The recipe I have for you this week is more a set of guidelines that can be adapted to whatever takes your fancy or whatever you have to hand in the cupboards.
These individual cakes were inspired by a picture I saw of a Swiss cake, the Zuger Kirchetorte, which looked delightfully neat and elegant, as one might expect of the Swiss. I tried several recipes, but became increasingly frustrated by my own ham-fistedness in reproducing the elegance: the sponge was too thick, or the meringue too thin, or too soft or too fragile. In addition, it had a LOT of alcohol in it, which is nice for a special occasion but a bit much during daylight hours.
So I abandoned that idea for something smaller, which owes its composition to the Zuger Kirchetorte, but is also much more adaptable: you can dress it up or down, depending on whatever is to hand, even improvise with ready-made components if time or patience is short.
Essentially, these individually-sized cakes are sandwiches, with a dacquoise (hazelnut meringue) as the ‘bread’ and sponge cake as the ‘filling’, all stuck together and decorated with the sandwich ‘glue’ of your choice. The look substantial, but are very light to eat.
The possibilities for variation are endless:
- Meringue: I’ve used a hazelnut dacquoise but you could swap those out for pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts. You could even use plain meringue, or meringue shells from the supermarket. Alongside this, you can choose to flavour the meringues by adding in freeze-dried fruit powder to complement your other ingredients.
- Sponge: literally any sponge will do, plain vanilla, rich madeira, moist almond, fatless, genoise, joconde, flavoured however you like.
- Syrup: to make your sponge luscious and tender, you can soak it in a syrup of some kind. If you don’t want to have too many flavours, then a simple sugar syrup of half sugar, half water is fine. Or you can add flavouring to the syrup such as coffee, tea infusions, fruit juices, spirits such as Kirch, Maraschino, Disaronno, mead, madeira, rum, brandy, etc.
- Filling: I’ve used a dark chocolate ganache, to be honest, because I had some in the fridge left over from something else, but milk, white and caramelised are all good choices too, as are all flavours of buttercream. For simplicity, you can also use chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), spekuloos spread, even thick, smooth jams or fruit spreads.
- Garnish: for the outsides of the cake, something that will stick on easily and match your other flavour choices. I chose nibbed and toasted hazelnuts, because I used them in the dacquoise, but you could use flaked or slivered nuts, feuilletine, crumbled biscuits, freeze-dried fruit, chocolate sprinkles, meringue crumbs, chocolate shards.
I used baking rings made from small tinned food tins (5cm diameter tins from mushy peas, in case you’re wondering) opened at both ends, but these quantities will also make one large, 24cm cake if you prefer.
Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes
Makes 8 individual sandwiches or 1 large 24cm cake.
For the Sponge
You can choose your own favourite sponge recipe if preferred. This fatless sponge recipe also happens to be gluten-free.
2 large eggs
60 g of caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp hot water
50 g Green & Black’s cocoa
30 g of cornflour
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line your tin(s) with baking parchment. Butter the parchment.
- Sift the cocoa and cornflour together.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar, water and salt together over a saucepan of hot water for 3-4 minutes, until light and frothy.
- Remove from the heat and whisk until billowy and increased in volume (about 5 minutes).
- Gradually fold in half the cocoa and cornflour, then add the remainder and fold in.
- Transfer to your tin(s), filling each about half-way.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes (20-25 minutes for a large cake) until firm and springy and slightly shrunk from the sides.
- Cool on a wire rack.
For the Dacquoise
You can grind the hazelnuts finer, but I like the texture the slightly larger pieces give.
2 large eggwhites (80ml)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbs cornflour
60 g chopped, toasted hazelnuts
- Turn the oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
- Draw 16 circles using your baking rings as a guide onto a sheet of parchment, 2 for each sandwich.
- Turn the paper over and lay onto a baking sheet.
- Whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks, then sprinkle in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is firm and glossy.
- Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together and fold into the meringue.
- Sprinkle in the nuts and briefly mix.
