Monday, 5 March 2012

Chocolate Whisky-Raisin Cake

Dorie Greenspan relates in Baking how she quickly grew bored in her first job with making the same whisky-raisin cake every day, and tried out an Armagnac and prune version, which got her sacked. She offers this as the main recipe, but also gives the original, and as I am never without scotch in the house, but frequently without Armagnac, the original Simone Beck scotch-and-raisin it was.

The occasion was The Guitar Teacher’s birthday. He very often watches poker-faced as rich chocolate cakes go intact out the door and and off to my work, so I thought it only fair to throw nearly 300 grams of chocolate at him for once. And we needed the alcohol to settle our nerves, frayed as they are by sharing a house with a needy Siamese creeping miserably around in an Elizabethan collar.*

Mostly metricised version of Dorie Greenspan's Baking, pp279–81

¼ cup raisins and ¼ cup whisky combined in a jar to steep for at least 3 hours or up to a day in advance
80g pecans or walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
40g plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
200g bittersweet chocolate callets, or chopped
120g unsalted butter
3 eggs, separated
150g sugar

Line and grease a 20cm springform tin. Preheat oven to 190C. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour and salt.

Melt chocolate, butter and 3 tablespoons water in the microwave and allow to cool while getting on with the rest.

Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale; add with a spatula the melted chocolate, flours and raisons along with their whisky. Set aside and whisk the whites until stiff, folding into the chocolate batter until just incorporated and pouring into the tin. Bake for about half an hour or until a knife withdraws fairly cleanly – not too wet, not too dry is the key here. 

85g bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons icing sugar (sift it – I wish I had)
50g unsalted butter, room temperature

Melt in microwave (or bain marie) and stir in the sugar then butter to form a smooth glaze. Either pour the warm glaze over the top and sides of the cooled cake, or refrigerate just to slightly set for a thicker and more controllable consistency.

*In a nutshell: a cup of freshly poured tea steeping on the bench plus a bad cat who knows better jumping up to unwittingly encounter it plus three weeks, three vet visits and three courses of antibiotics later said cat preferring to scour the fearful furless burn wound with her tongue all day long instead of letting it heal.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Schokoladenkuchen a la Vera Slawinski

The Saucemaker presented me with the famous design-award-winning Konstantin Slawinski silicon cake form, which I have mentioned before, a year ago. It came with a card bearing Slawinski’s mother’s flourless chocolate cake recipe, which is magnificent, rich and darkly, Mittel-Europeanly adult, all eggs and chocolate.

The recipe is given in German with a shaky English translation underneath in paler font. I’ve never learnt German but have always wanted to and love the look and sound of it – mile-long capitalised nouns! umlauts! Die Zauberflöte! – so find it much more fun to follow. ‘Dark chocolate’, which could mean anything from Nestle Buttons down, becomes the much more specific and fabulous-sounding Zartbitter-Schokolade – who could resist getting out the 70% Callebaut Strong for that? So I’ll go with German as far as possible, if that’s okay with everyone. I would never make it too hard to follow, would I, meine Kinder?  

250g Butter
250g Zartbitter-Schokolade
200g geriebene Mandeln (okay, that’s almond meal)
8 Eier
200g Zucker
2 tablespoons cornflour
pinch salt and splash vanilla extract

Preheat oven auf 180C.

Separate Eier, beat Eigelb und Zucker until weiss und fluffy. Add die Mandeln. Soften Butter in microwave along with melting Schokolade in 10-second bursts, und add to mixture along with some vanilla extract und a pinch of salt. Sift over cornflour.

Get out die second KitchenAid bowl, beat Eiweiß until stiff und gently fold into Schokolade mixture. Pour into Konstantin Slawinski form (or a round cake tin of no less than 24cm) und backen 40 Minuten. Test with a bamboo skewer – when it withdraws clean, der Kuchen durchgebacken. Remove from form and sift over Puderzucker. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Black sesame yoghurt cake

Here is where I get a bit never-apologise-never-explain about why it’s been so long and instead jump straight to cake.

So, I amassed a range of black sesame ingredients last year, which, being sesame, won’t last forever before succumbing to the scourge that is rancidness, which successive governments have failed to eradicate. A fridge-clearing agenda led me to google black sesame cakes NOT chiffon cake (been there, done that), and among the slim pickings was this promising recipe from Haw Berries & Kumquats featuring a very beautiful eggshell lacquer bowl.

The packaging of the black sesame powdery stuff provided no clues that I could translate, but it tasted as though heavily cut with white sugar, so I lessened the original sugar amount by a third and made it brown sugar for a dark note. I threw in extra black sesame paste in case the sesame quotient was already lacking due to its unknown sugar component, really drove the point home with a tablespoon of virgin sesame oil, and sprinkled over extra whole sesame seeds for good measure. So the last few of the above may be considered optional. Hell, the whole thing’s optional – do it, don’t do it, make it all eggwhites, who am I to say?

Adapted from HawBerries & Kumquats, who adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini’s gâteau au yaourt

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup black sesame powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
250ml yoghurt
60 ml peanut oil
20 ml untoasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons black sesame paste
black sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 180° C, and line a 22-cm springform tin. Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.

Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the yoghurt, oils, brandy, vanilla extract and sesame paste. Mix well.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into wet ingredients; mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared cake pan, sprinkle with black sesame seeds, and bake for 45 minutes, until a skewer withdraws clean.

It was very moist and tender, with a tanginess to it from the yoghurt. I wasn’t overwhelmed by a sesame flavour, and nor was anyone else; people were making all sorts of guesses at it. The two tablespoons of cocoa emerged the most strongly, surprisingly enough. In a less charitable moment, I decided it just tasted like a slightly weird, second-rate chocolate cake, but recanted this as being a bit harsh when I found myself quite enjoying another slice at afternoon-tea time. The texture was fabulous, though, and I’ll be investigating the other flavour variations  that have been imposed on this basic yoghurt cake.