Tuesday, 14 January 2020

World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"

This is, quite without doubt, the most amazing cake in the world, and it's name doesn't lie!  Known as the World's Best Cake, or Verdens Beste, it comes from Kvaefjord in Troms, a northern county of Norway.    Last year, I had the privilege of skiing on part of the route the World War II SOE "Operation Gunnerside" saboteurs took to get to the heavy water plant at Vermork.   My team leader had lived in Norway as a teenager, and the family she got to know then kindly invited the entire team to supper.   The crown of a fabulous evening was this cake.  A confection of cake, meringue, almonds and cream... .heaven in a single (massive) slice...   Of course, I had to have the recipe!    So, Toril and family, many, many thanks - I hope I've done your recipe justice. 

World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"
World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"

5oz/150g butter
5oz/150 g caster sugar
5 egg yolks mixed with
4 tbsp milk
5oz/150 g flour (I used self raising flour)
1 tsp vanilla essence or vanilla sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda  

5 egg whites
6oz/180g caster sugar
4oz/100g flaked almonds

1 pint/600ml double cream
2 tsp vanilla sugar (I used 1tsp vanilla essence)

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and put parchment in a Swiss Roll tin/baking tray.  The meringue will come quite high, so be generous with the parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar until it is light and airy, then mix in the egg yolks and the milk.  Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla essence or sugar.   Spread the dough evenly onto the tray.

Using a mixer, whisk the whites almost firm and then add the sugar in a
thin stream while whisking until the meringue is firm and shiny and will keep its shape.  Dollop the meringue all over the cake mixture, lifting it with the spatula (ie, so it isn’t smooth on top).   Sprinkle the flaked almonds all over the top. 

Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes and allow to cool.

Cut the cake in half (I found it easier to keep the cake on the parchment, cutting right through, so you can tip it upside down).   Put one half on your serving dish  with the meringue facing down. Whisk the cream and the vanilla sugar softly together and spread it over the cake.  Top with the other half of the cake, meringue side up.   

The cake is now ready to be served, or you could refrigerate it for later.  Toril says she sometimes makes the cake a day in advance, adding the filling on the day.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Apple Jelly

Have you ever made anything so delicious with just two ingredients?   For my holiday let (Sappington Granary, listed on Airbnb as "Charming Romantic Hideaway just outside Canterbury", just in case you were wondering), I do a range of home made breakfasts, which always includes my own home-pressed apple juice.   Having some wonderful friends who grow apples commercially, I am allowed to wander among the orchard after the pickers have been through to collect all the apples my car boot can hold.   A lot of pressing and hard work later and... ta dah!!!!   Beautiful apple juice.  You must try it, although be prepared for a lot of work resulting in not a lot of juice.

This year, in the quest for a Stour Festival pudding I hadn't tried, I thought I'd use my beautiful juice to make a jelly.   Result?   A very, very delicately apple flavoured jelly, which was enthusiastically hoovered up by the singers, musicians and helpers (particularly the latter - singers prefer heartier food).    You must try it, if you try nothing else.   Commercial apple juice will work just as well.

Apple Jelly

Apple Jelly
6 gelatine leaves (enough to lightly set 1.5 pints liquid)
1.5 pints/775ml strong apple juice

Heat 4 fl oz/100ml of apple juice until it is steaming.   Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until they are flexible, then squeeze off the water before dropping the soggy leaves into the hot apple juice and stirring to dissolve the leaves entirely.   

Pour this mixture into a jug and add the rest of the juice.  Stir well to combine it all – you don’t want a layered effect with a thicker jelly at the bottom.   Pour the jelly into a pretty bowl and leave it to set in the fridge for at least four hours.  Decorate just before serving with flowers. 

This has quite a delicate flavour, so if you wanted to add sharpness, you could try adding the strained juice of half a lemon.  

Cinnamon shortbread stars

Isn't cinnamon the most wonderfully versatile spice?   It appears in so many guises, but mostly at Christmas, when its subtle warmth and evocative smell brings cheer to the dark and dismal days of rain-washed England in December.  And we've certainly been rain-washed this year! 

My local church has a Christmas Tree Festival, and there are always baked goodies for sale on the Open Day.   These little cinnamon stars were one of my contributions, and where I had the ultimate accolade from young Joseph (perfectly name for a Christmas visitor) who liked them so much, he not only wanted to take the rest home, but also have the recipe.    So, Joseph, here you are, with very best wishes for a happy Christmas. 

