Saturday, 28 January 2012

I Love Cakes

Finally, I am getting around to talking about one of my  favourite ways of spending my time, making cakes. This,I may add, also makes my family happy and I do feel home made cakes knock the pants off  supermakerket bought ones. For one thing, I know what's in them and I don't have to worry about my child bouncing off walls as a result of additives.  I can't really recall when I started loving making cakes. I have , over the years, built up a repertoire and thought I would include three of  the recipes of some that have stuck and that I produce again and again. I will give you the recipes I work from though I do tend vary the quantities a bit here and there i.e. an extra egg to make it more moist or more of something  to strenthen the flavour etc as I get to know the recipe better even though told I am counselled to stick to the recipe with cakes more than anything. Though I would emphasize I don't do that with new recipes.It's like learning the rules before I break them. In that way, I am not one of these cooks who can just get a few ingredients and throw them all together without even consulting a recipe and ta ta , masterchef! I am,  I confess,  a recipe addict. I check the recipe even when I have cooked something loads of times. Also,  you can read of ton of different recipes for supposedly the same dish and learn new tricks to improve your favourite dish. However with cakes sometimes, I feel a bit like a charlatan taking credit for them. All I do is throw the ingredients together and stick the oven on. I am told by friends, as they take mouthful of cake,  that cake-making is a talent. Oh ok , if you insist. It is always nice to think one has some talent since  on reflection, cooking is the only thing I have ever been particularly good at.

Tart Au Citron

I have definitely earned the 'I know how to make Tart au Citron'  t- shirt. I have practised and practised this one and spend my life trying to improve  my pastry. Now I do take credit for good pastry. That is a talent and getting a compliment for my pastry is the one thing that makes me brim with pride. It would be an added plus if I got a new best friend who was also a pastry chef. So many different methods to choose from. I am gettng there. Having said that I got totally sick of the taste of sweet pastry when making a large quantity for a catering event. The trick which you may be aware is to make it the filling night before. This ensure a wonderfully tarte taste.

Recipe

Sweet Pastry
350g plain flour
pinch salt
150g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
2 eggs beaten

Filling
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
275g castor sugar
190 ml double cream
250ml lemon juice
finely grated zest of 3 lemons

1) Sift flour on to a work surface and make a well, add butter and work with fingertips and thumb till very soft (I  don't this, I keep it slighlty colder and use a pastry scraper to chop the butter in), add sugar and mix, add eggs to butter and mix and incorporate the flour. Everybody has their own way of doing this , I use the fraisage technique where you use the palm of your  hand to incorporate the butter then bring to a ball , knead a few times, and pop in the fridge in clingfilm to rest.
2) Preheat oven to 190c and blind bake pastry for 10 mins  in a 23cm round loose-based fluted cake tin
3) To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Add the cream, then the lemon juice and zest whisking all the time. As I said, you could leave overnight to improve the flavour
4) Reduce oven to 150c, put tray on baking sheet and carefully fill. Return to oven for 35-40 mins or until set. Cool before serving.

Coconut Cake


 I am always getting the words jumbled when I type this and I am sure I will end up putting the rude version on one of my menus!  This cake is from Delia Smith and is a complete star. The combination of the fresh coconut (nearly did it again!) and marscapone and fromage fresh makes it taste like you have a very tasty piece of ice in your mouth. Very popular at my supper clubs. I created a friand version at my catering event in town before christmas, photograph above. I think there is scope to creat a really tall one for a wedding.

Recipe

For the Cake
75g finely grated coconut (I always use more than reccomended)
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
175g very soft bvutter
175 golden castor sugar (i usually just use normal)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

For the coconut frosting

4o g freshly grated coconut
250 g marscapone
200ml fromage frais
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 dessertspoon of castor sugar

For the topping
50g coasrly grated coconut (I use tons)

Use 2 8 inch (20cm) cake tins 1.5 inches (4 cm deep)  and pre-heat the oven to 170c

1) First thing is put coconut in a polythene bag and break up with a hammer (or get your husband to do it, oh sorry that's just me) and remove the outer shell. Then use a peeler to peel off the inner shell. Now Delia doesn't mention that this whole process is a total pain in the arse and your hands end up feeling arthritic at the end of it. I have learned the hard way and brace myself or try to find an unsuspecting victim to help me. Then grate preferably in a food processor  because if you haven't cut yourself peeling the inner skin off, you will catch it on the grater.

2) The cake is basically a victoria sponge with coconut in it. Sieve flour high etc and this is a good bit , just add all the other ingredients and go in with an electric whisk until smooth. If a little stiff, add some water until it drops off the spoon. I feel that this method minimizes the chance of the cake rising as much as it could. I am a big fan of the old fashioned method.  However, by the time you have mucked around with the coconut, you just don't care anymore and once you put the two halfs together and the topping, it is fine. Now pop in the oven for 30-35 mins until a skewar comes out clear. Leave in the tin for 5 mins then cool on a wire cooling rack until cold.

3) To make the frosting whisk together all the ingredients. Put a layer on each half with a palate knive then sandwhich them together. Then cover the exterior of the cake with the frosting. It's a bit of a messy job and you just have to make sure the frosting cover the whole cake so the coconut topping will stick. Finally cover the cake with the fresh coconut (as I said I always make sure I have tons) . Now all you have to do is find a beautiful cake stand to put it on and pop it in the fridge to chill until you serve it to your stupendously impressed guests.


Friands


I started making friands a few years ago when I stumbled on a recipe in an unlikely book I had purchased dead cheap from a book club at work. I don't know why I like them so much, I just do. My freezer is full of them and my son regularly takes them to school for lunch. Other people like them too. The classic recipe includes egg whites, ground almonds, melted butter, icing sugar and a little flour then maybe a filling of your choice. There is no end to fillings from blueberry to  chocolate, lemon drizzle, fig or combinations of whatever you like. I have found  a huge variation in the recipes  and I could definitely fill a book telling you about them. There's a thought, however that would require focus and I am easily distracted. They can be eaten as a little cake to have with coffee or served as a dessert with a dollop of ice cream and soft fruit . They originated  in France and were called financiers to emulate  little rectangular gold bars. Friands as they are also known now are oval shaped as above  (you even get round ones partly cause the oval shaped tins are hard to find here I suspect) and have been championed by Australians and New Zealanders. Apparently, they can be found piled high in beach bars etc and are widely eaten and as popular over there as croissants in France or cup cakes here. I have an idea to start selling them commerically this year on a small scale of course and see how it goes. 'Lets make Friands' is my working title, my hubbie thinks it's a rubbish name? Everyone has pretty much loved them so we shall see. And another great thing about friands is they are a perfect way to use up any egg whites you may have. I just pop them in the freezer and have a friand-making day every so often when they start to overcrowd my freezer. On the flip side, if you are making friands and end up with egg yolks, you can make some ice cream which go perfectly with friands.  Anyway, I feel I may be over-selling them to you now so  here is the basic recipe.  As I said above , the friand oval shaped tin are hard to find and in fact the individual tins are a real muck about . I invested in an 18 hole silicone tin which I got imported from France and costs me thirty five quid! I know!  So if you would like to kick start my business  you are welcome to order them from me!

Recipe- Almond Friands
160 g unsalted butter
90g ground almonds
40g plain flour sifted
165 icing sugar
5 egg whites
icing to dust

Preheat oven 210 c grease 125ml friand tins or muffin ones will do
1) Melt the butter in a small suacepan until butter deep golden, strain and set aside to cool until lukewarm
2) Sift flour and icing sugar into a bowl and if you can still see through the cloud this creates, add the ground almonds
3) Seperate egg whites and mix with a fork lightly until just combined. Add the butter to the flour mixture with the egg whites. Mix gently again until just combined
4) Spoon into friand tins until three quarters full. Pop in oven for 10 mins then reduce heat to 180c and cook for another 5 minutes. They are ready when squewer comes out clean and when the batter has shrunk from the sides of the tin. Again, I find this vaires with each batch. Remove and cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

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