Tuesday, 18 November 2014


In the midst of much birthday caking, it occurs to me that the cake recipe I have made more than any other this year has been Kuchen, from the Joy of Cooking.  If you don't have a copy of the cookbook,  there's a very nice blogpost with the recipe here.  Unfortunately, the ingredients are only in American measurements, so I'm hoping that the powers-that-be won't mind me including them here in metric (along with my own tweaks).
Gooseberry Kuchen, with Demerara streusel

I own three copies of the Joy -- the two volume paperback my Mom gave me for my 11th birthday,  a hardback that we got soon after we got married, which is falling apart, and a new copy of the version issued in 2006. But of late, I've been using the app more and more.  I've never used an app for recipes, but this has won me over.  There's lots of neat features, but the best one as far as I'm concerned is that it gives most ingredients in both weight and volume.

Basically this is a recipe in three parts -- there's the fruit, the cakey bit, and the streusel.  I leave the cake pretty much alone, but the other two components vary a fair bit.  Probably the best fruit we've done this year was peaches and blueberries.  But we've made it with gooseberries, rhubarb, sour cherries - pretty much any fruit I can find.  And my streusel is more likely to have muscovado sugar in it, and maybe some oats and flaked almonds, or pecans, depending on the fruit.     The recipe is a bit fiddly by my standards (3 bowls!), but once you get the hang of it, it's very straightforward. And worth it for the good taste.

I *do* try not to just copy recipes from cookbooks here, so, the text here comes directly from Megan Scott's guest blog linked to above and again here.  All I've done is add in metric measurements.  If you like it, I would encourage you to check out the app.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F  (180C). Grease a 9-inch springform pan or 9 × 2-inch round cake pan.

Prepare the streusel topping first. Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup turbinado or granulated sugar  65 grams  (I use either demerara or muscovado)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or rice flour  16 grams
2 tablespoons unsalted butter  30 grams
Blend these ingredients until crumbly. Add:
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped or sliced almonds   no equiv given - a handful? 
Set aside.

Peel, pit, and slice, then spread evenly in pan:
1 pound ripe apricots (about 3 cups sliced)  450 gr

Whisk together:
1 cup all-purpose flour  120 grams
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of one lemon  (I never bother with this...)

Beat in a large bowl until fluffy:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened  110grams
3/4 cup sugar  150 grams

Beat in:
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Beat in one at a time just until blended:
2 large eggs
Stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Scatter the streusel on top. Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake (avoiding the fruit) comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature on a rack.

What was all the fuss about?

It's that birthday week again here - 3 cakes in 5 days.  And I wanted something special for the first of them.  So, I somewhat rashly thought I'd try a Baked Alaska.  I'd totally forgotten about the GBBO hoo-ha until I started googling for recipes.  Panicked a little, but decided to plough on.

The online recipes varied wildly, so I mostly followed the advice in my trusty Joy of Cooking.  The first stage was to make my usual family chocolate cake, but in layers the night before.  Then when I got home from work at about 5.30, I covered a tray with foil, and put one of the layers on it.  I then stripped the cardboard off the tub of raspberry ripple icecream, sliced it up and put it in the centre of the cake, leaving a border around the edge.  The cake and ice cream then went back in the freezer, with some plasticwrap on it.  I whipped up 6 eggwhites, with some sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla, until they were stiff enough to hold a peak.  I think I over-whipped, as I was a bit stressed at this point. So while it looked nice in the bowl, the actual meringue on the cake lacked much in the way of curlicues.  But back in the freezer it went, just in time, before the ravening hordes arrived.  It could only have been in the freezer for an hour max, when I popped it out and into the hottest oven that I could generate.  I was aiming at 5 mins, but after 3 mins at 220+ C with fan assist, it was looking good, so I took it out.

This isn't going to win any style prizes, but boy did it taste good.  Definitely worth a try.