Almond and Orange Cake

Almond & orange

Did you know the almond isn’t really your typical nut? Technically speaking, or so I’ve read, almonds are the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. Ever looked closely at the kernel of an apricot and thought: this looks like an almond? I have! That’s because almonds, apricots, peaches and cherries (who would’ve thought) are relatives. Guess who’s the family nut? Uncle almond! No seriously, almonds are amazing. Their oils and wonderful nuttiness add richness to so many dishes, be it sweet or savory                                                                         

Almond orange cake & orange slicesTeacup           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almonds match so well with many fruits. I always love them in crumble toppings on pies or cobblers. I always imagine almonds in desserts with cherries, blackberries, peaches, apples, pears, apricots and so on. Never would I have come up with almonds and oranges. Not that it doesn’t work, of course! And what better way to try this combination, than with a recipe by masterchef and pâtissier, Michel Roux Jr. Trust me, he knows what to do with almonds and oranges.

A slice of this almond and orange cake with a hot cup of tea is just what you need after a long day of work (Dessert before dinner? Yes, life is short) on a wintery cold day. Or enjoy on a terrace on a warm day in summer. Either way, the moist sweet zesty cake paired with the orange marmalade glaze and crunchy almond slivers will put a smile on your face after each bite.

Almond and orange cake

Orange & almond

If you don’t have a 20 cm/8 inch cake tin, you can also use a 23-24 cm/9 inch cake tin and reduce baking time to 30-35 minutes. This cake browns quickly, I’m guessing it might have something to do with the oils in the almonds. Although this did not affect flavor in a negative way, I would suggest you cover with aluminum foil (matte side up) near the end of the baking time.

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 50 gr (6 leveled tablespoons) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 225 gr  (1 cup or 8 oz) caster sugar
  • 250 gr (2.5 cups or 8.8 oz) ground almonds
  • 250 gr (1 ¼ stick or 9 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon grated zest of orange
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 orange)
  • 60 gr (2 oz) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade
  • Handful of sliced almonds, toasted

1. Butter a round cake tin, approximately 20cm/8 inch wide. Preheat the oven t0 180°C/355 °F.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar, and add the ground almonds. Whisk the butter with the orange zest until pale, then add the eggs one at a time. This mixture will come together slightly, but don’t expect a homogenous mixture. It will have little lumps of butter. Fold in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon. The batter will be thick. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until cooked (see tips above).

3. While the cake is baking, make a syrup by boiling the orange juice with the brown sugar until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is moderately dark golden colour. Leave to cool. Once the cake is cooked, prick several times with a skewer to the base and pour on the cooled syrup. Leave the cake to cool completely before brushing on a little warmed marmalade. To toast the almond slivers, put them into a dry skillet on medium heat and stir every once and a while. Keep a close eye on them. The transition between golden brown and GOLDEN brown (burnt) is quite fast. You only want to crisp them and add a little colour.  After cooling a bit in on a plate, sprinkle them on the cake.

4. Michel Roux recommends serving this with orange segments marinated in a generous splash of whisky and a little demerara (raw cane) sugar. I think this would very good with some whiskey flavored whipped cream and some thinly sliced candied orange peel.

Source: Michel Roux Jr: A Life in the Kitchen by Michel Roux Jr.

Available from Amazon.com and Bol.com 

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Best Blueberry Muffins

I have a confession to make. Weather like this (rain, wind, etc) sometimes really makes it hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. It’s something about the warmth of your bed and then the thought of getting cold when having to get up. Of course some breakfast foods make the process so much easier 🙂 Blueberry muffins are one of these foods. The smell that fills the house when they’re baking, is just wonderful. Who wouldn’t get out of bed for that, right? I like them best straight out of the oven with a bit of margarine spread in between. The bit of saltiness from the margarine blends beautifully with the sweetness of the blueberries and the crunchy lemon sugar topping. Paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea, they make for the perfect breakfast. This actually reminds me of a rhyme my grandmother taught me. It goes like this ‘Blueberry muffins (insert any food) are the finest of breakfasts, I think. And when I grow up and can have what I please, I think I shall always insist upon these.’  Isn’t it cute?

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits, though they can be quite addictive when eating handfuls at a time. I remember when we (my sister, mom and I) lived in the States with my aunt and uncle (a long time ago…). My auntie used to get two pints of blueberries at the supermarket. They never lasted more than a day at our house. Usually eaten fresh,though they also went into blueberry pancakes or muffins on Saturday mornings.

