Wednesday 27 July 2011

Daring Bakers July 2011 Challenge: Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Almond Frasier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

This months challenge, a French fresh frasier was my kind dessert. A light chiffon cake, soaked in a light syrup, layered with fresh fruit, filled with crème patisserie and topped with a layer of marzipan. A combination of all my favourite things!

As long as we made all the main components ourselves, the style and flavour was completely up to us. My grandmother had just given me some fresh blackcurrants from her garden and so I decided to include these in the cake layers to make it extra fruity. Blackcurrants can be a little sharp, but baked into the cake they tasted perfectly sweet and I loved how they popped, creating little pools of moody purple juice dotted throughout the cake. To tie in with the almond marzipan on top I also included a little almond extract as I think almond and fruit make a delicious combo.

The crème patisserie was meant to include gelatin to help stabilize it, but being vegetarian I left this out and decided against adding a veggie alternative, as I’ve found in the past that a crème including whipped double cream is usually firm enough to hold up if given time in the fridge to chill and set. I kept my crème patisserie quite plain and simple, allowing its natural rich creamy flavour to shine through.

I made the cake and components in the morning, assembled it in the afternoon and then chilled it overnight before cutting it the following day. It’s not a dessert to make if you need something in a hurry, but it was well worth the wait. Allowing it to chill overnight gave time for the crème to thicken and set, the flavours to develop and the fruit juices to seep into the cake, making them soft and moist. It ended up tasting a bit like a sophisticated trifle.

Chiffon cake is quite a fragile delicate cake, and I also made it gluten free meaning it was even more in danger of falling apart. Thankfully I was able to cut and assemble the cake quite easily, but when it came to cutting the first slice, it sort of toppled over slightly. This didn’t effect my overall enjoyment of the cake though, if anything it meant I could dig in with gusto without feeling I had to be too dainty about it.

The cake was divine! I adored the thin layer of marzipan on top, which stayed soft and gooey and complemented the strawberry and blackcurrant flavours wonderfully. The sponge had soaked up all the juices and flavours and was so moist it was almost like a drizzle cake. Crème patisserie takes a little time to make, but is completely worth the extra effort. Thick and lusciously creamy it really gave the dessert that professional patisserie flavour. It’s so good I could eat it by the bucket load!

Serve in small dainty slices if you wish, but its so good people will be asking for seconds. So my advice is to serve it in large generous slices and watch peoples faces light up as they eat it. I even licked my plate clean! This cake is firmly on the ‘make again’ list.

Click to see the Fresh Frasier creations of the other Daring Bakers.

Strawberry, Blackcurrant & Almond Frasier
Gluten Free Blackcurrant Chiffon Cake
150g plain flour (I used GF white teff flour)
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
170g caster sugar
60ml vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
95ml water
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used almond)
¾ tsp lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
50g blackcurrants (my own addition)

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Line the bottom of an 8 inch/20cm spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla (I used almond) and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites into a large bowl and beat on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat again until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 spoonfuls of reserved sugar and beat until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Scoop about a third of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently before folding in the remaining whites just until combined. (I folded in the blackcurrants at this stage).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper.

Crème Patisserie
250ml whole milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
10g cornflour
55g caster sugar
2 large egg yolks
30g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
¾ tsp gelatin and ½ tbsp water (I didn’t use this)

Pour the milk and vanilla into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cold.
(I didn’t use the gelatin, so when the chilled mix was cold, I simply whisked the cream until it formed stiff peaks and folded it into the pastry cream. This made it a little soft, but it did firm up on chilling of the finished assembled cake. See below for gelatin instructions).

If using gelatin:
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften. Put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 60g of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 48.8C. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches. Whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup
75g caster sugar
75ml water

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
Remove the syrup from the heat and cool until required.

400g strawberries
125g marzipan

Line the sides of your 8inch/20cm spring form pan with clingfilm. Do not attach the base, simply use the outer ring. Place the ring on your serving plate.
Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with a little of the simple syrup. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring. Use the leftover bits of strawberry to cover the top of the cake layer in the pan.
Carefully pour the crème patisserie over the top, spreading up to the edges in an even layer, reserving two tablespoons for the top of the cake.
Place the second cake layer on top, press down lightly and moisten with a little more of the syrup.
Roll out the marzipan into a large disc, only about 3mm thick. Use the base of the spring form pan to cut out a disc the size of the top of the cake.
Use the reserved crème patisserie to spread a thin layer over the top of the cake before placing on the marzipan disc. Cover the ring and cake with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the clingfilm.
Dust the top with icing sugar and decorate with a fanned out strawberry.
Serves 10-12

Monday 25 July 2011

Espresso Ice Cream with Coffee Caramel Ripple

My mother is not a great ice cream lover, but one ice cream flavour she would never say no to is coffee. She likes her coffee dark and strong, with just the tip of a spoonful of sugar. I decided to make her her ideal coffee ice cream, an ultra strong coffee base with a ripple of coffee infused caramel streaked through the middle for that hint of sweetness.

