Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

Although I’ve tried my hand at oil-based (rather than butter- or margarine-based) cakes before, until now I’ve not had any success (probably because I haven’t actually accompanied my trials with even a brief glance at a recipe for an oil-based cake…). During my last attempt, I made the error of using olive oil (influenced by something along the lines of olive oil being better for you) with a slightly heavy hand and the result was nothing short of absolutely horrible, both in texture and taste.

This new, and considerably more successful, attempt has been influenced by a whole range of things. First, during my post-appendix operation TV-watching marathon, I came across a few instances of cakes being made with a first step of beating together eggs and sugar, rather than creaming the butter and sugar – something I was aware of but had never tried, and making an oil-based cake seemed like an ideal opportunity to try this method. Second, in one of my recipe books (The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks Great Italian Food) there is a recipe for a cake which uses olive oil, which made me think that despite its strong taste and my past failure, it must be possible to make a good cake with olive oil (but of course, following that recipe would have taken away the challenge of this enterprise, so I didn’t do that…). And finally, on Saturday, when I made this, we were overrun with lemons, following some over-enthusiastic buying of that delicious fruit on my part, and I thought they would make a good partner to olive oil in a cake. And so, I now give you lemon and olive oil cake. I must admit that this cake has received mixed reviews – some people loved it; some people hated it; some (to summarise and paraphrase) thought cake is cake regardless of what type of fat is used. Personally, I think I prefer the lemon cake I used in the lemon cupcakes that I posted last year, but it is good to ring the changes every so often, and this is very easy to make. As usual, the measurements below are made using a 250 ml mug as equal to 1 cup. I baked this cake in a 9 x 12 inch rectangular tin.


What you’ll need:

3 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

Pinch salt

A bit more olive oil, to grease the pan

One lemon and a bit of icing sugar, for the topping

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 (190º C or 375º F).

2. Beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric beater until they are light and fluffy.





3. Add the lemon juice and olive oil to the egg and sugar mixture and mix in thoroughly with an electric beater.

IMG_5270 IMG_5273


4. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl and fold into the eggs/sugar/lemon/oil mixture. I found that this took a little while as the flour tended to clump together a bit and so took longer than I expected to fold in thoroughly.



5. Grease a baking tray by brushing it lightly with olive oil and then pour the cake batter into the greased pan.




6. Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.


7. When the cake has baked, remove from the oven and place, in the baking tray, on a cooling rack. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice, through a sieve (to stop the pips and flesh ending up on the cake), all over the top of the hot cake.


8. Turn the cake out onto the cooling rack, top side up (this may require a couple of moves to get the side that the lemon juice went on to facing upwards). Lightly (as opposed to my heavy hand…) dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and leave to cool before slicing and consuming. You find it easier to clean up if you put a piece of tin foil or greaseproof paper below the cooling rack, to catch stray sugar, before sprinkling on the icing sugar on to the cake.




Saturday, 25 February 2012

Dark Chocolate and Orange Rolls

As I discovered last week, when you have sore tummy muscles following an appendix operation each day’s activities are planned around what can be done with minimal body movement and, ideally, whilst remaining horizontal. In practice, this means sleeping, reading and watching lots of TV on the internet. In my case, that lots of TV took the very specific form of cooking and food-related shows, including a very interesting Channel 4 series named Willie’s Chocolate Revolution. If you’re anything like me, you can’t watch nearly three hours of programming about chocolate and not think of something chocolatey to try making. And these rolls are what I thought of (although where the orange part came from I’m not sure as I don’t remember seeing anything involving oranges in any of the programmes!). Today, finally, I had the tummy strength to try making these rolls and I am very pleased with the results (though haven’t yet had the change to get J’s opinion – something I usually do before blogging a recipe). To me, these would be best freshly baked and still warm, with lots of butter and accompanied by strong coffee, for a lazy Saturday morning brunch.


Whilst my tummy muscles may be up to baking as a general activity, they are not yet at kneading strength, so this was a great opportunity to try out the dough hooks that came with my electric hand mixer, and I’m pleased to say that they worked very well. Feel free to kneed by hand if you prefer though. This mixture is very sticky so if you do kneed by hand you may be tempted to use a lot of flour – try to resist the temptation to add too much flour and don’t worry if a bit of dough sticks to your hand during the kneading process – it will wash off! I used chocolate with 85% cocoa solids for these rolls. If you’re not a fan of very dark chocolate, feel free to use chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa solids. The orange flavour isn’t very strong in these rolls, so if you prefer a strong chocolate orange flavour, I’d suggest swopping the hot water for more orange juice (but make sure that it is warm to help the yeast get started) and grating orange zest into the mixture when you add the chopped chocolate. All the measurements below are based on a 250 ml mug equalling 1 cup.


What you’ll need:

150 grams dark chocolate

2 1/2 cups plain flour

Pinch salt

A 7 gram package of fast action yeast

2 dessertspoons sugar

1 dessertspoon extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup boiling water

What to do:

1. Roughly chop the chocolate (don’t make the individual pieces too small).


2. Mix together thoroughly in a bowl the flour, salt, yeast, sugar and chopped chocolate.



3. Add the boiling water to the orange juice.


4. Add the olive oil and orange juice/water to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.





5. Kneed the dough with an electric dough hook or by hand on a lightly floured, clean surface for about 10 minutes.



6. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes to an hour until the dough has roughly doubled in size.


7. When the dough has risen, kneed it again with an electric dough hook or by hand on a lightly floured, clean surface for about 10 minutes. When the dough has been kneaded, generously flour the surface, divide the dough into 12 roughly equal portions and shape each portion into a roll.





