An update and a cake

I haven’t given up on this blog yet. It might look like it, but I’m still around. I just figured that, given that I didn’t spend any time lying on the beach this summer, I probably shouldn’t be spending any time writing blog posts either. Which is to say, I didn’t go back home and I am gutted. But I’m getting there.

A few weeks ago it was my birthday. I survived the day thanks to several glasses of wine at Alimentum and friends that were nice enough to put up with my complaining about being old and not being in Greece.

The day before, my boyfriend and I made me a cake, which wasn’t a great success. It looked a bit sad for a celebration cake, and it tasted just ok. A bit too damp, not chocolatey enough. I decided to take it to the office the next day anyway, as I had promised cake and it was at least edible.

I took the cake with me to coffee and it disappeared pretty rapidly (it is cake after all). Then, one of the senior people asked me if I made it myself and complimented me on a rhubarb cake I had made a few weeks ago and taken to an office garden party. I was surprised he remembered and, of course, vainly proud. So, even though most of my spare time nowadays is spent stressing about not working hard enough, I made that cake again. I like feeding people and, let’s be honest, I like cake.

The recipe is very simple to put together and quite versatile. A sponge is topped by rhubarb and then crumble. You could of course use any fruit you like, I reckon peaches or strawberries would be pretty nice. My sponge is made from a simple cake batter, with equal amounts egg, sugar, flour and butter. I think Americans like to throw some buttermilk in there too, but I never have any handy.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

For the cake

150 gr butter
150 gr sugar (I like to use a mixture of caster and soft dark brown)
150 gr self-raising flour
3 large eggs 

Cream the butter with the sugar(s) until smooth. Add the eggs and sift in the flour. Whisk until incorporated.

For the rhubarb

400 gr rhubarb, cut in inch long pieces
2-3 tbsp caster sugar

Mix the sugar with the rhubarb and let it sit while preparing the rest.

For the crumble topping

100 gr cold butter
150 gr flour or a combination of flour and ground nuts (add slowly until the texture feels right)
80 gr brown sugar (or to taste)

Mix with your hands until it crumbly.

In a oven-proof dish, layer the cake batter, then the rhubarb with all the sugary juices and finally, top with the crumble. Bake in a 180 C oven for 40-50 minutes – you might want to start checking after 35-40 minutes by inserting a knife in the middle. It needs to come out almost clean.

You can serve this with custard or cream or ice cream or be weird like my boyfriend and have it with loads of evaporated milk. I quite like it as it is, with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

Hazelnut and Nutella Brownies

When it comes to brownies, everyone has a very specific idea of what the perfect one should be like. Apparently there are three schools of thought – the cakey, the fudgy and the chewy. I ignore the first one as nonsense, and usually find the second one a bit too rich for my liking. And nuts or no nuts? Too much choice.

But as a lover of Nutella, I wanted to top these with a drizzle of the good stuff, and figured some hazelnuts would compliment it well. “The Boyfriend” moaned.

Hazelnut and Nutella Brownies (adapted from here)

Ingredients (makes 16 small squares)

4 oz. salted butter (plus a bit more for the tray)
4 oz. dark chocolate
1 cup (225 gr) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup (110 gr) plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa
50 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Nutella, for drizzling on the top

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 170 for fan assisted) and lightly butter and flour a tray. I used a square one, about 20cm each side.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pot over low heat. Let it cool slightly and add the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until they are incorporated. Add the flour and cocoa, mix for a minute or two using a spatula or spoon and, finally, mix in the nuts.

Empty the mix into the prepared tray and drizzle/pour Nutella over the top. I warmed up the Nutella slightly by placing it on the radiator for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could spoon out little blobs of it and randomly throw them on top of the mix. You get the idea.

Bake for 35-45 minutes. You can test after half an hour by inserting a knife; it shouldn’t be completely clean but have a few small crumbs on it. Cooking times will depend on type and size of tray used and every oven works differently so keep an eye on it – you don’t want to overcook them.

So it turns out that these ended up being somewhere between chewy and fudgy – I might have slightly undercooked them but we did enjoy the texture a lot. The best of both worlds. I loved the hazelnuts and the Nutella topping. I’m making these again tonight and I have a feeling this will be my staple recipe from now on.

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

There’s been a serious amount of baking on this blog and in my house recently, but this weather is begging for a slice of cake and a cup of tea to get through the afternoons.

