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.
PIMP MY RECIPE:
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.
PIMP MY RECIPE
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.
For all my swagger and confidence in the kitchen, I'm not nearly so sure of myself when it comes to gluten free baking. So I decided to tackle it head on and create a sweet treat that would prove that anyone can show gluten free baking who's boss. I realised I would need 2 things to help me:
Firstly, I needed my starting point to be a phenomenal but simple recipe that's a classic crowd pleaser. Something I could tinker with and adapt to make gluten free.
It was hard to go past a classic brownie. And I'm lucky enough to have worked with an incredible pastry chef, Nina Wilson, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, way, way back in the 1990s. Nina was the hotel's head pastry chef, and I, as a wide eyed apprentice, got to train under the best. Nina's fudgy chocolate brownie recipe is famous in all the right circles.
Secondly, I needed advice from a seasoned master of gf baking. Luckily, I work with one here at Village Wholefoods HQ. Alex is a phenomenal baker of gf delights and is a reliable source of knowledge, inspiration and advice for our gf customers and staff alike.
From Alex I learned an invaluable tip - gluten free flours are thirstier, or more absorbent, than wheat flour, meaning the liquid ratio of a non gluten free recipe needs to be altered to accommodate the gf flour. With this in mind I eased off on the amount of flour called for in Nina's original recipe by about ¼, and I believe it was this nugget of wisdom that led to the most splendiferous, fudgey, perfect tray of brownies.
And here is the recipe!
Makes approx 12-16 brownies
1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture or dark and milk)
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup cocoa (I used alkalised for a more classic chocolate flavour. Raw is fine)
⅓ cup plain gluten free flour** (I used the ready-to-go gf flour blend we sell in store)
Prepare brownie or loaf tin with baking paper. Set the oven to 170°c (150°c fanforced)
Melt butter and chocolate together. I use the microwave, and do it in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Set aside to allow it to cool to close to room temperature.
Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla well, til it becomes pale, fluffy and velvety. This can take 5-10 mins but it's well worth it. Add cooled melted butter and chocolate, but don't overstir. Just combine.
Sift cocoa, flour and salt. Add to the rest of the mixture. Again, you just want to combine; don't stir vigorously.
Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for aprox 30 mins. It might need a few more minutes - when it stops wobbling in the middle it's ready. Leave in tin and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. These brownies are a bit more fragile when warm than ones made with wheat flour so it's a good idea to pop them in the fridge for an hour before cutting into squares to serve.
**to make a standard wheat version substitute the gluten free flour for ¼ cup plain cake flour
PIMP MY RECIPE:
Try adding different ingredients to change things up a bit. A handful of any of the following can be added at the final combining stage:
White choc chips
Fresh or freeze dried raspberries
A dollop of peanut butter
A small sprinkling of dried lavender
A shot of strong, cooled espresso
A tsp of wattleseed
In this recipe, falafel mix is used for crumbling. Quick, simple, delicious!
1/2 a Cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 tbsp Olive oil
1/4 cup dry falafel mix
1 tbsp hulled or unhulled tahini
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200°c.
Combine Cauliflower florets, oil and falafel mix in a mixing bowl mix until well coated, then spread out on a lined baking tray.
Roast for 25 mins or until cauliflower is tender and golden.
Meanwhile make the tahini dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Serve with the cauliflower.
This recipe sees falafel mix being used as a tart shell! It's truly scrumptious.
1 cup falafel mix
3/4 cup water
400g pumpkin, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons baharat spice mix, or just a mixture of ground cumin and coriander
1 tbsp hulled or unhulled tahini
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp Dukkah or crushed pistachios
Preheat the oven to 190°c.
Combine falafel mix and water in a bowl, leave for 30 mins. Press it into the bottom of a lightly greased tart dish. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 mins, remove and set aside.
Scatter diced pumpkin on a lined oven tray, drizzle the diced pumpkin with olive oil, balsamic, minced garlic, salt and the dried spices and scatter. Roast for 20 mins or until almost soft.
Spread the pumpkin over the pie base and return to the oven for 15-20 mins, or until the crust is golden and a bit crunchy.
Meanwhile make the tahini dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mixing well.
To serve, spoon over the dressing, and garnish with the fresh herbs and dukkah or pistachios.