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Christmas Stollen 2017

At the café, we’ve been baking stollen. Home-made stollen is a lot less sweet and more subtle in flavour, so we have managed to convert quite a lot of stollen haters.In Germany, stollen is usually eaten with butter. Every year, I like to experiment with different spices, fruit and nuts. You can find quite a variety of recipes online from local traditions to pistachio-apricot-cointreau ones. If you don’t do alcohol, it’s no problem to leave it away. You can also get pre-soaked fruit (non-alcoholic) in most supermarkets nowadays, but it is also exciting to experiment with different soaking agents such as flower waters.

This year, we soaked about 300g-400g of raisins, sultanas and cranberries in a mixture of rum, port and brandy, with freshly grated orange peel, cinnamon sticks and vanilla. Leave everything to sit for at least a day – several if possible. When done, drain and mix with about 200g of candied peel (e.g. orange, lemon, lime).

For the dough, combine about 375 g of plain flour with a packet of yeast, or prepare the dough with a cube of fresh yeast. Add 50-100 g of sugar, 100ml warm milk, vanilla flavouring, 2 eggs, 125-175g of melted butter, 100g of ground almonds and a pinch of salt. We vary the spice mixture. In the last batch, we put about a heaped teaspoon of mace, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger (sometimes we put aniseed). I think we put some extra ginger in afterwards and some more freshly grated lemon and orange peel.

Basically, we let the yeast dough rise until it’s fluffy. We then knead it and bash it around for a while (the more kneading, the better the stollen) and finally add the fruit. The dough is then kneaded again and shape it into one big or several small stollen by shaping a chunky rectangle or square and flipping one side two thirds over the other. If you like marzipan, put a roll of it into the flap of your stollen.

Let the stollen rise again. (Picture shows stollen with marzipan underneath the ‘hump’. Forgot to take a picture of the finished ones, but can maybe obtain one soon.)

Preheat the oven to the hottest temperature. Put in the stollen and reduce the heat to around 160-180 degrees. Big ones need around 1 hour. As soon as the stollen is out of the oven, brush it with melted butter. Once cooled, rub it with icing sugar. Leave for at least 48 hours. We leave ours for around 5 weeks. They keep for a few months.

If you want a stollen for immediate consumption, look for recipes for ‘Quarkstollen’. These don’t need to rest. There is an example English recipe for it here. If you cannot find quark, use 0% or full fat Greek yoghurt.

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Jamaican Ginger Cake

This is my version of the Jamaican Ginger cake that we make at the café. I like mine with more treacle and less golden syrup, and also a bit less sticky and heavy. Last time I made it, we finished it in one sitting between four people, with only a few surviving bits making it onto a couple of ice cream sundaes. I will be trying a gingery-treacly version of the dutch honey cake next. Stay tuned!

Jamaican Ginger Cake

In a bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:

225g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tbsp ground ginger (minimum)
grated fresh ginger or drained stem ginger (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (never use pre-ground nutmeg – it ruins every dish! leave away completely if only pre-ground nutmeg available and use more mixed spice instead)
1 tsp ground allspice
Optional: ground cloves, coriander, caraway, pepper/cayenne pepper

In a pot or pan, gently heat the following ingredients:

115g butter
115g sugar (as dark as possible)
half a small tin of treacle (about 230g)
250ml whole milk

When the butter, sugar and syrup have dissolved (be careful that the mixture does not curdle!), pour it into the mixed dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly, until the mixture is even. Finally, whisk in:

1 egg

Pour everything into a loaf or round tin and bake for about 45 mins – 1 hr (check with wooden stick – if it comes out clean, it’s done). Temperature: Gas mark 4, 160 degrees celsius in fan oven, 180 in conventional oven.

Decorate with stem ginger.


Jamaican Ginger Cake Sundae

Vanilla Ice Cream (and/or chocolate)
Home made chocolate sauce
Toasted almonds
Jamaican ginger cake
Optional: banana

How to make the chocolate sauce:

280 ml milk
2 vanilla sugar sachets or vanilla essence/powder
150g sugar (I use golden caster)
heaped tbsp plain flour
60g cocoa powder
2 tbsp butter
pinch of salt

Heat milk, butter, and vanilla extract in a saucepan until butter melts. Add combined dry ingredients in a bowl and add to the warm liquid. Simmer under constant stirring until mixture thickens to a sauce. Pour into a sterilised jar for future use, or into a pouring jug for instant use. Enjoy!

