Reading and Wandering
I had a really nice morning yesterday. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny July morning so I took myself off for a walk to the next estate – ostensibly to do a bit of shopping but I also wanted to explore and see if I could find a ‘reading garden’ mentioned in the last parish newsletter. With some help from a local friend on Facebook, I tracked it down but on the way managed to find a lovely peaceful pond thronged with baby moorhens and a beautiful 12th century church. The reading garden itself was a lovely quiet space, with a herb garden, a shady bench and lots of young apple trees. I could just imagine how beautiful it will be when they mature, a stunning urban orchard. There are lots of photos from yesterday on flickr here and I’m hoping to go back later in the year and take some more pictures in different moods. It was a real pleasure to explore, wander and think. A bit like being on holiday already!
Today’s bake was inspired by the cake that Jef brought back from Japan for me last year. It was a green tea sponge, studded with chocolate chips and it had a lovely light cream filling. I remember how fond The Roleplayers were of the green tea macaroons way back when so thought they might be brave enough to try another green tea creation. Ah, and the cherry jam addition – that’s all mine 🙂
Green Tea Cake (original recipe here)
Green Tea Cake
Serves 8, generously sliced
For the cake
- 4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 40g self -raising flour
- 50g dark chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon green tea powder (aka matcha)
- 1 to 2 tbsp water
For the filling
- 4 tbsp cherry jam
- 200ml double cream
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon green tea powder
Prep:40min › Cook:10min › Ready in:50min
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 30cm x 30cm swiss roll cake tin.
- Mix the green tea powder (1 to 2 tablespoons [I used two!] depending on the intensity you want) with water, until it’s about the consistency of mustard. Add more water if necessary.
- Using an electric beater, mix the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons sugar until they are light and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add self-raising flour and continue to mix for another minute.
- Add green tea paste and stir to mix.
- Add chocolate chips and distribute evenly.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites at high speed for 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat for another minute.
- Gently fold the egg white mixture into the green tea cake mixture until evenly mixed.
- Transfer into the swiss roll tin, smoothing it out to make sure they are no large air bubbles.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Lay out a large piece of greasproof paper on a flat surface. Turn swiss roll out onto the paper and remove the paper lining it was cooked in. Leave to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, add green tea powder and sugar to the cream and whisk until it is spreadable.
- When cake has cooled, compare both sides and use the best looking side for the outer side of the cake. Place the nicest side face down on the paper.
- Spread jam evenly on the cake, followed by the cream.
- Carefully use the paper to roll it up. Place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- Complete by cutting off the ends to make them even.
Orange blossoms are my favourite flowers. I have an immense & immortal version in the garden which makes me smile every year with its beautiful blossoms and amazing scent. Early June is the classic time for these flowers to open – they have what is for me a timeless scent, instantly evocative of childhood and home. Some floral scents you can bottle – roses and lavender and lilies all have their artificial analogues but a proper mock orange blossom like this one? I’ve never found a perfume that captures their scent, it’s only really available straight from the flower for a vanishingly short period of time every year. All the more precious and ephemeral. I could start musing on the nature of time and how it seems to pass faster every day, but I won’t. I’ll get work done as quickly as I can so I can sit under the orange blossom and enjoy today’s moment. (And that, my lovely people, is about as Zen as I get and probably means it’s about to rain any moment!)
I was in a rush yesterday morning but wanted to make some biscuits. Here they are.
Criss-cross cinnamon and peanut and maple biscuits
Maple, Peanut and Cinnamon Biscuits (Makes around 20 – original recipe here)
- 200g salted butter, softened
- 50g peanut butter
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp maple extract
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 50g chopped peanuts
- Pinch sea salt
- Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
- Mix softened butter, peanut butter & caster sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
- add egg yolk, vanilla extract & maple extract and briefly beat to combine.
- Sift over plain flour and stir until the mixture is well combined – you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together.
