Viking Bread

Viking Bread
Wotchers!

I’ve taken a bit of a liberty with the name of this recipe, because it’s based on nothing more authentic than the loaf of bread I tried in France this summer. Over there, it is a staple of the Banette brand of bakeries and I found it very delicious as well as belying it’s rustic appearance by being very light in texture.

I picked up an information leaflet about it which helpfully included, amongst a lot of airy-fairyness about taste journeys and Nordic inspiration, a list of ingredients:

  • wheat flour
  • wheat gluten
  • sunflower seeds
  • barley flour
  • rye products
  • toasted malted barley flour
  • rye and wheat malt
  • yeast
  • salt
  • Decorations:
    • barley flakes
    • sunflower seeds
    • decorticated sesame seeds
    • red millet seeds
    • brown flax seeds

Fantastic, you’d think – specific guidelines for creating a unique blend of flours, grains and seeds. Well, in theory, yes – but practically… not so much. For a while I toyed with the idea of sourcing toasted malted barley flour, rye and wheat malt, and then experimenting with numerous batches to achieve the perfect combination. But when I read the ingredients list on a pack of Granary bread flour, it was a no-brainer.

Decisions, decisions

Me choosing between the task of creating a sword-wielding, nuanced and balanced mix of flours and grains vs grabbing a packet of granary bread flour.

Then there was the mix of seeds. Again, I could have spend time researching and experimenting, and to a certain extent I did. Recently, whilst watching Italian chefs make pizza dough, one of them mentioned adding Cuor di Cereali (Heart of Cereal), a seed mixture available in Italy, which sounded perfect. I sourced it online, however, it is available only in Italy, and whilst it could be ordered internationally, the shipping was going to be a killer. So when I saw the range of seeds available in the supermarket, I was like…

grabbing stuff

Me in the supermarket, carefully making a selection of seeds.

I did, however, take the suggestion from the Mulino Caputo website of adding between 10-20% to your dough mix, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Seed Mix
This is absolutely customisable to what you have available. I make no apology for simply tipping into a large ziplock bag one packet of each of the seeds available at my local supermarket.

My mix comprised the following:

  • 100g golden linseed
  • 100g brown linseed
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 150g chia seeds
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g poppy seeds

This obviously makes more than is required for the recipe, but I’m confident you’ll be using it all up in no time with batches of these tasty loaves.

Viking Bread

400ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
500g granary bread flour
20g fresh yeast, crumbled or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
100g seed mix

additional seed mix for coating

  • Put all of the ingredients into your bowl (hand or stand mixer) in the above order, and bring together into a soft dough.
  • Knead for 10 minutes – on Low, if you’re using a mixer, followed by 2 minutes on High.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  • When risen, tip out onto a floured surface and pat gently to deflate.
  • Shape into a rectangle, and cut horizontally in two,to give two baton shapes.
  • Roll and tuck the edges underneath – you should be aiming for a short, fat baguette shape.
  • Take an edged baking sheet and sprinkle over a layer of the seed mix. If you slide the sheet back and forth a couple of times,the seeds will arrange themselves in a neat, thin layer.
  • Using a pastry brush dipped in water, dampen the whole of the upper surface of the loaves.
  • Apply the seed coating: one by one, picking up the loaves and roll them over the layer of seeds in the tray. The seeds will stick to the damp top surface of the dough and fall away from the dry underside. Set the seeded loaves on their uncoated bases on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover lightly and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes until risen and browned, and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 


Raspberry Upside-down Cake

Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
Wotchers!

Who doesn’t love an upside-down cake?

Well, truth be told, me, actually – until I met this one!

Whenever I think of an upside down cake, its always been pineapple, and due to the huge number of vintage recipe books I read, it always appears in my mind as being made with pineapple from a tin, and gaudy, startlingly red glacé cherries in the holes in the middles of the slices. Now whether it is the sweet tinned pinapple (not a fan), the glacé cherries (really not a fan), the sweet-on-sweet-on-sweet or the whole 1950s vibe, it just doesn’t look appealing to me.

