Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Krumkaker with blackcurrant ice cream

krumkaker, or cornets/cones

blackcurrant ice cream

the 30-year old Norwegian krumkake iron

recipe from 'Norway's delight' and cone cooling...

freshly churned blackcurrant ice cream

It's June, the sun's shining and Wimbledon's in full swing. So far it's been a blissful English summer - not too warm and only a shower or three to keep us on our toes. Picnics in the park, walks along the South Bank soaking up rays on a Sunday afternoon and a smattering of Pimm's with ginger ale...such is the stuff of summer ;) I know I'm romanticizing but who needs to go away when London's shimmering on days like today.

Of course nothing quite says 'summer' like an ice cream cone, with the ice cream dribbling down your chin, on your clothes, or in my case, somehow ending up in my hair. Last weekend I dusted off two relics from the Johansen kitchen cupboard - a Gaggia ice cream machine and a Krumkake iron to make cornets, or as my American cousins call them, cones. Krumkake is a Norwegian version of the cone, translating as 'crumbly cake', an apt description of this crispy cone. Both machines were pilfered from Ma & Pa Johansen, and after nearly three decades of use still work - though admittedly just as I'm about to plug in these prized posessions there's a moment when I worry whether I might be electrocuted or the machine will simply have ceased to function. Thankfully, both are still going strong.

As mentioned on a recent post on the Beyond Baked Beans facebook page, I'm an ice cream snob. Nothing quite raises the Johansen ire like commercial ice cream or mediocre 'homemade' ice cream in restaurants or ice cream parlours. The best stuff in London is certainly dark chocolate ice cream from Chocstar and pretty much anything from Odonno. Even supermarket offerings that are purported to be good, such as Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, are cloying, chewy and over-priced for what is effectively just a humble mix of milk/cream, eggs and sugar. So if you have the time and inclination, I really encourage you to try making your own ices this summer. For a basic fruit ice cream recipe, go to the abovementioned facebook page and play around with flavours and ingredients - I'm lucky enough to have a gadget for ice cream churning, but you can make perfectly good ice cream without one.

And as for the cones - try baking the mixture on a sheet in the oven as you would with brandy snaps. The key to getting the 'cone' shape is to work quickly once the cones are baked - recruit a few mates with asbestos fingers to help you with this task, and roll them up before cooling in a cup. You can of course vary the flavours, adding cinnamon or cardamom for a change, or replacing lemon zest with orange zest, or some vanilla extract/seeds. A sprinkling of cocoa or chocolate wouldn't go amiss either, but the classic lemon zest and nutmeg combo is a match made in heaven, so I confess to never deviating from this 'Norway's delight' recipe...

Krumkake Ingredients:

  • 110g plain flour (or 4 oz for imperially-minded friends)
  • 110g butter, melted
  • 110g sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 medium egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • pinch salt

Plug in your krumkake iron, or preheat the oven to 190 C and prepare a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, butter, water in increments. Grate in zest and nutmeg. Beat together til there are no lumps - it should be quite a thick batter, the consistency of gloopy toothpaste.

Butter the krumkake iron and place a dollop of the mixture on the bottom of the iron, close the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes depending on how hot the iron gets. You want a pale brown colour, not too brown or they'll scorch. If baking in the oven, place on the upper shelf and leave for 5-7 minutes.

Remove the krumkake cornet when it's ready and - this is the tricky bit - shape into a cornet while still warm. You'll quickly develop asbestos fingers from doing this if you're not already in possession of a heatproof pair of hands. I find quickly shaping, then placing the cornets in a glass (my mother suggested a champagne flute!) or a cup so they hold their shape is the best method.

If making cornets proves exasperating - after all toasted fingers are no fun - simply make baskets instead by shaping the krumkake around the bottom of a glass, ramekin or rolling pin and folding up the edges like a brandy snap. Makes for a pretty basket, though more vulnerable to breakage when storing. The cornets are definitely easier to stack in a sealed cookie jar, and will keep for a week or two. These are ideal for serving friends at a dinner party, as indeed is the homemade ice cream. Simple really.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Plum Job

Nearly a month has passed since I posted a note on baking here, an unintended hiatus of sorts. Between revising for exams, then sitting the verdamte things, an unexpected trip to Norway and one albatross of a PhD proposal looming on the horizon I've neglected all whisking and folding recently. Thankfully all the hard work has been mitigated with plenty of japes and frolics, so no need to indulge in spasms of self-pity. Just been a busy bee, that's all.

Anyway, earlier this spring a number of enquiries about gluten-free recipes arrived in my baking inbox, so I decided to test this plum+almond cake recipe yesterday for those who are coeliac or have a wheat-intolerance. It's a super easy and quick to prepare sponge, thus making it a perfect tea-time treat or served with ice cream manifests itself rather well as a dinner party dessert. The recipe is one I adapted from one I found on the Cook's Illustrated site, an awesome repository of recipes tested to the nth degree. You can't go wrong with their recipes, seriously - have a look. All recipes for a bona fide 4th July fiestanza can be found there: ribs, key lime pie, cornbread...

But I digress. What you don't eat of this cake at tea-time or after dinner, try for breakfast. In a moment of Marie Antoinette-esque hubris I abandoned the quotidien smoothie this morning for a generous slice of cake with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some leftover plum sauce. Ideally I would have been reading Wodehouse whilst scoffing such a delectable plum cake with aplomb, but settled for a scan of the news about Iran's nascent revolution.

Enough warbling, here's the recipe folks!

Plum+Almond Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 punnets of plums (I only used 1, and that wasn't enough, you wan't this to be plummy)
  • 3 tsp apricot jam (St.Dalfour is a tasty one, and is made with grape juice)
  • 2 tsp raspberry+rose cordial (see photo above)
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 125g self-raising gluten free flour
  • 250g caster sugar (light brown would also be good)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 200g half-fat sour cream
  • 1 large egg + 1 fat egg yolk
  • splash of vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.

Prepare the plums first by halving them. In a large saucepan or frying pan place the apricot jam and cordial, along with a little water (Cook's Illustrated suggests brandy - I didn't have this, but give it a go if you do). Bring to a simmer and allow it to cook for 2-3 mins until syrupy. Add the plums cut-side down and cook a further 5 minutes, basting them with the juices so the tops cook too. Once they're cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve the excess syrup for later.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl sift the flour, almonds, raising agent, salt. Beat the egg with the sour cream and vanilla in a cup.

Once the butter is creamed, add the egg mixture and dry mixture in increments, beating with an electric whisk if you have one. You want quite a dense batter for this cake to hold the plums in suspension.

Spoon the batter into your cake pan, bake on the middle oven shelf for 45-50 minutes and check it's cooked through by inserting a skewer. It should come out with crumbs, not wet batter.

Allow the cake to cool, then eat with gluttonous abandon