Thursday, 28 April 2016

Bananas. Rum, Vanilla, Granola. Coming to a desk near me shortly...

One of the pleasures of my prize Abel and Cole fruit box (I won a three month subscription as part of a prize from Quaker Oats, isn't that amazing!) has been massive bowlfuls of bananas and oranges.  I love them both, so it is no problem working my way through them, but often bananas can suddenly turn. Or I just have too many that week.

Now my turn-to way of using them up is banana bread. I hesitate to call it banana cake as some do, as I recently I have been making mine almost un-sweet, keeping the sugar content really low. And, if you keep your added sugars low, you need to make sure that your bananas are as full of sugar, as against starch, as possible.  So use up those black ones!

This recipe has some amazing things about it:

Amazing thing #1 How far should you let your bananas go before baking?  Here are the bananas I used today. You can see, the three on the left hand side are ridiculously ripe. If you didn't know, you'd reckon these were fit only for the bin. The last one on the right hand side, a very ripe eating banana, is the minimum degree of ripeness I would accept for banana bread making.

When they are opened you can really see the difference. The yellow banana is still firm, and banana coloured. The other three are turning golden and very soft, almost like caramel. The one on the far left  was just a little too far gone and was starting to shrivel slightly; it had some dry patches that I cut away.

Amazing thing #2 I added a little rum to this recipe as well, as I had seen my @tpcookbookclub friend Debora Robinson do with great success in an apple cake, and I was pleased as punch (rum punch, ok?) with this addition. I'm sure there is a chemical reason why it makes the cake light and delicious, but I don't know it. So if you, let me know, yes?

Amazing thing #3 It should have had 2 eggs in it. But I totally forgot to add the eggs. Try it as per the recipe, then try it again with the eggs (I will do soon...) and let me know which you prefer!

Amazing thing #4 There is hardly any fat in this, just 2 tablespoons of oil. The bananas plus the yoghurt make this so moist it really doesn't need any more fat. But you could try it with a bit more, maybe some butter. This is a very forgiving recipe. Let me know how you change it and what you prefer, so I can try it myself!

I baked this in three small loaf tins I have that I hardly ever remember to use. One little loaf made a very pleasant afternoon tiffin split between Bob and me, and I would imagine this, with its nourishing granola addition, would make a perfect breakfast bread as well.

Do give it a try, and let me know how you get on.

Banana Bread, with Rum and Granola.

The original recipe I adapted this from was in US cup measures. I weighed as I went, (I am learning...) to give you the metric quantities as well.

120g / half US cup Greek or thick full fat yoghurt
3-4 very ripe bananas, depending on size, the pulp should weigh around 130g +/-
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or half tsp vanilla essence
2 tbspns rum (the dark one)
2 tbspns light oil
60g / one third US cup light muscovado sugar

200g / 1 and half US cup SR flour - I used Marriages light brown SR flour, I like the small amount of bran this gives, but I am sure white would also work
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp fine salt
120g / 1 US cup granola - I used Lizi's Treacle and Pecan, as I had run out of walnuts that I would usually add. Use any granola you like.
Extra granola for sprinkling

3 mini loaf tins (mine take around 300g - larger than minis but considerably smaller than a 1lb tin. But it isn't important. You could use anything you like, muffin tins even. Just play with the timings.)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mk 4, 350F 170C
Grease your tins and put onto a baking sheet.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl, add the yoghurt, vanilla, rum, sugar and oil and using a fork mix together until thoroughly blended.  If you decide to add in some eggs (!) you would add two here and mix them in thoroughly.
Sift the flour, bicarb and salt into the bowl, blend in roughly, as you would for muffins, you want a few strands of flour still visible, and then lightly stir in the granola.
Allow  the mixture to stand for a few minutes (this lets the bicarb start to work, I think it makes a lighter crumb than using it straight away, though its not imperative to do this. But it means that if you have forgotten to grease your tins, you can do it now!)
Divide the mix between the tins, and top with a further sprinkle of granola.

Bake for somewhere between 20 and 60 minutes depending on the size of your tins. My tins took 30 mins. I would expect muffins to take around 20, and a single loaf tin (2lb size) the full hour. Test with a skewer, it should come out clean but not dry.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Josordoni Claudia Roden Orange x Tarta Santiago F1 hybrid cross cake.

Here it is... as requested by many, many people.
The Josordoni Claudia Roden Orange  x Tarta Santiago F1 hybrid cross cake as presented to, and approved by, Sr Jose Pizarro at Thane Prince's inimitable Cook Book Club.

