KOUIGN AMAAN- DARING KITCHEN CHALLENGE

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For those of you who don’t thing of bread beyond the yeasted dough or a breakfast toast and butter, here is a pastry from “bread-heaven”. A challenge to pronounce- Kwee-Ahmaan and a bigger challenge to control yourself from polishing it off in one go. Imagine the very French croissant’s coupling with buttery puff pastry and sweet Danish and voila! You have Kouign Amann- a round crusty pastry that originated in Brittany in the 1800s. History has it that a baker from a town of Douarnenez in the district of Finistère. in a desperate attempt to save a failed batch of bread dough added a significant amount of butter and sugar turning it into Kouign Amann. Bretons claim that the Kouign Amann is the “fattiest pastry in the world” (your thighs will hate you), its their answer to the Parisian Croissant.

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The process involves making yeasted dough, resting it, beating down chilled butter to a flat, thin layer and encasing it in the dough. It is crucial for the success of the KA to keep the butter chilled at all times, as this is what forms those sugary sheets of fluff. Active time is barely 45 minutes but the resting and chilling can take up most part of your day. I always use cling film to line my counter when rolling and folding the dough. This serves a dual purpose, less mess and since the dough can get sticky and difficult, the film helps to lift it off the surface and fold. Wrap the dough in the same cling film and chill. This way I can carry on with my other mundane chores without having to constantly clean up the counter.

These buns are irresistible, flaky like puff pastry on the outside revealing soft layers of fluffy bread with every bite. I can promise you one is never enough. The filling can be anything from chocolate chip, nuts to Nuttela. I stuck with my favourite- sugar and cinnamon. This is rich, rich, buttery and mildly sweet and doesn’t need anymore fat or fancy but I will leave you to decide. A large mug of tea and a tray of these buns is enough to ruin any hopes you had of getting into those shorts this summer (LOL). As I sweat it out on the treadmill a large poster with a bikini bod reads, “Workout till you are proud of yourself”…… ha …Ha..it will take a lot of workout for me to be proud!!

RECIPE

KOUIGN AMAAN

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

300 grams strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp instant yeast OR 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

200ml warm water

25g / 1 ¾ Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

250grams cold unsalted butter, in a block

75 grams caster sugar,(mixed with ½ tsp cinnamon, plus extra sugar for sprinkling

  • Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes. Can be made by your good old hands too. NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first.
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.
  • Sandwich the butter between two sheets of grease-proof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm / 5½” square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm / 8” square. Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
  • Roll the dough into a 45 x 15cm / 18 x 6” rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.
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  • Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.
  • Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40 x 30cm / 16 x 12” rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with additional caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.
  • Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with additional caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.
  •  Preheat oven to 220°C / 200°C (fan). Bake the pastries for 30 – 40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.
  • Serve warm or cold.
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KATMER PIE

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Another regional pie for us from the Daring Kitchen (yes Daring Bakers’ has been re-christened Daring Kitchen, much to my disappointment.)

The host for this month Milkica from Mimi’s Kingdom decided to challenge us with a traditional Serbian Katmer pie. Katmer pie originates from southern parts of Serbia. It is traditionally filled with cheese, meat, leeks pumpkin, combination of cheese and Swiss Chard or spinach. The filling can be sweet or savoury but the crust remains the same. She challenged us to get creative filling the pie with whatever took our fancy. It is not the filling which caught my attention or got me excited but it was the pastry.

It’s a traditional type of puff pastry. This type of dough is made with lard instead of butter and is much simpler than puff pastry. This pastry is made as it was in the olden days. It’s a much simpler version of puff pastry that we are used to making and that’s the part of the challenge that I enjoyed the most. The pastry dough is wonderfully stretchy and easy to handle which makes the process a whole lot less frustrating! No butter or fat seeping out of the edges. On baking its supposed to flake, though mine was rolled out quite thick yet it did not flake as much as I would have liked it to. It was a little tough on the teeth a few hours later, but that could be because I stinged on the fat. Another “tradition” I did not follow was using lard. I used ghee instead. Maybe I didn’t rest it in between rollings…there was a good recipe that I did not get right and after the work I put in, my spirits drooped a little.

The proportions given by Mimi were large enough to feed my neighbourhood so I halved them. For the filling I made savoury cottage cheese scattered with nuts and raisins. Since the pastry was tough in a few places my teen and I practically scooped out the filling and ate it as is. (LOL). Don’t ask what I did with the pastry. I could have easily said “Oh the pie was a success…ten on ten…yummm….delicious….will make it again” but honestly it was one of my failed projects. The crusty pastry was really a struggle to eat and too chewy. It was a pity I couldn’t get it right, though I enjoyed the process immensely.

