as promised i hereby present a brief chronicle of some of the baking adventures i’ve had during my sabbatical from blogging.
the highlight was definitely pulling off a tarte tatin but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. this is mostly in chronological order…
first up was an eaton mess arranged on a slab of sponge cake. i used the same recipe as the sponge from one crutch down. this time i baked it in a brownie pan so i got a thinner layer of cake. it bakes in less time when you do that so keep an eye on it.
i soaked the strawberries in sherry and castor sugar for about 2 hours. i should have soaked them overnight. i beat the double cream (which you are not supposed to do) with some icing sugar. i pricked the cake with a fork before liberally sprinkling some of the juice from the sherry/strawberry mix over the cake. i then slathered on the cream, arranged the strawberries and crushed meringues (that i had won at a quiz night) over the cream and then got messy with the left over cream. it looked messy so i figured mission accomplished. as i said i should have left the strawberries to soak for longer. i should have also been more liberal with the sherry mix that i sprinkled over the cake. it was still tasty though.
from there there was a batch of brownies and a couple of batches of madeleines (the madeleine draft still isn’t finished from last year…shameful!)
i did try something different though. i was enjoying the whole strawberry sherry combo so i did this for dessert one evening…
mixed some strawberries in sherry and sugar again but just stirred until i got some juice. i placed the strawberries on a plate, added a generous dollop of double cream, placed a freshly baked madeline on the cream and then drizzled the sherry juice over the madeleine. basically an upside down version of the eaton mess sans meringue. the buttery richness of the madeleine worked well with the fruit and sherry.
then my nephew sam came to cape town for a visit (with my sister…naturally). i had mentioned that i wanted to bake him a pre-birthday cake…so i did. about two months earlier (while i still recovering from my foot op) i had frozen some overly ripe bananas. these next images are not pretty but i have to show you how far you can take a banana before you bake it.
so as you can see, i took those bananas the whole way. its not fun to handle. at this stage they are oozy and sticky and you have to handle them very carefully. you will need scissors to get through the skin. if the flesh is a caramel colour its still usable. one of the bananas was practically empty inside so i threw that one away. if the flesh is dark brown don’t use it. i put the flesh in a zip lock bag and froze it.
when sam’s 11-months-on-the planet came around i pulled the bananas out of the freezer. i was skeptical. but i figured there was only one way to see if this worked or not. i started baking. i used the hummingbird bakery recipe. as i’ve mentioned before if the bananas are properly ripe you don’t need fancy sugar.
i let the bananas defrost completely. they released quite a bit of liquid as they defrosted making them even oozier. you can see from the image above that i got quite a dark brown colour in the batter..especially considering i just used white sugar.
i covered the cake with a mix of cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. my nephew loved the cake. i was so happy to bake for him. this banana cake was definitely the tastiest one i have ever baked. i have been trying to ripen bananas like this ever since but breakfast smoothies are proving to be quite an obstacle.
i baked my first cheesecake (for bear’s birthday) and black forrest cake (for elli’s birthday). they were both a success.
The cheesecake recipe was from the kitchn (not a typo) website. i followed it step by step and it works like a bomb. i covered the cake in a chocolate ganache. note that i didn’t used a crushed biscuit base. i ended up making a very simple biscuit dough (used the base from annie bell’s cheesecake recipe).
i bought proper sour cherries for the black forrest cake. i also used kirsch. my presentation was not exactly classic but it was a truer reflection of the sort of thing that i would put on a plate.
as you can see, the cake layer are very thin. i used the larousse recipe. i drizzled the sponge with the sour cherry/kirsch mix to moisten it. its a dry sponge. almost like a light, less brittle biscotti. i placed a generous layer of cherries between the layers and used the chantilly cream (made with icing sugar and vanilla sugar beaten with cream) to even the cherry layer before adding the next cake layer.
i made my first creme brûlée. this was not fully successful. i had to make enough for 12 people. so we ended up using different size bowls. some worked and set beautifully while others were still a bit runny. tasty though. i would say add an extra egg and use double cream. again i used the larousse recipe. we used muscovado sugar on the top. i would recommend grinding the sugar to fine before using it or just use normal castor sugar. this will give you a more even topping.
i was pleased with the outcome. i should really give it another go soon.
during this period i found my now favourite pastry dough. Larousse calls it patè sablè. its easy to make and is delicious. it breaks easily when you take a fork to it which in my opinion is a good thing. i did a few things with this pastry. i made a cherry tart (with the left over cherry’s from the black forrest cake).
i baked the cherry tart on sam’s actual birthday.
then there was a victorian sponge from annie bell’s baking bible. fun cake to bake. you cut it in half, fill it with butter cream and then cover it with chocolate ganache. rich but satisfying and it looks pretty impressive.
then i had an epic deepavali baking day. i think i should probably do a dedicated post to that day of baking.
i was very proud of myself for pulling off that day in the calm methodical way that i did. i’ll explain more soon.
i made a tart shell that i filled with a thick custard. i then put the chopped pecan nuts in some salted caramel. let it cool and sprinkled it over the custard tart.
from there i was on a kind of baking high so i finally tackled something that i have always wanted to bake. tarte tatin!! you can only say it if you say it with a heavy french accent 🙂
i used the larousse recipe but larousse was clearly working with much larger pans than i have available in my kitchen. i used a stainless steel pan, i.e. not non-stick. so the first one was swimming in caramel and turning the tart over resulted in the counter top being covered in said caramel. this is dangerous because the caramel is rather hot. my second and third attempts were much better. i veered from the norm and made banana tarte tatin (it is traditionally made with apples). my sugar butter mix starts to look a bit fudgy as it caramelises but i loosen it up with a generous swig of dark rum. place the bananas (sliced lengthways) in the pan, cover with the rolled out pastry and bake for around 20 minutes (or until the pastry starts to go golden. you need to flip it out onto a plate while its still hot.
i have to say…this one is fantastic. serve it warm with some cream or ice-cream. its a solid crowd-pleaser. you can make the pastry ahead of time and put it together once your guests have finished mains. très chic no?
i made my first apple tart (with very finely sliced granny smith apples). i arranged the slices on some rolled out pastry. placed several small blobs of cold butter over the apple and baked it to golden. i then painted it with a mixture of maple syrup and calvados. i also forgot to take pictures. the recipe needs some tweaking but i’ll get on that again at some point. it wasn’t bad for a first attempt.
so i’ve been busy. i’ve learnt a great deal and i loved sharing what i learnt with my friends and family. if you would like more information on any of the baked goods i’ve mentioned i’ll be more than happy to share. get in touch.
this was quite a lot of info but i felt this was the best way to lay this out. yes i could have kept you busy for several weeks with separate posts but i wanna move on to other adventures that i would like to share with you. so forgive me for the rush. but we’ve got places to go…and things to bake.
lessons learnt: i’ve done more baking than i realised in recent months. it’s been good to look back and see what i’ve pulled off.
ps. every time i baked or tried something new bear would insist that i take photos. even though at that point i wasn’t certain that i would blog again, my husband saw that it was something i loved and has been encouraging me to return to this. thank you my bear.