Kale may not be the most obvious thing to put in a cake, but as many of you will know, I’m all for adding nutritious ingredients to my bakes. Flavour and texture are massively important, but I do derive quite a bit of pleasure from a naturally colourful cake. This kale apple cake with apple icing hits the spot on all counts.
As promised for this month of Veganuary, I’m trying to up the number of vegan meals I eat. This has been massively helped by the acquisition of two recently published vegan recipe books authored by talented fellow food bloggers. You’ll find reviews of the books below along with a recipe for veggie chilli which has been rather heavily adapted from one of them. Twas ever thus …
In the last year or so, the Happy Pear have gradually seeped into my consciousness. I’d heard them mentioned by Riverford, Jamie Oliver, in the press and through various food bloggers, but I’d never seen any of their recipes. I’m now the happy owner of their latest book The World of the Happy Pear, to be published soon, on 2nd June. To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, I’m excited to say, I also have two copies of the book to giveaway.
It’s pancake day and having just eaten the most delicious pancake wraps with spiced lentil dhal, I would urge you all to try something a little different today. The recipe I adapted comes from a rather special book from fellow blogger Dannii Martin, Hungry Healthy, Happy. I’m also reviewing another fabulous book from fellow Cornish blogger Jane Sarchet, Secret Kitchen, Southwest England. Read on for my recipe and the two book reviews.
The Cranks Bible: a timeless collection of vegetarian recipes by Nadine Abensur is one of my treasured cookery books. I bought it when it was first published in 2001 and have taken inspiration from it ever since. Despite its frequent use as a bed time read, there are many recipes I’ve barely looked at. The one for aubergine purée with cumin pitot is one such, or in my more prosaic terminology, aubergine dip.
Whereas chocolate peanut butter cups have long been popular in the US as has peanut butter and jelly (jam), the salty sweet combination has only recently blossomed here in the UK. Following on from the craze for salted caramel, comes chocolate combined with peanut butter and it seems to have taken the nation by storm. I’ve become rather enamoured too.
With my sweet tooth and lifelong addiction to sugar, I was fascinated to find a whole encyclopaedia has been devoted to the story of the human predilection for sweet food – ah, it’s not just me then. The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, edited by Darra Goldstein, has just been published and happily a copy landed on my desk.
It’s always exciting when a fellow food blogger publishes a book and when it’s a book as good as Teatime in Paris, it doubles the pleasure. French pâtisserie is something many of us aspire to, but believe it’s too complicated to make at home. This book debunks that myth and makes many of these elegant pastries accessible to us all, as suggested by the subtitle a walk through easy French pâtisserie recipes.
Gingerbread is almost synonymous with Christmas and making some to hang on the tree is something I aspire to each year. This year, I’ve actually done it. Not that we have a tree to hang any on, but I’m hoping that the friends we are giving them to will.
Reading through a review copy of What to Bake & How to Bake It, I noticed a recipe for iced gingerbread cookies that used treacle as a variation. I find the word treacle very hard to resist – something to do with childhood memories of my mother’s treacle pudding, I imagine. Decision made: I would knock up some gingerbread. I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding only a little chocolate (of course) and a few additional spices. A pinch of black pepper for additional warmth was needed I thought as well as some allspice for Vanesther’s Spice Trail and some nutmeg.
What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (published by Phaidon Press at £19.95), is a rather beautiful book. It’s quite a large hardback and has a turquoise textured paper cover that makes me want to stroke it. Two matching turquoise bookmarks add distinction and there are plenty of gorgeous pictures to admire. It appears to be more a work of art than a manual. It’s certainly a book to treasure.
As the title suggests, this book is aimed principally at those who are new to baking or who require a confidence boost. Each recipe is spread over four to six pages, with lots of step-by-step aerial photography and accompanying instructions. Ah, so it is a manual, albeit a rather lovely one. Methodologies, terms and equipment are covered at the beginning and there are plenty of tips and tricks to be found throughout. Anyone working through a few of these recipes would learn pretty much everything they needed to turn out fabulous, cakes, breads, biscuits, pies and desserts. Despite this, I think the book is also useful to the more experienced baker; most of us still have something to learn. Creating a Swiss roll is one of my bêtes noirs, so maybe I’ll be able to crack it with the steps shown here.
There are fifty recipes in total and although the classics are represented, there is plenty here to keep the more experienced baker interested and inspired. Shortbread is covered for example, but orange, lavender, pecan and chocolate versions are also given. I have my eye on the malted chocolate birthday cake as I’m a sucker for a malteser and if I hadn’t been ill in the run-up to Christmas, I would have made the pistachio and fig biscotti which sounds exotic and comforting in equal measure. Other bakes that might restore me to health include: blueberry-cinnamon crumb cake, cranberry stollen and Linzer cookies.
This is how I made:
Spicy Gingerbread with Limoncello Icing
- Melted 110g Rodda’s salted butter in a large pan with 200g dark brown sugar, 2 tbsp treacle and 25g dark chocolate.
- Allowed to cool a little then beat in a duck egg (large hen’s egg would be fine).
- Beat in 2 drops Holy Lama cinnamon extract (2 tsp ground cinnamon), a drop of black pepper extract and a drop of nutmeg extract.
- Sifted in 150g wholemeal flour and 200g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp allpice and a heaped tsp ground ginger.
- Mixed until just combined, then left in my cold kitchen to firm up for an hour.
- Gathered the mixture together to form a ball of dough and rolled out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Cut various shapes from it, rerolling the leftovers again and again until the dough was all used up.
- Placed biscuits on a lined baking tray and baked at 180C for 7 minutes – mine were quite small and larger biscuits would need a couple of minutes or so longer.
- Used a chopstick to make holes for threading whilst the biscuits were still hot from the oven, then removed them to a wire rack to cool.
- Mixed 3 heaped tbsp icing sugar with just enough limoncello to make a thick, but slightly runny icing.
- Piped this onto my biscuits and left them to dry.
- Made about 80 biscuits.
The biscuits smelt wonderful, both in and out of the oven and were as warming and delicious as I’d hoped. The touch of limoncello icing gave an added note of sophistication. They may not have looked very sophisticated, but I’m blaming the flu virus for that. CT and I quickly polished off all the rejects and the rest got packed into bags for gifts.
I am sending these biscuits of to Vanesther over at Bangers & Mash for The Spice Trail, which is allspice this month.
Some are also winging their way to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage who has appropriately chosen sugar and spice for this month’s Cooking with Herbs.