Have you ever had a cake that shrinks? My Pear and Ginger Cake did just that!
We were spending the long weekend at at the annual Auckland Folk Festival. We take our campervan and set up for three days of wonderful music - workshops, concerts, dancing, stalls etc
It is so busy with so many choices of things on that I find it best to have most of the food pre prepared so I spent an afternoon cooking.
I knew we were having about 5 extra visitors who would use our van as a base for meals etc so wanted to bake a cake. Having a box of pears in the fridge I wanted to use, I searched for a Pear Cake Recipe and found one Nigella Lawson makes. I don't usually make her recipes but I decided to try this cake recipe as it used more pears than the other recipes I found.This was for 6 pears !
I felt it might be a little lacking in flavour as there were no extra spices or flavourings, so I added 2 teaspoons of ground ginger to the chopped pears and 1/4 cup of finally chopped ginger to the batter.
Apart from leaving the cake uncovered a little long and it over browning on one side.....I must check as my oven seems to be cooking a little unevenly.... the cake came out of the oven looking good. A large, square cake that would be great for cutting when we had our guests. It was packed in the van and not opened for another two days.
How Could a Cake Shrink So Much?
Every evening there was a three hour concert in a huge marquee, so I decided to take the cake with knife, napkins etc and have it at half time. I opened the cake container and was somewhat perplexed as the cake seemed to have shrunk both in height and width!
Wondering if I was just thinking it was larger than it really was, I cut into the cake and found it was really moist, in fact... completely soggy in the middle. It was cooked - that wasn't the problem. But it was just almost too soggy to handle. I dished out from around the edges as those pieces while moist were able to be handled..... and everyone loved the flavour.
Pear and Ginger are a lovely combination. On pondering the strange cake behaviour I came to the conclusion that the juice from so many cooked pears had run out since the cake had sat for two days before cutting, which in turn created the very soggy, shrunken cake.
I would recommend the Pear and Ginger Cake recipe, but also suggest it needs eating straight away and is not a cake to keep.....OR you could use less pears.
It would be a lovely dessert cake with some whipped cream or a dollop of Greek Yoghurt and is certainly a great way to use up all those pears if you have a tree.
Summer holidays are long and a great time to let your children try their hand at some baking. I was talking to a young 12 year old girl the other day who was saying she was desperately keen to try some baking but her Mum was always finding excuses, so she still hadn't ever done any.
Both boys and girls usually love to do some cooking, and it is a good way of giving them some important cooking skills to carry through to adulthood. The younger they start, generally the better they are at cooking when they get older is my general observation. There may be a little mess......but teaching them that cleaning up is all part of the joy of cooking, is also a good way to overcome that problem. C23TJTZCK838
Cooking covers meals while baking is more about making cakes, biscuits, squares and slices and sweet things. It is not only creative, but teaches kids about nutrition, ingredients and measuring, along with the thrill of eating something they have made themselves.
Hopefully they will be inspired to cook and bake rather than wanting to eat takeaways. I explained to this young girl how to make a bacon and egg pie they could take on a picnic. I hope she tries it.
There are several recipes on www.cakefare.com that are excellent for children starting to bake. You may need to supervise if they are using a food processor or pot on the stove. Let them try the Easy Banana Cake Recipe or the Easy Banana Bread. If they don't like banana so much perhaps the Eggless Chocolate Cake or Favourite Fruit Cake.
These are all easy, and they have a good chance of producing a yummy cake to share with the family.Once they get used to reading recipes and how to measure the various ingredients, how to prepare the cake pans and what to do and not do once the baking is in the oven, they can progress to more challenging recipes.
I am always surprised at adults who say they can't bake......even those who cook perfectly well with savoury dishes . Most just lack confidence because they didn't learn to bake when they were young and maybe tried and had a disaster. Like most things, it is learning the skills and practice. So do encourage your children to do some baking.......and it will fill in some holiday time and your cake tins as well.
