Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

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Nothing like a happy chocolate-y orange-y and super rich-y cake moment to cheer up the day. Never mind the calories – they are all worthwhile.

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 160g of soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 250g raw cane sugar
  • 120g of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • the zest of 2 regular orange and juice of 1 (1/3 cup)

Method

Preheat the oven to 165oC.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

Beat the already soft butter with the syrup and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth cream (you probably will still feel a bit of grit; should look like a large weak coffee with milk).

Mix the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder together.  Sift the equivalent of a 1 tablespoonful of these dry ingredients into the sugar and butter. Mix well before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg.

Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the orange juice. At this stage, the batter may suddenly look dimpled, as if slightly curdled – if this happens, do not worry.

Pour and scrape the batter into the load pan and put in the stove for 45 minute. Test with a knife before taking it out.  A cake tester won’t come out entirely clean, as the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner stickiness. Let cool a little in its pan on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.


Lemon pudding cake with berries

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To keep up with the spirit of seasonal cooking,  a lemon pudding cake with raspberries… Only one word to describe this: yum. Too bad soon enough berries will be gone from the supermarket…

Lemon pudding cake with berries  (adapted from Bill Granger‘s Easy)

Ingredients

  • Enough berries to cover the bottom of a tray (about 250g)
  • 75g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300mL buttermilk
  • 125g unsalted butter (melted and cooled down)
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Method

Preheat the stove to 180oC

Grease a 750mL to 1L baking dish. Make sure this dish fit fits larger tray, so you can have a bain marie. Scatter the berries over the base of the greased dish, making sure the whole surface is covered

Combine in a large bowl the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.

In another bowl, lightly whisk together the melted butter,  the buttermilk, the yolks, the sugar and the lemon zest.

Stir into the flour mixtures

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks forms

With a metal spoon, fold in the batter half of the egg whites until well incorporated. Then, fold in the remaining half.

Spread the batter over the berries in the baking dish.

Put the baking dish in the large baking tray. Poor boiling water in the larger dish until it reaches halfway up the sides, creating a main marie.

Transfer to the stove for about 45m to 1h, until it starts to get fluffy and golden (it should be cakey on the top and soft in the middle).

Let it cool for a bit and serve.


Apricot, walnut and lavender cake

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It was love at first sight. And, timing couldn’t have been better. I was just looking for my annual super baking project when I bumped into this recipe.  It was so delicious, I will have to bake it again. And again… and again. Never mind the Modern Art Cakes – this the one I want I want for my birthday. Truth to be said, it is not particularly difficult dish.  But the flavours, oh!, the flavours….  It were layers upon layers of fresh, summery and nutty flavours, each mouthful different.

Apricot, walnut and lavender cake  (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 120g ground walnuts
  • 90g plain flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
  • Salt
  • 600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed

For the icing

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 Method

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.

Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.

While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.


Sweet and sour chicken

sweet and sour chicken

This has become one of my favourite dishes to take work for lunch. It is easy to make, healthy and very convenient to eat. It is also comforting…  It is probably miles away from the real thing, but it still tastes good enough to pass every foodie standard of deliciousness.

Sweet and sour chicken (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

  • 1 x 425g/15oz can pineapple chunks in natural juice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
  • 2 peppers, red, green, orange or yellow, deseeded and cut into chunks of about 3cm/1¼in
  • 100g of Brazil nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 25g/1oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

To make the sauce, drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice – you should have about 150ml/5fl oz. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in three tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and 150ml/5fl oz water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Cut each chicken breast into eight or nine even pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the onion and peppers for two minutes over a high heat. Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.

Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for two minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30–60 seconds.

Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times. Serve with a small portion of rice.


Blondies (white chocolate and cranberries brownies)

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You might like the man or not, but the truth is Gordon Ramsay’s dishes are always unpretentious, non-fuss and are always – but always – delicious. If you follow the instructions, you will get what is promised. All you normally need is a few simple ingredients, utensils everyone has in the kitchen and a couple of cooking techniques.  And voilà!, dinner is sorted… His last series – Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course –  is meant to be a return to cooking basics. I was about to yawn and change channels, when I realised what how simple, easy and very tasty  the dishes were. While it still might be basic, these are definitely  calories worthwhile taking. A few minutes into the episode, I had decided to a)buy the book; b) bake this cake.

Very conveniently, I had something to celebrate at the office a few days after. Shortly after lunch time, it was gone… It was a really-really-really good cake. Very sugary, but packed with flavours. You cannot go wrong with white chocolate, vanilla and cranberries, can you?

Blondies (white chocolate and cranberries brownie, adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)

Ingredients

  • 150g dried cranberries
  • 2* 100g white chocolate bars
  • 225g flour
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 300g  sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 oC. Butter and flour a baking dish (or use a non stick baking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.

Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter, without letting it boil. Stir it  in the sugar and whisk until it is smooth.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and the salt together.

Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture, one by one.  Fold in  half the flour mixture until all the lumps are gone.  Add the rest of the flour and carry on mixing until is well incorporated. Finally, drop in the white chocolate and cranberries and mix until they are evenly distributed.

Spoon the batter into the baking dish, and put in the stove for about 20-25min. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean


Orange and date salad with orange flower and cinnamon syrup

orange pomagrante dates spices

… and this was what we had for dessert. Recipe is here, but without the spices it won’t work.


Chocolate chunk meringue cake

meringue chocolate pistachio

Believe it or not, this was a last minute dessert. It looks spectacular, it tastes scrumptious and is a fool proof recipe. Home cooking doesn’t get much better than this…

Chocolate chunk meringue cake (adapted from Bill Granger‘s Easy)

Ingredients 

  • 6 egg whites
  • 220g golden caster sugar
  • 200g dark chocolate roughly chopped
  • 100g pistachio nuts,roughly chopped plus extra to decorate
  • 3oo mL double cream (or whipped cream)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160C.

In a sheet large enough to cover a baking tray draw a circle with 26cm diameter

Turn the paper around and put it on the tray

Whist the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, one spoon of a time, whisking between every addition until all the sugar is well incorporated.

Fold in the chocolate and the sugar.

Transfer to the baking tray and spread  out, keeping the mixture roughly inside the circle.

Put in the oven for about 1h or until cooked through.

Beat the cream to soft peaks, spread over the meringue  once it is evenly cool. Scatter with extra pistachios.


Chocolate and beetroot brownies

beetroot brownies

In the aftermath of #beetrootgate, beetroot brownies… A slightly less guilty pleasure, with a rich and velvety texture. Truth to be said, I like this version better than the 100% chocolaty thing.

Chocolate and beetroot brownies (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ‘s River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients 

  • 250g of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g whole meal flower
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (or according to instructions in the package)
  • 250g of beetroot, boiled until tender then peeled and grated.

Method

Set the oven to 180oC

Grease a baking tray, and cover the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie. If you don’t have a proper double boiler (I don’t), just  fit a metal bowl over a small saucepan filed with a few centimeter  of water, making sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Let the water boil, while mixing the butter and the chocolate until the mixture is well combined and glossy.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar until well combined. Then beat in the chocolate and butter  until smooth.

Combine the flour with salt and baking powder. Sift them over the chocolate mix. Gently fold in with a wooden spoon.

Finally, fold in the grated beetroot, and keep on folding gently. Be careful not to over mix – otherwise you will get though brownies

Put the mixture in a tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 20-25min, or until a knife insert into the center come out slightly moisten or with a few crumbs attached.

Let it cool until you cut the squares.


Cinnamon pecan sticky buns

A big cooking fail, but nevertheless edible. The beasts my lovely coworkers ate them all with great speed and delight. They even thanked me and asked for more….  Will try it again, but unless you find someone that bakes this for you, don’t believe Emma when she claims this is ideal for a lazy Sunday morning. It is actually hard work to put these thinguies together.

Cinnamon pecan sticky buns (adapted from Emma Lewis’ entry in the BBCGoodFood)

Ingredients

For the buns

  • 450g white flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 85g butter , cut into small pieces slightly melted
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 2 eggs , beaten
  • 150ml full-fat milk
  • vegetable oil , for greasing

 For the filling

  •  2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 85g light brown sugar
  • 100g pecans

 For the topping 

  • Melted butter
  • 100g pecans roughly chopped

Method

Heat oven to 180C

Put the flour, sugar and 1 tsp salt in a mixing bowl you can put in the kitchen aid. Add in the butter and mix with your hands until all the butter in incorporated into the flour (it feels like bread crumbs)

Add the yeast and the beaten eggs and mix them with flour.  Finally, pour in the milk and carry on mixing until you get a soft dough

Put in the kitchen aid with dough hook for 7 mins, until the dough is smooth, soft and springy. If you feel brave enough, you do it by hand  – it will take about 15min).

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and  cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a dark warm place ( about 1 hr or until doubled in size).

While the dough rises, make the filling.  In a food processor put thee cinnamon, sugar and pecans. Buzz in the nuts are finely ground.

When the dough has reached twice its size, punch it until the air bubbles are gone, and then split the dough in two.

Roll and stretch each piece to form a rectangle in a floured kitchen top.

Brush each rectangle with the melted butter and then sprinkle half the filling mixture. Press into the dough, using the rolling pin if necessary. Tightly roll each rectangle up from one of the long ends to get a thick log, then pinch the ends together to seal. Cut each log into 8 pieces.

Place the rolls on the tray, leaving a gap of at least 2cm around each roll. Brush again with butter and sprinkle the chopped pecans. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for about 30min  in a warm place for about 30 mins.

Bake for 30 mins until the buns are lightly browned and feel firm.


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.