Spelt & buttermilk chocolate cake

choc_cake

All my friends and family know that I don’t like chocolate – or coffee. There is something about them that really doesn’t work with my body. I can take both in strongly diluted form, but otherwise, I start feeling sick immediately. As a baker, I’ve never made a proper chocolate cake, or seen the need to, since everyone around me probably knows what they should taste like more than me. This year, I’ve decided to break that pattern and use my dear friends as guinea pigs (they don’t seem to mind!). My first attempt was a spelt and buttermilk chocolate cake, based on this recipe. The first version was made with honey, since the test person in question did not tolerate standard sugar. It was tasty, but a little bit dense. The second version I made with golden caster sugar (reduced amount – the original recipe calls for more sugar than flour!) and an extra egg.

Overall, this cake is a bit volatile. It either turns out the most perfect cake you’ve ever had, or the biggest disaster to emerge from your oven. Maybe has to do with the American cup conversion? In any case, I have tried to modify the recipe so that this volatility is significantly reduced, because the perfect version of this cake is just too perfect to have anyone miss out on it – even chocophobes like me!

This is the result:

225ml water
125g unsalted butter
40-50 g cocoa powder

300g white spelt flour (you can also use plain white or wholemeal spelt)
250g sugar – I use a combination of golden caster sugar and vanilla sugar (or you can add vanilla flavouring)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 medium eggs
1/2 pot of buttermilk (about 150ml)

In a pot or pan, heat the water and dissolve the butter. Stir in the sieved cocoa powder.
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, vanilla and bicarbonate of soda.
Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients, and add the buttermilk and eggs.

Put everything into a large round cake tin and cook at Gas Mark 5 (180 degrees) for about 40-50 mins.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Beetroot and potato salad

beetroot_potato_salad
Image: beetroot and potato salad (bottom of image); my friend’s roasted quince, potatoes, peppers, refried beans and guacamole (top of image)

Potatoes
Beetroot
Shallots or onions

Oil
Vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Mustard

Boil potatoes and beetroot in their skins. Drain water after cooking, briefly cool down with cold water and take of the peel. Leave to cool for a bit or cut into cubes straight away, if you want to eat the salad very hot. I prefer it cold.
Chop shallots very finely and add to the salad. Make a dressing from oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard. If you get bored, vary the dressing e.g. with yoghurt and herbs such as dill. If not a vegetarian/vegan, add fish, meat or feta/goat  cheese.

Mince Pies

mincepies_cooked

Our mince pies went down really well at the café. I assembled the recipe by combining three different ones, but lost it. I tried making it again, but they turned out differently. Thankfully, I think I know what went wrong, so here is the reconstructed recipe. Please not that this isn’t a budget recipe at all. Mince pies are quite work and cost intensive, which was the original idea.

2 cooking apples such as Bramley
1 cup of Brandy
500g mix of raisins, sultanas, etc. I used a fruit mix from Waitrose, which also has a bit of pineapple in it
1 veg or standard suet
250g soft brown sugar
1 bag dried cranberries (or use fresh ones)
handful of dried, chopped plums
handful of dried, chopped apricots
a few dates, stoned and chopped
vanilla sugar or some other vanilla
pot of mixed peel (about 100g)
juice and grated peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/2 ground nutmeg
small bag of flaked almonds
dash of cinnamon (not too much)
small grated ginger root
a few ground cloves

The cranberries were super nice, and one recipe also used grated carrot, which seemed like a nice addition. Wasn’t so sure about the same recipe adding glacé cherries, but cocktail cherries might be a nice addition, if you like almond flavour.

Pour brandy over the raisin based fruit mix. Soak for a few hours. Add all other ingredients, and slowly heat and simmer for about an hour. Suet, sugar and juice needs to have soaked into the fruit really well. If too try, add citrus fruit juice. Mandarin juice is also nice.

Ladle hot mixture into sterilised jars and leave to sit for at least 2 weeks. If you like booze, top the jars up with a little bit more brandy.

dsc_0047

When it’s mince pie time, make some pastry and also add a few things to your mincemeat to lift it up a bit. I added 1 large chopped bramley apple and some fresh orange peel and juice (or you can chop in some satsumas).

mincemeat

Pastry recipe:

375g plain flour
250g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar or combination of caster and icing sugar
1 large egg
vanilla flavouring

plus
1 beaten egg, mixed with bit of milk for glazing
and icing sugar for dusting

mincepies_raw

Combine ingredients for pastry and place dough in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
Roll out dough and cut out circles with a cookie cutter, a cup/bowl or other device. Place discs on top of the moulds on the tray and gently push them down. Make sure, you have put a stick of non-stick paper in them, so that you can lift the mince pies out more easily. You can also butter and flour the moulds, if no baking parchment is at hand.
Next, spoon in some of the filling. Lastly, cut out some star or other shapes from the rolled-out dough to cover the pies. Brush them with the egg-milk mixture.

Put mince pies in the oven for about 15-20 mins at 200 degrees celsius.

Before serving, dust with icing sugar!

Carrot & banana cake

carrotcake

I hadn’t made carrot cake for a long time, after being repeatedly traumatised by enforced commercial carrot cake consumption. I now have to make lots of them for the café, so I started experimenting again. The other night, a friend told me she was going to be in town the next morning, and, as I had some carrots in the fridge, I decided to bake her an experimental version, using whatever was in the house. The recipe worked really well, and a super fussy friend said that it was the best carrot cake he’s ever eaten.

Cake dough:
175 light brown caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla flavouring
175 ml sunflower oil
3 eggs
2 large carrots, grated
1 banana, mashed (I know, a bit of a sacrilege, but it works really well!)
large handful of raisins or similar, finely chopped
handful of pecans, chopped (didn’t have walnuts, but pecans worked really well, if not better!)
a handful of crushed almond flakes (needed using up!)
grated orange peel
a bit of freshly grated nutmeg
a little bit of cinnamon (I really don’t like overpowering cinnamon taste in this)
175 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Icing:
a few heaped spoonfuls of icing sugar
about 50g butter
a few scoops of cream cheese, strained yoghurt or quark

Combine all ingredients for the dough. If too runny, add a little more flour. Fill into rectangular box tin (loaf tin) and bake for approximately 1 hour.

Make a creamy icing by combining icing sugar with room temperature butter and whatever tangy milk products you have in the house. I only had quark, so I used that. I’m quite partial to cream cheese icing, so I would have preferred that, but the quark icing was nice and fresh, too.

Pepper & pear soup

pepperpear

There are many people who don’t like mixing fruit & veg, or whatever is culturally, rather than botanically, defined as such. I’m not one of them. I love mixing flavours across categories. I first encountered pepper & pear soup at a café called The Crypt in Glasgow. It’s an amazing place inside an old church that offers simple, but tasty meals to students and other people in the vicinity of the university. Their soups are always excellent, and pepper and pear is my favourite one. They have published a little booklet with recipes, but I have lost it while moving back to London.

The main thing about making pepper and pear soup is that you have water, red peppers and pears. Everything else around it can be improvised. Basically, the fewer ingredients, the longer you cook it at a lower heat to draw out all of the flavour. Tonight’s recipe included:

3 red peppers
2 Williams pears
2 shallots
1/2 red chilli
tomato puree
vegetable stock

Cut the peppers into halves and roast them under a grill or over a gas flame/open fire/barbecue until the skin is charred. Peel off the skin and cut the peppers into pieces.

Heat oil in a pot or sauce pan, but not too hot. Peel and chop the shallots and pears. Add to the pot along with the pepper pieces and the chopped chilli. Stir for a while.

Next, add the vegetable stock. Cook everything until tender and blend until smooth. If too liquid or too bland, add tomato puree, a bit of sugar and/or more vegetable stock.

You can also add other vegetables – many people add carrots and herbs – but I prefer the soup quite basic. Try to get very flavoursome peppers and pears, though the soup will also work with blander types.

I usually have the soup with bread, butter & raspberry jam.