Saturday, 7 July 2012

Playing with chocolate

Here I am, bright eyed and bushy tailed and feeling positive about the recipe testing. Well, mostly. It's Vegan Chocolate Cake Day and the first batter is in the oven.
I thought you might like to follow how it's all going. I converted the American recipe to metric for ease of use.

Joy The Baker's Cake (ish)

Dry -
380g plain flour
300g sugar
50g cocoa
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp baking powder
Wet -
250ml warm strong coffee
125ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
Sift the dry ingredients together to thoroughly combine them. In a jug, mix the wet ingredients together and pour them into the dry ingredients. mix until combined. This is a very thick batter indeed - i kept re-reading it hoping for more liquid. 
Joy bakes hers in a bundt tin. I've gone for a deep 8"/20cm tin because the extra surface area of bundt cakes means they tend to dry out more quickly which is no good for a cafe, which needs cake to remain saleable for longer.
As it's a very deep cake it needs 50 minutes to bake. 180 degrees C, as usual.

On reflection, I would be better with two sandwich tins. It rose much higher than I expected and I was concerned that the outer bits were overdone by the time the centre was cooked.  It smelled good. I cut it horizontally (ish) and spread it with the third glaze (see below).

Oh, funny story - We have some friends who wanted to serve a raspberry sorbet and langue du chat biscuits for dessert at an event.  The recipe was American and asked that the biscuits be baked at 320 degrees. My friend didn't look at the oven dial and think "Mine only goes up to 250, so something must be wrong here." Nope. She thought "I can only get up to 250 so it might need a little longer."
She didn't notice that the American recipe was in Fahrenheit and her British oven was in Celsius.
The biscuits were charcoal. She decided raspberry sorbet on its own was dessert enough. Smart woman

Cake from AliciaK at Instructables (mostly)

180g plain flour
200g sugar
35g cocoa
1tsp bicarb
1/2tsp salt
250ml warm water or coffee
80ml vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla
1tsp cider vinegar

Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the wet ingredients together in a jug and pour into the dry. This one's a very wet batter! Pour into a 9"/23cm square tin and bake for 30 mins.
This came out of the oven looking dark and moist. It is a low traybake, good for parties and multiple servings.

Glaze 1

50g Trex
50g sugar
100ml water
250g icing sugar
20g cocoa

Heat the fat, sugar and water together until dissolved. Sift in the icing sugar and cocoa, beat well and pour over the cake.
I started out with a straight substitution - vegetable fat for butter. I make this glaze a lot - it's runny and if left undisturbed will set with a lovely dark gloss.
Unfortunately, this was one of those moments when I am reminded that I am just a domestic chemist. The sugar crystalised immediately. I tried sieving out the chunks of sugar but it was still gritty.  Total failure as a glaze. On the plus side, I bet it would make a kick-ass beauty product.  Forcing it through the sieve left me with soft, silky hands.
Ho hum.

Glaze 2

200g dark chocolate (check no milk solids!)
80ml soy milk

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, stir in the milk, spread over the cake
Wow, soya milk much more yellow than i expected. Smells a little strange. However, melted with athe dark chocolate it seemed to work well.  A more bitter topping than I'd planned, and definitely a 'Grown up' icing rather than a kid's cake.

Glaze 3 - 

200g icing sugar
30g cocoa
splash of coffee

Sift the cocoa and icing sugar together, mix in the coffee until smooth.


Cake 1 was too dry as a deep cake. However, the mouthfeel was better overall, and it certainly looked the part. The dark chocolate with soya milk made the cake too bitter. 
Cake 2 was very moist and had too little substance to it. Miss B loved it, but all the adults found it too insubstantial and commercial for 'real' cake. Glaze 3 worked a treat, though. Although not overly rich in flavour it added moisture and sweetness to the cake.

