Tag Archives: Sweet potato

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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Getting rid of the unseasonal October pumpkin-baking itch

So…  I’ve managed to acquire cuts on the tips of both my index fingers.  One resulted from struggling to get into a plastic carton of grapes (nope, I’ve no idea how I managed it either, but so much for being healthy and eating fruit).  The other came from a minor altercation with a cable tie (again, I’ve no idea either).  Now that we all know that I’m rather skilled at picking up random injuries (you’re perfectly welcome to laugh), my main point is that it hurts a little to type, so I’m going to try and keep this post short (ya, I know, ha ha ha – try is the key word there, ok?).

The majority of the bloggers that I follow are based in the northern hemisphere, so for the last few weeks my Google Reader has been awash with autumnal flavours, pumpkin recipes in particular.  Down here in the southern hemisphere it is, of course, spring, but it feels really strange to me not to be baking with pumpkins and apples and plenty of wintery spices in October, particularly with Hallowe’en coming up.  It’s not so easy to completely reverse seasonal habits and expectations.

To get the need to bake with pumpkin in October out of my system, I decided to bake with kumara (sweet potato).  I know that kumara and pumpkin aren’t the same thing, but pumpkin isn’t really in season any more.  In terms of baking, I think they’re more or less interchangeable anyway.  So I whipped up some spiced kumara cupcakes which turned out lovely and moist, thanks to the kumara.  I love baking with kumara for precisely that reason.  The spices come through wonderfully with the kumara in the cupcakes.  All those flavours are beautifully balanced by the cream cheese icing and the subtle freshness of the lime zest.  And as if they weren’t yummy enough already, I decided to top the cupcakes with roasted pumpkin seeds, just because.  I think I’ve got the need for pumpkin-baking out of my system now.  At least until Hallowe’en…

Spiced kumara cupcakes

Makes 16-18
Cupcakes adapted from Hello Cupcake!
Pumpkin seeds adapted from Serious Eats

The roasted pumpkin seed topping is entirely optional, but does add a lovely little extra something.  There will be leftover pumpkin seeds, and they are great for a snack – store them in an airtight box.  The cupcakes will keep for about two days in an airtight container, but are best eaten sooner rather than later.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
550g kumaras (sweet potatoes)
300g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Good pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the roasted pumpkin seeds (optional):
50g pumpkin seeds
2 tsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
150g cream cheese
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2.  Scrub the sweet potato and pierce the skin with a fork.  Place on the 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 roughly mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C/fan 155°C.  Line a couple of cupcake trays with liners or set out silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.  Set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and very fluffy (this can also be done by hand, although it will take longer).  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Then add the mashed sweet potato, oil and vanilla extract to the mixture and fold in until combined.

6.  Split the mixture between the cupcake liners or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-25 mins until risen and golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the oven but leave the oven on.  Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack.

To roast the pumpkin seeds:
7.  Line a baking tray with tin foil (aluminium foil).  Mix together the pumpkin seeds and oil in a small bowl until the seeds are well coated.  Then add the sugar and cinnamon and stir well.  Spread over the prepared baking tray and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 30 mins or until the seeds are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.

To make the icing:
8.  Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the icing.  Prepare a piping bag with the nozzle of your choice (I used an open star Wilton 1M nozzle but a round one would also look pretty).  Place the bag in a tall glass (this makes it much easier to fill).

9.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the rest of the icing ingredients and whisk with an electric whisk (if you want to do it by hand, I’d advise using room temperature cream cheese – it’ll be a bit easier) until smooth and pale.  Fill the prepared piping bag and then pipe sparingly onto the cupcakes (you’ll need all the icing).  Sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds over the tops of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

PS – Ok, so I didn’t manage to keep the post that short…  But I realised that if I wrote most of the post on my phone, only my thumbs were required to type – sorted!

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Cookies to blow a Kiwi’s socks off

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was surprised to discover that sweet potatoes were actually a staple in the Māori diet before the arrival of European settlers.  Consequently, they remain popular here and although it seems that the traditional kumara varieties have mostly been replaced with imported varieties that grow bigger and produce more, they are still referred to by their Māori name, kūmara (pronounced KOO-mah-rah).  Orange kumara seems to be the same variety as orange sweet potato that you find in the US or Europe, but we have two other varieties here that I don’t think I’ve seen before: red and golden.  The three varieties differ slightly in their flavours and their levels of sweetness, with orange being the sweetest (and mushiest when cooked, it seems), and red the least sweet.

Given the popularity of kumara and its long-standing availability in NZ, I was expecting the batch of orange kumara and chocolate cookies that I took into the lab the other day to be fairly run-of-the-mill.  Not in terms of taste, since they were rather scrumptious, but I mean the combination of kumara and chocolate, in a cookie.  How wrong I was…  It turns out that kumara is only really used in savoury dishes here, so the concept of using it in cookies just about blew the socks off my Kiwi labmates.  And my Spanish labmate, who took one home for his wife to taste (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it “disappeared” en route).  Oh and my Italian labmate, who explained he’d only discovered kumara here, because you don’t get sweet potatoes in Italy.  Basically everybody except the Americans and Canadians.  It seems that using sweet potato/orange kumara for baking must be a very North American thing to do – I’ve clearly been influenced by the 4 years of my childhood that we spent in the southern US without realising it!  I was genuinely taken aback by their surprise though, and being able to so unexpectedly introduce (almost) everybody to something new really made me happy, particularly since they liked them.  I predict that more kumara-based baked goods will be making an appearance at the lab…

Aside from their secret ability to blow the socks off Kiwis, these cookies are delicious in their own right, and the orange kumara gives them a lovely orange tinge as well.  They’re lovely and soft and pillowy and fantastically moist, so actually, I feel cookie might be a bit of a misnomer since their texture reminds me more of cake than a traditional cookie.  It’s very much like eating cake in the shape of a cookie.  I’m a fan.  Although I can’t help but wonder if there should be an alternative name for them – cakies or cakelets or something.  Any thoughts? Although kumara are perpetually in season (in NZ anyway – in Europe I always thought they were in season through winter), the spices make me associate these cookies with winter: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Definitely a fabulously wintery combination, and one full of flavour at that!

