29 April 2013

Back Forest Butterfly Cakes

I've managed to hold off my baking for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't keep it up any longer. The following recipe had taken my fancy and I just had to give it a try.


I'd only read through the ingredients list before going shopping and had already decided to also add some Kirsch to it, I think it would work ever so nice with the Black Forest theme. Certainly chef Rachel Allen is generous with it in her creations.

However our supermarket didn't carry Kirsch, in fact nothing even remotely like it, but I spotted a group of "cherry brandy liqueur" bottles trying to pass themselves off as alco-pops, so I grabbed one of them, hoping that it would work anyway.

Of course, adding liquid to a sponge mixture means that the dry ingredients need to be increased or the consistency will be wrong. OK, I decided to increase the flour. My initial thought had been to add the Kirsch to the icing, but Lundulph pointed out that this would limit when they could be eaten... so the booze would have to go into the sponge itself.

At this point I read through the instructions and also realised that it is a heavily branded recipe. But no way I'll go and buy things I already have at home, just because they aren't the right brand! What was a bit disturbing was that everything should be mixed together in one go - normally it's the sugar and butter first or sugar and eggs first, then flour and baking powder to be sifted and mixed together well... My gut feeling was right, I should have done things more traditionally, however mixing everything in one go worked a lot better than I expected.

Makes 12

150 g caster sugar
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature
150 g plain flour
25 g cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
3 medium eggs at room temperature
3 tbsp cherry brandy liqueur
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 g ready-made chocolate flavoured icing
red glacé cherries
edible silver shimmer spray


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (gas mark 4). Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Place the caster sugar and butter in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, then stir together to mix well and add to the sugar and butter.
  3. Add the eggs, liqueur and vanilla extract, then whisk with an electric whisk until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Distribute the batter between the muffin cases, they should be about two-thirds full so as to rise and form domes during baking.
  5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until they are ready (test with a toothpick - it should come out clean), then remove from the oven and onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  6. Using a serrated knife carefully cut off a lid from each muffin, then cut the lids in two.
  7. Pipe some of the icing on the cut surfaces of the muffins, then carefully push in the two dome halves to form butterfly wings.
  8. Place a glacé cherry in the middle and finish with lightly spraying with shimmer spray - careful not to over-do it.

The instructions did say to make sure to fill the cases enough so that domes form and sadly I got over-excited to the point that I only got 11 muffins. And I was scientific about it - weighing the batter and dividing by 12, but mysteriously it didn't quite work out. 56 g of batter per case resulted in this:


No more than 50 g next time in each muffin case, I think.

Spread out muffins meant the domes I cut out were too big, but this was easier to sort out, I just cut out a strip in the middle of each dome:


I only decorated two yesterday and thought I'd decorate the others on a per need basis. As it turned out, when I opened the lid of the cake box a moment ago, the muffin surfaces had gone a bit soggy and it was barely possible to make the butterfly tops. So these should be done on the day only.

The silver shimmer spray was quite cool, it made a huge difference visually - sadly I wasn't able to capture it well on camera:


But the best thing was the cherry brandy liqueur. I did have a little sip before adding some to the muffin batter and it was delish! And it works really nicely in the muffins too. Though the ready made icing was quite over-powering and sweet, I piped too much yesterday and the flavour of the muffins was lost, however in my second attempt, I was more measured and the lovely cherry flavour came through. I'll add the cherry liqueur to the icing next time and make it myself, so it's not so sweet.

28 April 2013

Inspired by Soto Maior

While I was getting salmon fillets for our lovely dinner the other day, I also spotted some very nice looking rainbow trout.


My plan was to do it en croute with wild mushrooms, but I decided to look through my recipe collection for inspiration and a good thing too, I found it in a booklet advert for some brand of cooking oil from 1993. The original recipe is for zander à la Soto Maior, but it calls for deep frying it, so I decided to just use the marinating part. The recipe said minimum 2 h of marinating, another recipe stated at least 4, so I decided to let the fish marinate overnight.


150 g finely chopped shallots
2 finely sliced lemons, pips removed
600 g rainbow trout fillets
2.5 dl grapeseed oil
500 g piece of puff pastry
a handful of coarsely cut flat leaf parsley
1 egg yolk
3 dl single cream
4 dl parboiled girolles
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the shallots and the lemons, then remove the skin from the trout fillets and check for any bones. Remove these with tweezers. Cut the fillets into 4 or even 6 pieces.
  2. Place a third of the shallots at the bottom of a glass dish, then place some of the fish and some of the lemon slices. Repeat the layering, finishing with a layer of lemons.
  3. Pour over the grapeseed oil (actually any flavourless cooking oil will do). Cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
  4. When ready to complete the dish, pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C (gas mark 7). Also place a thick-bottomed baking sheet upside-down in the oven to heat up as well.
  5. Roll out the pastry to about 0.5 cm thickness and cut in two, one piece a little larger than the other.
  6. Take the pieces of fish out from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen towels, it's OK if some of the shallot pieces remain on them.
  7. Arrange them on the smaller piece of puff pastry, leaving about a cm around the edge clear. Sprinkle the parsley over the fish.
  8. Brush the clear edge with a little egg yolk, then place the larger piece of puff pastry on top and gently press around the edges to make it stick. Use the remainder of the yolk to brush on the top of the puff pastry. Make a few holes to allow steam to come out.
  9. Bake until the puff pastry has risen well and turned a nice dark golden brown.

