Sunday, 27 April 2008

Custard tart

It’s a double birthday celebration this week – the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) and his twin brother, my Uncle (known to all the family as “Nunks”) are another year older – happy birthday to you both!

Something this gorgeous doesn’t need much dressing up:

OK, I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one – quite simply, this is THE BEST thing I have ever made and was of professional patisserie standard. It was the most exquisite custard – soft and smooth like velvet; it melted as if by magic in your mouth and the only clue it had ever been there was the gorgeous taste of custard.

As soon as I took it out of the oven I knew something rather special was in the offing:

Using a buttered pastry ring gives a deeper tart than using a flan tin, which tend to be shallower:

Look at the depth of this beauty - 3.5cm to be precise!

If there’s one thing in the cake/pastry line that gets the CCD’s taste buds tingling it’s a custard tart, so in honour of his birthday I finally got round to tackling the Marcus Wareing recipe that I’ve been putting off for months. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but sometimes I’ll see a recipe that I know would be popular but something in it spooks me and I never make it. This recipe falls into that category. In truth, several things spooked me with this. Here they are in no particular order:

-Marcus Wareing has two Michelin stars so just because his came out alright didn’t mean that mine would
-This very recipe won a nationwide public vote on a BBC TV show to be served to the Queen for her official 80th birthday lunch at the Mansion House (which kinda meant the recipe worked! If it came out yucky I could be certain it was my fault)
-I saw Marcus Wareing make it on TV twice and both times it looked divine and everybody who tasted it agreed it was the best custard tart ever
-The pastry part of the recipe looked a real faff (technical term!)

But spurred on with the knowledge that the CCD would prefer this to any birthday cake, and that Marcus Wareing writes a great recipe (the scones made in Cakefest were his) I rolled up my sleeves and confronted my fears.

Here’s the custard in progress:

I won’t lie – there were moments when Marcus probably wondered why his ears were burning as I cursed at the pastry but it was definitely worth it. The pastry is extremely fragile and unyielding. If you’re not confident with pastry and you panic if it behaves badly then I would recommend that you save yourself the stress and use your usual shortcrust recipe instead. If you like a challenge and want to taste the tart deemed good enough for the Queen then go for the recipe as written – it is worth it. The custard was exquisite and so simple that I found myself wondering where all the flavour came from!

Brushing the pastry case with egg yolk seals the pastry and stops it getting soggy when the custard is poured in. You can see the thin layer of egg yolk in these photos of cut slices:

I know there’s lots of photos this week but this is the tart to end all tarts! I am so proud of it! Here are some more gratuitous photos:

Just to manage the expectations of my Monday morning eaters – the CCD got so attached to this tart that he wouldn’t let any of it leave the house. Sorry. But here’s what it would have been like to eat..... this fork's for you!

For the shortcrust pastry:
230g plain white flour
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, chilled
75g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I didn’t put this in)
1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk

To glaze: 2 egg yolks, beaten

For the filling:
9 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
500ml whipping cream
Nutmeg, for grating

How to make:

