Yet Moar Figs

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This is what happens when you have a fig tree and don’t mind fig jam but don’t love it either. You decide not to let the blasted birds, bats and rats have more than their fair share so you pick them which means you have to cook them or eat them. I cooked this batch.

This was actually the second time I made this cake; the first time I took it camping and didn’t manage to finish it because it got hot the second day and it didn’t fit in the camping fridge. THE WOES.

My cake is a fig variation on a plum cake from Stephanie Alexander’s plum cake recipe. I figured figs were a lot like plums, so what could go wrong? You make a batter – top it with almond meal – put the figs on top – then pour over a butter, sugar, cinnamon and egg concoction that’s been cooling since you made it before the batter DIDN’T YOU.

I imagine it’s wonderful with plums but it’s also spectacular with figs. In this case, even if you only have one egg not two for the topping. IMG_0915.JPG

Figs

I have a fig tree. I got it pruned this year. I have figs.

IMG_0910.JPGThese are the ripe figs that I didn’t cook with.

I like figs. I have had figs with salad; I have dehydrated them. When I had quite a few today, I thought to make a cake. (I have no prosciutto in the house.) But… zero fig cake recipes in any of my cook books. How is that even possible?

Happily, the NY Times came through. I didn’t have almond so I just used almond meal – I think I used a bit too much actually, or possibly overmixed (although it’s with melted butter so is that even possible?) – because the mixture was a tad too dry. Anyway it tasted pretty fine. I could probably have put more figs on though. IMG_0046.JPG

Guest post!

UnknownPreviously, on BakeClass

This post is brought to you today by my sister. She’s craftier than me – she even has an Etsy shop , how cool is that – and image4as she’s gluten intolerant she was very interested in the flourless recipes in BakeClass… like this hazelnut chocolate one.

image5I have a bad habit of not following recipes, including when baking. For some reason I seem to think I know better than the recipe writer. The good thing about gluten free baking is there seems to be more leeway for minor adjustments than non-GF. But for once, I actually did what I was told. The only change I made was using rum instead of brandy – I thought I had enough, but sadly not. All measures were by weight, I find it to be a more accurate option.

My only real quandary came when I had melted the image2chocolate – do I leave it to cool for a few minutes while I whip the egg whites or do I risk scrambled yolks? I went with the former. It worked perfectly.

image1My oven can be a bit temperamental, so I only cooked it for 40 minutes and it came out perfectly.

It’s rich and delicious; a small piece is enough to satisfy even this chocolate fiend. It’s an easy recipe to follow and I’ll be making this again in future.

image3I can only presume that this last picture was taken before she licked the bowl. The spoon used to belong to our mother; I know this because when I properly moved out of home I managed to wheedle one out of her myself, and at that very moment my sister basically wrote her name on another one to make sure it didn’t end up… somewhere else. I don’t know where else, since our brother was unlikely to want it, but there was no way she was letting it go.

 

 

BakeClass: Rhubarb Cake

This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

Unknown.jpegAnneka Manning promises that I will “learn to bake brilliantly, step by step,” so that’s a rather exciting thought. I’ve been baking for years, but I am always interested in new recipes, and of course there are some things that just elude me (darn you sponge cake). So: lessons AND recipes!

Firstly: it’s a lovely looking book, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I appreciate that in a recipe book. It’s hefty (275-odd pages) at nearly A4 size, so I’m mighty glad I have a cookbook stand. The pages themselves are well laid out; mot recipes have a picture (which, I’m not completely a must-have-pictures girl, but it definitely adds something to the look of it), and the recipes are clearly laid out and so far, easy to follow. There are some ‘Baker’s tips’ on a few pages some of which seem obvious, others – well, I’ve made a few springform tin cakes, and it had never occurred to me to put the baking paper OVER the base and THEN clamp the sides in. I think this is a case of ‘dumb smart person’. So if nothing else I’ve learned that. IMG_0888.JPG

The first thing I’ve made is the Rhubarb Sour Cream Crumble Cake, which is in the ‘measure and beat’ section. Again, didn’t think I’d learn anything here, but um, I think I usually put the dry ingredients in before the wet but not consciously… so that’s an excellent pointer. And I’ve started picking up on the idea of room-temperature eggs, so this was yet another reminder about that. Guess I have to plan my baking a bit further in advance than I have tended in the past.

