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.

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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.

The Alternative Gingerbread House – Gingerbread Cave and Christmas Tree (or how not to make a gingerbread igloo)

The gingerbread Christmas Tree and Cave with the Bear and the Hare

The gingerbread Christmas Tree and Cave with the Bear and the Hare

I had a grand plan to bake a Gingerbread Igloo for this year’s Gingerbread House Challenge to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust. In my mind this would be wonderfully easy. Simply slap a circle of gingerbread dough on a greased upside down pyrex bowl and bake. Easy?

Melted ingerbread mess

Melted gingerbread mess

Perhaps if I had given myself enough time to chill the dough before baking it or used ribbons of greaseproof paper to line the outside of the bowl I might have managed to salvage the igloo. But as it happens I did none of these helpful things and ended up with a lot of gingerbread on the floor of my oven instead.

Taking my sharpest knife I hacked away the excess gingerbread leaving a rather rugged (and uneven edge). Returning it to the oven for a second bake ‘to crisp it up’ was an equally bad idea as the gingerbread then firmly welded itself onto the bowl. Once cooled it then had to be chipped off the bowl. Leaving behind a cave-like gingerbread construction instead.

The first gingerbread igloo/cave

The first gingerbread igloo/cave

‘Who lives in a cave?’ I asked Chris. ‘What can I make this this gingerbread mess?!’ ‘How about the Bear and the Hare from that John Lewis Christmas advert?’ He suggested. I took the idea and ran with it. Whipping up thick white royal icing to cement my cave onto my cake board and adding extra for support. But this gingerbread was far too thin to hold it’s own weight, even with internal gingerbread scaffolding it self destructed over night.

Collapsed gingerbread cave - yet another gingerbread mess

Collapsed gingerbread cave – yet another gingerbread mess

I had now really committed to the idea and already fashioned some fondant animals so I had to construct another cave. A new and improved cave.

Using a half sphere cake tin I layered up gingerbread bricks (or rectangles of rolled out dough) about 3mm thick on the inside of the tin after greasing it heavily. I also included 2 ribbons of greaseproof paper laid (like a hot cross bun cross) inside the tin to act as lever and help me remove it later on. I decided to use a pastry technique and ‘blind bake’ the dough by filling it with a layer of greaseproof paper and kidney beans to hold it in place and avoid disastrous meltage. It worked!! I put it all in the freezer to chill it before baking and help it hold it’s shape. Then 15 minutes in the oven with the beans and 5 minutes baking without the beans led to a good solid cave!

Almost finished Gingerbread Cave

Almost finished Gingerbread Cave

I also experimented with a cave baked on the outside of the half sphere tin, but this spread and looked more like a tortoise shell… Perhaps another alternative gingerbread house for the future!

With the leftover bits of gingerbread dough I thought I best bake some emergency-if-it-all-goes-wrong gingerbread houses. Making it up as I went along (as who has time to make precise templates and measure things?!) armed with a palette knife and a pizza cutter I cut out 3 large (similar size and shape) triangles to make the walls of my wigwam.

This wigwam was then magically transformed into my Christmas tree. It didn’t really look substantial enough to be a house in it’s own right, after I had joined the triangles together to make a 3d wigwam shape. (Using just a line of royal icing on the inside join of each triangle). Inspired I added food colouring to my royal icing and zig zagged the pine needles in place using a  piping bag with the end trimmed off. (Not too large a hole or too much icing gushes out!) Returning with red and yellow coloured icing to dot on baubles. With a generous sprinkle of glitter a rather festive gingerbread Christmas tree had arrived. Once the icing had set I carefully prised the tree from it’s resting place (on a baking tray lined with cling film) with a cocktail stick and plopped it onto even more royal icing on the cake board.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree how lovely are your baubles

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree how lovely are your baubles

To decorate the cave I whipped up a batch of royal icing, using merriwhite (pasteurised egg white powder that you can buy from cake shops, so you don’t have to use raw egg whites if children or pregnant women might eat your baking). I smeared a good rough layer of royal icing all over the board to cover the silver foil and give a snowy effect. This is then the perfect base for glueing the gingerbread cave in place. I then piped more ‘snow’ around the the edges of the cave, all along the join between the cave and the board to hold it in place, but also to suggest a snow build up. I let the icing flow freely and smoothly to give as natural an effect as possible.