When making the ice cream at the weekend, I didn’t have a lot of time to spare and so decided to do a slight cheat by using a tub of premade custard rather than making my own custard base. This way there was no extra custard chilling time required. Freezing foods can lessen their flavour, so I made sure to make the ice cream base extra strong to ensure the flavour shone through. It actually ended up being too strong for my liking, not to mention caffeine packed (one spoonful and I was buzzing for hours!) but my mum adored it and that’s what mattered.

To add a little sweet relief from the intense bitter coffee flavour, I concocted a coffee caramel which I drizzled in at the end to create a ripple effect. I wasn’t sure this would work but it tasted great, sweet and intense all at the same time. I bet it would be fantastic drizzled over a slice of cake. I added it right at the last moment during freezing, as I wanted the ripple effect to remain. Well that was the idea, but it didn’t really work that well.

My caramel was still a little warm when I added it, meaning the ice cream started to melt and ended up being softer than I would have liked (hence the rather melted appearance in the photos) but it still tasted gorgeous!

There was no mistaking the flavour of this ice cream. It was rich and intense. Quite bitter with the odd contrasting streak of sweet sticky caramel. The ice cream itself was wonderfully smooth and creamy.

Mere spoonfuls are all that’s required to achieve an instant caffeine buzz. On a hot day I think it would make a great end to a meal served in small espresso cups rather than cups of actual hot coffee. Just make sure it’s for adults only unless you want the children bouncing off the walls for three days straight! It really packs a coffee kick!

Espresso Ice Cream with Coffee Caramel Ripple
Espresso Ice Cream
400g bought fresh custard
300ml double cream
15g instant coffee or espresso powder
100g caster sugar

Coffee Caramel Ripple
70g caster sugar
10g instant coffee or espresso powder
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp milk

Method – Ice cream
Heat 100ml of the double cream in a small bowl in the microwave. Add the coffee and stir until dissolved, followed by the sugar.
Mix the custard, remaining cream and coffee mixture together and place in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prepare the caramel.

Coffee Caramel
To make the espresso caramel, warm the milk in the microwave and stir in the coffee. Leave to rent and dissolve completely.
Meanwhile, mix the sugar and water together in a small pan. Heat gently, until the sugar has dissolved into a clear liquid. Swirl the pan a couple of times if needed, but do not stir it.
Once you have a syrup, increase the heat slightly and allow the syrup to bubble slightly and turn golden brown in colour. When it has reached your desired colour, remove from the heat, add the milky coffee mixture. Be careful as it will spit and splutter slightly.
Stir together and leave to cool into a thick caramel while you churn the ice cream.

Churn the coffee ice cream until very thick, before drizzling in the caramel at the last moment in order to create a ripple effect (my caramel was still a little warm and melted the ice cream at bit).
Serve at once or transfer to a container and freeze until required.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

The Cake Slice July 2011: Zebra Cake

I was so happy when Zebra Cake won the Cake Slice Bakers vote to be this months challenge cake. It is so called, rather obviously, due to the wavy brown and cream zebra like strips that are revealed when the cake is cut. It is a cake I have been meaning to try for years, but somehow never got round to baking, so this was the ideal opportunity.

The zebra strips are created by spooning alternating flavours of batter into the centre of the cake tin, one on top of the other in a bulls eye formation. This slowly forces the batter underneath out towards the edges and ends up creating the rippled wavy effect when baked.

I was a little nervous about this procedure as the batter seemed quite runny and I was unsure how it would bake up, particularly as I had used gluten free flour. I had visions of a gummy unbaked flat pancake. My fears were unfounded though as it baked into a fabulous cake. Light and springy with a gorgeous taste and texture.

It was also very moist, in the good way. I think this was due to the use of oil in the batter which helped keep it moist and fresh tasting even a few days after baking. My family who can normally spot a gluten free baked good a mile off, were shocked when I told them it was gluten free. They loved it. I think whisking the eggs and sugar together for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients gave the cake a better structure, meaning it was springy rather than crumby which can sometimes happen in gluten free baking.

It may sound a little plain having no additional cream or fillings, but it tasted fabulous and was wonderful to munch on in the afternoons. The zebra like wavy strips were also a real talking point. People got very excited when they were revealed after cutting a slice. It would make a really impressive party cake.

Click here to see my fellow Cake Slice Bakers cakes.

Zebra Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)
240g plain flour (I used gluten free white teff flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
4 eggs
225g caster sugar
220ml whole milk
100g butter, melted and cooled
100ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9 inch pan, line with a circle of parchment paper, grease the parchment and dust with flour. Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the milk, butter, oil and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture, a quarter at a time.
Transfer a third of the batter into another bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder.
Place 3 tablespoons of the vanilla batter into the centre of the pan and let it stand for a few seconds so it spreads out slightly. Place 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter right on top of the vanilla and wait another few seconds until it spreads. Continue alternating vanilla and chocolate until you have used up all the batter and it has spread to the edges of the pan.
Bake until the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper. Re-invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slice and serve.
Makes one 9 inch round cake

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Heston Inspired Popcorn Ice Cream!

