Thursday, 31 May 2012

Herman the Bloomin German cake!

I have always prided myself on avoiding the German friendship cake malarkey. It always felt like a game of tag where the person tagged gets the booby prize of some smelly goo in a bowl that has to be given house room for 10days. I have laughed at my friends who have become lumbered with these bowls of foaming goo with strict instructions on feeding it and stirring it  and then passing a small amount of the goo onto their nearest and dearest to continue ensuring Herman's demands are met and he is kept healthy.

I'm sure you can all tell where this is headed.......

Last week my darling Son (said through gritted teeth) brought  home a box of Herman gifted to him by his current girlfriend. She won't last long after this stunt, not the way to impress the possible future mother in law. Bless him, he was so excited until he saw my face. I clearly still need to work on my poker face! Anyway, after a few (quiet)expletives I decided that I would carry out the ridiculous process as an experiment and so that at least I could say I had done it and taste the results.

The first bit of the instructions was easy, just put it in a plastic bowl, give the mixture a stir with a plastic spoon and cover with a loose tea towel. Now I admit I did forget about Herman on day 2 but remembered him on day 3 and he hadn't died. He was still bubbling (apparently if the mixture stops bubbling Herman is dead) so I stirred the goo and re-covered it. By day 4, when Herman needed feeding, the mixture smelled really yeasty and so strong this aroma seemed to attract the little fruit flies that frequent our house during warm weather and provide hours of fun to Mr Vander-Cave who zaps them with our electric fly bat. Each day I now had to zap the flies before I could lift the tea towel to stir or feed the mixture. This process was becoming a real debarcle!

Finally on day 10 came the dividing and baking of the cake. I hesitated at the dividing of the mixture.  Did I really want to foist this activity onto my friends and neighbours? In the end it was Master Vander-Cave who said that he wanted to give it to his friends in our village and the final batch went to a fellow baker who I thought might enjoy the experiment (sorry, if you are reading this!).

I got Master Vander-Cave to help me make the final mixture and we baked it. When it can out of the oven I have to say it smelt nice, although it was with some trepidation that I bit into my piece of cake with all those fermenting 10 day old ingredients in it. Amazingly it tasted really really good!
Fresh from the oven and smelling Good!

Now obviously to make your own Herman the German friendship cake you need some starter mixture, which you may or may not get gifted with at some point in your life, so I have given the recipe for the starter mixture and then the instructions for looking after and baking of your Herman.

Starter mixture
Which makes enough for 4 mixtures. One to keep and do the 10days with and three to give away as in the instructions

5oz plain flour
8oz castor sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast
Half a pint of warm milk
2 fl oz. of warm water

Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
Slowly stir in the warm milk.
Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle

Herman The German Friendship Cake

Hello, my name is Herman.
I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.
You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
Day 2: Stir well
Day 3: Stir well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
Day 5: Stir well
Day 6: Stir well
Day 7: Stir well
Day 8: Stir well
Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.
Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:

1 cup of sugar (8oz or 225g)
2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)
half tsp (teaspoon) salt
2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil (5.3oz or 160ml)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cooking apples cut into chunks (I used eating apples only because I didn't have any cooking ones)
1 cup raisins (7oz or 200g)
2 heaped tsp cinnamon
2 heaped tsp baking powder

Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. I used a square silicone brownie pan (no greasing required)

Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter.

Bake for 45 minutes at 170-180C.

You may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make sure your Herman is done in the middle.

When cold, cut into finger pieces. The cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or ice cream.

P.S TAG, YOU'RE IT!!!!!!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

SATS sugar rush required

This week in the back of beyond, young Master Vander-Cave has been doing his year 6 SATS. As a active 'out-doorsy' child, sitting still long enough to complete an hour long exam paper is like asking me to walk past a shoe shop with the word "Sale" in window and not stop for just a little looky loo...It's just not natural!!! So Master V-C's reaction to this enforced incarceration is to be extremely grumpy and stomp around like a bear with a sore head every evening. This is no fun for Mr V-C and so yesterday I decided to try and make something to turn his frown upside down. I figured sugar in extreme quantities would either cheer him up or make him hyper.  Fingers were crossed for the former not the latter, particularly as he had cricket training in the evening and would need to concentrate for at least some of the session!

I had been looking at the Hummingbird bakery Marshmallow cupcake recipe off and on since I got the book at Christmas but hadn't got round to giving it a whirl, particularly because with my recent attempts at healthy eating/baking I kept moving swiftly past it in search of healthier cupcake options. As this baking session was for Master V-C I figured it was time to try melted marshmallows and marshmallow frosting. I have tweaked this recipe slightly after making them. Firstly I find that most Hummingbird cupcake recipes make only 11 cupcakes not 12, secondly I found that I had quite a lot of melted marshmallow mixture left so I have reduced the quantity of marshmallows for melting and I reduced the amount of marshmallows in the frosting too as I was unable to get the original quantity mixed into the frosting.

Hummingbird Marshmallow Cupcakes 
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla extract
10 medium pink marshmallows

For the frosting:
125g mini marshmallows
250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25ml whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract
A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with  11 paper cases

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) gas 3.
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.
Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Put the medium marshmallows in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave until melted and smooth.
When the cupcakes are cold, hollow out a small section in the centre of each one and fill with a dollop of melted marshmallow. I always replace the cake lid on top of the melted marshmallow. Leave to cool.
Stir the mini marshmallows into the vanilla frosting by hand until evenly dispersed and spoon the frosting on top of the cupcakes.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Birthday cake

So here in all it's glory is Gem's Chocolate button cake creation that she baked for my Birthday!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake

This recipe has been adapted to become gluten-free from the Birthday Cake recipe in Nigella Lawson's "How to Cook" book.  It's very easy to make.

