It’s very hard to believe and somewhat difficult to come to terms with, but my mother turned eighty a few days ago. Where have the years gone? To celebrate, we went out for lunch with a few friends and I made this fig lemon marzipan bundt cake.
Yes I know Christmas is still a few weeks away, but Stir-up-Sunday is fast approaching. It falls on the Sunday before Advent which is the 22nd November this year. It’s traditionally the day when the Christmas puddings and cakes are made and when the family all take a turn at stirring, not forgetting to make that all important wish whilst they’re at it. So to get you in the mood and to offer a little inspiration for your Christmas baking, I made this fig almond cake yesterday with a very cheeky slug or three of whisky – Whisky Galore.
Another book that passed briefly through my hands recently was Miranda Gore Browne’s Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can. It has lots of easy to bake cakes which all sound quite delicious, but the one that caught my eye was Brighton Cake. It’s a very old fashioned and simple cake where you rub the butter into the flour rather than creaming it. A bit of nostalgia crept in when I saw it and a burning need to use up some very old jars of jam.
If it wasn’t for We Should Cocoa, I probably wouldn’t have managed a Christmas bundt cake this year. I’m still recovering from flu and lacking in energy, so cooking has been mostly off this Christmas. However, I’m really glad I made the effort as it’s a light and delicious fruit cake that even CT will eat – he’s not a fan of either fruit cake or mincemeat, but is weirdly happy to indulge in this festive treat.
Although I prefer less rather than more sugar in my confectionary, there is no doubt about it, I have a sweet tooth – a sweet tooth combined with a love of chocolate. And I am not alone it seems. According to the Belgian chocolate company Callebaut, two out of three people are more likely to choose a chocolate dessert over a non-chocolate one.
September is a month of abundance, or at least it is in my mother’s garden this year. We went foraging there a few days ago to see what we could find. As well as gathering lots of windfall apples, a big bowl of blackberries, some plums and a few blueberries, we came home with four ripe figs.
This month for Random Recipes we were asked to take 10 seconds to grab one book and run. Dom reckoned with no time to think, we would automatically go for our most useful book. My go to baking book is Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, which coincidentally is the book that featured in last month’s Random Recipes. If I need a reminder on how to make something or need a reliable recipe, then this is the first book I turn to. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or even most comprehensive baking book I own, although I suspect it probably is, but I’ve had the book for many many years and it is like an old familiar.
The next task was to randomly pick a recipe. When I asked CT to pick a number, he obligingly came up with no. 15 which was Nigella’s Victoria Sponge. I have made a Victoria innumerable times, but I have never used Nigella’s recipe before. She suggests substituting some of the flour for cornflour. I’m always interested in trying different methods and ingredients, so I was keen to see what, if any, difference this made. On the three page spread that this classic took up, chocolate was not even mentioned once – harrumph! With a sponge, this is really not a problem as it can generally be filled with whatever you like. I decided I would fill it with the fig and pomegranate jam I made last year and a chocolate buttercream – chocolate and figs are a good combination I reckon.
This is how I made:
Fig and Chocolate Victoria Sandwich
- Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 225g vanilla sugar (golden caster) until pale and airy.
- Beat in 1 tsp chocolate extract.
- Beat in 4 eggs (2 medium hens eggs and 2 large duck eggs).
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal spelt and half white), 25g cornflour and 1½ tsp baking powder. Stirred in as gently as possible.
- Stirred in 2 tbsp sour milk (ordinary milk is fine, but sour helps with the rise).
- Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180°C for 25 minutes until the cakes were risen, golden and firm to the touch.
- Turned first cake out of the mould to cool. And this is where disaster struck. I normally leave the cakes to cool in the moulds for ten minutes before turning out, but in my eagerness I didn’t listen to the warning bells in my head. Large chunks stuck to the bottom of the mould and my first cake was a mess. I dutifully left the second one in it’s mould for 15 minutes before turning out and it was absolutely fine.
