Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Malai Kofta

Wotchers!

Haven’t done one of these for a while – it’s Deja Food!

Softly spiced vegetable ‘meatballs’ in a rich and creamy onion gravy.

Actually, the ‘gravy’ is worth making by itself – it’s SO creamy and SO flavourful, I could eat it as is with bread to dip and a crunchy salad – Nom!

Many Malai Kofta recipes have the cheese grated and mixed with the vegetables and potatoes. I prefer to have a cube of sharp-tasting cheese in the middle to act both as a surprise and to cut through the richness of the sauce. The downside of this approach, of course, is that without the cheesy ‘glue’ to hold them together, the vege-balls are a little less sturdy. Chilling in the freezer and gentle handling whilst cooking on the pan should reduce the possibility of them falling apart. Alternatively, grate the cheese and fold in with the rest of the ingredients.

This recipe is perfect for using up leftover vegetables and potatoes, yet glamorous enough to pass off to the family as a freshly-created dish.

*poker-face* Not that I’d ever do that.

*crickets chirp*

ANYHOO…

The recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables you have to hand. Suggestions for alternative ingredients are given in the recipe.

Originally published in The Guardian Readers’ Recipe Swap: Meatballs.

 

Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Makes 12.

Serves 4 children, or 4 adults as a starter, or 2 hungry adults as a main course, or 1 peckish adult and 2 ravenous children, or a family of 4 as a side dish, or….you get the gist.

For the kofta:
400g mixed cooked vegetables
200g cooked potato (1 large)
0.5tsp coarse-ground black pepper
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp garam masala
0.5tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or sumac or 1-2tsp lemon juice
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
60g cheshire/feta/goat cheese or paneer or vegetarian cheese – cut into 12 cubes
3tbs oil for frying

  • Chop the vegetables.
  • Grate the potato.
  • Mix together with the salt, pepper, spices and cornflour.
  • Divide into 12 x 50g balls.
  • Make a hole in each ball and press in a cube of cheese.
  • Mould the vegetables around the cheese and shape into a ball.
  • Put the koftas onto a plastic tray and place in the freezer to firm up while you make the sauce/gravy.

For the gravy
2 large onions
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
60g cashew nuts
60ml plain yoghurt
2tbs oil
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
2tsp garam masala
1tsp salt
60g tomato paste concentrate
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
250ml double cream or crème fraîche or unsweetened evaporated milk
125ml milk

  • Peel the onions and the ginger and blitz to a puree in a food processor.
  • Make a puree of the cashews and the yoghurt with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Add the onion mixture and fry over a low heat for several minutes until translucent.
  • Add the cashew mixture, spices and tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the cream and milk and stir thoroughly.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  • If you prefer a smooth sauce, give it a quick blitz either with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Additionally, if the sauce is a little thick, add water to thin it to the right consistency.
  • Return to the pan and set aside to keep warm while the koftas are cooked.

To finish:
1. Heat 3tbs oil in a wide, shallow pan.
2. Add the chilled koftas and brown them on all sides. Toss gently, otherwise they might break apart.
3. Ladle the sauce into a warmed serving dish and arrange the koftas on top. Alternatively, go crazy and arrange the koftas in the warm dish and pour the sauce over the top.
4. Serve with naan breads to mop up all the sauce.


Quince Cheesecake

Quince Cheesecake

Wotchers!

Something very different for you all this week, that I discovered on my shiny, SHINY new favourite recipe source – Coquinaria – an online resource of Dutch Medieval recipes.

Now is the season for Quince and whilst I love their fragrance perfuming the house, and the two-for-one recipe combination of ruby Quince Jelly and aromatic Quince Paste (membrillo) that you can make from just one batch of fruit, I’ve made them both for the past five years. I was looking for something different to use these fabulous fruits and this is the treasure I found.

It comes from the Manuscript UB Gent 476, which dates from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and which corresponds roughly to the end of the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor reign in England and Wales.

