63. Ugandan Groundnut Cake (Peanut Cake)

Ugandan Groundnut Cake recipe

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Smothered in a thick dripping coat of dark chocolate this is one hell of peanut cake. (The recipe didn’t call for chocolate but I figured it was the logical combination.) Not one for the faint hearted or those watching their calorific intake. It’s fudgey and delicious.

Groundnuts are hard to come by so I’ve substituted them for peanuts, which is apparently what most people do as peanuts are easier to grow too. It’s probably the sweetest cake I’ve ever made. And I LOVE it.

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

This recipe is a large one and I found it was enough to make 2 6inch round cakes and 1lb loaf too! So I hope you’re hungry. (Or you could use larger round cake tins if you have them maybe 8 or 9 inches – adjust/reduce your cooking time accordingly.)

I never usually bother toasting nuts, but I thought I would pull out all the stops to make this cake as authentic as possible. Toasting the peanuts helps to release the oils, creating a moister (if that’s a word) cake with a deeper peanutty flavour. Spread skinless (blanched) peanuts evenly on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees c. Keep an eye on them in case they burn. Once cooled chop them roughly with a big knife.

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating - fluffy, frothy and runny - groundnut cake recipe, peanut cake

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating – fluffy, frothy and runny

Whilst the peanuts are gently toasting, beat the eggs until lights and fluffy. They will reach a mellow yellow stage after about 4  minutes of beating with an electric mixer.

groundnut cake peanut recipe Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Then beat in the sugars, (brown and caster) along with the honey and vanilla extract. Once the sugars are fully combined, beat in the vegetable oil. The mixture will take on a gentle brown hue and increase in volume.

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder groundnut cake recipe

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder

The batter will become light and fluffy. Then to beat/fold in your dry ingredients. (I’m lazy and continued to beat in the ingredients using my mixer, but if you want to have a lighter cake you could fold it in with a metal spoon). I use ground cassia as I love it’s sweet cinnamonny notes. (Feel free to stick with cinnamon if you have it). Fold in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Fold in the toasted peanut - ugandan groundnut cake recipes

Fold in the toasted peanuts

Then fold in the cooled chopped peanuts into the thick glossy cappuccino coloured batter and it’s ready to bake! Pour the batter into your greased and lined baking tins. I used 2 x 6 inch round cake tins and a 1lb loaf tin. You could bake it in 2 larger cake tins, 8 or 9 inch rounds would require less time in the oven. My cakes took between 40 and 55 minutes. If you’re using a bigger tin your cake might take around 30 -40 minutes. The trick is to keep checking, once it’s safe to open the oven without causing your cake to deflate. I checked mine at 30 minutes and although the top of the cakes were firm to the touch the skewer didn’t come out clean when I tried it.

Golden brown groundnut cakes

Golden brown groundnut cakes (the flat bottoms)

Once the cakes are firm to the touch and when you insert a skewer and it comes out clean. (They should be looking slightly caramelised on the top and take on a darker brown hue.) Then you know they’re done. Cool them on a rack covered in grease proof paper to stop the rack branding them with stripes. This cake freezes well uniced (wrap them in greaseproof paper first). I baked mine in advance so I could assemble and ice it for Cake Club later in the week and still have fresh moist sponge.

Peanut buttercream is a revelation. I could eat the entire bowl with a spoon. But resisted long enough to get a smoothish coat on the cakes. In hindsight I had enough to be a bit more generous (particularly in the middle of the two cakes) but regrets don’t suit anyone so be as frugal or free with your icing as you like.

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Beat your room temperature butter and smooth peanut butter together until they’re fluffy and light. I used a health food store peanut butter which promises to be natural and unprocessed. This did mean it was more oily than other peanut butters and more grainy. Give your peanut butter a good stir before measuring it out so it’s not too oily or dry. Then beat in your icing sugar and salt until it’s a smooth peanuty cream. The recipe called for honey but frankly this cake has enough sugar in it so I skipped it. Adding only a splash of milk to loosen it up and give a smoother finish.

how to ice a cake with buttercream

Smoothing the buttercream with a palette knife all round the cake

I slapped on a layer on peanut butter for food measure before adding a layer of buttercream to sandwich the cakes together. Then using a palette knife apply a thin ‘crumb coating’ of buttercream around the sides and top of the cake to fill any gaps and encase the crumbs so they don’t peek through your final finish. Chill the cake uncovered for an hour in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set before applying a thicker coat all over. Cover the bowl of remaining buttercream with cling film to stop it drying out in between uses. Smooth the final layer with a palette knife as much as possible. Then return to the fridge.

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon... droooooool

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon… droooooool

 

While the cake sets melt 50g dark chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds bursts until it’s almost all melted. Stir inbetween between. Stir in the remaining 20g of chocolate and stir until melted to temper the chocolate and achieve a glossy finish.

peanut cake - chocolate icing

Drool

Use a teaspoon to coax the chocolate down over the sides of the cake and to swirl the chocolate over the top of the cake. Leave it to set at room temperature to retain the glossy finish. I took inspiration from Pinterest for this decoration (I lose hours looking at pretty cakes but I like this style, it reminds me of a chocolatey dripping paint tin). Refrigerating the cake will dull the sheen of the chocolate but you may want to store it in the fridge if you want to keep it for awhile or try to transport it! Firm buttercream frosting travels well and keeps the moisture in the cake too.

