Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake

Once upon a time, when I lived with two very lovely former housemates in my previous abode, we liked to discover ways of cooking with ‘new’ vegetables. Actually you could either blame one of my housemate – or give credit to her – for why I got sidetracked from my ultimate chocolate brownie recipe quest. She told me that she had abandoned some beetroot in the fridge when she went away. So I decided to bake a cake with them.

When I was younger, I didn’t know that beetroot could come in any other way than sitting in a jar of pickle. And I wasn’t very keen on it. Now, i’ve tried it roasted and crisped (i love the latter) but making a cake with it? I was in a very adventurous mood when I set my mind to it. The only two criteria that it had to meet was that it was a Good Food Channel recipe (so that I could enter their photo competition) and I had the ingredients in my cupboard. Here’s the result!

Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake

Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake adapted from the Good Food Channel

I’ve adapted the recipe slightly. I use less sugar and made my own judgements where the recipe was a bit vague about what flour to use and what to do with the beetroot. Also, I didn’t have any apricot jam so I couldn’t glaze the cake as the recipe suggested. It was yum yum.

Ingredients
200ml vegetable oil
150g golden caster sugar
150g raw beetroot, grated
100g chopped walnuts, plus extra for decoration
100g chopped toasted hazelnuts
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
3 tsp milk (I used unsweetened soya milk)
200g plain flour

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm cake tin.
  • Grate the beetroot into a large bowl. Be careful not to stain anything. Beetroot juice is very red. At one point, I wondered whether the redness on my hands was blood or juice when I accidently grated my thumb.
  • Add the oil, sugar, walnuts, hazelnuts, egg yolks, baking powder and mixed spice to the beetroot and mix it well.
mixing with grated beetroot
  • Mix in the milk and plain flour.
  • In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
  • Fold the whisked egg whites to the beetroot mixture.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and decorate with the nuts. (it looks very very pink!)
pink cake
  • Bake in the oven for 30 mins (or until the tester skewer comes out clean).
  • Leave to cool for 5 mins in the cake tin and then take it out to cool on a wire rack.

Verdict? This was such a moist cake (courtesy of the beetroot) and once the beetroot was grated, it was a really simple cake to put together and bake. Colleagues at work enjoyed eating this. But it generated a fair bit of controversy… tee hee. If I bake another beetroot cake, I’d like to partner beetroot with chocolate. I think that it’ll be a killer combo!

ps. I’m so excited. On the Good Food Channel website, you can see my photo for this recipe. The competition was probably their ploy of increasing their range of food photographs!

Chocolate Brownie Hunt: Coco and Me’s Luxury Chocolate Brownie

Before I got distracted by baking with vegetables, I was on the hunt for the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

As a child, I really disliked brownies until the day I tasted one baked by some American friends. Since then, it’s all about baking fudgy brownies. As I’ve discovered the world of food blogs, my interest has grown into a preoccupation about trying out and hunting down the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

What I love about brownies is the sheer simplicity of the recipes that produce such gorgeous mouthfuls of gooeyness. So on top of that, I’ll also be considering the incredible fudginess, intensity of the flavour and the moistness. Mmmm… So, let the ultimate brownie challenge begin!

Coco and Me Luxury Chocolate Brownie

The first one I’m trying out is Coco and Me’s luxury chocolate brownies recipe and I’m definitely learning a few tips from the expert on the baking front. She has a fabulous brownie recipe and guide which I won’t copy out here (just follow the link above). Instead, some snippets from my thoughts whilst trying it out.

  • Coco’s luxury one’s take much longer prep time than my usual recipe mostly due to the fine chopping of the chocolate. However, I’m liking the step of melting the butter in a pan and then adding sugar. Just realized that if I kept at it then I’d be making some sort of caramel. Question – does that add to the fudginess?
  • Coco wants me to add the eggs into this hot mixture – won’t they scramble..? No, they don’t! Then I add it to the chocolate so that it melts it all. Hmmm… that worked really well. I’ve changed my method to do this now for my recipe.
  • Coco also uses, proportion wise, almost double the amount chocolate and butter to flour…. My normal recipe is same amount of butter, chocolate and flour. Will this reflect in the intensity of the flavour?
  • Coco asks for a mixture of nuts. For good measure, I’ve added brazil nuts, walnuts, hazlenuts and pistachios with pecans to decorate the tops.

