Tag Archives: cake

Experiments

I haven’t been able to bake bread because Bob came back one day with four huge loaves of bread—no, I still haven’t penetrated the whys of this—and then one week later, two more big loaves from Germany. Then he went off bread for more than three weeks so I’ve been picking my way through the frozen loaves. sigh.

In the meantime, various experiments:

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labneh made from kefir

A very kind person gave me new kefir grains for which I’m ever so grateful. They are—cross my fingers—doing well and i was even able to make labneh from goat’s milk, which we had with various other mezze-ish dishes. It was delicious and I was thrilled to be able to finally make labneh from kefir, something I’ve long wanted to do. If you read this, thank you so much!!

 

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Coffee-orange liqueur in the making

No, this isn’t a miniature Halloween pumpkin but an attempt at orange and coffee liqueur, rum, cheap, awful, undrinkable rum in this case, as inspired by Carl Legge. Don’t you love the Internet and blogs for this? Across the world, people with funny ideas make you do funny things. And I love suddenly chancing upon an old experiment you’ve forgotten all about in the recesses of the cupboard or the basement, and uncorking it to see how it’s going. I made almond essence in summer with apricot kernels and every now and then, I open the bottle for a little sniff.

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Wonderfully moist apple puree spiced cake using leftover leaven

Yes, I know, all my cakes look alike, boring brown masses. I try to incorporate excess leaven or else fruit or vegetables, and since spices go so well with such cakes, that too. Surely I can’t be held responsible if they all turn out looking the same:) Anyhow it doesn’t matter because I’ve been eating and eating this, and I really like it. The idea was to make a cake for Bob that would keep one going (well, there was the banana, oat flour and chocolate cake before this, but that will need tweaking), so I ground some oats and tossed in all my remaining apple puree and hoped for the best. I’m lucky it turned out well: really moist, barely sweet but spiced. And it does get better with each day.

Apple Puree Cake (for 2 loaves)
Flour                 250g
Oat flour           130g
Baking soda     2 tsp
Salt                   1 tsp
Cinnamon         2 tsp
Other spices     2 tsp (I used a mix of ginger, nutmeg)
Apple puree      540g
Vegetable oil     130g
Honey                 40g
Maple syrup        40g
Brown sugar        10g
Eggs                   4 large

The usual dries + wets method.

 

 

 

 

A mouthful of cloud—chestnut flour & lemon cake

Chestnut flour cakeI realize that the above photo (I didn’t even brush away the crumbs, for shame) is not likely to make you want to make this cake. But I would be sorry because you would be missing out on such a lovely, lovely cake. It truly is like eating cloud, lemon-scented, chestnut-tinged cloud. The distinctive bittersweet taste of chestnut registers first, giving way to pleasantly tingling lemon.

The first time I made this, I used creme fraiche as per the recipe. This time, I used Greek yoghurt, and while both are delicious, I actually prefer the lightness of this version. (Though it’ll make a less pretty, more delicate, soufflé-like cake with a crumply top.) Put away some for the next day if you can, the taste deepens and gets much better.

Take the little morsel as a sign—i had to squirrel some away for myself otherwise I wouldn’t have had any leftovers!

 

Pumpkin sourdough cake

Pumpkin sourdough cakeSometimes I think dull afternoons working in front of the computer exist only so that one has the justification to drink coffee and eat cake, better still, bake and eat cake. I do realize that most responsible adults do not pop in and out of the kitchen while ostensibly working, or else, if they do snack, eat sensible things like apples and nuts. And truth be told, I get so distracted by the smell of cake before and after, that my afternoon is spent running to and fro the oven, like some sort of sad (non-worker) ant.

Anyway, this is just to say thank you to blogger Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen for her nice pumpkin sourdough cake. This is nice, good cake, whether you have deadlines to meet or not. I’m always on the lookout for recipes that can use up excess leaven.

The good thing about such cakes is they are pretty versatile—you could probably substitute banana, apple, or other fruit puree. However, with such cakes, don’t bother unless the puree you do use tastes of whatever they are supposed to taste of. The last time I made a pumpkin bread, the puree was so tasteless, the bread was ruined. Even the pancakes I made with the excess puree were a waste of time.

I converted her recipe using the King Arthur Flour’s website, so here it is, with my adaptations:

Pumpkin Cake using leftover 100% sourdough leaven
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Prepare tin (I used a medium-sized loaf tin and a ramekin).

In a bowl, sift and mix the ‘dries’ evenly
188g        All-purpose flour
2 tsp        Baking soda
1/2 tsp     Salt
Pinches of spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg)

In another bigger bowl, mix the ‘wets’
241g        Leftover 100% sourdough leaven
100g        White caster sugar
80g         Golden caster sugar (NB: original recipe uses 200g sugar in all. My pumpkin puree was sweet enough on its own, must experiment to reduce sugar further.)
1               Large egg
50g         Neutral vegetable oil
56g         Yoghurt
240g        Pumpkin puree (NB: should have been 270g but I ate too much of it. Look at your puree, mine was quite liquid so I think it was all right.)

