Tag Archives: Cinnamon

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Baking with SpiritI’ve moved house since my last post.  I was only moving three minutes away, but given how much crap I seem to have accumulated on top of the ridiculous amount of stuff I already had, it turned into a feat of epic proportions.  I succeeded though, and have been busy settling in and discovering the quirks of my new kitchen (as well as trying to find the best light for photos – I’m still working on that one).  The first thing that I unpacked was all my baking paraphernalia, so that I could participate in this month’s Baking with Spirit, guest-hosted by Craig over at The Usual Saucepans.  He has challenged us to “Reinvent a Classic.”

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 1

Initially, I wanted to do something G&T-inspired – Craig and I first became friends after discovering a mutual love for gin, so it seemed appropriate.  I had a few ideas, but I wasn’t really feeling excited about any of them.  Then, as I was unpacking some bottles of ginger beer, it hit me.  Gin and ginger beer is a thing (well… I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.  Ok, I just looked it up and apparently it’s gin and ginger ale that’s a thing.  A thing called a Gin Gin).  A couple of years ago, I had spiced mulled gin served with apple juice and it was delicious (made by Craig actually – how fitting).  What if I made an apple and ginger upside-down cake with gin in it?

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 2

So that’s exactly what I did.  There isn’t actually any ginger beer (or ginger ale) in the cake because I didn’t want to open a whole bottle just to use a little bit, but it’s represented by ginger and other spices.  I thought about making this with pears, but I happened to have plenty of apples and no pears, so that was that.  Like many upside-down cakes, this is definitely a make-the-day-before cake.  I tried some of the cake not long after baking and couldn’t taste the gin, but the flavour developed overnight and you could taste it the next day – it was subtle, but added something a little different to the flavour profile of the cake.

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 3

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm apples that keep their shape when baking are key, as you don’t want them to disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of apples required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  I reckon the recipe would be equally delicious with pears rather than apples, or a mix of the two.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in and the gin flavour can develop, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
275g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp gin
3 or 4 apples (I used Granny Smith)

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar
3 tbsp gin

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and gin into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, stir in the gin and pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the apples over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (much easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 4

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Pear & almond tart

I wasn’t sure what to expect following my last post.  Actually, I didn’t think anyone would still be following Sharky Oven Gloves, so I wasn’t expecting much of a reaction at all.  Not only am I touched (and surprised!) by how many of you are still loitering and took the time to comment, it was also really encouraging to hear that I’m not alone in feeling frustrated with the state of affairs within the food blogging community.  Thank you for sticking around guys!

Pear & almond tart 1

With my usual knack for excellent timing, things went a little haywire right after I published that post.  Between a string of minor disasters at the lab, some slightly dramatic strife with somebody (and an apparent alliteration problem), the ensuing feeling of wretchedness, finding out that I have to move house in two weeks and starting to organise the details of that, I’ve had to divert my attention away from the newly revived Sharky Oven Gloves.  But I finally have a recipe for you today: pear and almond tart.

Pear & almond tart 2

The recipe this tart is based on neglected to specify the size of tin required…  So I guessed.  My guess was entirely based on the one size of tart tin that I happen to own, and that guess turned out to be wrong.  The pastry valiantly managed to contain all the filling, but only just.  I’ve ironed out the ratios and made a few other tweaks, resulting in a super scrumptious autumnal tart – pears scream autumn to me, and the almond filling makes the tart all dense and delicious and comforting.  Exactly what one needs to fend off the sudden, unwelcome appearance of winter this week.  As for the pastry, well, yum.  It’s a chocolate pâte sablée, which I always struggle to translate – I think it roughly translates to shortbread pastry.  The internet says “sweet cookie dough” which isn’t especially helpful.  Either way, its delicate chocolateyness works wonderfully with the pears and almonds.

Pear & almond tart 3

Pear & almond tart

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Tartes maison

The pastry can rest in the fridge for up to 2 days, so can be made the day before if time is a little on the tight side.  The recipe makes more recipe than required, but you could try freezing the leftovers or making a little extra tartlet.  The honey at the end is optional, but adds a little bit extra.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
200g all-purpose flour
65g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter
1 egg
2 tbsp crème fraîche

For the filling:
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
120g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
200g ground almonds
4 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large or 4 small pears
Handful of flaked almonds
3 tbsp honey (optional)

Directions

To make the pastry:
1.  Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Rub the cubed butter into the mixture with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Whisk the egg and crème fraîche together in a small bowl before adding to the flour mixture.  Mix together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.

