easter apple cake

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today is Easter Sunday! a day with a promise. that we may also share in the hope and peace of our risen Christ. a day where families come together to eat, pray and love. as a child, my dad would buy me a large Easter chocolate egg, come every Easter. and i would look forward to cracking it open and nibbling on the petite pieces of sugary toffee, candy and marzipan it would contain amidst little strands of cellophane, confetti and yes, glitter! i would save the large chocolate egg shell for until the end, and slowly but surely devour it with every enticing bite. and this right there, was my little share of happiness! i don’t look at Easter eggs the same way anymore, they had their place in my childhood and that’s about it! in my journey to adulthood, i’d begun to resent overly cloying, sugar-inducing-coma treats (be it chocolate or otherwise) and take to more milder notes, read bittersweet chocolate and likewise. and that is how i like my baked goods too, flavourful but not in an overpowering way.

this Easter, i was planning on baking something that did not have the traditional carrot or coconut in it. i was also looking to put to good use a bottle of blackcurrant liqueur or creme de cassis that was handpicked with love all the way from Dijon, France by a loved one! i had almost decided on going with a flourless chocolate cassis cake, after having done one final roll call on the ingredients. and then off i went grocery shopping for the week ahead. and whilst at it, a crate of red glossy gala apples caught my fancy, and before i knew it, it had me planning on an apple cake, having long forgotten the bars of dark chocolate and sticks of butter back on my kitchen countertop that were waiting to be bain-marie-d!

i’ve talked about my love for bananas and banana bread. anything apple in fruit comes next. be it apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp, apple strudel, or simply a good old apple cake. i once baked a modest breakfast apple kuchen (German for cake), for a German colleague who came calling on his first ever trip to India. and when he came back for a second helping, i knew i had had, his approval! (i can’t help but also make a mention of a large jar of Nutella that he spotted on my kitchen counter and my Nutella bread pudding that he polished off with equal allegiance – and that was quite “das Frühstück!”).

the key ingredient to a good apple cake is cinnamon. i wonder how one got around to marrying the two flavours. all glory be to him! of all spices, cinnamon is my favourite. next comes star anise, and nutmeg, a close third. cinnamon spells warmth and almost always figures in winter treats. but a good apple cake is welcome anytime in the year!

as always and in keeping with my minimalistic principle, simple staple pantry ingredients go into making this apple cake. butter, sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. this time around, i substituted light brown muscovado sugar for castor for a typical Danish apple cake or Æblekage preparation. and it payed. with a moist, tender crumb from the butter, brown sugar and apple, and the caramelized walnuts adding to crunch. and that is besides the aromatic cinnamon notes wafting through your home, filling up your senses – an added incentive, and one that comes with the joys of home baking!

adapted from SBS Food – Danish Apple Cake and Global Table Adventure – Danish Apple Cake


ingredients

185g butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown muscovado sugar
1/3 cup light brown muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
185g all purpose flour
2 large gala apples, peeled and cored and thinly sliced into wedges
1/3 cup walnuts

instructions

preheat the oven to 180°C. brush the base and sides of a 22 cm (base measurement) springform tin with butter and line the base with parchment paper.

use a stand or hand mixer to beat the butter, 3/4th cup sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. sift together the flour and baking powder. add to the butter mixture and fold in until just combined. do not overmix.

combine the extra 75 g (⅓ cup) light brown muscovado sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and set aside. spread half the cake batter over the base of the prepared tin. arrange half the apples over the batter and then sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar. repeat with the remaining cake batter, apples and cinnamon sugar.

bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. let the cake stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and having it cool completely.


i baked this after a short nap late evening from after the grocery shopping and feared i would not finish in time for the Easter vigil mass. the cake was just about done and i managed to get it off the tin onto the cooling rack in between dressing for mass. and after i was home (from mass) almost midnight, the cake was sitting at room temperature waiting to be transferred into an airtight container to be sliced the morning after on Easter for breakfast. i was glad i went with baking this instead of the chocolate cassis cake, i couldn’t have afforded to be high so early in the day after all!

