Monthly Archives: April 2014

Pear and Hazelnut cake

I am a fiend for cutting recipes out of magazines and filing them in big Muji PP document files, which I then mark things like ‘Puddings’ or ‘Everyday’ or ‘Christmas’. People who come to visit look at my bookshelves and I know they think I’m bonkers. I AM bonkers. But, it does mean I have custom made books.

And it was in such a book, called ‘Cakes’ that I found a recipe I’d cut out years ago. Most unassuming it was and by the lovely Nigel Slater. It involved pears. I’m usually a bit suspicious of people who say, when I ask them what sort of cake they’d like me to make them, “something with fruit in it”. I think a cake is a cake and if you want fruit, eat fruit. But there are exceptions, of course, and this is one of them.

And it is an exceptional cake. I must have eaten half of it all by myself which is really rare for me. I customised it by using:

a) ready toasted and chopped hazelnuts which seemed like such a luxury it made me feel quite heady. Because my packet came in 100g, I then scattered 20g of the chopped hazels onto the crumble topping and…

b) the cake calls for 165g of flour and I substituted half of that wholemeal, adding a quarter teaspoon of baking powder as the wholemeal flour I have is plain.

c) I also used about 40g of wholemeal in the crumble topping. The cake didn’t suffer for it at all. By that I mean it didn’t become overwhelmingly worthy. But I do like to avoid 100% white flour cakes if possible. The thought of adding wholemeal flour may scare, but as long as you don’t overdo it and do it in appropriate cakes – i.e. NOT ones like Victoria sponge – then it just adds a lovely dimension to your baking and a good flavour.

This is lovely warm, with cream. It reheats easily with a ten second blast per slice in the microwave. I don’t know why it’s so addictive exactly but it is. A superior cake. Eat it and cry gently.

 

 

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Baked blackberry and lemon curd cheesecake

I was going to write about iced coffee today, but the weather is so grey and miserable this appealed more.

This came from those recipe cards Waitrose has hanging up, usually near the exit. I don’t know who writes the recipes for Waitrose, but they are an unsung hero – some of my very best bakes have come from unauthored recipes from Waitrose. This is a lovely, lovely recipe that makes a great cake: not too fancy, but fancy enough to make it no ordinary cheesecake. It’s also pretty easy to make because a lot of it is assembly, not technique. Try it this weekend after Sunday lunch and let me know how you get on with it.

The recipe is here, but I adapt it slightly and this is how I cook it:

200g pack essential Waitrose All Butter Biscuits, crushed (OBVIOUSLY you can use different ones but I have found these work well)
60g butter, melted
300g soft cheese
300ml Isigny Creme Fraiche
150g caster sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g -ish of blackberries
Lemon curd (I really, really recommend Duchy Originals) – as much as you need to coat the biscuit base with a thin layer, I’d say about six tablespoons.
Icing sugar for dusting (I always forget to do this).

First you crush the biscuits anyway you see fit. I do them with a rolling pin, rolled over a sealed plastic bag. Melt the butter, introduce the two and spread this across a parchment base-lined 23cm spring form tin. Chill in the fridge for an hour or two, less is fine.

To make the filling, heat up the oven to 190C. Mix together the soft cheese, creme fraiche, caster sugar and vanilla extract – either by hand or in a food mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the eggs and beat well until everything is incorporated. Set aside for a momentino.

Get out the tin with the biscuit base, dollop lemon curd across the base, you want it pretty much covered by a thin layer. Now put the blackberries over the top. I used frozen ones that had been picked from our garden last year, and it was nice to see them again.

Now drop the cheese mixture over the top, level out, and cook for  40–45 minutes. It’ll be brown around the edges and set in the middle. (The photo above makes it look like it’s REALLY brown, that’s cos of the effects of the film I use, it’s not that brown.) Take it out, leave it to cool and then leave it in the fridge for a few hours. Overnight if possible because this is even better the next day.Because of this it makes a great dessert to serve when you have people coming round as it’s one less thing to worry about on the day. It will easily keep for a few days in the fridge.

