its like blue mondays…but purple.
hi. its been ages.
i went on a bit of a hiatus. its been a hectic several months of work, site, personal turmoil and not baking very much. i lost a good friend. his loss made no sense to me. the pain of it made me lose my words. but some wise man somewhere once said “this too shall pass”. i think the hurt will remain for a while yet but it has lessened with time. and my words seem to have come back. though in a stunted way that makes me sound erratic and not a little bit insane. bear with me. i got loads to tell you.
so i found myself pondering baking problems this week. its something i haven’t done in earnest for ages. the first one is that sometimes you will bake amazing things that people will not like. baking is a very personal thing. at a homely level it is a reflection of who we are. the flavours, textures, presentation are an expression of the inner you. i know that i put my heart on that side-plate next to your cup of tea. i bake for the enjoyment of the people i love. to reject my baked goods is to reject me…and in truth it hurts my feelings marvelous much. that’s why i often serve with the phrase ‘if you don’t like it lie to me”.
but in my ponderations this week i’ve realised that you really can’t (mustn’t in fact) take that sort of thing personally. you are more than your baked goods. you are lovely and delightful. me on the other hand…its my only redeeming quality :p
philosophy done. now on to the baking.
so following on from an epic lunch that some of our good friends hosted (also partially fuelled by a baking conundrum from the night before) i decided to try a blueberry upside down cake. the cake from lunch was a chewy decadent piece of awesomeness and i thought it would be a nice carrier for some baked blueberries. now before we get ahead of ourselves let’s lay some ground rules. i do not like baked fruit. until recently bananas were the only exception. i have now added blueberries and apple (but only if very very very finely sliced) to the mix.
right! so the night before lunch i wanted to bake a hungarian tart for some friends who were staying over. but i was toying with the idea of using blueberries instead of jam. i was shamefully low on interesting baking ingredients so i figured my stash of frozen blueberries might just save the day. i did however have some misgivings that the blueberries would make the biscuit base soggy. soggy biscuit is only allowed when you’ve just dunked it in some tea.
then that delicious chewy cake came into my life and i was like, hey…this could work.
so i got the recipe. my gracious host also pointed out that lemon zest worked well with blueberries. i made mental notes and decided to embark on some baking unchartered territory.
more thinking and plotting and manoeuvring.
first thing…what was i going to bake it in. i have loose bottom bakeware but the juice from the berries would just seep out of those. i settled on a good old-fashioned sandwich cake pan sans loose-bottom. the cake in question didn’t rise much so shallower was better. it was a 25cm pan.
then i googled blueberry upside-down cake. the long and short of it is that this cake is not pretty. seriously not what i had in mind. i didn’t like the way the blueberries kinda smooshed over the sides. it looked like a hot mess…cos it was fresh out the oven…and it was messy.
i wanted something nice and classy looking. so i’m thinking of arranging the blueberries in an inner ring of sorts. so that the edges are cake crust and not oozy berry. if you google blueberry upside down cake you’ll see what i mean.
so i’m engineering a solution that involves catering foil and cylinders. i love complications, i also love simplification of complications…and assonance.
i missed this…i missed you…and lets face it, you missed me too.
so i got busy with the foil, measuring the sort of inner radius i needed. i would guess it was around 23cm…maybe 22.5. the dictating factor for the inner ring was the size of cylindrical objects that i have available in the kitchen. yes, i am all about exact science. so i started by taking a folded over (for strength) strip of foil (maybe 1.5cm high, well high enough to accommodate a single layer of blueberries) and wrapped it around a saucepan to shape a circle. i then cut away the excess length and folded the ends over each other to make a closed circle. i then measured out another piece of foil that had a larger diameter than my circle. this allows you to fold over so that you create a solid shape that can hold the blueberries. a stroke of luck…my trivet was the same diameter as my sauce pan. it held the shape of the circle while i folded over the base of the inner ring. it looked like so.
I then greased and lined my cake tin. I put butter on both sides of the baking paper. i then greased the sides (in and out) of the ring i had made and placed it in the cake tin.
once the bakeware was prepared i went about making some batter. the recipe is from the chowhound site. look for the recipe for almond cake. in a nutshell this cake is mostly almond flour. some cake flour is added to help everything stay together. the result is a dense, rich, buttery cake. i’m not going to go into the details of the batter since they cover that pretty thoroughly on the chowhound site. what i will say is that i used my stand mixer (lola – a mixer has a name) instead of a food processor and i used almond flour instead of blanched almonds. I probably ended up using more almond flour since the mass of a cup of blanched almonds and the mass of a cup of almond flour are not the same. some voodoo magic around bulk density and voidage (yup…still a process engineer).
anyhoooo so the batter came together easily enough. i forgot to take out the butter (as usual) but a few short blasts in the microwave sorted that out. when the batter was ready i filled my foil contraption with a single(ish) layer of blueberries. i sprinkled a teaspoon of castor sugar over the blueberries and then grated some zest over that.
the lemon zest was a bit tricky. i didn’t get as even a distribution as i would have liked. in truth i should have added more zest.
i then poured the batter over the blueberries and evened it out with an icing spatula.
at this point i was worried that my cake pan was too big since i was spreading pretty thinly. there were some blueberries visible through the batter. i got the batter as even as possible and baked at 180deg C for 40 minutes.
bear was cooking a chicken curry, so i couldn’t smell when the cake was ready like i normally can. its a good thing i always back up my nose with a timer.
another concern i had, was uneven baking. technically the cake closer to the pan edge was a thicker layer which would require more making. i was hoping that the moisture from the blueberries would offset the difference. my hopes manifested themselves.
i checked for doneness in the middle and on the edges. both times the knife came out clean.
i let the cake cool for about an hour before turning it out. i wasn’t sure if pulling the foil out of a warm cake would be easier or more difficult so i went with my gut and decided to let it cool.
on turning out the cake it was clear that my foil ring had effectively contained the blueberries. getting the ring out was not the easiest thing ever but i was as gentle (though determined) as possible and i managed to get that sucker off.
et voilà! mission accomplished.
i let the cake continue to cool in the lovely platter and cake dome that i received for my birthday this year.
i made a white chocolate ganache for serving the cake with. i wanted to add some creamy sweetness to the blueberries. unfortunately i was a couple of glasses of bubbles down at that point so i put too much cream in the pan. my ganache was too runny. delicious but not great for dressing up the dessert. my guests were fortunately of the laid-back variety so there were no gasps of horror at my flippant disregard for presentation.
all in all a fun return to my blogging, baking, babbling pursuits. i also like alliteration.
ps. message me if you have any questions or comments. i would love to hear from you.
pps. i will be compiling a ‘hits of blog-free zone’ shortly that’ll show you some of the fun stuff i’ve tackled since we last spoke.