So dear friends I am going to give you Milkica’s recipe as is and if one of you can figure out where I went wrong, you know where to find me! Till then “Doviđenja” (doh vee-JEH-nyah)

KATMER PIE

Recipe-DOUGH

Servings: One large pie baked in a dish approximately 8×8” (Serves 4)

2 cups spooned & scraped / 250g all-purpose (plain) flour

½ teaspoon salt 150-175ml warm water

More all-purpose (plain) flour for dusting

2 – 3 tablespoons / 30 – 45g soft lard/ Ghee/ Butter

  • Measure all purpose flour, warm water and salt.
  • Put lard/ ghee/ butter in a small bowl and leave in a warm place
  • Mix all ingredients except lard in glass bowl and knead to form a soft dough.
  • Transfer dough on a floured surface and knead it a little until you achieve elastic, but soft dough. Use additional flour if required to make a smooth, soft dough.
  • Divide dough into six equal pieces and shape every piece into a round ball. Leave them to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using a rolling pin roll every piece of dough into a flat, round shape, approximately 1/8” / 3 – 4mm thick. Divide pieces in two groups of three. Brush first piece of dough with melted lard and cover with another piece of dough. Brush second piece of dough with lard and cover with third piece. Do not brush this third piece of dough with lard! Repeat the same with another three pieces of dough.
  • You will have two piles of dough (rounds, placed on top of each other). Leave them again to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Roll every pile using rolling pin into round shape, approximately 1/4 – 1/3” / 5 – 8mm thick.
  • Using sharp knife make eight cuts around the formed circle (see picture).
  • Brush surface with melted lard/ fat of your preference
  • Fold brushed, cut petals onto the centre part of dough (see picture).
  • Continue until you fold all eight of them.
  • Turn the dough so the folded parts are underneath. Do the same with another pile of dough. Leave both pieces of dough to rest until you prepare the filling.
  • Once the filling is prepared and cooled turn on your oven on 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Roll one of the pieces of dough on lightly floured surface into large, square or rectangular shape to fit your baking tin.
  • Transfer layer of dough on baking tin brushed with melted lard.
  • Arrange your filling all over the first layer of dough.
  • Roll out the other piece of dough and transfer it to baking tin, covering filling completely. Press edges with your fingers to stick together.

 

  • Brush surface of pie with melted lard.
  • Cut whole pie into small square pieces. Bake pie in preheated oven around 30-40 minutes until deep golden in colour.

Recipe- Filling

200 grams cottage cheese

1 small onion diced

Small or 1/2 Bell peppers (red & yellow) diced

1 green chilly chopped or 1/2 tsp chilly flakes)

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons butter

50 grams Cheddar Cheese grated (optional)

  • Fry the onions in butter till they change colour.
  • Add in the bell peppers, chillies. Sautee on medium heat for a minute.
  • Add in the cottage cheese (broken into rough pieces). Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, breaking any large pieces of cottage cheese as you stir. Put off the heat. Add in cheddar cheese and mix.
  • Cool slightly and the filling is ready to use.

 

CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE (SAVOURY)

RECIPE

SAVOURY CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE

Cheesecake Filling

450g cream cheese

1/4 cup / 60ml heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup / 60g shredded cheese (a strong cheese)

1/2 tsp ground pepper and ¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup spinach, chopped

1 tablespoon. Butter

½ cup corn (blanched for 2-3 mins in hot water

1 green/ red chilly de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)

3/4 cup / 115g cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

Directions

  • Heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the spinach and keep stirring on medium heat until wilted. Add in corn, chilly and a pinch of salt. Let cool slightly before using.
  • Preheat oven to 160°C Gas Mark 3.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and cream until smooth.

 

  • Beat in cheese, nutmeg and pepper.
  • Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.
  • Add the cooked spinach and corn and mix well with a spoon.
  • Pour over prepared pie crust. Place pie in a large baking pan; add 1” of boiling water to larger pan.
  • Bake for about 10-15 mins.Top with prepared topping (recipe given below) and continue baking for another 40 minutes.
  • Place pie in a large baking pan; add 1” of boiling water to larger pan.
  • Bake 45-55 minutes or until center is just set and slightly wobbly.
  • Cool cheesecake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

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  • I prefer it warm.

 

Crumble Topping (savoury)

7-8 Plain Crackers/ 1 cup Cheeselings (crushed to coarse crumbs)

2 heaped tsps grated cheese

2 tblspns butter melted

1 tblspn flour

Salt & Pepper

Mix all the above in a bowl with your fingers.

CRUMBLE CHEESECAKE PIE- DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE

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Technology has so overtaken their existence its almost as if we will cease to exist without the gadgets. Teens no more do the things we used to, they hang out on the gadget, their fingers and eyeballs the only parts of their bodies that move. “But I do read , Mom” he says it in response to my “dark look of disapproval”. Yes he does, that too, on a gadget. Come on folks whatever happened to good old books…dog-eared, dusty, and comfortingly familiar. And what happened to my childhood pass-times. I spent hours in the company of a pair of scissor, glue and paper, colour pencils which were reduced to a stub and pens which dried out from overuse. Creative that’s what we were. Creative, thats what my fellow Daring Bakers are. We are a bunch of people who challenge each other to think, innovate, twist the recipe around yet sticking to the broad out-line. Yea, yes we use technology and gadgets but that’s to keep us connected not distanced from reality and real people.

Old-school? Yes that’s me….if I can do it from scratch I will do it….even though the effort may be a foolish waste of time. That’s the way I tackled this challenge, a crumble, a cheesecake, a pie, all made from scratch….the cream cheese too!

Blog checking lines: For the month of November Krista & Nicole of “Two Cups of Sugar.” challenged us to make our own version of cheesecake crumble pie.