How's that for a plaudit, eh? 

Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Once upon a time, there was a girl called GoldiOrangeLocks. She loved almond cakes, and she loved whole orange cakes.

But the Claudia Roden cake with whole oranges was toooooo wet.

And the Tarta Santiago cake with no oranges was toooooo dry.

"But I want a cake to present to The Spanish King!" she cried. "I don't want a wet cake! I don't want a dry cake! I want a cake that is JUST RIGHT!"

So she made one.

And here it is.

And I warn you now, it uses rather a lot of different whisks and processors and stuff. So make sure the dishwasher is empty, or that the sink is full of soapy water in readiness. 

125-130g orange pulp (roughly equivalent to the pulp of one orange)
100 g ground almonds
100g ground roast hazelnuts
50g chopped roast hazelnuts
250g caster sugar - split into 2 portions of 125g each
Zest of 2 oranges
quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
quarter teaspoon orange extract - the best you can find, if you don't have an excellent one then omit it.
2 teaspoon orange flower water
5 eggs, separated

Firstly, make your orange pulp in advance as you will want it to cool. Because of the amount of time and energy used, I boiled 5 medium sized oranges, then pulped them, cooled the pulp, split it into 5 and froze in individual portions.

You need to cover your whole, unpeeled oranges with water and boil for approx 2 hours until a skewer will go through the orange with no effort at all - you can pressure cook for 20 mins if you prefer.  Slice the oranges in half horizontally, and flick out any pips. Check the little stalk buttons have been removed. Put the oranges into a food processor and process until you can no longer see any large pieces of peel through the side of the processor bowl.  Allow to cool, then remove 130g for today, and portion and freeze the remainder. I made my cake with frozen and defrosted pulp to check it would work ok; it is fine. You will find as it defrosts that the juice separates out a bit, but just use a fork to mix it all together again.

Grease and line (base and sides) a cake tin, either an 8" square or an 8" springform, depending on what you have. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 180F 160C

In a clean and dry food processor, put the ground nuts and one portion of sugar and blitz it together to get rid of any lumps and blend the two together nicely. Then add the chopped hazelnuts. Put this mixture to one side, and get rid of the food processor. You won't need it again, and it takes up a lot of room.

Next, I like to use a hand held mixer for whisking the egg whites and yolks. You can use a stand mixer if you like, but I find that a hand held is easier, as I need to have the eggs in two different bowls, and I only have one bowl that fits my Kenwood.

You want clean dry beaters for the egg whites, so I do them first. The slight separation in the meringue whilst you whisk up the egg yolks won't make too much difference. If you have two sets of whisks, you could do the yolks first, then you'd be sure you wouldn't lose any bulk in the whites. Your choice.

Whisk up the egg whites, then, to a nice, thick meringue, but stop before it gets to stiff peaks. (You want a bit stiffer than soft peaks, but they should still have a bit further to go. This means they still are able to expand in the oven, and this helps the cake to rise and not have a sad middle bit. )

In an another bowl, mix the egg yolks with the 2nd portion of caster sugar, until they are thick and form  a ribbon that stays on the surface for a moment when you lift the whisk. They don't need to be a really white mousse,  you don't want the egg whites to wait around too long if you don't have two whisks...

Thoroughly fold the orange pulp, the zest, the essences and the orange flower water into the egg yolk mixture.  Add the nut/sugar mixture and fold in.
Add 2 tablespoons of egg white and mix this in thoroughly, to help slacken the mixture. Then add all the rest of the egg whites in one go, and fold in carefully. You want to lose as little bulk as possible - these are your only raising agent, after all. The mixture should look very airy and mousse like.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, it shouldn't be very deep - too thick and it takes an age for the middle to cook, which makes the edges dry out too much.  Put the tin on a central shelf, and cook for 30-35 minutes - a skewer should come out clean from the middle of the cake, and it should have shrunk very slightly from the edges.

Cool in the tin, it is too fragile to turn out when it is warm.

Dredge with icing sugar when it is fully cold.

This is glorious served with orange fillets in caramel (I used the oranges I took the zest from), with a scoop of Greek yoghurt, or vanilla icecream.

Do try this, and let me know what you think!

Get your Oats!

Oats. They're one of my favourite grains. I adore porridge on a cold, wintery (or spring) morning, and muesli and granola come into play in the summer. All the oats.  They are extremely good for you, with a soluble kind of fibre that apparently scrubs away all the cholesterol that might be clogging up your arteries.

