Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with my strawberry confiture – scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.
(makes 6 jumbo muffins)
130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (1⁄8 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180° C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I participated in a baking contest took place in Tokyo earlier this month. This is one of the reasons I had been a bit away from here. I don’t remember how many loaves I baked, and I have totally no idea how much flours, dried fruits etc. were consumed for this 😀
At first, I was just trying to bake Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit loaf made with tea and Welsh version of Irish Barm Brack, according to a recipe postcard from a Postcrossing friend in Wales. Then the announcement of the contest followed: ‘Irish & British Bake-off! looking for contestants’. This was organized by an English woman who runs a bakery and baking classes in Tokyo, and had nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off 😀
To be honest, it was really struggling to make a NICE Bara Brith since no butter (or no oil) is used for the cake. It didn’t work out the way as I wanted at all, so I adopted a Boiled Fruitcake recipe and mixed up the methods, which turned out to be pretty well.
Unfortunately, the cake couldn’t beat others. For me, however, the result was rather good – I had assumed the physical appearance wouldn’t attract the judges and the cake would taste too heavy for Japanese. Surprisingly, I got 6 votes! and received some nice comments. Among others, ‘the cake was rich in depth and complexity and I loved it!’ satisfied me a lot. I didn’t reveal the ingredients, but some noticed the ‘complexity’.
The ingredient that gave the cake complex richness is Penderyn, Welsh single malt whisky, and I selected dried fruits and preserves which go perfectly well with the whisky.
I guess most of you haven’t heard of Welsh whisky unlike Scottish and Irish counterparts. Actually, the whisky production once died out in the late 19th century, but some entrepreneurs endevoured to revive distillation in the 1990s and in 2000, the Welsh Whisky Company was founded, which is now known as Penderyn Distillery. As of 2016, Wales has two whisky distilleries in operation. (Wikipedia)
Penderyn whisky is completely different from Scotch – I have a kind of impression that Penderyn is feminine or womanly: smooth, fresh, sweet, elegant, flowery yet deep while Scotch is manliest: strong, powerful, earthy…. I tried some Scotch for the cake, but none of them created the ‘complexity’.
What makes Penderyn whisky unique is their still:
‘Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.
Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit to be produced from a single still.’
I used Penderyn Madeira for the cake:
Other than the whisky, my Bara Brith requires specific ingredients and products. I’m not sure if substitutes work or not, so I haven’t posted the recipe here. Please let me know if you would like to try to bake my Bara Brith. Anyway, I am going to develop this recipe and will post it later this year, hopefully before Christmas!
Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)
Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year.(Wikipedia)
As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)
I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!
The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.
For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum
35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour
50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked
100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)
For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice
For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water
Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 190 C.
Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!
I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.
What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:
city views from above
and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!
MUST STAY in LISBON
Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.
MUST EAT in LISBON
I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!
As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake. So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:
140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars
The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.
The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:
from Mendoza, Algentina Amancaya Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
from Puglia, Italy Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)
If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!
(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)
110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)
Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.
Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.
It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)
This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )
I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.
Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀
Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀
Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.
It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂
I grabbed a bag when I came across fresh figs at a farmers’ market last week. I was hoping to bake an almond cake with the fruit one more time so that I could complete and confirm a recipe, but it’s late autumn already….
How lucky of me!! I thought the fig season had been over, and I had given up the attempt. Actually, the farmer did think so, too, but the fruit ripened somehow in late November. So they were the very last harvest!
The recipe is originally from All-in-one Rhubarb and Almond Cake, which is a nice one and I have tried several times with rhubarb. For the fig version, I altered it to make the cake more moist and flavourful: added roasted figs with honey and some more ground almond, and changed the procedure a bit.
The previous result was unexpectedly good (soooo good!) and a friend of mine loved it so much – far more than the rhubarb cake, which was tasty as well. I was not sure what made it so different other than the roasted figs. Well, the truth is… somehow, this absent-minded had added twice as much ground almond as the original quantity by mistake!! And that is the reason I needed one more experiment! 😀
Enjoy my ‘unexpected success born out of failure’ !
(for 18 cm cake tin)
12 figs, halved lengthways
1-2 tbsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
125 g butter, softened at room temperature
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked
150 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g ground almond
(optional: icing sugar)
Preheat the oven to 200° C. Sit the figs cut side up on a roasting tray. Drizzle with the honey and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove the juice and cool.
Preheat the oven to 170° C. Into a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each.
Fold in the flour mixture and ground almond gently until evenly combined.
Spoon half the mixture into a lined cake tin. Arrange the roasted figs over the cake base, then drop the rest of the mixture over spoonfuls, leaving gaps.
Bake for 60 – 75 minutes or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool.
Dust with the icing sugar to serve. Best eaten following day.
Seed cake has haunted me since I read At Bertram’s Hotel many years ago. The dialogue sounds really attractive to me as I’ve never come across seed cake – even in the UK. I know what poppy seed cake looks like and what it tastes like, but not about (‘real’ or authentic) caraway seed cake…. Yes, the ‘seed’ refers to ‘caraway seed’, and this is another reason I am curious about the cake made with the distinctive pungent spice.
