Sunday, November 16, 2008

Plain Jane?

Sometimes appearances can be deceiving, this looks like a pretty boring cake but in fact it's perfect. A moist firm crumb which holds it's shape when cut and improves with age. It comes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking which I picked up on my trip to Houston. I had never heard of her before I bought this but have since discovered that there are an mpressive 41 pages on egullet devoted to this book. Everything is in cups, but I weighed it all as I went along and have only given my measurements here.

Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking)
makes two 2 pint loaves

390g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
425g vanilla sugar*
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
150 mls double cream
2 1/2 tbsp rum
210g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

85ml water
45g sugar
60ml rum
  • preheat the oven to 180 deg C
  • grease two loaf pans
  • sift together the flour, salt and baking powder
  • beat together eggs and sugar until tripled in volume
  • whisk in the vanilla extract, then the cream and the rum
  • fold in the dry ingrediants
  • fold in the melted butter
  • bake for 55-60 mins (check after 30, if the tops are getting too brown cover with foil)
Once the cakes go into the oven start making the syrup.
  • stir sugar and water together over a low heat until sugar is dissolved
  • bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the rum
  • leave to cool
When cakes are cooked leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin and then unmold. Turn the right way up, pierce all over with a skewer and brush over the syrup. Work slowly with the syrup to ensure in all gets soaked up.
* I actually use vanilla sugar in pretty much all my baking. Simply chop
two vanilla pods into thirds add to the sugar and store in an airtight
jar (I use a Kilner jar as you can see). Top up the sugar and give a little
shake to mix as you go along.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Time for Cake

I'm not a great fan of Christmas cake, I find it a bit too rich and I don't like marzipan or icing either. I wasn't going to make one at all this year until I was flicking through my copy of Nigella's 'Feast' (her best book IMO) and came across this recipe which is for a lighter cake that is later topped with glazed nuts and candied fruit. It's very simple to make, I substituted apricot jam for the chestnut puree and also used brandy rather than rum - both of these are suggested by Nigella herself. Don't skip on preparing the tin, you don't want the cake getting too dark around the edges.

Easy Light Christmas Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)
525g mixed dried fruit
250g glace cherries
175g unsalted butter
250g dark brown sugar
250g apricot jam
125ml brandy
juice and zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • double line and grease a 10" square tin
  • put two layers of brown paper around the outside of the tin (secured with string), it should stand 3-4" proud of the tin
  • chop cherries in quarters and add to heavy pan along with the rest of the dried fruit
  • add the butter, sugar, jam, rum, orange juice and both zests
  • over a low heat stir until the butter has melted
  • bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins
  • remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 mins
  • preheat the oven to 150 deg C
  • sieve together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • lightly stir in the eggs and flour mix
  • pour into the prepared tin
  • bake for 1 3/4 - 2 hours, the cake is done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
Once the cake has cooled completely wrap the cake in two layers of greaseproof paper followed by two layers of tinfoil.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Preparation Time

I know it's a bit early to be talking about Christmas but some things, like cake, pudding and mincemeat, taste better when left to mature for a while. Back when I was a teenager my friend S and I made our Christmas money by selling mince pies to our nieghbours. When I think back on it, it was a highly organised affair. The mince pie enterprise started in late November when we canvassed the nieghbourhood for orders. Then it was time to made the mincemeat. leaving it to mature for a few weeks. Typically we made about 1000 mince pies over a single weekend in M's kitchen, then delivered them in nicely packaged boxes a few days before Christmas.

I have always used this recipe from Delia, the real key is the quality of your ingrediants. Buy whole candied citrus peel and chop it yourself - the taste doesn't even begin to compare with the bitter stuff you get in the supermarket. I bought all my stuff in The Gourmet Shop, just beacause I can walk there from work. Interestingly I bought some ground almonds also @ €17.50 /kg .I priced them the next day in my local Tesco where the cheapest ones (and they were on 'special') were €21.50/kg!! It always pays to shop around.