Last Saturday Lundulph went to a concert and I took the opportunity for some baking - I wanted to try out a couple of recipes from my "Things to cook in 2008" list. Yes, 2008, I'm well behind.
Now, first up was focaccia. Actually I'd first experienced the French version Fougasse, from the bakery chain Paul. But it seems that the Italian Focaccia is more popular, when I searched the web. So that's what I set off to make.
As usual, I didn't do too deep research, but picked one of the recipes that came up at the beginning of a google search. The recipe seemed harmless enough, not too detailed, but enough. Sadly I was a bit sloppy and put in all the olive oil into the initial dough, completely ignoring the fact that fat prevents gluten from developing, thus ruining any possibility of success - the glugen needs to develop in order to contain the gasses from the yeast that will give the bread it's structure and texture. Besides, the dough was way too firm, but the recipe said it should be oddly enough.
Anyway, I followed the rest of the instructions, apart from the baking that took twice as long and I also skipped putting a bowl of water at the bottom of the oven - gas ovens tend to have a more moist heat.
The result smelt like a focaccia and was barely edible. One of the two focaccias burnt too and both were well dry. At this point I had a gut feeling that my next project would also fail.
Project two was a Coffee Masala Cake. I can't remember where I found it - maybe The Daring Bakers or The Fresh Loaf. The name sounded very intriguing and it had cashew nuts on top, and I've never used cashews for sweet dishes, only for korma or as a snack.
The recipe was interesting too - only egg whites and it had both baking powder and baking soda.
I didn't succeed in getting the spice and coffee mixture as frothy as specified in the recipe and I had to add 3 tbsp milk to make it runny enough to whip in the first place. The batter ended up quite thick, but still was OK for a sponge cake. Looking at the photo in the recipe now, that one's a lot runnier. I had some doubts about the amounts for the various spices, but they turned out quite good.
Still, into the oven it went. It rose very nicely, almost threatening to overflow. I added cashews and chocolate chips as instructed after 20 minutes, at which point it had a crust, but was very wobbly indeed. 15 minutes later, it still looked a bit wobbly and I thought I'd put a skewer through it to see how much it had to go. And disaster! As soon as I pulled out the skewer, the cake sank in. I quickly closed the oven door and ran off, I really didn't want to watch that.
A further 15 minutes and the cake was shaped like a bowl and was done. I've still not managed to work out what went wrong. The baking powder and soda were well mixed in with the flour, but I guess only using egg whites makes the sponge a lot more fragile.
Lundulph suggested I fill the hole with Angel Delight. But I didn't. Still the cake itself was rather tasty, quite strong on the cloves and not too sweet. I think I'll use caster sugar next time, not granulated. Also I'll reduce the cloves a bit and add more ginger - Lundulph recommended that too.
He had it with fairly thick pouring cream and said that worked out quite nicely.
So for my next project I've picked something a bit easier. But I'll wait a while, last Saturday was very depressing. I need to fine tune the cake and work out how to make focaccia too.