Friday, 27 May 2016

Elderflower and Almond Cake

This cake by Lucas Hollweg (courtesy of the Sunday Times Magazine), has become an instant hit with my TA friends on its first outing!  Although I detest the word "moist", there is no other way properly to describe this fabulous cake.  I made it with a gluten-free flour blend, which worked brilliantly, plus my own elderflower cordial and home-laid eggs (how boastful is that!).   The concept of stopping armed conflict at 4pm for tea and cake is one we all felt should be encouraged, as it boosts morale and sugar levels, enabling that final surge of energy before the evening.   It is also quintessentially English, in fact, as English as afternoon tea..

Elderflower and Almond Cake 
Elderflower and Almond Cake

8oz/225g softened butter
2oz/50g self-raising flour (or a blend)
1 level tsp baking powder
7oz/200g ground almonds
8oz/225g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
finely grated zest of a lemon

Syrup and Icing:
160ml undiluted elderflower cordial
juice of the lemon
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
5 ½ fl oz/150ml mascarpone
5 fl oz/150ml double cream
handful of chopped pistachios

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment, and grease with butter (I now use Dr Oetker’s cake release spray, it’s magic!) .   Mix together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.  Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy.  Add the eggs slowly, beating well after each one (you can add 1 tbsp of the flour at the same time to stop the mix curdling).  Add the remaining flour, and beat it in quickly.

Pour the batter into the tin, and bake for approx 40-45 minutes until it is well risen and golden, or until a warm skewer comes out clean.  Slow is best, so don't be afraid to cook it longer.  If it starts to brown on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.

While the cake is cooking, mix 3 ½ oz/100ml cordial with the lemon juice and 1tbsp sugar.   Remove the cake from the oven, leave it in the tin, then spike it all over and pour the syrup onto it, making sure it is evenly drenched.  You won’t believe how much liquid one cake can absorb!  Leave it to cool in the tin, then gently remove – it will be very moist.

To make the icing, whisk the mascarpone with the remaining cordial until smooth, before adding the cream and whisking it again to make a softly thick but spreadable icing.  Cover the top of the cake and scatter with chopped pistachios. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Maple Pecan Biscuits

How fortunate that most people like biscuits, and are happy to test them!  There's nothing like the snap of a freshly made biscuit, and these are a great example of the species.   Light and crisp, with a bit of a crunch and a lovely smell of maple, these are relatively quick to make, although they do need two hours to chill in the fridge, so instant gratification is out...    The recipe came from the Sunday Times, just one of the many tear-outs I, like you, keep, just in case I feel inspired.  I haven't tested them either gluten or dairy free.

Top tip:  Watch them!  One batch browned quite quickly - they also spread out on the baking sheet.  As you can see from the photo, I'm incapable of rolling a perfect log - most of the biscuits are oval, but they taste great.

Maple Pecan Biscuits
Maple Pecan Biscuits

5oz/140g butter, softened
80g/3oz maple syrup
2oz/60g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
5oz/140g flour
1oz/30g cocoa powder
6.5oz/180g toasted pecans, coarsely blitzed

In a medium sized bowl, beat the butter until it is smooth, then add the maple syrup and sugar, beating again until the mixture is light and fluffy.  A hand held beater is good for this, but just don’t do the sugar on full power straight away!

Next, add the egg yolk, and beat again, this time for a couple of minutes.  The mixture should be pale and light.  Now stir in the flour and pecans. You will have some very soft dough.   Divide this in two, putting each half on a piece of cling film, using the film to help form two sausages about 2”/5cm in diameter.   Wrap the cling film securely round each sausage and chill for at least two hours. 

The oven should be at 180 deg C.  Line two or three baking sheets with parchment, then cut the chilled dough into slices about ¼”/5mm thick.  Arrange them on the sheet so there is space between each one, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.   They will be soft, but will crisp up after they have been cooled on a wire rack. 

Best eaten warm.   Store in an airtight tin.  The original recipe suggested it would make 24 or so, but I made about 35 thinner ones – if you cut the dough into thicker slices, it will spread further, so you need more space on the tray otherwise the biscuits melt into each other.  

Friday, 13 May 2016

Coconut Jam Sponge

Is it a cake, is it a pudding?  It has had various incarnations - a school dinner staple certainly, and then dressed up for afternoon tea.  The combination of jam and coconut is an unusual one, and, when coupled with a light lemony sponge, absolutely delicious!  It has to be home made jam, of course... I made the first batch of this in response to a request from a friend, who proceeded to eat most of it.  Alli - how I managed to photograph this before you got your mitts onto it, I have no idea!   I did not try this in a gluten free format, but it could easily be dairy-free if you used a dairy-free spread.

Coconut and Jam Sponge 
Coconut and Jam Sponge

8oz/250g buttery spread
8oz/250g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 dessert spoon grated lemon zest
1 tsp baking powder
8oz/250g self raising flour, less 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Half a jar of home made raspberry jam (easiest, as it is the most uniform in consistency!)
4oz/110g desiccated coconut (approx)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line a large oblong tin (at least 9 x 12” or so but not the size of a large baking tray) with foil, and grease the base and sides of the tin as well.   In a mixer, beat together the main ingredients until smooth, but don’t beat too hard or it will lose its air.  If the buttery spread is quite hard, beat it with the sugar first before adding the other ingredients. 

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for approx 25 minutes, or until a warm skewer comes out clean.  Slow is best, so don't be afraid to cook it longer.  If it starts to brown on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of  foil.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool, then gently remove the tin by lifting the cake out by its foil case.  You now have a choice.  If the cake has risen a lot, cut it horizontally and put a layer of jam in the middle. If not, just put a generous layer of jam on the top.  Then sprinkle on the coconut until the jam has pretty much disappeared.  Cut into squares.   Watch it go!