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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Last week my mum and I went on a last-minute city break to Avignon where we indulged in sunshine, shopping and lots and lots of beautiful food. Since coming back I’ve been on a Provençal cooking kick having been overloaded with inspiration on our mini holiday. Just wandering around the wonderful indoor market is enough to make you want to sell up and move to France: the stalls were overflowing with all manner of heirloom tomatoes; tiny, round green and yellow courgettes; plump purple- and white-flecked aubergines; strings of garlic; fat bundles of fresh herbs and about 20 types of onion. The delis had big bowls of ratatouille to take home and reheat alongside stuffed tomatoes, rabbit stew, individual egg and vegetable flans and roasted meats. Hams and whole salamis hung above mountains of olives and the boulanger oppostie sold crunchy, fresh sourdough bread, fougasse studded with nuts and apple tart by the slice. Other displays contained jewel-like candied fruits, macarons and iced, almond-shaped Calissons from nearby Aix. (more…)

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Tres leches cake is, so I hear, quite ubiquitous in Latin America and very popular in the US. It is also, apparently, quite the fashion in Albania. I’d love it to become more popular here in blighty since it’s pretty darn good cake. It is, essentially, a light-as-air sponge cake soaked in ‘three milks’: sticky, sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and rich, fresh cream; and, if you like, a kick of rum. The sponge, being made of eggs whipped up to frothy peaks, is full of tiny bubbles which act as little pockets to hold the milks which means the cake is incredibly moist but not soggy. As you can probably imagine, for something soaked in condensed milk, this cake is quite sweet so it is just perfect topped with softly whipped cream and fresh summer berries which are tart enough to balance out the favours.

Tres leches cake makes a wonderful summer cake for a tea party or dinner; it’s so pretty decorated with a riot of red, pink and purple berries, simple and elegant at the same time. Once it’s been doused in milk, the cake goes in the fridge to chill so it’s cool and remarkably refreshing when served: not what your guest are expecting but a pleasant surprise. And that’s what I really love about tres leches – it’s not your everyday cake, it’s a bit of a surprise. Tell someone you’re serving them sponge cake soaked in milk and they’ll probably think you’re nuts (unless they’ve already been inducted into the tres leches club) but one bite in they’ll wonder how they’d gone so long without this cake in their lives.

Tres leches cake with berries

Adapted very slightly from Simon Rimmer on Saturday Kitchen

Serves 8

For the cake:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 150g sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the milk sauce:

  • 397ml condensed milk
  • 350ml evaporated milk
  • 200ml double cream
  • 3 tbsp rum

For the topping:

  • 150ml double cream
  • fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, red currants, cherries)

First make the cake. Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease a 23cm square pan (but not one with a loose base! I used a pyrex dish).

In a spotlessly clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks, add 50g sugar and beat until stiff.

In another large bowl beat the yolks and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift over the flour and baking powder and fold in. Stir in the milk and vanilla.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk batter to loosen then gently fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 30–40 minutes. The cake is ready when it’s golden and a skewer comes out clean.

While the cake is baking stir together the milk sauce ingredients.

As soon as the cake comes out the oven prick it all over with a fork and gradually pour over the majority of the sauce, about ¾. Allow to cool in the baking dish then chill.

Two hours before serving pour over the remaining sauce.

Just before serving turn the cake out and whip the 150ml cream to firm peaks. Spread the cream over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh berries.

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When I lived in Italy I shared a flat with my good friend from university and two lovely Italians. Over the year there was a lot of cultural exchange as the Italians introduced us to the best of their country: gelato, good coffee, piadine; and the Brits tried to dispel the myth that our food is terrible. We baked hearty cottage pies and stuffed our suitcases with crumpets, cheddar, Marmite and all the necessary items for a proper cream tea. For her birthday our Sicilian flatmate wanted a taste of home and decided to make arancini, deep-fried rice croquettes, a speciality from her home island that often feature at special occasions. She called her mother to get the family recipe and then we gathered round our dining table for the afternoon while she patiently taught us the correct method to make them. (more…)

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I like a fancy cake as much as the next person, probably more so. Crumbly tops, fruity fillings, chocolate, they all float my boat. But so do basic, unassuming cakes, ones that seem almost dull in their simplicity. In fact, the more simple the cake, the better it has to be; there are no whistles or bells or, you know, lashings of frosting, to hide behind. It doesn’t get much more easy than this one-step cake and, to my mind, it doesn’t get much better. (more…)

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Horray! It looks as though we’re through the ‘hungry gap’ where the last of the winter vegetables are running low and the first of the spring veggies are not quite ready. If you subscribe to a veggie box or community agriculture scheme the hungry gap can play havoc with your menu plan: unexpected frosts can spoil crops, supplies can run out early and you end up with the occasional unexpected substitution. Last week was one such occasion when I had made planned to make pumpkin falafels and ended up with a cauliflower. Granted, it was a lovely cauli but I struggled to come up with an interesting idea for dinner that went beyond the standard cheese pairing. (more…)

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Gratin dauphinoise is a sinfully good, classic French dish that I wish I could eat everyday. Unfortunately my hips would never forgive such indulgence so this dish is reserved for high days and holidays only. Oh, and those days when you realise you ‘accidentally’ bought too much cream and need a way to use it up. I can’t only be me who does that, right?

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Can you tell I’ve been on a bread-making kick since my course with Emma? Every weekend I’ve been baking something new and sitting on my bedside table is Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery with tags sticking out left, right and centre. And despite flagging up so many recipes to try; last weekend I went ahead and made a loaf without following a recipe, just using my “bakers instinct”. It actually turned out really well, I’m so pleased I made a note of the ingredients as I went because I know I’m going to be making this again. It is superb with cheese and wine, alongside a salad or simply smeared with a little butter and devoured.

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