May 20, 2012

pink cake

I made my first ever pink cake, for the boys' cousin Abby, who turned 4 this weekend.  Her mum's just given birth to another little girl, and together with Abby and little brother Jack, she had her hands full but couldn't not throw a birthday party for the little girl who loves pink.  So I volunteered to make the cake, because lord knows I might never get the chance to make pink one for my own children.

It was pretty much great.  Even if I do say so.  A little sweet maybe, but it was a birthday cake!  The pink frosting was a normal buttercream frosting, pinked up with pureed raspberries.  And for the cake itself, I followed a recipe I found online, modifying it slightly and adding 1/2 cup of hundreds and thousands, which in the baked cake left little speckles of pink throughout.  I kept the decoration simple (I always do - I can't use a piping bag and I'm really not that inventive), a few silver cachous sprinkled on top and some white ribbon and twine around the sides.  It was a winner - we thought it looked and tasted great.  The cake batter itself is a recipe I'm going to use again.  It's the first I've ever baked using just egg whites, and it was delicious.  It actually tasted like birthday.  Here is the recipe, adapted slightly from Sweetapolita, a blog that has more recipes for a simple butter cake than you could imagine.

White vanilla cake (enough for two 8" or 9" layers)

1 cup whole milk (240 ml at room temperature
6 large egg whites (175 grams), at room temperature (I only needed 5 for 175 grams)
2 1/4 teaspoons (11.25 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (315 g) plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar (300 grams) (I really think you could get away with much less)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder (20g)
3/4 teaspoon salt (5 grams)
170 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
~1/2 cup hundreds and thousands or whatever you like or nothing at all

1. Preheat oven to 180°c. Grease and line  two round 8 or 9 inch pans.
2. Combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla in a jug. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed for a minute or so.
4. Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.
5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Gently stir in the hundreds and thousands, until just combined.
6. Divide the batter into the two tins.
7. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Start checking the cakes at 20 minutes and then every couple of minutes. 
8. Apparently, you can wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. 

Raspberry frosting (way loads - 3/4 of the quantity below would be enough to sandwich, crumb coat and cover a two layer 9" cake)

375 g unsalted butter, softened
500 g icing sugar (I used the soft icing mix stuff you get here in Australia)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk 
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons raspberry puree made from frozen raspberries

1. Whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I used my KitchenAid on setting 4) until it is pale and creamy.
2. Add remaining ingredients, except puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
3. Add raspberry puree and beat until incorporated.

May 10, 2012

you feel better

You leave work early because what should be a manageable head cold has left you feeling rotten, with that sort of headache, sneezing and snottiness that won't go away, leaving you completely devoid of energy.

You make it home, get into a hot shower, your most comfortable clothes and feel thankful that your husband is going to pick up the kids and feed them while you lie in bed.  They come home, the boys adorably sweet with their concern for you, even if it only lasts seconds before they are causing chaos.  Realising you can't possibly rest with the racket, you get up, and that's where the restoration begins.

You take the half eaten roast chicken from Sunday night, strip it of any meat - could be a bit or a lot, put the carcass in a pot with some water, a carrot, an onion, simmer for 30 mins.  Mean time, fry some finely diced onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in some butter and a little oil.  Add a splash of marsala or sherry or vermouth, scrape up the goodness from the bottom of the pan before straining the broth into the vegetables and throwing in some thyme, bay and the shredded chicken.  Season well and let it simmer for a while.  You chop up some tarragon and add to the pan with some frozen peas.

You make up some dumpling batter - 1 cup of flour, 1/2 milk, 20 grams butter (melted by putting it in the milk and microwaving for 40-50 seconds), salt, baking powder (about a level tsp).  Mix the milk into the dry ingredients with a spoon, the dough should be wet and gooey.  Drop teaspoonfuls of it into the soup, you'll have about 10 dumplings.  You let it simmer gently, covered for about 15 minutes.  By this time, your husband has fed, bathed and put the kids to bed and the dumplings have doubled in size.  You ladle the soup into bowls.  You eat.  You feel better.  You really do.

