Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rhubarb and Ginger Soured Cream Upside Down Cake

Its almost the end of May.

In theory we ought to be merrily dusting off the BBQ, enjoying the summery scent of freshly mown grass and blossom and dining alfresco (or at least down the local pub garden).

Instead, I've been putting the heating on, seeing snow return and reading magazine articles entitled 'Bikini Body in Two Weeks' while thinking 'Really? Pray, What is the point?...Pass me the cake'.

Indeed, the only sure fire sign it is Spring is the return of Kate Humble and co on the telly with SpringWatch.

Still, we can attempt to celebrate the season by baking. With juicy summer berries but a few weeks away (apparently), I'm making the most of the last of the season's homegrown rhubarb with the Soured Cream Rhubarb and Ginger Upside Down Cake.

Thing is with a lot of our seasonal fruit and vegetables, its all of nothing (see also: courgette). One week every single mealtime involves rhubarb, the next we've moved on to the asparagus. And there are only so many rhubarb crumbles on can joyfully tuck into without a sense of deja vu. I suppose the giant rhubarb leaves could make useful headgear for a rainy Wimbledon or Ascot. And the stalks could potentially double up as rounders bats....

Rhubarb and Ginger Upside Down Cake

For the topping:

450g rhubarb, washed and trimmed into 1 inch piece
50g butter
50g caster sugar

For the cake:

210g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsps ground ginger
pinch of salt
115g butter softened
180g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
120ml soured cream
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped

1. Melt the butter in a pan, add the sugar and rhubarb and stir to combine. Gently stir on a low heat until the rhubarb is softened but still retains its shape (approximately a few minutes). Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Lightly grease and line a 20cm diameter round cake tin. Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and salt into a bowl and set aside
3. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs  until fully combined
4. Add half of the flour mixture followed by half the sour cream and beat until just combined. Repeat, until the all the flour and cream is added. Stir in the stem ginger
5. Spread the rhubarb pieces across the bottom of the tin and top with the cake batter, smoothing over evenly with the back of a metal spoon or a spatula
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
7. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche

Baker's notes...

  • If you are still looking for rhubarb-piration, here's what I made last year. And earlier.
  • Perhaps not the prettiest of cakes this one, but it was mighty tasty (according to my ravenous work colleagues who devoured it in 6 minutes flat, a new record).
  • Rhubarb can be frozen of course- it's easier to cut the stalks into inch sized pieces first
  • What have you been baking with rhubarb this year?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Anise, Almond and Lemon Biscuits

The humble biscuit.

It brightens up teatime, is happily dunked in all manner of hot beverages and sustained the entire Royal Navy for many an intrepid voyage. 

This months Tea Time Treats blogging challenge, hosted by Karen, is, you guessed it, biscuits. I deliberated for some time (the entire final episode of MasterChef infact) what to bake. I toyed with the idea of baking an All-American Cookie. For a while, a fancy iced biccie was on the cards. Then I thought to recreate one of those paper-tasting Pink Wafers that everyone always leaves behind in biscuit selection tins. 

Then I stumbled upon a very popular biscuit recipe by the Hairy Bikers for Lemon and Cardamom Biscuits. A trip to Norway inspired the Hairy Bikers to bake these biscuits. The addition of cardamom provides a warm sweet-spicy flavour. 
I decided to experiment. 

While I wouldn't got as far as saying it was an experiment that changed the world (I'm certainly not comparing my experiment to Darwin's Orchid or the Smallpox vaccination, for example). But it was a terrifically tasty biscuit. 

Anise, Almond and Lemon Biscuits

225g butter softened
125g caster sugar
1 lemon, zest only
250g plain flour
100g ground almond
1 heaped tsp ground anise seeds (dry fried; see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Line two large baking sheets
2. Beat the butter, sugar and zest together for at least a few minutes until pale and fluffy
3. Beat in the flour, almonds and anise until well combined. The mixture will begin to form a stiff dough
4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes
5. Roll the dough into 20-24 small balls and place, well separated, onto the prepared baking sheets. Using the back of a large spoon or upturned glass press down and flatten the balls of dough
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, a tray at a time, until golden. The biscuits should still be soft upon removing from the oven and will harden as they cool

Baker's notes...
  • To obtain a stronger flavour, dry-fry the anise seeds in a hot frying pan for a few minutes until the aroma is released
  • The biscuits last up to seven days. Try seven minutes at our place. 
  • I'm not the only fan of BBC's Hairy Bikers, Dave and Simon. Delia, in a recent interview with the Radio Times, said they made cooking not only funny but made viewers want to make the dishes they cooked. Here's one converted viewer for certain.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Rhubarb Eton Mess

Everything I've learnt about boarding schools were from the well thumbed pages of Enid Blyton's 'Mallory Towers' and 'St Clare's'.

