Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate (Cup)cakes

This is my go-to chocolate cake ... most of the time. I have my favourites when it comes to chocolate cakes, yet oftentimes, whenever I need a fix, I find myself turning to this one. On all counts, this is a good cake. It may not have the complex flavours of this, but it is nonetheless a good cake.

What does it for me is that you only need to throw everything together, blitz, and you're ready to bake! How fast and easy is that? No need to chop chocolate, or melt butter, or fold batter. It is truly one of those fail-proof cakes that anyone can churn out - indeed, even a child can - and if you are a newbie baker, this is certainly a recipe you should attempt. #ConfidenceBooster

I baked this cake twice in as many weeks - surely an indication of how stressed I must be? But sink my teeth into these babies, and the world is at peace again. Isn't chocolate wonderful? It has the ability to calm a woman down and make her so much less dangerous.

Point to note though - you really have to run out and get a tub of sour cream for this. Trust me, it makes all the difference. I have tried using yogurt and crème fraîche, but they don't nail it like sour cream does. So please. If you want to substitute the magic ingredient, do it at your own risk.

Now, in my honest opinion, this cake doesn't need icing BUT an iced cake always does look so much more appealing, doesn't it? :) While I am quite happy to eat a plain cake, the rest at home want their icing, so majority wins. *shrugs*

And if you want to make a cupcake version, you should start checking at the 12-minute mark (especially if you need to rotate the muffins tins). Mine were done in about 18 minutes (rotated at the 13-minute mark), but since every oven works differently, keep a close watch, won't you?

As long as a skewer comes out almost* clean, you're good. In fact, when it comes to chocolate cakes, I prefer to err on slightly undercooked than slightly overcooked. No one likes a dry cake that crumbles at first bite. But a cake with a moist centre? Still good!
* By that, I mean there could be a few crumbs clinging onto your skewer ... but overall, the skewer is still clean.

I sprinkled some chopped chocolate on top, but you can get creative - fresh fruit (cherries and strawberries come to mind), chopped nuts, sea salt flakes or like Nigella herself did - pretty sugar pansies.

Have fun!

(100% from Nigella Lawson)

Makes about 8 slices (or about 12 cupcakes).

For the cake
- 200g plain flour
- 200g caster sugar (I cut down to 180g)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 40g best quality cocoa (I used Valrhona for best results)
- 175g soft unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs (or 3 medium eggs like I did)
- 2 tsp real vanilla extract
- 150ml sour cream

For the icing
- 75g unsalted butter
- 175g best quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces (I used Valrhona Caraïbe 66%)
- 300g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup (this gives the lovely sheen to the icing, but it is optional, in my opinion)
- 125ml sour cream
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- Sugar flowers, optional

Video here.

1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins with removable bases.

3. Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream - into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.

4. Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.

5. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.

6. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.

7. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz. This is by far and away the least tedious way of removing lumps.

8. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor on to the icing sugar, with the motor running.

9. When you've done, you may need to add a little boiling water - say a teaspoon or so - or indeed some more icing sugar: it depends on whether you need the icing to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.

9. Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (ie slightly domed) side down.

10. Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.

11. Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

12. I love to dot the top of this with sugar pansies - and you must admit, they do look enchanting - but there really is no need to make a shopping expedition out of it. Anything, or indeed nothing, will do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Caramel Glazed Salmon Sub Sandwich

This was dinner. Usually, when I cook a salmon dish, it would be with rice or potatoes. Today, I just felt like a sandwich. With a cuppa. Just for a change.

The only thing I bought was the baguette. Everything else, I already on hand. It turned out to be quite a filling meal, actually! The sauce tasted something like teriyaki, but with a lot more funk, courtesy of the pungent fish sauce - which I love, by the way! I want to make this again, but with pickled carrots and coriander leaves to make it a proper bánh mì.

Have you cooked something different lately? It's always good to try new things out. :) Have a good rest-of-the-week, everyone!

(from Closet Cooking)
Servings: makes 2-4

- 2 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lime, juice (use lemon juice if you really can't get lime)
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 pound salmon, deboned and cut into large chunks

1. Heat the water and sugar over medium heat and simmer until it turns a deep golden brown.

2. Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, and water and carefully add it to the pan, then heat until the caramel dissolves.

3. Add the chilli, garlic and shallots and simmer until tender, about a minute.

4. Add the salmon* and simmer until cooked, about 2-3 minutes per side and set aside.
* Note: I did it slightly differently. I pan grilled the salmon (marinated with a squeeze of lemon and salt), then drenched it with the sauce when it was time to eat. The only reason is because I like my salmon slightly crispy on the outside.

5. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.

6. Serve the salmon along with the reduced and thickened sauce poured over it.