Walnut, cardamom and orange cake

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Taking a break from study of right-wing extremism this morning (as you would on a Sunday morning) to post a not very good photo of this surprisingly good Walnut, cardamom and orange cake from Nigel Slater’s Tender II. The photo is not very good as I took it on iPhone late yesterday afternoon, late afternoon photos never come out very good. The surprising bit about the cake is that it is somewhat like an angel food cake – no flour or fat. Instead it uses breadcrumbs and ‘gravel’ ground walnuts (by ‘gravel’, I mean not totally ground, some bits remain – a couple of very brief pulses). It also uses whole eggs, yolks and sugar beaten together, whites folded in at the end. It came out beautifully but Dear Nigel forgot to mention that cake should be cooled upside down (suspended) or it would sink in the middle (there is no baking powder) and I also forgot about this completely so it sank by the time it came to apply frosting. I didn’t actually do a proper frosting (with clementine and lemon juices + lots of icing sugar) as I don’t like set icing unless it’s a celebration cake. I used much less sugar so the ‘frosting’ was more of a soak and I’ve ended up with a wonderfully moist cake full of flavour.

I love the basic recipe with the breadcrumb and nut mix (this also included orange juice, zest and ground cardamom) especially because I always have sourdough crusts leftover and this is a great opportunity to use them up + I know exactly what’s gone into those breadcrumbs. You could use pistachios I think, with the same flavour combination (and this is a very good flavour combination, I love cardamom) or almonds. I wander if it would also be possible to use a fruit coulis or puree – raspberries, for example would go well with almonds and apple with pecans and cinnamon. A lot of potential for experimentation but first I’ve got to get on with those pesky extremists. And make mince meat – I know I’m a bit late with this but at least Christmas puddings were done on time.

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Wholemeal apple and marmalade cake

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A quick fruit cake I made yesterday afternoon, recipe from Nigel Slater’s Tender II. Didn’t mess with the recipe this time around, although I can see the potential. This is just delicious, full of flavour, as well as apples and marmalade, it has a bit of cinnamon, raisins, orange zest and light muscovado sugar and it only contains wholemeal flour. It rose beautifully and it’s very moist. It was already getting dark outside by the time I cut it so photos are a bit grainy but this gives an idea of the inside

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Perfect with a cup of tea. I’d make it again although I’d cut the amount of sugar. Think it would also work with other fruit and jam combinations – plum (fresh and jam) with a hint of cloves or pear, fig jam and star anise. Might also try apple and cinnamon with gooseberry jam and lemon zest. It’s a good, basic autumnal cake recipe to play around with. 

Pear and hazelnut cake + Chocolate, walnut and banana bread

Baking usually requires very little or no excuse. We had Beloved’s mum to stay last weekend and I deemed that a good occasion to do not one but two cakes. The first was a quick and simple Chocolate Banana Bread from Leith’s book to which I added walnuts, to have with tea on Saturday afternoon and the second was a very good Pear and hazelnut cake from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II for Sunday lunch. I’ve been meaning to post photos since.

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The Pear and hazelnut cake is an immediate favourite. Deeply satisfying and easy to do but it does require a little time. The pears are softened a little first with sugar and lemon juice, hazelnuts toasted, skinned and ground, nothing terribly time consuming but it also takes an hour in a low oven and I just about managed it before our pick up time for lunch. It consists of three layers – hazelnut sponge base, the softened pears in the middle, a buttery crumble on top. Once out of the oven, the syrup from the pears is poured over. Moist and just delicious.

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The Chocolate Banana Bread was a much simpler affair so I thought I’d make it more interesting by adding walnuts. I also used a very good cocoa powder & chopped Valrhona chocolate so it was very rich but I may have left it in the oven for 5 minutes too long as it was quite crumbly to cut (I also tried cutting it while still pretty hot, which is never a good thing) and I didn’t manage a good photo of a slice. Here is the whole thing

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Not so much of a looker but makes up for it in taste.

Blackberry and hazelnut friands

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A quick bake this morning, batch of Blackberry and hazelnut friands, adapting Nigel Slater’s recipe from Kitchen Diaries II (also here) a little. Boxed up and ready to take to the office, not that I normally take cakes to work but our office dog’s retiring, getting too old for the commute so I thought it’d be a nice treat (for the rest of us). Anyway, I used all the same ingredients but reduced sugar to 120g, used both ground and chopped hazelnuts (for a more interesting texture) and increased quantity to 120g and also used 12 large blackberries, one each per friand – this is around 100g and not 60 recommended by Slater. Really good and not too sweet. Very quick to make although I did have to rush to work so boxed them while they were still a bit warm. Good to eat in the morning too as not too sweet.

Mini chocolate angel cakes

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I’ve made quite a lot of ice cream over the summer, love ice cream but don’t like waste so am always looking for things to do with leftover egg whites. Five egg whites to be precise. I’ve made meringue (good and also not so good), meringue roulade, financiers… Anyway, the angel cake on Great British Bake Off gave me ideas – Mary Berry’s recipe called for 10 egg whites (on BBC website), which would have created more waste so I didn’t want to do a whole cake but a quick search on Pinterest found Angel cupcakes with chocolate. So I halved Mary Berry’s quantities, reduced sugar a little and incorporated chocolate and here we are: Mini chocolate angel cakes. These are super light and great with coffee, I suppose you could ice them but I’m not a great fan of icing for personal use (great if you’re making them as a gift).