'Prep'...'lacrosse'...'tuck'... these exotic words meant very little. Our school dinner puddings would involve, largely, semolina. Or on a special occasion, Jam Roly Poly with that peculiar school-dinner-issue thick custard that always left a trail of custard-skin on the spoon. Custard-skin that would be carefully, with almost surgical precision, be extracted and discarded.

It seemed pupils at boarding schools had way nicer puds. Take Eton for example. They've an entire, classic, delicious, summery dessert named after the College. Traditionally served at the annual cricket match against Harrow School, Eton Mess is a marvellous mix of strawberries, meringue and cream. Not a semolina rice in sight.

Nigella adds pomegranate juice to her version. Heston makes his with bananas. Me? I've made a roasted rhubarb Eton Mess. Lovely.

Roasted Rhubarb Eton Mess

(six individual servings)

For the meringue:

4 large egg whites
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar, sifted

For the roasted rhubarb:

550-600g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and roughly cut into 1 inch pieces
85g golden caster sugar

To serve:

250ml double cream
A sprig or two of mint

1. Firstly make the meringue: preheat the oven to 110C/ 100C fan/Gas Mark 1⁄4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Beat the egg whites on a medium speed until the egg whites become cloud-like and foamy and the stiff peak stage is reached. Turn up the mixer speed and gradually add the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating between each addition. The mixture will be thick and glossy when all the caster sugar has been added. 

3. Fold in the icing sugar, a third at a time. The mixture should be smooth with a satin sheen

4. Gently spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hr 15 minutes to 1 hr 45 minutes until the meringues are coffee coloured and they sound crisp when tapped underneath.  Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside, undisturbed, until the oven is completely cold. Set the meringue aside.
5. To roast the rhubarb: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Place the trimmed rhubarb in an ovenproof dish and evenly sprinkle over the golden caster sugar. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes, checking half way through and giving the dish a gentle shake to distribute the sugar. The rhubarb should be soft but still retain their shape
6. To assemble: Whip the cream in a large bowl. Crush the meringue into small pieces and mix in with the cream. Divide the cooled roasted rhubarb between the serving glasses and spoon over the meringue. Decorate with the mint

Bakers notes...
  • There are three great things about Eton Mess. Firstly, it's delicious. Secondly, it's ever so easy to make. And thirdly, there's no worrying about fancy presentation. Pop it in a nice glass and decorate with a sprig of mint.
  • To make the perfect meringues: make sure all equipment is scrupulously clean, ensure the eggs are fresh and the oven temperature is low- an oven thermometer is a worthwhile investment for dodgy ovens. They can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks. The meringue recipe above is based upon Good Food Magazine's Ultimate Meringue recipe. Felicity Cloake, in her brilliant 'Perfect..' series explores lots of different meringue recipes right here

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Best Jobs in Food and Chocolate and Lime Loaf Cake

Masterchef drew to a close this week, with Natalie being crowned the winner.

Following several weeks of judging the best amateur cooking in the whole country, surely Greg Wallace and John Torrode have the best job in food?

Or do they?!

Here's the What Kate Baked Top 10 Best Jobs in Food!

(Cue old-skool chart run down music...)

10. Straight in at Ten is Judge of the National Pie Championships. Elastic jogging trousers at the ready folks, judges for this US competition attend training before they begin the judging. That's right, training. Apparently, it isn't just a simple case of pie-spoon-mouth-tummy-score.

9. In at 9: London Fashion Week Chef. Lets be honest, models don't really eat stuff, right? Think of all those glorious leftovers!