Cheesecake Crumble Pie….It is such an innovative idea, though a bit over the top. The pie is a speciality of a bakery in their hometown which makes Cheesecake Crumble Pies and the sisters rightfully judged that this group of bakers were the ultimate guinea pigs (LOL)!!

There is a savoury and a sweet version of the crumble pie and I made both for 2 reasons I couldn’t decide between the 2 and secondly senior likes savoury and junior likes both 🙂

There are 3 elements to be prepared, the pie crust, the cheesecake and the streusel or crumble on the top.

I decided to go homemade all the way and made my cream cheese at home too (recipe after this post). That left me feeling so fulfilled in ways I can’t explain, that an extra piece of cheesecake was gulped down without guilt (the cream cheese is low fat after all)

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The pies turned out beautifully and junior, senior and all in-between were happy. The savoury pie to which I added corn and spinach (to give an illusion of “healthy”) was almost like a quiche but richer. I topped it with a mix of crushed crackers, melted butter and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

The sweet version was yummm too and the cheesecake was the right sweetness. I added choco-coffee swirls and topped it with a mix of oats, honey, a tablespoon of flour and butter.

Then what is it that bothered me??? The pie crust!! I wasn’t happy with it. Shortening !! I don’t use it often or at all. The pie crust was tough and greasy and the taste and texture left a lot to be desired. Maybe I didn’t do it write or maybe I over-worked it…… you can use your own pie crust recipe or try this out. I wonder why a short crust pastry wasn’t used.

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The next time I would go with a short crust pastry or my favourite biscuit crust (old school???). Initially I resisted the idea of the crunchy topping but it added character to the pie and it is an innovative way to turn your cheesecake on its head. A friend who tasted it said that the topping cuts through the rich, smoothness of the cheesecake. My homemade cream cheese ensured that the pie wasn’t sickeningly heavy, so mom and son had big, guilt free portions.

All in all I would give a big thumbs up to the Cheesecake Crumble Pie and if I had to do it again it would be with a biscuit crust and maybe the crunchy topping as a side. My mantra- if I can bake it, I won’t buy it (ever)!!  🙂

RECIPE

CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE

(New York Cheesecake)- Serves 8-10

Recipe 1: Pie Crust

To fit 1 Pie Dish of 9” diameter Preparation time: 10 minutes Baking time: 13 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups /175g all-purpose (plain) flour

¾ tsp fine salt

6 Tbsp / 77g shortening, cubed

1 ½ Tbsp / 21g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed or grated

6 – 7 Tbsp / 90 – 105ml ice water

  • Sift together flour & salt. Add in shortening and butter and mix by rubbing mixture between your hands until it resembles a coarse meal/ bread crumbs. Do not leave big pieces of shortening as they melt during the baking process and create tiny hole in the pastry
  • Sprinkle 6 Tbsp / 90ml of ice water over the mixture and blend gently by hand or with a fork until it holds together. If mixture is not holding together add additional an additional 1 Tbsp of ice water as necessary. Add a little at a time. Too much water causes the pastry to shrink.
  • Shape dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

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  • Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C

 

  • Lightly flour working area and roll out dough into a round 1.5” larger than the pie pan.
  • Gently place in pie pan and cut away the excess dough. Prick the dough several times with a small knife or fork and fill with beans, baking weights or an 8” / 20cm cake pan to help keep shape during baking.

Bake for 9 minutes. Remove weight/cake pan and bake for an additonal 3 – 4 minutes until edges of crust are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

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Recipe 2:

New York Style Cheesecake (Sweet)

Servings: fills a 9” / 23cm pie + a little extra

 

450g cream cheese

¾ cup / 150g white sugar

½ tsp grated lemon zest

¼ tsp vanilla

2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk

¼ cup / 60ml heavy cream

For the Chocolate CoffeenSwirl- melt together 40 grms dark chocolate +20 grms butter over a double boiler. Remove from heat once it has melted. Stir and add in 2 heaped tablspoons of almond meal and 1 teaspoon instant coffee. I also add 2 teaspoons of Tia Maria. Leave to cool and proceed with the cheesecake.

  • Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  • Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and add sugar gradually while beating until smooth (about 1 – 2 minutes).
  • Beat in lemon zest and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated. On low speed, beat in heavy cream.
  • Pour filling into prepared crust.

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  • Splatter or dot top of cheesecake with the chocolate coffee mix. Swirl it around gently with a butter knife or toothpick. You just want swirls of brown chocolate and not a light brown cheesecake. You may not need all the choc-coffee mix. Use it sparingly (5-6 tablespoons max)

 

  • Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C. Top with crumble (see recipe 3) and return to oven at reduced temperature of 100°C and bake for 50mins-1 hour more. Turn the oven off, prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon, and let the cake cool in the oven for 30 minutes.

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  • Remove to a rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

 

 

Recipe 3: Crumble (Sweet)

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½ cup oats

2 tablespoons Chopped Nuts

25 grms Butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Brown Sugar

½ tsp. Cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Melt the butter on medium heat.

Add the honey and turn off the heat.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- MACARONS

I posting this challenge a day or 2 late!! I feel like a fifth grader who hasn’t submitted her assignment on time. Let me tell you this is one assignment I wanted to do well, its been on my “to-bake list” for a long, long time but I have been truly intimidated by Macarons and never bothered taking the plunge.

