Wednesday, 25 January 2012

An experiment in espresso and cake

I had a dilemma - what to do with approximately 500ml of freshly brewed espresso. That's enough espresso to keep me in iced coffee heaven for several months.

Or, I could bake. And still be in iced coffee heaven for a good while!

So, I took said espresso, and some dates, and made a cake.

The finished product was totally delicious. The best idea I've had in a long time.

Espresso and Date Layer Cake
Inspired by caffeine.

For the cake
170g unsalted butter, room temperature
170g caster sugar
3 eggs
170g self-raising flour
3 tbsp espresso
100g chopped dates

For the buttercream
115g unsalted butter, room temperature
170g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp espresso

Heat the oven to 180˚C.
Grease two sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a little of the flour to bring it back.
Fold in the remaining flour with a spatula, then add the espresso and dates. Stir to combine.
Split the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake for about 30 minutes.
While the cakes are in the oven, make the buttercream...
Cream the butter in a mixing bowl before adding the icing sugar. This step is going to make a BIG mess. I always cover the bowl with a tea towel in a vain attempt to confine the mess.
Once all of the icing sugar and butter are combined, add in the espresso. You want the icing to be thick, but not so thick that it is not spreadable. Add a little more espresso if you need to thin it out a little.
Once the cakes are cooked, turn them out onto a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before icing.
To assemble, spread a thin layer of the buttercream onto one of the cakes, and place the second cake carefully on top. Using the remaining buttercream, cover the entire cake - including the sides.
Once done, cut a slice and eat immediately.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Choko Pickle

The weekend before Christmas I finally got around to making something that has been on my 'to do' list for quite a while - choko pickle.

I walked down to Shepherd's Bush Market, purchased myself 12 lovely chokos and set to work.

The recipe that I used is a family recipe that I found in my Nan's cookbooks. Nan's choko pickle was a favourite of everyone, however I couldn't even remember the last time I had any and this was something that I wanted to rectify. Unfortunately, the recipe didn't have a method or any instructions on how to actually make the pickle - all I had was a list of ingredients and quantities.

I decided to make the choko pickles as if I was making tomato relish - over about 12 hours I salted, drained, re-salted and re-drained the chopped vegetables too many times to count.

The vegetables then went into a stockpot and were cooked with vinegar, sugar and some top secret spices. Once ready, it was straight into jars and ready to eat.

As luck would have it, we had some leftover roast pork from the previous evening. Roast pork rolls served with a generous helping of choko pickle - absolutely delicious!

One thing that I have discovered is that twelve chokos makes a lot of pickle! But that's okay - we seem to be working our way through the jars quite quickly!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Orange and Dark Chocolate Scones

I have a big crush on Joy.

There is nothing that she creates that doesn't make my mouth water and leave me wanting to drop everything and rush to the kitchen. These scones are yet another example of why I should do just that.

The smell of orange that filled the house while I made these scones was amazing.
I want to make them every day. You should too.

These scones make a perfect afternoon snack or, dare I say it, breakfast.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Scones
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 6 scones

160 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 heaped teaspoons orange zest
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
85 grams cold butter (unsalted), cut up into small cubes
1 large egg yolk
155 ml buttermilk
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
Place the flour, sugar, zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.
Add the cubes of butter and rub it into the dry ingredients, until it resembles breadcrumbs. If you don't have any fancy tools for this step, just get in there with your hands like I did!
In another bowl beat together the milk and egg yolk and then add this to the dry mixture.
Stir together until you get a nice soft dough, adding in a little more milk if the mixture is too dry.
Add in the dark chocolate and fold through the mixture.
Tip the mixture out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 30 seconds.
Roll the mixture out to a thickness of about 1 inch and then cut into about 6 pieces.
Place the scones onto a lined baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes.
Eat immediately!

Note: I didn't have any buttermilk but it's easy to make your own. For every cup of milk, just add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and leave it to stand for about five minutes.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


A recent post from Domestic Sluttery introduced me to the intriguing world of shrubbing. What on earth is shrubbing? Essentially, it's a way of preserving fruit.

You take some fruit (I chose raspberries) and add vinegar. Let them soak for a few days.

Strain the fruit and cook with some sugar.

Pour the finished mixture into a jar or bottle and it's ready to drink!

Raspberry Shrub
Adapted from Domestic Sluttery.

350 grams raspberries
350 ml cider vinegar
300 grams sugar

Wash the raspberries and pat dry. Place them into a bowl and pour over the vinegar. Feel free to crush the raspberries a little.
Cover and place in the fridge for about 4-5 days.
Strain the raspberry-vinegar mixture into a saucepan. Use a spoon to mash the fruit to ensure that you get out as much juice as possible.
Add the sugar and bring to the boil. Leave it to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Now is the time to test the sweetness of your shrub - allow 3 tablespoons of the mixture to cool and follow the 'to serve' instructions below. If the mixture is still a little tart, add some more sugar.
Allow the mixture to cool and then decant into some pretty bottles (or in my case a not-very-pretty-jar) and store in the fridge.

To serve: Fill a tumbler with ice and sparkling water. Add about 3 tablespoons of shrub, stir and drink!

I'm sure that it will also make an excellent cocktail base, but as yet I haven't had a chance to experiment.