Carmela’s Lemon Loaf Cake | World Baking Day Challenge

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So I’m posting this a day late, but I guess baking enthusiasts will agree that every day should be celebrated as baking day! The concept is fun- you log on to the website http://www.worldbakingday.com, choose a recipe posted there based on the difficulty level, grab the badge and bake!

image courtesy | worldbakingday.com

image courtesy | worldbakingday.com

There it is- difficulty level 67- Carmela’s gorgeous lemon loaves. I recently bought some loaf pans, plus, I had plenty of lemons (desi nimbus) in my fridge- which is what made me choose this beautiful, fragrant lemon loaf cake. Those two reasons, plus the fact that ever since I saw Julia from MasterChef Australia S4 bake her lemon syrup loaf cake, I’ve wanted to try it. (Remember her? The Princess Of Pastry who barely smiled. I mean she did smile the odd smile, but it seemed so forced. I liked her desserts much more than her. I was always rooting for Andy!)

Anyway, snap back to reality after reminiscing  about MC Australia. I followed the recipe with a few minor tweaks, because I did not have access to some ingredients. (Substituting butter for margarine and desi nimbus for lemons.) And you know what? Even though most lemon cakes I have come across use Meyer lemons, our desi nimbus work pretty well- they are quite fragrant and manage to give off that floral undertone. Which got me thinking- if this cake could turn out so well using nimbus, imagine how amazing it would be with larger, juicier Meyer lemons!

The batter was a little runnier than I expected and I feared it would not bake properly, but I was wrong. This recipe calls for creaming the eggs, sugar and lemon zest; then adding in the dry ingredients followed by more wet ingredients- milk and melted butter.

Ready for the oven! (I love saying that.)

Ready for the oven! (I love saying that.)

While the cake is baking, you make a quick lemon syrup- just lemon juice and sugar slowly boiled on a low flame till it reaches syrupy consistency. Once cooled, poke some holes in your cake and drizzle over! Just make sure you use your skewer to poke all the way through, so that the syrup permeates evenly and well.

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Whether you have access to Meyer lemons or not, do try this cake. It’s simple enough and requires so few ingredients- in fact, I did not even need a trip to the grocery store.

CARMELA’S LEMON LOAF CAKE (Original recipe here.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 160 g castor sugar
  • 1 1/2 medium eggs (for the half, take one egg, whisk it in a cup and pour only half the whisked egg into your batter. A tip I learned from  Thanh!)
  • 175 g flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 g butter, melted and cooled
  • Zest of 3 regular sized nimbus

For The Syrup:

  • 50 g castor sugar
  • Juice of 2 nimbus

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 170 C
  • In a large bowl, cream the eggs, sugar and lemon zest.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and beat well.
  • Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and combine well.
  • Add the melted butter and beat a little more.
  • Once your batter has come together and there are no lumps, pour into your loaf tin and bake for 30-35 min at 170 C till the top becomes golden.

For The Syrup

Heat the castor sugar and lemon juice in a pan for 5-7  minutes on low heat until everything is dissolved and the mixture becomes a light syrup.

Assembly

Once the cake is ready, allow it to cool a little. Then pierce some holes on the surface and spoon the syrup over the cake.

This is a perfect tea-time cake, and would be great with a dollop of fresh cream or vanilla ice cream. I didn’t have any decorative lemon slices to garnish the cake with, so I dusted it with powdered sugar instead. It’s a no-fail decorating tool!

There is something quite comforting about a loaf cake- they can be so delicious, without being intimidating for the baker or the consumer. Plus, you can dress it up or down with whatever you like, making it one of those creations which fits at a  party or a picnic. Personally, I like having a slice of loaf cake first thing in the morning, still in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee.

Am I- gasp– turning into Nigella?

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Hope all you bakers out there had fun on World Baking Day. Here’s to more happy baking round-the-year!

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Buttery Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peppermint is Christmasy.  Candy canes, peppermint pigs…the sweet and icy cool candy is everywhere this season. The one thing I enjoy even more than peppermint? The combination of chocolate and mint…how many of us have eaten way too many After Eights for our own good; or double scoops of Milk Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream? 😀 So when I received a bag of these baking chips, I knew I wanted to use them as part of my Christmas sugar and spice project.

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If you’ve eaten Andes candies before, these chips are the candy rubble version of the real thing. And so addictive when you are eating them for fun! (I do this. With all manner and form of baking chips. A LOT. I never said it was good for you, though.)

I wanted something for afternoon tea, and something that could be made fast. I had bookmarked my blogger pal Ameena’s thumbprint cookie recipe, and figured now would be the perfect time to use it. My initial idea was to create a thumbprint cookie, filling the thumbprint with the chips. But then I figured, why not just throw everything into the batter so you can bite into the chips  from all sides?

20121212_155146I followed Ameena’s recipe  as is; except that I added these mint-chocolate baking chips instead of jam. The batter I got was light and fluffy; almost like cake icing, and I had some trouble handling it and shaping into little balls. So I allowed it to rest in the fridge for half an hour and then scooped them into 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls onto my cookie tray.

