Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Halloween Special: Bloody Cake!

When the fall season setts in, I try to make good use of its wonderful products. Pumpkins and squashes become a staple of mine during this time of the year. I also like to share a recipe or two that feature pumpkins purée as main ingredient. This healthy fruit never ceases to amaze me with its complex flavor that goes so well in both sweet and savory dishes. 

In recent years, the use of pumpkins was popularized with the spread of Halloween celebrations to almost all parts of the world. Now, as a foodie, pumpkins are definitely not mere decoration for me, but they are the front and center of my Halloween  gory cake. Now I call it "gory" as I drew inspiration for the cake's decoration from the traditional "goriness" that surrounds Halloween celebrations and to satisfy "The Walking Dead" fan in me. If you are a fan of the series too and you have seen the season's premiere, you would understand my choice better. Irrespective of how you will decorate the cake, if you follow my recipe you will really love the cake's flavor and texture. 

Besides pumpkin, the other main ingredient of the cake was cranberries. I was not sure of how well these two flavors will combine, but they did and they did so beautifully. The cake was moist, largely due to the use of pumpkin purée, with spicy notes and bound together by the touch of tartness cranberries add. Of course, cranberries put the "bloody" in this special Halloween cake!

Now, it's time to do some baking.

For the cake (6 to 8 persons) you need :
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 150 melted butter 
  • 8 g baking powder
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 210 g cake flour
  • 220 pumpkin purée (bought or homemade)
  • 100 g frozen or fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spices (cloves, star anise, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg)
  • dash of salt
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1/2 tsp of cointreau (optional)
Start by combining the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.

In your mixing bowl, beat the eggs on a high speed and add the sugar gradually. When the mixture triples in volume, becomes pale and thicker, add the butter at low speed and mix until combined.

With a spatula add the pumpkin purée, mix again, add the orange zest and cointreau and mix. Lastly, fold in the flour mixture and the cranberries.

Pour the batter in three 15 cm pre-prepared pans (or in two 23 cm) and bake in a preheated oven (180 C) for 25 minutes. Remember that the baking time might vary so check on the cake after 20 minutes.

For the frosting you need:
  • 250 g soft butter
  • 250 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 220 g powdered sugar
  • Flavoring: 1/4 tsp mixed spices and few drops of vanilla extract.
Combine all ingredients and beat for about 5 min until creamy and fluffy.

For the cranberry sauce:
  • 100 g cranberries, fresh or frozen 
  • 75 g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 strip of orange zest
Combine all ingredients and cook over  a gentle heat for few minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve to get rid of the pits and skin. Let it cool down.

Smear some frosting on your cake tray or stand. Put the first cake layer and pipe a generous amount of frosting, and splatter a teaspoon or two of the cranberry sauce. Add the second layer and repeat. 

Cover the last layer with the frosting. Now all you need is to splatter the rest of the cranberry sauce over the cake and to add some pine nuts that will mimic the appearance of maggots for that extra touch of goriness!

Happy Halloween!

(For extra recipes featuring pumpkins, click here and here.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Coconut and Lemon Madeleines!

I, like so many people out there, thrive on daily cocktails of little rituals. They form part of my life and I wouldn't give up on them for anything. Morning starts with a cup of cup sipped while watching the news and the afternoon is coffee time again but with a sweet nibble like a cake or a cookie!

When I have the time, I like to indulge and treat myself with layered cakes, stuffed with creams with countless flavor combinations. However, time is precious and not always available. Short on time, I look for simple yet delicious cakes that need no extra cream or filling to sing!

Madeleines de Commercy are one of those recipes that I think everyone should have in their repertoire. While they have a reputation of being hard to master, they are in fact easy. Of course, like all French desserts, you need to respect a certain protocol, but once you do that, the result will always be in your favor. Madeleines are also a good dessert to prepare ahead of time as you can prepare the batter up to one day in advance.

