Lockdown, chilly weather & school holidays - if that's not the holy trinity of reasons to eat ones feelings, I don't know what is.
We thought that what was needed was a quick to whip up cake. A stir and bake affair. One that doesn't use 4 eggs and lots of milk which would lead to an unnecessary run to the shops. Something like...a simple, delicious tea cake. But then I thought, let's elevate it with a cunning but very easy trick: using browned butter, aka buerre noisette.
Browning butter lifts any cake or biscuit to a higher, intangible level. The caramel undertones and richness give baked goods an incredible depth of flavour.
Of course, feel free to use regular butter in the same quantity if you want an extra 15 minutes in front of Netflix, but I promise you this: if you go to that little extra trouble of browning the butter, you will be rewarded tenfold.
I love the outside crust of this cake most of all, and for that reason I tend to use a slightly larger than recommended cake tin. The result is a larger, albeit flatter cake, with all that gorgeous surface area to smother in the sugar butter glaze. If you want a regular, plumper cake, use a 20cm tin, or a loaf pan.
75 grams unsalted butter, cut into small, even sized cubes.
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup self-raising flour (Or 1 cup plain cake flour plus 2 tsp baking powder) *
1/3 cup cup milk
Sugar Butter Topping
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
Brown the butter: Place the pieces of butter in a small pan, on medium heat. Stir the butter with a wooden spoon as it melts. Over the next 5 to 10 minutes, stir occasionally and watch carefully - it will start to sizzle, and foam will appear on the surface. The butter will turn a deeper golden, and the milk solids will sink to the bottom and start to turn brown. The aroma will be heavenly - a rich, nutty butterscotch smell.
That's when you know it's time to turn off the heat and pour that gorgeous brown butter into a small bowl to stop it cooking further: there's only a few seconds difference between brown and burnt butter!
Pop the brown butter in the fridge to cool for about 30 mins. Butter needs to be soft, not melted, for the creaming stage coming up next.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
Cream the brown butter, sugar, egg and vanilla (use a fork or whisk, or electric beaters) until light coloured and creamy. Stir in sifted flour and milk, beat lightly until smooth.
Spread mixture into well-greased 20cm tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the butter topping. Melt the butter, then mix in with sugar (and cinnamon if using).
Once you take the cake out of the oven, brush topping all over the top of the cake immediately then leave the cake for 5 mins in tin. Then remove the cake from the tin and pop it onto a wire rack.. Serve warm with butter.
*To make a Gluten Free version of this cake you can swap out the flour with either our plain gluten free flour mix or cassava flour with 2 tsp of baking powder added to make self raising flour.
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Add a pinch of dried lavender to the topping instead of cinnamon
Make a lemon tea cake by adding a tbsp lemon juice to the cake batter, and a tsp lemon juice to the topping.
Make extra brown butter, then keep it in the freezer for the next time you bake - it's wonderful in cakes, biscuits and puddings! And it's also delicious melted through pasta, with some fried sage leaves and parmesan.
I recently had a hankering for polenta chips, and was disappointed to find I was out of polenta. I did, however, have a lot of dried legumes, so I consulted Google to see what recipes I could find to scratch my itch. I quickly stumbled upon countless recipes for fries made from all kinds of ground, dried beans. The ones that caught my eye were the recipes for chickpea fries, because they were repeatedly described as having the delicious, creamy inside texture of a polenta chip, whilst the outside was crunchy perfection.
Inspired by my recipe hunt, I made a batch, using dried chickpeas that I milled into flour. I think I have tinnitus as a result, so I created a simplified, quieter version, using besan flour.
The end result was chip perfection. Crunchy, hot, salty snack heaven!
Serves 4 as a snack
(Note: The mixture needs some time to set in the fridge before you cut it into batons. An hour is fine, or even up to 3 days.)
4 cups water
2 cups chickpea (besan) flour
2 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder
1 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra to cook
1-2 tsps za'atar
Dip of choice (optional)
PART 1 - PREPARE THE MIXTURE
Grease a baking pan and put it aside.
Bring the water to the boil in a pot or large saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually add the flour and whisk it into the water. Then whisk in stock, salt and pepper.
Continue whisking for approx 8 minutes, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Stir in the olive oil. (Don't worry if there are a couple of lumps, it won't affect the final result at all.)
Pour the chickpea mixture into the greased baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Once it has cooled slightly, cover it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE FRIES
Pre-heat your oven to 210°C (190°C fan forced). Line a large baking tray with baking paper or silicon baking sheet.
Slice the now firm mixture into batons, about the size of a thick potato chip.
Line them up on the baking sheet, and brush generously with olive oil.
Bake for 10 minutes*, then turn to the other side, brush again, and replace in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. They should be golden and crunchy.
Remove from the oven, salt generously and sprinkle za'atar over them. Serve with greek yoghurt, tahini, hummus or the dip of your choice.
