Easter – a time of year when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and a celebration of His resurrection to life on Easter Sunday. On Good Friday it is traditional to eat hot cross buns. Easter Sunday is the day of feasting and celebration, the day when kiddies all go on their Easter egg hunts and overdose on sugar and chocolate. For many families it is a tradition to bake and enjoy a Simnel Cake, a light fruit cake that has a layer of marzipan (almond paste) baked into the middle of the cake and another layer to decorate it when it is cold. It is also decorated with 11 little marzipan balls – these symbolize the eleven disciples of Christ (Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ is not included).
Recently my friend Michael Olivier called and asked me if I would be interested in baking his Granny’s Simnel Cake for him to include in the Easter edition of Crush! Online Magazine. I was delighted in his faith in my abilities to recreate some childhood memories for him and set about preparing the ingredients and baking the cake according to the recipe supplied by Michael. What a delightful cake! And one that I will adopt for my own families Easter celebrations from now on!
GRANNY’S SIMNEL CAKE (courtesy of Michael Olivier)
For the almond paste
250g castor sugar
250g ground almonds
2 free-range eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence [some like to use almond essence]
For the cake
180g butter [don’t even be tempted to use margarine or vegetable fat]
180g soft brown or Moscovado sugar
180g cake flour
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves and fine salt
3 extra large eggs
150g Orange River Raisins
150g Orange River Golden Sultanas
60g chopped mixed peel
grated rind of 1 lemon and one orange
2 Tbs smooth apricot jam (for brushing on cake before the applying the almond paste topping)
1 egg – for brushing over the cake before grilling.
Prepare a 20cm cake tin by lining it, bottom and sides, with greaseproof or silicone paper.
In a large glass bowl mix the sugar and the finely ground almonds.
Whisk the eggs until frothy and add only enough, a bit at a time, to give the paste a soft texture.
Flavour with the vanilla essence and knead gently for about a minute.
Divide the almond paste into three portions. Roll out one third to make a circle 18cm in diameter which will go into the centre of the cake. Wrap the remainder tightly in double cling film and set aside. One half will be used for the 11 balls and the other to roll out another circle to place on top of the cake once completely cooled.
Preheat oven to 140C.
Using your mixer cream the butter until light and fluffy and then add the sugar and beat together until pale in colour and light in texture.
Sift together the flour, spices and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time and add about a third of the flour mixture with each egg as this helps to prevent curdling.
Add the fruits, the mixed peel the grated rinds and stir together with a wooden spoon to mix well.
Spoon half of the batter into the prepared cake tin. Level it off with an off set spatula and then put the circle of marzipan on top.
Spoon the rest of the batter on top and smooth over allowing a little bit of a dent in the middle to ensure that the cake ends up baked with a nice flat top.
Bake for 1hour 45 minutes, insert metal skewer into the middle to test. If it comes out clean, the cake is baked. If not test after a further ten minutes baking. Remove the cake from the oven.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cake is completely cooled remove it from the greaseproof or silicone paper. If it is slightly domed, put it upside down on a baking tray.
Set your oven’s grill on high.
Heat the apricot jam and brush over the top of the cake. Roll out one half of the remaining marzipan into a thickish circle the exact diameter of the cake (use the pan to measure) and place it carefully on top of the cake.
With the remaining marzipan, roll out 11 small round shaped balls and place them around the edge of the cake.
Brush the marzipan and the balls with beaten egg and set in the oven to brown gently, watching all the time for about 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill. Otherwise use a blow torch to brown it.
Garnish with some little candy or small chocolate Easter eggs. And do place a little fluffy chicken on top.
As I sit here writing up this post my skin is being caressed by the most beautiful cool sea breeze blowing gently in the window. It has been so many months since I last felt that and my whole body is cheering on the advent of Autumn. This is MY time of year…the season that I delight in the most! In previous years by the time Easter came upon us autumn had all but disappeared and winter was already making her presence felt with wicked north westerly gales and driving rain. I remember well that my daughter, who has her birthday at the end of March, throughout her childhood years bemoaned the fact that she could never have a swimming party around the pool! Instead all her little friends arrived dressed up warmly in coats and boots and they had to play indoors! This year for the first time sweet daughter was able to have her wish……for her 33rd birthday!
If you are on this roads at this time of year do drive safely and have a wonderful time with family and friends. We remain home at this time of year as brownieboy has to work. Usually our Good Friday is quiet with those who want to going off to church to commemorate the crucifixion. In true Cape style I always enjoy some pickled fish for my lunch on this day! YUM! On Easter Sunday the family gathers at daughter and son in laws home to participate in the excited hunt for Easter Eggs. Then we all head to church as a family to celebrate Christs resurrection. After church we gather around the table at our home to feast!
