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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Battenberg Case

The truth, the myths and the marzipan in between ;)

Year 1884 April 30th and a cake is born-the Battenberg cake to celebrate the marriage between the Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine on that very day.

No this is not true!, in fact this is the myth, no historical written record or proof has been found which depicts that the co called Battenberg cake was created on the occasion of this marriage. The modern version of this cake has 4 panels in colors of pink n yellow arranged in check pattern, however the cake at that time used to have 9 such sections. Now because the 4 sections since it looks like a child’s drawing of a window panel it is often known as window chapel cake in northern England. Now as with everything changes occur naturally with time, so did happen with this Battenberg cake, perhaps the cake started getting 4 panels when the mass industry production started taking place before the world war 2, we need a minimum of 4 panels to create a cross check pattern, so it makes sense to simplify things for the sake of mass production.

                                            The creator of this Battenberg cake was Frederick Vine, a talented British food writer around that time. In fact he used to write Battenberg as “Battenburg”; after all it is his creation. His original earliest cake however did not have any check pattern; it was simple fruit loaf with lots of sultanas and candied peel. Some years after the marriage mentioned above, there was perhaps gradual appearance of this check pattern cakes, in fact in 1898 appeared Mrs. Marshall’s domino cake which looked just the same as Frederick Vine’s Battenberg cake with 9 sections and Robert Well’s Neapolitan roll which had 4 sections like the ones we see today. The distinctive thing about this cake was it was covered in almond paste which we know as marzipan in the era. If you want to read more about it and see some real pictures from that time click here http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/battenburg-cake-history-again.html
This is great history food blog by the talented Ivan Day.

                                       Now let me tell you about the cake itself, it’s a light sponge cake, the panels assembled together with apricot jam and then coated in a layer of marzipan. Now I find this cake to be a little over-sweet and you can imagine why! I mean the sponge cake is sweet, the marzipan is sweet and the apricot jam is sweet, sweet on sweet on sweet…all right. When I baked the cake I reduced the sugar in the sponge itself and I also rolled the marzipan as thin as I could. The cake looks lovely, in this bright pink n yellow squares, it can make you smile.

                                   Hey I made my own marzipan, for the first time, that too with some changes and it worked. Well what I did was I took equal parts of almond and peanuts, took off their skin by soaking them in hot water, not boiling water, for about 5 minutes when the skin comes off easily, then I pat them dry with a towel and then in a strong blender I made almost a smooth powder out of them, it doesn't have to be very smooth, and then I take equal amount of castor sugar and I combine them with this castor sugar with a bit of red rum. I used red rum because I love the flavor and I think red rum gives it a longer shelf life. And I did have a bit of fun with the marzipan, now I will call it “MARZIFUN” and you can have a look at them… child’s play right! Imagine you give this to a group of children and what amazing things they will come up with! You can even eat all that fun literally.

Now one interesting thing about the prince Louis of Battenberg though it is not related to the cake, is he was of German origin and later on he was a member of the British Royal family, he was appointed the captain, the admiral, the first sea-lord by the royal family. So he modified his family name from Battenberg to Mountbatten since there were rumors that the British royal family must be pro-German. I am sure he has eaten this cake many times. Well for you, readers I have this cartoon from “punch” depicting this modification of his family name.


                                                                                                                      Oh! I did have a bit of fun with the marzipan, my hands made some caterpillar and some weird animals and I don’t even know what to call them!

                                                     I thought I will tell you about the Battenberg markings which are high-visibility markings on the sides of the emergency vehicles used in some European countries and some more. Mostly they are in green and blue or yellow squares in a check pattern just like the cake! The name for the markings most probably comes from the similarity in appearance of the cross section of the cake.

                                                                                                So when I will be carrying the cake walking in the street, tell me will you be able to see it from far! And then you will go home and make it. Ha-hah. Now I will tell you the recipe. Bon appétit.

The Recipe: you will need
For the sponge     
175g/6oz very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
175g castor sugar (I put the sugar a bit less like 155g)
175g self-raising flour or all purpose flour
3 medium eggs
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange, zest of 1 or 2 limes
1 tbsp of fresh orange juice
1 tbsp of baking powder if using all purpose flour/1 tsp baking powder if using self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
Some drops of pink food color.

For the covering
200g of marzipan
About 6 tbsp of apricot jam
3 tbsp of icing sugar for rolling the marzipan
You need a brush to coat the cake with warm apricot jam.