- Spoon the dacquoise onto the prepared baking parchment and spread into the marked circles. Make sure it at least reaches the edges of the circles. It doesn’t have to be too accurate, as they can be trimmed after baking. Smooth over.
- Bake for 1 hour.
- Switch off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 15 minutes, then prop the oven door open and allow to cool completely.
- When cold, remove from the parchment and store in a ziplock bag until required.
For the Ganache
300g plain dark chocolate
150ml double cream
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
- Pour the cream into a small pan and bring to a boil.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Stir gently with a whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the ganache smooth and glossy.
For the syrup
50g caster sugar
flavouring to suit
- Put the sugar and water into a small pan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Add any flavouring to taste.
- Select the eight meringues with the smoothest bases and set aside. These will be used for the top of the sandwiches, for a neat finish.
- Put the remaining meringues on a tray and spoon over a layer of ganache.
- Trim the cakes level and set onto the ganache.
- Soak with the sugar syrup. It’s almost impossible to use too little. You can see from the photograph the syrup I used only soaked a little way into the sponge, so more is better.
- Add a second layer of ganache.
- Add the remaining meringues, turning them upside down, so that the smooth bases are uppermost.
- Sprinkle your decor into a tray.
- Spread the remaining ganache in a smooth layer around the sides of the sandwiches then roll in your chosen decoration. Set aside. If you’ve made one large cake, then hold your cake on one hand and lift up handfuls of your decoration and press into the sides.
- When all the sandwiches are coated, transfer to a dish and cover with clingfilm. This will keep the meringues from absorbing too much moisture.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to firm up.
- When ready to serve, dust the tops liberally with icing sugar and use a hot skewer to caramelise the sugar in an abstract design.
Simplicity is the order of the day with today’s post – the ultimate comfort food of tomato soup and a toasted sandwich. But just because it is simple, doesn’t mean there should be any compromise on flavour, and these recipes have maximum flavour with minimum fuss. Not as minimum as opening a tin, I grant you, but for just five active minutes of your time, this soup can be supped in just under an hour and is so simple, after the first time you won’t need to refer to the recipe ever again.
But do keep coming back to the blog, because I’d miss you otherwise!
This soup is extremely low in fat, gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan.
Makes approx. 1.5 litres
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – Aldi ‘Sweet Harvest’ are best for colour/flavour/value
2tbs vegetable oil
3tbs concentrated tomato paste
1 litre vegetable stock or water + bouillon
1 large potato to make 300g once peeled/cubed
salt & pepper to taste.
- Pour the chopped tomatoes onto a shallow ovenproof dish and spread out into a thin layer.
- Place in the oven and turn the heat to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, stirring thoroughly after 15 minutes, or until no excess liquid is visible.
- While the tomatoes are baking, peel and chop the onion.
- Add the oil to a saucepan, then add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. The object is to concentrate the flavour through evaporation, without allowing the onion to caramelise.
- When the tomatoes are done, scrape them into the saucepan with the onion, and add the tomato paste, stock and cubed potato.
- Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the potato is cooked.
- Use a stick blender to puree the soup.
- Rub through a fine-meshed sieve for extra smoothness.
- Return to the pan and warm through.
- Taste & add salt and pepper as liked.
- Add garlic: peel up to 6 cloves of garlic and toss them in the oil. Lift out and stir into the tomatoes to roast in the oven.
- Spice it up: red pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika or herbs such as rosemary or basil.
- Crunch time: Make some sippets by dicing bread into 1cm cubes and either frying them in a pan with oil or bake in the oven until crisped and brown.
- Meatify me! : Make some little meatballs from beef or lamb mince, fry them in a pan, drain on kitchen roll and add to each bowl before serving.
- Creamy: Add a little double cream or creme fraiche if liked, but in all honesty, it doesn’t need it.
- Fast Forward: If you need this even more quickly, this can be ready in as little as half the time. Once the tomatoes are in the oven, put everything else in the saucepan and simmer while the tomatoes bake. When the tomatoes are ready, stir everything together and blitz smooth.
