Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sweet Summer 9: Swedish cinammon cake

Another lovely Swedish recipe from Stephanie Smee: cinammon cake.

 This one's a bit of a favourite in our house. My mother has been making a version of this for us for years, but I recently started using a recipe out of a gorgeous little traditional Swedish cake cookbook called Sju Sorters Kakor, (2005, Ica Bokförlag, Forma Publishing Group AB). Even though it is a recent publication, the book contains all my favourite Swedish baked goods recipes from way back. The title means "Seven Sorts of Cakes" as traditionally, if you invite somebody over for coffee and cake in Sweden, it was customary to offer seven different sorts of cakes or biscuits. I have a cousin who still keeps things in the freezer for just such an occasion, although she is my mother's age and I doubt my generation would have the time or energy to keep up the tradition! Still, it's a lovely idea!

So here's the recipe: Kanelkaka (Cinnamon cake)

(The cookbook notes that it was a "prizewinner" (!) in 1965!!

NB, Swedish cake recipes tend to measure dry and wet  ingredients in decilitres … 1 decilitre is 100ml. I find it very handy as it means you don't have to mess with scales. Most stainless steel measuring jugs from IKEA you'll find are marked with decilitres as well as the other metric/US measurements …

Set oven at 175 deg C.
Butter and line a springform cake tin

3 eggs
2 declitres (200ml) caster sugar
2.5 dl (250ml) plain flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
75g butter
1 dl (100ml) water.

Decoration (optional) flaked almonds

You can also add a teaspoon of ground cardamon which adds a lovely flavour. (my addition …)

Melt butter and water together over low heat and set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
Blend flour, baking poweder and cinnamon and add to egg mixture.
Add melted butter and water.
Pour into cake tin. If using, sprinkle flaked almonds over the top.
Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or until an inserted skewer emerges dry.

I tend not to ice these sorts of cakes … my children are not fond of icing. But I do like to sprinkle either with caster sugar or icing sugar.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sweet Summer 8: Gâteau Basque à la David

On my mother's side, I have Basque ancestors--and this is the classic cake from their region, masterfully interpreted by my (non-Basque!)husband David Leach.
(serves 4-6 people)
Ingredients for pastry: 200g plain flour, 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, 130 g castor sugar, 130 g unsalted butter, pinch salt, lemon rind. Ingredients for custard: 200 ml milk, 1 egg yolk, 50 g castor sugar, 20 g plain flour, a little cherry brandy(optional), some stoned Morello cherries(he used our own homegrown ones which had been preserved in armagnac but tinned Morellos could conceivably be used). First make the pastry: put the flour in a bowl, make a well in it and into it put the egg yolk, the lightly beaten whole egg , the sugar, pinch salt, and the softened butter. Mix carefully till well combined and forming a good smooth and not sticky pastry. Put it in the fridge to rest while you prepare the custard. Dilute the flour with a little of the milk. Warm the rest of the milk gently. Beat the egg yolk with the sugar, then add to warmed milk, and then add the flour mixture, stir over stove till nice and thick(and do not let it boil.) Off the stove, add a little cherry brandy, and then the cherries. If you want to make the classic custard-filled Gateau Basque, omit both the cherries and cherry brandy. You can also flavour your custard with rum if you like.

Grease a cake or tart tin, roll out the pastry, make a base and sides out of most of it, then pour the custard mixture into it. Make a lid with rest of the pastry, crimp the edges well together, then glaze the top with a pastry brush dipped into some egg yolk. Score the pastry with a knife to form a pattern. Bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour. The cake is delicious both warm and cold.

Etorri mahaira! (Come to the table!)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sweet Summer 7: Passionfruit Heaven, by Alexis Braconnier

