Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dutch Ginger Cake

Last month we were having book club at the great baker’s house and I was eyeing up what I thought was an apple cake. Turns out it was a Dutch Ginger Cake made by the host (not Dutch) and it was lovely.  She muttered some of the ingredients – almonds, butter, ginger.  I don’t know why but I didn’t ask for the recipe.  I think there was too much conversation going on at the time.

I hadn’t heard of this cake before, although I have seen something similar packaged as cake fingers or slices in specialty Dutch shops.

Later, I googled it and found this recipe by one of my favourite cooks, Maggie Beer.  She is such a delight on television exuding warmth and such enthusiasm.

I thought I had preserved ginger in a jar in the cupboard but it turned out to be stem ginger. I drained it and used half as much as was called for in the recipe.  That turned out to be perfect. Whew!

The cake is dense, rich and buttery.  When I pressed the raw dough into the tin I thought it was too buttery and it was just a tad but not enough to detract.  The ginger and almonds absolutely make this cake and I would definitely make it again.

One more thing. This cake is quite shallow (in height, not personality) which isn’t evident in the photo above so don’t be expecting a tall cake.

I think I've just made the deadline to get this into Sweet New Zealand which, this month, is hosted by the lovely Sue at Couscous & Consciousness.

Dutch Ginger Cake

60g whole almonds
185g butter
1 ¾ cup standard flour
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup (145g) caster sugar
75g stem ginger, drained and chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan bake).

Grease and line the base of a 22cm shallow round tin. (I used a not-so-shallow cake tin.)

Place the whole almonds in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain then squeeze the skin off.  The nuts should slip out easily.  Set aside.

Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. 

Sift the flour and salt together.  Add the sugar then stir in the chopped stem ginger.

Set 1 teaspoon of the beaten egg aside (to brush the cake).  Stir in the remainder of the egg into the flour, salt, sugar and ginger mix.  Add the butter, mix well into a dough.

Press the dough into the greased tin.  Brush the top of the dough with the teaspoon of egg.

Scatter the almonds on the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and firm to touch.

Leave to cool in the tin. 

You can leave as is (I did) or dust with icing or caster sugar to finish.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crunchy Bran Biscuits

There’s nothing like a biscuit with a dual purpose. You can eat these just as they are - crunchy, nutty (in a no-nuts kind of way) and wholesome – but because they’re not too sweet they make a fine match with cheese.  This was how I preferred them.  A thick smear of good butter (shall I mention Lewis Road again?) and a wedge of Double Cream Brie and it was all good.  So good I had another, and then another.  It reminded me of eating McVitie’s digestive biscuits with butter and cheddar, which I sometimes still do.  Thankfully I don’t have my mother’s fondness for blue cheese and jam toppings but you're welcome to go ahead and try that too! 

I thought it especially nice to have home baked biscuits with cheese instead of the ubiquitous rice crackers, which I used like but now find I’m getting heartily sick of. 

On top of their versatility the bran biscuits are easy to bake and quick to rustle up.  Some time I should try making my own oat biscuits too.

Crunchy bran biscuits 

100g butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup milk
1 cup standard flour
1 cup wheat bran
3 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C

Lightly grease two baking trays or line with baking paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and milk together until well mixed.

Stir in the flour, bran and baking powder and bring together to form a dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface.  At this stage, because I wanted oblong shaped biscuits, I shaped the dough into a log which I then “squared off” on four sides and cut into thin slices (I have to admit this was a bit fiddly).  If you prefer, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 2mm thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut into round shapes.

Place the biscuits on the trays and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until crispy and brown.

Transfer to a cake rack to cool.