May 6, 2012


This evening, Will and I ate a kilo and a half of tomatoes between us.  That's not counting the sliced tomato we might have had on our lunch time sandwich.  This is how to do it:

Buy way too many tomatoes.  Way too many.  Mainly because you can't be bothered working out the weight of 6-7 tomatoes, so you end up specifying "2kg" or something ridiculous on your online shop.  It was a gamble, yes, because tomatoes especially, you want them red and ripe and you want to smell those stems and the people that are employed by our supermarkets to pack my groceries in particular aren't exactly good at picking.  But the last couple of weeks have been kind of busy and I haven't the time to meander through the markets, so online supermarket shopping (the worst kind?) has been a saviour of sorts.  Anyway, the gamble paid off and the toms we got were good.  End of summer ripe and fragrant and good.

Next?  Let your husband unpack the shopping so that he has the opportunity to say comedic things like "you've bought enough tomatoes for our very own version of that Spanish tomato tossing festival".  Go straight to Deb Perelman, because you know she'll have a recipe that involves tomatoes.  And how.  She has this one.  It's a roasted tomato and 'broiled cheddar' soup.  Now I don't know about you, but the word 'broiled' evokes some weird cooking method that may or may not involve a cauldron.  What she is of course referring to is grilled cheddar.  I'm not sure about broiled cheddar but you could put grilled cheddar with most anything and it would be good.  I was sold.

So this afternoon, I did the easiest possible thing you could do with that many tomatoes, made this amazing roasted tomato soup (with extra roasted garlic) and ate every last bit of it.  So keen were we to devour the smells that had been emanating our kitchen, I forgot to photograph the finished soup, complete with its sourdough grilled cheese topper. Even the kids liked their cheesy spelt sourdough toasts although they weren't exactly hungry after eating most of the bread before I'd even sliced it up for dinner.  And now here we are, the other side of another recipe we'd never tried before, better for it and lycopened up to the hilt.  Ready for some leftover plum almond tart.  With cream.

May 5, 2012

plum almond tart

This is the recipe, but I've replicated it here with metric measurements.  Changes:  I doubled the frangipane filling because the pastry quantity was enough to do a big tart and a couple of little ones.  I didn't glaze the plums with red current jelly; the stuff I had was a little on the old side and I decided not to use it.  I did however use a black raspberry liqueur in the frangipane that's probably as old as the redcurrant jelly, but a little sip confirmed it tasted just fine.

This was good.  A little on the sweet side but some whipped cream helped with that.  I would have liked to have had some of those spectacular blood red plums but we are at the end (or even past) the stone fruit season, so I used what I could find.  They were good, not terribly juicy but then when you've added sweet, short pastry, frangipane and whipped vanilla cream, who cares.

150g plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar

a pinch of salt

110g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons iced water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g whole or ground almonds
75g raw caster sugar

1 large egg

45g unsalted butter, room temperature

4 teaspoons framboise (raspberry liqueur) 

400-500g ripe plums, pitted, cut into thick wedges (8-9 per plum)

See if your husband doesn't mind taking care of dinner proper (he didn't) before preheating the oven to 180°c. Make pastry by combining the cold butter, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Mix together the water and vanilla, add to the processor and process until the dough comes together in big lumps.  You may need more water (I did).  Gather dough into ball and roll out on floured surface. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Using fork, pierce dough all over. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Bake crust until pale golden, about 20 minutes before cooling.

If using whole almonds, grind almonds with sugar in processor. Add egg, butter and 2 teaspoons framboise. Process until batter forms. Spread filling into cooled crust. Arrange plums in the filling. Bake until plums are tender and filling is golden and set, about 50 minutes.

Cool tart. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, although it would be nice warm too.
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