2 Egg Lemon Almond and Elderflower Cake

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake recipe

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake

What do you do with your last 2 eggs? Boil them? Fry them or cake them?

I was frantically looking for a quick summery cake to bake but I only had 2 eggs left. Every recipe I turned to called for 3 so I decided to create my own cake with what I had to hand and share it with you.

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake recipe

Going, going, gone! Summery surprise birthday drizzle cake

You may also notice the new addition to our kitchen… My brand new double oven! I’m absolutely over joyed with it. This is only it’s second cake and I’m struggling to adjust to its efficency. I can actually put a cake in and trust it to do as it’s told! An uncharred cake has been a rare sight in our house for quite some time!

The new addition to my kitchen. Super Hans loves it too

The new addition to my kitchen. Super Hans loves it too

Things I used to make my 2 Egg Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Cake

  • 115g margarine
  • 175g sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp lemon oil extract (optional)

Beat together until light and fluffy then add

  • 2 eggs

Beat until even fluffier and it increases in volume (add a little of the flour if it starts to split). Then add.

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g self raising flour

Beat/fold in. Then add

  • 5 tbs almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
  • 50g of mixed candied peel (you could substitute this for other dried fruit or fresh berries)

Beat/fold in until smooth and the batter reaches a fluffy thick dropping consistency.

Pour the batter into a greased 6 inch round cake tin. (Or a tin of your choice – adjust your baking times accordingly – smaller tin reduce would produce a thicker cake so it may take longer or a larger cake tin wil produce a thinner cake and should take slightly less time to bake). I poured one inch of batter into my tin and had enough left to make 4 small muffins. level and smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle the top with flaked almonds.

Bake 180 degrees c for 40 minutes I baked the additional muffins for only 14 minutes.

Whilst the cake bakes make the syrup. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the tin before removing it from the tin to cool further.

Things I used to make my Elderflower and Lemon Syrup

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 30- 40 ml elderflower cordial
  • 50g caster sugar
  1. Stir gently til the sugar dissolves.
  2. Bring to the boil then without stirring…
  3. Simmer until the liquid reduces by at least a third.
  4. As it thickens the syrup takes on the yellow hue from the zest.
  5. Allow the syrup to cool slightly before drizzling it all over the cake.
  6. Whilst the drizzle is still sticky sprinkle on a few more flaked almonds for contrast against the now toasted top.

And enjoy!

62. Russian Black Bread

If you suggested that I put chocolate, coffee and onions into a loaf of bread a year ago I would have probably checked if you were feeling ok. It sounds vile doesn’t it? But then often the most unexpected ingredient combinations produce the most interesting results. Intrigued by the traditional Russian Black Bread I stocked up on espresso, caraway and fennel seeds ready for this strange bake.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Russian Black Bread

I was not disappointed. This is an extremely flavoursome and dark loaf. I found this recipe originally in a Jamie Oliver magazine but adapted it (as per usual) to fit my ingredients. It was supposed to be for 2 loaves. As I was expecting this bake to be a bit on the odd side, I wasn’t convinced that I could consume 2 entire loaves of it. So I scaled it down. (Feel free to double the ingredients if you would like to stockpile Black Bread.)

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

Considering how much sourdough bread I’ve been baking recently I have transferred some of my newly acquired bread skills into this bake as I like to split my bread baking into manageable chunks to fit in around work and enjoying life. Using the fridge to prove my dough overnight is a great help. This means the flavours develop slowly and deepen. it also makes the dough easier to handle, especially if the dough is a wet and sticky or enriched with butter. Fridge proving produces a firmer more pliable dough, that needs very little kneading! Result!

Russian Black Bread Recipe

  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp/70g treacle (molasses)
  • 40g butter
  • 40ml espresso
  • 13g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 350ml water
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 30g strong wholemeal flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g rye flour
  • 70g bran
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small shallot (diced)
  • * approx 100g Rye Flour (you may need more or less) to help bring the dough together if it’s too sticky when kneading

Russian Black Bread Method

1.  Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

2.  Add cider vinegar

3.  Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Russian Black Bread: Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

4. Pour in the chocolate liquid and mix together either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. You may not need to add all of the liquid, or if the dough becomes too sticky, gradually add a little more rye flour until it comes together into a ball, (or a slightly less sticky mess.)

Russian Black Bread: Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

5. Knead for 10  minutes (by hand or using an electric mixer – I used my Kitchenaid dough hook).

6. Cover your dough in a large bowl with cling film and prove either overnight (up to 24 hours) in the fridge or at room temperature for 1-2 hous until it’s doubled in size.

