Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cake Slice Bakers 12 - Two Yummy But Grown-Up Cakes.

It's our last month baking from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman and we were allowed to choose any recipe we liked.  I gave you a list in the last CSB post of cakes I had been eyeing up so I was just going to choose one of those.  But it was so hard to choose!  I narrowed it down to the Apple and Cheddar Cheese Cake or the Red Grape, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake.  Don't they just sound wonderful?  I looked at the ingredients to see which had the more accessible ingredients to help me make up my mind and found that they both actually contain polenta.  Well, if I am going to make an effort to find a bag of polenta then I may as well make both cakes.  And, am I glad I did?  Oh yes.  I loved both of these.  And, as you know, I make a lot of things for the kids - all a bit fun and childish, but these cakes just felt very grown up and sophisticated.  Didn't stop the kids eating them, of course!

So, two recipes today. 

Red Grape, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake.

Ingredients - 
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (found in the UK and Europe as polenta)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 3/4 cups (about 10oz) reg seedless grapes, washed and dried
Icing sugar for dusting (ooops - I was too excited to get stuck in and forgot to prettify it)

Method - 
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease a 9-inch round springform tin.  Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Beat on medium-high speed until light in colour and increased in volume, about 5 mins.  With the mixer on low speed, add the oil in a slow, steady stream.  Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 min.  Stir in the milk, vanilla and lemon zest on low speed.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until just incorporated.  Stir in 1/2 the grapes.  Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 10 mins. (You only put half in so that you can scatter the other half on later to try to keep them all from sinking to the bottom.)
4.  Scatter the remaining grapes over the top of the partially baked cake (next time I do this I will wait a little longer before scattering the remaining grapes - you can see in my pictures that my grapes still managed to mostly make it to the bottom layer) and continue to bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 40 mins longer.
5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 mins.  Release the sides from the tin and let the cake cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, cutting into wedges and serving.
6. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Verdict - beautifully sumptious cake.  I had never heard of grapes in a cake before but they were sweet and juicy.  The polenta gave a lovely, glowing colour and a bit of texture and the fragrant olive oil gave it a grown up, subtle taste.  Lauren Chattman suggests serving it with an Italian sweet wine for a dinner party dessert.  I think that would be extremely classy.  Most of my one was eaten with cups of tea and was thoroughly enjoyed.

Apple and Cheddar Cheese Cake.

Ingredients - 
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) (4oz/113g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp milk
1 cup grated Cheddar (I used a yellow Cheddar but in the book she has used an orange one and it actually looks really quite different with the flecks of orange through it.  The yellow Cheddar is probably better if you are serving it to people who might be put off by the thought of cheese in their cake but the orange would be better for making a statement or a bit of drama!)
1 large tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch dice (I used almost two apples as I do like apple in a cake)

Method - 
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease a 9-inch round cake tin and dust with flour.  Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 mins, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
3. Turn the mixer to low speed and add 1/2 the flour mixture.  Stir in the milk.  Stir in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the cheese and apple.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 35 mins.  Let the cake cool in the tin for about 10 mins, invert onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.
5. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Verdict - intriguing cake.  I need to make it again and give it to people without telling them what is in it to see if they get it straight away.  It is not an overtly cheesy taste - more an extra tang - but recognisable when you know there is cheese there.  Went down extremely well also.

Winner - I am having a hard job choosing my favourite cake from the 13 recipes I have done from this book.  These two are definitely Number 1 and Number 2 but I'm not entirely sure which one wins.  I guess it would depend what mood I'm in.  Anyway, they are both similar recipes just with different additions so I think I might use the basic recipe and try experimenting with other additions.  In fact, just the plain, basic polenta cake on its own would be very satisfying.  

So, this time next month I will reveal the book the cake slice bakers will be baking from for the next 12 months.  It's a good one!  If anyone is interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers, see Katie's post for details.  

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Random Recipe 8 - Part 2 - Turkish Delight And Pistachio Meringue.

Okay, how wonderful is my husband?  For the Random Recipe Challenge this month he had to choose a recipe from my pile of cut out recipes.  Poor man got a recipe from Woman and Home magazine.  It was a big, girly meringue and it contained Turkish Delight which he just doesn't like.  But, you know what?  He knows I adore Turkish delight and meringue and pistachios so he went ahead and made it for me!

I don't think he has ever made meringue before.  The only problem was that it stuck to the parchment paper and ended up breaking as he tried to remove it so it didn't look as stunning as he had been hoping for.  However, it tasted like food of the gods!  Oh yum yum yum.  It had rose water in the meringue and the cream as well as chopped Turkish Delight all through it and sprinkled liberally with pistachio.  I was in heaven.  Huge brownie points to Stevie-boy!

Recipe can be found on the Woman and Home website here.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Spicy Carrot and Chickpea Pitta Pocket.

