Tag Archives: buttermilk

Beatty’s chocolate cake

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine

It’s been one of those weeks where things go a little crazy and your body brings something akin to OOS to the party. And all there is to do is say NO to eating toast one night, and instead roast a free range chook with lemon, herbs and potatoes till golden, crisp and juicy.

And bake a cake, even if your hands cry and tingle while you whisk on… and on… and even if you tip the cake out of the tin before it’s completely cooled and ruin its otherwise flawless bottom.

Luckily, frosting provides excellent coverage for facial imperfections of the cakey sort.

Happily, the cake has been reasonably well-received by visitors and flatmates :-) If you make it, expect a moist, easy-to-eat cake and frosting which provides an immediate sense of luxury… and don’t expect the cake to last long if you have people in your house!

    Butter for greasing the pans
    1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    Chocolate frosting:
    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
    Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
    Chocolate frosting:
    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
    Modifications: I used a mixture of demerara sugar and caster sugar – and just over a cup of sugar all up (and it was sweet enough for me). Skipped the parchment paper. Substituted vanilla essence with kahlua. Made it without an electric mixer – possible, but I’d go with an electric whisk if I had one!

I’m also taking the chance to enter this for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by the lovely Sue of Couscous & Consciousness.


Story of today: while it rained, I cooked

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!
~ My Fair Lady, The Rain in Spain

The kitchen is a nice place to hang out when it’s pouring outside!

This morning’s experiments: orange + kahlua ganache truffles, lime + dark chocolate ganache truffles, and lime buttermilk* cake with a light lime juice/icing sugar glaze.

Cake is now sitting in tummies of flatmates, neighbour and friends (and me) – and truffles will be despatched by mail tomorrow after I check with the courier that they will survive the ride… cooking is certainly more fun when there are more people around to eat!

In other news, last night was -> the rugby (which I watched a tiny bit of) – and The Wizard of Oz. Mind still caught between Tin Man and the Yellow Brick Road today.

* = yes, I KNOW the word of the week has been buttermilk, but I’ve now finished the carton of it at last!

Bejewelled buttermilk pancakes

Sunglasses wrapped like a fallen angel’s
~ John Kinsella, Divine Comedy – Canto of Wings

“Pancakes” – a word for any Dictionary of Words that Elicit Smiles. It seems to me that every time the word “pancakes” is uttered, ears prick up and faces start glowing with warm-fuzziness while mouths chime in on a chorus of “Mmmmm…”

I remember that four years ago, when I cooked so poorly that a certain flatmate tried to ban me from the kitchen permanently (I kid you not – he trembled on my Cooking Nights and once stood at the entrance to the kitchen begging to know what I would come up with this time)… one of the things I desperately wanted to learn to make was pancakes. I thought that if I could just make them, I would be well on my way to being a Wonder Woman in the kitchen. Wonder Woman in general. With Nigella coursing through my veins.

I did make pancakes that year. Sometimes they resembled good pancakes. Sometimes they did not. One time I made these blueberry pancakes that looked a great deal like a freckled face dotted with pimples and bruises. My friend Justin ate them with a bright smile, and then we sat down and watched “Star Wars” DVDs till Yoda snuggled into my eyelids.

I am sure that must be one of the reasons Justin and I are still good friends – I admire the qualities of humour and courage very much. (Justin likes berries and madness.)

Mastering the art of making pancakes was to me so synonymous with achieving success in cooking (plus I knew no one who disliked them), that I was pretty blind to the shortcomings of pancakes. It took me a while to realise I was more in love with the idea of being in love with pancakes, than actually in love with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had jolly good pancake/crepe/hotcake meals. I remember in particular one pancake party my friend Hellie hosted a while ago – it kept me in a reverie for days afterwards! Also, I like maple syrup as much as anyone could like maple syrup, and they happen to take to pancakes exceptionally well :-)

It’s just that, good as they are, pancakes seldom taste as good as they look and smell to me. (Some say the same about coffee).

The truth is that, most of the time when I DO venture to eat pancakes, they excite me at the start, evoke boredom and a bloated stomach midway through the meal… and I leave the table sad.

So, all that said, I awoke at 6.30 this morning and was pretty surprised that I had a picture of pancakes in my head. I peeked at a few sites on Google, scribbled down a list of ingredients and decided to make a small batch of pancakes.

I had buttermilk, condensed milk and pomegranate seeds on hand, so that is how this recipe came into being.

And, you know, it wasn’t so bad.

    Bejewelled buttermilk pancakes
    1/4 cup flour
    1 tsp caster sugar
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    pinch of salt
    pinch of cinnamon (optional)
    pinch of lemon zest (optional)
    1 egg, separated
    1 tbsp melted butter
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    pomegranate seeds
    2-3 tbsp condensed milk
    Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and cinnamon if using, then set aside.
    In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg yolk and butter. Add this to the dry ingredients and whisk together. Do not over-whisk.
    In a separate bowl, whip the egg white, then fold it into the above mixture.
    Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Grease with a pat of butter or some olive oil (butter tastes better in this instance). When it shimmers, ladle batter on to the skillet, making pancakes of any size.
    I found these cooked pretty quickly – keep an eye on them and flip them before they burn (approximately 1-2 minutes)! Once the second side is lightly browned, rescue and keep them in a warm spot in your kitchen.
    Once they are all done, place a pancake on a clean plate, drizzle condensed milk and scatter pomegranate seeds on it, then add a pancake on top and repeat these steps till you have a sparkling pancake stack. Substitute condensed milk and pomegranate seeds with your favourite pancake toppings if you wish.
    Open the windows, greet the morning, and eat your meal with fork and knife.
    This recipe yields three small pancakes – when cooking for a crowd, you can probably adjust the dry ingredients to scale (i.e. 1/4 cup flour for three pancakes, 1/2 cup for six pancakes, etc) but I think you’ll have to adjust the number of eggs and amount of wet ingredients based on how your batter looks! This batter seems pretty forgiving, anyhow, so just experiment and have fun. Also, preheat the oven to 50°C and keep the stack of pancakes warm in the oven while you cook all of them.

