Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

This is a classic and simple way of making a cake that turns up with minor variations in quite a few different countries. I first came across it in France where it often seems to be the first cake that children are taught to make because it’s easy, very forgiving and there’s no weighing needed.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to select from our cuttings, clippings and old hand-written recipes. I'm very happy to do that – in fact, I should do it more often. Reaching into the magic cupboard containing my ‘library’ I came up with a notebook containing a mixture of hand-written and torn-out recipes dating from the 1990s. From that I randomly selected this yogurt cake, or I should really say ‘gateau au yaourt’ since it’s taken from a French magazine (although I'm not sure which one).

Lemon or lime is more commonly used to flavour this cake, but grapefruit is actually a very pleasant change. I have to confess to making two minor changes to the recipe. I added the grapefruit liqueur because I just love the stuff – it’s entirely optional. I also reduced the amount of sugar a little. Classically, the ratio used for the cake is one pot of yogurt, two pots of sugar and three pots of flour but, although that’s easy to remember, I think it’s a bit too sweet.

I used a plain, full-fat yogurt for this cake, but flavoured yogurts will work well. It’s also possible to use low-fat yogurt, provided that it’s not too thin – you will lose a little richness in the finished cake, though. Although I didn't add one this time, it’s quite common to make a syrup to drizzle over the cake, especially if you’re using it as a dessert.
Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
1 pot plain yogurt, 150 g (see note above)
2 eggs
1½ yogurt pots of caster sugar
3 yogurt pots of plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
½ yogurt pot of sunflower (or other neutral oil)
Zest of 1 small grapefruit
1 tbsp grapefruit liqueur

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a cake tin. I followed the French instructions and used a 22 cm cake tin, which produces a relatively thin cake. If you’d prefer a taller, more British cake, then use a smaller tin – around 20 cm should be fine.

Place the yogurt in a bowl. Wash out and dry the yogurt pot to use as a measure for the other ingredients. Whisk the eggs into the yogurt one at a time.

Once the eggs are combined, whisk in the sugar followed by the flour. It’s best to add the flour gradually to ensure that you don’t get any lumps in the mixture. It’s important to combine everything well but don’t overdo the whisking at this stage.

Gradually pour in the oil while continuing to whisk gently. Finally, stir in the grapefruit zest and liqueur.

Pour the finished mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 35 minutes or until a knife-point inserted into the centre comes out clean.

You have to admit, that's a pretty easy cake. En effet, c'est du gâteau.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Debden Chocolate Pudding

If you've not come across this little pudding before, then you might think that the recipe sounds ridiculous. Well, it is a bit odd, but it does works, honest. It’s one of those puddings that separates out during cooking. You should end up with three layers: a crunchy sweet topping, a chocolate sponge middle and a chocolate fudgey base.  It’s indulgent and delicious without being too ridiculously high in fat. What’s not to like there?

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Lucy over at The Kitchen Maid and she’s asked us to share a famous chocolate recipe.  Well this one’s famous. Or, at least, it used to be famous. Around the early to mid 1980s this dish seemed to turn up everywhere. OK, it’s old-fashioned and it’s not photogenic but it’s also delicious and it definitely doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

I really don’t know the origins of this dish. When I first came across it in the 1970s I’m pretty sure that I was told it was named after the place in Essex. Later someone told me that it was named after a Mrs or Mr Debden. More recently I found that there’s a similar American dish called Denver pudding. As usual, I'm confused.

You can eat Debden pudding warm or chilled but it’s at its best when served at room temperature, I think. A little cream, ice cream or thick yogurt would be a nice addition. This should serve 6 – although, frankly I could eat the whole thing myself.
Debden Pudding
120 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
170 g granulated sugar (ideally the golden, unrefined type)
30 g unsalted butter
40 g dark chocolate
140 ml milk (preferably full-fat, although semi-skimmed will work)
50 g demerara sugar
50 g caster sugar
20 g cocoa powder
175 ml cold water

You’ll need an ovenproof dish that will hold at least 900 ml. Butter the dish. Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Mix together the flour, the baking powder and the granulated sugar. Melt the butter and chocolate together over a bowl of simmering water or in the microwave. Stir the butter and chocolate mixture into the flour and sugar, followed by the milk. The mixture won’t look promising at this stage, but don’t worry – trust me, I’m a blogger.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the mixture in the dish. Do the same with the caster sugar and, finally, with the cocoa powder. Now carefully pour in the cold water, trying to avoid disturbing the layers of sugar and cocoa as far as possible.

Place in the oven and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the top has formed a crust. (The type of dish you use is likely to make a difference to the cooking time. The old-fashioned enamel tins are probably the quickest.) Allow the pudding to cool before serving. If you’re not planning to eat the pudding immediately, then store it in the fridge, but preferably return it to room temperature before serving.

The We Should Cocoa challenge was created by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Chele at Chocolate Teapot.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Palets de Dames

Gaze into the window of a boulangerie in the north of France and there’s a chance that you’ll spot some palets de dames.  Gaze into a number of boulangerie windows, though, and you might notice that the palets look very different.  They’re a pleasing little treat that’s somewhere between a cake and a biscuit but sometimes they have a smooth covering of fondant icing, sometimes no icing  at all and sometimes they contain currants or candied peel. Well, my version has a coating of apricot jam and a thin, lemony icing. I don’t really know if that’s authentic but it’s a recreation of the first palets that I ever came across while wandering around the Baie de Somme.
Baie de Somme
If you’re unfamiliar with the Baie de Somme, then I’d describe it as an area of spectacularly large and rapid tides, seabirds, seals, fine seafood,  salicorne (samphire), salt marsh lamb and some excellent baking among many other things. Happily for me, it’s also not all that far from the south of England.
Palets De Dames
Incidentally, they’re called palets de dames because ‘jeu de dames’ is French for the game of draughts (or checkers, if you’re not British). I've only ever seen white icing being used, though, so it might be a one-sided game.

For the palets:
     130 g unsalted butter, softened
     130 g icing sugar, sifted
     2 eggs, lightly beaten
     150 g plain flour, sifted
     75 g ground almonds
     Apricot jam

For the icing:
     225 g icing sugar
     1 tbsp lemon juice
     4 or 5 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Beat the butter briefly, then add the icing sugar and continue beating until light in colour and very smooth. Gradually add the eggs while continuing to beat the mixture. Stir in the flour, followed by the ground almonds. The flour and ground almonds need to be thoroughly combined, but don’t overwork the mixture at this stage.

Line a couple of oven trays with baking parchment or silicone sheets. If you want a regular and nicely rounded finish on the palets then you could pipe the mixture onto the baking trays in neat circles. That’s what a true patissière would do, I'm sure. On the other hand, if you don’t mind a touch of irregularity, then simply spoon small piles of the mixture onto the lined trays and flatten them a little with the back of the spoon. The amount here will make around 16 decent sized palets but you could make them smaller if you wished. Space the palets out to allow them to spread while baking.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes. The palets should feel fairly springy to the touch, should have a light golden colour around the edge but should remain pale in the centre. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, spread the tops with some apricot jam. This will be easier if the jam is warmed a little first, but allow the jam to cool before adding the icing. Prepare the icing by mixing together the icing sugar, the lemon juice and enough water to produce a fairly thin but not too watery icing. Spread the icing over the palets, being careful to avoid disturbing the apricot jam layer too much. Allow the icing to set  before enjoying with your favourite beverage. Store in an airtight container.

Tea Time Treats is a blogging challenge created by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked and this month's challenge, hosted by Lavender and Lovage, is for French treats. So that's completely within my comfort zone and I can't resist entering this little effort.