This blueberry muffin recipe (named ‘Best Blueberry Muffins’ by Cook’s Illustrated) is something else. It not only includes blueberries in the batter, but also a blueberry compote (homemade) swirled in and a lemon sugar topping. It has a very fine and delicate crumb and moistness to it from the blueberries. Sticky blueberry compote oozing out of the muffin adds to the indulgence. The verb ‘to ooze’ never sounded so appealing, don’t you think?

The chefs at America’s Test Kitchen have created a little masterpiece. Because, in my opinion, this recipe really lives up to it’s name.

Best Blueberry Muffins

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Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients
Lemon sugar topping
1/3 cup sugar (2 1/3 oz)
1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest from one lemon
Muffins
2 cups of fresh blueberries (about 10 oz/283 gr)
1 1/8 cup of sugar (8 oz/226 gr) plus one teaspoon
2 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (12.5 oz/354 gr)
2 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (57 gr) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup of vegetable oil (I used sunflower – 60 ml)
1 cup of buttermilk (250 ml)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Instructions
1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until combined; set aside.
2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)
4. Following photos below, use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.
5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.
Tip: If using frozen blueberries; allow to thaw completely. Cook 1 cup as directed in step 2. Rinse remaining cup berries under cold water and dry well. In step 3, toss dried berries in flour mixture before adding egg mixture. Proceed with recipe from step 4 as directed.

Soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies

This is it. My very first recipe post! For my first post, I opted for a recipe which is far from complicated (‘sorry’, to everyone expecting a complicated recipe. Don’t worry- small steps). However, easy, as in simple processes, relatively small list of ingredienst, etc, doesn’t mean no chance of failing. In my years of baking mostly brownies and cakes, I’ve found cookies to be a little tricky sometimes. You have to take them out of the oven when they are still soft, because they harden as they cool. So, it can be quite difficult to get the texture right (crispy/crunchy vs soft/chewy).

Chocolate chip cookies & Milk

Now, I must say, this isn’t my to-go recipe. My favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies, so far, is the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The big difference between other chocolate chip cookie recipes and the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, is the butter. In most recipes room temperature butter is mixed with sugar (usually a mix of brown and granulated sugar), but in the Cook’s Illustrated recipe butter is browned in a skillet. This gives the cookies a wonderful nutty aroma and really makes them taste extra special. You might be thinking by now; so why didn’t she make the Cooks Illustrated chocolate chip cookies? Good point 🙂 The fact is, I like trying new recipes. This is how I find my favorite to-go recipes. Plus, it’s exciting. You never know what you’re going to get. You might find textures or flavors you weren’t expecting at all. As for this recipe, they are nice and crisp on the edges yet soft and chewy in the centre. I will give the recipe credit for texture. A combination of textures in a cookie pleases everybody. Flavourwise though, they cannot beat Cook’s Illustrated (sorry, Martha). They were also quite flat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just prefer them to be a little thicker.

The original recipe says to bake the cookies 8-10 minutes, but I found the cookies to be still rather pale after 10 minutes. The first time I added two minutes of baking time, but this made them just a bit too golden brown. In the end, I think 11 minutes was ideal for me. It might depend on your oven, so it might be wise to play with it. If you can’t find chocolate chips, as I know they are not readily available in The Netherlands, substitute with 340 grams of good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocao) chopped into small pieces. American measuring cups can be purchased at Dille&Kamille or probably at Dok’s (Kitchen store in the The Hague). Measuring spoons are sold at Hema. Though, if you have a scale (I prefer digital), this is always more accurate. I will try to always include weights in the American recipes, for those of you who don’t have measuring cups and/or spoons.

Got Milk?

Soft and Chewy Chocolate chip cookies

Yields: about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (281 gr) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 gr) baking soda
  • 1 cup (227 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup  (218 gr) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 gr) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (340 gr) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8-10 minutes (11 minutes for my oven). Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Source: Martha Stewart

Hello world!

Well, this is my very first post on my blog. I’ve been wanting to start this foodblog for quite some time now. Finally, I’ve taken the big blogging dive! I hope you will enjoy reading this as much as I will writing it. Tomorrow I will post my very first recipe. I will also be working on my photography skills while blogging. I’ve purchased a food photography book, called ‘Plate to Pixel‘, from my favorite blogger Hélène Dujardin (Tartelette). I’m expecting some improvement in that area as I get more and more practice.