Raspberry and lemon emergency sponge

You have people coming round, you want to make a cake, you realise you don’t have anything to make the cake exciting.

Oh, but you DO.

This is the story of a cake that worked much better than expected.

First things first. Oven on to 180C.

My basic sponge cake recipe is in ounces, because it originates from the days when my mum would bakes cakes because that was the cheapest way of putting something into the lunchboxes. So: 3 eggs, 6 ounces each of butter and sugar and self-raising flour. Add a bit more flour because the raspberries are going to leak some liquid out and you don’t want a soggy cake.

You might think that having raspberries lying around is an unusually luxurious state to be in. I think I bought a punnet of raspberries because I was having a friend round for dinner and couldn’t be bothered to make a pudding, so meringue + raspberries + icecream = pudding. In a fit of organisation I did not leave the remainder to go fluffy but stuck them in the bottom drawer of the freezer.

Alternatively it’s possible to buy bags of frozen berries. They’re cheap too.

Mix some berries into your slightly-stiffer-than-normal cake mix. If they are frozen, that’s fine. It might even be better. Put it in a lined loaf tin. Bought paper liners the shape of a loaf tin are your friend here. Any tin at all is fine of course, if you use a flatter tin it’ll cook quicker.

Blob some lemon curd on top. Don’t worry that the jar say 2016 on it. It’s not mouldy, it’s a conserve, that’s means it’s designed to last a long time. Put in oven. Check after 40 mins. Could be closer to an hour. Don’t plan to go out.

It’s done when you put a knife in it and the knife doesn’t come out covered in cake mix. Because all the cake mix is now cake. You know that by now, right?

Here is it. Nearly gone. I guess that worked well.

Low-knead bread – no really this time

Loyal readers (hah, I just really wanted to write that) will know that I have tried a number of different bread recipes over the years, all hindered by the fact that kneading is BORING and I don’t knead enough. Because it’s boring. And I get fed up.

I’ve tried overnight breads, and “no-knead” breads, and I’ve learned that I don’t like the taste of soda bread. I have not yet tried sourdough but that’s mainly because bollocks to any bread that requires you to start it 3 days ahead of time, or to permanently keep a “starter” alive (I’m not calling it Humphrey or Herman or whatever it is called by the kind of people who refer to it as “friendship cake”).

This recipe works though. And I have not improved my kneading technique or my patience. It does require you to hang about a bit, so it’s a job for a day when you are going to be in, but you can spend most of the day watching Netflix (The Crown, for preference).

The magic ingredient seems to be sour cream. Mix 125g sour cream (just under a small pot – I’ve no idea what you’ll do with the remaining 25g), 100ml boiling water and 150ml cold water (or 250ml warm I guess, but I like the precision this gives for “how warm should it be?). This did not mix nicely but it didn’t matter. Add a sachet of dried yeast and 2tsp each of salt and sugar. Then put in 550g of bread flour and make dough.

I don’t know if ingredients come in different sizes in Australia but 125g of sour cream and 550g of flour are both slightly-annoying measurements for me (flour comes in 1kg or 1.5kg, so can make slightly under 2 or 3 of these). I’ll forgive it though on the basis that it ACTUALLY WORKS. Cover it up and wait a bit. I just draped a tea-towel over the bowl.

It grows a bit even in that ten minutes

It grows a bit even in that ten minutes

After 10 mins, knead for 10 seconds. Yes really, 10 SECONDS. I think I counted 30 “pushes” on the dough, which was probably more than 10 seconds. This is the only time I have ever kneaded for LONGER than I was told.

Cover, wait 10 more mins, knead for 10 seconds again. Cover, wait 10 more mins, knead for 10 seconds again. Cover, wait for an hour, then squish it into a rectangle, roll up like a swiss roll (note to self for next time – put something IN it at this point?), and put into a buttered loaf tin. Cover, wait 90 mins.

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

..Whoosh! Look at that!

…Whoosh! Look at that!

Into oven at 180C fan (everyone has a fan oven these days right? 200C if not fan, if you have an Aga you’re on your own).

45 mins later… BREAD.

Looks like bread on the inside too

Looks like bread on the inside too

It actually looks like a loaf of bread

It actually looks like a loaf of bread

 

Swiss meringues (AKA those massive ones)

You know, those massive ones with the swirls in that you get at bakeries.

I am OK at making regular meringues (that I now know to be “French”), but I wanted something a bit more solid. I have been told that they are Swiss meringues. OK then. I think I remember a challenge on Great British Bake Off that involved two kinds of meringue, an Apparently Swiss meringues are the most stable before cooking, which sounds like a good recommendation to me.

The recipe I’m using is by Dan Lepard, who I had not heard of before but if this works I’ll definitely count myself a fan. His recipe was for 115g of egg white and 225g of sugar, but I wanted to make “two eggs worth”, so I weighed the whites and came up with 125g of sugar. #Maths. He also said that you should use caster sugar but I really don’t see the point, especially if you are dissolving it anyway, so I used granulated because that’s what I had.

So: Put oven on at 150C. Put boiling water in a pan on the hob, turn on heat to get it simmering. Put egg whites and sugar in pan and stir a bit til it all seems hot and melted/dissolved. Now you want to whisk the egg/sugar mixture for ages and ages while it cools down. The recipe says 15 minutes. Anyone who has tried to make bread and “knead for 10 minutes” knows that’s a very long time. If you have nothing electric that can whisk do not even attempt this unless you are very strong and have a very high boredom threshold. A Kitchenaid type thing would be great for this (Dan says to use the metal bowl, if you have one). I used the machine below.

meringues in mixer

I do not recommend using this kind of machine to make this kind of meringue. The mixture got very stiff, the whisk no longer moved, and I ended up breaking my drive shaft. Whoops. Espares have lots of spare parts and also do next-day delivery, useful if you find yourself in this kind of predicament.

broken drive shaft

I decided to proceed anyway… I blobbed the mixture onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Put into oven, turn oven down to 130C. If you’ve made the right amount (115g egg, 225g sugar), you should have 12  meringues and should cook them for 45 mins, then turn off the oven and leave them in while the oven cools down.

uncooked meringue

They expand a bit in the oven but not a lot

cooked swiss meringues

Here they are – very tasty and crisp with a hole in the middle.

