From the Band of Bakers Archive: Pecan, Chocolate and Rum Pie

Chocolate, pecan and rum pie from the Band of Bakers 'Baking with Beverages' event, April 2013

Chocolate, pecan and rum pie from the Band of Bakers ‘Baking with Beverages’ event, April 2013

This week marks the second birthday of our little south east London baking club, Band of Bakers.  Our first event was held on 2nd May 2012 in the wonderful little Nunhead cafe and deli Bambuni.  About 25 or so bakers had pledged their interest, although despite this we were worried that nobody would show up.  We breathed a bit more easily as a steady stream of bakers walked in off the street with their cake boxes, got themselves a glass of wine and began chatting to each other.  Band of Bakers was born.  Two years on we have grown beyond anything we could have expected – we have an enormous waiting list, a number of popular and oversubscribed events and have had the opportunity to work with some great people including Dan Lepard, Paul Hollywood and the excellent team from delicious. Magazine.  Most importantly, we have created a community in our little corner of London that reached beyond baking and into people’s everyday lives, forming friendships and support networks, both online and in real life.

I talk about Band of Bakers an awful lot as I am so proud of what Naomi and I have achieved.  Nobody has told me to shut up about it yet, although I expect one day they will.

I started thinking back over our many events and the enormous number of bakes I have had the opportunity to try, and what I liked the most.  It is really difficult to narrow it down from the many, many that have graced the Band of Bakers tables, but here are a few I particularly loved:

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake from the Band of Bakers 'Your Favourite Bake' event, May 2012

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake from the Band of Bakers ‘Your Favourite Bake’ event, May 2012

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake by Charlie.  This caused quite a stir at our first event, not least because it turned up warm from the oven.  It is, quite literally, the most perfect cake on earth.  A gingery cake with a slightly coarse texture due to the use of spelt flour, topped with stems of tart rhubarb.  I have made it at least 100 times, and based both my fig, ginger and spelt cake and my orange, stem ginger and spelt cake on it. SO good.

Little Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes by Chloe.  My reaction to the first bite was “what f***ing genius made these?!”  Chloe brought these along to our Winter Warmers event back in November 2012 and I immediately wanted to eat a hundred of them.  Beautifully sticky spiced caked with a decadent toffee frosting.  No recipe to share, sadly, as the baker herself says that “it will be a miracle the day I write a recipe down, let alone a blog!

Blueberry and Almond Tart from the Band of Bakers 'Inherited Bakes' event, January 2014. Photo by Naomi Knill

Blueberry and Almond Tart from the Band of Bakers ‘Inherited Bakes’ event, January 2014. Photo by Naomi Knill

Blueberry and Almond Tart by Naomi.  This is Naomi’s mum’s recipe and one of my favourite things that she has ever baked (and I can tell you that there is stiff competition!)  A gorgeous tart of pastry with a frangipane filling, dotted with little jammy blueberries.  I took a slice home for Ollie and he was enamoured.

Black Pudding Scotch Eggs by Jon.  Jon can always be relied upon to bring something utterly decadent to the table and, luckily for me and sadly for the vegetarians, it is often of the carnivorous variety.  These black pudding scotch eggs were among the best scotch eggs I had ever tried. I’m pretty sure Ollie even managed two. Extra kudos for the yolk being soft. Amazing.

Pumpkin and chipotle bread from the Band of Bakers 'Autumn Harvest' event, October 2013

Pumpkin and chipotle bread from the Band of Bakers ‘Autumn Harvest’ event, October 2013

Pumpkin and Chipotle Bread by Lauren.  There are few bakers that do bread better than Lauren, especially bread of the sourdough variety, which she writes about frequently on her blog.  She also has a fascination with chilli, and the combination of the two always produce something delicious.  This bread was made for our Autumn Harvest event back in October 2013 and didn’t last long on the table.

There are so many more, but I fear that I would write the longest blog post on earth if I listed them all.

Having attended every event, I have baked many things for the Band of Bakers table, with varying degrees of success.  One of my favourite creations was a chocolate, pecan and rum pie that I made for the Baking with Beverages event back in April 2013.  This event was originally supposed to be called ‘Baking with Booze’, but we decided to widen it to include other beverages as we were expecting around 35 bakers in attendance.

