Tag Archives: Vanilla

Raspberry and Vanilla Tea Cake

 

Raspberry and Vanilla Tea Cake

I always fancied living in another era, it probably comes from secretly reading too many bodice ripping romance novels or, not so secretly, reading Jane Austin or maybe even watching too many episodes of “Downton Abbey”. I can quite imagine myself as Elizabeth Bennett the first time she clapped eyes on Mr Darcy or as Lady Mary swanning around the vast corridors of her stately home in all her satin finery. I think I could become quite a master at casting a gimlet eye at the hapless servants as they scurry about with their dusters and coal buckets while I swanned off to afternoon tea.  However, knowing my luck if I lived in that time I would be the one more likely to be carrying the coal bucket or serving the overlarge tray brimming with ‘cakey’ goodness while at the same time cowering under the acid tongue of the Dowager Duchess … so much for my delusions of grandeur.

I recently discovered that “high tea”, as we call it in Australia, was not originally the delightful gathering of ladies sharing gossip over a leisurely cup of tea with some dainty cucumber sandwiches and tiny bite size cakes. It was, in fact, a custom from Victorian times where the working class of Britain would come home after a day of back breaking work to partake in more substantial fare more akin to an evening meal. The term ‘High’ comes from the height of the table where tea is served, high being a dining table and low being a coffee table.

Anna the Duchess of Bedford is credited for the popularity of the afternoon tea. It was common practice at that time (1800s) to have a late evening meal so by the time 4 o’clock rolled around hunger pangs were starting to set in. Anna would counter this by having tea and biscuits served in her rooms to keep her going until dinner time – clearly she is a woman after my own heart. Anna began sending out invitations to her friends to join her for afternoon tea and it soon became such a popular way to socialise that other middle and upper class households also began adopting the practice of an at home afternoon tea.

Nowadays high teas, or afternoon teas, are more likely to be held in hotels than in your own home, but if you fancy recreating your own version of Downton Abbey and  inviting some friends over to revive a tradition this raspberry and vanilla cake would be perfect for your own “at home” afternoon tea. Now I just have to wonder what Mr LG would look like in a butler’s uniform…hmmm.

Raspberry and Vanilla Tea Cake

Recipe

Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Issue 76.

Ingredients

  • 120gm unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 220gm caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 225gm plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125ml milk
  • 100gm frozen raspberries
  • vanilla sugar.

Method

Preheat oven to 160°C. Spray a 26cm loose based tart pan with oil. Line the base with baking paper.

Mix flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter, vanilla extract and caster sugar together until light and smooth.

Add eggs one at a time mixing well between additions.

Remove bowl from mixer. Add flour and then milk in two separate additions mixing with a spatula until fully combined,

Scrape batter into the tart pan and smooth the top with a knife or palette knife.

Press frozen raspberries into the top of the batter.

Sprinkle with vanilla sugar

Place pan on a lipped baking tray in case batter leaks from the tart pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely in pan before turning out.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Raspberry and Vanilla Tea Cake

Strawberry and Vanilla Jam

Strawberry season is one of my favourite times of the year. Growing up in New Zealand strawberry season heralded the start of summer holidays, no more school and endless sun soaked days spent running wild at my grandparents’ farm. As kids we would roam all over the farm creating adventures out of nothing: a secret fort underneath a pile of tree branches, spies, pirates, detectives; we were only limited by our imagination. One of the highlights of this time was Christmas, not just because of all the food and presents, but because mum would always make a pavlova topped with luscious red strawberries!

Now that I live in sub tropical Queensland I have to get used to strawberries being in season during the winter/spring months (which means now). But no matter what the time of year I am always happy when these luscious red berries start making an appearance and today I am going to use them to make one of my favourite jams.

There is something comforting about making jam, every time I make it I am reminded of generations of women before me who have done exactly the same thing. Admittedly, they were  doing it to save money and use up copious amounts of fruit while I do it for the pleasure and because it tastes so good.

Recipe

Makes 2 jars.

  • 1kg Strawberries
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1kg Sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Method

Hull and halve the strawberries.

Place strawberries and water in a large heavy based saucepan. Cook strawberries and water, stirring occasionally, on a medium heat for 15 minutes or until fruit has broken down.

Add the vanilla bean and seeds, sugar and lemon juice stir until sugar has been completely combined.

Bring strawberry mixture to the boil then turn down to a simmer.