3.  Lay out a piece of cling-film, turn the dough out onto it and form into a disc 18cm in diameter.  Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for at least 30 mins and up to 48h.

4.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.  Butter and flour a 24cm tart tin.

5.  Remove the pastry from the fridge and carefully roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 3-4mm.  Carefully transfer it to the prepared tart tin by draping it over the rolling pin (it’s quite a fragile pastry, so delicacy is key here).  Cut off any overhanging pastry and prick the bottom with a fork.  If your kitchen is really hot and the pastry is starting to go soft and sticky, refrigerate the pastry for about 30 mins.  Otherwise, line it with baking paper, add baking beans and blind-bake it for 5 mins.  Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/fan bake 170°C and blind bake for a further 5-10 mins, until the pastry is just firm.  Remove the baking beans.  Keep the oven at 190°C/fan bake 170°C.

To make the tart:
6.  Whilst the pastry is baking, prepare the filling.  Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating only until just incorporated.  Fold in the ground almonds, flour and cinnamon.  Set aside.

7.  Half the pears lengthwise, peel and core them.  If you’ve used three large pears, cut each half into four segments, if you’ve used four small pears, cut each half into three segments.

8.  Once the pastry is blind-baked, spread the almond filling evenly over the base.  Lay the pears over the top, gently pushing them in.  Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.  Bake for 30-35, mins until the filling is set and golden.

9.  Just before the tart is done, add the honey to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until very runny.  Brush the honey over the top of the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven (it can be a little difficult not to displace the almonds), then allow the tart to cool in the tin for 10 mins or so, before turning out onto a wire rack.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

Enjoy!

Pear & almond tart 4

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Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

As this post publishes, I should be about 10,000m in the air.  On a plane, obviously.  Specifically on a plane somewhere between Sydney and Heathrow.  Which doesn’t really narrow things down much.  And actually, my exact geographical location is largely irrelevant – the point is that I’m off to Edinburgh for a month.  It won’t really be a holiday, but I’m still excited to see my mum and family.  I’m just hoping that the UK’s sudden recent bout of real summer carries on whilst I’m there.  Whatever the weather, posts are likely to be even more sporadic than they currently are.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 1

Going away for a month means having a serious fridge and pantry clear out.  I had done a rather good job of using up all my perishables without having to resort to any bizarre combinations, but still had a few nashi pears (aka Asian pears) kicking around.  Since I had more nashi pears than days left to eat them in and I knew that my housemates wouldn’t eat them, I decided to bake with them (big surprise there…).  I happened across a nashi pear and ginger upside-down cake recipe which, aside from making me salivate, also called for 200g of yoghurt, which is precisely how much I had left in the fridge.  A clear sign from the, uhm, pantry gods (uhm, yeah…), that this recipe just had to be tested.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 2

I adore the combination of pear and ginger, and nashi pears are no exception.  Like any decent upside-down cake, the sides go a little crispy and all caramely and delicious.  The cake itself is basically gingerbread, which to me just smacks of a perfect winter treat.  The slice that was missing by the time the cake got to the lab was obviously an offering of thanks to the pantry gods and nothing at all to do with my breakfast.  I mean really, who would ever eat cake for breakfast?  Definitely not me, nope.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 3

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from Anna Eats Auckland

This would work equally well with normal pears or even apples (choose a variety of pear or apple with pretty firm flesh so that they keep their shape and don’t go all mushy).  The Chelsea golden syrup here in NZ seems to be a little richer in flavour than that in the UK, so if you’re using Lyle’s perhaps think about substituting a little bit of the golden syrup for treacle.  I prefer eating the cake the next day so that the caramel can soak in, but it’s also delicious served warm, perhaps accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
250ml (340g) golden syrup (not the easy-pour stuff)
175g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain Greek-style yoghurt (normal would be fine, too)
75g crystallised ginger

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
3 medium or 2 large nashi pears

Directions

To make the cake:
1.  Line the bottom of a deep 24cm round cake tin (mine is 5cm deep).  Line a baking tray larger than the cake tin with tin foil.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is melted.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a medium mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Add the sugar, golden syrup, eggs and melted butter (you’ll need to melt more butter later so save yourself some washing up by re-using the same saucepan) into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Fold in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon until just combined.  Roughly chop the crystallised ginger, add to the batter with the yoghurt and stir until combined.

