Thursday, December 17, 2015

The alchemist's chocolate cake

I've created this one for reader Peggy Lin, who wrote asking for more low-fat, low-sugar recipes. This chocolate cake still has a rich, deep flavour, a delicate, moist texture, but very little fat or refined sugar, and it's quick to make. If you cut it into 10 slices, it works out about 220 calories a serving, with only half the fat and a quarter of the carbs of a typical un-iced cake. Up the calories a little by serving with a spoonful of low-fat crème fraîche and chocolate shavings.



One 415g tin pear halves in juice

75g cocoa powder

125g caster sugar

3 tsp vanilla extract

50ml walnut oil

1 large egg

225g plain flour

2½ tsp baking powder


Drain the pears, reserving the juice. Measure the cocoa, sugar and 125ml of pear juice into a saucepan, madly whisk it all together and bring to the first 'plop' of a boil. Spoon this mixture, along with the pear halves, into a mixing bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile line the bottom and sides of a 20cm round cake tin with non-stick baking paper and preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan-assisted)/ 325F/gas mark 3. Spoon the chocolate mixture, vanilla and oil into a blender, and purée until smooth. Pour this back into the bowl, then beat in the egg. Stir together the flour and baking powder, sift into the bowl and beat until smooth.

Scrape the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Malted chocolate layer cake recipes

There’s a double hit of malt in this sweetly chocolatey layer cake – first from the malt extract folded into the cake batter and through the buttercream, and then from the Maltesers crushed and strewn between the layers. You can find malt extract in any high-street health food shop, and in a few of the larger supermarkets, too: it’s sold in jars, has a rich brown colour and a consistency somewhere between the sticky thickness of honey and black treacle.

Serves 10
For the cake
250g salted butter, softened
200g soft light brown sugar
125g malt extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
300g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder


To ice
250g salted butter, softened
40g cocoa powder
3 tbsp malt extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
350g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
150-250g Maltesers, crushed roughly


1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease two round 20cm cake tins and line their bases with baking parchment.

2 Beat the butter and brown sugar together for a good 2-3 minutes, until smooth and light. Stir in the malt extract and vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each one. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little curdled at this point – it’ll come together smoothly as soon as the dry ingredients go in.

3 Mix the flour and baking powder together before adding to the wet mixture. Beat briefly to combine and give a smooth, loose batter. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and golden brown. A small knife inserted into the centre of each cake should emerge with no more than a crumb or two stuck to it. Leave the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in their tins before unmoulding them and transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

4 Once the cakes are completely cool (and you really do need to be patient here, because if cut while warm they’ll just crumble), slice each layer horizontally in half to give a total of four thin layers.

5 For the buttercream, beat the butter, cocoa powder, malt and vanilla extracts until smooth. Add the icing sugar a little at a time (add it all at once and it’ll take forever to work the ingredients together) and mix until the buttercream is thick and well combined. Add enough milk to loosen the buttercream to a lighter, spreadable consistency – it ought to be soft enough to spread over the delicate cake layers without ripping them.

6 Spread a fifth of the buttercream over each of the four cake layers. Sandwich the sponges together, sprinkling a few crushed Maltesers between the layers. Spread the remaining buttercream around the sides of the cake in a thin layer. Decorate the top of the cake with crushed or whole Maltesers however you want.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Allegra McEvedy's Swedish apple cake

At this time of year, fruit falls into one of two categories: the bright imports and the familiar home-grown. Personally, I prefer to buy more Britishapples and pears than kiwi fruits and pineapples.
This cake only takes 15 minutes to prepare, and comes from my friend Bob's mum, Gudren – a lovely Swedish lady who, before she died, made sure she left her son the recipes of his maternal heritage. It's fabulous and foolproof, and fills any gap from pud to tea time to elevenses – perfect for this time of year when cooking energy levels aren't running very high.

Makes 10 healthy slices (takes 15-20 minutes to prepare plus 40-50 minutes in the oven)

3 eggs

150g caster sugar

250g flour

1½tsp baking powder

150g butter plus a couple of knobs

3 bramleys, cut into large bite-sized chunks

¼tsp cinnamon

3tbsp golden granulated sugar, for the top

▶ Pre-heat the oven 175ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Whisk the eggs and caster sugar, either by hand or in a food mixer until it is thick and pale.

▶ Sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold gently until it is all combined.
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▶ Melt the butter in 240ml water and beat into the mixture.

▶ Grease an oven-proof frying pan (25cm x 5cm deep) with a knob of butter, then pour the batter in.

▶ Drop the pieces of apple into the mix – don't worry if it's pretty crowded in there. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with golden granulated sugar and some cinnamon.

▶ Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, then take it out and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

▶ Run a knife around the edge and turn out on to a plate, then flip again so the apples are on top.

▶ Serve hot or at room temperature with a creamy accompaniment of your choice

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A tangy cheese starter: Labneh in olive oil


Makes about 12 balls
500g homemade yoghurt
½ tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed
Chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
Olive oil, in which to submerge the balls of labneh

1 Put a sieve over a bowl and line it with a piece of clean cheesecloth or muslin or any soft cotton fabric.

2 Stir the salt into the yoghurt then pour the yoghurt into the centre of the cheesecloth. Pull the four corners of the cheesecloth up and tie it into a bag with some string. Suspend it over the bowl overnight to allow the whey to drain. If your kitchen is cold enough, you can drain the yoghurt outside the fridge, otherwise do it in the fridge.