Happy Easter, everyone!

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banana quick bread

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the humble banana is my favorite of fruits. instant energizer coupled with instant gratification. and as a child, this was only corroborated in watching of both sportsmen and women snack on a banana between their games in a tennis match. bananas wouldn’t really last that long enough for them to be consumed in cooked form, but if and when they did, which was such a shame, my mum would make something of them, such as these simple breakfast pancakes from whole wheat flour, fresh grated coconut, mashed bananas, milk and sugar. or tea-time banana fritters (ripe plantains, sliced and dunked in a batter made from flour, water and sugar, pan-fried, think caramelized fried plantains, an absolute caribbean delicacy). or fried dumplings from a batter of rice flour, coconut milk, mashed bananas, jaggery or palm sugar with a hint of cardamom, for dessert. yes, i was spoilt for choice.

i do occasionally indulge in banana fritters and pancakes, but what really makes me happy is banana quick bread. “bread” ‘coz it’s baked in a loaf pan and “quick” ‘coz that’s just implied. sometimes i buy a bunch of bananas and resist eating them until they’re all freckled and brown just so they could be turned into banana bread. and well, it isn’t always a long wait. especially during the summers, when they can ripen really fast.

did you know?

eating a banana can cheer you up! bananas are the only fruit that contain amino acid tryptophan plus vitamin B6, which together help the body produce serotonin – a natural chemical that acts like a stress buster.

my basic banana bread recipe is a no-brainer, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, half a cup butter or oil, 2 large eggs, a tsp of baking soda and of course, the key ingredient, mashed bananas, 3 large ones, or more!

over the years i’ve tweaked the proportions for that extra moistness and flavour. but no matter what you do, you can’t really go wrong with this. ‘coz it’s that simple. and if you still do, then you’re just acting on purpose! there’s no creaming of butter and sugar required here, just mixing of dry and wet ingredients separately and then folding the dry into the wet. that’s about it.

this recipe makes a size smaller than the traditional loaf, but it’s one i’ve used so many times, it’d be so wrong if i did not make a mention. i also had these sold at a bake sale once and they were all gone in no time. “i don’t like banana bread”, said no one ever!

this time around i had bananas that had gone so ripe, they were almost a golden nectar when peeled. it was then that i knew, the moistest banana bread ever, was waiting to be baked! i used Dominique Ansel’s banana bread recipe and the result was a buttery banana-loaded moist cake with a crust that alone was instagrammable.


ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups or 240g flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
3 large, overripe bananas, mashed
195g, unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

instructions
start off by preheating the oven to 180 deg celsius. grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. in a separate, larger bowl, beat the eggs together and add the mashed banana, sugar and melted butter. fold in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake until golden brown, or until a long toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. this took about an hour and 10 minutes. once done, take the loaf pan out of the oven and leave it on a rack to cool for 5 or 10 min. unmould the cake from the pan and continue to leave on the rack to cool completely before slicing. this was baked late evening and left overnight on my kitchen counter wrapped in foil to be sliced the morning after. it works for all cakes! every time!


you could easily substitute butter for oil, here are some recipes that have been tried and tested with oil.

banana bread from foodnetwork.com
banana bread from my catholic kitchen
Julia’s best banana bread from Bon Appetit

despite oil altering the taste a tad bit while still retaining moisture, i do believe it to be a healthier option if you happen to be a rabid baker. but unlike me, where i have only so many days such as these when i put on my apron and bake, i guess, butter is my only consolation. so i would stick to butter. ‘coz if there’s no butter/fat, no dairy and no sugar, it’s no good, throw it out! no prizes for guessing who said that.

so next time when you’re in a dilemma over not knowing whether to freeze overripe bananas and blitz them the day after for a breakfast smoothie or throw them away, hold your horses and bake this banana bread. chances are, you may never look at overripe bananas, the same way, again.

