Almond Cake

Weekends are really things that happen to other people when you work in bars – however I have enjoyed doing some weekend-y things recently. Yesterday I went to the new velodrome in the East End to see the qualifying rounds of the Track World Cup:

 

Very exciting to see this in real life especially when you see the hellish height and steepness of the bankings – yikes! Apparently they let punters on it when they aren’t hosting world championship events… Must investigate further…

That evening the splendid Paul was dressed like a character in a Godard film and had brought boeuf bourguignon, buttered macaroni and red wine up to the flat – just when I thought I couldn’t like him any more. Soppy. Dreadful.

 

This morning I spent longer than anticipated grappling with a 1970’s oven whilst baking cakes for the Glasgow Stationery Co.‘s Xmas perty held in the basement cafe of Rig Bike Shop on West Regent Street. We had a chocolate beetroot cake with framboise icing and edible cornflower petals (oooOOOOooo!) (of which more later) and this Spanish classic:

 

This is a traditional cake eaten in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the end of the pilgrim route (which in medieval times was up there with Rome and Jerusalem in terms of hardcore pilgrimages) . It should really have a fiddly cross stencilled on the top in icing sugar but I decided against that considering it had to be transported across Sauchiehall St wrapped in a flimsy sheet of tinfoil. This cake is an absolute skoosh to make and tastes superb – the almonds make it moist with a grand texture and the citrus zest flavour is just the right level of subtle. I’m really not a subtlety hand but in this case you wouldn’t want anything more from a cake. Claudia Roden’s recipe (found here along with loads of other tantalising Spanish dishes – quail with caramelised onions and brandy mmm) asks you to grind whole almonds but due to blender issues (lack of one) I used pre-ground and it turned out fine. Incidentally here is a very familiar tale from the National Geographic of a guy walking this gruelling route and feeling pretty sorry for himself before having his sense of solidarity and general happiness restored by a plate of trout. Know the feeling pal!

Almond Cake

  • 250g almonds
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 4 drops almond extract

As mentioned, an absolute skoosh: beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Mix in the zest, almond essence and ground almonds. In another bowl beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture; the almond one is very thick so you do have to give it a good mix. I feared this would undo the work of beating those egg whites (by hand yo!) but it turned out fine, the cake didn’t rise a great deal but it was never really going to with all those almonds involved.

Fire it into a greased & floured 28cm cake tin and bake at Gas Mk. 4 for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. I just gave it a wee dusting of icing sugar and some extra zest over the top – utterly restrained and classy!

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TD; DP

You know how on forums when people write long, rambling posts and kindly put TL;DR and a wee summary of the content? Nabbed the acronym style (Too Long, Didn’t Read) for today’s internet discovery – Too Delicious, Didn’t Photograph. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

CAKE IN A CUP.

As in, fire a few spoonfuls of stuff already sitting in the cupboard into a Catalan national party mug, microwave it and you have a fully formed cake-like pudding-like delight!!

I would say I’m keen on food and cooking in general, read a lot of cookery books and blogs, rip recipes out of papers in cafes (erk), hassle people for family recipes, and thanks to more than a decade of these high jinks I though I was relatively well-versed in things to magic out of a skimpily stocked cupboard. Like a sauce made only of tinned tomatoes, butter and a halved onion. But this cake-in-a-cup discovery has blown me away! Literally 30 seconds of stirring and a minute in a clapped-out 70s microwave and you have something that would definitely not be chosen as an impostor in a line-up of chocolate fondants. Do it, do it now:

1 Catalan solidarity mug’s worth, adapted from this superb recipe due to kitchen cupboard limitations:

  • 2 tablespoons self-raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I used dark brown soft)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dundee orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Mix the lot in a mug, microwave on full for a minute, hang head in shame thinking of excessive time and effort spent on inferior puddings in the past. Caution: over-microwaving this will definitely end in rubberiness. We want it melting like it had a square of fondant painstakingly buried in the centre!

I’m doing this for the Christmas dinner – no joke. Last year I made this: Image

(Raymond Blanc’s chocolate delice)

And honestly, the microwave pudding cake was probably tastier. Marmaladey and with hints of coffee, a mixture of molten and spongey, tastefully presented – it’s the midweek dessert of dreams.

Air Meal from last summer…

Puff candy reminds me of primary school trips to Largs and Millport. Everyone would spend all their money in Nardinis and the wee pokey shops on the seafront, buying things like puff candy and sticks of rock and macaroon bars. To this day I would rank the Crunchie very highly in a Top 5 sweetie poll.

Making the stuff feels like alchemy, bubbling it up in a saucepan until the magic golden caramel colour is reached, and then hurling the bicarbonate of soda into the swirling depths and watching the bubbly eruptions it causes. The only drawback is the sneaky colouring of the Golden Syrup which can fool one into thinking the stuff is sufficiently caramelised when this is so not the case. Puff candy Mk. I produced a sad tray of pale, bubbly gum which refused to set even when left overnight. Puff candy Mk. II (made with the aid of the sugar thermometer) was much more satisfactory, a deep orange hue with a central strata of tiny caverns. The full tray in its unbroken state looks quite like the surface of the moon which is very appealing. It would be amazing to portion the mix out into greased ring moulds of biscuit cutters and produce even more accurate moons, definitely one to try out next time!

Puff Candy / Honeycomb

  • 300g sugar (I used 200g caster sugar and 100g light brown sugar due to contents of kitchen cupboards, I would do so again in future as I think the darker sugar gave the finished product a darker, more intense taste)
  • 200g Golden Syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 2 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
Line a brownie pan or baking tray with lightly oiled tinfoil. The size of the tray will dictate the thickness of the puff candy – spread in a thin layer over a large baking tray the mix will produce a slightly different texture than if poured into a small, deep sided pan. Heat all the other ingredients in a deep-sided saucepan ’til the mix turns a dark amber colour and reaches 150 oC. Sieve in the bicarbonate of soda in order to avoid over-working the mix and removing the bubbles. Pour into the lined tin and leave to cool before breaking up. To cut the puff candy into blocks, run an oiled knife over it before it has totally hardened and then break it into blocks along the lines.