Recently, I was given a very generous amount of Total yoghurt to sample and I tried to think of different ways of using it up. It is lovely by itself drizzled with some honey and I’ve been having a dollop of it on top of a lentil curry (recipe coming) for the last couple of days, so now I thought I’d bake something with it. I’ve used yogurt instead of sour cream in Nigella’s Guinness cake before, but the chocolate and stout are quite overpowering and I wanted something simple to let the yoghurt come through.

I slightly adapted a recipe for a Gâteau au Citron from Orangette, leaving out the lemon zest and juice. I had a jar of some brilliant Greek sour cherries in syrup (spoon sweets we call them in Greece) and thought I could pour some of the fruit and juice at the bottom of my tray and cook the cake on top of it, flipping it over when cooked for a lovely caramelised topping. Instead of the spoon sweet you can just use whatever fruit in syrup you fancy, either homemade or from a can.

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (I used full fat Total, but 2% will do too)
1 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almond
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower oil

3-4 Tbsp sour cherries in syrup (or other fruit you like)

Whisk the yoghurt, eggs and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, almond and baking powder and combine. Finally, mix in the oil and vanilla extract and give it a bit of a whisk until smooth.

In a round pyrex dish, spread the syrupy fruit and add the cake mix on the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes to an hour (the original recipe said 30-35 min but both times I made it it was way too liquid after half an hour), until a knife comes out clean.

When it’s out of the oven, cover the dish with a plate and quickly flip the cake over. The top should be sticky and caramelised and the cake will have a lovely soft and pale crumb. Enjoy!

Burger Cupcakes

Cupcakes are awesome. And the only way to make them even better, is to do something silly with them. It’s been too long to remember where I first saw a picture of a burger cupcake (which, admittedly, looked much more real than mine do), but I absolutely loved the idea. And since I was invited to a kids’ themed (2)6th birthday party recently, I thought it would only be appropriate to make some.

Burger Cupcakes

For the buns:

Ingredients (makes 12 buns)

100 gr butter
100 gr caster sugar
100 gr flour
2 eggs*
1/4 tsp baking powder
a drop of vanilla essence

*2 medium eggs are roughly 100 gr – when I want to be accurate, I crack my eggs, weigh them, and then add the same amount of sugar, butter and flour.

This is just the standard cupcake recipe so proceed in your favourite way! I cream butter and sugar, and then add everything else and mix using a whisk, until the mix is homogeneous. If you’re using cupcake cases for these, you want some with smooth sides. Or just butter and flour the cupcake tin and forget about the cases. Bake in a preheated (180 degree) oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the burgers:

Ingredients (makes 12 burgers)

120 gr dark chocolate
90 gr butter
90 gr caster sugar
a splash of whiskey (or other booze you fancy)
3 eggs
60 gr ground almonds
2 tbsp flour

Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan, add the sugar and alcohol and mix. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and add them to the chocolate mix. Finally, incorporate the ground almond and flour. Spoon the mix into a buttered and floured cupcake tin (for 12 cupcakes). Bake in a preheated (180 degree oven) for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. They will look tiny. They’re supposed to look tiny.

For the cheese slices:

Take a sheet of golden (yellow) marzipan, dust it with icing sugar and roll it out as thin as you can without breaking it. Cut 12 squares.

For the ketchup:

Ingredients

100 gr butter, softened
icing sugar, to taste
red food colouring

Whisk the butter with the sugar until smooth and soft. Remember that the marzipan will be quite sweet, so you might want a bit less sugar in your icing than usual. Add enough food colouring to make it look like ketchup.

To assemble:

Cut the (cooled down) buns in two. Pop a burger on the bottom half of the bun. Top with a cheese slice and spread with ketchup. Stay away from ex-McDonald’s workers who might have strong opinions about the correct procedure of burger-making. Enjoy!

On another subject, I have finally bought my own domain, so now you can find my blog at www.kitchen22.co.uk, if you don’t fancy typing that extra blogspot bit. Old links should hopefully redirect fine – please let me know if you notice something wrong!

Chocolate and Banana Muffins

I (finally) bought Nigella’s Kitchen last week. I spent a bit of time looking at it and I’m loving it so far – I think I might actually cook from it quite a lot, for a change!