Blog-checking lines: For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze

Yes, the above 4 lines describe my state of mind, once I realised it was a Macaron Challenge. I was not too happy (I have had some disgustingly sweet, cavity sprouting macarons), I was alarmed at the number of things that could go wrong and mainly it just isn’t my favourite sweet/ dessert. But yet the sight of those shiny, coloured buttons made from nuts, sugar and egg whites always get a yearning look and I keep telling myself “Someday I am gonna get them”. The day arrived sooner than I anticipated.

This is a “challenge” in the true sense, it has tested my patience, accuracy, judgement and skill, innovation and obviously my self control once they were ready. You need to be in it mentally, as one wrong move or a drop of yolk in the egg white and you are done. No stirring the chicken pot or multi tasking when you have these beauties to deal with, give them your 100% attention. Mr, 40 and Mr.13 were packed off to a movie and warned not to return before the macarons were ready.

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Shells: These are made from egg whites, powdered sugar and ground almonds. You can use other  nuts like cashews or pistachios but if this is your first attempt, please stick to the tried and tested.

imageAll ingredients are by weight including the egg whites and I can’t stress enough the importance of weighing them accurately. Don’t be the Ms. Smaarty –pants and round off the measures. When whipping egg whites make sure, that the bowl and beaters are squeaky clean. Any oil residue will give you a “flop” show. A good tip given by the challenge host is to clean the beaters and bowls with a kitchen tissue dipped in white vinegar. The acidity will give the egg whites a rise and do the cleaning job perfectly.

I have made chocolate shells and a little more adventurous saffron flavoured shells inspired by the Indian sweetmeats. In the chocolate shells cocoa powder replaces some sugar. The filling is chocolate ganache and you definitely can’t go wrong with this one. Well the saffron shells are again not the classic French thing but it tasted rich and the saffron cut through the heavy sweetness of the shells. I paired the saffron shells with cream cheese frosting, with a hint of lemon.  But do note that cream cheese frosting may make the shells soggy and won’t keep long. They are best eaten the same dayimage

Adding colour and Flavour: use gel based or powder based colours. Liquid colours can affect the texture of the shells. Add the colour and flavour to the almond powder and sugar.

Almond powder can be store bought or home made. I made mine at home by blanching the almonds, removing the skins and toasting them in a slow oven and grinding them to a powder ( you are not likely to get talcum powder consistency but a gritty, coarse pwder).

Keep an eye on the oven. The baking time may vary slightly depending on the oven. Though the hosts mentioned 12-16 minutes, mine took a 20 minutes. The chocolate ones take a wee bit longer than the others. After the first 10 mins in the oven give the baking sheet a turn and continue baking, keeping a hawk’s eye on the shells.

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Macarons, as I have learnt, is a whole different ball game. Maybe you’ll get perfect shells in the first go and maybe you won’t. Mine weren’t exactly perfect. They were crisp, tasty but not chewy from the inside. A bit hollow! This I discovered could be because of over beating the egg whites or not knocking out enough air when mixing in the nuts. There is a fine line between under mixing and just about enough mixing.

This is one baking experience every baker should give go to and keep trying. Maybe next month I will try them again and then again till I perfect them. Its not the taste that makes me come back for more but the sheer fulfilment of having mastered a classic and as I always say, the story is not about the perfect cake, or icing, or crispiness of the cookie, but it’s about the journey. Enjoy!!

RECIPE

MACARONS

(using the French Meringue Method)

Servings: 20-25 x 3.5cm / 1 1/3” filled macarons

112grms.  ground almonds 204grms. powdered (confectioner’s) sugar 102grms.  egg whites at room temperature (from approx. 3 eggs) 51grms.  granulated (white) sugar

Seeds of one Vanilla Bean

For chocolate shells: Replace 20g of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder

For saffron Shells: Add 1/2 tspn. Saffron strands to the almonds before grinding. You can also break them up with your fingers.

  • Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper on top of the piping guide, and set aside. (To make your own piping guide, instructions at the end of recipe)
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar, and pulse until completely combined and homogeneous. If you are using powdered food colouring combine it with the almond mixture.
  • Sift the mixture onto a bowl, then return any large bits left in the sifter to the food processor and pulse again until very fine. If you are using saffron combine with almond mixture at this stage. Set aside.
  • Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean (free of any oil or egg yolks) large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium speed until frothy, then very gradually add in the granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is added, increase the sped to medium-high and continue beating the egg whites until they form a stiff-peaked meringue (the peaks should not flop over). Don’t over mix or allow the meringue to become dry or chunky. It should look glossy and shiny. Before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, you can mix in some vanilla bean seeds.
  • Add half the almond mixture to the meringue and fold vigorously with a spatula, using about 15 strokes to combine and break down the meringue so it is not puffy. Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you fold so that the dry ingredients are all incorporated.
  • Add half the remaining almond mixture and fold again with about 10-15 strokes, until just combined. Add the remaining almond mixture and fold again, 10-15 strokes, until just combined. The mixture should fall from the spatula in long, thick ribbons, like slow-flowing lava, and the surface of the mixture should smooth out within 30 seconds.
  • Scoop the mixture into a large piping bag (only use half the mixture at a time) fitted with a large round tip or plain coupler, and pipe into the prepared baking sheets, using the piping template as a guide. Pipe straight down so that mixture comes out in a round blob – it will smooth and spread out on its own.
  • Lift the baking sheet up about 5cm / 2 inches and keeping it perfectly level, firmly bang it down on your work surface to dislodge any large air bubbles. Set the piped shells aside to dry for 30-60 minutes, until a skin has formed on the surface and they are no longer sticky to the touch. In humid climate conditions keep them under a fan.
  • Preheat the oven to 275˚F / 135°C / Gas Mark 1. Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, in the top third of the oven for 12-16 minutes, during which time they should sprout feet (if you used cocoa in the shells, they may need an additional 2-5 minutes of extra baking time). Bake for 10 mins, then rotate the baking sheet and bake for further 6 mins keeping an eye on the shells and testing them every 2 mins. To test the shells, gently tug on the top – if they jiggle at all, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Once baked, they should peel cleanly off the parchment paper.
  • Allow the shells to cool completely on the parchment paper, then peel off and store in an airtight container, layered between wax paper, at room temperature or in the freezer (NOT the fridge) until you are ready to fill them. Once filled, they should still be kept in an airtight container and can be refrigerated or kept somewhere cool.

FILLINGS

 Sufficient for 25 filled macarons.

Chocolate Ganache 113g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1/2 cup / 120ml heavy (whipping) cream small pinch salt 2 Tbsp / 28g  unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

1-2 tblspns Liqueur/ coffee granules 1 tspn./ Vanilla extract 1 tspn.

  • Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the cream and salt until just simmering, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Cover the bowl and let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate.
  • Stir with a whisk until smooth, then stir in the butter and any additional flavourings like liqueur or coffee granules until completely incorporated and smooth.
  • Let the ganache cool in the fridge, until thick enough to pipe (about 30 minutes). Whisk it with a hand mixie until it forms soft peaks. Pipe or spoon the ganache onto the flat side of half the chocolate macaron shells, then sandwich with a second shell of similar size.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

½ cup cream cheese or Ricotta crumbled

1 cup whipped cream

2 tablespoons icing sugar (if using unsweetened cream)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

  • In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese to a smooth paste. Add the whipped cream and sugar and mix it well stirring vigorously. Add the zest and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the lemon juice as per your preference. Fill into a piping bag and pipe onto flat side of the saffron shell and sandwich with the other.

Prepare the parchment paper by using a bottle cap or a round object of about 3.5 cms as template. Using the round cap draw circles in a dark pencil on the paper. Turn over the sheet and place it on the baking sheet with the circles facing down.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- IRISH SODA BREAD

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- IRISH SODA BREAD

The thing I like about the Daring Bakers’ Challenges is that you are always on this roller-coaster ride, one month you are in “mode excess” baking a sweet, oozy caramelly dessert, the next you are thrown into the unknown world of gluten free baking and just when you have got to know your gluts from your gluten you are baking an Irish Soda Bread !! Whew!!

Blog-checking lines:  For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread.

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Folks, this is so easy, that a novice baker, with no experience whatsoever can put it together in a jiffy and turn out smelling victorious, without breaking a sweat. Its a few simple ingredients, dumped in the bowl, liquid in, a hefty stir to bring it all imagetogether, a mix with your hands so that you feel like you have laboured, pat it down and shove it in the oven……that’s it! Its really so quick.

The bread relies on chemical reactions between baking soda and the acid in buttermilk (sour milk),  these two merry chemicals combine and act as leavening agents, eliminating the need for yeast. The baking soda, because of its alkanity hastens the browning process adding colour and flavour.

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Please note, you can use this recipe to lecture your teen on the chemistry involved (at your own risk 🙂 ) and pray that he is interested in the process more than the end result.

According to Meredith, the host of the challenge, soda bread wasn’t invented by Irish bakers. In fact, the credit for using soda to leaven bread goes to the Native Americans, who used pearl ash to help their breads rise. Over the years, the Irish people have made this delicious treat their own. Traditionally, Irish soda bread can be white or brown, sometimes contains raisins, and often has a cross in the top of each loaf.

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In the original recipe posted by Meredith the flours used are whole wheat and all purpose flours in the ratio 1:2. I wanted to add a little more character to my bread so I have cut down on the white flour and used a cup of Pearl wheat flour and millet (mixed). I have added some rosemary, dried sage and watermelon seeds ( leftover from last month’s challenge). Sage (ajwain) was a masterstroke and in some bites the almost spicy, sharp flavour enhanced the bread’s taste. The bread came out super fragrant, rustic looking, like it was baked in the Flintstones’ kitchen. The crumb crisp and the inside chewy and flavourful. The flavours seemed to be better a few hours later and we enjoyed it toasted in a pan with butter.Surprisingly, though the chemistry lesson didn’t go down well with Mr.13, the big chunks heavily buttered seem to have no trouble.

