Thursday, 30 June 2011

French Baking Month: Cherry (and prune) Clafoutis



Welcome to the first recipe of my mini-series entitled French Baking Month. Otherwise known as 'recipes-created- in-a-two-week-holiday-of-eating-and-baking-around-the-South-of-France-and-having-a-jolly-good-time-doing-so'. French Baking Month is just a whole lot less of a mouthful. Especially when you have a gluttonously large mouthful of cherry clafoutis in your mouth.

I must confess my ignorance. I did not know what a clafoutis was before heading to France. If you hadn't told me it was a light, soft, almost fragile pudding studded with cherries, I'd have guessed it was an obscure French medical device used for rather delicate procedures.

(I'm really sorry if you'll forever more think of clafoutis as an obscure French medical device used for rather delicate procedures).

The classic French clafoutis is originally from the Limousin area of France, like the cows.

And a little tip: you're aiming for a light, puffy batter, rather than, say, an omelette.

I'm not selling this terribly well am I? At the moment, we have an ommelette based medical device made by cows.

Cherry Clafoutis
(by Raymond Blanc, Kitchen Secrets series, BBC)

Ingredients
450g stoned ripe cherries (try Morello or Montmorency cherries)
50g caster sugar
2-3 tbsps of Kirsch (optional, but recommended)

To prepare the dish:
10g unsalted metled butter
30g caster sugar

For the batter:
2 medium eggs
45g caster sugar
half a teaspoon pure vanilla extract
20g butter
20g plain flour
50ml whole milk
75ml whipping cream
pinch of sea salt

1. Prepare the cherries by mixing the cherries, sugar and kirsch in a bowl
2. Cover for 2 hours
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4
4. To prepare the dish, brush the inside with the melted butter. Add the sugar and tilt the dish to ensure the bottom and sides and covered evenly. Shake out the excess
5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla together until creamy
6. Meanwhile melt the butter in a small pan and cook to a beurre noisette. This is when the butter foams and turns a hazelbut colour, adding a delicious nuttiness to the clafoutis
7. Add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk until smooth, slowly incorporating the milk, cream, salt and beurre noisette
8. Stir in the cherries with their juice and poor into the prepared baking dish
9. To cook the clafoutis, bake for 3-35 minutes until the clafoutis is lightly risen and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean
10. Leave to stand for ten minutes

Baker's notes...
  • The centre cooks last; when checking in the oven to see if the clafoutis is cooked, if the centre is dipped slightly, you need to cook it for a little longer
  • The batter can be made up to 24 hours in advance
  •  Its a dead easy recipe. And there is much to like about dead easy recipes in soaring heat. 
  • Other fruits, such as figs, peaches or apricots work well, as do prunes as in the picture below:




PS: Sorry for the not-so-great quality of these pictures: they were taken late at night....and possibly after a few glasses of wine...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Introducing....

France.

The land of baguettes, Asterix, the jet-set Med, Champagne, revolutions, Monet and le Tarte Tatin.

And the land where we spent a glorious time celebrating my Dad's retirement last month.

This magnificent farmhouse had been rented in The Lot region in the South of France:

Front of the property

Back of the property

(and, nah, I don't moonlight as a French estate agent in my spare time)

With a whole bunch of family and friends, the bestest time was had.

Inspired by all the crackin' local produce and patisseries, Kate's Cakes and Bakes went into baking-overdrive. The blog (and blogger) were in foodie heaven. And over the next four weeks, the best of the French baking will be unveiled, in what will be known as:

'Kate's Gateaux et bakes: le Francais Month'

Did you see what I did there?

But first, just as un petit taster of what's to come, here are some photos from the local market and the like.

Yep, that was me, the annoying touirst ignorantly prodding my camera lens into the produce, much to the very likely utter exasperation of the stall holders.


Apricots. Or Abricot.


Peaches. Glorious, juicy peaches. The type of peaches you need to be wearing a bib to be eating.


Melon and Jambon. Surely the best starter known to (wo)man?


White Asparagus; nope, I didn't know they existed either


A last gasp photo before I gobbled the rest of this strawberry cake


Which one first? Okay, I'll have ALL of them.


We didn't just eat fruit and cakes. A fish stew made by my Dad.


Artichoke and melted butter. Yummmmm-mmmmy.

