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Thursday 23 September 2010

Banana Refrigerator Cake

OMG. Say you don't.

There's been something of a casein build-up in my fridge recently. Remember all the hoo hah several years ago about butter mountains and wine lakes in the EU? (A note to the unaware - that's what's known as figurative speech. Excited foreign nationals need not rush to book air tickets to Brussels just yet.) Well, it's happened to me. Owing to a top secret, can't-tell-you-anything-about-it-so-don't-even-ask project of mine, I have had to buy 'a great deal' of cream cheese over the last few weeks and months. It has been what I would call horrendous/fabulous. Horrendous for the calories and fat; fabulous because I love cream cheese.

The point. I always take such a long time to get to the point.

Much of it has been languishing though - love me those schedule changes! - and needed using up. Along with some almost black bananas that I don't even remember buying - the to-ing and fro-ing of a flight attendant makes trips the supermarket unmemorable. (Though let's face it - there's nothing particularly memorable about the Co-Op on Crwys Rd anyway, is there?) And some white chocolate bar things that were from... I don't even know where they were from. How did that happen? My cupboards need sorting.

So I called up Rose Levy Beranbaum and asked her, 'Rose, what am I going to do with all of this junk in my kitchen?'

She said, 'Boy, that's what my darned book is for. Now get off the phone, I'm expecting a call.'

(Rose doesn't actually speak like that at all. She's a very articulate and well spoken lady.)

So, a return to Rose's Heavenly Cakes it was. I have mentioned how much I love the book before, so will spare you this time. But I do. I love it, and all the more so for this banana refrigerator cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

You have read correctly. I said banana refrigerator cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

The deal here is that there's no butter in the cake, so it stays soft in the fridge, which is where you need to keep it since it is covered with lovely white chocolate cream cheese frosting. (This is making me drool...)

Reader: I have made a lot of cakes for this blog, to most which you have born witness. I say 'most' because I burned one t'other day on account of the gin gimlets, and nobody is bearing witness to that. Not for nuthin' and no how. The thing is, I don't think I have ever made a better tasting one. Ever. Such is the power of the Rose.

Let's just get to the recipe. I can feel some of you are actually going to make this one. I simplified Rose's frosting, but you can get the ur-recipe here.

Banana Refrigerator Cake
adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes

You will need:

2 very ripe bananas
125 ml crème fraîche or sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
170g caster sugar (or soft brown sugar, I didn't have any)
125ml vegetable oil
200g plain flour (cake flour, should such be available)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt and leavening.
  3. Mash the bananas and mix in the sour cream and eggs. I do this with electric beaters in a large bowl, but Rose suggests a food processor. You must make up your own mind.
  4. When the mixture is smooth, beat in the oil and sugar. Then add the dry ingredients and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cake tests done.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack. The cake humps slightly in the centre, but upon cooling, it's less pronounced.
  7. Frost.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

You will need:

200g full fat cream cheese
200g white chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate and cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the cream cheese.

Tuesday 21 September 2010


Delicious Delicious Delicious is de-camping to Italy for a week. Mr. P is going with Mr. Other P to stay with Francesco and Bob and look at their olive trees and eat their pasta. Just to make sure that everything is OK.

I don't know if I'll be able to post anything when I'm there, but have a few things up my sleeve which are scheduled to post automatically while I am away, so you won't be left entirely without you usual dose of drivel from yours truly.

I'm taking my camera and notebook. Get ready for good food!

Monday 20 September 2010

Rose Macarons

Ce sont des macarons malformés. Never rush a macaron, my dears. Never.

I've been thinking a lot about Paris Syndrome recently. I'm someone who thinks the city is horrendously overrated, overpriced and underwhelming, and can quite see why large numbers of tourists each year fall prey to the condition.

You want sunny weather, clean streets and blue skies; tree lined boulevards and green parks; the smell of freshly baked baguettes and window displays filled with beautiful patisserie. You do not get it.

What you get is all the dirt and grime of any big city. There is no way to enjoy the unbelievably expensive coffee you ordered at the corner cafe when all the clientele are clutching at smoking Sobranie Black Russians, and waving them in your faces. Then there are the dogs: let us not mention the dogs and their mess. Considering all of the above, one can understand the poor tourists' syndromes du voyageur.

Still, there is the Eiffel Tower.

