2/06/2016

Blueberry and Courgette Cake


I like making cakes with vegetables, and have made a few different ones, but this is the first time I've tried making one with vegetables and fruit. I defrosted the big freezer and found a lot of blueberries I needed to use up, so this cake seemed a good way of using some of them.
I found the recipe in an old pull-out for Woman's Weekly magazine, but have changed several things to suit my taste. I also halved the recipe as the original one made 2 cakes.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.

Beat together 2 medium eggs, 125ml sunflower oil, 2 tspn vanilla extract and 225g caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Stir in 125g of grated courgette.
Sift together 185g plain flour with 1/2 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn salt, 1/8 tspn bicarb and 2 tspn cinnamon then fold into the wet mixture.
Gently stir in 165g fresh blueberries and mix.
Spoon into the tin and bake for about 35-45 mins. Cool in the tin for 20 mins then turn onto a wire rack.




The courgette made the cake moist; the blueberries were defrosted, so perhaps this added to the moisture. The time stated for baking wasn't enough- it took about 55 mins to bake. The top was crunchy and I was happy with the way the blueberries had spread out in the cake. There wasn't enough courgette to really see any specks of green, but it had a nice soft crumb and a good flavour with a nice hint of cinnamon. To me though, it was really a blueberry cake, and I don't think the courgette added much to it.







1/31/2016

Tangy Orange Tart

I think this is the first orange tart I've ever made. I bought some oranges and lemons that were on offer in a local market, and decided to make a tart rather than a cake. It's easy to make, but a bit different.
I recently watched Mary Berry making some candied peel with orange zest, so decided to have a go at making some to decorate the top of the tart.
The pastry is a sweet shortcrust, and I used icing sugar instead of caster sugar as the sweetener.

preheat oven 200c/gas6  You need a 23cm fluted tart tin

You can make the pastry in a processor or by hand, but I was lazy and used the processor.

Put 225g plain flour, pinch salt, 125g butter and 2 tbspn icing sugar in a processor and blitz till crumbs. Beat 1 egg yolk with 2 tbspn cold water and add to the mixture and pulse till you nearly get a dough. Knead together then wrap in cling film and chill.

For the filling - put the juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange, with the zest of 2 oranges, 75g butter, 225g granulated sugar and 3 beaten eggs into a pan and heat gently, stirring all the time till thickened.
Stir in 75g ground almonds and 2 tbspn of orange liqueur [optional]. Leave to cool.

Roll the pastry out and line the tart tin. prick the base all over with a fork and put back in the fridge for 10 mins. Cover base with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 20 mins, remove paper and bake for another 5 mins. Take pastry case out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 180C/gas4 and pour the orange filling into the case. Bake for 20 mins or till firm.

To make the candied peel -  Put 50g of caster sugar in a pan with 300ml water. Add the zest of 1 orange cut into thin strips and simmer for 15 mins till zest is soft. Drain and roll in caster sugar till coated. Use to decorate the top of the tart, and sift some icing sugar over.


I really like the tangy citrus flavour of the filling, which went well with the sweet pastry. The filling has a soft texture, but holds itself firm. The candied zest was easy to do, and so much tastier than the stuff you buy in the plastic tubs. I must remember to keep the zest when I'm eating an orange. I'm sure you can freeze it to use when you're ready.

1/24/2016

Apple and Spice Yoghurt Cake

I love spicy cakes, so I've been trying a few recipes and liked this one the best. The recipe uses 'speculoos' or 'speculaas' biscuits, the spicy biscuits the Dutch eat on St Nicholas Day, December 6th. These were easy to find in France, but not here. I used 'Biscoff' brand, which have almost the same taste [and you can also get in a jar and is delicious as a cake filling]. Aldi and Lidl both have spicy biscuits which would work just as well. You also need some apples and vanilla yoghurt.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6  Grease a 20cm square cake tin.