When everything is nice and homogenous, dump the dries in and mix only until everything is blended. Quickly get it into the oven; the baking soda starts fizzling once it comes into contact with the ‘wets’. Mine took about 40-45 mins. It makes for a very tender and moist cake, so with such cakes, I recommend letting it cool down well and proper before attempting to lift it from tin and cutting into it. (I heeded my own advice for the former, but went ahead and cut into it anyway ha!)

This is my sort of cake. Simple, unadorned, generates good smells and delicious. Perfect for afternoons.

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit cake

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I must be the only person who makes fruit cakes after Christmas.

Actually I got a head start, a big head start—I soak my fruits in alcohol months ahead. But this year I decided to try baking the fruit cakes in the little oven above our fireplace. BIG BIG MISTAKE. The usual gentle fire roared that day and reduced the cakes to dried-ness and blackened sides, tops and bottoms, within all of… 20 minutes!!! Have you ever heard of a fruit cake that bakes in less than half an hour?!? To top it off, the thermometer was totally off—by more than 100 degrees!!! What a joke. I didn’t even have the time to react. By the time I realized something was up, it was too late. And to think that I had waited until Sunday to bake them so Bob could smell fruit cake baking. For I deem it very important to experience The Smell of Fruit Cake Baking in the Oven at least once in one’s life.

I weep for the cake meant for my family, for all those fruits i had painstakingly chopped up and steeped, and all those times I had been tempted to dip into the jar and have some with vanilla ice cream but sat on my hands.

At the very last minute, I decided that my family needed to have fruit cake no matter what! So off we went again. This time I settled on the first Nigel Slater recipe I found. This must be the ‘whitest’ fruit cake I’ve ever made. I usually use a recipe I got from a very kind Trinidad blogger who gave me her family recipe for their version of the Jamaican ‘black cake’. I am very intrigued by fruit cake lore, by the way, how it has evolved and its various incarnations across the globe. Did you know, for example, that in Sri Lanka, they use garam masala and cashew nuts in their fruit cake? Anyway, this recipe called for grinding the soaked fruits to mush. It was probably an adaptation of the original pudding. Since I like some whole fruits in my cake, I usually grind just a portion and leave a good part whole.

Well, this year it’s ‘arid’ fruit cake, not helped by the fact that I over-baked by a tad. Are you like me? Each year, I write notes to myself—DO NOT overbake! WATCH OVEN!!! Put ramekin of water in oven for moisture!—only to ignore them in a rush of panic or sheer fatigue. Did I also mention that I have a collection of fruit cake recipes, labelled “MUST TRY!”, “NEXT YEAR!”, “DO THIS!!”. I scrutinize and compare them, in anticipatory glee. Fruit cake madness, fruit cake anti-climax.

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I also made biscotti for my sister. For the anise-flavoured ones, I used this recipe I found on Chowhound, purportedly from the Culinary Institute of America, doubling the qty of almonds.
My bench notes:
-right level of sweetness
– right level of anise. i.e. strong. I left out the vanilla essence and also toasted the anise seeds.
– too eggy, to reduce to just two eggs?
-what is the baking soda doing here? I could taste it in the final product
– chop up almonds properly, if using whole ones like I was. Too large pieces will prevent smooth slicing, yes I’m looking at lazy me.
– while working with the dough, I remembered how the last time I made biscotti ages ago, I tried this method of oiling  some plastic film very lightly, then scooping out the dough onto the film, and using the sides of the film to shape the dough into a log, for the reason that less contact with hands = less dough on hands = less dough in my stomach but more biscotti for everyone else. I then refrigerated the logs until dough had hardened. This dough spread out quite a bit in the oven. Was too busy to try to slice the biscotti really thinly and neatly and it shows!

The chestnut flour biscotti from Juls’ Kitchen was a recipe I had clipped for a while now, just waiting for an occasion to make. Bench notes again:
– lovely chestnut flour flavor. I used 250g chestnut flour and 100g wheat flour because I had no oat flour, but I imagine oat flour would complement the chestnut taste very well.
– I used pine nuts and no orange zest. I imagine pine nuts and rosemary would be a winning combination too.
-Qty of nuts and chocolate bits spot on.
-Only thing I would change is qty of sugar perhaps? Too sweet for my taste, especially since chestnut flour has a certain sweetness on its own.
– This dough was not sticky and very easy to work with. Perhaps because I had refrigerated it before baking, there was some cracking while baking. Made for some broken off bits while slicing but no harm done.

Well, everything’s packed and labelled and ready to be sent off to the family! I’m an inveterate labeller, and my family is used to finding post-its with detailed instructions. Hey it can be helpful, for instance, when unearthing fruit cakes of a certain vintage from the freezer 🙂 Just have to buy the panettone and the shipment goes out. Yes, I chickened out of making a panettone but that’s another story.

