Tag Archives: Easter Food

A Fine Farewell, or Chocolate Cake for Many Celebrations

image

Don’t worry, today’s post is not one in the gourmet camping series! Although it is probably possible, cooking a light and airy cake over a barbecue is well beyond my ken!

I made this cake for a leaving party for a friend from work. Knowing that I would be away at Easter, I have kept this post for now to share. It was a fitting farewell cake, but you can easily dress this with buttercream and mini eggs to make a lovely cake for Easter, or any springtide celebration.

This cake also made the most of some extra buttermilk I had in the fridge, after making pancakes. I don’t use buttermilk much, so it would have gone to waste, but actually, this makes for a lovely moist cake, but that isn’t too sweet. Despite the amount of desserts and custards I have posted on ediblethings, I don’t have a sweet tooth. I prefer fruity desserts over chocolate ones, but there are times when only a chocolate cake will do. And if you are like me, then this is the chocolate cake for you.

I am also not the biggest fan of buttercream, so I used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to decorate the cake. In the Netherlands, they have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, or lunch on bread,  but they are just as good on a cake.

If you wanted to indulge a bit more, you could make a chocolate ganache, adorn the cake with jelly orange and lemon slices (the kind that always appear at Christmas), or even make your own chocolate truffles, and chocolate shavings to go over the ganache.

If you prefer fruit, make the ganache, or a chocolate buttercream and then cover the cake in raspberries or cherries. It’s your celebration, after all!

However you choose to decorate it, this is the perfect celebration cake. And what better way to celebrate anything at springtime than with chocolate? So, I am sending a very Happy Easter, and all other spring and rebirth festivals to you all!

Recipe: Chocolate Celebration Cake

This recipe is enough for two cakes to use as a sandwich. Of course, you can halve the recipe if you only want one tier, but that isn’t too celebratory, is it now?

Ingredients

For the cakes:
250 g butter
400 g plain flour
100 g cocoa
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g raw sugar or 420 g caster sugar
450 ml buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

To make the sandwich:
2 tbsp of fruit preserve – I used pink grapefruit curd, but a jam would work as well
250 ml double cream, whipped until stiff
Chocolate sprinkles to cover

Method

Grease two 20 cm cake tins. For some reason, my two allegedly 20 cm cake tins are 19 and 21 cm respectively, which goes to show you that you should buy your cake tins as pairs from the same place, but never mind. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper. If you only have shallow tins, line the sides, and allow the paper to extend a fair bit over the tin. These cakes rise quite a lot.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool.

The only time you will hear me extolling the virtues of sifting anything is when cocoa is involved. Obviously, this is one of those times. While you are at it, bung the flour and bicarb through the seive too. Make sure they ennd up in your largest mixing bowl.

Add the sugar to the mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Make a small well in the floury stuff in the bowl.

Combine the melted butter, buttermilk, beaten egg, and the vanilla in a measuring jug. Pour this into the well you just made, and whisk in with an electric hand whisk, until the batter is creamy and smooth.

Divide the batter between the two cake tins and put them in the oven for 45 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. You may need to swap the two cakes on their respective shelves with about 10 minutes cooking time left, to ensure even cooking.

Remove from the oven and leave aside in the tins until it won’t completely burn you when you handle it. Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cold, place one cake flat side up on a serving plate, and spread over the preserve evenly. Cover this with a third of the cream, the sandwich the two cakes together, flat side to flat side.

Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream, and then sprinkle over the sprinkles.

Best served to celebrate – even the fact that it is Saturday.

9 Comments

Filed under Feast

Bulgarian(ish) Lamb

Bulgarianish Lamb

Lovely Lamb to End Lent

Lamb is traditional for Easter dinner in many cultures.

My American friend was already bringing a ham, that she baked according to a cherished recipe from her grandmother, to our international feast. It was delicious, and really well cooked, in a delicious sauce, some of which is sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to come up with a way to use it.

A baked ham for Easter is traditional in both the US and in Sweden.

