Coconut cake

 

Not my birthday cake, but close enough… G. and I share the same birthday, and it has become sort of a tradition to have a dinner party around this time of the year. After agonizing for a couple of days what I would be baking for the occasion, I ended up seeing this one on Thomas Keller‘s Ad hoc at home.  It was just not the flavors which caught my attention – there was also a very nice story attached to it. And, having read this was a very dear cake to him, I decided to go for it in less than heartbeat. Let me warn you, it is not an easy dish. But, it is so rich and velvety you end up forget all the cooking efforts once you start eating it.

In case you were wondering what sort extravaganza cake I baked this year, the answer is not 42…  I actually let myself be (very) spoiled my dear Zurich friends. All I can say is that it was chocolate, it was rich and it was dense. Very dense… which is always a good thing when it comes to chocolate.

Coconut cake (adapted from Thomas Keller‘s Ad hoc at home)

Ingredients 

  • 500mL of coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 380g of flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking power
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • The whites of 6 large eggs
  • 400 granulated sugar
  • 180g of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups of drie shredded coconut
  • Sugar syrup (3 parts of water to 1 part of sugar).

Method

1.Pre heat the oven to 180oC (=350oF).  Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour).

2.Prepare the coconut-vanilla mixture. Put the coconut milk a small pan and whisk to blend. Bring to a gentle simmer, keeping on whisking until most the water has evaporated. You should have the equivalent of 1 cup. Remove from the heat and let it cool down. When the coconut is at room temperature, add the vanilla extract and mix well.

3. Prepare the dry ingredients mix. Sift the cake flour and the baking powder. Stir in the salt and put aside.

4. Prepare the white egg sugar mixture. Whip the whites with a whisker until they begin to froth. Slowly add 150g of sugar and whisk you see medium peak forming. (the whisker should be put to slow when you start adding the sugar, and then put to medium-high). Put aside.

5. Prepare the butter and sugar mix. Put the butter on a bowl and mix with a paddle at medium-low speed until it starts to soften.  Add the remaining sugar. Mix until it is light yellow and fluffy.

6. Mix the dry ingredients, the butter and coconut mix. It is not important not to over mix the batter. Each addition doesn’t have to be completely incorporated before you add the next. Add half the dry ingredients and mix; then add half the coconut mix and incorporate it. Start all over again: half of the remaining dry ingredients, then the coconut milk. Repeat with what is left. Make sure you mix the bottom of the bowl.

7. Gently fold in the egg whites (1/3 of it at a time).

8.Put batter in the  baking tray and gently smooth the type. Put in the oven for about 30min, and check with the skewer if it done. When the skewer comes out of cake dry, take the cake and let it cool down for about 10min before you remove it from the baking tray. Let it cool completely.

9. Meanwhile spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast lightly – about 6 to 8min. Let it cool down.

10. Start working on the sugar syrup.  In a sauce pan, mix the sugar with the cold water and put to boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear (app 3min).

11. Once the cake is cool, brush all the surfaces with the sugar syrup. Sprinkle with the roasted coconut.


Almond cake

This was supposed to be a Tarta de Santiago [St James’ cake]. A bad kitchen day and a less than good execution converted it into a simple almond cake. But, not everything was lost… I found back a childhood flavor. Actually, something which resembled to what used to be my mother’s favorite cake. I can still remember the nanny doing it year after year for her birthday with super sweet ovos moles [soft eggs] filling. And on  the side, an ongoing polite fight between my mother and the nanny, where mother would ask the nanny for the recipe and the nanny would say she had promised never to give it away. The nanny eventually retired and all we got was a close enough version scribbled in a piece of paper. Or, maybe even the right recipe, but no one could bake it like her…

Almond cake (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)

Ingredients 

  • Baking spray or butter and flour as required
  • 3 large eggs (70g)
  • 150g of sugar
  • Ground almonds 150g (fail of the day – if you want the St James cake, they must be peeled. The mix I used was not peeled and instead of getting an yellow-ish cake, I got a browned one with a bit more bite than it should)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Icing sugar as required

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour) (Ferran Adrià recommends a 30*50cm; I used a 30 cm round one

2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and the sugar until you have a pale yellow foamy mixture

3. Add the the ground almond and the cinnamon to the egg mixture. Fold it slowly in the same direction with a wooden spoon, until you obtain a fluffy and airy mixture.