7.  Knock back the dough after it’s first prove. Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Russian Black Bread: Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

8. You could prove it directly on a baking tray if it’s firm enough so it won’t spread too far. I wanted to make mine pretty so I proved it in my round banneton basket, which I coated with wholemeal flour first.

9. Cover your loaf with a shower cap or oiled cling film and prove for 2 hours at room temperature.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night or at room temperature for 2 hours

10. Pre heat the oven (and a casserole pot with a lid) 30 minutes before the end of your loaf proving time at 250 degrees C. (See the Hot Pot sourdough method for more details)

Russian Black Bread: Second prove done. Ready for baking!

Second prove done. Ready for baking!

11. Sprinkle the bottom of the hot casserole pot with ground semolina and gently tip the proved loaf from the banneton into the hot pot. Use a razor blade to score a design into your loaf to help it cook evenly. (I went for a heart shape but you could try a few other designs.)

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

12. Bake with the lid on at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn it down to 220 degrees for the final 40 minutes. Check that the bread is baked by tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow it done. If not, pop it back in the oven in the pot with the lid on for 5-10 more minutes.

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

I love how the wholemeal flour (that I used to dust the banneton with when proving the dough) bakes into the loaf, providing the perfect contrast against the rich brown bread peeking through the heart pattern. It even holds onto it’s circular imprint.

Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

Apparently Russian Black Bread is best served with lashings of butter or caviar! The Russians sure know how to live! This bread is soft, pillowy and very rich. It’s a very unusual bread with hints of aniseed and licorice from the caraway and fennel seeds. The treacle also adds depth to the licorice tones without making the bread overly sweet.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

It’s a wholesome, fluffy and filling bread. The bran, rye and wholemeal flours are balanced with a dash of white flour giving an unexpected light texture. I could imagine this bread being a perfect accompanyment to a hearty stew or soup with a thick coat of butter. It is very rich so, as predicted, I didn’t manage to finish the loaf this week, it’s resting in the freezer for my next round of extra special sandwiches.

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

It just so happened that I purchased some pickled herring and seaweed caviar (a much more affordable caviar at £2 a pot!) from Ikea last weekend so I had to hand some pretty impressive sandwich making ingredients. In hindsight, pickled herring may be a bit of an extreme pairing for Russian Black Bread which is almost a entire feast all by itself. The herring overpowered the flavours somewhat, but the caviar works very well indeed.

The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made

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My Bestest Banana Bread

I’m going to let you into a secret. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying new combinations of flours and flavours to make some tasty, healthy (ish) cakes using up food that would otherwise go to waste. And what did I conjure up? My bestest banana bread recipe, with coconut, pistachio and rye. Additional bonuses include an extra cake! This recipe is enough for 2 cakes, so you can freeze one for later or give it to a friend who needs a nutritious energy boost. It’s also low in sugar and gluten. (You could choose gluten free flour if you prefer.)

Bonus Banana Bread

Bonus Banana Bread

When my bananas are on the turn and almost ready for the bin I throw them in the freezer in their blacken skins to save for a later date.  (Yes you can freeze bananas. Feel free to peel them first and pop them in a tupperware container first if you want to use them from frozen for smoothies or milkshakes, then you don’t even need to add ice cream for a chilled drink).

Once I have 3 black bananas stockpiled I whip up my Banana Bread. Leave your bananas to defrost for an hour or so before you peel them to make your banana bread, as if they’re too cold it will make your butter solidify and could give you denser cake and an uneven bake.

This is really quick to make. Basically beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Followed by your bananas, vanilla and eggs, then the combination of flours and baking powder. Finally beat in a handful of sultanas and chopped walnuts. This takes about 15 minutes with an electric mixer.

I use two 6 inch round tins to bake this recipe, or you could bake one large banana bread loaf if you prefer. Liberally sprinkle the cakes with chopped nuts (whatever you have to hand is fine). I use pistachios which gives you gorgeous green flecks singing out in between the flaked almonds and hazelnuts.

As the cake bakes the batter rises up and supports the nuts, holding them in place for the final cake. It’s also the perfect way to disguise any uneven finishes on your cake, if like me you have an unpredictably hot oven.

My initial experiments involved using 100% coconut flour, but this ended in disaster. I think coconut flour needs to be balanced against other nuttier flours (I like using rye flour but spelt or wholemeal would work well too) to absorb some of the natural oils and sugars and avoid the quick to burn, blackened mess that I made.