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it's glory

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it’s glory – check out the chunks of peanuts speckled throughout the cake

Serve it with a flourish and a sharp knife! This is one tall cake with chunks of peanuts to chop through too. And it is gorgeous, jam packed with peanuts and flavour. A friend likened it to ‘a cake version of the nougat in a snickers bar’ and that sums it up perfectly. It’s moist with a subtle hint of cassia permeating the sponge. I managed to keep a slice in the fridge for 3 days and it was just as delicious, not a dry slice in sight. I love this cake and will be making it again for sure!

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cakeClandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

My Ugandan Groundnut Cake was very well received at our Clandestine Cake Club meeting at Waterstones. This week we were pushing the boundaries of cake. It was amazing. We had savoury cakes, Tiffin Cakes, extraordinary ombre 8 layer cakes and a magnificent ice cream cake (unfortunately that one was out of shot in the fridge).

 

Things I used to make my Ugandan Groundnut Cake

  • 200g of blanched peanuts – toast for 10 mins in medium hot oven and chop up roughly. (Save these for the end)
  • 6 eggs – Beat til fluffy. Then beat in…
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 270g runny honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g (3/4 cup) vegetable oil

Beat sugar and eggs til light and fluffy. Then beat in a third of the the dry ingredients, followed by a third of the milk

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cassia
  • 650g plain flour

Wet Ingredients

  • 270ml milk (I use semi skimmed)

Once all the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated, fold in the toasted peanuts.

Bake in 2 x 6 inch round cake tins (greased and lined) and a a 1lb loaf tin at 170 degrees c for 35 – 50 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to check if your cakes are cooked sooner. I took the loaf cake out first after 40 minutes and the last 2 round cakes needed a little longer.

Peanut Buttercream

  •  200g butter
  • 50g peanut butter (I used smooth wholefood peanut butter but you can use your favourite brand) – beat the butters together until soft and smooth before beating in the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400g icing sugar – beat in the sugar until it’s smooth and no longer grainy
  • a splash of milk to loosen it up if it starts to dry out

Chocolate Coating

  • 70g of dark chocolate melted – I used 70% cocoa chocolate but use whatever you have to hand.
ugandan groundnut cake

Yum

If you like nutty cakes you may also enjoy my Iranian Pistachio Cake too!

 

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Hot Pot Sourdough

Hot Pot Sourdough recipe

Hot Pot Sourdough

Since my first Sourdough success I’ve continued to experiment and tweak my recipe (which is now mainly in my head and variable) I change it every time I bake, depending on what flour I have to hand and how healthy I’m feeling…

BUT I think I may have cracked my staple sourdough recipe now using quite an ingenious method. Hot Pot Sourdough!

Seeded Sourdough Boule

Seeded Sourdough Boule

I realised that the sourdough strength (how active it is) and thickness (or rather the ratio of flour to water if you want to get all technical about it) plays a massive part in how successful a loaf is.

It's all about the hot (casserole) pot

It’s all about the hot (casserole) pot

Making a true sourdough loaf (not adding any instant yeast at all) can be a bit hit and miss. But after a lot of experimenting (or disasters) I seem to have cracked it! Here’s how…

1. Pour most of your starter away before you feed it. Leaving one quarter of your starter to add flour and water to. (As I explained in my last Sourdough post.)

2.  Feed your starter at least 8 hours before you want to use it!

3.  Feed it a lot! You need a lot of sourdough starter to make this loaf so feed it 400g flour and 400g water (about 2 cups)

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

4.  Leave the rubber seal on the jar of sourdough starter. This means when you close the jar lid it’s airtight. (It seems to help keep it more active and fresher for longer.) BUT you will need to open the lid to release the built up air once a day (especially after its been fed as its most active!) to stop the jar exploding.

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

4. Wait until the starter is frothy (8 to 24 hours after feeding it).Then you know it’s ready to use.

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

5.  If your sourdough starter starts to split and gather a layer of water/black liquid on top it’s hungry! Pour most of your starter away and give it a good feed.

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

6.  I give my starter a good (400g flour and 400g water) feed once a week, the day before I want to begin my bread. I leave it at room temperature everyday and try to remember to feed it when it’s starting to look hungry/spilt (usually once every 2 to 3 days). I would feed it every day if I was baking a lot of bread. But half a cup of flour and half a cup of water will suffice as a mini feed to keep it active in between big feeds. Try to feed it a small amount every couple of days.

Just fed sourdough starter - smooth and thick

Just fed sourdough starter – smooth and thick

7. Invest in a banneton (proving basket) or two – I have a rectangular and a round one for different style loaves. When working with a wetter sourdough loaf the proving baskets help the loaf to keep its shape.

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

8.  Flour the banneton with an even and thick layer. (It helps to leave the pretty swirly patterns). Or if using a cotton liner inside your basket, flour the liner to prevent the dough sticking. Use a shower cap or cling film to cover the top. Prove the loaf in the basket over night in the fridge.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

9.  Score it with a razor blade –  Get creative with your patterns, creating swirls and slices to help the loaf expand in all the right places as the yeast reacts to the heat of the oven. Scoring your loaf will prevent it splitting and it looks so pretty too.

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade (and a chopstick)

10. Bake in a hot pot! When warming the oven put a casserole pot with a lid in to heat through. I whack my oven up to the hottest temperature for 30 minutes. Sprinkle an even layer of ground semolina on the bottom of your pot and gently tip your proven loaf into the pot from the banneton basket. Careful not to knock all of the air out of the loaf as you do so and not to burn your hands on the very hot pot. (Unfortunately you cant bake the bread in the basket so the loaf needs to be removed). I use a round banneton to prove my loaf in and a round pot to bake in.