*For an even crunchier chickpea fry experience, try shallow frying instead of baking. They take about 5-7 minutes over a medium heat - remember to turn them halfway through.
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Add some spices or herbs to the mixture, at the same step that you add the stock and seasoning to the mixture while it's simmering. For instance, a tablespoon of fresh herbs like finely chopped rosemary, oregano or parsley. Or a teaspoon of dried herbs. A teaspoon of dried spice blends like baharat or za'atar works beautifully.
Glorious to look at, with a taste to match, this Pecan Streusel Cake is deceptively easy to get right! A streusel is simply a mix of flour, butter and sugar plus added nuts and spices layered throughout the cake and on top. So you’ll end up with a gorgeous layer cake that will get everyone's mouth watering.
In this recipe, pecans, subtle spices and that gorgeous, buttery streusel topping are perfect for that autumnal afternoon tea.
So get ready to impress. Pop on the kettle and polish the cake forks!
For the Streusel:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 cup raw pecans
For the Cake:
170g butter, cubed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups full fat greek yoghurt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 level tablespoon (15g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
FOR THE STREUSEL:
Place flour, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds to combine.
Add in pecans and cubed butter and pulse carefully until pecans and butter are in pebble-like pieces. Set aside.
FOR THE CAKE:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a large bundt pan well.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. add butter and 1/2 cup of the yogurt and beat until ingredients resemble a grainy, wet sand.
In a separate mixing bowl, add eggs and whisk until beaten. Add in remaining yogurt and vanilla extract and beat for 30-45 more seconds or until combined.
Add wet to dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined.
Basically we are layering streusel and cake batter, so when the cake is cut you get a beautiful ribbon of streusel through it.
Sprinkle some streusel mix into the bottom of the cake tin. Spoon ⅓ of the batter into the bundt pan using a spatula to smooth it out and top with half of the remaining streusel.
Place another ⅓ of the batter on top of the streusel, then final portion of streusel, then the last of the cake batter. Press it gently down into the batter to ensure the strudel mixture at the bottom sticks when cooking.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes then turn out of the bundt pan and allow to cool fully (about 2 hours, sorry!) before slicing.
I always use salted butter in my cakes but feel free to use unsalted. If you do, you might want to add ¼ tsp salt to both the cake batter and streusel mix.
If the amounts of baking powder and bicarb soda seem a lot, just go with it. We want this cake to reach as high as Dolly Parton's hair.
No bundt tin? A round pan or loaf tin will be fine, just adjust baking times. A bundt takes longer to bake than a loaf tin by about 15 mins. Best plan of attack is to check with a skewer at the 35 minute mark.
With this version I added a simple glaze and some reserved chopped pecans. It’s a lovely addition to this cake if you want to up the decadence. Just remember to reserve a tablespoon of the pecans (chop these separately) for scattering over the glaze afterwards. To make a quick glaze: whisk together 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 tbsp of water and then pour or spoon over the cake, after you turn it out and it's still a little warm. Scatter over the chopped pecans and admire.
If the thought of homemade bread makes you think of effort, time, just too much hassle, I'm here to change your mind. This focaccia recipe requires NO KNEADING and MINIMAL BABYSITTING! You combine the ingredients in a bowl, pop the bowl in the fridge overnight, pour into a baking tray and bake the next day.
Focaccia is perfect for a bits n’ pieces supper, a ploughman's style lunch, a quick breakfast, the lunch box, or a host gift next time you're invited to someone's place for a meal. We like using it as a pizza base at our place.
Let's do this!
2 cups heritage flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tsp soft butter for greasing pan
3 tbs olive oil
Italian herbs or dried rosemary
Sea salt flakes
Combine flour, kosher salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl, stir to combine. Add warm water, whisking it in as you go, til it's mixed well. (A wooden spoon will suffice if no whisk handy). Cover the bowl well and pop it in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours, maximum 24.
Butter a 22cm cake tin or brownie pan. The shape doesn't matter. Line the pan with baking paper then pour in 2 tbsp olive oil into the pan. Put dough in a pan, turning it over so it's coated in oil. Tuck the dough edges in so it's a roughly shaped ball in the pan.
The 2nd rise: cover the pan and leave it to rest for about 2 hours. A warm place is good - sometimes I pop my dough in the car to give it a little nudge. When the dough has swollen to cover most of the pan, it's ready for the oven!
Baking: drizzle the remaining tbs of olive oil over the risen dough. Now the fun part: press down on the dough with both hands so all your fingers make deep dents in the surface. Sprinkle top with Italian herbs or Rosemary and flaky sea salt.
Bake at 200°c (180°c fan forced) on the centre oven rack for 25 mins approx. Check it at the 20 min mark. If it's nicely golden and the sides are crispy its ready.
Use a spatula to transfer carefully to a cooling rack
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