In less than an hour (50 minutes at 150 degrees c to be precise) you will produce two beautifully moist banana cakes, that are perfect accompanied by a large mug of strong tea, perhaps after a bracing stroll by the coast. I’m drooling just thinking of that sweet sponge and nutty crunch of a cake. Wonder how many bananas I have lurking in my freezer today…

Perfect Cake spot: A blustry day by Alnwick Castle

Perfect Cake spot: A blustery day by Alnwick Castle

 Things I used to make my Bestest Banana Bread

  • 125g margarine (or butter)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g coconut flour (or finely ground dessicated coconut if you can’t find the flour)
  • 90g Rye Flour (or spelt or wholemeal) -NB: Spelt and Rye flours are not gluten free but may be more suitable to those who have a wheat intolerance. Use a wholemeal gluten free flour if you want to avoid gluten in this recipe.
  • 60g plain flour (feel free to use gluten free flour)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon or mace)
  • Handful of chopped sultanas
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • * Topping: (2 handful of chopped/flaked nuts: almonds, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts
  1. Beat together sugar and butter until fluffy
  2. Beat in bananas
  3. Beat in eggs one by one
  4. Beat in vanilla paste
  5. Beat in coconut, plain, rye flours and baking powder and spice
  6. Beat in sultanas and walnuts
  7. Pour into 2 greased 6 inch round tins (or one large loaf tin)
  8. Cover the top of each cake entirely with a layer of chopped nuts
  9. Bake for 50  mins at 150 degrees c (or until a skewer comes out clean)

My other banana based recipes are Fanny and Otto’s Fijian Banana Cake

Just the one Jamaican Black Cake – with extra booze!

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Not satisfied with creating a Jamaican Black Cake containing 3 bottles of rum AND a bottle of Brandy, I have returned to my original recipe to see if I can improve it even further. It was such a success when I made it 2 years ago I wanted to make an extra special Christmas Cake and as the festive season is almost upon us now is the perfect time to start soaking the fruit in lots and lots of booze!

Soaking in the rum

Soaking in the rum

When I first tried this recipe I in dove head first without preparing myself fully, or realising that it was in fact enough to create 3 Jamaican Black cakes. This recipe is a slightly more restrained version, for just the one cake, if perhaps you don’t want to bankrupt yourself buying booze and fruit for 3 cakes. However if you have an army of Rum cake lovers or perhaps might be thinking creating a tiered (wedding?) cake the original Jamaican Black Cake recipe may be the one for you! The cakes contain so much rum they will keep very well for at least a month (and perhaps up to a year, if you can hang on to it that long!)

Soak the fruit in rum and brandy for up to 2 weeks

Soak the fruit in rum and brandy for up to 2 weeks

This cake does take a little bit of planning and preparation. I wanted to use spiced rum in the cake as a slightly different alternative to my last cake, but stumbled at the first hurdle. The shop keeper wouldn’t sell me the massive bottle of booze without my ID which was sat at home. The shop keeper wasn’t budging despite my protestations that I’m 30 and have my marriage certificate with me and that I wasn’t even going to drink the rum it was for my cake! Determined to secure my spicy rum I came back with my license and all was well! The dried prunes, sultanas, cherries and mixed peel fruit needs a good long soak to absorb as much liquid as possible. I soaked mine in the rum, brandy and angostura bitters for 2 weeks, but if you’re in a hurry you could soak it for 3 days.

Macerate the fruit - blitz it in a food processor

Macerate the fruit – blitz it in a food processor

Now with this much more sensible amount of fruit and booze I could easily fit it into my food processor bowl without it overspilling. The fruit is much softer after the addition of the booze but there will still be a little rum left that isn’t absorbed, pour the whole lot in and whizz it up into a smooth – ish boozy fruity pulp. There will still be some texture to the fruit which will give a wonderfully moist and keep the cake texture interesting in your mouth.

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

Beating the butter and sugar together vigorously until it’s light and fluffy adds extra rise to the cake. I like to beat mine until it’s softer and increases in volume. As there’s spice in  the rum, adding more spice here gives an even richer flavour to the cake which matures with the cake the longer it is kept after baking. I added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla paste, almond extract and lime juice. Yum! Once the eggs are beaten into the mixture, one at a time, until the mixture increases in volume and is light and fluffy, the dry ingredients can then be folded in.

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

I didn’t have any limes in my house so I grabbed the only orange that I had left, any citrus fruit would work well, but limes are the traditional fruit to use. Fold in the flour, baking powder and zest.

