Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scandinavian baking secrets

Baking is a small and everyday act that shows someone you care. As a child in the 1970s, I lived in a commune in Copenhagen. My parents were very busy changing the world so, at eight years old in our big communal kitchen, I baked my first cakes. I did not read recipes. I just mixed everything together, poured the resulting batter into a tin and baked it. At some point, somebody explained to me that if I started a cake by beating eggs with sugar, or butter with sugar, I would find I baked lighter, better-tasting cakes.
My baking developed over the years. As a young woman, studying literature and being at home with my newborn son, I bought a baking book and worked my way through it. For my son’s first birthday, we were in the UK and I couldn’t imagine us all celebrating that milestone without real Danish pastries. So I learned how to make them, too. Over the years that developed into a set of recipes that are all part of our family life. I wrote the baking book during an unsettling year for me and my family. Despite the fact it expanded to take more time and work than I had ever imagined, the baking became part of a healing process. Baking can be like that.

Jens Jørgen Thorsen meringue

Jens Jørgen Thorsen was a famous Danish painter. Feel free to use other fruit instead of figs, if you prefer. Serves 8.
For the caramel cream:
demerara sugar 100g
double cream 500ml
For the meringue:
egg whites 6
caster sugar 300g
salt a pinch
For the topping:
figs 6, fresh
good dark chocolate 50g, at least 60% cocoa solids
The day before you need the cake, make the caramel cream. Spread the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar melts and starts to colour: it should turn into a light brown caramel. Add one-quarter of the cream and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. It takes time, be patient.
When the mixture is fully combined, turn off the heat, stir in the remaining cream, then pour it into a bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
For the meringue, preheat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1. Using an electric hand mixer or a food mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then whisk in half the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until very stiff. Fold in the remaining sugar and add the salt.
Line two baking trays with baking parchment and draw, in pencil, a 24cm circle on each. Turn the baking parchment over so the pencil marks are underneath, but still legible. Spread the meringue inside the circles. Bake for one hour, then let them cool down on a wire rack, still on their baking parchment.
Remove the paper from the meringues and place the least attractive disc on a serving plate.
Whip the chilled caramel cream until it is light, fluffy and billowing, then spread it on the base meringue. Place the second meringue on top. Cut the figs into quarters and place them on top of the cake.
Break the chocolate into pieces, place in a small heatproof bowl and fit over a saucepan of simmering water – the bowl should not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, then remove from the heat.
Dip a tablespoon in the chocolate, then throw it at the cake, channelling Jackson Pollock (and Danish painter Jens Jørgen Thorsen), until you have a wild decoration. Serve the cake as soon as the chocolate has set.

Beetroot and bacon muffins

beetroot and bacon muffins
Savoury treat: beetroot and bacon muffins. Photograph: Columbus Leth
Makes 10–12
spelt flour 50g, wholegrain and stoneground
plain flour 150g
jumbo oats 50g
baking powder 2 tsp
bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp
salt 8g
black pepper 1 tbsp, freshly ground
eggs 3
yogurt 250ml, full fat
olive oil 4 tbsp
beetroot 200g, raw and finely chopped
bacon lardons 100g, cooked (or walnuts 100g, toasted)
thyme leaves 1 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Mix the flours, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and pepper in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the yogurt and oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then fold in the beetroot, bacon (or walnuts) and thyme.
Cut out 15cm squares of baking parchment – you will need 10 to 12 – and fold each into a muffin mould. Divide the batter between the moulds and bake in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes.
Serve warm for lunch or dinner, sprinkled with a little more thyme if you like, with a crisp green salad dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette.

Rye crispbread

rye crispbread
Strip teas: rye crispbread. Photograph: Columbus Leth
Makes 40 strips
water 150ml, lukewarm
yeast 15g, fresh (or 2 tsp dry yeast)
rye flakes 60g
rolled oats 50g
stoneground rye flour 50g, plus more to dust
polenta 50g, or use cornmeal
olive oil 75ml, plus more to brush
salt 4g
Pour the water into a bowl and add the yeast, stirring to dissolve. Stir in the rye flakes and oats. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now mix in the remaining ingredients. Mix really well, then knead on a floured work surface.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Divide the dough into four. On a floured work surface, roll each piece out as thinly as possible into a rectangle about 25x20cm. Cut each into 10 strips. Lay the strips on baking trays lined with baking parchment and brush with oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes. You will probably have to bake these in batches.
Leave each batch to cool on a wire rack while you bake the rest.