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

5oz/150g plain flour (works very well with just rice flour)
3 level tbsps rice flour – if no rice flour, just use more plain flour
2oz/50g caster sugar
4oz/100g butter at just above room temperature
½ tsp of mixed spice and cinnamon

1tsp cinnamon
1tsp icing sugar mixed together 
gold powder

Preheat oven to 170deg C/325 deg F.    Grease a large baking sheet.   Mix together the flours, spices and the sugar.    Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients.   It will form a dryish dough, which you knead a little before rolling (this stretches the gluten and makes the biscuit stick together better).  

Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof parchment, about .5cm thick.   Cut stars, about 2-3”, 50-75mm, and transfer using a fish slice to the baking sheet.  When you gather up the leftovers and roll them out again, try not to over-knead it, as the final result isn’t as good (what Mary Berry would described as “overworked” – you know the feeling!)

Bake until firm and golden – the butter in the mixture will brown while your back is turned, so check it frequently after 10 minutes or so.      When they are done, dredge them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, using a small sieve, then add a little gold powder for festive sparkle.  

This quantity of ingredients made about 24 or so biscuits.  Joseph suggests putting a hole in each one before baking, so you could hang them on the Christmas tree.  

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Coffee and Walnut Tart

Another year, another Stour Festival, another fortnight of fabulous puddings!    It's such fun to be given a free hand to make whatever you want, in quantity, for enthusiastic eaters.    This year I thought I'd try several new items, and this delicious walnut and coffee tart is one of them.   From a recipe I tore out of a magazine (doesn't everybody?), the original was for 6 tartlets, but I ignored that, and made a large one instead.   To do that, I ended up doing 1.5 quantity the icing as I wanted a thicker layer.   Your choice.

Coffee and Walnut Tart
Walnut and Coffee Tarts

4 ½ oz/125g cold butter, cubed
8 ½ oz/250g plain flour
2oz/60g icing sugar
Just under 1floz/25ml water mixed with 1 egg yolk

Tart Filling:
5 floz/150g double cream
8 ½ oz/250g caster sugar 
5oz/50g salted butter
7oz/200g walnut halves, 6 left whole, the rest chopped

Coffee top (original quantity for 6 small tarts):
5oz/150g white cooking chocolate
2 ½ fl oz/75g double cream
1 tbsp instant coffee granules

Crème fraiche to serve.

Make the pastry.  The recipe suggested doing this by hand – rub the butter into the flour, mix the egg, icing sugar and cold water, pour into the flour and stir in with a knife until the mixture gets lumpy.  Press this into a ball, wrap up and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Cut into 6 (if making individual tarts) roll out each piece into a circle and put into individual tins, pressing into the edges.  Trim with a knife and let the cases rest in the fridge for 1hr.  Making a single tart, I rolled the pastry out into a 9” loose bottomed flan tin and pricked the base lightly before the second refrigeration.    Preheat the oven to 180deg C.   Blind bake the tartlets/tart for 10 minutes, remove the paper and baking beans and cook again for another 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Remove the tart/tartlets from the tins.

To make the filling, put 1/3 of the sugar into a heavy based saucepan over medium heat.  When it starts caramelising, sprinkle in more sugar.  Add the rest of the sugar slowly, swirling the pan gto encourage it to melt, until the caramel is amber in colour.  Now add the cream, then the butter, and stir.  Speed is essential at this stage, and the caramel is very hot.  Add the chopped walnuts, mix it all together, then put the mixture into the tins.   You should leave a space below the rim of the tart as the coffee icing goes on top of this.   Level the nut mixture and leave it to cool while you make the coffee icing.

Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream and coffee in a saucepan until simmering, and pour this over the chocolate.  Leave it to melt, then stir it together.  Fill each tart case with the coffee icing, putting a whole walnut in the centre/decorate the entire tart.   Put this into the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up, then serve at room temperature, with whipped cream or crème fraiche. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie

A new take on my famous Lime and Basil Crunch Pie, on the basis that everything tastes better with chocolate!  I wasn't wrong.  What really works with this recipe is that the chocolate base stays firmer than the usual base, which is especially valuable in the summer, when this kind of recipe can look a little sad if it has been released from the fridge a little earlier than it should.  Gluten free digestive biscuits worked very well, including GF Hobnobs. 

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie

8oz/230g Hobnobs, crushed (use gluten free biscuits if wished)
3oz/75 g butter and
2oz/50g dark chocolate, melted in the microwave
Juice and zest of 4 limes
1 can condensed milk (full fat)
½ pint/300ml double cream

1 oz dark chocolate
1 lime for decoration

Grease a 9” springclip tin and put baking parchment in the base.   Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter/chocolate and spread into the tin, levelling out.  Put in the fridge to allow to harden.

