Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake

It was a rainy evening. Somehow British summers always end up a little disappointing in this respect. A couple of weeks of blazing sunshine, followed by constant, unfailing miserable weather that makes it feel more like October than July (I say this like it’s a bad thing, but I’m already looking forward to autumn). I’d been super ill that week, and felt exhausted. I’d eaten like crap and slept badly, and sometimes you just need to clear your mind, bake, and then sit and eat some damn good cake.

IMG_5181t

I proceeded to make the following cake three times in the space of about two weeks. This is no bad thing, although I think the first cake tasted the best and the second looked the neatest (I will add here that I didn’t eat all three by myself – however bad things get I think I’ve yet to eat an entire cake to myself).

This is one of those cakes that makes you feel comforted as soon as you start eating. It’s a cake to be eaten with coffee or after a good meal, or sometimes as breakfast, because it does have fruit in it and that’s definitely okay. The recipe originally comes from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, however I have revised it slightly with each bake. I have yet to be adventurous enough to try it with a different fruit (although the first version I made was blueberry & raspberry), but there’s time for that. I’m pretty sure it’d be great with blackberries, and after all, tis the season etc etc.

IMG_5176t

Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake (from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen)

300g blueberries (or other soft fruit)
50ml elderflower cordial
4 eggs
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
125g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
125g Greek yoghurt
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3-4, and grease a 23cm springform tin. Wrap the outside of the tin in a layer of foil to create a seal to stop fruit juice leaking out.
  2. Spread the blueberries evenly over the base of the tin, drizzle with the elderflower and leave to macerate.
  3. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a mixer/hand whisk for 5-8 mins until pale and fluffy. When you remove the whisk, the trail of mixture it leaves on the surface should remain visible for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Mix the melted butter and yoghurt together. Gradually mix the melted butter/yoghurt and dry ingredients into the beaten egg mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients until combined.
  5. Pour the batter over the blueberries and bake until the top looks golden and feels springy and firm to the touch. This seems to be anywhere between 40-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Pierce with a skewer to check it’s cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for as long as humanly possible before releasing the springform and flipping the cake upside down onto a plate (original recipe says leave for 15 minutes – this was not long enough to stop my first cake breaking in half)
Advertisements

Ginger and Lemon Biscuits

IMG_3345t

Uhhhhhh… I think I just found my favourite biscuit EVER. These are so beautiful. If you like ginger biscuits, these are even better. The hint of lemon is just wonderful, and it works really well. I’ve been drinking a lot of herbal tea recently, and when I was feeling a little under the weather the other week I bought some ginger and lemon tea (best mixed with honey). It made me feel so much better – pretty powerful flavour! But then I was flicking through my recipe books looking for Christmas ideas, and these stood out. I figured it was worth a try, and that ginger and lemon might be nicer together when mixed with sugar and flour and golden syrup instead of hot water. I was not wrong.

The original recipe says to use freshly grated ginger instead of ground ginger, but I found the crystallised ginger to be so strong that I thought having fresh ginger on top of that would be too overpowering (it also meant I didn’t have to try and find ginger root from somewhere).

If you’re not a huge fan of ginger, then I think these can probably be adapted to be lemon and honey biscuits instead (another great tea). Swap the golden syrup for honey, and the crystallised ginger for candied peel, and either leave out the ground ginger or swap it for vanilla extract or something. I’m hoping to try this next week. Also, a lot of biscuit recipes say you should refrigerate the dough for a while, and usually I don’t bother, but in this case the dough is really soft, so that time in the fridge is pretty important.

I think I will be making many a batch of these in the run up to Christmas…and I’ll have to try not to eat them all myself.

IMG_3343t

Ginger and Lemon Biscuits (adapted from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ by Signe Johansen)

125g softened butter

125g brown sugar

1 egg

50ml golden syrup

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

3 tsp ground ginger

zest and juice of 1 lemon

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the egg, golden syrup, ginger, lemon zest and juice together in another bowl and the flour and baking powder together in a third bowl.

2. Alternate between adding wet and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing as you go until it starts to form a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 1-2hrs.

3. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Using a teaspoon, place small lumps of mixture on the sheets, leaving about 4-5cm between each one. Bake for 8-10 mins until golden, and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Suksessterte – Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’

IMG_3305t

So, this week was supposed to be sticky toffee pudding (don’t worry, it’s coming next week). Then I found out that my lovely friends Rosie and Jim had got engaged! So I had to make them something appropriate to celebrate 🙂 – I’ve been waiting a while for a good enough success to make a ‘success tart’ and this is definitely it! They really loved it, which is wonderful!