However, I have a tendency to continue to invite people to dinners, and I would be horrified if people were to go away hungry (often resulting in us eating a lot of leftovers, but that is really no trouble). True to form, I had invited more people than I had told my friend about, and I wanted to make sure that we all had enough to eat. So I fell back on some more traditions and made a lamb dish.

A few years ago, the Big Guy and I had the pleasure of a trip to Plovdiv in Bulgaria. A friend of a friend had recommended the Puldin restaurant, and we had eaten an excellent meal there. My memory was that it was also pretty reasonably priced, despite what the Lonely Planet says, but I can’t really say for sure anymore. Either way, if you go to the beautiful, historic town of Plovdiv, I recommend this restaurant. The settings are gorgeous, and the series of rooms are both sumptuous and adorned with lovely art, frescoes and even a Roman wall in the room where we ate.

For some reason, my memory of this meal was stirred by trying to think of a different way to serve lamb, so that it would not overpower the ham. My memory is that I had a lamb dish that may (or may not) have been called St George’s Lamb. I may not remember the exact name, but I certainly remember the dish. The meat was meltingly tender, and came cooked with carrots and peas. Interestingly, it had been cooked in white wine, which really cut through the fatty richness of the meat. The vegetables had been added near the end of cooking, so they still retained a nice crunch. It was a truly remarkable dish.

Unfortunately, the Puldin does not seem to have a website (or at least not using our alphabet – they use the cyrillic alphabet in Bulgaria), so I have been unable to check if they still carry the dish to see if I got the name right , or go from a description on a menu. But that memory of a dish was the perfect thing to go on a plate that will star a baked ham, for a hungry person, so I decided to have a go at an approximation anyway.

There are a few Bulgarian lamb dishes on the web, but none really seemed to resemble the dish I had eaten in Puldin. I was pretty much on my own, so I decided to dive in and do my best in any case. I did find these two recipes, which I used as inspiration.

This is what I came up with

Recipe: Bulgarianish Lamb

Ingredients

1.5 kg leg of lamb, bone in – I found some lovely organic Texel lamb,

For the Marinade:

1 l water

400 ml white wine. I used an Auxerrois from Limburg, so it was local, and fruity enough to balance the lamb.

½ unwaxed lemon, sliced

50 ml tarragon or white wine vinegar

3 dried or 5 fresh bay leaves

2 tsp dried oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

Salt

4 tbsp oil

4-5 cloves garlic

3 carrots

150 g cherry tomatoes

3 medium potatoes

4 sticks celery

1 small onion

1 tbsp tomato puree

Little cold water to make a thin paste

1 tbsp plain flour

Method

Pour the marinade ingredients over the lamb, and allow to marinate overnight. If the lamb is large, turn the meat regularly in the marinade.

Dry the lamb on kitchen paper, keeping the marinade aside for later.

Cook the whole garlic cloves in the oil. Remove them when they start to colour, and set aside. Be really careful not to allow the garlic to burn, you want a nice brown colour, but no black. Burnt garlic is bitter, and you do not want it in the sauce.

Salt the meat and brown the meat well on all sides. Be careful, it will spit, even if you have dried it well.

Soften the vegetables in the same oil, including the garlic used earlier. Meanwhile, remove the peel from the slices of lemon from the marinade, and make a thinner paste with the tomato puree and cold water.

Add the flour, and the tomato paste to the vegetables, and cook through for a couple of minutes. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, or the sauce will taste of raw flour. Add the lemon pulp to the pan, you can leave it on top of the vegetables, no need to stir it in.

Return the leg of lamb onto the top of the vegetables, and pour over the retained marinade. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that forms. Simmer on a low heat for up to three hours. You want the meat to be really tender and falling off the bone, but not overcooked, which will dry it out, despite being cooked in liquid.

Once it is done, allow the meat to rest in a warm place.

Pass the vegetables and the cooking liquid through a food mill (or you can blend them) to make the sauce. Remove the bay leaves before you pass them through the food mill, you don’t want to grind them, it will render your sauce inedible.

There will be quite a lot of sauce. Put it back on the hob in a clean pan, and reduce it by about a third. Taste at this point, and season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice, if required. The sauce should have a bit of a citrus kick to cut through the richness of the lamb.

