Sunday, September 25, 2016

the Aussie edit: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

My little tiny Aussie oven needs two things:  a rest and a cleaning.  Apparently it is swimmer birthday season and that has meant many warm hours of baking for my wee oven.   Pretty sure the baking of treats has contributed very little to the need for a good cleaning, but it's time.  And the self-cleaning function is conspicuously absent on the dial.  Time for some Google searching of environmentally safe ways to clean an oven that can't clean itself.  Poor thing, can't take care of itself.     Old school oven cleaners could be the death of me, I don't remember them and their fumes fondly.  When you spend 40 minutes every day cruising the gorgeous ocean, you get a little more environmentally responsible.

Here's a little rundown of good things that have come out of my oven recently:  Fig Bars (because Fig Newtons are not a thing here and I kind of love them), Birthday Banana Rum Cake (because boozy cakes are fun), Crumb Cake (my original claim to fame-an updated version with a better cake layer and improved crumb to be posted), Mushroom Leek Lasagne (oh hey, sometimes I actually make a main dish and yep, need to post this one too), Mini Chocolate Chocolate Chip Donuts (add some chopped chips to the basic recipe and dust with icing/confectioner's sugar because your friend's little ones get ridiculously excited when you bring them), Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake (the eventual recipe in the post) and Blueberry Brioche (because everyone needs a challenge and blueberries were relatively inexpensive last week and I do mean relatively because they are about 10 cents US a berry and yes, no post for this yet it was an experiment).  

Logistically,  baked goods are easier to share.  And holistically they need to be shared, that list up there would demand more kilometers in the water than is humanly possible.  And baked goods go well with coffee after a swim in chilly (or fresh, in Australian) water.  It took me years to share the recipe for my original version of crumb cake.  There was some magic in being the one swimmer mom with the recipe.  It was a bit selfish.  I'll own up to that.  But now I share pretty freely.  Especially easy to share with my Australian friends who keep trying to rename things I bake because a lot of American baking barely translates.  Bars are slices.  Sure they are.  A donut shop just opened in Manly and one donut is $6.  Sure they are.  Donuts are not $6 baked goods, just so you know, you crazy  people.  Even the one that looks like a certain US Presidential candidate with fairy floss (cotton candy) for hair.  I should be careful who I call crazy.

Let's update the olive oil cake recipe, shall we?  As previously discussed, this olive oil cake is the result of a quest begun after Kelly sent me the most amazing cake from the most amazing Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a birthday when she lived in LA and I lived in Indianapolis.  Look them up online and especially if you ever visit Ann Arbor.  They too do more than bake.  (But side note:  as I was looking up Zingerman's mail order I noticed two things:  1.  It's Rosh Hashanah next Sunday and an early Shanah Tova to my Jewish friends and 2. Zingerman's makes a Buckwheat Honey Cake and I think I need one, whatever it is).  This is now olive oil cake version 4 from my kitchen.  Blood orange season is sadly almost over in Australia.  Any citrus would work, but I have found consistency in sweetness of zest and juice with blood oranges where with lemons and other orange varieties bitterness sometimes shows up when I least like it-maybe the bitter white pith is too easy to nick when zesting, not sure).  If you have tasted a nice blood orange olive oil from a small batch producer at a market or in your travels and you happen to have some in your pantry you can sub out maybe 1/4 of the plain fruity olive oil for the flavored oil.  You probably paid a bit of a dear price for that oil, so keep that in mind.  I always have at least two plain olive oils on hand.  If the label uses "fruity" as a descriptor maybe buy some and give it a try if it's not too expensive.  Bold and peppery oils are not what you are looking for in this sweet recipe.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake (or Olive Oil Cake V4)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 C almond flour (you can use 3 C all purpose flour, but this is V4 for a reason)
1 1/2 C sugar (castor sugar for my Aussie friends)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (sea salt for the Aussies)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 C fruity extra-virgin olive oil (or 3/4 C fruity extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 C blood orange flavored small batch olive oil)
1 C milk (any fat content, I use skim because that's what is in my refrigerator)
3 large eggs (I use 600g eggs, but the more common 700g eggs here are probably fine)
2 T grated blood orange zest (rinse and dry the skin and zest your orange before you juice it)
juice of one small blood orange (no seeds)
1/4 C Grand Marnier
3/4 C sliced almonds (almond flakes)

Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.  Spray a 9 or 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  In a medium bowl whisk together the olive oil(s), milk, eggs, juice, zest and Grand Marnier.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk together until just combined, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and whisk quickly again.  Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the almonds.  Bake for one hour, until top is golden and cake tester comes out clean (or center of cake bounces back when lightly pressed).  I usually have to tent my cake with foil about a half hour in because that cute little oven of mine only holds a steady temperature on the convection setting and I didn't go to all the trouble and expense to burn the top of the cake-so check your cake about half way through (also, use your nose it will probably tell you something like, "Hey your cake might be about to burn, smell it getting nice and toasty?).  Transfer the cake in the pan to a cooling rack and let it cool 30 minutes.  Run a knife around the pan and invert it onto a serving plate if desired.  If you keep it in the pan, it will steam a bit and this is really kind of a good thing.  It's a moist cake regardless.