Soto Maior or vicount António de Soto Maior da Cunha was the Portugese ambassador to Sweden starting in 1856, who remained in Sweden until his death in 1894. According to the Swedish wikipedia, he was a very colourful personality, who was also very interested in food and the recipe for zander à la Soto Maior is part of his legacy.

A quick google search showed some variations of the original dish, but the key parts - zander, marinade, deep fried and accompanied by mushrooms stewed in cream are all there.

After marinating the fish overnight, some of the pieces had gone pale pink and looked a little like gravad lax. Actually I only had just under half of the amount, so we ended up with a rather thin pie. Also, I didn't let it bake for long enough, so the bottom puff pastry was undercooked and soggy. Perhaps I should have rolled it even thinner, but as it was, I ended up with quite a lot to spare. I wrapped it tightly in cling film and put back in the fridge, hopefully I'll get an idea what to do with it over the next couple of days.

Lundulph really liked this one and I agree, it was indeed tasty, though I think the onions were a bit over-powering, I'll reduce them for next time, but I'm quite pleased with the end result.

27 April 2013

Pan-fried Salmon

Recently I'd started having a hankering for pan-fried salmon. No idea where this came from, especially since I'm not a fan of fish on the whole, yet there it was and I decided to act on it.

I was hoping to get some Jersey Royal potatoes, but sadly there weren't any, Spring has been late this year. But I picked up a small bag of new baby potatoes along with the two salmon fillets and a jar of Hollandaise sauce. It's a pity that our supermarkets don't do fresh Hollandaise, it's so much nicer than the stuff in the jars. I should probably try and make some myself.

As it also happened, Lundulph had worked late and wasn't home yet, so I set the potatoes to steam, while I laid the table.

Half-way through cooking, I heated up about 50 g of butter in a large non-stick pan, rinsed the fillets and placed them to fry, skin side down.

I grated some lemon zest on top and sprinkled some tarragon leaves. After about 7 minutes, I turned the steaks over and let them fry for a further 5 minutes. Just to be on the safe side, I fried them for a couple of minutes on the two remaining sides as well.

For the plating I peeled some cucumber and sliced it very thinly, then drizzled balsamic vinegar over it. Once I'd plated the salmon, I drizzled the butter from the pan over it. I believe it's called beurre noisette and it's tasty.


On the whole, I thought it was a lovely and quick dinner to make. Lundulph was more reserved in his praise.

15 April 2013

Student food

The other day when I was in the supermarket, they had some lovely looking mushrooms on offer, so I couldn't resist to buy 3 punnets, each of 300 g.

There was no plan to this purchase at all at the time, but when I got home, I decided to do what I used to do quite regularly while I was at uni - baked with fillings.

I lined a tray with baking paper and pre-heated the oven to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6).

It's important to use mushrooms which have "matured", i. e. where the caps have opened to let the spores out. These are easier to handle, the stems are easier to remove and the cups are easier to peel. So do just that, then place the cups in the tray.


Sprinkle a little salt over them and place your chosen filling inside each. I used cheese for mine - some mystery cheddar-type cheese which I got from the butcher's and which was tasty and I tried some grated parmesan on a couple of the mushrooms.

For Lundulph obviously cheese was not an option, his mushroom cups had pieces of cooked ham with a small piece of butter at the bottom.


The whole thing baked for about 30 minutes, I didn't keep track of time, but I kept checking on the bake regularly. The idea is to let it bake long enough for the mushrooms to bake through completely, yet not to burn the filling.

IMG_2912 Delish! Other fillings I used to do at uni were diced bacon, peperoni and butter with crushed garlic. Should definitely be eaten warm.

Easter baking

Once again Easter was upon us, the family were going to visit and I baked kozunak.


As my recipe has been working reliably for a number of years, there was no reason to try something new. Instead I wanted to make the 8-stranded plaited loaf which was one of the technical challenges on the Great British Bake-Off.

However, it appears that my frustration over my new job went straight into the dough, because it was as tough as an old boot. Or perhaps the yeast was old, though I do try to make sure this doesn't happen.


Anyway, after much adjustments with milk and what felt like an eternity of manual kneading, I divided up the dough into 3 equal parts. One of these, I divided further into 8 and rolled out to strands.


Starting by firmly squeezing one end of all the strands together, I started to follow the rather complex instructions and started despairing almost immediately, as the instructions didn't really seem to produce anything remotely plaited and I began to suspect bits of them were missing!


However I persisted and a good thing too, because the result was fabulously pretty. I think. And no instruction steps were missing, you just need to be patient and keep at it.


Some proofing, some egg wash and a generous sprinkle of pearl sugar it was ready to go in the oven.

IMG_2882 Not too much rise during the proofing sadly, but baked quite well overall and disappeared quickly as usual when the family gathers. In hindsight, I should have skipped the pearl sugar, so that the plaiting would be more obvious.

IMG_2884 And of course I made two rolls with raisins from the other two parts of the dough. That was fairly straight-forward with a hot tip from I can't remember where: soaking the raisins before using them. This way, they won't take away moisture from the dough. I soaked them in water with a tablespoon of dark rum, which worked a treat and the rolls were very tasty indeed.