Saffron with its bright yellow hues and subtle floral and bitter notes is a spice which seems singularly exotic. But it has long been associated with Cornwall. It is said that the Cornish traded with the Phoenicians way back, exchanging tin for saffron and it’s been used here ever since. This may or may not be true, but saffron was a highly popular ingredient in the Middle Ages and saffron crocuses were grown in Bude until the late 19th Century.
A delicious vegetarian version of traditional lardy cakes. They contain white chocolate rather than lard which works as a really good substitute. These non-lardy yeasted buns have an additional apple twist, but you can omit this if you’d rather.
Ros chose V for Alpha Bakes this month, oh my goodness! Other than Vanilla and Victoria sandwich, I wasn’t having many ideas and although vanilla is fantastic, it’s such a common ingredient in cakes, I wanted something a little different. I’ve seen Viennese whirls popping up all over the place which is a great idea, but again not quite what I was looking for. So I turned to trusty Pam Corbin in her wonderful book Cakes and there it was at the bottom of the V list, Vinegar Cake. Traditionally made when hens were off lay, this is an eggless fruit cake from East Anglia. I added a few ingredients not mentioned in Pam’s recipe.
This is how I made it:
- Placed 1 tbsp mesquite powder and 1 tbsp maca powder onto the scales than added white flour to make the weight up to 250g.
- Sifted into a bowl along with 250g wholemeal flour and a pinch of salt.
- Rubbed in 200g unsalted butter cut into bits, until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Stirred in 500g dried fruit made up of sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apples, goji berries and crystallised orange peel (homemade).
- Stirred in 50g chopped Maya Gold chocolate (G&B dark orange spiced).
- Poured 300ml milk into a large bowl (didn’t have a jug big enough) and added 50ml cider vinegar.
- Stirred 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda into 1 tbsp milk.
- Added this to the milk and watched in amazement as it frothed up and up and up!
- Poured this onto the dry ingredients together with 2 tbsp golden syrup and mixed until just incorporated.
- Spooned into a 23cm cake mould and smoothed the top.
- Sprinkled 1 tbsp demerara sugar over the top and baked at 170C for 50 minutes.
- Left to cool in mould for 20 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool almost completely – couldn’t wait any longer!
Watching the milk and vinegar mixture whoosh up when the bicarb was added was impressive. It reminded me of one those school science lessons which probably no longer occur due to health and safety reasons. Whatever the underlying chemistry of it all, it seemed to work: the cake rose really well. Unfortunately, I took it out a little too soon, so it sank in the middle. Surprisingly, the taste of vinegar was noticeable by its absence. It had a lovely crunchy top and would have been great served warm with clotted cream or ice-cream. I’m not a fan of heavy fruit cakes, but this was just about right, plenty of fruit but plenty of cake too. CT is also not a fan of heavy fruitcakes, which he associates with being dense, dry & and desiccated with bucket loads of horrible mixed peel. This one, he opined, was pleasantly fruity with an unexpected sort of spritliness about it. It had a nice soft crumb and tasted slightly malty which I put down to the mesquite I added. We both felt thoroughly virtuous eating this because of the healthful properties of the maca I had included.
Alpha Bakes is a monthly blogging challenge where a random letter is picked from the alphabet which then inspires the theme of the bake. It’s hosted alternately by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.
It’s Easter and I haven’t made a simnel cake for a couple of years, so it just seemed the right thing to do. Last year I made these Amaretto cupcakes decorated with crystalised primroses which were delicious, but just not quite the same as a proper Easter simnel cake. I do like my traditions.
Chocolate for Christmas gifts is of course a necessity. Last year I made ginger chocolates and orange sticks, but what to do this year? A while ago, Susan of A little bit of Heaven on a Plate very kindly sent me a couple of pots of edible gold dust / glitter and I was itching to use them. As soon as I saw White Chocolate Mendiants in Eric Lanlard’s Cox Cookies & Cake, I knew a variation of these would make their way into this year’s hampers. Although I set myself the task to learn chocolate tempering this year, I haven’t actually managed it. I thus continue to be hesitant about making chocolates; although bloom doesn’t really change the taste of chocolate it most certainly makes it look unappealing. Anyway, this is how I gave it a go.
- Drew lots of circles about a couple of centimetres apart on a sheet of greaseproof paper using a pencil and plastic milk bottle top.
- Turned this over so I could see the circles but had no worries about pencil poisoning!
- Into separate bowls put some shelled unsalted pistachios, dried cranberries, dried mango pieces (cut into small strips), dried physalis, blanched almonds split in half, strips of candied orange and lemon peel.
- Melted 150g white cook’s chocolate (Chocolate by Trish) slowly in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot but not yet simmering water.
- Spooned teaspoonfuls of the chocolate into the circles spreading it out to fill the entire circle (made 30).
- Working fast placed a cranberry, pistachio and a piece of mango or phsyalis on each chocolate circle before it set.
- Dusted on some Disco Gold using a small paint brush.
- As soon as set (didn’t take very long in my cold kitchen), peeled the mendiants off with a palette knife.
- Melted 150g 38% milk cook’s chocolate (Chocolate by Trish) using the same method as above, but reserving about 30g which I added after the chocolate was melted. This was an attempt at the seed method of tempering, but without a thermometer it was a bit hit and miss.
- Spooned the melted chocolate into the circles as before (made 30).
- Topped these with cranberries, mango pieces and almonds and left to set.
- Dusted with Disco Gold.
- Melted 150g 72% dark cook’s chocolate (Green & Black’s) using the same method as the milk chocolate (made 32).
- Topped with pieces of candied orange or lemon peel.
- Dusted with Antique Gold.
These mendiants were a huge success and although I made them well over a week ago now, they still look good and my worries about the chocolate blooming has not materialised ….. yet!
Four bags of these have already disappeared into hampers and have now long departed this house.