JAFFA CAKES

With this world wide global marketplace in which we now live, it seems we have available anything we want from anywhere at anytime.  Teas from China … cotton sheets from Egypt … woolen scarves from Scotland … wild salmon from Alaska … it’s all there in the stores.  But, when you want some Jaffa Cakes, where can you find them?  I realize, of course, most everything you can think of is available through Amazon (at an exorbitant price, I might add), but we were hoping to find these inexpensive and delectable little nuggets of deliciousness in the International food aisle from at least one of the big supermarket chains, and not have to wait for the delivery man to walk down the driveway in two or three days. 

For those of you who don’t know what a Jaffa Cake is, it’s a small not overly sweet, cake-like cookie with an orange-flavored gelatinous disc in the center, topped with dark chocolate.  They’re inexpensive, sold in packages and are available everywhere in the U.K., from supermarkets to convenience stores, and loved by everyone.  And, yes, they were a baking challenge on one of the earlier Great British Bake Off programs.

Well, if I can’t buy them, then here’s another baking challenge – Jaffa Cakes.  As always I begin by doing a little online research.  It astonishes me that you can see the exact same recipe on a dozen different ‘home baker’s’ sites.  Do they just copy and paste from one to another?

From the web, I printed a couple of recipes and then took out my British cookbooks.  Now which recipe to try?  The first recipe was Mary Berry‘s, which was confusing because it said to ‘break the jelly into pieces’.  Wasn’t sure what that meant.  Next was Paul Hollywood‘s recipe which also called for me to ‘break the jelly into cubes’.  Apparently, this is an ingredient we either don’t have here in the U.S., or we call it something else.  I decided to make my own orange filling with gelatin, orange juice and sugar.  It didn’t really work.  Okay then, why not use orange flavored JELL-O?  Which I did and it worked perfectly.  After many tries and fails, converting grams to cups, and wondering why all British recipes call for “free range” eggs, here’s my recipe.  I hope you like it!!

JAFFA CAKES 
Bake at 350°.  Makes 12 – 2″ cookies.  Equipment needed:  muffin tin and/or whoopie pie tin

2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 3 oz. package orange-flavored JELL-O
1/3 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
butter for greasing tins

Make the filling first by dissolving a packet of orange-flavored gelatin into 1/3 cup of boiling water.  Spray or grease a 12 count muffin tin.  Into the bottom of each cup put a tablespoon of the gelatin.  Put the tin into the refrigerator for the gelatin to set.  When the gelatin has set completely, remove each disc from the muffin tin and place on a dish.  Place the dish back into the refrigerator until its time to assemble.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together for at least 5 minutes until delicate, pale and frothy.   Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.  Be careful not to deflate the eggs.  Put 2 tablespoons of batter into the bottom of each of the greased muffin cups and bake at 350° for 7 to 8  minutes or until pale but baked through.

Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Then remove each cake/cookie and let them cool completely on a wire rack.  Meanwhile, over a bowl of very hot water, melt the chocolate chips, stirring as necessary until smooth and shiny.  Let cool a bit.

To assemble:  take a cake/cookie and place an orange disc on top and quickly place a spoonful of the chocolate on top of the disc.  Using the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate, sealing in the orange wafer.  Place the cookie back onto the rack.  When they are all assembled, using the tines of a fork, gently make a criss-cross pattern on each of them*.

They may not be as pretty as Mary Berry’s Jaffa Cakes, but they taste pretty darn good.  Tasty little cakes with an orange filling and chocolate frosting.  If you wanted to  make these ahead, I’m sure they’d probably last a few days, but definitely not in our house!

*As you can see, I tried … but failed miserably at this.
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PUFF PASTRY … MY ‘GO TO’

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but puff pastry is my absolute ‘go to’ when I want to make an impressive-looking dessert.  Take a peek in my freezer and you’ll always find a couple of packages.  All you need to do is take out a sheet or two, let it thaw in the refrigerator, and you’re only limited by your imagination.  Regardless of what I’m making, the results always look as if I’ve spent far more time (and money) than I actually have.

For this recipe, I wanted an elegant-looking tart … flaky, buttery puff pastry, filled with vanilla creme (referred to as creme patissière on the Great British Baking show), and topped with fresh strawberries.  I cut the pastry sheet into fancy envelope shapes for these.  Perhaps a little more time consuming, but I think the results were well worth it.  Let me know what you think.

