64. Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Considering how many small fires I’ve started in my kitchen recently I surprised myself by not inflicting any further injuries whilst venturing into deep fat frying for the first time. Churros have been on my got-to-bake list forever.

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. Churros, Dark chocolate dipping sauce, ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. (left to right) Churros, dark chocolate dipping sauce, vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

I first tried Churros in Sydney in the bohemian district of Glebe. San Churros is a late night chocolate cafe offering half a metre long cinnamon sprinkled churros, thick hot chocolate and ice cream. AMAZING. Newcastle needs one of these.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Churros are traditionally Spanish but also very popular in Mexico usually dipped in liquid chocolate for good measure. You could also add some chilli to your chocolate (or chocolate to your churros – substitute some flour for cocoa powder) if you want an extra kick.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

The process for making churros batter is very similar to profiteroles. Heat the water, butter and sugar in a pan until the butter melts.

churros recipe Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Take the pan off the heat and using a wooden spoon beat in the flour and salt until it comes together into a thick lump.

churros recipe Beat in the dry ingredients

Beat in the dry ingredients – best not use a whisk opt for a wooden spoon…

Then beat in the eggs one by one until it’s a smooth and shiny batter.

churros recipe Beat in the eggs

Beat in the eggs – wooden spoon is a much better option

This is quite a precise process so it’s worth setting up your workstation to make it as stress free as possible.

  • Keep a damp tea towel to hand to wipe your hands when you’re covered in batter.
  • Line a plate with kitchen paper and keep it close to add more layers when needed to drain the churros on.
  • Fill a shallow and wide dish with cinnamon sand to roll your churros in whilst they’re still hot.
Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

To prepare the chocolate dipping sauce, heat the water and milk in a pan until approaching boiling and point. Take it off the heat add half of the chocolate. Stir until melted. Then stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth and shiny. Pour your chocolate soup into a pot ready for dipping.

churros Chocolate dipping sauce

Chocolate dipping sauce

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot about 400ml in a 8 inch round stock pot will give you about 2 inches of oil to fry the churros in. Make sure the oil is hot enough before piping your churros in. Just pop a blog of batter in and if it sizzles you’re good to go. You will need a slotted spoon to turn the churros with and to scoop them out when they’re cooked.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Although the batter is thick it should be free flowing. Scoop it into a piping bag with a star shaped tip. Don’t overfill the bag as it becomes really unwieldly (gushing batter from both ends). You need as much control as possible when piping into boiling hot oil as you really don’t want to get splashed.

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup - churros recipe

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup

I’ve watched street food vendors preparing churros and they have special batter dispensers that cut off the flow and deposit long sticks of churros into a deep vat of molten oil. Great method but probably not something that you’ve got in your kitchen at home. TV Chefs have also demonstrated perfectly straight churros. Nigella piped hers into boiling oil using scissors to cut the flow from the bag. She made short churros. Jamie Oliver made a firm dough and rolled his churros and then fried them. My batter was very liquid and difficult to control so I mostly ended up with it all over my hands and in my hair but I did manage to get some of it into the pot.

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

My lack of precision and being covered in batter meant I piped rather curly churros into the pan which instantly puffed up into curious shapes. The batter has a mind of its own and using a shallow round pot does have some limitations. Despite their irregular appearance they’re pretty damn tasty.

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

They sizzle instantly as soon as they reach the oil (watch out for sizzly splashes) and take minutes to cook, about 2 minutes each side turning a golden brown.

A good cinnamon sand coating is required churros recipe

A good cinnamon sand coating is required

With your kitchen roll at the ready you can pop your churros straight from the pan onto the paper to blot any excess oil before transferring them to the cinnamon sand (caster sugar and ground cassia/cinnamon) for a good sugary coating.

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Keep piping churros into the boiling oil, flipping them, scooping them out, blotting them off, rolling in sugar until you’ve exhausted all of your batter. This makes an enormous amount of churros, so you may need to friends to help… Be careful not to leave the oil on the heat for too long, for example if you’re messing around taking photos. Without any churros to absorb some of the heat the oil will continue to sore in temperature and scorch the next churros you pipe into the pan. Also make sure you scrape out any scraps from the oil before piping the next churros in to avoid burnt bits attaching themselves to your fresh batch of churros.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Eat immediately! The longer they sit, the more oil they absorb so they lose a little of their crispiness. You’ ll not be disappointed by these churros. I shared these still warm and cinnamon scented to my friends at a picnic and with my family. Every single one disappeared. They’re light and fluffy on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside, (with the added texture from the sugar) to be oh so moreish.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

I quite like the contrast of the dark chocolate against the sweet churros, but my 3 year old nephew winced at the bitterness despite the addition of some milk to my chocolate soup. You could use a lighter chocolate or milk chocolate if you prefer more sweetness in your life.