- Stir through the chopped peanuts and sea salt.
- Scoop the mixture into 20 large balls onto a non-stick baking sheet. Space well apart, as they will spread.
- Flatten slightly with a fork, rotating to give the cross-hatch shown in the photos.
- Bake for 12-15 mins, then transfer the soft, warm cookies to a cooling rack to firm up.
Oh, the lovely Trés Leches cake. It started life in Las Iguanas, celebrating Jef’s birthday last year. He ordered their:
CREAMY CARAMEL CAKE
Tres Leches. Layers of soaked sponge & caramelised cream, drizzled with dulce de leche. Topped with more caramelised cream & blueberries.
It was a big hit and I was immediately charged with recreating it at home! This is my second attempt – I’ve scaled the quantities back to make something we can eat over a weekend rather than a week 😉
Stephanie’s Trés Leches cake (original recipe here)
For the sponge
- 2 free-range eggs, separated
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 50 ml milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp caramel sauce
For the pour-over sauce
- Half a 400g can sweetened condensed milk
- Half 400g can caramel evaporated milk
- 50 ml caramel sauce – see photo right for the odd, obscure brand I found in the back of my cupboard!
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a pyrex baking dish.
- In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gradually fold in sugar. Fold in the egg yolks one at a time.
- In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder, milk and vanilla. Fold this quickly into the egg mix and pour into the baking dish.
- Swirl the caramel sauce through the cake.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
- For the sauce, beat together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream.
- As soon as you take the cake out of the oven skewer holes all over the top and pour over half of the milk mix.
- Place in the fridge to chill.
- Once chilled pour over the rest of the sauce, whip the cream and spread over the top, slice and serve.
Very, very green tea
After the success of the green tea and cherry blossom jam macaroons, I’m always after something else to try with matcha. These looked too good to pass up…
Sesame and Green Tea Biscuits (original recipe here)
Stack of biscuits
Makes 8 biscuit sandwiches
- 40g sesame seeds, toasted (I didn’t have any black ones to hand :/)
- 50g plain flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 40g butter, firm but not fridge-cold, cubed
- 25g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp jasmine tea (the original recipe called for water but I was in an Oriental mood…)
- 40g butter, softened
- 1½ tsp matcha green tea powder
- 80g icing sugar
- Grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder until they’re reduced to a mealy powder, then set aside. Mix the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl, then rub the butter in, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Toss in the ground sesame seeds, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Add the tea and use a small knife to cut the liquid into the mixture until all of the flour has moistened. Lightly press the mixture into a flat disc, adding a drop more water if necessary, then wrap tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for 15‑30 minutes. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a large baking tray with parchment.
- Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to around 20x35cm, and 3-5mm thick. Use a 4-5cm round pastry cutter to stamp out circles. Arrange them on the prepared tray (line a second tray if necessary). Reroll the offcuts and stamp out more biscuits, if you want.
- Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, then leave to cool before carefully peeling away from the baking parchment.
- For the buttercream, beat the butter with the green tea powder until smooth (and bright green), then gradually stir in the icing sugar. Add a splash of milk if the mixture is too stiff. Place a teaspoonful of the buttercream on each of half of the batch of biscuits, then sandwich with the remaining biscuits, pressing gently down to help squash the buttercream and bring it flush with the edges of the biscuit.
Where might this spooky path lead?
I saw this recipe the other day and thought ‘that looks like something I really ought to make!’ (Jef being rather fond of Soreen, the One True Malt Loaf.) I bought a jar of malt extract and it hid at the back of the cupboard until I came across it looking for something else. It’s a grey, rainy day today – perfect for some comforting baking!