amazing andamans

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twenty sixteen came with the promise of travel. a trip to the amazing andaman & nicobar islands. of hills and mountains and plains and valleys, i have an affinity to the seas. so what better than a beach vacation?  a trip to the andaman islands starts with you having to choose from the southern, middle and northern islands, southern being the most popular choice. my southern andaman itinerary comprised Port Blair – the andamanese capital, Havelock island, Neil island, Ross island and the Jolly Buoy island. with island names as dreamy as these, i was all raring to go!

after having landed at Port Blair, the drive to the hotel alongside the sea bay looked and felt as would in any coastal town. up in the hotel room, i could not contain my excitement when the large window led me to this mighty view of the sea! that was when i knew for sure, my quest for incandescent solitude was here…

bay view at Port Blair

after a night’s stay at Port Blair, a ship cruise led us to Havelock, a wanted tourist destination. it was at Havelock that i discovered the little pleasures. it is true we dream in colors borrowed from the seas. the sea colors at Havelock looked surreal, myriad shades of blue straight out of my water color palette from school, a deep cobalt blue, an emerald green, a jade and turquoise, all at once. i stared into oblivion standing at the rugged shoreline laced with coral and driftwood. i could not tell when the heavens ended and the earth began – it was the closest i had ever felt to the Creator. and then i soon got lost chasing pea crabs under bouldery corals, feeling the sun on my skin, sea breeze in my hair and sand in my toes, laying down under rustling coconut palms, and holding the Creator in awe and adoration. the beaches at Havelock are unique, each with its own distinct character. white and pristine in its unspoilt natural habitat.

Havelock island

Radhanagar beach on Havelock island

Elephant at Radhanagar beach on Havelock island

Elephant beach on Havelock island

two days into Havelock, it was time to cruise to Neil island. on arrival at the jetty, the waters at Neil were something else. crystal clear and as far as the naked eye could see with colors that would transport you into a world of your own and transcend your senses. the beaches here too have a unique landscape. some with a natural rock formation and others with a natural forested coastline. all the while reminding you of the mighty Creator in all of His glory.

reflection at jetty on Neil island

Neil island

Lakshmanpur beach on Neil island

Bharatpur beach on Neil island

from Neil it was back to Port Blair for day trips to Ross and Jolly Buoy islands. Ross island was one with so much history to it that it left me wanting to study the whole bygone era. Jolly Buoy island was one where the secrets of the ocean were revealed with its many coral reefs thriving with life from its many creatures living beneath. the play of colors sent me into a tizzy, with myriad colored fish, sea anemones, jelly fish, starfish, octopus, oysters, and live corals all co-existing in harmony, sometimes playing prey and sometimes predator, all at once.

the church ruins on Ross island

view from Ross island

view from Jolly Buoy island

with ocean waters as far as the eye can see; a deep cobalt blue, emerald, turquoise and jade – all at once, the pristine white sandy beaches and the rugged forested coastline, the vibrant marine coral reefs of the ocean bed, the star-stud blanketed nightfall sky, the beauty of the andamans overwhelms, enthrals and stays with you forever! my trip had me thanking and praising God for His wonderful bounty!

some shots from my Instagram account; do follow me for more!

easy breakfast pancakes

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i look forward to saturdays. the promise of good times. starting with a good breakfast. eggs always do figure in my saturday breakfasts, they being the most versatile of foods. and then there are times when i feel like going the extra mile. my earliest memory of breakfast pancakes was watching my mum whip up a simple batter of wheat flour, coconut milk, eggs and sugar in our kitchen and cooking these off a griddle pan. sometimes she would incorporate mashed bananas into the batter adding to character and taste.

