So I’m back! I have been way for 10 weeks volunteering in Malawi, I was working with nursery school teachers and setting up a girls’ empowerment group. We were staying with host families in a rural village in the north of the country. I had a amazing time, it was hard work at times but great way to experience the culture of a different country.
Cooking-wise things were pretty basic, the families cooked for us in their outside kitchens over open fires or charcoal burners. The food in the host homes was simple, beans or meat usually served with rice and there was a town about 15 minutes away on the bus where we could get hold of more western foods. One treat we could get quite easily at the local shop was mandasi. They are like doughnuts and cost 20 Malawian kwacha, which is about 3p! One afternoon I had a mandasi making lesson from Mau, one of the Malawian volunteers.
They are very simple to make and will give you a taste of Malawi!
4 cups of plain flour
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of milk
4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
vegetable oil to fry
Start by combining all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the egg and the milk. Stir together until you have a thick batter, don’t worry too much about lumps. Pour about 3cm of oil into the bottom of a pan and put it over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, it should sizzle when you add a small amount of the mixture, add large spoonfuls of the batter to the oil. Cook for a few minutes on each side until they are a golden brown colour.
This week’s pastry episode was one of my favourite in this series, there were some interesting signature savoury parcels, lots of tasty looking show stopping eclairs and everyone was on an even footing with the technical bake. None of the bakers had heard of kouign amann and neither had I before watching the episode. Making something you have never heard of, tasted or even seen must have been a real challenge for the contestants especially with Paul’s ambiguous instructions.
I decided to have a go at making the kouign amann, with a name that translates to butter (amann) cake (kouign), who could resist! They do take a bit of work and are definitely not quick but if you have a bit of pastry making experience they are pretty straight forward and the buttery, caramelised flakiness is definitely worth it!
Two tips; make sure you keep a track of how many turns you do and make sure you chill the dough in between. And a note about the butter – in my research I found some recipes using salted and some using unsalted, I went for salted because I love the combination of sweet caramelised and salty flavours. I found a great guide to making them here
, which has loads of photos to guide you through the folding and rolling.
300g strong plain flour, plus a bit extra for rolling out
5g fast action yeast
200ml warm water
25g melted butter
250g cold salted butter
100g caster sugar
- Put the flour in a bowl, add the yeast then pour in the water and melted butter.
- Combine the ingredients either using your hands or a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
- Leave to rise for an hour.
- Put the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash it with a rolling pin until it’s just less than a centimetre thick then put it back in the fridge.
- Once the dough has risen, roll it out into a square a couple of centimetres bigger than your butter.
- Place the chilled butter diagonally on the dough and fold the corners over the butter into the centre. It should look like an envelope.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle, fold the bottom third of the dough up and the top third down so you have three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for half an hour.
- Repeat step 8 two more times, chilling for half an hour after each.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle with the sugar then fold into thirds again.
- Again roll the dough out into a rectangle, working quickly so that the sugar doesn’t dissolve into the dough.
- Cut the rectangle into 12 squares, bring the corners of each square together and put them in a greased muffin tin.
- Sprinkle them with a bit more sugar and then leave to rise for half an hour.
- Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/Gas 7 for between 30 and 40 minutes, the pastries should be quite dark and caramelised.
- Enjoy the pastries warm out of the oven or allow them to cool.
It is quite a time consuming recipe, but it is worth it, your house will smell like a French boulangerie! If you want you can chill the dough overnight after you have finished the turns but before you add the sugar.
In two weeks time I will be in Malawi, I am going to be taking part in a 10 week volunteer project working with nursery schools in a rural part of Malawi. I am going with an organisation called Lattitude and it’s part of the ICS programme. I’ve had to do some fundraising and what better way to do that than make cake! My parents very kindly let me take over their house to hold a coffee morning and afternoon tea. Lots of people came along and supported me and I ended up raising over £200, thank you! It was great to see so many people and tell them all about what I am going to be doing over in Malawi.