RECIPE

Irish Country Bread

Servings: 1 large loaf (about 12 large slices)

Ingredients

2½ cups (625 ml) sour milk or buttermilk

2 cups /300 grams whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

1 cup mix of pearl wheat flour and Millet flour (optional, you can use all purpose flour instead)

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

Herbs of your choice ( I used 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to hot 230°C/gas mark 8 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Add the herbs and half the seeds, leaving the rest for topping
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the sour milk/buttermilk into the well.
  • Mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. Knead the dough by hand a few times while it is still in the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving on to the next step. The dough will be sticky and rough.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Pat or roll the dough into a circle shape that is approximately 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.
  • Using your fingertips or the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, make several dimples in the top of the dough or cut a cross on the top with a knife. Sprinkle the remaining seeds on top of the loaf making sure they stick on.
  • Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to moderately hot 200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.cut a cross on the top with a knife
  • Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately hot 200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- NUT AND SEED LOAF

NUT & SEED LOAF (with onions and spices)

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Every month I look into the Daring Bakers’ home with great expectations and trepidation. Once I have the challenge lodged in my head I go about life waiting for tomorrow to happen and yet by the 15th I haven’t moved a muscle or given it a thought and by the 20th, I yet feel like the” last minute conquer-ess” and on the 24th I am in mode panic. This has become a monthly ritual with me and I think, I am almost testing my ability to function when pushed against the wall. This month it wasn’t any different. After a few initial readings I knew I was in unknown territory, that a “gluten-free anything” wasn’t up my alley. I almost wished for a bout of maybe, cold or flu so that I had a legit excuse to avoid the challenge. But when I realised none of the above was happening I got on the job and decided to give it my all (literally)

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Gluten-free??? Low gluten…. maybe I can handle, but this was not what I had bargained for in the midst of Parsi New year excesses. This was really a “Challenge”. When you haven’t thought about allergies, yours or anyone’s and don’t need gluten free stuff, you just don’t tread the path except when forced to and Susan did just that. A Seed and Nut Loaf with no wheat or flour …how was it going to hold together? I was sure it was going to fall apart like a landslide on the mountain. Then I went and read the recipe closely and Oh My God!! The lady had used Psyllium Husk Powder (Isabgol in India), I almost rolled over on the floor and had a coronary. Susan, my dear I remember using Psyllium Husk for some very unappetising  purposes(LOL!!). I resolved to avoid the psyllium husk. That was the binding agent and now I was in a bind.

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imageTo bind the loaf I ground half the nuts and seeds in the recipe to provide for the lack of “flour” and also used a wee bit of rice flour (gluten free). Concerned about the taste I  added an Indian essence to the loaf with lightly fried onions, garlic, shredded curry leaves, cumin and coriander. Since the last minute prep did not allow me time, I  had to settle for cucumber seeds which look like the cousins of sunflower seeds. I was tempted to add half an egg but held back and sent out a prayer instead. Its so versatile you can add peanuts or pine nuts or walnuts in place of almonds and cashews. Make a Mediterranean version with olives, basil and thyme. The fun is in making it to your taste. The end result??? Its almost like a savoury granola bar.

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This has been revelation to me, gluten free, so tasty and filling and imagesuper chewy, dense, very, very nutritious. When paired with humus and basil garlic pesto it’s a meal in itself. Cut into slices and toast them in a pan with a dab of butter and you are in gluten (or is it guilt!) free heaven. 🙂

RECIPE

SAVOURY SEED AND NUT LOAF (WITH ONION AND SPICES)

¼ cup + 1/4 cup cucumber/ sunflower/ melon seeds

100 grams flax seeds

¼ cup cashews

¼ cup almonds, chopped

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground pepper

3 heaped tablespoons rice flour

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion sliced thin

1 green chilly, deseeded and finely chopped

3-4 pods garlic, finely chopped

A fistful of coriander/ parsley, finely chopped

4 curry leaves, finely shredded

  • Oil and line with parchment paper a loaf tin 4” by 8”. Oil the parchment as well. Preheat the oven to 180oC
  • Gently roast and then grind together- ¼ cup cucumber seeds, 50 grams flax seeds, ¼ cup cashews. Empty into a medium sized glass bowl.
  • Add the whole seeds, almonds, oats, chia seeds, salt, cumin, pepper and rice flour to the above mix.
  • Fry the onions lightly in 1 tablespoon olive oil till transculent, add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds more. Add this mix and the remaining oil and chopped curry leaves, coriander to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Add in 1 1/4 cup water to the mix to form a firm but not dry mixture. Make sure there is no excess water and the mixture doesn’t turn runny. Its better to pour the last ¼ cup of water slowly. You may not need all of it.
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin and smoothen it out with an oiled spatula or your fingers. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and bake for another 35 minutes till its browned and a knock on it sounds hollow.
  • Remove and cool to room temperature. Slice and toast it in a pan with a dab of butter for a couple of minutes. Serve with a slathering of humus and basil-garlic pesto, tomato chutney or just plain butter.