P.S. Through a stroke of great fortune, I got a complimentary ticket to attend the opening night of Cav & Pag last night. Blood, jealousy, love, blue skies and the scent of orange trees. Pathos. Humour. Surprises. Themes reflected in colours, posture, juxtaposition. A moving stage set. Luring singing. Enjoyed the two hours of magic! In Auckland? Get your tickets here.

Ottolenghi’s aubergine with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Spongy, meaty, melting flesh.

Sounds revolting, you say. I couldn’t agree more – but aubergine defies seductive prose; it is what it is. Most people I know (whose opinion on aubergine I have heard) either love it or hate it. You’re lucky if you love it, there is this entire galaxy of yummy dishes involving this pretty purple vegetable that you’d miss out on if you didn’t!

This vegetable has been present in my world for a very long time. When I was a child growing up in Southeast Asia, we called aubergine “brinjal” and I remember tasting it in spicy, slow-cooking curries; braised with minced pork, tofu and chilli, etc. The texture interested me; so different it was from [less defined/straightforward than] crunchy carrots or leafy kai-lan or soft chewy mushrooms. And the taste – so bland and so distinctive all at once. Always different, it seemed, depending on how it was cooked. It was a mini mystery. I didn’t like or hate it, but it certainly always held my attention if it was anywhere on the table.

In recent years, I’ve experienced this vegetable in whole new ways, and grown to really enjoy it. Baba ghanoush. Roasted/stuffed eggplants. Ratatouille. Aubergine cooked with pasta. And I’ve mostly called it “aubergine” or “eggplant”, along with everyone else here in New Zealand.

As I write this post, I realise that I haven’t associated this vegetable with the brinjal of my childhood for some time… Shakespeare might have been on to something when he wrote “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” but to me, a brinjal by another name spells entirely different types of dishes (and borders on appearing to be a different vegetable entirely).

Anyway. Today, I chanced upon a lovely recipe with a photo so pretty I couldn’t resist trying it – especially when I saw aubergines for sale at less than $3 each!

Enter Ottolenghi, an aubergine, and an oven…

And this was my dinner tonight: colder than most dinners in terms of temperature, but warm in the thoughts it brought. For some reason, the dish made me think of Christmas and Morocco, and I started humming Christmas carols midway through dinner (flatmates out this evening, thank goodness ;-).

This dish would be better as a starter than as a main, I feel; but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and was satisfied afterwards. The colours are beautiful (my photos here are too bright; the real life version was great). It leaves your mouth feeling clean and good. The flavours take some getting used to when you first taste it – but what you get in the end is the tender strength of the aubergine, a tzatziki-type garlic-scented yoghurt and buttermilk sauce, heady and smoky sweet herbs, crunchy sweet pomegranate, notes of citrus from the lemon, and salt and pepper to finish it. It’s hard to adequately describe… but the combination works. I suspect the original version, with za’atar (which I haven’t tried but which Google says is amazing), would be delicious too.

A bonus? Not much prep/washing up for this one! Second bonus: this is one of those recipes for which you can double/halve the ingredients exactly and have it turn out – great for dinner parties.

    1 large and long aubergine
    Olive oil
    Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 pomegranate (I used 1/2 of a pack of pomegranate seeds from the supermarket)
    1 tsp za’atar (with no za’atar, I used mixed herbs + fennel seeds + salt + pepper)
    1 wedge of lemon
    For the sauce:
    700ml buttermilk
    50g Greek yogurt
    1 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish off
    1 small garlic clove, crushed
    Pinch of salt
    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Wash the aubergine and cut it in two lengthways through the green stalk (retain the stalk for decorative purposes only). Make three or four deep parallel incisions in the cut side of the aubergine (do not go as far as the skin). Then, make three or four diagonal cuts – you will now have a diamond pattern.
    Line an oven tray with foil or baking paper, and place the aubergines, cut side up, on it – brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30-35 minutes. When you can smell something delicious, and the flesh is soft and well-browned, remove the aubergine from the oven and leave to cool.
    While the aubergine halves are in the oven, cut the pomegranate in two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, and knock the skin with the back of a wooden spoon, letting the seeds fall into the bowl. Once all are out, sift through the seeds to remove any white skin bits. I just used a packet of pomegranate seeds, so I didn’t have to do this step.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the ingredients listed under “sauce” above, taste for seasoning and pop it into the fridge.
    To serve, put an aubergine half on a plate, flesh side up. Add a generous amount of sauce on it without covering the stalk, then sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and za’atar if you have it (or a herb/spice rub – see my notes above), and finish with a drizzle of olive oil + a sprinkle of lemon juice.
    Yields two entrée-sized servings, or one refreshing main.

P.S. This was published a while ago, but oh still so good to read!