8. Brush a baking tray with oil or melted butter and place each roll on the baking tray, spaced well apart.


9. Cover the rolls with a damp tea towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for 40 minutes to an hour until each roll is roughly double in size.


10. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 (190º C or 375º F) and bake the rolls for about 20-25 minutes in the middle of the pre-heated oven. When done the rolls will be lightly brown on top but still soft when pressed.


11. Place the rolls on a cooling rack to cool before eating, or be like me and tuck in as soon as the melted chocolate has settled enough to make picking up each roll not too messy an affair.



Friday, 24 February 2012

Spring Daffodils

I left the house for the first time since coming home from the hospital today (admittedly just to go see my doctor) and was greeted just outside the front door by this pretty sight… I love watching flowers and trees come alive as spring arrives.


Friday, 17 February 2012

Bad blogger’s update

I’m beginning to think that the blog this year is going to be one long catalogue of the numerous different excuses one can give for not blogging…and like the bad blogger I appear to have become I’m about to give another one of those. But, to keep things rounded, instead of just giving an excuse, I’ll first share a failure…I had the great idea last weekend to follow up my lemon and almond muffins with some lemon and almond biscuits – a proven flavour combination and a way to use up leftover ingredients in one – what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, the taste could and so I sadly share with you what I think is a pretty cool photo of some ‘tasty’ biscuits that actually aren’t that tasty at all…


…and moving swiftly on to the excuse. Last Sunday afternoon I started getting really bad abdominal pain which stayed with me right through to Monday evening, at which point desperation drove me (well, technically J drove) to the Accident and Emergency department of our local hospital where I was admitted with appendicitis. Thankfully, that organ was evicted from my body on Wednesday and today I get to enjoy sleeping in my own bed for the first time since Sunday. Unfortunately, that unexpected turn of events has left me with little inclination to spend time in the kitchen (or on my feet at all) this weekend so it is extremely improbable that I’ll be posting any recipes this week. I’d like to be able to blog about all the patience that the pain and waiting around this week has taught me but to be honest that’s a lesson I’m still learning. However, I was really encouraged this morning when I read the following verse in a psalm I’d randomly flicked to:

“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:3, NIV)

I know it is easy to put me reading that down to co-incidence but I am grateful for a God who knows what encouragement I need and provides it to me at the right time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my sickbed is calling…

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Lemon and Almond Muffins

The sad thing about moving away from the village that one lived in and away from the church that one went to is that one is no longer near to one’s friends. But the nice thing about moving to somewhere not too far away is that one can still meet one’s friends for coffee. And so, one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago I took a short train ride to meet up with two good friends for coffee and cake. My cake of choice was a lemon and poppy seed muffin, and it was tasty. Tasty enough, in fact, that whilst trying to think of a recipe with which to start blogging properly this year (only a month into the year…), I decided to try my hand at lemon and poppy seed muffins. Unfortunately, however, the small supermarket that I went into at a ridiculously early hour for one who has the day off (and hence time to try making muffins) was not particularly obliging. Following a futile search for poppy seeds, I approached one of the shop assistants to ask if they sold them and was told that they did not, but they did have sunflower seeds. Somehow the thought of lemon and sunflower muffins just didn't have the same appeal as lemon and poppy so I had to substitute the poppy seeds for flaked almonds, and thankfully they still taste good. One of the keys to making good muffins is to keep your stirring to a minimum – when you add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir them together just enough to wet and incorporate all the dry ingredients.

I’m still getting used to having an electric oven (as opposed to the gas oven that I know and love) and a month in I am still figuring out my desired oven temperature by thinking about what gas mark I would have put the oven on in the old house and then checking a conversion chart to see what it is in Celsius. I’m a gas not electric person at heart and so, for now, I’m going to keep giving oven temperatures in gas mark, followed by the Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures in brackets. As I’m still getting used to the oven and I’m not always very good at keeping an eye on the time, I’d strongly advise going with smell and sight to see when the muffins are done, rather than going on the timings that I give below. One thing I haven’t given up with moving is my way of measuring and so, as is most often the case, the cup measurements below are all based on 1 cup equalling 250 mls. This makes about 9 medium sized muffins and would probably make about 6 large muffins. The glaze recipe below makes more than you’ll need for one batch of muffins so either plan to make two batches of muffins or plan to make a lemon drizzle cake and use the glaze for the drizzle.

For the Muffins:

What you need:

1 cup flaked almonds
2 cups self raising flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg
1/4 cup melted margarine/butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200ºC or 400ºF).
2. Spread the flaked almonds across a baking tray and toast in the pre-heated oven for a few minutes until golden-brown. When the almonds are done, remove them from the oven and leave the oven on as it will then stay warm for the muffins (which will go in at the same temperature).

3. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Tip the toasted almonds into the bowl and mix together with the flour, salt and sugar.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, egg and melted margarine/butter. You could probably add the buttermilk to the bowl as well, but as I forgot to and am not too sure what the lemon juice might do to it, I’m not going to give it as an explicit instruction here…

5. Tip the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk (if you didn’t add it in the previous step…). Mix together gently and briefly with a whisk until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients.

6. Line a muffin tin with muffin cases and spoon the mixture into the cases.

7. Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. When baked, remove the muffins, in their cases, from the tin and leave to cool on a cooling rack. Glaze once cool.

For the glaze:

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
What to do:
1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.

2. Pour the lemon juice over the icing sugar and whisk together thoroughly.

3. Either dip each muffin into the glaze or spoon the glaze over each muffin (I found a combination of both worked best for me), and then leave on a cooling rack (with silver foil or baking parchment below the rack to catch drips) whilst the glaze hardens.