Monday, 29 December 2008

Spiced Christmas Cake Revisited!



Am really getting into this gluten-free business. Except for the waffles on Christmas Eve, the last two cakes I've baked over the Christmas period have been without wheat flour, and I reckon they taste better than cakes with wheat.

This is basically an adaptation of the 'Spiced Christmas Cake with a flourless twist' from last week, otherwise known in my family as "Signe's new favourite cake"! All I did differently was replace the spices, with 4 tbsp cocoa powder to the butter while it was melting, and instead of whisky, I used the equivalent measure of brandy. Oh, and a bit more coffee (closer to half a mug). You could leave the spices in of course, if you like that Germanic Christmas cake flavour, but I went for the chocolate bonanza!

So, here's a redacted version of what is undoubtedly my new favourite cake of 2008! See below for how to make the icing...


Mocha Glaze:
  • 80g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl, stir til it looks like a glaze, adjust ingredients to taste - I like mine quite strong, not too sweet - and then glaze the cake in as messy a fashion as you wish...




Wednesday, 24 December 2008

God Jul...



Or for those not fluent in Norwegian:  Merry Christmas!

Santa's arrived, we've had some delicious panettone for breakfast and all is right with the world. It occurred to me that nary a day's gone by this December when I haven't cooked or baked a dish using the following spices:
  • cinnamon
  • cardamom
  • nutmeg
  • cloves
And I hope to continue doing so into the new year...It's been wonderful re-discovering cloves, a pungent, rather medicinal spice integral to all Scandinavian and Germanic Christmas baking. But why shouldn't one use it throughout the year - in marinades when roasting pork, in cakes and cookies, or - as winter seems to be particularly fierce this year - in hot drinks? By mid-January I'll invariably grow bored of cloves but for the time being it's high on my list of ingredients.

Anyway, this family's been feasting, thankfully not just on cloves, in fact today the beloved waffle iron made an appearance - I've posted about Norwegian waffles before, and I'll probably do so again. Suffice to say we're fans of the humble waffle, and the recipe I posted in July was today given a yuletide boost by adding the aforementioned spices to the batter. Despite waxing lyrical about cloves, I erred on the side of caution and used only a pinch whilst adding double the cardamom, but you choose which you prefer. 


Waffles eaten warm with a dollop of brandy cream and some plum compote really is Christmas bliss...God Jul, as we say in Scandiland!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Spiced Christmas cake...with a flourless twist



Christmas can be quite unforgiving for those with a wheat intolerance, or Coeliacs. But given the array of fruit, nuts and spices on offer this time of year, it's actually the ideal occasion to bake gluten-free cakes - they can be wonderfully rich and moist, and usually keep better than their wheaten siblings.  I'm not coeliac myself, but a few enquiries about gluten free baking got me thinking it was high time I experimented with some alternatives to wheat flour.

So I thought I'd concoct this festive recipe using ground almonds and a very fine corn "flour" which resembles corn starch. You could also use gluten-free flour if you have it, or potato starch, but I happened to have the first two ingredients in the larder. 

The result? A light, yet moist yuletide cake, replete with all the good things in life - brown sugar, fragrant Christmas spices and a hint of whisky. Fabulous eaten on its own, or with a dollop of greek yogurt. Excellent, of course, with a steaming cup of tea or coffee...

Good tidings everyone!

Ingredients:
  • 180g ground almonds
  • 120g corn Flour
  • 180g brown sugar
  • 1 pot (125g) greek yogurt
  • 100g melted butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 small shot espresso or 2 tablespoons strong coffee
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp whisky or brandy (not essential, but this really deepens the flavour)
  • pinch salt

    mmm...whisky!


Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly grease a 22cm diameter cake tin, or a heart-shaped tin like you see in the photos (am spending Christmas with my parents, this is all I could find...)

You'll need a couple of mixing bowls: in the largest, sift all your dry ingredients: almonds, corn flour, sugar, spices, baking soda and salt

In the medium one, place your egg whites

In a small one lightly break up the egg yolks, and add the yogurt 

Start whisking the egg whites and bring them to stiff peak - see photo below. Add a teaspoon of sugar and whisk again to stiff peak
 


In the dry ingredients bowl, make a well and add the melted butter, coffee, whisky and egg/yogurt mix. Stir through so everything is evenly incorporated

Then take a spoonful of the beaten egg whites and add to the mixture to loosen it. Once you've done this, fold in the remaining egg whites, carefully circulating your spoon (like a figure 8 I was once told) until the egg white is mixed in and the mixture resembles a mousse consistency. This adds a bit of levity to your cake, so try not to over-fold at this point. If a few egg white splodges here and there pop up then panic not...