Simmer fruit mix until temperature reaches 105°C then test if jam is ready as per instructions below. If not ready keep cooking jam and then retest until ready. I took my jam temperature to 108°C, patience is the key here.

Skim white foamy scum from the top of the jam when it is finished cooking. A lot of people will skim as the jam is cooking, but I find it works just to do it at the end – there is less wastage that way.

Pour hot jam directly into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Tips:

  1. Pectin is the gelling agent in fruit, but not all fruits are equal when it comes to pectin. The lower the pectin the harder it will be to get the jam to set. Strawberries, for example, are low in pectin so I add lemon juice to my jam to increase the pectin and the acidity
  2. I don’t use special jam setting sugar or powdered pectin, I just use normal sugar. Jam setting sugar does contain extra pectin, but I haven’t used it before so you are on your own with that one
  3. Note that sugar acts as a preservative and also helps the jam set so you will need to consider this if you want to reduce the amount of sugar you use in your jam
  4. The magic number to set jam is 105°C, although for strawberry jam I usually go up to 108°C
  5. Always sterilise your jars before pouring your jam.  Wash and rinse jars, line the bottom of a baking dish with a clean tea towel then place the clean jars upside down on the tea towel. Place the tray of jars in the oven at 100°C (I use 150°C as that is as low as my oven will go) for approx. 15 minutes or until the jars are dry. You want to do this approx. 15 minutes before jam is ready, which brings me to my next point
  6. Don’t pour jam into cold jars or the jars will crack
  7. To check if the jam is set, place a small dish into the freezer. Once the dish is cold pour a small teaspoon of jam onto the dish. Place the dish back in to the freezer to cool. Remove from freezer and run your finger through the jam, if the line sets then jam is ready to pour into jars.

Pear and Vanilla Paris Brest

Get your lycra ready ladies and gents it’s time…… no it’s not an ABBA reunion tour it’s time for the Tour de France. Three weeks of wall to wall cycling on TV. I love watching ‘Le Tour’, not so much for the actual cycling, but because I get to feast on the beautiful French countryside: the sunflower fields, the majestic mountains and the, seemingly endless, grand chateaux that are dotted everywhere (and as cyclists go I find Mark Cavendish a tasty little treat himself). I also appreciate the coverage of the race here in Australia because they always include a segment on the food and wine of each region that the race passes through.

Although a pastry food blog is not the most likely place to find a discussion on bike racing the French, being the French, have managed to combine two of their great passions, cycling and patisserie, by creating the Paris-Brest gateau. The gateau was created in 1891 to celebrate the 1200km cycle race that went from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris! The event is no longer a professional race, but is still held every four years for amateurs to test their endurance. I am hoping at the end they get to reward themselves with this scrumptious dessert – they deserve it.

So, I think July is the perfect time for me to knock off another item from my Paris Postcard Challenge with the Paris Brest gateau. This gateau is a beautiful choux pastry filled with a custardy filling, topped with flaked almonds and dusted with icing sugar. For my twist on this French classic, I have made a diplomat cream flavoured with vanilla bean and pear liqueur. The pear flavour is subtle, but oh so delicious.

Recipe

Makes 12.

Method

Make the crème patissiere for the diplomat cream, place in the fridge to cool completely while you make the choux pastry.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Make choux pastry. Pipe round circles on a tray lined with baking paper. Allow room for the pastry to expand, the finished product should have a hole in the centre, if you make the circle too small the hole will disappear. I use a n0.9 star nozzle.

Sprinkle almond flakes on top of the pastries.

Bake pastries for 10-15min or until they have risen and have started to colour.

Turn down the oven to 170°C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. You need to watch the pastries carefully as the almonds will burn if you leave them too long. I turn my trays at the 10 minute mark to make sure they cook evenly. Once pastries are cooked remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Take the crème patissiere out of the fridge and use it to make the diplomat cream. Remember to add the pear liqueur. Place in the fridge for approx. 30 minutes.

Cut the pastries in half and use a teaspoon to scoop out any soft dough that may be inside. You only need to have the shell of the pastry.

Fill a piping bag with diplomat cream and use a n0.9 star nozzle to pipe swirls in the bottom half of pastry shell. Place the pastry tops on to the cream and dust with icing sugar.

Voila!

Now put on your lycra and cycle a long way because you will certainly eat more than one of these at a sitting!