I chose to make these muffins first as I was running out of most types of food in the house but had everything for this recipe. Well, almost everything: I stole the bananas off the housemate and, embarrassingly, substituted the sunflower oil for olive oil. Bad times. They tasted very odd, really olivey, and my first attempt at cooking from Kitchen had been a failure.

Not wanting to be defeated by a recipe and my stupidity, I attempted them again a few days later. I bought sunflower oil, upped the sugar and added some extra chocolatey goodness. Result!



Chocolate and Banana Muffins (adapted from Nigella’s Kitchen)

Ingredients (makes 12)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
125ml sunflower/vegetable oil
2 large eggs
150gr dark soft brown sugar
225 gr plain flour
5 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp bicarb of soda

Optional: white chocolate chips and/or Nutella

Add the oil, eggs and sugar to the mashed bananas and beat using a hand whisk. Mix the flour, cocoa and bicarb in a separate bowl, pass through a sieve and add it to the banana mixture. Continue beating slowly until all the flour has been incorporated.

At this point I spooned half of the mixture into another bowl and mixed in the white chocolate chips. I then spooned the mix into 6 muffin cases.

For the Nutella muffins, spoon mix into 6 muffin cases but only half way up to where you normally would. Add a spoon of Nutella on top of that layer, and more muffin mix on the top.

Bake everything in a preheated 200 degree oven (mine was only 180 as it’s fan assisted) for 15-20 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean from the centre.

I’m not sure which ones I prefer. Even with 50% more sugar than the original recipe, the muffins are not sickly sweet so the white chocolate chips are a great addition. But I have a soft spot for the Nutella/banana combination and I loved the soft gooey Nutella blob at the middle of each muffin. Since the muffin mix is a bit thicker than the cupcake mix, the Nutella didn’t sink to the bottom like in the hazelnut cupcakes.

Take your pick, or make both.

Orange and rhubarb cake

One of the most annoying questions in the world is the one that begins with “What’s your favourite…”. It’s also one that I love to ask, not so much to get a proper answer but just to see the person’s reaction to it. How do you pick your favourite film (although that’s easy for me, it’s the one that I watched 5 times in 4 months), your favourite band or your favourite food? More importantly, how on earth are you supposed to pick your favourite cake?!

No one should ever have to choose between a moist chocolate cake, a fragrant orangey one or a beautiful, summery, fruity cake. Notice, I said fruity cake. Not fruit cake. Fruit cake makes me feel cheated –  you take a bite hoping for sweet, soft carbohydrate to satisfy your crave and you end up with dry bits of overly sweet fruit sticking all over your teeth. And there’s loads of them, you can’t even pick them out! Fruit cake should be banned.

Fruity cake, though, is a whole different story. I’m talking about the usual sponge cake turned into a lemon or orange cake, with real bits of real fruit (berries, please) or even banana to turn it into a decadent moist loaf. The beauty of it is that you don’t even need a recipe. The rule is simple: equal amounts (weights) of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, a teaspoon of bicarb of soda and one of baking powder, a splash of vanilla extract and your base is ready. (If you want real measurements, 3 medium eggs, 150 grams of sugar, flour and butter will do).

Now go crazy! Add lemon or orange juice and zest, fresh or frozen berries, chocolate chips, or mashed bananas. Just remember that if you add more liquid stuff you will need to compensate for it with a bit more flour. And if you add the bananas, double the baking powder as it will be harder to rise. If you’re a fan of nuts, replace half of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts.

This is my standard, no-fail cake recipe. The variation I’m sharing with you below comes from the Masterchef cookbook and, although this is the first recipe I’ve made from it, it has loads of good looking things and I will be using it more soon. It also looks like there is an identical recipe on the Waitrose website so I don’t even feel guilty for putting it up here. Did Waitrose steal it off the book? Or did the Masterchef contestant cheat a little? Who cares? It’s delicious.

Orange and Rhubarb cake

Ingredients (enough for a 23cm diameter cake)

400g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
50g caster sugar

150 gr caster sugar
150g butter, softened
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and a juice of 1 orange

a handful of flaked almonds

Mix the rhubarb with the 50gr of sugar and leave on the side for 30 mins while preparing the cake mix.

Whisk the butter with the 150gr of sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, the flour and the almonds and whisk until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and, finally, add the rhubarb and its juices and combine.

