Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Raspberry and Blackberry Almond Ripple Cake

I bought a 200g punnet of raspberries, intending to make this Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake, with some Amaretti biscuits approaching their use-by date, but the reviews said the biscuits lost their crunch after the first day, which was not really a surprise, but deterred me from making it, as I knew the cake would be around for at least three days. It seems to be a cake which needs eating at once to really appreciate the texture - perhaps the right occasion to make it will arise!.

I looked around for other recipes for slightly unusual raspberry cakes and came across this one for a Raspberry Ripple Cake; the only problem was that it needed 300g raspberries. I decided to make the first stage - the fruit purée - with 100g of blackberries from the freezer, and use the fresh raspberries in the other stages - the fruit added to the cooked purée and the topping.

While I was making changes, I also decided to replace 50g of flour with ground almonds and add a few drops of almond extract to the cake batter too, to introduce more of the almond flavour the original cake would have had. As my eggs were large, I omitted the extra egg yolk and added a little more milk to give the batter a dropping consistency.

Using blackberries turned out to be a really good idea; the ripple layers were tart and intensely flavoured and a good contrast to the sweet raspberries topping the cake. The cake was a little denser than I'd hoped for, especially considering that it needed refrigerating to keep it fresh, but I can use the idea of the fruit purée to make ripples in a better cake batter.

I forgot to swirl the ripples before adding the topping and this would probably have made the cake look even better. The blue background of my cake box is not the best look, either, but the cake was too difficult to move once it had been put there.

Well, we're off to Canada for the first two weeks of September (for a tour of Vancouver, the Inside Passage and the Rockies), so I won't be posting for a while. By the time we get back it should be apple picking time and autumn cooking.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Celia's friend Genie's Courgette Slice

Yet another attempt to use more courgettes, or, in this case, one monster that had been hiding underneath a leaf and had expanded quickly after a heavy rainfall. This recipe for Courgette(zucchini) Slice, found on Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, is a recipe give to Celia by her friend Genie, who passed away a few years ago. Celia writes very eloquently and often very movingly about her family life on her blog, and really values her friends and neighbours, and the recipes they share.

I followed the recipe closely - only adding a sliced red chilli for an extra zing. I was a bit worried as the slice cooked, as there seemed to be a lot of grease sizzling on top of the slice, but this was absorbed as it cooled, and the finished dish wasn't at all greasy.

This was more like a frittata or tortilla than a savoury bread, but the addition of flour makes it more sturdy and perfect for eating cold. I found it very useful as a protein-rich breakfast, and it was also very tasty as a lunch dish, with salad. The only thing I think I'd change is to grate the vegetables more coarsely next time, to give more texture.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Apricot and Pine Nut Muffins

Things are changing again! FB has got her feet on the bottom of the property ladder, at last, and will be moving out soon. In the meantime Hubs and I are busy helping her get the new house into good condition. She's lucky that there is time to clean properly and redecorate where necessary, before she moves in - whenever we've moved, that sort of thing has had to be left until we've settled in, or be done in a hurry while we are deciding where to store things, and how to arrange the furniture. Although she's lived away from home for many years, and has accumulated lots of books and kitchen equipment, she has always lived in furnished rented accommodation, so has no furniture of her own yet, so that's another task that she needs help with, as she doesn't drive. A trip to IKEA is next on the agenda!

All this is to explain why I've done little baking lately, and why there is likely to be even less in future. With just the two of us here, and both of us with weight problems to varying degrees, there will be less call for cakes and calorific desserts. Even now, when I bake, I often divide the batter to make two small cakes, and freeze one, so I've already cut down to some extent. I'm not sure yet how this will affect my blogging, although I'd like to carry on with the monthly baking challenges, so I don't expect be giving up altogether.

I made a Red Berry, Chocolate and Marzipan cake recently, much like this cake that I made last year. I used double the amount of dried fruit and dark chocolate instead of white, and it was just as delicious, but I only realised that I hadn't photographed it as the last piece was being eaten!

Muffins are also useful when you don't need much cake, as they usually freeze well. Four of these Apricot and Pine Nut Muffins went into the freezer, leaving a manageable amount for us to eat. I really like them, but Hubs didn't like their smell! I'm not sure what he could smell, as I didn't notice anything unpleasant; the only thing I could think of was that the smell of cooked pine nuts was unpleasant to him.

The original recipe, in the Muffin Bible, called these Pine Nut and Yogurt Muffins, but dried apricots are a major ingredient, so it seemed more fitting to call them Apricot and Pine Nut Muffins. I've found this recipe online, which looks identical; the only thing I did differently was not to chop the pine nuts - there didn't seem any point. You'll notice the recipe adds a small amount of honey; I used a wild thyme honey and the combination of thyme, apricots and pine nuts suggested Greek flavours to me. Although I liked these, I'm unlikely to make them again, so as not to offend his lordship's delicate nose!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Rhubarb and Ginger

I'm not quite sure what to call this rhubarb and ginger dessert. I thought about calling it a mousse, but it's more than that. Is it a torte? It might be, but the official definition seems to be a multi-layered cake filled with fruit, cream or mousse, and it's not as much as that. It could be a tart, or even a pie, except the ginger crumb base has no sides to support the filling. Can I just leave it like those enigmatic menus which just list the main flavours in a dish?

