Monday, 30 May 2011

Harry Eastwood's Dairy & Gluten Free Chocolate Heartache Cake

This gorgeous dairy and gluten-free recipe was devised by the very talented Harry Eastwood, who specialises in inventing cakes from unassuming vegetables. It makes a cake that I believe tastes just as good when you're happy as when you're sad. And if you're sad when you make it you'll be happy by the time you taste it. Who'd have thought something so sweet could be made from aubergine!

Adapted from Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
Buy the book on Amazon
Serves 8-10

2 whole aubergines (weighing roughly 400g)
300g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids essential, broken into squares) I used Green & Blacks cooking chocolate - or use a dairy free chocolate
50g good quality cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting (Green & Blacks again)
60g ground almonds
3 medium or large free-range eggs
200g clear honey
2tsp baking powder (gluten free if necessary)
quarter tsp salt
1 tbsp good brandy
a handful of sweet local strawberries

1. Turn the oven to 180C (or 160C if using a fan oven like me). Line a 23cm x 7cm loose bottomed tin with baking parchment, grease and flour it so that the cake won't stick.

2. Randomly puncture the aubergines' skins erratically with a skewer, then place them in a bowl covered with cling film. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Get rid of any water left over. Place the aubergines in a bowl.
Alternatively, if you don't have a microwave, peel the aubergines with a potato peeler or knife, and cut them into small cubes and cook them with a tablespoon or so of water. That's what I did and it worked well. Once they're soft tip any leftover water out.

3. Then puree the aubergines in the blender. Once the warm aubergine is soft and smooth, add the chocolate, which will mingle and melt slowly. Set aside, covered once again in cling film, until all the chocolate has melted.
Or if like me you don't have a blender then mash the cooked aubergine with a potato masher until smooth. Add the chocolate chunks to the warm aubergine and stir/mash until all has melted.

4. Next stir all the other ingredients in a bowl until they're well mixed. Pour the melted chocolate and aubergine into the bowl with all the other ingredients.

5. Pour the mixture into the greased and lined tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes.
An idle note: for some reason when I made it the cake cooked so slowly it took more like 50 minutes to bake, and that was with the cake on the middle shelf - I suggest you check it after 30 minutes and then every 5 minutes or so.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for at least a quarter of an hour before very carefully placing it out on a wire rack. It may be a bit cracked, accept that as part of it's charm. Sieving cocoa powder over the top once the cake is cooled hides all the cracks and adds to the dark dense chocolate flavour, and some fresh strawberries on top contrast with the bitter grownup taste of the cake delightfully. This cake keeps best in the fridge, and is a delicious torte when eaten cold with or without cream. Enjoy!


This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Kate Bush's album The Red Shoes

Home made Rose Petal Jam and a cup of Balmy Lemon Tea

Rose Petal Jam

from Richard Mabey's book Food for Free
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1. You will only need to prepare a small potful, as it is very sweet. Take two cups of wild rose petals (only supplement with those from garden roses if absolutely necessary as the thick, fleshy petals of the garden varieties are very difficult to reduce to jelly).

2. Sort through the petals, and remove any withered ones (cram them down into the cup when measuring).
Dissolve two cups of caster sugar in half a cup of water, mixed with one tablespoon each of lemon juice and orange juice.

3. Stir in the rose petals and put the pan over a very low heat. Stir continuously for 30 minutes, or until all the petals have 'melted'. Cool the mixture a little, pour into a small glass jar and seal.

Lemon Balm Tea

1. First find some wild lemon balm leaves nestling amongst the nettles in the garden. Boil a kettle. Pick 4 small lemon balm leaves and place them in a cup. Pour the boiling water in and let stew for a few minutes. That's it folks! Enjoy the fresh citrus taste of the tea.

My spies tell me that lemon balm lifts the spirits and can be also used to aid digestion and headaches. Scatter it in salads. I'll have to see if I can make a cake with our lemon balm one of these days.

Rose Petal Genoese Sponge Cake

This lovely plain genoese recipe has a rose flavouring, inspired by the gorgeous roses growing around our cottage door which have sprung to life and are giving off the most wonderful aroma. With this in mind, I made a delicious celebratory layered rose sponge cake. It's lighter and softer than your average sponge, and needs a lot of eggs and a good whisk to make up for the lack of any raising agent.