Coming up in a couple of days... Cherry Clafoutis - Ohh la la!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Fresh From the Oven: Sandwich Tin Loaf



For the last three months I've been hoping fervently that I'll get to be part of the Olympic Games in London next year.

Nope, I'm not awaiting to hear if I've been selected for the final line up of the Great British rhythmic gymnastic team.

I just want a ticket. Like most people.

Unsuccessful in the first round of ticket allocation (I actually thought no one else would be that interested in seeing the Opening Ceremony and 100m Final and duly applied for them...), I was up at 6.45am last Friday on my day off to compete in the First Come, First Serve second chance sales for the leftover tickets. Except, despite my early rising, I experienced 'technical difficulties', entirely of my own making. And all the tickets I'd intended to apply for (sports I like such as hockey, synchronized swimming, athletics, beach volleyball and handball) had all gone by the time I figured out how the application process worked.

I panicked.

And we now have two tickets to the Final of the Women's Freestyling Wrestling competition.

I know.

Totally random: I know diddly-squat about wrestling. There were two choices: I could have chosen 'Greco-Roman' - but I figured 'freestyle' might be, ahem, a little more hip and fun. I've subsequently looked at videos online of previous championships. The words 'Gagh! Glad I'm bl***y glad that isn't me!' were on a continuous loop through my head. 'Fun', it is not.

By this stage you may be wondering what on earth Women's Freestyle Wrestling has to do with a monthly bread blogging challenge.

Well, the dough in question, a sandwich bread loaf from Michel Roux Jnr and the programme Great British Food Revival, chosen by Jo from Jo's Kitchen, is a pretty sticky dough to have to knead. I was wrestling with it at one stage. Which, tenuous link that it is, reminded me of my panic-Olympic-ticket buying on Friday.

Although a little sticky (that'll be my rather liberal pouring of the golden syrup; do measure it), it is a great bread: tasty, more-ish and it keeps for a few days, making it ideal for the lunchbox.

Sanwich Tin Loaf
(Michel Roux Jnr and the programme Great British Food Revival)

Ingredients
20g golden syrup
25g melted butter
350ml warm milk
7g dried yeast or 10g fresh yeast
250g plain flour
250g strong bread flour
10g sea salt

1. If using the fresh yeast, stir the golden syrup and melted butter into the warm milk until well combined. Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and pour over the warm milk, stirring until the yeast has dissolved
2. Add the remaining ingredients and using a knife at first, then your hands mix to form a dough
3. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for five minutes
4. Lightly dust a work surface with plain flour and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic
5. Place in a clean bowl, cover with a teatowel or clingfilm , place in a warm place and allow to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size
6. Grease and flour a 12cmx20cm/5in x 8in bread tin
7. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knock back a few times. Divide equally into pieces and half into balls. Place the dough balls side by side in the prepared bread tin, cover with clingfilm and set aside to rise again, until double in size
8. Preheat the oven to 220C/410f?Gas Mark 7
9. Using a sharp knife, slash the dough a few times and place into the oven immediately
10. After ten minutes reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes or until eh bread is golden brown



Baker's notes...


  • If using dried yeast, mix the golden syrup, butter and milk together in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt and dried yeast. Add the syrup, butter and milk to the dried ingredients and bring together as above to form a dough
  • As I didn't have a sandwich loaf big enough, I shaped the loaf into a 'rugby ball' type shape instead
  • Store in a cool, airtight container for 2-3 days

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Kate's Cakes and Bakes: Top Bakes: the Best Ever Chocolate Brownie



The Chocolate Brownie.

'Ahhhhhhh-mmmmmmmmmm'.

That's the noise I make when the irresistible, gooey, decadent Brownie comes to mind. Any good cake shop, any successful baking recipe book and any decent Farmer's Market cake stall will sell you one or show you how to make one.

It seemed an obvious choice for the second in the occasional mini-series that is Kate's Cakes and Bakes- Top Bakes. 

Let me tell you about my favourite type of Brownie. I'm not a fan of nuts in my Brownies. Conventional Brownie-lovers may protest, clamoring to tell me that the nuts provide a welcome contrast to the rich, dense chocolate. But, in my world, the nuts just get in the way. A great Brownie provides the biggest, richest, fudgiest hit of chocolate you could get. Unless you throw yourself into a great big vat of the stuff at Cadbury's World that is. But I suspect they may frown upon such activity on the grounds of health and safety and the like.

