Posts Tagged ‘vanilla extract’

Pretty Little Rich Cake

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

It was Sophie’s birthday the other day.  We went out en famille for a Chinese meal at Sweet Basil in Kirk Hammerton.  Sophie wanted a strawberry cake, so I felt like trying something a bit old-fashioned.  Before Bird and Dr Oetker independently came up with the idea of baking powder to put the fluff into your cakes through a bit of basic chemistry, cakes were made with more eggs and the air was physically put in through some hard grafted whisking.  Cakes were generally less light, but had a lot more body to them.  I also think that these old-fashioned cakes tend to soften over time rather than dry out as much as more modern cakes.

This little cake looks pretty, dressed in fluffy white cream and gorgeous pink strawberries, and is full of that extra rich taste from a profusion of eggs.  I like it much more than your typical sandwich type cake, and it is not much more complicated to make.

Strawberries & Cream Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

125g / 4½ oz / 1 cup organic plain flour
125g / 4½ oz / ½ cup organic caster sugar
4 medium free range eggs, at room temperature
1tsp organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
75g / 2¾ oz / ⅓ cups / ⅔ sticks butter, melted then cooled a bit
2tbsp strawberry jam/conserve
4-6 decent sized strawberries, quartered
125ml / ½ cup whipping cream
½-1tbsp vanilla sugar

How to make

Start by preparing two 20cm/9 inch round cake tins: lightly grease the tins, then line with base with some baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F.

Sieve the plain flour then set it aside.

Add the caster sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into a heatproof bowl.  Boil a kettle of water and put into a pan, then reheat it until simmering.  Put the heatproof bowl with egg-sugar mix over the simmering water, using a hand-held electric whisk at the highest level for 5 minutes.  This will increase the volume to around three times the initial level and the colour to a creamy yellow colour.

Scoop about one-third of the sieved plain flour over the egg-sugar mixture, then using a big metal spoon fold the flour into the mixture.  Repeat for the remaining two thirds of plain flour.  Next drizzle the cooled liquid butter into the mix in thirds again, folding in carefully each time.  The key is do the minimal of folding to keep the air in the egg-sugar mixture as much as possible.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and then bake for 25 minutes.  Leave in the tins for a few minutes before turning out the baked tin, and allow it to cool down fully.

This cake is delicious on its own, but I wanted to make it into something a bit fancier for Sophie:

  • Firstly, I spooned some strawberry jam onto one of the cakes – not too much, but enough to stick the two cakes together.  Then I put the two cakes together.
  • Secondly, I whipped some cream with the vanilla sugar – pour the cream into a mixing bowl, then whisk until getting harder, when you should sprinkle over the caster sugar; whisk some more until the cream makes soft peaks.  Scoop and smooth over the top of the cake, then arrange the chopped strawberries in the whipped cream.
Strawberry & Cream Cake

Strawberry & Cream Cake

Enjoy on its own, or with a delicious cup of Earl Grey tea or First Flush Darjeeling.

Homemade Marshmallows

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

It is not very often that I rip out pages from cookery magazines for use at a later date, so it was a surprise when the other day I found some pages I had ripped from a copy of the magazine, Delicious, from some years back.  In it, I had obviously fallen for some beautiful photography of brightly coloured and divine looking marshmallows.

I love marshmallows.  They are one of those things that I know I should dislike but really love – another guilty secret is Haribo sweets, which we used to buy as a treat when we went to Munich to visit relatives back in the 1970s, but which are ubiquitous nowadays.  Many years ago I tried to make my own marshmallows but they came out as a truly gloopy mix – a cross between a sweet and jelly cubes.  So I liked the idea of creating something really fluffy and delicious.

This recipe really does work and the key is getting the fluffy, bubblegum stage in the middle just right.  Interestingly, after a week, they had the texture and flavour of shop-bought marshmallows, which just goes to show how different freshly made is from manufactured foods.

I reckon that you could make deliciously flavoured versions with orange extract or rose water (or better rose oil), or matcha.  The bittersweet of matcha tea against the sugar syrup of the marshmallow would go well, and the colour would be weirdly enticing.