Sidebar: surprisingly, a quick internet image search reveals that the pineapple ring/cherry thing appears to still be going strong in the 21st century. Who’da thunk.

Anyhoo…

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I found in a booklet of Breton recipes I snapped up at one of the French brocantes we wandered through this summer. Made with fresh raspberries, the sharp flavour of the soft, gently baked fruit is a great contrast with the sweet, lemon sponge. ( See also Fruit Sponge). Add cream – single, double, clotted or fraiche – if you like, but I really enjoy this as is.

Confession: OK, so in essence I really only changed the shape of the tin, the cooking time and added some filled fresh raspberries on the top for presentation. The original recipe recommended a 24cm circular tin and a shorter cooking time, but after the notorious Pacman photo of July, I’ve been a bit twitchy about using circular tins.

Sidebar 2: This is not a pretty, pretty cake. Behold, Exhibit A.

It is, however, delicious, simple to make and a perfect treat to enjoy those autumn-ripening raspberries that are a little too squishy to turn into jam.

Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

750g raspberries – divided
4tbs caster sugar

3 large eggs – separated
125g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
100g unsalted butter

4tbs seedless raspberry jam
icing sugar

  • Grease and line the base and sides of your chosen tin with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. I used a long, narrow IKEA loaf tin but you could opt for the original 24cm round tin.
  • Pick out about 200g of the best raspberries for decoration. Set aside.
  • Add 450-500g fresh raspberries to the tin. Sprinkle with the 4tbs caster sugar.
  • Cut the butter into 2cm cubes and put into hand-temperature water to soften.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Whisk the egg-whites to stiff peaks.
  • Whisk the yolks and the remaining caster sugar together until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the lemon zest and juice and mix in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture gradually, ensuring the flour is fully mixed in.
  • Using a balloon whisk – or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer – stir in one third of the egg-whites to the egg mixture to lighten the mix, then gently fold in the remainder.
  • Drain the water from the butter and fold the softened butter into the mixturewith the whisk.
  • Pour the mixture over the raspberries and spread smooth.
  • Bake until the sponge is risen and cooked. This takes 40-45 minutes in a loaf tin. If you chose a 24cm round tin, the recipe suggests 25 minutes, but use your own checks to confirm the cake is cooked through.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning out onto your serving dish/plate and removing the baking parchment.

To decorate

  • Spoon the jam into a piping bag and snip of the end to give a 3-4mm opening.
  • Pipe a little jam into the hollow cores of the remaining raspberries.
  • Arrange the filled raspberries over the top of the cake and dust with icing suger to serve.

Picnic Loaves

Picnic Loaves
Wotchers!

In my quest to find tasty recipes for you, I often find myself poking round some odd corners of the internet. Recently, this has taken me to some delightful Russian blogs, where I found this week’s deliciousness.

It is for a flavour-filled picnic loaf, or snack loaf, seen on the left above and is one of the speediest mixings I’ve ever found – you can mix and bake this in about an hour. Additionally, many of it’s components are regular storecupboard or fridge dwellers, making it a snip to bake at short notice. I’ve called it a Picnic Loaf because I suspect the Russian title (Snack Cupcake) lost something in the Google-Translation. I’ve also made it a little healthier by substituting the original sour cream for low fat creme fraiche.

The texture is unusual in that it is incredibly light and tender, even with all the added flavourings, and when toasted, the crunchy outsides contrast deliciously with the soft interior of the slice. It is packed with regular protein – diced cheese and sausage – and texture and even more protein is achieved with the addition of cooked kidney beans, which are a real delight to bite into as well as eye-catching with their red skins and pale interiors.

Initially I was just going to post the one recipe, but then realised it would exclude all the non-meat eaters. Then I thought I could crack a joke by saying “Look, it’ a loaf for everyone: there’s sausage for the meat eaters, cheese for the vegetarians and beans for the vegans” but realised that would be in poor (yet still delicious) taste. So I decided to create a second, vegetarian version. Alas, with the dairy and eggs, making it vegan is a stretch too far, but that said, I’m really pleased with what I came up with, because I think it’s actually more delicious than the original.

