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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pear and Almond Cake

 


This is just another version of my frangipane cake* – a cake made with a frangipane base of butter, sugar, eggs and ground almonds. I love this cake and make it often – it’s a food processor cake and very simple.

I used pears as the fruit flavour. At the end of winter in Sydney pears are juicy and plentiful and create a really moist cake.

Ingredients
2 pears
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
100g – 125g ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
A handful of flaked almonds to scatter on top of the cake

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Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced.

Peel the pears and poach whole in a sugar syrup in a saucepan until they are just soft. The sugar syrup is enough water to cover the pears with 1/2 cup sugar.

Remove the pears from the syrup and cool. Discard the syrup or you could reduce and use as a sauce for the pears.

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well. Fold in ground almonds, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put mixture into a greased flan dish, or cake tin lined with baking paper.

Cut the pears into neat slices and place on top of the mixture. Scatter the flaked almonds on top.

Bake for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

Cool in the tin. You could serve direct from the flan dish if using, or turn out out carefully from the cake tin as I did.

*See also my Apricot Almond Cake, Frangipane Tart and  Cherry Frangipane Tart

 

Honeycomb

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Honeycomb is dead easy to make and much more delicious than the bought stuff. If you can use a cooking thermometer, and feel confident with adding bi-carbonate soda quickly to the mix, then home-made honeycomb is within your grasp.

It’s so versatile – use it to decorate cakes as I did on a couple of cakes I posted recently, make your own Violet Crumble Bars or just eat it on its own.

Ingredients

160g caster sugar
25g honey
62g  glucose
2 tsp bi-carbonate soda

Dark chocolate, melted, to decorate

Method
Combine sugar, honey, glucose and 60 mls water in a saucepan.  Cook till pale blonde  – 150 degrees C, using a cooking thermometer.
Remove from the heat, add bi-carbonate soda and beat vigorously for a few seconds.
Pour onto a tray lined with baking paper. When the honeycomb has hardened, break into different sized chunks, drizzle with melted dark chocolate or just leave unadorned.

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Jamie Oliver’s Marshmallows

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I love Jamie Oliver’s recent book Comfort Food http://www.jamieoliver.com/comfortfood/

It has some brilliant reworkings of classics as well as some innovative new recipes. One of my favorite cakes is Jamie’s Hummingbird Cake, which I have recreated in a previous post, see here.

I made Marvelous Marshmallows this weekend. They are really quite straight forward, but as Jamie notes, the recipe is precise so read it carefully first and follow the instructions exactly.

These delicate, pillowy marshmallows are fabulous to look at and even better to eat. I flavoured mine with rosewater, and coloured with rose pink food colour.

Beware – or like me, you’ll end up covered in icing sugar if you eat them without suitable covering!

PS Thank you to hens Maxine and Honey who provided the eggs for the recipe. You are the best!

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Here is Jamie’s recipe as is without tweaks.

Ingredients

50 g cornflour

50g icing sugar

50 g liquid glucose syrup) get it from the supermarket or a chemist)

450 g caster sugar

10 sheet gelatin

2 large free-range egg whites

2 vanilla pods

1 ½ tsp natural food colouring (optional)

Choose your flavour: rose water, orange blossom water, natural lemon extract, natural orange extract or natural peppermint extract

Method

This is a precise recipe, so make sure you read through the method carefully before you start, get all your ingredients weighed out and get your equipment ready to go. You’ll be working with hot sugar and syrups, so it’s best to keep your kids out of the kitchen until those marshmallows are cooling, ready to eat.

Sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a bowl. Finely sift half the mixture over a deep baking tray (20cm x 30 cm) and set the other half aside in the sieve until later.

Mix the liquid glucose syrup and caster sugar together in a pan over a low heat with 250 mL of cold water. Heat gently, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a clear syrup.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a small pan with 125 mL of water.

Once the sugar syrup is clear, turn up the heat, pop in a sugar thermometer and allow the syrup to boil vigorously (please don’t stir it). When it reaches 110ºC, place the gelatine pan over a medium heat and stir until dissolved.

Whisk the egg whites in a free-standing electric mixer until you have stiff peaks.

Once your syrup has reached 122ºC, very carefully and slowly pour it down the sides of the bowl of the moving mixer, then pour in the dissolved gelatine.

Halve the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds to the mixer bowl, then continue to whisk for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture has significantly increased in volume, but is thick and still pourable.

You can have a plain white vanilla marshmallow, or you can add any of the flavours listed, to taste (remembering to start small as you can always add more, but you can’t take it away!). Add any natural food colouring at the same time (if using) – I like to try to match the colour of the marshmallow to the flavour I’m using, whisking for a further 2 to 3 minutes to give you a nice even colour and flavour. Either way, pour the marshmallow mixture into your prepared tray, use a palette knife to smooth it out, then sift over the remaining mixed cornflour and icing sugar and leave somewhere cool for 2 to 3 hours, or until set and soft.

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Historical Brownies

IMG_8822Fannie Farmer’s brownies

I always read with interest and great enjoyment the posts of My Revolutionary Pie a fascinating look at American culinary history. I was particularly taken with a “Brownies” post, which detailed the origins and evolution of this now ubiquitous sweet treat.

Below are My Revolutionary Pie’s adaptations of one of the first brownie recipes from 1906 created by Fannie Farmer, in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and a recipe of a former student of Farmer, Maria Willett Howard, published in 1907 in Lowney’s Cook Book.

Both brownies are different from the dense, heavy versions of today. They both contain quite a small amount of chocolate – 2 ounces (about 57 grams). They are sweeter and less chocolatey. I liked the Lowney’s Cook Book version better  – it has more butter and produced a less crunchy texture. The walnuts really stand out in both versions.

However, the photos look very similar – I can really only tell the difference because I photographed them on different plates!

For the full and fascinating early history of the brownie, see the post:
http://revolutionarypie.com/2015/04/10/brownies/

Fannie Farmer’s Brownies
Adapted from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1906 edition)

¼ cup butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C) Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Blend melted butter with sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in slightly cooled chocolate and vanilla extract and stir well. Blend in flour, followed by walnuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly in baking pan, using an offset spatula if possible.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until firm. Let rest a few minutes, then invert brownies from pan onto cutting board, peel off parchment, and slice into squares.IMG_8834

Lowney’s Brownies
Adapted from Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Willett Howard (1912 edition)

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C). Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Cream the butter briefly, then gradually add the sugar, and cream well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the slightly cooled chocolate.

3. Whisk together the flour and salt, then add to the batter and mix well. Stir in the nuts.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm on top. Cut into squares in pan, then let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.IMG_7251

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