Thursday, 21 February 2013

AlphaBakes - E is for..........?

Well, how many ingredients used in baking begin with E? Apart from eggs, which were more or less ruled out by Ros, the host of this month's AlphaBakes challenge, unless they were the main ingredient, I could only come up with elderflowers, which are not in season at the moment.

Scanning through the indexes (or indices) of all my baking books didn't get me much further. The very small 'E' sections were filled with titles such as 'easy....,' 'express....', 'everyday....' and 'extra....', which didn't really fit the brief either. Then I saw 'Eccles cakes'! Although I discarded these on the basis of being too time consuming and fiddly at the moment, especially if I made my own pastry, the word Eccles rang the bells of my memory. A Jamie Oliver recipe for Ecclefechan Tart, named after a place in Scotland, had received a lot of notice a couple of years ago, and I'd filed away the idea of it as 'interesting', in my mind. Now was the golden opportunity!

I needed some online research into the dish, as I didn't have a recipe, even in my books by Scottish cooks, such as Sue Lawrence. Along the way I discarded the Jamie Oliver recipe, as it used cream, unlike most other recipes. I wanted this to be a 'store cupboard' recipe, if I liked it, so that I could easily make it at any time. I did, however, keep his idea of baking one large tart rather than individual tartlets, and of  blind-baking the pastry case prior to adding the filling. In the end, I went with a slight adaptation of this recipe from The Great British Baking Club, although all the recipes are very similar.

I used a mix of dried fruit, including sultanas, blueberries, glacé cherries and a dried berry mix which included cranberries, more cherries and strawberries. Any large fruits were chopped smaller so that all the pieces were about the same size. I also added 35g flaked almonds, as these were the only nuts I had in stock. To freshen the flavour, I added the grated zest of a tangerine.

This amount of filling just fitted the 23cm shortcrust pastry case I had made, and I topped off with a decorative lattice made from the pastry offcuts. This large tart needed baking for about 30 minutes at 190C to set the filling.

I expected this to taste like a mincepie, but it was completely different. The lack of spices made the fruit taste much fresher, and the egg, sugar and butter mixture had set to a very sweet, soft paste. Although it was very sweet, I really liked the flavour and will certainly be making this again as a winter dessert. Serving it with creme fraiche would offset the richness a little.

As well as it fitting the brief for this month's AlphaBakes challenge, I am also entering this Ecclefechan Tart into the Tea Time Treats February challenge, the theme of which is puddings. If the word pudding is taken in it's wider sense, as a dessert course, then a pastry based tart is surely a suitable entry?

AlphaBakes (rules here) is a challenge to bake something based on a randomly chosen letter of the alphabet. The letter can be used for either the name of the bake or one of the main ingredients. It is hosted alternately by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, and Caroline from Caroline Makes. Ros is this month's host, and will be doing a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

Tea Time Treats (rules here) challenges participants to produce something suitable for the tea table. It is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked. This month the theme of Perfect Puddings has been chosen by Kate, who will gather all the entries into a round-up post at the end of the month.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A Very Lemony Lemon Cake

And yet another Dan Lepard recipe! I made this cake following a discussion about lemon drizzle cakes, on one of the message-boards I use. I remembered this as one of the best lemon cakes I'd tasted, but others disagreed, so I thought it must be time to try it again.

Dan calls this a lemon drizzle cake, but it doesn't really fit the accepted description of a drizzle cake, as there is only a small amount of frosing spread on top of the cake, not a large amount of syrup poured over a cake which has been punctured with holes in order to absorb it. That doesn't worry me, as most drizzle cakes turn out too wet for my liking, unless I'm using it as a dessert.

If I have to find fault with this, it would be with the slight dip in the centre which shouldn't have been there. This may have been because I whisked by hand instead of getting out the electric hand mixer for the early stages of the cake, but it didn't affect the even, moist texture and tender crumb. It didn't look like a case of the cake over-rising and sinking back, which often produces dense patches around the dip.