  • Pop the lid on the pot and place it in the oven at the hottest temperature for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to about 220 degrees C for the final 15 minutes. I use a glazed terracota casserole pot which can take the heat and protects the bread from scorching.
One Corn Ear patterned sourdough boule

One corn ear patterned sourdough boule

Keeping the lid in place means all of the steam is retained in the bread, which adds extra moisture and softness to the bread AND results in the most amazing ‘oven spring’ you will ever see in your bread. I guarantee it! It will double in size.

Play around with your recipe until you get it just how you like it! Here’s some of my attempts so far…

My Sourdough Family

Staple Sourdough Recipe

  • 500g flour (I usually use 250g ish of white flour 150g rye 100g spelt or wholemeal)
  • 250g water (You may need slightly more water if using a drier flour such as wholemeal, rye or spelt.)
  • 400g frothy sourdough starter
  • 10g salt
  • A splash of olive oil (approx 1-2 tbs depending on the flour, enough oil to bring the dough together into a shiny ball but not to much making the dough wet and sticky).
  • 1 tbsp barley malt extract (optional)
  • 50-100g mixed seeds (optional: linseed, flax, poppy, chia, sunflower, pumpkin)

How to make Hot Pot Sourdough

  1.  Pour the salt, flour, sourdough starter, barley malt extract (if you’re using it) and water into a mixing bowl.

  2. If using an electric mixer, put it on a low speed for 10 minutes, pouring a splash of oil in as and when required to bring the dough together into a smooth and shiny ball. (Or if doing it by hand, mix together with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Adding a drizzle of oil to help it along. Then knead for 10 minutes.)

  3. Cover the bowl with cling film/shower cap and leave to prove overnight in the fridge or for 2- 3 hours at room temperature.

  4. Knead and shape your loaf on a lightly floured surface to knock out the air bubbles. If you want to add seeds, now’s the time to knead them into the dough.

  5. Place into a floured banneton (or loaf tin), cover with a shower cap and prove over night in the fridge or for 2 hours at room temperature.

  6. Pre heat your oven and hot pot at the hottest temperature for 30 minutes

  7. Sprinkle ground semolina on the bottom of your hot pot

  8. Gently tip the proven loaf from the banneton, moving he basket as close to the hot pot as possible. Don’t worry if you’re slightly off centre, the loaf will sizzle as it hits the hot surface, firming the base of the loaf up. It can then be gently slid around the pot if you tilt it to one side. Don’t try to move it with your fingers as you’ll knock the air out and probably burn yourself!

  9. Score the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade.

  10. Pot the lid on the pot and bake it at your oven’s highest temperature for 15 minutes. (250 degrees c) Turn it down to around 220 degrees c for the final 15 minutes. You can check the bread is cooking by taking the lid off.

  11. Remove from the hot pot when it looks fully risen (30-35 minutes of baking should do it, but check it sounds hollow when you tap it’s base. If not, leave it in for a few more minutes.)

  12. Looking for a soft crust? Wrap your hot loaf up in a clean tea towel to hold in the moisture and soften the crust. Leave it to cool fully in the tea towel.

  13. Looking for a crisp chewy crust? Take the lid off the hot pot for the final 5 minutes in the oven. Leave your loaf to cool on rack.

  14. Slice it up and enjoy! I often eat this bread without any butter at all, as it’s so moist it really doesn’t need anything to liven it up. Just pure unadulterated sourdough joy!

  15. Once cooled I pop the loaf back into my pot to keep the air out and keep it fresh. It lasts for at least a week.

  16. If I’m not going to get through a whole loaf I like to slice it up thinly and freeze half. Then I can defrost a slice at a time as I need it.

  17. Eat and repeat!

P.S. My original sourdough experiments can be found over on my post ‘Starting Sourdough with James Morton’. 

61. Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

 

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Cookie, cookie on my plate what will be your delicious fate? Lemon conjures up memories of spring time, Easter and fresh starts. As we’re nearing the final 20 bakes of my around the world in 80 bakes venture I’ve accumulated a lot of random ingredients that seemed like the most essential purchase at the time.

Stacks of Poppy Seed Cookies

Stacks of  glimmering white Poppy Seed Cookies

Like I’m ever going to use that pomegranate powder, gram flour, black mustard seeds and 4 bags of poppy seeds… So I’m getting creative. Working with what I have to make some new recipes, tweaking more traditional bakes to suit my more interesting ingredients.

Eat Me - cookie stamper

Eat Me!

All the recipes I found for Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies were rather wet doughs, which had to be dolloped onto the baking tray or pinwheels with a poppyseed spiral running through them. I’m usually a fan of any recipe that doesn’t require a rolling pin but I received a beautiful cookie stamp for my birthday so I wanted to make a rollable dough so I could stamp away.

lemon Poppy seed cookies speckled dough

Poppy seed speckled dough

This recipe had to be tweaked gently to avoid creating too firm a dough as I would end up with a basic shortbread recipe, which is rather more Scottish than Hungarian. I took inspiration from Munn Cookies which are a traditional Jewish recipe. My Lemon Poppy Seed cookies are a Hungarian Munn Cookie hybrid! They’re a slim cookie (or biscuit to me) with a comfortingly crisp and crumbly texture.