So, prep wise – Coco’s took longer to prepare. But the real test will be in the testing.

So MMmmm-ometer (all out of 5Mmm’s)
Simplicity – MMMm (i think that with practice this will go to 4.5 Mmmms)
Fudginess – MMMM
Intensity of Flavour – MMMM
Moistness – MMMMM
Reviews from tasters/testers – won lots of votes this one, especially because of the mixture of the nuts and the moistness.
Verdict – A definite contender with 16.5/20 (possibly 17.5)

I’m interested to hear your verdicts too on this recipe.

There’s a wee ps. to this entry. Coco and Me has a stall in London’s Broadway Market and she sells these brownies and more chocolate delights there. Sadly, each time I’ve been down to visit, she has been away… 🙁 If you get the chance to go down there – please taste a brownie for me.

Baking Tip: Substituting Vinegar for an Egg

Okay, so who knows about substituting vinegar for eggs in baking already?  I’m sure that this baking tip is one that many people are aware of.  However, I’d only heard of it 18 months ago and it’s taken me that long to be brave (or eggless!) enough to try it out.  So, I thought that I’d blog it to promote even more uses of vinegar.

A friend of mine told me that a tablespoon of vinegar can be a substitute for an egg in baking.  Admittedly I had quite a few questions and was a bit sceptical about it.  Such as, what kind of vinegar can I use – malt, white, red or any?  How does it work? And concerned about how a cake would taste with vinegar in it.  Anyway, when baking Nigella’s Clementine Cake recently, which asks for 6 large eggs and I only had 5, I decided to give it a go since the clementines had the potential to cover up the vinegar taste.  Quick google search (don’t I love it!) gave me enough details to give it a go. 

So, in answer to my questions.  I’d recommend using a tablespoon of white or cider vinegar with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda too as a substitute for an egg in a recipe.  Only use vinegar as an egg substitute when there’s a rising agent in the recipe, such as baking powder or self-raising flour. 

Perhaps someone knows more and could tell me more about the chemistry of how it works, please?

The only thing I gleaned is that when bicarb of soda and vinegar mix, it reacts to produce carbon dioxide, which is a gas and fizzes. Is that what makes it rise?  Here’s what it looks like when it mixes.

vinegar and bicarb of soda

Did it affect the cake’s flavour?  Well, I used cider vinegar and could definitely smell it when I was mixing the cake.  However, perhaps it’s a bit like George’s marvellous medicine, because there was no hint of vinegar in the tasting of the cake! I brought some into work and noone could guess the secret ingredient!  Of course, it could have been because of the good old clementines dominating the flavour of the cake… But I’m definitely up for giving it another go.  When I was googling, I also found some rather cool chemistry experiments, an eggle





ss cooking website
and vinegar cake recipes… Perhaps, I’ll try them out another day!

Nigella’s Clementine Cake

Nigella

I had 6 crinkly clementines which had definitely gone past their prime!  Shrivelled clementines, tangerines, oranges… are so ucky to eat, yet it seemed such a waste to throw them away.  At the back of my mind I knew that I’d seen a cake recipe using clementines before in Green and Black’s ‘Chocolate Recipes‘.  When I opened the recipe book, I discovered that I’d even photocopied the recipe for a shopping trip.  So, I must have wanted to make it at some point a few months ago…  I wonder what stopped me… hmmm… maybe it was the expense of buying ground almonds?  Anyway, I had some ground almonds leftover from a Lemon Polenta Cake baking moment, which was a good start.

So first, I had to boil and simmer the clementines whole for 2 hours.  2 hours!  Perhaps I should have read through the recipe first before starting… (ah! maybe this is what put me off before).  I covered the clementines with cold water, brought it to boil and then simmered it for 2 hours.

clementines

While the clementines were simmering away, I started to put the other ingredients together and realised two things.  Firstly, I had run out of baking powder and secondly, I didn’t have 6 large eggs.  Oooops…  Quick trip to the Co-op sorted out the baking powder.  For the second thing, though, I already had 5 eggs and didn’t want to buy more eggs.  So, I thought maybe this would be a good opportunity to try out a friend’s suggestion for substituting a spoonful of vinegar for an egg (see baking tip: substituting vinegar for an egg).  Admittedly, in the mixing stage, I was still wondering whether it would work and how it would it affect the overall taste of the cake.  The cake mixture definitely smelt like vinegar; the baked cake tasted divine.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for Nigella’s Clementine Cake adapted from ‘Chocolate Recipes’. 