“I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes.” ― Kathleen Flinn, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family

pancakes really are the simplest of breakfasts that can be made in no time with modest ingredients from your pantry. nothing fancy. sans culinary genius. simple, yet satisfying!

adapted from Inspired Taste


ingredients
3/4 cups (105 grams) whole wheat flour
3/4 cups (105 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups milk, dairy or non-diary if you please
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for your frypan
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

instructions
whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder in a mixing bowl, set aside. whisk milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla together in another bowl until blended. make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet milk mixture. or simply break the egg into the flour mixture followed by pouring in the melted butter, milk and vanilla, like i do. whisk until all ingredients have been incorporated. however do not overmix coz that would lead to tough pancakes, which is just really sad. heat a large frypan over medium heat. lightly brush the pan with melted butter. spoon a 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan and gently pan out into a circle. when the top of the pancake breaks out into bubbles, gently flip over. once flipped, cook 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked in the middle. repeat for the remainder of the batter.


i like my pancakes with a generous drizzle of honey or maple syrup. but what really elevates my experience is a dollop of Nutella on a hot pancake just off the pan. you could also serve them with peanut butter, jam preserves or a fresh fruit coulis. or simply a knob of butter. ‘coz anything is better with butter, so good!

devil’s food cake

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Rachel Allen
Donna Hay
Jamie Oliver
Nigel Slater…

just some of the legendary chefs whose culinary shows i’ve watched with rapture and complete bewilderment. but if there’s one i had to single out, the only true domestic goddess, it has to be Nigella Lawson. there was nothing i did not hold in awe of her shows (nigella feasts, nigella express, nigellissima). be it her flawless ease of cooking, her engaging and entertaining narrative, her decadent bakes, her loaded pantry (complete with fairy lights!) or her fully functional kitchen, it was poetry and romance all the way! read what Nigella has to say about her kitchen here.

cake baking has to be, however innocently, one of the great culinary scams. it implies effort, it implies domestic prowess, but believe me, it’s easy. – Nigella Lawson

long after i’d watched all of her episodes plus reruns, i thought the time had come to overcome my fears and replicate the culinary genius. my first attempt (and success) was met with this dense chocolate loaf cake. i think it was here that i discovered my love for muscovado sugar – dark to be precise. though i’d pinned her devil’s food cake recipe one just too many times, i was waiting on a special occasion, to bake this, and my first-ever-layer-cake-to-be. and when came a dear birthday around the corner, i decided to give this a shot. and i’m so glad i did!


ingredients
FOR THE CAKE
50 grams best-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
100 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
250 millilitres boiling water
125 grams soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
150 grams caster sugar
225 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
FOR THE FROSTING
125 millilitres water
30 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
175 grams unsalted butter (cubed)
300 grams best-quality dark chocolate (finely chopped)

instructions
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Line the bottoms of two 20cm / 8inch round sandwich tins with baking parchment and butter the sides.

Put the cocoa and 100g / half cup dark muscovado sugar into a bowl with a bit of space to spare, and pour in the boiling water. Whisk to mix, then set aside.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating well until pale and fluffy.

While this is going on – or as soon as you stop if you’re mixing by hand – stir the flour, baking powder and bicarb together in another bowl, and set aside for a moment.

Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar – mixing all the while – then drop in 1 egg, quickly followed by a scoopful of flour mixture, then the second egg.

Keep mixing and incorporate the rest of the dried ingredients for the cake, then finally mix and fold in the cocoa mixture, scraping its bowl well with a spatula.

Divide this fabulously chocolatey batter between the 2 prepared tins and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Take the tins out and leave them on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes, before turning the cakes out to cool.

But as soon as the cakes are in the oven, get started on your frosting: put the water, 30g / 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar and 175g / 1 1/2 sticks butter in a pan over a low heat to melt.

When this mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirling the pan so that all the chocolate is hit with heat, then leave for a minute to melt before whisking till smooth and glossy.

Leave for about 1 hour, whisking now and again – when you’re passing the pan – by which time the cakes will be cooled, and ready for the frosting.