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

Recipe for marshmallows

120ml /4¼ fl oz liquid, cool
23g / ¾ oz gelatine
440g /1lb caster sugar
160ml / 5½ fl oz golden syrup
115ml /4 fl oz warm water
Vegetable oil for greasing
Cornflour for dusting

Line a baking tray of rough dimensions that’s 2cm (½ inch) and 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).  You should use clingfilm for this that has been well oiled with the vegetable oil.

Pour the cool liquid into a mixing bowl, ideally the bowl for your mixer.  You can use this stage to get a good flavour into the marshmallows, for example we used citrus and berry smoothies.  You could use matcha tea or spice flavours (see notes later), but if you want to add cocoa powder or coffee or fruit liqueurs or spice extracts, these should be added later.  If you are adding flavours later, just use water at this stage.  Sprinkle over with the powdered gelatine.  Set aside to allow the gelatine to absorb the liquid; it may need a stir to ensure that any dry patches are fully dampened.

Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and warm water into a heavy bottomed pan, then over a medium heat dissolve the sugars to create a syrup.  At this stage, you should stir it gently to help with the creation of a sugar solution, brushing down any sugar crystals on the edge of the pan as these could burn later.

When dissolved, increase the heat and let the sugar syrup start to boil.  Let it boil pretty vigorously, but obviously without going over the top of the pan.  Do not stir, but check the temperature every so often.  When the temperature gets to 130C/266F, take off the heat and let cool for 1 – 2 minutes.  Do not let the temperature rise above 140C/284F, nor use below 130C/266F.

As it is cooling whisk the gelatine-liquid mix in a food mixer using a balloon whisk attachment.  Slowly drizzle the sugar syrup down the side into the mixing bowl; do not pour into the middle directly on to the whisk as this will crystallise out the sugar.  Whisk for some time to allow the mixture to cool down and to expand in size to an opaque bubblegum texture.  You can add flavours like coffee, chocolate, cocoa, fruit liqueurs or vanilla extract at this stage, or maybe rose oil or matcha tea.

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour the mixture into the lined baking tray, then smooth over the top with an oiled knife or spatula.  Cover and leave to set for at least 2 hours by which time the top will be firm, but very sticky.

When set, dust a surface with some cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to this surface.  Gently remove the clingfilm, which will be pretty tightly stuck with the marshmallow.  Then with an oiled sharp knife cut into cubes and then dip into cornflour to counteract the stickiness.  Eat and enjoy.

As alternatives, you could use an infusion of mug of matcha tea or perhaps 1 cinnamon quill infused in boiling water for 15 minutes, then allowed to cool.  It is important to let the liquid for the gelatine be cool, so place in fridge to make sure of this.  Then for a colourful outside, you could grind some freeze dried fruits or berries in a coffee grinder, or you could use desiccated coconut.

Matcha Tea Cupcakes – Green, Healthy and Tasty Recipe

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The terrible events in Japan lay bare to us all how much we are still at the mercy of the elements, rather than completely in control of our earth.

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

So I decided to revisit my recent post on matcha tea and create these Matcha Tea Cupcakes ideal for charity events to raise money for the tsunami victims.  They are really delicious combination of matcha and cocoa, with with the cupcake tasting just of chocolate cake and the very mild seaweedy taste of the matcha in the icing complements the classic sweetness of the chocolate.  As an aside, this is great way to get some of the benefits of matcha without needing to drink a cup of slightly bitter matcha tea

Matcha Cupcakes

Matcha Cupcakes

Recipe for Matcha Tea Cupcakes

1 tsp (rounded) organic matcha tea
120ml / ½ cup milk
100g / ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp organic plain flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Fairtrade cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
150g / 1 scant cup Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
50g / 3½ tsp unsalted butter 

For the topping:

80g / 5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp (level) organic matcha tea, sieved
2 tbsp fromage frais
250g / 2 cups Faitrade icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

2.  Pour the milk into a milk pan, then sieve the matcha tea into the milk.  Whisk the mixture with a matcha whisk or a fork.  Then carefully heat the milk until hot to touch but not starting to simmer.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

3.  Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sea salt and then tip in the caster sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients together.

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

4.  Put the egg and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients and mix up a bit with a fork.  Chop the unsalted butter into small cubes and add to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly with an electric whisk or in a blender.  When creamed together, add the matcha milk mix and throughly mix.