4. Pour the mixture in the tray (second fail of the day – if you want the St James cake, it must be about 1.5cm deep. My cake almost doubled it).

5. Put in the oven for about 20min, or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of tray when you take it out of the tray.

6. Sprinkle icing sugar on top of it before serving.


Pear and almond tart, take 2

A Food&Travel dish I found on tram 11, back by popular demand.  And, again, many happy testers….

As I was in a bit of a hurry, I used  pre-made pastry.

Pear and almond tart

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 table spoons caster sugar
  • 100g cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • a pinch of salt

For the almond cream

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 table spoons flour
  • 3-4 ripe pears

Method

To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor, and, using the pulse button, process until the butter is broken down (about 5-10 pulses). Add 3 tablespoons of cold water, and pulse just until the dough forms coarse crumbs; add one more tablespoon of water if necessary, but do not do more than 10 pulses. Transfer the pastry to a sheet of backing parchment, form into a ball and flatten to a disk. Wrap in the paper and let stand for 30-60 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to the diameter of the baking tin (a tarte tatin or other round flame proof baking dish). Turn the tin upside down and on the rolled out pastry and press down and trace around the edge with a sharp knife.

Alternatively, just use pre made pastry. It might not be so good, but it does the trick.

Preheat the oven the 200oC. Prick the pastry all over, line with baking parchment, and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15min, then remove the paper and weights (I used beans), and bake for 10-15min more, until just golden. Let the tart shell cool slightly before filling.

To make the almond cream, put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with the electric mixer, until fluffy and lemon coloured (it takes some time and patience. I start with melted butter). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Using a spatula, fold in the almonds and flour until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 190oC. Spread the almond cream evenly in the tart shell. Peel and core the pears, and slice into 8-12 pieces, depending on the size of the fruit. Arrange the pear slices on top of the almond cream. Bake for about 20-30min, until puff and golden. Serve warm.


Vanilla buttercream frosting cake

You have read it correctly – there are no typos in this sentence nor it is poorly constructed. While the vast majority of cakes have frosting on top or in the middle, the batter of this sponge cake was indeed made using a vanilla buttercream frosting. If there is an Annals of Improbable Culinary Research in this world, this dish would be worthwhile a cover. Or, at least a featured article. In fact, the vanilla buttercream frosting cake is so unlikely to be reproduced, that I will not even try to write down the recipe. If anything, because I cannot remember what ingredient was used when, or the proportions.

Even wannabe-food-bloggers have a less-inspired days in the kitchen. Sometimes, things just don’t go the way you expect – and as we say in Portugal,  o que torto nasce, tarde ou nunca se endireita  [what is born crooked, late or never gets straightened]. It looked like an semi-easy cake when I read  the recipe. But a few hours latter, with the cake still half done and a totaled kitchen, it seemed that I had made a colossal strategic mistake.

Everything went sort of OK, until I tried to whisk the egg whites to soft glossy peaks. I must have done this thousands of times and at this point in my life, I don’t even consider the possibility of failure. But, not today.  The white egg mix split, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were split and they remained split, no matter what grandmother tricks I used. I had no other solution but start all over again.

When I thought the worst was over and the cake was placidly sitting on the stove, I started on the frosting, using a Nigella recipe. Instead of a consistent white cream I was supposed to get, I ended up with a grey-greenish liquidy crème with lots of white floaters. I tried to sieve it, as recommended by most Mothers and professional chefs. After this delicate operation, the floaters were gone, but the grey-greenish liquidy could not be used to finish any serious cake. Again, had to start again, this time using the recipe of the original recipe.  It called for a lot of  butter and even more sugar, but .. it worked. I have to bitterly add, that Nigella’s recipe failed me not once, but twice.