Set one of the cooled cakes, with its top side down, on a cake stand or plate, and spread with about a third of the frosting, then top that with the second cake, regular way up, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides, swirling away with your spatula.


this was the best birthday cake ever! moist, with a tender divine crumb and a luscious decadent frosting. forget the name, this cake is heavenly! make it. now!

chocolate pound cake

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after having baked several versions of a simple pound cake, i craved for something more. and what better than chocolate? i’d been on the lookout for a good chocolate pound recipe for long, but most of them came with either buttermilk or sour cream, which for me are sure recipe turnoffs. ya, i know you could make your own buttermilk but somehow that hasn’t gone down quite well with me. and then sour cream. that’s not easy to come by either. i wanted something that could be whipped up with simple ingredients from my pantry, as always.

your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain. ― Dave Barry

this recipe from cook’s country makes the perfect chocolate pound cake. with no buttermilk, and no sour cream, hallelujah anyone?! it is now my go-to recipe for a chocolate pound cake that’s moist and decadent, with a tender crumb. try it, you’ll see!

adapted from Tracey’s culinary adventures


ingredients
1 cup or 150g all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (i used Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa)
60g milk chocolate, finely chopped (i used Nestle’s smooth milk chocolate)
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup or 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature

instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the lower third. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour or line with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate to a heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling water over them and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is well combined and smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a stand mixer, combine the butter, cooled chocolate mixture, both sugars, and the vanilla. Beat on medium to medium-high speed until very fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until completely incorporated. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing just until combined. The batter might look curdled at this point, but that’s ok.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top into an even layer (the batter will almost completely fill the pan). Gently tap the pan on your work surface a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan and allow to cool completely.


i did not make the chocolate glaze as called for in the recipe. i thought it was great by itself. but if you must, a simple chocolate ganache would do. makes for a great trifle base too!

some shots from my Instagram account!

update april 9, 2016 :

i happened to bake this with carrefour’s 100% cacao and the result was a rich dark chocolate flavour. Hershey’s has taken a backseat for now.

      

sticky toffee pudding – what’s not to love?

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i don’t really know when was it that i happened to fall for this one. have always loved the idea of a date and walnut quick bread. or date pancakes. perhaps date granola bars. you get it.

if you read Enid Blyton as a child like i did, you would delight in this read.

an internet search on a sticky toffee pudding recipe returns endless results. but my search quite ended with this version from the guardian. i think the secret to a good sticky toffee pudding really lies in its toffee sauce. use only dark muscovado sugar and medjool dates for best results. and yes, serve warm! with ice cream, if you must.


ingredients
175g medjool dates, stoned and roughly chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml boiling water
50g unsalted butter, softened
80g caster sugar
80g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
175g flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g walnuts

for the toffee sauce
115g unsalted butter
75g golden caster sugar
40g dark muscovado sugar
140ml double cream

instructions
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Butter a deep bottom baking dish.

2. Make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a pan with a pinch of salt and heating slowly until the butter has melted, then turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour half the sauce into the base of the dish and then put it in the freezer while you make the rest of the pudding.

3. Put the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a heatproof dish and cover with boiling water. Leave to soften while you prepare the rest of the pudding.

4. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, and then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt until well combined, and then add the dates and their soaking water, and the walnuts, and mix well.

5. Take the dish out of the freezer and pour the batter on top of the toffee sauce. Put into the oven for 30 minutes, until firm to the touch, and then take out of the oven.

6. Heat the grill to medium, and poke a few small holes evenly over the surface with a skewer or fork, and then pour over the rest of the sauce. Put briefly under the grill, keeping an eye on it as it can easily burn.


this has really got to be the ultimate stodgy, gooey and unapologetically sweet sticky toffee pudding ever!

restaurants where i thought their version of sticky toffee pudding came, well, close to this! nevertheless, i’m no longer ordering this off a restaurant menu!

the black rabbit, bangalore

sticky #toffee #pudding #instapic #foodpic #foodgram #lazymornings

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the social, bangalore

sticky toffee pudding #pudding #brunch #lazymornings #stickytoffeepudding #bangalorefoodie #bangalorerestaurants

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fenny’s lounge, bangalore