Hello all and happy Monday!
Well the party was a great success, the birthday cake applauded and everyone had a wonderful time. I have to pay special homage to my cousin’s wonderful chocolate cheesecake, which was my personal favourite of the dessert table! Now that I’m back home, back to work (boo!) I thought I’d update the blog with two posts to complete this celebration cake bonanza.
Once the cakes from part 1 are ready to go, you need a filling. Now previous posts about the joys of lemon curd hint at my favoured cake filling, but I wanted something that was a little more exotic for a special occasion. Passion fruit always make me think of my grandparents. My granddad is South African, my grandparents lived there for a bit in the 1950s and the flavours of the southern hemisphere were always present in their house – or at least in their fruitbowl! So what better way to fill my grandma’s birthday cake.
Passion fruit curd adds an exotic zing of sweet and sharp and works well with the lemons in the cake and the sweetness of the icing. This recipe is adapted from the ever trusty and reliable bbc goodfood.
INGREDIENTS: 9 ripe passion fruit, 3 large eggs, 140g butter, 200-250g caster sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour, a few squirts of lemon juice to taste.
TIP: The passion fruits must be ripe to get the right sweet/sour balance, so you might want to buy them about a week before you plan to use them. The wrinklier the better – a smooth skin is an under-done fruit!
- Cut the passion fruits in half and scrape all the seeds and pulp into a food processor. Pulse it a few times, which will separate the pulp from the pips. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan set over a low heat. Use the back of a spoon to push as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible.
- PIPS OR NO PIPS? Now, at this point, most recipes I came across suggested reserving a few spoons of pips to put back in at the end. I’m not a fan of this personally, but you can do if you fancy. Pip look nice in a jar of homemade curd given as a present, but they are a tasteless and crunchy annoyance that is most likely going to get stuck in your teeth. As this curd was going into a cake (where you most certainly don’t want a crunch annoyance) I didn’t bother.
- Add the butter, cornflour, eggs and sugar to the pan and continue to stir over a low heat until everything is fully dissolved/melted.
- TIP: The reason I’ve given a range on the quantity of sugar is because it’s all about taste. If your fruits are still a bit too sharp you’ll need more sugar, if they are very sweet, you’ll need less. If you are unsure use about 225g and then use the lemon juice to adjust the taste.
- When everything is dissolved and you have a smooth mixture you need to keep on mixing. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to get it all thickening quicker. All you will make that way is scrambled egg. Keep mixing, remembering to scrape along the edges of the pan, and after up to 10 minutes (maybe more!) your mixture will thicken nicely.
- TIP: If you are making this curd to spread on toast, or stir into porridge, you might want a runnier consistency than I needed for filling a cake, so use 1/2 tablespoon less of cornflour.
- While it is thickening taste it. If you think it’s too sweet, use some lemon juice (a dribble at a time) to balance it out. If it’s too sharp use a little more sugar but make sure it dissolves. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in a whole lemon straight away – it’s a strong flavour which will take away the passion fruit taste.
- When its a good thick curdy consistency, take it off the heat. Unless you are going to use it immediately, when it has cooled decant into jars (remember to sterilise them!) and it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
And there you have it! An exotic but homely passion fruit curd all ready to be spread in a cake, or eat on toast, in yoghurt… the possibilities are endless!
This blog is, on the whole, about charting my successes (and occasional failure) in the world of baking. It’s quite straightforward really. However, the other day I began thinking about why I enjoy baking so much. If it were just about having something sweet to eat, surely I’d just pop to the local cafe or bakery as an easier means of getting my sweet fix!
The truth is the very act of baking is the part of the process that I find most enjoyable. I find it therapeutic and calming. Unlike life, you know that, for the most part, if you follow a set of instructions and processes you’ll get a known outcome. I miss that sort of certainty in the rest of my life at the moment – my PhD feels a bit like one large amorphous being without clear stages and, at times, with no end in sight. I’m not entirely sure where my life will head after I finish either. I know I’ll get married next year, but from then on it’s a bit of a mystery. That’s okay – at 30 I don’t need to chain myself to the spot just yet, but a bit of directionality is always comforting. Those afternoons when I can easily spend a few hours pottering around the kitchen, or just reading recipe books, planning when some new doughy delight will make its mark on my world, make that train of life slow down a bit and give me some real ‘me’ time just to think, enjoy life, and take in what’s around me.
