Raspberry Bakewell Cake

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The thing that can make foreign foods inaccessible is when it has names that give no indication as to what is inside of it. What is a Cornish pasty? What is a Gur cake? What is a Bakewell tart?

My first taste of a Bakewell tart, a traditionally English confection, was actually in Ireland. My Connemara day tour took a pitstop at Kylemore Abbey where I had a light bite at the attached cafe. I was intrigued by all the mouthwatering treats on display, but wanted to try something outside of the scone box. My eye was drawn to the Bakewell traybake, primarily because it had a sticker next to its label indicating that it was the winner of a local baking competition. They were squares with a dense, powdery-looking yellow filling on a crust, topped with caramelized sliced almonds. I took a gamble, and gave that a try, even though I’ve found that my mileage tends to vary with non-chocolatey, fruit/nut-based desserts.

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Bakewell tart from Kylemore Abbey

Upon tasting it, it felt like a blast from the past. It tasted so familiar, yet I’ve never had a Bakewell tart before. I eventually realized that I was thinking of raspberry thumbprint cookies, which have the exact same almond-raspberry flavor profile but just in a different format. The frangipane filling (equal parts butter, sugar, and almond flour) was crumbly and almost shortbread-like, which was such a fascinating texture for me.

Ergo, I had to replicate this at home. I did some research, and I decided that before venturing into a full-on tart with a pastry crust, I would make a cake version of it. The cake version doesn’t have as much of a shortbready texture that I enjoyed so much, but as you can see, it still is a little more crumbly than it is cakey.

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I did make some tweaks to the BBC recipe I referenced: I used raspberry jam since I wanted a truer Bakewell flavor and texture, and was worried about a soggy cake. I also added lemon zest since I saw that in a few other recipes, and I felt that the recipe with the jam substitution was a little too sweet and could be cut with some citrus.

Several reviewers replaced the vanilla essence with almond extract, and I think that was a smart choice. Another swap I made was to use half cake flour and half all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a 1/2 tsp salt in place of the recommended self-raising flour. I learned that flour in the UK tends to be a little softer (i.e. less protein content) than flour in the US, so I wanted to make sure the cake retained a tender crumb. However, if all you have is all-purpose, I don’t think the cake will suffer very much at all.

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Raspberry Bakewell Cake
Adapted from BBC
Makes an 8 inch round cake

140g ground almond
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g granulated sugar
140g self-raising flour (or 70g all-purpose flour + 70g cake flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Zest from 1 lemon (optional – if using, reduce salt in flour to 1/4 tsp)
3 tbsp or 65g raspberry jam (I just used as much as needed to spread a thin layer)
2 tbsp or 16g sliced almonds

1. Heat oven to 180C/355F and grease an 8 inch cake pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then mix in almond, flour, eggs, lemon zest (if using) and almond extract until well combined.
3. Spread half the mix over the cake pan and smooth over the top. Spread the raspberry jam onto the cake mixture, then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and roughly spread – you might find this easier to do with your fingers.
4. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden. Cool and remove from the tin.

Matcha (Green Tea) Ginger and Almond Biscotti

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One of the primary motivators for my baking is because buying dessert everyday is too expensive. Yes, I crave sweets everyday, and most often of the pastry variety. Chocolate bars and candies don’t satisfy me. I was examining my Mint budget for the month of October, and was shocked at how much of it went to buying random snacks to tide over an afternoon lull. This must stop!

Enter the matcha, ginger, and almond biscotti. I had crystallized ginger from an oatmeal, white chocolate and ginger cookie recipe, and I had matcha powder from a previous iteration of a green tea shortbread cookie. I also had slivered almonds from a chocolate granola recipe – triple win! Efficient, and makes good use of existing ingredients I have in my pantry.

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Biscotti is cool because it’s a double-baked cookie. First it is shaped into a flat loaf and then baked till just firm on the outside, and then sliced into the familiar biscotti shape and then baked again. I’m not sure why this is so. Is it because biscotti is meant to be a long-lasting, storage food? 

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The one thing that I’m not so crazy about this recipe is the strong eggy taste. It might not be so discernible if you weren’t looking out for it, but it was strange to me. The exclusion of any fat whatsoever necessitates the additional eggs, so I think it would be inherent to any biscotti recipe, unless you get a bastardized American version that’s softer and chewier. Nevertheless, this biscotti is great to dip into a hot cup of tea and munch on.

Matcha (Green Tea) Ginger and Almond Biscotti
From Big Biscotti Bake

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup roughly chopped almonds
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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5. Add the crystallized ginger and almonds, and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 to 20 times.