Christmas over it is summer holidays here in New Zealand, and a time to catch up with friends and family. For New Year we made our annual visit to a beach area at Mangawhai north of Auckland, where we have several friends who now either live there or have beach bachs ( houses)
It is always everybody bringing baking and salads to share with BBQ'd meat. I didn't have much time and opted for a sultana cake which is always popular. The dried fruit is boiled, the butter chopped into the hot, plump fruit, then cooled a little before mixing in the flour and other dried ingredients along with beaten eggs and sugar. Made in one pot this is a quick cake, yet large, very moist and great for picnics, lunchboxes or with a cup of tea or coffee.
I found I was short of sultanas as it needs a full 1 lb (450gram ) packet. However I did have dried cranberries and realised these would go well with the sultanas.
The Sultana and Cranberry Fruitcake was still warm when we arrived and we cut into it immediately. The cranberries gave it a delicious tang and proved popular. I would definitely make this recipe with the cranberries again for something a little different. It is always good just with sultanas... but it is always nice to have a change.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year and may 2014 be
Every year about mid November I pull out all my Christmas House and Garden and Recipe magazines and spend an enjoyable time browsing. I used to go all out with Christmas decorations, but as the family are no longer home....not even in the country.... we go to our holiday place for a few days. I do take a few decorations and a small Christmas tree.
I always buy the Christmas editions of my favourite recipe magazines as well as browsing my old ones carefully stored away each year. Coloured stickers adorn the pages of recipes I might get to try this year. Many I have made several times now. Others I have still not got around to.
With several occasions where I have to take something delicious, I have this week been doing some baking so it isn't a last minute rush. I mentioned my little tarts in a previous post and have been making pastry cases so all I have to do is fill them.
I have already made one batch to take to an after wedding party. I made a delicious lime curd and topped this with a mascarpone and lime curd swirl with my piping bag.
Last weekend I made a filling with mascarpone, cream and vanilla. I brushed on a melted chocolate coating on the inside of the pastry shells, filled with the mascarpone filling and a chunk of fresh strawberry...mmmm this was very yummy too.
I want to try a few other combos next time.
I always make my own fruit mince which will be going into some pastry cases. I usually fill the cases after I take them out of the freezer, just before baking. I don't put a pastry lid on, but prefer to do a merinque topping or leave open for a dob of cream or brandy icing just before serving.
Having made two batches of lime curd I have a lot of egg whites to use. Today I made some meringues with some fruit mince filling swirled through. Carefully stored in an airtight container they should be good for a treat to take to my section practice for my choir. I plan to make another batch of merinques with chopped chocolate and almonds.
Pavlova is of course the favourite for many to use their egg whites, but we are not so keen on pavlova in our house. I quite like making individual portions as it is easier for serving as finger food - thus the mini tarts and meringues. I'll provide a bowl of whipped cream to dip the meringues in!
Another baking effort today were two different savoury biscuits to go on cheese boards. One was oat, blue cheese and thyme, the other parmesan, rosemary and paprika. These are so easy to whip up in the food processor. They are now rolled into logs, sitting in the fridge wrapped in cling wrap until I need to bake them. These biscuits would be great for gifts.
I don't make Christmas Cake any more.... but look out for my Ginger Ale Christmas Cake Recipe which is coming soon! I made it for years.
With all those bananas to use up I talked about in my last post, we are feeling a little banana-ed ( if there is such a word) out! Husband has been insisting I need to bake more banana recipes to finish off his treasures.
I decided I needed to use recipes that used a good number of bananas and as I love a loaf, made a very quick and easy banana bread the first time. It didn't have any extra goodies for flavour, and used a good dozen or more of these little finger bananas - Three to four equals around about one ordinary banana, and I did up the quantity a little.
This Banana Bread was so quick and easy, I really think it is a good recipe for beginner bakers. If your kids love bananas and banana cake they will love making and eating this loaf.
It is great for lunchboxes, morning and afternoon tea, and for cake stalls or when you want something to contribute without too much time and effort. Everyone will think you have been slaving away, when you have been able to go off and do something else while it is cooking in the oven and you only spent five minutes whipping up the cake batter.
You may want to reduce the sugar to 3/4 of a cup rather than a cup for a slightly less sweet product.