Kumara & chocolate cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

These cake-like cookies are wonderfully soft and pillowy, not crunchy as you might expect from a cookie.  The kumara/sweet potato taste really does shine through, as do the wintery spices.  Make sure to use orange kumara as they are the sweetest and mushiest, so perfect for baking, and they also give the cookies their slightly orange colour.  The cookies will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight box.  Since they’re quite soft, place a sheet of baking paper between layers to prevent them from sticking together.

Ingredients

1 medium orange kumara/sweet potato (I used a 350g kumara, which yielded about 250g roasted flesh)
220g light brown sugar
2 eggs
120ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g all-purpose flour
125g wholewheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
175g dark chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2.  Scrub the sweet potato and pierce the skin with a fork.  Place on the 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 roughly mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and egg until pale and thickened (it will get pale, I promise – it just takes a bit effort if doing it by hand, as I did – see the photo below).  Gently whisk in the oil and vanilla, then fold in the kumara.

5.  In a large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Add the kumara mixture to the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until the flour is no longer visible.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

6.  Scoop up heaped tablespoons of cookie dough and deposit on one of the prepared cookie sheets, as neatly as possible.  Space the heaps of dough about 5cm apart.  Bake for 10-12 mins until risen and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies on the trays for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (they’ll still be quite soft so be careful).

Enjoy!

PS – I know I said the kumara gives an orange tinge, but not quite as much as the photo above – that rather over-emphasised colour is courtesy of my minor Instagram addiction (you can find me under sharkyovengloves).

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Cocorico! C’était le 14 juillet!

Saturday was the 14th of July, France’s national day, or Bastille day as it seems to be called in English.  In French, we just call it le 14 juillet, and it is, obviously, a day of national celebration.  This post was actually planned for Saturday, but my photo editing program decided to go on strike, presumably in honour of France, so that obviously didn’t happen.  But today’s recipe is worth the three-day delay (and pre-recipe rambling), I promise.  Whenever we spent le 14 juillet in France, my main memories are of food, followed by fireworks.  Always a winning combination.  Ordinarily, I’d have probably thrown a dinner party for le 14 juillet, but aside from the minor logistical issue of only having a tiny dining table with a grand total of two chairs, one of my labmates was having a birthday party in the evening.  I also had a friend staying for the weekend, and we had various things planned, resulting in a busy but thoroughly enjoyable weekend, which included discovering a new farmers’ market and a wine tasting (always a win).

The closest we got to something specifically French-oriented was going to see a so-dreadful-it-was-hilarious stage version of ‘Allo ‘Allo.  My other little nod to le 14 juillet was my party contribution in the form of madeleines (which are not the subject of today’s blog post… apologies if you got your hopes up there!).  However, if I had been hosting a 14 juillet dinner party, I’d have made soup for starters (remember it’s winter here), specifically sweet potato and pear soup, which isn’t especially French, but is utterly delicious.

This is actually one of my favourite soups, because it’s wonderfully smooth and creamy, which I adore.  The combination of sweet potato and pear may sound a little strange, but it results in a very refined flavour, making this soup a perfect dinner party starter, with the added bonus that it can be prepared in advance.  It’s so delicious that it would be a shame to restrict this soup to just dinner parties though, particularly since it’s so easy to make.  In fact, this was the soup that Kat and I had after spending several hours in the snow queuing for Christmas Ball tickets and discussing my idea to start a blog.  Certainly not a dinner party, but definitely what we needed to warm up on that wintery day!  Since sweet potatoes and pears are currently in season here in NZ, this is my entry to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, which was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food, and currently hosted by Homemade by Fleur.

Sweet potato & pear soup

Serves 4
Adapted from my mum’s recipe

Make sure you blend the soup to within an inch of its life, because this soup is all about the smooth creaminess, which is what makes it feel quite light.  If the soup is too thick for your liking, just add a little bit of water and mix well before adding the cream.  This soup freezes really well – freeze at the end of step 4, before adding the cream, and then once defrosted, heat the soup up and just add the cream right before serving.

Ingredients

1 small onion
800g orange sweet potatoes (orange kumara)
2 pears (Doyenné de Comice if you can get them)
800ml vegetable stock or water
200ml crème fraîche
A few sage leaves to garnish (optional)

Directions

1.  Dice the onion.  Peel and dice the sweet potatoes and pears.

2.  Sweat the onion in some butter in a large saucepan or pot for a few minutes, but don’t allow it to brown.  Add the sweet potato and pear and allow to cook for about 5 mins, stirring often.

3.  Add the vegetable stock (if you don’t have any, you can just use water) and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for about 20 mins.

4.  Remove from the heat and blend until perfectly smooth.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and return to the heat if necessary.

5.  Swirl a big spoonful of crème fraîche into each bowl and garnish with a couple of sage leaves before serving.

Enjoy and I hope you had a wonderful 14 juillet!

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