And it makes wonderful bread rolls. Honestly, the crust and crumb are soft, but with a bit of texture from the oats, perfect to have with soup, or as a breakfast roll, with a couple of salty slices of bacon tucked inside with some ketchup (sorry, brown sauce fans. I can't allow you to have my lovely rolls, unless you move over to the Side of Light and have ketchup. The Dark Side has no fans here).

I've made them a couple of times now, pushing up the amount of oats. The following seems to be my optimum, but feel free to play around with the recipe with more or less oats, adjusting the amount of flour to make up the same overall weight of dry goods.

I use a Kenwood Chef stand mixer, and the instructions are for that, but, of course, you can simply mix and knead by hand. If you do that, I suggest that you follow Dan Lepard's method for short, sharp kneads, as it is the most muscle-friendly, effective method I know. I found this lovely video about Dan's ethos and method on YouTube: do watch it if you have time.

So here we go, this is how I make my Porridge Rolls.

100g rolled oats (ordinary ones for preference, not jumbo oats.)
250g boiling water
10g fresh yeast, (or 1 x 7g packet of instant dried yeast )
2 tablespoons tepid water
1 tsp honey
1 egg (size doesn't really matter)
100g Light Brown self raising flour (I like Marriage's)
180g strong white flour
1 tsp fine salt
Optional: flour for tops, or egg wash (1 egg and a little water, whisked together) and poppy or sesame seeds or a mixture of both)

Put the rolled oats and salt in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Leave to sit for 10- 15, minutes, giving it a stir from time to time.
Meanwhile, mix the fresh yeast, honey and tepid water together in a small bowl and leave to get slightly frothy. (If you are using instant dried yeast, then omit this step, you will add the yeast to the flour. In which case, mix the honey and extra water into the oats)

After 10-15 mins, check that you can comfortably stick a finger into the middle of the oats. If not, then leave a little bit longer. Once they are nicely at blood temperature, dump the oats into the bowl of a stand mixer and using a wooden spoon, mix the egg and yeast mixture (if using fresh yeast) into the oats (this is easier than trying to do it with the dough hook).

Add the flours, and the yeast if you are using instant dried yeast, and mix on a low speed using the dough hook until it all clumps together. Cover the bowl and leave it for 20 mins so that everything can fully hydrate and the gluten start to activate.

Mix for 4 minutes on speed 2. The dough should clear the bottom of the bowl, but still be quite soft. If it looks a little dry add a little more water.

Transfer the dough to a bowl with a spoonful of olive oil in the base, and turn the dough over in the oil, tucking in the edges. Cover with cling film or a clean shower cap.  Leave to prove in a warm place for around 40-60 minutes until at least doubled in size.

Turn out onto a floured board, and using a bench scraper cut the dough into 12 pieces.  Lightly flatten and pre-form these pieces into rounds and leave for 5 minutes before shaping again into round rolls.  I like to turn each piece upside down, flatten lightly and fold in from the four sides to the middle. Then turn over so the smooth side is uppermost again, and, making a cup of your hand onto the worktop, rotate each ball lightly inside the palm of your hand to tighten the sides and make a perfect round roll.

Place a piece of parchment paper onto a large baking sheet, flour it lightly, and space your rolls out on the sheet. How far apart you put them will depend on whether you like a kissing crust (I do) or prefer your rolls baked on all sides. For joined together rolls, you want about an inch apart, for separate rolls around 2 ins.  Flour the tops quite thickly ( or leave them plain if you plan to egg wash and sprinkle with seeds later) , and cover lightly with cling film.

Now is the time to turn your oven on as hot as it can get, and to put a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven to heat up.  Put the kettle on as well.

Allow the rolls to prove for around 25 mins until roughly double in size.  If you want to brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds now is the time to do it.

Reduce the oven heat to Gas Mk 7 Electric 425F / 220C 

If you are making floury rolls, shake a little more flour on the tops if they have lost some flour to the cling film. Tip a coffee cup of boiling water onto the cast iron pan (I use a Le Creuset griddle pan, you can use whatever you have. If you don't have any cast iron, just use a small baking pan. The cast iron just keeps the steam longer,) and quickly slide the rolls into the oven.

Bake for 10 mins then open the oven and let any residual steam out. Bake for a further 5-8 minutes until nicely brown on the underside. Give them a few minutes more if they seem a bit pallid, but don't cook for longer than 20 minutes in total.

Take the rolls off the parchment as soon as they are baked, and cool on a wire rack.

I hope you enjoy these porridge rolls as much as I do. Let me know what you think!