Regular listeners will recall that over the winter I was without my oven, which included the grill I used for making toast. Yes, my kitchen is so small, I can’t afford to sacrifice the counter space for a toaster. So I used this method to make toast in a large non-stick pan, which makes delicious and perfect toast if you are prepared to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brown.
More usually, I use this method for toasted sandwiches because kitchen….small….no counter space…..etc, etc. but also because the toasted sandwiches it make are so much nicer than the ones I see made elsewhere AND it gives me a chance to have a bit of a rant, so here goes.
- Butter on the outside of the bread.
So greasy, and so messy too. I mean come on, people, we’re living in the 21st century with all its wonderful technological advances and more kitchen gadgetry than you could shake a stick at, which includes non-stick pans! There’s simply no need to go slathering on great schmears of butter on every available bread surface. Lay a slice of bread in a dry non-stick pan over heat, and it will brown, no fat needed.
- Squished bread
Whether by panini press or, if you’re old like me/in the UK/ both, by those electric sandwich makers, I’m just not a fan of bread being compressed and then welded together by melted cheese the temperature of LAVA. If you need industrial equipment to force your sandwich down to a manageable height for your mouth, you’re doing it wrong.
- Squished fillings
I like to savour every one of the additions to my melty cheese sandwich filling, which is tricky to do when it is squirting out the sides from being squished by some gadget.
The good news is, you don’t have to suffer any of the above with my patent-pending, counter-space-saving, practically-foolproof method of toasty sammich creation! The outsides of the sandwich are crisp, browned and free from grease and the insides are warm and melty. And so without further ado, on with the method!
The Non-Gadget Toasty Sammich Method
- Put a clean, dry non-stick pan on medium-low heat to warm up.
- Take 2 slices of your bread. Now it can be artisinal sourdough, or pre-sliced from a bag, no judgement here. This method will work beautifully with all types of bread.
- Lay one slice on something that will help you transfer the sandwich to the pan – a palette knife if your balance skills are good, a cake lifter if they’re not.
- Add a layer of butter onto the bread (optional). You can use other things such as mayonnaise or chutney if you prefer.
- Whatever cheese you’re using, add half in a layer over the bread. Either cut it in thin slices or dice it in 5mm cubes. The smaller/thinner the cheese pieces, the more easily they will melt.
- Add any additional flavourings. Purists maintain there is only ever cheese in a toasty cheese sammich (see top photo) but I am of the opinion that cheese is merely compulsory, not exclusive. There are some suggestions below for fillings that pair well with tomato soup. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Finish with the rest of your cheese. When this double layer of cheese melts, it will gently cradle the rest of your sandwich ingredients and hold them together so that your sandwich doesn’t fall apart, even when cut.
- Add the final piece of bread, buttered or not, as you like, and press down gently.
- Transfer the sandwich to the pan.
- To help melt the cheese effectively, cover your sandwich with a lid, preferably one that doesn’t press down upon the sandwich itself. If you non-stick pan has a lid, then use that. Personally, I use a lid from a small saucepan that sits snugly over the whole sandwich but is deep enough not to compress it. Ensuring the cheese is mostly melted before you turn the sandwich will help keep your filling where it is supposed to be – inside the sandwich. A lid will trap the heat underneath, effectively making a little oven and help to melt the cheese faster.
- When the underside of your sandwich is browned, (depending on the heat of your pan, around 5 minutes), slide under your utensil of choice and gently turn it over. If the cheese is melted, then you can leave off the lid, which will also keep the toasted top of the sandwich from becoming soggy through trapped moisture.
- Toast for a further 5 minutes until the underside is browned, then lift out of the pan.
- Cut your sandwich with either a pizza wheel, or with a sharp, serrated knife: don’t saw at it, make a sharp, forward-and-downward motion with the knife. You can see from the picture below, how beautifully crisp, dry and unsquished the toast is, and how the filling is melted but still held between the bread.