I really want to make another one now though, because I feel like there were a few bits I could have improved on. This tart is best made the day before you want to eat it/give it to someone I think, because the custard takes a little while to set, so by the time I had to take it out it was still pretty wobbly in the middle. I also made the mistake of taking the base out of the tin before putting the custard on it. Do not do this. It is a bad idea that leads to collapsing bases. I’m slowly getting the hang of making custard though, which is a positive – making this was slightly out of my comfort zone, and a lot of things could have gone more wrong than they did, so I’m really glad I did it. Once I’d poured the custard into the base, Oli was practically licking out the saucepan, the custard was that good. It’s really rich and buttery, with a nice hint of vanilla.

From the recipe point of view, one thing I love is that you use egg whites in the base and egg yolks in the custard, which means you end up with no egg waste at all. A lot of recipes that involve either whites or yolks normally don’t have any use for the other, and I don’t like that. Anyway, I highly recommend this – I guess it’s not just for successes, because even making it without anything going wrong feels like a success in itself.

Next week, Sticky Toffee Pudding! (for real)

IMG_3303t

Suksessterte, or Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’ (from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen)

Base:

5 egg whites

200g icing sugar

200g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Topping:

150ml double cream

100g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

200g butter, cut in 1cm cubes

1 tsp vanilla extract

cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3-4 and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

2. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Add the icing sugar a few spoonfuls at a time and keep whisking until stiff peaks form again. Put the ground almonds in a separate bowl with the baking powder and salt and stir well. Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until just blended – don’t knock out all the air, but no blobs of egg white.

3. Pour gently into the cake tin, smooth with a spatula and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 mins or until golden and firm to the touch. It may sink slightly after it’s removed from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin whilst you prepare the topping.

4. Bring the double cream to a simmer in a saucepan, stir in the caster sugar and allow to dissolve completely before removing from the heat. Put aside to cool slightly. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium, heatproof bowl. Stir a couple of spoonfuls of the warm cream into the yolks, then pour in the rest of the cream and stir vigorously to create a smooth, creamy custard.

5. Pour the custard into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. As soon as it has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and place on a cool surface. Gradually incorporate the butter cubes, whisking vigorously as you fold them in. If the mixture cools too much, simply pour into a heatproof bowl, place over a pan of simmering water and keep whisking as you add the butter cubes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, stir in the vanilla extract, then pour the filling into a medium bowl and cover with cling film directly on the surface to stop a skin forming. Once it has cooled slightly, place the filling in the fridge and chill until it is thick and stiff (about an hour or so).

6. Remove from the fridge and beat the filling with a spatula to soften it slightly before spreading on the almond tart base. Smooth the top of the tart and put back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (preferably several). Serve lightly dusted with cocoa powder.

Bløtkake (or Strawberry, Elderflower and Vanilla Cream Cake)

IMG_2288t

It has been such an unbelievably beautiful weekend! Admittedly I did have to work yesterday, but then I spent the evening at my friends’ housewarming, for which I made this cake, and today I have eaten roast dinner and sat in the sun reading Harry Potter down at Grantchester Meadows. Basically this is the way every Sunday should be.

This cake is an unusual one – the closest I can think of in terms of the texture it has is the chiffon cake I made for Rachel’s birthday last year. But the strawberry and elderflower flavour is really delicious, and it’s a lovely light, fresh summer cake to have. The recipe says to make this in one tin and then cut it in half, but my ability to cut in a straight line is basically non-existent, and I didn’t want to mess it up, so I separated the mixture into two tins and then halved the baking time. I only realised that I should halve the baking time when they’d been in for about 15 minutes and I went to check on them and they were cooked. Disaster averted! I will also confess that I did cheat, and I didn’t make the custard, mostly because I already had some ready-made stuff that Oli had bought, so it seemed silly to make more. However, the recipe for custard is below if you are feeling more industrious than me! The leftover elderflower cordial which is infused with strawberry goodness is delicious diluted with a bit of water – she suggests pouring it over the cake, but I was worried it would make the cake too soggy, so I drank it instead. Totally worth it.

Next week is the BEER FESTIVAL in Cambridge, which means I’ll be spending a large amount of my evenings sitting outside drinking beer (and praying for continuing good weather), but I might also try and find the time to make a walnut, chocolate and honey tart.