As far as tweaking the recipe goes, I’ve added a pastry crust and a decorated pastry lid, sprinkled with nib sugar. Reasoning that fruit nowadays is probably much larger and better formed than that of five hundred years ago, I halved the number of quince required to just three and also cut down on the butter, egg-yolks and sugar – it’s practically health food! ;)

Actually, just a further word about the ingredients – you can treat the curd/almonds/raisins/egg quantities given as the midpoint on a sliding scale, depending on how you want your cheesecake to turn out. If you reduce them all to 60g and just use 2 yolks, then the flavour of the quince really comes through sharp and strong, and the texture is quite light. If you increase them all to 120g and add an extra yolk, then it’s very rich and complex, with no one flavour dominating, and a much firmer texture. The quantities given strike a nice balance, I think, but experiment!

Peering over my shoulder at the Middle Dutch original text, my husband commented that an accurate translation of the title would be something along the lines of Weird/Peculiar/Eccentric Tart, but that’s not going to get anyone excited, so I’ve opted for a name both tempting and recognisable.

Quince Cheesecake

For the pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

Filling
3 large-ish quince
85g curd cheese – drained
85g ground almonds
85g raisins
3 tablespoons white sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 large yolks
60g clarified unsalted butter – melted

Decoration
Apple jelly or apricot glaze
nibbed sugar

  • For the pastry
    • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
    • Divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
    • Take the smaller of the two pieces of pastry from the fridge and roll out until it it large enough to cover your intended tart tin. I used a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. This piece of pastry will be for the decorative lid. Don’t roll the pastry too thin, or the lid might curl up during baking – no thinner than 5mm. Slide the pastry onto some baking parchment.
    • Take the tart tin you’re going to use and lay it upside-down onto your pastry. LIGHTLY score around it with the tip of a sharp knife. This will give you an outline for your decorations.
    • Using a knife, or mini cutters if you have them, cut a design into the pastry lid. Don’t make the cutouts either too large or too close together – you still need to transfer it onto the top of the tart and whilst a lacy design is, without doubt, breathtaking, getting it from your work surface onto the tart would be a nightmare.
    • Cover the lid with cling film and return it to the fridge to rest/chill while you prepare the filling.
  • For the filling
    • Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
    • Remove the fluff from the quince by rubbing them over with a clean cloth.
    • Gently lower the quince – whole – into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little to a gentle simmer.
    • Simmer – uncovered – for 20-30 minutes until the fruit are tender (test with a cocktail stick). The motion of the hot water should have the fruit gently tumbling as they simmer, so they should cook evenly. The skins will split, but that’s fine, as long as the boiling isn’t too rough, they won’t fall apart.
    • Lift the poached fruit out of the water and set onto a sieve to drain/cool.
    • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin – it’ll peel off easily, like tomato skins – and cut away from the core all of the cooked and softened buttery-yellow flesh. The cores are larger than, say, an apple core, with the flesh closest to the core becoming quite gritty – you want to avoid using this gritty part.
    • Mash/blend all the cooked quince to a smooth puree. I got over 450g from just three quince. If your fruit isn’t as bountiful, consider scaling down the rest of the filling ingredients.
    • Add the drained curd, ground almonds, sugar and spices and mix thoroughly.
    • Taste and adjust sweetness/spices if necessary.
    • Stir in the yolks, raisins and the melted, clarified butter.
  • To assemble the tart
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
    • Remove the larger piece of pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 4-5mm.
    • Line your tart tin and use a fork to poke holes over the pastry at the bottom. Make sure there is enough pastry to hang over the edges of the tin.
    • Line with baking parchment and beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
    • Remove parchment/beads and reduce oven temperature to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
    • Pour the filling into the partly-baked case and smooth over.
    • Dampen the edges of the tart and slide the decorated tart lid onto the tart.
    • Press the edges together firmly, crimp as desired, then trim the excess pastry.
    • Brush the tart lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
    • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set and the pastry has browned.
    • Brush the pastry lid with warmed jelly/glaze and sprinkle with nibbed sugar. I spend time fishing sugar nibs out of the lattice holes, but there’s no need to be so precious about it ;)

 

 


Banana Buns

Banana Buns

Wotchers!

Here’s something that’s fun AND tastes great – always a winning combination in my book – Banana Buns!

