Brandied cherry snacking cake

(Brandied cherry snacking cake)

Yesterday I visited a good friend whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. Her mother wanted to know when I was going to start having children. I could almost hear my biological clock ticking while she eyeballed me.

Over Christmas, everyone wanted to know what I was planning to do for work in 2012, as though my answer of ‘being on holiday’ was not an option.

Last week I received a belated Christmas card from a relative, addressed to us as Mr. and Mrs. It reminded me of various aunts who had long ago launched themselves on a now abandoned quest to get me into a white gown and a church.

Undeniably, everyone means well, but a part of me can’t help the exasperation from bubbling up. Why in this day and age, are we still made to feel as though we’re failing in the game of life if we haven’t advanced to the next expected stage. Don’t pity me the unfulfilled potential of my child bearing hips or my barren ring fingers. I just want to make cake and be happy.

To call this a snacking cake almost gives anyone license to attack it at any given time of the day. Even breakfast. Or that curious hour just before bedtime when it seems too late to have something substantial but not that late that you can’t conceivably fit in a quick bite and one last cup of tea. As it happens, true to its name, I found myself coming back continuously to trim little slivers off this cake a day after I’d made it. If you can’t please your relatives, let them eat cake.

Brandied cherry snacking cake :
(adapted from a recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang)

170g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (1 1/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230g (1 3/4 cup) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
220g (1 1/2 cups) small brandied cherries (or 2 cups large pitted cherries)

Preheat the oven to 175’C (350F).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition, then the vanilla extract. Sift the dry ingredients together. Fold it into the butter mixture, followed by the brandied cherries. Spread the batter into a greased and lined 10-inch round cake pan. Bake for around 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

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Finnish Teaspoon Cookies (Lusikkaleivät)

(Finnish Teaspoon Cookies (Lusikkaleivät))

While making these Finnish cookies the other day, I was reminded of the butter cookies of my childhood. It’s funny to think about it now, but when we were growing up, there was nothing more chic than receiving a gift of store-bought Danish butter cookies in their trademark round blue tin. Each type of cookie was stacked in little paper cups and my favourites were the plain round ones studded with very dry, chewy currants and a piped cookie topped with granulated sugar.

I was never really good at pacing myself when it came to munching cookies, so if you were in the house at the time, you may have caught me making many sneaky trips into the kitchen to pinch just one more snack from the tin. And if you were really clever (unlike me), you’d take a different cookie each time so the stacks of cookies always appeared unchanged, thus preventing you from getting into trouble for pilfering.

But I never was wily enough in that regard. Instead, I resolved to learn how to bake, so I could eat more cookies!

These Finnish teaspoon cookies are as homely looking as they are memorable. Very, in both regards. Make a batch of these and sneak at least one from the kitchen per day.

Finnish Teaspoon Cookies (Lusikkaleivät) :
(makes 4 dozen cookies; the measurements are in US cup measures; from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas)

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg yolk
strawberry jam [I used cherry jam]
icing sugar

In a small heavy saucepan, brown the butter over medium to low heat until it is a pale tan colour. Cool. Pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda and gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir until the mixture is uniformly crumbly. Blend in the egg yolk and knead until dough is smooth.

Preheat oven to 160’C. To shape a cookie, press dough firmly into a teaspoon. Tap side of spoon onto a lined baking sheet to gently remove the shaped cookie. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until just barely browned. Allow to cool right on the baking sheet.

Spread jam on the flat side of each cookie. Add a second cookie to form an almond-shaped sandwich. Using a sieve, dust the cookies with powdered sugar. The flavor improves after the cookies have been stored at least 2 days, and they can be frozen.

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For the love of friends


(Sticky ginger, golden syrup and yogurt cake)

This post had a beginning, but I decided to truncate it and concentrate on my main objective instead, which is to write this in appreciation of friends who have been supportive and helpful of late. You all know you who are, and since I’m not very good at expressing myself in person, I have decided to say it with another thing that I love : yogurt.


(Yogurt lavender cake)

Full fat, European-style cow’s milk yogurt, which I tend to always keep a carton of in my fridge. If ever I needed to put forward a case for the planet-threatening, methane-belching cow, bovine yogurt would form one of my principle arguments. Granted, far more environmentally friendly four-footed creatures have graced this planet and yielded us many pleasures in a 125ml easy-peel tub. Sheep’s milk yogurt for example, which is very flavoursome and can also be used in all these instances. I guess I just have a soft spot for something I grew up eating so regularly – who, as a kid, didn’t lick the smear of yogurt off the yogurt tub lid?

As B is intolerant of most dairy products except yogurt, I often use it as a substitute for cream, buttermilk or sour cream in certain recipes. Along with a dash of rice vinegar, yogurt is my not-so-secret-ingredient in homemade potato salad and coleslaw. For baking, I sometimes have to adjust quantities, or alter the baking time slightly when substituting with yogurt. I rarely have a problem with the end result and in fact take pleasure in knowing that I’ve actually made my cake marginally healthier.


(Sour cherry and yogurt cheesecake with green tea)

The sticky ginger cake recipe (originally with sour cream) comes from Belinda Jeffery’s book. It is one of the most fantastically moist, heart-warming cakes your fork will ever meet. Belinda says it is the cake you must make, out of the entire book, and I couldn’t agree more.

The yogurt lavender cake is based on a recipe from this book and the cheesecake is from this book, which I aim to write more about soon as it is one of my current favourites. Below is the recipe for the green tea cookies which aren’t actually part of the original cheesecake recipe, but which also feature in the book and are the best green tea cookies I’ve tasted to date.

Green Tea Sable Cookies :
(makes about 50; recipe from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

240g pastry flour (chilled)
15g green tea powder (matcha powder)
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
130g icing sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

Sift flour and green tea powder twice. Set aside.

Beat butter, icing sugar and salt until soft and creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add flour and green tea powder mixture and fold in with a spatula. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Place both portions in two large pieces of parchment paper. Shape into logs about 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap logs with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm. If not using immediately, wrap with cling film and freeze. Cookie dough can be kept for up to 2 months in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 150’C. Cut logs into 7mm thick rounds. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on wire rack before serving. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

(Optional presentation : Prior to baking the cookies, you can dip the edges of each sliced cookie in granulated sugar. Also if you wish, you can brush a little egg white over each cookie and scatter with a few green tea leaves on top.)

[Note : To use as a garnish for the yogurt cheesecake above, I crumbled the sable dough on a tray before baking].

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