IMG_0889.JPGI made this because a friend gave me a pile of rhubarb sticks (whoo!), and we had people coming over for dinner. The cake batter itself turned out beautifully and I am once again glad I have a stand mixer, because it makes multitasking a reality. For some reason my crumble did not crumble, but turned into dough – perhaps too little flour? the butter was straight from the fridge but it was a fairly warm day, so that may have been a problem. At any rater I have dotted it over the top and spread it out a bit; it cooked fine and tasted perfectly nice.

Verdict in the end was very positive. We ended up with a bit left over but I think that was because our guests were being too polite to have extras.

 

Adventures with Herman

Some time ago a friend gave me a portion of Herman the German Friendship Cake, which someone slightly older than us said used to be Amish cake (I think) ‘back in her day’.

That ‘some time’ is probably about two years ago.

I followed the instructions and had a bit of fun with it, but I didn’t have many friends to give portions to. So after the specified 10 days I had some portions left. The site officially says that you shouldn’t refrigerate Herman, but sneaky sneaky it won’t be the end of the world if you do. So I’ve been experimenting, and have had two portions of Herman in the frig for a little while.

‘Experimenting’ here might be code for ‘kinda forgot they were there and occasionally got guilty about them taking up space in the frig but didn’t feel like baking with them’.

‘A little while’ may be code for… over a year now.

ANYWAY, I decided to pull out a portion last week and see how it was doing. Answer: fine, actually. Didn’t smell bad, didn’t look crusty; after being out for a couple of days and being fed, developed bubbles and continued to smell appropriately yeasty. And therefore I now have Herman to be baking with.

Adventure #1: standard cake. Well, the website’s standard cake involves apple and cinnamon, which – yes, yum, but I made changes. I have an enormous jar of Cherry Velvet from crazy-JAM-maker Kate (cherries, rose water, vanilla beans), which is a quite thick. So I got a few scoops of that, chopped it a bit to reduce the cherry halves, warmed it a bit so it would stir better, and beat it into the batter… et voila:IMG_0878.JPG

#2 portion went to the friend who came over for dinner and precipitated the necessity of cake-making.

#3: crumpets. Last time I made crumpets it was a somewhat protracted affair. This time, however, I started them the night as a friend had suggested. I used the same basic recipe but combined it with one of the bread recipes from the Herman site – so flour and water and milk and Herman and a dash of oil. Left overnight, added baking powder and more water in the morning, left it another while… and then

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Damn fine looking crumpets. The mixture didn’t rise as much as I had anticipated so I was worried, but these were very nice, they rose while cooking, and were just a bit denser than store-bought ones. Served with Kate’s jam, as always.

#4: more Cherry Velvet cake, because why not? Slightly larger portion so I divided it into two pans; neither is as big as the one above, but that’s fine. They’re now in the freezer.

All made while wearing a Star Wars apron.

Lamingtons

Step 1: make a sponge cake the day before.

I decided to go with Stephanie Alexander’s Genoese sponge, because it looked straightforward and it’s the one she recommends for making lamingtons with. (Dear autocorrect: I really do mean lamington. NOT lamination, nor leamington.)

Problem 1: the recipe just said ‘electric mixer’ for the egg and sugar, so I just used the K blade… wondering the whole time whether it should be the whisk. After 10 minutes, yes it should be the whisk.

OK, done. Add the flour…

Problem 2: I think I stirred it too much. But I kept finding these flour swirls! So I had to get rid of them, right?

Into the oven. Check after 15 minutes. Not quite done. Couple more minutes – out it comes. Turn it out a few minutes later, onto a towel, so it doesn’t stick to the rack (as suggested).

Problem 3: an hour or so later, I turned the cake back over to cover it properly for the night. And discovered that the top of the cake was left on the towel because the cake was not cooked properly. Like, still soggy in the middle. How was that even possible? The poker came out clean!

Back into the oven. For maybe another 20 minutes? perhaps a bit less. This is weird.

