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Monday, February 12, 2007
Stepping into summer – Bill Granger’s peach, almond and yoghurt cake

As you now, already know, I’ve arrived in New Zealand last Saturday; pretty jetlagged - to tell the truth - but still immensely happy.
There was just this thing that kept me slightly disappointed.
I had dreamt of beautiful sand beaches and a sun so bright you could hardly see. Well, what I found arriving here was – let’s say – far from my expectations.
Imagine England during autumn. Then you’ve got it: a cloudy, freezing cold weather; nothing less, nothing more.
Not really what you would call summer, wouldn’t you?

Though, today something happened. After the rain - so cold I thought it was snow -, the clouds disappeared leaving place to a harsh and hot sun.
I immediately switched my Converses for KJacques (lovely leather flip flops from St Tropez) and although my feet are now begging for thick wool socks, I can’t help but smile. Smile from happiness: summer is finally here.

Peach, almond and yoghurt cake
adapted from Bill Granger’s simply bill

While I didn’t make this cake today (actually made it last week with the New Zealander summer in mind) it makes a beautiful summer cake.
Think a moist, light yet dense and deliciously scented cake.
Again this cake comes from Bill Granger, who’s now become my reference for no-fuss cakes.
Indeed, I always loved his way to cook and enhance clean, simple flavours; but I seemed to have forgotten him a little - in favour of my ultimate food-hero: Pierre Hermé.
Luckily when I decided to go for a bake-lots-of-cakes day, I stumbled across this and this. The gorgeous pictures and appealing flavours had my name written all over.
I couldn’t resist and I’m glad I didn’t. This day, although exhausting, resulted in two stunning cakes – one that help me face my disgust for the chocolate-orange combination and one that was perfect to turn me on to summer.

The latter is a really straight forward cake that is perfect for breakfast, lunch, tea; or indeed for anytime of the day. A real keeper!
The yoghurt makes for a wonderfully most cake, while the peach and good dose of vanilla provided a subtle and stylish flavour.
And the almonds! What a nice touch: they give both a lovely aroma and a beautiful look.

Peach, almond and yoghurt cake
serves 8

220 g unsalted butter, softened
250 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
225g self-raising flour, sifted
50 ml milk
250 ml plain yoghurt
450g peach, skinned and cut into dices
50 g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 170°C.
Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform cake pan.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl mix until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
Fold in the flour, milk and yoghurt and mix until barely combined.
Gently add the peach chunks.

Pour the mixture into a pan and sprinkle with the almonds.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 min or until skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. If browning too quickly, cover top of the cake with foil for the last 20 min of cooking. Remove and cool.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007
Dessine moi un mouton - quand foodbeam part en Nouvelle Zelande

[Draw me a sheep - when foodbeam goes to New Zealand]

I finally arrived in New Zealand this morning (or was it this afternoon?) after a lovely journey (have a just said lovely? - huml, weird how long flights affect your brain).

When I arrived into my flat, the first thing I checked was the kitchen and I'm pleased to say that it does have a true oven. How great is that?
So that doesn't mean foodbeam will be updated as often as it used to be, but I'll try to do my best (who am I kidding? I could *never* stop baking).

- fanny

Thank you all for the sweet comments. They really cheered me up!

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Monday, February 05, 2007
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir, says the bitter orange – Sexiest marmalade

Sometimes seducing a guy is a very easy task: you think, you wink, you double blink - dans la poche [easy peasy].
And other times it just isn’t; no matter how hard a girl tries, nothing happens.

Back in 1998, I remember this boy in my class whose hair definitely recalled Son Gohan’s (as a Super Saiyan – c’est evident).
It seemed he fancied anything but me; well he must have changed his mind.
Two years later, when I brought him a jar of some marmalade I had made I saw sparkles in his eyes.
I will never forget that day, the day he fell in love with me.
See! All it needs to win a guy’s heart is a jar of marmalade.

That day was now more than six years ago; though, whenever I try to play the lovely-and-adoring-girlfriend and bring breakfast to bed, I can get two different faces: either the as – grumpy – as – usual or the I – love - you marmalade – so – much.
You’ll guess the latter is only found when a fat pot of marmalade is sitting on the tray.
Hopefully I can never run out of it. Indeed I’m a very lucky girl and have a beautiful bitter orange tree in my garden, which gives dozens of oranges every other year.