Brown the sugar

Brown the sugar

I’m lucky that I have a Kitchenaid mixer, so I can leave it running whilst I busy myself with the next steps. If you’re using a hand held mixer or beating things by hand, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the sugar as it browns to stop it from burning. I almost burnt mine! Heat the brown sugar in a heavy pan until it melts. Don’t stir as it will crystallise! Swish the sugar around in the pan as best you can by tilting the pan to combine the sugar and the liquid together. As it melts, gradually add a tablespoon of boiling water and allow the sugar to dissolve into a dark caramel. It might erupt like a volcano in your pan if it’s too hot, so be careful. Once it’s browned (and almost burnt) take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly before beating it into your butter and egg batter.

Beat in the browned sugar

Beat in the browned sugar

With the browned sugar fully incorporate the batter becomes wonderfully brown and shiny. It smells amazing too!

Fold in the fruit puree

Fold in the fruit puree

Long gone are the days where I’m trying to mix enormous vats of cake mixture! I could actually fit all of the batter and fruit into my mixing bowl! Hurrah! It takes a little bit of manoeuvring and scraping down of the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the fruit purée is folded in evenly.

Fully incorporated batter

Fully incorporated batter

Once fully incorporated, the batter is wonderfully golden brown with flecks of fruit peeking through. It tastes delicious too! (I couldn’t resist licking the spoon!) The kitchen had a glorious glow from the rum and my cheeks were rather rosy by this point too. This is perhaps not a cake to eat and then drive home afterwards.

Fully greased and lined tins

Fully greased and lined tins

Despite having reduced this recipe down I still ended up producing 2 cakes! I wanted to bake a rectangular Jamaican Black Cake, so I can cut it into chunks to give as Christmas presents.This is a brownie pan about 8 x 4 inches. I also had enough batter to bake a 6 inch round cake too. My guestimate would be this recipe would work well as one 9 or 10 inch round cake too.

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

The tins need to be doubled lined to help protect the cake from the heat and bake it gently over a few hours. This is easier said than done with a low sided rectangular tray. I gave up trying to double line the bottom of the tray and sides, instead opting for a tin foil lid, which worked really well. No burnt bits in sight!

Baked Jamaican Black Cake

Hot Jamaican Black Cake soaking up it’s rum

I can safely say that having sampled a slice last night this cake lives up to it’s previous promise of rosy cheeked deliciousness. It’s very moist (I may add pour less rum over the hot cakes next time) but I’m sue this will help to keep it moist ready to be dished out on Christmas Day. It has everything a spicy , boozy, celebration cake should offer. It’s warming and rich. Perfect with a glass of fizz (or I ate my piece last night with a cup of tea and glass of red wine.) Delicious!

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

As I poured the rum on top of the hot cakes the top did sink slightly but this hasn’t effected the taste at all. In fact when I serve my Jamaican Black Cake I’m going to be sneaky and turn it over so the flat bottom will give a smooth top. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. So here’s the recipe for Just the one Jamaican Black Cake (or 2 small cakes if you prefer!)

Things that I used to make Just the one Jamaican Black Cake

Step 1: Soak fruit and make fruit puree

Fruit Puree Base Ingredients

  • 170ml brandy (Cherry brandy could be used to make it extra special)
  • 340ml dark rum (I used Spiced dark rum for extra flavour
  • 2 tbsp Angostura bitters
  • 170g prunes
  • 170g dark raisins
  • 250g currants 
  • 170g dried cherries
  • 85g mixed candied citrus peel

Total dried fruit required = 845g

Soak dried fruit in the booze for at least 48 hours or up to 2 weeks. Blitz into a puree with a food processor.

Step 2: Make Cake Batter

Cake Ingredients

  • 170g salted butter (For a change I used salted and it worked well, but feel free to use unsalted)
  • 170g sugar
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon essence or lime juice
  • The zest of 1 orange (or 2 whole limes)
  • 1 tsp almond essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 170g plain flour (you could also use 1/2 cassava flour + 1/2 lb rice flour for gluten-free baking)
  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in dry ingredients. Fold in fruit puree and browned sugar

Step 3: Brown Sugar

Browning Ingredients:

  • 170g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp boiling hot water

Heat the sugar in a heavy based pan until it melts and then add a little bit of the water at a time until it becomes a dark caramel. Careful not to burn it, but it will come very close to being burnt to achieve ‘browned’ perfection.

Step 4: Bake! 

Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined tin. You could use a 9 inch round tin or a bundt tin. For this recipe I used a 4 inch round tin and a 9 x 4 inch rectangular pan.  Cover with greaseproof paper lid.

Bake at 120 degrees C for 3 hours until skewer comes out clean from the cake

The Final Touch

ADD MORE RUM!

Pour 100-170ml bottle of dark rum for pouring on the hot cakes whilst still in their tins. Leave to cool in the tin. Gradually add the rum until you have fed your cake 170ml in total. It should absorb rather a lot of rum at this point. The cake will get darker with the more rum that you feed it. It may take up to a day for the cake to absorb the rum but it will get there.

Storing the Jamaican Black Cake

Wait until the cake has cooled completely before removing it from the tin. Wrap your cake in a layer of greaseproof paper and a layer of tin foil to prevent air getting in. Store the wrapped cake in an airtight container.

The cake should keep for (at least) a month or even up to a year with this amount of booze going on in an air tight container. this cake also freezes really well. It will keep for at least a month in the freezer and the freezing helps to speed up the ‘maturing’ process to deepen the flavours.

Eating the Jamaican Black Cake

The cake will serve 8-12 people. Or possibly more as it is quite a rich cake so you may only want a small slice. The volume of rum and brandy will bring a healthy rose to your cheeks! You may not want to drive after eating a big slice of it…

My original blog post for this cake can be found here

Jamaican Black Rum Cake – The most alcoholic cake I’ve ever baked

Also I wrote a post about the Jamaican Black Cake that I iced along with many more decorated cake pics 

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

49. German Pretzel Playtime

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

I discovered that I have a slight obsession with Pretzels on our recent visit to Berlin, where I bought many delicious chewy pretzels the size of my head. I really rather enjoyed Berlin, my first venture into German cusine! Traditionally Preztels are a savoury German snack, dipped in a rather caustic solution of lye to achieve the dark brown coating with the distinctive chewy texture.

In amongst the Curry Wursts, Strudels and Pork Knuckle I filled my self up on pretzels as often as I could. We explored the historic sites and the bohemian avenues in the post Christmas and wedding drizzle. Berlin was a very welcome change of scenery, with pickled herring and salmon for breakfast. I went all in with the Germanic food. My instagram feed became awash with a vast array of wonderful and interesting food. Nothing went undocumented!

Dough ready for some good kneading

Dough ready for some good kneading

Upon returning home I wanted to recreate some pretzel perfection, preferably without the hazardous solutions. No chemical burns for me please! Pretzels are made from a basic soft white bread dough recipe. The flour, yeast, oil and water should be mixed together in a big bowl until it can then be kneaded on a oiled board for 10 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and bounces back when pressed your kneading is done.

Kneaded dough ready to prove

Kneaded dough ready to prove

The dough can then be left to prove in a warm place in a greased plastic bag, for about an hour or two.

The proven preztzel dough

The proven pretzel dough

When the dough has doubled in size it’s ready to shape. This is probably the most complicated and time consuming bit of the entire pretzel making process. But it’s not as difficult as it may seem! I shall demonstrate in 10 easy steps…

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1: Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they're all roughly the same size)

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size)

Stage 2: Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size). Redistribute the dough to make sure you have equal sized dough balls here if needed.

Stage 3. Take one dough ball and leave the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3. Roll one dough ball into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3: Take one dough ball at a time leaving the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make. Give the dough a good slap if you spot any air bubbles along the way. You need to pop any air bubbles to get a good even bake and to maintain your lovely pretzel shape.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a circle but don't close the ends.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends.

Stage 4: Start shaping your sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends. You need those loose ends to finish your pretzel shape.

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5: Take the loose ends of the dough and twist the strands together, one under the other up the centre of the pretzel circle.

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6: Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms. Reshape the circle of the pretzel as you go to keep the even shape.

Stage 7: Gently press the 'arms' of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently press the ‘arms’ of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently wrap the ‘arms’ of the pretzel around the pretzel. Gently press the arms into the dough to fix them in place.

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8: Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover them with greased cling film and leave them to prove again for another hour.

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking. In hindsight I went a bit mad with the rock salt. It kind of burns the tongue when you put that much on! I might in the future smash up the rock salt with a pestle and mortar to get smaller chunks and sprinkle a much smaller amount on!

The baked pretzels

The baked pretzels

Stage 10: Give the pretzels a good baking in the oven for 15 -20 minutes at 200 degrees C. These are snack sized rather than the extra large pretzels that I was eating in Berlin, which could probably constitute a main meal. So if you wanted to make yours larger you could divide your dough into 6 lumps rather than 12 and shape them to your hearts content.

