Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cake and Braai

Last Friday afternoon Alan arrived home with two empty Tupperware boxes in which my cakes had been placed that morning. His colleagues ate every last bite of the lemon syrup loaf cake and the black and white cake.

My photograph of the lemon syrup cake is terrible. But please don't let that deter you from making a pan of this light, soury-sweet dessert. It's simple to make and extremely satisfying. I lifted the recipe from Nigella Lawson, and here it is, if you'd like to try it.

Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake
From How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

1/2c unsalted butter
1/2c plus 1T sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1c plus 1T self-rising cake flour
pinch of salt
4T milk

juice of 1.5 lemons (or 4T juice)
1/2c powdered sugar

9x5 inch loaf pan (or 8" round or square) buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugar, and add eggs and lemon zest, beating them in well. Add the flour and salt, folding in gently but thoroughly, and then the milk.

2. Spoon into the prepared pan and put in the oven. While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Put the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently so that the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

3. Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and risen in the middle (it will sink a little on cooling). As soon as the cake is out of the oven, puncture the top all over with a cake tester, toothpick, or other suitable implement.

4. Pour over the syrup, trying to let the middle absorb it as well as the sides, then leave it to soak up the rest. Don't remove from pan until completely cold, as it will be sodden with syrup and might crumble.

My notes: It is not possible to buy self-rising cake flour in Denmark. Therefore, I mixed 7/8c of regular flour with 2T cornstarch and added a scant teaspoon of baking powder. I sifted it all together to make it light. Also, you might find that 45 minutes is too long for baking. Make sure to check it at 30 minutes.

My mother-in-law gave me a fabulous French cookbook called gâteau roulés in which there are lots and lots of tantalizing recipes for different kinds of jelly roll and other filled roll cakes. This was my first attempt at making one and, apart from a mistake with the cream filling, it turned out perfectly.

I like this dessert because it looks beautiful and it's quite easy to make. First you make the cake (La genoise) and then, while the cake is baking, the cream filling (La creme). One warning: there is A LOT of butter in the cream filling: over 1 cup! That's of course why I made it for my husband's colleagues. It's summer and I do not need the extra calories, thank you very much. My error in making the cream was inadvertently using granulated sugar when I knew very well that it called for powdered sugar. I simply reached for the granulated sugar without thinking about it. Oops. I believe it did have a slightly negative effect on the finished cream. My guess is that the powdered sugar would have essentially melted with the butter where the granulated sugar is a little tougher and not as "melt-worthy." Unless you cook it in a liquid first.

But anyway, after the cake is finished and cooled, the cream is applied, and the cake is rolled up, it gets wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Here, my attempt to translate the recipe...

Noir et Blanc
From gâteau roulés by Ilona Chovancova

Serves 6-8

5 eggs
1/2c granulated sugar
1/2c flour
1t salt
3T cocoa powder

2 eggs
scant 1/2c powdered sugar
1c butter, soft
1 whole vanilla bean, seeds removed
1t salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. For the cake, separate the yolks from the egg whites. Mix the yolks with the sugar until well blended and almost mousse-like in texture. Progressively add the flour and the cocoa until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, mix the salt with the egg whites and, with a hand mixer, beat until firm. Slowly incorporate the other mixture and fold together until blended.

3. Cover a cookie or jelly roll sheet (in Europe these pans are part of the oven) with parchment. Pour the cake batter onto the parchment, spread evenly with a spatula into a rectangle (leaving a half inch or so around the border) and bake 12 to 15 minutes.

4. When the cake is finished, remove from the oven, and place a clean, damp towel on top. Roll into a jelly roll and let cool.

5. Prepare the cream. In a bowl combine the eggs and slowly incorporate the powdered sugar. Over another bowl of hot water, mix the eggs and sugar for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Remove and continue to mix until thick-ish and well blended. (Mine didn't get that thick.)

6. In another bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer. The instructions say to beat it until it becomes nearly white, 5 to 10 minutes. Mine didn't really turn white, but I beat it for 5-6 minutes to make sure it was nice a fluffy. Add the vanilla seeds (I suppose you can add 1t extract if you don't have a vanilla pod) and blend.

7. Incorporate the egg and sugar mix and stir with a wooden spoon.

8. When the cake is cool, unroll (some of the cake will stick to the towel, but don't worry, the cake will be covered with the filling anyway), remove the towel and parchment. Cover with the filling, roll again, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours.

On Saturday we were delighted to visit our friends Kira and Kevin in Nykobing for a braai, which is Afrikaans for BBQ. Kira is Danish and Kevin is South African and they met years ago on a kibbutz in Israel. They are wonderful people and we are so lucky to count them as our friends. We were also joined by their friend Anita and her two darling children, Isabella and Nanna. Kevin and Kira's kids Freya and Anton were great about sharing their toys, paints, playhouse, and trampoline with Anatole and the girls. Anatole was in heaven. He played hard from the moment we arrived to the moment we left, nearly 5 hours later.

The food was terrific and by food I mean meat! In addition to potato salad that Anita brought and a marinated broccoli salad that I made (as well as some cut up cucumber and corn kernels), this dinner was all about two very fine meat dishes. Kira prepared spiced burger kebabs and the most fantastic pork loin, both cooked to perfection on the grill, thanks to Kevin's apt grilling skills.

Here is what made this particular pork loin so special: bananas and bacon. Yes, bananas. First, Kira seasoned the meat with salt and pepper. Then she covered it with Dijon mustard. After that she spread it with mashed banana, wrapped it in bacon, and secured it with toothpicks. I thought it was one of the better meat dishes I've had in a long time. The pork combined with the banana and mustard flavors was truly unique and delicious. I encourage you to serve this dish at your next BBQ. You won't be disappointed. But please make sure to not overcook the pork loin. Kevin grilled this one perfectly juicy.

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