Now it is time for a nice cup of soothing rooibos tea before bedtime…… and a slice of this delightful Simnel cake would do very nicely too thank you!
I wish you all a Blessed and Happy Easter.
This recipe was first published in the 17th issue of Crush! Online Magazine and also on Michael Olivier’s website Crush is available globally and provides very interesting reading with interactive pages. Just supply your email address to subscribe and your issue will drop into your mailbox once a month – absolutely free of charge!
Passionfruit, passion fruit or granadilla as it is locally known in South Africa, is plentiful at the moment. I cannot resist those dark purple orbs when I come across them and will bring my stash home excitedly and place them in a bowl on the sideboard so that the aroma can envelope me while I go about planning what to do with them. I love the mix of tart and sweet pulp in any number of ways. I love mixing the pulp of one into some Greek yoghurt and serving it on top of my muesli in the morning with a drizzle of honey. My plans always include making a few bottles of passion fruit curd baking some cakes and I love them in my tropical smoothies right now. My hubby has a weird way of enjoying them. He stirs the pulp, together with a teaspoon of sugar, into a glass of icy cold full cream milk. The acidity of the granadilla slightly curdles and thickens the milk and he slurps away happily….lost in childhood memories! When buying granadillas from the grocery stores or markets be sure to select them carefully. Weigh them one by one in the palm of your hand. If they are light it means they are probably quite old and past their prime and will disappointingly hold very little pulp. They need to be heavy in your hand, be turning or have turned a lovely dark purple colour and starting to wrinkle ever so slightly. A crinkly heavy granadilla is the sweetest juiciest one.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Douglas asked me for some old fashioned cookie modeler recipes so I was paging through my ancient first recipe book that I had when I got married in 1978 and I came across a recipe that I have sadly neglected lately. An easy to mix and bake yoghurt loaf using the yoghurt container as your measurement. I cannot remember where I got this recipe from, possibly one of the magazines of the day and it is one that was a favourite in our household while my children were growing up. You can ring the changes by changing the flavour of the yoghurt that you use, you can add a hot syrup, pouring it over the cake as it comes out the oven, or leave it out, you can iced it with glace icing or leave it off….you can just have it as is. My kids used to eat it similar to banana bread, spread with a little bit of butter. As a sandwich it used to make a delicious sweet ending to their lunch breaks at school.
My favourite flavour of course is granadilla. So here is my version of this lovely loaf cake.
MOIST EASY PASSION FRUIT YOGHURT LOAF CAKE
This is a very easy loaf to bake using, as measurements, the cleaned container that the yoghurt comes in. Use the older round shaped containers weighing 175g (that’s about 6 ounces) and not the modern small square shaped containers. Use any flavor yoghurt that you wish. The possibilities are endless but my favorite is the passion fruit.
1 ½ Containers (175g each) of Granadilla or Passion Fruit Yoghurt
3 Containers Self Raising Flour (use a clean dry yoghurt container)
2 Containers Castor Sugar
1 Container Cooking Oil (I use half vegetable and half coconut oil)
3 Large Eggs
Fresh Raspberries or Blueberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 180
Grease and flour one large loaf pan or two small ones
Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar
Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl and beat in the oil and yoghurt
Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix together well
Gently stir in the berries. I like to put a line of berries on top down the middle to sink into the batter as it bakes
Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of pans
Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
If you would like to add some glace icing as I did this is how I did it….
100g Icing Sugar – sifted twice
Pulp from 1-2 ripe wrinkled granadillas depending on size
Mix together and if needed add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to get a pouring consistency
Once the loaf is completely cold place the rack over a baking sheet or tray and pour the glace icing over the loaf so that it drips down the sides. Allow to set slightly before cutting and enjoying!
A very big thank you to everyone who has been so supportive throughout a very difficult time for me. I so appreciate and value each one of you. I am mending well from the reconstructive oral surgery I had 3 weeks ago. I just take it one day at a time right now and don’t think of the rest of the procedures that I still face through the year. It kind of overwhelms you if you do that. The worst I believe is behind me and I am very grateful for that. For now it is just waiting. Fortunately I have the planning of the next SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba to keep me busy and out of mischief :) More news on that very soon.
Have a great week!
I firmly believe that animals rock this planet in so many ways, but not all are blessed to be living in good homes where they are loved and cared for and pampered. My friend Linda over at The Squashed Tomato started Romeo’s Wish last year, an iniative that raises money for food and other much needed products for underprivileged animals. Please go over there and see how you can support this wonderful cause and make Romeo’s wish come true. Follow the link and “like” the facebook page so you can keep up to date with Linda’s news. You can also follow Linda on twitter with the handle @squashed_tom
Tarte Tatin……the word conjures up cold nights and comforting food eaten around the fireside with a delicious glass of sweetish wine to accompany it. Tarte Tatin also conjures up visions of firm crisp apples and caramel and delicious puff pastry. So easy and simple to prepare and yet so delicious and comforting. ClemenGold also conjures up wintry thoughts as it is a winter citrus and only available for that season….but I turned both into a wonderful summery delight this past week.