I am being overly harsh. It's just that over-turning a lifelong dislike for the place is proving difficult.

Pierre Hermé is helping me to do just that though. I was at his place on Rue Bonaparte recently and re-reconfirmed my love affair with the macaron. I had one that was flavoured with olive oil and vanilla, and which was, well, obscenely delicious. They should be prescribed as a cure for Paris Syndrome, and Mr. Hermé should be given a white coat to wear to work.

Just a suggestion.

Also among the flavours I selected was a simple - if we can call any macaron simple - rose scented number, and since I don't quite have the guts to attempt the olive oil-vanilla version chez moi, I decided to give it a go to take to some friends I was visiting. I seem to have gotten in to the habit of doing that - promising macarons - and really must stop it.

Time was not on my side; you can see that from the knobbly, gnarly lumps on the top of my mac shells. I was in such a rush that I under mixed the party-pink batter, and didn't want to stop and correct it. But I wanted to post them, my C- macarons, anyway, because the last few batches I have turned out have been very good and I want you to see that I can mess up royally as well.

Plus, I wanted to share with you my new and improved filling for macarons, which beats anything else in the world. Bar olive and vanilla ganache.

Mr. P's Rose Macarons

It's worth pointing out that Pierre Hermé uses the Italian meringue method of macaron making, and mine are French meringue. You can find the recipe and method here. Omit the cocoa, and add a small dab of red colouring gel once the meringue mixture has been beaten to soft peaks. Put together with:

Mr P's Stupendous Rose Cream

You will need:

100g white chocolate
100g full fat cream cheese
natural rose essence or rose water

  1. Melt the white chocolate in a suitable bowl in the microwave. I do this on half power, in 30 second blasts. It takes about 90 seconds all in. If you have no microwave, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and melt the chocolate that way. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Add the cream cheese and mix together until smooth.
  3. Add drops of rose essence or rose water to taste, and mix in thoroughly. Rose flavourings vary in strength enormously, so go easy. If you live anywhere near a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery, get your rose water there. It will be cheaper and better quality than any or the prettily packaged ones you'll find in supermarkets. Iranian rose water is the best. Promise.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Gin Gimlet

We're drinking hard liquor today, people. Please enjoy!
To go with, I'll give you some drunken beer babble: my thoughts on university education. Please also enjoy!

I'm not saying that it (university education) is a waste of time - so don't jump all over me, OK? - but I do think, looking back at what we actually studied when I was a student, that some of what we studied in those lectures had little useful application to real life.

My European Literature module for example. Or The Cultural History of Japan. I wonder if they still torture people with those?
Tell me that my Heroes of the Torah glasses are not fabulous.

In my final year, I took a module on French crime fiction, and thought at the time that it was going to be a similar story. I mean, we were reading whodunnits for crying out loud.

In the end though, I did actually enjoy that particular class - it was probably the only one I ever did the reading for on time, albeit in translation, and I loved the arguments about how 'noir' some of the texts were. I mean, as if we, a bunch of undergraduates, had any idea.

University will do that to you.

Now. Here's the thing. Because of this crime fiction module, and the fact I really didn't know anything about crime novels (or what hard-boiled crime writing was), I did a bit of background reading at the time. Only a few novels. nothing major, but I did read Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep' and 'The Long Goodbye', the former being on the recommended reading list.

They don't scream USEFUL APPLICATION TO REAL LIFE, granted, but they did come to my rescue (or downfall - ultimately, I burned a cake) when I wanted a gin and tonic the other day and found, as usual, that we had no tonic, a situation equal in terms of frustration as finding no milk in the fridge when you've already made your cup of tea.

I didn't kill myself. I saw we had Rose's lime cordial in the cupboard and Terry Lennox's instructions for making a gin gimlet came to mind: 'half gin and half Rose's lime juice and nothing else.'

I remember reading the passage about gimlets in the book and thinking to myself that it was probably all down to the drinking of such rough drinks that Terry ended up with scars on his face. Yet look at me now! I seem to have acquired a taste for them myself. I was quite surprised, because I didn't think a drink made from gin, and what is basically squash, could taste any good. But it does! It's superb.

I think you need ice. But otherwise, I wouldn't add anything, and I certainly wouldn't bake (well, never again...) while drinking one of these, otherwise your Southern Manhattan Coconut Cake will end up black as soot, and the only cure will be another gin gimlet.
Unversity: the foundation of alcoholism.

