The task this month from Belleau Kitchen was to select our 30th cookbook and then make the recipe from whatever was on page 30 – this is the 30th RR after all. I always approach Random Recipes with some trepidation as you just never know what you might get landed with, but off I went to Eat Your Books to find my 30th cookbook. In case you’ve missed it, I have a giveway running at the moment for a lifetime’s membership of Eat Your Books – I can’t recommend it highly enough. As it happened, I struck lucky and my 30th book was Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. For many years, this was the only book on my bookshelf dedicated to baking, so I know it well. Now that I have many others, I don’t use it as often; I was glad to be persuaded to renew my acquaintance. It also meant, that with any luck I might be able to enter this into Forever Nigella.
The next task was to go and find the book and turn to page 30 – Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake. Now this couldn’t have been more opportune. I made this cake once before, many years ago, so I already knew it was a good one. I was shortly to be baking for Liskeard’s first pop-up cafe and was wondering what gluten-free bake I could include. With a little tweaking, namely substituting the wheat flour for buckwheat, this would do very nicely, I thought. The addition of white chocolate could only improve things and would allow it to appear on Chocolate Log Blog. I’ve already established that rose and rhubarb make for a fine combination, so I wanted to include some rose syrup here for added interest.
So this is how I made:
Rhubarb and Rose Polenta Cake
- Washed and trimmed the rhubarb, cutting it into ½ cm slices.
- Placed in a bowl and covered with 100g of cardamom sugar (caster) to extract some of the juice. Added 4 tbsp rose syrup.
- Melted 50g white chocolate (G&B) in a bowl over hot water.
- Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 150g cardamom sugar (caster) until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the cooled chocolate.
- Beat in 2 large duck eggs, one at a time.
- Sifted in 150g buckwheat flour, 155g fine cornmeal, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, ¼ tsp salt and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
- Stirred in 250g natural yogurt alternately with the flour until just combined.
- Gently stirred in the rhubarb and juice.
- Poured into a 23cm cake mould and baked at 180° C for about 50 minutes until the top was well risen and springy to the touch.
- Covered with tin foil after the first 30 minutes to prevent the top burning.
- Left to cool for 20 minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Dusted with icing sugar and scattered with rose petals.
The bake came an honourable second behind the most popular one, the chocolate cake. Sadly, I didn’t get to try any, but I had very good feedback and all of it disappeared. The very first person to try anything was gluten intolerant, so she was delighted to have something tasty she could eat.
Leafing through How to be a Domestic Goddess the other night, I saw Nigella’s treatise on Victoria sponges and although she didn’t have a chocolate one, I was inspired by her to create my own for the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club, CCC. The theme was afternoon tea, so what could be more appropriate than a Victoria sandwich? I was also inspired by Karen’s drinking chocolate cake over at Lavender and Lovage, so decided to use a drinking chocolate mix rather than cocoa. As I was planning on using the vanilla apricot jam I made before Christmas, I was hoping this would make for a lighter taste, which would allow the apricot and vanilla flavours to shine through.
This is how I made:
Hot Chocolate Victoria Sponge with Vanilla Apricot Jam and Cream
- Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 240g vanilla (caster) sugar until very pale.
- Beat in 4 duck eggs, one at a time, mixing in a little of the flour in between each egg to stop curdling.
- Stirred in 210g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 50g drinking chocolate, and 2 scant teaspoons of baking powder.
- Added about 4 tbsp of milk to make a loose, but not runny mixture.
- Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 20 minutes until firm on top and cake tester came out clean.
- Left to cool for ten minutes, then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Spread one half with a jar of my vanilla apricot jam.
- Whisked 150 ml double cream until soft peaks formed.
- Spread cream over the top of the jam and placed the other half on top.
- Sprinkled with caster sugar.
One of my cakes broke up a little when I turned it out, a rare occurrence for me as I use silicone moulds; I am always taken aback when it happens and not best pleased. Luckily, I managed to rescue it by gluing most of it back together with the jam and using it as the bottom layer.
My goodness that jam was good. The cake wasn’t bad either. Others thought so too and demonstrated their appreciation by coming up for seconds – no mean feat with the vast array of cakes available.
Our CCC event was held at Lanhydrock, one of our local National Trust estates which is just up the road from us – in Cornwall terms anyway. The meeting was held in one of the offices away from the main house, a pleasant corner of the estate I’d not seen before. The converted stables, recently revamped, made an excellent location for our gathering. The cakes were many, splendid and varied. To top it all we had an informative and entertaining talk by Sue Bamford on the surprisingly dramatic history of afternoon tea. Who knew that a married woman in Victorian times could entertain a male guest in her dressing gown for tea, but was unable to do so fully dressed for dinner.