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Baked at 200C for 15 mins and voila!

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I added a bit of a saturated effect to the pics just for the heck of it.

BUTTERY MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Adapted from Ameena’s Thumbprint Cookies.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mint chocolate chips + a little extra for sprinkling on top

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Grease a cookie tray and keep aside.
  • First, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and castor sugar together really well. I oscillated between low, medium and high speeds just to amuse my toddler son. And myself.
  • Next, add the flour and mint chocolate chips a little at a time and combine well.
  • Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  • Shape into 1/2 tablespoon sized balls, decorate with some more chips on top and bake at 200c for 15minutes.
  • Allow cookies to cool completely.

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These cookies are crisp and oh-so-buttery; and very crumbly as well. They do leave behind a lot of crumb, but hey- at least it’s proof that they were devoured. These are great for tea time. Or any other time.

Have a great weekend!!

My 100th Post!!! Fabulous Chocolate Brownies And A Look At My Not-So-Fab Knife Skills

Before I embarked on my baking expedition, I used to make brownies from a box- Betty Crocker, mostly. I attempted brownies from scratch once, quite long ago, and they came out rather cakey. And well…I don’t like a cakey brownie all that much. Ask Jo, I told her the same, and she makes a mean brownie. In fact, I have been planning a brownie post since I saw her perfect brownie recipe.

I decided it was time to find my own perfect brownie recipe. I think most bloggers and home cooks will agree that we all need a few BFF recipes- recipes you know will work no matter what. Recipes you always get right. Recipes that yield deliciousness and compliments. Recipes that make you look good, darn it. Just like a handbag or a clutch that goes with everything! Or a perfect pair of jeans that hug you just right! Or a classic pair of pearl earrings! Oh, I can come up with so many more Cosmopolitan-inspired yuppy female analogies, but we’re worth more than all that.

You get what I mean- we all need one (or more) recipe, which you can make at ease and which hits the spot. And this one, comes from…hold your breath…THE FOOD NETWORK!! And it’s from NIGELLA!!

So you see, sometimes you need not look further than the everyday. Or Nigella’s crazy-eyes.

These brownies are so quick and easy, you can actually put them together in less than an hour.

What appeals to me most about this? No beating. That means no lugging out the KitchenAid or stand mixer or handheld mixer, which for me is the slightly painful part of the baking process.

I really wanted to stack the brownies, but I didn’t cut them properly. I was so greedy and so excited I didn’t wait for them to cool completely.

With the result that stacked, they looked like this:

It looks like chocolate rubble. Like someone went to Candyland and took a jackhammer to the streets and  left this on the kerb. It sounds so much nicer when I create a hypothetical situation in Candyland.

I realized my mistake. It was my knife skills, or lack thereof. Cutting brownies before they are completely cooled  is a  no-no. Unless you want Candyland chocolate rubble. I cut them too soon. I did not wait. I was over-eager. I was greedy. I needed to hold my horses.

Like Buddha taught, one must follow the path of moderation, between sensual indulgence and self-mortification.

image courtesy | elakiri.com

Wait that doesn’t make sense here.

Alright then, let us remember the wise words of philosopher Edmund Burke: Our patience will achieve more than our force.

image courtesy | wikipedia

Hmmm…he seems a little out of place here too.

I know!! When in doubt, about anything from Buddhism to Brownie-Cutting, it makes sense to summon the wisdom of the Omnipresent Oprah!!

image courtesy | topnews.in

She. Knows. Everything. And she says, brownies must cool completely in the pan before you cut them.

I gained wisdom and better common sense on the craft of brownie cutting from her wonderful website. Brownies, and a bunch of other nifty tips and tricks!! Read it right HERE, and bookmark it if you are a dunce like me in some areas of cooking and plating.

I had to make another batch. If nothing else, just to take a better picture. And they appeared just so:

Ok so not perfect, but an improvement all the same. I try. I really do.

I must admit, I did take some inspiration from Smidge and Jo while stacking and photographing these!

But take my word for it, these brownies are delicious! And they are so easy to prepare. Since you pour the batter into the foil, all you have to do is gently turn it over and peel off the foil once cooled.

FABULOUS CHOCOLATE BROWNIES (Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Recipe via Food Network.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1 3/4 cups castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150 grams milk chocolate cut into pieces, or 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • Chopped walnuts (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Set aside a baking pan lined with tin foil (I used a 13 X 9 X 2 inch pan.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and keep aside.
  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan with high sides, melt the butter over gentle heat. Once the butter is melted, add in the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  • Next, add in all the dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated. You will get a soft crumbly chocolate mixture; and it may not be completely well blended at this stage, but you need to pull it off the heat.
  • Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract into the saucepan, followed by the chopped chocolates and a handful of chopped walnuts if you wish.
  • Pour and scrape the batter into the lined baking dish and bake at 180C for 30-40 mins. Check on your brownies once or twice,  your brownies should look dry and set on top but still be a little soft and gooey within.

ALLOW YOUR BROWNIES TO COOL COMPLETELY, cut into pieces and watch them disappear!!

POOF! And they’re gone 😀