The golden pretzel

The golden pretzel

After a quick bake in the oven these mini pretzels beauties are ready to be devoured! The most complicated bit of the entire process is the shaping and after a couple of goes you soon get used to the technique. I’m sure you will end up developing your own pretzel twisting style too. I adore these pretty bread shapes and will most definitely be making them again. They look impressive, so you can wow your friends with your technical know how and let them imagine you’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing treats for them.

Piles of Pretzels

Piles of Pretzels

They also taste amazing with their glistening golden crust. White bread can sometimes be a bit plain, but as the pretzel is thin it takes on the depth of flavour from the egg yolk and salt. Combined with the chewy texture, they are like a plaited bit of bread heaven.  You could even make sweet pretzels if you prefer, with cinnamon and sugar coatings, or add sesame seeds or poppy seeds for a bit of variation. Then you can enjoy them for breakfast lunch and dinner! I may attempt some wholemeal pretzels too to inject some health into my bread products. I will also be attempting extra large pretzels with the distinctive slash as soon as possible! Things I used to create Mini Pretzels Pretzel Dough Recipe

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 215ml of luke warmwater
  • 10ml olive oil

Egg Wash Topping

  • 1 egg yolk mixed with a tbsp of water
  • A sprinkling of rock salt to decorate
  • (Or you could dust them in cinnamon sugar, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds if you wish!)

Bake for 15-20mins until golden brown at 200 degrees C

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat.  The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better,  it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1 cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3 cup or 75g  melted butter
  • 1 egg

Custard Cream Filling

Custard

  • 285ml milk
  • 25ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4 cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

46. Say hello to my Brazilian Roll ~ Rocambole Cake

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Brazil is yet another country on my still to visit list. However I do have a lovely Brazilian friend who was an exchange student at my sixth form. We became firm friends over A Level Media Studies and parties. Thinking of you Gabriella when baking my Brazilian Roll or as you may call it in Brazil a Rocambole.

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This bake reminds me of Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade (one of my very first around the world in 80 bakes more technical challenges). Both are very similar to the wonderful Swiss Roll however the distinguishing factor of the Rocambole and the Roulade is that they use whisked egg whites to fluff up the sponge. This means it’s a fragile cake but very light. Where as the Swiss Roll is more like a sponge cake, less delicate and probably (in my opinion) a bit easier to bake and to handle.

Traditionally the filling in a Rocambole is a Doce de Leite. This is a Brazilian favourite. It’s a creamy milky toffee sauce made from slowly reduced condensed milk. (It’s quite similar to the Italian toffee sauce dolce de leche). It’s reduced down over a low heat until caramelised to produce a thick fudgey gooey paste. As the filing takes quite some time to prepare it’s best to start with this! You need to be really careful with this as if the pan is left to boil dry the can could explode and really hurt yourself (and your kitchen).

how to make doce de leit Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Take one unopened can of condensed milk (Most cans in the UK randomly contain a very precise amount of condensed milk of 395ml. Who knows why? But the process is the same regardless of the size of your tin). Place your unopened can of condensed milk in a pan of boiling water and simmer it for 2 and a half hours. Keep an eye on the pan and keep topping up the water so the water level remains.always around 2 thirds of the way up the can. Allow the can to cool for about 30 minutes before opening it.

Evaporated milk isn’t the same and unfortunately won’t work as a substitute, as evaporated milk doesn’t have as much sugar in it. Never to be defeated I have managed to make doce de leite with evaporated milk. If you’re up for an experiment and evaporated milk is all you’ve got, you could get away with adding sugar to evaporated milk and dissolving it slowly over a low heat to create your own toffee sauce. (I have free styled this recipe before and it gave a rather more liquid toffee sauce so it can be done! Just add enough sugar until you reach your desired level of toffee colour and taste.)

how to make doce de leite

The grand reveal! My doce de leite looks suspiciously like condensed milk. No hint of toffee here. Back in the pan you go

Unfortunately I failed to let the water bubble (being a little too cautious – very unlike me!) so when I opened my can it still looked like condensed milk, just a bit thicker. However undeterred I threw it all into the pan and heated it on the stove to make my doce de leite directly in the pan. It does require a bit more attention and elbow grease however…

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom revealed some thicker doce de leit

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom of the can revealed  the beginnings of some thicker doce de leit. It’s a bit lumpy so needs a good whisk