To make the caramel:
4.  Add the sugar and butter to the small saucepan from earlier and melt together over a low heat until smooth.  Meanwhile, peel and core the nashi pears.  Slice medium-sized pears into eights or large pears into twelfths.

5.  Pour the melted caramel into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pear slices over the caramel and then carefully pour and spread the cake batter over the top.  Place on the prepared baking tray (this will catch any caramel that might bubble over) and bake for 55-65 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy!

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 4

 

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Apple flamusse

Apple say what now?  Flamusse aux pommes is a Burgundian speciality.  Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m from a region right next to Burgundy and had never heard of a flamusse aux pommes until last weekend when I happened to be flicking through my trusty Larousse des desserts for ideas on how to make a slight apple surplus disappear.  Turns out that it’s effectively an apple clafoutis.

Apple flamusse 1

I added spices because A) I am pretty much incapable of baking without spices, particularly in winter, and B) it’s actually a crime not to pair apples with spices – I mean come on, apples are just crying out for cinnamon at the very least.  Since I’ve never eaten apple flamusse before, I’ve no idea how “traditional” this recipe is.  Frankly, I’m not particularly bothered because the results were marvellous, and it’s not my regional speciality that I’m messing with, so I’m not fiercely protective of it.  There was a terribly French, rather insouciant shrug happening whilst I wrote the latter part of that sentence.

Apple flamusse 2

AlphaBakesThis month’s special letter for the AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, is “F.”  F for flamusse – how convenient!  That’s actually one of the reasons I ended up settling on this recipe – there are so many apple recipes out there that I was having a hard time choosing which one to try out.  It ended up being a rather excellent choice and came out scrumptiously delicious, provided you like flan-like textures (I know not everybody is into that sort of egginess).  Some rum-soaked raisins would no doubt make an excellent addition – I didn’t test that theory out as I didn’t think that would be quite appropriate for a Tuesday morning at the lab…

Apple flamusse 3

Apple flamusse

Serves 6-8
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

 

Pick a type of apple that will hold its shape when baking but isn’t too sweet – I used braeburns.  The flamusse can be served either warm or fully cooled, and will keep for a day or two.

Ingredients

4 apples (I used braeburn)
75g caster sugar
60g all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
500ml whole milk
Icing sugar, to serve

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round fluted tart tin.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C.

2.  Peel and core the apples and finely slice them.  Lay the slices in overlapping concentric rings in the tart tin.  I like to alternate the direction of the apple slices from ring to ring, but that’s just personal preference.

3.  Sift the sugar, flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together with a fork.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until completely smooth.  Stir in the milk a little at a time.

4.  Carefully pour the mixture over the apples (do this near the oven as the tin will be pretty full) and bake for about 45 mins until golden and cooked (if it looks really wibbly-wobbly, bake a little longer).  Allow to cool for 15-20 mins before turning out onto a plate (make sure you do it whilst the flamusse is still warm).  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm or fully cooled.

Enjoy!

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Getting mildly tipsy off cake: Spiced banana & rum loaf

The majority of my baking gets taken into the lab, where it gets enthusiastically devoured by students and staff alike.  But I’m always a bit stuck when it comes to alcoholic baked goods.  Getting people a little tipsy off cake seems to be a particular skill of mine, and whilst the lab would no doubt happily scoff any alcoholic offerings down, particularly on a Friday when nobody really gets much work done anyway, the lab manager might not be too happy.  Since he wasn’t in the best of moods last week, I decided that the spiced banana and rum loaf that I wanted to try out should probably wait until poker night, since not all the rum bakes out.

Spiced banana & rum loaf 1

If I’d played my cards right (badum-tschhh!), this loaf could have been a sneaky ploy to get people tipsy in a vague attempt to increase my chances of winning.  But I ate just as much as everybody else, so I obviously missed a trick there.  I was actually expecting to have a few slices left over, but by halfway through the evening, a few crumbs and a slight increase in noise levels were the only evidence of the cake’s previous existence.  The spices both in the bread and the spiced rum really make this a perfect winter offering.

