Thursday 28 November 2019

Whole orange cake

It was my Dad's birthday recently. In my family we have a fondness for orange cakes. My mum routinely made this one for celebrations and it's perfect. But I can't help feel that in her zeal to use every last bit of a piece of fruit, she might have been tempted by this recipe, from American lifestyle magazine stalwart Sunset. It uses all of the orange - well, not the pips - but the rest of it, blended up into a purée. 

No need for boiling beforehand, as per Middle-eastern orange cake, just chop the fresh fruit roughly and blitz in a food processor. It's not as sweet as a cake made with just zest and juice, more complex in flavour and texture. Notes of bitterness and flecks of fruit lend a sophistication to something so simple. Because of the high moisture content from the fresh fruit, this cake keeps really well and in fact its flavours only intensify over time - good to know if you're in the market for something to make ahead.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Grapefruit poppy seed loaf

I didn't want winter to slip away without making the most of citrus. Grapefruit is one of my favourites, often overlooked in baking in favour of the more modest lemon. By contrast, grapefruits are super-size citrus, big and blowsy. There's pink grapefuit and ruby red, and of course, just regular. All are dazzlingly acidic and amazing in anything sweet. This loaf takes ingredients most often associated with lemon - yoghurt and poppy seeds - and reimagines them with grapefruit. To great success. Super easy. A celebration of citrus.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Burnt Basque cheesecake

If I'm honest, I am not that into cheesecake. But my dad, who visited recently, is. I'd had this recipe bookmarked for a while and was biding my time til he next came to try it out. The thing about cheesecake for me, apart from it being so rich, how fiddly it is to make. Biscuit bases, water baths, chilling time... But this recipe had none of those things. All you had to do was mix together a few ingredients, pour it into a tin, bake til burnt (bonus: no anxiety about that then), let cool to room temperature, and eat. Amazing! 

The only slightly tricksy thing about the process is the lining of the tin - because of the eggs, the cake rises a lot (before sinking back down) so you have to use a few pieces of overlapping baking paper to ensure it's contained. Easy really but should you be at all anxious about this, just watch this video of the recipe's creator, Bon Appétit's Molly Baz, making it. If the quantities of cream cheese are horrifying to you (4 bricks!), do as I did and halve the recipe and bake it in a smaller tin. Make no mistake, this is rich, whichever size tin you use, but that's what cheesecake is all about after all. Embrace it.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Tangelo polenta drizzle cake

Nature is clever. In the middle of winter, when everything is feeling grey and dreary, it offers up citrus. It's enough to just gaze upon the bright colours of lemons and oranges and limes and pink grapefruit and everything in between but the flavour of these fruits works the same way to shock you out of a slump.

This recipe requires a single bowl. If you don't have tangelos, oranges or lemons will do. Containing both oil and yoghurt, the cake keeps well which means you can make it ahead, or have it on hand for the week. But the colour! It's the best. Sweet and softly glowing, it's almost like eating sun.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Louisa's cake

I made a cake. It's been a while. After meeting all my deadlines, the sun was out Saturday and so I baked. This recipe I'd had bookmarked for a while. It had a short list of ingredients, always a winner in my book, and came with authentic Italian credentials (likewise). It contained ricotta, of which I have a seemingly endless supply in my freezer (compulsively making it when milk is about to expire) and there's nothing I like more than being able to cook with pantry staples. So. I've made many a ricotta cake before - this one is a perennial favourite - but this distinguished itself from the others by by featuring apple among its ingredients. You can't so much taste the fruit itself, just its subtle sweetness. Leavened with a little flour, rich with ricotta and bolstered with butter, it's simple and decadent all at once. I don't know Louisa but her cake is excellent. Grazie.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Pear cake with rye and ginger

I love Hobart. I love its hills. I love its water. I love the local support for MONA's winter festival Dark Mofo, which has residents wrapping their outside lights in red cellophane and businesses decorating shop windows in red, even the CWA store, who excelled this year with their display which featured the word Mofo and a cross fashioned from scarlet beads. Winter is not Tasmania's starriest produce season. That would be summer, when apricots are weighing down backyard trees, cherries are fat and plentiful, and plums are practically rolling down the roads with all the street planting. But the colder months have their charms - one of them being staying inside where it's warm and eating cake. This one is dark and wintery and wonderful with the heat of ginger, sweet, silky pears and a chewy crumb courtesy of rye flour. It's not in the CWA playbook but I think they'd approve.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Do-It-All cake