I made it mainly to fill the brief for this month's Tea Time Treats challenge, which is for a chilled dessert. By adding ginger, I can also enter the AlphaBakes Challenge for August, which is to use the letter G, and rhubarb and ginger are such wonderful partners anyway, that I'm always happy to put them together.

The base was the standard biscuit crumb mixture of 2 parts crumbs, 1 part butter and a little added sugar. 200g of biscuits was far too much crumb mix for my 18cm tin, which is why there are extra ginger crumbs sprinkled around the finished dessert - 150g of gingernuts would have been enough. I baked the base for 10 minutes at 180C, then cooled and chilled it before adding the mousse topping.

The mousse was a fairly rudimentary affair - 500g rhubarb, cooked and puréed and sweetened to taste. After puréeing, I whisked 2 egg yolks and 4 sheets of softened gelatine into the hot mixture. When the fruit mixture had cooled to room temperature, but before it set too solid, I folded in 4 finely chopped balls of stem ginger,  125mls of double cream, whipped to soft peaks and 2 stiffly beaten egg whites. I cooled the mixture further, before pouring it onto the ginger base, in the hope that the ginger would stay suspended rather than sinking to the bottom - that idea worked! (I will also confess that I added a few drops of pink food colouring - cooked unforced rhubarb is not an attractive colour this far into the season!)

I could have done more to decorate the mousse, and make it prettier, but if I'd piped more cream on, then FB wouldn't have eaten it. I added some more thinly sliced stem ginger and served each portion with roast rhubarb and some of the leftover ginger crumbs, with cream available separately for those who wanted it.

The Tea Time Treats challenge (rules here), to produce something for the tea table, is hosted jointly by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate at What Kate Baked. Kate is the host this month, and will post a round-up of all the chilled desserts offered as entries, at the end of the month.

AlphaBakes (rules here) is a challenge based on a randomly chosen letter of the alphabet. The dish made must feature something beginning with that letter as one of the main ingredients or part of the name. It is hosted jointly by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. Ros is the host this month, with the letter G, and as usual will post a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Courgette and Lemon Marmalade Cake

I'm still using the abundance of courgettes growing in the garden - they've been added to sausage casseroles, pasta sauces, used as a side vegetable, and FB took a bag full for her work colleagues, but still they come! I'm going to try some sort of fritter next, in the savoury line, but I thought a cake would help reduce the stock building up in the fridge.

I liked the look of this recipe for a courgette cake because it used lemon to flavour the cake instead of chocolate or spices. I thought this would make the cake seem more summery. I was guided by the recipe, but made a few changes. I replaced the wholemeal flour with white, and the brown sugar with white too, as I wanted a lighter cake, both in colour and texture. I used just sultanas, rather than a mix of dried fruit.

I also separated the eggs and whisked the whites before folding them in as the last step of mixing the batter, in an effort to help the cake rise. This was only partially successful - the cake rose well during baking but sank a lot as it cooled. This left a cake which was moist and dense - too dense really, as there was a distinct layer of unrisen dough at the bottom of the cake.

The lemon marmalade wasn't really successful at getting a lot of lemon flavour into the cake either. I added a lemon glacé icing, decorated with shreds of lemon zest, to the top, which brightened the flavour, but overall this was not really a successful cake. I had hoped for something as light as the carrot cake I make from this recipe, but I think that courgettes hold more moisture than carrots, which would make such a light texture difficult to achieve. I might just try the carrot cake recipe with courgettes as a substitute, before giving up on the idea of a light cake being possible.

It's not often that Hubs makes many comments on what I bake, unless it is extremely good or overwhelmingly bad, but he asked me not to make this cake again!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Courgette and Ricotta Tart

With a  long hot sunny spell followed by a lot of warm rain, the vegetable garden has run amok. It's not all good news - the tomatoes are very leggy, trying to catch up on missed growth when it was so cold, and the beans don't seem to be getting the usual second flush of flowers, but at the moment we are getting regular supplies of beans and peas, and more courgettes than we know what to do with.

This courgette and ricotta tart was ideal for both using up some of the excess and for providing a light meal on one of the recent hot days. We ate it with coleslaw and a tomato and green bean salad.

I followed the recipe more or less exactly (!!!).  The first change was that I used a pack of Tesco ready-rolled puff pastry which was flavoured with dill and lemon - I thought these flavours would complement the courgettes and cheese well. I used four small courgettes for the topping, and my tart looks as if it has more courgettes on top than the one in the recipe. I also added some seasoning to the ricotta and egg mix, as I didn't have much basil to add. (I recently trimmed the basil plant for a batch of pesto and could only glean a couple of tablespoons of very small leaves from it.)

The results were delicious. All the flavours worked well together, and the tart was very light and refreshing - just right for appetites blunted by the heat. The only thing lacking was seasoning - next time I'll add more salt to the ricotta and also season the courgettes while frying them.

I was really impressed with the flavour of the pastry - I could taste both the lemon and dill, but neither were overwhelming. The pastry didn't rise as much as I expected, but that might just be the recipe, not a problem with the pastry.

Hubs thought he would prefer a quiche, with it's deeper filling, but I really liked that the courgettes were the dominant flavour  here - I think they would have been lost buried in a deep custard.