I recently stored my leftover cake covered in the refrigerator and reheated already sliced pieces on a baking tray at 300F/155 C and the pieces got a bit crisped up on the edges and it was pretty nice that way, so you could toast it but I wouldn't count on slices holding together in a toaster.  Use a baking sheet and parchment or foil for maybe 10 minutes.

This is Version 3, but Version 4 looks just the same.  Cheers.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

the most gorgeous coconut cake

Perhaps you've seen the posts of this gorgeous cake of mine.  I mean......the cake that is to date the very best cake I have ever baked and I don't think it's just because I served it on a sunny winter morning at the beach with champagne and raspberries although those are a fantastically good circumstances.  Cheers to one of my best swimming friends, Dee and to her husband Peter's brilliant suggestion of a coconut cake with some fruit flavor for her birthday celebration.  The big day is also World Ocean Day which brings the whole thing rather full circle.

I have never baked a coconut cake, but have tried many so I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea I'd pull it off on my first attempt.  I combined at least three recipes for this one.  The cake batter was fairly easy and would be good on it's own or with some other icing arrangement.  The lemon curd is standard and easy as long as you do not get distracted (you can focus on one thing for 10 minutes, I assure you, or you'll have to zest and juice again plus who keeps that many lemons around unless you have a tree like many people do here and I am jealous).  The real buttercream is worth the effort and a little counterintuitive.  More butter than sugar unlike quick buttercream with powdered/confectioner's/icing sugar, but here it is absolutely a good measure of the success of this recipe.  I did bake this cake and make the curd in the afternoon and then returned to the buttercream and assembly in the evening post pre-birthday bubbles and it still turned out beautifully.   Allow a good 40 minutes or so for the buttercream making and cake assembly, you may not need it but not being rushed would help.

Since I baked this on a dreary day and finished it at night in my already dark kitchen, there are no process photos.  I could bake another one this week just for the pictures, and I might.  But we are just one week past a huge storm that left the ocean unfit for swimming and if I'm not swimming a mile every day, I possibly do not need a gorgeous cake in the house.  Possibly.  It's very chilly here this morning so there is a high probability that baking will happen if for no other reason than to warm up the house.  Or I will do what I'm doing now, snuggled up to an outdoor heater at my cafe home writing and not being cold.  Such a different life I have right now.  Kind of like it if you haven't heard.

Coconut Cake
6 egg whites at room temperature (reserve two of the egg yolks for the lemon curd)
1 1/3 C coconut milk (basically a can's measure)
2 tsp vanilla
4 C flour (all purpose is fine, cake flour works too)
2 C sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
16 T (228g) unsalted butter, room temperature
Lemon Curd
Sweetened flake coconut to decorate (at least 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.  Prepare two round cake pans (8 or 9-inch, whatever you have) lining the bottoms with parchment and then spraying bottom and sides with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together the egg whites, coconut milk and vanilla until combined.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer (oh, how I miss my KitchenAid) or in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer (current state of affairs), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at low speed.  Add in the butter at low speed increasing to medium.  Note:  this did not work for me with my hand mixer, but maybe my butter was too cold so I had to add a little of the liquid mixture to get everything working.  Add in the liquid mixture in three parts, scraping down sides and beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake cakes for 30-40 minutes or until a tester in the center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto baking racks to cool completely.  

Lemon Curd
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 C sugar (caster sugar in Australian terms)
1/3 C (80g) cold unsalted butter
zest and juice of 2 lemons

Whisk eggs, yolk and sugar in a small saucepan until smooth then turn the heat to low.  Add in the butter, juice and zest and stir to melt butter.  Keep whisking continuously over low heat until thickened, maybe 5-10 minutes.  Curd will thicken a bit more upon chilling but get it good and thick over the heat first.  Strain through a sieve into a bowl or jar.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.


1 1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1 1/2 C milk (I used skim because that is what I had)
1/3 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C (340g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and sugar.  Add the milk and cream and whisk frequently over medium heat until mixture comes to boil and thickens or about 10 minutes.  Transfer the hot mixture to a stand mixer bowl (or mixing bowl with hand mixer) and beat on high until cool, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add in the butter a few pieces at a time until fully incorporated.  Add in vanilla.  Turn up the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.  Note:  I actually had to add in 1/2 C or powdered sugar to get the consistency I wanted but that could have just been me and my hand mixer problems.