Ingredients
4-5 clementines (I used 6), skin on to weigh 375g (13oz)
6 large eggs (well, you know what I did when I only had 5)
100g/4oz sugar (I tend to halve the sugar so do add more if you’d like it even sweeter)
250g/9oz ground almonds
1 heaped tsp of baking powder
100g/4oz good quality dark orange chocolate (grated)

Method

1. Cover the clementines with cold water in a saucepan and bring it to boil.  Then let the clementines merrily simmer away for 2 hours.  I kept checking up on it to make sure the pan didn’t boil dry, because I do that quite often when I’m hardboiling eggs – ooops!  Then cool them down by covering them with cold water again in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Drain them and then cut the clementines in half to take out any seeds.  Put them in a food processor and whizz them up so that the clementines are reduced to pulp – skin, pith and all.

2. At this point, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and grease and line the cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Getting ready to mix

3. Mix the ground almonds, sugar and baking powder in one bowl.

4. Beat the eggs in another bowl.

5. Add 3. to the eggs and mix well.

6. Stir in the pulped clementines to 5.

pour mixture into tin

7. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour.  At 40 mins, cover the top with foil or greaseproof paper so that the top doesn’t burn.  To test whether it is ready to come out the oven, pierce the middle of the cake with a clean, cold skewer and when it comes out clean you know the cake is ready.

grated chocolate on cafe

8. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately put the grated chocolate on top of the cake while it is still in the tin – watch the chocolate start melting and smell gorgeous!  Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then remove from the tin to store it in an airtight container.

The verdict?  This cake is sooo simple to bake.  Also it’s made with ground almonds and there’s no butter so, it’s gluten free and dairy free.  The cake tastes better when it’s been left for a day and it gets really moist and gooey.  The flavour of the clementines and almonds have also had time to develop too.  So, let it rest a while and enjoy every mouthful.  Mmmm… Mmmm….

The Baking of Flora’s Famous Courgette and Lime Cake

Flora

So, there’s an overabundance of courgettes growing in our garden at the moment. Before baking this cake, we’d eaten courgette lasagne, lemon and courgette risotto, pasta with courgettes, boiled courgettes… (we’re still eating our daily portion of courgettes). I was desperate to do some baking – so why not a courgette cake? One of my housemates has Nigella’s ‘Domestic Goddess’ cookbook and I’d seen this cake before but I’d been put off by it because it looked a bit tricky and… well… it’s a courgette cake! It caused a bit of controversy when I facebooked it. Some people really don’t like the idea of mixing vegetables in cakes!

So, in my desperation to do something creative with the courgettes, I read Mouthful’s of Heaven’s entry about Courgette and Lime Cake, was encouraged by how replicable it looked, dug out Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ and started grating the darling courgettes…
So, this is Flora’s famous Courgette Cake adapted by yours truly.

You’ll need to pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and grease and line 2 cake tins.

Ingredients

courgettes

Weigh 250g of courgettes (250g doesn’t really make much of a dent in the courgette harvest) – weigh them before you grate them and if you go a bit over then that’s fine.
60g sultanas (soaked in warm water)
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
75g caster sugar (the original recipe says 150g but I halved the sugar because recipes generally don’t need so much sugar as it says)
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Method
1. Actually the sultanas are optional but I love them so I put them in to soak in warm water to make them lovely and juicy.
2. Grate the courgettes using a normal cheese grater and then put them in a sieve over the sink to remove excess water.
3. Cream the eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl.
4. Sieve the flour, bicarb of soda and baking powder together in another bowl and then add to the creamed mixture.

