May 30, 2013

COFFEE, ALMOND AND BLACKCURRANT CAKE

I came across this recipe on the Good Food Channel website and was dying to have a go as soon as the opportunity or need for baking a cake arose.  I didn’t have to wait long as I made it (along with other cakes) for the party I held in our little French house to celebrate my recent retirement.

cakefest5The cake is essentially a coffee flavoured sponge cake but with a difference.  Ground almonds are included in the mixture and it is sandwiched together with blackcurrant jam as well as the usual butter cream.

cakefest4It was the combination of coffee and blackcurrant flavours that made me want to have a go.  I had never come across this before and I have to say it was a lovely combination.  Coffee cakes, especially of the traditional coffee and walnut variety, can sometimes be a bit overly sweet if there is butter cream on top as well as inside.  I liked the way the sharpness of the blackcurrant jam contrasted well with the sweetness in this recipe.

This is not a “light as air” kind of sponge cake.  The almonds made it slightly denser but it rose well and had a nice even crumb.  Using five eggs and a whole pack of butter it is not cheap to make but it goes a long way and tastes delicious.

I followed the recipe closely but made my butter cream by whizzing it up in the food processor.  I used espresso powder for the flavouring instead of the coffee granules in the recipe.  When filling the cake I found it impossible to “spread” the butter cream on top of the jam so just blobbed it on – otherwise the jam was being pushed off the edge of the cake!

As a change from the usual coffee sponge cake it was a great success and I would definitely make it again.  You can see the original recipe here.

Ingredients

For the cake

2tsp instant coffee granules (or espresso powder)

250g self-raising flour

30g ground almonds

275g softened unsalted butter

275g caster sugar

5 large eggs, beaten

1 tblsp milk

For the filling

½tsp instant coffee granules (or espresso powder)

200g icing sugar

60g softened butter

1 tbslp milk

3-4 tblsp blackcurrant jam

icing sugar for sprinkling

Method

Grease and line the bases of two 20cm (8”) sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.

Dissolve the coffee granules/powder in 1 tblsp boiling water and put aside to cool.  Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds, making sure to break up any clumps.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add half the flour mixture and beaten eggs.  Beat together. 

Add the remaining flour mixture, along with the other half of the eggs, the milk and coffee and beat until just combined.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and level the tops.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tins for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

To make the butter cream, dissolve the coffee in 1tsp boiling water and leave to cool.  Then put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until it is light and fluffy.

When the cakes are completely cold, slice some of the the dome off the top of one of them and turn it upside down on a cake plate so the flatter surface is facing up.  Spread with an even layer of jam.  Blob the butter cream over the top and gently spread it with the back of a spoon, making sure it goes right to the edge of the cake.

Put the second cake on top and dust liberally with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into at least 12 slices.

May 16, 2013

A DUO OF RHUBARB PUDDINGS

When I was a little girl I adored rhubarb.  (I still do.)  My parents had two huge rhubarb patches at the top of their garden, one either side of the home-made greenhouse.  We had rhubarb pie or crumble every Sunday from May until August.  The rest of the year we had apple pie or crumble made from windfall apples or Bramleys bought from the shop, if they were in season – although every so often my mum would make a steamed pudding, usually ginger or golden syrup – she also made a lovely steamed apple dumpling from a suet pastry case filled with apples in a pudding basin. 

rhubarb crumble1Rhubarb and strawberry crumble. 

In late summer our apple pies and crumbles would be enhanced by blackberries from the local hedgerows and occasionally bilberries picked from the moors above Baslow in Derbyshire.  My grandmother had a damson tree and my aunt had some raspberry canes and we would benefit from the annual glut of fruit, but my mother rarely made anything other than a pie or a crumble.  Crumble was favourite.

My mother’s rhubarb crumble was a simple affair.  The rhubarb would be peeled and chopped into large chunks, straight into the baking dish, and a good few spoonfuls of sugar sprinkled over.  The crumble would be made with self-raising flour and margarine, rubbed in by hand.  She never baked with butter, thinking it far too extravagant – except maybe for the Christmas cake.  Pastry was always made with lard.

I always used to make my crumbles the same way as Mum, but as time has gone by they have evolved into something slightly more fancy.  I discovered how well rhubarb goes with strawberries in a friend’s blog and somewhere else I read that including oats or ground almonds in the crumble mix can be nice.  And so it goes on, the continuous evolution of baking skills, constantly improving on the already perfect.