Place one cake layer on serving plate.  Thickly cover with lemon curd stopping before the edges to allow for the second layer to spread the curd a bit.  Top with the second layer.  Frost with buttercream and a spreader thickly coating the top and sides of the cake.  Press on coconut.  This is messy business, keep at it and clean up the cake plate at the very end.  Keep refrigerated.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

winter baking: pumpkin olive oil cake with browned butter glaze

So very blustery, so very dark on an early winter's night along the Tasman Sea with an East Coast Low angrily rolling through this weekend.  Finally settling in for the evening after spending much of the day securing our property because our patio furniture is menacingly moving every which way, the party lights are swinging off the tree and the wind and rain are blowing right through our big sliding glass doors.  Here's something you don't think about when you move around the planet:  you have no old towels to use as rags.  No ratty t-shirts when you get into something messy.  No old shoes to slog through a muddy trail.  Now, we've been abroad 20 months and thanks to a brutal old washing machine and countless hikes we've got some things we can sacrifice.  But not heaps.  It's too dark to worry about it.  As Greg said (from summery Shanghai), it's a good night to live in a concrete bunker on a cliff.  That is a fairly accurate assessment right now of our apartment that on summer days would be really offended by that description.  In other words, I'm hunkered down (praying for daylight, as the family saying goes) with time and inclination to finish this post I started last week. 

Last week when I was winding down autumn and you were most likely welcoming summer heat.  Let me review, seasons here do not officially change with the sun and the moon, but rather with the first of a month on a quarterly basis, hence the very practical start of winter in Australia is June first  instead of the more traditional (to Americans) June twenty-first (you know, the one based on actual science of the earth's tilt and rotation).  So it's chilly and it's pumpkin season, but pureed pumpkin is not sold in cans (or tins) here so to bake anything pumpkin you first need to roast a whole pumpkin and then puree it yourself.  It's not hard, but it's certainly not as easy as opening a can or tin, as they are called here.  So far every tin I have encountered has a pull top so you wouldn't even need a can opener for your pumpkin puree if it could be bought, which it can not so never mind how easy that would be.   

So I bought a pumpkin, cut it in half, scraped out the seeds, brushed it with a little bit of canola oil and roasted it face up in a medium hot oven (400 F or 200 F) for about half an hour (until tender when the flesh was poked with a fork).  After about 10 minutes, the flesh could be scooped out and then pureed with a stick blender (or stand mixer or blender or whatever you have).  Pumpkin baking crisis averted.  

The whole baking with browned butter thing is still a very strong trend at my house.  The single-layer cake gets all trendy with olive oil in the batter and browned butter in the icing.  Slice by slice, it's disappearing rapidly being delicious with breakfast, tea of as a dessert.  If it's just about summer where you are, file this one away and bake it up in a few months.  Enjoy your summer and all the fresh fruit desserts.  Have something with luscious ripe peaches for me.  


1/2 C white sugar (I know white sugar is the devil, substitute if you must)
1/4 C light or dark brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 C pumpkin puree
2 T milk
1/2 C nice fruity olive oil
1 C flour (also the devil, substitute away)
1 C whole wheat flour 
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cardamon (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

3 T unsalted butter
1-2 C powdered/icing sugar
2 T milk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C.  Line an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon (if using).  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, using a stand or hand mixer on medium high speed beat sugars and eggs together until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in pumpkin puree and milk until combined.  Lower the speed of your mixer to avoid a big splashy mess, and slowly add in the olive oil.  Scrape down the sides and slowly mix in half of the flour mixture.  Scrape again and add the other half of the flour mixture until well-combined.  Pour batter into prepared cake tin (see, I've been here a while automatically typing tin instead of pan).  Bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully invert the cake onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

Prepare glaze by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring a bit and watching it carefully until it just starts to smell nutty and turn chestnut brown (this might happen in just one part of the pan, that's good enough).  Turn off heat and take pan off burner to avoid scorching the butter.  Cool slightly.  Whisk together powdered sugar, browned butter and pinch of salt (just a little one to bring it all together and cut the sweetness) adding milk a tablespoon at a time until the glaze is pourable or spreadable (however you like it).  Pour or spread over cooled cake.  Can be stored at room temperature.  