Many thanks to Ellie Michell for continuing to organise our wonderful cakey gatherings. As I said the cakes were many and varied and I rather lost the plot on what they were, who had baked them and whether I’d photographed them or not. So here follows a random selection:
|Kat’s lemon curd and raspberry sponge|
|Ellie’s Carrot Cake|
|Boiled Fruit Cake with Pineapple|
|Irish Whisky Cake|
|Nat’s Cherry Bakewell|
|Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake|
Inspired by Nigella as it was, I’m entering my Hot Chocolate Victoria Sandwich to Forever Nigella, created by Maison Cupcake and this month hosted by Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes. The Theme is Easter and I reckon this would make a perfect cake for Easter tea.
As I used four very large duck eggs which were coming to the end of their useful life, I am entering this to the No Waste Food Challenge, created by Kate of Turquoise Lemons and this month hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. The theme this month is eggs.
Although most of my bakes are entirely made from scratch, I don’t often remember to submit them to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays, but I’ve remembered this time.
With so many limes in need of using up, a key lime pie was definitely going to be on the menu. As a key lime pie newbie it was just a question of whose recipe I was going to use. New to key lime pie? Yes, really. I don’t know how I’ve managed it, but in all my years of cooking I have not only never made one, but I’ve never eaten one either. There was a recipe in my new book Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen which I was keen to try; there was a fabulous sounding one in Tea with Bea using 13 limes; I had a cheesecake version from Eric Lanlard in Home Bake and two versions from Nigella in How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Not one of them had a chocolate version – well really! With all my limes, it would have been a good opportunity to make Bea’s version, but in the end the Forever Nigella challenge won me over and it was one of Nigella’s recipes I adapted.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Key Lime Tarts
- Melted 50g unsalted butter and 100g 70% dark chocolate (Green & Blacks) in a small pan over low heat.
- Whizzed 300g digestive biscuits in the food processor until they were fine crumbs.
- Added the chocolate mixture and whizzed some more until all incorporated.
- Pressed the mixture into the bottom of a 22 cm ” flan mould and into four 9 cm tartlet cases.
- Left in my cold kitchen to set for an hour or so.
- Whisked 300 ml double cream with electric beaters until thickened.
- Grated in the zest of 4 well scrubbed limes and beat a bit more.
- Added a 397 ml tin of condensed milk and beat a little more.
- Added the juice of the 4 limes and beat for about a minute until the mixture was thick and formed firm peaks.
- Spooned onto the biscuit base and decorated with strips of lime zest and dark chocolate shavings.
The theme for Forever Nigella this month is Nostalgic Nigella. Well, I may have never made or eaten a key lime pie before, but I have heard about these American beauties for many years. Having spent my first year of life in New York, they somehow make me feel nostalgic for the American childhood I never had, I bet key lime pie would have been a staple in our brownstone apartment. Hosted this month by the The Botanical Baker, it’s home is with Maison Cupcake.
This post featuring foodie gifts may seem a little late, or even very premature, but the Christmas festivities are never over for us until my mother has had her Christmas dinner, featuring a locally reared free range goose and something special for me. Sometimes this happens on Christmas Day, sometimes on New Year’s Eve, which is her birthday and sometimes it’s later. For Christmas 2012, we were all away on a big family gathering at one of my aunts near Cambridge. My mother decided to extend her stay for a couple of weeks so has not had a chance to have her dinner until today.
Usually, it is my prerogative to bring along a dessert to complement my mother’s famous Christmas pudding (the only one CT will eat). However, this year, she has that already sorted so I am bringing the pre-dinner nibbles instead. As well as various nuts, I have marinated some olives, originating from a friend’s place in Liguria, with olive oil and oregano.
I’ve also made some of Nigella’s Parmesan shortbreads that look so very tempting on the BBC food site, but look completely different here. Luckily, they taste wonderfully naughty and I’ve found it very difficult to keep CT at bay and save the majority to take with me today. One of the guests is gluten sensitive, so although these are not completely gluten free, I made them with half gluten free flour and half wholemeal spelt, so the gluten level is very low. Spelt flour can often be tolerated when standard wheat flour cannot. In making the mix, I found it was far too dry, perhaps because these flours absorb more liquid than plain white wheat flour. I ended up adding the white of the egg as well as the yolk and a tablespoon of water. When I cut the rounds (43 in total), they flattened out into rectangles and ended up looking like mini slices of toast I thought – quite cute really.
As these are a Nigella special I am entering them into Forever Nigella, a monthly blog event from Maison Cupcake. This month is being hosted by Recipe Junkie and the Attack of the Custard Creams and the theme is Food to Cherish Your Loved Ones. Making these virtually gluten free is a loving touch I reckon and they will also be shared out lovingly amongst our friends.
So what were in my Christmas hampers in 2012?
|Fig, Apple and Pomegranate Jam|
|Chilli & Chocolate Mincemeat|
|Chewy Apricot & White Chocolate Cookies|
|Cinnamon & Honey Christmas Stars|
|Rosemary Chocolate Truffles|
|Cookies in a Jar|
|Ginger Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies|
|Chocolate Spoons & Dinosaurs|
|Peppermint Bark – yet to be posted|
|Almond and Cinnamon Balls from Belleau Kitchen|
|Chill ChocolateMincemeat Slices|
With the combined incentives of a visit from a coffee loving friend and this month’s We Should Cocoa ingredient being coffee, it was time to revive a couple of bakes I used to make regularly when hosting a party: Nigella’s Espresso and Cappuccino Cupcakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I haven’t made these since I started this blog. I’m not sure why, ahh, is it because I don’t like coffee? If truth be told, coffee is not a flavour I’m particularly fond of. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee I find most tempting, but unfortunately, not the taste. CT on the other hand, whilst not particularly fond of the drink, likes the flavour in bakes & chocolates – guess who always gets passed the coffee chocolates? Lucy blogging at The KitchenMaid is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa and she has chosen coffee – I could hardly demur!
Although I made a few changes to Nigella’s recipe, I can’t for the life of me remember what I did; it was a few days ago and I foolishly didn’t write it down after baking. I remember using half spelt flour and adding yogurt to the cake mix to lighten them a bit and some maca powder for its health benefits. So I am, sadly, unable to tell you exactly how I made them, but I do remember used lots of dark chocolate as well as white chocolate and I only made six of each.
Anyway, reports were good and despite my lack of enthusiasm for coffee, I did try them both. The espresso cakes were dark and bitter and gave a real jolt from the combination of dark chocolate and strong coffee. The rich espresso ganache topping and chocolate covered coffee bean on top added to the indelible stamp of a good espresso – so I’m told. The cappuccino ones, I found more palatable. They tasted of coffee for sure, but not as strongly and the creamy mascarpone and white chocolate top helped calm things down a bit. The cream and dark coffee colours looked quite spectacular together, although, due to the bad weather, my photographs don’t capture this very well.
The cakes were enjoyed after a session with the bees. Yes, that’s right, bees. Three years after having a top bar hive built for my mother, we have finally sourced some bees. They arrived less than two weeks ago and this was the first time the lid was being taken off to check that all was OK – a momentous occasion. We were somewhat concerned as a) the weather has been atrocious and b) there was the possibility of the comb being built the wrong way. When I say session, I mean CT and my mother; both I and our friend kept a wary distance. As it happened, all seemed absolutely fine. A comb had been built and in the right place too (we think)!
Not having taken part in the Forever Nigella challenge, the brainchild of Sarah of Maison Cupcake, for a while, I thought it was about time I did. So, I was really pleased to find out that this month’s theme, guest hosted by Homemade by Fleur is Afternoon Tea. Well, what a relief for those tea sceptics to find some very welcome coffee! So please find my espresso and cappuccino cupcakes sitting demurely at the Afternoon Tea table – but be warned, they are anything but demure!
With two left over egg whites from making ice-cream and a Forever Nigella entry to submit over at Maison Cupcake, chocolate macaroons were my indulgence of choice. Sarah of Maison Cupcake has changed the rules, maybe as a new year’s treat and we can now make whatever Nigella recipe we like – hooray! After my last attempt at macaroons, which were delicious but exceedingly faffy, I thought I wouldn’t bother with the piping fiasco this time and just spoon the mixture straight onto the baking trays. Admittedly my first attempt gave a slightly more uniform result, but the difference was marginal and saved me a whole heap of time and mess. Inspired by the herb flavourings for truffles in my newest book Crazy Water Pickled Lemons, I added a couple of things that were not mentioned in the Nigella recipe, namely star anise and rosemary.
This is how I made them:
- Whisked two egg whites until nearly stiff.
- Added 12g cardamom sugar (caster) and whisked until completely stiff.
- Sifted in 12g cocoa, 65g ground almonds, 125g icing sugar and a pinch of star anise.