Wrap your dough in cling film before chilling it for 30 minutes (or so a little longer won't hurt!)

Wrap your dough in cling film before chilling it for 30 minutes (or so a little longer won’t hurt!)

To make my recipe more mouldable I added more of everything. Calculating it carefully to get the balance right between the flour, sugar, seeds and butter. Creating a smooth buttery dough which rolls out beautifully once chilled.

Fancy fluted cookie shapes: Cutting out the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Fancy fluted biscuit shapes: Cutting out the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Chilling the cut and stamped cookies is the key to holding the shape and preventing too much oven spread.

These biscuits are pretty quick to bake. They take less than 15 minutes to whip up (especially if you’re using an electric mixer) and only 12 minutes in the oven. They spend longer in the fridge chilling than they do in the oven!

Poppy seed speckled and lemon zest flecked cookie close up

Poppy seed speckled and lemon zest flecked cookie close up

In addition to tasting great and looking pretty the poppy seeds bespeckling the cookies add an extra healthy dimesion. Poppy seeds are very common in many European baked good from bagels to seed cakes. They were traditionally incoporated into many desserts and breads as they are packed with nutrients, minerals and fibre. It’s suggested that Poppy Seeds can help with nausea and stomach upsets too. I also added some Chia Seeds for their superfood qualities to make these cookies a more health conscious snack.

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Go on.

The Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies are lovely. They retain their pale colour after baking so don’t expect them to develop a golden oven tan! They puff up slightly in the oven, leaving a smooth and shiny finish. They’re crisp and crumbly with a great crunchy texture owing to the seeds. You could add fewer seeds if you prefer, but I wanted to pack as many in as I could! The finished cookie reminds me of slices of dragonfruit.

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

If you prefer your cookies soft, bake them for 12 minutes at 175 degrees c. If you like a snap to your biscuits bake them for about 15 minutes. I feel rather refined sitting back in my chair with a poppy seed cookie to nibble on and a cup of Earl Grey to sip. The citrus in the tea brings out the lemon zest in the biscuit. A perfect combination! (Note: you may wish to share these with a friend who will point out any poppy seeds lodged in your teeth.)

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

These biscuits are subtle in flavour and high in texture. The lemon flavour cuts through the crunch for a perfect Spring/Summer snack.  They’re light and not too sweet. (But if you like sweeter biscuits you could add some water icing or melted white chocolate.) They freeze really well too (uniced), so you can keep a constant supply to hand.

I’m very tempted to make another batch and I’m very tempted to jazz them up even further, perhaps with a splash of lemon extract and a handful of chopped aromatic green herbs. Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Verbana, or Mint would be amazing with the Lemon. Adding another level of sophistication to this already refined biscuit. Lucky  I have 3 and half bags of poppy seeds left to go…

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Someone’s trying to tell you something…

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookie Recipe

  • 220g (1 cup) Butter
  • 220g (1 cup) Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 450g (3 cups) Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 80g Poppy seeds (I used 70g poppy seeds and 10g chia seeds)
  • *A splash of lemon extract
  • *A handful of finely chopped green herbs (fresh or dry) such as rosemary, basil, thyme, mint or verbana

*Optional

How I made my Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

1. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the egg until fluffy
3. Beat in the zest of 2 lemons
4. Beat in the flour, salt and baking powder
5. Beat in the lemon juice. Until the dough comes together in one ball.
6. Beat in the poppy seeds (and chia seeds if you’re adding them too, or just stick with poppy seeds!)

*Beat in the lemon extract and herbs if you choose to add them too
7. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes
8. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with icing sugar
9. Cut out 3 inch rounds (or whatever shape you prefer). I used my stamper here, gently pressing it into the dough.
10. Place on greased lined baking tray, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or longer)
11. Bake for 11-12 mins at 175 degrees c for a soft cookie or 15-17 minutes for a crisper biscuit. The cookies won’t take on any colour during baking so if they start to turn brown they’re more than ready!

The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made

image

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

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

Cooker Chaos and the Fiery Beast in my Kitchen

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

January has been a busy month filled with baking and frustration with the new-to-me-yet-old-to-our-house oven which has no temperature or oven settings remaining on it. Leaving the delicate science of oven temperature in the lap of the gods or in my case the sizzle of the grill.

This month I have successfully

  • set fire to my oven gloves and a pan lid!
  • grilled a puff pastry pie
  • charred a cake that took me 4 hours to make
  • threw 5 inedible cakes away – even Super Hans turned his nose up at them and he has been know to eat raw sourdough starter when it’s been dropped on the floor
  • and sobbed silently at the oven window glued to my newly purchased thermometer checking the temperature hasn’t yet reached ‘towering inferno stage’ and frazzled my Madelines.
Grilled pie anyone?

Grilled pie anyone?

I must admit I considered throwing the fiery beast in the bin, but the bin isn’t quite big enough… so back to patiently burning my cakes and starting over, and over, I went.

I guess this oven is a bit like baking with an Aga? (Having never used an Aga I may be making this up) I put my limited Aga knowledge to good use and attempted to control the heat by placing extra baking tins in the oven, to protect my precious cakes from the uncovered elements in the oven and ward off the extra hot spots. Adding tin foil hats to my cakes wherever possible to guard against the scorch. If you have any suggestions on how to bake in a small, yet very hot, electric fan oven please send them my way!