Try not to eat the whole thing in one day.  I think it took us two days with some help from lovely guests and great restraint on the part of all four of us.  Sorry for the lack of photos, it's very dark in my kitchen this time of year and well, we ate the cake so quickly I only got a good photo of the very last piece. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

purple rain day: maple oatmeal coffee break bread

Here I type in the middle of a moody grey afternoon in paradise, after a wake-up text I didn't see coming that just knocked me a little sideways and left me tuned into Double J's commercial free Australian state radio all-day, all-Prince broadcast.  The first time Greg and I saw him live was the night after he won the Oscar for Purple Rain.  Man.  1985.  The year I graduated from Purdue.  I was supposed to be lining up interviews in downtown Hartford, Connecticut so I put on my interview suit and pumps and went straight to stand in line at Ticketmaster for two tickets that were barely in the newlywed budget.  Don't worry, I graduated with a job but first we went to a crazy good Prince concert.  Fast forward 31 years to our second Prince concert just two months ago at the Sydney Opera House.  This time I was supposed to be getting my morning rice milk flat white, which I did but shortly thereafter I found out he was playing his "Piano and a Microphone" tour that night and within minutes I was online buying two tickets that were probably still out of the budget but, you know.

Let me give you a visual.  The small stage is dark with just a few cast iron candelabras on the periphery.  A golden light shines through the stage door with a silhouetted Prince in all of his Prince glory with a cane by his side.  And that's all he had to do.  Appear.  We were spellbound for the next two hours.  He'd stop mid-song and just strut the stage with his light-up shoes like my kids loved when they were little.  He had a wicked sense of humor.  He was ridiculously prolific, so we didn't know all the songs but it mattered not at all, we were completely immersed in the magic.

This has virtually nothing to do with this recipe other than the fact that I'm so intent on enjoying the Prince thing they've got going on the radio that I might as well write.  It's autumn here in my current hemisphere and warm enough to swim, but cool enough to bake. And so yesterday morning I baked two dozen of my famous buttermilk mini donuts (one dozen chocolate-espresso with powdered sugar and one dozen vanilla with a bit of nutmeg dipped hot into melted butter and cinnamon sugar) to share with my swim friends as we sat and drank our coffee and warmed up in the bright sun. Yesterday evening I roasted cauliflower for dinner, kept on roasting and threw rhubarb/vanilla bean/orange juice/brown sugar in a pan for muesli topping and lowered the heat for today's cake recipe.  The flavors or maple and oatmeal just sounded good (because it does get chilly in Sydney, it's paradise but we have seasons).  I had buttermilk that I couldn't open properly for the donuts and felt compelled to use it up rather than repackaging it after I had to slice open the top (hate that).  I had some nice walnuts to toast and searched for some ideas online.  It was getting late, so something one bowl, no mixer and one pan baking would be just right.  It's dark now by 5:30, so my ability to stay awake (even without the jet-lag) without Greg home to nudge me, is seriously in doubt past 8:00. With this soundtrack, I'm good to go tonight.  I'll get some words down with the occasional dance break.  You can't sit when they play "Let's Go Crazy".  Well you can, but why would you.  Almost my entire life here in Australia is of the "dance like no one is watching" theme.  If they're watching, I hope they can hear the digital radio.  It would explain a lot.

So here you go, this is a hybrid of things I found online and things I bake often.  It's a good little loaf that could be toasted.  It's definitely made for coffee and or tea.  It's not too sweet.  It's not overly indulgent.  Pretty sure it will keep nicely if that's something that actually happens at your house.

Rest in peace, Prince.  Thanks for the soundtrack to my 20's that's carried on through to my 50's nicely.  Thanks for being.  Thanks for that Super Bowl halftime show.  You'll be missed.  Too bad you could never stop by for some cake.  "Oh no, let's go....."

Maple Oatmeal Coffee Break Bread

2 C old-fashioned oats, not quick cooking
1 1/2 C flour (white, whole wheat or mixed)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 C maple syrup
1 C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 C brown sugar
4 T melted and lightly browned butter (melted butter, not borwned is fine too)
1/2 C walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C.  Coat loaf pan with non-stick spray.

While warming up oven, lightly toast walnuts on parchment paper on a baking sheet (5-10 minutes, keep a watch on them) or lightly toast them in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat on a cooktop.  Cool slightly and quickly chop them in the food processor.

Process the oats until coarse, maybe 30 seconds.  Empty into large mixing bowl, leaving about 1/2 C in the food processor to process into a finer flour texture.  Pour into the mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour(s), soda, baking powder, and salt.  

Measure maple syrup into a liquid measuring cup and add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs.  Whisk together and pour into flour mixture along with the browned or melted butter. Whisk or stir together the batter until just well-combined.  Stir in the walnuts.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake 45-50 min or until tester in the center comes out clean.  Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Turn out onto the rack and turn again to finish cooling right side up.

Sydney Opera House sails lit purple at dusk on our ferry ride in for the Prince concert 20 February, 2016