I am turning into my mother. She told me it would happen, more than once, with a wicked - borderline evil - smile on her face. And now it has. I have little flecks of grey around my temples, exactly where she had them, am evangelical about public libraries... and I simply cannot bear to let the smallest skerrick of food go to waste. I am constantly making ricotta (and freezing it) with milk about to expire, or zesting citrus I need for juice (another ziplock bag freezer stash) or burying bits and pieces of wilting greens in curries. Last week I had half a carton of cream in my fridge to use up. Happily, it was exactly the amount needed for this recipe, which I'd had bookmarked for ages since first reading about it on Food52

It's the simple cakes I gravitate most to these days. This one - dubbed Do-It-All Cake - by its author, Danish cook Nadine Levy Redzepi (wife of René, head chef and founder of Noma in Copenhagen) is monk-like in its simplicity. But that's probably not the right analogy for something so rich, delicious and slightly subversive. The latter comes from the use of salted butter, rather than the traditional unsalted, and additionally, a light sprinkling of sea salt over the batter before it goes in the oven, which perfectly balances the creamy sweetness of it all. 

This cake is the very definition of something being more than the sum of its parts. All the ingredients are everyday ones, there's nothing more to making it than a bit of beating and folding but it leaves your whole house smelling amazing and tastes incredible with a cup of black coffee. I wish I could make it for my mum but it does the next best thing, by making me think of her.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Fresh fig and ricotta cake

I've had my head down working for the last little while but the Sunday before Easter I took a much needed day off. With friends I made my way to a new swimming spot, a secluded Sydney harbour beach off West Head in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The occasion called for cake and this one was a winner, both before and after our dip. Not too sweet, lightly lemony, and showcasing in-season figs as stunning as our surrounds. 

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Neapolitan pound cake

It's been a long time between cakes. Don't get me wrong - I've been eating them just not making them as I've been away from my oven and busy with work. But I had a birthday last week. I don't know what's happening, but as I get older, my taste in birthday cake seems to be regressing. This year, and last, my cake of choice has been this Neapolitan pound cake - basically a marble cake of vanilla, chocolate and well... pink. It's an Ottolenghi recipe so it's a little bit adult I suppose but there's nothing terribly mature about something smothered in pink drippy icing. But maybe that's the point. I made it for the first time last year to take on a houseboat called Wallamba so my friends who shared that adventure with me - and this year's smaller scale south coast celebration - now refer to it as Wallamba cake, which seems perfect as birthday cake should be whatever you want it to be. And certainly not second-guessed.

Friday 25 January 2019

Apricot raspberry rose galette

Killing time in South Brisbane recently on a recent trip to my hometown, I spent a delightful half hour browsing the aisles of Triton Food Brokers, a treasure trove of imported European grocery items and bulk foods in an unassuming stretch of Montague Rd. In amongst the baklava, and olives, haloumi and marzipan, pastizzi and pomegranate molasses I found edible rose petals for $1.50 and bargain barberries (a find for an owner of multiple Ottolenghi cookbooks who has up til now just been subbing in cranberries because she thought he made them up). I wasn't sure when I'd use the rose petals, but paging through a cookbook I got for Christmas, I came across this recipe for apricot raspberry rose galette. It was fated as I've been trying to make the most of summer fruit before disappearing for a month into winter. A galette is basically the lazy person's pie (half the rolling and no crimping or complicated lattice work) but better still, its open top allows you to see the glorious colours of the fruit within. And this is one of the prettiest palettes you'll see - orange and red and pink. The crust is made with cornmeal, which gives it a nice texture, a lovely contrast with the jamminess of the fruit. A fitting farewell to summer.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Ligurian foccacia


My dad is BIG into bread. So his recent visit seemed a good excuse to try out a recipe I'd seen on the wonderfully engaging Samin Nosrat's Netflix series Salt Fat Acid Heat (based on her cookbook of the same name). In Italy, in the first episode, she'd made a foccacia bathed in a salty brine and baked til golden brown. The dough was dimpled with indents made from the three middle fingers of her hand, little wells for the olive oil drizzled on top when it's out of the oven. The oil does double duty - making the inside of the foccacia pillowy and soft and the base crisp. It couldn't be easier and this is coming from someone with a terrible track record with yeast. Begun the night before you want to bake, you simply combine dry ingredients with wet - no kneading - and leave to proof. The next day you gently stretch out the dough - now doubled in size - onto an oiled oven tray. Then dimple and brine (this just means pour over some salty water), proof again while the oven is heating and then slide in. Half an hour later out comes lunch. For an army. Or just your dad who really, REALLY loves bread.