Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Vicki’s Cake (Victoria Sponge Cake)

31 July 16

This is a quintessential and favorite British tea time cake. It is called the Victoria Sponge Cake because it was Queen Victoria’s favorite for high tea. When you are the Queen you get what you want. It’s good to be the Queen.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
220 gr sugar (1 cup)
2 each eggs
160 gr all-purpose flour (1 cup)
6 gr baking powder (1-1/2 tsp)
125 gr milk (1/2 cup)
4 gr vanilla extract (1 tsp)

Set your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lube an 8 inch spring form pan with unsalted butter.

If you are a masochist and doing things by hand you mix up the dry goods, cream the butter and sugar, add the dry goods, then add the wet goods. Of course, you pre-mix the flour and the baking powder. Then pre-mix the milk and the vanilla. Oh yeah, if doing by hand then you may want to use powdered sugar. It dissolves and creams a little faster.

If you are using a good mixer like a sensible person, then cream the butter and sugar until they are supple and smooth. Then add the dry stuff – flour, baking powder – and mix it in on low. Then add the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Notice – no pre-mix is necessary. You also want to be extra cautious if you use powdered sugar. It tends to go everywhere when the mixer starts. The flour and the milk sometimes do also. You might want to bump the mixer a time or two as you start. I wish Kitchenaid had a soft start. My Cuisinart hand mixer has soft start and it is wonderful.

Either way, dump the batter into the pan, bake at 400°F (200°C) until a toothpick comes out clean. This will be somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes depending on your oven. Mine tends to run around 30 minutes. Cool down still in the pan for about 10 minutes on top of a wire rack. Pop the outer ring off and, leaving the cake on the pan base, cool down completely. If you are not doing something else with the cake you can just leave it on the bottom of the pan.

You now have a proper Victoria Sponge Cake. Traditionally, you just whack and serve. If you want (and have a very steady hand), you can cut it in half and add some preserves in the middle. Apricot and raspberry are traditional (and good). Of course, you can use any preserves or other stuffing that you like. If you are like me, I think that this cake is a bit thin for cutting in half. I would cook a second cake and layer them together. Of course, you will have to shave the top of the bottom cake so the top layer will sit flat. Oh well, the cook gets the leftover top goodie. It’s good to be the cook. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on the outside if you like.

Custard is also used as a stuffer. A dollop of whipped cream has been known to be used for a topping.

As a note: a real purist would not use vanilla extract, but heat the milk and then soak a scored vanilla bean in it.


Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy

13 April 13

Well, yeah, if she follows this recipe she can.

1 pie Crust
1 pie Top (optional)
675 g cherries, fresh or frozen (1-1/2 lb.)
160 g sugar (2/3 cup)
110 g water
30 g lemon juice (2 Tbs)
36 g cornstarch (4 Tbs)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Slice of Cherry Pie

Slice of Cherry Pie

For the crust: Make (or buy) a single pie shell for an un-topped pie, or two shells for a covered pie. If you buy them they usually come 2 to a pack. That’s all a matter of what you like. I don’t care for covered pies, too much pastry. On the other side, herself does like them for some odd reason. So – follow what you like. If you make the crust do a quick pre-bake with a chain or some hard beans in the bottom shell. If using a store-bought crust this is not necessary.

For the filling: With fresh cherries be sure to wash, stem and pit. Take a taste and adjust the sugar if they are especially tart. This isn’t usually necessary if using the frozen jobbies, and they are already stemmed and pitted. Put the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch into a pot big enough to allow some stirring room. Apply a reasonable amount of heat and stir often. Things will probably come to a boil if using fresh cherries. Frozen seem to thicken up before there is a real boil. Don’t worry about things starting up looking a little shy on water. Just keep a close eye on things. As usual, when fruit and sugar are involved with a little heat the liquid increases. Stir and heat until things thicken up a good bit and the cherries soften. Add the extract if you like.

Let the filling cool a little bit and spoon into the shell. Allow for a little expansion as things get hot. Also be aware that there will be just a little shrinkage as things cool back down after cooking. If you are going to put a lid on the pie now is the time. Slash or cut out some pretty shapes for steam vents or you will have a mess. Crimp the top in place. Whether topped or not, cover the edge with foil. (Actually I use a neat silicon edge protector.) Used to be you could tell who made which topped pie by the design in the top. The crimp pattern around the edge was also a good identifier.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, then pull the foil or edge protector off and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes untill the whole crust is a nice golden brown.

If you want a really glossy finish for any topped pie just brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking.