Mix In The Matcha Milk

Mix In The Matcha Milk

5.  Spoon the mixture into paper cupcakes until about three-quarters up.

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

6.  Place in oven and cook for about 25 minutes, or until spongy to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

7.  To make the matcha icing, simply mix all the ingredients together and put a dessertspoon of the matcha frosting onto each cupcake.

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

8.  Enjoy the taste straight away.

It’s A Mad World, Sometimes

Monday, February 28th, 2011

We are developing a vanilla paste to complement Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract, rose water etc. 

However, today I was sent the Specification and Material Safety Data Sheet by the guys who are going to do “the making it into a paste bit” for us.  Within this, it stated that “If Ingested: Induce Vomiting”.  On thinking this a bit extreme for a product that is already sold for human consumption to the public in shops and restaurants around Europe and the USA, I queried this statement.  The response was simple that if you ingested too much then this might be bad for you and then you should induce vomiting. 

I suspect that eating/ drinking too much Divine Orange Chocolate or smoked salmon or Mrs Kirkham’s delicious Lancahsire cheese or Coca-Cola or even our teas and so on and so on might be bad for the health and one should then induce vomiting, if it has not already started of its own accord; so why not then put health warnings on all foodstuffs that you eat this at your own risk.

It is just another symptom of our form-filling world where it is more important to tick some boxes rather than engage the brain and really think things through, i.e. businesses and bureaucrats are becoming ever more interested in covering their legal backsides than actually adding any real value.  So I am now going to buy a product that I am being told might cause “nausea and dizziness” if ingested specifically to sell to the public to ingest, so now the risk has shifted from the manufacturer to me, so it is lucky that my shoulders are broad enough to take on a bit more theoretical business risk.

Food Blogs November 2010 (Part 2)

Friday, December 10th, 2010

At Mahanandi during November, Indira proposed a Telugu menu for Thanskgiving celebrations, which looks a good menu.

While at Not Without Salt, Ashley has been sweetening up her Thanskgiving with delicious Mock Almond Crunch biscuits that I might try for my daughter’s rearranged birthday party (she had chicken pox for the original date, so we had to cancel).  I love the toasted almonds to give the sweet bite that nutty crunch.  Then Ashley talks about dark days during November, happy snow days and Duckfest, a day for preparing ducks from slaughter to plate.

While at Orangette, Molly Wizenberg thinks she might have found her new favourite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and so I might need to also bake that for Emily’s birthday party.  I am always on the quest for a better chocolate chip cookie recipe, not that the one I currently use from Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall is bad, but this is one of those fab biscuits that just can be made in so many different ways.  A good chocolate chip cookie has a great balance of bitterness and sweetness and different textures coming from the biscuit and the chocolate.  Then Molly treats us to a great way to cook carrots with onions and thyme, which is a rare treat into the world of vegetable recipes.

At The Wednesday Chef, Luisa Weiss bakes a squash pie for a German-American Thanksgiving in Berlin and points us to a great video from The New York Times on making the perfect pie crust and links back to Orangette for a Chard, Onion, and Gruyère Panade from back in 2005.  Luisa, also, baked some Benne Wafers that in her words are “insanely good”.

While Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks puts us all to shame with the sheer volume of blogging she manages to do and cooking that she gets done.  Several recipes caught my eye, including: Green Bean Casserole which sounds a clever way to sneak in some veg past the kids (by the way it does include bacon so it is not vegetarian); Hard Sauce which is a Texan version of Brandy Butter using whiskey rather than brandy and used to scoop over puddings at Thanksgiving, especially apple pie and pumpkin pie; Bobby’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Vanilla Creme Anglaise per Bobby Flay; Parker House Rolls that are an essential bread for Thanksgiving.

At Wild Yeast, Susan explains to us why you cannot switch baker’s yeast for soudough starter in bread recipes and vice versa at Going Wild.  Then, there is a recipe for Cranberry Bread that was ideal for Thanskgiving 2010 (or future Thanksgivings) and a Caramel Cheesecake, which sounds great for two reasons: I like cheesecake; and I also was given cheesecake for my birthday cake also in November, so snap.  While at Bread Cetera, there is a recipe for Baguettes a la Bouabsa, which call for an immense 21 hour fermentation period; they are (Steve B says) brilliant and after that length of prep time, I should hope they are stupendous.