kringle with flaked almonds
Roll of honour: kringle with flaked almonds. Photograph: Columbus Leth
Makes 3
For the kringle:
whole milk 100ml, lukewarm
yeast 50g, fresh (or 1 ½ tbsp dry yeast)
eggs 3, lightly beaten
caster sugar 100g
salt ½ tsp
butter 350g
00 grade flour 550g
For the filling:
almonds chopped, 150g
caster sugar 200g
butter 250g
rosehip jam (or apple compote, see below) 300g
egg 1, lightly beaten
almonds 50g, flaked
For the apple compote:
vanilla pod 1
tart eating apples 2, such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, peeled, cored, chopped
caster sugar 100g
To make the compote, slit the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a sharp knife. Put the apples in a saucepan with the sugar and the vanilla seeds and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the apple mixture together to create a thick sauce, then leave to cool.
For the kringle, pour the milk into a bowl, add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs, sugar and salt, cover and leave for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the butter into cubes and, with your hands, rub them into the flour. When the 30 minutes is up, mix the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Knead on a floured work surface until you have a smooth dough. The dough is very delicate, so you might have to use a bit more flour and handle it with care. Place in a bowl, cover and leave to rise at warm room temperature for about one hour.
For the filling, mix the chopped almonds into a paste with the sugar and butter. Set aside.
Return to the dough. Roll it out on a floured work surface into a rectangle. Fold it into three, crossways, like a business letter then turn it by 90˚, roll it out and fold it once more, in the same way.
Now divide the dough into three and roll each out into a rectangle.
Divide the filling into three. Spread each portion along a 4cm strip down the middle of each dough rectangle. Spread the rosehip jam or compote on top. Fold the short ends up over the filling and then the long sides, first one side over the filling and then the other, so they overlap by 1cm. Place on baking trays lined with baking parchment, cover with tea towels and let rise again, in a warm place, for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Brush each pastry with the egg and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don’t turn too dark. If they are looking too dark, reduce the oven temperature to 200C/gas mark 6.
Cool on a wire rack and serve warm or cold.
More baking next week with Trine Hahnemann. To order a copy of her book, Scandinavian Baking (Quadrille, £25), for £20, go to or call 0330 333 6846.
Nigel Slater returns in a fortnight

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to bake the perfect flourless chocolate cake

How do you get it creamy yet fluffy, have you made the original River Café chocolate nemesis recipe, and which other gluten-free desserts are worth a go?
Felicity Cloake's perfect flourless chocolate cake
Felicity Cloake’s perfect flourless chocolate cake. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/Guardian
This week has been a learning curve for me. I’d naively assumed that a flourless chocolate cake was the kind of thing you might make when a coeliac friend was coming for tea, possibly involving some sort of ground nuts or cornflour.
But after looking at a few recipes, it dawned on me that I was barking up completely the wrong tree. Though such cakes certainly exist, the classic flourless variety doesn’t just eschew wheat, but any sort of starchy meal, giving it a rich flavour and a dense, fudgy or creamy texture that puts it firmly in the dessert, rather than the teatime, category. (Though, of course, there’s nothing to stop you inviting that coeliac friend for dinner.)
Flourless chocolate cakes don’t tend to vary much in the ingredient department: there is chocolate, obviously, plus eggs, sugar and some sort of fat, usually butter but occasionally cream. The difference, as I discovered, comes in how they are combined and baked.

The chocolate

Justin Gellatly's flourless chocolate cake
Justin Gellatly’s flourless chocolate cake.
Most recipes use just melted chocolate, but ex-St John pastry chef Justin Gellatly’s excellently named Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding sifts in some cocoa powder as well. Having used a combination of the two with great success in my brownie and my teatime chocolate cake recipes, I know that cocoa comes in useful when you want a concentrated chocolate flavour without making the cake itself too sickly, and so it proves here. Though undeniably rich, Gellatly’s cake manages to be intensely flavoured but less cloying than the infamous River Café chocolate nemesis (the easy version, obviously; I’m not in the market for the “kind of cowpat” reported by those unfortunates who trialled the original recipe).
Gellatly and the River Café both use a relatively small amount of chocolate and cocoa in proportion to the other ingredients, which proves wise: I find both David Lebovitz’s Racines cake, from his book Ready for Dessert, and San Francisco’s Zuni Café’s signature gateau victoire a little too bitter for my taste, though those with more sophisticated palates may disagree. I do like Lebovitz’s cocoa nibs, though – these crunchy shards of roasted cocoa bean add texture and a hit of bitterness to each mouthful. If you can’t find them, however, they’re not essential.

