Sunday, March 28

Caprese with coffee glaze

Caprese with Coffee Glaze

I'm not a fancy person most of the time, I like my food simple but delicious. I like my cake rich but not too sweet. I like this cake, a lot. Especially with the coffee glaze, coffee and chocolate is a combination that can't be beat.

This cake is moist, dense, and chocolate-y. All good things, it's perfect with a cup of coffee. It belongs in a café. I would love to have a café near my house that served cake like this one. My wallet, on the other hand, would not.

I'm finding more and that I cannot justify buying cakes from cafes. The knowledge that most of them are factory produced and shipped over 1000 kms (600 miles) to cafes in my city (rightfully) horrifies me. I think this speaks volumes of many of the cafes in my city that, undoubtedly, make delicious coffee but insist on serving awful mass produced cake. It makes me feel like such a snob but I can't help it. I suppose this isn't really a bad thing to be snobby about though!


Caprese with coffee glaze

(from The Four Seasons of Italian Cooking by A.J. Battifarano and Alan Richardson)
makes 8-10 servings

115g (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate
115g (4 ounces) butter
75g (1/2 cup) sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) degrees. Butter a 20 cm (8") round cake tin and line the base with a round of baking paper. Butter the paper and lightly coat the pan with flour.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water and let cool to room temperature.

Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a electric mixer at a high speed until it is light anf fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Combine the almonds with the melted chocolate and blend the mixture into the batter. Add the flour and mix on a low speed until completely combined. Wash and dry the beaters.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they are stiff but not dry. Using a large rubber spatula, stir one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to over blend.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre fo the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool completely.

Serve with coffee glaze.

Coffee Glaze

1 teaspoon instant coffee
30ml (1/8 cup) boiling water
35g (1/4 cup) icing sugar, sifted

combine instant coffee with boiling water and whisk until all lumps are gone. Pour coffee mixture into the sifted icing sugar and whisk until smooth.

Thursday, March 18

Viennese raisin coffee cake

vienna raisin cake

If I were a better person I wouldn't know what this cake tastes like. I wouldn't have leveled it solely so I could have a bite and I would be horrified if someone told me they'd done so. But I'm not a better person, so I went ahead and leveled it. Worst of all, I'm not horrified with myself. I'm sitting here telling myself I needed to test it before it went out the door, but I know that's not the case.

We've all been there, right? You've just a made something new, and it's a recipe that you've been wanting to make for ages but it's not for you - you're not even going to be in the city when it gets served. So, you sneak a bit.. right? You consider the best way to try it without it being noticeable. In this case, cutting off the bottom worked quite well. It's a bundt cake, I think it's entirely unnecessary to do so, but at least I now know what the cake tastes like and it sits nice and flat on the plate (it was pretty flat before, mind you.)

Needless to say, the cake tastes delicious. I knew it would from the beginning it would. It's everything I like about cakes. The cake itself is incredibly soft, it insides are like a pillow. Oh, how I wish I could show you the insides but cutting a slice is going too far. Just trust me. Or, buy The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri just so you can see a photo of the inside.

This cake requires the eggs to be separated, and then the whites are whipped to peaks and folded into the batter. This technique results in a wonderfully light cake with enough structure to support it during baking.

The cake is flavoured with lemon and raisins, I personally feel it could do with a teaspoon or two more lemon zest but I intend for it to have a lemon syrup when it's served so maybe not.


Viennese raisin coffee cake

(from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)
Makes one 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inch) bundt cake

1 2/3 cups flour (spooned into dry measure and leveled off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
225g (8 ounces) butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
160g (1 cup) raisins, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour

Grease and flour one 10 to 12 cup kugelhopf or bundt tin. Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 180°C (350°F).

Stir the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Combine the butter and 3/4 cup of sugar int he bowl of an electric mixer. Beat, with the paddle attachment, on a medium speed until soft and light, about 3 to four minutes.

Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla, followed by two of the egg yolks.

Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Once combined, stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.

Beat in two more eggs, followed by another half of the remaining flour. Stop and scrape. Repeat using the remaining egg yolks and flour mixture.