Almond Biscotti

7 May 11

Legend has it that the twice baked treat that we call biscotti originates in the Italian city of Prato and should be called biscotti de Prato. Prato is in Tuscany – kinda’ North Central Italy. The original jobbies were supposed to be this nice almond version. These may go way back. We do know that something like these was being made in the medieval period. The first “official” recipe was somewhere around the 1800’s or thereabouts. People who like biscotti are nuts about this version. It is not hard to make at all.

{Herself sez: Well, pics will have to come later – we ate them up before I could get my camera out and set up! They are THAT good!}

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
230 g sugar (1 cup) – can be reduced to 200 g easily, or less by taste
3 eggs
3 g anise or vanilla extract (1 tsp)
320 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
dash salt
80 g chopped almonds (1/2 cup)
milk for brushing
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

You should use a mixer for this unless you have more energy and strength that good sense. You can use a flat beater or a dough hook. If you want to be really efficient use the flat beater until you add flour and then switch to the hook.

Cream the butter and sugar until nice and smooth. Use less sugar if this is too sweet for you. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix for a few seconds. Anise may be the more traditional flavor if you have it. Remember vanilla wasn’t available until the conquest of Mexico. Interesting that both chocolate and vanilla come from the new world. Add all the rest except the almonds and mix together. Lastly add the almonds and mix briefly to evenly distribute. Traditionally you just use plain old almonds – not blanched or anything else. You don’t really have to chop them, when you slice the stuff you will cut the almonds anyway. Follow your own preferences.

Use the biggest pan that will fit in your oven. If you don’t have a good sized pan then use two smaller pans. Cover the pan with foil and then butter the foil quite thoroughly. Divide the dough in half and then spread it on the pan with a good space between. You will wind up with two strips 12” x 3” or 10” x 4” depending on the size of your pan. You will find it easier to just pat into place rather than trying to spread with a utensil. Keep them as far apart as your pan will allow and as square as possible. You don’t want the two strips to melt together. This will all make sense after you do it the first time.

Brush the top with milk and sprinkle well with sugar. You will probably use about 1/4 cup of sugar or a bit more when it is right. Bake at 375°F for around 20 minutes. You want a nice golden brown and it should be firm to touch.

When nice and brown remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F. Slide the foil and pastry onto a wire cooling rack. Let it cool for 15 minutes. You have to be very careful with these steps as the pastry is rather fragile here. After it has cooled for the required time you need to get the pastry off the foil. The best way that I have found is to place the foil/pastry to the edge of the counter with the strips parallel to the edge. Support the strip from the bottom as you slide the pastry off the counter while peeling the foil down. When you have finished the first strip turn the foil around and do the other. This is the time to be very careful or you will crack the stuff. Slice the pastry with a good bread knife at a 45° angle. If the knife is not good and sharp you may rip the almonds around.

Put the slices with a cut side down on an ungreased baking sheet. You will do much better to use a jelly roll pan (the kind that had a lip all the way around). If you use a real non-stick cookie sheet the slices are likely to go sailing as it takes almost no movement to get the slice sliding. Bake them at 300°F for 10 minutes or so on one side, turn them over and do another 10 minutes. Just turn the oven off, crack the door, and let them cool for a while in the oven. After things have cooled off store them in a really airtight container.

Since these are so bone-dry they are traditionally served with something to dunk them in. Coffee and tea are well thought of. The old Italian tradition was orange juice after dinner. Try it – the reason most stuff (food wise) gets to be a tradition is because it is good.

Loaf Pan Sourdough Loaf

1 May 10

This is a nice loaf for loaf pans. (Not that you can’t do baguettes or free-form). It does pretty good for toast, sandwich, cheese toast and the like. This is a pure sourdough with no additional yeast added.

—–Overnight Starter—–

340   g   fed sourdough starter (1-1/3 cups)

303   g   water (1-1/3 cups)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

—–Next Morning Sponge—–

170   g   flour (1-1/3 cups)


170   g   water (2/3 cup)

14     g   butter or oil (2 tsp)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

19     g   salt (3 tsp)

—– Starter —–

Mix starter, water and flour together and cover. Substitute whole wheat or white whole wheat for half the flour if desired. Let ferment overnight.

—– Sponge —–

Mix in flour. Ferment 4 hours.

—– Dough —–

Mix in all ingredients. Mix 3 minutes low speed, 3 minutes second speed.

Ferment 4 hours, should be doubled.

Divide, shape, place into lubed pans, ferment until doubled – about 3 hours. This recipe makes 2 8-1/2” x 4-1/2” x 2-1/2” loaves, or one larger loaf.

Baguettes or free-form: Slash, steam. Bake covered 15 minutes at 450F. Uncover and reduce heat to 425F for 15 minutes.

Loaf pan: Steam. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes.

Not a purist’s French bread, since butter is added to the mix, and by French law only flour, water, yeast and salt are allowed in something called “French Bread”.

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