Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Estonian egg white cake.

After making all that lemon curd I had lots of egg whites to use up. I did use some to make the meringue for the lemon meringue pie, but there is only so much meringue a girl can eat (unless you are my sister!). Last time I had this problem a quick Google suggested Angel Food Cake as a possible recipe. This is popular in America and is a fat free cake where the egg whites are whipped and folded with flour and cream of tartar and then baked in a 'tube pan' to help it rise and keep the its shape. As I didn't have any cream of tartar I went looking further and found a recipe for a cake called Mumavalgekook, which is an Estonian cake very similar to Angel Food Cake except that it has melted butter folded in to the mixture which gives it a little bit of extra stability when baked. The recipe for Mumavalgekook  I use is from Nami-Nami, another fantastic food blog. Essentially you whip the egg whites (I did using my Kenwood of course) and a little sugar to make a fairly relaxed meringue, and then you  fold in the rest of the sugar, flour and melted butter along with a little vanilla. You have to do this quickly and gently so as not to lose all the air in the mix, and it feels very different to a normal cake batter. I always get slightly worried at this point because you can hear all the bubbles in the egg whites bursting as you fold the dry ingredients in, and you do lose some volume. However, as long as you fold just enough to incorporate the dry ingredients and the butter in and bung it straight in the oven it seems to work fine.

When baked and cooled it had a very springy, but light texture with a nice sugary crust, a bit like the one on boudoir biscuits (ladies fingers). It keeps very well for a few days, and is even nice toasted with a bit of extra butter on. Or you can sandwich a couple of bits together with leftover lemon curd!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The leaning tower of lemon curd cake

The remaining lemon curd was destined for a lovely lemony cake for my colleague's 50th birthday. As often happens on a Sunday, I did way too much sitting on my bum and not enough doing the things I should be. So 7pm rolls round and I'm thinking I should probably pull my finger out and make the cake. I have some new sandwich pans I wanted to try, so this seemed to be a good opportunity. They're nice high/straight sided, loose bottomed pans from Silverwood. I bought them from the excellent Salamander Cookshop, although I've seen them in lots of other cookery shops.

I used my (already) trusty Kenwood to cream the butter and sugar and mix in the eggs. I then fold in the flour, some ground almonds and lemon zest by hand (so as not to over mix) and within a few minutes the layers were in the oven. The new tins seemed to perform very well...they cooked very evenly (despite the horrible hot spots in my rented oven) and the cakes rose well. I'm told having high sided tins helps the cake retain it's rise as it cooks. The sponges also released from the tins pretty easily (although I had buttered and lined).

Unfortunately a set of high sided tins cannot get round the fact that our oven is quite obviously not level, and there is always a little sloping. I try and get round this by trying to line up a thin side with a corresponding fat side when stacking the sponges, but it doesn't always work terribly well and I end up with a leaning cake.

Not quite so bad from the other side (must remember to have this side facing forward when presenting it tomorrow!).

I wish I as better at the whole icing and decorating thing...I do make nice cakes (even if I do say so myself), but I let myself down with the presentation...I guess I just have to keep trying!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

May we live in peace without weeping (meringue)

So dinner prep was going remarkably well for me...I'd managed not had a single strop or meltdown...the gnocchi had come together well, and had been rolled and cut without sticking to every surface.

I'd managed to blind bake my pastry shell without (too much) shrinkage, and filled it with the previously made lemon curd.

My meringue had whipped to a lovely stiff peak and didn't sink into the curd when placed on top.

The above, pre baked meringue picture was proudly posted on Facebook...pride comes before a fall...about halfway through the baking my meringue started weeping, and weeping badly. Lots of liquid and the possibility of thoroughly soggy pastry. A quick Google turned up the information that it was probably all due to my filling being cold before being topped with the meringue. The filling has to be warm to cook the bottom of the meringue to seal in the moisture. Nothing could be done about live and learn I suppose. I resigned myself to soggy pastry. Other than the weeping, it looked ok when it came out the oven.

The decision was made to serve it anyway, and just fess up to the soggy pastry.

Pudding time came around, and although it was a touch tricky to get out of the dish in one piece the pastry was not as soggy as not perfect, but perfectly edible and the lemon curd and the meringue themselves were pretty good. I'll know to warm the filling before applying the meringue next time!

This is what I do on a Friday night...

As previously mentioned I am having some friends over for dinner tomorrow. I've decided to keep it simple and make gnocchi with pesto. As I've got a few things to do tomorrow I thought I'd get ahead and prepare the potato for the gnocchi tonight. You need quite dry potato for nice light gnocchi, so I bake them in their skins and then scoop the flesh and put it through a ricer.

I've put the potato on a tray to cool and once the potatoes have steamed off, I'll cover the tray with clingfilm and put it in the fridge ready for tomorrow. Recipe and more pictures to follow.

What to do with the skins that are left? My husband made himself some cheesy, jalapeno potato skins with a little splash of worcester sauce for his late evening 'snack'.

MMMMMM, melty cheese.

You can tell I didn't make them....there would've been a lot more cheese!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Lemon curd on a school night

Lemon Curd being cooled in the Kenwood Chef by erikazj

I'm not sure why I thought it a good idea, but at about 9pm last night I thought I would make the lemon curd I need for a couple of recipes that I'm going to make over the weekend. It's been sometime since I've made lemon curd and I'd forgotten how long you can be stood there, stirring it, waiting for it to thicken. To be honest, I think it probably takes so long because after almost scrambling it once,  I'm a bit of a wimp and cook it over the lowest heat possible. Still, even though it takes some time it is actually very easy and very yummy. I have plans to use it in a lovely lemon layer cake for a work colleague's 50th birthday and in a lemon meringue pie for some friends on Saturday. There will probably be plenty left too.

The picture is of the kenwood stirring the lemon curd back to room temperature for me so I could get it in to the fridge before my bedtime!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

So……what do you write in a first blog post? I suppose a little explanation as to why I’m here committing these words to the ether?

2011 sees me turn 30. To be honest, I am not that bothered, or at least I don’t think I am. However, as the day approaches I am beginning to think about all those things I have and have not achieved so far in my short life (I am not the first and won't be the last). One thing I have tried to do over and over again (and it is a many times broken new year’s resolution) is to start (and more importantly) keep a diary. So this is going to be it. My blog. I hope the thought of someone, somewhere reading my words might encourage me not to be too lax in keeping up the entries.

A little about me is perhaps the next logical step?? I like to think I am a relatively normal (whatever that is), liberal, tolerant and caring human being. I suspect I probably am not, that I have ridiculous prejudices and am actually rather grumpy about most things with most people. I do however like to cook, and I definitely like to eat. I like to feed people. In the last couple of years I’ve lost some weight and this process has most upset my previous eating habits! So these days if I want to eat cake or drink wine, I have to run first so that it doesn’t end up straight on my tummy. Grr. I am not a natural athlete and getting myself out the door can be a challenge, but rather strangely on occasion I have been known to enjoy it and it is most definitely now part of my life.

Ooh, a quick word on my blog title…I purchased myself a Kenwood Chef as an early birthday present to myself, which probably isn’t going to help with trying to keep the weight off, but I love the fact it makes my cake making so easy and my husband has joked that I try and find a way to use it in everything I cook…so there you go…Me, my Kenwood and I