Using a food processor [or a plastic bag and a rolling pin!] blitz 50g of biscuits into fine crumbs.
In a bowl break 2 eggs and whisk, then add 2 tbspn of runny honey and beat. Stir in 1 small pot of vanilla yoghurt and the biscuit crumbs. Add 200g of plain flour to which you've added a tspn of baking powder. Mix together then add 3 tbspn of vegetable oil and mix well.
Peel and core 2 eating apples and chop into dice. Add these to the batter and mix again. 
Spoon or pour into the tin and bake for 25 mins.





Excuse the cheffy leaves - my daughter was trying to jazz up the photo! The cake has an unusual texture, with a  moist and soft crumb; the little chunks of apple giving it another layer, and I love the spicy taste. 

1/20/2016

Portuguese Custard Tarts - Pastel ne Nata

I had one more lot of butter puff pastry left over from Christmas, and I've been wanting to make these tarts for ages, as I love custard tarts in any form. I don't think this is exactly like the famous ones, but they're made to a secret recipe! The tarts were first made by Catholic monks in the 18th century. Large amounts of egg whites were used to starch clothes, so the yolks left over were used to make cakes and pastries.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6

These are easy to make - you need 250g of puff pastry which you roll out. Lightly grease a muffin tin, cut out 12 small circles and  and line the tin with these. Put the tin in the fridge for about 20 mins.
For the filling - beat 4 egg yolks with 100g caster sugar till thick and white. Add 1 tspn of flour and the zest of a lemon, then mix in 25cl of crème fraiche. Pout into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat, stirring all the time. As soon as it comes to the boil, take it off the heat and allow to cool.
Pour the mixture into the pastry cases and bake for 5-6 mins.
Put tarts onto a wire rack to cool, and sprinkle icing sugar and cinnamon over the tops.





The tarts had a good texture, set, but not too solid, which was a good contrast with the puff pastry. The lemon gave them a sharp hint,  and the topping added another level of flavour. A nice simple treat.



1/15/2016

Galette des Rois with Hazelnuts


It's a bit late for Epiphany when this gateau should be eaten, but I found this recipe in a magazine so decided to make it. I liked the idea of using hazelnuts instead of ground almonds, as in the traditional one. I'm sure you know about this gateau, and that in France it has a china figure in it, and whoever finds this figure or fève gets to wear the crown and be the King. Sadly, in our move back from France, my collection of fèves got lost!
    500g butter puff pastry divided into 2
    200g ground hazelnuts [ I found them ready ground in Waitrose, but you can grind your own]
    100g caster sugar
    1 tspn vanilla extract
    3 eggs
    75g butter at room temperature
Preheat oven 180C/gas6
Beat the butter and ground hazelnuts together to make a soft paste. Add 2 of the eggs and the vanilla. Cut each of the pieces of puff pastry into a circle and place one on a piece of baking parchment on a baking sheet.
Spread the hazelnut mixture over the pastry leaving a 2 cm border round the edge.
Separate the 3rd egg, brush the border of the bottom layer with egg white and cover the mixture with the other circle. Press the edges together gently with a fork so they stick together. Brush the top with some beaten egg yolk which has been mixed with 1 tbspn water and cut a small hole in the centre.
Bake for 20-30 mins till golden.


I really liked the flavour of the hazelnuts. I'll certainly make this again, but think I'd grind the nuts myself to give them a bit of texture. I sprinkled some little pieces of sugar on the top just because I had some to use up!


1/09/2016

A Duo of Cookies

I made a couple of batches of cookies recently, so thought I'd post the recipes here. They're both very easy and quick to make.
The first one is for Chocolate-chip and Oats cookies, and the second one is for Ginger and Chocolate cookies.

For the Choc-chip and Oats ones  -

Preheat oven 180C/gas4  Mixture makes enough cookies to cover 3 baking sheets, but I did it in 2 batches, as I only have 2 baking sheets.
Beat together 125g butter, 100g soft brown sugar, 110g caster sugar and 1/2 tspn vanilla extract till pale and thick, using an electric hand beater, then beat in 1 egg. Fold in 110g oats [not the jumbo ones]. sieve 150g plain flour with 1/2 tspn baking powder and 1/2 tspn bicarb. together and fold into mixture.
Finally fold in 175g dark chocolate which has been chopped [not too small] and 150g peeled and chopped hazelnuts [you could toast them first].
Using a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop, put balls of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a space between each one. Flatten them a bit then bake for about 10 mins till they're golden. The cookies will crisp up as they cool on a wire rack.


