25 nov. 2014

Green Tea Financiers

I love financiers - the little French almond flavoured cakes that look like little bricks. I wondered where they got their name, so after a bit of googling it seems that they were first made in the 19th century by a Parisian pastry chef near the Parisian stock exchange, and he made them look like little gold ingots. They became popular with the financiers, hence their name. Maybe this is the true story, or maybe not? Anyway we love them. I wanted to try a different flavour, and found this idea of using green tea on a French web site - they used it in muffins, so I thought I'd try it in financiers. The recipe makes about 24 cakes, but I only made half the mixture.

200g butter
200g icing sugar
6 egg whites
80g ground almonds
80g flour
2 level tspns of tea [I used green tea but other flavours could be used]
butter for the moulds


But butter in a solid based pan and bring slowly to the boil then cook gently on a low heat till nut brown [beurre noisette]. Take off the heat and filter the butter through a fine sieve.
Beat the egg whites till frothy then add the icing sugar a little at a time. Mix the ground almonds and flour together and fold into the mixture with the tea. Mix together well. Add the butter and stir continuously till well mixed.
Put covered batter into fridge for a couple of hours.
When ready to use, preheat oven 220C/gas 8 and butter a 2x12 hole financiers or muffin tins.
Fill the holes 2/3 full then bake for 5 mins, turn temperature down to 200C/gas 6 and bake for further 10 mins. Cool in the tins.



I know they're not very inspiring to look at, but they taste really good. They have a crisp outside and a soft middle, and a the ground almonds give them a fairly dense texture. The green tea gives a subtle flavour, but you can still taste the caramelised butter.
Financiers don't keep well, so need to be eaten on the day they're made - no hardship!
A few tips from my neighbour - watch the butter when heating as it quickly burns, mix the batter as little as possible - just stir till blended. and rest the batter in the fridge before using.
You can keep the batter in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days.

21 nov. 2014

Cheese and Leek Tart

Thought I'd do a savoury post for a change. Bought a bag of leeks cheaply in our local market, so decided to make a tart. I used creme fraiche as I had some left over in the fridge and I made it in a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin; it was plenty for 2 of us, with seconds for OH.

For the sc pastry, 110g flour, 25g lard, 25g butter or margarine, 1 tbspn water. Am not going to insult you by telling you how to make pastry! Chill pastry for 30 mins then bake blind - 15mins at 180C/gas4, take out beans or rice etc then bake for 5 mins more at reduced temperature 160C/gas3.

Filling : about 200g leeks [2 medium sized], 2eggs, 200ml creme fraiche or double cream, 1 dspn chopped thyme, 80g grated strong Cheddar cheese, about 25g butter

Melt butter in a sauté pan, or any pan with a lid, Add the finely sliced leeks, cover and cook till they're soft [about 5 mins] then season them. Beat the eggs, then add the creme fraiche and thyme and beat together.
Put the leeks into the bottom of pastry case, then spoon the egg mixture over. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Heat a baking sheet in the oven, then bake the tart on this to prevent a soggy bottom!
Bake for 45mins or till the filling is set and the cheese is lovely and golden.


It made a nice supper with some salad and a jacket potato. You need a cheese with a good flavour or the tart would be rather bland, as there's not a lot of flavour from the leeks. Think I'd add more herbs to the egg mixture when I make it again. I could have added the leeks to the egg mixture, but wanted the leeks on the bottom so there were distinct layers. It was very tasty.




15 nov. 2014

Cider Cake

Thought we'd have a change from chocolate cakes, so decided to make a traditional cider cake from Herefordshire. Doing a bit of research about cider cakes I found that this cake was baked for the annual Cider festival. Several other counties make cider, so I expect they have their own versions of the cake.Some friends brought us some local cider they'd bought there, so made use of some of it in this cake. It's a simple cake, easy to make. You could vary the spices to suit your taste, and I suppose that the type of cider you used would make a difference to the flavour.

preheat oven 180C/gas4
grease a 20 or 21cm square cake tin and line the bottom.

Cream together 125g butter and 125g caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Add 2 beaten eggs and mix well. Sift 225g sr flour with 1 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn cinnamon and 1/2 tspn ginger. Fold some of the flour into the batter then add 200ml cider. Mix together well. Fold in rest of flour and spoon into tin. Bake for 35-40 mins till golden.
Cool in tin, turn out onto a wire rack and sprinkle with some caster sugar.





Lovely moist, light texture and a good cider/apple taste, with the spices adding an extra layer of flavour. The inside of the cake was speckled - maybe the reaction between the cider and the bicarb? Anyone a food scientist?!!







8 nov. 2014

Magic Chocolate Cake

I've seen various recipes and flavours for this so-called 'magic cake' on several blogs and in a woman's magazine. I liked the idea of trying a chocolate one , but I can't honestly say where the original recipe comes from, as all the blogs I looked at referred back to a different blog! I think the original idea came from  this Spanish blog .

Why is it magic, well you have one very runny batter, and when it's cooked you have a 3 layer cake. The middle layer is really a chocolate custard. The mixture is so runny that I thought I'd forgotten an ingredient [it's like a pancake batter], but having checked the various recipes, I hadn't. It's the top and bottom layers that hold the middle custard together.
Well it's something different to try!

You need:

4 eggs at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 tbspn water
125g butter
70g flour
45g cocoa
pinch salt
500ml full fat milk
few drops lemon juice

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Grease a round 20/22 cm cake tin.
Melt the butter over simmering water or in a microwave and keep warm. Warm the milk.
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks, sugar and water for a few mins. Add the warm butter and carry on beating.
Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together and add to the batter, beating all the time.
Add the warm milk and beat well.
Wash and dry your beaters then whisk the egg whites and a few drops of lemon juice till firm. Add a spoonful to the batter and beat in, then fold in the rest carefully, a little at a time, using a spatula.
Spoon into the tin and bake for about 50 mins.
The middle will wobble [jiggle someone called it] a bit, and it will stay like this even when cold.
Leave the cake to cool before taking out of the tin. Sprinkle with some cocoa and keep in the fridge.