A sweet bun dough wrapped around a filling of mashed banana – and shaped/decorated to look like a well-ripened banana!

To avoid having a filling that was too soggy, I mixed mashed banana with lemon juice (to prevent discolouration) and sugar (to counter the sharpness of the lemon juice) and then simmered it until most of the moisture has evaporated. As always, feel free to customise to your own tastes – use honey or palm sugar as the sweetener and omit the lemon juice altogether if you like. Substitute your own favourite sweet dough, or even glam it up by using brioche, it’s all delicious!

I’m including a ‘fast and dirty’ method for making the custard decoration, since such a relatively small amount is required. You could, of course, make your own creme patissière, if you don’t mind having quite a lot left over. Make it a little thicker than usual, so that it holds its shape when piped.

Banana Buns

Makes 6-8 buns, depending on size

For the dough

250g strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast acting easy blend yeast
25g caster sugar
40g butter
pinch of salt
1 large egg
60ml milk
60ml water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling
3 bananas
3tbs sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Custard decoration
20g custard powder
1tbs granulated sugar
150ml milk

1 egg to glaze

 

  • Put the flour, yeast, sugar, butter, salt and egg into a food processor and blitz until well mixed. The mixture will resemble fine breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the mixture into a bowl and make a well in the middle. If you have a stand mixer and a dough hook, then use that.
  • Warm the milk.
  • Add in the water and the vanilla to cool it to blood temperature. To test: stick your finger in it – if you can’t feel it, then it’s at the correct temperature.
  • Add the liquid to the dry mix and bring together into a dough. NB It will be rather moist and soft, so if you’re kneading by hand, use a scraper on the surface to help you lift the dough as you knead it.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then set aside, covered, until doubled in size (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
  • For the filling
    • Put all of the ingredients in a small pan and mash together.
    • Simmer over a medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. You will see the clouds of steam get less and less and eventually, no visible liquid on the bottom of the pan.
    • Set aside to cool.
  • For the decoration.
    • Mix all of the ingredients in a microwave-proof bowl.
    • Cover and cook on high for 90 seconds.
    • Remove and stir thoroughly.
    • Re-cover and cook on high for another 90 seconds.
    • Stir, cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and set aside to cool.
  • When the dough has risen, tip out and pat down.
  • Divide the dough into 6 or 8. Larger pieces of dough are easier to shape, but they do swell up to make extremely large buns once baked. You decide.
  • For each piece of dough:
    • Roll out to the size and shape of a pita bread.
    • Dampen the edges with a pastry brush dipped in water.
    • Place 1-2tsp banana filling at one end and fold over. Press the dough together firmly to seal in the filling.
    • Roll up the filling in the dough like a sausage roll. Make sure the seal is underneath the roll and pinch the ends together.
    • Gently curve the roll into a banana shape and set onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Set the buns to rise for 20-30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Put the custard into a piping bag fitted with a small (5mm) plain nozzle.
  • When the buns have risen, pipe 3 or 4 ‘stripes’ of custard along the length of each bun and use the beaten egg to glaze between the stripes. This may seem awkward, but glazing the buns first makes their surface very slippery, and the custard tends to slide off.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
  • Remove baking sheet from the oven and immediately cover the cooked buns with a clean cloth. This will keep the steam in and make the crust soft as they cool.

Goathland Treacle Tart

Goathland Treacle Tart

Wotchers!

I’m a big fan of British recipes as you may know – and I think we should do everything that we can to preserve them, especially the hidden gems that are regional specialties.

Goathland is a tiny village – population less than 500 – tucked away in the North York Moors National Park, just south-west of Whitby. It looks an absolutely delightful place, and Harry Potter fans will recognise Goathland Station as doubling for Hogsmeade (the station nearest Hogwarts) as well as Aidensfield from the popular TV series Heartbeat.

In the 1930s, Mrs Arthur Webb was commissioned by the BBC to visit farms throughout the UK “in order to secure something that was characteristic of its cooking and preparation of food.” In much the same way a her contemporary, Dorothy Hartley, would – Mrs Webb tramped around the countryside conversing with farmers wives and watching them cook in their own kitchens, frequently with awe and respect.