At this point, I had my kitchen bench full of discarded elements: the gray-greenish liquid (basically, butter, sugar, vanilla and some flour), 3 yolks and something that resembled beaten white eggs.  Meaning, the elements you need for a cake. Following tje directions of a very basic recipe of sponge cake, I added the egg yolks one by one to the butter and sugar “cream”. Then I tossed in enough flour – and 1 teaspoon of baking powder –  to obtain a batter with a nice consistency. Finally, I folded in the egg whites. No need for a lot of TLC- it was actually quite the opposite of this.

Finally, I dropped into the stove, previously heated to 175oC (pretty much a standard of baking), and waited until a wooden stick came out dry from the center of the cake.

The result was a surprisingly light sponge cake, with a fresh almondy – vanilla taste. None of the testers was aware of the precarious conditions of this experiment, and fortunately they are all still alive. Some of them even asked for seconds (and got them).


Mandarin orange coconut cake

For obscure reasons I was not able to find out, in Switzerland tradition include giving bags of mandarin oranges, peanuts and a few chocolates. The kind of thing you might get at office or from a distant relative…. I was looking for a Christmassy dish, when I saw this on Cinco Quartos de Laranja who had seen it on All Recipes and then tweaked it a bit. By a happy coincidence, I actually had  way too many mandarin oranges on the fruit bowl, a tiny bit of coconut in my cupboard and just enough time to bake it. And, voila!, a Christmassy and at the same time fresh and casual dish. Actually, it is also delicious and light, with different flavors and textures in each bite. An excellent way of fooling kiddies into eating their daily dose of citrus.

Mandarin orange coconut cake

Ingredients

  • 200g  flour and 1 spoon of baking powder, sifted
  • 175g  sugar
  • 170g  unsalted butter
  • 150mL of mandarin orange juice
  • The zest of 3-4 mandarin oranges
  • 30g dry powdered coconut

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour)

in a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar until light and pale yellow.

Add the egg one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

Fold in the flour and mix well. Once it is well mixed, add the coconut, the mandarin orange juice and zest. Mix until the mixture is uniform.

Put the cake tin in the preheated oven. Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (about 30min)


Pumpkin bread

Normally, I only publish dishes I have made with my own hands. But, this pumpkin bread baked by the lovely K. made me change my mind. I picked a slice, and  just couldn’t stop eating it. I had to go for a second slice. And a glass of milk.  Then, everything make sense again…

Pumpkin bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 (=100g)  white flour
  • 3/4 (=100g) wholewheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (see recipe below)
  • ½ cup (=115mL ) olive oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup water (=60mL)
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F (=180°C) and generously coat the inside of a loaf pan with your preferred cooking spray. Use a non-stick pan, if you have one.

Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Set aside your dry ingredients.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices thoroughly. Combine your wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, mixing lightly. Fold in the nuts and pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. If the loaf is browning too quickly on top, you can cover it with foil for the last ten to fifteen minutes of baking.

Turn your pumpkin bread out of the pan and let it cool on a wire rack. Quick breads taste great warm but will crumble badly when you cut them before they have cooled completely. The bread will taste best after sitting for several hours or overnight, to allow the flavors to marry

Pumpkin purée

To make pumpkin purée, cut a small pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Lay the halves facedown on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour.

You can also cut your pumpkin into pieces and roast or boil them until tender. This makes removing the skin much easier. Cool the squash, scoop out the flesh, and mash it with a fork. Freeze whatever squash you don’t use


		

Banana Bread with Walnuts and Chocolate

An excellent recipe to start  of the weekend: banana bread with walnuts and chocolate. I had done it once before, using Bill Granger’s recipe, but this time I decided to give a go Gordon Ramsay‘s take on it. It was definitely a more sophisticated cake, less chocolaty but with more flavors.