Whisk the condensed milk, cream, lime zest and juice together for about 2-5 minutes or so until it has thickened.   This is best done with a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer, or at least a deep bowl so you don’t redecorate the kitchen!

Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base, level the top and chill for at least half an hour so that it sets.    Heat the last 1oz of chocolate until liquid, then scribble it generously over the pie.  Grate some of the last zest, and cut the last lime into thin pieces and arrange both over the top.

When you remove this from the tin, remember that it has paper underneath…

Monday, 12 August 2019

Apricot Frangipane Tart

A really quick and simple tart, which easily feeds a crowd - what's not to like?  Made from ready rolled puff pastry, so very little preparation and mess.    This was taken from Delicious Magazine, and is definitely worth making as it makes a large freeform tart that you can cut up into slices or squares.  The recipe calls for small apricots, which look prettier than big fleshy ones.   It also includes honeycomb, something I didn't bother with.

Apricot Frangipane Tart
Apricot Frangipane Tart

3.5oz/100g unsalted butter, softened
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 egg
5oz/125g ground almonds
1.5oz/35g plain flour
2 tbsp amaretto (if you don’t have any, use 1 tsp almond flavouring)

1 pack ready to roll puff pastry
14 small ripe apricots, cut into wedges
4 floz/100ml runny honey (approx ¼ jar)
6 sprigs of thyme
6oz/150g honeycomb, broken into pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C.     Put the butter and sugar into a food processor (or just use a whisk with a deep bowl!) and beat until thick and pale, before adding the rest of the frangipane ingredients and pulsing to combine them.   Allow this to chill for about 15 minutes to firm up (confession – I didn’t bother).

Unroll the pastry onto a large piece of baking paper (or use the paper that comes with it) then put it straight onto a baking tray.   Score a line along the inside edge of the pastry, about 1”/2cm, to make a border, but don’t cut through the pastry.  Prick the base with a fork.

Within the border of the tart, spread over the frangipane mixture and then add the apricots.  Put in the oven and turn down the temperature straight away to 200 deg C.    The suggestion is you bake it for 35 minutes until it has cooked through and the filling is set.   I’d check if I were you – mine didn’t take as long.   Warm the runny honey until it is really liquid and pour it over the tart while it is hot.   Add the little pieces of thyme and honeycomb.   Eat hot or cold.  

Monday, 15 July 2019

Caramelised Orange Tart

This fabulous tart is taken directly from my favourite Good Housekeeping Magazine.    A Stour Festival Pudding, it has an unusual flavour and, with its caramelised top, a real crunch to it.   I had always avoided cooks' blowtorches, thinking that they were a bit "Masterchef" for me, despite not having a grill.    A Christmas present from one of my sons has changed my mind, and I don't think it was a massively expensive present (I'd be horrified if it were!).   You do have to be a bit careful to avoid incineration in some areas and no caramelisation at all in others, but that's just practice. 

Apologies for the terrible photograph, it was, as always, far too late for me to arrange it prettily before someone came along and wanted to eat it...

Caramelised Orange Tart
Caramelised Orange Tart

Enriched Pastry:
4oz/125g butter, diced
8oz/225g plain flour
pinch salt
2 tbsp icing sugar (I don’t normally use this)
1 medium egg, beaten

1 orange zest and juice plus 1 orange zest only
1 lemon, juice only
3oz/75g butter
8oz/225g golden granulated sugar 
3 medium eggs, beaten
3oz/75g ground almonds
2tbsp orange liqueur

3½oz/100g caster sugar
Pared zest of 1 orange, cut into slivers

Make the pastry (in a food processor, add the butter to the flour, (sugar) and salt, process until it looks like crumbs, add the egg and cold water as needed to make a smooth dough).    For best results, knead the pastry lightly before making it into a ball and letting it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.   While it is resting, put the juices, zest, butter, sugar and eggs into a pan, heating gently and stirring until thickened.  Stir in the ground almonds, orange liqueur.  

Heat the oven to 200deg C.     Roll the pastry out into a 9” loose bottomed flan tin and prick the base lightly.   Refrigerate it again for 10 minutes.    Line the pastry with paper and baking beans/old rice and bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and return the tart case for 5 minutes.   Reduce the oven temperature to 180 deg C.

Spread the filling in the case, return it to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until it is just firm.  Leave to cool.  

To decorate, dissolve 2oz/50g sugar in a pan with ½ pint/300ml water, then add the orange parings.   Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the peel is tender.  Drain. 

Preheat the grill.  Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the tart and caramelise under the grill (if you don’t have one, make a small quantity of caramel and pour over the tart, or use a blowtorch!).  Cool the tart and then arrange the peel around the edge.