16 avr. 2015

Rhubarb Meringue Tart

My sil came for the day and brought a bundle of rhubarb. It's one of our favourite things to eat, so I decided to make a couple of easy recipes with it.

The first was a simple rhubarb tart with a meringue topping, a change from a pie or a crumble. I used a pack of bought shortcrust pastry, which made it even quicker to make, but of course you can make your own.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
600g rhubarb
2 tbspn granulated sugar

3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
pinch salt
1 tspn lemon juice

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Roll out the pastry to fit a 23cm tart tin. Prick the pastry with a fork.
Trim the rhubarb and cut into 3cm chunks, then spread it over the pastry. Sprinkle the tbpsns
of sugar over.

Bake for about 25mins.

While it's cooking, whip the egg whites with the salt into stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar and the lemon juice and carry on beating.

Take the tart out of the oven and top with the meringue, then put it back in the oven for about 20
mins - my daughter calls this colour of the meringue 'Jersey cow'.

I like the contrast of textures - the crunchy pastry, the soft rhubarb which still has some bite, and the mallowy meringue. Maybe a pinch of cinnamon in the rhubarb which have been good, or even a pinch in the meringue. I must get over my cinnamon habit!
 In case you're wondering, my daughter sprinkled some brown sugar over her piece of tart!

9 avr. 2015

Sweet Potato Cake with Cinnamon Icing.

We've been eating sweet potatoes for some time, but have never tried them in a cake. I wanted to make something different last week to take to OH's family get together, so decided to make a sweet potato cake. There are lots of recipes and ideas on the net, but many, as is usual with American cakes, had so much sugar. 
I played around with a few recipes, tweaking this and that, and tried this one out first as muffins. It we didn't like them, the birds could have an early Easter present! They certainly tasted different, but pleasantly different, so decided to make the cake. 
Lots of the recipes I looked at had a marshmallow frosting or some other sickly stuff. This one is one I've used many times since being given it by an American neighbour - it's not too sweet, and I love cinnamon!

The first thing you need to do is to roast 2-3 medium sweet potatoes in oven 190C/gas5 for 45 mins or so till soft. Cool. You could cook them a couple of days before and keep them in the fridge.

For the cake: preheat oven 180C/gas 4. Grease and bottom line a 20cm round cake tin.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them well till smooth. You need about 375g of the potato for the cake.

Sift 250g plain flour into a bowl with 13/4 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn bicarb., 1 tspn cinnamon,  1tspn ginger and 1/2 tspn cloves. In another bowl or in a mixer beat together 115g butter and 190g soft brown sugar till nice and fluffy. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract and 2 large eggs and beat till well mixed. Stir in the sweet potato then fold the flour mixture in gently.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins. Cool in tin for 5 mins then tun out onto a wire rack.

For the icing:

115g sieved icing sugar
2 tbspn single cream
1/2 tspn cinnamon

Mix the icing sugar, cream and cinnamon in a bowl until smooth, then drizzle over the cooled cake.

I was expecting the cake to be orange, the same colour as the potatoes, but it wasn't.

It's a moist cake with a soft texture, but doesn't really taste of sweet potatoes. It has a good spicy flavour and the icing is just enough to be a good contrast. It is sweet, but not too sweet. The family enjoyed it, and I was asked for the recipe!

31 mars 2015

Caramel Chocolate Cake

I'm still finding things in the cupboard that I need to use up, and this time it's a tin of  Carnation Caramel.  This cake is one I've been wanting to try for ages - someone posted the recipe on a forum I follow. It was my turn to host the Book Club this month, so thought this would be perfect to have with a cuppa [best china of course!]
The caramel is used in the cake and in the topping. Without it, this recipe would make a great plain chocolate cake.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
Grease and line 2x18cm sandwich tins.

Sift 175g sr flour with 3 tbspns cocoa and 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
Measure 150ml sunflower oil [or other oil, maybe corn or rapeseed] in a large jug and add 150ml milk. Add 2 beaten eggs  and 1 tspn of vanilla extract to this is and beat together.
Beat 2 tbspns from a 397g of Carnation Caramel till nice and smooth, then whisk them into the mixture in the jug.
Add the liquid mixture to the flour one and gently mix together - this is a wet mixture.
Spoon equally into the 2 tins and bake for 20-25 mins.
Cool the cakes in their tins, then turn onto a wire rack.
For the topping and filling - melt 125 dark chocolate over simmering water or in a microwave. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract and the rest of the caramel to the chocolate and beat well till it's smooth and glossy. Add 1 tbspn of sifted icing sugar and mix in.
Put one of the cakes on a plate and spread with a good amount of the chocolate icing. Top this with the other cake and spread the rest of the chocolate icing over the top.
Leave the cake to set before you cut it.

I sprinkled some finely chopped nuts on top, but it's not really necessary. The cake has a lovely caramel flavour which mixes really well with the chocolate. It's very rich, so we all had a small slice!

25 mars 2015

Blueberry Streusel Loaf

I try and buy seasonally, but I have to admit to having a passion for blueberries. They were on offer last week in my usual supermarket, so had to buy some. I know they don't taste anything like the ones I grow in my pot in the garden, and that they'd been shipped half way round the world, but I still love them. 
I've been eating some every morning with my porridge, but decided I wanted to make a cake. This is one of our favourite loaf cakes, but with a streusel topping. The original recipe was from an American website so has been converted from cups - hence the odd amounts. I've tweaked the recipe because it had way too much sugar in the cake. I like making cakes with oil - makes me think they're healthier!