Inspired by the addition of the kidney beans, and having a tin to hand, I set about creating something chick-pea based. After much metaphorical pencil-chewing, I was really struggling to come up with replacements for the cheese and the sausage, so I gave up that idea entirely and decided to make hummus bread: not to dip into, but a bread that tastes like hummus. With a little parsley for colour and a couple of trials tweaking proportions, it came out better than I had imagined. And toasted – it’s fantastic.

Sausage and Cheese Picnic Loaf

sausage cheese picnic loaf

You don’t need to be heading out on a picnic to make this, my daughter has been enjoying a couple of slices toasted as an after-school snack.

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 x 200g smoked u-shaped sausage – diced
200g sharp cheese – I used vintage cheddar – diced

3 large eggs
200g low fat creme fraiche
200g mayonnaise
1tsp salt
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and the mayonnaise.
  • Sift together the salt, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the cheese, sausage and beans and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.

Hummus Loaf

The method is practically the same as the loaf above, but I’ll write it out here as well, to save you from scrolling up and down.

1 x 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed.
handful of roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

3 large eggs
100g tahini
50g olive oil
200g reduced fat creme fraiche
50g mayonnaise
1tsp garlic paste
2tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, tahini, olive oil, creme fraiche, mayonnaise, garlic paste and lemon juice.
  • Sift together the salt, cumin, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the parsley and chick peas and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.

 


No-Bake Christmas Cake

No-Bake Christmas Cake

Wotchers!

A rich, fruited cake at Christmas is traditional: crammed with dried fruits, candied peel and spices, and liberally doused with alcohol, before being encased in the equally traditional marzipan and white icing.

Delicious.

But there’s a huge elephant in the room when it comes to Christmas Cake recipes which no-one ever seems to mention – and that is the lengthy, fretful and agonisingly nerve-wracking extended baking time. And it IS just as stressful as it sounds, because the cake ingredients are not cheap, and so any mishap is going to prove expensive. If the oven is too hot, the outsides of the cake will burn and any exposed fruit will char to bitterness. If the oven is too cool, there’s a real risk of the inside of the cake ending up anything from gummy underdone-ness to out and out raw – and this is only likely to be discovered when the first slice is cut. And even if it is baked properly, failure to maintain sufficient moisture in the form of soaking it in alcohol between baking and consuming will result in an overly dry cake of sawdust texture. Not to mention the expense of having the oven on for so long.

So here I am, not just mentioning the elephant in the room, but naming/shaming/kicking it out.

Because this recipe requires no baking at all, and will only take maybe 15 minutes of your time.

Essentially, this is a fridge cake, with the wonderfully festive mix of fruit, spices and alcohol held together with biscuit crumbs and a little butter. It certainly looks the part and, as the photo demonstrates, it cuts beautifully – I do so love a clean, sharp slice! The biscuits should be Rich Tea – the rest of the ingredients need their dryness and plainness in order their flavours to shine. Sidebar: how much of a misnomer is Rich Tea? They’re the un-richest biscuit out there, just one step up from a water biscuit, and no hint of the taste of tea at all. Nevertheless, when you need a plain ‘canvas’ on which to display your more exotic ingredients, they can’t be beaten. NB Although breaking the biscuits into pieces is fine for recipes such as Chocolate Salami, the biscuits here should be blitzed to fineness in a food processor. This fineness is key in ensuring your cake holds together well with no unsightly air pockets, so please take the time over this one detail. Be more Edna.

Edna says: No Lumps!

ANYHOO…

Back to the cake. The texture is actually very close indeed to that of a well-moistened traditional cake, but the taste is extraordinary. In bypassing the hours and hours in the oven, the flavours of the fruit, peel and nuts are bright and fresh with no hint of dryness or burn. The alcohol is also more prominent, so if you’re planning on it being offered to children, perhaps reduce the quantity and substitute apple or pear juice to make up the overall amount of liquid.