The recipe I turn to time, time and time again is by Nigel Slater, who describes his recipe like so:

'The crust is thin and lightly crisp, the centre poised between chocolate cake and the texture of a peat bog. The flavour is intense. This isn't just gastroporn, this is positively pay-per-view. '

The one key thing here is that these bad boys need 70% cocoa solid chocolate. Accept no imitations.

Chocolate Brownies
(by Nigel Slater, Observer, June 2004)

Ingredients
300g golden caster sugar
250g butter
250g chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
60g flour
60g finest quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4.
2. Line the bottom of a baking tin, about 23cm x 23cm, with baking parchment
3. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes till white and fluffy
4. Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces, set 50g of it aside and melt the rest in a bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove it from the heat. 
5. Chop the remaining 50g into gravel-sized pieces
6. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork
7. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt
8. With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions
9. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface, then mix in the melted and the chopped chocolate with a large metal spoon
10. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa, gently and firmly, without knocking any of the air out
11. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes




Baker's notes...

  • To check the Brownies are baked, pierce the centre of the cake with a fork - it should come out sticky, but not with raw mixture attached to it. If it does, then return the brownie to the oven for three more minutes. But be well careful not to overcook.
  • Allow the Brownies to cool in the tin before removing. They will also solidify a little on cooling.
  • The Brownies will last 2-3 days in an airtight container...
  • ...2-3 days?? Not with me around. That'll be 2-3 hours then.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Random Recipes: Fruit, nut and honey bars

Random Recipes #5 - June


I was recently given River Cottage Handbook: Cakes by my good friend C. 


So it was a 'whoop-whoop-yeah!' as I turned to this month's brilliant Random Recipes Challengea random recipe chosen from your most recently gifted recipe book.


'River Cottage Handbook: Cakes'? Your time to shine. 

It's a lovely book, lots of hints, tips and more traditional bakes. Rhubarb Pudding Cake, Vinegar Cake, Somerset Cider Cake and Toffee Apple Cake all make an appearance. None if your fancy-pants cupcakes or cake pops here. 

I unveiled the Random Recipe Thumb Generator. 


Or in other words, flicking through the book with my thumb and with my eyes closed.

The God of Random Recipes (that'll be you, Dom off of Belleau Kitchen), can't have a terribly sweet tooth. Both last month's courgette cake and this month's chosen recipe are bloomin' healthy for cakes. But, the Thumb Generator has spoken, or thumbed. Fruit, Nut and Honey bars, coming up. 

In any case, my twisted logic reckons that the healthier the cake, the more slices you get to eat. I'm not one to complain about that. 



In the Handbook, these are described as the perfect energy bars- 'an energy dense, sustaining, mini meal' to be more precise. Do you reckon they still count as energy bars if I'm eating them lying prone on the sofa, feebly shouting 'Go Tim! Um, I mean Andy!' at the Wimbledon tennis on the television?


And finally, there is no note in the Handbook about them looking a little like the stuff you leave out in your garden in winter months for hungry birds....




Fruit, Nut and Honey Bars
(from River Cottage Handbook: Cakes)


Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
100g light soft brown sugar
100g honey
150ml fresh orange juice
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
200g porridge oats
100g dried apricots
100g dried cranberries and goji berries
50g chopped walnuts
125g mixed seeds, e.g. pumpkin, linseed, poppy, sunflower


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4.
2. Lightly grease and line with baking parchment a 18x25cm square shallow baking tin
3. Gently heat the butter, honey, sugar, fruit juice and zest in a large saucepan, stirring from time to tome
4. Once the butter has melted and all the ingredients blended together, remove from the heat and add the oats, dried fruit, nuts and 100g of the seeds and stir well
5. Transfer to the baking tin and level the surface
6. Sprinkle the remaining seeds evenly over the top
7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top
8. Cool before cutting into squares 


Baker's notes...


  • These will keep for up to 10 days in an airtight container
  • They are dead easy to make and you can select your own favourite berries, nuts and dried fruit. For example replace the cranberries and gojiberries with dried dates. Or replace the walnuts with almonds or hazelnuts.
  • I accidently (watching the tennis you see) left mine in the oven for about 10 minutes too long, hence the 'burnished' look!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

We Should Cocoa: Double chocolate and strawberry tart



Did you know that strawberries were once thought of as an aphrodisiac?

