Monday, 18 July 2011

The Perfect Coffee Cake

I promised myself that the next cake I made would not be a chocolate cake. I tried very hard I really did but then I found this. It's not really chocolate. Not too much anyway. That's what I told myself. The chocolate is concentrated into two layers so when you sink your teeth into a perfectly harmless looking slice you hit this squidgy chocolatey bit. So much for good intentions. Could it be something to do with the fact I substituted the nuts for chocolate chunks? Nonsense. Didn't I tell you I wasn't making a chocolate cake.

So this 'not a chocolate cake' comes from a lovely book called Sweet Secrets by Carine Goren. It keeps really well which is a good thing as it is a large cake. Lots of not chocolate to enjoy. I didn't bother with conversions. Much easier to go with the volume measurements I think. Oh and by the way, it is a called a coffee cake but there isn't actually coffee in it. No I don't know either. It's probably why I was misled into believing it wasn't a chocolate cake in the first place. Just enjoy the chocolate that isn't there.

The Perfect Coffee Cake

A well buttered 9" Bundt Pan

1 1/2 sticks/6oz/220grms butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups sour cream ( I used creme fraiche)


3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coca powder
1 cup walnuts chopped (I substituted chocolate pieces/chips here)
 Icing /powdered sugar to dust over the top

Prepare The Cake

  1.  Mix the filling ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180.C/350.F
  3.  In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on a medium speed.
  4. Add the eggs beating well after each addition. 
  5. Sift together the flour,baking powder,baking soda and salt.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour alternating with the sour cream, three tome, starting and finishing with the flour. ( I bunged the whole lot in the food processor and whizzed)
  7. Pour 1/4 of the batter into the bundt pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the filling on top of the batter and repeat to achieve four layers of cake batter and three layers of filling
  8. bake for about 50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out almost clean (with moist crumbs) and the cake springs back to the touch.
  9. Turn out while still a little warm. Allow to cool completely and decorate with powdered/icing sugar.

    Monday, 11 July 2011

    Macaroni Cheese

    The ultimate comfort supper. Just look at it. Bubbling hot from the oven,cheese oozing out, inviting you to have a forkful. While watching the pennies a bit more recently, this plain homely dish often appears on the menu. Little bits of salty bacon added or not as you prefer. Slowly cooked onion adding sweet buttery flavour. A few green leaves for your hearts sake and that's all it takes.

    The one thing I am fussy about is the sauce. It needs to be thick as the water from the pasta can dilute it and make the sauce very runny. I want something that sticks to my ribs. If you can be organised enough (I am not but try to make the effort for this.) add a peeled onion chopped in half, a handful of black peppercorns and a couple of torn bay leaves to the milk the night before you make it. Not hugely important but if you try it you will be glad you did. Don't throw the onion away as it can be cooked to go into the dish. We don't want to waste anything now do we?

    I use about 75g-100g (3-4 ounces) macaroni per person cooked as per packet instructions. I would like to warn you at this stage that when I cook pasta I could feed the street with it. I never seem to get it quite right.
    Now when it is cooked and drained throw in a lump of butter. Yes I know it's supposedly bad for you but nothing tastes quite like it. Now just do it. It's wonderful. Trust me.

    Strain the milk if infusing, reserving the onion.
    Now finely chop the onion and gently fry in a little oil and butter (yes more butter) for about ten to fifteen minutes in a small pan until it is very very soft and sticky. Keep the heat low and don't let it burn. Set it to the side

    For the Sauce

    50gms/2 ounces butter
    50gms/2 ounces flour
    350 mls milk infused as mentioned above if possible
    1 large teaspoon of mustard, whatever you have in the cupboard will be fine
    A good shake of cayenne pepper
     As much and as varied a choice of cheese(s) as you want. In other words whatever you have in the fridge.
    I like to use strong cheddar and parmesan. I also like to top it with mozzarella. Delicious

    Melt the butter and then stir in the flour letting it cook for a few moments over a low heat to get rid of the floury taste.
    Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and a little milk. keep adding the milk a little at a time and using a whisk get it all blended in.
    Return to the heat and keep stirring until it is thick. Then keep stirring until it becomes very thick.
    Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, cayenne pepper and your chosen cheese.
    Now stir in your macaroni and put it all in a buttered pie dish and top with mozzarella if desired. This bit is not necessary but did I tell you it's delicious?
    Set the whole thing on a long piece of oiled foil and pull the foil over the top to form a loose parcel.
    Pop into the oven at 180.C/350.F/gas4 and bake for half an hour or so then remove the foil top to let it brown.