I looked at the fireplace. I watched the flames travelling under the oven.
“How do you manage to keep the heat going – you burn coal, of course?”
“Oh no” the answer came swiftly; “I never trust coal or anything else than wood for my baking. I understand wood better and I know exactly what heat it will give.”
“Do you ever have failures?”
“Failures? Of course not. I know exactly what I want and I make it.”
“Well, how do you manage to arrive at such delicious pies as these?” and I pointed to the laden table. “Do you weigh the ingredients?”
“Never. I could not spare the time. I just know how much the flour, butter, lard, milk, water and eggs will make.”

Luckily for us, Mrs Webb was able to jot down the ingredients for this fantastic tart, which I have only tweaked very slightly in converting to metric measurements and adding cooking times/temperatures. I’m curious to know which farm in this peaceful area was the origin of such a flavour-packed bake.

As you can see from the photograph. it bears little resemblance to the traditional British, tooth-achingly sweet, open-topped Treacle Tart made with golden syrup and fresh breadcrumbs. Whilst still containing breadcrumbs, the filling for this double-crust tart is packed with fruit both fresh and dried, actually contains treacle, and is much closer in taste to a traditional mincemeat, although blessedly fat-free. Along with the dried fruit and spices, the filling is given some fresh zing with chopped apple and lemon zest/juice. The dry breadcrumbs absorb any apple juice during cooking, resulting in a tart with a firm, fruity filling, no soggy bottom, and packing a huge wallop of flavour. The lack of fat in the filling means that the taste is bright and fresh and never cloying or overly rich.

I’ve chosen to wrap this in my favourite cornflour shortcrust, as its dry crispness when baked is the perfect foil for the filling to really shine.

Sidebar: Mrs Webb’s notes tell us merely to “cover with another pastry” – which is all well and good, but pays little attention to the presentation which is, after all, usually the first thing that tempts us with a dish. I’ve made a conscious decision to try to present dishes, no matter how humble their ingredients, in the most appetising and eye-catching way. If I may paraphrase the great William Morris “Serve nothing from your oven that you do not know to be delicious or believe to be beautiful.”

Goathland Treacle Tart top

Which is all well and good, except that when it comes to decorating, I usually have the patience and finesse of a potato. But I also have a little imagination, so I created the above decoration for the tart lid, in the best traditions of housewives across the years, with what I had to hand: namely, a teaspoon, an apple corer and a skewer.

pastry
The pastry was crimped by laying the pastry lid as per the above diagram, so that the edges lay vertically against the sides of the tin. Insert the handle of a teaspoon between the outer edge of the pastry and the tin and your finger and thumb against the inside of the pastry. Press inwards with the spoon handle as you pinch the two pieces of pastry together. I had intended only to hand-crimp the tart edges, but the imprint of the teaspoon handle has made a pretty design, so I’m going to run with it. *lying* I totally meant to do that.

The pattern was made firstly by gently pressing an apple-corer into the lid – enough to mark, but not enough to cut all the way through the pastry (see pic below).

pastry corer pattern

Then I used a wooden skewer to poke holes in lines from the centre ring to each of the surrounding rings (see pic below).

pastry corer pattern 2

I then added a line of holes between each of these lines. No, no pic for this. Even though I know it’s my MS Paint Skills that bring you flocking to the blog – in droves! – I got bored drawing the dots one by one, so you’ll have to wing it. :D

If you’re in any doubt whether or not to try this tart – and I really hope you will – let me just say that I’m seriously considering using this as my mince pie recipe this year.

Just sayin’.