So, preheat oven 190C/gas5

Grease a 900g loaf tin.

Put 80g granulated sugar in a bowl with 60ml sunflower oil. Mix together with an electric mixer, then add 1 egg, 250ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat till smooth and creamy. Fold in 280g plain flour which has been sieved with 3 tspns baking powder. Mix to a batter without lumps. 
Put 220g blueberries in a bowl and add 1 tbspn flour and coat the berries with it. Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Pour into the tin and smooth top [ batter should fill about 2/3 of the tin or it will overflow when baking]. Mix 60g granulated sugar with 50g flour and 50g butter and rub in to make the streusel. Sprinkle this over the batter and bake for about 50mins-1hr. After about 30 mins I covered the top with foil to stop the streusel burning. Cool on a wire rack.

It make a nice treat with a cuppa, and keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. I like the contrast in textures between the cake and the streusel and the softness of the fruit. If you like, you could add more topping, but for me, the ratio is just right. A nice easy cake to make.

19 mars 2015

My Nearly Far Breton

Far Breton is a French speciality from Brittany. The Far bit comes from the Latin farina or flour [hence the french farine I guess]. Doing a bit of research, I found that it was orginally eaten by farming labourers who took it into the fields for their lunch, and it was a savoury flan - a Farz Fourn [oven baked far in Breton].

 It's similar to a clafoutis - a baked custard, and is usually made with prunes. I've gone rather off piste and made the custard then topped it with salted caramel sauce. So I suppose it is a Far, but not a true Breton one - except the caramel sauce is from a jar I brought back from Brittany, and which was made locally there.

Preheat oven 200c/gas 6. Grease a 20cm cake tin [not a springform one in case the custard leaks]  or an ovenproof glass dish .

I find this mixture works best if you mix well between each addition. I have seen recipes which use a food processor, but haven't tried this.

Beat 3 eggs in a bowl, then beat in 130g caster sugar. Add 130g flour and stir in well.

Pour in 200ml of milk and beat well, then when it's well mixed and there's no lumps, add another 200ml of milk and beat this in.

Pour into your tin, then spoon about 12 tspns of caramel sauce over the top. As I said, mine comes from a jar I bought, but you could make your own. 

Bake for 15 mins at the 200C then turn the oven down to 180C/gas 4 for about 35-45 mins till the top is golden brown.

I served this with more of the caramel sauce poured over which I'd warmed gently in a pan -delicious! You have a lovely custard which is soft and smooth, then the moreish caramel sauce. A good variation to the usual Far Breton. 

If you want to make the traditional one, add 100g of prunes after you've added the milk to the batter. You can soak the prunes in rum beforehand for an extra delicious Far.

12 mars 2015

Coconut and Chocolate Squares

My daughter has been staying for a few days and wanted to do some baking. She wanted to make something retro! This recipe was a great family favourite, which happily Mum had written down in her notebook. There's a nice chewy coconut layer on a chocolate biscuit base, so not sure if it's a biscuit or a cake. Either way it's good.
It's also simple to make - a bonus for my daughter!

Preheat oven 190C/gas5 and grease and base line a 20cm square cake tin.

Crush 225g of dark chocolate digestive biscuits in a bag using a rolling pin - or put them in a processor an whizz.
Melt 75g of butter in a pan and stir in the crumbs  till they're all combined.
Press this mixture into the base of your tin.
Beat a 170g tin of evaporated milk with 1 egg, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 25g caster sugar till smooth. Add 50g sr flour and 125g dessicated coconut and mix well.
Pour this over the biscuit layer in the tin and level top.

Bake for 30 mins till the top is firm and starting to turn golden.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins then mark into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Turn out onto a board or plate and finish cutting into squares. You can freeze then for up to 2 months - defrost at room temperature. In an airtight tin, they'll keep for about 4 days, then get very soft.

Sorry the photo is a bit blurred - was in a hurry to take a photo so we could eat some! 
You can melt some dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top if you fancy, but we like them just as they are. There's a nice soft chewy layer, then the firmer chocolate biscuit layer. A good combination.

The topping tastes rather like the coconut pyramids my Gran used to love and made regularly; took me back to my childhood Ahhhhh!

5 mars 2015

Honey Cake

I went to a local farmer's market the other week and found some local honey. I wanted to use it in a cake, and found this recipe in one of my folders. I think it came from a Woman's Weekly magazine. It makes good use of honey, both in the cake and in the topping. It's made in a 23cm tin, so quite a big cake, enough for about 10 good slices.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4, and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

For the cake - beat 225g butter with 95g of soft brown sugar and 1 tspn vanilla extract till light and fluffy. Add 175g honey and beat well. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, then fold in 300g sr flour and 1 tspn cinnamon. Stir in 250g sour cream of crème fraiche gently with a metal spoon. 
Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 45-50 mins till golden.
Leave cake to cool in tin for 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.

For the topping - put 30g butter and 260g honey in a pan and bring to boil, stirring. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 mins.
Take off the heat and stir in 90g of toasted flaked almonds.
When the cake is cool, spoon the almond mixture over the top and let it run down the sides.

To toast the flaked almonds I just put them in a dry frying pan and watched them carefully till they browned slightly. The cake has a good texture and a really lovely honey flavour. It's also moist. The almonds give it the extra bit of crunch, and I love the combination of the butter and honey in the topping - very rich and delicious. A good use of my lovely honey!