Piles of icicles

Piles of icicles

I wanted to create icicles to dangling from the cave mouth. Once the initial layer of snow had dried I could then use this icing to ‘hook’ the icicles on to. I piped a blob of icing behing the inside lip of the cave attatching it as far in to the roof (and joining on to the snow trim) as possible. Simple strings of icing didn’t hold and didn’t look right. I found it easier to squeezed the piping bag gently letting the icing build up and then stretch the icing with the nozzle of the piping bag before you stop piping. THis means you can then shape it as you wish. You can then even add more layers to your icicles if you want to build them up further. A good sprinkle of edible glitter (white hologram glitter is my preferred choice with a hint of blue) gives it a frosty twinkle.

wpid-IMG_20131130_230254.jpg

As I added my Gingerbread Cave to the amazing array of Gingerbread Houses I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had successfully managed to get it there in one piece! Here’s some of the beautiful gingerbread creations from the day. There were over 20 houses to gaze and wonder at. What a wonderful start to the festive season!

Things that I used to bake my Gingerbread Cave and Christmas Tree

  • 675g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground all spice
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 large, free range egg
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp black treacle
  1. Beat all the ingredients together and chill.
  2. Roll out to 5mm thickness
  3. Grease and line tin. Place dough in a spherical tin (lined with paper inside and baking beans) and chill for 1 hour in freezer. You can bake it from frozen, no need to defrost
  4. Bake for 10 mins with beans at 180 degrees c.
  5. Remove beans and bake for 5 more minutes
  6. Allow to set in the tin but remove it whilst still warm

For the Royal Icing

  • 16g merriwhite
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 6 -10 tbsp cold water (enough to create a really thick pipeable paste with a smooth shiny finish)
  • Red, green and yellow gel food colourings (if you want to colour some of the icing too)

Beat the ingredients together adding the water gradually until you get the right consistency for you. It should be shiny and thick. It might take 5- 10  minutes of beating. Keep it in an airtight container to stop it drying out.

Put a little in a separate bowl and add colourings if you wish to colour some icing. I used 3 bowls for my 3 colours and kept the white icing in the mixing bowl to fill up my piping bags as needed.

To Decorate

  • edible glitter!
  • silver lustre spray (I sprayed the bear silver)
  • gold lustre powder (I painted the hare gold)
  • fondant icing to model animals and clock
  • a fork/cocktail sticks (to add details to the animals… eg. claws, eyes, mouth, whiskers, textured fur)

Just the one Jamaican Black Cake – with extra booze!

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

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

Soaking in the rum

Soaking in the rum

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

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

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

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

Macerate the fruit - blitz it in a food processor

Macerate the fruit – blitz it in a food processor

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

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

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

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

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

Brown the sugar

Brown the sugar

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

Beat in the browned sugar

Beat in the browned sugar

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

Fold in the fruit puree

Fold in the fruit puree

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

Fully incorporated batter

Fully incorporated batter

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

Fully greased and lined tins

Fully greased and lined tins

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

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

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

Baked Jamaican Black Cake

Hot Jamaican Black Cake soaking up it’s rum

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

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

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

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

Step 1: Soak fruit and make fruit puree

Fruit Puree Base Ingredients

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

Total dried fruit required = 845g

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

Step 2: Make Cake Batter

Cake Ingredients

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

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

Step 3: Brown Sugar

Browning Ingredients:

  • 170g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp boiling hot water

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

Step 4: Bake! 