My nephew Alexis Braconnier, youngest son of my sister Beatrice is only 23, but has already gone a long way in his cooking career. Trained at chef school in Toulouse, he's worked at celebrity hotel the Byblos in Saint Tropez, works in Paris now and at the age of 20 featured in the French TV cooking competition show for professional chefs, Top Chef. By far the youngest of the Top Chef line-up at the time, Alexis rapidly became a great favourite with TV audiences, for his imaginative flair in cooking, good looks and natural, unpretentious manner, and when he was eliminated from the show, still had the votes of a great many members of the public! His public profile has shown no sign of abating since then, he's appeared a good deal in the French media, and will now re-appear in the new series of Top Chef, to begin soon in France.
Here's one of his signature dessert dishes, which isn't only delicious, but easy to make as well: his re-imagining of the traditional French dessert, 'ile flottante' or 'floating island' where a snowy caramelised meringue floats on a custard sea. This one uses passionfruit and the lovely French caramels, 'carambars' to great effect. (Carambars are traditional, individually wrapped caramel sweets whose wrappers include silly, often lame jokes that have passed into the vernacular: a 'blague carambar' or 'carambar joke' means a particularly lame one that's so lame it's sort of cool! If you can't get 'caramabars' substitute another types of caramel sweets, perhaps even caramel fudge.)
6 eggs.
100 g castor sugar
150 g icing sugar
4 passionfruit
2 vanilla beans(could substitute vanilla essence if you don't have these, but the beans have a more delicate flavour)
750 ml milk.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together till thick and pale. Add vanilla beans to milk and bring to boiling point. Take off stove, add egg yolk and sugar mixture and stir through then return to heat for 3 minutes. Scoop the flesh from the passionfruit, stir in. Beat the egg whites till stiff, add icing sugar and beat till glossy. Place egg white mix in dish in microwave, cook for 10 seconds on high heat, take out and slide onto custard which you have placed into a serving bowl. Melt the caramels in the oven on baking paper(this should be done before you do the egg whites)and dribble the liquid caramel on the meringue so it sets in a crackly sort of way. If you prefer, you can do the traditional caramel: sugar and a little water melted over gentle heat till it goes golden, then dribbled over meringue. Serve.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sweet Summer 6: Stephanie Smee's Sunshine Cake

I'm republishing this lovely recipe of writer and translator Stephanie Smee's, first published on this blog a couple of years ago--most appropriate for the season!

 Sunshine Cake
By Stephanie Smee

A couple of years ago, my husband and I, and our two youngish children, aged about 9 and 7, were lucky enough to holiday in Sweden. My mother is Swedish, although she has lived in Australia most of her adult life … and the main aim of this holiday was to have a family reunion, with one branch of the family coming from Boston with even younger children, aged 2 and 4, and my parents journeying also from Australia, to an island in the Stockholm archipelago.
We had rented a house on this island for 2 weeks in the middle of July – the sky never fell darker than a deep midnight blue – and the island itself had no roads, only fairytale-like paths winding across the island. Wild strawberries and blueberries were scattered through the grasses, under birch trees which seem to grow much taller than I have ever seen them in this country.
We had driven north from Copenhagen and stopped to overnight for a couple of nights in a youth hostel which was sandwiched between the Gota Canal which traverses Sweden, an enormous inland lake fringed with pine trees, and a towering forest of birches. It was real Elsa Beskow territory. (Elsa Beskow is one of Sweden’s most adored children’s authors from last century who illustrated her works with stunning paintings and line drawings. They are so typically evocative of the Swedish landscape of forests and lakes – almost a Swedish May Gibbs …) Summer had just arrived – there were merry “seniors” pedalling down the canal’s towpath in often little more than their underwear, so joyful were they at seeing the sun. My favourite memory, however, was a recipe for a cake which the owner of the youth hostel made and served every day in a summer house under the blossoming apple trees, along with freshly brewed, percolated coffee, as the Swedes drink it. Guests of the youth hostel could simply help themselves whenever they felt like it.
I have made this cake on an almost weekly basis since returning to Sydney as it is the perfect lunch box cake! No awful icing which will melt and be messy. And it takes 15 minutes to throw together and 25-30mins to cook. A word re measurements. All Swedish cake recipes are measured in decilitres – dry ingredients as well as wet ingredients. 1 decilitre is one tenth of a litre – so 100 mls. I find it much easier than weighing ingredients! You will find that all the stainless steel measuring jugs sold at IKEA are marked with decilitres ….
Sunshine Cake
125 g melted butter, cooled slightly
3 eggs
2.5 decilitres (250 ml) caster sugar
2.5 dcl (250ml) plain flour
Frozen/fresh raspberries to taste
Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking paper. Heat oven to 175-180 deg C.
Beat eggs and sugar until really pale and fluffy.
Add flour, then melted butter.
Pour batter into cake tin and sprinkle with raspberries. My children prefer raspberries but I’m sure you could add blueberries and it would be just as delicious.
Bake for 25-30 mins or until skewer comes out cleanly.
Sprinkle with icing sugar for decoration.