Bløtkake (from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen)

Sponge:

4 medium eggs

150g caster sugar

1/2tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Filling and topping:

1 punnet fresh strawberries

elderflower cordial

1/2 batch skoleboller custard (see bottom), or 250ml ready-made fresh custard

200g creme fraiche

2 tbsp icing sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3-4 and grease a 23cm round cake tin with sides at least 5cm deep (or two tins or similar size if you’re splitting like me). 

2. Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and whisk until pale and fluffy (this takes about 10 minutes or so with an electric hand whisk – the mixture will approx. triple in size whilst you’re whisking, so make sure your bowl is big enough!). The mixture should look mousse-like and when you remove the whisk, the trail of mixture it leaves on the surface should remain visible for about 4 seconds. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture a third at a time to the beaten eggs, gently folding through with a large metal spoon each time to distribute evenly whilst taking care not to knock out all the air.

3. Carefully pour the cake batter into the prepared tin(s) and tap the tin once or twice against the kitchen surface to pop any big bubbles in the mixture. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 mins (or 12-15 in two tins), or until golden and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5-10 mins in the tin, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Hull and quarter most of the strawberries, leaving 5 good ones whole to garnish. Pour the elderflower cordial (I used about 100ml) over the quartered strawberries in a small bowl and leave to macerate for 15 mins or so before draining. Reserve the strawberry-elderflower cordial.

5. Cut your cake in half, or not if you baked it in two tins. Shortly before you want to serve the cake (ideally no more than an hour in advance or it will go soggy), spread a smooth, even layer of the vanilla custard over the cut surface of the bottom half of the cake. Carefully put a layer of drained strawberries on top and drizzle with a little of the elderflower cordial for extra flavour if you wish. Sandwich the upper half of the cake on top.

6. If you wish to sweeten the creme fraiche, whip it gently with the icing sugar. Spread the creme fraiche over the top of the cake and garnish with the reserved whole strawberries.

 

Custard:

4 medium egg yolks

40g cornflour

500ml whole milk

75g caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl and whisk together so the cornflour is distributed evenly. In a saucepan bring the milk and sugar to a simmer and then remove from the heat. Pour a third of the hot sweetened milk on to the egg yolks and stir through to temper the yolks. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan, add the salt and bring to a gentle boil while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and sieve if any lumps have appeared. Add the vanilla extract and stir through. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film so that it sits directly on the surface of the custard to stop a skin developing. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating until needed.

Vanilla Bread

This post is a few days later than intended. It’s been a very busy week, full of rugby watching, reading about climate change, making this cake, and remembering why it’s probably a good idea to boycott companies who have idiots like this running them. Also reading “Expo ’58” by Jonathan Coe, which is very good thus far. 

Image

And of course, I made a loaf of vanilla bread from Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking. I love making bread – it’s been said many a time before – but there’s something quite therapeutic and satisfying about making bread. I don’t make bread as much as I’d like to, partly because it’s quite time-consuming, and partly because I haven’t really found a good warm place in this house for dough to be left to rise (wedged on top of a radiator doesn’t seem to give the best results). But I thought I’d give this one a crack because I’ve never made sweet bread before, and out of all the breads in Scandilicious Baking, this was the most appealing. Maybe when I have a good warm place, I’ll make all the breads. 

The aforementioned top of the radiator technique meant that my dough didn’t rise quite as much as I’d hoped, and it was a little doughy in the middle. But, also, really tasty. Bread with a hint of vanilla is the best kind of bread – the kind of bread you can eat slice after slice covered in bramble jelly. 

1/2 vanilla pod, split

250ml whole milk

50g butter

1 tbsp vanilla extract

500g refined spelt flour (or plain flour – or I used strong white bread flour, all work fine)

50g caster sugar (plus 1tsp if using fresh yeast)

1 tsp salt

25g fresh yeast, or 12g fast action dried yeast

1 medium egg, beaten

 

1. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and place in a small saucepan with the milk, butter and vanilla extract. Heat the milk mixture until almost boiling and then allow to cool while you assemble the other ingredients. Scalding the milk like this makes the finished bread softer. 

2. Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and once it’s liquid, add to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg, then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl. 

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled plastic bag or cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45-60 mins or so until it has doubled in size. Lightly oil a 900g loaf tin. Knock back the dough, then shape into a oblong and place into the tin. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place for an hour or so until the dough no longer springs back when pressed with a finger. 

4. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Brush the dough with water or milk for a softer crust. Splash a little water in the bottom of the oven to create steam to help the loaf rise, then bake on the upper middle shelf, turning the heat down after the first 10 mins to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Bake for a further 35-40 mins or so until the bread looks golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the base. Remove the tin and allow to cool before eating. 

 

Next week might be apple and courgette cake. We shall see.