The next loaf was a Spiced Banana Bread with walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg to cut the strong banana flavour a bit. This is truly delicious. I cut back on the brown sugar from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, used a good heaped tablespoon of liquid honey, and a heaped tablespoon of quince jelly.....but you could use any jelly such as apple, or apricot jam.
You could experiment with adding other spices, crushed pineapple, dried fruit such as raisins or sultanas, cranberries etc I plan to once I have recovered from too much of a banana thing!
I ended up making two of these Spiced Banana loaves to keep husband happy......but fortunately the bananas are all used up......I think I need a break for a while! But I was impressed with not only how easy and quick they were to mix up, but just how well they kept in an airtight container.
Banana Bread is a good standby for when you need something in a hurry - so long as you have an hour for baking time in the oven.
Husband treats our banana trees like his babies. He keeps them fed and watered, and when the time is right covers the bunches with plastic bags to keep the birds from gorging on their sweet fingers before we get to eat them.
When they are ripe we have more bananas than we know what to do with, and I am instructed to use them however I can, while he does his bit by having bananas mashed with lemon juice on toast for lunch each day.
They are a finger bananas and I am unsure what breed exactly. Many people are surprised we can grow and eat our own bananas in Auckland being a temperate rather than a tropical climate. We have had bananas in a precious garden not far away but they never ripened as well as these do. These are fat little finger bananas with a lovely flavour.
I made the Seriously Good Banana and Walnut Cake to satisfy husband I was using his treasures. It took about 12 bananas for this recipe , but there are still a heap more to be used up. At the moment we are giving them away when we can.
Here in New Zealand we will be asked to "bring a plate" to a social gathering. This request has thrown many new immigrants, even from England, so I assume it is a New Zealand thing. Many a new New Zealander has turned up with their empty plate wondering why they need to bring one! Maybe the hosts have a limited supply? Well yes, sometimes that is the case.
Sometimes we are also asked to bring a glass. But they do not mean the same thing. Asked to bring a glass you just need a vessel for drinking out of. Asked to "bring a plate" you are expected to have something tasty on it to share with the other people!
Sometimes as in all cultures, we like to take something to give our hosts when they have invited us for a meal. I had two events last week. The first I was to "bring a small plate to share". Along with my own glass......for wine. Lots of yummy wines for tasting , which were the remains of a Wine Tasting Competition.
My dilemma....what to take to eat. This would be a meal for some. I decided on a Smoked Chicken Quiche, but decided it would be easier for people to handle small individual tarts. I had all the ingredients except the pastry. I must confess I was tempted to jump in the car and head to the supermarket .....but realized it would be quicker and more painless to actually whip up a batch in the kitchen whizz, and it would certainly taste better too.
Flour, butter and water with a pinch of salt . Not too much in the way of ingredients. The main trick with pastry is not to over handle it, and it needs to be cold before it goes in the oven. Using iced water also helps.
I am a lazy cook when it comes to pastry. I haaaaate having to roll it out. So I don't!
I press the soft pastry into the individual pans.....or even a big pan if I was making say a quiche or tart. Then I put the whole tray in the fridge while I mix up the filling.
It turns out beautifully every time.
Keep Pastry Shells in Airtight Container for Emergencies
It is really handy to keep an airtight container full of pastry shells. The second event where I needed a plate of something nice to eat, we were invited to a neighbours for dinner and to watch the rugby. While we were told just bring the wine......the several bottles we got to take home from the Wine Tasting a couple of nights earlier, I know our neighbour loves to have a dessert. He is an amazing cook but doesn't usually do the sweet course.
Again a dilemma. I was feeling a little lazy and had limited time. Aaaahhhhh......I know. I had some sweet chocolate mini pastry shells I had made several months prior. Would they still be edible? Well.....not only were they edible, they were as tasty and delicious as the day they were made.
Because they were chocolate flavoured, I filled them with marscapone flavoured with orange rind and juice, and cointreau for a little kick. Using my favourite cake icing nozzle I filled each mini case, topped with a chip of dark chocolate and they looked great. They tasted pretty good too! I don't usually add sugar, but would have added a tablespoon of castor sugar if a sweeter filling was required.
Sweet short pastry is just as easy to make in your kitchen whizz and as I have said can be stored for some time. So keep a little stash in your cupboard for emergencies! You can fill them with any number of fillings.
