

Arrange the chilled marzipan logs in the centre of the flattened dough and fold the edges of the dough over to enclose the marzipan. Seal the edges of the dough.

Arranged Marzipan Logs

Place the dough, sealed edge down, onto a baking sheet greased and lined with greaseproof paper. Allow the dough to prove for the final time. Then bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Sealed and shaped stollen

Once it’s baked place on a wire rack to cool. While it’s still warm pour the melted butter over the top of the loaf. This step may feel a bit on the odd side, as when pouring a cup of melted over the Herman the German Friendship Cake  but believe me it’s utterly delicious.

Straight out the oven Stollen

After a day the butter seeps into all  of the available sweet dough crevices and infuses the Stollen with a gorgeous buttery moisture. It also helps to stop it from going stale so it can keep for a week (if you can bear to hang on to it for that long).

Soaked in butter Stollen

When it has cooled completely dust the Stollen with a generous dose of icing sugar, for added Christmas magic and sweetness. (It also helps to keep your fingers from getting all buttery and greasy.

Snowy Stollen

One of my friends told me this was her favourite bake so far in the aroundtheworldin80bakes challenge. I have to agree. I love the gooey marzipan layer sandwiched into the dough and I love the plump and juicy sultanas.

Snowy sliced Stollen

Although I think my dough didn’t rise quite as much as it should have, as it spread out on the baking sheet, it was most definitely worth the effort. To help spread the Stollen love and festive cheer I chopped it up into Stollen bites and took a batch to work and it quickly disappeared. A good sign indeed!

Stollen Bites

Does it feel like Christmas yet??

Extreme Stollen Close Up

yum yum yum

Just in case you would like to have a go here’s what I used to create this German Stollen

To make the initial yeast paste

  • Strong plain flour (20g) -
  • Instant yeast (7g)
  • Milk at 30 degrees C (200g)

Yeast Dough (add the yeast paste to)

  • Sugar (100g)
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)
  • Lemon extract (1g)
  • Butter (100g)
  • Strong Plain Flour (380g)
  • 1 egg
  • salt 3g

The Fruity Filling

  • Sultanas (pre soaked in a slosh of rum) (120g)
  • Mixed peel (25g)

The Marzipan Filling

  • Marzipan (120g)
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)

The Final Topping

  • Butter (melted) 40g
  • Icing Sugar (40g)

34. Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines

What do you do with all of those egg yolks where you’re making macaroons? (Or in my case breaking an entire batch of macaroons??) Well I suggest you make some Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Cakes, in the shape of Madeleines (of course, any excuse to use my favourite new tin!)

Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines

I’ve eaten a lot of sponge cake in China and sampled a few egg yolk sponges at my favourite Chinese Bakery, Bread Point, in town. It’s not half as eggy as it sounds. In fact they are a lovely light and moist sponge cake. Almost like a Madeira Cake but a bit richer.

Up close and personal with Madeleines

In a bid to use up everything that I have in my fridge and cupboards I went on a baking spree. Baking 3 types of cake simultaneously, for my Mam’s birthday. I succeeded to use up EVERYTHING, and then went for a run in the rain. (I have to keep squeezing them in every chance I get!) What an achievement for a rainy Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend. Although I forgot to actually bake anything regal or jubilee related.

As I had used up the egg whites having another bash at macaroons I had 3 egg yolks left over to create the Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines.

I started by whisking the egg yolks and whole egg together with my food processor using the whisk attachment for about 5 minutes until they became thicker and lemony coloured. (You could of course use a hand held electric whisk instead, I just used this as I already had it to hand from macaroon making…) This creates a lovely warm yellow liquid with all those egg yolks in it!

Fluffy and yellow and frothy

While the mixer is running, add the sugar gradually to the eggs and continue to whisk the mixture for about 10 minutes. While the mixer is running if you have your hands free, you can then use the time to measure out and  sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.