Goathland Treacle Tart

Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

  • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 4-5mm and use it to line a greased 18cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

Filling

60g dry breadcrumbs [1]
60g currants
60g sultanas
30g candied orange peel – diced
30g candied lemon peel – diced
1 small cooking apple – peeled, cored and chopped/grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground mixed spice
30ml treacle
30ml milk

  • Mix the breadcrumbs, dried fruit, candied peel, spices and lemon zest in a bowl.
  • Warm the treacle by placing the open can in a saucepan of water over a low heat. As it warms, it becomes less viscous and easier to pour.
  • Pour out the required amount of treacle and mix with the lemon juice, then add the milk afterwards. NB Don’t mix the lemon juice with the milk first, otherwise it will curdle.
  • Add the liquids and the chopped apple to the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Add the filling to the chilled pastry case and smooth over.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid.
  • Wet the edges of the pastry with water, and lay the pastry lid onto the filling. Ease the edges together as per the diagram above. Make sure there’s no air trapped underneath the lid – in the oven this air will expand in the heat and may cause the lid to lift away from the filling.
  • Use the back of a knife (so as not to scratch your non-stick tin) to trim away the excess pastry, then crimp the edges as described above.
  • Decorate as desired.
  • Brush with beaten egg, or with milk and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar. (I used just egg).
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning the tin around after 20 minutes to ensure it colours evenly.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • After cooling for 10 minutes, if you’ve used a loose-bottomed tin, the tart can be gently removed  and served, or set onto a wire rack until cold.

[1] These must be really dry. Definitely not fresh. If you have none to hand, nor any stale bread, make breadcrumbs of 3 slices of bread and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry (without browning) in a 120°C 100°C Fan oven for 20-30 minutes.


Curry Bloom Buns

Curry Bloom Buns

Wotchers!

I used to live and work in Singapore, and one of the iconic snack foods there is the Curry Puff!

It’s basically a pastry turnover with a spicy curry filling – sometimes there’s meat added and/or other vegetables, but my favourite was the potato curry puff. More usually, the filling is diced potato, but the cafeteria at the school I was working at sold potato curry puffs with a smooth, mashed potato filling. I know – carb. coma material, amiright? The combination of crisp pastry and smooth, spiced mashed potato was very comforting, and over the years I’ve tried to reproduce their flavour but without much success.

Until now.

Having said that, the recipe this week isn’t for a traditional curry puff at all. Traditionally, curry puffs are deep fried, occasionally with spiral pastry (similar to that used for sfogliatelle), but the thought of deep fried anything tends to fill me with the horrors these days. Another option would be to bake them, using regular pastry, but even that has a relatively high fat content, so what I decided to do was use bread dough in place of pastry.

Stuffed, filled bread buns are the ideal mobile meal or picnic item – the filling is self-contained,so there’s nothing to fall out or dry up or get soggy, and to my mind they are even more tasty because the dough wrapper seals in all the flavours during cooking. My recipe for Bierocks, for example, has such simple ingredients, but tastes amazing!

Over the years my attempts to reproduce the filling have stumbled over the spicy flavouring. I’ve tried numerous combinations of spices and each one has had some major flaw. Thinking I’d had a Eureka moment, I even tried mixing in sweet potato with the mashed potato but no *shudders* Oh dear me, that was such a ‘no’.

But now I’ve got a filling I’m happy with because I opted to buy curry paste. *waits until the shrieks of horror die down* Yes, I opened a jar and I’m not ashamed to admit it! It turns out that what my taste buds had been yearning for wasn’t an authentic, hand-crafted spice mix – it was just *waves hands about vaguely* ‘curry’. Sidebar: I also buy basic, value curry sauce – sometimes called ‘chip shop curry sauce’ and pour it over cooked chicken – with the family, it’s just as popular a meal as the home-made-from-scratch butter chicken (and made in a fraction of the time!) Go on, indulge in a jar today – it’ll set you back 20p.

Having said that, the range of curry pastes available in the supermarkets means that you can ring the changes as often as you like. Because the curry paste is concentrated, you don’t need to use much at all, and there’s also no risk of making the filling too soggy. I’ve flavoured the filling quite strongly, because there’s just a small quantity in each bun. If you want to use more filling and make turnovers/pasties, consider using less of the curry paste.

You can make these buns plain – just as a round bun with filling inside, but you can also pretty them up into the flower shapes shown above. Too often we spend a lot of time faffing with decorations for sweet things, and savoury items tend to be the poor relation, so I decided to redress the balance somewhat. An added bonus of the flower shapes is that they can be eaten delicately, by breaking off a petal at a time to nibble on! – Oooh! Get me, Mrs Etty-Kwette!