I made cherry cake, lemon and poppy seed loaf, scones, flapjacks and four different types of cupcake (chocolate, vanilla, lemon meringue and bakewell tart)! I didn’t get to take many photos but I thought I’d share the ones I did take on here, if you want recipes comment below and I will write another post with recipes.
If you would like to find out more about what I am doing in Malawi or donate you can go to my JustGiving page. If you’d like to find out more about ICS click here, my experience of the ICS programme has been great so far and if you are aged 18-25 and want to do some volunteer work I would definitely recommend it.
Bake Off update: no European cake this week I’m afraid because all of my baking time was taken up with the coffee morning and afternoon tea but you can see my Swedish Princess Cake I baked a few weeks ago here. I really enjoyed the pastry episode and I’m hoping to have a go at making kouign amann before this week’s episode. With me going away I’m going to miss the final but I will be baking and blogging up until I go. I don’t think there will be much opportunity for baking when I’m in Malawi so the blog will be taking a break but I will be back just before Christmas.
This week was bread week on Great British Bake Off, this is normally one of my favourite weeks on GBBO but I didn’t think the challenges were that great this time. The Signature Bake was baking rye rolls, ciabatta was the Technical Challenge and the Showstopper was baking a filled centrepiece loaf. No eight stranded plait.
I’ve known what I wanted to bake for bread week for a while, Chocolate Krantz Cake from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem. Sweet bread dough, chocolate and pecans – you can’t really go wrong. Now I will say this isn’t a bake that would fit into the 4 hour time limit the contestants had because it requires the dough to rise overnight, but I couldn’t resist!
The original recipe is for two braided loaves but to make it more of a showstopper centrepiece I shaped it into a braided ring. One thing I would suggest is chilling the dough a bit before you shape the loaf. It’s got quite a lot of butter in and in a slightly warm kitchen it went a bit squishy (yep, that’s a technical term). Popping it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before you shape it will make it a lot easier to work with.
Chocolate Krantz Cake
530g plain flour
100g caster sugar
2 sachets (14g) dried yeast
3 free-range eggs
150g butter, softened
oil for greasing
50g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
130g dark chocolate
100g pecans, roughly chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar
130g caster sugar
Firstly the dough, this needs to be done the day before. A stand mixer with a dough hook makes this much easier.
- Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.
- Add the water and eggs and mix until the dough comes together.
- Next add the butter bit by bit.
- Knead or mix the dough with the dough hook for five to ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Grease a bowl with the oil and transfer the dough to this bowl. Leave to rise overnight.
The next day start by preparing the filling.
- Melt together the chocolate and butter in a bowl above a pan of simmering water.
- Add the icing sugar and the cocoa and beat until smooth.
Time to shape your loaf, remember my tip about chilling the dough for 20 minutes or so before you start. If you want to make two loaves split the dough and filling in half and follow the instructions below up until shaping into a ring and put into two loaf tins.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle until it is about 1-1.5cm thick.
- Spread with the chocolate filling leaving a 2cm border around the edge.
- Sprinkle on the chopped pecans and the caster sugar.
- Roll up the dough along the long edge using a small amount of water to seal the end.
- Next trim the ends off and cut your rolled dough down the middle of the roll.
- Twist the two halves together with the cut side on top.
- Shape into a ring and transfer to a round loose bottomed cake tin.
- Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 4 and bake for about 40 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven make the syrup.
- Combine the sugar and water in a pan over a medium heat.
- When the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is just boiling take off the heat and leave to cool.
- When you take the cake out of the oven use a pastry brush to cover it with the syrup, it will need a few coats.
- Take out of the tin and allow to cool.
Tonight it’s desserts, I’m looking forward to seeing the inevitable Baked Alaska dramas!
Or “Happy Birthday!” for those of you whose Swedish isn’t quite up to scratch! On Monday it was my brother Will’s birthday and he was home in Cornwall from Sweden for the first time in a while. The Swedish seem to be pretty keen on their cake, even having a word, “fika” for coffee and cake. So I decided to bake Will a traditional Swedish birthday cake or a Pricesstårta. The Swedish Princess Cake consists of a fatless sponge layered with pastry cream and raspberry jam and lots of whipped cream all covered with green marzipan and finished with a pink flower.