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

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

The Final Touch

ADD MORE RUM!

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

Storing the Jamaican Black Cake

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

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

Eating the Jamaican Black Cake

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

My original blog post for this cake can be found here

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

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

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.

Flavoursome Fougasse – Rosemary Onion and Parmesan

Massive Fougasse

Massive Fougasse

Am I attempting to elongate my around the world in 80 bakes challenge somewhat or am I just easily distracted? Perhaps I’ve exceeded my capacity for cake. Who knows. But it seems I’m having a dalliance with bread baking at the moment.

Mini Fougasse rosemary parmesan and onion recipe

Mini Fougasse

I couldn’t let Fougasse pass by undocumented, as something I’ve baked and forgotten about disappearing into the reams of photo I’ve #justbaked on instagram. I had to tell you about them. I realise I’ve baked rather a lot of French things thus far from Tarte au citron, to baguettes so I’m not counting Fougasse as one of my around the world in 80 bakes. BUT they are deliciously simple, despite their extremely complicated and masterful appearance. I gleefully clapped my hands together upon opening the oven door to reveal perfectly formed bread fronds.

Homegrown Rosemary

Homegrown Rosemary

 

You can flavour Fougasse with any herb that you like.I foraged some rosemary from a sandwich buffet that was only used for decoration for an hour and was binward bound. I couldn’t face such waste so pocketed it for baking, to put it to good use alongside rock salt, shallots and pebbles of pecorino cheese. Future Fougasse that I have planned in my head include, roast pepper and garlic; mint and feta; basil and chilli; chia and sesame seed. I’m also taking advantage of the Rosemary bush we’ve inherited in our new home.

I can’t stress enough how simple a dough it is. It’s a basic white dough that can be adapted to make 2 large fougasse or as I’ve made since, many small palm sized fougasse. An impressive side dish to whip out when friends come for tea which can be frozen and defrosted as required.

fougasse recipe

Proven and knocked back dough. Kneaded with rosemary and onions

As with most doughs mix the ingredients together to form a sticky dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. Place in a large bowl, cover with greased cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Roll your dough to a palm leaf sized shape

Roll your dough to a palm leaf sized shape

Once proven, knock the dough back and knead in your chosen flavours. If using rosemary and onions chop them finely first and sautee the onions in a little oil Then divide your dough into 2 equal amounts (if making large fougasse) or 12 pieces (if making mini fougasse). Roll it out on a lightly floured bench to a thin rectangle about 5mm in depth and about 20cm x 25 cm. The onions will make the dough a little sticky and can be a little more tricky to slice through later on.

The first cut is the deepest fougasse recipe

The first cut is the deepest

Then comes the fun bit. Pop your flat dough onto a lined and semolina sprinkled baking sheet. I like using a pizza cutter for my long slashes in the dough. You have to split the dough up the middle, cutting all the way through and gently encourage the dough to separate, so there’s a space (you can see the baking sheet underneath). Make one diagonal cut (1cm in from the edge so there is still some dough attached to hold your fougasse together) from one end of the dough to the other, leaving 1cm at the opposite end untouched.

Make 3 diagonal cuts at an angle from your central cut fougasse recipe

Make 3 diagonal cuts at an angle from your central cut

Then to add the additional detail. Make 3 diagonal cuts, either side of the split, moving your blade back towards you, at an angle from your central cut. If you want to get all technical these cuts are made at about a 45 degree angle. Make sure you leave at least 1cm of dough un cut at either end so that your fougasse doesn’t fall apart. Don’t forget to encourage the cuts to widen, use your fingers and blade if you have to, to make some space. As your dough rises the gaps will disappear and so will your carefully cut design. (As demonstrated beautifully by my first slightly botched attempt below…)

Perhaps I should have separated the dough a little more before backing this one...

