Thursday 27 October 2011

Daring Bakers October 2011 Challenge: Povitica!

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Povitica, pronounced ‘po-va-teet-sa’ is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi or Strudia. It is a heavy sweet bread that requires quite a bit of time, skill and patience to make, meaning they often sell for extortionate amounts. Povitica is quite unique and unlike any other kind of bread I’ve ever come across. It looks a little rustic on the outside, but once sliced, reveals the most amazing swirls of thin dough interlaced with sweet sticky filling. I love how its not even just one swirl, but two or three individual swirls in each slice. It really is quite extraordinary, a real show stopper!

The traditional filling for this bread is an English walnut filling, but we were allowed to choose our own flavours. Keeping with the nutty theme I decided to use ground pecans and chestnut puree. As the swirls created inside the bread reminded me of cinnamon rolls, I also added raisins and cinnamon which together with the nuts gave it a wonderfully flavoursome and festive flavour.

The bread itself is quite heavy, by which I mean by weight rather than texture. On average a loaf weighs an amazing 2.5 pounds, over 1.2kg! Despite this, it wasn’t dense, chewy or hard going, but surprisingly soft, moist and springy.

The gooey sticky filling was divine, faintly coarse from the nuts, creamy from the divine chestnut puree (I adore this stuff) and the cinnamon and sultanas adding little burst of fruity stickiness when bitten into. It tasted a bit like the filling for a praline chocolate, just fabulous! The small amount of cocoa didn’t add much to the flavour, but ensured a dark filling, helping to create the striking swirl effect within each slice.

I so nearly didn’t attempt this loaf, unsure how it would reproduce gluten free, as so far my bread based gluten free baking has been a bit hit and miss. I’m so pleased I decided to take the plunge and make this bread. It was absolutely fabulous and that moment of slicing into the loaf and revealing the swirls tucked away inside was one of pure delight. I was dancing round the kitchen in such a good mood – It worked!

Bing gluten free the dough was a little fragile to work with and probably a bit thicker than gluten-containing dough, but I’m more than happy with my results. I had a little bit of a scary moment thinking about getting it into the tin in one piece, but in the end I went for the classic, quick scoop and plonk method using my hands and it worked fine.

I enjoyed the bread so much than I’m planning on using the recipe again, only this time slicing the roll into rounds and baking them as sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. It was so good! Thanks so much Jenni for introducing me to this bread and pushing me out of my comfort zone!

Click here to see other Daring Bakers Povitica’s

Povitica with Pecan, Chestnut, Cinnamon, Raisin Filling
To Activate the Yeast
½ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp buckwheat flour
2 tbsp warm water
1½ tsp dry active yeast

Povitica Dough
120 ml whole milk
40g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg
25g unsalted Butter, melted
260g gluten free flour (100g buckwheat, 80g white teff, 80g brown rice flour)
2 tsp xanthan gum

Pecan, Chestnut, Cinnamon, Raisin Filling
50g pecans
40g sultanas
3 tbsp sweetened chestnut puree
50ml milk
50g butter
1 egg yolk
55g caster sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp cinnamon

To Activate the Yeast
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, yeast and flour. Add the water and stir well. Leave to one side for 5 minutes until thick and foamy.

To Make the Dough
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and sugar together until the milk is hot, but not boiling, and the butter melted. Set to one side and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the milk, egg, sugar and the salt until combined.
Add the flour mixture and xanthan gum and pour over the yeast mixture. Use a spatula to work the dough together into a thick paste. It may be slightly sticky. Beat the batter until smooth using the spatula, adding a little more flour if it seems particularly sticky, although it should still be soft.
Cover the bowl with the dough loosely with a layer of clingfilm and place somewhere warmish to rise for one and a half hours until risen and slightly puffed looking.

To Make the Filling
Grind the pecans with half the sugar in a food processor or spice grinder until very fine.
In a bowl, mix together the ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, raisins and chestnut puree. Heat the butter and milk together until the butter has melted and then pour over the filling mix and stir together well. Finally, beat in the egg yolk. It will be quite liquid.
Transfer to the fridge to cool and thicken slightly while the dough is proving.