The new year has firmly entrenched itself and 3 weeks have just flown past in a blur. Here in the Western Cape where I live we have been overwhelmed by a heatwave of massive proportions. I have not been able to bear spending any time in my kitchen during the days. Nights are oppressive and everyone is battling to sleep. I think airconditioning companies have been benefiting from it all. In the bowels of my freezer I came across a bag of ClemenGolds this past week that I had popped in there towards the end of the 2011 season. As I was contemplating them the idea of using some for a tarte tatin came to mind. Using my favourite spices of course for my ClemenGold goodness. It ticked all the right boxes for me….quick and easy to prepare and delicious with a big scoop of icy cold vanilla ice cream! I was sold on the idea and this is what I came up with…
SPICED CLEMENGOLD TARTE TATIN WITH RICH BUTTER PUFF PASTRY
Easy to prepare
1 roll good quality Butter Puff Pastry – thawed but still cold
2 ClemenGolds (or other clementine/mandarin if you cannot get the ClemenGolds)
125 g butter
100 g Light Brown Sugar
½ Lemon – juice only
5ml NoMU Sweet Rub
1 Vanilla Pod – split and seeds removed with the tip of a sharp knife
2 star anise
1 Egg – lightly beaten for brushing the pastry
Wash and slice the ClemenGolds thinly (leaving the delicious peel on) and set aside. I am so in love with my new Lassar ceramic knife that is perfect for this job
Unroll the puff pastry and, using your skillet as a measure, cut out a circle about an inch wider all round than the size of the skillet that you are using. Set aside in the fridge until needed
Place the skillet (it needs to have an oven proof handle) onto the hob over a low to moderate heat
Place the butter, sugar, sweet rub and lemon juice into the skillet and melt all together without stirring
Add the vanilla seeds and pod and star anise
Allow the mixture to caramelize and turn a medium golden colour giving it a bit of a shake every now and again. Don’t allow it to go any darker than that as it can burn very easily
Remove the pan from the heat and place the ClemenGold slices in the caramel in circles, overlapping the slices slightly and placing the last one in the centre of the pan so the whole base is covered
Set aside to cool for 10 – 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 200C while the caramel is cooling
Remove puff pastry from the fridge and place it lightly over the top of the caramel in the skillet. Fold and tuck the extra bits down the sides carefully as the caramel might still be hot enough to burn your fingers
Brush lightly with the egg wash and bake on the middle shelf in the oven until the pastry is puffed up and a deliciously medium golden brown colour
Remove from the oven then place a large flat serving plate over the top of the skillet
Using oven gloves or a couple of folded dish towels hold the plate and pan tightly together and in a quick motion flip them over and place plate down on to the counter
Remove the pan – if any slices have remained behind gently lift with a spatula and place back into position
Allow to cool slightly then remove the star anise and vanilla pod and cut into wedges
Serve with whipped cream, crème frâiche or ice-cream (personally I prefer the iciness of ice cream with the still slightly hot tarte tatin!)
browniegirl tip: Wash the stickiness off the vanilla pod then let it dry thoroughly on your windowsill in the sunlight. Once dry pop it into a jar of sugar and cover tightly. In a week or two you will have delicious vanilla sugar for all your baking needs
To interact with Lassar ceramic knives visit their facebook page or take a peek at the Essentials page in the latest Crush online magazine edition to see how to slice and dice an onion…the Lassar way!
Who doesn’t love a dense, moist, decadently dark, fudgey brownie? My tagline on this blog says “there is more to life than brownies….but not much!”
I think that chocolate cures just about anything! And yes, there is a reason that I am known as browniegirl……..and here it is! My signature dish Cheesecake Swirled Brownies – deliciously moist, heavy and fudgey. Delightful on their own straight out of the fridge….but best at room temperature a day or so after they have been baked. By this stage the texture has settled into darkly deliciously fudge like and moist. We love them as a dessert with a dollop of creme fraiche to cut through the richness and some fresh berries in season. But equally delicious with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream! Enjoy them however you choose to…..but do make these!
DECADENT DARK CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE SWIRLED BROWNIES
a decadently dark, rich, fudgey and dense chocolate brownie, swirled with cheesecake. What more could you want?
Original Recipe taken from “Cookies & Brownies” by Alice Medrich; Adapted by me!