6. Separate the dough in half. Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes. Press the top of each log with granulated sugar.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Chocolate Almond Granola

One of my favorite snacks these days is Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola. It’s chocolatey, it’s crunchy, it satisfies my breakfast and mid-afternoon snacking needs – it’s really a great product. What’s even better about it is how simple the ingredients list is. Just about everything can be found in the grocery store, and I decided that instead of buying this cereal over and over again, I’m just going to make it. It’s too simple not to.

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Enter my riff on Trader Joe’s chocolate almond granola. My version contains old-fashioned oats, almond slivers, cocoa powder, honey, and canola oil, and chocolate shavings. The only item that I cannot procure easily that’s within the Trader Joe’s version is barley malt syrup – but that’s okay. Honey does a decent job of gluing it all together.

Aside from the taste of honey, this is a pretty close replica in terms of taste. However, I still have to figure out how to replicate granola that will actually clump together. That remains an untested challenge. I suspect a lower temperature and quick-cooking oats will help with the agglutination.

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Chocolate Almond Granola
Makes approximately 4 cups of granola

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings, as desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, almonds, and salt.
Mix honey and oil in a small bowl and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour over dry ingredients and toss to coat.
Spread granola onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until granola is no longer sticky, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. When granola is just barely warm, grate a chocolate bar over the granola.

Carrot Cake, French-Style

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This was an interesting cake to make. It was a joint creation between my French classmate and I for our presentation on David Lebovitz. He explains it better, but this cake is French because it originated from Provence. The French are very traditional with their desserts, and adding vegetable to cakes is quite unusual for them. This cake was handed around in class, and garnered pretty positive responses. The texture is less cake-like and more like a soft granola bar, due to the almond chunks. It’s like a Rice Krispie in terms of density and airiness. The carrots, although brightly coloring the cake, tasted unobtrusive and I thought the true star were the almond pieces that provided a nutty chew.

Making this would be substantially easier with a food processor or pre-chopped almonds. The grated carrots need to be relatively fine too. We had altered the original recipe by doubling up on the grated carrot, but since our almond chunks were larger than “relatively fine”, it still did not taste or feel distinctly vegetable-y. Overall, this was a very easy recipe to make up, and worth trying if you’re into almonds and/or carrots.

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Carrot Cake, French-Style
Makes 1 9×9 inch cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

4 tablespoons butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
pinch of salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (225g) toasted almonds
2/3 cup (90g) flour
1/4 cup, packed, (40g) finely grated carrot

1. Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Butter two shallow 10-inch (23cm) cake pans and line each with a circle of parchment paper. Then lightly butter the top of each circle of paper.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and salt until smooth.

3. Meanwhile, pulverize the nuts and flour in a food processor or blender until relatively fine, but not powdery. If you don’t have a machine, simply chop the nuts by hand and toss them with the flour.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Afterwards, stir in the ground nut mixture and the carrots, mixing just until smooth.

4. Divide the batter into the pans, smooth it evenly, and bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool, then release the cake from the pans and cut in wedges to serve.

Almond Biscotti

Traditional biscotti is a great option when you’re out of butter but you still want to bake. This biscotti uses very few ingredients but somehow develops an almost caramelized flavor from all that long and slow baking. It is a very crunchy and toothsome cookie, and I personally like to eat it without dunking it in tea/coffee/wine.

Almond Biscotti
Recipe from Cookie Madness
Makes about 12 biscotti

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour (170 grams)
2/3 cup granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice sugar (131 grams)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (3.75 ml)
1/4 teaspoon salt (1.25 ml)
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (3.75 ml)
3/4 cups whole almonds, toasted ** (60 grams)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside

In a second bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the eggs until light. Beat in the vanilla.
Blend the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients by hand; the dough should be heavy and sticky.

Add the nuts, and using your hands, knead them into the dough so they are evenly distributed. The dough will be thick and crumbly – moreso if you’ve used white whole wheat flour.
Using wet hands, shape the dough into a log of about 9 x 2 ½ inches. Place the log on the baking sheet.

Bake log at 300 degrees F. for 50 minutes. It will spread quite a bit in the oven. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Leave the oven on. Transfer log to a large cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the log every 1/2 to 3/4 inch on the diagonal. Stand the cut biscotti on the baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Store the cookies in a container that admits air, which will keep them from softening.

**You can toast the almonds quickly in the microwave. Lay them on a paper towel and heat on high for 1 ½ minutes, stopping halfway through to shuffle them around. You can also toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they start to split. Let them cool.