Things I used to make my Curly Churros

Churros Batter

  • 470g/ml water
  • 45g butter
  • 45g caster sugar

Melt in pan then remove from heat

  • 440g plain flour (or if you want to make chocolate churros substitute 420g of flour and 20g cocoa powder)
  • 2g salt

Beat in with a wooden spoon

  • 2 eggs

Beat in with a wooden spoon

Pour the smooth batter into a piping bag with a star shaped tip

  • 400ml vegetable oil

Heat oil until sizzling hot. Pipe in Churros. Cook them for 2 minutes (ish) on each side. Remove from oil and to drain on kitchen paper

Cinnamon Sand Ingredients

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2-3 tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon powder)

Roll warm churros in cinnamon sand

Chocolate Soup Ingredients

  • 60ml water
  • 20ml milk

Heat liquid til just before boiling, remove from heat and add half the chocolate. Stir til melted

  • 100g good quality chocolate
  • optional sprinkle of chilli powder for extra kick

Add the remaining chocolate and stir until melted.

Dip your warm churros in your chocolate soup and enjoy!

Advertisements

57. Iranian Pistachio Cake

Iranian Pistachio Cake - powered by pistachios

Iranian Pistachio Cake – powered by pistachios

How delicious are pistachios? Ever since I’ve ventured to Greece and gorged myself on Baklava and Pistachio Gelato in Italy I’ve longed to flavour more with the glorious green god of nuts. I could eat them every day and love the Middle Eastern desserts which feature the beauteous nuts. Thank god I remembered to buy shelled pistachios this time round as this contains a HUGE amount of pistachios! No more lonely hours spent cracking nuts in the kitchen or broken nails for me.

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

I was looking for an especially decadent cake for my friend’s birthday and the Iranian Pistachio Cake offers everything I was looking for. A delicious, moist, sweet sponge with a hint of exotic spice. I know Pistachios aren’t cheap, so you could try substituting them for your favourite nuts (or whatever you have in your cupboard) instead. Maybe almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts? They would also be gorgeous versions of this cake.

Start with beating the butter and sugar together...

Start with beating the butter and sugar together…

As with most cakes the Iranian Pistachio Cake begins with beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Adding as much air as possible to get that wonderfully tender sponge.

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Then for the fun part, smashing up the nuts! Blitz the pistachios with an electric blender/food processor until they’re finely ground. Careful not to grind them too much though as the nuts will release their oils and end up as a pistachio paste which will deflate your cake (or if you keep going you could make your own raw nut butter). I  ground my cardamom along with the salt for extra friction in a pestle and mortar and then added it to the nuts and blitzed them all together to ensure the spice was evenly distributed and fine.

The eggs should then be beaten into the butter one at a time. Beat the mixture until very fluffy and increases in volume.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Combine the ground pistachios, spice and salt with the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and add the vanilla paste. Fold one third of the flour into the butter mixture followed by a third of the milk. Fold in a third of the flour followed by another third of the milk alternately until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin so you don’t knock any of the precious air out of the sponge. I wanted to test out my new fluted brioche tin to make the cake look a little more fancy. (Hope you like my holiday souvenir! I managed to squash 3 cake tins in my suitcase from Portugal! Is it just me who brings baking equipment home from holiday?) I love the moulded shape. Using a smaller tin means the cake requires a longer baking time in the oven but I think the dramatic shape is well worth the effort.

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

After almost an hour in the oven the cake was thoroughly cooked.  I patiently waited 30 minutes before tentatively opening the oven to check if it was done and continued to check every 10 minutes with a skewer that the cake was cooked. The edges did start to brown, so I resorted to a cap of tin foil to protect the top of the cake from burning. You could bake the cake in a bundt tin or a 9 inch round tin. and should take a little less time to cook. You will need to bake it for probably around 30-40 minutes if you’re using a larger tin as the cake will be thinner and require less cooking time. The final cake is a deep brown in colour and springs back when touched.