Finally pour this into your prepared cake tin and place on the central shelf of your oven. Turn down the heat to 180C after the first 10 minutes and continue to bake for 35-40 minutes. The photo here is of the mixture before it went in the oven:


and voila! here's the finished result:


* NB Ground almonds can be quite expensive, what I did with this cake was simply grind whole almonds in one of those Braun handblenders that has a chopping/magimix function. Works a treat! Also allows you to grind the almonds to a coarse consistency, rather than a fine, floury one...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Festive Plum and Gingerbread Dessert



This is what happens when one has a hankering for something sweet, and there's no chocolate to reach for! 

I had the following ingredients:
  • Pepperkaker, or gingerbread as they're known in English 
  • Plum compote from my grandparents' farm
  • Plain yoghurt and a tub of Quark
The pepperkaker, I'm sorry to admit, are not homemade but from Ikea. Nothing wrong with Ikea, in fact these spicy cookies are delightfully crisp and moreish, but really if one's going to blog about baking well there should be some baking involved.

But if you happen to have an abundance of cookies in your larder this yuletide season, try this devilishly simple dessert:

All you do is combine equal quantities of yoghurt and quark, stir them together really well to get rid of any lumps.

Place this in a glass, either a pretty martini one as I did (see photo) or in any small cup/glass you have.

Then swirl some plum compote on top, or a compote of your choice - apple, pear, cherry or blueberry would all be excellent I reckon - then crush the gingerbread, sprinkle on top and voila! you've made the easiest, tastiest little dessert this Christmas...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Hurray for Waitrose Food Illustrated!



Waitrose Food Illustrated has a feature on the joys of Scandinavian baking! And long overdue it is too.

lf memory serves me right, the countdown to Christmas in Scandinavia tends to be less frenetic than here in the UK - there's lots of seasonal cheer and sociable gatherings, but not quite so much emphasis on getting absolutely sozzled. No offense to the Brits, but I wonder how some of you make it to the 25th without your livers going kaputt. 

Anyway, amidst the cold, snowflaked December days, Scandis sing their own version of Gloria or Tannenbaum (in my case, rather off key!) and many will bake goodies for their family and friends. The feast of Santa Lucia, celebrated on December 13th, is when we bake saffron buns and walk around with wreaths and candles in our hair. Or at least I did at the age of five...possibly not allowed anymore in these days of militant health & safety laws! And during the next few weeks many Scandinavian bakers will make cookies galore - everything from butter biscuits, gingerbread to lovely almond pastries (the latter were definitely my favourite), not to mention a whole host of raisiny yeast loafs. 

None of these beat the classic gingerbread house, or pepperkake hus which you might have noticed on the cover above...

What an excellent way to kickstart the yuletide season Waitrose! God Jul...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Lady Grey Chocolate Pudding Cake



A slightly bonkers recipe, am afraid dyslexia got the better of me on this one. Originally this was a recipe for an Earl Grey chocolate cake I found in a French chocolate recipe book. It sounded like the perfect rich cake with tons of dark chocolate and lots of fragrant bergamot from the Earl Grey to add a bit of pizazz. Lady Grey, the orange version of Earl Grey tea, is a particular favourite of mine so I decided to swap the latter for the former. Off I went, measuring the ingredients, happily steeping the tea in hot milk as instructed and then when it came to mixing everything together I had...chocolate soup. 

Now, I may be mistaken, but great chocolate cake generally does not start life as a soup. It should really be like a thick batter rather than liquid. However, having assembled said soup I thought I'd better go ahead and bake it. Hence the title - chocolate pudding cake. You see, I'd misread the measurements of milk as being 5 dl (500ml) instead of 5 cl (50ml), so there was 10 times as much liquid in the recipe as the recipe required!

The net result? A lot of chocolate pudding, with a rather delicious Lady Grey flavour! Plus ca change, baking wouldn't be fun if one didn't make mistakes now and again! 

Original recipe (probably delicious, just don't increase quantity of milk by 10x!)

180g butter
3 eggs
120g dark chocolate
1 tea bag - earl or lady you choose
150g sugar
180g flour
3 pinches salt
50ml milk

Preheat oven to 200 Celsius. Lighlty grease a tin.