Undeterred I continued and eventually managed to bake some edible and rather lovely cakes, although I had to admit defeat on some of the more delicate bakes. It seems I shall be baking only robust cakes and breads that can withstand the heat until I can get to grips with the animal in my kitchen.

This month I’ve taken the opportunity to recreate some of my most favourite around the world in 80 bakes with a slightly new twist. Mainly that I have crammed as many international elements and Middle Eastern flavours that I could possibly think of into one cake. And the result? My 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake with cardamom; home made lemon curdTurkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue. Which means I finally conquered the ever elusive Turkish Delight using a very good Rachel Allan recipe. I even treated myself to 2 new cake tins that are the same size! Unheard of in my house, so now I can actually make cakes that sandwich together. Hurrah! I predict there will be many more layered cakes in my future.

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

I also re imagined my Armenian Gluten Free Orange and Almond Cake into a bundt cake with ribbons of orange blossom icing and home made candied peel. Much less syrupy than my last attempt with thick piped glace icing which gave a great sweet contrast to the slightly bitter orange and almond cake.

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

Thanks for reading and I hope January is treating you well. I’m looking forward to hopefully baking not burning some new and exciting international recipes very soon.

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.

58. Spectacular Speculoos

Spectacular Speculoos recipe

Who hasn’t tried Speculoos biscuits?? Anyone?? These little beauties are often found sitting on the edge of your saucer in coffee shops and are a Dutch favourite. They’re crisp, carmelly, sweet and spicy.  Perfect for festive celebrations.  I’ve looked high and lo for the perfect Speculoos recipe and then decided to create my own. It’s very quick to make too!

Beat everything together

Beat everything together – very spicy!

All that’s required is a vigorous beating together of the butter, sugar, an egg, treacle, water, flour and copious amounts of spices (I’m always liberal with my spices) then it’s good to go. Speculoos spread is legendary in foodie circles too. I’ve even managed to incorporate it into my lazy Crack Pie too…

I finally get to try out my biscuit gun

I finally get to try out my biscuit gun

Traditional Dutch Speculoos are usually rolled out and imprinted with pretty patterns and designs. I don’t own anything pretty to imprint them with so I finally got to try out my biscuit gun! Which promises over 100 different designs… considering I bought it for £2 I was’t convinced it was going to work. Oh ye of little faith.

It needs to be a rather liquid batter to get it in the gun...

It needs to be a rather liquid batter to get it in the gun…

I knew that the traditional Speculoos recipe wouldn’t be suitable for use with a biscuit gun as the dough would be to thick to pipe through the patterned nozzles. I did what I always do and modified my recipe to my heart’s content. Adding treacle until I got the shiny, thick, gloopy texture I was hoping for.

Piped speculoos biscuits

Piped speculoos biscuits

The tricky bit is working out how to force the dough/batter into the biscuit gun. I squashed it in with a spoon and had to refill regularly as there isn’t much space in the barrel, but this gave me the opportunity to try out a few different nozzles. I quite liked the star and flowers shapes. Once the dough is in the barrel you just press down on the level and force the dough out the end onto a greased and lined baking sheet. As the dough is a bit sticky it can be a tad awkward to cut off the dough so you can pipe a new biscuit… hence some of the more ‘interesting’ shapes I produced. Occasionally I resorted to chopping the dough from the nozzle with a knife, pushing the gun into the dough and pulling it away again quickly or twisting the  gun until the dough broke naturally.

Refrigerate your piped biscuits

Refrigerate your piped biscuits

Once you’ve experimented with a variety of patterns and piped the entire contents of your dough onto baking sheets, pop them in the fridge to harden for about 15 minutes. This means that the biscuits will hold their shape whilst baking, as the butter will be less likely to melt and spread.

The baked speculoos biscuits

The baked speculoos biscuits

Don’t worry if you don’t have a biscuit gun, I also experimented with using a normal piping bag and star shaped nozzle which also worked rather well to make pretty swirls (even if I do say so myself). Or if you can’t be bothered with messing around making them look pretty and simply want to fill your mouth with speculoos goodness you could just use a spoon and whack a dollop of the mixture on the tray. Alternatively you could chill the dough/batter in the fridge so it’s much firmer (maybe overnight if needs be) and roll it out like you would normally with biscuits and cut them out with your favourite cutter. OR if that’s not enough options roll the chilled batter into a sausage, chill it in the fridge wrapped in cling film and then simply chop it into discs. Simple round biscuits with very little fuss or tidying up afterwards!

Teeny tiny speculoos

Teeny tiny speculoos

This recipe was enough to make at least 12-16 large biscuits and a multitude of mini speculoos biscuits too. (Sorry I shovelled them into my face so fast I didn’t get a chance to count how many I actually produced!)

Speculoos selection

Speculoos selection

I absolutely love these speculoos biscuits. The thicker the biscuit the more chewy they are. The blend of spices is full and comforting, which the added sweetness of the treacle makes it my perfect winter bake.  In my haste to create Speculoos, I seem to have almost stumbled onto my own lebkuchen hybrid. The biscuits have a crispy sugar coating (without the need for any icing) and a chewy rich centre. Even the mini speculoos have a great snap and chew to them.  Speculoos biscuits freeze extremely well too so you can reveal wonderfully festive biscuits at any time of the day or night when friends or family call round.

Spectacular Speculoos

Tme for tea – Spectacular Speculoos

I plan on making my spectacular speculoos again very soon. Maybe for bonfire night and also when I perfect the recipe for rolling, I’m going to make speculoos baubles to adorn my Christmas tree with!