    Serve with some good for you salad leaves. Enjoy

    Monday, 4 July 2011

    Wheaten Bread with a Little History Lesson

    This was my very first Blog post in 2008. I have moved it to the top as it is being published on this The Hankering Palate. Sarah is an aspiring Food Writer and has obtained her Culinary Diploma from The French Culinary Institute in New York City. She is publishing posts from other foodie Blogs in a series.  It is certainly a privilege for my little post to be used. Pop along, have a read and leave a comment. It will be an interesting week.

    Wheaten Bread

    Wheaten Bread (or Brown Soda Bread as it is called by non Irish folks)  is a part of the everyday diet in this part of the world. Very quick and easy to make it is a wonderful accompaniment to most dishes and delicious with just butter and jam or cheese. I learned to make this at my Mother’s knee. Very few meal times at home did not have this bread on the table. The very smell of it baking takes me back to my childhood. It is a haunting feeling to think that a Grandmother of mine, perhaps two hundred years ago, was making this bread too.
    Two major factors have long affected the course of Irish baking. The first is our climate. In this land where the influence of the Gulf Stream prevents either great extremes of heat in the summer or cold in the winter, the hard wheats, which need such extremes to grow, don't prosper... And it's such wheats that make flour with a high gluten content, producing bread which rises high and responds well to being leavened with yeast. Soft wheats, though, have always grown well here.
    The other factor, in the last millenium at least, has been the relative abundance of fuel. The various medieval overlords of Ireland were never able to exercise the tight control over forest land which landowners could manage in more populous, less wild areas, like England and mainland Europe: so firewood could be pretty freely poached, and where there was no wood, there was almost always heather, and usually turf too. As a result, anyone with a hearthstone could afford to bake on a small scale, and on demand. The incentive to band together to conserve fuel (and invent the communal bake-oven, a conservation tool common in more fuel-poor areas of Europe) was missing in the Irish countryside. Short elapsed baking times, and baking "at will", were easy.
    These two factors caused the Irish householder to bypass yeast for everyday baking whenever possible. The primary leavening agent became what is now known here as bread soda: just plain bicarbonate of soda, hence the name "soda bread". For a long time, most of the bread in Ireland was soda bread -- at least, most of what was baked at the hearthside ("bakery bread" only being available in the larger cities). Soda bread was made either "in the pot," in yet another version of the cloche baking which is now coming back into vogue, but which was long popular all over medieval Europe: or else on a baking stone, an iron plate usually rested directly on the embers of the fire

    The cooking/baking hearth of an Irish cottage, circa 1780: courtesy Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

    From these two methods are descended the two main kinds of soda bread eaten in Ireland, both north and south, to the present day.
    In Ireland, "plain" soda bread is as likely to be eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal (to soak up the gravy) as it's likely to appear at breakfast. It comes in  brown or white, and two main types: cake and farl. The latter are primarily regional differences. People in the south of Ireland tend to make cake: people in Northern Ireland  like the farl better (though both kinds appear in both North and South, sometimes under wildly differing names). Cake is soda bread kneaded and shaped into a flattish round, then cut with a cross on the top (this is supposed to let the bread stretch and expand as it rises in the oven but it’s really to let the fairies out) and baked on a baking sheet.   A farl is rolled out into a rough circle and cut through, crosswise, into four pieces and usually baked in a heavy frying pan or on a griddle, on top of the range rather than in the oven.

    With all this said, the basic business of baking soda bread is extremely simple. The urge to be resisted is to do more stuff to it than necessary...this is usually what keeps it from coming out right the first few times. Once you've mastered the basic mixture, though, you can start adding things, coming up with wonderful variations like treacle bread and so on.

    Now you have had the history.............go make some!

    Wheaten Bread

    8ozs/225gms Wholemeal Flour
    4 ozs/100gms Plain Flour
    Approx. 15 fl. ozs/400mls Butter Milk (or regular milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar)
    1oz/25gms Butter (Vegetable oil will do a couple of tablespoons)
    2 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
    2 good teasps sugar or a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup (Highly recommended yum)
    1 teasp. salt

    Greased and floured round sandwich tin or 2 pound loaf tin

    Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4

    In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
    Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through.
    Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny.
    Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin.
    (It is essential you use light hands)
    Cut a deep cross in the bread. (To let the fairies out)
    Sprinkle with oats if desired

    Bake for approx 40 Minutes or until a skewer comes out clean

    When it comes out of the oven cut yourself a big slice, slather it in butter not minding that it dribbles down your chin in the enjoyment of it all.