I’m over here…

…if you want to find me. Forgive me, I have started a new website (a step up from a blog in terms of time, investment and focus) and I am therefore, what with the small matter of earning a living as well, rather absent from CSG right now. I hope to be back, once the sheer enormity of posting an entry five days per week has become a little less exhausting and I can face the idea of baking again. But meanwhile, come visit.

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Ottolenghi’s Apple Cake Recipe

I tried to make this cake a while back but was thwarted by cheap eggs and a late night. But, since I have a bag of rather sorry-looking Bramley apples and a pot of mascarpone that really needs eating I thought I’d try it again. This time, though, I made sure I had plenty of eggs and plenty of time…

Ottolenghi’s Apple Cake with Olive Oil and Maple Syrup Icing (adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)

You will need:

For the cake:
80g sultanas
4 tbsp water
280g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp bicarb of soda
120ml olive oil
160g caster sugar (I used golden caster sugar in which I’d stored a vanilla pod for extra vanilla-ness)
½ vanilla pod
2 free-range eggs, beaten plus 2 more egg whites
3 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes (each Bramley that I used weighed about 165g so if you have monster-sized ones you may only need two)
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon (or, if you can’t get or stretch to unwaxed ones, simply scrub the lemon’s skin under the hot tap with a nail brush or vegetable scrubber like this one, to remove the wax)

100g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g light muscovado sugar (I didn’t have any left so, in the spirit of using things up, I made a mixture of dark muscovado and golden caster)
85ml maple syrup
220g cream cheese, at room temperature (I used mascarpone, which is Italian cream cheese)

How to:

1. Preheat the oven to 170C (150 fan)/gas 3.

2. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin, then line the base and sides with baking parchment (I used my reliable reusable liner, squished into the corners).

3. Put the sultanas and water in a small saucepan, place over a low heat and simmer gently until the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.

4. Sift the dry ingredients (bar the caster sugar and vanilla) into a large bowl.

5. Put the oil and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add those to the bowl too. Beat together (either for a long time by hand with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand whisk/stand mixer), add the eggs, beat for a few minutes longer then stir in the apples, cooled sultanas and lemon zest.

6. Whisk the two egg whites together, again either with a hand whisk or with an electric whisk/stand mixer, until they look a bit like this:

7. Fold the egg whites gently into the apple mixture, then tip into the tin and, if necessary, smooth the surface with a spatula.

8. Bake for 70-90 minutes (the recipe says 90 but my oven is keen so I checked it at 70 and it was nearly done) until a skewer or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin.

9. Beat the butter, sugar and syrup together until they are light and fluffy. Then add the cream cheese and mix again until smooth and blended.

10. Cut the cake in half using a large serrated knife (it will probably have risen into a dome, as per this picture…

and, if so, you can trim the top to level it), then sandwich it together with the icing then cover the top with the icing too.  Not one for the faint-hearted this…

The sad thing is, after all that, the cake was far too sweet for me. Ah well!

Posted in Cakes, Fruit cakes, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Summer cakes, Yotam Ottolenghi | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Donna Hay’s Salted Maple Pecans and Semifreddo recipe…made to work

I have promised this recipe to quite a few people and, since I seem to be making it an awful lot, I think it’s time to share. Semifreddo, as you italophiles will know, means half-frozen and, although I’ve heard it referred to as almost ice cream it’s much better than that. For one thing, it’s dead easy and, for another, unlike ice cream, you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it; all you need is a whisk (electric or hand; I’ve used both) and a tiny bit of freezer space and you’re off. Continue reading

Posted in Cookery writers, Donna Hay, Proper desserts, Short order | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Bank Holiday Baking: Cheese and Spring Onion Cake recipe

It’s 25 degrees outside, it’s beautifully sunny and what do I think of when I wake up? Cake. Not just any old cake mind; this is a posh French savoury cake known as cake salé. I first tried a version of it, as you do when you’re a pretentious young student of all things French, in the house of my French exchange family. Denise made a cake with dried fruits which was served for breakfast; I couldn’t stop eating it and always meant to ask her for the recipe since she swore it was very easy (then again she swore that osso bucco was easy…) but I never got round to it.