Spiced banana & rum loaf 2

AlphaBakesThis month’s AlphaBakes is being hosted by Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker and the challenge letter is “R,” so I’m sending this in as my entry; R for rum.  As I said previously, the rum does not all bake out, though I’ll admit that I couldn’t actually taste the alcohol itself, which probably says a fair bit about me.  All bar one fellow alcoholic other person could taste it though – not overwhelmingly so, but they could tell it was there, and it gives the bread a lovely warming feeling.  I briefly considered adding nuts to the bread as well, but decided to let the spiced rum take centre stage.  Sometimes simple is best.

Spiced banana & rum loaf 3

Spiced banana & rum loaf

Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from Pastry Affair

Defrosted frozen bananas would work perfectly well.  Use whatever spiced rum you like, though remember that the flavour really does come through, so supermarket own brand is unlikely to be a good idea – paint-stripper will always taste of paint-stripper, even if you bake it.  The loaf is best at least one day later, so that the rum flavours have had time to develop.  It will keep well wrapped in tin foil or in an airtight container for several days.  Remember that not all the rum bakes out, so perhaps don’t serve any to children.

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, softened
150g light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large, ripe bananas (defrosted frozen bananas are fine)
250g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
150ml spiced rum (I used Kraken spiced rum)

Directions

1.  Butter a medium or large loaf tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Whisk the eggs in one by one, mixing well after each one.

3.  In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, then add to the butter mixture with the vanilla extract and beat together with the electric whisk, until fully mixed together.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into the butter mixture bowl and stir together.  Once fully mixed, stir in the rum.

5.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 1h-1h10 mins, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Enjoy!  (Responsibly, of course.)

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Banana & walnut muffins

To put it mildly, our freezer is rather chock-a-block.  To the point where something inevitably comes cascading out whenever you open it, which is mildly annoying when all you want are a couple of ice-cubes for your G&T.  I mean, uhm, water.  Several weeks ago, I decided to start playing “freezer roulette” – open the freezer, and use up whatever comes tumbling out (as long as it belongs to me – actually nobody quite remembers precisely what belongs to whom, which is a whole other issue, so the game also requires some detective work).

Banana & walnut muffins

After several bananas came shooting out at me a few weekends ago, I decided that banana & walnut muffins were on the cards for breakfast.  I enthusiastically set about whipping them up, not thinking about what I was going to do with a dozen muffins – I obviously wasn’t going to be eating them all by myself, even spread over two breakfasts.  Excellent planning, right there.  Since it was a Saturday, my usual tactic of taking surplus baking into the lab wasn’t going to work, so banana & walnut muffins were forced upon kindly offered to anybody who had the misfortune of stopping by the house that weekend.

Luckily, the muffins turned out rather scrumptious – filling without being heavy, full of banana and walnut flavour and with a lovely slight crunch on top (although this softens up if left overnight).  I’d wanted to add extra walnuts to the topping but ran out, so that would add a further delicious crunch.  Nobody complained about being effectively force-fed muffins.  And they make a fabulous breakfast by the way, especially since they don’t take too long to throw together.

Freezer roulette anyone?

Banana & walnut muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

These make great breakfast muffins as they’re easy to throw together.  If you’re using frozen bananas, remember to take them out far enough in advance to defrost (you can leave them out overnight if making these for breakfast).  Toasting the walnuts is optional, but I find it really does enhance the flavour and really doesn’t take long.  If you’re a big walnut fan, feel free to add some to the topping as well (I would have, but I’d run out).  Muffins are best eaten the same day, but they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container – the topping will just go a bit soft.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
200g all-purpose flour (190g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 very ripe bananas (defrosted frozen ones are fine)
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
80 ml rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 egg
1½ tsp vanilla extract
75g walnut halves or pieces

For the topping:
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15g unsalted butter

Directions

To prepare the muffins:
1.  Roughly chop the walnuts halves or pieces and toast in a frying pan until fragrant (watch they don’t burn).  Set aside to cool whilst preparing the muffins.

2.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Preheat the oven to 210°C/fan 190°C.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and stir together.

4.  In a medium-sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the sugars, egg, oil and vanilla extract and whisk together (either by hand or by electric whisk).