The flavour was as I remember, not-too-sweet and very lemony, with a crisp, tart lemon frosting. I'd still consider it one of the best lemon cake recipes I know, but perhaps it would disappoint those who like very moist drizzle cakes.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ginger Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

Another Dan Lepard recipe! This time it's for the We Should Cocoa February challenge, which is to use the marvellous combination of chocolate and ginger together. This is a combination that's hard to beat in any form. Christmas isn't the same without a box of fiery, sweet crystallised ginger, covered in a bitter dark chocolate, and a touch of  cocoa, or a few chunks of chocolate, will improve most gingerbread cakes. Conversely, a rich chocolate torte flavoured with ginger is bliss too. Like Jen, of Blue Kitchen Bakes, this month's We Should Cocoa host, I'm slightly surprised this combination hasn't come up before, but I'm really pleased it has now!

For this challenge, I wanted to keep the chocolate and ginger flavours as separate as possible, so that both could be enjoyed to the maximum. This recipe, from Dan's Guardian column, uses a lot of chocolate and quite a lot of glacé ginger to flavour the cake. The cake batter itself has the merest hint of ginger, so that most of the flavour comes from chewing the lumps in the cake. This cake has a dense, moist crumb, aided by the addition of both ground almonds and cream cheese. It baked well too, to give an even tender crumb.

I wanted this to be an everyday cake, so didn't add any frosting, and the cake was so rich, moist and well-flavoured that I don't think it suffered because of this. "The icing on the cake" really isn't a necessity here! I followed Dan's advice to use a bitter chocolate and used a mix of the remaining 75g of Willie's chef's drops, cut in half, which are really bitter to eat, and 50g of a 74% eating chocolate.

The We Should Cocoa challenge (rules here) is a monthly challenge started by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog, and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. It's been running for around 2 1/2 years now, and each month's new theme for combinig chocolate and a special ingredient is often chosen by a guest host, as has happened this month. Look for a round-up of entries on Blue Kitchen Bakes at the end of this month.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Marbled Chocolate Crumble Cake

I know I've baked this Dan Lepard recipe before, but as it dates back to 2008, it was probably before I started blogging! Anyway, it was so long ago that I came back to it with few memories of the past cake. FB had requested a chocolate cake, which is quite unusual for her, but I'm always happy to indulge in chocolate. Looking through my recipe books, I found this in Dan's latest book - Short and Sweet -  and while it stirred memories there were no definite feelings about whether I'd thought it a good cake or not, so it was definitely time to try it again.

It's a fairly simple recipe, although it requires a big act of faith to sprinkle the heavy clumps of chocolate crumble on a still wobbling, part-baked cake. I took the opportunity to make the cake special by using my huge chocolate 'chef's drops' from Willie's Cacao. I cut down the chocolate a little, to 75g, so that I only used half my tub of drops. It was still fantastic to bite into a large piece of good quality chocolate when eating the cake.

The balance of the cake is in favour of the vanilla portion of the batter (75%), but this is offset by adding chocolate drops and the slightly bitter chocolate crumble. Overall, there's chocolate in every bite, which is what matters most!  While it's cake with fairly standard sponge cake proportions of ingredients, it made a light, moist, well textured cake and the crumble topping lifted it out of the ordinary. This time I hope it's not forgotten for so long!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Chocolate Tart

This baked chocolate tart is a Jamie Oliver recipe dating back to his first  book - The Naked Chef, published in 1999. He's not a chef whose style I'm particularly attracted to, so I'm not sure why I first tried this recipe, but it's become one of my favourites when a baked chocolate tart is required.

It's a simple recipe, which gives a dense, fudgy filling; excellent when eaten with refreshing creme fraiche to cut the richness. It's not oversweet, as the huge amount of cocoa offsets the sugar and golden syrup.

If you are making your own pastry case, I'd suggest a sweet rich shortcrust pastry which is really well baked, as the low baking temperature for the filling won't finish cooking the pastry if it's even slightly underdone.