Saturday, 25 August 2007

Coca-Cola Cake

It's really just a divinely tender-crumbed chocolate cake - and there's nothing wrong with that. And however odd you might think it, everyone loves it when I make it - Nigella Lawson

And she's right! It really is just a very moist, delicious chocolate cake - if you didn't know it had coke in it, you would never pick it!

I've been wanting to make this cake ever since I got the book. This weekend gave me the perfect opportunity - dessert for dinner with my brother and his family (all great lovers of coke!). And even a glass of the black gold leftover to enjoy while the cake is baking!The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients:
Well, for a start, a can of coke. Not an unusual item to have in your house, but (in Australia at least) unusual to put in a cake. American readers, is this a US tradition or just what we non-Americans might think is popular fare?? I did use Coke Zero though, only because I happened to have a can of that.Also, buttermilk. Nigella says if you don't have buttermilk, which I didn't, you can use low-fat milk and some yoghurt. Since I hate yoghurt, I don't usually have any of that in my fridge either. My mum is visiting for a few weeks and likes it, so she has some. But it's passionfruit yoghurt. I didn't think it would work too well with a chocolate cake that also has coke in it. So I used low-fat milk and a squeeze of lemon juice, which is another alternative to buttermilk.

Finally, golden caster sugar. I knew I should have bought some last week at the deli. Not to worry, just used normal caster sugar.

Special utensils or cookware:
None, except that as this is a very runny cake mixture, Nigella recommends lining the springform tin with foil. Which I did. Even though I was not entirely confident I would be able to get the foil off, or that the foil would even do the intended job.
But it did - hurrah! I would recommend gettting extra wide foil, so you only need one piece for the whole cake tin. Otherwise, the mix slips under the join in the foil. Not to worry, cook's treat!
I would definitely make this cake again - very moist and chocolately. As usual though, Nigella's icing mix could be halved and you would probably still have leftover icing. She must spread it on soooo thick! Too sweet for me!

Mmmm, this is one good cake. But not much left to lick out of the bowl, since it is so runny! But not to worry, lots of leftover icing!!
Overall pleasure level:
Oh very good - not really a novelty cake at all! I'll give this a 9 out of 10!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Blueberry Muffins

That dry mass of aerated wodge in cellophane isn't the sort of muffin you want for your breakfast; these are - Nigella Lawson

The verdict:
In the above quote, Nigella is referring to her indifference to those big, puffy, commercially produced monsters you get in shops and lesser cafes. I'm not a fan of those either. I am always disappointed. I think that's why I didn't feel necessarily attracted to this recipe at first. I thought, meh, muffins, what's the big deal.

But then I changed my mind. Inexplicably. And it was a good thing.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: I've never made muffins before that have buttermilk in them. And I didn't this time either. Nigella gives you the choice of either 200ml of buttermilk or a combination of 100ml milk and 100g natural yoghurt.

When it came down to it, I could have either defrosted a 600ml carton of buttermilk or used up a close to use by date tub of natural yoghurt. No question. I thought i'd save the buttermilk version until I have a small amount of the stuff to use up some time.

I also used frozen blueberries instead of fresh. $7 a punnet? I think not. Especially when I would have needed two punnets.

I also added a sprinkling of coffee sugar crystals for that added sweet crunch on the top. See below. It worked really well!

Special utensils or cookware: None at all.

Repeatability: Oh definitely. You can be sure of that. The yoghurt/milk combination made these so light. Not in the fluffy, aerated way of their commercial counterparts, but in that oh so light, just floating out of the oven kind of way.

Sauciness: I think these are saucy. But I wouldn't have said so before. When your husband has three in quick succession, declaring them 'bloody fantastic', then you're on a winner.

An amusing aside; I was making these on Sunday morning and I asked Sean if he minded that I was making muffins for breakfast rather than something involving bacon like I might normally do. He said, 'You're just making them for the blog and hoping I'll just cope.'