Pour the egg whites into a clean, dry mixer bowl. Place on the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until the egg whites are very white, opaque, and beginning to hold a very soft peak. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip int he remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a slow stream. Continue to whip the egg whites until they hold a soft, glossy peak.

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites unto the cake batter to lighten it, fold in the floured raisins and then the remaining egg whites.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the cake until well risen and deep golden, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry, 45-50 minutes. If the cake is baked in a shallow bundt tin it may be ready 5 minutes sooner.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then on to a rack to cool completely.

Lemon Syrup

1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of one lemon

Combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and, over a low heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off element and stir in the lemon juice.

Drizzle over cooled cake to serve.

Thursday, March 11

Home-made chocolate wagon wheels

homemade wagon wheels

Wagon Wheels inhabit a special place in my imagination. I remember them from childhood as a treat that I always wanted but never got. I remember them as being delicious. So, imagine my disappoint when I eat a Wagon Wheel for the first time in years only to discover that they're, well, not actually that delicious.

I find this happens with a lot of childhood treats, either things just don't taste like they used to or my tongue has gotten pickier. I have a feeling it's a combination of the two. Still, wahtever the reason the disappointment is immense. It's like a betrayal but a whole lot less exaggerated.

wagon wheels

From the betrayal often stems motivation and this time is no exception. When browsing through Cookies by the Australian Woman's Weekly I found a recipe for "Choc-mallow Wheels", knowing they actually meant wagon wheels I vowed to make them.

And the next day I did. An accomplishment for sure, it's not often that I vow to do something and actually do it.

Home-made chocolate wagon wheels

(from Cookies by the Australian Woman's Weekly)
Makes 14

125g (4.4 oz) butter, softened
165g (3/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
1 egg
225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
35g (1/4 cup) self-raising flour
25g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
28 marshmallows
80g (1/4 cup) raspberry jam
375g (13 oz) dark chocolate
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of electric mixer until lightened in colour and texture. Beat int he egg. On the lowest speed, or by hand, stir in the sifted flours and cocoa powder, in two batches.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll between two sheets of baking paper until 3 mm (1/8") thick. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease two oven trays and line with baking paper.

Using a 7 cm round fluted cutter, cut 28 rounds from the dough. Place 3cm (1") apart on trays. Bake for 12 minutes and then cool on wire racks.

Turn half the biscuits base-side up and place back on oven tray. Use scissors to cut marshmallows in half horizontally. Press four marshmallow halves, cut side down, onto biscuit bases. Bake for 2 minutes.

Spread remaining halves with jam and press, jam-side down, onto the softened marshmallows. Stand for 20 minutes or until marshmallows are firm.

Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the oil.

Dip the biscuit wheels into the chocolate and, using a metal spatula smooth away any excess chocolate. Place on baking paper-lined trays to set.

Monday, March 8

Torta di mele di fattoria

farmhouse apple cake

I have a confession to make, this confession is the reason I do not like this cake. I have to confess that I cannot stand the taste of eggs. The faintest hint of sulfur-y eggs and I'm immediately turned off.

Last week I had my first boiled egg and, I can tell you, it won't be the first of many. The sheer eggy-ness of it was astoundingly unpleasant. I'm assuming eggs are an acquired taste?

I should have known this cake would taste faintly of eggs but the picture in The Four Seasons of Italian Cooking made it look so delicious. So delicious that I ignored the part of me that said "this will taste of eggs". And, needless to say, it tasted of eggs. the eggy taste isn't overwhelmingly by any means but even a little hint is too much for me. Others enjoyed it though. In fact, they keept sneaking in and stealing bits. I'm okay with that, I'm not going to eat it.

I did give it a chance, I really did. I didn't take my first bite and refuse to finish it because it tasted like eggs. No, no. I made it through a piece and a half - and that's pretty good. Many in a few years I'll make this again and adore it.

farmhouse apple cake

I'd just like to note that the measurement conversions in the book this recipe is from are terrible. According to the book 250 grams is the equivalent of 8 ounces, when it reality 225g is much closer. There's inconsistency throughout the recipe to the point where I'm not sure what unit of measurement is the correct one. The recipe below is merely the measurements I used - who knows, maybe I needed more of something and less of something else!