Nah, me neither. But apparently a soup of strawberry, borage and soured cream would be served to the bride and groom on their wedding day in medieval times.

Not only does this blog address all cake related matters, but you also get a mini history-of-love lesson thrown in for free.

My pleasure.

And, bringing history just slightly more up to date, with a sporty angle this time, around 2 million strawberries were eaten last year at Wimbledon, washed down with 7,000 litres of cream.  £2.50 gets you 10 Elsanta strawberries and cream, and the disappointment of watching Andy Murrey crash out in the semi-finals.

I don't work for the British Strawberry Promoting Board (if such a thing exists...I don't think it does but I do think I'd be shoo-in for CEO if it did), but the reason I am harping on a lot about strawberries again is that, to my delight, strawberries are the theme of this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Chocolette. Deee-lish. The premise is simple: create a cake with chocolate and strawberry.

NB: The white in the photo of the tart is not very unseasonable frost, it is white chocolate. Just in case it wasn't all that clear.

Double Chocolate and Strawberry tart

(adapted from Olive Magazine, April 2005)

Ingredients

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
110g butter, cubed
4-6 tbsp cold water

For the filling:
200g dark chocolate
1 tsp coffee granules
125g butter
60g plain flour
5 eggs
220g caster sugar
100ml whipping cream

For the decoration:
Punnet of strawberries, halved
approx. 4 squares of white chocolate, grated

1. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl, and add the butter, cubed
2. Use the fingertips to rub in the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs
3. Using a knife, stir in just enough cold water to bind the dough together
4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 10-15 minutes before using
5. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 24cm tart tin with the pastry (roll it as thin as possible). Bake blind for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, make the filling: melt together the butter, coffee and chocolate in a small pan over a gentle heat.
7. Whisk the eggs and sugar over a pan of simmering water (very gentle heat) until the mixture holds a trail, then fold in the chocolate mixture and flour. Add the cream. Pour the entire mixture into the tart case and bake for 15-20 minutes until just set
8. When cooled, decorate with the strawberries and add the grated chocolate. A sprig of mint sets the tart off beautifully.

Baker's notes...

  • To make the pastry using a food processor,  put the flour, butter and salt in the food processor and pulse until the fat is rubbed into the flour.With the motor running, gradually add the water through the funnel until the dough comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 10-15 minutes before using. 
  • It would work equally well with raspberries as decoration. Alternatively, when starwberries and raspberries are no longer in season (gagh!) a drizzling of a chocolate sauce and dusting of cocoa powder would work a treat
  • The chocolate filling resembles a brownie-type cake

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

White Chocolate Fudge

                                    


As you may have gathered after three months of blogging solely about cakes and bakes, I have a very sweet tooth.

In fact, my first two jobs involved working in sweet shops. The first was at The Bon Bon, a Saturday job at the tender age of thirteen, earning £1.90 an hour for four hours work, which felt an absolute fortune; I was the richest thirteen year old in the town. It all went on 'Smash Hits' magazines. I'd sit on my bedroom floor, crosslegged, each week desperately learning who was who in Take That [the first time round] to impress my mates the next day in school.

The shop closed shortly after I left. Unconfirmed rumours at the time suggested the closure was because I'd personally eaten all the stock during my four years working there.

The second job was a summer job while at university in America, in a place called Ocean City in Maryland, where I wore a bright pink t-shirt with 'CANDY KITCHEN' emblazoned all over it and sold taffy to the masses. I was on a one-woman mission to inform all the ever so friendly people who asked that I was proudly from Wales. This mission was heightened when one lovely customer asked if Wales was still a communist country. I replied that as far as I know it wasn't, but a lot may have happened in the summer I was away. 

When I made this fudge for my friend's birthday (lovely celebration it was too) it brought back loads of memories of my sweet-selling younger years. 