However, not only had I ran out of wholemeal flour, but when I took a soggy walk over to the little convenience store on the next estates, I found that they don’t stock it either. Hmm. So, the recipe below was born out of a lack of a crucial ingredient and an idea to make a slightly lighter malt loaf. I was going to use Earl Grey to soak the fruit anyway but I found some Lady Grey which is an orange and lemon version of Earl Grey in the cupboard which led me onto the idea of echoing an orange note through the rest of the loaf too. I still want to try the original at some point – of course! – but this is a very nice, summery alternative. Some baked sunshine to tide us over until the real stuff comes back…
Sticky & sliced – 3 days after baking!
Orange Scented Malt Loaf
Sticky, malt, orange-y
- 9 tbsp malt extract, plus a little extra to glaze
- 2 tbsp treacle
- 50g soft brown sugar
- 150ml strong Lady Grey tea
- ½ tsp orange extract
- 1 tsp orange flower water
- 200g sultanas
- 250g plain white flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- Stir together the malt extract, treacle, sugar and tea, then add the dried fruit. Leave to soak for 15 minutes. Line a 10x20cm loaf tin with paper and heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four.
- Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt, then stir into the mixture to make a soft batter. Spoon into the tin and bake for about an hour, until a skewer comes out cleanish (the top will bow, don’t worry!).
- Paint the top with malt extract and leave to cool in the tin. Wrap in baking paper once cool, and put in an airtight container for two to three days before eating. Or, at least, try.
Bloom & Wild flowers – beautiful!
One of my birthday presents this year was a subscription to a year’s worth of flowers. Around the middle of the month, I come home to a long flat box full of blooms and have the joy of discovering what they selection is this time and deciding how best to arrange them. (I’m not a natural florist – I do follow the instructions included in the box!) They were a gift from Jef to help brighten up my 37th year. Why am I telling you this, except as an excuse to include a very beautiful picture of yellow and purple flowers? Because it’s one of the many ways in which I’m lucky:I have a lovely and supportive other half who does things like that. In fact, I’m luck to have a small but perfectly formed group of very supportive people, most of whom are reading this.
So, supportive folks, I’d better let you know – I’ve extended the registration for my PhD. I know, I’m sorry. But for various reasons this was again necessary – and the biggest one was time. With all the time I took off last year / early this year, there was just no way I could realistically complete by the end of June without taking the next month off work and that’s not going to happen. So, I’m now planning on completing in October. The OU have been fantastic and they seems as keen to get me to the end of this process as I am to get there – and that’s very, very keen.
So, please put the champagne back on ice if you would, and forgive me for keeping you all hanging around for EVEN longer!
Today’s baking is pretty much a direct lift of a recipe by another blog-writing baker – I feel a bit funny about doing that and copying/pasting the recipe here… it’s different if it’s a more faceless recipe site. Sorry, Butcher, Baker Blog – I hope you don’t mind. Last night’s feedback suggests that these may be some of the best cakes I’ve ever made – and certainly the most moist and unctuous.
The finished items
Carrot & Ginger Cakes
Cooling and admiring the view
Makes 6 cupcake sized cakes, original recipe here.
The original recipe is brilliant but I can’t resist fiddling with things. The changes to the method and the recipe in italics are mine 🙂
For the cakes
- 1 egg
- 70ml rapeseed oil
- 100g soft dark sugar
- 150g finely grated carrots
- 50g raisins
- 2 tbs ginger liqueur
- 90g self-raising flour
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
For the ginger cheesecake icing
- 30g cream cheese
- 30g butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp orange extract
- 40g ginger preserve
- 130g icing sugar
- Carrot decorations to garnish
- The day before, soak the raisins in the ginger liqueur.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150º. Put 6 cupcake cases in a deep cupcake/muffin tin.
- In a bowl beat the egg then stir in the rapeseed oil, sugar and carrots then the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and the two gingers. Yes the mixture looks really rather sloppy and unappetising at this stage but stick with it.
- Fill each cupcake case 2/3 full with the mixture. Bake for 30min until cakes are risen and cooked through. Remove from tin and allow to cool.