Banana Bread with Walnuts and Chocolate Chips

Ingredients 

  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 170g golden caster sugar
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large (or 4 medium) very ripe bananas
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate chips

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4. Butter and line a 2 litre loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients, except for the walnuts and chocolate chip, together in a bowl.

In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, eggs, yoghurt and vanilla.

Peel and mash the bananas with a fork, then mix into the egg mixture.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture then quickly fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Try not to overmix the batter to ensure a moist loaf. Scoop the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake for about an hour until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the loaf. If the bread is not ready, return it to the oven for another 10 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.


Banana and chocolate bread

What do to feed the 11-year-old for breakfast? Well, easy answer: banana and chocolate bread.  He even agreed to by my sous-chef, raised for the occasion and thanked profusely. The original recipe is by Bill Granger, found during  a totally random google search.

Banana and chocolate bread 

Ingredients 

  • 250g of  all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125g  unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g caster (superfine) sugar (I used regular sugar)
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
  • 175g good-quality dark or milk chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.

Mix the butter, sugar, banana, eggs, vanilla seeds and chocolate chips in a separate bowl.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to over mix.

Pour the batter into a non-stick, or lightly greased and floured, 19 x 11 cm  loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the bread is cooked when tested with a wooden skewer.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.


Red velvet cake

By a strange coincidence I started this blog a few days before my birthday. Actually, one of my first posts was about the ice cream cake my Mother used to do every year around my birthday .  This year, however, for some reason, I was not really in the mood for a creamy cold cake… I kept seeing red velvet cakes appearing on different TV shows and food magazines, much to the joy and delight of those who ate them. The New York Times described it as “a cake that can stop traffic”. If even the NY Times said it and Nigella had the recipe on her book and website, why not give it a go and try it for the dinner party?

As its own name says, the red velvet cake is red. Red in an unnatural shade of red. In case doubts that it should be red persist, it is layered with white frosting, to make the red go even redder. It is supposed to have a slight taste of cocoa and vanilla, and a velvety texture given by buttermilk. The red color is allegedly the result of the presence of anthocyanin in the cocoa, which becomes red in the presence of an acid, explaining the necessity of adding unusual ingredients in a cake like vinegar and buttermilk. Strictly speaking, the cocoa might turn to a reddish shade and become dark-red-brown…. To get the extra bright red, abundant food dye has to be added. No one knows for sure where the recipe comes from, whether it was created on the South of the United States or it was an experiment gone mad in a Canadian department store.  For sure, it seems to be a New World creation, as it is hardly ever seen on European cookbooks. In fact, I cannot remember ever seeing it for sale on this side of the Atlantic patisseries.

As this was a birthday cake, an elaborate decoration was expected. I had planned to do a flamenco style polka-dot pattern, being the number of red dots being equal to my age (approximately and vaguely equal- to avoid sticking candles on the cake, any excuse was worth trying). But… the butter cream was a bit more runny than it should have been, and though I had a perfect cylinder of marzipan to start with, cutting it in thin slices didn’t do any favors to its shape. It ended up as a Dali interpretation of a rustic Seville-olé red velvet cake (picture here). Per se, the name didn’t conceal the less-than-optimal decoration, but I earned  a lot points for imaginative and rhetoric culinary speech.

But, it all comes down to taste. And it tasted good. Very good, in fact: a very rich taste (not totally cocoa, but also not totally vanilla),  with a moist and sensuous texture. A pleasure as sinful and guilty as only cake can be.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups shortening (=226g; I replaced it with butter)
  • 3 cups of sugar (=600g)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 ounces of red food coloring (I used 20ml in total)
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups flour (=640g)
  • 2 cups butter milk (=500ml)
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • the seeds of 2 vanilla pods
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used white balsamic, for no reason in particular. I just happened to have it on my cupboard).