Recipe For Rich Apple Cake

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The idea for this cake comes from the wonderful cook book “European Peasant Cookery” by Elisabeth Luard; it is her recipe for Apple Cake or Æblekage, which comes from Denmark.  “European Peasant Cookery” is one of those great cookbooks that is packed with recipes that will inspire you and has no pretty pictures to beguile you and get in the way of the cookery.

A Slice Of Rich Apple Cake

A Slice Of Rich Apple Cake

I have changed it quite a lot, switching self rasing flour for plain and increasing the number of eggs used, but the underlying concept remains the same – a rich, moist apple cake.  The result came out as a rich and fulsome apple cake that can be eaten hot or cold, as a cake or a pudding with custard or cream.  It is a delicious balance between the sweetness of the cake with the tart freshness of the cooking apples; it reminds me of Zwetschgendatschi, which is one of my favourite flavour memories buried deep in my soul from holidays spent in Bavaria around the Chiemsee.

Axel’s Apple Cake

500g / 1lb cooking apples, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pinches of organic Fairtrade mixed spice
1tbsp Fairtrade caster sugar, or flavoured sugar like cinnamon or lemon sugar (if using cinnamon sugar, drop the mixed spice)
225g / 8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature and chopped into cubes
195g / 6¾ oz Fairtrade caster sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature and whisked gently
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
195g / 6¾ oz organic plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
75g / 2½ oz organic ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.  Take a 23cm / 9 inch cake tin and lightly oil the tin, remove any excess oil, then line the base with baking paper.

Windfall Apples From The Garden

Windfall Apples From The Garden

Go pick your apples, peel and core them, then slice thinly.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them all, then sprinkle with the caster sugar and a couple of pinches of mixed spice.  Thoroughly mix it up to make sure all slices are nicely coated with sugar and spice.  Leave until later.

Grind the ground almonds in a food processor to make them finer – I know it sounds weird but they are usually just too coarse.  Put to the side for use later in the recipe.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and Steenbergs vanilla extract and whisk up fully.  Sieve together the flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon powder.  Add the flour mix into the cake batter and throughly mix up, then add the ground almonds and mix into the batter.

Sugar And Butter Ready For Mixing

Sugar And Butter Ready For Mixing

Cream The Sugar And Butter

Cream The Sugar And Butter

Mix In The Eggs And Flour Mix

Mix In The Eggs And Flour Mix

Pour half the cake batter into the cake tin, then layer over half the apple slices.  Cover with rest of cake mixture and then layer rest of apple slices over the top of the cake. 

Layer The Apples On The Cake Batter

Layer The Apples On The Cake Batter

Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  At around 1 hour, sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar and start looking and checking the cake to ensure you catch it just when it is cooked.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Home Made Apple Cake

Home Made Apple Cake

Serve warm with custard or whipped cream, or cold as a cake with double cream or on its own.

Vanilla – A Beautiful And Sensual Spice

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Vanilla comes from the vanilla orchid, called Vanilla planifolia, which is native to Mexico, but is now indigenous in many tropical parts of the world, for example Madagascar and surrounding islands.  There is a second vanilla orchid called Vanilla tahitensis, which is native to Tahiti and Papua New Guinea, and has a slightly different flavour profile.  The vanilla orchid flower is a pretty, delicate light green colour.
Vanilla Orchid Flower

Vanilla Orchid Flower

In the wild, vanilla flowers are pollinated by the melipona bee, whereas outside of Mexico, it is pollinated by hand with a small wooden skewer to move the male pollen to the female stigma.  This process is sometimes called la marriage de vanille, or fécondation.
Fertilising The Vanilla Flowers

Fertilising The Vanilla Flowers

It is then a long careful process to tend the vines as they trail along little wires from post to post.  This tending period takes about 9 months.

Tending The Vanilla Vine

Tending The Vanilla Vine

Green Vanilla On The Vine

Green Vanilla On The Vine

After about 9 months, the green vanilla beans are picked and taken to the nearest vanilla processing centre.  At this stage, the vanilla beans looks like French or runner beans.  The first thing to do is to “kill” the beans, which basically denatures the enzymes that would simply make the vanilla rot, but allows the enzymes that result in the curing process to start.