(If you want to use packaged pudding mix for the pastry cream, go right ahead.  I’ll never tell.)

VANILLA CREAM TARTS WITH STRAWBERRY
Preheat oven at 425° for 20 minutes prior to baking.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  How many you get will depend upon the size you make.  Generally 12 from one sheet of pastry.
(This pastry cream recipe will make three cups and will keep up to three days.  Enjoy it in this recipe, other recipes, or alone with a dollop of whipped cream.)

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (thawed in refrigerator)
1 pint strawberries, washed, dried and hulled (or any other berry)

3 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, softened

Make the pastry cream first to allow it to set in the refrigerator while you make the tart shells.

PASTRY CREAM
Sift together the flour and cornstarch and set aside.  In a good-sized bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the flour/cornstarch and continue to beat until a pale yellow color and thickened.  Set it aside.  Now its time to heat the milk and sugar.  In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer (bubbles around the edge of the pan).  Stir constantly to prevent scorching the milk.

When bubbles begin to form, take the milk off the heat and slowly pour about 1/4 of the heated milk into the beaten eggs.  Continue to whisk.  Do not add all the hot milk at once or the mixture will curdle and the eggs will cook.  Once fully incorporated, pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk pan, and place it back on the heat, stirring constantly.  It may sound difficult, but it really is not.

Lower the heat and continue to cook the custard until thick and lemony-colored.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan continuously.  After it has thickened, continue to cook for another minute.  There’s nothing worse than that “flour” taste.  Yuck!

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and butter.  Stir til smooth.

Place a strainer on top of a clean bowl and strain the custard, pushing down to remove any lumps which may have formed.  Then place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream.  Place the cream in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.  You can make this up to three days ahead.

TART SHELLS
Now its time for the tart shells.  This shape is called an envelope and I’m sure there’s an easier way to get the fold, but this is the way I did it.

Take the thawed sheet of puff pastry dough from the frig and place it on a lightly floured board.  With a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out just a bit to even it out, and square it off.
Measure and cut 3″ squares from the sheet.

Now it’s time to cut inside each individual square.  Cut a 1/4″ border around each square except for two corners.  Leave two corners intact.  Take one cut corner and bring it over to the inside of the other side.  Now do the same with the opposite corner.  You should have a diamond pattern (or envelope).  Press down slightly around the edges.

Place the shaped puff pastry on parchment-lined baking sheets and place the baking sheets.  Square them off a bit and place the baking sheets into the refrigerator.  Puff pastry puffs up much better when its very cold.  This is when I preheat the oven.

Bake the pastry til golden brown, about 20 mins.  Remove from oven.  Now take a sharp knife and remove the center portion of each pastry, creating a pocket, or cavity for the pastry cream.  Place each pastry on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Now its time to assemble.  What could be easier … spoon (or pipe) a dollop of pastry cream into the center of each individual pastry.  Place a sliced strawberry on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Arrange your pastries on a serving tray until ready to serve.  Then show them off to all your guests and wait for the oohs and ahhs.  You deserve it!


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Lemon Zucchini Drizzle Cake

I might have mentioned in previous posts how much I love the Great British Bake Off.  Most of the items the bakers are asked to make I’m familiar with, but occasionally they’re asked to bake something that I (and even they) have never heard of.

While watching the other night, for the very first challenge, Mary asked the bakers to bake a “drizzle cake”.  A drizzle cake?  What in the world is a “drizzle cake”?  Get out the laptop and Google “drizzle cake”.  It appears that a ‘drizzle cake’ (a term used in the U.K. and not to be confused with a ‘glazed cake’) is a loaf or pound cake which has been punctured with holes after baking into which a simple syrup is poured (flavor of your choice), and then glazed.  Okay, sounds easy enough, which probably explains why it was the first challenge of the season for the British Bake Off contestants.  So, I’m going for it!

Of course, I’m not going to replicate Mary’s, or the contestant’s bakes.  As always I’ll create my own recipe, and with a garden bulging with zucchini (courgette for all the U.K. readers), have the perfect idea … a Lemon Zucchini Drizzle Cake.

After a few failed attempts (too much zucchini, too wet a batter, not enough leavening, etc.), the following recipe is a winner.  Not too puckery … not too veggie-like … and not too sweet, just chock full of lemony zucchini goodness.  Dense, rich and moist … think of carrot cake but without the spice … and, of course, add in the “drizzle” factor.

