Posts Tagged ‘cake’

Frost and food

Yesterday was a day of frost and food, both of which make for pretty pictures. Check it out.

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Pics from the walk to work
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Cherry and apple cake
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Chopping chives in the kitchen garden for the day’s food
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Making chutney with the garden produce

Things I have recently made at Ham House

The other day I was talking about the lovely fresh fruit and vegetables that the gardeners bring us at the Ham House cafe. Today, I’m going to show you that food in action. This is just a few of the things we have done with the garden produce.

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A fig and greengage tart

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An almond cake with blackcurrants and raspberries

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A gooseberry and apricot tart

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Mixture of dried herbs to flavour soups and risottos and stews

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Edible flowers decorating the cake section. The tart on the bottom left is with blackcurrants from the garden

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One of the table displays that a gardener made for the cafe

Things I have learned in the kitchen (part 2)

1. Sometimes, when the world is spinning around you and there are deliveries being piled up next to you and coffees to make and soup to stir and salad leaves to wash, sometimes the best thing is to just take some butter and flour and sugar and make a cake of Ham House.

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2. Rewording a cake name can cover up any mistakes you may have made e.g. calling it a ‘Light chocolate sponge with a hint of orange’ instead of ‘I squeezed loads of oranges in and still can’t taste a damn thing.’ Or ‘Spiced scones’ instead of ‘Why didn’t my yeast work and why are they so flat and doughy?’

3. Being the sandwich girl for a day will give you new found respect for the sandwich boy.

4. Occasionally, people who seem to leave their brains at the door when they come in, will surprise you by knowing where something is that you have lost all hope of finding. This one incident will make you see them in a different light.

5. When the going gets tough, some people will step up and some people will run off. The people who run off will remain in your bad books for a very long time.

6. Mixing raspberries in to the cake mix at any time apart from the very end will make your cake mix pink. Same with blackcurrants turning your mix blue-ish.

7. A tart always looks impressive (I’m talking about cakes there, by the way).

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8. Banana cake smells and tastes wonderful. Looks boring as mud.

9. Sometimes things which work at home, will refuse to work in a professional kitchen. One of these things is apple bread.

10. Blackcurrants smell amazing when they are baked into a cake/tart.

11. Whisking double cream into butter by hand will give you very very achy arms.

P.S. Part 1 can be found here.

Cake day

I bet you’re all hanging on the edge of your seat, wondering what happened after my gluten free failure the other day? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I arrived in the kitchen the next day, eggs in hand, and rectified the mistake. The result was a nice light fluffy sponge with moisture from the plums and texture from the ground almonds and it all went fabulously.

Yesterday, I went into work a bit early and I thought I’d give those gluten free members of the public a bit of choice so I made a chocolate torte. My phone had a freak out so I couldn’t take any photos of that cake but you’ll have to trust me that the experiment was successful. I’ll give you the recipe at the end. I added raspberries and it went down quite well with the public. The first one sold out in an hour! Then I got a bit crazy and adapted the recipe to make a chocolate, orange and almond torte.

Now I tend to think of gluten free cake as Compromise Cake, cause it’s usually a rubbish version of real cake. I resolved to change this in my kitchen and to make cake that is actually nice, not just gluten free nice, which we all know, means ‘rubbish.’

I also attacked the Overripe Fruit bowl and made a banana and plum cake, an apple upside down cake and a savoury apple bread thing that we served with cheese.

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I made a total of 18 cakes yesterday. It was a pretty good day.

Chocolate almond torte
(adapted from BBC Goodfood recipe)
250g dark chocolate
210g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
5 eggs, whisked

Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a round cake tin then line the bottom with baking paper and grease again. Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar down. Take it off the heat and let it cool while you whisk the eggs. Mix them in to the chocolate mixture then fold in the almonds. Bake on 170c for about 45 minutes or until it looks done. Let it cool in the tin. It will sink a bit and the end result is something denser than a sponge and lovely and rich. It is pretty when decorated with icing sugar and small edible flowers.

Adaption 1 – Chocolate raspberry torte

Everything is the same as above except you add the raspberries at the end and when it is finished, decorate the top with raspberries. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many raspberries to add. If you LOVE raspberries, then add loads. If you just want a little hint of something else, only add a few.

Adaption 2 – Chocolate orange almond cake
This one is spongier than the torte as I have added bicarb to rise it and rice flour to give it a lighter texture.

200g dark chocolate
210g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
60g any gluten free flour (I used rice flour)
5 eggs
75g ground almonds
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large orange or 2 small clementine/mandarin type things

Do the same as above by melting the chocolate, butter and sugar together. Then add the whisked eggs once mixture has cooled a bit. Add the flour and the bicarb then zest and juice your orange(s) in. Now here is where you have to use some initiative. Stick a teaspoon into the mixture (or your finger) and taste it. Does it taste orangey enough? If it’s orangey enough for you, then put it into the tin and bake. If not, grab another orange and get zesting and juicing til it tastes how you want it to. 