- Folded the sifted ingredients into the egg whites as gently as I could.
- Spooned teaspoonfuls (22) onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Left for 20 minutes – to form a skin apparently which presumably is meant to eradicate cracking!
- Baked at 180C for 12 minutes.
- Removed from the tray with a spatula and as most of them had merged together whilst baking, cut them apart.
- Left to cool on a wire rack.
- Melted 75g milk chocolate (G&B 37% cook’s chocolate) in a pan over hot water with 5 tbsp double cream, 20g unsalted butter and a sprig of rosemary.
- Stirred until all was melted and smooth.
- Removed from heat and fished out the rosemary.
- Beat this with a spoon until it was thick enough to spread. As my kitchen was colder than the fridge, this didn’t take very long.
- Used generous teaspoonfuls to sandwich the macaroons together ending up with 11 fairly substantial biscuits.
Leaving the macaroons out to form a skin didn’t work, just like the last time. My macaroons came out exceedingly cracked. That’s OK, I like the cracked homemade look. However, they were just as delicious as I remember them. Crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The presence of the star anise and rosemary were subtle, but noticeable and added a certain hint of sophistication and exoticism to the proceedings.
CT went off on one of his streams of consciousness and identified the taste of China and correctly described the taste as being like China meets the Med. It’s a marvel, he said with what you can do with an egg – the perfect food. At least that’s what I think he said – his mouth was full at the time.
Next time I make macaroons, I will stick to the spoon method as it is infinitely preferable to messing around with a piping bag and for incompetents like me, there is no discernible difference in result.
Well I haven’t managed to enter the Forever Nigella Event, the brain child of Sarah from Maison Cupcake, for a couple of months, so I thought it was about time I did. The theme this month chosen by Arthi at Soul Curry is Iced Dreams. I don’t have an ice-cream maker. Making it by hand conjures up not so fond memories of lots of beating, in and out of the freezer and then ending up with ice crystals anyway. So the idea of ice-cream didn’t really appeal. However, looking through my trusted copy of How to Be a Domestic Goddess, I came across a recipe for Chestnut Ice-Cream Meringue Cake and no churning was needed. Lush, rich and sumptuous, this seemed a very apt dessert for a Nigella challenge. As it happened, when I went to put the finished cake in the freezer, I realised I had no room anyway. That was fine, it went into the fridge instead and became a chilled cake, which, luckily for me is permitted. As usual, I ended up doing something a little different to the actual recipe: first off, I only made half the amount – I didn’t want to make it too sweet so used less sugar than stated, I added a bit of cocoa and used creme fraiche rather than cream. I also used cardamom sugar so omitted the vanilla.
This is what I did:
- Whisked 3 egg whites until the soft peak stage.
- Gradually whisked in 120g of cardamom sugar (caster sugar) until the mixture was stiff.
- Whisked in 1 tbsp cocoa.
- Stirred in 1 tsp cider vinegar.
- Lined 2 baking trays with baking parchment and drew 3 saucer sized circles – about 15 cm (which spread to about 17 cm when cooked) on the parchment, only just managing to squeeze two onto one sheet.
- Divided the mixture between the three circles and spread to fill them.
- Baked at 150C for 30 minutes then turned the oven down to 100C for a further 35 minutes.
- Turned the oven off and left in until cold.
- Beat 1/2 a can of sweetened chestnut puree (about 220g) with 2 tbsp of rum and 40g icing sugar until smooth.
- Stirred in 300ml creme fraiche (home made).
- Placed a meringue circle on a plate and spread with 1/3 of the chestnut cream.
- Topped this with another meringue circle and spread with another 1/3 of the cream.
- Topped with the final meringue and spread the last 1/3 of cream over the top.
- Shaved about 10g of 35% milk chocolate over the top to decorate.
- Placed in the fridge to set and chill (about 4 hours).
The finished cake tasted heady and ambrosial with the tropical rum flavour very much to the fore. It was rich and creamy. This made a good contrast to the crunchy meringue layers. CT summed it up with one word – delicious! Sliced into eight pieces, one slice was certainly enough. There was one downside though, as illustrated in this picture: after the first slice the crunch disappeared from the meringues as the moist mixture was slowly absorbed. I guess this wouldn’t have happened if I’d been able to freeze it as instructed. Served immediately as a dinner party dessert, this would have been superb.
Having made my first experiment using marmalade in cakes with this chocolate and marmalade cake and been won over by the result, I decided to have another go.