Perhaps I should have separated the dough a little more before baking this one…

Stud your fougasse with chunks of parmesan and any extra rosemary that you’ve saved for extra flavour. If making mini fougasse, repeat this until you’ve shaped all of your dough. Cover it with greased cling film and leave to prove for 20 minutes until puffed up.

Stud your Fougase with chunks of parmesan

Stud your Fougasse with chunks of parmesan

Bake your Fougasse in a pre heated oven at 220 degrees c for 13 – 15 minutes until golden brown. These are delicious served warm, with a rich tomatoey or pestoey pasta dish, but equally tasty served cool and enjoyed independently as a feast in the palm of your hand. They also freeze very well so you can save some for later, or bake it in advance.

Massive Fougasse

Massive Fougasse

Things I used to make my Flavoursome Fougasse

  • 500g strong white flour (or 250g strong white and 250g strong wholemeal flour)
  • 7g instant yeast 
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 300ml water

1. Knead dough together for 10  minutes. Cover and prove for 1 hour.

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped

2. Sautee the onions and garlic in a little oil and allow to cool

  • 3 stems of rosemary and a little extra for the final decoration

3. Chop the sprigs of rosemary finely

  • 100g parmesan cheese cut broken into rough cubes for studding into the fougasse before final prove

4. Knead the onions, garlic and rosemary into the proven dough

5. Divide dough into 2 and roll into rectangles 20x25cm and 5 mm thick

6. Place on semolina sprinkled baking sheet and cut into the dough as described above. Studding with parmesan.

7. Cover and prove dough for final 20 minutes

8. Bake at 220 degrees C for 13 -15 minutes until golden brown and the parmesan cheese crisps up slightly.

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!

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.

55. Giant Punschrulle – Swedish Green Marizpan Rolls

too long for a normal plate - the giant prunschelle

too long for a normal plate – the giant punschelle

The Prince family love marzipan. In every shape, form and colour. There is a a rather well known Swedish shop that sells these amazing little green marzipan rolls called Punschrulle and everytime I go I stock up, mainly on food ignoring all the other homeware options.

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

I have been looking for a recipe for Punschrulle or Punsch-rolls forever and was unable to find one that reflected the ingredients described on the back of the packet. The key ingredient was always missing, oats! So in the end I made up my own recipe and tasted it along the way to make sure I had got it as close to the original as possible.

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

The Punschrulle is also known as dammsugare which in English means rather oddly, “vacuum cleaner”. I think this is related to it’s tube like appearance, like a vacuum cleaner’s hose perhaps? But also because this cake gives you the opportunity to use up leftover cakes and cookies, hoovering up the crumbs from yesterday’s baking. What an efficient little cake this is.

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be mashed up

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be beaten up

I was lucky to have 6 earl grey cupcakes waiting patiently to be eaten in my freezer from a rather large baking frenzy I had whipped myself into. now was there time to shine. I defrosted the 6 cupcakes and blended them in my kitchenaid (using the beater attachment) to a fine crumb. You could also use a hand blender or food processor if you wish. I simply couldn’t be bothered to unpack my food processor so used the kitchen aid, which does a pretty good job of beating things to a fine crumb, particularly if you break it up a little by hand first.

cake crumbs

cake crumbs

Chocolate and marzipan are my favourite combination. I could merrily eat a block dipped in dark chocolate all to myself, but tried to resist as far as possible. Punschrulle rolls are filled with a rich chocolatey, oaty cake. Further investigation also indicates that they are a rather boozy cake too, with punsch liquor. However I wanted to make a child friendly recipe, not get my little nephew hammered, so I omitted the booze from my recipe. But feel free to whack a bit in if you prefer your cakes alcoholic. I’m not entirely sure where you purchase punsch liquor from in the UK, but I think brandy , vodka or rum would be a good substitute!

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

Sieving cocoa powder and sugar into the mix I realsied that I needed something more to bulk the cake crumbs up and balance out the cocoa powder. Rooting around in my cupboards I found some digestive biscuits which were perfect for this purpose. Again I crumbled them into the mixer bowl by hand and let the mixer do the work for me.