Killing The Green Vanilla Beans

Killing The Green Vanilla Beans

The curing process then takes  several weeks before the raw green beans have turned a deep, dark brown. The pods are laid out on mats in the sun to heat up for the hoursduring the day, where the workers handle the beans and turn them over.  Late in the afternoon, the baking hot beans are collected and wrapped in blankets and straw mats, then placed into air-tight wooden containers to “sweat” overnight.

Collecting Vanilla Beans For Sweating

Collecting Vanilla Beans For Sweating

The head curer checks the progress of the curing every day and assesses when the time is right to stop this curing stage.

Checking On Curing Process In Karnataka In Southern India

Checking On Curing Process In Karnataka In Southern India

Quality Control On Curing Vanilla Beans In Madagascar

Quality Control On Curing Vanilla Beans In Madagascar

The next stage is the conditioning phase when the vanilla pods are held in storage for 3 months to let the flavours develop and run through.  During this conditioning stage, the beans are handled regularly, softening and shaping them – in the Madagascar, they roll the beans between their fingers and so resulting in a rounded shape, while in India, they tend to flatten them between their fingers giving a flatter, longer shape.

Madagascan Vanilla With Their Individual Markings

Madagascan Vanilla With Their Individual Markings

Axel’s Raspberry Cheesecake Recipe

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

My sister and her family came to visit at the weekend, so I was scrabbling around trying to come up with a summery pudding to create, while the rain was gushing down outside in torrents.  I decided that roast chicken with all the trimmings, followed by a cheesecake was the answer, but with some summer fruits inside the cheesecake and a bright red coulis drizzled over it. 

I toyed with the idea of making the raspberry coulis first, then mixing that into the cream and making a pink cheesecake, which would have gone down a storm with the girls, but wimped out as I preferred the idea of getting bites of tart raspberry in clusters of flavour and differing textures, running through the smoothness of the cream cheese filling. 

Cheesecakes are remarkably easy to make and seem to be generally popular with children, and homemade ones are much tastier than shop bought versions that always seem really heavy, then sit like a lump inside your tummy like a lead weight for hours afterwards. You do not need to use raspberries and can substitute them for other summer fruits, like blackcurrants, blackberries or strawberries, so adjust the recipe accordingly.  Similarly, you do not need the coulis and could just serve it naked and pure, or with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Axel Steenberg’s Summer Fruit Cheesecake Recipe

For the base:

150g / 5½ oz digestive biscuits (or in US, Graham cracker or Nilla wafer)
30g / 1oz pecan nuts
75g / 3oz unsalted butter
1 tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade pure vanilla extract (that’s the sales pitch done; or any other good quality vanilla extract)

For the cream cheese filling:

350g / 11oz full fat cream cheese
100g / 3½ oz soured cream
150g / 5oz caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1tsp pure natural vanilla extract
Juice from ½ lemon (rest is used in making raspberry coulis)
Zest from 1 lemon

Good sized handful of fresh raspberries
4 pinches of Steenbergs organic mixed spice

For the raspberry coulis
350g / 12oz fresh raspberries, picked over and washed
45g / 1½ oz granulated sugar
Juice from ½ lemon
70ml / 2½ oz water

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC / 350oF.

2.  Lightly grease and line the base of a 20cm / 8 inch round sandwich tin, that has a springform surround.  Place into a fridge to chill, whilst you prepare the biscuit crumb base.

3.  Place the biscuits and pecan nuts into a food processor and whizz until they reach a smallish crumb.  Take from the food processor, place into a bowl and then add the organic Fairtrade vanilla extract and melted butter.  Mix well until all the crumbs are decently coated with liquid – I use a knife for this stage.

Ingredients for cheesecake base

Ingredients for cheesecake base

Pour the melted butter into the crumb mix

Pour the melted butter into the crumb mix

4.  Get the lined cake tin from the fridge.  Tip the crumb mixture into the pan, then press the mix into the base and all the corners until even and nicely pressed down.  Put the lined tin into the fridge to harden.

Pressing cheesecake crumb mix into cake tin

Pressing cheesecake crumb mix into cake tin

5.  Now measure out all the ingredients for the filling except the raspberries or other fruit.  Put all of these into a mixing bowl or processor and mix/process until smooth and well mixed together.  It is worth scraping down the sides a couple of times with a spatula to make sure that everything has mixed thoroughly.