- To make the icing beat together the cream cheese and softened butter until well combined then stir in the orange extract and ginger curd. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until you soft, smooth icing. Spoon the icing on to the cakes. Add a sugar carrot to garnish.
- As this icing contains cream cheese if that cakes are not being eaten within a few hours of being made it’s worth them being kept in the fridge especially during hot weather.
Dark and stormy skies
I was having a clear-out of my essences and flavouring drawer* earlier this week when I found a little bottle of cola flavoured essence that I’ve never used. It still smelled really nice so I started doodling and came up with the idea of a little cherry coke cake.
Vanilla / cola cupcake base studied with glace cherries. Filled with cherry jam. With cola buttercream. Topped with cola bottle sweets.
And you know what it’s like, once you get an idea like that in your head it really won’t go away. So I made them. However, I wasn’t entirely confident that they would work so as a fallback plan I also made some jam doughnut muffins. And what do you know? The experimental cakes actually worked quite nicely. Oops.
And that, your honour, is how I came to give an entire group of role-players Type II diabetes in the space of one evening. Sorry folks. Listen, if you talk nicely to me, I promise I’ll make the green tea macaroons again next week and we can pretend that they’re actually healthy and detoxifying?
* I’ve turned into someone who has a SPECIAL DRAWER for little bottles of flavoured essences – and I’ve had some of them so long they’re either almost used up or out of date. Ye gods. Remember, until October 2012 I didn’t consider myself to be a baker at all so this comes as a shock to me!
Cherry Coke Cakes (makes 12, original cake recipe here)
Cherry Coke Cake
- 110g/4oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
- 110g/4oz caster sugar
- 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 110g/4oz self-raising flour
- 50g glacé cherries, finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp cherry coke
- 4 tbs morello cherry jam
For the buttercream icing
- 140g/5oz butter, softened
- 280g/10oz icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp cherry coke
- ½ tsp cola flavouring
- Vegetarian-friendly jelly cola bottles**, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon, adding a little cherry coke until the mixture is of a dropping consistency.
- Stir in the chopped glacé cherries.
- Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full.
- Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
- Carefully remove a cone of the cooked cake from the centre and fill the hollow with cherry jam.
- For the buttercream icing, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
- Add the cola flavouring.
- Then add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of the coke, adding more coke if necessary, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Spoon artfully on top of the cooled cakes.
- Garnish with a cola bottle, and enjoy!
** I was so delighted to find these! 😀 They’re ‘cola breeze‘ sweets, made by a cheerful little brand called ‘Goody good stuff’ and free from just about everything you can think of – no gluten, no alcohol, no gelatine. Available from Ocado and Asda.
Bonus pic! Jam doughnut muffins
Fallen tree at the Open University
I should admit, I don’t know much about Passover. There’s a murky memory from RE lessons at school about angels marking the houses of the firstborn and lots of half-remembered things about special food only ever eaten at this time of year. I didn’t bake these out of any sense of religious or spiritual or even seasonal appropriateness – just that Lisa mentioned them on Facebook and they sounded absolutely delicious, very straightforward and oh, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.
I’ve tweaked the instructions slightly because I found the original a touch vague!
Cinnamon Passover Balls
Shown in my new beautiful cherry blossom bowl!
Original recipe here. Made 20 for me, original recipe suggests 24.
- 115g caster sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 230g ground almonds
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tbsp icing sugar + ½ tsp cinnamon in a Ziplock bag
- Sieve the caster sugar, almonds and cinnamon together into a bowl.
- Beat the egg whites until they become stiff and then fold them into the dry ingredients a bit at a time.
- Leave the mixture to set for a few minutes, and then roll into about 20-24 balls.
- Place the balls on a lined/greased baking sheet and bake for 18-24 mins at 175C (fan oven).
- The balls will be soft when you get them out of the oven, but they will harden up!!
- To finish, place the still warm balls into the bag of sifted icing sugar and shake to coat them, then place on a wire rack to cool.