May 23, 2022

COCONUT AND LEMON CAKE and thank goodness I got my blog back!

Well, whatever Blogger, Windows or gremlins were up to, it seems that, as several people suggested, the problem was a signing in issue and it's sorted now.  Thank goodness I got my blog back!

Blogging has been rather random lately but baking has been going on throughout so a bit of a catch up is needed methinks.


This is an adaptation of a raspberry and coconut cake that I first wrote about here.



I have now made this cake twice and never tasted a slice of it!  The first time it was a birthday gift and this time a donation to an event.  However, I am reliably informed by those that did taste a slice that it was lovely so I'm writing about it in full here so that I might a) remember how to make it and b) actually make it again so that I can have a piece after all!


The recipe originally came from the Waitrose website and you can see it here.  It's for a raspberry and coconut cake that I have made many times and which always goes down well.  For this version I simply omitted the fruit and added lemon zest instead.  Then I iced it with a simple icing and decorated it with lemon zest, coconut and some edible flowers (which were actually self seeded violas growing in our gravel drive!).

Ingredients

175g unsalted butter, softened

175 golden caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

3 eggs

¼ tsp coconut flavouring

175g self raising flour

100g dessicated coconut (plus extra for decoration)

2-3 tblsp icing sugar, sifted

1 tblsp lemon juice

extra lemon zest for decoration (optional) 

edible flowers or other sprinkles for decoration (optional)

Method

Butter and line a 2lb, 900g loaf tin with baking parchment or use a paper liner.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat the eggs with the coconut flavouring and beat into the mixture a dribble at a time with a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the remaining flour and coconut.  Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, covering with foil after 30 minutes if it looks as though it's browning too much.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with enough lemon juice to make a runny consistency, thick enough to hold its shape and just run down the cake slightly, not run off completely.  Sprinkle with lemon zest (if you are happy to use a second lemon, otherwise omit).  Sprinkle with dessicated coconut and decorate along the inevitable crack down the middle with edible flowers or other sugar decorations of your choice.

Cuts into 9-10 slices.

May 19, 2022

THE LAST POST?

For reasons I don’t understand, I can no longer access my blog, create a new post or read my reading list on my laptop, only on my iPad.

I haven’t been able to leave comments on other blogs using my iPad either for some time.

Anybody know what's going on and how to fix it?

April 4, 2022

GARLICKY POTATOES



We are now in France for our permitted 180 days, having gone to the trouble of getting visas so that we can spread that time over nine months by coming and going just like we used to PB,  (Pre-Brexit.)

To arrive in mid March is what we always used to do and is ideal.  We can get the house warmed up, clean and vermin free for the spring and summer, get the garden tamed and planted so that we can keep on top of the work and enjoy it for the rest of our stay.

We haven't been able to do this for the last two years due to the pandemic, arriving during the summer by which time all we wanted to do was to be thankful that we got here at all and enjoy the place.  Consequently the housework and gardening took a back seat for two years and this year there has been a lot to catch up on.  It's been a labour of love, mostly.  (We were not too chuffed about the plague of mice that ate the covers of all three sofas, but, thank goodness, although we got them from Ikea many years ago, they still make them and you can still buy new covers for them.  Phew.)


For the first two weeks the weather was mild but this weekend temperatures fell to freezing.  However, this did not deter us from getting out and about and enjoying the first brocantes of the year!

For those who are not familiar with these events, a brocante or vide grenier is similar to a car boot sale and most villages in France hold one or two a year.  The streets are closed and lined with tables where people sell their unwanted stuff.  A lot of it is not of much interest to us but just to be able to be there at all was a great joy.  There were no brocantes at all in 2020 and not very many in 2021.  We are now looking forward to a whole year of browsing other people's junk every weekend, just because we can!

At this one in our nearby village of Neuilly-le-Brignon the sun was shining, there were plenty of stalls and I bought a nice red real leather handbag for €3.



We then moved on to the next one, not far away, at Azay-le-Ferron.  By then the sun had almost gone and it was very chilly!  We had a sausage sandwich and chips from one of the stalls and dutifully wandered up and down peering at the tables.  I felt for the people who had turned out to display all their stuff on such a freezing cold day and felt we owed it to them to at least look, smile and exchange a few words!