I read recently that Heston Blumenthal is going to release three new and exciting ice cream flavours for Waitrose. Being Heston, these are not your run of the mill ice cream flavours. They’re going to feature Chocolate & Rosemary ice cream, Salted Caramel Popcorn ice cream and…Savoury Mustard ice cream….ermm??

The one that sounded most exciting and appealing to me was the popcorn ice cream. Popcorn ice cream – what a brilliant idea! I was trying to figure out in my head how it would taste and I soon decided the best way to find out would be try making some myself.

I thought the easiest way of achieving the popcorn flavour would be to infused the milk and cream mixture with the popcorn, strain this off and then use it to make the ice cream. I used a bag of sweet microwave popcorn for ease and then added it to the milk while it was still steaming hot. As I poured the milk over the top of the popcorn it sort of shrivelled and collapsed down on itself with a sizzling cracking sound. It was rather amusing to watch. If you’ve ever poured hot milk over sugar puffs as a child you’ll know what I mean!

I heated everything together and left it to infuse for a few hours. After this I blitzed the two together and then strained the mix to remove all the husks, pips and coarse bits from the popcorn. I tried eating a little of the soggy popcorn and it was not pleasant, so sieving is a must! It was then a simple process of making the normal ice cream using the popcorn flavoured cream.

I was so excited to taste the finished ice cream and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was deliciously smooth and creamy with a definite ‘something recognisable’ flavour to it, but it wasn’t immediately obviously popcorn flavoured. Once I told people what it was there was an ‘ahhh yes’ of recognition, but I think the flavour was probably a little subtle. This didn’t stop it being utterly delicious though!

No doubt Heston does some kitchen wizardry to extract the intense essence of popcorn for his ice cream, but I feel for a first attempt, my popcorn infused ice cream was pretty good too. More popcorn required next time though.

Served with a little extra helping of popcorn it would make a fun end to a meal and certainly get the conversation going. If you’re one of those people who can’t choose between popcorn and ice cream when watching a film, well this way you can have both!

Popcorn Ice Cream
1 x 100g bag sweet microwavable popcorn
350ml whole milk
200ml double cream
3 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
½ tsp caramel or butterscotch flavouring

Cook the popcorn according to pack instructions. Place three quarters of the hot popcorn into a large saucepan and pour over the milk and cream. (It was crackle and deflate drastically).
Leave to infuse for 1½ hours.
After infusing, blitz and popcorn into the cream mixture using a hand blender. Then heat the pulpy popcorn mixture until hot but not boiling.
Meanwhile, lightly beat together the egg yolks, sugar and flavouring if using.
When the cream is hot, sieve the mix to remove all the pips, husks and popcorn pulp before pouring a little over the eggs to temper them. Whisk well, and slowly add the rest of the cream mixture.
Pour the custard base back into the pan and heat gently, stirring constantly until the custard thicken just enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3-4minutes. Do not let it boil.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before chilling until cold.
Then churn in your ice cream maker until thick or transfer to a container and place in the freezer until set.
Makes 1 pint ice cream

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Smoky Chilli & Lime Houmous

Yesterday I was really fancying some houmous to go with some nice crunchy salad and crackers for lunch. I love houmous and often (I’m ashamed to say) buy it from supermarkets, but its so quick and easy to make at home that I decided to have a little fun and jazz up some homemade houmous.

Simple clean flavours are all well and good, but I also love things with a bit of spice and after a browse though the fridge and spice cupboard I decided to make houmous with a little lime and cumin for aromatics and paprika and cayenne for a smoky kick.

I’m not a great fan of tahini, even though I love sesame and sesame oil, so instead I used peanut butter to add that creamy nutty note. This may sound a little odd, but it really works.

The houmous took literally 10 minutes from start to finish and I ended up with a lovely big pot for only a few pence, a bargain compared to shop bought. It reminded me that I really should make my own more often.

It smelt amazing and quite Moroccan so I dipped a cracker in and took a bite. At first I just got a creamy texture and a fresh zesty flavour from the lime. Then the smokiness from the paprika came in and started to develop into a gentle heat from the cayenne pepper, leaving my mouth with a warming tingle.

I loved its terracotta orange colour from the paprika, very Middle Eastern. It’s quite addictive and perfect summer lunchtime munching.

Smoky Chilli & Lime Houmous
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp peanut butter or tahini
Juice of ½ lime
4-6 tsp vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients, expect the oil, into a small blender and blitz until chunky. Scrape down the sides and briefly blitz again.
Add 4tsp of oil and blend until smooth or at your desired consistency (I like it coarse). Add a little more oil or a touch of water if it’s too thick.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Eat within 5 days.