Sprung! The truth is, he did cope. He'd have eaten the lot if I'd let him. But he would have had to fight me for them.

Overall pleasure level: See above anecdote. 10 out of 10. The perfect muffin!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica is not a pizza in the way that we've come to understand it, although anyone who has spent time in Italy might well have come across it - Nigella Lawson

The verdict:
I'd longed to make this pie since I got this book. It just looked so fulfilling, so densely packed with fabulously rich and decadent ingredients.

My father in law was visiting and thought I was nuts for taking photos of the process. He thought I was even more nuts when I told him I was putting the photos on the internet! Never mind.

Anyway, my Pizza Rustica was ever so slightly disappointing, but I think I figured out how to fix that for next time. I'll leave out the vast quantities of provolone cheese, and I'll serve it cold.

Unusual or substituted ingredients:
This pie is crammed full of ingredients I've not bought in a long time. Nigella explains that the ingredients are rustica if you're in Italy. Not so much for the rest of us. Slabs of mozzarella, smoked provolone, mortadella, proscuitto make for a fun trip to the deli. I used sausages that were called 'Traditional Italian' but were made by a local Canberra butcher. I knew they were good pork sausages, very peppery.

Special utensils or cookware:
None. Just the spring form tin - a real staple for Nigella.

Maybe we should have a section on 'special skills required' because skill with pastry is something I lack.

With this much cheese, butter and deli meat in it, I don't think I'll make this too often. It's jam packed with artery hardening goodness. And if I repeat it, I'll cut down on the provolone cheese. It was incredibly salty and i found that really detracted from the pie.

But it's a lot of fun to compile all the ingredients and then construct the pie - even though I treat pie crust construction like a patchwork quilt, filling in bits with additional scraps of pastry!

You just know, once you've made it this far, that you can't go wrong, really. It's going to come out beautiful. It's great, plump masterpiece, I think. It was as high and as full as I hoped it would be.

Overall pleasure level:
Apart from the irritating saltiness I mentioned earlier, I thought this was a magnificent pie. Nigella warns that it tastes better at room temperature, or cold, but we were impatient and ate it hot. The cheese just spilled out of it.

However, the next day, I had a slab of the pie for lunch at work and straight out of the fridge, I thought it was absolutely marvellous. I liked it so much better. Sometime in summer, I'm taking one of these with a bottle of something very good and cold on a picnic and I'm going to love it.


Thursday, 2 August 2007

Peanut Butter and Jam Jewels

They look beautiful, like the sort of jewels worn by fairy-tale princesses - Nigella Lawson

Heh! If you are Princess Fiona maybe!
The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients: I used plum jam on half and peach jam on the other half (not strawberry as suggested - don't like the pips!). Best to use a fairly solid jam which doesn't have large pieces of fruit in it, as this makes it easier to spoon into the indentations. Nigella says the jam is supposed to go a bit runny and then harden (into the "jewels") but mine didn't do that. It didn't make any difference to the eating!

Special utensils or cookware: None. Just an electric mixer for the creaming. Nigella suggests using your thumb to make the jam indentations, but I found a pate knife with a nice rounded bottom and used that. Even so, the indentations rose and practically disappeared during baking - luckily they are soft enough to re-indent once you take out of the oven. Then you spoon the jam in. I wonder if it might be easier to spoon the jam into the indentations before you bake them (which is what my mother does with her Jam Drops).

Repeatability: Yes, I would make these again. Vary the jam for interest!
Sauciness: More like sticky, whilst cooking anyway - you have to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour after mixing - it is very sticky (yep, peanut butter will do that!!) and refrigerating makes it much easier to manage when rolling the dough balls. And, as I discovered, you can easily refrigerate for a whole day, as I made the mixture on Saturday morning but didn't get a chance to bake them until Sunday afternoon.

Overall pleasure level: Combining one of the best things to come out of the US (good ol' PB&J) into a biscuit is clearly a recipe for biscuity goodness. These are an 8 for me.