Serves 8 - 10

To make 2 sponges:
8 eggs, room temperature
250g caster sugar
2 tsps rose water
250g plain flour or gluten free mix (M&S or Dove's Farm recommended for gf flours)
2 pinches of salt
120g butter, melted and warm

Rose petal jam or Raspberry jam

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C for those like myself using a fan oven). Start by greasing two 23cm x 7cm sandwich tins  (or 20cm x 8). Cut 2 circles of greaseproof paper, put them in the bottom of the tins, and grease with more butter. Flour the base and sides of the tins.

2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and rose water flavouring in a large bowl over a bain mairie, which is a pan of almost simmering water, until the mixture is foamy and thickened. Remove bowl from pan and continue beating the mixture until it has cooled.

3. Sift the flour with the salt. Then sift half on to the egg mixture. Fold it in with a metal spoon, lifting gently.

4. When combined, sift the rest of the flour on top and next add the melted butter, stirring gently until combined.

5. Pour the cake mixture evenly into the 2 prepared tins. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 35 - 40 minutes.The cakes are done when the tops are brown, and springy to touch.

6. Cool in the tins for 15 minutes, turn out onto a wire rack and let them cool.

7. Then cover the bottom of one of the cakes with rose petal jam before sandwiching the two together. Being an idle sort, I used shop bought local jam and recommend you do too. Rose petal jam is ideal for the rose theme, but if you can't find any then raspberry, cherry or strawberry will do the job just as well. I'll include a recipe for home made rose petal jam in my next post if you'd like to make your own.

For the icing:
200g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsps rosewater
70g white chocolate
1 whole rose head and approx 18 rose petals, unsprayed and dry

7. Gradually add the rosewater to the icing sugar in a large bowl, stirring it becomes well combined and the icing is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

8. When the cake is cool, carefully pour the rosewater icing over the top of the cake; it will also run in a charmingly haphazard fashion down the sides.

9. Instead of making chocolate curls, I chose to simply grate the white chocolate over the cake instead, before adding fresh a rose and lots of petals from the garden.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of BBC Radio 4: Gardener's Question Time, Last Word & Front Row.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

A word on idle baking

In January this year I baked my first cake since I was 13. It was the same, the only recipe I had ever used, from a little book of mum's called 'A Proper Tea' by Joanna Isles. A cherry and almond cake, sweet sticky glace cherries folded into the creamy butter and sugar, ground almonds and 3 beaten eggs giving the mixture a flavour and fluffiness that sang on the tongue, and prompted the entire cake to be demolished by my greedy family within the hour.

It got me thinking: why, if it's so fun and easy to bake a cake, did I ever stop? Now in my 30s and settled back with Mr Eve in the Devon countryside where I grew up after years in Paris and London, I seem to have come home to my love of idle baking. Where once empty Sunday afternoons were a rarity in my metropolitan life, they now spread before me with a pleasing encouragement.

Baking a cake is so EASY. There's no better way to idle away the hours. Better still, homemade cakes are an indulgence: delicious, decadent. To idly bake a cake is to do so leisurely, with playfulness and laissez faire, while listening to the radio or singing along to a favourite song. An idly baked cake offers a very different experience to that of the rushed duty job or the pristine flavourless shop bought sponge. It is a celebration of messiness, of divine imperfection. There's the satisfaction of having created something so lovely from so little. Not to mention the pleasure of provoking delight in the ones we love (Mr Eve has taken to calling me his 'feeder').

In our fast paced modern lives, where hyper-stimulation rules and the shock of the new has begun to bore, the slow idling away of a few precious hours in the baking of a cake could be seen as the ultimate rebellion. This blog is a celebration of my idle baking, where I'll chart and test out various recipes from my large library of handed down bakery books and more recent modern classics, adding my own recipes and adaptations. I hope you'll be able to look at my idle cakes and feel inspired to make them yourself, only better, because if such an idle messy girl as I can bake a yummy cake then anyone can, I promise you.