Curry Bloom Buns

The following quantities make 8 buns.

Dough
300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1tsp salt
30ml oil
100ml water
100ml milk
1 large eggwhite

Filling
300g cooked potato – riced/mashed
2tbs curry paste of choice – I used Patak’s Rogan Josh

Glaze
1 large egg yolk
1tbs water

Decoration
black sesame seeds or kalonji/nigella seeds
white sesame seeds

  • Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, plus the oil and egg-white, into a bowl.
  • Heat the water and add to the milk. This should make a warm mixture of blood heat temperature. Test by dipping a finger into the mixture to make sure it’s not too hot.
  • Gradually add the milk and water mixture to the other ingredients until they come together in a ball. You might not need all of the liquids.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
  • Brush the dough with oil and place in an oiled bowl.
  • Cover with cling-film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
  • Over a medium heat, cook the curry paste in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, to bring out the flavours of the spices.
  • Remove pan from heat and add the mashed potato. Stir thoroughly to combine, until the colour is even throughout.
  • Once the dough is risen, tip out from the bowl and gently press to deflate.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Divide the dough into eight pieces.
  • Divide the filling into eight pieces.
  • For each bun
    • Pat the dough into a circle about 10cm in diameter.
    • Put a ball of potato filling in the middle of the dough.
    • Damp the edges of the dough with water.
    • Gather the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch to seal.
    • Turn the dough parcel over and press to flatten until it measures 10cm in diameter.
    • Using a sharp knife, add cuts to the flattened dough as shown in the diagram below.
    • Bun cuts
    • Twist each piece to the left 90° so that the filling is visible and gently flatten to make the petal shape.
    • Transfer the bun to the prepared baking sheet.
    • Allow the buns to rise for 15 minutes (after the last one is shaped).
  • Whisk the egg-yolk and water together and brush over the shaped buns.
  • Scatter the black sesame seeds in the centre of each bun, and sprinkle the pale seeds over the ‘petals’.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden.
  • Wrap in tea-towels and set on a wire to cool, to keep the crust soft.

Snow Cake

Snow Cake

Wotchers!

An unusual and simple cake for you this week, with the bonus of being gluten-free!

Following on from the gluten-free Brazilian Cheese Breads of last week, it might look as if I’m following a theme here, but I assure you it’s juts a coincidence – a DELICIOUS coincidence!

Last week, I got a request from my publisher to write a short paragraph for publication on their foodie website, on my favourite baking book. As you can imagine, with my book collection, this took quite some time to narrow down. As I was perusing the shortlisted books, I came across this recipe – not in any specific allergy-related book or even chapter of a book. No, it was just included with a bunch of other recipes in a book aimed at the commercial baker, dating from the early 20th century. I have scaled the recipe down from the originally huge quantities, but otherwise, it is unchanged.

This cake is made using potato flour. At first, I thought it got its name from it colour, because, as you can see from the photo, it is indeed a very pale cake. However, after tasting the cake, I’m now of the opinion that its name comes from its texture. It has the same quality of settled snow, in that there is a thin ‘crust’ on the top and soft, friable, almost powder-like substance underneath. The cake dissolves in the mouth – but in a different way to, say, Melting Moments. It’s incredibly light and tender and is best enjoyed simply, where it can really shine.

That said, the cream that I have teamed with it is pretty awesome itself. It is a variation of the filling I used for the mille-feuilles in the final of The Great British Bake Off. The mixture of sweetened cream cheese and whipped double cream is given a firmer set by the addition of gelatine, which helps to hold in the moisture and makes for a very luscious, rich, creamy and mousse-like texture. Just to continue the frozen theme, it’s like the very best soft-serve ice-cream, without the cold.

I’ve brightened the filling with some of the Apricot Jam I made a couple of weeks ago, but any other sharp jam would also work well.

I bought the potato flour at Holland & Barrett.