So, a few of you will have seen Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-It-All's (was it you who told me this name for him, little macaroon?) article on The Joy Of Veg in the Weekend Magazine of the Guardian on the 26th August.  It seems it has caused a little bit of controversy as HFW has been such a meat pusher up to now. In fact, someone in the letters page the following week rather cheekily asked if HFW would refund his money for his purchase of 'Meat' - the large tome of recipes for the carnivore.

I enjoyed the article and thought some of the recipes intriguing (it is obviously advertising for HFW's new book 'River Cottage Veg Everyday') and I am someone who owns and loves 'Meat'.  I think myself and a fairly hefty part of the population love meat but are also very much aware of the arguments for eating less meat (savings to household budget, animal welfare arguments, reduced environmental impact).  For my part, as a family, we think nothing of having meals with no meat at all and do this for a large proportion of our week.  When we do eat meat, we buy the best we can - as welfare friendly as we can and enjoy it as a treat.

I especially love vegetable-rich recipes for two reasons.  The first is that I LOVE vegetables.  My family have teased me for years that I devour loads of the veg at a roast dinner.  The second is that I want my boys to have a healthy diet and get into healthy eating habits while young.  We are by no means angels in this regard, though, as we do eat diets high in fat and sugar.  I reckon that's okay if the calories balance (well, they do for the kids and I'm making an effort) and we get plenty of the good stuff.

Chose to make the recipe for the spicy carrot and chickpea pitta pocket and it was a big hit.  Adam especially loved them and has asked me to make them again very soon.  The carrot dish is very similar to the one Steve made for his random recipes mezze.

Recipe on the Guardian website here along with the other recipes he included.  I'm going to make the aubergine and green bean curry next.  Yum.

If anyone has any links to their own quick and easy vegetable-full family meals, I'd love to see them. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Random Recipe 8 - Part 1 - Saffron, Chickpea and Tomato Soup.

For this month's random recipe we had to randomly choose from our selection of loose recipes torn from newspapers, magazines, hastily written on scraps of paper.  As we moved house only a few months ago, I had vastly reduced my mountain of recipes so it wasn't so unmanageable.  This challenge will help get a couple of those that are left transferred on to the blog.  The best thing is that I am the only one who saves recipes in this house so whatever I chose and whatever Steve chose would be something I really want to eat.  Yay!  Steve chose a recipe that I will absolutely love.  It is quite girly and quite a show stopper so I'm delighted that he is going to go ahead and make it for me.  He'll be doing that this weekend so look out for it in part 2.

The recipe I chose was a scrap which looks like it has come from a magazine but it doesn't have the source written anywhere on the page.  I must have collected it before my blogging days.  It is Saffron, chickpea and tomato soup and it is really easy to make, healthy and full of flavour.  Perfect family food.  So, I feel awful that I can't credit it properly.  If anyone recognises it, let me know.  Of course, there are loads of similar recipes about.  I make versions of this all the time and yet I still seem drawn to any recipe like this and have to collect them all.  I don't think I would change this one much.  I might add some red pepper now and again just to beef it up a bit.

Both boys wolfed this down.  That's the best part!

Recipe - 
Serves 6. (I used very large onions and more chorizo and this soup has given us about 8-10 servings)

Ingredients - 
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced (I used 5 or 6 - personal taste)
Large pinch of saffron strands
1/2 tsp caster sugar
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
2 X 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 X 400g cans chickpeas, drained
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
110g chorizo (I used the already cooked stuff and I used probably about 4 times this amount)

Method - 
1. Set a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Add 3 tbsp olive oil, followed by the diced onions and garlic.  Fry gently for 10 minutes or until soft and golden.
2. Place the saffron strands in a small bowl (or pestle and mortar) with the sugar, and using the back of a teaspoon, crush into a fine powder.  Stir in 200ml boiling water and set aside.
3. Strip the parsley leaves from their stems.  Save the stems and roughly chop the parsley leaves.
4. Mix the cumin seeds and paprika into the softened onion and continue to fry for 2 mins.
5. Next, add the canned tomatoes and the saffron water.  Rinse the saffron bowl with a further 400ml water, add tot he tomatoes and bring to the boil.
6. Meanwhile, rinse the drained chickpeas and stir into the soup with the bay leaf and parsley stalks (Tie them with string to make it easier to remove them later).  Adjust the seasoning to taste, turn down to simmer for 30 mins, then season again, to taste.
7. Shortly before serving, reheat the soup.  Cut the chorizo at an angle into thick slices.  Place a nonstick frying pan over a medium-high heat, and once it is hot, add the remaining 1tbsp oil and the chorizo.  Fry briskly for 1 min on each side until crisp, then remove and drain on kitchen paper.
8. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, garnish with the chorizo and sprinkle generously with the chopped parsley.  Serve immediately.

If you want to join in with this random recipes challenge, you have til the end of them month or check Dom's blog for the next one - he does them at the start of each month.