5.  Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon until just combined (there should still be a few small streaks of flour in the mixture).  Fold in the toasted walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.

To prepare the topping:
6.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Rub in the butter, until crumbly in texture.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

7.  Bake for 18-20 mins, until risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Either eat them warm or remove from the tin/moulds to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Since these muffins are made from scratch, I’m submitting them to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior.  One of the guiding principles is to avoid using frozen produce when you can use fresh, and whilst I did use frozen bananas, this recipe works perfectly whether using fresh or frozen bananas, so I’m sure that’ll be acceptable.  Plus the bananas only ended up in the freezer because we had a deluge of overripe fresh bananas in the first place.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

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Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Goodness, it’s been a while since I showed some signs of life, hasn’t it?  I previously mentioned that things were likely to be a bit quiet as I knuckled down and got on with this whole MSc thesis-writing lark,* however  I didn’t quite expect to more or less completely disappear from the online world (with the exception of Instagram – have I ever mentioned my addiction?).  A scheduled post about one of the best cakes ever (shameless plug, what?) not going up several weeks ago (let’s pretend that I didn’t only just notice today) rather helped to reinforce this absence.  I am, however, still alive and kicking.  I’ve been baking, too, to de-stress a bit and take a break from thesis-writing.  I just haven’t had the time to take any half-decent photos or write recipes up.  Or collate any Sunday Smiles posts either for that matter.

Bet you'll never guess what kind of cake this is…  Oh wait.

AlphaBakesWhilst Microsoft Word and Excel get their act together, unfreeze and stop repeatedly crashing on me (I’ve had a fantastic morning…), I thought I’d share this utterly amazing kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake with you.  Anybody thinking that kumara is some terribly exotic, amazing new ingredient that’ll be impossible to find in a normal shop, it’s just the Kiwi (and Australian I think?) name for sweet potato.  Rather conveniently, the challenge letter for AlphaBakes happens to be “K,” so I’m sending this cake in as my entry to Caroline Makes, this month’s host.

Cake in progress

After a classic case of forgetting to check a recipe for quantities before going shopping and consequently overestimating the amount, I ended up with some surplus orange kumara the other day and decided that some cake was in order.  I dug out a recipe that I’ve had bookmarked since last year, and threw some chocolate in, just because I could.  I added some cinnamon in too, since I’m actually incapable of not adding cinnamon to pretty much everything during autumn and winter (in spring and summer I only add it to about 50% of everything…  I might have a cinnamon problem).  The cake came out wonderfully moist and utterly scrumptious – the combination of kumara and cardamom was a pleasant discovery for me.  The cake also happens to be gluten-free, but you’d never guess it (I feel gluten-free baking has a reputation for rather heavy and dry results, but I haven’t dabble much with gluten-free, so I could be wrong).  Suffice to say, the lab loved it.

This totally wasn't my breakfast.  Ahem.

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from The KitchenMaid

I’m rather liberal with spices, so if you’re not into strong flavours, you may wish to reduce the cardamom down to 3 tsp.  I’ve yet to locate good quality dark chocolate chips (with more than 70% cocoa) that aren’t overly sweet, so I prefer using good dark chocolate and just chopping it up myself, however if you do have good dark chocolate chips, feel free to use them.  This cake also works as loaves or mini loaves (great for breakfast…), though the baking times will have to be adjusted (probably around 50 mins for two loaves or about 35 mins as mini loaves, though don’t hold me to that).  The drizzle is, of course, optional.  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
450g orange kumara (sweet potato)
150g dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs, room temperature
225g ground almonds
4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the drizzle (optional):
100g icing sugar
¾ tsp ground cardamom
Just under 1 tbsp boiling water

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.

2.  Scrub the kumara and pierce the skin several times with a fork.  Place on a baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork – you should have around 325g of cooked flesh.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 195°C/fan 175°C.  Line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with baking paper.

4.  If using chocolate and not chocolate chips, chop the chocolate up and set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat the eggs in, one at a time, adding about 1 tbsp of ground almond with each egg (this will help prevent the mixture from curdling).

6.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the spices, baking powder, salt, mashed kumara and chopped-up chocolate and stir together with a spatula or spoon.  Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1h-1h10, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if the cake starts to brown a little too much on top, just cover it with aluminium foil).  Allow to cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

To prepare the drizzle:
7.  Once the cake has cooled fully, add all the drizzle ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Pour into a freezer bag, snip a small corner off and drizzle over the cake.