Another really delicious filling is marscapone mixed with a good lemon curd. It is quick, easy, and really delicious......especially with some berries on top!
Till next time , Gail
PS I'll put some pastry recipes up in the next few days
I don't know about you but I am often put off trying a recipe that has too much sugar. Somehow I just can't bring myself to make a cake that has three cups of sugar....or even two.Even if it is a large cake like the Lemon Coconut Cake Recipe. I often cut back the sugar in my baking by around a third and have so far had absolutely no detrimental effects to the end product.
When I am baking fruit pies or crumbles....I NEVER put sugar in the fruit unless it is rhubarb or tamarillos which are very tart.Then I will use a tablespoon of brown sugar which is usually just enough to sweeten things up nicely.
Pastry and scones will usually only need one or two tablespoons of sugar. I find there is invariably other ingredients that help sweeten things.Make your baking too sweet and these days many people are not wanting to eat it, I find.
That is why my No Butter, Sugar or Eggs Favourite Fruit Cake Recipe is always so popular. The orange in it does the sweetening along with the dried raisins.
If you are concerned about too much sugar in a recipe, I would be very surprised if you have a problem if you reduce the amount of sugar. What are your experiences?
I had a lunch to go to and decided to make these yummy looking muffins that appeared to be similar to some I buy at a bakery when we are travelling north on holiday that I really loooove!
Filled with grated carrot, walnuts and sunflower seeds, raisins and other quite healthy goodies I mixed up the batter just with white flour, and was quite surprised that it required 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. I was looking forward to these muffins rising quite a lot and filled the paper patty pans level with the top expecting them to rise well above this.
So I was really disappointed when they barely rose at all. I made sure not to over mix the batter. They were in the middle of the oven and I didn't open the door until they were cooked, so I am wondering if the baking powder may be off despite being in a screw top sealed container, but only a few teaspoons left .
They were very tasty and everyone really liked them despite their rather small size. Definitely ladylike!
I will try them again soon with a new batch of baking powder to see what happens.
I love rhubarb and my husband even more than me, so I was very keen to make the Roasted Rhubarb Shortcake I found the recipe for .
It may seem strange to go to the trouble of roasting fruit....but believe me, it makes for a taste treat you will want to repeat. It brings out the flavour of the fruit with a slightly caramel flavour. Mmmmmm! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
While the rhubarb was roasting I was busy mixing the shortcake pastry. But had to call everything to a holt when I went to my flour bin. The bag of flour I thought I had was in fact wholemeal flour. Now while I like wholemeal flour in many recipes, I don't think it would do shortcake justice.
Husband was sent off to the shop to buy a bag of the required white flour, while I did other things not cooking related. On his return I quickly mixed in 2 cups of flour and made up the shortcake ready for the oven. I was a little surprised at how wet it was but I dobbed it on the base and top and popped in in the oven.
I was somewhat surprised when I finally took the shortcake out of the oven that the topping ran together creating a total cover, unlike the picture where it was quite crumbled looking. And then the penny dropped!I reread the recipe .Yes.....I had only put in two cups of flour instead of four.
Ah well.....too late now. I duly served up a portion each with a small scoop of vanilla icecream for dessert. This Roasted Rhubarb Shortcake was sooooooo delicious. It just melted in the mouth. It was rich and tangy from the fruit and quite a soft texture.
But ....I thought I should make another with the correct amount of flour for my readers! This was also very delicious but quite a different texture and of course not as rich. The base was thinner and not soft, while the topping was crisp.
It is a bit of a luxury to use so much butter for the mistake version as you don't get a shortcake that is as large as the correct recipe. But for a real treat I can recommend it!
Brought up baking from a young age I love to make delicious cakes to share with family and friends. Much like my mother, I can be one of those cooks who measure by "eye" rather than with a measure, and invariably add in or take out ingredients depending on what is in my cupboard. However, I do also appreciate the need to follow a recipe exactly for best results, as the "pour it in" method is really for those who have done a lot of baking over many years. I use this method for new recipes. So come share my recipes and learn some baking skills if you are not confident.