- Melted 15g of dark chocolate (72%) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 100g golden icing sugar until pale and fully incorporated.
- Beat in the chocolate.
- Beat in 1 tbsp double cream.
- Placed all the pieces from the broken cake together to form a round as best I could.
- Covered this with the contents from a small jar of fig and pomegranate jam.
- Spread the buttercream over the bottom of the intact cake and placed this, bottom side up on top of the broken one.
- Dusted the top with caster sugar, then immediately cut a slice to see a) if it would hold together and b) how it tasted.
I am eating that slice now and can attest that despite its rather crumpled look, the cake held together and tastes wonderful. The jam and buttercream are a good combination, but I actually think the jam with whipped cream would have been a better one – less sweet and would have allowed the jam to really shine. I’m not sure I really noticed any difference having used cornflour but it wasn’t a double blind trial.
Dom has tasked us with randomly picking a bread recipe this month. Since I’ve started baking the odd yeasty loaf or two as an aside to my regular rye sourdough, I was quite excited by this challenge. The recent success I had with bagels spurred me on and as soon as I found out what the challenge was, I started randomising immediately, then dashed off to the bakers to buy some yeast with a big smile on my face. I’ve started using fresh yeast again recently because I’m wary of the “improvers” listed in the ingredients of dried yeast. As most of my cookbooks have a bread recipe or two in them, I decided to use Eat Your Books again to select my recipe from. Once I’d got my random number I simply counted down the list until I hit number 69 (of 88) and just hoped it wouldn’t be one of my books with no bread recipes to be found. It wasn’t. I picked Gaia’s Kitchen by Julia Ponsonby, one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks. Despite the favour I have shown it over the years, evinced by its rather tatty appearance, I’d never made one of her bread recipes. I counted them out and she had six. Another random number gave me Figgy Bread Roll, which amazingly gave me the very recipe I’d been eyeing up AND there was absolutely no cheating involved.
Although Dom asked us to stick to the recipe religiously, I couldn’t do it – I had to get chocolate in after all. I did make the bread dough more or less as written, but changed the filling significantly. I had a Spanish fig and almond round that had somehow got pushed to the back of a cupboard a rather long time ago and was definitely in need of using. I therefore forwent the use of the other dried fruits and nuts in the recipe and used the whole round instead. I was also keen to take this opportunity to use the dandelion honey I made recently – recipe to follow in a future post.
This is how I made:
Figgy Bread Roll
- Weighed 450g of wholemeal spelt and placed it in a bowl.
- Added 1/2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tbsp cardamom sugar (golden caster).
- Stirred together and made a well in the centre.
- Dissolved 1/2 oz fresh yeast in 300 ml warm water and poured this into the flour.
- Mixed together until all incorporated then covered with a plastic bag and left in a warm place to rise for 1/2 an hour.
- Kneaded for a few minutes, then rolled out onto floured surface into a rectangle about 10″ by 6″ and about 1 cm thick.
- Chopped 500g of a dried figs and almonds (probably around 400g figs and 100g almonds).
- Added 1 tbsp cocoa, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 6 tbsp of dandelion honey and stirred to combine.
- Spread this over the rectangle leaving a good cm clear all around.
- Rolled up the dough lengthways and sealed the sides.
- Placed on a lined baking tray seem side down.
- Left to rise for another 30 minutes.
- Brushed with milk then sprinkled 1 tbsp sesame seeds over the top.
- Baked in centre of oven at 180C for 30 minutes.
Thanks to Dom of Belleau Kitchen for this wonderful loaf. It was simple to make requiring virtually no kneading and was not only light in texture, but delicious too. Hooray for Random Recipes.
As this loaf entailed using up a very old fig almond round given as a present and using homemade dandelion honey rather than real honey and malt extract, I am submitting this to Credit Crunch Munch which is being guest hosted by Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen. Camilla of Fab Food 4 All and Helen of Fuss Free Flavours are the usual suspects.