Rosewater sugar icing

Rosewater sugar icing – the perfect consistency!

Cardamom is a regular character in Eastern cakes and desserts. It compliments the delicious pistachios with it’s subtle spice. Traditionally this cake doesn’t ask for any icing, but I thought something sweet would be a welcome addition. I added my own rosewater glace icing to sweeten the sponge. I always struggle with glace or water icing, with it often ending up runny, resulting in soggy cakes and never endingly wet icing. If I was hoping to make a syrup I would be able to do this with my eyes closed. Desperate to get it right, I actually measured my liquids before adding them to the icing sugar! Using my kitchen aid I beat the icing sugar adding the rosewater one teaspoon at a time to ensure I didn’t over egg the pudding, as I’ve learnt from experience you can’t take extra liquid out if you get a bit too enthusiastic with the bottle…

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Triumph! I succeeded in making a thick pipeable rosewater icing for the first time ever!! Hurrah! If anything it could have been a tiny bit more runny so that it could run down the sides of the cake giving a natural trail in it’s wake. Next time I may add a smidge more rosewater to make it slightly more runny. But hey I’m not complaining! I was aiming for an rosey flavoured iced bun effect and that’s exactly what I got.

Crushed pistachio topping

Crown of crushed pistachios

Smashing up a handful of pistachio in the pestle and mortar I got a bit artistic, adding a crown of crushed pistachios whilst the icing was still sticky so it holds the nuts in place once set. I didn’t want it to look too pristine, so I threw some nuts at the edges of the cake too allowing the crumbs to stick to the icing tracks too.

Happy Birthday Mel!

Happy Birthday Mel!

I loved this cake, so much so I helped myself to 2 slices. (Me? Greedy?) It makes a wonderful alternative to the traditional chocolate birthday cake. A grown up cake full of flavour. Sweet, light and spicy with a tiny crunch to it powered by pistachios. It feels wonderfully exotic with every waft of cardamom balanced against the gentle rose icing. I will most definitely be baking this cake again.

The perfect pistachio slice

The perfect pistachio slice

Each slice glows with the subtle green flecks from the pistachios, contrasting beautifully against the white icing. The cake cuts smoothly and is really robust, so it travels well. (Just in case like me you end up regularly carrying cake around to surprise people with.)

Iranian Pistachio Cake recipe

Iranian Pistachio Cake

Things I used to make my Iranian Pistachio Cake

  • 170g butter
  • 200g sugar

Beat until light and fluffy

  • 3 eggs

Beat in the eggs one at a time until pale and fluffy

  • 180g (3/4 cup) of pistachios
  • 1 tsp of ground green cardamom (this was 9 or 10 cardamom pods)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blitz the pistachios, spice and salt together until finely ground

  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Stir the pistachios into the flour and baking powder

Fold one third of the flour mix to the butter and eggs

  • 110ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the milk

Fold one third of the milk to the butter and flour mix

Alternate adding flour and milk to the mix and continue until all ingredients are incorporated

Pour into a greased (and lined if your tin will allow for this) tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Put a tin foil hat on the cake if it starts to darken too much.

Icing

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 10 tsp rosewater
  • handfull of crushed pistachios
  1. Beat the rosewater into the icing sugar one teaspoon at a time to ensure you get the right consistency. Thick yet runny icing.
  2. Smash the pistachios up to rough pieces and decorate the cake as you wish
  3. Devour with a glass of champagne (if it’s an especially decadent occasion) or proper cup of strong coffee would work wonderfully too. Enjoy!

54. Hawaiian Haupai Pie – A Coconut Chocolate Cream Dream

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Having never visited Hawaii I have absolutely no idea what the traditional cake Hawaiian cake would be until I discovered Haupai Pie. I’ll never look back from this tropical chocolate, coconut cream dream pie.

The first slice of Haupai Pie

The first slice of Haupai Pie

Trying to decide on a birthday cake for my sister I put a call out for inspiration on twitter and Haupai Pie was suggested by the lovely @FoodandFrets. I knew instantly that this was the pie for me especially with my upcoming trip to @private_pie club which was to be held the amazing Quilliam Bros Teahouse (which is incidentally also my favourite shop to visit with their millions of teas brewed to perfection and spectacular peanut brownies). The theme of Private Pie club this month was ‘free from’. I interpreted this to mean free from meat but not free from calories.