For the marzipan
50g almonds
50g peanuts
2 tsp of red rum

1.       Let’s begin with making the marzipan. Measure 50 g of almonds and peanuts each, if you like almonds more measure 100g of almond. Heat some water in pan to almost boiling, then take it off the heat and when the temp, reduces slightly pour the almonds and the peanuts in separate pans by dividing the water in 2 pans. Now give them about 5 minutes, then start with the almonds, with your fingers if you press the almonds you will see the skin has come loose, you may have to scratch them a bit, so de-skin all of them. It will take a bit of time to de-skin both the almonds and the peanuts, when done pat them dry with a towel, then in a grinder place the almonds, grind to almost the smooth powder, same with the peanuts, in case of peanuts you will find that the powder of them looks more like a smooth dough. Now measure 100 g of icing sugar. In a big bowl mix the powder of both almonds n peanuts with the icing sugar with a wooden spatula, when well combined add 1 tsp of rum and mix well, you will see that the mixture has begin to come together like a dough now add 1 more tsp if you think it needs, then mix well with your hands until the whole mixture comes together like a smooth dough. Here you have just made fresh marzipan! Now wrap it in cling film and freeze it.
2.       Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm/8in square tin with butter, as for me I buttered a 1 lb loaf tin very lightly and I lined the loaf tin with baking parchment paper and buttered it. With an aluminum foil I made a pleat and place it in the center along the length of the tin so that I can bake the 2 colored cakes in the same tin.
3.       Start creaming the butter with a whisk; when the butter attains a light color add the castor sugar and cream it until it becomes lighter in color for about 5 minutes. Then add 1 egg and whisk until it is fully incorporated, then add the 2nd egg and do the same, then with the 3rd egg shift a little flour on top of the egg in the cake mixture and beat it in. we are doing this so that the mixture wont curdle, even if it curdles it will be fine. So when the eggs are all in add the lime and orange zest and vanilla essence to the mixture and whisk it in. Then pour the baking powder, a pinch of salt into the flour and shift the flour in 2 batches into the wet mixture and mix well. Now divide the mixture in 2 equal parts and to one part add 1-2 drops of pink food color just to attain the pink shade. Now to the other part add the orange juice and mix well. Now pour the pink and the yellow mixture in the tin and place them in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched.
4.       Take the cakes out of the tin after 10 minutes and when they have cooled off, take a sharp knife and cut both of them along the length into rectangular stripes which has around 1 inch/2.5 cm square sides. Do them with both the yellow and the pink sponge. Then warm the apricot jam in a pan, with a brush apply the sides of the first 3 strips of cake to stick them together, now brush on the top side of them and take one opposite colored strip and brush its downside and put it on the first base strip of the cake, brush its side and place another strip of cake beside it and the same for the last strip. Now brush the jam all over the cake lightly with the jam.
5.       Roll the marzipan on a flat surface dusted with icing sugar to a thickness you want. I rolled it to the minimum thickness I could, and make sure the rolled surface is big enough to wrap the cake all around. Then brush the inside of the rolled marzipan with apricot jam, then place the cake in the middle and warp it. Pinch the meeting sides together with your fingers. And now with sharp knife slowly cut across the length t reveal the checkered pattern. You are done!

It is a bit of work and after all the hard work it does look lovely. Since it’s a tea cake get some tea!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A sweet sexy soufflé - The love affair with Gurr n how it got soufflé-d in love

                                                                                    Valentine’s Day is long over, thankfully so. I am not fan of Valentine’s Day in general, it’s quite commercialized and what is so special about a day when on that day red roses and every flower costs so much. Now in fact when it’s all over, now if you gift someone a red rose, yellow rose, or anything out of love it makes this extra special. There is no pressure of giving gift because it’s Valentine’s Day, so now it’s really comes from within you. I do believe in the power of sweet sudden surprises. If you want to express your love to someone make him/her this soufflé and you will touch him/her deeply. If that someone is a person you romantically involved with, try sleeping beside him/her without his knowledge while he/she is asleep, so when he/she wakes up, sees you. Now that’s something.

Forget about romance and all its lights and shadows and let me tell you about this soufflé. First things first this is a soufflé made with a type of Jaggery, date-palm jaggery. You know there are these date-palm trees and people collect the flavored sap from the tree by putting cut marks or incision at the top part of the tree and they make a way for the sap to come n get collected in a hanging earthen vessel tied to the tree. Now this sap has a distinct flavor and you can drink it fresh, when it is put on heat and reduced by simmering for long periods of time it develops an unique taste, more intensified. That’s the rough idea of how it is made, as for turning it into jaggery it is further reduced and then it solidifies as it cools down.

                                                                                                  Now for the soufflé I could have made it without the addition of crème patissiere, in that case it would have been even more light n puffed up, but then I thought I want it make it a little more rich so I made the crème patissiere with the melted Nalen gur, which gave it a pronounced flavor of that golden gur. And it does bring a touch of creaminess in the soufflé, however on another day I might make it without the special crème patissiere. Do you know that in French the word “soufflé” literally means “puffed up “? I read somewhere that day when we will make a soufflé of something it will mean to arrive at a texture, like airy, light, puffed up-now that is a way of looking at this word now. The word “soufflé” made into English vocabulary in the early nineteenth century, where it used to be described as an airy cooked confection of beaten egg-whites with the egg yolks with a savory and sweet flavoring.

                                                                 One thing about this special soufflé is that it tastes better the next day, as least that what I found out, I kept them in the freeze and next morning it was such a pleasure eating it, soft airy gurry goodness.  And I thought this is quiet it! So fit for the Valentine’s Day and in fact for any day when we want to make it special and we make this soufflé for the people we love and watch the smile on their face as they get soufflé-d.  somehow I ended up imaging this- I am little kid and my mom makes this soufflé sometimes, and I watch her at times curiously how she makes it, she beats the egg-whites, makes the pastry crème, pile them high on little ramekins and when she gets them out of the oven- woooo! They have risen like sweet monsters! And my anticipation makes them even tastier. So if you are a mom reading this having little kids, do make them this and they will have such wonderful memories.