Step 2: the next day, cut up the cake and cover it with chocolate and coconut. Happily, this bit didn’t go too badly. Made a lovely mess. But the cake is nowhere near as sponge-a-riffic as I would have hoped.

Possible problems: 1. I used the wrong sized cake tin (20cm not 24cm; is that going to prevent it from rising?); 2. Too much stirring; 3. Too much cooking; 4. I am not a sponge-maker.

Still they taste all right. And I shall not give up.

I SHALL attempt sponge again.IMG_0867.JPG

Sweetfest

Today I went to Sweetfest and… it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I think that’s mostly my fault; I’ve been to two craft shows this year and for some reason I thought this was going to be like that. I knew there was only going to be 20 or so exhibitors but I didn’t recognise any of the names, really, so I thought there would be a mixture of maybe cafes/food places and places selling useful gear, that sort of thing. But… no. That link earlier takes you to a page listing what each place will be selling; I’m quite sure it didn’t have that info when I bought my ticket. Because it turned out they were all cafes and patisseries, just selling food. So it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had realised there would be a lot of food and had therefore anticipated eating there; I ended up having a chocolate and cashew scroll, which was ok but not awesome, and then gelato: nutella, which was great, and raspberry and rosemary which is an awesome theory but I couldn’t taste the rosemary. It was interesting walking around looking at the pastries etc and I wish I’d been game enough to try one of Naughty Boy’s amazing shakes.

However, I was also going for the sessions, so it wasn’t a total loss. I hadn’t expected to pay attention to Katherine Sabbath’s cake icing demonstration but I was there early and a bit bored by the stalls, so I sat and watched her create this incredible tall cake – two cakes, sliced, turned into about an eight-tier monstrosity with three different coloured icings inside and ‘water-colour’ frosting on the outside (the three different colours basically smudged together). She was a very good presenter – when she said she’d been a teacher for four years, it totally made sense – and it was intriguing that she’s got famous courtesy of Instagram. I don’t get Instagram. But the cake: she was alternating chocolate mud and some sort of vanilla cake, and the frosting was pink, mustard, and violet, and it was Martha Stewart’s swiss meringue buttercream, flavoured with salted caramel. Katherine answered some questions, and she did so very well and in such a way that either she’s a very genuine and exceptionally gifted public speaker or she’s learnt very fast: no “it must be Valhrona couverture chocolate” stuff, it was ‘use what you can afford’ which I appreciated. It was fascinating watching her work – smoothing at the end with her Gyprock concrete scraper! – and it was very much a show.

Secondly, and the reason I went on the Saturday, was Philippa Sibley, apparently the Queen of Desserts although I’d not heard of her before. By comparison with Katherine she came off as almost impatient; she was efficient, a bit abrupt, precise. She did not waffle. I loved her style a lot. I was a bit sad that she didn’t go into a lot of detail about how to make the pastry – I think she was pushed for time because Katherine went way over – but her tips about pushing the pastry into the very edges of the tin, alfoil right into the edges and avoiding any creases at all, and having the overhang of pastry were deeply awesome and made me inspired to try out making tarts. Which was indeed the whole point of going to see the session. I didn’t buy her book at the time but I would consider it in future…. Sibley did not put on a show. She was doing a demonstration.

Overall I think this was a really good idea for a food festival. There needed to be more chairs for the demonstrations (they said on the programming that there was limited seating). I would go again next year with a friend, as long as the presenters sounded interesting.

Mini cakes

This isn’t an original idea by any means, but I love the idea of mini cakes.

Sometimes I just want to bake… but we can’t eat an entire cake at home. Well, we could, but it wouldn’t be a great idea. I do take cake to work, and that’s always welcome, but I don’t always want to! So when a friend of mine mentionedphoto that she was making a cake and putting the batter into small tins – well. Perfect.

photoI have these tins because for my darling’s 30th birthday, he wanted the train cake from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book. Instead of cutting up a cake to make the carriages, I divided the batter between these and turned each one into a carriage. A carriage for each person who came to the party (it wasn’t that big a party, but still…). There was a lot of icing. Anyway, now I have the tins! So when I felt like making a carrot cake (with walnuts…), into the tins the batter went and la! Delightful. And then into the freezer they went, so that I have cake for the future.