I will be making these again, and next time I’m going to attempt doing some colourful swirls. I’ll also use ,my electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment and hope that it doesn’t break…

Homemade tiger bread.

The finished rolls - notice how they spread EVEN MORE in the oven and had to be manually separated

The finished rolls – notice how they spread EVEN MORE in the oven and had to be manually separated

I’ve always assumed that “how to make tiger bread” goes something like this:

  1. make bread dough
  2. put something very addictive on top
  3. bake

But this is the first time that I’ve had a go.

I’ve also incorporated some techniques that I learned while visiting Bread Ahead in Borough Market, but I haven’t fully followed their recipe (not even close) so if this doesn’t work out then it’s not their fault.

Ye, I’m writing this while the bread is in the oven. I don’t know if it has worked yet. That picture that you see at the top of the post – I have not yet seen it. Fingers crossed?

Method:

  • 500g bread flour, 1 sachet yeast, some salt. How much salt? I don’t know. A pinch? Half a teaspoon? Just SOME, OK?
  • Mix it up and add 400ml warm water. This is a lot of water. Things will be gooey. Don’t worry, this is the plan.
  • Go phone your mum for 20 minutes. This is not compulsory, but it’s what I did.
  • Remember that you are supposed to knead the bloody stuff.
  • Feel pleased that the mixture is expanding already – at least that confirms that the yeast is alive.
  • Knead – sort of. Grab a big handful of the mixture and lift your hand high above the bowl, stretching out the dough. Release your hand a bit to let it drop back down, stretching different bits
  • Keep doing this for a while – say 100 stretches
  • Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it for a few hours – at room temperature – til it’s at least doubled in size
  • Grease two baking trays
    • (note from afterwards – best use greasproof paper as well)
  • Grab handfuls of the dough and put them onto the trays – you will lose a lot of the air but that’s OK – leave plenty of room for expansion
  • Now put your oven onto the highest it’ll go and wait for the light to go out – you really want the oven as hot as it can be
  • Mix together in a little bowl some paprika, celery salt, and salt with olive oil – again I don’t know what quantities I used and even if I did I might not recommend them to you
  • Once the oven has heated up your blobs should have gotten bigger than they were – paint them with your paprika mix using a pastry brush (or just blob some on if you don’t possess such an implement)
Here are my blobs

Here are my blobs

  • Put into oven, set timer
    • (note from afterwards – I set mine for 15 mins and this was a bit too much)
Mmm, shiny!

Mmm, shiny!

  • Take out of oven, remove from tray and leave to cool for as long as you can manage
  • Now you have homemade tiger ciabatta

Verdict:

I sort of made this up, and it sort of worked.

The texture is more like ciabatta than your standard tiger loaf, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The topping is not “right”, but it is “nice”. Further experimentation needed.

Nice big bubbles inside

Nice big bubbles inside

 

 

Vegan chocolate cake

This recipe courtesy of “No bread is an island”. No particular reason why I’m making a vegan cake, I just came across the recipe and thought it looked nice, but one nice thing is that it requires nothing that could go off or that needs refrigerating. It could be “bomb shelter cake” or “post-apocalypse cake”.

Mix 165g SR flour, 25g cocoa, 200g sugar. Add 80g oil (vegetable or sunflower or something, not olive) and 250ml (250g is you are measuring by adding things to a bowl on a digital scale, which is the easiest way to measure it all out) water.

Mix it all up, put in a cake tin, bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes.

It looks like cake. I’ll have to wait til tomorrow to comment on the taste, as I’m planning to take it to work.

“No knead” bread – is it really?

Inspired by this post on Jen’s Place.

I’ve seen recipes for “no knead” bread before – what they really mean is “not as much kneading as usual”, which is still too much kneading for me. This recipe is different – you really don’t knead the bread at all.

Given that I’ve tried bread before and it’s been horribly hard because I didn’t knead it enough, how can this “no knead” bread be edible? Surely no kneading is worse than not-enough kneading, not better?

The recipe as posted makes enough dough for 4 loaves, apparently. I figure it’ll probably go wrong so I quarter it and just make the one.

I had a little packet of seeds from my graze box (use code B6FK9XVA to get a free box if you haven’t already) to make the bread more interesting.

 

Mixing up the dough looked like this. I took a picture of before the rise and after the rise and basically they looked the same, except slightly larger and bubblier. This is not Nigella-style food porn.

 

Not very exciting to look at, I know. And despite using a quarter of a recipe meant for 4 loaves, it doesn’t look like a whole loaf worth.

 

This stuff is very sticky.

After being in the oven it looks a lot prettier, and very artisan or rustic or whatever other words we like to use to excuse food from being neat and tidy.

It didn’t get any bigger during cooking (should it? I have no idea) so this is about the size of two large rolls. It’s dense and chewy but not hard. I’d recommend it more for dipping in soup than eating alone. Someone may have used the phrase “dwarf bread”…

I’d call this a success, or more of a success than my previous attempts at bread, and I’d definitely try it again. Having no airing cupboard does make getting bread to rise a bit tricky – I put the heating on and put the dough near it but it ma have needed more warmth and/or more time.