RHUBARB AND CUSTARD CRUMBLE PIE

rhubarb crumble cake

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a recipe for this pudding on the Good Food website and was compelled to have a go.  The combination of so many comfort food favourites in one dish just had to be tried – a pastry base, rhubarb and egg custard in the middle and a crumble topping.

The recipe had a lot of good reviews and I took note of the comments that said the quantity of topping in the recipe was not enough and most people doubled it.  It worked well and turned out lovely. 

I will definitely make it again BUT I think that next time I will make it in a smaller diameter tin, which will make the custard deeper and then the original quantity of topping should be enough.  If you fancy having a go you can see the recipe on the Good Food website here.

I really like the method used for part cooking the fruit and used it the next time I made a crumble.

RHUBARB AND STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE

rhubarb crumble2 rhubarb crumble3

A crumble has to be one of the easiest puddings to throw together but it is always a favourite in our house.  And everywhere in fact.  If it’s on the menu in a pub or restaurant it always sells well and even the French have adopted it as a dessert – pronounced “cramble” – it’s amazing how often it’s on the fancy menus in France.

Here’s how I made my crumble ~ the ingredients are in ounces as that is how I have always remembered it, having learned the basics from my mum.

rhubarb crumble4 Ingredients

8ozs SR flour

4ozs hard butter or margarine, cut into cubes or chunks

4ozs granulated sugar

2ozs porridge oats

3-4 sticks of rhubarb, probably about 1lb in weight.

a handful of strawberries

a sprinkling of flaked almonds (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a suitable baking dish.

Trim and wipe the rhubarb, cut into 1” pieces and put them into a frying pan with half of the sugar.  Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has melted and the fruit begins to soften.  Remove from the heat.

Put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs (or rub together by hand).  Stir in the oats and the other half of the sugar.

Tip the rhubarb and any liquid into the prepared dish.  Remove the stalks from the strawberries, cut any large ones in half and scatter over the rhubarb. 

Spread the crumble mixture over the fruit and give the dish a little shake to level the top.  Scatter the flaked almonds on top if using and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden and the fruit bubbling around the edges.

Serves 6.

May 9, 2013

MANGO BLONDIES

When I saw that the We Should Cocoa Challenge for this month, hosted by Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen, was to bake with chocolate and mango, I was sure that I would not be taking part.  I’m not really a mango kind of person.

May 2013-2 012

I do like mangoes, but I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have bought a mango in the last five years, maybe even ten years.  Then I remembered a bag of dried mango lurking in the cupboard, left over from baking a cake using “exotic dried fruits”.  As I was looking at it I remembered baking cranberry blondies a couple of years ago and wondered if I could use the dried mango instead of dried cranberries.  It was worth a try anyway.  Blondies are essentially brownies made with white chocolate instead of dark chocolate.

My original recipe makes a lot of cake so I hunted around and came across this one on the Stork website, which I thought I could adapt quite easily. It makes a smaller cake and is also quick to make.

May 2013-2 005 May 2013-2 010

The recipe states a baking time of 35-45 minutes.  My cake was slightly overdone after 35 and I was a bit annoyed with myself for not checking after 30.  The phone rang and I forgot until the timer beeped.  Still, although it was a bit crozzled at the edges it was still nice.  The cake was moist and crumbly and it was nice to get a bit of chocolate and chewy fruit with every mouthful.

May 2013-2 008 I’m not sure I would rush out and by white chocolate and dried mango to make it again, but it was an easy cake to make and a nice change to have with a cuppa in the afternoon.

May 2013-2 013 So it’s thanks again to Choclette of Chocolate Log blog, and Chele of Chocolate Teapot, for thinking up the We Should Cocoa Challenge in the first place.  Also to Shaheen for being this month’s host.  You can read the details here.

We_Should_Cocoa_Logo

Ingredients

115g Stork block margarine

115g caster sugar

2 medium eggs

125g plain flour

200g white chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips (I used half of each, as that’s what I had in stock)

115g dried mango pieces

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  Grease and line the base of an 18cm square baking tin, or similar.

Put the Stork into a small saucepan and melt over gentle heat.  Remove from the heat and stir in half of the chopped chocolate, reheating as necessary, until the chocolate has melted in and the mixture is nice and smooth.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk until thickened and creamy.  Sift over the flour and fold in with the chocolate mixture.

Add half of the remaining chocolate and half of the dried mango.  Stir gently until combined and pour the mixture into the baking tin. 

Scatter the remaining chocolate and mango over the top and bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely golden.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.  Cut into squares when cold.

Makes 16 small blondies.