You can just about see 3 layers in the photo - the bottom layer is very thin, then you have the middle custard-type layer and a cakey top layer.
It's not too sweet and it melts in your mouth. One of the blogs said that the magic was when you bite into it - not sure if I agree with this, but it is a different sort of cake.
A few tips from people on the various blogs - if you use a stand mixer, beat the milk in by hand or the mixture splatters everywhere! The egg whites can look curdled when you've mixed them in, so just make sure that you've not left any big chunks.
Not an easy cake to get out of the tin - can crack easily.
One person just put all the mixture in a blender, but her cake looked like a custard tart, so maybe not a good idea!
If you're not put off by all these comments, it's an interesting cake to try. Oh, last thing, you need to keep it in the fridge!








31 oct. 2014

Chocolate and peanut butter cake



My stepson and family came for the day this week, and we have a tradition of having a nice cake for afternoon tea. I've mentioned my lovely German dil before, and she really is a superb baker [ her profession is in catering], so I try and make something new each time they come.
I decided on a chocolate cake, but with something different as filling. I found a jar of peanut butter in the cupboard – perfect - and is something I know we all like. I know it's calorific, but it's a special cake for an occasion.


200g sr flour
1 tspn baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g butter
200g dark chocolate
100ml milk
6eggs

Filling
250g peanut butter [smooth, but if you wanted a different texture, crunchy]
100g butter
100g icing sugar

Preheat oven 180C Grease and baseline 2x20cm cake tins

Melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the eggs and sugar till light and frothy. Add the milk and gradually mix in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Spoon into the cake tins and bake for about 20 mins. Cool on a wire rack.
For the filling – beat the 2 butters and icing sugar together for 2-3 mins to get a good icing consistency. Add a little more icing sugar if you think it needs to be a bit thicker.
Cut the 2 sponges horizontally. Put the first one on a plate and spread ¼ of the icing over, top with the next sponge and do the same, then the 3rd and finally top with the 4th sponge. Spread the last of the icing on top.




My dil took the photo, and you can tell she's used to taking more professional looking ones than I do!
It was a great success, and because the icing is spread between the 4 cakes, it wasn't too much. Cake had a good chocolate taste and a soft texture. I liked the contrast between the cake and the creamy peanut butter filling. A good cake to have for afternoon tea.














































24 oct. 2014

Broyés de Poitou

This recipe is a speciality of the region we lived in in France, Poitou Charentes. You can find them in the region's supermarkets and they can be small, as these are, or be one large biscuit. They're not really biscuits, more of a biscake! Whatever you call them, they're delicious. This is the traditional recipe from a local baker.

Beat together 250g unsalted butter and 250g of sugar till light and creamy. Add a beaten egg and mix together then fold in 500g plain flour with 1 tspn baking powder and 1 tspn salt added and mix together till you get a ball. If you need it, add a few drops of water. It's easier to use a mixer.
Wrap the ball in clingfilm and put in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight, to firm up the dough.

Preheat oven hot - 210C/gas7
Cover 2 baking sheets with baking parchment or silicone sheets.

Take the dough out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
 Roll out dough and using a 7cm fluted cutter, cut out the biscuits and put them on a baking sheet. Make the traditional pattern on the top [see photo] - I used the edge of a clean ruler.
Make a wash by beating an egg yolk with a little water, and paint the biscuits twice.
Bake for 15 mins till golden. Leave on tray to cool a little as they will still be softish and difficult to handle. They'll firm up when they're cool.

If you want to make one large biscuit, roll the dough out a little more than for the small ones. Using a template cut it into a 16cm round; make the pattern and brush with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 mins till golden.



You can see the pattern on the biscuits. This photo is one my friend took and has kindly let me use.
The biscuits have a crunchy texture and a lovely buttery flavour. You could add some vanilla or almond essence to the mixture, but I prefer to keep them traditional.

17 oct. 2014

A Lebanese Cake

And now for something completely different!
I love Lebanese food; I knew little about it till we lived in France and made friends with a Lebanese couple. I love their use of spices, sumac, z'atar, dried mint, 7 spices etc, and I love falafel, houmous [sp?] and tabbouleh.
 I've long had a love-hate relationship with tahina or tahini, sesame seed paste, but was given this recipe for using it in a cake by our Lebanese friend, and I really liked the result. You could use peanut butter instead, and I think it would work really well, but the tahini makes a really rich, flavoursome cake.

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4.
Grease a 24cm cake tin well and sprinkle with 3 tbspn sesame seeds.

Beat 250ml tahini in a large bowl with 165g caster sugar, 40g light brown sugar and grated zest of 2 oranges till mixture is thick and creamy. Add the juice from the 2 oranges and 200g thick plain yoghurt and mix well.
Fold in 375g sr flour, 1/2 tspn salt, 1 tspn mixed spice, 100g chopped pistachio nuts, 3 tbspn sesame seeds and 6 chopped stoned dates. Mix throughly till everything is well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 mins till golden and firm.
Turn onto a wire rack to cool.


I decorated it with some more orange zest. It's a rich cake with a dense texture - a great accompaniment to a cuppa or to have as a pudding with some creme fraiche, cream or ice cream.
It's difficult to describe the flavour of tahini - I think it's an interesting flavour, a bit nutty, slightly bitter and it's creamy.
If you want to know how it's made, have a look  here .
It's certainly a different flavour to my usual cakes, but it's one to have occasionally, when you feel the need for something different.