One speculoos or two?

One speculoos or two?

Things I used to make Spectacular Speculoos Biscuits

Prep: less than 10 minutes (if you have ground spices to hand , it will take a bit longer if you’re grinding them yourself)

Chill time: 15 -30 minutes

Bake time: 10-12 minutes

Makes: lots of spectular speculoos! (Approx 20 biscuits- more if you make mini ones too)

  • 110g margarine (is you want to use a biscuit gun marg will help!) or butter (if you want to roll them out)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cassis bark (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp rock salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Beat it all together until fluffy then beat it

  • 1 egg
  • 1 dessertspoon black treacle (molasses)
  • 1and a half tsp vanilla paste/extract
  • 300g plain flour

Pipe biscuits and refrigerate for 15 -30 minutes or chill dough then roll and cut biscuits out

Place on greased and lined tray and bake at 190 degrees c for 10- 12 minutes until firm to touch

Let them cool (if you can!) and eat with a proper cup of tea.

They will keep in the freezer for a good month or so too if you want to save some for a rainy day,

image

Simply having a jam (and chutney) filled Christmas time

Do you think I've made enough...

Do you think I’ve made enough…

I’ve been very lucky this year that the sun has shone and the plants have gone into overdrive. Our wild blackberry bush has offered a new batch of berries each day. Although it’s so tall I’ve had to resort to playing ‘Blackberry Bingo’ and dragging them off the tree with a rake and catching as many as I can. This often resulted in me rather over enthusiastically climbing into the the spiky bush and getting my curls and rake entangled. Once I managed to extract myself from the bush, mostly covered in scratches, I proudly produced my first batch of Summer Jam. Blackberry and Cinnamon.

The Great Blackberry Massacre of 2013

The Great Blackberry Massacre of 2013

Turning to the old faithful Marguerite Patten cookbook for endless jam flavour combinations and recipes I attempted to use my sugar thermometer to ensure I got a good set. Unfortunately the jam bubbled so vigorously it reached the top of the pot, so no temperatures could be read. I will continue to just follow my instincts when testing if it has set sufficiently. Does it coat the back of a spoon or crinkle when poured on a plate? How beautifully obscure these testing methods seem, until you have a pot of molten jam in front of you.

The only problem with blackberries, is the seeds. They must be removed from your jam. I only own a plastic sieve and forced the jam through it with a ladle, hoping the sieve wouldn’t melt or split. It was rather more robust than I expected and survived 2 rounds of blackberry jam, one with cranberries and one with cinnamon! Can you spot the mountain of candied blackberry seeds in the background? (Recipe at the bottom of the page).

Here come the plums

Here come the plums – the beginning of a plum clafoutis

Once I exhausted my supply of blackberries and foraged far and wide, we were offered a huge bag of plums from a friend who’s tree was flourishing. Of course I said yes and made my first venture into chutney. Spiced Plum Christmas Chutney to be exact (recipe at the bottom of the page). I wanted to make something that I could give as presents to family and friends to eat with their leftover Christmas meats and cheeses. Chutney was surprisingly easy (yet eye wateringly pungent with all the red wine vinegar!) to make. I will definitely be making more.

Homemade Strawberry Jam (and a million Mickey Mouse waffles)

Homemade Strawberry Jam (and a million Mickey Mouse waffles)

So inspired by my jam efforts I spotted extremely cheap strawberries at our local market and thought I’d give Strawberry Jam a go too! Thankfully strawberry seeds are so small they don’t really have to be removed from the jam, so no arm aching sieving required for this quick and tasty jam! And it goes surprisingly well with Mickey Mouse waffles, espresso, creme fraiche and berries.

Looking Jammy

Looking Jammy

Another wonderful friend offered me as many apples as I could carry from his very successful tree. I trotted off very merrily with almost 7kg of apples! I spent one Saturday peeling and chopping (thank god for my food processor!) 5kg, transforming them into a double batch of my favourite Apple and Ginger Jam and a new Christmas Chutney, Spiced Apple. Which I can confirm does taste delicious with cold leftover meats. Pork works very well! (Recipe at the bottom of the page)

Spiced Apple Chutney

Spiced Apple Chutney

Not wanting to waste a single scrap of apple I peeled, sliced and dried thin slices in the oven on a low heat, to save for future healthy snacks and bakes. I even managed to peel, core, slice, soak in a watered down lime juice the final kg of apples to store in the freezer for a rainy day, of which I expect there will be many this Winter. I forsee a lot of apple crumble in my future.

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming

I hope I don’t spoil the surprise but I’m stock piling all my jams and chutneys to give to my favourite family and friends for Christmas. I hope they like it! I think I’m going to need a bigger cupboard and more jars!

Chutney Recipes

Spiced Plum Chutney Ingredients

  • 1kg plums, halved, stoned and finely chopped
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 100g dried cranberries or raisins, roughly chopped with an oiled knife
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp nigella seeds (onion seeds)
  • 750ml red wine vinegar
  • 500g light muscovado sugar

Chutney Making Method

  1. Chop up the onions and fruit
  2. Put everything in the biggest pot you have and heat
  3. Stir til all the sugar is dissolved
  4. Bring to the boil
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes (or so) until it’s thick and pulpy
  6. Decant into sterilised jars, seal with wax discs.
  7. Put the lids on whilst still hot to keep the jars sterile
  8. Clean up the outside of the jars and label.
  9. Store in a cool dark place.
  10. Chutney should keep for up to 6 months and will only taste better with age 🙂
  11. Once opened keep your jar in the fridge.

