Chocolate Chip Cake

This recipe is my adaptation of one from an American cookery book called ' Mom's 100 Best Cakes' by Annette Bley. To be honest, most of the cakes in the book don't appeal to me as they're too fussy and complicated, but I've made this one a few times, usually in a plain springform tin; but my lovely dil gave me a tin which had a tube insert a while ago, so I thought I'd try it out.
There seems to be a lot of ingredients, but it's not difficult to make, tho' it is a bit more effort than a chocolate sponge. The original recipe was of course in cups, hence the strange amounts.
It's quite a big cake, so one to make for an occasion [and not if you're on a diet!].

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Grease a 23cm/9" springform tin or tube pan, and line the base with baking paper. Dust inside of tin with flour and shake out excess.

2 tspn instant coffee granules
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tspn hot water
330g plain flour
30g sr flour
40g + 1 tbspn cocoa powder
1/4 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1 tspn salt
320g dark chocolate chips [ if they're large, chop them up]
220g butter
300g granulated sugar
100g light brown sugar
5 eggs
250ml sour cream
2tbspn double cream

Stir the coffee, vanilla and hot water together.
In a large bowl, sift the plain flour, sr flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb and salt together.
In another bowl mix the chocolate chips with 1 tbspn of the flour mixture.
In a mixer, or with an electric hand beater cream the butter; scrape the sides then add the granulated sugar a bit at a time. Add the brown sugar and beat together.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix in the coffee mixture.
Then add the flour mixture carefully, alternating it with some sour cream, scraping the sides to make sure it's all mixed in. Add the double cream, and finally mix in the chocolate chips using a wooden spoon or spatula.
Spoon into the tin.

Bake for about 70 mins till the cake is coming away from the sides.

Cool in the tin for 15 mins then invert onto a wire rack; take the paper off, then invert it right side up and leave to cool.

You can leave the cake as it is or make a simple chocolate ganache with 300ml double cream and 200g dark chocolate.

Put the chocolate in a bowl, then warm the cream - but don't let it boil.
Pour the cream over the chocolate, leave for a minute then gently stir together.
Let the ganache cool to room temperature then pour it over the cake.

This is a very rich, decadent cake, but lovely for a birthday or other special occasion. If you made it without the tube, you could cut it in half and make a filling of your choice. Oh, one thing to be careful of, when you're pouring the ganache over the cake, make sure that you have a tray or something underneath or it goes everywhere! I learnt that the hard way!


Asparagus Tart

I'm making the most of the British asparagus season [hence the clafoutis in my previous post] so decided to make a tart. I wanted the asparagus to be the main feature, so no tomatoes nor other veg. Creme fraiche and eggs makes a good savoury custard, so that's what I used.
To add some flavour I chopped up a spring onion [oh, I did say no other veg, but these aren't a strong flavour] and it needed some kind of herb, so I used some finely chopped thyme.
I made some shortcrust pastry for the case.

So, for the pastry: Put 200g plain flour and 120g butter in the food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs, then add 1 medium beaten egg mixed with 1 dspn water. Put it in the fridge in a polybag for 30 mins, then roll it out into a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. There was some pastry left over, so I put it in the freezer. I think this amount of pastry would be just right for a 22-23 cm tin, but I don't have one.
 Bake the pastry blind, plus baking beans, in oven preheated  to 190C/gas5 , then take out beans and cook it for 5 more mins.
Reduce the heat to 160C/gas3.

I used 8 stalks of asparagus, and put them in boiling water for 30 secs, then ran cold water over them till they were cold.

For the filling, Beat 2 eggs with 200ml of creme fraiche, then add a finely chopped spring onion and 1 tbspn of chopped thyme. Grate 75g of gruyere cheese and add half to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the pastry case, add the asparagus and sprinkle the other half of the cheese on top. Bake for 30 mins or till the filling is set and the top is golden.

We enjoyed the tart with some watercress, and OH had some Jersey potatoes, but I would have liked a stronger cheese flavour. Perhaps i should have used 100g or maybe a good strong Cheddar would have been better.
Again, a versatile recipe you could make with other veg.


Asparagus and Tomato Clafoutis

And now for something completely different! I don't usually post anything savoury on here, but this was so tasty that I wanted to share it.
I posted a recipe not long ago for a clafoutis, which we love. Looking through some old French cookery magazines of recipes for summer [making the most of the sun!] I found this recipe for a savoury version.
Local asparagus will soon be gone, so this is a different way of making the most of it.

100g asparagus
10 cherry tomatoes
20cl of whole milk
25cl of single cream
2 eggs
4 tbspn plain flour
salt and pepper

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
4 ramekins or an oven-proof dish about 20cm.

If you're using ramekins, cut the asparagus into 2 or 3 pieces, then wash and dry the tomatoes.

In a bowl mix the eggs, milk and cream, season, then fold in the flour and beat with a whisk till it's all combined.

