Masala chai cake

Masala chai cakeWell, it’s been rather longer since my last post than I originally anticipated! But I have been baking, so fear not. My first bake of 2017 was this rather delicious masala chai cake.

The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail, the book by one of my all-time favourite GBBO contestants, Chetna Makan. It’s a lot simpler than the recipe I came up for my own sort-of successful tea masala cake five years (!) ago – and a lot more successful at replicating the flavours of traditional Indian chai, too.

Masala chai cake
I’m a huge fan of Chetna’s recipes – they’re usually not too complicated, but they still deliver on both the flavour and texture fronts every time. This masala chai cake recipe is no exception; the sponge is beautifully soft and light, while the gorgeous combination of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger really comes through.

I chose not to make the frosting because, like many other people, I’ve been trying to eat a little less fat and sugar in the aftermath of the excesses of Christmas. I think the cake is beautiful without the frosting, but I can also see how it would add a bit more oomph if you were making the cake for a less diet-conscious crowd. Without the frosting, the cake comes in at around 150 calories per piece if you cut it into 20 pieces, which I think is very reasonable for such a delicious cake!

Masala chai cake
The recipe isn’t online, but I would strongly recommend that anyone who’s a fan of using spices in baking buy The Cardamom Trail – it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to make something else from it!

Advertisements

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks + other bakes + an odd October

I can’t believe my last post was at the start of the month. A lot has happened since then! See below or skip straight to the bottom for my fig, pear and ginger flapjacks recipe.

Also, happy Diwali to everyone who celebrates!

Literary stuff

I had a great time going to three events at the Manchester Literature Festival. I’ve never been before, but there were quite a few interesting events on this year.

I went to events for The Good Immigrant (a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Britain); an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and edited by Tracy Chevalier; and an examination of writing about the Lancashire coastline, featuring Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney) and Jenn Ashworth (Fell). They were all really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about as someone who would like to write a book one day!

I also nabbed a free, signed copy of Jenni Murray’s A History Of Britain In 21 Women as part of a festival giveaway, which I’m rather chuffed about!

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Outside of the festival, I also went to see the wonderful Becky Chambers talk about her two books – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (READ IT NOW IT’S SO GOOD) and the newly released A Closed And Common Orbit (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out before I read it, but also READ IT NOW). She’s a really funny, intelligent woman, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk about video games, science and what it’s like to write a novel.

Goodbye, Bake Off

I did, of course, watch GBBO to the end, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end of the final (it’ll never be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue).

I was originally rooting for Benjamina to win (that pina colada roulade… oof!), but I’ve also loved Candice throughout, especially since That Pub, so I threw my support behind her when Benjamina left.

Credit: Radio Times

Credit: Radio Times

I’m thrilled that she won in the face of a stupid amount of abuse on social media over her looks, as well as the fact that *gasp* she obviously wanted to do well in the competition – rather than being all British about it and pretending that it didn’t matter if she won or not. OF COURSE it matters when you take months out of your life to practice making ever more complicated baked goods in an effort to please Paul and Mary. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t.

I’m rather gutted that there’s no GBBO at all next year, but I’m hoping that the BBC will film Candice and Jane’s baking road trip and screen that instead next summer!

As an aside, the final technical challenge was brilliant and exactly what a technical challenge should be (none of this ‘make something you’ve never heard of’ malarkey).

The horrible bit

The biggest low this month was being mugged on my way home from the Becky Chambers event earlier in the week. I wasn’t hurt, but was rather shaken up by having my bag snatched and being pushed over by two blokes bigger than me who could just jump out of and into a car and speed off.

It’s made me quite anxious about leaving the house and getting home from work, especially as the nights are drawing in, but I’m hoping that I’ll get over it soon. I can’t very well stay indoors for the rest of my life!

The thing I’m most angry about is that they took things that wouldn’t have had any value for them (although they did manage to squeeze £45 out of my bank card), but meant a lot to me. I also resent going through the long and expensive rigmarole of having the locks changed, replacing my phone and other things that were in my bag, notifying the relevant people, etc. All so some low-lifes can no doubt buy some cheap booze and fags before doing it again to another unsuspecting soul.

Baking!

I have also been baking this month, so don’t worry! Unfortunately, all of the photos were on my stolen phone, so I’ve only got some snaps from Instagram to share.