Then, at Christmas, I bought Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table and, aha, a recipe for cake salé. I had never heard of this cookery writer before but, as her collection of recipes attests, she’s obviously up there with the likes of Julia Child and Delia Smith in terms of being a matriarch of good, solid cooking. And, so far, her recipes haven’t let me down. Her tagine recipe is better, easier and tastier than the Moro and Claudia Roden ones I’ve tried and this cake, well this cake is worthy of Marie Antoinette.

PS Since so many people I know don’t have cup measures I decided to translate the cups into grams by measuring every ingredient; the numbers are therefore a little specific and, if you don’t have cups you will need electronic scales.

Savoury Cheese and Spring Onion Bread, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table

You will need:

1 3/4 (292g) cups plain flour
1 tablespoon (8g) baking powder
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (you’ll need to vary this in terms of how salty you like it and what other salty things you add)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (she uses white but I never have any)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (85g/80ml) milk (she uses whole and so do I), at room temperature too
1/3 cup (70g/80ml; no idea why it’s not the same weight but is the same volume as the milk…!) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (80g) grated cheddar (she suggests cheddar, Emmenthal, Comte or Gruyere so I think any hard flavoursome cheese would be fine)
1/2-1/3 cup (60g) cubed cheddar (or any other hard cheese as above)
3 spring onions, trimmed and cut into very thin slices (if you want to be pernickety they weighed 35g but obviously that weight will depend on their size)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160F/gas 4 and butter a 11cm x 21.5cm x 6cm (in short a standard…) loaf tin.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, pepper) together.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk for about a minute.

Once whisked, they should end up looking a bit like this

4. Pour the milk and oil into the eggs and whisk a little more to mix.

Once the milk and oil is added you'll notice that the bubbles are much smaller

5. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture…

…and mix very lightly with a rubber spatula. Don’t overdo it; too much mixing, as with muffins, will make the dough too tough.

6. Stir in the cheese and spring onions and mix until just combined.

The dough should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

7. Put it in the prepared loaf tin and smooth out the surface.

8. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and a sharp thing (knife or skewer) inserted into the centre comes out clean.

9. Leave in the tin to cool for a couple of minutes, then loosen the cake from the tin, turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Maybe even Denise would be proud of this loaf!

10. Serve for breakfast, as it is, with butter, toasted or fresh, or with a pre-dinner glass of something cold in the garden.

Posted in Around My French Table, Bread, Breakfast, Dorie Greenspan, Fast food, Saturday breakfast, Savoury cakes, Short order, Summer food, Sunday Breakfast, Uncategorized, Vegetarian, Very few ingredients | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Birthday cupcakes

My nephew was 18 last weekend and, to celebrate, I made him 18 cupcakes. I’m not convinced by the flavour or, or fashion for cupcakes but they do make an amazing impact if they are made in bulk, decorated and, erm, organised in numerals…

Happy Birthday Joe!

It’s incredible to think that these cakes, congratulating Joe on reaching 18, have been photographed on the same table that he used to hold on to when he was learning to walk. We watched a video of him aged two and a bit, as he toddled around a dinosaur park in Wales, and I was astounded to see how familiar that boy was, just as familiar as the man he has now become. It was as if no time had passed, as if that toddler was still very much in our lives.

Except that he’s not. He’s a grown-up. Soon he’ll be leaving home for university, for the Navy, for his own life. I felt incredibly sad and nostalgic when I realised how I would never see that little toddler again (and I’m only his aunt; heaven knows what it must be like to feel that if you’re his parent) and yet the person he is and has become is just as much fun. I think I was sad because time has passed so incredibly quickly; one minute this baby was taking his first steps, the next he’s learning to fly. And I realised that there is no holding on to the different versions of ourselves, of others. We can only enjoy them in that moment. And then let them go.