There is also the freedom to make the mix of fruit, peel and nuts just to your liking. I don’t like angelica – or at least, the lurid dyed-green angelica found in the shops, so I don’t add it in. Glace cherries might be your absolute bête noir, in which case leave ’em out. As long as the overall weight is observed, the proportions can be made up of whatever you like. The mix below gives a ‘traditional’ flavour, but you could also choose a mix of, for example, dried mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut ribbons and white rum for a tropical flavour. The same goes for the spices. You might like them to be a little more robust that the quantities given. You’re only limited by your imagination. Go wild.

No Bake Christmas Cake

These quantities make a small, round, family-sized cake of diameter 15cm and a depth of around 5cm. A tin of larger diameter will result in a shallower cake. If you’re catering for only a few, consider halving the recipe and perhaps using a square or loaf tin for easier slicing, or even pressing the mix into cupcake or deep tart tins for mini individual portions.

For a Gluten-Free version, substitute GF Rich Tea biscuits.

For Vegans: Substitute the butter for the fat you prefer. It should be one that is solid at room temperature.

60g prunes – chopped
60g mixed, candied peel – chopped
75g raisins
75g sultanas
75g glace cherries – halved or quartered
1/2 nutmeg – grated
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 rounded tbs liquid sugar[1]
80g unsalted butter
75ml alcohol – a mix of cream sherry and brandy is nice, or 25ml each of these plus dark rum. Substitute fruit juice if preferred.

75g walnuts – chopped
250g fine Rich Tea biscuit crumbs

  • Put everything except the nuts and the crumbs into a pan.
  • Heat, gently stirring, until the butter has melted and the fruit is warmed through.
  • Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to allow the fruit to plump up (30 minutes-1 hour).
  • Put the nuts and crumbs into a bowl.
  • Add the cooled fruit mixture and toss to combine. The mixture should now resemble damp sand, and stick together when pressed. Adjust spices if necessary, and add more crumbs/alcohol/juice if required.
  • Line your tin with plastic film.
  • Pour in the mixture and press flat. I find the base of a glass tumbler is excellent at achieving a smooth surface.
  • Cover the top with plastic film and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
  • Decorate with almond paste and icing as per a traditional cake.

 

[1] Ooh, a footnote! Haven’t done one of these in ages! The liquid sugar can be whatever you have to hand: honey, golden syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, treacle or molasses if you’d like a dark cake, glucose if you don’t want to add another flavour to the mix.


Frozen Fruit Cake

Wotchers!

Mention fruit cake in conversation and many people’s eyes will glaze over at the image of dark, heavy, dried fruit cakes of wintertime, but with this recipe you can make a light, fresh, sponge cake with a burst of freshness in every bite.

Regular listeners will recall my long quest for the perfect Apple Cake, as detailed in (shameless plug) MY FIRST BOOK – and the proportional recipe I found proved not too wet or heavy, lightly cakey, and with a real flavour of the fruit shining through.

This is the soft fruit version of that cake and has the added versatility of being able to be used as a base recipe for lots of different kinds of soft fruit.

It is adapted from a recipe for Blackcurrant Cake in Mrs C.F.Leyel’s Cakes of England (1936)¹. The original recipe called for fresh blackcurrants, but in the 21st century, not as many people have their own fruit bushes, or even access to a PYO fruit farm.

What we DO have access to is frozen fruit, picked and preserved within hours to maintain their quality. As well as bags in supermarkets, many farm shops also have ‘scoop your own’ fruits and berries in their freezers, to which you can help yourself to as much or as little as you like.

Whilst the cake in the above photograph is, indeed, made with blackcurrants, my experiments have confirmed that this recipe can be used with a whole range of soft fruits, and those fruits can be fresh, frozen or even canned.

The fruit makes this cake lovely and moist, and the sweetness of the cake itself contrasts deliciously with the sharp bursts of flavour from the berries. Due to the high levels  of moisture, it is not a cake that should be baked in a deep tin, as this runs the risk of being undercooked and having soggyness in the middle. A relatively shallow square tin, or traybake is ideal.

