Back from our annual island holiday in Tuscany, where we had a week of seaside relaxation, lovely seafood and a brief respite from the heat of Rome. Just perfect.
As usual we had a birthday cake to make, but this year I gave up on on the grim oven in the rental flat and tried a rice cooker cake. Yes, my friend brought her rice cooker along and it even has a cake setting. This is also a vegan AND gluten-free cake, and it turned out very well indeed. Definitely something to try again.
Vegan cocoa rice cooker cake
1 cup plant-based milk (I used oat milk) 1/2 cup sunflower oil 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour 1/3 cup cocoa powder 3/4 cup sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp coarse salt
Whisk oil and milk. Mix in flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder. Line cooker base with baking parchment, to avoid having to carve it out later. I also brushed the rice cooker sides with a little sunflower oil, but my friend said that might not be needed. Pour batter in and sprinkle with salt. Turn rice cooker on to CAKE setting and hope for the best. Here, it took about 50 minutes until it beeped as ready, a little less time next time. Hard to tell when you really should not open the lid to peek.
Cool and serve. We slathered this in vegan pistachio cream so it was very good indeed!
I hope you also have a little summer joy.
PS Garbatella mentioned in the Guardian today, with a nice pasta recipe!
It is a gray Sunday here, but the neighborhood is heaving with people lingering over lunch and starting apertivi. Rome opened up a couple weeks ago, but it is still a novelty to hear people talking at the bar across the piazza and chatting on the street below. No indoor dining yet, but outdoor tables are spreading and people are making the most of it.
A fried came over so we had a lovely walk up to the allotments near Regione Lazio before coming home for tea and cake.
We have not been out much yet, but it is nice to feel that summer is on the way!
Simple apple cake with cinnamon
2 eggs 180 gr white sugar 180 gr flour 1/2 tsp salt 2 tsp baking powder 90 gr soft butter 150 ml milk
4-5 apples: enough to get 300 gr peeled and chopped apple pieces 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tbs sugar
Whisk eggs and sugar light and airy. Add flour, salt and baking powder, then milk and butter. Whisk well. Peel and chop the apples, then in a separate bowl toss apple pieces with cinnamon and sugar. Heat oven to 200C. Line a rectangular baking tin (20×30 cm) with baking parchment and pour in half the batter. Distribute the apple pieces evenly over the batter, then pour the rest of the batter on top and even it out with a spatula or spoon. A punch of salt on top before it goes into oven is nice.
Bake in middle part of oven for 25-30 min (mine was done at 25 min). Cool on a rack before serving.
The days are getting longer, and despite the polar winds (well, -2C at night, which is cold for Rome) it does feel like spring is on the way. Some optimistic cherry tree are flowering, and there are electric yellow sprigs of mimosa bobbing down the street along with the red roses in Valentine’s Day bouquets today. Rome is currently in the yellow zone, so restaurants can open for lunch and we can go for coffee, as we did this morning, sitting outside bundled up against the wind. Everyone on the street wears masks, and it was a busy Sunday with people out walking in the sunshine. Carnevale must have started, as there are colorful sprinkles of paper confetti scattered here and there on the sidewalks, and a few small children in costumes. I confess, I’ve lost track of whether the kids are in school or not. The palazzo next door had a mini birthday toast for someone this morning, and it was great to see a couple kids with tutus and play swords. Even with plenty of distancing and masks, seeing that makes life feel almost normal again. The pastry shops in Rome are also selling frappe and castagnole, deepfried dough pieces dusted with icing sugar, and little dough fritters.
It’s Shrove Sunday, so I made Norwegian fastelavnsboller today, Shrovetide buns. Yeasted wheat buns with a little cardamom, split in two horizontally and filled with whipped cream, dusted with icing sugar. Some years I make a healthier version, this year I used the classic Tine recipe, just with less yeast, no egg and longer rise.
Fastelavnsboller (Shrovetide buns, makes 12-14)
100g butter, melted and slightly cooled 350 ml lukewarm milk (I used semi-skimmed) 25g fresh yeast (or 13g dry yeast) 100 g sugar 500 g white flour 1/2 tsp ground cardamom ½ tsp salt 1/2 tsp baking powder
To serve 200 ml whipping cream, whipped wirh a little vanlla sugar, plus icing sugar to dust over
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. 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 2-3 hours, you will see it doubling.
Knock the dough back. Divide it into 12-14 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. Bake at 220ºC on the middle rack for 10-11 minutes. Let the buns cool on a rack.
When cool (otherwise the cream goes runny): whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar. Slice the buns in half. Spoon a generous blob of whipped cream on the bases, then replace each bun top carefully. Sift over icing sugar, and serve.
I hope you are all staying safe and that sunny days are on the way for you too.