Category Archives: British

Moist Carrot Cake

carrotcakepj

We are in the middle of the carrot cake season. Many bloggers have already written about this cold-weather dessert and, as it often happens with such popular sweets, there are myriads of versions. I have been faithful to exactly the same recipe for the last fifteen years, so you will be surprised if I say this is the best one I know. Obviously, this is a matter of personal preferences, but if I tell you that the moisture is what I appreciate the most in a carrot cake and that mine is, undeniably the moistest of all the carrot cakes I have ever tasted, you will understand why I dare calling it superior.

Nowadays, with internet and the world seeming smaller and smaller, the carrot cake is no longer a novelty. When I baked it for the first time it was a big adventure because using a vegetable in a dessert seemed highly exotic, if not extravagant. I quickly learnt I should never reveal the carrot’s presence before people tasted it because some were so disgusted by this unusual ingredient, they refused to taste it, inventing different false reasons, such as diets or a copious main meal. Since then I tell the truth (especially to picky eaters) only after they have finished their first slice. I have read somewhere that in Europe carrots have been used in sweets since Middle Ages, so it’s surprising this use has been abandoned in so many countries.

With the dozens of times I served it, I can affirm that this is a totally foolproof, particularly easy cake and, apart from the batter ingredients which guarantee the moisture and stickiness I am fond of, such items as nuts, raisins or spices can easily be exchanged with other ingredients. Unfortunately, at the time I wrote this recipe down I didn’t care much for the sources, so unfortunately I cannot thank the person who has invented it. I also don’t remember if I had modified the original amounts.

TIPS: Exceptionally, I have always measured most of the ingredients of this cake in cups. My cup = 250 ml

This cake is moderately sweet, but if you prefer “standard” sweetness in desserts, double the sugar amount.

I prefer this cake served very cold, straight from the fridge (this is the way I prefer most moist or/and sticky cakes).

Preparation: 1 hour 20 min

Ingredients (fills a 10 cm x 30 cm baking tin):

1 cup (250 ml) flour

1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar (unrefined cane sugar tastes better here, but is not obligatory)

1 1/2 cup (375 ml) finely grated carrots (5-6 medium carrots)

60 g (about 2 oz) melted butter

3 eggs

a handful of raisins (I prefer sultanas)

a handful of chopped nuts

50 ml (1,7 oz) milk

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (if not freshly grated, put the double amount)

1 teaspoon (flat) dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Combine everything in a big bowl stirring with a spoon.

Grease the baking tin or (like I do) line it with baking paper.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour depending on the oven (a skewer put into the cake should come out moist and sticky but without traces of raw batter).

Since this cake is very moist, I prefer it served cold, straight from the fridge.

 

 

 

Light Lemon Curd

When Charles (Five Euro Food) and then A_Boleyn posted Lemon Curd recipes I thought it was high time I presented a lighter version, which might please all those, who, like me, prefer sharper and more intense lemon desserts. I must have heard of lemon curd for the first time a long time ago, but given the amazing rapidity with which I was able to empty a butter- and sugar-loaded jar, this delightful spread was one of the rarely enjoyed sweet treats. When I finally tested its low-fat version I quickly forgot this was a lightened lemon curd and have never come back to the traditional version. In fact, the drastic reduction of fat has resulted in a more intense, sharper and, I would even say, more elegant flavour. (It was a bit like discovering Alain Ducasse’s half-cream, half-milk Crème Brûlée, which has put me off the 100% fatty cream, traditional version forever).

After several batches I slightly modified the original recipe (adapted from this fantastic Polish baker’s blog). I added a small amount of butter instead of the advised oil (I missed a touch of buttery flavour) and found a foolproof and easy method of getting rid of lumps (see below). I have also made this lemon ultralight, partially substituting the sugar with a special cooking sweetener (I wouldn’t advise however substituting all the sugar with a sweetener: the texture is not the same and it simply tastes worse).

Lemon curd is fantastic on any type of sweet biscuit, on toasted bread, on a slice of yeast cake, challah, but it’s also an excellent tart, pie, cake or cookie/biscuit filling (see for example Thumbprint Almond Cookies). It is of course irresistible on its own, eaten directly from the jar.