Mary Berry’s lemon and poppy seed traybake

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
This was a really easy cake to make. I settled on this after my husband requested something lemony for my next bake.The sponge was wonderfully light and soft, with plenty of flavour. I deviated a little from Mary’s recipe and put the zest of two lemons instead of just one into the mix – it really made a difference to the flavour, I think.

The recipe is on Mary Berry’s website.

Banana, raisin and rum drizzle loaf cake

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

This is pretty the same as the banana, rum and raisin loaf I’ve made before, except that I made a rum drizzle (50g icing sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp of dark rum) to pour over the top of the warm cake. This seemed to make the cake exceptionally boozy, which I’m sure Mary Berry would approve of!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
Last week I really wanted to bake something, but couldn’t be bothered going to buy particular ingredients, so I made do with what I had in – dried figs, a pear from my mother-in-law’s garden and my trusty store cupboard. I pretty much just jazzed up a basic flapjack recipe, with good results!

The flapjacks were wonderfully autumnal, if not a little soft due to the fruit – but still very nice if you don’t mind bits of flapjack falling everywhere! The recipe is below.

Makes 16 flapjacks

  • 1 pear, peeled and diced
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar (I used 40g golden caster sugar and 135g dark muscovado sugar)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup (I used 2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Toss the diced pear in a little lemon juice and sugar, and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and cloves, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, figs, drained pear pieces and stem ginger.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. It may still be soft in the middle at this point, but it should firm up as it cools.
  7. Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and slice into 16 squares.

Here’s to a more normal November!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

Ginger, pecan and rum browniesThis is definitely not a bake for anyone trying to be even vaguely healthy at the moment. I made 20 of these ginger, pecan and rum brownies and only let myself have one – they’re so rich, but oh so good!

I suppose the flavours are a bit wintery, but we haven’t exactly had a lovely sunny summer recently, so I felt perfectly justified in making these brownies. I also hadn’t made brownies in aaaages before these.

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
I found the recipe on BBC Food, and was instantly drawn to the combination of stem ginger, rum and dark chocolate. It’s a typical brownie recipe – melt the chocolate and a huge amount of butter together, stir into a whisked mixture of eggs and sugar, then fold in a miniscule amount of flour and the other ingredients.

I used a smaller tin than called for in the recipe, so I was prepared for these to take longer to bake than stated. I was a bit worried about overcooking them, but they turned out pretty perfectly texture-wise – phew!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
Like I said, I only had one brownie (the rest went to work and my husband), but I’m not going to forget it in a hurry! The ginger and rum together are SO nice (and yes, I added a splash more rum than called for. What?) and the pecans add a welcome crunch. I used some dark chocolate with about 85% cocoa content, so the brownies were very chocolatey too. Yum!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cakeAs promised, I’ve had a go at making one of the desserts we had in Sri Lanka. My husband cooked a wonderful Sri Lankan rice and curry feast for his family the other week, so I decided to make banana and cumin cake to serve as the dessert.

Banana and cumin cake
I couldn’t find any recipes for this online, so I adapted a banana and walnut loaf recipe from my Delia book, swapping out the walnuts for cashews and adding more in the way of spices.

The main sticking point was the question of how much cumin to use. The cake we had in Sri Lanka offered up a burst of cumin with the occasional bite, so it wasn’t packed with the stuff, but I didn’t want to under-spice it, either.

Banana and cumin cake
I decided to use a teaspoon of cumin seeds, but as it turned out, I should have followed my husband’s advice and used more! I only got a hint of cumin when I tasted the cake, which was slightly disappointing, but the cake was delicious anyway and at least I know for next time!

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cake recipe

Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 55g dark muscovado sugar
  • 55g jaggery, crumbled (you can buy this from Asian grocers)
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • seeds of 3 green cardamom pods, ground
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (I used 1 tsp and got a very very subtle flavour)
  • 50g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk in the butter, egg, sugar and jaggery until you get a sandy texture, almost like large crumbs.
  4. Mash the bananas in another bowl and whisk them into the flour mixture, along with the ground cloves, ginger and cardamom.
  5. Fold in the lemon zest, cumin seeds and cashews.
  6. Transfer the mix to the loaf tin, level the top and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve on its own or warm with ice cream.

Grasmere ginger shortbread + a blogging hiatus

Grasmere ginger shortbreadI’ve been on quite the ginger kick recently, haven’t I?! I decided to follow the ginger and coconut flapjacks I made last time with this Grasmere ginger shortbread, completely forgetting that I’d already made something gingery that week… oh well.

