Friday, September 7, 2012

Pistachio Cake Revisited



   Let me push your memory for just a moment. You may remember around a year ago I made a Pistachio Cake for my best friend Natalie? Well a year on, she's still such a good friend and still finds herself on the receiving end of the baked goods that come from my oven.  One of her favourite cakes that I make is this Pistachio Cake.  I never tasted it myself, but this time decided to. And wow, was I blown away. I am not crazy about pistachios normally but in baking these little nuts make such a wonderful addition.  The saltiness of the nuts along the sweet icing, paired with the perfect texture of the cake is pretty darn addictive.  The sides of the cake have an ever so slight crispiness where as the interior is moister with a lovely nutty crumb.  I am so glad I revisited this recipe and tried it myself this time around. Just a note, don't make the mistake of covering the cake in green icing like I did last time (you can witness it by clicking here) and definitely don't make the mistake of bypassing this recipe altogether!


Ingredients for Cake
70g shelled pistachios, salty is fine
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
170g caster sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
110g self-raising flour

Ingredients for Icing
1 egg white
150g icing sugar, sifted
3/4 tsp lemon juice
extra ground pistachios, salty preferred

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and grease and line one round cake tin. Finely grind the pistachio nuts in a food processor, then set aside. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the ground pistachios, then sift the flour on the top and fold in. Spoon the cake batter into the tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Test with a skewer to check. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. To make the icing, gradually whisk the icing sugar into the egg white until thick and glossy. Then beat in the lemon juice. Pour icing over cooled cake. Top with ground pistachios, salty ones preferred to get that wonderful sweet and salty contrast.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

2 Versions of Portuguese Egg Tarts


Portuguese egg custard tarts are definitely one of my most favourite pleasures.  I love them best when they are snatched quickly from the hot oven, allowing the crispy pastry to flake away and the warm custard to wobble onto your all to happy palette.  I've had many egg custard tarts, but only in an Asian setting such as Yum Cha oh and all through China with relatives!  So I thought it is due time that I tried making these myself.  Fortunately, they are really quick to make, as evidenced by the fact that these recipes come from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals cookbook.  From his recipe, I made two versions; both I share with you here.  Firstly, the classic version; and perhaps my favourite.  Secondly, as suggested by Jamie the egg tart with an orange twist and delicious orange sauce to accompany.

Ingredients for Classic Portuguese Egg Tart, makes 12
2 sheets of 20cmx20cm puff pastry, defrosted
125g creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tbsp caster sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 200/400F.  Grease generously with spray oil a 12 cup cupcake tray.  Place your 2 sheets of pastry on the bench and using any glass or even tea cup, mark 12 circles onto your pastry by pushing the top of the glass (where you put your lips) into the pastry.  Use a knife to help you cut these circles out and gently push them into the 12 holes of your cupcake tray.  You ideally want the pastry to be flat on the floor of the tin and coming up the side of the hole.  Put the pastry filled tray in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden (top shelf).  Meanwhile, spoon the creme fraiche into a small bowl.  Add the egg, vanilla and sugar; mix well with a whisk or spoon until smooth.  Take the cupcake tray out of the oven and use a teaspoon to press the puffed up pastry back to the sides of the tin to make room for the filling.  Now spoon the creme fraiche into the tart cases and return to the oven (top shelf) for 8 minutes. Tarts should be slightly wobbly when done.



Ingredients for Orange Twist Portuguese Egg Tarts
2 sheets of 20cmx20cm puff pastry, defrosted
cinnamon
125g creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
5tbsp caster sugar
1 orange

Method
Preheat the oven to 200/400F.  Grease generously with spray oil a 12 cup cupcake tray.  Place your 2 sheets of pastry on the bench and using any glass or even tea cup, mark 12 circles onto your pastry by pushing the top of the glass (where you put your lips) into the pastry.  Use a knife to help you cut these circles out and gently push them into the 12 holes of your cupcake tray.  You ideally want the pastry to be flat on the floor of the tin and coming up the side of the hole.  Sprinkle some cinnamon over the pastry before putting the pastry filled tray in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden (top shelf).  Meanwhile, spoon the creme fraiche into a small bowl.  Add the egg, vanilla, zest of orange and just 1 tbsp sugar; mix well with a whisk or spoon until smooth.  Take the cupcake tray out of the oven and use a teaspoon to press the puffed up pastry back to the sides of the tin to make room for the filling.  Now spoon the creme fraiche into the tart cases and return to the oven (top shelf) for 8 minutes. Tarts should be slightly wobbly when done.  This version also has a sauce accompaniment.  To make the sauce, in a saucepan put 4 tbsp sugar and the juice of 1 orange.  Turn heat to high.  Keep a good eye on it, stirring ocassionally, but remember caramel can burn badly so don't touch or taste.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ultimate Carrot Cake



Finally, finally I have found my favourite carrot cake recipe.  I declare it now my 'go to' carrot cake recipe.. and when I do go to it I know it will provide great satisfaction! I am totally satisfied with the balance of this cake; it is utter perfection whether you're considering the sweetness, texture, or spice.  Seriously, after this cake has been in the fridge for a day the texture is wonderfully perfect; moist yet not heavily so.  I mostly use this cake for special occassions such as mothers day, birthdays, family visits.  You see, this recipe makes quite a large cake that really rises well so you can imagine how majestic it looks once it is topped with flaked almonds, or the slightly less dressy version involves a simple sprinkling of shredded coconut as pictured here.  The combination of looks and taste will definitely earn a smile from your guests or family. That's why I decided to share it with you today, just in time for father's day on Sunday!

Ingredients (Recipe by Anna and Fanny Bergenstrom)
100g walnuts
2-3 carrots
200ml sunflower oil or vegetable oil
250g caster sugar, ideally half brown and half caster
1/2 tsp salt
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
200g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
(feel free to add sultanas, it works well too but it was not included in the original recipe)

Ingredients for Icing
400g cream cheese, at room temperature
100g sifted icing sugar
3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
flaked almonds for garnish, or shredded coconut

Method
Line a round springform tin with nonstick baking paper. Lightly grease with spray oil.  Heat oven to 175/345F.  Rougly chop walnuts and peel and grate carrots.  Combine the oil, sugar, optional vanilla and salt in a bowl and then stir in one egg at a time.  Add the walnuts and carrots.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and bicarb soda.  Fold this into the carrot mixture and pour into tin.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until cooked through.  Leave to cool in tin  before turning out onto a wire rack.  Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese with icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl to make the icing.  Beat together these ingredients until smooth.  Add more icing sugar if desired.  Spread generously over cake and top with flaked almonds or shredded coconut.  Serve on a tall cake stand, placing in the middle of your table for a truly inviting look.


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