The pie is based on a recipe by the excellent David Lebovitz and went down really well at the event.  It is basically your average pecan pie, perked up a little with some dark chocolate chips and a few shots of spiced dark rum, which turn it from a standard American dessert to a very grown-up treat indeed.  Of course, the rum is interchangeable with other alcohol, David Lebovitz’s version used bourbon, and I always thought Amaretto would work well – or you could leave it out altogether.  The most interesting thing about this recipe is that the pastry is not blind baked prior to the addition of the filling.  When I first read this, I was like Say Whaaaaa, but then I realised that the idea was to for the pastry and the filling to merge a little, rather than have separate textures as in the case with most other tarts.  I did try it with a blind baked case once, and it was nowhere near as good.

Sweet, nutty and boozy – what more could you want? Much better too if you make your own pastry, obvs.

Chocolate, Pecan and Rum Pie

For the pastry:

  • 175g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
  • 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g dark soft brown sugar
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 30g melted butter
  • 2 shots (50ml) dark spiced rum
  • 200g pecans, roughly chopped
  • 150g dark chocolate chips

Start by making the pastry.  Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor, add the butter and pulse until the texture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  With the motor running, add the egg and blitz until the mixture comes together in a smooth dough.  If the mixture is too dry, carefully add some cold water, a couple of drops at a time, until it comes together.  Press the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until needed.

Once the pastry has chilled, remove it from the fridge, roll it out and use it to lie the inside of a pie dish or tart tin.  Crimp the edges if necessary and return to the fridge until ready to fill.

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

To make the filling, place the eggs, brown sugar, golden syrup, vanilla, salt, melted butter and rum in a large bowl and whisk by hand until smooth.  Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips and scrape the filling into the pie dish.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the tart has risen and has a slight wobble in the centre.  Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz.

Two Lemon Cakes

Spring has sprung?

Spring has sprung?

If there’s one thing I like to keep a constant supply of in my kitchen, it’s lemons.  I just bloody love their versatility – a slice is equally at home in a cup of hot water to start the day and in a large gin and tonic to end the day, and their juice livens up everything from cakes to curries.  Honestly, without lemons the world would be a very dull place.

Despite the fact that I love baking and run a baking club, I’ve been trying not to make too many sweet treats of late in an attempt to control my weight prior to my wedding in June.  I kid you not, I have actually been having anxiety dreams where my beautiful wedding dress, that is currently hanging in the shop storeroom, does not fit on the day.  So you may notice that there haven’t been as many cake recipes as there were last year, which makes it all the more strange that there are two today.

This week has been a bit of an exception; although I managed to get through the oft-calorific Easter weekend succumbing only to half a Lindt chocolate bunny and a slice of the chocolate and raspberry tart I made to follow the Easter lunch (more on that later); I did have too occasions on which I had to dig out the cake tins. 

Lemon and poppy seed cake.  Photo by Naomi Knill.

Lemon and poppy seed cake. Photo by Naomi Knill.

The first was a mercy mission and entirely necessary:  delivering cake to my friend Naomi, housebound after having a gorgeous new baby boy.  Going right to the back of my baking cupboard, I found an unopened bag of poppy seeds that had slipped down the back, so decided to make the lemon and poppy seed loaf from Skye Gyngell’s excellent cookbook, How I Cook.  It is a gorgeously robust loaf, made lighter with the addition of some whisked egg whites and made decadent with a syrupy glaze.  Quite a snack for a sleepless night. 

Lemon and prosecco cake.  Straight from the oven, pre-glaze.

Lemon and prosecco cake. Straight from the oven, pre-glaze.

The second was simply that we are having another Band of Bakers event this evening, this time with a ‘springtime’ theme.  I haven’t made an actual cake for Band of Bakers for a while – so far this year I have made a tart (chocolate and salted caramel), scones (cheese, chive and mustard) and miscellaneous puffs (caramelised onion, Gruyère and London Pride) – so it is long overdue.  This cake is from a recipe by Gennaro Contaldo and caught my eye a while ago due to the inclusion of some booze:  a lemon and prosecco cake.  What I love about it is that it contains a mere 150g of flour but six whole eggs, with the yolks and the whisked whites added at separate stages, which means that the texture is more akin to a flourless cake than to a traditional sponge.  The dominant flavour is definitely lemon, with the prosecco providing something of a fuzzy backnote, but it is totally delicious.  As a pudding with a drizzle of fruit coulis (and a glass of bubbles, obvs) it would be perfect for any springtime lunch table.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