Bitter oranges
The oranges from my garden are slightly smaller than regular oranges and thus are perfect for jam making as the pith isn’t too big.
If making marmalade, you must use organic non treated oranges.
Even though my oranges are 100% organic I wash them to get rid of bugs or earth/sand traces.

How does marmalade solidify? – Pip is the word
What I really like about this marmalade is that you don’t have to use any extra pectin as the pips provide enough of this gelling substance.
Pectin is a molecule made of different groupings of polysaccharides (complex sugars) and allows the formation of a gel.
There are two types of pectins: HM and LM which indicates the degree of etherification of the molecule. The higher the etherification, the faster the gel will set.

Bitter orange’s pectin and more generally, citrus fruits’ pectin, is HM (High Methoxyl) and can only form a gel in presence of acid (orange) and sugar. What a lucky (and delicious) coincidence!

Here we enclose the pips in muslin bags and soak them in the orange/water mixture so they release their pectin.

Bitter orange marmalade
This is not really a recipe as the quantities of water and sugar are utterly dependent upon how many oranges you have.
What you have to remember is that you’ll need:
1,8kg of water for each kg of orange
1,3kg of caster sugar for each kg of the orange/water mixture

Then you all you have to do is follow the steps. Easy!

Note - the marmalade will look runny at first but will solidify when resting.
It’s quite unusual to let the jars sit, open until the jam is set, but it allows the gel to form evenly.

Note bis - I just love this marmalade spread on hot crusty bread!

Note ter - Take in consideration the fact that this marmalade is made over three consecutive days.

Sexiest bitter orange marmalade

organic bitter oranges
caster sugar

Wash the oranges, slice them as finely as possible and save the pips.
Enclose the pips in some muslin squares (fanny: I used 10x10cm squares and made three bags for 1,5kg of oranges) and tie securely.

Weigh the oranges and write down the weight.
You’ll need orange weight x 1,8 = water weight in kg.
Place the orange slices, water and muslin bags in a large plastic bowl, cover and refrigerate for 24h

Boil the mixture for an hour and transfer back into the bowl. Let in a cool place for another 24h.

Weigh the mixture and write down the weight.
You’ll need mixture weight x 1,2 = sugar weight in kg.
Ok it sounds a lot, but hey, you’re making jam out of bitter oranges.
Discard the pips bags and mix in the sugar.
Boil for an hour and pour into sterilized jars.

Allow to set at room temperature. Close the jars and keep in a cool place.

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Friday, February 02, 2007
Hate turned love – Gâteau au chocolat et à la mandarine

[Mandarin chocolate cake]

When I was younger – and by younger I mean a lot more younger -, my father who worked at home used to take me to Cannes where we would go to Rohr, a posh salon de thé for tea.

He always had orangettes: candied orange peels dipped in bitter chocolate.
That was the kind of love me, feed me and hug me moments; except that I secretly loathed orangettes.
C’est amer et dégoutant! [it’s bitter and horrid], I would think hard (penser fort).

From then, I happily declined every chocolate/citrus treat I have been offered.
This combination is just not appealing to me. Well, I should say was, because I’m now happily and officially converted.

Gâteau au chocolat et à la mandarine
adapted from Bill Granger’s open kitchen

This cake combines the deep flavour of dark chocolate and the subtle sweetness of mandarin.
I think it works particularly well because mandarin is both fragrant and sweet; definitely not too sharp and it gives a satisfying intensity to the flourless chocolate base.

Serve the cake with mandarin slices to enhance the citrus taste and provide lovely juices.

Mandarin chocolate cake
serves 8-10

250g quality dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter, diced
6 eggs, separated
1tbsp mandarin zest
115g caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
25g almond meal
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a 23cm spring form pan with baking paper.
Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until just melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the egg yolk, mandarin zest and sugar in a bowl and mix until combined.
Gradually add the melted chocolate-butter, stirring.
Mix in the flour, almond meal and salt.

In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the chocolate mixture until barely combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. The cake might look wet in the centre, but don’t worry, it’ll firm up while cooling.
Allow to cool completely in the tin and transfer to a serving platter.
Serve with mandarin slices.

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