TIP: To make a sweet version add dates and prunes a tablespoon or two of raw sugar or palm sugar. Use 3 tablespoons honey mixed into the water.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- YAFAWI SFEEHA

YFAWI SFEEHA Blog-checking lines:  The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor. image Life has a way of levelling you out, rolling you up tight, turning you into spirals, and baking you in a hot, hot oven until you come out well-browned and good enough to eat. I am drawing parallels between my clash with the flu and this beautiful baked dish. I have been flattened by the flu, been rolling in pain and baked by fever in a hot oven….. but well like the Yafawi Sfeeha I have come out smelling well baked, a bit pale and stronger. So this was such an apt challenge for me, I had been aching for a month to get on track, bake my heart out and key into my blog but life stuck out a leg on my smooth course and got me tripping. So I am back and ready to take on the kitchen. The July challenge was hosted by  Manal Obieda, known as Manal’s Bites. The dish “Yafawi Sfeeha” (translation: meat pies from Jaffa) is an authentic dish from Jaffa in Palestine. They are traditional meat pies rolled in a thin pastry and formed into spirals and baked. There are vegetarian and sweet versions too. The pastry dough is easy to make and the taste of ghee (clarified butter) is a big plus, I urge you to throw the calories out of the door and use ghee liberally and not oil. The dough balls need to be rested for a good 12-14 hours as they become stretchy and easier to flatten with your fingers. More ghee needed here (LOL). I must warn you this flattening bit is tedious and requires patience and a “keep at it attitude”. Manal talks of making these pies at celebratory lunches where women gathered around and contributed to the process…..now I know why they made it when more hands were expected 🙂image image Fold the edge of the flattened disc right upto the center…since I missed out on that detail some of my filling spilled out. Brush with more melted ghee before baking. Mr.13 was rolling his eyes and wondering what was wrong with his “oil-stingy” mother. image image image image image image My meat version had a spicy chicken mince and the non-meat version had cottage cheese and some cheddar enhanced with pepper, a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg powders and some finely chopped mint and parsley. Throw in some raisins and chopped nuts. The baking time in the original recipe is 14-15 minutes but my spirals took about 21 mins, to look brown and well baked. I hate light pale looking pies, reminds me of clear soup on a sick day. Serve them with a Garlic Yogurt Dip or be lazy and squirt some ketchup onto them, they taste just as good. I would say it’s a sort of comfort food that I required after those days of gulping down insipid stuff and a little ghee indulgence never harmed anybody….. how else am I going to get my strength back! 🙂

RECIPE YAFAWI SFEEHA

Servings: 10-12 pieces  

Ingredients:

To make the dough:

3 cups (420 gm)  all-purpose (plain) flour, scoop flour using cup measure then level

1 teaspoon  salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons (45 ml) powdered milk (you can substitute this with warm milk, you will need less water if using milk)*

3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil

About 1 cup (250 ml) warm water for kneading

Melted ghee (or olive oil) to stretch the dough (ghee gives a great texture and flavor).

Note: I skipped the milk powder and instead substituted half the water with milk. I did use a tablespoon or 2 of extra water to bring the dough together

Meat Filling:

300 grms. ground chicken

1 large onion coarsely chopped

4-5 garlic pods crushed/ grated or finely chopped

1 teaspoon red chilly powder

2 teaspoons corriander powder

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint and parsley

1 tablespoon oil Salt to taste

Non-meat Filling 200 grms cottage cheese/ haloumi

2-3 tablespoons Cheddar cheese

A generous pinch of pepper, cardommon, nutmeg powder

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons each of finely chopped parsley and mint (optional)  

Making the dough and pastry:

  • Mix flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil then start adding the warm water until you get a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead well until the dough feels soft and elastic. Add a tablespoon or 2 of warm water or milk if the dough appears dry.
  • Form the dough into small golf-ball-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet that is very well greased with ghee or olive oil and pour some more (oil or ghee) over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for few hours at least (or overnight).
  • Prepare filling in the meantime.
  • After you have your filling ready, use some of the ghee to brush a round tray  or an inverted tray works better (the surface that you will be working on). Take one piece of dough and using your hands, gently start spreading it as thinly and evenly as possible. Start from the center to the sides.
  • Once that is done fold the upper side to the middle, then fold the opposite side to the middle as well.
  • Spread the filling in a long line across the dough. Roll like a long tight rope making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes. Then taking one end start rolling the rope towards the inside in a spiral shape (see photo).
  • Put some more ghee on the baking sheet and place the done Sfeeha onto the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the Sfeeha using ghee to keep it nice and moist.
  • Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake Sfeeha for 21-25 minutes till golden brown. Serve hot with Yogurt and garlic Dip.

Prepare the Filling:

  • For the meat/chicken filling fry the onions in 1 tblspoon oil until transculent, add in the garlic and the dry spices. Lower the heat and add a ¼ cup water to prevent the spices from burning. Fry for 2-3 mins. Add the mince and sauté on medium heat stirring constantly and breaking any lumps. Add a little water to moisten the meat , cover and lower the heat and let it cook till mince is cooked. The mixture should be dry. Add in the chopped herbs and salt. Stir well to mix.
  • For the cottage cheese filling, mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your finger ensuring that they are well mixed.