Spiced Apple Chutney Ingredients

  • 1½ kg cooking apples, peeled and diced
  • 750g light demarera sugar
  • 500g sultanas
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)
  • 1 black of stem ginger sliced finely
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 350ml cider vinegar
  • 400ml white wine vinegar

Method as before

Eat with lashing of cold leftover meats, cheeses or whack it in a sandwich for a quick festive hit.

Jam Recipes

Some jam recipes suggest using jam sugar, but it’s so expensive I don’t bother. Instead I allow the fruit to stew first to release it’s own natural pectin to help it set. The basic rule of jam is for most fruit (depending on their levels of pectin) is to allow equal amounts of fruit to sugar, adding lemon juice if there’s a lack of pectin. Apples have a good amount of pectin in them so you can always add them to berries when making jam to help with the set too.

Apple and Ginger Jam – revisited and revised 

I previously made this recipe and followed Marguerite Patten’s recipe. You can see this post here.

  • 1000g diced apples
  • 2 Tbsp of ground ginger
  • 3 balls of stem ginger finely sliced
  • 1000g granulated sugar

Method

  1. Chop fruit up into small pieces
  2. Soak in ground spices
  3. Stew fruit slowly
  4. Add sugar and stir over low heat until dissolved
  5. Boil rapidly for 10-20 minutes (or so). The quicker the boil the better the set, but you must keep an eye on it, to stop it burning or going past it’s setting point.
  6. Jam is set when it reaches 105 degrees C (if using a sugar thermometer) or when it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon – dripping slowly off it. Or if you drop a bit on a cold plate it crinkles when you push it with your finger.
  7. Decant the very hot jam when it reaches a good set, into the hot sterilised jars.
  8. Put on waxed paper circles and lids.
  9. Store in a cool dry place.
  10. It should keep well if no moisture gets in to the jars for at least 6 months.
  11. Once opened keep your jar in the fridge.

Strawberry Jam

  • 1kg strawberries
  • 1kg granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (or half a lemon)

Method as above but with strawberries the fruit didn’t break down massively. You can leave your fruit whole in chunks if you prefer or if you prefer a smother jam, blitz it with a hand held blender, careful not to splash yourself with boiling hot jam though!

Blackberry and Apple Jam

  • 2 apples sliced and diced
  • 750g blackberries
  • 1kg granulated sugar
  • A splash of lemon juice

Method as above but strained the jam through the sieve to remove the seeds as I decanted it into the sterile jars.

Blackberry, Cranberry and Cinnamon Jam

  • 500g of frozen cranberries (defrosted)
  • 500g blackberries
  • 1000g of cinnamon (or in my case cassia bark) infused sugar – stick the bark in a jar of sugar and leave to infuse for a week or so

Method as above but I strained the jam through the sieve to remove the seeds as I decanted it into the sterile jars.

56. Lost in Translation – Latvian Golden Coffee Cake – Kliņģeris

A slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

My slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

You can be excused for assuming this cake contains coffee. That’s the first of many surprises that this rather unusual cake bestows. It contains NO coffee but incorporates saffron, cake and a yeasted dough. It’s part cake part bread and mainly liquid!? Golden Coffee cake has intrigued me for months, with it’s promise of a saffron scented pretzel shaped traditional Latvian birthday cake. (I do love a good pretzel) I have been saving this recipe for a special occasion and didn’t realise until I began, just how unusual and complicated it really is.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Not many recipes measure flour in litres or require you to combine an enriched dough with creamed butter and sugar. It was a test of my baking skill and intuition as every part of my brain questioned each step of the recipe. I fear I made a right mess of the recipe and something definitely got lost in the translation. Nevertheless I carried on regardless and produced one very interesting cake…

Is this how it's supposed to look?

Is this how it’s supposed to look?

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake begins life as more of a bread dough than a cake. Kneading together flour, yeast and milk together to create a supple and springy dough.

A supple dough

A supple dough

Whilst your busy kneading the dough together steep the saffron threads in a little boiling water to infuse the liquid with the lovely golden hue and save it to one side for later on.

Steeping saffron strands

Steeping saffron strands

Then to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, whilst the dough rests and proves. Once the butter and sugar are fluffy you then beat the egg yolks in gradually one at a time. I did wonder if I had misread the recipe here as a whole block of butter seems like rather a lot to try to fit into one bread/cake…

Creamed butter and sugar

Creamed butter and sugar

This is where I think it all started to fall apart. In an attempt to save on washing up and effort I used my Kitchenaid to knead the dough and creamed butter together. I also forgot to buy cream so substituted it for milk, which is far more liquid than cream. I adjusted the recipe slightly hoping to compensate for this substitution, but I’m not convinced I did! It took a long time to knead the butter into the dough. They just didn’t want to combine! After a good 10 minutes of kneading the gloopy mess smoothed out into a very fluid (!) and smooth bread/cake dough.

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

It took a good 10 minutes of mixing to get the dough to smooth out and look more appealing. And just when it was all going so well the recipe called for the the juice of 1 lemon and (I guessed as it wasn’t mentioned) the saffron and infused water. All this liquid along with the ground cardamom and zests of 1 orange and 1 lemon made for an even wetter dough…

The proven dough

The proven dough

Leaving the liquid dough to prove in the bowl for a couple of hours, it quickly increased in size and almost overflowed the bowl! The yeast was definitely working. The next tricky stage was to attempt to knead the chopped golden cherries (I didn’t have golden raisins but had randomly picked up some golden cherries on a whim, which were a good alternative) and apricots (the only other golden-ish dried fruit that I had in my cupboard).