I’m a little impatient and wanted it to thicken up quickly so kept increasing the heat and whisking by hand until it bubbled, then removed the pan from the heat to allow the residual heat to continue to cook the condensed milk. You need strong arms to keep whisking continuously as the milk thickens! (My arms weren’t feeling the strongest after a full day of Yoga handstands the day before but I still managed)

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leit

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leite

My impatience led my doce de leite to become extremely thick and it pulled the head off my hand whisk! However a little cold milk reduced the heat of the sugar to calm the doce de leite down. It allowed me to get the sauce back to a slightly more spreadable state. To stop the cooking process I placed the hot pan into a sink of cold water. In my ‘wisdom’ I then dipped my finger into the doce de leite to test if it was cool enough to spread! It was most definitely NOT cool enough and welded to my finger. I managed to pull the molten lava doce de leite off my finger and ran it under the cold tap. Did you know a piece of frozen melon makes a wonderful cold compress to take the heat out of a burn? Clutching my melon I managed awkwardly to continue to whisk the sauce still undefeated by my blistering finger. I ended up clutching on to more frozen fruit whilst spreading the doce de leit and rolling up the cake.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

The cake itself takes hardly any time at all to prepare. The whisking is the most time consuming part of the Rocambole. Like a Roulade you have to whisk the ALL of the egg whites (there’s 5 eggs in this cake! That’s a lot of egg!) on a high speed setting. (If you have an electric whisk, if not prepare your arms for a bit of a work out!) until stiff and shiny. This takes about 5 to 7 minutes. The egg whites will double in size. I love this bit!

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

One slight difference between the Rocambole to a Roulade is that the egg yolks are then also whisked into the egg whites. (With a Roulade you whisk the yolks with the sugar and chocolate then fold it into the egg whites.) The Rocambole is a bit quicker banging it all together and whisking to your hearts content. You don’t want to knock any of the air out of the egg whites, so it’s best to beat the yolks lightly first so they are runny. You can then pour the egg yolks in as you whisk.

Adding egg yolks to whisked egg whites - rocambole

Whisking in the egg yolks to the egg whites – lovely creamy yellow colour and very fluffy!

Then to whisk in the sugar. The traditional Brazilian Rocambole recipe doesn’t include any flavourings or spices, it is a plain egg sponge. (A bit like my Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge favourite!)  Ever the experimenter I wanted to add a bit of flavour to this bake so I used vanilla sugar. I made this really simply by shoving a leftover vanilla pod, which I had scraped the seeds from for another bake, into a bag of sugar. I then left it to infuse it’s vanillary goodness for a couple of weeks. It smells lovely and gently flavours the sugar with a hint of vanilla. It’s a good way to get your moneys worth out of those more expensive ingredients as I hate to throw the pods away. I often pop a vanilla pod into any spirit that I have in my cupboard too. Vanilla Brandy or Vanilla Rum anyone?

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar - Rocambole

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar

The eggs should be seriously expanding and threatening to overflow the bowl by this point as they inflate rapidly. You need to continue to whisk the fluffy and shiny eggs whilst pouring in 5 tablespoons of water. This takes around 5 minutes of whisking.

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

In order to maximise the air in the cake and to avoid knocking the air out of the wonderfully fluffy eggs, sift in all 5 tablespoons of plain flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Then using your  best metal spoon fold in the dry ingredients gently. This is probably the smallest amount of flour that I’ve ever folded into a cake. It felt a bit odd as the flour just disappeared to the bottom of the bowl, but trust in the recipe, it definitely works!

Rocambole Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Line and grease a rectangular baking tin. I used a tin 37cm long by 22cm wide and 5cm high. Use a deep tin as it will rise in the oven.  This mixture is really delicate so to avoid knocking the air out of it, hold your bowl of mixture as close to your tin as possible and pour. It’s a very liquid mixture so try to pour it into all of the corners so you don’t have to move it around too much in the tin. Gently level the mixture with a spatula to avoid an uneven bake.

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

After baking it in a preheated oven (350 F/170 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes, it will become golden brown and feel slightly firm and springy to the touch. I always check that a cake is cooked by using a cocktail stick, if it comes out clean from the sponge you know it’s done. Unfortunately I was trying my Mary Berry recommended foil backed parchment paper and it doesn’t always do what it’s told. In the heat of the oven it curled up and into the cake! Maybe a wider variety of paper is needed for this tin so that it reached the edges of the tin and can be scrumpled down over the lip of the tin to hold it in place?