Ingredients for cheesecake filling

Ingredients for cheesecake filling

6.  Go and get the crumb base from the fridge, then evenly place a handful of fresh raspberries over the biscuity base.  Now pour over the cream cheese mix gently.  Afterwards, I then go over the raspberries to try and even them out a bit; do not overdo this tidying up, but you do not want someone to get all the raspberries, while someone else goes without – that would be really bad form.  Sprinkle delicately 4 pinches of mixed spice over the top of the cheesecake filling.

Pouring the cheesecake mix over crumb base and raspberries

Pouring the cheesecake mix over crumb base and raspberries

Cheesecake ready for baking with mixed spice sprinkled on top

Cheesecake ready for baking with mixed spice sprinkled on top

7.  Put centrally into the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until just set.  Remove from oven and leave to cool completely, then remove the springform outside ring of the cake and place the cake (still on its base) into the fridge to chill through.

Baked cheesecake just out of oven

Baked cheesecake just out of oven

8.  While it is cooling, it is time to make the raspberry coulis.  Place the raspberries into a pan, together with the lemon juice, water and sugar.  Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes.  Leave to cool thoroughly.  While it is cooling, check the sweetness of the raspberries and adjust sugar level if necessary as they can be really tart.

Ingredients for raspberry coulis

Ingredients for raspberry coulis

Lovely cooked raspberries

Lovely cooked raspberries

9.  Process the raspberries throughly to a smooth paste either with a hand held processor or in a larger processor.  Now sieve the raspberry paste into a jug or bowl to remove the seeds.  You will need to squish the juice through with a tablespoon.  Put into the fridge to cool.

Sieving raspberries for raspberry coulis

Sieving raspberries for raspberry coulis

10.  Before serving remove from the fridge to warm up a little.  Cut into smallish slices and place onto a plate, then drizzle over some of the raspberry coulis.  I served the cheesecake with some homemade shortbread for added texture.

Raspberry Cheesecake With Raspberry Coulis

Raspberry Cheesecake With Raspberry Coulis

Recipe For Almond Cake

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

This recipe began with a blog post from David Lebovitz, who wrote that his desert island food would be Almond Cake.  So with great anticipation, I tried his recipe several weeks back, but while Sophie and I loved the marzipan-almond luxury and the old style moist, fulsome texture, we both found the taste overpoweringly sweet; I do tend towards the puritan rather than one for luxury.  I checked the recipe, which I had got correct, so decided massively to reduce the sugar content from 415.75g to 262.5g (14.7oz to 9¼ oz), which still gives a balanced and sweet cake.

The glory of this cake rests with the use of almond paste or pre-made marzipan, which is then supplemented by adding extra almond extract and vanilla extract to bolster the volatiles in the flavour profile.  You need to use a shop-bought marzipan as the texture is much finer than a home-made version. 

It is also one of those cakes which matures with age, becoming moister and the aromas maturing nicely, rather than being one of those cakes that become dry and crumbly. 

It would be fabulous eaten with a cooked seasonal berries, or with a little amaretto drizzled onto it for a boozy alternative.  There’s a creamier alternative Almond Cake recipe at Chocolate & Zucchini that adds yoghurt or sour cream for further luxury.

(Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)

Ingredients For Almond Cake

Ingredients For Almond Cake

Ingredients

150g / 5¼ oz Fairtrade caster sugar
150g / 5¼ oz marzipan (I used Crazy Jack Organic Marzipan)
75g / 2½ oz organic ground almonds
140g / 5 oz organic plain flour
225g / 8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature and chopped into cubes
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
1 tsp natural vanilla extract (naturally, I used Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract)
1 tsp natural almond extract (once again, I used Steenbergs natural almond extract)
6 large eggs, at room temperature and whisked gently

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.  Take a 23cm cake tin and lightly oil the tin, removing any excess oil then line the base with baking paper.

Sieve together the baking powder, plain flour and sea salt in a mixing bowl.

Separately, put the caster sugar, marzipan, ground almonds and a tablespoon of the plain flour into a food processor.  Grind the mixture until the almond has become finer and the marzipan is broken up further, so that it is all a fine breadcrumb texture.