The theme for this month’s Forever Nigella hosted by Maison Cupcake was Italian. All I could think of was a chocolate torte, but having made one for the last challenge, I wanted to do something a bit different, but what? A quick flick through How to be a Domestic Goddess and I alighted on Florentines. Excellent, what could be more Italian than Florentines? On investigation, of course, it seems that there is some debate as to whether these actually originated from Florence, as the name suggests, or from Austria. Still, I figured the name alone qualified these for the challenge and they would also do very nicely as something suitable to take to my mother’s for tea. Or would they? On 2nd thoughts I wasn’t quite so sure; I had vague memories of attempting these once before in the dim and distant past and that they perhaps had not been very successful! Oh well, nothing ventured and all that. Rather nervously I proceeded as follows:
- Chopped 50g Brazil nuts into rough chunks.
- Added 50g flaked almonds, 30g crystallised pineapple, 20g mixed peel and 80g of mixed sour cherries, raisins and goji berries.
- Melted 25g unsalted butter in a pan.
- Added 90g vanilla sugar (mine is granulated).
- Stirred in 15g plain flour.
- Added 150ml double cream and beat until smooth.
- Placed heaped teaspoonfuls on well spaced apart on baking trays lined with baking paper.
- Baked at 180C for 10 minutes, then left to cool.
- Melted 150g 72% cook’s chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
- Spread melted chocolate over the backs of the Florentines and left to set.
Having noted that this month’s Maison Cupcake’s Forever Nigella challenge had a chocolate theme, how could I resist entering? I only have one Nigella book, but its a good one, How to be a Domestic Goddess. Hunting through it, I came across this rather decadent sounding cake. I was now in a quandary: having no special occasion to celebrate, this was quite an expensive cake for just the two of us. However, what I did have were some pistachios whose sell by date was fast approaching – the deal was sealed!
Nigella blithely states this is a simple cake to make. Well I guess it depends what you mean by simple. Melting chocolate in one bowl, beating egg whites in another and the batter in a third maybe simple, but it involves a lot of washing up. I don’t have a large enough food processor to make cakes in, so I also had to grind up the pistachios in a coffee grinder. On top of this the butter was rock hard and the house not warm enough to soften it properly, so much arm power was needed. So, actually not that simple after all.
As I have said on a number of occasions, I am almost incapable of following a recipe exactly and this time was no exception. Lacking a suitable food processor meant I had to follow a different method to Nigella even before I started tinkering with the ingredients. I didn’t quite get what the lemon was about, so I didn’t use it. I used unrefined granulated sugar rather than caster. I wanted to cover the top with something, but not smother it so that the pistachio flavour was overpowered. As a result, I only made 1/3 of the ganache from Nigella’s recipe. Instead of the orange blossom water, which I didn’t have anyway, I used a home made liqueur.
This is what I did:
- Melted 150g 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water
- Ground 150g pistachios with 50g granulated sugar in a coffee grinder
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 50g granulated sugar until very pale.
- Beat in the pistachios.
- Separated 6 eggs (1 duck egg and 5 large hens eggs)
- Beat in egg yolks one by one.
- Stirred in the melted chocolate.
- Whisked egg whites with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until stiff then whisked in 50g granulated sugar.
- Folded this into the cake mixture one third at a time.
- Spooned mixture into a 23 cm round cake mould and baked for 15 minutes at 190C then turned oven down to 180C and baked for a further 20 minutes.
- Turned out onto a rack to cool.
- Melted a further 50g of 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water with 50ml of double cream and 2 tsp of homemade sea buckthorn liqueur (I was looking for something that wouldn’t be too strong and fruity).
- Stirred together lightly with a small whisk to avoid mixture splitting.
- Spread on top of cooled cake.
- Scattered a few chopped pistachios over the ganache.
The cake had risen amazingly high when I took it out of the oven and like a soufflé, it quickly sank! Luckily it sank gracefully to a nice flat top. The texture was mousse like, moist, light and smooth in the mouth – not nearly as dense as it looked. The cake itself was not at all sweet, almost savoury in flavour, but the ganache added a dessert quality. I was slightly concerned that the delicate flavour of pistachios would be lost in the rich chocolate, but no, they had a subtle but definite presence. The nuts added a slight crunch. The ganache was just the right amount to form a glaze over the top. The liqueur worked well, augmenting the overall effect rather than as a flavour in its own right. I suspect orange blossom water would have been completely drowned out by the rich chocolate. Sometimes it’s good to celebrate, even when there’s nothing specific going on. We both very much enjoyed this cake and it will keep us going for a few days.