Posted in Birthday cakes, Cakes, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Breakfast in Holland: the uitsmijter

I’m on the train to The Hague via Brussels and I’m looking forward, as I always do when travelling, to the food. Especially breakfast. I’m always more excited by eating breakfast abroad than any other meal (okay a drink and a tapa comes close). When I’m in Spain I want pan con tomate, preferably in Bar Aixa in the Albaicin; when I’m in Paris I want a tresse and a café au lait in Le Francais on place de la Bastille and when I’m in New York I want hanger steak, eggs and filthy coffee in Jerry’s. (This makes me sound like some w***y jetsetter so I should point out that, although I try to get to France and Spain every year to see friends, finances willing, I’ve not been to New York for over five years…and Jerry’s is no more.)

And Dutch breakfast, though far less famous, is equally worth a trip. For one, Dutch coffee is just glorious and then there’s the seemingly unpronounceable uitsmijter (it sounds a bit like ‘outsmater’ to my non-Dutch ear). Similar to the French croque-madame, it combines toast, ham, eggs and cheese and is a piece of proverbial to recreate at home.

You will need (per person)

A slice of bread (or two if you’re extra-hungry)

One egg (or two, as above…)

A slice of ham

Some grated cheese

Salt and pepper

A grill…

How to…

1. Preheat the grill and toast the bread on both sides.

2. Put the slice of ham on the toast and then fry the egg until just done as you like.

Not the most complicated of recipes this...

3. Put the egg on top of the toast and ham…

4. Top with the grated cheese…

5. Grill until bubbling. Lekker! A little Dutch coffee wouldn’t go amiss with this.

Posted in Breakfast, Breakfast out, Fast food, Saturday breakfast, Short order, Sunday Breakfast, Uncategorized, Very few ingredients | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Make It in The Morning…Or Why Not to Buy Cheap Eggs

It’s 12.30am and, though I’m a bit of a nightowl and an insomniac, even I don’t normally stay up this late on a school night. But, like an idiot, I’m waiting for a cake. There are two reasons for this.

First, since my friend and colleague Ed very kindly showed me how to take pictures with my camera in low light (most of my blog photos are taken on weekend mornings by a window…) and is leaving on Friday, I thought I’d bake him a cake. I came home all excited at the prospect of being able to take pictures at night for a change and full of my baking plans.

Off I went at 9.30pm, making a relatively straightforward apple cake from Ottolenghi. It needed two egg whites whisking and adding just before going into the oven and, rather than make both the mixer and food processor dirty, I thought I’d whisk the whites with a hand-held whisk. For some reason they just wouldn’t take. So then I gave in and put them in the food processor. Still they wouldn’t go. Irritated and tired by now, and contemplating an ever-increasing pile of washing up, I realised that perhaps I needed to put the whites in a smaller mixer, since there were only two of them. The mini-processor came out and, hurrah, they began to turn thick and white.

But something about them didn’t seem quite right and when I removed the whisk I noticed that they had already separated again. I sniffed them…you know how you think bad eggs should smell like a school science lab? Well, they don’t. They smell slightly, well, more eggy. They are, were, in date, organic, free-range, all of the required things a middle-class foodie expects. However, they were from Lidl and half the price of a box from Waitrose. I think I may be giving up on this particular false economy. And, of course, I had no more.

Since by now it was about 11pm I had two choices, no three. Abandon the cake completely (tempting but wasteful). Go to the corner shop, buy some more eggs and start again (not at all tempting). Or try baking the cake without the egg whites. I went for the third and as I type the cake is, well, very cake-like and risen. I’m not sure I’ll inflict it on anyone else, not until I’ve tried it but, look, not bad is it?

The morals of the story are: don’t be daft and bake at night, however excited you are about taking pictures (not unless you have plenty of spare ingredients), stick to posher suppliers for your eggs, but don’t throw the cake out with the whites, not always…

Posted in How not to..., Yotam Ottolenghi | Leave a comment