TIP:  Start with 12 tablespoons sugar and add more, if needed, after the curd has thickened.

Preparation: 15 – 20 minutes

Ingredients (yield: one 300-350 ml jar):

juice from 3 lemons

zest from 1 lemon

12 – 15 tablespoons castor sugar (or 10 tablespoons sugar + 5 tablespoons cooking sweetener which is usually sweeter than sugar)

2 eggs

1 flat tablespoon cornstarch (or potato starch, but cornstarch gives a lighter result)

1 heaped tablespoon butter 

Mix everything in a blender, apart from the butter.

Pour into a small pan, add the butter and warm at low heat, constantly stirring, until it thickens.

Taste and add more sugar if needed. Stir well until the sugar/the sweetener dissolves.

Put into a jar, close the lid and let it cool down.

Keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Serve on toast, bread, use it as a pie or a cake filling (it is delicious in the Thumbprint Almond Cookies).

Guinness Gingerbread (or Guinness Chocolate Cake)

guinnesscakepYesterday I started to feel there was something important missing in all my pre-Christmas baking and cooking frenzy. Gingerbread, of course! When I say “gingerbread” I instantly think “Guinness Gingerbread”. It is soft, fluffy, slightly moist and has a subtle taste, far from the typical overwhelming gingerbread flavours. In short, this is the ultimate gingerbread. The Guinness’s presence is of course undetectable, but adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.  I don’t know if I ought to mention it, but since the beer is boiled, then baked and all the alcohol evaporates, this cake is suitable for children and for the non-drinkers. This cake is partifularly simple and quick to prepare. If you are not a Guinness fan, the only difficult part is finding someone to finish the can or the bottle content. It would be such a pity to waste the leftovers of this extraordinary beer.

This delightful cake can be made the day you intend to serve it, but it greatly improves in the fridge, so as soon as it cools down, refrigerate it for at least several hours. (If you manage to leave it overnight, it will be ten times better) and preferably serve it cold. The chocolate frosting should be put as soon as the cake has cooled down. If you prefer a thinner layer, use only 50 g chocolate and 25 g butter. My recipe comes from this blog (some recipes, like this one, have also English versions) and has been slightly modified.

TIPS: Of course any dark beer (stout) similar to Guinness can be used, but do not use a light one.

The recipe calls for black treacle. Unless you have already baked with black treacle and like it, use it here, but if you have never baked with it, you might not like the bitter slight taste it leaves (I do like it a lot, but wouldn’t make it for guests for example). This is why I advise either light treacle/molasses or half-light and half-black treacle. Of course if you use black treacle the cake will be very dark (like the one above).

Preparation: 1 hour

Ingredients (20 cm x 20 cm baking tin):

160 ml Guinness stout

160 ml treacle (see the TIPS above); if you cannot get treacle/molasses, you can use agave syrup too (I once used half-agave syrup and half treacle and it was delicious)

260g  flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

2 flat teaspoons baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

120 g sugar (if you use white sugar, the cake will be lighter)

180 ml oil

a pinch of salt

Chocolate frosting (it is very thin, about 2 mm, but can be easily doubled if you prefer a thicker layer):

50-100 g dark chocolate

25-60 g butter

Heat the oven to 175°C.

Bring Guinness to a boil in a small pan. Put aside.

Mix the flour, the cocoa, the salt, the baking soda and the spices in a bowl.

In a second bowl mix (with a spoon) the eggs with the sugar, add the treacle, the oil and stir until the mixture is homogenous.

Add gradually the dry ingredients and at the end pour the beer, stirring quickly until the cake mixture is smooth.

Line a baking dish with baking paper.

Pour the cake mixture.

Bake 40 – 50 minutes until a wooden pick put inside comes out almost dry.

Let it cool down.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a pan. When it cools down to the room temperature, spread it over the cake.

Put the cake into the fridge. (I kept it in the fridge for three days and its taste improved every day).