Enjoy!

Also makes an excellent breakfast in mini loaf form…  I'm all about cake for breakfast, doncha know.

*Heavy sarcasm alert.  It’s anything but a lark, just in case anybody was unsure.

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A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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When vitamin D doesn’t count as a challenge entry

AlphaBakesThe letter for this month’s AlphaBakes , which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, is “D.”  The deadline was yesterday.  This post should have gone up yesterday, so I’m going to (attempt to) keep it short, and hope that I’ll be able to sneak it in under the radar.  Things like actual uni work and snorkelling and sitting out on the deck in the sun keep getting in the way of blogging (read: I’m doing phenomenally well in the organisational department at the moment).  It’s a hard life up in Leigh, obviously.  However, I didn’t think that surpassing my daily requirement of vitamin D would quite count as a valid entry for the challenge.  Sorry if you all hate me right now, particularly those of you shivering up in the northern hemisphere – I’d send you some sunshine if I could!

Bit choppy out there on the water – won't be going for a swim today…

That’s the view I’m looking at from our deck as I write – I told you it was tough up here.  But anyway, before you all leave in a huff, back to the challenge: something food-related starting with D…  I decided to go for dates, more specifically a date, coffee and walnut cake that I could share with my new housemates.  I probably should have checked whether anybody disliked any of the ingredients before I made the cake, because it turned out that one my housemates isn’t the hugest fan of dates, coffee or walnuts…  Thankfully she loved the cake though (as did everybody else) and even asked for the recipe.  Phew.

This is what happens when you don't check what your new housemates don't like…

The cake itself is wonderfully moist, with a tiny bit of caramelised stickiness that comes courtesy of the dates.  The coffee comes through as a subtle flavour (which is great since none of my housemates are really coffee-drinkers), with the walnuts adding a bit of crunch.  Topping the whole cake off with cream cheese icing just makes it even more scrumptious.  Though, let’s be honest, when is cream cheese icing ever not a good idea?  Apologies for the photo quality by the way – the photos were snapped pretty quickly since we were all more interested in actually eating the cake.

Cream cheese is always a good thing.  Fact.

Date, coffee & walnut cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The walnuts don’t have to be toasted, but it’s highly recommended as it does heighten their flavour.  The cake does come out very moist and a little sticky, and I found that it stuck to the serving plate a little which wasn’t ideal, but that may also have been because I didn’t let it cool fully before turning the cake out.  The cake will keep for a couple of days, covered in the fridge, and in fact may even be better the next day, although do let it come to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g pitted dates
250ml strong coffee (proper French press or filter coffee is best)
70g walnuts
150g light brown sugar
120g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
275g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
175g cream cheese, softened
60g unsalted butter, softened
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

For the cake:
1.  Roughly chop the dates and add to a heatproof bowl.  Brew the coffee and pour over the dates, to cover them.  Set aside to cool.  Add the walnuts to a small frying pan and toast them until fragrant.  Set aside to cool, then roughly chop them.

2.  Once the coffee and dates have cooled, line a 24cm round cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.

3.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, until light and fluffy.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs together, then whisk into the butter and sugar a little at a time, followed by 2 tbsp of the flour.

4.  Sift the remaining flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.  Add half of this mixture to the butter mixture and whisk together.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the dates, coffee and vanilla extract.  Once incorporated, fold in the remaining flour mixture, followed by 50g of the walnuts.

5.  In a small ramekin, dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 2 tbsp of hot water, then stir into the cake mixture before spooning into the prepared cake tin.

6.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely into the tin before turning out onto a serving plate to ice.

For the icing:
7.  Once the cake is fully cooled, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.  Add the butter, cream cheese, lemon zest and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.  Spread over the cake and sprinkle with the remaining walnuts.

Enjoy!

Oh hey there Instagram…

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Pepernoten revisited!