Serve slices of the lamb, along with whatever veg you like, and allow your guests to pour the sauce over, as they choose.

You will have quite a lot of sauce left, and the bone of course, as well as some of the meat. Make stock with the bone, to be used on future lamb dishes (it is particularly distinctive, so may not be suitable for multiple meats, as is chicken and beef stock.

Don’t throw out the rest of the leftovers, I have a great recipe that will help you use them all up (of course!).

2 Comments

Filed under Feast, Fed

Southern Cross Buns

Southern Cross Buns

One a Dollar, Two a Dollar…

I have been searching around for ingredients for an Easter dinner for my friends. These are mostly the same friends who came for the International Christmas Dinner, so I wanted something that would encompass all of our traditions, as well as a nod to the Dutch. Some of these recipes will appear here in the coming days, as they are much less specific to Easter, but this one couldn’t be delayed.

One of the traditions that I found out about was the Australian one. For friends from the Southern Hemisphere, Easter heralds the start of autumn, and thus is naturally a little less about rebirth and rejuvenation, even though they  do continue to keep many of the same traditions as us in the North (hint: eggs and chocolate feature in all Easter traditions, as far as I can tell).

According to this website, there are a few key differences. Anyone who has seen an episode of Border Security will know that Australians are none too keen on letting in non-native animals, due to the havoc that they wreak. It is no surprise then, that they have replaced the Easter Bunny with the much more native Bilby. However, my chocolate work needs a lot more practice, and it is certainly not up to making small chocolate marsupials without a mould.

So, I was very happy when I saw the fact that the Aussies have taken the hot cross bun, and made their own version. With chocolate.

I had already decided to make traditional Hot Cross Buns for dessert. Strictly speaking, they are served on Good Friday, but as it is my tradition to break the rules for international dinners, I am going to serve them for Easter Sunday itself. And I get to do two kinds. We will serve them toasted, to be smeared with butter moulded in the shape of a lamb, which is a Dutch tradition.

Boterschaap

Aw Look, a Butter Lamb! We Named Him Wonky

I made the British buns using the recipe from the River Cottage Bread Book, by Daniel Stevens. Then, I adapted it to make what I am calling Southern Cross Buns, which I think are good for any occasion, and you can keep the cross, since they are named after the Australian flag.

And I photographed the steps for you.

Recipe: Southern Cross Buns

Ingredients

For the Bun:

250 g strong white bread flour (plus some for dusting)

250 g plain white flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

125 ml warm water

125 ml warm milk

1 sachet dried yeast (7 g)

10 g salt

50 g caster Sugar

1 egg

70 g plain chocolate chips

30 g candied peel (orange only if possible)

Zest of ½ orange, grated

6 green cardamom pods

For the Cross:

75 g plain white flour

100 ml water

For the Glaze:

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tbsp water

Method

You may remember that I made my own candied peel. This is not compulsory, but it does make it a lot easier to use only the orange peel for this recipe. If you have (or wish to make) your own candied peel, chop it finely before you start the rest of the steps.

Extracting cardamom seeds from the pods

Remove the Seeds from the Cardamom Pods

Also lightly crush the cardamom pods to release the black seeds inside, and grind these to a coarse powder with a pestle and mortar.

Sieve together the flours and the cocoa. I usually skip the sifting step in a recipe, but this will help prevent the cocoa from forming lumps.Mix together with the sugar, salt and yeast

Make a Well in the Centre of the Dry Ingredients

Make a Well in the Centre of the Dry Ingredients

I found that mixing boiling water from the kettle, and cold milk from the fridge, the resulting liquid was warm, but not too hot for the yeast. You can use a food mixer with a dough hook for this recipe, but I am gadget-averse, so I had to do it with my hands. whichever way you choose, the dough is fairly sticky. Pour the liquid into the well, and mix.

After Mixing in the Milk & Water

After Mixing in the Milk & Water

Once it looks a bit like this, add the butter and the egg. This is when it gets sticky. Mix it well, so that you cannot see lumps of butter in the mixture anymore.