Add the unsalted butter, pure vanilla extract and natural almond extract and process until fluffy.

Pouring Eggs Into Batter For Almond Cake

Pouring Eggs Into Batter For Almond Cake

Add the blended eggs in stages – firstly add about a quarter and blitz until blended in then add a tablespoon of plain flour and mix, then add the next quarter, blend and add next tablespoon of plain  flour and so on.  Add the remaining plain flour and pulse a couple of times until it has just mixed together.

Pour the batter into the cake tin, scraping it all in.  Put cake mix into the oven and bake for 65 minutes or until the cake is brown on the top and set in the middle.

Almond Cake

Almond Cake

When you remove it, run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, then leave to rest and cool completely in the tin.  Then remove the cake from the cake tin, take off the baking parchment on the base and dust with icing sugar, should you so wish.

A Slice Of Home Made Almond Cake

A Slice Of Home Made Almond Cake

Recipe For Sweet Pastry Per Pierre Hermé

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Having been given a great sweet tart pastry recipe by Anthony Stern from Independent Foods, I have recently come across an even better Sweet Tart Dough in Pierre Hermé’s book “Chocolate Desserts”.  I must admit to being given the heads up about the wonders of Hermé’s Sweet Pastry from Chubby Hubby’s blog in February 2010.  Here’s the recipe from the book, amended into British english:

Ingredients

285g / 10 oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
150g / 5¼ oz icing sugar, sieved (in US, confectioners’ sugar)
100g / 3 ¼ oz finely ground almonds (it is worth giving ground almonds from the supermarket an extra whizz in the food processor to grind them down a little bit further)
½ tsp sea salt (don’t ruin the pastry with a cheap industrial free flow salt)
½ tsp pure vanilla extract (use Steenbergs if you can – highly biased viewpoint, so sorry)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (at room temperature)
490g / 17¼ oz plain flour (in US all-purpose flour), sieved

1.  Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer or food processor with paddle fixture and beat/pulse until creamy, scraping down the edges as needed.

2.  Add the sieved icing sugar and process until well mixed in.  Next, you need to add the ground almond powder, sea salt and pure intense vanilla extract, and process until smooth.  Scrape the bowl’s sides if you need to.  Now add the eggs and process to blend.

3.  Add the plain flour in three parts and pulse/mix until the dough mixture starts to get together.  Whatever you do, you mustn’t overblend this and you should stop as it starts to form together into a ball.

4.  Remove the sweet pastry dough and divide into thirds, shape each third into a ball and put each into a plastic bag, then flatten it.  If using soon, let it settle in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably longer.  Freeze the rest and use within a month.  When starting from the frozen pastry medallions, it takes about 45 minutes before the dough is ready for rolling out.

5.  To make the pastry crust, take a 24cm tart ring (9 – 10 inch) and lightly oil or butter it.

Sweet Pastry Disc Ready To Roll

Sweet Pastry Disc Ready To Roll

6.  Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin, then roll out the pastry medallion, working it in each direction to ease the shape out into a very rough & ready circular shape.  Take up the rolled sweet pastry dough and layer it over the tart dish.  Prick all over the surface – I actually only do a triangle in the centre to prevent it bobbling up, but you should do more, or so the experts say.  Patch any tears or thin areas with extra pastry that can simply be worked into the dough in the dish.  Chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

7.  Preheat the oven to 180oC / 350oF.

8.  Now line the crust.  The proper way to do this as all the greats tell you from Delia Smith through to Pierre Hermé is to fit a circle of baking paper into the crust and fill it with dried beans or rice.  I am lazy and I cheat – I scrunch up some aluminium foil, roll it into a roundish length and shape it around the edge of the pastry crust to keep the edges shaped and upright.

Sweet Pastry Dough Lining Tart Dish

Sweet Pastry Dough Lining Tart Dish

9.  Bake the crust for 18 – 20 minutes until it is lightly coloured.  If you need to fully bake the crust, remove the parchment and beans and bake for another 3 – 5 minutes until golden, but if you’ve cheated with aluminium in a round then the centre should have baked as well already, and you don’t need this extra baking time.

10.  Cool on a cooling rack for use later, and at least within 8 hours of baking.

Baked Pie Crust With Nutella Filling

Baked Pie Crust With Nutella Filling