Marmite Muffins

Marmite is a British dark brown spread made from brewer’s yeast, a by-product in the the beer industry. It has a very characteristic strong taste and either you love it or hate it (I love it of course). Launched in 1902 Marmite became very popular during the two world wars, when, due to its high vitamin B content, it was an important element of soldiers’ rations and became very useful in times when the vitamin deficiency was very frequent. Marmite was first sold in earthenware pots, shaped like a casserole dish, hence the name coming from the French world “marmite” (meaning “casserole” and pronounced “marmeet”). Australian and New Zealand Vegemite, as well as Australian Promite are very similar products. In Europe I think only the Swiss have a Marmite equivalent, called Cenovis (from the Latin “cenare”, to eat, and “vis” “strength”), which also used to be a staple in the army.

I have never tasted Vegemite or Promite, but I like Cenovis as much as Marmite and couldn’t really say which one I prefer. For me Marmite has an enticing and highly addictive smell and flavour. I even suspect it of being rich in umami (the famous 5th taste). Until now I have only had both spreads on buttered bread, but have always wanted to use them in more elaborate preparations.

When I saw the Sweet – Savoury Marmite Cake on the Baking Devils blog, I thought it was a perfect recipe to embark on a series of cooking adventures with Marmite. I was right, since this first “baking with Marmite” experiment gave extraordinary and original results, appreciated even by avowed Marmite haters. Thank you, Baking Devils, for this delicious recipe!

I have slightly modified the Baking Devils‘ recipe, mainly reducing the sugar and butter amounts and putting more Marmite, but most of all, as a big fan of individual snacks, I decided to make muffins instead of a big cake. I have filled some cups 3/4 full and some 1/2 full. I definitely preferred the latter, lower muffins, more “marmitey” and more addictive. These muffins are perfect for a savoury breakfast or afternoon tea. Baked in mini-muffin forms, they would make intriguing appetisers or party snacks.

If you want to learn more about Marmite, visit the http://www.marmite.co.uk website. For those interested in Cenovis, there is http://www.cenovis.ch (only in French or German).

Preparation: 1 hour

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins, with cups filled 1/2 full):

120 g flour

3 eggs

50 g sugar

1 teaspoon salt

25 g butter

3 teaspoons baking powder

150 ml water

Topping:

6 tablespoons melted butter

4 teaspoons Marmite

50 g grated cheese (I used gruyère)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Mix the butter with sugar in a food processor.

Add gradually flour and eggs, continuously mixing.

Add the remaining ingredients.

Fill the muffin forms 1/2 full and bake about 15 minutes.

Combine the Marmite with the melted butter and spread on the hot muffins.

Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Put under the oven broiler/grill and grill until the cheese melts.

Serve warm or cold.


Egg and Bacon Pie

Yesterday I had one of the most guiltily delicious Sunday breakfasts for ages! When, during one of my visits to The Cottage Smallholder blog, I stumbled upon the Egg and Bacon Pie recipe, I felt at once it would be a Sunday breakfast hit. I did the grocery shopping and waited impatiently for the weekend. With its few ingredients, its scrumptious taste and seductive looks, this pie is as good as it is simple and would certainly embarrass anyone who denigrates or ignores the British cuisine. The bacon and the number of eggs might seem scary at the beginning, but the first bite makes one forget the cholesterol, the calories and all the guilt.

Since the unsmoked bacon (listed in the original recipe) was very fatty, I opted for the smoked one and the result was wonderful too. I have only slightly modified the recipe, halved the amount of ingredients and baked the pie in a small tart dish. Apart from a nourishing breakfast, I agree with the Cottage Smallholder‘s author, this pie would make a perfect picnic dish and I already see it as a great teatime filling snack, a travel alternative to sandwiches or an efficient hangover comforting dish…

Preparation: 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 2 starving, late Sunday breakfasters):

1 shortcrust pastry sheet (mine weighed 230g)

6 eggs

200 g bacon (sliced)

pepper

(I haven’t used any salt since my bacon was already very salty)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Fry the bacon on both sides.

Line a buttered pie dish with half of the pastry sheet.

Break 3 eggs over the pastry case trying not to destroy the yolks.

Season with ground pepper.

Put the bacon slices over the eggs.

Finish the filling with the remaining eggs (still not destroying the yolks) and add a bit more pepper.

Cover the pie with the remaining pastry, pinching on the borders.

Make small holes in the pastry lid with a knife or a fork.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden.

Served alone (hot or cold) or with a green salad.