Fudge
(adapted from Olive Magazine, December 2009)

Ingredients

300g granulated sugar
300ml whipping cream
150g white chocolate

1. Butter and line a 22cm x 22cm tin, leaving a small overhang. With the quantities in this recipe you'll only be using roughly half-two thirds of the the tin and can use a little piece of baking parchment as a cut of
2. Put the sugar and cream in a large pan and, stirring slowly, bring it to a simmer
3. Make sure the sugar is dissolved (it will stop feeling grainy on the base of the pan), then turn the heat up to a rolling boil
4. Adjust the heat until the mixture bubbles without getting too near the top of the pan
5. Keep bubbling, stirring occasionally, until a small amount of mixture dropped into a glass of cold water will form a soft ball that you can pick up on the end of a teaspoon. Or a sugar thermometer reaches 118C
6. At this stage, the bubbles will have gone from being large and unruly to smaller and more even
7. Stir in the chocolate and pour the mixture into the tin
8. Cool and cut

Baker's notes....
  • Milk chocolate could easily replace the white chocolate in this recipe
  • I think I may have boiled it a tad too long- my fudge came out more 'crumbly' than the 'smooth, creamy' fudge promised in the recipe. All part of the masterplan as always.
  • The original recipe suggested adding Baileys (approx 50ml) for an extra treat along with the sugar and cream at the start






Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Cake Pops


I've a bit of a confession.

I hadn't heard of cake pops before a well known coffee chain started selling them a few months back. I was fascinated- what were these sweet treats on sticks?!

So I popped on Amazon and purchased a book by Bakerella, the original Cake Pop Queen herself.

[Bloomin' Amazon, who have my card details, which means I don't have to type them in, which means it feels like I'm not paying for anything, ergo large weekly spend on recipe books]

I read devoured Bakerella's book cover to cover one night before going to sleep. Which led to sickly sweet dreams. You have been warned.

Not only was the book suitably inspiring, but I'd also read on the BBC Food Blog that they are: 'thankfully nowhere near as daunting as creating the perfect macaron'. Following my further recent incidents with macarons, I was sold.

Ingredients

Madeira Cake
(from the Waitrose website)

170g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
170g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
4 eggs
170g plain flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp baking powder

Frosting:

170g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
390g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

To decorate:

candy melts
sugar hearts
lollipop sticks

To make the madeira cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150Cfan/Gas Mark 3
2. Butter a 20cm-diameter round cake tin and line with greaseproof paper
3. Put the butter, sugar, orange and lemon zest in a food processor and whiz until fluffy
4. Still beating, add one egg at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next
5. Add the lemon juice, then the flour, salt and baking powder
6. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for about an hour or until golden and springy

To make the frosting:

1. Cream the butter and vanilla
2. Add the sugar in three separate batches, continue to cream throughout
3. If needed, add the milk gradually to make the frosting less stiff

To make the cake pops:

1. Crumble the cake into crumbs using your fingers
2. Add the frosting and combine the frosting and cake with a metal spoon


3. It should be thoroughly combined and easy to shape into balls


4. Roll the mixture with the palm of your hands into balls measuring roughly one and a half inches in diameter
5. Place them in the freezer, wrapped in a freezer bag or cling film for 15-20 minutes to cool and firm. Don't leave any longer otherwise they may freeze
6. Meanwhile melt the candy covering as per the instructions on pack. I think I melted mine for 30 seconds on high, stirred the mixture, then melted again for a further 30 seconds
7. To dip: one at a time, dip about a quarter of an inch of the tip of the stick into the melted candy coating then insert straight into a cake ball, pushing no more than halfway through


8. Holding the lollipop stick with the cake ball attached, dip the entire cake ball into the melted coating until completely covered and remove, all in one swift motion
9. If an excess coating begins to drip from the cake pop, gently tap the stick against the bowl containing the coating. It may also help to gently rotate the cake pop to even out the coating
10. Decorate the pop with the sugar hearts

Baker's notes....

  • This is a proper afternoon cake project- set aside 3 hours
  • The madeira cake recipe can be made 1-2 days in advance. Bakerella, the original Cake Pop Queen advocates using either a shop bought cake or cake mix for the first few attempts at cake pops, as she feels its an easy way to learn the basics and ensures consistent results. Check out the post here for instructions using a cake mix and shop-bought frosting
  • I melted the candy in a mug, as this was suitably deep to allow good dipping to be going on
  • I reckon you could also use melted chocolate (milk, dark, white) as well as the candy coating (which can be purchased from any good cakecraft shop or online; I used Wilton's candy melts)
  • To hold the pops while they are drying, either use a styrofoam block, or, as I did, grab an old shoebox, cover it in foil and using a sharp knife and lollipop stick as a guide, cut out a dozen little holes, which can then hold the pops in nicely while they set
  • This recipe makes approximately 30 depending on the size of the pops
  • Once you've frozen the balls, if they appear to be warming up very quickly once out of the freezer, simply pop them to keep in the fridge until needed
  • A clean, swift dipping motion ensures the balls don't fall in, or get covered in too much coating
  • Decorate each pop immediately after dipping; they dry super-fast as I discovered and the decorations won't stick to the pops
  • Use a toothpick of the back of a small spoon to encourage the coating to cover any areas of the cake pop that may have been missed during the dip
  • Try to avoid double dipping, because the chocolate weighs down the ball and this happens:
  • Oops
  • The pops keep for a good few days in an airtight container or the fridge
  • I popped them in a gift bag, tied them with some pretty ribbon and gave them as wedding presents