This one’s definitely a keeper.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

LEMON ZUCCHINI DRIZZLE CAKE
Makes one large loaf cake, or 12 muffins/small cakes.  Bake at 350° for one hour (for cake) … 35 minutes or so for smaller cakes … or til done.

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (or more) lemon zest
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all- purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini, drained dry

Drizzle
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a large loaf/cake pan or muffin tins.

This is really quite easy to make.  First grate the zucchini and put it in a colander to drain.  You want as much moisture removed from the zucchini as possible.  I grated the zucchini and let it drain for over an hour, then gathered up handfuls of zucchini and squeezed it dry.  If your zucchini isn’t squeezed dry, your cake will be wet and soggy.  And no one wants a “soggy bottom”.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together til well blended and the flour has lifted.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs til lemony colored and then add the sugar.  Beat well.  Add the oil, lemon juice, vanilla and yogurt.  Mix well and then add the lemon zest.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing well, but don’t over-beat.  Fold in the DRY, grated zucchini.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan or pans.  Bake in the center of the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry … about an hour … and until the cake begins to pull back from the sides of the pan. When the cake is fully baked, cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool it on a rack for another 15 minutes while you prepare the “drizzle”.

In a small bowl mix the confectioner’s sugar and the lemon juice.  It should be thin, but not too thin.  This is not a thick glaze.  After the cake has cooled, put it back into the pan and with a long skewer (I used a chopstick from last night’s takeout), poke holes in the cake about an inch or two apart.  Pour half the “drizzle” all over the cake, letting it settle into the holes, let it rest for about 15 minutes, then pour the rest of the “drizzle” over the top.

The “drizzle” oozes into this yummy cake making it very moist.   Leave the cake to set for at least an hour before serving.  And then serve this cake for a sweet treat at lunch, brunch or if you want the perfect accompaniment for your afternoon tea.  Absolutely delicious!  Enjoy!!

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Bara Brith

In Wales, as in so many countries, it was customary for the women of the household to designate one day as “baking day”.  The entire day would be spent making all the breads, rolls, cakes and biscuits that would be needed for the week.  Using any bread dough that was leftover from making the yeast breads would then become the base for this bread.  Adding leftover tea, spices, dried fruits, sugar would then become that family’s Bara Brith.

Bara Brith or in Welsh “Speckled Bread” is exactly what it is … a bread speckled with dried fruits. Traditionally this is a yeast bread, but it is quite often made as a quick bread.  As with any regional recipe, each family has their own version.  This one might be a bit different from some that you’ve had in the past, why? because it’s MY version …. and it is delicious!!

If you are a fan of “the Great British Bake Off“, as I am, you might remember that one of the contestants actually baked her version of a yeasted Bara Brith as her entry on Season 4.  Click on the link below and you’ll find her recipe.  My version is a quick bread … but keep in mind you do have to let the dried fruits soak in the hot tea for a couple of hours in advance.

BARA BRITH
Bake 350°F for approximately one hour.  Makes one large loaf.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)
(if not using ground almonds, increase flour to 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot black tea
1/2 cup dried raisins (or any dried mixed fruits, diced)
1/2 cup dried dates, diced (or prunes, apricots, etc.)
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a bowl, mix together the dried dates and dried raisins (or any combination of diced, dried fruits).  Pour one cup of hot, strong black tea over the fruits.  Cover and then let them plump up for at least three to four hours (or overnight, if you’d like).

Grease a one pound loaf pan.  Sift together the dry ingredients.  I love the flavor of almonds, and the texture that it gives this bread.  Use ground almond meal if you have it, or omit it and increase the flour to 2 cups.  This is all up to YOU.

Peel and grate onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe cooking apple (not a Mac or Macoun – too juicy).

In a large mixing bowl add all the dry ingredients, the brown sugar, the egg, the melted butter, and the dried fruit/tea mixture (with all the tea liquid).

Beat together until well blended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour.  Test after about 50 minutes for doneness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen done, turn out onto a cooling rack and then put the kettle on.

This bread is so-o-o-o moist and delicious, you’ll have a hard time not eating the entire loaf yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have the opportunity to visit Wales, be sure to make time one afternoon to stop for a spot of tea and enjoy a slice of this moist, sweet bread with it.  Slather it with butter if you like, but it’s not really necessary.  It stands up very well on its own.  If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Wales, do yourself a favor and make this bread!!  (The photos don’t do it credit.)

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References:  Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood’s British Baking, Traditional Welsh Recipes
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