Snow Cake

112g unsalted butter – softened
112g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 level tsp baking powder
225g potato flour

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line the base of a 20cm diameter, tall cake tin – not a sandwich tin. The high sides will help shield the cake from the direct heat of the oven and keep it from becoming over-coloured.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly – a good 5-10 minutes. Ordinarily, you’d run the risk of over-beating a cake mixture, which would develop the gluten in the flour, leading to a tough cake. Since the potato flour has no gluten, there’s no need to worry about this. You want to try and get as much air into the mixture as possible to make for a light texture in the cooked cake.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the tin 180 degrees and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, for a total of 30-35 minutes. When you turn the cake after 20 minutes, slip a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the tin to keep the colour from getting too dark.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Luscious Cream Filling

50ml double cream
50g caster sugar
2 leaves gelatine

1tsp vanilla extract
150g cream cheese,  room temperature
250ml double cream

  • Soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water for 15 minutes.
  • Warm the double cream and caster sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Shake off the excess water from the gelatine and add to the pan.
  • Stir until the gelatine has melted, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Once the mixture has cooled a little, pour it into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Whip the mixture until the cream has thickened and it is soft and pillowy.

To Assemble

Even though this is a light sponge cake, the weight of the top half will be too heavy initially, to avoid squidging (technical term) the cream out of the sides of the cake. Therefore, I strongly recommend using the following method to assemble your cake.

200g apricot jam – warmed and pureed

  • Using cocktail sticks, mark the midpoint of the cooled cake around the edge and cut it horizontally.
  • Spread the cut side of each cake half with apricot jam.
  • Put the bottom half of the cake back into the tin in which it was baked.
  • Slip a band of parchment or food-grade acetate around the inside of the tin, between the cake and the inside of the tin.
  • Smooth or pipe the cream filling over the bottom of the cake, making sure it reaches the edges of the cake.
  • Place the other half on top and press gently.
  • Cover with cling-film and chill for 2-3 hours, until the gelatine in the cream has set.
  • Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and gently peel the parchment/acetate from around the filling.
  • Smooth with a knife if necessary.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Wotchers!

Back in the summer, my daughter’s class at school chose a mini project on Brazil, and I was asked if I could bring in some food for them to taste.

Of all the dishes I prepared, Brigadeiros were naturally the overwhelming favourite. However, these little cheese breads were also a great hit, with many pupils coming back for seconds and thirds.

In essence, they are a Brazilian version of Gougères, but differ in that they are made with gluten-free tapioca flour. If you’re at all apprehensive about tackling Gougères or even choux paste in general, then these little cheese breads – or pão de queijo to give them their proper name – are an ideal place to start.

They don’t require as much cooking as Gougères, and since there is no gluten to develop, the mixture is much more straight forward. The crisp outsides contrast deliciously well with the soft, stretchy insides (the stretch being provided by the cheese).

I’ve baked mine a little longer than is traditional, because I do love some crunch, but you can take them out earlier if you prefer them pale and interesting. I’ve also baked them in mini-muffin tins to give them a nice shape – gluten free bakes generally need a little help to ‘get it together’.

These are delicious straight from the oven, but will also keep a few days in an airtight container. Warm in a gentle (150°C, 130°C Fan) oven for 10 minutes.

I bought my tapioca flour here

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Makes approx. 24 mini-muffin-sized breads.

125ml whole milk
60ml vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
140g tapioca flour
1 large egg
extra egg-whites (maybe)
125g strong cheddar or fresh Parmesan – grated

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Heat the milk, oil and salt in a pan until just below boiling.
  • Remove from the heat and add the tapioca flour.
  • Stir vigorously until no dry flour is visible.
  • Tip the paste into a bowl and beat with a mixer (stand or hand) until cooled enough that no steam is visible rising from the bowl.
  • Add the egg and beat thoroughly until fully combined.
  • If the mixture seems a little tight, add a little extra egg white. It’s better for the dough to be a little too soft than too firm.
  • Add the cheese and mix thoroughly.
  • Grease a mini muffin tin.
  • Use an ice-cream scoop to portion out the dough into the prepared mini-muffin tin. Don’t fill the cups more than 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C, 160°C Fan for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

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