Butter and line a 23cm tin (or butter and flour a tray like I did), spoon the mix into it and scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.

It’s lovely eaten by itself with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The cake is sweet and fragrant and the tart rhubarb balances it perfectly. As it’s not overly sweet, it’s also really nice served as a pudding with some cream, chantilly or custard.


Note: For the cake in the pictures above I have added some frozen berries as I had only a little bit of rhubarb – they worked nicely together.

Rhubarb Tarte Tatin

You can never have too much of a good thing, they say. Well, that’s complete rubbish. It took me about 2 years to start drinking Earl Grey tea again after months of several cups a day and I still haven’t been able to recover a taste for baked potatoes with cheese.

And rhubarb? Well, I’m not quite sick of rhubarb crumble yet, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of it over the last year. It was time to try something different. You see, stewed rhubarb is alright, but rhubarb roasted in butter and sugar is a lot better. And you could top it with crumble, but why do that when you can have a flaky, buttery puff pastry base instead?

I first saw this on Masterchef, when Marianne cooked it and the judges absolutely loved it. It looked brilliant, but all the recipes I found on the internet used a frying pan to caramelise the rhubarb and then cooked it in the oven. My frying pans don’t really survive in the oven, and I was worried that if I used the roast-for-3-hours technique the rhubarb would disintegrate into a pink mushy mess. As it turns out, rhubarb does survive hours of roasting. And tastes amazing after.

Rhubarb Tarte Tatin

Ingredients

4 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped
100 gr butter, softened
150 gr caster sugar
a sheet of puff pastry

In a round pyrex dish, about 20 cm in diameter, spread the butter as evenly as you can and sprinkle the sugar on the top. Arrange the chopped rhubarb in circles, making the bottom as pretty as you can, as it will be on the top later. If you have any extra bits, cut them smaller and sprinkle them over the top.

Cover with foil and bake in the oven for up to 2 hours at 180 degrees, checking towards the end to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry and cut it in approximately the shape and size of your dish. Place it on top of the rhubarb, tucking the ends in, and bake until the pastry is cooked.

Let it cool for a few minutes, place a plate on the top and quickly turn it upside down.

My pieces of rhubarb made a bit of a mess, but I quickly rearranged them and made it almost presentable. I loved the fact that there was some soft, juicy rhubarb but also enough caramelised bits too. The extra syrup dripped on the pastry and made the edges shiny and sticky. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart

I wonder how many times other food bloggers make a dish, find a few minutes to take half-decent photos of it despite the urge to forget about blogging and just tuck in and then… just never write about it. I’ve got so many sets of photos that I was actually quite happy with, of food that tasted good and I still never found the motivation to put up here.

This is what happened with this one. I’ve made a Pear and Frangipane Tart and a Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake before but now I’m quite glad they never made it onto the blog. Because this is better.

You see, not only I made my own pastry, which already makes it a winner, it also contains alcohol, which is always a plus (even is such small quantities!) and it has an extra layer of goodness between the pastry and the frangipane: sweet and sharp rhubarb compote.

Now, I can pretend it was my culinary genius that made me put rhubarb in the tart but, in reality, I had half a bowl of the stuff leftover and I couldn’t possibly bring myself to eat any more rhubarb yogurt. And a bit like this, the Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart was born!

I’ve combined several recipes that I have used in the past and I think this works quite nicely. The rhubarb is sharp, the almond filling sweet and nutty and the tart crust crumbly. If I could change one thing, it would be the way I prepared my pears. Next time, instead of just popping them on the top and drizzling with sugary butter, I’ll caramelise them first on the hob to make sure they are soft by the time the tart is cooked.

Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart

For the crust (from Chocolate and Zucchini):

85 gr chilled salted butter
85 gr sugar
170 gr all-purpose flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp cold milk

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until you get a crumb-like dough. Add the vinegar and the milk and pulse to incorporate.

At this point the dough should have crumb-like consistency (check!), but clump if you squeeze it together in your hand (check!). And also, smell pretty disgustingly of vinegar (check…). I believed Clotilde when she said that the smell would disappear during baking and proceeded happily.

Empty the dough crumbs in a tart dish (or a cake tin which is what I did) and spread evenly along the bottom to form a crust. Keep some extra along the edges to mold it into a low rim. Do not worry too much about making it completely even. Blind-bake it in a 170 degree oven for 15 minutes and let it cool slightly.