Assembling the Dough
Thoroughly grease a 1lb (8 x 4.5") loaf tin well and line the base and up two sides with a long strip of greaseproof paper.
Spread a clean sheet over your entire work surface so that it is covered (I used two large overlapping sheets of clingfilm).
Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour over the top and place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until you can’t get it any thinner. It should be very thin, as thin as you dare without breaking it.
Spoon the prepared filling evenly over dough and use a spatula or clean hands to spread it out into an even layer, covering the dough – it will still be very soft.
Lift the edge of the cloth/clingfilm and gently roll the dough up as if making a swiss roll. Try and keep it quite tight, using the clingfilm or sheet to help you lift and roll the dough.
Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently, curve one end up alongside the dough, while curving the other end down to create an ‘S’ shape of dough. This will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
Quickly scoop up the dough and place it into the loaf tin. Don’t worry too much about how it falls, as long as you keep it in its ‘S’ shape.
Brush the top of the loaf with any scrapes of leftover filling mixture (or a little milk and sugar if you prefer).
Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180C.
Once the oven is up to temperature, bake for 15 minutes before reducing the heat to 150C and baking for 45 minutes more. Cover the loaf with a sheet of foil for the last 15 minutes if it’s looking too brown.
Remove the bread from oven and leave to cool almost completely in the tin, before running a knife around the edge and turning out.
Serve in thick slices and marvel at the intricate swirled design of the bread and filling.
Eat within 3 days or store in the fridge and eat within a week – 10days.
Makes one Povitica loaf

Monday 24 October 2011

Fresh Fig & Almond Steamed Puddings

(The pudding in the photo was a leftover that I ate the following day. I think the fig juices had made the sponge go a little gooey and fall apart, not great for photos, but just as delicious!)

Fresh figs are in season right now and so when I saw them on offer in my local shop I snapped up about eight! I’ve enjoyed eating them in various ways, but a girl can only eat so many before they start to look past their best. I decided to incorporate my remaining 3 figs into little steamed puddings.

The idea of steaming puddings can put some people off. They don’t like the idea of playing around with saucepans, steamers, boiling water and their lovingly prepared puddings! However, you can also steam a pudding quite successfully in the oven with the minimum of effort or fuss. You simply put your dish(s) into a deep baking tray and pour boiling water half way up the side – just like you would a cheesecake. This is known as cooking in a water bath, or to give it its proper name, a bain marie.

Using a bain marie ensures a moist and fluffy cooked sponge as the sides of the dish are never exposed to dry hot heat, protected by the outer layer of water. The water also creates steam, preventing the top from overbrowning and again ensuring a moist pudding that won’t dry out even if you over bake it.

When I sliced into the figs they looked stunning with their ruby red centres and little clusters of seeds. They were so attractive that I decided to place a thin slice of fig in the base of each of my moulds, which then formed the top when they were turned out. This worked well, although I was a little disappointed that their ruby red colour faded slightly on baking.

I flavoured the puddings with a little ground almonds and almond extract, which together with the sweet juicy figs and moist sponge made for one gorgeous pudding! Serve warm with lashings of piping hot custard (courtesy of Birds custard powder, just like mum always made!) Nothing nicer on a cold blustery day.

Fresh Fig & Almond Steamed Puddings
3 fresh ripe figs
80g Doves self raising gluten free flour mix
40g ground almonds
70g butter
60g caster sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the base and sides of 6 dariole moulds (or ramekins) and set to one side.
Slice the figs so that you get two thin whole slices from the middle/tallest part of each fig. Place one slice in the base of each of the moulds.
Chop up the remaining fig pieces into 1cm pieces and set to one side.
Make sure your butter is soft, if not give it a quick blast in the microwave, before adding the rest of the cake ingredients, expect the figs, and beating together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Gently fold in the chopped figs so as not to break them up to much.
Divide the cake batter between the moulds, covering the fig slice in the base.
Place the moulds into a deep baking dish and carefully pour just boiled water into the tin until it reaches about half way up the sides of the moulds. Cover the top with a sheet of foil.
Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until springy to the touch and ever so slightly golden on top (they won’t raise much).
Remove from the oven and the water bath. Run a thin sharp knife around the edge of each mould and boldly invert it onto the centre of a serving plate. It should release from the mould easily.
Serve straight away, hot from the oven with lashing of piping hot custard
Makes 6

Thursday 20 October 2011

The Cake Slice October 2011: Apple Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s been an exciting month for the Cake Slice Bakers. We’ve chosen a new cake book, welcomed new members and baked our first cake from the new book. I can now reveal that our new cake book for the next 12 months is… The Cake Book by Tish Boyle and our debut cake was Apple Cake with Maple Frosting. I’m thrilled to say this cake was fabulous and if it’s a marker of cakes to come, then this book looks like being a winner!