LAMINGTONS- Daring Bakers’ Challenge

 The Daring Bakers’ Challenge:

Lamingtons 

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant image I am running backwards on a treadmill! I am on the 26th and furiously banging away at my lap-top ‘cause this is the only hour I will get in this fast and furious day to complete this post and I am determined not to miss this challenge even if the heavens descend and choose to stop me. Look at me…..when I peeped into the Daring Bakers’ Forum in the first week of May I was so full of ideas and myself. Thought I would execute the Lamingtons one fine sunny morning and surprise the men with an unexpected treat but the heat, early mornings and driving in this horrendous Mumbai traffic, has taken a toll on my already fading memory and hey! Mr. “40 something” it’s not age! Now that I have it in black and white let me get down to the Lamingtons. Another challenge, another story. That’s what I like about the DBCs. A good story maketh a good post and my fellow bloggers and visitors this one is as good as it can get. I am an absolute sucker for Victorian stories, set in the 1800s, when ladies wore muslin gowns for tea and changed into silk and taffeta for dinner and lace bonnets for bed-time. Ooooh I must have been one of them. Tea in the warm gardens under the cool canopy of verdant oaks, fine china, tinkling cutlery, maids who take care of brats and white-gloved chauffeurs who drive you around in horse driven carriages and gentlemen who bow when introduced. I already feel like a character from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, a whole day to while away, doing needle-point, receiving ladies for tea and leaving calling cards around the city. Well, I am sure you get the picture. In this setting enters Lord Lamington the Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1896 to 1901. Stories abound as to why the cakes came about and you must have guessed by now that this beautiful cake is named after His Lordship. Lord Lamington’s maid-servant accidentally dropped a freshly baked sponge cake into some melted chocolate (butter fingers!). Apparently Lord Lamington disliked wastage (my kind of man!), so he suggested coating the chocolate coated cake in desiccated coconut to avoid messy fingers. “Seriously, Mom? Messy fingers?” that’s Mr.13’s reaction to His Lordship’s thrift and fastidious character as he stuffed his mouth with one more Lamington. I almost screamed “Behave like a gentleman!. New Zealanders claim that Lamingtons are their babies and a Kiwi Daring Baker gave another interesting story to refute the Aussies’ claim to fame. In a portrait, “Summer Pantry” dated 1888, a partially eaten Lamington cake is clearly visible on the counter of a cottage overlooking Wellington Harbour. The Kiwis also rechristened it Wellinton – a double sponge dessert, dressed in shavings of coconut intended to imitate the snow capped mountains of New Zealand.” made by a local baker A.R. Levin So the stories and claims and counter claims continue and honestly a good lesson in History has stirred up my appetite and I needed proof if the cake was as good as the stories which proceeded it. Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina hosted this challenge and can’t thank her enough for the recipe and History lessons. The sponge inside the Lamington is a basic Genoise Sponge- light and delicate. In this recipe cornflour is used instead of plain flour and little melted butter is folded in to add moisture to the cake. This is a very light and feathery sponge and you need to handle it with love and care, fold in the cornflour lightly, don’t open the oven door to peak in every few minutes or it will sink and turn lumpy. The cake is so delicate that it needs to be aged a day before it is sliced so that it doesn’t fall apart. But I was short on time and went ahead and did the slicing. image image image image image image image The topping possibilities are endless so don’t stop at desiccated coconut ,  I am not a fan of coconut and cake, so I chopped up some almonds into the desiccated coconut. I found the dipping sauce too sweet and next time I would go slow on the icing sugar. I have also added some chopped dark chocolate to the sauce whilst melting. You are free to fill the Lamington with cream, jam, Dulche de Leche, nuttela. I filled a few with chocolate coffee cream from my Coffee, Coffee Cake and that was a good idea as it cut the sweetness of the sauce. Finally the Lamingtons are ready, photographs taken and the treadmill seems to have slowed down. I am back in the gardens chatting with Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. A cool wind blows at my curls and the rustles my gown and I am rudely jerked out of my reverie…..in the distance Mr.13 yells, “Mom, May I have one more?”

RECIPE

LAMINGTONS

Servings: 24 Sponge Cake  I

ngredients:

5 large eggs, at room temperature

225 gm castor (superfine) sugar

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

200 gm cornflour (cornstarch)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

Chocolate icing

350 gm icing sugar

40 gm cocoa powder

1 teaspoon coffee

40 gm dark chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon/15 gm butter, melted

½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to/180 ml) milk

Filling :  Chocolate- Coffee Nut filling in Coffee, Coffee Cake (optional)

Topping 150 gm unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble 100 gm finely chopped almonds  

  1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper. Sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.
  3. Place eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Using the whisk attachment of your electric mixer beat on high for 15 minutes.
  4. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in colour and very foamy.
  5. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. Do so gently so as not to deflate the eggs.Use a large metal spoon r a rubber spatula to lightly fold the flour in. Heavy handling now will result in a flat tough sponge. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.
  6. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly.
  7. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and springy when pressed gently.
  8. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.
  9. For the icing/ coating -Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. You may need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.
  10. To assemble the Lamingtons:Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place desiccated coconut and almonds in a shallow bowl. Dip each piece into the chocolate icing. Allow excess to drip off then toss gently into the coconut. Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about 2 hours.

NOTES: For an 8”by 8” cake, which will make 16 Lamingtons, I suggest using 3/5th of the measure of ingredients. Example- 3 eggs, 135 gms sugar, 1 tsp melted butter…etc. Slice cake cubes into half and slather with a filling of your choice, put them back together and dip into the icing.