I have a Swedish recipe book that Will got me a couple of years ago for Christmas so I used the recipe from there as a basis then had a look at a few others online to come up with this recipe. Most of the recipes used potato flour or potato starch in the cake but I replaced this with cornflour which is much easier to get hold of. I was planning on making the traditional pink flower out of marzipan but I couldn’t get any pink food colouring so I made one out of tissue paper instead.
Pricesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake)
225g caster sugar
70g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Creme patisserie ingredients
4 egg yolks
65g caster sugar
300ml whipping cream
pack of marzipan
green food colouring
Start with the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and line and grease a 9 inch loose bottom cake tin.
- Beat together the eggs and sugar until they are very pale and thick.
- Sift in the flours and baking powder and carefully fold into the eggs and sugar.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes.
While the cake is cooking make the creme patisserie:
- Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until they are pale and golden.
- Whisk in the cornflour.
- Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and at the seeds and the pod to the milk in a pan.
- Heat the milk until it simmers.
- Sieve out the vanilla pod and pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time so that the eggs don’t scramble.
- Add the egg and milk mixture back to the pan with the rest of the milk.
- Bring the creme patisserie back to the boil stirring all the time.
- When it has boiled pour it into a baking sheet lined with cling film.
- Cover with more cling film to stop a skin forming then pop in the fridge to cool.
When the cake and creme patisserie are cool:
- Whip the cream until it is stiff.
- Colour the marzipan with the food colouring and roll out.
- Cut the cake into three layers.
- Sandwich the first two cake layers together with the raspberry jam and half of the creme patisserie.
- Spread on the rest of the creme patisserie and add the final cake layer.
- Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of whipped cream then pile the rest of the cream onto the top of the cake and shape into a dome.
- Carefully cover with the green marzipan.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar and add the pink flower for decoration.
Last Wednesday was an exciting day for bakers and cake lovers, Great British Bake Off returned for series 5! Lots of you might know that I applied to be on GBBO this year and I was pretty disappointed to not be competing in the tent. So instead of just sitting through every episode and saying “I could do that!”, I’m going to bake along!
Episode one involved the bakers take on three cake challenges, firstly the Swiss Roll Signature Bake, then trying to replicate Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake for the Technical Challenge and then baking 36 mini British cakes for the Showstopper. Now, my Grandma’s Cherry Cake is pretty hard to beat and I don’t have 36 mini cake tins, so I decided to bake a Swiss Roll – something I have never baked before.
I made a Chocolate Swiss Roll with Whipped Cream and Raspberry Curd. I was surprised by how quick and easy the cake mixture was to make, the challenging bit was the rolling and in true GBBO fashion it didn’t go quite to plan! My cake ended up with one quite major crack which ended up being cemented back together with plenty of whipped cream and some of the outside of the cake ended up sticking to the baking paper but a quick sprinkle of icing sugar managed to disguise that! I think Mary and Paul would have been impressed by the swirl and it doesn’t taste bad either!
Chocolate Swiss Roll with Whipped Cream and Raspberry Curd
Recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book
4 large egg
100g caster sugar
65g self-raising flour
For the filling:
150ml double cream, whipped
raspberry curd or jam
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7 and grease and line a Swiss roll tin (33 x 23 cm).
- Whisk together the eggs and the sugar until they are really light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour and cocoa into the egg mixture and carefully fold them in, use a metal spoon and try not to knock out all the air.
- Bake for about 10 minutes.
- While the cake is baking lay out a sheet of baking paper and sprinkle it with a bit of caster sugar.
- When the cake is ready take it out of the oven and turn it out on to the baking paper straight away and peel off the paper from the bottom.
- Trim the edges of the cake with a knife and roll it up, with the paper inside, while it is still hot and then leave to cool.
- When the cake is cool, carefully unroll it and spread on your filling.
- To finish off roll the cake back up without the paper.