Each month the Cake Slice Bakers all vote on which cake they want to bake next month – we’re very diplomatic like that :) The recipes in The Cake Book are set out into 8 chapters, with the first 4 being more of your traditional style cake – Angel & Sponge cakes, Pound & Coffee cakes, Butter & Oil cakes and Fruit Based cakes. The last 4 chapters are more dessert styles cakes – Flourless cakes, Cheesecakes, Mousse & Ice Cream cakes and Meringue cakes. In order to get a good mix of all different styles of cake throughout the year one month we will bake a cake from one of the 4 traditional style cakes and then the following month one of the 4 dessert style cakes. This months apple cake came from the traditional cakes, fruit based cakes selection.

This cake looks a little plain and dare I say, ordinary on first glance, but don’t let its humble appearance fool you. It’s packed full of baked apple chunks and bursting with spices with a scattering of walnuts thrown in for good measure. It’s then served with a creamy spiced cream cheese frosting, the perfect autumnal cake.

Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and brown sugar are added to the cake batter to give it its spicy warming flavour which goes perfectly with the soft sweet apple chunks, baked inside. I also added a little ground star anise, as I love its liquorice aniseed flavour. I used buckwheat flour to make it gluten free and found its nutty grassy overtones to be the ideal base for this spiced fruity nutty cake.

The accompanying cream cheese frosting was meant to be flavoured with maple, but I’m not a big fan of maple and find it often overpowers other flavours. I wanted the spices to be the star of the show and so left out the maple and added a little extra spice instead. I also chose to serve the frosting on the side of each slice, so cake eaters could add their own amount of frosting - everyone in my house like different amounts of icing on their cake.

The frosting itself was divine and I even spread the leftovers on some crackers after we’d polished off the cake. It was rich and creamy, wonderfully spiced and not too sweet. It also kept its smooth spreadable consistency rather than turning sloppy as I’ve had happen to me in the past. It’s now my go-to cream cheese frosting recipe.

Apple and spices are two of my favourite flavours (see blog title!) so this cake definitely got the thumbs up from me. I loved its unfussy appearance, keeping secret its wonderful flavours until you’ve taken that first bite. It kept moist for several days too. I can’t wait to see what next month dessert style cake is!

Click here to the Cake Slice Blogroll

Apple Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Apple Cake
180g buckwheat flour (or plain flour)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum (if making GF)
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground star anise (optional)
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
150g light soft brown sugar (recipe stated 215g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
160ml buttermilk
120g peeled and chopped cooking apple or sharp eating apple
50g walnuts, chopped

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
170g full fat cream cheese
40g butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
115g icing sugar
1/8 tsp maple flavouring (I left this out)

Apple Cake
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease the base and sides of a 9inch square baking tin. Dust with flour and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and xanthan gum (if using) and set aside.
Peel, core and chop the apple into 1-2cm chunks and roughly chop the walnuts.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar, a little at a time, beating well to combine.
Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one.
Scatter over a third of the flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk and mix well. Add another third of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk and mix again, finally adding the remaining flour mixture.
Fold in the apple and walnuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth out the top until level.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden and springy. It won’t rise that much due to all the apple.
Leave to cool in the tin before spreading with the cream cheese frosting and serving in generous squares.
Store any leftover frosted cake in the fridge. Alternatively, simply frost each square of cake before you eat it – leaving the cake at room temperature in an airtight container and the frosting in the fridge.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined and smooth. Add the vanilla, spiced and maple flavouring (if using) and beat again.
Slowly add the icing sugar, mixing as you go.
Beat until fluffy, then store in the fridge until required.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Amazing Peanut Butter Choc Chip Cookies

Flourless peanut butter cookies are one of those seemingly magical recipes that in my mind shouldn’t work. There is no flour, grain or starch of any kind and no butter or oil and yet by simply mixing together peanut butter, sugar, an egg and a smidgen of raising agent you end up with fabulous chewy, crispy, creamy cookies. Huh? I don’t stop too long trying to explain it. It works, its good and that’s all I need to know.

I already have a recipe for peanut butter cookies on this blog and it’s the one I make when I’ve got a peanut butter craving. However, earlier this week I was browsing online and came across a slightly different recipe that included chocolate chips too! I adore peanut butter and chocolate together and so it took my literally 20 minutes from seeing the recipe to baking them.