- Start by making the pastry. Rub the flour and butter together until it resembles fine bread crumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and, if using, the lemon rind then add the eggs and using your hand form a dough. You may need to flour your hands as the dough is sticky.
- Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten slightly. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours. This is a very soft, delicate pastry and you will have less cracking and splitting if you work with it cold.
- After two hours, roll out the pastry. Even if rolling out between baking paper or clingfilm, you will still need to flour the pastry as it is sticky. Here’s the unusual step – when you’ve rolled it out put it back in the fridge. This stops it tearing quite so much when you try to put it into the flan ring. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Grease a 18cm pastry ring or loose bottom flan tin and stand it on the tray. Whatever ring or tin you use, try to find a deep one as this will give a lovely deep tart and a luscious thick layer of baked custard.
- Take the rolled pastry from the fridge and line the pastry ring/flan tin with it. Let the pastry overhang the edges. Take some of the surplus pastry off and put to one side – you may need this for patching later on.
- Put the pastry back in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Cover the pastry with baking paper and weigh down with baking beads/rice/lentils etc. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Beat the two egg yolks and when the 10 minutes is up, remove the pastry from the oven and remove the paper and beads. Have a look at the pastry and use the spare that you put to one side to patch any little holes or cracks that you can see. I found that my pastry squidged down the ring a little (even with the overhang supposedly stopping this) and took the opportunity to push the pastry back to where I wanted it. When happy, brush all of the egg yolk over the interior of the pastry case and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This seals the pastry so that it won’t go soggy when you add the custard.
- Remove the pastry from the oven and leave to cool. When it is cool enough to handle trim the excess pastry away using a serrated knife. Leave the pastry in the ring/tin. I wrapped the tin in foil so that if there were any leaks the custard wouldn’t escape too far!
- Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/Gas mark 2.
- From now on it’s all easy! Make the custard by whisking together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the cream and whisk again.
- Pour through a sieve into a heavy saucepan. Don’t skip this stage as there’s lots of eggy bits that will get caught by the sieve and would make the custard lumpy in texture if not removed.
- Heat the custard over a low heat stirring all the time. When it gets to 37°C remove it from the heat.
- Pour as much of the custard into the pastry case as possible. I got all of mine in but it will depend on how deep your ring/tin is. Cover the surface with grated nutmeg. If you’re not confident that you’ll get the tart into the oven without spilling the custard, put the tray (with the tart case on it) onto the oven shelf and then pour the custard in. I would’ve done this but when I pull my oven shelf out it dips slightly so I could not have got all the custard in.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the custard looks set but still wobbles slightly when the tray is moved. Mine actually took an hour to get to this stage.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.
To see my further attempt at making this tart, with different pastry, click here.

Coffee and walnut cupcakes

What with it being the CCD’s (Caked Crusader’s Da) birthday I thought I’d make something to appeal to his tastes. The CCD eats his fair share of cake but struggles with very sweet things. I tried to find a recipe that had the cuteness of a cupcake but not the usual sweetness. This recipe met the criteria and is quite a ‘grown up’ cupcake!

Here are the cupcakes fresh from the oven (I do like a cupcake with a nice dome to it!)

Regular readers will know that I don’t like coffee but if you do, then I suspect that these little cakes will hit the spot as the aroma of coffee when they were baking was pretty strong. The recipe requires the walnuts to be ground to powder and it was interesting how moist looking this made the finished cupcake. Grind the walnuts as finely as possible; when you do this you will be rewarded with a wonderfully walnutty smell:

Everyone has their influences and here I am paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock. I call this photo: Cupcake, as shot by Hitchcock. How cool is the dramatic lighting (totally unintentional, I should add)?

These are very light, airy cupcakes with big flavours. Even the day after being made they remained soft and squidgy sponges:

Happy birthday CCD and Nunks!

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter
150g light brown sugar
3 eggs
150g self raising flour
60g walnuts, ground finely
2 tablespoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon boiling water

For the topping:
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon boiling water
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g icing sugar
12 walnut halves
Optional: icing sugar for dusting

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/275°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Using a food processor or mini chopper grind the walnuts to fine powder.
- Beat the eggs, flour and ground walnuts into the butter mix until combined.
- Place the instant coffee into a heat proof bowl and stir in the boiling water. Stir until the granules are dissolved. I found that because of the small amount of water, not all the granules dissolved.
- To stop lumps getting into the cupcake mix pass the coffee through a sieve when adding to the cake mix.
- Ensure all ingredients combined, then spoon evenly into the 12 paper cases.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took exactly 20 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- To make the topping mix the coffee granules and boiling water and ensure thoroughly dissolved. If in doubt, sieve the mix.
- Add the butter to the coffee and beat until smooth.
- Gradually beat in the icing sugar to make a fluffy, smooth icing.
- Spread over the top of each cupcake and top with a walnut half. If you want to, dust each cupcake with icing sugar.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (26 April 2008)

I think I’ve mentioned before that, as a genuine rule, I’m not a fan of female singers often finding them too shrill or affected. The major exception – quite simply the best female singer ever – is of course the Queen of the Blues, Dinah Washington.

What I love about Dinah is her range. Her voice is a wonderful ball of contradictions: smoky, tart, smooth, rich, edgy and she’s just as fantastic whether barking out feisty lyrics or crooning the saddest love song you’ve ever heard.