In a saucepan, scald the milk and add the tea bag to infuse for 2 mins, or use loose tea if you have it.

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. Cream the butter, add the yolks, the melted chocolate, then the flour and salt. Finally add the milk and stir through until it forms an even consistency

Separate the egg white from the yolk and using an electric whisk, beat the whites in a medium bowl til stiff peak. Add the sugar and bring the mixture to stiff peak again. Add a spoonful of this to the first mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest.

Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour, turning the heat down to 180 after 15 minutes. Enjoy with a cup of tea...


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Caramel Cake! This Month's Daring Bakers' Challenge



Here's something I wouldn't have conceived of trying: caramel cake. Though I love classic English sticky toffee pudding and anything of that genre: toffee, caramel, butterscotch - all yummy (if teeth-defying) and totally addictive things, I've been rather reluctant to play around with hot sugar because of it's volcanic nature when it caramelizes. There are two scars on my right arm: one from when I made caramel at Leiths and burnt myself, and the other from leaning against a 400 degree oven. Yes, I'm a klutz.

So when this month's Daring Bakers' challenge saw caramel cake on the menu, I winced. Partly out of fear I'd be burning myself again, and partly for fear of how yummy it was going to be, thereby destroying my carefully calibrated pre-Christmas eating plan. Which was never much of a plan or particularly calibrated if I'm honest, but one has ideas of being "good" before Christmas. And I must confess that this cake was made with a few 'cheat' ingredients too (!) which I'm not thrilled about but in the absence of time, a flatmate's birthday on the horizon, and a very early start this weekend on a road-trip to France, I had to resort to some store-bought trickery, otherwise, as the Germans say, "Alles geht durcheinander" or everything collapses....

The full recipe, replete with gorgeous photos is, however, to to be found here:

http://blogs.kged.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe/

It's a recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon, a genius baker of http://eggbeater.typepad.com/ who was assisted in this month's challenge by:

Alex of Blondie & Brownie  http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com

Jenny of Foray into Food http://forayintofood.blogspot.com

Natalie (a gluten-free expert) of Gluten-a-go-g
o http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com

Thus, what you see is an oozing caramel cake that has been dusted with cocoa and decorated with raspberries for my flatmate's big day. An "assisted" caramel cake if you will, but as Christmas approaches - and hopefully the weeks become less frenetic - I've decreed to make more caramel-inspired desserts and cakes and show no fear in doing so. Provided I can find a heatproof spacesuit that protects me from spluttering hot sugar ;-)  

In that sense, the Daring Bakers' Challenge this month has proved inspiring, even if I've been a reprobate about following the recipe to a 'T'...Happy Baking everyone! 

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A Scandinavian Favourite: Cinnamon Buns



Winter in Scandinavia is - famously - a period marked by dark, gloomy days punctuated by occasional bursts of snowfall. Come mid-December there's a scant hour of light during the day so it's little wonder Ibsen's prose was bleak. And don't get me started on Munch, painter of 'Scream' fame. He, like many creative Scandinavians, escaped to the south of France or Italy during the winter - a much-needed reprieve from the despair back home, I imagine. Though in Munch's case, he was still in the doldrums upon his return. Thankfully Edvard Grieg, that other giant of Norwegian culture, composed some stirring stuff (think Peer Gynt) alongside his more sombre melodies (think piano concertos!)

Much as I love winter in Norway for its skiing and ice-skating, there were times when all I'd want to do was curl up and hibernate until April. Light-deprivation manifests itself in some peculiar behaviour which Scandinavians are notable for, invariably involving alcohol consumption. But thankfully winter is also the season for baking, and this is when Scandinavian bakers - in my humble opinion - surpass themselves. Perhaps it's a way of fending off the winter blues? Whatever the reason, an array of baked goodies is always on offer throughout the winter months. My grandmother used to make half a dozen varieties of Christmas cookies each year, and not just a few batches, but enough to last the entire extended family until Easter. And the novelty of eating gingerbread wears off by January.

Anyway, the attention to detail in decorating cookies, cakes, buns and breads is a hallmark of November and December baking - indeed I can't wait to kickstart the Christmas baking in December with ginger cookies shaped like snowmen, almond cakes and Lucia buns (sweet yeast buns scented with saffron), but for now h
ave managed to exercise a modicum of restraint and opted instead for the totally indulgent cinnamon buns so beloved of Scandinavians. I've added a generous sprinkling of coarsely ground pistachio nuts - not kosher per se, but I love the flavour of pistachios and they give a delightful green contrast to the cinnamon colour of the buns.