- Overnight Bread, vintage cheddar. If you’re in the UK, I can recommend (black pack) Collier’s Welsh cheddar, Wyke Farms Vintage cheddar (in a green pack) or a newly-discovered favourite Welsh slate-cavern aged cheddar from South Caernarfon Creameries, available at Sainsbury’s deli counters.
- Overnight Bread, diced Brunswick Ham, thinly-sliced Jazz/Braeburn apple, vintage cheddar.
- Sliced wholemeal bread, mix of finely diced mature cheddar & Gouda, thinly-sliced pickled cucumbers/gherkins. NB For best results, be sure they are brined and not in vinegar.
- Bacon or Bacon Jam, mature cheddar, de-seeded, diced tomato (not pictured).
- Cheese and chutney (not pictured).
This is another fantastic textured fudge recipe, but in a whole different way to the Condensed Milk Fudge.
It is made with whisked egg-whites and a hot sugar syrup, beaten to grain the sugar. The result is a dazzlingly white, almost marshmallow appearance. The magic, however, happens when you take a bite. Just like it’s namesake, Sea Foam Fudge melts away like a whisper.
It is positively ethereal. Which is why it needs a jolly great handful of cranberries, apricots and a few chopped nuts for zing and colour and a bit of texture. Some Yuletide flotsam, to be carried into your mouth on a cushion of sea foam, if you will. Or not. I tend to get a bit carried away with my extended metaphors.
In the US I believe this is called Divinity and lacks the fruit, but also veers dangerously (for my not-very-sweet-tooth) towards the soft and nougat-y.
As with meringues, this will absorb moisture if left uncovered, so pack into a ziplock bag for personal indulgence, or shiny, crackly cellophane if gifting as presents.
This comes from a delightful book in my collection – Sweet-Making For All by Helen Jerome, originally published in 1924. Just as with Ms Nell Heaton, I have great confidence in Ms Jerome’s recipes which are always clear and straightforward. If you come across any of their books, I can highly recommend them.
450g white granulated sugar
60g golden syrup or glucose
2 large egg whites
50g chopped nuts – pistachios are colourful, almonds keep things pale
50g chopped dried apricots
50g chopped cranberries – dried or candied
1tsp vanilla extract or 1tbs rum
- Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment.
- Put the sugar, syrup and water into a pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to a boil and continue to heat until the syrup reaches 130°C. Do not stir.
- When the temperature of the syrup reaches 120°C, start whisking the egg-whites until stiff. The temperature of the sugar syrup will rise relatively quickly, so keep an eye on each. Or get a glamorous assistant to help.
- Still whisking, pour the hot syrup slowly into the whisked egg-whites, as if making Italian meringue, and continue beating until the mixture begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Add the flavouring whilst whisking.
- When the mixture has lost its high sheen and thickened slightly add the fruit and nuts and continue beating until the mixture has thickened further and becomes cloud-like. NB This might happen suddenly, so be prepared.
- Smooth your Sea Foam into the tin. Alternatively, roll lightly into logs about 2cm in diameter Try not to squash out the air you’ve just whisked in as you do so. Wearing latex gloves or dusting your hands with cornflour, or both – will help.
- Cover lightly and allow to cool completely. If you can enclose your tin in a large ziplock bag to protect from humidity, so much the better.
- When cold, cut into squares and/or dip into tempered chocolate. Store in an airtight container.
 The glucose will keep the fudge dazzlingly white, the golden syrup will add a very pale golden hue.
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.
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
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 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
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
2tsp garam masala
60g tomato paste concentrate
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
250ml double cream or crème fraîche or unsweetened evaporated 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.
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.
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. IMPORTANT: Potato flour is made from RAW potatoes and is a bright white and very fine powder, with no discernible taste. It is NOT dehydrated cooked potato, which is coarse, yellowish and tastes of potato. That makes mashed potatoes when reconstituted and will add a similar texture to your cake. Readers in the US: use potato starch flour.
At first, I thought the cake 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.
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.
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.