Like many singers of her time there are too many recording sessions with strings and orchestras. I always prefer singers with smaller ensembles (preferably the only things with strings being guitars and double bass). My two favourites are “The Swingin’ Miss D” and “Jazz Sides of Miss D” the latter of which has simply the most awesome version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” that I’ve ever heard; recorded in a night club there’s a magical bit where she really cuts loose on the line “days may be cloudy or sunny” and the audience breaks into spontaneous applause. Any modern chanteuses who think they’re divas should listen to that and hang their head in shame!

There are a lot of Dinah recordings out there which makes you wonder how she found the time to get through seven husbands......what a woman!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Winter plum cake

I’ve never really “got” Nigella Lawson – all that hair flicking and coy pouting at the camera clearly isn’t targeted at me, but I suspect the woman knows her stuff where cake is concerned – and respect to her for that! Having just got round to buying her “How to be a domestic goddess” book (about 8 years behind everyone else – hey, what can I say? I’m tough to win over!) this recipe leapt out at me as I adore anything with plums and almonds.

Here it is fresh from the oven:

The cake has a very pleasing rustic/farmhouse sort of look to it:

The cake can be served two ways: firstly, the way I have served it here, as a warm dessert with custard, or secondly, cold with icing. If there is a more delicious sight than gorgeous sponge smothered in vanilla custard then I’m yet to see it!

This is the first plum cake I have made where the plums are chopped and mixed through the cake – normally they are halved and laid on top. I rather liked this twist as it made the cake juicy and every bite guaranteed some plum! I always think that plums are the greatest success of the tinned fruit world and chopped up they look almost jewell-like:

The cake is exceptionally moist and light. I made it the day before I wanted it, and then reheated it in the oven; even after being heated twice it was so light it tasted more like a steamed sponge. For a cake that is almost embarrassingly easy to make it certainly got a warm reception – everyone came back for seconds and we demolished the whole thing between us: a sure-fire sign of success! (and, perhaps, gluttony)

Just look at these pictures as proof of the beautiful texture:

Come to mama!

For the cake:
567g tin of red plums
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g light brown sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
75g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the icing (if serving cold):
160g golden icing sugar (use ordinary if you cannot find)
1-2 tablespoons hot water

If serving as a warm dessert: custard

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Grease and line a 20cm round springform cake tin.
- Drain the plums, then chop and leave in a sieve to drain further.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Weigh out the flour.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour each time.
- Beat in the almond extract.
- Fold in the rest of the flour along with the almonds and baking powder.
- Fold in the plums.
- Spoon into the cake tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Check it after an hour. Mine took exactly one hour.
- If you are serving warm as a dessert you can either serve straightaway or let cool and then gently warm when required (as long as you store the cold cake in an airtight tin you should be ok for at least a couple of days).
- If you are making the icing simply mix the icing sugar and water until you have a thick, smooth, glossy icing. Then spoon over the top of the cool cake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Fallen ginger ricotta cake

I know the saying is that ‘all roads lead to Rome’ but for me, at the moment ‘all recipes lead to ginger’. I’m obsessed with the stuff! My favourite form is definitely stem ginger – I love everything about using it, from trying to ease the sticky ball from the jar where it’s wedged in and reluctant to come out, to the gloopy syrup that makes everything it touches as tacky as glue.
I did tweak this recipe slightly in that I chose to use gingernut biscuits for the base; the recipe as written used digestives but I really fancied a hit of gingery heat – the weather is grotesquely cold and windy at the moment so you have to get some warmth from somewhere! Even with that amendment I could still have taken this hotter – I think next time I’d maybe use two balls of stem ginger. Here’s the tin lined with the biscuit base:

This cake works as a dessert or a slice of something tasty to have with tea. It’s very similar in some ways to a cheesecake but has a little twist that involves egg whites that makes it lighter in texture. I love the way that you can see the flecks of ginger in the cut slice:

The ‘fallen’ in the title refers to the fact that, on removal from the oven, the cake will sink. Don’t be upset and don’t think you’ve done anything wrong- every millimetre it sinks increases the dense, lovely texture!