Here’s the recipe and method: in a free standing mixer (this is too much for a hand held) whisk 5 egg whites, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and a pinch of salt to soft peaks then increase the speed and start adding 140g sugar (I used Biona’s whole cane sugar hence the lovely soft brown colour to these) a tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated and the egg whites form stiff peaks (but not quite as stiff and glossy as for meringue), add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and mix to incorporate, then fold in, very gently, 70g sifted sponge flour followed by 4 tablespoons of shaved or finely chopped dark chocolate (I use 70g Valrhona and a mezzaluna to shave/ chop) – it’s important not to have chocolate pieces too big or they will sink and also important to be gentle with the folding while doing this as quickly as possible. Spoon the mixture into a 12 muffin tin smoothing the tops a little (no need to grease the tin or use paper cups) then bake in a preheated oven at 160C fan (180C no fan) for 16 minutes or until golden brown on top/ or test dry. I left these to cool in an upturned tin over a wire rack (4 ramekins propping the corners held it in place) for an hour then loosened with a knife gently and took out.

This was my first attempt at making Mini angel cakes and I can see potential for experimentation with ingredients – I reduced the sugar amount that Berry uses a little (by 10g only) but you could probably reduce this a little bit more – e.g. to 130g and add a couple of tablespoons of good cocoa powder. Equally you could use lemon zest and juice instead of vanilla and I’d imagine you could use finely chopped (but not ground) pistachios and rose water or hazelnut and cinnamon perhaps. The other day I remembered Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus (which has, for some inexplicable reason, been stored in the bedroom bookshelves and not in the kitchen) and this has some very good ideas of other flavour combinations that I could explore. The great thing about these Mini angel cakes is that they are very easy to do, don’t require much effort and are not quite as sweet as meringues + not so much work as for macarons so I can see them becoming an ‘egg white leftover’ staple.

Strawberry cheesecake

strawberry cheesecakeThought I’d use the last of the strawberries picked on Friday in a cheesecake for Beloved’s family get together. It went down a storm, which was nice but it was on the verge of collapsing by serving time – it was so hot yesterday, I don’t blame it. Still looks quite presentable, I only managed this one photo as was acting as ‘official photographer’ and services were needed elsewhere. It was rather good, light and not too sweet, served with quite an intense strawberry puree on the side. I scaled up a basic recipe from Good Food website and just made it a little more interesting by adding a few ingredients and not scaling up the amount of sugar used. 

Recipe and method – for a 25cm spring form tin, serving 12. For the base – 280g digestive biscuits, 50g desiccated coconut, 1tsp cinnamon, 125g unsalted butter, melted. For the cheese layer – 680g cream cheese – I used 500g ricotta and 180g mascarpone, 100g icing sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 300ml double cream. For the top – 600g strawberries, 25g icing sugar, 1tbsp water, couple of sprigs of mint to garnish.

To make the base: crush digestive biscuits by pulsing in the food processor or put in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Put into a bowl, add desiccated coconut, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix well to combine then press evenly into a 25cm spring form tin lined with parchment. Chill in the fridge for an hour to set.

For the cheese layer: sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the bowl with the icing sugar. Add the cream cheese and mix with an electric hand held whisk until smooth. Takes seconds. Add the double cream and whisk until the mixture just starts to thicken – this will help it set and keep its shape but no need to overwhisk here. Pour on top of the base, smooth out the top, working from the edge towards the centre making sure there are no air bubbles. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours – overnight is better. 

For the top: take 300g strawberries and the icing sugar, add 1tbsp water and puree until smooth. Sieve and leave to one side. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge half an hour before serving and carefully remove the side of the tin. Arrange rest of the strawberries on top, roll up mint leaves tightly then slice thinly and sprinkle over the strawberries. Pour the puree on top or on the side as you serve. 

Perfect for a hot summer day.

 

Financiers

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I made these fluffy clouds of almond, honey and nutty butter as a result of Friday’s strawberry picking extravaganza. I made jam and, having picked way more strawberries than needed, decided to also make ice cream. Lovely ice cream (will photograph later) but it left me with a load of egg whites, which, of course had to be used up as I hate throwing anything useful away. So I ended up making some financiers using Hugh FW’s recipe on The Guardian website. They took 3 of the egg whites and no time or effort. In fact the only thing that took a little while was browning the butter and letting it cool a bit. No mixer needed, I just whisked by hand. These also have only 40g flour for 12, no added raising agent and rose beautifully in a hot oven. I made them early yesterday evening as couldn’t face turning the oven on during a super hot afternoon. Also worth using a decent honey here – I used the New Zealand thyme honey from Sainsbury’s which gave them a lovely aroma. Just delicious.