Light chocolate zucchini cake

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Bob has a knack for announcing at the very last minute that he needs to bring something for a potluck. I remembered this light chocolate zucchini cake I saw recently. My adaptations in grams.

Light chocolate zucchini cake
250g         Flour
25g          Cocoa powder
1 1/2tsp   Baking soda
1/2tsp  Salt
200g        Sugar
75g         Oil
2            Eggs
1   tsp      Vanilla extract
170g        Non-fat yoghurt (topped up with 1 TBS of creme fraiche)
250g        Grated zucchini, after a good squeeze to remove excess liquid
175g        Dark chocolate chips

I used dark chocolate for the chips, so this cake was really not sweet.

Olive oil sage cake

ImageA long time ago, I made this cake. I loved it. So did my aunt. I swore I would have to make it for her again. But birthdays, so many, with their attendant cakes to make, celebrations, occasions, distractions, other people and their needs/wants/threats, got in the way. Like her all-time favourite carrot cake and her apple pie, it got filed away, never to be remade in that ever-changing rotation of cake priorities. It always makes me sad. Even if the other party couldn’t give a toss. Or even has an inkling of my unuttered intentions. In an ideal world, I would have my favourite people close to me, and they would be fed their favourite food, one by one, day by day. Now, on another continent, with herbs in the backyard (by some miracle, they are not dead), but aunt-less, here is a sage version.

I adapted this recipe, which is from Mario Batali, to use less sugar. It really isn’t sweet, which is what I like, but people who like their sweets sweet might want to increase the sugar. Also because there is less sugar, it is slightly drier and bakes faster. Mine was done at the half-hr mark, though I left it for an extra five mins, just to be sure.

My ingredients in grams:
190g     T55 flour (or all-purpose)
1 TBS    baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 TBS    fresh sage leaves chopped up finely

Mix all this evenly in a bowl. What I do is to give it a few whisks with the same whisk I’ll use to beat the eggs – one less thing to wash!

4     large eggs
140g    white sugar
150g    olive oil

In a big bowl, whisk eggs briefly. Add sugar and beat till lightened and increased in volume. Drizzle olive oil in while continuing to whisk. (I wish I could have shown you how the metal bowl gained a momentum of its own and spun round like a whirling dervish while the greenish oil trickled down. I’m lucky it didn’t spin off the counter altogether.) Resist the urge to dip into the thickened but still somehow light and somewhat frothy mix. Add flour mix and just fold in gently till everything is one. Bake. For aunts or otherwise.

Black bean chocolate cake

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So I was contemplating between olive oil & sage cake or a peach cornmeal cake, when I was faced with butter beans overcooked to mush. And I mean mush. Baby food texture, except there are no babies on the premises. Then I remembered this black bean chocolate cake. Not a drop of oil/butter in this?? Really??? I was skeptical but isn’t that even more reason to try it out. Plus, hey, it’s hard to argue against a one-bowl cake.

It was also a chance to try out these silicon muffin/cupcake thingamajigs that I bought recently at a sale. I thought they were nifty cos unlike other silicon things, which tend to be floppy, these could stand on their own (for now at least). They are also reusable, unlike paper liners, which I don’t even own.

These turned out fine, like fudgy brownies. I’ve made your beetroot/ zucchini/ sweet potato choc cakes before and the vegetable taste was always totally subdued by the chocolate etc., but in this one, I could detect some bean. Bob also gave me a look and said “there’s something in it, isn’t it”, but it didn’t stop him from eating it. Could it be because I used butter beans instead of black beans? Is there an affinity between chocolate and black beans?

So thanks to blogger Josephine! My changes were: butter beans (accidentally or otherwise) cooked to death instead of black beans; 90g of sugar in all, including 20g of brown sugar; I omitted the orange zest and juice, adding instead just a drop more of rhum-y vanilla bean steeping liquid-on-its-way-to-becoming-essence and one tablespoon of water keffir, just because it was on the counter. No problem with moistness whatsoever, even if I had left these out I think. It made 10 tiny ones.

Weeds from the garden and a cake

ImageDan Lepard’s passionfruit crumble cake. This is for a friend so i can’t cut into it and you can’t see the pale yellow, tender crumb. Do make this lovely cake. The flavour of passionfruit and the crunch of its seeds makes this a unique cake and a winner for me. If nothing else, the house will smell terribly edible.

When I first made this over a year ago, I used freshly grated coconut. That is sadly inaccessible for me now. It feels strange to be using desiccated coconut. The recipe makes rather a lot of crumble topping, but I’m just going to sprinkle leftovers on toast. It reminds me of when we were kids and a treat was sugar and butter on toast. I also added some kaffir lime zest in the crumble.

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I discover that a puny passionfruit here costs half a euro and that Bob can whisk egg whites almost as fast as the mixer. Very useful that since I still don’t have one.

Brownie, carrot cake, passionfruit crumble cake and various breads for a bake sale.

Brownie, carrot cake, passionfruit crumble cake and various breads for a bake sale.