(I've just been informed that the eggy-ness of this cake dies down once it's properly cooled and it becomes significantly more apple-y. Maybe it was a success after all?)

Torta di mele di fattoria

(from The Four Seasons of Italian Cooking by A.J. Battifarano and Alan Richardson)
makes 8-10 servings

5 apples
2 large eggs
225g (1 cup) sugar
55g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
125 mls (1/2 cup) milk
100g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), grease and and line a 28cm (11") cake tin or deep dish pizza tray.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Slice the apple sections crosswise into very thin slivers.

Beat the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl with a wire whisk until the mixture has lightened and increased in volume. Stir in the flour, then add the milk, butter, and vanilla. Blend the mixture throughly. Quickly stir in the baking powder and then fold through the apples.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake on the flour on the floor of the oven (or on the lowest rack, if you cannot bake on the floor) for 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to the centre rack and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is cooked through and golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 3

Yellow cake with raspberry butter-cream

yellow cake with raspberry butter cream

I haven't iced a cake since my birthday, so last night when I had the desire to make a cake and then ice it I decided to run with it - despite the multitudes of other things I had to do. Also despite the fact that I've never made a cake in my current (awful) oven.

I made the cakes last night, leaving them to cool whilst I slept. The cakes weren't perfect, in fact when they came out of the oven they were pretty terrible looking. I don't know why, but there was about a 2.5cm (1") difference between the sides of the cakes. They were mega slanted. Taste wise, they're fine. Just a simple vanilla butter cake.

Normally I'd just level the cakes and be done with, but if I'd leveled these cakes I'd be leveling off half the cake. Instead I plonked them on top of it each, with the small sides lining up with the tall sides. Surprisingly, the assembled wonky layers resulted in a fairly even cake.

vanilla cake, raspberry butter cream

This is the first time I've made egg based butter-cream, I generally tend to avoid icing cakes because I don't like butter-cream made purely with butter. This butter-cream was considerably more effort than just pure butter and icing sugar but it's definitely worth the extra time. It's not that the recipe is complicated, it just takes a bit longer. It's also one of those recipes that makes you really appreciate having a stand mixer and a good whisk.

I added a bit of raspberry syrup into my butter-cream, purely because I had it on hand. You could use any flavouring you like.

Yellow cake with raspberry butter-cream

Yellow cake

(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)
makes two 23cm (9") round layers

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g (6 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk

Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180°C (350°F) Grease and line the bases of two 23cm (9") shallow cake tins.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in colour and texture, 3-4 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Decrease the mixer speed to the lowest and add half the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.

Beat in the milk and after it is absorbed, beat in the remaining flour.

Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater. Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes (I think I forgot this step!)

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well risen and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should feel firm when pressed in the center with a finger tip.

remove pans from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Unmold cakes, turn right side up again, and cool completely on racks leaving baking paper on the bottoms.

Silky smooth butter-cream

(adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 large egg whites
295g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
225g (8 ounces) butter, very soft but not melted
1/2 cup raspberry syrup or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl a bowl and hand whisk to blend. Bring 1 inch of water to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Place the bowl over the simmering water and heat, whisking constantly so that the whites do not scramble, until the mixture reaches 71°c (160°F) on a thermometer. Be sure to remove the bowl from the heat when taking the temperature so the eggs don't over heat while you set down the whisk. If the temperature is not hot enough, rinse the thermometer under very hot water, dry and set aside, then put the whites back over the heat.

Once the correct temperature is reached, remove the mixture from the heat and whip on high speed until it has cooled to room temperature. The mixture will be light and billowing, and resembles marshmallow fluff.

On medium speed, add the soft butter a couple of tablespoons at a time. Allow each addition to blend in fully before adding the next. Halfway through, stop the mixture and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula. Continue until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles velvety mayonnaise. Gradually add the raspberry syrup or vanilla and blend well.

Don't worry if your butter cream initially looks broken, according to the recipe there is nearly always a point when it looks awful. Continue adding the butter and beating until it looks how it should.