The sugar

David Lebovitz's flourless chocolate cake
David Lebovitz’s flourless chocolate cake.
Everyone except Lebovitz uses caster sugar – he goes for granulated, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference as far as I can tell. The River Café adds most of the sugar in the form of a syrup, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, but which someone better at kitchen chemistry than me might be able to explain – syrups are often used to keep cakes soft and moist, but without flour, this seems less likely. None of the recipes I try have quite the right amount of sugar for my liking. Annie Bell’s French and flourless, from her Baking Bible, is closest, while Lebovitz and Zuni are too bitter, and the River Café and Gellatly a smidgen too sweet. As well as striking a balance with quantity, I’m going to sub in a proportion of soft brown sugar too, for a hint of caramel flavour. I’m surprised that Lebovitz and Gellatly are the only bakers to make mention of a balancing pinch of salt, which is helpful for rounding out the flavour of most sweet dishes, but absolutely essential in a rich dish like this.

The eggs and fats

River Cafe's flourless chocolate cake
River Cafe’s flourless chocolate cake.
Eggs are usually separated and whisked up independently to give the cake a moussey consistency, which saves it from overwhelming heaviness. The River Café and Zuni use whole eggs instead, the latter with two extra yolks as well, which explains why their cakes have the smoothest, densest texture. Gellatly’s cake contains a far higher proportion of eggs than any other recipe – 11 as opposed to only four in the Zuni version – which I suspect is why it is incredibly rich yet surprisingly light. Butter is the fat of choice here; only Zuni chooses whipped cream instead, diluting the chocolate flavour.


Annie Bell's flourless chocolate cake
Annie Bell’s flourless chocolate cake.
Lebovitz flavours his cake with vanilla essence and espresso, while Zuni uses just the coffee. Though I can’t pick up much in the way of vanilla, I’m surprised by how much difference even a little coffee makes – though I’d be hard-pressed to identify it as a flavour, the bitterness works brilliantly with that of the chocolate, giving the whole thing greater depth.


Zuni's flourless chocolate cake
Zuni’s flourless chocolate cake.
The River Café and Zuni both bake their versions in a water bath to moderate the temperature for a creamier result, but as this is still a cake rather than a mousse, I prefer it to have a little bit of fluffiness to it. Gellatly manages to achieve both textures in the same dish by baking two-thirds of his mixture for 30 minutes, cooling it for 20, adding the remainder and putting it back in the oven for another 20 minutes, so the bottom is drier and lighter and the top creamy and dense. It’s a really nice idea, but a bit of a faff. Instead, I’m plumping for something in between the two – a rich, dense chocolate cake with just enough fluff to make it worthy of the name.
(Serves 8-10)
260g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
260g butter
1 tbsp strong coffee
8 eggs, separated
100g soft light brown sugar
160g golden caster sugar
85g cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional)
Grease a 23cm cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth, then stir in the coffee and set aside to cool slightly. Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark three.
Put the egg yolks and sugars in a food processor and whisk until doubled in volume. Turn the machine off and sift the cocoa powder on top of the egg mixture (don’t just dump it in or you’ll get lumps). Add the salt, then mix on a low speed until the cocoa is well combined.
Put the egg whites in another large bowl and whisk to the soft-peak stage.
Gently fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Fold a third of the egg white into the mixture to loosen it before very carefully folding the rest in, until the mixture is no longer streaky but an even, rich brown. Sprinkle the cocoa nibs on top, if using.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until just set on top, then allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Serve with something tart, such as creme fraiche.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From Jaffa Cakes to Weetabix, who really owns Britain’s favourite foods?