These little buttery cakes were first made in 1755 by a young girl named Madeleine.
King Stanilas of Lorraine was holding a lunch with guests when he knew that his pastry chef left after an argument. As a royal lunch would not be complete without a dessert, something was needed to be done.  The King's butler went on to it and found the right dessert. Cakes of a new and unusual shape, nice golden color, and a rich and deep flavor. The cakes were an instant hit and the king asked to know who was the genius behind the cake. The king was presented with a shy young girl. He then asked her about the name of the dessert. The girl said they didn't have a name and that this is what we usually bake at la "Commercy". The king asked the girl about her name and she replied" Madeline". The king then said "well then, we will call them after you" Madeline.

And after a bit of history let´s make these wonders with a little twist!

For 12 Madeleines you need:
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 50 g sugar
  • 50 g pastry flour
  • 25 g shredded coconut
  • zest of half lemon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • dash of salt
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 70 g butter
First, put the butter in a saucepan and let it melt on a gentle flame, leave until it browns a bit and a wonderful nutty flavor fills your kitchen. Add the lemon zest and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the egg, vanilla and the sugar until it dissolves. Add the flour, salt, coconut, and baking powder. Mix until well combined and add the butter and the lemon.

Cover the batter and place it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight for better combination of flavors!

When ready to bake, grease the Madeleine mold, cover with flour and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. You can also do that step the night before!

Preheat the oven to 210 C, fill 2/3 of the mold to leave space for the cake to rise, place in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 170 C. The Madeleines should be done in 10 minutes.  The typical Madeleine bump will form and the edges will turn golden. Your cakes are done!

These cakes are better consumed the same day and they are so good dipped in a cup of coffee or to be enjoyed with tea or hot chocolate.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Apple Pie Funnel Cake!

Autumn is officially here but Madrid is still enjoying a summer like weather. Many people are enjoying the warmer temperatures but I can't wait for the seasons to really change.

And while I wait, I could not resist to bake with the fruits of autumn with apples being one of my obvious and favorite choices. Apples go so well with several spices, which makes them such a useful ingredient in many baked goodies. I certainly love how my house smells whenever I am baking something with apples!

I have made many recipes with this fruit before and shared quite a few like this apple butter that you can use in many recipes like this cake, and how about this simple tart?

The recipe of today is from Austria and called Strauben, but widely known in the USA as funnel cakes. It is quite a popular dessert in carnivals.

The funnel cake might remind you of other cakes made in similar fashion around the world. In the Middle East, a very popular dessert, called Mouchabak, is made from a fermented dough that is fried in deep oil and then dipped in sugar syrup,. In India they have a similar cake too.  And while the funnel cake is made with baking powder, strauben uses whipped egg whites!

My version of strauben or funnel cakes incorporated the traditional apple pie spices and served with spicy caramelized apples instead of jam. The result was just perfect!

With the amount of ingredients I used you will get around 15 small cakes (about 10 cm), so if you are not too greedy, make sure to invite some friends over for a brunch or an afternoon coffee!

What you need:
  • 1 egg at room temperature, separated
  • 70 g flour
  • 85ml  milk 
  • 5 g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of each of the following spices: cardamom, dried ginger, cloves, and nutmeg
  • one tsp of brandy or gin, I used juniper brandy (optional)
  • 7 g melted butter
  • oil for frying
In a bowl combine the egg yolk and the milk, whisk well, once combined add sugar, alcohol, flour and spices and mix. In a separate bowl add the salt to the egg white and beat till soft peaks. Fold in the egg white to the mixture. Once well combined fill the batter in a piping bag or a squeeze bottle.

In a pan, heat the oil until it reaches about 170C, slowly squeeze the batter in the hot oil and swirl to make a lace pattern. The batter will expand, so controlling the shape of the cakes will be a bit tricky but that's perfectly fine as the cakes are supposed to look rustic.  Once golden brown fish them out of the oil and place them over a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. 

Serve these crunchy and delicious treats with some powdered sugar or with spicy apples that I made using this recipe!