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 16 squares (depending how you cut them)
125 grams Lurpak unsalted butter, cut into pieces
150 grams 80% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
250 grams granulated white sugar
Fresh Vanilla Bean – split and seeds scraped out with the tip of a sharp knife
2,5ml pure vanilla extract
2 Jumbo Free Range eggs – at room temperature
90 grams Cake (or all purpose) Flour
5ml Finely Grated Orange or Clementine Zest (optional)
Cream Cheese Layer:
250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese at room temperature
50ml Fresh Cream
70 grams granulated white sugar
2,5ml pure vanilla extract
1 Jumbo Free Range egg – at room temperature
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and place the rack in the center of the oven.
Melt a little regular butter then brush base and sides and line a 23 x 23 cm square baking pan with 2 sheets of baking paper across the bottom and up all four sides of the pan. The paper needs to come above the edges of the pan as you will use it to lift the baked brownies out of the pan. Brush the paper as well. Set aside.
In a large glass bowl melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave – you can do this over simmering water but I prefer the micro method. It only takes 1 -2 minute at about 50% power. Remove from microwave, stir well then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract and seeds and the zest if using.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (with a wooden spoon) after each addition.
Stir in the sifted flour and salt and beat, with the wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl (about one minute).
Remove 1/2 cup of the brownie batter, cover with cling film and set aside.
Pour the remainder of the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Then in the bowl of your mixer or processor (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese & cream until smooth.
Add the sugar, vanilla and egg and blend until creamy and smooth.
Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the brownie layer.
Spoon small dollops of the reserved brownie batter evenly on top of the cream cheese filling. Then with a table knife or wooden skewer, swirl the two batters a little bit (without mixing them together) to make a marbled effect.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies just start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges are just beginning to turn golden.
Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool.
Once cool refrigerate the brownies (still in the pan covered with foil or cling film) for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.
Once chilled, remove the brownies from the pan by lifting with the ends of the paper and transfer to a cutting board.
With a sharp hot dry knife, cut into 16 squares. It is a good idea to have a damp cloth handy to wipe your knife between cuts.
These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Bring to room temperature before serving if you want the fudginess! Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Delicious with a scoop of ice cream or creme fraiche, mascarpone and fresh berries in season – or just alone straight from the container
Don’t use a mixer when you make brownies….you don’t want to incorporate any air into the batter which will not result in fudgy dense brownies
Don’t use any leavening agent in your brownie mixture
Don’t over bake – You want your brownies to be a little bit moist in the middle when you take them out of the oven
Do use the best quality ingredients that you can afford to buy. These days you can get a very good comparable local cream cheese called Lancewood Superior (South Africa) which I have started using.
Pegs come in very handy in my kitchen. Use them to peg the paper firmly into place onto the edges of the pan. Once the batter is in the pan you can remove the pegs but if you use wooden pegs you can put the pan into the oven with the pegs attached
This recipe was featured in Issue 13 of Crush! Online Magazine. If you are not already subscribed to this fabulous, classy food and wine magazine go on over and subscribe. It is free and is delivered monthly to your inbox!
Everyone seems to love crisp, buttery shortbread. The combination of citrus zest (I used ClemenGold but you can also use orange or Lemon) and Bay leaf (bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae) is a particularly good flavor combination. I have made two batches of this easy biscuit already in the past week and the family have made short work of them! I shall have to bake another batch for Christmas gifts tomorrow!
BAY AND CITRUS SHORTBREAD
125g Lightly Salted Butter – at room temperature
60g Castor Sugar
160g Cake Flour (or all purpose flour)
25g Maizena (Corn Flour)
20g Custard Powder (the old fashioned kind not instant custard powder)
5ml Orange Zest
1 fresh Bay Leaf
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Line some cookie sheets with baking paper or parchment and set aside.
Grind the bay leaf together with a little bit of the sugar in a pestle and mortar then add to the rest of the sugar.
Using a mixer or wooden spoon cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the ClemenGold zest and beat in.
Sift together the flour, corn flour, custard powder and salt then sprinkle onto the butter mixture and mix well just until the dry ingredients are incorporated and come away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the counter.
Roll out the dough with a flour dusted rolling pin about ½ – 1cm thick.
Cut out the dough into shapes with cookie cutters.
Place the shapes onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for between 10 – 15minutes or until very pale brown and crispy.
Sprinkle hot shortbread with extra castor sugar and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
Package and tie with ribbon to make wonderful home baked Christmas gifts!
TIP: You can use all flour if you prefer but the secret to light crispy shortbread is to use a fine product like corn flour and custard powder.
Enjoy… and to all of my readers finishing off work today and travelling on holiday, I wish you safe travels and a wonderfully blessed and happy Christmas season from my home to yours!