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

Recipes vary for Haupai pie. Many require just an unspecified ‘pie crust’. Which is helpfully vague but also means I can do what I like best in the kitchen, and make it up as I go along. Sweet chocolate pastry pie crust it is then for me!

Pastry is not my forte. It’s no secret. I have heard that chocolate pastry is particularly difficult and delicate but who cares what the worriers tell you. Just plough on through and it’ll be fine. If I can make it I’m sure anyone can.

Butter me up

Butter me up

Infused with confidence, having churned my own butter recently, I set to work using my Homemade butter to make this challenging crust.

Rub rub run your flour

Rub rub run your flour

Rubbing together the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar and homemade butter by hand means you’re more in control of the pastry and less likely to overwork it. (Not that I could honestly tell the difference between over our under worked pastry as they all taste pretty good to me.) I chose to use icing sugar rather than caster sugar to achieve a smoother pastry. Caster sugar, although finely ground, could be a little too course for this pastry  (Another helpful tip brought to you from the wisdom of Mary Berry!) It’s definitely not because I had ran out of caster sugar and only had icing sugar to hand…

Pastry starting to come together

Pastry starting to come together

An egg is used to enrich the pastry and bring the dry mixture together. I also added a splash of milk to get the pastry to a good rollable consistency. Once it starts to come together, tip it onto an icing sugared dusted surface and knead it lightly and pat it into a round.

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

Moving the pastry as little as possible is apparently the key to good pastry (and cold hands, which I have even in summer). Lightly rolling the pastry away from you, in one direction, turn the pastry 90 degrees clockwise, roll again and turn. Keep repeating until it’s about 5mm thin and big enough to line your tin.

A thin pastry rectangle

A thin pastry rectangle

The best tip I have is to trim off the excess pastry, making more of a round shape as you roll to help keep it all under control. It makes life much easier when trying to fling the pastry into your tin too. Also as the pastry has a high butter content, there’s no need to grease your tin. Hurrah! Another job saved.

Pastry envelope

Pastry envelope

My method is to fold the pastry like an envelope, into thirds and lift it into the middle of the tin. Then all you have to do is unfold the pastry and gently press it into all of the nooks and crannies of your tin (I chose a tart tin with a wavy edge for my main pie). If your pastry is extremely delicate you can press it using a piece of cut off pastry instead of your fingers to stop yourself from poking a hole in it.

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Once the pastry has relaxed and is pressed tightly into the tin you can trim off the extra and save it for later. This recipe made enough pastry for 2 pies! So I made a bonus practice Haupai pie. You could freeze the raw pastry for another day if you prefer or make some tasty biscuits instead.

Trim your edges

Trim your edges

The pastry needs to chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before blind baking the case.

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Before baking the chocolate pastry case prick the pastry all over with a fork to stop it bubbling up allowing you to fill it evenly later on.

Blind baking with kidney beans

Blind baking with kidney beans

I like to use crumpled up greaseproof paper to line the case and kidney beans to hold the pastry down during the blind bake. With my extra pastry I decided to attempt a fancy twisted pie crust…

Fancy twisted pie crust

Fancy twisted pie crust

However in reality the fancy pie crust was a bit over ambitious. It melted in the oven during the blind bake and collapsed into the case giving some lucky people an extra thick chocolate crust! To make sure the pie crust bakes evenly I pop the pie onto a preheated baking sheet. The pie needs to be blind baked for 15 minutes and then baked uncovered for a final 5 minutes until it’s fully cooked in the middle. Some of the crust did stick to the greaseproof paper but hey it doesn’t need to look pretty on the inside, it’s going to be covered in luscious chocolate and coconut pudding. (Please ignore the twisted pastry mess on the outside too.)

Not so fancy pie crust

Not so fancy pie crust

Whilst the pie crust is cooling you can then make the coconut custard/pudding mixture. This recipe seemed worryingly liquid filled to me.  I couldn’t imagine it ever thickening up to a custard consistency. I had visions of the runny custard seeping into the pastry and ruining the crisp base. No one wants a soggy bottomed tart. The recipe called for a lot of coconut milk, milk and sugar to be boiled together and allowed to thicken. I had some homemade dulce de leche that needed to be used up so I substituted half of the milk for this instead, which also helped to thicken the mixture. (But you could just use normal milk or condensed milk for an extra sugary kick if you prefer…)

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

I’ve never made a custard without eggs before, relying solely on corn flour to thicken the mixture. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use up the box of cornflour I had carefully carried through customs all the way back from Berlin recently too, believing it to be a German cake mix. Google translate revealed later that it’s just plain old cornflour that I could buy in any shop here…

This custard/pudding recipe screamed against all my baking instincts, which I had to suppress with all my might to stop myself throwing in the odd egg yolk or two. I’m pleased I ignored my supposed baking instincts and put my faith in the recipe.  Pouring the full volume of water mixed with cornflour into the coconut milk, I held my breath and whisked like mad…

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me...