The rewards of a job well done:

Footnote: I am delighted to report that Nicky, a work colleague of mine, was so impressed with this cake that she made it too! Look at how magnificent it is! You will also see that it has been given my ultimate award - a ten out of ten:

For the base:
225g gingernut biscuits (or digestives if you want it less gingery)
75g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 ball stem ginger in syrup, plus 1 tablespoon of the syrup
200g full-fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
225g ricotta cheese (I pass this through a sieve to make sure that any lumps are removed – it gives a smoother texture)
4 tablespoons double cream
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon cornflour
125g icing sugar

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
- Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter (this will help the crumbs to stick).
- Crush the biscuits to powder and then stir in the melted butter. Use just over half the mix to line the base and sides of the cake tin. Put the rest to one side.
- Chop the stem ginger finely and then beat it into the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, egg yolk, cornflour, double cream and ginger syrup. The mixture will be thick and creamy and the ginger should be evenly spread out in it. Put to one side.
- Whisk the egg whites until they are at the “soft peak” stage. Gradually add the icing sugar and whisk until the meringue is glossy and stiff.
- Fold the egg whites into the cheese mix and spoon into the biscuit crumb lined tin.
- Sprinkle the remaining biscuit crumbs on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and loosely cover the tin with foil and bake for a further 45 minutes, or until the cake is just set in the middle.
- Remove and cool on a wire rack. Don’t panic – the cake will sink!
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (19 April 2008)

This is my 100th post! I wasn’t sure I’d ever get this far but here I am and still going strong!

Back in 1985 the Caked Crusader was a mere 12 year old strip of a girl whose only concern was whether her trigonometry homework was done (it was – I was a girly swot). Then along came Go West and suddenly the world became a different place. I can still clearly picture my school locker, the inside of which was plastered with A4 posters of Go West (but really only Peter Cox – the singer) torn from magazines such as “No.1” and “Just 17” - magazines both consigned to the dustbin of the past and a more innocent age - and snorting with derision at others’ lockers containing pictures of A-Ha, Curiosity Killed the Cat and Wet Wet Wet.

Everyone has a strong recollection of their first crush and mine was definitely Peter Cox – I can still remember waiting for November to come around as that was the “hottest” picture on my Go West calendar; embarrassingly, I can recall the picture too – black t-shirt, crossed arms, slightly moody stare...sigh! Luckily my friend and I got to see them play at the Hammersmith Odeon – I think the venue has changed names at least three times since then! God this is making me feel old...

Anyway, that’s the scene setting done. Recently I’ve been putting lots of my old CDs onto my MP3 player and realised that I didn’t have any of the Go West albums on CD as my mania was back in the days of cassette. Thankfully, Amazon provided the necessary CDs and Go West are now happily ensconced on my MP3 player. I’m glad to say the hits such as “We close our eyes”, “Don’t look down”, “Call me”, “Faithfull” and “The king of wishful thinking” sound as upbeat and poppy as ever. Strange that pop music is so “of its time” yet great pop songs never really age.

However, this tale is not a totally happy wander down memory lane. I checked out some of the old videos which are available on Youtube. Let’s just say that what seemed like a butch doom-hunk to my young eyes seems a rather different prospect now......oh well, they say you should never go back!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Rum and raisin cupcakes

The work of minutes to make yet delightfully pleasing. Soft, buttery little cupcakes containing juicy raisins and topped with a rum buttercream these are little gems!

You can use any type of rum for these but just be aware that a dark rum will give a much stronger taste than a white. I went middle-of-the-road and used golden rum made by the best rum makers in the world: the Tortuga rum company in the Cayman Islands:

While all cake is attractive and needs to be eaten by me, nothing quite says “come and eat me” more than a cupcake piled up with buttercream!

Here are the cupcakes nude and fresh from the oven – they look pretty already:

I probably need to get out more, but I thought they looked really cute in the tin waiting to be eaten :

For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g light brown sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons rum
100g raisins

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons rum
60g chocolate covered raisins (to sprinkle on top)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 12 hole patty tin with paper cases.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and rum and beat until well combined.
- Stir in the raisins.
- Spoon the mix evenly into the paper cases and bake for 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (mine took 15 minutes).
- Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the buttercream: beat together the icing sugar, butter and rum until smooth.
- Spread over the top of the cooled cupcakes and then sprinkle the chocolate raisins on top.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Gateau Breton

This recipe is courtesy of Clarice of Eating Brittany who hasn’t been too well lately – get well soon Clarice and thanks for sharing this delicious recipe.

Firstly, this cake makes the most intensely yellow mix I have ever seen; I guess that’s what 6 egg yolks do for a cake! Secondly, it is mouth-wateringly scrumptious. Thirdly, it is so easy to make you have no excuses not to!