Therefore, I am going to bake Cake 1 in two sandwich tins for 22 mins, and use Glaze 3 both between the layers and over the top of the cake.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Me and my big mouth

I did it again.  That "sure, no problem" thing.
A new vegetarian cafe is opening in Leeds next week and is interested in stocking some of my cakes as a trial. This a A Good Thing - a potential 4th outlet for my stuff.  However, they'd like vegan cakes.
I was a vegetarian for a good few years.  I still claim to be a veggie because it stops people serving me meat but I'm not vegetarian because I eat fish and am not nearly so worried about rennet and so on these days. I love veggie cafes - the old cooperative Roots and Fruits was one of my favourite haunts; it's great to have a decent choice of things for lunch apart from cheese or egg sandwiches. I like vegetarianism and love heaps of vegetarians.  I love my vegan pals too (waves at Ali and Kram).
I have a number of dairy free recipes that are wonderful. They produce lovely, long-lasting cake with a delicate and moist crumb. I'm totally fine making dairy free cakes.
It's eggs.  I don't like cakes without egg in.  They aren't fun to make (at least in my experience so far.) They aren't as reliable and the texture isn't right. Those I've had in cafes have been rather heavy, wholemeal-y and worthy. Cake can be a lot of things but it really oughtn't be worthy.
Then there are our 9 free range hens in the back garden - as spoilt a bunch of birds  I've met. They looked under the weather so I was making them porridge with Marmite and calcium earlier this week (Yes I know it sounds vile but they love it and it is ferociously good for them). Our household eggs come from them and my business eggs come from a lovely free range flock that the extremely ace Ian Taylor keeps. I know veganism is more complicated than just animal welfare but I do think the eggs I use come from very well looked-after chickens.

Eggless cake recipes are often American, with things we find harder to source here.  Heaps of them call for apple sauce, which is not sold in the gigantic jars in the supermarket like is was in Canada when I grew up.  I don't have time to make my own applesauce before making my own cakes. Some recipes call for cane juice, egg replacer, or xanthan gum (I have no idea what that is).

So there I am, talking on the phone to the nice woman about her new cafe and saying "Sure, no problem," in answer to her request for vegan chocolate cakes while inwardly shouting Oh Bloody Hell, How'm I Going To Manage That?? (Recipes and suggestions welcome!)

And that is how, instead of having a morning off, I will be spending tomorrow experimenting with vegan recipes.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

O Canada

It's July 1st. The garden fence is bedecked with maple leaf bunting, there are flags in all the flower beds, the kids are wearing red and white and I am in my official Olympic Team Canada Hockey shirt.  Happy Canada Day!
I wanted to bake something to celebrate.  Some years I make maple cookies, a variant on gingerbreads with a healthy dose of maple syrup.  Some years it's maple and pecan melting moments. If I think of a quintessentially Canadian baked treat, I think of butter tarts.  However, it appears most others think of Nanaimo bars.
I have to admit I'd never heard of them until a Canadian acquaintance asked if I could bake some. I guess they hadn't spread to small town southern Ontario by 1985, the year I left to live in the UK. However, I googled for recipes and they look delicious.
 The story goes that Mabel Jenkins, a woman from just south of Nanaimo British Colombia made these bars for a baking competition in the 1950s. They became hugely popular, spread far and wide, and apparently have been sold by the mighty Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain. (Although the idea of going to Tim Horton's for anything other than a Dutchie is madness).
I didn't get the chance to bake them for my fellow Canuck when he originally asked. I thought Canada Day would be the ideal opportunity to rectify that.
I followed the recipe from here for the most practical of reasons. Many recipes call for almonds, which I do not have. This one had walnuts or pecans - I have both and I LOVE pecans. A clear winner for me!

115g butter
50g caster sugar
30g cocoa
1 beaten egg
200g crushed digestive biscuits
50g dessicated coconut
50g chopped pecans (or walnuts, or almonds, blah blah blah.)
Melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa. Add the beaten egg and return to the heat briefly, beating furiously to stop the egg getting scrambled.  Once thickened, remove from the heat and mix in the digestive crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the mixture into an 8" square tin and refrigerate for 1 hour

50g soft butter
2 tbs custard powder
splash of vanilla
230g icing sugar
2-3 tbs double cream
Beat the ingredients together to make a spreadable buttercream, adding just enough cream to make it easy to work with. Spread across the base layer and refrigerate for 30 mins

120g dark chocolate
1 tbs butter
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  When liquid enough to pour, spread across the custard layer. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

As I type, the tray of bars is cooling in the fridge ready for slicing. They are VERY rich and sweet - I haven't had a finished bar but the constituent parts are enough to dissolve my teeth just looking at them. The kids are dying to tuck in. I'll report back when I can tell you how the bars have gone down.

Happy 145th birthday, Canada!

Edited to add - Oh. My. God. Terrifyingly sweet and rich, yes, but absolutely lush. The kids are already begging for more. If you fancy some, I'd drop by our house sharpish!