We bumped into a couple of friends, chatted for a few minutes and headed home to thaw out!

 

Which is what brings me to the garlicky potatoes.


As soon as we got back we lit both log burners in the house.  The one in the kitchen is mainly a wood burner but has hot plates and a small oven and we do use it for cooking when what we are cooking is not too temperature sensitive! 

For dinner we planned to make filet mignon de porc (see here) and a recipe for potatoes that I spotted in Mary Berry's book "Simple Comforts".  It's essentially sliced potatoes cooked in butter, stock and garlic, the perfect accompaniment for anything on such a chilly day!

The recipe in the book served four but was easily adapted for just two people.  I chose two largeish potatoes, one each.  The little oven behaved itself, they were not too crozzled and the kitchen smelled wonderful because of the garlic!  They were delicious and I shall definitely be adding this to my repertoire of regular potato dishes.  (One of which is the equally delicious and in many ways very similar hassleback potatoes that you can see here.)

Ingredients

2 largeish potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced into about 1cm (½") thick slices.

2 large knobs of butter

250ml chicken stock (I used a French gel stock pot).  You may not need all of it.

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Method

Grease a suitable sized roasting tin generously with one of the knobs of butter.  Arrange the potatoes in lines of overlapping slices in the tin.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour about half of the chicken stock over the potatoes and bake at  about 200°C or thereabouts for about 30 minutes (depending on your oven) until they are almost tender.

Remove from the oven.  Melt the other knob of butter and stir in the crushed garlic.  Dot this over the potatoes and pour over some more stock if you think they might be in danger of drying out.  (I did.)

Return to the oven for about 15 more minutes by which time the stock will be absorbed, the potatoes tender inside, crisp and browned on top.

Serves 2 people.

March 23, 2022

LIGHT GINGER CAKE


On the day I made the banana, pecan and maple syrup cake from the previous post, I felt obliged to make a ginger cake as well.  Nick doesn't "do" bananas and ginger is his favourite kind of cake.  And in any case, in the midst of storm Eunice and the aftermath of storm Dudley, it was a thoroughly nasty day outside so what better day to bake not one, but two cakes!

It's a Mary Berry recipe called "mild ginger loaf" from her "Fast Cakes" cook book, and I baked it in my small oblong roasting tin rather than a loaf tin.  This produces a slightly flatter cake rather than a tall loaf.  

The recipe calls for 50g stem ginger and there were just two balls of it left in the jar in the fridge.  On weighing it out, 50g turned out to be just 1½ balls so I decided to use the last half of the last ball, along with some of the syrup from the jar, for icing and decoration.

Nick declared the cake a hit.  It was certainly delicately spiced and with a lovely, even crumb.  Definitely a good one for when it's blowing a hoolie and you need an easy to bake, easy to eat, cake to go with your tea or coffee.  I intended to use the last pieces as a pudding with some custard but when I looked in the tin, they had already gone........funny that!

Ingredients

For the cake

100g baking spread (I used Stork)

100g light muscovado sugar

2 tblsp black treacle

225g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

50g stem ginger, drained and chopped

2 large eggs

For the icing

½ a ball of stem ginger, diced

3 heaped tblsp icing sugar, sieved

ginger syrup from the jar

Method

After chopping the 50g (1½ balls) of stem ginger, preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Grease and line a 900g loaf tin (or small roasting tin) or use a paper liner.

Put the baking spread, sugar and treacle into a medium pan and heat gently until melted.

Put all the other dry ingredients into a medium bowl and stir together.  Add the melted mixter, the chopped ginger and eggs and beat well until thoroughly blended.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake until done, about 45 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing, put the icing sugar into a small bowl and mix in enough ginger syrup from the jar to make the consistency of double cream.  Slather or drizzle this over the cooled cake as you prefer and dot with diced bits of the remaining piece of ginger.

Cuts into 8 - 10 squares or slices.

March 3, 2022

BANANA, PECAN AND MAPLE SYRUP CAKE


This is a Be-Ro book recipe that I spotted in a Facebook group fairly recently and wondered why I had never noticed it before.  The reason is that it’s a new recipe in the most recent edition, which I very rarely use, preferring the book before. 