3 When it is firm and drained, with wet hands roll the labneh into balls and store in a jar or container. Add the lemon zest, dried oregano, garlic cloves and chilli, if using, and pour olive oil over the labneh balls to marinate.

4 Serve with roasted vegetables as part of a substantial salad, or on bruschetta. The labneh will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ruby Tandoh’s school of rock cakes

Apple spice cakes
 Any tea will do for soaking the sultanas in these lightly spiced rock buns, but I think that Earl Grey sits well alongside the citrussy lightness of the crushed cardamom seeds.

Makes 8
100g sultanas
1 earl grey teabag
150g plain flour
100g wholemeal flour
3½ tsp baking powder
125g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed
A pinch of salt
125g butter
100g apple (from 1-2 cox or braeburn apples)
1 large egg
2-3 tbsp demerara sugar

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.

2 Measure out the sultanas with the teabag in a small heatproof bowl, and add enough boiling water to cover the fruit. Leave the fruit to soak and plump up until the liquid’s cool, then pass through a sieve, collecting the tea in a separate bowl.

3 While the sultanas soak, combine the plain and wholemeal flours, the baking powder, sugar, spice and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and rub it into the dry ingredients between your fingertips until there are no visible pieces left and the flour mixture is coarsely sandy.

4 Peel, core and chop the apples, cutting into ½ cm chunks. Toss the apple and drained sultanas through the flour and butter mix. Lightly beat the egg, then add to the rest of the ingredients. Work the egg in until you’re left with a slightly sticky dough. If you can pick a ball of it up without it sticking a little to your fingers, it’s too dry. Add a splash of the reserved tea if this is the case.

5 Spoon the batter into 8 portions spread well apart across the baking trays. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over their tops, to give a welcome crunch against the buttery softness of the cake. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven, until well-risen and golden brown.

Lemon-glazed gingerbread rock cakes

These will spread a little more than the apple spice rock buns above, but that means a softer texture, too. They’re halfway between a soft gingerbread cookie and a traditional rock cake. If the heat of glace ginger isn’t to your taste, try raisins instead.

Makes 12
400g plain flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
225g butter
200g soft dark brown sugar
200g chopped glace ginger

2 large eggs
200g icing sugar
50ml lemon juice

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Stir the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt together in a large bowl. Cube the fat and rub it into the dry mixture. Stir through the dark brown sugar and glace ginger. Stir in the eggs to get a rough, sticky dough. Spoon into 12 equal heaps spaced well apart on the prepared baking tray.

2 Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the rock cakes have risen, spread and set. They should be reasonably firm, not spongy, to the touch. While they bake, prepare the glaze by stirring the lemon juice into the icing sugar a little at a time until the glaze is smooth and pourable.

3 As soon as they emerge from the oven, brush the rock cakes liberally with lemon glaze. Sprinkle a little lemon zest or extra glace ginger on top of each if you feel like dressing them up. Leave to cool for a while on a wire rack and eat while still slightly warm.M

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Your New Favorite Chocolate Cake

 

If the grocery store isn't your favorite place, it should be. We're sleuthing for the best back-of-the-box recipes and each week we'll share our latest find.

Today: The perfect chocolate cake recipe has been sitting in your pantry all along, patiently waiting for you to discover it.

Today feels like the right time to confess that I’ve never been able to bake a good chocolate cake.

I’m a pretty persistent person -- some would say bordering on a perfectionist -- and I’m a very confident baker. Despite all that, chocolate cake has stymied me for years. Mine are either too moist, taste only vaguely of cocoa, or fall apart when I try to frost them.

I want a serious chocolate cake. I want a sturdy crumb, like a 1-2-3-4 cake, but with an intense wallop of chocolate. I want you to be able to close your eyes and think, "Dark and rich." I want it to be tender yet still firm enough to slice and frost. I want it to be just moderately sweet so that it can pair well with Swiss meringue or caramel glaze or coffee buttercream. Oh, and I want to be able to make it in one bowl without needing any fancy, expensive chocolate.

I had gone on a lot of chocolate cake recipe first dates, so to speak, and had yet to enter a serious, move-in-with-me relationship with one -- until I met the perfect chocolate cake from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box. I think it’s the one! And it was right in front of me all these years.


This dead-simple recipe yields a fantastically rich chocolate cake. It highlights the subtle alchemy of baking, taking a handful of very basic ingredients and turning them into something worthy of celebration. You don’t need any chocolate other than cocoa. There’s no buttermilk, no hot coffee, and no sour cream. Can I get a hallelujah? I've dialed down the liquid slightly from the original recipe to make the cake a little more sturdy, which helps when constructing (and eating) the layers.

More: These Genius brownies also rely only on cocoa powder for their chocolate flavor.

You don’t need the frosting -- the cake is very good plain. But when offered frosting, I usually say yes. Just to be polite. If you’re looking to dress it up differently, I’d suggest a topping of crème fraîche, boiled icing with cacao nibs, or dulce de leche frosting.

Perfect Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Hershey's

Makes one 8-inch double layer cake

For the cake:

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla