Sunday, 26 August 2012

No-Scales Easy Chocolate And Banana Cake

Leftover bananas.  There are always some, at least one little black bastard sitting there getting smelly and ripening all your other fruit.  What to do with them?  My mother used to make milkshakes with vanilla icecream; the mother-out-law makes smoothies (which I can't stand); I make cake.  I do have a 'banana bread' recipe somewhere, but this stodgy wonder is a good'un for pudding.  It's also mostly banana, which is kind of the point.

I usually despise Americans for measuring things by volume, but in this case it's just too easy.

Easy Banana and Chocolate Cake

You Will Need: Chopping board and knife; dessertspoon; large bowl; wooden spoon; small bowl; fork; 8 inch circular tin
3 bananas
1/2 bar dark chocolate
large handful walnuts
1 egg
4 dessertspoonfuls walnut/groundnut/vegetable oil
3 rounded dessertspoonfuls brown sugar
3 heaped dessertspoonfuls self-raising flour

1) Preheat the oven and grease the tin.  Chop the bananas, chocolate and walnuts into small chunks, and mix in the large bowl.
2) Add the sugar.  Beat the egg and add to the bowl; add the oil.  Mix well until gloopy.
3) Heap out desserspoonfuls of flour one at a time, mixing as you go.  Add a little more if the mix looks too runny; you should be able to pull a clean track through the mix with your spoon and it should look pretty sticky.
4) Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the top is golden brown.  Look out for skewering choccy chunks as they will give a false negative.  Cool, turn out and cool some more.

5) Om nom nom!

Monday, 13 August 2012

White Chocolate Nectarine Cake

I don't usually make cakes like this.  I usually despair of the faff of multiple-stage, gooey, sugar-heating concoctions with complicated fillings.  They go against all my principles.  They are (I believe) really no tastier than simple ones.  And yet, when a friend approached me with this recipe, and I said 'i'm not making this, see above also I hate mango,' she was able to persuade me to do an Elisabeth-friendly version.  It uses proper British measures by weight (not those blasted 'cups'), nectarines (one of my favourite fruits) and white chocolate.  It went down a storm at the girly baking day yesterday, and I'm already thinking up ways to improve it and riff on it to use as a birthday cake in a few weeks' time. You will notice that much of the equipment for this cake overlaps in the different stages, so don't be afraid to wash up as you go along.

Stupidly Complex Squidgy Ginger, White Chocolate And Nectarine Toffee Cake

Nectarine Curd
You Will Need: sharp knife, chopping board, small saucepan, blender, sieve, cup, two small bowls, wooden spoon
11oz ripe nectarines, stoned (about three; also you will need one or so for decorating later)
2 egg yolks
6 oz sugar
2 oz butter
1) De-stone the nectarines by cutting all the way around them and twisting gently on each half.  Chop them into small pieces.  Put them in the saucepan with a splash of water, and simmer until disintegrating.  Blend the mixture to a smooth puree, and keep aside in a small bowl or the blender compartment.
2) In a clean saucepan, heat a little water and set another small bowl above it.  Melt the butter in the bowl.  Separate each egg with the whites going into a cup and the yolks into the butter.  Add the sugar to the butter and eggs, and mix well over a gentle heat.  Add the puree.
3) Cook for about half an hour or until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.  If too runny, add another egg yolk.  Strain the mixture through the sieve, forcing it through with the spoon, into a bowl.  Discard any fruity bits which can't go through the sieve, and set the curd in the fridge to cool fully.

You Will Need: Tin 23cm across, baking paper, scissors, scales, large bowl, wooden spoon, small bowl, strong whisk, spatula, skewer, cooling rack, two plates, breadknife
3 eggs
8oz butter (Kerry Gold)
6oz sugar
8oz self raising flour
4tsp ground ginger
1) Preheat the oven to 180degrees C.  Line and grease the tin.
2) In the large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Separate the eggs, with the yolks going into the big bowl and the whites a small one.  Mix in the egg yolks; add the flour and ginger a little at a time.
3) Whisk the eggwhites to soft peaks in the small bowl, and carefully fold them into the cake mix until it is runny enough to use the whisk.  Whisk the mixture together, and pour into the tin.  Smooth down the surface of the mixture, leaving a dent in the middle to encourage a flat cake.
4) Bake approximately 45 minutes, or to clean-skewer.  Remove when done to a cooling rack, and turn out.
5) Leave to cool for a good while.  Turn right-side up and trim off the domed top of the cake.  Eat this later.  Put the remaining cake on a plate; carefully saw through it to make two layers with the  breadknife and shuffle the top half onto the second plate.  Leave to cool completely (I had to set a 15-minute timer and use peer pressure to stop me fiddling with it.)