Googled and learnt that ‘seed cake’, the original recipe of which dates back to the 16th century, used to be popular esp. in Victorian Britain. Nowadays, however, it is considered to be out of date and out of fashion. How come? Mmmm… mistery 😀 deepens….
I came by good quality of caraway seeds recently, so decided to bake it myself. Seeking for nice recipes on the internet, I found that I’m not the only person attracted by Christie’s seed cake. A lady, one of WordPress bloggers, and her husband enthusiastically did research to find out ‘real seed cake’, and tried several recipes ranging from the mid 19th century to the 1990s (Tea with Miss Marple)!!
For me, Caraway and Orange Seed Cake, whether it’s real one or not, rang a bell. I tried experiment thrice with this recipe and ended up as follows: halved most of the ingredients and amended a bit to suit my taste – replaced brandy with Cointreau to add more orange flavour, reduced the seeds – I like caraway seed but too much in his recipe – and chopped them to avoid the hard texture in soft sponge.
(for 18 cm round cake tin)
125 g butter, softened at room tempature
175 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
a smidgen of salt
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 tbsp caraway seeds, chopped
1/2 orange zest
40 g candied orange peel, chopped
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp Cointreau
Preheat oven to 180° C.
Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, mace, nutmeg and salt.
In another bowl, cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the caraway, orange zest and candied peel.
Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the milk and Cointreau.
Spoon into a lined tin and bake for 35 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool completely.
I should have chopped the peel finely…. It wasn’t nice looking when cut…. Never mind, it tasted good anyway, and even better following day! I wonder why it’s not popular anymore????? This simple cake – no frills yet flavourful and zingy – goes well with strong cuppa with milk. Hope I can come across authentic seed cake someday!
Agatha Christie in Budapest
Whilst visiting Budapest in 2010, I bumped into commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth at the Alexandra Bookstore.
On the floor above the best bookshop in Budapest, you will find one of the most beautiful cafes in Europe – Alexandra Café (Bookcafé).
I didn’t want to waste the fruit and the skin, so I made marmalade with them, and besides, baked a cake with the vodka flavoured preserves.
17 kumquat fruit (without skin)
40 g light soft brown sugar
50-100 cc water (to adjust)
17 kumquat skin soaked in vodka, drained and cut into thin stripes
40 g light soft brown sugar
50-100 cc water (to adjust)
[marmalade loaf cake]
200 g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
100 g butter
70 g light soft brown sugar
2 eggs, whisked
150 g kumquat marmalade
2 tbsp juice of orange
Put A in a pan and bring to the boil, and simmer over low heat stirring frequently until thickened. Remove the pith and seeds. Keep refrigerated while the kumquat skin is soaked in vodka.
Likewise, follow 1 above with Ingredient B for the other marmalade. Mix A and B, then set aside.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat the butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs a little at a time.
Stir in the marmalade and orange juice, and mix well.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold gently into the cake batter.
Tip into a lined loaf tin and bake in the oven for 60 mins until well risen and golden brown, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to stand for 10 mins, then turn out onto a cooling wire.
To make the glaze, pour the marmalade and water into a pan, and add the coconut sugar.
Heat the mixture until warm, then brush evenly all over the loaf.
Mmmm… what a wonderful byproduct!! The cake is not so sweet and very light, but the glaze gives a kick – I like the richness, and the bitterness of the glazed kumquat skin. If you make Peter’s Nastoyka, why don’t you try this loaf as well? Thank you, Peter. I am enjoying the liqueur sip by sip 🙂 We consider that kumquat is good for a sore throat and cough. Vodka infused with kumquat… what a great remedy in winter!!
Just wanted to bake something for the upcoming Christmas. Stollen was one of the options, but I usually buy some loaves of ‘NICE’ stollen from my favourite bakery. Hmmmm…. One day, a friend of mine gave me a piece of Starbucks’s Stollen Cake, which was really good! so I decided to make something similar.
150 – 200 cc dark rum
50 g dried figs
50 g raisins
50 g dried cranberries
30 g candied orange peel
30 g candied lemon peel
200 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
100 g butter
85 g soft light brown sugar
100 g marzipan, cut into cubes
25 g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
25 g butter, melted
20 g icing sugar
dried or glacé cherries
holly springs, washed and dried
Soak the figs, raisins, cranberries, orange and lemon in the dark rum overnight. Drain the fruits, and chop roughly the peels and figs.
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl, and using fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, mixed spice, almond flakes and marzipan.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs and put in the soaked fruits. Stir into the flour mixture and combine well.
Spoon the dough into a lined loaf tin/dish and bake for 60 mins until well risen and golden brown, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Brush with a half of the melted butter and dust with a half of the icing sugar.
Allow it to cool for 10 mins, then remove from the dish and place it on to a wire rack. And again, brush the rest of butter and sift the icing sugar over the loaf. Cool completely.
Decorate with the cherries and holy springs. If necessary, dust with icing sugar a little more before the decoration.
Hmmmmm… looks like a Christmas fruit loaf rather than a stollen cake…, but it does taste like stollen, and soooo good – even better? 😀 – with the flavour of rum, mixed spices, and chunks of marzipan. I found that, after it sits for a few days, it ripens and tastes better – it gets richer, more moist, and more flavourful. Do try this for the coming festivities!