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.
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
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.
There are many reasons to love shortbread, both the making and eating:
Shortbread is generally made with regular flour. Today, we're using kamut. The result is a rich, deep flavour that I think you'll love as much as we do.
You'll notice I include a bit of rice flour in the recipe. This helps give the shortbread light texture and perfect crumb. If you don't have rice flour on hand, just add an extra 50g kamut.
200g kamut flour
50g white rice flour
125g butter (or Nutalex)
70g caster sugar
1 tbsp lavender flowers
1 tbsp lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar until light and airy, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Don't go too crazy or it'll be a tough shortbread.
Press into the bottom of tart or cake tin - one with a removable base!.
Cut into slices with a knife then prick all over with a fork.
Pop in the fridge for 15 mins. Then turn your oven on to 170C (150C fan forced).
Bake on the centre rack of the oven for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 mins before carefully removing from the tin and sliding onto a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge; it'll keep for up to a week. Freezes really well for up to 3 months.
We have another no-bake goody for you; this one to add a bit of fanfare to lunchboxes and comfort to afternoon tea.
The humble chocolate crackle can be traced back to an advertisement in the Australian Women's Weekly, in 1937. The ad and accompanying recipe were created by the company behind COPHA, which is a solidified, hydrogenated coconut oil.
That's right - COPHA is coconut oil! All these years I thought it was some kind of chemical margarine-type creation.
But before you go running to the supermarket to stock up on COPHA, pay heed to an important word in its description: hydrogenated. Hydrogenated coconut oil helps keep the oil solid in warm temperatures but also increases the amount of trans fats, which is not good for us.
Our recipe uses untreated extra virgin coconut oil instead. The crackles still set and are transportable and don't have to be eaten with a spoon.
Makes 24 small or 12 regular
2 cups Crispy Rice Puffs
1/4 cup Rapadura Sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 cup Desiccated Coconut
1/4 cup Alkalised Cocoa Powder*
1/2 cup melted Coconut Oil
Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pour in the coconut oil. Stir gently to combine.
Place spoonfuls of mixture into mini baking cups and pop in the fridge. They'll take about 30 mins to set.
Chocolate crackles will keep in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3 days, or for up to 6 weeks in the freezer.
*alkalised cocoa powder and raw cacao powder are interchangeable in this recipe.