52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!

 

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