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me…

Miraculously the custard thickened immediately after I poured to full amount of cornflour into the mix! Producing a gloriously thick and glossy custard.

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

The custard then needs to be divided in half to whisk chocolate into one half and dessicated coconut to the other, until you get a beautifully shiny chocolate custard and a wonderfully textured coconut pudding custard.

Chocolate custard

Chocolate custard

Coconut custard

Coconut custard

With your cooled chocolate and coconut custards at the ready, the rest of the Haupai Pie assembly is pretty straight forward. Pour the chocolate layer in first and spread evenly over the base, followed by a layer of coconut custard. As I was making two pies, I ran out of coconut custard for my second pie, but you get the gist of it… You could just make one really full pie instead if you prefer or have a much more chocolatey second pie, like me.

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Whilst this is setting in the fridge, take the opportunity to whip up your double cream with a little caster sugar, until fluffy and light.

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Spread a final thick layer of whipped cream evenly all over your pie and decorate with chocolate, or coconut or a combination of the two! With two pies to decorate I made one with chocolate buttons and another with homemade coconut curls and a milk chocolate drizzle.

The first slice of Haupai Pie - chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

The first slice of Haupai Pie – chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

I absolutely love Haupai Pie! I love the triple layered effect, with the dark chocolate pastry and custard contrasting with the mellow coconut custard and the white whipped cream! You can probably tell I have a bit of a coconut fascination, so this pie is right up my street.

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

The crisp chocolate base is the perfect partner to the smooth and creamy filling. Adding the extra dessicated coconut to the custard gives an added texture and interest to the pie too. And despite my crust slipping into the pie, I quite enjoyed the extra thick crust.  I could quite happily eat chocolate pastry every day. Who would have thought that this time last year I thought that I didn’t really like pastry or cream?! I’m so pleased I persevered and not only do I now like pastry and cream I can now say I really do LOVE it.

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

I was worried that I had prepared the pies too early as I made them on Monday to be served on Wednesday. I feared that the custard would make the pastry too wet. But lo and behold it was still perfectly crisp after 2 days. This pie definitely needs to be kept in the fridge and is probably eaten as soon as possible but rest assured it keeps very well for at least 3 days (if it lasts that long in your house!).

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Things That I used to make me Haupai Pie

Chocolate Pastry Recipe

  • 90g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1 egg
  • a splash of milk
  1. Rub together ingredients dry ingredients and butter
  2. Add the egg (and milk if needed) to bring the pastry together
  3. Roll out to 5mm thickness and press into tin
  4. Cut to shape and prick with a fork all over
  5. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees c.
  6. Bake uncovered for a further 5 minutes, until evenly baked.
  7. Allow to cool

Coconut and Chocolate Custard Fillings

  • 235ml milk (or 175ml dulce de leche and 50ml milk) (or 235ml condensed milk)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (400ml)
  • 200g white sugar

Heat milk and sugar until boiling and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.

  • 235ml water
  • 65g cornflour
  1. Mix the cornflour and water until dissolved.
  2. Pour cornflour into the coconut milk
  3. Whisk over the heat until thickened (about 3 minutes)
  4. Take off the heat and divide the mixture in half
  • 210g chocolate (100g milk and 110g dark)
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  1. Whisk the chocolate into one half of the custard
  2. Whisk the dessicated coconut into the other half of the custard
  3. Allow to cool
  • 400ml Double cream
  • 40g caster sugar
  1. Whisk the double cream and sugar together until fluffy
  2. Pour chocolate custard into the pastry case
  3. Pour coconut custard into the pastry case
  4. Top with whipped cream
  5. Decorate with chocolate/coconut (or anything else you like)
  6. Enjoy!
Eat with a big spoon

Eat with a big spoon

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!

 

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