Butter cream (frosting)

  • 10 table spoons flour (I used Maizena, as I like its flavor and consistency better than regular flour)
  • 2 cups milk (=500 ml)
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (=226g)
  • 2 cups sugar (=400g)
  • the seeds of 2 vanilla pods

Method

Cake

Preheat oven to 180oC. Butter and line 3 9″ baking pans with parchment paper (I used 3 squared trays)Place melted butter and sugar in bowl and beat until light and fluffy (about 10 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Make a paste of the food colouring, cocoa and salt (I never got a paste, as 20ml were not enough to bind with the cocoa). Add to butter mixture.Mix vanilla with buttermilk. Dissolve baking soda in vinegar, add to butter milk (it gets a bit fizzy – you might want to consider to use a larger bowl).

Sift and measure flour; add to creamed shortening alternating with buttermilk mixture ending with flour. Mix until smooth approx. 4-5 minutes.Pour into pans. Bake 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto cooling rack and to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

Make a paste with flour and a small amount of the milk. Add remaining milk gradually, mixing until smooth. Cook in a double boiler at medium heat until thick (do not forget to stir while cooking to avoid burning. If it gets to hot, remove it from the heat and stir to cool it a bid. It should be a very slow simmer. At the end, it will be a very thick mixture at end, but if you can see lumps it is pass it through a fine sieve). Let cool.

Cream butter with icing sugar and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Add cooled flour mixture 1 spoon at a time, beating well between additions.

 

Coconut and zucchini bread

I saw it on Canela Moída, whom had seen it on The Novice Housewife, whom had seen it on Thru The Bugs On My Windshield, whom had seen it on Meet the Swans whom had seen it on Cooking Light Comfort Food Cookbook.  Somewhere along the way, the bananas in the original recipe were replaced by an equivalent amount of zucchini (= courgette=calabacin). The combination of flavors sounds a bit iffy – Zucchini? in a cake?? with coconut???  But, have not prejudices: the result is scrumptious. Not only it passed the 11-year old test, but also the 8-month eat it all with gusto and impatience. If he only knew those green dots belongs the same family than the green soups he spits all over himself…

Some bloggers made a Coconut Rum Lime glaze to put on top of it. I am not a big fan of sugary things and excessive ornamentation of cakes, and skipped it. Keeping on sugar matters, this cake is not at all sweet. If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to add more sugar than the quantity I used. Or replace the zucchini by an equivalent amount of bananas.

Coconut Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter (about 60g)
  • 1 cup sugar (about 200g. You might want to increase the amount, if you like yours more sweet)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups ripe zucchini, grated (about 1 medium size 2 zucchinis,  app 120g)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used a whole small pack, with about 180g, minus 1 table spoon))
  • 1 teaspoon rum (I used Malibu – maybe a little more than a 1 teaspoon)
  • The seeds of a vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • 2/3 cup grated coconut (about 100g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour (about 250g)

Methods

Pre heat the oven to 180 oC . Grease a loaf pan with butter and powder it with flour.

Cream butter and sugar until the mixture is white and fluffy.  Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.

Add the zucchini, the yogurt, the vanilla seeds and the rum. Beat until well blended.

Fold in the coconut and all the dry ingredients,  and mix until just blended (do not over stir).

Spoon the  batter into the loaf pan previously buttered.

Bake for about an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean from the middle of the bread.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then transfer to serving plate.

Coconut Rum Lime Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sugar
  • The seeds of a vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon of  rum or rum extract
  • 3 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Milk as required to get the glaze to the right consistency (you can use coconut milk, in case you have that in hand)
  • Roasted coconut to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients except the milk in a medium bowl. Add milk until it becomes a thick but smooth glaze. Set aside.

Toast coconut under the broiler until just browned. Set aside.

Drizzle glaze over bread. Top with toasted coconut and lime zest.