Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cherry, Almond and Apricot Loaf Cake

I wanted cake.  I needed cake.

Supermarket cakes just won't do.  On the occasion when I've wanted a small celebration cake and haven't had chance to bake, the resulting bought cake has not been too my liking.  Too sweet, not moist enough and usually too much sickly sweet butter icing.

Flicking through some of my favourite cake recipes and baking books I thought I'd bake a Cherry and Almond Cake.  I knew there was a tub of glace cherries in the cupboard and I always have a block of butter in the fridge for impromptu baking.

When it came to gathering ingredients, I discovered the glace cherry tub was already opened so I wouldn't have enough.  Hmm...what to do?  I found some dried apricots and so, Cherry, Almond and Apricot Cake was born!

Cherry, Almond and Apricot Loaf Cake

200 g butter (softened, but not melted)
175 g caster sugar
75 g ground almonds
Few drops of almond extract (optional if you like a stronger almond flavour, swap for vanilla if you prefer or omit)
3 large eggs
200 g self-raising flour
100 g glacé cherries (quartered)
100 g dried apricots (snipped into quarters or sixths)

Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy.  (I like to do this by hand in a bowl and a wooden spoon as I find a hand-mixed cake has a lighter texture than if I use my stand-alone mixer.)

Add the ground almonds and the almond extract if using and mix in before adding eggs in one by one and mixing until just combined.  With the last egg, add a tablespoon from your measured flour when you are mixing it in.  It stops mixture from curdling which can result in a dense and heavier cake.

Toss the cut dried fruit with a tablespoon of your measured flour.  This stops the fruit from sinking.

Sift the flour into the cake mix and fold in with a large metal spoon.

Tip in the fruits and the remaining flour if any and fold in.

Spoon mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin (mine is a 2lb loaf size) and bake in a preheated oven at 170 deg C, Gas 3 for 70 minutes.  Cake should be well rise, golden and spring lightly when pressed with a finger.  If the cake wobbles in tin, then it is not ready.  Test cake with skewer ensuring no wet crumbs.

Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

*     *     *

Cake was wonderfully moist from the ground almonds as well as being rich and creamy from the butter.  I think next time I might reduce butter to 175 g as some fruit still sank in my cake :p  I wonder if that's because when you are spooning mix in, the fruits tend to go in first and when I scrape bowl clean with spatula, its plain cake mix that tops the cake off?

My son loves this cake - although he won't eat the fruit.  :p  This cake disappeared in 2 days so I tried to make a similar cake with vanilla, white choc chips and fudge bits.  It didn't work.  The choc and fudge bits sank to the bottom and resulted in a chewy and sweet bottom layer :p  Son still ate it but hubbs (Mr Leaf) didn't take extra helpings.  The cake took longer to disappear too :p

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rice Dumpling Wrapping Technique 粽子 (Mandarin Language)

Video is in Mandarin but method is quite clear.

This method starts with two leaves usually laid top to tail and the ends are often rounded off with scissors to make it look neater.  It's always smooth side up, rough side down.

Holding leaves horizontally in front of you, fold and twist from the middle so ends line up together like a tail and a cone shape is created.

Hold the cone in one hand whilst you use the other to fill the cone with rice, goodies (fillings) and then top
with more rice.

When your cone is filled, keep fore finger and thumb (of the hand holding the cone steady as the other hand brings the excess leaves (tail) to close the cone - like a lid.  The leaves at the sides are folded down and held under the fore finger and thumb and the end of the leaves are pinched (so they fold in half along it's length) where the edge of the cone is, then folded down to lie flat along the middle of rice dumpling.  (It's easier to watch the video several times than try and explain in words :s )

Then string or (traditional) re-soaked dried grass is used to wrap the dumpling firmly in the middle to keep leaves and filling in place.

Then boil in a large pot for 1-2 hours depending on the size of your dumplings and whether you use cooked fillings or have raw pork in it.  (Mum uses cooked fillings that she stir-fries together and is seasoned.  These can include: chicken pieces, chinese mushroom, lap cheong, char siu, chestnuts, re-soaked dried shrimp...)

5-Pointed Joong (Pyramid Shape) 五角粽


Video is in Cantonese.

As per request - I have been looking for more Joong Wrapping Techniques - this is a 5 pointed shape like a pyramid.  This style (shape and filling) is typical in South China, Guangdong I believe.  They tend to include split yellow mung beans (I think that's what they are?), a piece of fatty belly pork (sometimes seasoned with 5-spice) and some salted duck egg yolk.  The video must be a deluxe version as the lady has added dried shrimps and scallop!

This shape is similar to my mum's pillow-shaped joong except mum doesn't use two leaves twisted to make her base.  Mum's method is one leaf laid flat in palm of your hand, soaked (plain) glutinous rice spread in a thin and even layer, goodies (meaty fillings) laid on top, add sprinkling of chopped shallot, crushed roasted peanuts (if you wish- very tasty this way!) then finally a top layer of rice.  Bring the ends of the leaf to overlap in the centre.  First the top leaf, (hold down end with thumb) then fold bottom leaf up (again hold under thumb).  Next step is to get a small thin leaf to wrap the sides (just like lady in video) one leaf per side (left and right).  Then mum wraps joong with string.  She hold the loose end between her teeth then wraps the joong round and round the length of the joong to hold goodies in.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Birthday Cakes

Just a few pictures of some of the Birthday Cakes I've made...

This is a marbled vanilla and chocolate Rose Cake covered in Pink Strawberry Chocolate Ganache.
Sweet for a 9 year old's birthday :)

This was made for one of my friends.  As you can tell it was her daughter's 1st birthday.  I like when people aren't too specific with their cake demands as being a novice - I'm not sure what I can create!
This had the requirements of being pretty but not pink!  I enjoyed making this one - even cutting up a large rectangular cake into a number one shape! 
The cake is a fondant iced, vanilla sponge filled with home-made jam and buttercream. 

Close up of Butterfly and Daisy

This was a surprise for my husband's work colleague.  I wanted to try out a chocolate cake recipe and practice modelling chocolate for the first time.  Not sure I enjoy working with modelling chocolate.  Very strange substance.  Was the first time using chocolate pouring ganache but that was fun!

I have also made some novelty cakes in the form of characters - but I will have to find those photos :)
Oh, & I must find you photos from my son's first birthday - last year :p  He will be TWO soon!!!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Mrs Plum's Rice Dumpling (Joong)

I couldn't get a video of my mum's wrapping technique as she was never wrapping any whenever I was visiting.  (Maybe next year ;) )  Not making any myself this year I thought we were not going to get to eat any - luckily, on my recent visit to mum's I was gifted with 4 of these beauties to take home :)

These ones are Chicken and Chinese Mushroom fillings.  There is also the added dried shrimp you see there spilling onto the plate and I found sliced "lap cheong" Chinese Dried Sausage as well as chestnut.  The rice is wonderfully soft and sticky and I chose to eat mine with a splash of thick sweet soy Kecap Manis.  I think chilli oil would've been nice too :p

Hope you enjoyed your dragon Boat Festival and ate lots of tasty dumplings :p