Put the asparagus and tomatoes in the bottom of a greased ovenproof dish, or if using ramekins, as I did, put a couple of pieces of asparagus and 2 or 3 tomatoes in the bottom. Pour the egg mixture over and bake for about 40 mins.

You can serve it hot or cold.

I made mine in shallow ramekins and decorated with some basil leaves. Good contrast between the soft texture of the savoury custard, the asparagus and the soft tomatoes. They made a tasty light meal with some green salad. The recipe could be adapted in so many ways using different veg. I'll certainly make it again.


Walnut and Courgette cake

Another one of my favourite loaf cakes. This one's another quite healthy cake, as it uses wholemeal flour, sunflower oil and nuts. It came about because in France we always had a glut of courgettes and were finding ways to use them up. The recipe came from a neighbour who had the same problem!
I suppose this is a bit of nostalgia too, as we don't have room to grow courgettes in our small garden, so the ones I used were lurking in the veg drawer.

3 eggs
90g light muscovado sugar
125ml sunflower oil
250g wholewheat flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn bicarb. of soda
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn allspice
150g grated courgettes
125g chopped walnuts
60g sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas4

Grease and base line a 900g loaf tin.

Beat eggs and sugar together and gradually add oil.
Sift flour into another bowl and add the baking powder, bicarb, spices and nuts. Add the grated courgettes and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and spoon into loaf tin.
Bake for about 40 mins. Cool slightly in tin and then turn on to a wire rack.

A nice moist texture, with a good hit of spice. You can see specks of green in the cake, but I don't think people would realise that it's a courgette cake.


French 'Flan'

One of my favourite French desserts, which you find in most French Patisserie shops and supermarkets, is a 'flan'. It's like our custard tart but with flour added to the custard mixture, which makes it more solid, just like a set custard. I've never made one, but browsing on the web I found a few recipes.
Apparently, French pastry chefs use a 'Flan' powder.
Some recipes used sweet shortcrust pastry, others puff pastry, but the method was usually the same. Some added seeds from a vanilla pod, others vanilla extract.
I decided to make some sweet shortcrust pastry  - these ingredients make 250g of pastry.

125g plain flour
80g cold butter cut into cubes
25ml milk
pinch salt
10g caster sugar
1 small egg yolk

Put the butter and flour onto a working surface and rub the butter in till it's fine breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk, then add the salt and sugar and dissolve them in the milk with your fingertips. Add the egg yolk and mix it all together using both hands.Only mix till everything's combined.
Cover with clingfilm and put in fridge to rest for at least an hour.
You could use a food processor or a stand mixer with a paddle.

Line a flan tin with the pastry and put in fridge for 1/2 an hour, then bake blind at 160C/gas3 for 35 mins.

For the filling:

Bring 280ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract to the boil.
In a large bowl whisk together 2 eggs and 40g of caster sugar till white, then add 15g of cornflour, mix well and pour in the boiling milk.
Put the flan tin with pastry in the oven, then carefully fill with the custard mix using a jug. It's easier to do it like this so you don't spill the custard!
Bake for 30-40 mins at 140C/gas1 till golden brown.
Cool in tin.

I love the texture of this tart. It's smooth, but solid, and I like the contrast of the pastry at the bottom. I've seen lots of things added to the basic recipe, but I like it plain, just like this!


Walnut and Orange Cake

This is a nice easy, healthy cake made using a food processor.

I love Claudia Roden's orange cake with whole cooked oranges, but this recipe uses a whole orange, chopped up and not cooked.
We're trying to eat less and lose a bit of weight. I know eating any cake won't help, but at least this one has oil instead of butter and  is a healthier option [or IS it? I'm confused by all the research on butter, oils and fats]
You need a thin skinned orange, a navel if possible, as it has little bitter pith and no seeds - I found some in my local supermarket which were fine. They were sold singly, not in a net.

preheat oven 180C/gas4
grease and base line a 20cm springform cake tin

So, cut 1 orange into quarters and take out any core and pips. Put it in a food processor with 220g of caster sugar, 100 ml olive oil and 2 eggs, then whizz it up till the orange is finely chopped.
Add 135g plain wholemeal flour with 2 tspns of baking powder and 100g ground walnuts and whizz again till just mixed together. Pour into the tin and smooth top.
Bake for 30-35 mins then take out and leave in tin for 5 mins then turn onto a wire rack.
Dust top with icing sugar.
The cake will keep up to 3 days in an airtight tin.

I used ground hazelnuts because I found a bag in the cupboard that needed using up. The cake's very moist and I'm not sure if I like the tiny bits of orange. OH thought the cake wasn't cooked, but I left it in for 45 mins and the tester came out clean. It's an interesting idea, and I'll try it again with the suggested ground walnuts and see what difference it makes, if any.

Gratin de choux-fleur

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