It sounded so good that I just had to try it.  

In the Be-Ro book it is baked in a loaf tin but the person who posted the picture had used a round tin, which I also prefer.  I have found that all recipes for a 2lb (900g) loaf tin bake perfectly well in an 8” (20cm) round tin instead.  You have to keep your eye on the cooking times and check sooner than stated.  Sure enough, my cake was done in exactly one hour which is less than the time in the recipe.  I also thought it was looking brown enough after 35 minutes so covered it loosely with foil.

It was interesting to see the quantity of bananas given by weight.  So many recipes just say "three medium" or "two large" bananas but how large is large?  This one states the weight of unpeeled bananas which is very reassuring.  

It’s a contender for my current favourite banana cake.  It had a lovely texture, a nice glossy top and just the right bananarish flavour.  The dried banana slices became chewy and I was glad I didn’t substitute walnuts for the pecans just because I always have so many windfall walnuts in stock!  A 100g bag is just right for the cake.  There’s no doubt the people at Be-Ro know how to write a good recipe and I preferred it to the other version that I made exactly a year ago, see here.  Sorry, James!

Ingredients 

For the cake

225g self raising flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

75g butter (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft)

110g light soft brown sugar 

2 eggs, beaten 

450g bananas, weighed in their skins (exactly four small bananas)

75g pecans, chopped 

2tblsp maple syrup

For the topping

25g dried banana slices

25g whole pecans

1tblsp maple syrup 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 160° fan /gas mk 4.  Grease and line the bottom of a 20cm round springform tin (or use a lined 2lb loaf tin).

First make the topping by simply placing all the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing together.  Set aside.  Peel and mash the bananas.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using a hand held whisk until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs in thirds with a little flour.  

Stir in the remaining flour and the other ingredients and spoon into the tin.  Level the top and spoon the topping ingredients over the top.  Pour over any residual syrup.

Bake for about an hour, covering loosely with foil after 35 minutes.  (The recipe gives a longer time of one and a quarter hours in a loaf tin.)  Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

March 1, 2022

ADVERTS


Is it just me or do others find the adverts splattered all over blog posts annoying?  Especially over blogs dedicated to cooking?  Some really nice blogs are blighted by adverts.

This advert appeared in a blog post with a recipe I was interested in.

It’s especially annoying if an advert obscures part of the text, which seems to happen frequently.  In one of the blogs I try to read an advert is always placed over the list of ingredients.  I can get round this by using the "reader view" on my iPad but on other blogs the reader view omits either the ingredients or the method, so that I’m obliged to battle through all the adverts for ear wax removal or oven cleaners to see them.  No thanks!

It’s really annoying if I’m reading on my iPad and accidentally click on an advert which loads something that I have no interest in whatsoever and then have to go about getting rid of it.  More often than not I give up on the blog as well.  Those jumping images and mini video clips are too distracting.

The economics of it are curious.  I wonder how many sales results from these annoying adverts and how much income for the blog?  Presumably quite a lot or nobody would risk losing frustrated readers like me by doing it! 

Oh for the days when if I wanted to buy anything I would get the bus into town and walk down the high street to find it.  Window shopping along the way, popping into the café to enjoy a coffee and an eccles cake before getting the bus back home.  Being constantly bombarded with adverts for stuff I'm never going to need will never compare to that!  Hey ho!

February 19, 2022

PINK GRAPEFRUIT DRIZZLE BUNDT CAKE


A few weeks before my nephew’s wedding, his fiancé sent me a message asking if I would make a cake for the evening buffet at the reception.  I misread the message and went into panic mode, thinking she meant The Cake but thankfully no, just something to serve as dessert.  Her step mum was making That Cake (and it was truly fabulous).

I decided that a chocolate Guinness cake would probably go down well, it always does at parties.  I must have made dozens of them over the years and it always gets eaten up, loads of compliments and requests for the recipe.  I just say "Nigella Lawson" and send people to Google it!  Although these days I reduce the icing ingredients by one third.