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Allow the cake to cool in the tin slightly so it holds it’s shape. Then carefully lift the cake out of the tin, by the baking paper. But don’t remove the baking paper.

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge - try not to take the cake with you

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge – try not to take the cake with you

Using a spatula and a palette knife , I tried to spread  a thin layer of doce de leite across the cake. This is easier said than done whilst holding a piece of frozen fruit on your burnt finger. The Doce de leite is very gooey and if it’s as thick as mine, it could pull holes in your cake (note the holes in my sponge above…) But who is going to check the inside of your cake? When it’s rolled up no one will notice  and it’s going to taste gorgeous anyway so throw it on as best as you can.

Carefully does it ... Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole

Carefully does it … Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole (excuse my slippers)

There is a bit of a knack to rolling up a Rocambole. I decided to neaten up my slightly rough edges, trimming the longest edge as straight as possible with my very best sharp knife. It’s not the easiest cake to trim as the sponge is very moist and delicate (so it sticks to the knife!). I only trimmed one edge in case I destroyed the other side. This cake was to accompany me to the Clandestine Cake Club and I didn’t have time to make another one (or anyone condensed milk!). Trimming the cake does have it’s benefits however, I could make sure it tasted good before serving it up to my friends! 

 

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole!

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole! (And one pan of soapy boiling water on the stove to dissolve all of the doce de leite)

Before I even attempted rolling the cake I made sure I had loosened all of the edges from the baking paper gently with my fingers to avoid tearing the sponge. It’s best to keep the sponge on the paper so you can use the paper to coax the cake over. I started the roll off by pressing a knife into the sponge about half an inch in from the shortest edge. I then folded this lip of sponge over to start the roll and give a really tight spiral. Then to let gravity do it’s job! Lifting the paper over,  letting the cake fall into place whilst coaxing it into a roll with your hands. Once you start it’s easy to get carried away! Hence my lack of photos of this process the Rocambole was all rolled up before Chris could get into the kitchen to take a photo for me!

Rocambole recipe Gently ease any slightly stuck bits  of cake off the paper using your finger tip...

Gently ease any slightly stuck bits of cake off the paper using your finger tip…

All of the pictures I could find of a Rocambole seemed to show a cake with a very long spiral with a very thin sponge so I chose to roll mine from the short edge to the short edge, to maximise my spiral. If you wanted to get more slices out of your Rocambole you could roll from long edge to long edge and get a much longer cake.

Just rolled Rocambole - trimmed edge to the front!

Just rolled Rocambole – trimmed edge to the front!

Once you’ve rolled up your Rocambole all it needs is a liberal dusting with icing sugar and you’re good to go! I recommend eating it quick as the doce de leite has a tendency to ooze out of the sides when left for a night. But if you like this effect then see if you can hang fire for a bit for an extra level of goo.  I can confirm that this a tasty cake. It’s definitely a winner if, like me, you have a sweet tooth as most of the flavour is derived from the sugar in the cake and the milky caramel doce de leite! It’s an extremely tender sponge that almost melts in your mouth. I’ve heard very good things from my Brazilian friend, who’s Grandma makes Rocambole. She covers the entire Rocambole in chocolate buttercream and adds some texture with a fork to create a chocolate log Rocambole! Now there’s a good idea for another Christmas bake to add to my list!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

Glorious Cake Collection at the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

I took my little Rocambole along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club  at the lovely Pink Lane Coffee shop in Newcastle where we were baking around a ‘New’ theme. This could mean a new recipe, new baking tin, new ingredients. This was perfect for me as pretty much every recipe I bake is new to me and a bit of an experiment. There were some amazing cakes that night, my favourite being a chocolate and peanut butter layer cake (7 layers in total!). Check out Lisa’s blog for more gorgeous pictures of the beautiful cakes from all of the bakers who braved the January snow. When there’s cake nothing will get in my way. It was immense. I must admit I took an extra sneaky piece home for later too. I was so happy that all of my Rocambole got eaten.

So if that has whetted your appetite for a spot of Rocambole here’s what I used to make mine.

Ingredients

Doce de Leite Filling

1 unopened can of condensed milk (395 ml)

Alternative fillings…

If you don;t fancy simmering a can of condensed milk down in a pan I’m sure you could put a jar of nutella or jam or guava marmalade (another traditional Brazilian Rocambole filling) to good use here too.

Cake

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons of vanilla infused  sugar (or just normal sugar will do)
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 5 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

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.