Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Simplest (four-ingredient) almond cake

6 September 2021

I wish I could wax poetic for hours about this cake, but that isn’t really my style, and the cake fulfills such a basic role in my life that basic is probably how best to write about it.

It features just four ingredients (lemon zest optional), comes together practically instantly, and not only does it keep for days but even improves with time. So it can be made ahead, and, as Imen McDonell suggests, always be on hand.

The recipe is from Imen’s The Farmette Cookbook. She calls it Claire’s Frangipane and has a lovely story to accompany the recipe, which like most others in the book is alluringly personal, one that transports straight into a chair pulled up to the kitchen table of her fabulous friend Claire. But, as I don’t know Claire, to me the cake has just become the simplest almond cake.

I’ve made this cake more than any other in the past few years and always serve it with either a rhubarb compote or stewed gooseberries, because, though delicious on its own, the cake truly transforms when accompanied by something luscious and puckeringly tart. At this time of year I might stew some early apples (unsweetened), or perhaps plums with cardamom?

Simplest almond cake recipe from Imen McDonnell’s Farmette Cookbook
The recipe given here is double the original — I often double recipes for cakes, especially ones that keep so well and improve with time.

275g sugar (slightly reduced from the original)
300g butter (softened at room temperature)
4 eggs
300g almond flour or freshly ground almonds (I like both blanched or whole)
Zest from one lemon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Line a 23cm (9-inch) cake tin with parchment paper and butter the bottom and sides.

In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer), beat the sugar and butter vigorously, for a long while, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, so each is assimilated before adding the next. Add the lemon zest if using.

Blend in the ground almonds until completely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes (it could take a bit longer), until a knife or skewer comes out clean, and the cake feels firm to a light touch.

Dust with sugar and let cool completely before serving.

Serve with rhubarb, gooseberry, or another tart fruit compote, and optionally and quite decadently with a spoonful of crème fraîche too.

Can be stored at room temperature for a day and in the refrigerator after that.

Baked apples

26 January 2017

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January is the time to huddle close, meet friends, have a pint, a meal, a whiskey nightcap. But after months of cooking and feasting, dim winter days call for easy comforts. Delicious meals that require barely any effort. Hardly a thought. Simple dishes that can be effortlessly adapted with whatever languishes in a pantry in the aftermath of holiday baking marathons.

Baked apples for instance. The basics are simple, the variations many: wash an apple, core it, stuff it, bake it, eat it warm with a dollop of cream.

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Any apple will do. Some hold their figure while others erupt into shapeless volcanoes; anything is fine by me. For the stuffing the elements might be dried fruits — for example raisins, chopped dates, cranberries; chopped nuts — pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds; some sweetness and spice — brown sugar, dark sugar, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon zest, ginger, allspice, cardamom. A splash of fortified wine. For serving, a generous spoonful of cream.

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Baked apples recipe

One whole apple per person
Currants (or raisins, cranberries, chopped dates or apricots)
Pecans (or walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
Dark muscovado sugar (or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Ginger and cardamom (or cinnamon, allspice, lemon zest)
Sherry (or Marsala, Madeira)
Clotted cream (or crème fraîche, ice cream, yogurt) for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C)

Wash and core the apples (leaving them whole)

Toss the nuts, dried fruits, sugar, and spices together. Stuff each apple with the mixture. Sprinkle with a dash of wine if using. Send into the oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft through.

Let cool just a little and serve warm with a spoonful of cream.

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Three ginger cake

5 November 2014

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The best cake in my world.

Were we to play the hypothetical game by which I had to pick one single dessert, to the exclusion of all others, for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. It is incredibly moist and sticky, intensely gingery spicy — need I say more?

The recipe is by April Bloomfield, from her engrossing book A Girl and Her Pig, which is full of anecdotes and brilliant recipes. I made two very small changes.

Since I couldn’t find ‘light molasses’ anywhere, I substituted with a mix of blackstrap and honey. Bloomfield pointedly specifies against using blackstrap hence the mix. I played around with the quantities and using more than 1/3 cup blackstrap makes the taste overpowering. Also, I added bits of candied ginger to make it a ‘three’ ginger cake because… Well, just because.

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Ginger cake by April Bloomfield A Girl and Her Pig

8 Tbsps (1/2 cup or 110 g) butter at room temperature

2 1/2 cups flour

1 Tbsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup light molasses (or 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses and 1/2 cup light liquid honey)

1 tsp baking soda

1 packed cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger

Two handfuls candied ginger (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC) with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter an 8-inch springform cake tin and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the tin on a baking sheet (because the cake will probably leak a bit through the springform).

Sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and baking powder together into a medium bowl. Stir well.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Add the molasses (and honey if using) and the baking soda. Stir until everything is well dissolved. It seems like a lot of water but trust the wizard here — it works!

Beat the butter and sugar heftily for a few good minutes, until light and fluffy as they say. Add the egg and mix until it is well incorporated. Add the grated ginger and mix again until combined.

Now add about 1/3 of the flour/spice mixture. Mix well. Then 1/3 of the molasses mixture and stir well. Repeat this, in thirds, until everything is combined. The mixture will be very wet. Again — it works.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and carefully (because it is so liquid!) place it in the oven, with the baking sheet underneath of course.

Now very thinly slice the pieces of candied ginger.

After about 15 minutes in the oven, as swiftly as possible in order to not disturb the cooking, pull out the cake and evenly sprinkle the finely sliced candied ginger. **This is done now because if the candied ginger is added before the cake goes into the oven, everything falls to the bottom.**

Bake for another 45 minutes (the cake bakes for about an hour altogether), until a knife point comes out almost clean and no longer wet. Let cool a little before removing the ring from the springform.

Bloomfield likes this cake still warm. I loved it the next day. In any case I’d serve it with a big dollop of clotted cream.

Apricots roasted in verbena honey syrup

9 July 2014

I am completely in love with this dessert.

For years I have in vain chased the apricots of my childhood; intensely ripe, cooked by the provençal sun to a sweet compote in every bite. Nothing comes close, and so year after year I have spurned apricots on every shelf, sighed in resignation.

While I don’t expect to resuscitate these childhood memories here in London, I have found a recipe to reconcile my love of apricots.

The original is one for apricots with vanilla and chamomile. I was excited, when I received it from a friend through the unlikely channel of an email recipe exchange, as I had just planted lots of chamomile seeds. But not one of the seeds has grown; a few months later and I don’t have the slightest shadow of a chamomile flower. However I do own a small lemon verbena plant.

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Apricots roasted in verbena honey syrup, adapted from a recipe by Allison Parker

12 apricots
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup water
3 small twigs fresh lemon verbena
3 Tbsps mild liquid honey (borage honey worked beautifully)

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)

Wash the apricots, slice them in half, remove the pits.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat, add the verbena and honey, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.

Pour the syrup into a pan which will fit all the apricots in one layer. Place the apricots in the syrup, cut side down, and spoon a little syrup over each hump of fruit.

Roast in the oven (rack in the upper third, so the apricots get blushed from the heat) for about 10 minutes. Turn the apricots over, baste with syrup, and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until soft.

Let cool and serve at room temperature, with a big dollop of clotted cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt.

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Stewed dried fruit

13 April 2013

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My intention was to make Louisa’s cake, which I’ve craved since I first saw it two years ago. And since I had no ricotta at home I thought making my own, as I’ve also been wanting to do for a long time, would be the perfect, lazy Saturday morning, we’ve-been-away-and-I-haven’t-cooked-in-a-week sort of project. So I set forth, resolutely and with a tinge of excitement, salting and boiling cream and milk, when I realized there was no cheesecloth at home, either.

Perhaps it was the slow pace induced by a gorgeously sunny, cold week by the sea, cycling, walking, eating, and generally just being, but I was completely stumped. Not for a moment; for many minutes, an hour maybe. Just standing there in the kitchen, wondering what in the world I might do with two liters of salty milk, and what dessert might be on a post-vacation weekend. The invitation was a last minute thing, too.

I thought about the stewed fruits, something I used to make often, in winter especially, but rarely do anymore, for no particular reason. We usually have dried fruit around the house, and though a bit short on prunes to my taste, there was a good enough mix for my purpose.

A few hours had gone by, the morning behind us, and the milk still on the stovetop, so I decided to make a very dense, creamy yogurt to go with the fruit, as I’d done before.

All went quite well from then on. I added bay leaf to my usual recipe, and was very pleased with the result. Of course, the yogurt was nowhere near being set in time for dinner, but I had some commercial greek yogurt handy, too.

My salty yogurt is still sitting in the fridge. I’ve been thinking of making cheese, but for that I’d need some cloth.

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This dessert is very good and extremely easy. Adapted from Jüdische Küche by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen.

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried figs

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots, preferably unsulphured

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) prunes

100-150 g raisins

(Also dried apples, pears, unsweetened dried pineapples, as desired, adjusting the quantities to have enough syrup to cover all the fruit)

2 lemons

4 Tbsps honey

6 or 7 cloves

1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on their size)

About 20 peppercorns

1 bay leaf
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Make a syrup with 2 l (8 cups) water, the rind and juice from the lemons, the honey, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the figs (and pears if using) and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the apricots (and apples and pineapple if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the prunes and raisins and simmer for a final 10 minutes (total stewing time 30 minutes).

Let the fruit cool in the liquid then refrigerate for a few hours at least before serving with thick yogurt or crème fraîche. (Remove peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf before serving, or warn your guests.)


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