These cookies are AMAZING! They are thicker and creamier than my previous peanut butter cookies, with a slightly crisp outer surface which yields to soft, chewy, peanut intensity middles. They are sweet, deliciously creamy and nutty. When you bite into a little chunk of dark bitter chocolate it’s just the perfect pairing, especially when the chocolate is still slightly melty from the oven. Insanely good!

I took the cookies to share with some friends and we polished off the lot. No one would ever guess they were gluten and dairy free! (check your dark chocolate) I’m going to try them with crunchy peanut butter next time, but these will take some beating! I urge you to drop what you’re doing and go bake some now!!!

Amazing Peanut Butter Choc Chip Cookies
240g smooth peanut butter
160g caster sugar
1 egg
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dark chocolate chips/chunks

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a tray with a silicone baking sheet.
Mix the peanut butter, sugar, egg and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl using an electric whisk until well combined. (It will be very thick)
Add the chocolate chips and beat in.
Scoop up tablespoonfuls of the mixture and roll them into balls using your hands. Place them on the baking tray, leaving a 1-2inch gap. (Leave them as balls if you want extra thick, yet smaller sized cookies or flatten the tops slightly to create very thick discs if you want slightly larger, yet still thick cookies)
Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 3 minutes. Carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling wire using a palette knife – they will still be quite soft.
Leave to cool to room temperature before devouring.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes 12 cookies

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Gooey Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

My sister came for a visit at the weekend and I wanted to bake something for us to munch on while we caught up on each others news. She is a huge chocoholic and the most rich, indulgent chocolate treat I could think of was chocolate brownies!

I couldn’t decide which brownie recipe to make and so ended up combining a mix of two different recipes. This worked, although I feel the brownies could still do with some tweaking. I used rice flour in place of the regular flour in order to make them gluten free. This worked, although the brownies ended up being very soft and gooey, more like a flourless chocolate cake, not that I’m complaining as it made them taste wonderfully indulgent! However, I think I’ll try using a combination of flours next time in the hope that they bake with a little more crumb texture.

I used a mix of melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder to ensure the brownies were extra chocolaty and also added some chopped white chocolate chunks too – as there is no such thing as ‘too much chocolate’ where my sister is concerned. I love having chunks or chips of things in my brownies, I like the different textures and flavours they add against the gooey deep dark chocolate.

To jazz the brownies up even further I also stirred in a few frozen raspberries as I love the combination of dark chocolate and fresh berries. I added them at the melted chocolate stage, but in future I think I’ll just fold them in at the end as they broke up rather a lot and I think it would be nice to have more obvious blobs of raspberry scattered throughout. I was quite amazing at how much fruity flavour they added to the brownies, it gave them a very sophisticated flavour.

We had some brownies left over and I thought they were actually better the following day, once they had mellowed and gone fudgier. I often enjoy brownies mixed through vanilla ice cream but it was so cold on Sunday that I ate one smothered in hot custard – mmmmm it was divine! It was all soft and gooey and the chocolate went all melty, you must try it!

Did you know that 10th - 16th October is also National Chocolate Week! The perfect reason to indulge

Gooey Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
150g butter
140g dark chocolate
180g caster sugar
2 eggs
20g cocoa powder
80g brown rice flour
60g fresh or frozen raspberries
50g white chocolate
¼ tsp gluten free baking powder

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line the base of an 8-9inch/20-22cm square tin and set to one side.
Break the dark chocolate into pieces and place into a large bowl along with the butter. Melt gently over a pan of simmering water until smooth. (The water should not touch the base of the bowl)
Remove the bowl from the heat and beat in the sugar. The mixture will be slightly grainy at this stage.
Beat the eggs in one at a time until thick and glossy.
Add the flour and baking powder and beat until no flour streaks remain.
Chop the white chocolate into small chunks and fold in the brownie batter along with the fresh or frozen raspberries.
Pour the batter into the tin and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with sticky crumbs, rather than wet batter, sticking to it.
Allow to cool almost completely in the tin. The brownie will loose its puffed up look and become level.
Remove from the tin and cut into 12 squares.
Store in an airtight container lined with clingfilm for up to three days, or wrap individual squares freeze until required.
Note: My brownies were very soft, so you may want to bake them for a little longer if you prefer less gooey brownies.