                                                                                         By the way that morning was quiet eventful when I made this soufflé, first I was so cautious that there is no trace of egg-yolks in the egg-whites, not a drop fat in it and in this super-cautiousness  I tumbled the egg-whites on the table…errghhhh! Disaster! Disaster! And it was only the beginning. I fixed the egg-whites telling myself to calm down as I started making the crème patissiere and the point comes when it starts to get thick and you have whisk it all the time at that point for a minute, so there I was whisking madly and I checked my mobile too see if a minute is over and somehow in a sweet sleepery moment my mob jumped into the crème patissiere bowl! Lol! I couldn’t believe it, I snatched it out before it even submerged a bit into the crème since it was so thick...it all happened within some seconds-the fall and the rescue. But oouch ouch!  What an event! Ha-ha…I ended up laughing about it after that and even after these small disasters in the kitchen the soufflés puffed up like good boys. So V for victory and P for puffed up.

                               You can beat the egg-whites with a hand beater or a stand mixer or if you are like me young and energetic trust your hands. After making that mayonnaise, beating the egg-whites to soft peak was a Childs play to me, literally. And it’s fun, as I beat in with my hands I literally see the change I bring in, starting with the liquid egg whites as they absorb the air and become so airy and white.

                                      So now I will tell you the special recipe. Whisk whisk puff puff.

The recipe:  you will need
For the crème patissiere/pastry cream:     
 50 g shaved nalen gur/date palm jaggery
2 egg yolks
25g corn flour
250ml milk
25m unsalted/salted butter.

Begin by making the crème patissiere because it will take some time to cool off while you will prepare the egg whites. Whisk together the shaved gur, egg yolks and corn flour together in a bowl. Put the milk in heavy based saucepan n slowly let it come to a boil, just then remove it from the heat and whisk one third of the milk into the egg mix. Now quickly tip the egg mix back into the milk pan and keep whisking. Then put it back in the low heat, stirring constantly let it come to a boil, as it comes to a boil give it 1 min, don’t stop whisking. After that take it off the heat, add the butter, stir until it melts. So let it cool off to warm and then cover it with cling film and leave to cool it off. Remember when we have to fold the pastry crème with the beaten egg whites; we need it a little warm, not cold.

For the Nalen gur syrup: 
4-5 tbsp of shaved nalen gur, melt in a low heat with 1 tbsp of water, once melted keep in a low heat for 2 mins. Pour 1 tbsp or more each into 4 ramekins with base diameter of 2 1/2 inches (6cm), top diameter 3 ½ inches (7.5cm), 2 inches (5cm) deep, lightly buttered. Pour so that the base of the ramekins is coated with the syrup.      

 Pre-heat the oven to 170 Celsius, 325 Fahrenheit, gas mark 3.

 For the soufflés:   

3 large eggs
1/8th of big lime or 1/4th of a small lime or 1 tsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of castor sugar

Separate the eggs, I find it to separate the eggs safely when they are just out of the refrigerator, then I let them come to normal temperature. Take a big airy bowl and make sure it is very clean and grease free, just to be sure take a little lemon or lime wedge and wipe the bowl with it. Next put the egg whites into the bowl and squeeze the lime or lemon juice into the egg whites. Start beating with a big wire whisk or with a electric hand beater, if you are using an electric beater, start slow, then to medium to high, beat the egg whites to almost stiff peak but the tip of the egg whites should bend down a little when you pick them up, so we don’t need stiff peaks actually, lower than that, slightly higher than soft peak, while your egg whites are getting to become fluffy as you are beating them add the castor sugar slowly. If you are whisking by hands like me add the castor sugar once you see the egg whites reaching the soft peak, first add 1 tbsp and after sometime add another. We are doing it just to give the beaten whites a little sweetness and to stabilize it also.

                            Now when you have reached that stage where it is almost stiff peak but the peak bends down a little as you put it up, so now it is time to fold the warm pastry crème into the egg whites. So take about 2 tbsp of the egg whites into the pastry crème and whisk it vigorously to light it up, then take about one fourth of the egg whites and still vigorously beat it in, then take half of the egg whites and gently fold it with a spatula by gently lifting it up along the circumference of the bowl and slowly folding it in the middle. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

                             Now spoon the mixture into the ramekins, pile it high if you want to, then run a finger into the inside rim of each one. Now place them in a baking sheet and put them in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for15-20 minutes or until the tops start to get golden. Then take them out and  you can see your soufflé is so puffed up, as you take them after 5mintues they will sink, that’s normal, don’t let your heart sink, let it rather sing a song because it is so delicious, even more on the next day. Why they will mostly sink is because we have folded the heavy crème patissiere into it, which is the reason. Enjoy them completely now whenever and however you like them hot or cold or normal. Bon appétit.