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

I was worried that the oats would be a bit too large in this mixture so introduced my hand (stick blender) to blitz the mixture to a much finer crumb. As this cake is uncooked, the oats needed a little time to soften in the mixture, you want texture to the cake, but not to make your friends feel like they have oats stuck in their throat.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter

It’s such a simple cake to make, having completed the baking when I made the cupcakes a few months ago. All that’s left to do is to rub in the butter and shape the mixture into a roll! I wanted to make my punschrulle for my sisters birthday and envisaged a giant punschrulle roll, rather than making individual rolls.

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice lump

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice chocolatey lump

I used cling film to roll the mixture up and flatten at the ends, whilst smoothing the top.

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Sealing the ends of the cling film, the roll can then be transferred easily to the fridge to set, while you get busy colouring the marzipan and rolling it out.

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

Traditionally Punschrulle rolls are bright green and each end is dipped in dark chocolate. I used a little green gel food colouring and kneaded it thoroughly into the marzipan. dousing the worksurface in icing sugar stops the marzipan sticking and means you can roll it out into a thin rectangle, just enough to cover the entire cake.

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Making sure the marzipan was loose enough to remove it from the worksurface, (The last thing you want is to realise half way through icing you cake is that the marzipan is welded on to the worksurface.)

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

I plonked the roll face down (the smooth side which is to be the top of the cake) face down on to the marzipan and folded the marzipan over to envelope the cake fully. Strategically folding the marzipan to hide the join underneath the cake and tuck the folds along the edges underneath.

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Whilst the bottom of the cake is facing upwards, I melted a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave, reserving one third of the chocolate and stirring every 30 seconds to avoid it burning. Once the chocolate is melted pour in the final third of the chocolate and stir until fully melted. This helps to reduce the temperature of the chocolate and temper it, so it retains a glossy finish and doesn’t look like a sweaty mess when you’re finished.

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

I smeared melted chocolate all over the bottom of the cake in a thin layer and allowed it to set. This means each slice has a layer of chocolate, not just the lucky people who get the end pieces! It also helps to lift the cake when you need to move it later on…

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Once the bottom layer of chocolate has set fully, turn the cake face up and paint the ends of the cake with a thick layer of chocolate. Et voila, you have created a giant Punschrulle cake!

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Now this is when I realised that you have to be a member of my family to think this cake looks pretty. On a giant scale, the Punschrulle looks a bit odd… but it tastes great! (Even if I do say so myself.) I don’t own a plate or chopping board long enough to house such an enormous cake, so I had to resort to using a colourful serving tray.

too long for a normal plate - the giant Punschrulle

too long for a normal plate – the giant Punschrulle

The addition of a giant candleabra birthday candle  gave the cake somewhat of an eccentric finish. What Giant Punschrulle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra? This cake didn’t last long in our house. Despite it’s chocolatey richness, it’s very moreish and disappears very quickly when served with a hot cup of tea. I could easily eat 2 slices in one sitting. The crunch of the dark chocolate is there with every bite, balancing out the marzipan and dense oaty filling.  It’s a great way to use up any leftover cakes and biscuits in your house, so it’s a rather economical and unusual birthday cake. If you want to see how the individual Punschrulle rolls should look, have a pop over to www.nearof.com for a review of the cakes I based my recipe on.

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister! Here’s a interesting interpretation of the Punschrulle cake just for you!

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Things that I used to make my Giant Punschrulle Cake

  • 6 cupcakes (you could use whatever cake crumbs you have available, chocolate or vannila would probably work best)
  • 10 digestive biscuits (plain biscuits again work well in this cake, rich teas, shortbread or digestives would be good)
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Vanilla

Icing

  • 300g marzipan
  • green food colouring
  • icing sugar (for dusting the board)

Chocolate 

  • 100g dark chocolate