Monthly Archives: March 2014

Apricot streusel cake (and freezer excavation)

imageMy Norwegian relatives all have chest freezers. Big, sturdy, capable of storing large cuts of moose and deer, self-caught fish, buckets of foraged berries, extra cakes and loaves of bread. You never know, you might get snowed in. Living in a sunny but space-limited flat in Rome, I still hanker for a chest freezer, but make do with my fridge-freezer. However, my small freezer is stuffed: peas, Norwegian salmon, extra brown cheese, herbs from the balcony ….. and box after box of icy mystery bits. Soup, leftover cheese, experimental sorbets, a pea risotto, eggwhites….. What IS all this? And why is there never room in my freezer?

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Here is the first stowaway located: apricots from last July. Probably tossed in the freezer the night before a holiday, and since forgotten. This is clearly a sign to make an apricot cake. This was inspired by The Food Librarian’s Nectarine Streusel Coffee Cake which I bookmarked last summer and never got around to trying. Her cake looks so delicious! I used apricots, added some wholewheat flour and an extra egg, and reduced the amounts of butter and sugar.

Apricot streusel cake
Cake:
2 eggs
1/2 cup lowfat milk
40 gr softened butter
200 grammes plain flour
25 gr wholewheat flour
35 gr sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

13-14 apricot halves (mine were still a bit frozen), pitted and unpeeled but sliced

Streusel topping:
75 gr plain flour
25 gr wholewheat flour
50 gr light brown sugar
15 gr white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
20 gr cold butter, shaved in

Heat your oven to 220C. Line a 20×30 cm baking pan (a small rectangle) with baking paper.

Beat two eggs and milk. Add softened butter (I just put it in an ovenproof dish in the pre-heating oven for a couple of minutes). Whisk in flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Spread batter in base of baking pan (it may look thin, but it will rise.) Having sliced your apricot halve into 3-4 pieces each, scatter them over the batter base and press them lightly into batter. No fancy pattern in apricot pieces here, this is just a simple cake for our afternoon tea.

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For the streusel topping: mix flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. With a knife, shave the cold butter in and press mixture with a fork, until it looks like large crumbs. Scatter this evenly over the apricot-topped batter base.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 220C, depending on your oven, until the visible cake at edges looks lightly golden and the streusel topping is getting a bit of golden colour but is not turning dark. You wil see the fruit juices bubbling through in some places. Enjoy as soon as it is cool enough to be held!

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Notes: for an impromptu cake, this was very nice! The partially thawed apricots worked well, they are still nice and tart against the cake and streusel, which were still plenty sweet despite reducing the sugar in the cake batter from 150 grammes to 35 grammes. I am still experimenting with using less butter and sugar in baking, while retaining enough flavour to enjoy the result with a nice cup of tea. I might try this again with pears. Now I just need to plot what to do with the rest of those frozen apricots, now back in the freezer but in a much smaller box. Hmmmmm……. Any suggestions?

Fastelavnsboller: Shrovetide cardamom cream buns

imageIt is coming to the end of Carnevale here in Rome. Coming home last night, the entry of our building was sprinkled with colorful bits of confetti. You often see confetti on the sidewalks these days. It is a rainy spring morning here, and I am baking fastelavnsboller today: yeasted cardamom buns, filled with whipped cream, just before serving. In Norway we have fastelavnsboller to mark the last Sunday before Lent. In Sweden these are called semlor. They might have a slice of marzipan or a little jam beneath the cream, and they are dusted with icing sugar before bitten into. As they are rather nice, the season for enjoying these stretches a bit longer than fastelavn Sunday. Best the same day they are baked, as these are baked with yeast.

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Fastelavnsboller (Shrovetide cardamom cream buns)

25g fresh yeast (or 13g dry yeast)
50g butter, melted and slightly cooled
350 ml lukewarm whole milk
450g plain flour
50g wholewheat flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
50g sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 egg, lightly beaten (add to dough)
1/2 egg, lightly beaten (for glazing, just before baking)

Filling:
300ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar
Optional: jam (strawberry is nice)

Topping:
A little icing sugar, sifted over

This makes 14-15 buns, depending on the size. I doubled the recipe today, as friends are coming round for tea and fastelavnsboller soon.

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Melt butter, and add milk. Heat until it is just finger warm, about 37C. Crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl. When the milk and butter are lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in the milk and butter, in a large bowl. Careful it is not too hot, that will kill the yeast. Add flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and sugar, and stir in the one beaten egg. Stir well, the dough will be quite sticky. Knead for a few minutes, you will feel the dough getting smoother. Let the dough rise at room temperature, under cover (I use a plastic shower cap) for 1-2 hours, you will see it doubling soon.

Knock the dough back. Divide it into 14-15 pieces, and roll these out to round buns, roughly the same size. Leave to rise on parchment paper on a baking tray, covered with a tea towel. Dampening the tea towel slightly keeps the dough from drying out. Leave to rise until it doubles, half an hour or so.

When ready to make, glaze each bun with a little glazed egg. Bake at 200ºC on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes. Let the buns cool on a rack.

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When cool (otherwise the cream goes runny): whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar. Having a visiting mini Snow White help you assemble the buns is optional. Slice the buns in half. If you like jam, add a little on each base, but I like them with just whipped cream and icing sugar. Spoon a generous blob of whipped cream on the bases, then replace each bun top carefully. Sift over icing sugar, and serve. It can be messy but is delicious!
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Notes: Only fill as many as you will eat, they are better freshly stuffed with cream. They are very light and more-ish, it is easy to get through a few….. This is the classic type, with yeast. I have made these with sourdough as well, and slow cold-rise overnight, but with a late start (it is Sunday, after all) I opted for a more standard approach. It is adapted from the 1987 cookbook “Gjærbakst på alle bord”, which was one of my first cookbooks when heading off to university, but with a little less butter and sugar and with some wholewheat flour added. If there are any left, I will pack a couple buns for my lunch tomorrow, with brown goat’s cheese. A good Sunday to you all!
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