It is however, not that much of a looker so I made a second cake that was a bit more glamorous.  For a special occasion like this a Bundt cake fits the bill.  They are usually easy to make, serve loads of people and, because the tin does all the heavy lifting in the glamour department, don't need much in the way of fancy icing.  

There followed a few happy hours of browsing my cook books.  Several candidates for the job stood out but in the end I settled for one from the most recent cook book from the Bake Off series called A Bake for All Seasons.  Everyone loves a drizzle cake but this one's a bit different, using ruby grapefruit instead of lemons.

It was easy to make but I’ve given it two stars in the faff factor rating because preparing the crystallised peel for the decoration is a bit more time consuming and fiddly than I normally attempt.  Preparing a Bundt tin is also time consuming but essential if the cake is going to turn out in one piece. 

It looked the bees knees and got lots of compliments.  It had a lovely texture and the grapefruit flavour was delightful.  I managed to snaffle the last two slices to present to our neighbours who kindly let the dog out while we were out gallivanting.

Definitely a great cake for a party! 

Ingredients

For the candied peel and the drizzle

1 ruby grapefruit (reserve the juice)

6 tblsp white caster sugar

For the cake

175g unsalted butter, softened (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft spread)

250g golden caster sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 ruby grapefruits, zest and juice

200g plain flour

150g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 tblsp full fat Greek youghurt

For the icing

150g icing sugar

1-2 tblsp grapefruit juice reserved from the first grapefuit 

pink food colouring gel

Method

The first step is to make the crystallised peel for the decoration as it takes a long time to dry.  I made mine the night before I made the cake.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the grapefruit in wide strips.  Slice each strip into thin slivers.  (This is the time consuming part.)  Put the shreds of grapefruit peel into a small bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of the caster sugar and mix together so that the peel is well coated.  Tip onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and leave to dry for at least four hours until crisp.  I left mine overnight.

To make the sponge, prepare a suitable Bundt tin using the non-stick cake release paste which you can see here.  Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk 3.

Using a stand mixer if possible, beat the butter or spread with the golden caster sugar until paler and creamy.  Add the eggs in thirds, beating well between each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract.

Measure out 6 tblsp of the grapefruit juice and reserve the rest.  Beat it into the mixture along with the zest.  Don't worry if the mixture curdles.

Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt and mix on low speed to combine.  Then add the yoghurt and mix briefly or until thoroughly mixed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.  Level the top and tap the tin on the worktop or table to release any air bubbles.  (I find putting a folded tea towel on the worktop or table makes me less nervous that the hard ridges in some of my Bundt tins might cause some damage if I tap too hard!)

Bake for about 45 minutes until done and the cake passes the skewer test.

While the cake is cooking make the drizzle by mixing the juice from the peeled grapefruit and mix with the remaining 3-4 tblsp of white caster sugar.

This is where I deviate from the recipe in the book which suggests you should turn out the cake after 2 minutes and leave to cool for another 15 minutes.  Turning out a Bundt cake so soon is a recipe for disaster as it could break up.  

Instead, leave in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Leave to cool on the rack for another 5 minutes and, while the cake is still warm, poke holes in the top with a skewer or cake tester and pour the drizzle over.

Leave to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and beat with enough of the reserved grapefruit juice to make a consistency of single cream, just runny enough to run down the grooves in the cake according to what design of Bundt tin you have used.  You can leave the icing as it is because it will have a faint pinkish hue, or you can add pink food colouring gel to get a colour you like.  I used just two drops to achieve a very soft pink.

Place the rack over a dinner plate so that icing that runs off can be collected and reused to build up the icing as you like.  Spoon the icing over the top of the cake and let it run down and pool in the grooves of the pattern.

Scatter the crystallised grapefruit peel over the top of the cake.

Cuts into 18-20 slices.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The wedding cake.  I would never attempt anything like this.  The bottom tier was the most delicious fruit cake.  The top two tiers were sponge cake and they were hoovered up by hungry guests on the night.  Much of the fruit layer was cut up for guests to take away but there was about two thirds of it left.  We have a good supply of it in our freezer!  

How on earth do you cook that size of fruit cake and end up with it all cooked through perfectly?  Respect to the bride's step mum who achieved the magnificent feat!