With the news that Britain’s biggest biscuit company United Biscuits has been sold to Turkish firm Yildiz, we chart the global drift of the UK’s kitchen-cupboard stalwarts

Big in Turkey … Jaffa Cakes.
Big in Turkey … Jaffa Cakes. Photograph: Clive Gee/PA
Those foreigners, they come over here and steal our biscuits. That was Ukip’s imaginary response to Monday’s newsflash that Britain’s biggest biscuit maker United Biscuits, guardian of the Jaffa Cake, Penguin and McVitie’s Digestives, had been gobbled up by little known Turkish food giant Yildiz for £2bn. But it’s not the first time that overseas firms have raided our larder …

Jaffa Cakes

These cakey-biscuity hybrids roll off a production line in Manchester but its parent, United Biscuits – which also owns Jacob’s, Twiglets and Mini Cheddars – is based in Hayes Middlesex. Yildiz’s perhaps less well known brands include “Turtles”, “Kat Kat, Tat” and “Bizim Mutfak” so opportunities for new biscuit variants abound.

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Cadbury Dairy Milk.
Cadbury Dairy Milk. Photograph: Linda Nylind/Guardian
It’s as British as Hershey’s these days after US food giant Kraft wrested control of Britain’s favourite chocolatier for £11.6bn in 2010. Dairy Milk is still made in Cadbury’s spiritual home of Bournville, but its paymasters are based near Chicago, in Deerfield, Illinois.

Burton’s Biscuits

Jammie Dodgers.
Jammie Dodgers. Photograph: Sarah Lee/Guardian
Ahh, Jammie Dodgers with that gooey splodge of red stuff in the middle. Jammies are part of the Burton’s Biscuit (tin) along with other dunking favourites such as Lyons fig rolls and Wagon Wheels, but the St Albans company is British no more having been sold to Canadian investors, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, for £350m last year.


Weetabix. Photograph: Alamy
The Chinese are literally eating our breakfast these days, gobbling up British cereal maker Weetabix two years ago in a deal worth £1.2bn. The takeover by state-owned Bright Food has spawned a number of spin-offs, with green tea-flavoured breakfast bars, developed in its Northamptonshire labs, to be exported to China.

Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale.
Newcastle Brown Ale. Photograph: Alamy
The carve up of UK brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle in 2008 saw “Newkie Brown” fall to Heineken. According to the Dutch brewer’s website it is one of the fastest-selling beers in the US with its “delicate fruit aroma, and caramel and nutty malt taste” making it easy to drink. That’s not how we remember it from our student days.

New Covent Garden Soup

New Covent Garden Soup.
New Covent Garden Soup. Photograph: Katherine Rose
The posh soup maker, set up by two North London entrepreneurs in 1986, is now owned by Hain Celestial, the US food group which is also home to Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausages.

The Glenlivet

Glenlivet. Photograph: Alamy
This single malt appears to be Scottish as tartan and shortbread with the Glenlivet distillery nestled in the dramatic scenery of Speyside, but it has been owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard for more than a decade.

Sarson’s vinegar

Sarson's vinegar.
Sarson’s vinegar. Photograph: Alamy
The famous condiment was invented by London vinegar maker Thomas Sarson in 1794, and according to vinegar lore, you used to catch a whiff of it brewing as you approached London Bridge due to its nearby factory. Two years ago, it was one of several brands sold off by Mr Kipling owner Premier Food’s to Japan’s Mizkan Group.

Monday, January 7, 2013

There Are The Top Ten Italian Desserts

Italian cuisine varies region-to-region, you can find different traditions and different culinary expertise all throughout Italy. Italian desserts are no different. While every Italian region may have its own dessert recipe, these select few desserts have spread both nationally and internationally. These are the top ten desserts you owe it to yourself to try if you are in Italy.

10. Struffoli – Struffoli is a traditionally Neapolitan dessert that consists of marble-sized deep fried balls of dough. They are light on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They are often mixed with other sweet things such as honey. While there are a number of ways to present Struffoli, the traditional way is presenting them with bits of an orange rind, cinnamon taste confection, and honey. Struffoli is often served warm during Easter and Christmas.

9. Tartufo di Pizzo – A typical pastry product from what is now Calabria. It is a hand-shaped cake with a heart of chocolate, melted and covered with sprinkles of cocoa powder and sugar.

8. Biscotti – The full name for biscotti is biscotti di Prato (which translates into biscuits of Prato). These cakes are twice baked. While still hot and fresh in the oven, these large almond biscuits are cut. That is why they remain dry and crunchy after baking.

7. Babà – Even though it may have Polish origins, the Babà is now typically a product that you would find in Naples. They are liquid saturated yeast cakes. These are often filled with pastry cream or whipped cream.

6. Ciarduna – Traditionally from Palermo, Ciarduna are sweet pastries. The pastries are made up from an almond cookie shell that is filled with mascarpone or ricotta filling. There are also varieties that are filled with powdered sugar and chocolate frosting or covered in a chocolate shell.