This recipe has been adapted from 'The Scandinavian Cookbook' (see below) a book with fabulous recipes by Danish cook and food writer Trina Hahnemann who - incidentally - advises serving these buns with a cup of 'hot apple drink'...laced with Calvados. Couldn't agree more, Trina.


Ingredients:

Makes enough for 18-20 small buns - I've halved the original recipe and used some wholemeal flour to add a bit of texture and nuttiness. Feel free to use plain flour of course...
  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 7g dried yeast (or 15g fresh yeast if you can source it)
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom pods (though leave the pods out...)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 75g butter
Filling:
  • 75g soft butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
In a small saucepan, scald the milk along with the butter and allow to cool while you assemble the other ingredients. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together - if you want these less grainy, then leave out some of the bran from when you sieve the wholemeal flour - and stir through using a large spoon. 

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, add the egg, then the milk. It's important the milk/butter is below 50 Celsius degrees when you do this, otherwise the yeast will die when it comes in contact with the hot liquid. If you don't have a thermometer to measure the milk's temperature, use your fingers! The milk should feel warm to the touch, not hot.

Mix the ingredients together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl. Scatter some plain flour on your work surface and put the dough on this, adding a bit of flour to your hands so you don't get sticky dough all over you. Start kneading the dough back and forth, and keep the dough moving for 5-8 minutes, the less stationary the dough is, the less likely it is to stick to the surface. The dough is ready to rise when you poke it and it springs back

That last sentence sounds odd. You'll see what I mean ;-)

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm (prevents dough from sticking...), then place the dough in a warm room or cupboard (not the dryer as I once did...forgetting that it tumbles) and let it rise for 45 minutes. If you opt to use only plain flour the dough will take less time to rise, as the fibre in wholemeal flour slows down the yeast

While the dough is rising, make the filling by mixing butter, cinnamon and sugar together. If you're using the pistachios, chop the nuts - or blitz in a blender if you have one

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out and place again on your work surface. Using a rolling pin, make a rectangular shape of the dough, about 40cm x 30cm. Place the filling on the center of the rectangle and spread out. If the kitchen's a bit cold - as mine was this morning - and the butter is firm, use your hands to spread the filling. Not only does the heat from your hands help to smooth the butter over your dough, but it's immensely satisfying getting your hands all sticky and cinnamon-y, hehe!


Once you've finished making a mess with the filling, and - crucially - tasted it, start rolling the dough into a wide cylinder so it looks like an uncooked swiss roll. Ie. roll from the longest part of the rectangle, not the shortest, otherwise you will have very wide buns

Now, using a sharp, uncerrated knife, cut the log into 1.5cm/1 inch slices, and either place on a baking sheet or in a cake tin as shown below. The cake tin version is fun as the buns merge into one another and the end result m
eans everyone shares a bun - a ritual of breaking the bread, if you willOnce you've cut all the slices and arranged them in whichever way you prefer, cover the buns with oiled clingfilm again and allow to rise a second time - or to 'prove' as bakers say - for about 30 minutes. They won't take as long to double in size as the first rising, so keep an eye on them...
How do you know the buns are ready to bake? Gently poke one with your little finger and the indentation should stay put. In other words, there is no 'spring-back'...more baker's jargon!

Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) and before you place the buns in the oven (!), glaze with a little eggwash which is simply an egg broken up with a fork, and then finally - scatter the pistachio nuts on top. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes. The buns are ready when you tap the bottom and they sound hollow.

Eat the buns, it goes without saying, while they're still warm...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Celebrating the Stars & Stripes



What a week. I know this is a blog about baking, but news from across the Atlantic has captured the imagination. You'd have to be a curmudgeonly old cynic not to have felt at least a tinge of excitement by the result of this week's U.S.presidential election - suddenly America's beacon is shining bright again, and not a moment too soon. It astonished me on Wednesday morning how, in spite of so much worrying economic news, everyone on the tube sat and read about the election result with a smile on their faces. OK, this is London, so the smile was more like a bemused, understated look bordering on a smile. But there's a real sense of optimism in the air, a renewed faith even...

Of course it wouldn't be the weekend if there wasn't a spot of baking on the agenda, and one can't blather on indefinitely about world events on a baking blog! As the daughter of an American mother (with an Americaphile Norwegian father) I have a particular penchant for American cakes, muffins and cookies. This recipe, for red velvet cake, originated in the deep South. Perhaps a mischievous choice for celebrating the week's news but I reckon this cake has symbolic value, not to mention some seriously schmaltziness. Indeed, this was the election when comediennes reigned, so in the spirit of SNL's Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman (of "The Great Schlep") I decorated this cake to look like the American flag. Needless to say, it looks hilarious, however let me reassure you this is actually a delicious cake for tea-time or with a steaming cup of Java Joe (that's coffee to tea-drinkers) and as you can see, a great excuse to play with food colouring - as if one ever needed an excuse.

Ingredients:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g melted butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml milk, with a teaspoon of lemon juice in it 
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a lot of red food colouring - I used an obscene amount, 50ml!
  • pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 180 celsius. Lightly grease a 20cm square cake tin

In a medium bowl, sift all the dry ingredients. In a second medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Curdle the milk by adding the lemon juice (this helps activate the bicarb: acid + alkali = well-risen cake). Add the dry ingredients to the eggs, give the mixture a few folds with a large spoon, then add the milk, the butter and food colouring and stir through until the mixture is evenly blended.

Pour this into a square cake tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes.

The icing:
  • 150g softened butter
  • 150g cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons icing sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • food colouring...ahem! tubes of already coloured icing also work well...
Cream the butter and then add the icing sugar, followed by the cream cheese and vanilla. Separate into three bowls and add the appropriate food colour
ing - needn't be red, white and blue obviously ;-)


p.s. this 'hope-inspiring' cake is dedicated to my favourite American chica, Kaitlin, who was my partner in crime constructing a similarly goofy cake many moons ago - only we decorated with blueberries and strawberries for the full stars & stripes effect. Slightly more organic than my abovementioned food colouring bonanza...


Friday, 31 October 2008

Hallowe'en frolics!



Ah yes, it's that time of year again - we all get dressed up in ghoulish kit, traipse around the neighborhood (or in the grown-ups case, downtown in ultra-hip fashionable clubs. Er...actually, not in my case at all!) and eat rather too much sugar. I had my head in the books all day yesterday and mid afternoon I decided to embrace the Hallowe'en spirit by spending a few happy hours baking butternut squash muffins for student website Beyond Baked Beans. If you're interested in seeing the recipe, then click on the feature title above...

Lest you think spending a few hours baking on a Thursday afternoon totally frivolous, then my flatmate had words of reassurance: apparently Gandhi said each day one should stop everything and do something with one's hands. Admittedly I haven't verified this statement, and it may very well turn out to be apocryphal, but the spirit of it is one I definitely agree with - if you needed any more reason to bake then perhaps Gandhi's invocation to use one's hands will prove persuasive.

Anyway, I wonder if it's the celebration of primary colours such as bright pumpkin orange which makes Hallowe'en so endearing to kids and adults alike. Or is it the dark side of ghoul - the zombies, the ghosts and horror films - which entices us? Of course there are always grumps and misanthropes lamenting Hallowe'en as a ghastly commercialised holiday corrupting our youth, not to mention rotting our teeth. There's merit to the latter argument, but I can't think of a more fun way to leap into winter - and given how arctic it is in London at the moment, why not embrace the kitschness of it all - the primary colours, the dressing up, the excuse to bake goofy orange-coloured muffins? After all, the kitschness of Christmas far surpasses Hallowe'en, but then again I'm escaping that nonsense for sunshine in the Canaries ;-)

Happy Hallowe'en folks!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Lovely lavender...fragrant and calming



I found myself with a small bouquet of lavender at the weekend and couldn't resist rubbing my fingers along the flowers to catch some of that soothing lavender scent. Long known for its calming properties, lavender isn't an ingredient bakers often turn to. This is curious as lavender is such a delightful, quaint fragrance - you can use it for floral breadsticks to serve with goat's cheese for example, or in cakes. I decided to try the latter...

So, at the risk of becoming a bit of a granny, I made a lavender cake. Thinking this might be a tad old-fashioned for modern sensibilities, I threw in lots of orange zest and ground almonds to make a lovely moist, fragrant cake, dispersed with lavender buds which gave occasional bursts of lavender - a delightful reminder of mediterranean sunshine. Go on, give it a try!

Ingredients:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 150g half-fat creme fraiche (using up what was in the fridge!)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp lavender flowers
  • handful flaked almonds
If you want a lighter cake, whisk the eggs with the sugar for 5-8 mins instead of just lightly beating them as I did. Frankly I don't mind a slightly dense cake as long as the flavour's right, but if you're out to impress a real pastry chef then follow the traditional method.

I simply put the dry ingredients in one bowl, liquids in a second bowl, combined the two and gently folded the ingredients together, poured them into a 20m round cake tin (lightly oiled, of course), scattered the flaked almonds on top of the mixture and then baked the cake on the central shelf of a 180 celsius oven for 45 minutes. Phew, easy!

You could of course make a simple sugar syrup infused with lavender and orange zest to glaze the cake with: just take equal quantities of water and sugar (or indeed, half water and half freshly squeezed orange juice), place in a saucepan with the lavender and orange and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins until the syrup looks, well syrupy. Drizzle on the cake when it's cooled down...

* Other edible flowers include violet and rose, make sure you buy un-sprayed ones though, you really don't want pesticide in your cake. 

* apologies to Fiona, I know you requested the butternut squash bread, but I didn't have any squash in the house this weekend. Going to kick-start Hallowe'en later this week with a squash baking bonanza so watch this space ;-)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A bereft baker...

No blogging this week as my trusted Mac died a sad death on Sunday, and I'm mourning the end of a fabulous machine. Otherwise, the wonderful, stimulating anthropology of food course at SOAS has detained me in the library so the kitchen's been rather quiet - and I'm going cross-eyed from the days of reading...who said being a student was easy?!

But watch this space for the following autumnal/winter recipes:
  • hazelnut, chocolate and pear cakeText Colour
  • plum crumble
  • beetroot chocolate cake (yes, am still on a chocolate high after last week's chocolate tastings!)
  • butternut squash bread
  • whisky, walnut and orange cake
In the meantime, check out Sarah Vine of the Times call to arms (or whisks)

"Bankers? What we need is bakers"

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink?article4958154.ece

Very a propos for our gloomy economic times - a bit of levity never goes amiss!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Matcha Green Tea & Chocolate Marble Cake

It's national chocolate week! As if we needed any reason to scoff, devour and drool over chocolate (good chocolate that is) then events all over the UK are taking place to remind us what's out there. And there's a dizzying array of chocolate to be sampled, it seems a veritable chocolate revolution has taken place these last few years, so go and try some of the fantastic choccies available. Here's the website detailing where all of this week's events will be: 

www.chocolate-week.co.uk

In the spirit of chocolate week, and a couple of chocolate tastings I've been going to the last few days, I made a Japanese-inspired matcha green tea and chocolate marble cake, which is a delightful mix of dark, brooding chocolate and quirky Kermit-the-frog green derived from the addition of matcha green tea powder. The playful contrast between the green and brown aside, marble cakes can be quite dry so I countered any prospective dryness with a good dose of yoghurt and quite a lot of ground almonds. Otherwise the recipe couldn't be easier, simply mix dry and liquid ingredients together add your matcha and cocoa in separate batches, mix again and bake.  

So there you have it: matcha green tea and chocolate marble cake, fabulous, as you might have guessed, with a cup of steaming green tea...

Ingredients:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 125g melted butter
  • 125g plain yoghurt
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp tbsp matcha green tea powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180ºC, lightly grease a rectangular loaf tin

You'll need a few bowls handy as the mixture gets divided into two. In one small bowl, crack the eggs, whisk briefly and then add the yoghurt, whisking again to create a smooth mix

In a large bowl sift all the dry ingredients, except the cocoa and matcha powders. Stir through to distribute the raising agents and then divide the dry ingredients in half - placing one half in another bowl (doesn't have to be large, a medium one will suffice) and leaving the other in the original large bowl. 

Add the cocoa to one bowl, stir through, and repeat with the matcha powder in the second bowl. Now add half the liquid ingredients to one bowl, and repeat with the other. Using a large metal spoon, fold the liquid ingredients into the dry until the mixture is fairly smooth (a few lumps here and there won't offend anyone)

Then place your chocolate mixture in the loaf tin, followed by the green tea matcha mixture. This is the fun part - using a fork, swirl through both mixtures back and forth, in figures of eight, whatever you fancy.

Once you're done swirling, place the loaf tin on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 1 hour...