This made me think a bit deeper (I know, dangerous territory) about how so many of life’s important moments are punctuated by memories of food. Now this may just be relevant to me, but I have a feeling there are other people out there who have memories made of taste and smell, as much as sight and sound. I hate to admit it, but my earliest memory is of being in some sort of fast food restaurant (might have started with Mc – you’d have to ask my mother). There were tables shaped like trains, and on that day I was more interested in driving the train than eating the food; a habit that didn’t last but I was only three.
Brought up in a traditional Jewish household, it’s unsurprising that food has plays such an important role in my life. The old saying that Jewish tradition is all about fasting and feasting is no joke, although I’ve never been one for the fasting. Seder nights are one of my favourite times of year. Yes I will always will the service forward at break-neck speed so that we can get to the eating part, but having that evening, when the whole family gets together and we share in the joy of stuffing ourselves silly over a long, drawn out night together can’t be beaten.
I remember my great-grandmother via the smells of roast dinners and the memory of salads with grapes in (terribly exotic when you’re five), my first proper holiday with Mr. Bandit included a beautiful night spent eating barbequed suckling pig and local red wine that our lovely landlady brought us – it literally tasted like holidays.
Food also plays a part in the bigger events life throws at us. When my grandfather passed away a few years ago the day of his funeral was spent mostly helping my mother butter what felt like a million bagels, and through providing all his loved ones with some culinary comfort, yet another person in my life became linked to foodie memories (although he was already famous for his refusal to eat anything that might have been remotely good for him. At 87 my mother way lying to him about what went into his dinner to get him to eat his greens).
This brings me to the food item most wholly associated with marking a life event – the wedding cake. Now a lot of people these days aren’t that bothered with a wedding cake. On the whole they are extortionate if you buy them from a bakery, and most sensible people don’t want to be making one in the days leading up to their wedding. But for me, this is one of the few wedding day traditions that I genuinely love. Cutting a cake, feeding each other’s souls both symbolically and physically and having something big enough that all your loved ones can join in that feast is a special and poignant moment. It’s not about how much icing, what tops the cake, how many tiers or what flavours – it’s about sharing a moment that engages all the senses.
So in a week that has brought life changing news to several of my nearest and dearest, news that will change lives for better and worse, I’ve thought a lot about how I remember the people and moments in my life. Some may read this and think I need to remove my head from my backside, others may identify, but I just wanted to put it out there, and share my thoughts on how something so simple as making a cake, baking a loaf or just sitting down to a meal with the people who mean most to you, can give you a moment to breathe, think and get a little perspective on what’s important.
Normal service will resume in the next post. For now, thanks for listening.
Anyone who knows me knows that there are two men in my life, one of whom I will be marrying next year. The other has four legs and a swooshy tail, and he’s called Harry.
Here’s Harry doing what he does best – looking a bit sleepy. I secretly think he’s a cat – no normal dog sleeps this much!
Now Harry is as much a fan of baking as anyone else I know. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Harry’s enthusiasm for food outshines even mine, which is saying something. When I bake, he is my constant companion. Ever optimistic, he waits by the kitchen door hoping that I’ll drop something and he can swoop in and get it. He’s always there, he’s my baking mascot.
Now anyone who has a dog, especially a lab, will know how they luuuuurve to eat. So a while back I started making Harry dog treats. Now don’t get me wrong, he eats dog food normally and I also buy treats from the pet shop – he doesn’t get fed Kobe beef of a silver platter or anything. I make him biscuits because I’m a cheapskate and I can make enough dog biccies to last months for £2.50! That is worth 15 minutes of my time every few months.
So baking is something that can be enjoyed by the whole family – everyone likes to lick the spoon!*
Woofs and Cheers
* This is Harry’s spatula! All for him so that he gets a chance to lick the spoon when I’ve baked him something.