Do you know what today is?  It’s Sinterklaas!  Which, unless you’re Dutch, have Dutch friends or have spent time in The Netherlands, probably doesn’t mean terribly much, and you can read a brief (and minorly sarcastic) explanation here.  I was born in The Netherlands and have lived there for a few years, and even when we didn’t live in NL we had Dutch friends, so Sinterklaas always featured on my calendar when I was growing up.  My favourite thing about Sinterklaas are pepernoten, which are little biscuits packed full of spices.  They’re amazing.  And they’re really difficult to find outwith NL.

I didn't really have any Sinterklaas-themed backgrounds to use, so I went for orange-y for Dutchness.  Flawless logic.

We left NL for the last time when I started uni in St Andrews, and luckily in my first year Keely sent me a massive packet of pepernoten.  But then her parents left NL.  Which meant that my only source of pepernoten was if I made them myself.  And so I turned to my recipe book which contains several different pepernoten recipes pilfered from various Dutch friends, and combined them.  I discovered that pepernoten are actually remarkably easy to make, although rolling all the little balls does make them a little time-consuming (so worth it though, and if you have the time, I’d definitely suggest doubling the recipe from the offset).

This bit takes a while.  But it's strangely therapeutic, too.

The most crucial part of pepernoten is the spice mix, and in NL you can buy a specific spice mix for them.  I obviously don’t have the special spice mix, but it’s easy enough to make using spices that you probably already have in your spice cupboard.  Incidentally, these are technically called kruidnoten, but most people just call them pepernoten, myself included (so no need to get all pernickety with me).  I make pepernoten every year now and attempt to spread general enthusiasm for Sinterklaas amongst whoever happens to be around to eat them.  Although I don’t go the whole hog and dress up as a Zwarte Piet and throw them at people…  (Although I’m sure the perplexed reaction would be highly entertaining, if awkward.)

Spices: the key bit of a biscuit that's all about… wait for it… spices.

This year my poor labmates fell victim to my general over-enthusiasm for Sinterklaas.  To be honest, they were pretty willing victims because all it involved was scoffing pepernoten.  Which is a remarkably easy task since they’re bite-sized and utterly moreish.  I’ve actually posted about pepernoten before, in my very second post.  I had a look at said post the other day and you can definitely  tell I was new to blogging.  Not that I’m any kind of expert now, but I like to think I’ve improved a little since then (although not in the conciseness department).  So I decided I’d repost the recipe, this time with slightly more detailed instructions, an indication of how many pepernoten it actually makes and perhaps a few better photos.

Those three pepernoten didn't last very long after the photo was taken…

Pepernoten

Makes about 170 pepernoten
Adapted from various recipes in my recipe folder

I’d suggest just doubling the recipe from the offset because these are bite-sized and moreish – a dangerous combination!  Dark brown sugar would probably work well instead of light brown sugar, but would result in a slightly more pronounced treacle-y flavour, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Pepernoten are all about the spices, so feel free to be liberal with the quantities.  The aniseed is optional – I’m not a huge aniseed fan so tend to leave it out, because I know I won’t use the rest of the jar, but the aniseed flavour itself doesn’t come through very strongly.  These will keep well for a week or so in an airtight container (they would probably keep longer, but they’re unlikely to stay uneaten for more than a few days anyway).

Ingredients

175g light brown sugar
110g butter
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp black treacle
275g self-rising flour + ½ tsp baking powder OR 275g all-purpose flour + 3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground aniseed (optional)
½ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground coriander
2 pinches of salt

Directions

1.  Butter a couple of baking trays.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Add the brown sugar, cubed butter, milk and treacle in a saucepan.  Melt together on a low heat, stirring.  Remove from the heat once smooth.

3.  Mix together the flour, baking powder and spices in a large bowl.

4.  Once the treacle mixture has cooled a little (because enthusiastically plunging your hands into hot treacle just off the stove is not a smart idea.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, ahem), pour it into the bowl and knead together until it forms a smooth, fairly firm dough, adding pinches of salt during kneading.

5.  Pinch of little bits of dough and roll them into small round balls about the size of a marble.  Place them on the prepared baking trays leaving about 1.5 cm space between them.  Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and golden (it’s normal if they look slightly cracked).  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely – they’ll harden as they cool (I find that the pepernoten tend to slip through the wires on my cooling rack, so I usually place one over the top of the other, but perpendicular so that the wires cross over each other and stop any pepernoten from falling through).

Eet smakelijk and happy Sinterklaas!

Pepernoten everywhere!

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