Candied nectarines
You Will Need: sharp knife, chopping board, small pan, tray, greaseproof paper, small plate, wooden skewers, wooden spoon, kettle
1 1/2 nectarines
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons chunky brown sugar
1) Slice the nectarines.  Line the tray with greaseproof paper.
2) Heat the caster sugar in a clean, dry, small saucepan until melted and golden-brown.  Meanwhile put the chunky-grained brown sugar on the small plate.
3) Coat each slice in toffee, then turn it out first into the chunky sugar, and then onto the tray.  Leave to cool.
4) Boil the kettle and pour into the toffee pan to get the crusted sugar off easily.  Then wash up as normal.

You Will Need: chopping board; sharp knife; bowl; small pan; measuring jug, spoon
400g white chocolate
200ml cream
1) Measure out 200ml of cream, and heat it very gently in the pan without boiling it.
2) Chop the white chocolate into very small pieces, and put in a bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir gently until the ganache is smooth.  If the cream cools too quickly to get rid of all the lumps, heat the ganache over a pan of hot water on the hob, stirring all the time until smooth.

You Will Need: Small plastic sandwich bag, scissors, spoon, knife, cake components
1) Gather everything you need.  Spread the sandwich bag securely open, and spoon some of the white chocolate ganache into it.  Squeeze all of the mixture into one corner of the bag, and cut a little corner off with the scissors.  Pipe a wide spiral of ganache all around the lower half of the cake.

2) Fill the gaps around the spiral with the nectarine curd.  Any left over will keep in a jar in the fridge for 3 weeks.
3) Lift the top cake onto the bottom cake.  Spread the remaining ganache over the cake, letting it drip down the sides.  Decorate with the candy slices.  (n.b. version pictured used half as much ganache, but I doubled it in the blog recipe so that your crusts would be covered.)

4) Eat, eat, enjoy!

Monday, 6 August 2012

How To Make Cake And Influence People

Stock photo women networking
Any of my friends networking
Nothing brings people together quite like food.  It's a common theme in recipe books, cookery shows, anthropological documentaries (you know, the ones where they get the Oxford-educated young grey-haired lad in practical khakis to drink blood straight out of the cow and have a Revealing Meaningful Experience Of Tribal Life).  And no food, to my mind, brings women together quite so well as cake.

Eating  tons of cake at a sitting nowadays is so fraught with taboos and so frowned upon by Society (as handed down to us in the glossies) that it is akin to visiting a fetish club.  Both of these activities make for excellent female bonding rituals for exactly this reason.  Much like going on a hunt, or competing in a stupidly dangerous sport, cake-eating and getting naked in public form a common pool of perilous experience which draws people together in a throb of adrenaline and oxycytocin.  We shouldn't,  we think.  It's so dangerous for my waistline/social standing/skeletal integrity.  But it looks so GOOD.  And, 'I'll just have a slither,' we say. 'Ooh, just a slither.'

Once consumed, the remains of a gigantic cake act as a further injunction to its destroyers to keep together.  We can't tell anyone else that we did this.  We'll look greedy and silly.  But we all know how tasty it was, our own reasons for doing it.  So we forgive each other, and get a bit closer... and set a date to do it again...

I could be wrong.  I could be over-egging the pop-psychology pudding (although I don't think it is physically possible to over-egg any pudding).  All the same, when I get the Girls round for a massive baking session on Sunday, I know we'll come out of it closer - not because we spent time together sitting in my kitchen and drinking wine, although that helps.  No, it's the food.