A further insurance against a soggy cake is to toss the fruit being used in a little cornflour. During baking, the cornflour will thicken any fruit juices that are released and prevent them from flooding the rest of the cake, and the cunning division of the dough means that your fruit will be evenly distributed throughout the finished cake, no matter how plump and juicy it might be.

Bonus: This cake is delicious as is, but can also be served warm as a pudding with a little cream or custard.

Frozen Fruit Cake

Mrs Leyel’s instructions begin ″Take equal quantities of flour, sugar and fresh blackcurrants. Rub the butter into the flour″, thereby being both unhelpfully vague and omitting mention of butter in the ingredients altogether. Nevertheless, after some experimentation, these quantities make a reasonably-sized cake. If you decide to increase the quantities, then increase the cooking time appropriately.

150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
150g butter
150g caster sugar
150g fruit – fresh, frozen or if canned, drained
3tbs cornflour
2 large eggs, whisked
A little milk (maybe)
caster sugar for sprinkling

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 18-20cm square tin with parchment.
  • Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Tip into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  • Stir through the beaten eggs to form a dough. If the mixture seems a little dry, add enough milk to make a soft, scone-like dough.
  • Add HALF of this mixture to the tin and spread out.
  • Sprinkle the cornflour over the fruit and toss gently to coat.
  • Fold the fruit and any remaining cornflour into the remaining dough and transfer to the tin. Smooth over lightly. It should be about 4cm deep. NB This dividing of the dough wll help ensure the fruit is evenly distributed through the cooked cake. As demonstrated more familiarly with cherry cake, fruit has a tendency to ‘slide down’ through the cake mixture and congregate on the bottom of the tin. Adding a layer of fruitless mix in the bottom of the tin will not prevent this, merely slow the downeard progression of the fruit long enough for the cake around the fruit to cook and thus hold it in position.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes, turning the tin around after 30 minutes. NB Don’t be tempted to remove the cake too early. As already mentioned, the fruit lends quite a lot of moisture to the mix, so be sure that the cake is thoroughly cooked through before removing it from the oven by testing with a cocktail stick that the cake mixture is cooked and observing that the cake as a whole has shrunk away from the sides of the tin and is nicely browned on top.
  • Sprinkle with caster sugar and allow to cool in the tin. NB The moistness of the cake means that it is very fragile when first baked, and trying to remove it from the tin whilst warm runs the risk of it breaking apart.

¹ A fantastic collection of national and regional cakes. Recommended!

 

In case you missed it: Orange & Walnut Garland Cake on DejaFood.com


Molehill Cake

Molehill Cakes
Wotchers!

It’s been a while since I posted a cake recipe, so I thought I’d cheer up the chilly weather with a cakey treat.

And it’s fabulous!

I was initially a little conflicted about this cake: on the one hand it tastes amazing, but then it also falls into the category of my pet hate of ‘food looking like something that isn’t food’, even though it is achieved almost by accident. In the end the ease of baking/construction, coupled with the amazing flavours persuaded me to bend my own rules and I hope you’ll be as delighted with the result as I am.

It’s very straightforward, based on a chocolate sponge, and takes almost zero skill to put together. Huzzah!

I found it on a Romanian version of Pinterest, and it appears to be something Romanians can create from a Dr Oetker box cake mix.

However, there’s no need to resort to box cake mixes, no matter how convenient they might be. Hands up anyone who has eaten one and thought “Oh my! This tastes so convenient!”.

Quite.

So this is a hand-made version, which is only marginally less convenient but with added fresh, natural ingredients. I call it the very best kind of clean eating. I might start a food trend…..

ANYHOO….

Requiring just 2 bowls – one if you rinse it out after mixing the cake – it also requires practically zero washing up! Bonus!

The cake is my go-to, one-bowl chocolate yogurt cake, so easy you could mix it with just a spoon – although I recommend a balloon whisk. Once baked and cooled, the cake is hollowed out and the bottom filled with whole (or as whole as possible) bananas, then a creamy filling mounded on top. The cake that was hollowed out, plus any excess you cut off to level the top, are blitzed to crumbs and patted onto the mound of cream and voila! Something that resembles a molehill but with a much more appetising taste!

