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.

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. 

Pears and apples baked in Marsala

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Totally shameless, the main reason I’ve made this afternoon treat is to distract self and, I guess, to provide energy for continuing the task at hand, writing a stupid essay. I kept looking over my desk to the fruit bowl and a dark spot forming on one of the pears and thought they better be used up. Nigel Slater has a recipe for pears in marsala, which gave me the idea. I used 3 pears, peeled, cored and quartered and an apple, peeled, cored and cut into 8 slices, sprinkled the lot with a bit of dark soft brown sugar, poured some Marsala (a healthy glug), mixed and baked at 180c fan oven for about half an hour, turning once. Served with cream and flaked almonds on top. Delicious and totally gone. Now back to writing stupid essay.

New cookbooks and a lovely loaf

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A most welcome and generous gift from a goodie bag (work-related). I do like the Vietnamese eateries in Shoreditch but have never actually cooked Vietnamese food. This book makes it all sound very simple so I’m off to shop for ingredients shortly. It’s also most welcome as my weekend cooking (weekend cooking = more time consuming and ‘elaborate’ recipes) has been very much Jerusalem inspired in recent months with an occasional Hugh FW, St. John, Moro and Nigel Slater thrown in. And, considering that I have most of Nigel’s books since Real Fast Food, it’s a bit odd that the two Tender books completely passed me by. This one centres on fruit and has some wonderful recipes for sweet and savoury dishes. Expect lots of apples, pears and quince posts coming up, I do love a quince. And medlar, if the greengrocer happens to have them. Contemplating making medlar jelly although not entirely sure what it would go in (the perennial problem of Not Enough Jars). There are also chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts although I am a little disappointed at the lack of a really good chestnut and chocolate cake recipe. I am always on the search for the cake that would be equal to the memory of the one great aunt V used to make at this time of the year.

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This week’s loaf, I am pretty pleased with it. It’s a white and spelt sourdough, good bouncy texture inside and a better crust than last week – I blasted this one in a hot oven first. After 3 weeks of experimentation with Paul Hollywood’s method, I think I’ve now worked out what to keep from it and what to change well enough to post a recipe. This should be started at lunchtime on the day before if you want to have it ready for breakfast.

Ingredients: 400g bread flour – this can be all white or a mix of white with other flours (strong wholemeal, rye, spelt, malted). Just ensure that strong white flour dominates as the others have less gluten and don’t rise as well. So, this particular loaf was 250g strong white and 150g spelt flour. 250g sourdough starter, 250ml water and 1tsp salt. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to form a dough then knead by hand for 10 or so minutes until elastic or 6 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook attachment. Shape into a ball and leave to prove, in an oiled bowl, covered with a cloth for 5 hours. Take out the dough and deflate, on a lightly floured work surface, roll it up tightly, flatten then blanket fold and shape into an oval, coat with flour (preferably rye or spelt) and leave to prove for a second time – on a well floured board or in a proving basket placed inside a plastic bag, for another 12-13 hours. The slow second prove will give the loaf a bit of a skin, which helps the final crust. Place a hot stone or a baking sheet in the oven an preheat to 250C (fan or, equivalent high setting). Slash the loaf then bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180C fan and bake for a further 30 minutes.

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.

Espresso and dark chocolate ice cream

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It took some maneuvering to get the ice cream maker bowl to fit into the freezer (small and recently loaded up with ‘stuff’) but fit it in I did because I really fancied some home made ice cream this weekend. I don’t think I froze the bowl for long enough beforehand though because it was taking ages yesterday afternoon, the ice cream was not really chilling and, as we were watching The Master at the same time I was getting pretty frustrated that nothing was happening. Nothing in the kitchen and nothing on the screen. I gave up on the machine and just froze the ice cream hoping for the best and soon after I gave up on the film too and nodded off. When I woke up the film was still on and Beloved informed me that I’d missed very little. What a pointless waste of time (Joaquin Phoenix very good though).

The ice cream, though was well worth the effort, with a very intense and mildly bitter coffee flavour enhanced by good dark chocolate. This is a real treat for lovers of good coffee. Recipe came from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II although I reduced the amount of sugar by a third – think Nigel has a very sweet tooth although Beloved did say he would have liked a bit more sugar. For me, this was perfect but I would consider perhaps using a mix of dark and white or milk chocolate in future. Or perhaps not, it really is very good just as it is. Like a chocolatey affogato. Very good aftertaste too.