Chopped dried golden fruits

Chopped dried golden fruits

I could clearly see that this dough was destined to never blossom into a beautiful pretzel shape despite the instruction to knead it on a floured board. There was not enough flour in my house to get this into a malleable dough state. Yet I found myself pouring it onto my worksurface and racing to catch it before it ran onto the floor. It was more like kneading treacle than bread dough. I resorted to stirring the chopped fruit in on the worksurface and scooping the mixture into a well greased bundt tin instead.

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this?

Covering the budnt tin with greased cling film I left the dough to prove for a full hour to allow the yeast to do it’s magic. Then into the oven for a good bake 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees c.

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead...

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead…

The bundt tin worked surprisingly well to bake the Golden Coffee Cake in. I think having the hole in the middle helps to ensure a cake is cooked all the way through. It expanded so much during baking, you could hardly see the hole in the middle any more! It sure is a yeasty cake.

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

I still managed to make a hash of it however, tipping the cake out too soon, whilst it was still hot. I panicked as it sank further into the tin as it cooled. In my haste to turn it out the cake collapsed even further and bits broke off… I did check that the cake was cooked thoroughly by using a cocktail stick. The dough seemed to be evenly baked as the skewer came out clean, but I felt the cake was still a little too moist to hold it’s own weight. Perhaps 5 more minutes in the oven and 10 more minutes cooling in the tin afterwards would have given it the extra strength to hold it’s own shape a little better.

Tipped out too soon...

Tipped out too soon…

My Golden Coffee Cake has a slightly rugged edge to it which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the cake had expanded enormously there were bits of overhang, that had to break off to get it out of the tin. This means that you get to sample the cake before everyone else! Super Hans and I shared the scraps. He thoroughly enjoyed it which is always a good sign,

The opened cake

The opened cake

I was a bit nervous about presenting this cake to my friends at the Clandestine Cake Club. It really hadn’t gone to plan, despite the many hours of planning and preparation that had gone into this cake. Saffron tends to also be an acquired taste especially when combined with the strong yeast, it’s quite the unusual flavour combination.

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club – my emergency blackberry heart is on the right

The original recipe called for icing too, which frankly I couldn’t be bothered to make as I decided to bake an emergency alternative blackberry and almond cake to take to cake club instead. I didn’t want to waste my Golden Coffee Cake, I still took it along repeatedly apologising for it’s dishevelled appearance.

The Golden Coffee Cake

The Golden Coffee Cake

The verdict? Golden Coffee Cake reminds me of a stronger flavoured Hot Cross Bun. A spicy and fruity bread rather than a traditional sponge cake. It’s similar to an Italian Panetonne, so would be a lovely Christmas bake. The taste definitely improves with age so it’s best baked in advance to allow the flavours to develop and mellow. On the third day, it tasted pretty good! The wet enriched yeast dough gave the cake the moisture it required to create a light aerated texture, with an even crumb I’m sure Paul Hollywood would be proud of.

Golden and fruit filled

Golden and fruit filled

It was a rather moist cake, so a slightly longer baking time wouldn’t do it any harm. It may have been even better if I had got round to icing the cake too! The feedback from my cake club friends was very positive too. Perhaps I had been too hasty in my judgement of this cake, dismissing it as a failure.

Golden Coffee Cake

Golden Coffee Cake

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake is an exotic cake that I’m very pleased I got to experiment with. I love the defined bundt shape of this bake. The dough really holds the grooves of the bundt well and once you slice into the cake it’s beautiful golden saffron interior is revealed. You get a lovely waft of cardamom from the cake too with every slice, bringing it’s own festive cheer to the table.  The sharpness of the citrus fruits cuts through the yeast and spice and gives the cake a light tang. This cake isn’t a cheap to make, once you’ve purchased your precious saffron, cardamom, butter and eggs so I can see why the Latvians save it for special occasions. I fear I may never learn my lesson and continue to substitute ingredients on a whim, so I take the blame for my own additions to this recipe! Don’t add too much liquid if you do try this at home and you may actually get to shape it into a pretzel!

Things that I used to make my Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 tsp Spanish saffron – steeped in
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Knead together

  • 570g strong white flour
  • 20g instant dried yeast
  • 400ml warm milk ( I would use much less! maybe 300ml if using milk or 400ml of double cream)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • The water infused with saffron and the strands

Cream together in a separate bowl

  • 250g butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Then beat in

  • 3 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cardamom

Knead the butter mixture together and dough

Prove dough for 1 hour

Knead in

  • 300g of dried chopped fruit (golden cherries/raisins/apricots)

(Shape like a pretzel if you can! and bake on a greased sheet.)

Pour into a greased bundt cover and prove for 1 hour

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees C

Allow to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes

Ice with a sugar glaze if you like! (Mix icing sugar and water together until gloopy and pour over your cake) or leave plain if you prefer.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Enjoy a slice with a nice strong coffee, hence the name Golden Coffee Cake!

This recipe was adapted from the www.latvianstuff.com/Kringel.html. Thank you for the inspiration and my apologies if I’ve ruined your recipe! Any tips on how to improve my technique would be very welcome.