For the cake

Flour mixture: 225g total weight of gluten-free self-raising flour (I used Doves), incorporating 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder and 1 tsp xanthan gum.
30g best cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
200g caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
100g unsalted butter
200g condensed milk
100g best quality chocolate (you can use dark or milk chocolate depending on your taste - I used Galaxy milk chocolate for this cake)
100ml just boiled water
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt

For the frosting

450g icing sugar, sifted
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g gluten-free cocoa powder, sifted
60ml milk (I use semi-skimmed Lactofree milk)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180oc. Put the kettle on. Butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins (you can make this in a 20cm Springform cake tin but I'm not sure a gluten-free cake could withstand being cut into two).

Sieve the flour, cocoa and a pinch of salt together into a large bowl.

Put the sugar, butter, condensed milk, 100ml of just boiled water and chocolate broken into smaller pieces in a saucepan and heat until melted and smooth.  Then, using a wooden spoon, stir this mixture robustly into the cocoa-flour mixture. When the mixture is glossily amalgamated, beat in the eggs.

Split the mixture into the two sandwich tins and bake for around 20-25 mins (depending on your oven).  Less is more though so the cake doesn't dry out.  When it's ready, the top will feel firm.  Don't expect a skewer to come out clean and don't worry about any cracking on the surface because you can hide this with the frosting.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10 mins and then turn out onto a rack.

For the frosting beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the milk to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier it becomes.

Using a palate knife or spoon, spoon some of the mixture onto the top of one of the halves of cake and then sandwich the other half on top.  Smooth the rest of the frosting around the top and sides of the cake.  The great thing about this frosting is that you don't have to be too precise.  Decorate the cake however you fancy.  I used giant chocolate buttons (although this did make the cake slightly more difficult to cut so smaller buttons might be more suitable).  An alternative to making the frosting is to make a chocolate ganache or icing of your choice.  The frosting does add an additional layer of moisture however, which is important when baking gluten-free.  It also holds the cake together very nicely.

Thanks Gem. x

Sunday, 13 May 2012

More Gluten free goodies

I have been a bit pre occupied with one thing and another lately so I have not had the chance to blog my latest gluten free baking forays. Last week was my  last ever Birthday! I have decided it will be the last one ever so that I don't have to face the change to the first digit of my age. I am quite happy with the 3 and don't really fancy the 4. Everyone I know who is over 40 says it's no big deal, but from this side of the precipice it looks huge and I am not sure I want to cross the gap in less than a years time!

As the only baker in the house I had to make some kind of Birthday treat and because we were visiting Gemmy it had to be gluten free. Gem also has a lactose intolerance to go alongside her Coeliac disease and  was recently complaining about not being able to eat banoffee pie. This set me thinking about the great recipe for Banoffee cheese cake in Delia Smith's winter collection and how it could be converted to accommodate Gem's dietary requirements. The conversion was easy, what I didn't bank on though was the supermarkets not having half the cheese cake ingredients on their shelves. So a bit more tinkering and finally a banoffee cheesecake was produced.

Delia-ish banoffee cheese cake with toffee sauce

For the base:
2 oz (50g) pecan nuts
4 oz (110g) gluten free digestive biscuits
1½ oz (40g) melted butter

For the filling:
3 medium-size ripe bananas (8 oz/225g peeled weight)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 large eggs
12 oz (350g) mascarpone cheese
1 x 200 g tub fromage frais (8% fat) or 150g of natural fromage frais with 0.1% fat mixed with 50mls of lacto free cream
6 oz (175g) caster sugar

For the sauce:
2 oz (50 g) butter
3 oz (75 g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (50 g) granulated sugar
5 oz (150 g) golden syrup
5 fl oz (150 ml) double cream lacto free
a few drops of vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 medium-size ripe bananas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400ºF (200ºC).

Begin by toasting  the pecan nuts. Place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 7 minutes until lightly toasted or, if you watch them like a hawk, you can toast them under a grill. Chop them quite small. Put the biscuits in a polythene bag, lay them flat and then roll them with a rolling pin to crush them coarsely. Tip them into a bowl and add the melted butter and the nuts. Mix them well then press all this into the cake tin and pre-bake the base in the oven for 10 minutes. Now lower the temperature to gas mark 2, 300ºF (150ºC).

For the filling, first blend the 3 bananas and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth, then simply add all the rest of the filling ingredients. Blend again then pour it all over the biscuit base and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside to cool slowly until completely cold; this slow cooling will stop the cheesecake cracking.

To make the sauce, place the butter, sugars and syrup in a saucepan and, over a very low heat, allow everything to dissolve completely. Let it cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and vanilla extract and stir until everything is smooth, then add the rest of the chopped pecan nuts. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool completely before pouring it into a jug ready for serving.

When you are ready to assemble the cheesecake put the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a bowl. Slice the remaining bananas at an oblique angle into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices, and gently toss them around to get an even coating of juice. If you like you can spoon a small circle of sauce into the centre, then layer the bananas in overlapping circles all round it. Serve the cheesecake cut into slices with the rest of the sauce handed round separately

The weekend turned into a bit of a cake-fest as Gem made me a Gluten free chocolate Birthday cake with  giant chocolate buttons which was lush! She has promised me the recipe so I will post it when I get it!

My  amazing Birthday Cake made by Gem

On returning to the back of beyond we got a rather large present with our usual egg order from Lavender Cottage; The largest hen egg I have ever seen! It weighed in at a whopping 122g, literally double the weight of a normal egg and I feel sorry for the poor hen who laid that without pain relief!!!
super sized egg!