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Great British Strawberry


Sometimes in life, simplicity is king.

Indeed, as Nigel Slater once said, all you need is: 'freshness, simplicity and flavour'. He was obviously talking about food, rather than, say, socks.

A case in point: the British Strawberry.

The quintessential British fruit. The one foodstuff that heralds the start of the British summertime. That evokes memories of long warm summer days, lazy picnics and Wimbledon. And is of course the consolation fruit when British tennis players crash out in the Quarterfinals to groans of despair from tennis fans the length and breadth of the country.

The berries imported from abroad throughout the rest of the year are a poor tasteless imitation (I'm not holding back here am I?) of the British Strawberry, in all its succulent, juicy, sublimely sweet glory.

When I bought a punnet of British Strawberries the other day my head fizzled with loads of different recipes to try: a shortbread perhaps? a scone? or a little more ambitious, a cheesecake, roulade or torte?

But, as purists would agree, the British Strawberry is simply divine with a splash of cream...




..and, ahem, also a sprinkling of some lovely new dark chocolate from the Rabot Estate chocolate shop in Borough market.

And to really enhance their flavour, mix 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of black pepper and 25g caster sugar. Add to 450g strawberries and leave for one hour. Lush.

How do you eat yours?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Kate's Cakes and Bakes: Top Bakes: Best Ever Carrot Cake Recipe


This is the first in an occasional mini-series entitled 'KatesCakesandBakes: Top Bakes'.

These recipes have come through a gruelling selection process over many months (think Simon Cowell meets Judge Judy meets Miss Trunchbull).

And to even be considered for audition for this occasional mini-series they will have had to:
  • be foolproof and failsafe
  • be reliable and reputable
  • be delectable and divine
  • be simple and striaghtforward
  • paid a small monetary bribe
Some tough, tough terms of inclusion you'll find. 

My first offering?
The carrot cake. Now I appreciate in previous posts I may have been rather disparaging of cakes containing vegetables. But the carrot cake is in a league of its own.
This one I've been baking since forever. Or at least June of last year when I first read about it in Good Food magazine.
The recipe goes a little like this, (I've changed a tiny bit from the original):

Ingredients
zest and juice 1 orange
50g sultanas
150ml sunflower oil , plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
140g soft light brown sugar
170g self-raising flour
2 tsp each ground cinnamon and ground mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g carrots, grated
50g walnuts (optional)

100g full fat cream cheese
25g butter, softened
45g icing sugar, sifted

1. If you have time, put the orange zest and juice in a bowl with the sultanas and rest overnight
2. Otherwise simply stir the zest, juice and sultanas together and microwave for 1 minute
3. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease and line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin
4. Whisk together the oil and eggs
5. Mix together the sugar, flours, mixed spice, cinnamon and bicarbonate in a large bowl
6. Add the sultanas with any juice and zest left in the bowl, grated carrot, walnuts and whisked egg mixture and thoroughly mix with a wooden spoon
7. Tip into the loaf tin and bake on the middle shelf for 1 hr, or until a skewer comes out clean
8. Cool the cake in the tin
9. Meanwhile make the icing. With an electric whisk, beat together the soft cheese, butter, icing sugar and cinnamon until smooth
10. Spread over the top of the cooled cake with a spoon and decorate with walnut halves

Baker's notes...
  • The original recipe had double the quantity I've specified here for the icing ingredients. Even my sweet tooth couldn't quite handle that much icing
  • I've made it without the walnuts a couple of times and it is still super tasty
  • It will last for 2 days or so in an airtight container or fridge
  • The cake freezes well, providing you freeze it before icing
  • If the icing doesn't float your boat, try serving the cake with a bit of Greek yogurt