The mixture will get a little smoother

The mixture will get a little smoother

Then add the chocolate, candied peel and the ground cardamom. Knead this in well.

When it loos like this, cover it and leave it to prove

When it looks like this, cover it and leave it to prove

Try and leave it somewhere warm. It should take about an hour. I left it a bit longer, because I was busy with getting a lamb cooked, and other things. It was fine, and still rose nicely. Knock back – by punching the air out of it.

Cut the dough into eight equal(ish) pieces

Cut the dough into eight equal(ish) pieces

I got the proportions mostly right when I cut it. Only one was smaller than the rest. Make it easier on yourself by cutting the dough in half, roughly shaping each half into a thick sausage which you cut in half, then half again. It should be fine, if the sausage doesn’t taper too much.

Shape each piece of dough into a round. The following steps are straight from the River Cottage book, but they work really well, so they are the steps you need. Put the flat side of the dough on a lightly floured counter.

Bring a piece of the dough into the centre and press lightly

Bring a piece of the dough into the centre and press lightly

Each time that you do this, turn the dough a little, then repeat. Do this until all the dough is folded into the middle, and press firmly. Flip it over onto the other side. If you are not that confident in working sticky dough, like me, then you will probably want to flour the work surface again a little bit. More confident bakers work focaccia, which is a much wetter dough, so you will probably be fine. I found that I didn’t need to flour the buns later, because they were fine after I floured the surface.

The next bit is difficult to describe. You need to stretch the top of the bun, while tightening the pinch at the bottom. To do this, you need to flatten your hands, place the heel of one hand against one side of the roll, and the fingers of your other hand on the other side.

Step one of turning the bun

Step 1: flatten your hands at either side of the bun

Next you need to move your hands in opposite directions, and bring them together under the bun, so that it spins. This will stretch the top of the dough.

Step Two: Spin the bun, by moving hands in opposite directions

Step 2: Spin the bun, by moving hands in opposite directions

You will end up with your hands in the opposite configuration to that in which you started.

Step Three: how your hands end up

Step 3: how your hands end up

Do this little move three times per bun. Then put it on a board, and dust it lightly with flour, if you didn’t do it on the work surface.

Place them on a lightly floured board and leave to prove for another half an hour

Place them on a lightly floured board and leave to prove for another half an hour

Preheat the oven to 200°C

While the  buns are proving, mix up the flour and water, with a whisk. This will form your cross. I think the paste needs to be fairly thick. If you get the thickness right, I don’t think you need the amount of flour I have given here. I think mine was too thin, because the contrast on the ordinary bun was not good enough, so I didn’t get a cross. The contrast between the chocolate buns was much better, due to their brown colour. However, for you I have upped the ratio of flour to water. My advice would be to start with 50 g flour, and very slowly add the water, until you get a thick batter. it should leave ribbons when you pour it from a spoon, not run off.

Once you have a good consistency for the paste, and the buns have proved, then you need to make the cross. Transfer the buns to a baking sheet. Put the flour paste into a sandwich bag (or piping bag, if you have all the fancy equipment) and snip off a really small corner – be careful, the piped line is much bigger than the hole appears. Pipe the paste over the bun in a straight line, then again, at right angles to the first.

The piping bit is tricky, and needs a fairly steady hand

The piping bit is tricky, and needs a fairly steady hand.

I have to admit to a few drips where there should be none. They wiped off easily enough, but I had a thin paste. It is best to be as careful as you can.

Put the baking tray in the oven, and bake for between 15 and 25 minutes. Mine took nearer 25 minutes, so keep an eye on them. Like most bread-based products, they sound a little hollow when tapped on the bottom, when they are done.

While the buns are in the oven, melt the apricot jam and the water to make a glaze. Glaze them by painting the jammy liquid  over the top of each bun as they come out of the oven.

Leave them to cool on a wire rack.

Toasted Hot Cross Buns

Toasty!

Toasted is the correct way to serve these. Possibly slathered with butter from a wonky sheep.

4 Comments

Filed under Feast