Apparently, the rabbis on these glasses aren't real. I wanted to do a blow by blow account of why each one is a Hero of the Torah for you, but can't.

How fabulous are these Judeo-kitsch glasses by the way? Told you I love Fishs Eddy. They haven't sent freebies yet. I still dream.

Gin Gimlet

You will need:

Gin (I used Gordon's, which I would never buy, but some was left at our house after a party)
Rose's Lime Cordial
  1. Mix the two ingredients in equal measures, and pour over ice.
  2. That's it.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Blackberry Jam

If I were a real food blogger, I'd have made these. But I'm a faker!

Not all that long ago, I had an email from Tate and Lyle rep asking me if I wanted to try some of their range of sugars, which are all now Fair Trade, in the dishes I create for this blog.

I get a lot of junk email sent to the blog's inbox. If it's not Mr. Ogbonna in Nigeria telling me that stand to inherit 500 USD (yippee!), it's someone who wants to sell me cheap Viagra, or even better, cheap and natural Viagra. Sorry guys; I am just not interested.

Free sugar however, I'll take. Even though I pretty much exclusively use Tate and Lyle branded stuff anyway, since that's what my local supermarket stocks. So I agreed to do the trial, and the next day at 7:00am, 5kg of assorted sugar arrived on my doorstep. You must admit that that's a rather amazing start to the morning; beats court summons and phone bills any day of the week!

I didn't really know what to do with it all, but since there was a bag of jam sugar in there, I decided to go with that for a first try. This necessitated a trip to the allotments to pick the blackberries that grow on the scrub land at the edges, and I roped in my friend Lucy to help. I even made her wash and sterilise the jars that had been building up in the shed - Tate and Lyle may trade fairly, but I don't. (Don't worry, I've promised her a share of the finished jam!)

Last time I made jam, I used a different brand of jam sugar, which had completely different usage instructions and a lighter grain than Tate and Lyle's. I thought I'd just wing it and do what I'd done before, which turned out to be a mistake - I had to reboil the jam to make it set properly. The lesson to take away from this, my friends, is not to cut corners just because the sugar is free.

You've already seen that I made crostata with this jam. I recommend you do exactly the same thing, but I was recently in a used book shop and read something that made me want to try something a little unusual (or which seemed so to me). I always seek out the children's section in old book stores, on the hunt for Enid Blytons. I don't actually collect them, but loved her books so much as a child that I like trying to find first editions now. Flicking through a copy of one of the Secret Sevens I found a scene that I remember reading as a child, in which the Seven, holed up in a secret meeting in the Peter's garden shed, drink blackcurrant tea made with hot water and leftover jam from a pot in the larder. Figuring that since I've had yuzu cha before, and liked it, there was no reason not to try my own home-spun version; it was quite nice. Much better than the last time I was influenced by food in a children's book - Mum thought I was crazy when I asked for bread and margarine for my after school snack as a child (having read Roald Dahl's Matilda), and after having tasted it myself, so did I. I was straight back onto the scones after that, let me tell you.

Blackberry tea.

If you want to be an expert jam maker, which I am not, you would do well to buy a copy of Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. It is an amazing book, and lists recipes and methods seasonally, so you could do a different jam, relish or chutney every month for several years and never make the same things twice.

Blackberry Jam

You will need:

Jam sugar

  1. Pick over the berries and discard any bad ones. Pour all the fruit into a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp salt and leave to soak for an hour. Then drain and pick over the fruit again. You will find a horrifying amount of bugs. Don't worry about it now, just be thankful that you didn't skip this step.
  2. Wash your jars and dry them off in a cool oven to sterilise. Boil the lids in clean water for 10 minutes, and dry them off in the oven as well. Put a saucer in the freezer.
  3. Weigh your fruit, and put it into a large pan with an equal quantity of jam sugar.
  4. Over a medium heat, stir and mash the fruit and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Resist the urge to add water as you'll have to boil the jam for longer.
  5. Bring the mixture to the boil, and stop stirring. It will rise in the pan and spit; be careful.
  6. After 6 minutes, test for setting point. This means drizzling a small amount onto the saucer you put in the freezer earlier and poking it with your little finger. If the surface wrinkles, setting point has been reached.
  7. Pour the jam into the jars and seal immediately.
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