You can make one large cake, or, as I managed, one large and several small, individually-sized versions.

The filling can be as simple as sweetened, whipped cream, a custardy diplomat cream (crème patissière + gelatine + whipped cream) or, my favourite, a combination of cream cheese, crème fraiche and double cream, whipped to firmness with a little vanilla paste and icing sugar.

Also optional is whether or not to include some chocolate in your creamy filling. My daughter voted for chocolate chips in an earlier version (she also preferred diplomat cream), however I went for hand-chopped chocolate. Other options might be pure chocolate sprinkles or indeed none at all.

The comforting combination of the richness of the chocolate sponge, the freshness and sweetness of the banana, the creamy topping and the novelty of the overall appearance have immediately shot this cake into my top five list. In fact, the only downside of this cake is the time spent waiting for the cooked cake to cool down before you can fill it!

Mini Molehill Cakes

Molehill Cake

Chocolate Sponge Cake

150ml vegetable oil
150ml plain yoghurt
60ml golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
50g cocoa
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line the bottom and sides of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Put oil, yoghurt, syrup, caster sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until well mixed.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl. Mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  • Bake in the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the cake has shrunk away from the sides, no bubbling sounds can be heard and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Yes, it does seem a long time, but the low temperature means it really needs the full allowance. The result is a beautifully-textured cake that actually improves on keeping, if you want to make it ahead. Additionally, the low-and-slow cooking means it is invariably gently and perfectly rounded on top and without any cracks.
  • Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Filling

300g cream cheese at room temperature
300ml low-fat creme fraîche
1-2tsp vanilla paste
2-3tbs icing sugar
300ml double cream
100g good quality chocolate – white, milk or plain – chopped fine

  • Mix the cream cheese, vanilla paste and creme fraîche thoroughly.
  • Add icing sugar to taste.
  • Add the double cream and whisk until firm.
  • Stir through the chopped chocolate.
  • Cover with plastic and chill until required.

To Assemble

cooled cake
4-5 bananas
cream filling

  • Cut the cake horizontally at a height of 4cm. If the cake has risen a lot, you might be able to cut it in half and make 2 large molehill cakes. Alternatively, you can cut out circles of sponge from either one or both halves using a baking ring to make individual-sized portions.
  • Cut a circle 2cm deep around the edge of the cake, 2cm from the edge.
  • Hollow out the middle of the cake so that the remaining sponge resembles a tart case. Be careful not to cut through the bottom of the cake. Reserve the cake scraps.
  • Lay whole bananas in the hollow, making sure they cover the whole of the bottom of the cake.
  • Pile the cream filling on top, using a palette knife to shape it into a tall mound.
  • Blitz the cake scraps to crumb and press lightly onto the sides of the cream until completely covered.
  • You can serve the cake immediately, but it does benefit from being wrapped in foil and thoroughly chilled in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
  • Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Snow Crisp

Snow Crisp

Snow Crisp – dusted with milk powder(L), showing the jewel-like sides of each portion (R)

Wotchers!

Something a little different today, with a recipe that is simple, quick, delicious and easily made gluten-free.

I came across it whilst browsing Chinese language food blogs (see the lengths I go to, to bring you the cutting edge of fashionable recipes??). Anyhoo – this recipe seems to be riding a sizeable wave of popularity, which is understandable for all of the reasons I started with, plus the ease with which it can be customised. I’ve ‘interpreted’ the Chinese name to the most suitable translation, the variations I came across whilst researching being many and varied, e.g. Snowflake Cakes, Snow Puff Pastry, Snow Q Cake, Snowflake Crisp, Dry Snow Cake and my favourites – Reticulated Red Snowflake Pastry, Swept Eat Snowflake Crisp Circle & Delicious Non-Stick Tooth Nougat Failure.

Mmm.