Mixing in grated courgettes

5. Stir in the courgettes, then add the drained sultanas.
6. Pour the mixture into the cake tins.
7. Bake for about 30 mins (test it with a skewer and it should come out clean – I use a metal chopstick)
8. Let it cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins, find a cooling rack then take the cakes out to cool on the racks.

limes

Next up is the filling and icing. I’ve never made lime curd, or any curd for that matter, before and had a jar of the shop-bought stuff waiting in the fridge. However, this is what I loved about reading Mouthful’s of Heaven’s blog – she said that it was easy to make lime curd, so i took her at her word and gave it a shot. Indeed it is easy peasy limey squeasy! On another tangent, one of my friend’s mum washes fruit with fairy liquid before she eats them and I laughed when I heard it. Then I found myself doing it when I wanted to use lime for this cake recipe. Funny that… (but it really does work in getting the wax off.)

So for lime curd, melt 75g of butter on a low heat, add in
3 large eggs
75g of caster sugar
125ml lime juice (use the real deal, if you can)
zest of 1 lime

Keep whisking it all until it starts thickening into a custard. Let it cool and fill up a jar with it. It makes more than enough for the cake filling. Mouthfuls of Heaven said that she was wierded out by the slightly cooked whites, so would only use the egg yolks next time. I think its worth a go – not tried egg yolk only yet. I did want a more intense lime taste so would probably add more zest. I’d also advise keeping in the refrigerator and eating it asap (or at least within 3 weeks).

Han-Na

As you can see, my attempt at cream cheese icing was really, really runny. It was somewhat comforting that the same thing happened when a colleague of mine made it too. The one thing that we both did differently from the recipe was to use reduced fat cream cheese. I’m not convinced that this makes the world of difference… but the results would say otherwise! I even put the icing in the fridge for a few hours to firm up (does this work?) but to no avail. I have to admit though that this lime cream cheese icing kicks ass!

So, cream cheese icing with attitude!
Beat 200g of cream cheese until smooth,
Add 100g of sieved icing sugar and combine really well,
Add in juice of one lime.

So the final bit is in the assembling. I left the cakes and lime curd overnight to cool completely. Spread plenty of lime curd on top of one cake, place the second cake on top and then I poured the icing on top and finished it off by sprinkling chopped pistachio nuts on top. I had leftover icing, which my friends used as extra cream 🙂

The verdict? Fingerlinkin’ delish!

Flora

A Courgettini’s Career Ambitions

On Friday I was inspired by the garden and Edward Monkton to write something about this season of plentiful courgettes and the recipes that I’ve been trying out. This is the first piece of poetry that I’ve attempted to write in 8 years and somehow it’s making it’s way onto my blog as the first entry. Perhaps, it’s a good thing. This way, I’ll be far more relaxed about what I’m posting…

A Courgettini’s Career Ambitions

One courgette says to a marrow,
“Tomorrow
When I grow up, there’ll be no end
To the flavours I can be.
Pick – Sweet or Savoury.
Dress me up as a
Nutty courgette loaf
And I’ll impress.
Let famous Flora matchmake me
In a cake, with lime curd.
Tad controversial, I’ve heard.
Chop me, slice me, grate me,
Chutney me, pizza me, stirfry me,
Deep fry my bright, yellow flowers stuffed with cheese.
Or, I can always be a French ratatouille.”

Marrow replies, “Skinny Zucchini,
Do you feel sorry for me?
If, perhaps, and very likely so,
In a season of plentiful marrow,
Your ambitions are not realized,
Take care of your insides.
It does look like I’ve been woefully forgotten, neglected.
My friends got picked. I’ve been rejected.
And I got lazy, fat and bloated.
Indeed, in private I cried tears of frustration.
(Did you see my pitiful expression?)
Listen. Skinny Zucchini –
They say that inside me
When the knife cuts deeply, cleanly,
I will flaunt succulent, white flesh.
Imagine. Me. Baked, stuffed with rice, lamb, mint.
Matured marrow. Mmmm…. Meaty.
Sunny seeds have replaced my tears.
Fruitful and reproducing.
Listen. Cracking noises. Teeth
Eat, bite into my big seeds.”

Courgette and Marrow.
Zucchini and Squash.
You could confuse one for the other.
Pick us when its right.

Ps. But there is one more neglected – courgette leaves
Don’t forget to steam them please!”