The recipe for this comes from good ol’ Delia, who says she got the recipe from a hotel in the Lake District. I’ve been intrigued by this recipe since I first saw it in the recipe book, because I’m a huge fan of the Grasmere gingerbread that’s sold in the village of the same name – it’s just the BEST gingerbread you’ll ever have.

The recipe is supposed to be a closely held secret (and quite rightly so), so I was interested to see what this version was like – and, as it turns, out, it’s really not the same thing at all!

Don’t get me wrong, Delia’s shortbread is delicious, but it’s nothing like the real thing. Grasmere gingerbread is a bit more chewy and infinitely more gingery than Delia’s take, and the oatmeal is very noticeable here – if it’s used in the original Grasmere gingerbread recipe, I’ve never been able to tell.

As you can see from the first photo above, I ended up with some rustic-looking shortbread – the ragged edges are due to the outside of the bake breaking away when I tried to release it from the tin. I think the shortbread needs to cool for a lot longer than 5 minutes before you try to turn it out!

Nevertheless, Delia’s Grasmere ginger shortbread is really nice – it’s just a touch disappointing if you’ve ever stood on top of a hill in the Lakes, drinking in the amazing views while nibbling on some proper Grasmere gingerbread.

Grasmere ginger shortbread
Finally, just a note that you won’t hear from me for a bit, because I’m getting married next weekend! We’re off to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon, and I’m running the Great Manchester 10k for the Red Cross three days after we get back (you can sponsor me here if you like!), so you probably won’t hear from me until closer to June.

I will hopefully have lots of new, exotic baking ideas from our trip, though, so it’ll be worth the wait! See you on the other side!

Ginger and coconut flapjacks

Ginger and coconut flapjacksI made these ginger and coconut flapjacks on a bit of a whim, when I knew I wanted to bake *something*, but couldn’t be bothered with anything complex. With ginger and coconut being two of my favourite flavours, I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe!

Flapjacks are incredibly easy to make, and these were no exception. I used this recipe from the Domestic Gothess, and followed it pretty much exactly. I didn’t have any stem ginger, so I swapped it for roughly 35-40g of chopped crystallised ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
The only slight problem came in the baking (I really need to get a new oven!). They took AGES to bake, and I think the recipe calls for a bit too much butter, because I could actually see it bubbling away in the tray – not something I’ve experienced with other flapjack recipes!

The mixture did harden upon cooling (thankfully), but there was a lot of liquid butter still in the bottom of the tray, and it kept oozing out of the flapjacks as they cooled – it was a bit like resting meat to prevent the juices from spoiling the plate!

Nevertheless, the flapjacks were delicious. They were very gingery and the coconut was in the background a bit – I think next time I would drastically reduce the amount of butter and add a little coconut cream to let the coconut compete a bit more with the ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
They went down well at work, at least, which is always a good sign!

Jamaican ginger cake

Jamaican ginger cake
Like many people, I have fond childhood memories of my mum bringing home a certain brand’s Jamaican ginger cake from the shop as a treat, before we all demolished it rather quickly over a nice cup of tea. I’ve made a few ginger cakes before that recall the unique flavours and/or texture of Jamaican ginger cake, but I thought it was about time that I actually attempted to bake the real thing!

I used a recipe from my Delia’s Cakes book for this – it’s also available online on her website. I stuck to it faithfully, except for substituting dark brown sugar for dark muscovado – I don’t think it made that much of a difference, really.

Jamaican ginger cake
The only other thing I mistakenly did is use a too-large loaf tin. I’m so used to baking with metric measures that I mistook Delia’s instruction to use a 2lb tin for an instruction to use a 2kg tin! As it’s the only loaf tin I own, I pressed ahead and just removed the cake from the oven a little early to prevent over-baking.

The method for making the cake itself is really straightforward. I was most excited by the array of spices that go into the cake – not just ginger, but also cinnamon and nutmeg. Not to mention the inclusion of both golden syrup and black treacle. Oof!

Jamaican ginger cake
The resulting bake really was just like the Jamaican ginger cake from my childhood – but nicer! I seem to remember the shop-bought version as being quite soft in texture with a large crumb, while Delia’s take makes for a more close-textured cake that’s still incredibly moist. The top of the cake is still nicely sticky, as it should be!