Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

My first ratio bake

November 24, 2015

I’ve recently put a bit of effort in our garden bed – enough irrigation and mulching to keep some salad greens alive on hot Sydney days. One thing that needs almost no care is a couple of rhubarb crowns from my Dad, which produce a decent harvest with some regularity.

So last Saturday I found myself with a good 450g of rhubarb in need of cooking. I also had some almond meal left in the cupboard from previous baking, and figured that there must be something nice I could make with almond meal and rhubarb. A bit of googling turned up this recipe which looked interesting, but I didn’t have all the ingredients.

I’d heard about ratio baking, and that what really matters when making a cake is the ratio of flour : eggs : fat : sugar. After a bit of googling, I pulled down On Food and Cooking, a book given to me by a friend, and which, to my shame, I have not read anywhere enough of. Of course, it has an excellent description of cakes and various ratios.

So I decided to bake a rhubarb cake somewhat inspired by the recipe and somewhat by the ratios. I back of the enveloped the ratios in the recipe above, and ended up using

  • 6 eggs, or 282g without the shells, 47g each – surprisingly  uniform
  • 70g butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 190g almond meal
  • 50g flour
  • 35 g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice bran oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • some lemon rind and fresh ginger

I tossed the rhubarb (cut into half inch lengths and washed) with the brown sugar, and layered this in the bottom of a 20cm x 20cm square pan which was about 8cm deep. It was mostly one bit of rhubarb deep.

I used a hand mixer on the butter and sugar. This left me with lots of little lumps of sugar rather than the creamy mix I was expecting. I think this was because the cake was very low on fat according to the ratios in the book. On a whim I chucked in the rice bran oil at this point to up the fat a bit and get a workable mix.

I beat the egg yolks in one at a time with the hand mixer – all except the last, of which I’d managed to break the yolk of when cracking them. After this went in the almond meal. I kind of got a bit worried about the low quantity of meal, and it’s lack of gluten, compared to the sugar and egg and the notional ratio, and added a bit of plain flour to boost this up a bit. After this I chucked in the broken egg.

I hand whipped the egg whites to pretty foamy, and folder them through the mix, followed by the lemon juice, rind, and some fresh grated ginger. At this point the mixture was looking more liquid than i expected, and i was fretting a bit about it all. Possibly due to this stress, and being somewhat off road, i decided to go heavy on the baking powder and mixed in two teaspoons.

I poured the batter over the rhubarb, maybe half filling the pan depth, and chucked it in the oven. Of course I had forgotten to preheat it until the final stages, so it probably wasn’t as hot as I’d dialled up, namely 175°C, so I just tested it every 20 minutes or so. After 40 minutes the top was a bit brown, so at Megan’s suggestion i covered it in foil. After 60 minutes a skewer was coming out pretty clean.

I took it out and let it rest for a good 15 minutes before turning it out. I was pretty nervous it would still be a bit liquid. It was quite moist, but structurally sound. It tasted good – the rhubarb was almost over done but still good, and the lemon flavour in the cake was pronounced. The ginger was too muted, and next time I’ll add a couple of teaspoons of ginger powder with the dry ingredients. Distribution of the giner might also be a problem, so I’ll probably add the rind and ginger before the egg whites next time.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the final product:



My first Sourdough

April 11, 2010

I’ve done a fair bit of cooking in my time, including bread. However, all the bread i’d cooked was with commercial yeast – some using a bread machine, some by hand. I occasionally got a bit fancy – doing plaits for example – but had never tried making sourdough. I’d read various introductions on how to do it, but always been scared off by either the seeming randomness or presumed skill – how can i be sure that smells “pleasantly fruity” ?

However, of late, i’ve been afflicted by a mild professional ennui – it happens from time to time – and found myself getting more interested in matters of the hearth. This post is not the place to go into a lot of detail on the reasons, although i will say that reading Stephanie Alexander‘s Kitchen Garden Companion played a large part in kindling an interest in gardening and the raw materials used when i cook.

So, it was on this fertile soil that the seeds sown by various people on twitter landed. My few attempts to garden in our small terrace courtyard have met with mixed success. Growing a sour dough leaven tickled a similar nerve, but seemed easier, and not to mention quicker. I also came across SourDom’s instructions for making a starter, which, for whatever reason, sounded accessible in a way others hadn’t. So, at the end of March, i began following the instructions. On Easter Sunday evening it staged an escape attempt, and by the end of that week it was rising well when fed, and i figured it was time to cook.

The recipe i settled on was Norwich Sourdough. Why ? Firstly, it used a 100% hydration starter, which is what i had to hand. Secondly, it could be done in a day once i had ripe starter. Finally, the instructions were quite precise in quantities and times – when i start cooking, i like this until i get the feel of what it’s supposed to look and feel like. Of course, there are probably hundreds of recipes with these three properties, this is just the one i found. I made a half quantity, as that neatly matched one ripe load of leaven, and varied the times a bit because my loaves seemed a bit bigger – i think i ended up with 15 minutes of steam and 20 minutes without.

I was very happy with the result – straight from the oven, and when cut. Megan and Griffin also approved – in fact we ate the smaller loaf in its entirety yesterday, and the larger one is pretty much down to just a couple of ends now. I’m very keen to try again – i’d like to do the same recipe a few times in a row to learn the variation, but we’ve got some busy weekends coming up which will preclude a day spent cooking for a while. However, i’m also interested trying @tammoisovernight recipe, but i’m not sure about my judgement for the quantities.