Breaking the rules and adding the orange zest to the flour

Admittedly I erred from the recipe at this point. I added the zest of an entire orange to my dry ingredients rather than folding them into the wet mix… I don’t think this made the slightest bit of difference, other than I could stir the flour more vigorously without the fear of knocking all of that wonderful air out of the eggy batter. I also couldn’t be bothered to juice my orange, so took the lazy option of adding some lemon juice that I had in the fridge already. Hopefully this added to the citrussyness of the sponge.
I then continued folding in the orange extract and lemon juice. I was also in a hurry so didn’t bother to sift the flour into the mix, but rather opted for the ‘all in’ method. Dumping all of the flour into the egg fluff and folding it in with a metal spoon.
I read somewhere that bakers are divided on this sponge making method. Some say to fold in a third of the flour at a time with a metal spoon to keep in all that lovely air in the whisked eggs. Others say put it all in, in one go, to minimise the amount of folding you have to do, but don’t drop the mixture into the eggs from a height as this will knock out the air. I have tried both methods and I think I have to agree with the latter. And it was quicker too! Whichever sponge making method you prefer the golden rule is always do not stir or beat the mixture and fold with a metal spoon to cut through the mixture. What do you prefer??

Folding in the boiling water one Russian Doll cup at a time

Then last but not least all that is left is to fold in the boiling water carefully to produce a fluffy and luxuriously thick batter.
I found it much easier to squirt the batter into the Madeleine tin last time and have now perfected my method…

Step 1. Carefully empty the batter into a plastic sandwich bag opened over a measuring jug. The jug helps to support the bag and you can fold the bag down over the edges. I also balanced the bowl onto the wide jug neck so to reduce how far the batter had to travel (and preserve the air content!). it also means you can get the spatula out and encourage the rest of the batter into the bag.

The jug helps to support the bag and you can fold the bag down over the edges. I also balanced the bowl onto the wide jug neck so to reduce how far the batter had to travel (and preserve the air content!). it also means you can get the spatula out and encourage the rest of the batter into the bag.

Step 2. Clip the sandwich bag shut with a peg or tie a knot in it so all the batter falls into one corner of the bag. (Hey presto an improvised and cheap cheap piping bag!)

Step 3. Snip the corner off the ‘piping bag’ and you’re good to go! Squeeze the bag gently to release an even flow of batter into your pre greased tin and use your spare hand to put your finger over the ‘nozzle’ when you have piped enough mixture into each portion of the Madeleine tin. Less mess and no waste!

I  found this much easier and quicker than trying to spoon the batter into the tin as it went everywhere and left lots of mess on the tin too. Don’t forget to grease your Madeleine tin well (I love my quick release spray!) and only fill each Madeleine well one third of the way up so they have room to expand. If you over fill, they will spill out and burn.

Egg Yolk Madeleines ready to bake – look at those flecks of orange!

Leave the tray on a flat surface to settle and let gravity do its job. The mixture will spread and level out, filling all of the shapely Madeleine grooves. You probably won’t need to put as much batter into each well as you think, but this allows you the option of topping up any wells that look a little low.

Baked Egg Yolk Madeleines

Bake the at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes. (You can make one large cake with this recipe but you will need to bake it for 60-65 minutes)
After allowing them to cool for a couple of minutes in the tray, turn the Madeleine tray over onto a wire rack and let the Madeleines fall out. Leave them to cool completely on the wire rack and re grease your Madeleine tray and pipe another set of Madeleines into the wells. This recipe is enough for a batch of 24 Madeleines. If you have any problems getting them back out of the tin, gently coax the edges with your fingers or while the tin is upside down gently tap it. They will eventually pop out, unless the tin hasn’t been greased enough…

Cooling down nicely – Egg Yolk Madeleines

I really love these cakes so zesty and sweet. Having baked them in the Madeleine shape, they have a wonderfully light and soft centre with a golden crust, with a nice bite to it. Not dry or tough in the slightest. I will be making these again for sure.  They are traditionally baked as round cakes or one large cake but I quite like how portable and hand sized the Madeleines are easy to eat on the move with a good cuppa!

Orange Egg Yolk Madeleines

If you’re feeling fancy you could even dust them lightly with confectioner’s sugar or frost with Orange Butter Frosting. But I think I prefer to see the shapely grooves of the Madeleine.

Mountains of Madeleines

Things that I used to make Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines…
This was enough to make 24 Madeleines ir you could make one large round cake with this recipe
  • 1 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • The zest of 1 large zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  • Bake madeleines for 10-15 minutes

** This recipe was lovingly adapted from the All Recipes website