For the Ginger and chocolate Cookies -

Preheat oven 160C/gas3    You need 2 baking sheets.

Sift together 200g plain flour with 1 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn mixed spice, and 1 tbspn cocoa.
Chop 200g dark chocolate into chunks.
In another bowl beat together 120g butter and 1 tbspn grated fresh ginger till pale. Add 120g dark brown sugar and beat well, then add 60ml golden syrup and beat again.
Dissolve 1 tbspn bicarb in 1/1/2 tspn boiling water. Fold half of the flour mixture into batter, add the bicarb mixture then the rest of the flour and mix together gentry.
Mix in the chocolate chunks.
 Roll dough into a disc shape, about 3cm thick. Wrap in cling film and put in fridge for about 2 hours.
Take small pieces of dough and roll into small balls, then roll the balls in some granulated sugar [you need about 50g].
Put the cookies on the 2 baking sheets, about 6 cm apart and put in fridge for 20 mins.
Bake for 10-12 mins - the surface will crack. Cool on a wire rack.


The Choc-Chip and Oat ones are nice and crisp and I like the added texture from the hazelnuts. They freeze well if you have any left!
The Ginger and Chocolate ones have a good kick of ginger and spices, and have a nice chewy texture. They also freeze well.







1/04/2016

Sweet Potato Cake

I keep buying sweet potatoes and  forgetting about them, so decided to use them up in a cake. I had a look online, but thought most were too fussy for me. This one came from the book I've mentioned before, 'Cakes Mom Used to Make'.  It doesn't have an author, as it's recipes from different people.
It makes a big 3-layer cake, but as I was making it for a largish family get together, this was fine. The nuisance part was that you needed 3 x 23cm cake tins. I have 2, so borrowed the other one from my neighbour.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6

Prick 2 medium or 1 large sweet potato [about 350g], put on a baking tray and bake for about an hour till they're soft. Take them out and cool for a bit. When they're cool, you can peel and chop them and purée in a blender. 

Turn the oven down to 180C/gas4. Grease the 3 cake tins and line the bottoms.

Sift together 320g plain flour with 90g of cornflour, then add 3 tspn baking powder, 11/2 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn nutmeg and 1/4 tspn ground cloves. mix together.
In a mixer bowl, put in the whites of 5 separated eggs, and beat with the whisk on medium till they're frothy. Turn the speed up and add 50g caster sugar gradually and beat until fairly stiff.
In another bowl beat together the sweet potato purée, 150g butter, 11/2 tspn vanilla extract and 250g caster sugar and beat together till light and fluffy. I used a hand mixer as I only possess one bowl for my stand mixer!
Add the 5 egg yolks one at a time, then add the flour mixture, alternating with 375ml milk.
Using a spatula, fold in about a quarter of the egg whites, then fold in the rest carefully. Don't overmix.
Divide the mixture between the 3 tins and bake for 25-30 mins. cool cake in the tins for 10 mins or so then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Make a chocolate cream cheese  icing to fill and ice the cake.

300g cream cheese, 125g butter,  450g icing sugar and 45g melted dark chocolate


Beat butter and cream cheese till fluffy, then add icing sugar slowly and beat for 2-3 mins till fluffy. Stir in the chocolate.

Put one of the cakes on a plate and spread with a layer of the icing, then put the next cake on top and do the same, then cover the top and sides.





A rich cake with the cream cheese icing, so small slices! You could use a tin of pumpkin purée instead of the sweet potato.  I liked the hint of spices in the cakes, and the texture is fairly light, thanks to the egg whites, I suppose. For me it's a special occasion cake, not your everyday one with a cuppa.