Somewhere between a shortbread biscuit and a cake this is a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. It doesn’t look stunning in the sense that it’s piled up with cream and fruit and other show-stopping tricks, but this is a cake that’s beautiful in its simplicity. Its taste and crumbly yet moist texture are out of this world.

Look at how buttery and moist the cut cake is; I particularly like the way you can see the little vanilla seeds dotted around the cake (well, you could when the photo was full screen size!):

I did make a couple of very minor tweaks to the recipe but if you want to see Clarice’s recipe as she makes it please click here .

The next time I make this cake (and believe me, there will be a next time!) I might try almond extract instead of vanilla as I think it could be a great combination of taste and texture.

For the cake:
350g plain flour
300g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 egg and 5 egg yolks
350g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease a 23cm round springform cake tin.
- Mix the flour, sugar and vanilla sugar in a bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Into the well add the egg and egg yolks, butter and vanilla extract and mix until a rough ball forms.
- Press this mixture into the cake tin and brush over the glaze, then scrape a design on the top with a fork (optional).
- Cook for 40-50 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
- Let cool in the tin before removing.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (12 April 2008)

For the first time since...well, actually it was so long a go I can’t remember...I have bought a newly released album by a band! I seem to have lost touch with ‘new’ music as I find so little of it grabs my attention but The Feeling have bucked the trend. Their music is the kind of good old-fashioned pop I feared had gone forever and has that joyous quality to it that great music has – I defy anyone to listen to songs such as “Fill my little world” or “Love it when you call” and not tap their foot.

Thoroughly British in their sound and lyrics (what other country could a band hail from who call a love song “Kettle’s On” – the main chorus line being “come home, the kettle’s on”) they also do inventive covers of classic pop songs such as “Video killed the radio star”.

Both their albums are fantastic (I should be on commission the hard selling I’m doing here!). I came to their debut “Twelve stops and home” a couple of years after its release and by then, I felt I knew all the songs as they were the most played band on British radio in 2006. Love the line on Amazon that they sound like Squeeze would have if they sang about puppies! Once you’ve listened to the first album you’ll definitely want the follow up “Join with us” just make sure you get the 2 CD special edition as it has some wonderful covers and different versions of the hits – it’s worth the extra £4 purely for the chorale version of “Love it when you call”.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

I've been tagged for a six word memoir!

Rosie, who has a very lovely (and drool inducing!) site called Rosiebakesapeaceofcake has tagged me for a Six Word memoir. So here goes....drum roll please:

Was born...ate lots of cake

1. Write your own six-word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog (and include a visual illustration if you’d like).
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. Remember to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

I’m tagging to participate in this meme:

Ling, of Ling's Passion

Jessie, of Cakespy

Courtney, of Coco Cooks

Blog princess, of Food Film Fiction

Mike, of Mike's Table

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Introduction to this week’s posts: Cake Fest 2008

I am spoiling you this week with FIVE - count 'em! - five posts! A whole weekend spent baking - heaven!

My ten-year-old nephew (The Boy Wonder) requested a baking session with me and particularly wanted to make Spongebob Squarepants cakes (hey, who doesn’t?). We decided to turn this into a weekend-long festival celebrating cake: Cake Fest 2008. I see this as an annual event that will grow over the years eventually requiring camping arrangements, several different kitchens, wristbands etc but this year it was a small, exclusive guest list.

All the gang were reunited; Miss Lucille was on tea duty:

Betty Boop held the menu:

- Rhubarb tart, the recipe for which can be found here
- Bakewell tarts, the recipe for which can be found here
- Mini cheesecakes, the recipe for which can be found here
- Spongebob Squarepants sponge cakes, using my Genoese sponge recipe
- Scones with clotted cream and jam, the recipe for which can be found here

The only rule of attendance was that nothing was consumed on the day other than cake. It was tough but we all managed it! Bring on the bigger trousers.....

Here are The Boy Wonder’s Spongebob Squarepants cakes:

We used the Genoese sponge recipe and an icing-sugar-and-water runny icing. His eyes are white maltesers and the distinctive Spongebob teeth are rice paper.

I know side-kicks are meant to assist rather than lead, but The Boy Wonder made these 100% himself. I think I might soon be out of a job.....