For the rhubarb compote:

2 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped
a drop of red wine
dark muscovado sugar to taste

Cook the rhubarb and the wine on the hob until the rhubarb is soft. Add sugar to taste and continue to simmer until all lumps of rhubarb have been mixed in and you have a smooth paste. Spread evenly onto the pastry.

For the frangipane filling (adapted from here and here):

75 gr butter
75 gr dark muscovado sugar
75 gr ground almonds
1 large egg
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp Amaretto (alternatively, use a drop of almond extract or omit completely)

Mix all the ingredients together in the food processor or by using an electric hand whisk until smooth. I didn’t worry too much about a few small lumps of brown sugar. Spread on top of the rhubarb compote.

For the topping:

2 pears
50 gr butter
a sprinkle of sugar

Peel the pears and slice them in quarters, removing the hard middle bit. Keeping the thin top intact, slice them to the bottom and fan them out. Arrange on top of the frangipane. Melt the butter with the sugar.

Cook in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 170 degrees, then take it out and quickly drizzle the melted butter over the pears to stop them from drying out. Place back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the frangipane mixture is set and the crust golden-brown.

If you prefer, you can caramelise the pears in a pan before arranging on the tart and avoid the butter-drizzling half way into the baking. Or maybe ignore this step completely. The pears should be fine, especially if they were quite juicy to start with.

When it’s done, remove the tin’s ring and let the tart cool. You can serve it while it’s still warm but I find that the flavours improve after it’s cooled down. Serve with vanilla ice-cream or clotted cream. Even though I had already had quite a lot, I couldn’t resist a slice of it plain, with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

I know the recipe looks a little bit long but it really isn’t very complicated at all and it takes very little time. If you want to make it quicker you can use ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry, although making your own is pretty easy and the taste and texture is almost certainly superior to the store-bought. You can make both fillings while the pastry is blind-baking and cooling down, do your clearing up while the whole thing is baking and then you’re ready to enjoy a lovely slice of tart, sweet, nutty, fruity goodness.

Orange and Chocolate Cake

My love for Nigella is no secret- her recipes always produce great tasting food with not much fuss. But it’s more than that. Her shows are almost addictive, and her over-the-top, almost sexual attitude towards food makes them more fun. I doubt she actually does get up at 3 in the morning, makes some french toast and strawberry coulis and then, leaving the kitchen in a mess, goes back to sleep. I don’t believe it, but I like it. It would be fun if you could do it, not get fat and not wake up to find a filthy kitchen.

I’ve only got one of her books, Feast, although I’m coming to believe that Nigella Express is one of the must-have cookery books. I love reading Feast. I haven’t cooked much from it yet, but I’ve probably read it cover to cover. The way she talks about food would make anyone fall in love with it.

Last year I discovered her Guinness Chocolate Cake and loved it. So dark, with a great texture and the Guinness influence, although not strong, adds an earthy flavour to it. It’s become a favourite and everyone who has tried it has loved it.

A year later, I found myself looking for a recipe for another chocolate cake, for the same friend’s birthday. In Feast, I found the recipe for an Orange and Chocolate cake, a combination that I really like. It looks so simple, it’s almost worrying.

You see, what you have to do is boil some oranges, then pop them in the food processor, and then add all other ingredients in there too. Oh, and bake it. Gregg would stuff it in his mouth and then proclaim that “cooking doesn’t get easier than this”.

Orange and Chocolate Cake (from Nigella)

Ingredients

2 oranges, weighing approximately 350 gr
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g cocoa
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

optional: orange peel to decorate

Boil the oranges (whole) for about 2 hours or until soft. Cut them in pieces, get rid of any seeds or hard bits and pop them in the food processor. Meanwhile, line and butter a round cake tin (23 cm) and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Pulp them until smooth. Let cool for a bit (I left it in the fridge for a few minutes) and add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Place in the tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When it’s ready, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Have you noticed that it has no butter and no flour? Perfect for the gluten intolerant and, although I’m not going to pretend this is healthy, it’s certainly not as bad for you as other chocolate cakes. The oranges make it so moist you won’t able to tell there’s no butter in there and the taste is quite strong, unlike other orange cakes that only use juice or zest. You can make a ganache for it if you like but I don’t think it needs it. Some ice cream would be nice with it, although we had it plain and it was gorgeous.