5. Panna Cotta – Originally, Panna Cotta is from the Piemonte region, but you can now find it all throughout Italy. It is made by simmering together sugar, milk, and cream, and mixing them together with gelatin. You then let it cool until set. It is usually served with caramel sauce, chocolate, or wild fruit coulis.

4. Cassata Siciliana – A round sponge cake that is moistened by liqueur or fruit juices and has layers of candied peel, vanilla, chocolate filling, or ricotta cheese. It is covered with a shell of green and pink pastel colored icing, marzipan, and layered with decorative designs. Not only exceptionally tasty, but also beautiful to look at.

3. Cannoli – A delicious pastry desert. Fried pastry dough made into tube-shaped shell form. They are usually filled with a creamy, sweet filling, often containing ricotta. These are well known in the United States as well.

2. Gelato – The only thing to say about the Italian version of ice cream is that people do not actually realize what the big deal is about gelato until they try it. Creamy, rich and yet not filling in the slightest, ice cream how it should be.

1. Tiramisu – Tiramisu is perhaps the most popular Italian dessert. The original recipe comes from the northern region of Veneto. Ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a mixture of mascarpone and egg yolks, flavored with cocoa and liquor. The original recipe has since been adapted in many different varieties including cakes and puddings.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It Is Really An Easy Mango Pudding Recipe

Now you can make Thai Dessert at your home any time.Here some Thai Dessert Recipe for you.What makes it extra good is the fact that it is made with coconut milk instead of whipping cream or evaporated milk. Unlike dairy products, coconut milk brings out and enhances the taste of the mango, plus adds that touch of richness you're looking for in a pudding. Here is an easy mango pudding recipe below:

  • 2 medium to large ripe mangoes
  • 1 packet gelatine
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup good-quality coconut milk
  1. Make sure your mangoes are ripe - the fruit should be bright orange or yellow and fairly soft. Scoop out the fruit, including around the stone. Place the fruit in a food processor or blender and blitz to create a smooth mango puree. Leave the mango in the processor/blender.
  2. In a saucepan, heat up the water until it reaches a rolling bowl. Remove from heat. While stirring the water with a whisk or fork, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and stir briskly in order not to have any lumps.
  3. Add the sugar to the hot water/gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve.
  4. Add this mixture to the mango in the food processor/blender. Also add the coconut milk. Blitz briefly until ingredients are combined.
  5. Pour into dessert bowls or cups and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or up to 24 if making ahead of company coming). Serve cold on its own, or with some fresh fruit, and ENJOY!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How To Make Yogurt And Fruit Cake Easily

To delight the taste buds of your guests, nothing is better than to make the cake yourself. Leave the traditional chocolate cake and delight your guests by making a cake with yoghurt and berries.

Recipe for yogurt cake with berries and a recipe is relatively simple to make and everyone beginners. It will take about twenty minutes to make the cake batter yogurt and about thirty minutes to cook this wonder. Before starting the recipe for yogurt and fruit cake, preheat your oven to 180 ° C.

Ingredients and utensils:
  • Before anything else, it is essential to prepare the list of ingredients. Recipe for yogurt cake with berries and requires the following ingredients: A yogurt (you can focus on a 0% yogurt to lighten the recipe or yogurt with berries), two egg yolks, two egg whites, a yoghurt pot with oil, three flour yogurt, a yogurt pot caster sugar, a packet of vanilla sugar and a packet of yeast and 450 grams of red fruits.
  • To complete the recipe for yogurt cake and berries, you’ll need a drummer and a cake pan.
  • To start cake recipe yoghurt and berries, pour into a large container, plain yogurt or yogurt with berries and then dilute it with all the oil pot and the pot of caster sugar, the three jars of flour and yoghurt sachet of yeast. Separate the white from yellow. Put the yolks in the above mixture and put a pinch of salt in the blanks as you go in snow.
  • Stir in egg whites and mix in preparation for a smooth paste then add the berries. Butter the mold and pour the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes.
  • The red fruits are available at a certain time of year. Thus, to make the recipe for yogurt cake and berries in the summer season not, you can buy packages of frozen berries to your supermarket shelf as usual.
  • Moreover, nothing prevents you to replace the berries with red fruit jam. In this case, instead of adding 450 grams of red fruit, it will put four large tablespoons of red fruit jam.