And so, my dears, go forth and bake! Be plentiful, be chocolatey and be gluten free!

My gluten free failure

There was a disaster, people. A disaster! Yesterday morning, in work, the customers kept asking about gluten free options and I kept on saying, earnestly, “I’m going to make some this afternoon, just a few hours!”

As part of my Apple Challenge, I had made an almond cake with apples and gooseberries and it only had 40g of flour in it. So I figured it wasn’t that far off being gluten free. All I had to do was replace the plain flour with rice flour and I’d have a decent gluten free cake that was actually nice, as opposed to gluten free nice.

The afternoon came, I got my chef’s whites on and I approached the kitchen with gusto. I made shortbread biscuits and flapjacks and got some bread dough ready to start proving. Then I let my imagination run wild. Well, not really. I just got started on the gluten free recipe I’ve mentioned above. I was doing it from memory so I knew it might not be perfect.

I put in butter, sugar, ground almonds, rice flour, almond essence, plums, bicarb. It all seemed to be going ok. I put it in a cake tin and stuck it in the oven to bake then got back to my bread.

I looked in the oven at the half way point and it had risen a lot. I worried that it might spill out of the tin. When I checked ten minutes later, it had sunk and looked ridiculously flat. I took it out after it had finished baking and drizzled white chocolate on it and decided to rename it an ‘almond slice.’ It seems like it’s supposed to be flat then…. Doesn’t it?

As I walked home, I wrangled with myself about how to get on top of the gluten free challenge, about whether the rice flour ruined it or something else. Did I not put enough ground almonds in? Did I use too much bicarb? Why was it so flat?

I got home and went straight to the cookbook to figure out the mystery….

EGGS! I forgot the eggs. Dang it. What a schoolboy error. The bloody eggs.

So today, I will try again. Wish me luck!

The Apple Challenge

One of my neighbours has fruit trees in his garden. A little while ago, he gave me some cherries, which I put into a cake. Since then, he has given me bits of fruit and I have caked them.

About ten days ago, he knocked on the door in the morning and delivered a plastic bag full of apples for me to cake. And so, the Apple Challenge began.

Day one was an apple bread, a kind of cidery, honey-sweetened brown bread with grated apples that was crying out for some cheese. Day two was an apple crumble cake, which consisted of a sponge cake with apple chunks and slivers of apricot, with a light buttery crumble mixture on the top. Day three was apple scones, which let me down the first day but I attempted them again on day four and hit the nail on the head. Day five was an apple tray bake which had jostaberries and a mashed banana in it. Day six was a nutty appley raisiny loaf, spiced with cinnamon, which filled the whole house with lovely rich aromas. Day seven was an almond tart with apples and gooseberries.

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And so it goes on, the apple cakes. Every morning. I get up, bake a cake, leave some on my neighbour’s doorstep then head for Ham House, where I leave the cakes in the mess room for the volunteers to eat.

I have enough apples left for about four more days and I’m running low on ideas. Does anybody have any apple cake ideas? Apple pie and apple crumble are out as they are hard to portion out without getting runny. Tomorrow is an almond cake with apples and blueberries.

But what next, people? What next?! Help me in my Apple Challenge or I shall be ideas-less and I refuse, refuse, to repeat a recipe.

She’s leaving home

Except she’s going with her Dad, not a man from the motor trade. And she’s not really leaving home, she’s going home. But she’s leaving me. It feels like the end of an era. In dedication to my friend‘s time in the spare bedroom, I have put together a compilation of the best moments of her stay.

1. Wednesday evenings in front of the TV watching The Apprentice and marveling at the stupidity.

2. Tuesday evenings at the pub quiz, which we got steadily worse at the more we went.

3. Baking biscuits with Smarties in for the schoolchildren Naomi taught.

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4. The time we watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars and persuaded Danda to watch the Lip Sync For Your Lives bit at the end and, despite himself, he got into it a bit.

5. The time we went out dancing to a swanky club in London town and they put on Breathe by Sean Paul and Blu Cantrell and we went crazy for it. It was less good when I asked the DJ for a bit of Beyonce and he put on some unknown song off an album or something when he totally should have played Irreplaceable or Single Ladies.

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6. Getting home from work and Naomi telling me she’d woken up about two hours ago.

7. Watching First Dates and loving it. O the awkwardness, o the embarrassingly awful attempts at conversation with a complete stranger, o the hilarity.

8. Reminiscing about our travels in Asia.

9. Making marshmallows and banana cake to celebrate my new job and then eating loads of the un-set marshmallow mixture and feeling too full by the time the marshmallows where actually ready to eat.

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10. Planning how we will make our millions. Because we will make them. We just have to figure out how. At one point, we decided we would write a childrens’ book and get rich and famous like JK Rowling. We still need to finish that story.