8. Chocolate Shop Owner. Just imagine owning your very own chocolate shop! You'd wake up each day thinking 'I AM Willy Wonka!'...except, hopefully, record-breaking gum-chewing customers won't end up blowing up into blueberries (see Violet Beauregarde)

7. Steady at Seven, it's....Mary Berry. Queen of Prime-Time Baking Shows! Nation's Nicest Judge! Friend of Mel-n-Sue!

6. At six: The Coffee Master Roaster. Just think how cheerful you'd be each morning as you wake to the smell of some of the World's best coffee beans roasting merrily. 

5. And the Top five! Master Brewer...Gin Queen... Champagne Buyer... cocktail Maestro... Pimms Secret-Keeper...Its the Best Boozy Jobs!

4. Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer. Just imagine the dinner party conversations:

'So, what do you do for a living?'
'I'm a Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer'
'I'm sorry, what?'
'I'm a Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer'
'Oh. Wow....So, prices are rising again aren't they?'

3. Its the Top Three! In at 3: Primal Ice Cream Therapist. I'm sorry, what? This, folks, is the name given to the 'Flavour Guru' at a well-known Ice Cream company. The job involves eating up to a whooping five pints of ice cream a week.

2. Father Christmas- just think, how many mince pies does he get to eat on Christmas Eve? Exactly. 

1. Food Blogger. I have to bake a cake each week. For 'the blog'. For example, this week I baked this Chocolate and Lime Loaf Cake. Lush:

As for the Worst Job in Food...surely that goes to the 'Garbage Anthropologist'?

Chocolate and Lime Loaf Cake


175g softened butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
100ml milk
5 tbsps cocoa powder
Zest 1 lime
3-4 tbsps Lime Curd
1 tsp icing sugar to decorate

1. Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin with a strip of baking parchment

2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electrical whisk until nicely light and fluffy
3. Beat in the eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, milk, cocoa and lime zest until smooth
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin
5. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden, risen and a skewer poked into the very centre of the cake comes out clean
6. Cool in the tin and once cooled lift out and place on a wire rack
7. Slice the loaf horizontally in two and spread the lime curd on the bottom layer. Sandwich the two layers back together
8. Sieve over a little icing sugar to decorate

Baker's notes...

  • The kind folk at Mackays sent me a few jars of their zesty Lime Curd to incorporate into my baking. Once I'd stopped generously slathering it on my toast each morning with glee, I choose to combine the creamy curd with sweet chocolate in this loaf cake
  • For extra chocolatey-goodness, stir in a handful of chocolate chips into the mixture before popping in the oven
  • If you haven't the ground almonds to hand, simply replace with plain flour

Friday, 3 May 2013

Children With Cancer UK: Bake Club Month

Reading Clubs, Sewing Clubs, Gardening Clubs, Baking Clubs...

There are Clubs for pretty much every single activity you can think of. 
(Probably even Club Biscuits Clubs [Ohhh, imagine sitting around discussing the merits of the Orange one versus the Fruit one. And they even have a theme tune]).

It may not come as a huge surprise to you to hear I am, a big fan of Bake Clubs. And while tucking into slice after glorious slice of cake in a Baking Club is a rather marvellous way to spend a couple of hours, raising money for a very good cause while doing so is even better.
May marks the launch of Bake Club Month for the charity Children with Cancer UK. The charity funds life-saving research into the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood cancer and works to protect young lives through essential welfare and campaigning programmes including supporting hospices. At work, our Children's Wards are organizing a Bake Club event this month to celebrate and raise vital money... And I can promise you I will be first in line.

If you too would like to get involved with Bake Club month, you can find more details here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Giveaway! Belvoir Fruit Farms Hamper!

Today is my birthday. And while I treat myself with cake, cake and more, erm, cake here's a treat for you lovely What Kate Baked readers: The opportunity to win this glorious Belvoir Cordials Picnic Hamper.

Belvoir Fruit Farms make naturally delicious Cordials, Press├ęs and Fruit Crushes. The winner of this glorious hamper can enjoy two of their signature Cordials as well as a lovely selection of sweet treats. 

All you have to do is leave a comment below answering the following:

'My favourite place in the whole wide world to enjoy a picnic is...'

Good luck y 'all!

The Small Print..
  • The giveaway will close 12:00 Sunday 12th May 2013
  • The winner will be chosen at random from the comments left below
  • All decisions are final, no correspondence will be entered into and there is no cash alternative
  • The winner will be contacted by email and the prize sent directly by Belvoir Fruit Farms