It is like a cross between Chocolate Salami and nougat –  fruit and nuts are mixed into melted marshmallows, with the addition of crisp biscuit pieces for added texture. The biscuits also ‘lighten the bite’ and prevent it from being either too sweet or too cloying. Once formed into a slab, it is dusted with dried milk powder to give it a wintery effect.

I would recommend having some latex gloves on hand, no pun intended, to help with shaping the warm mass, but it is also possible to make-do without.

When your block has set firmly, you can slice it into serving portions and dust all cut surfaces with milk powder if liked, but I must confess to preferring to see the contrast between the powdery top/bottom and the crisp and sharply delineated sides showing the embedded jewels of fruit and nut. You can even omit the milk powder altogether, or substitute with desiccated coconut, but I would recommend at least trying it to begin with – maybe cut off a slice or two and just dust those.

Chocolate Snow Crisp

Chocolate Snow Crisp – dusted with cocoa

In terms of variations, the most popular I have found are chocolate (cocoa) and matcha. Being in powder form, they are easy both to add to the melted marshmallows and use for dusting – although changing the overall colour means you do lose the whole ‘snow’ theme somewhat. That said, it does allow you to use non-white marshmallow, if packs of all-white are difficult to find.

Fruits and nuts are entirely to your taste, but bright colours and whole nuts make for attractive shapes when cut through. If you make your own candied peel – and as readers of this blog you all do, obvs (no pressure 😉 ) – it can be substituted for some or all of the dried fruit, and a mix of seeds can replace the nuts.

The quantities given are sufficient for a block of about 20cm square – you can, of course, shape it however you prefer. They are also easy to remember, as I have made them proportional, and thus fairly straightforward to scale up or down, as required.

The biscuits you require should be crisp and dry. In the UK, Rich Tea biscuits or Arrowroot are ideal (regular or gluten-free), although you will have to break them into quarters for ease of shaping. If you’re a fan of the pairing of salty and sweet, you could even substitute Ritz crackers – the mini ones being perfectly sized to leave whole. Crisp and salty pretzels are a further option.

Snow Crisp

50g unsalted butter
200g white marshmallows
50g dried milk powder
50g dried fruit – cranberries & orange peel/blueberries/apricots
50g mixed nuts – pistachios & walnuts/almonds/cashews
200g crisp biscuits – Rich Tea/Arrowroot/gluten-free/Ritz, broken into quarters if large

Extra milk powder for dusting

  • Put the fruit, nuts and biscuits in a pile on a silicone mat.
  • Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a very low heat.
  • Add the marshmallows and stir gently while they melt. This will take some time. Do not be tempted to turn the heat up, as they will quickly start to turn brown and caramelise.
  • When the marshmallows have melted, add the milk powder and stir until fully combined.
  • Pour the marshmallow mixture onto the fruits and biscuits.
  • Put on your plastic gloves and thoroughly mix everything together. Use a series  of gentle lifting and folding motions. You want the marshmallow to coat everything and hold together, without crushing the biscuits into dust.
  • Once the mixture is holding together in a mass, you can use a non-stick tin to help mould it into a rectangle. Press the mass into a corner of the tin to help form two square edges, then turn it around and repeat, pressing it gently by firmly into the sides.
  • When you’re happy with the dimensions of your slab, wrap it in plastic and put into the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  • When the slab has firmed up, dust with more of the milk powder, making sure the whole surface is covered. Turn the slab over and repeat.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the slab into serving sized pieces – about the size of a matchbox is good – it’s allows the edges to be seen and admired, and cn be eaten in just 2 bites.
  • Store in an airtight box.

Variations

  • Chocolate: Add 15-20g cocoa to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with cocoa.
  • Matcha: Add 15-20g matcha powder to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with a mixture of matcha and milk powder, or just matcha.
  • Fruit variations: Add 15-20g freeze-dried fruit powders (available here) to the pan together with the milk powder, use whole dried fruit in the filling and dust with extra fruit powder.
  • Coffee: Add 15-20g espresso coffee powder to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with a mixture of coffee & milk powder.
  • Oats: Replace half of the biscuits with toasted, rolled oats.