Well, maybe it doesn’t go with EVERYTHING, but it is immense, and should be eaten as often as possible. Yesterday I posted a recipe for lemon meringue shortbread which used lemon curd and I commented on how I’d made my own. Now there’s a lot of good lemon curd available in the shops, but its so easy to make, and tastes way better homemade, so I thought I’d share this recipe. Now I realise its not strictly baking, but it can be used in so many recipes, including baking, that I thought it earned a spot on the blog.
Lemon Curd: 2 level tablespoons of cornflour, 100g golden caster sugar (you can use the refined white stuff if you like – that will give it a yellower colour), finely grated zest of 2 lemons, juice of three lemons (or two if you prefer it sweeter and less lemony), juice from a small orange, 85g of butter, 3 egg yolks and one whole egg.
- Put the cornflour, caster sugar and zest into a saucepan with the lemon juice and heat gently. Add water to the orange juice to make it up to 200ml and then pour that in as well. Top Tip: pour the orange and lemon juice through a strainer to catch any bits or pips – you don’t want them messing with your lovely smooth lemon curd!
- Cook and stir over a medium heat until the mixture smooths and thickens.
- Take off the heat and beat in the butter, which you’ll need to cut into cubes.
- When cooled a little add the eggs and beat that in too. It will still be hot, but too hot and the eggs will scramble, which you really don’t want.
- Return the mixture to the heat and keep stirring. It’ll thicken up. Keep going until the mixture ‘dollops’ off the spoon. Then take off the heat and set aside to cool.
You could use the mixture now as a filling for a lemon tart of meringue pie, or you can store it for later. If you want to store it, it’ll need to go in the fridge. Sterilise some jars (it filled two small ones) and pop it in. When the jars are completely cool pop them in the fridge. Because of the fresh ingredients, the curd will only keep for about 1-2 weeks. Frankly, that’s long enough for it all to go in our house!
Here are some ideas of things to do with the lush new addition to your fridge:
- Have it for breakfast! It goes on toast or crumpets, but also lovely swirled into yoghurt with some fruit
- Put it in a cake! Makes a change from a strawberry jam Victoria sandwich, just spread in the middle of a sponge layer cake and then cover the cake with lemon butter icing.
- Have it with ice-cream! Made a great sauce.
- Give it away! Wrap a circle of brown paper around the lid and tie with a ribbon. Hand it to someone else who loves lemon curd.
- Stick a spoon in the jar when no one is looking! Ssssshhhhhh. I won’t tell if you don’t.
Love and Lemons,
So, this weekend we were supposed to be going to Holland for my brother’s 10th wedding anniversary but, as we are very silly people, we discovered at 1am this morning that we’d lost our passports! So no trip away for us. Majorly disappointing, not only because we’ll miss the party, but because we had planned 2 days in Amsterdam, and I was looking forward to lots of yummy food – including sampling some nice cake!
The upside is that I had time to do something with the bananas that were slowly going off in the fruitbowl. The result is chocolate banana bread, which smells amazing and has already cheered me up immeasurably. Sort of based on the Primrose Hill Bakery version, but I prefer less sugar and some added extras.
So if anyone wants to give it a go, here’s what I did:
Beat 130g butter (soft) with 220g caster sugar until its all nice and soft. Mix in a slurp of vanilla extract and two eggs (best to do them one at a time). You should have an amazing sugary mixture. I tasted it just to make sure, but I realise this isn’t always the approved tactic. Get 4 small ripe bananas and mash them up, then mix that its the sugary eggy mixture too. Sift 250g plain flour with two teaspoons of baking powder into a separate bowl and then add it to the wet mixture a bit at a time until its all mixed in. I also added a dash of water. Finally, get 200g dark chocolate and 60g of walnuts, pop them in a bag and beat the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin. I left the pieces all different sizes, so that you never know what you’re going to get in a mouthful. Shove it all in a greased loaf tin and put it into an oven at 180 degrees for 40-50 mins (poke it with a skewer to check).
I would also recommend adding some butterscotch pieces instead of the chocolate.
The results, whatever additions you make, are delicious. Its particularly nice served warm with ice-cream, or toasted under the grill with butter. nomnomnom….
Have a lovely long weekend one and all – I’m not really one for bunting and street parties but I always like an excuse for a nice bit of cake.