Sourdough rolls, or panini

Having a bread roll always seems a bit luxurious. Whereas a slice from a loaf is all about sharing, a panino (panino is the singular, panini the plural) is all about you: it’s all yours; from beginning to end.

I only started making rolls last year, when I got a couche cloth for my birthday (I felt lucky). They are so easy to make and I want to encourage you to give them a try, and here’s why:

You can keep the rolls proving in the fridge for days. A batch of dough made using 500g of flour yields about 12-16 rolls, depending, obviously, on how big you make them. This lasts us, on  average, three days. The longer they’re left, the tastier they become.

Thus, you can cook up just how much you need. This is really useful if you struggle to get through a whole loaf in one day. With the rolls, once you have a batch in the fridge, you can have freshly baked bread in less than 20 minutes (cook straight from the fridge) and you can cook up just one or two, or the whole lot depending on how many you want to feed that day/moment.

The longer-proved rolls do deflate when you slash them however, so don’t try – just nip at them deeply with a very sharp pair of scissor (you can see the effect in the pic above), they still rise beautifully in the oven, but you want to be quick and definite with the cutting so don’t faff around with a grignette.

They’re really, really tasty.

With rolls that have only been proving overnight, I do slash at them with a grignette, usually making four little slashes all the way around. This helps keep the round ‘boule’ shape. If you don’t mind about this, two or three slashes with a sharp bread knife is slightly easier, but the dough will expand to give you a more oval shaped roll.

I bake mine for anything from 14-20 minutes, divided up half at 250C and half of that time at 200C, but obviously a bit more or less depending on size of rolls or finish of crust that you want. (I still use ice cubes though.)

If you like to give bread as a present there is something really nice about giving a ‘bag ‘o’ rolls’. I mean even the phrase is great. Buy some brown bags (I get mine from the dreaded Amazon, sorry), because I do love a brown paper bag.

They are easy to shape and it’s also a really good way to practise shaping because if you get one a bit wrong, you have another 11 or so to practise on. Do shape them all up at the final prove stage, don’t be tempted to keep the dough to shape up for later. I can’t find the shaping video I watched now (it was by the people at King Arthur Flour), despite looking for it. But if you put ‘shaping bread rolls’ into You Tube you’ll get a few vids which will give you an idea.

You can bake them longer for a crustier crust, for less time to make a softer one for children/old people with no teeth. Whilst I love a deep, dark crust on a big loaf of sourdough, because the ratio of crust to middle is low, with a roll, I prefer a softer bite.

Have a go, and have fun with it. Just use your regular recipe for sourdough but shape them into rolls. This also means you can make the fabled ‘sourdough burger bun’ (basically a sourdough roll into which a burger has been put) which people queue for in London’s Hackney.

For the rolls with a lesser proving time you will need a planchette, but with the rolls that have been proved for a longer time, they are less frisky, drier, and you can, if you’re quick and confident, lift them off the couche cloth and onto a hot baking tray by hand. But given that a planchette is vital for baguette baking, treat yourself.

Egg and bacon pies

This little recipe was from one of Donna Hay’s books – Fast, Fresh, Simple. It makes for a great Saturday lunch but involves no pastry (sorry) – perfect for when when you want something hot, tasty and quick but would prefer to avoid falling into the predictability of sandwiches.

Obviously my children hated this and just ate the buttered sourdough I provided as a prop, and the bacon. But hey-ho. We loved it.

The recipe is here. But for convenience this is what you need for four people:

6 rashers of thin cut bacon

6 eggs

240g creme fraiche (I used a jar of it that was slightly less than that)

2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley (I use frozen Waitrose herbs they are great for this sort of thing).

Oven preheated to 180C. You need four small oven proof dishes/tins of about 10cm across. We used these little ceramic ones we got some free pate or desserts in years ago. We seem to have accumulated hundreds of these dishes, hardly any of which are the same size. Butter said dishes and place on a baking tray.

Put the rashers around the dishes, one and a half in each, so they make a rim. Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and parsley and decant equally into each dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked but firm to the touch. They puff up like little souffles.