Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweet New Zealand

Well it will be a hard job following the exuberant Greedybread’s hosting of Sweet New Zealand but I’m going to try, although I think I may pale in comparison. 

If it’s all new to you, allow me to explain.  Sweet New Zealand is a monthly blogging event created by Alessandra Zecchini and it really is very simple so you have no excuse not to join in, meet new friends and hang out in the kitchen at this party.

Sweet New Zealand is open to all food bloggers living in New Zealand (even if you are not a New Zealander), as well as all Kiwi food bloggers who live overseas.
You can enter with anything sweet - cakes, cookies, desserts, or even drinks. 
You can submit as many entries as you like and they don't have to be new blog posts. 
Your entry must contain the phrase Sweet New Zealand and have the Sweet New Zealand badge (you can copy and save the one on this page).
Your entry must link to the host (me!) and to this post. If you're submitting an old post remember to update it with the phrase, badge and links.

Enter now:
Email me at flatwhite233(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz (yes, I love coffee!) before the 29 March with:

Your name
Your blog name
A link to your blog
A link to the blog post you're entering
A photo from the post
The name of the recipe and a brief description

If you haven’t yet sighted February’s Sweet NZ delights yet, head over to Greedybread, or check out previous months on Alessandra’s recap page - but don’t forget to come back to submit your entry for this month.

So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Plum, almond and orange cake

Summer, and another two plum trees laden with fruit.  Somehow, despite best efforts, I always manage to dribble the dark stain down my front.  Plum tree number one you can do that with; the fruit is sweet enough to pluck straight from the tree.  The fruit from the other tree ripens a little later and needs the most help with sugar.  Though the flesh is just sweet, the skin retains a sourness that makes it less edible than its early bird neighbour. 

As in previous years, I’ve taken the plums and bottled plum & vanilla jam in little jars (and dropped teaspoonfuls straight into my mouth).  I’ve showered friends and neighbours with bags of the fruit and I still have some left on the tree. Time is running out but I have plans to poach them, sprinkle a streusel mix on top, bake them and freeze so I can recall this long summer when it is chilly.   Let’s hope life quietens down just enough to allow me to do this.

For now though, I’m kind of smitten with this cake.  I love the texture and taste of ground almonds in cakes.  There’s a dense richness that’s not heavy but seems to complement the weight of the plums suspended in the batter.

The plums do drop down into the cake during cooking, so I just I flip the cake over when it is baked and use the bottom as the top.  It shows off the plums nicely with a smooth, flat surface

I made this for our first book club of the year (and this year I hope to share with you our exciting reading months ahead) and promised I would post it.  A little late but here it is.

Captured taking a shot with my little point & shoot

Plum, almond and orange cake

200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
25g vanilla sugar*
4 eggs
150 self-raising flour
70g ground almonds
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature
approximately 5-6 plums, sliced (enough to cover the top of the cake)

*If you don’t have vanilla sugar to hand, just use a total of 225g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease and line a 21cm cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time (beat well before adding the next one).  One of the tips my dad gave me was to add a tablespoon of flour (from the ingredients list) to the mix if it looks like it may separate at this stage.

Sift in the remaining flour and fold in with a large metal spoon.  Gently mix in the ground almonds, orange zest and milk until just incorporated.

Place the sliced plums on the top of the cake.  Don’t worry too much about their appearance as the plums will sink and it will be a total waste of your efforts.  As I said above, for a more attractive cake, turn the finished cake bottom side up where most of the plums will have plunged.

Bake for approximately 1 hour.  A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean and the cake should spring back when you push lightly with your fingertips.  If the top of the cake browns too much during cooking time, cover with tin foil (don’t put it directly on cake, make a small dome shape over the cake tin).

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve dusted with icing sugar and cream or yoghurt.

Recipe adapted from Julie Buiso's Plum & Almond Cake from Sweet Feast.

I'm submitting this to Sweet New Zealand, hosted in February by Michelle at Greedybread.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Date Cake with Lemon Curd & Coconut Yoghurt

This is the second time I have made this cake in as many weeks.  The first was a way to cope with being back at work after a long, summer break.  A touch of sweetness as we attempted to clear a backlog of emails; nudge oneself back into focus every so often and remember what our passwords were. Yes, the return to work needs a gentle ease-in, no hard or stupid questions please, my withering look is not on leave now either. Good thing there are a few public holidays to shorten our first few weeks.

It’s worth buying the more expensive Medjool dates for this cake for they are softer and lusher.  I used half Medjool and half packaged pitted dates both times.

I left the cake un-iced on both occasions.  The original recipe uses a cream cheese icing or suggested a lemon icing but I found it worked well enough without either and first day back at work, there was no time to make icing of any sort.  It was hard enough just getting my act together to get out the door on time.

First time around I was pretty amazed when Bill handed me a slice on which he'd lathered a dollop of coconut yoghurt on top.  It was truly a winning combination with the coconut totally complementing and enhancing the dates and spiciness of the cake.  

For this one, I've used coconut yoghurt and swirled in some homemade lemon curd (recipe here).  Except in today’s heat the swirl spun out of control and merged into the yoghurt during the photo shoot (temperamental model I'd say).

The recipe comes from Catherine Bell in the wonderful A Treasury of New Zealand Baking.  The yoghurt I used was Coconuts from The Collective (and yes, there is an extra "s" in their naming of the yoghurt).

Date Cake with Lemon Curd & Coconut Yoghurt

250g pitted dates, chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
125ml boiling water
110g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
150g standard flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Put the dates and baking soda in a small bowl, pour in the boiling water and mix together briefly with a spoon.  Leave for 30 minutes to cool.

Preheat oven to 150°C.  Grease and line a 20cm round or square cake tin with baking paper.

In a cake mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and creamy.  Add the egg and beat well.

Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a bowl ensuring well combined.  Add half of this dry mix, along with half of the date mix to the creamed ingredients.  Fold in gently until combined and repeat with the remainder. 

Place the mix into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes – test the centre with a skewer which should come out clean.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with the lemon curd & coconut yoghurt below or top with a lemon icing.

Lemon Curd & Coconut Yoghurt

For each slice of cake, mix 2 tablespoons of coconut ­yoghurt with ½ tablespoon of lemon curd swirled in.  Garnish with lemon zest and serve either on the plate or in a little dish beside the cake.