Lemon polenta cake

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This is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe. As Nigella says, this is an Anglo-Italian crossover recipe. It’s basically an iced lemon drizzle cake made with polenta and ground almonds instead of wheat flour. I made it for my Art Class yesterday, and it seemed to be pretty popular. It’s also gluten-free provided you use gluten-free baking powder. This made 12 quite generous portions:

The cake:

  • olive oil for greasing the cake tin lining
  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g fine polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder (gluten-free if required)
  • 3 large eggs
  • finely grated zest from 2 unwaxed lemons (reserve the juice (see below))

The syrup:

  • juice of 2 lemons (see above)
  • 125g icing sugar

The icing:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 70g reduced fat cream cheese (eg Philadelphia or similar)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • zest from another unwaxed lemon
  • lemon juice to taste
  • a few lemon segments (for decoration)

Line the bottom and sides of a cake tin with baking parchment (I used a rectangular tin about 18cm x 27cm), which I also brushed with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas Mark 4).

Beat the butter, and when creamed, add the caster sugar (I used a hand held electric whisk).

Sift together the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder. Beat some of this into the butter/sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating with every addition.

Beat in the lemon zest and spoon the mixture (which should be quite stiff) into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until browned and cooked through (test with a fine skewer, if it comes out clean, then the cake is cooked). Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, leaving the cake in its tin.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

Prick the top of the cake all over with a large needle, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Make the icing by whisking together the mascarpone, the cream cheese and the icing sugar. Add a little lemon juice (to taste).

Turn out the cake. Spread the icing on top, and use a fork to make a close, lined pattern. Grate a little lemon zest over the icing, and cut the cake into squares.Decorate each square with a small piece of a lemon segment (use two or three segments in total).

I put each square in a muffin case, which I had ‘reshaped’ by folding around a suitably sized square plastic box (you could use a child’s wooden brick (clean it first!)).

 

 

Christmas pudding bread pudding

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A Christmas leftover recipe (Christmas pudding and brandy butter), which (if frozen) allows you to re-experience Christmas in small bites over the coming months. It’s based on my recipe for Bread Pudding.

Makes 12 ‘modest’ pieces:

  • 4 large ‘thick cut’ slices of stale wholemeal bread
  • 400g leftover Christmas Pudding
  • 100g leftover brandy butter (make sure it is a ‘fridge’ temperature so you can grate it into the above ingredients)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 nutmeg grated
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg (beaten)

Cut the bread into small cubes and put into a large bowl. Crumble in the Christmas pudding, grate in the brandy butter, add the spices and ensure the ingredients are well mixed. Stir in the milk and egg. Then scrunch the mixture with your fingers, ensuring that the bread is broken up and the pudding evenly distributed. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom of a cake tin with silicon paper (I used a tin about 20cm x 10cm). Transfer to the cake tin, smoothing the top. Bake for about 1.5 hours until firm and golden brown (cover with foil if browns too much).

When cooked, turn out onto a wire rack (removing the paper). Cut into squares. If freezing separate squares with silicon paper.

I think this is equally good, cold just like a cake; or hot with custard.

 

Rhubarb window cake

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I made this cake to go on the tea trolley (it was on the bottom shelf, so it doesn’t show up in the photo on that post) at my Mum’s funeral wake. I remember her making it regularly, but I didn’t have the recipe and I wasn’t sure how to put it together. The result was not quite what I remember. I recall slabs of yellow cake with deep pink windows in a regular pattern. I suspect Mum used ‘forced rhubarb‘ which would have been sweeter and a pinky-red colour (my (early autumn) rhubarb cooked to a yellowy-green colour). Also although I placed the rhubarb pieces on the uncooked cake mixture in a regular grid pattern, they moved during cooking. Never mind – it still tasted pretty good!

This quantity will enough sponge for a 27 x 18 x 3.5cm cake tin:

  • 110g butter (at room temperature) cut into small cubes
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • vanilla essence (exact amount depends on the strength of the essence (read the instructions on the bottle))

Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas Mark 4). Line the base of your tin with baking parchment and grease the sides of the tin with oil or butter.

Wash the rhubarb, dry with paper towel, and cut into 3cm lengths.

Put the butter into a mixing bowl. Sift together, into the bowl, the self-raising flour, the baking powder and the sugar. Add the eggs.

Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric whisk (for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and glossy).

Put the mixture into the tin, level off the surface and place the rhubarb pieces in a regular pattern on top of the cake mix. Place the cake in the oven until golden brown (about 25 minutes).

Cool on a wire rack. When cool, cut into squares and serve (the cooled cake will last about five days in an airtight container).

Bread pudding

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I’d rather over done it buying bread, and there was no room left in the freezer, so I thought that I’d make a bread pudding.

Makes 12 ‘modest’ pieces:

  • 250g stale bread
  • 250g mixed dried fruit
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 nutmeg grated
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 70g brown sugar (sifted)
  • 50g melted butter

Cut the bread into small cubes (some recipes suggest that you remove the crusts – I didn’t bother) and put into a large bowl. Add the fruit and spices (and ensure the ingredients are well mixed). Pour in the milk. Then scrunch the mixture with your fingers, ensuring that the bread is broken up and fruit evenly distributed. Stir in the egg and sugar (again stirring to ensure even distribution). Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom of a cake tin with silicon paper (I used a tin about 20cm x 10cm, but I think it would have been better to have a deeper mixture in a smaller tin). Stir the melted butter into the mixture and transfer to the cake tin, smoothing the top. Bake for about 1.5 hours until firm and golden brown (cover with foil if browns too much).

When cooked, turn out onto a wire rack (removing the paper). Cut into squares.

I think this is equally good, cold just like a cake; or hot with custard.

Muffins from left-overs

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What do you do with two overripe bananas, some slightly out of date double cream and dates left over from last Christmas? Answer: banana and date muffins.

Perhaps I should explain the cream. Double cream has about half the fat of oil. So if you have a recipe that uses 55ml of oil, you would need 110ml of double cream and would need to cut down on other liquid ingredients by 55ml. I should add that the ‘non-roundedness’ of the ingredient quantities in this recipe is because I have already cut the original recipe down by a third so that it yields 12 small muffins.

To make 12 small muffins:

  • 200g wholemeal plain flour
  • 4 heaped tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 65g brown sugar
  • 110g seeded chopped dates
  • 2 overripe bananas (mashed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 55ml  oil (or double the quantity of double cream)
  • 55ml milk (if not using double cream)
  • 12 small cakes cases

Put the cakes cases in a 12 hole bun tin. Pre-heat the oven (200C-210C/Gas Mark 5).

Sift together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice (the bran from the flour will remain in the sieve – just tip this onto the flour mixture and mix in with a spoon). Sift in the sugar and add the chopped dates. Mix well with the flour etc, ensuring that there are no sticky clumps of dates.

Beat together the bananas, eggs and double cream (or oil/milk combination). Add these to the flour mixture and mix together ensuring there are no areas of ‘dry’ flour.

Spoon into the cake cases, and cook in the top of a moderately hot oven (200C-210C/Gas Mark 5) for about 15 minutes (take a look after 12 minutes and turn the tin so that the front is at the back).

When cooked (golden brown). take out of oven, allow to stand for a minute or two and cool the muffins on a wire rack.

Muffins tend to go mouldy quite fast. So if they won’t be eaten within a couple of days, freeze them. Individual muffins can be defrosted in the microwave – in mine one muffin will be pleasantly warm after 2:15 minutes on defrost.

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