For the cake: 

  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • Zest of three large lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 35g poppy seeds
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 230ml whole milk
  • 4 egg whites (from large eggs)

For the syrup:

  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°c / 340°f / gas 4.  Grease a medium loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in the lemon zest, vanilla and poppy seeds.  Sift together the flour and baking powder and beat this into the mixture.  Pour in the milk and stir again.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the batter using a metal spoon, then repeat with the remaining egg whites.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around one hour, until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar until you have a smooth syrup.  Whilst the cake is still in the tin, spoon the syrup over the top.  Leave to soak in for 20 minutes or so and then turn out on to a wire rack.  Using a pastry brush, brush any remaining syrup on the top and sides of the cake.

From Skye Gyngells’s ‘How to Cook’.

 

Lemon and Prosecco Cake

For the cake:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • Zest of 3 large lemons
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml prosecco
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the glaze:

  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.  Grease a 24cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are light and creamy.  Beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and vanilla extract.  Gently beat in the flour and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, or in a freestanding mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the batter using a metal spoon, then repeat with the remaining egg whites.  The batter will be quite loose.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2 and bake for a further 20 minutes.  You will be able to tell that the cake is ready as it will have risen and the edge of the cake will have shrunk away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the oven with the door slightly open.

The cake will collapse and condense a little, but this is fine.

Once cooled, mix together the ingredients for the glaze (it will make a very small amount) and brush lightly over the top of the cake.

Adapted from a recipe by Gennaro Contaldo.

Mussels with Punk IPA, Curry Leaves and Coconut

Mussels with Punk IPA, curry leaves and coconut milk

Mussels with Punk IPA, curry leaves and coconut milk

As the year speeds along at a frightening rate, two things came to mind: next weekend the clocks go forward, stealing a precious hour in bed but giving us our beloved lighter evenings, and mussels season is coming to an end.  Back in November I posted the recipe for Ollie’s moules marinière and spoke about the rule of only eating mussels when there is an ‘r’ in the month.  Realising that this left me a mere six weeks or so to enjoy my favourite seafood, I popped along to the excellent Moxons in East Dulwich to pick up a bag of mussels for dinner.  A bit of a bargain at £4.50 a kilo.

I seldom make moules marinière at home as my attempt is always far inferior to Ollie’s spectacular efforts, so am often looking for new ways of cooking mussels.  The classic combination is, of course, white wine, creme fraiche and parsley, but what I had in the kitchen was a can of Brewdog Punk IPA, a can of coconut milk and a huge bag of curry leaves from SMBS Foods.  These, along with some shallots, ginger, garlic and chilli would go into make a very different moules dish altogether.

The cooking method is more or less the same with the mussels steaming in the hot liquid for a few minutes until they open.  The addition of a hefty amount of beer to the cooking broth cuts through the coconut milk and prevents it from having the sweet, cloying taste that some coconut based sauces have.  Due to the Indian influences in this dish, I thought it only right to choose an IPA (India Pale Ale) for inclusion in the dish.  Brewdog has been something of a religion in our family since, ahem, some shares were purchased, so their classic Punk IPA was the brew of choice.  You can use another beer if you prefer – IPA gives a wonderful ‘hoppiness’ to the broth, but another pale ale, or even a good-quality lager, would work just as well.

To be eaten with loads of chips and bread, and more Punk IPA, obvs.

Mussels with Punk IPA, Curry Leaves and Coconut

  • 1 tbsp vegtable oil
  • 2 eschalion shallots, finely chopped
  • Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 12 fresh curry leaves, sliced
  • 2 dried green chillies (I used birds eye as we like the heat)
  • Pinch salt
  • 250ml Brewdog Punk IPA
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 1kg fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • Coriander, roughly chopped

Put a large cooking pot with a lid over a medium heat and pour in the oil.  Gently sweat the shallots, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and chilli for around 5-10 minutes until the shallots are translucent.  Be careful not to let them brown.

Turn the heat up to high and add the beer, letting it bubble up vigorously for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.  Turn down the heat and stir in the coconut milk, gently bringing it to a simmer.

Add the mussels to the pot, turn the heat up to high and put the lid firmly on.  Cook the mussels for about five minutes, occasionally gently shaking the pan stir them, until they have fully opened.

Ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.  Be sure to discard any mussels that have not fully opened during cooking.

Adapted from a recipe by the Indian Culinary Centre.