Life Goes On: Promise of Hope and Renewal as we approach Spring and the Great Feasts of Passover and Easter

Spring is here already, and bit by bit nature is coming to life again.  The Great Feasts of Passover and Easter are upon us, and as subdued and restricted as our holidays might be this year because of the coronavirus, let us all hold on to the thought that this threat will pass, hopefully sooner rather than later.

In this vein, I've opted to keep the recipes for this blog to the more simple, but still festive, ones.

LEMON SPONGE WITH MASCARPONE ICING

A classic British Victoria sponge cake with a lemon or orange curd filling and mascarpone icing

Ingredients

for the cake:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbl (8 oz) caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups less 2 tbl (8 oz) Organic Einkorn Pancake & Baking Mix
  • zest of 2 large oranges, plus 6 tbl of the juice

for the filling:

  • 1½ cups lemon or orange curd
  • 1 lb mascarpone cheese (chilled)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cup heavy whipping cream (chilled)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the decoration:

  • food colouring (optional)
  • cocoa powder for dusting
  • selection of mini chocolate eggs

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8" sandwich tins/sponge cake tins.  

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and the sugar for about 5 mins until pale and fluffy.  Keep beating as you add the melted butter, a little at a time. Add the grated zest of the two oranges.  Gently fold in the pancake mix with a large metal spoon until you can’t see any pockets of flour. Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until light golden brown and risen. To check whether the cakes are cooked - insert a skewer in the middle of the cake, it should come away clean if it is cooked.

Allow cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool; then allow to cool completely before decorating and icing.

To make the icing start beating the mascarpone on medium speed in a bowl and  while beating add the vanilla extract  and then the powdered sugar. Scrape sides and continue beating until light and fluffy. DO NOT OVERMIX as it will cause the frosting to curdle.  With the mixer running on high speed, slowly add the whipping cream until the frosting becomes light and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes. DO NOT OVERMIX.  Use approximately half of this as fill in between the cake layers and reserve the other half to ice the cake with.  

When the cakes are cool, level the cakes with a bread knife and cut each one in half again through the middle.  Alternately, keep each layer whole (so your cake will only have two layers), making sure you then don't skimp on the fill.

Place a cake layer, cut side up on a serving plate. Brush the cake with with 2-3 tbl of the reserved orange juice, than spread with 3-4tbl of the lemon or orange curd evenly to the edge.  Finally spread 1/3 of the mascarpone set aside for the filling on top.  Place a second cake layer on top, cut side up, and repeat with orange juice, lemon or orange curd and mascarpone filling. Place third layer on top, cut side up, and repeat. Top with the last cake layer, placing it bottom up (cut side down).  Moisten it with the remaining orange juice.  

Using the tip of a toothpick and adding only a drop at a time stir your food colouring (blue with a dash of green creates a lovely duck egg shade) into the mascarpone cream reserved for icing. Using an icing spatula spread a thin layer of this mascarpone over the cake, spreading it quite thinly on top with more on the side– this will seal in any crumbs. Chill the cake for 30 mins, then cover with the rest of the mascarpone icing and use a palette knife or pastry scraper to level it out.  To finish, sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of cocoa powder onto the cake to create a speckled design. Repeat this in different sections of the cake, then top with a cluster of mini chocolate eggs and serve. Will keep for 2-3 days.

alternate filling:

  • 2 ½ cups (20 oz) heavy whipping cream
  • 7 tbl (3 oz) sugar
  • 1 lb mascarpone
  • 1 cup lemon or orange curd

to make the mascarpone filling:

Beat the mascarpone on medium speed in a bowl and  continuing to beat add the  sugar and the lemon curd.  Scrape sides and continue beating until light and fluffy. DO NOT OVERMIX as it will cause the frosting to curdle. With the mixer running on high speed, slowly add the whipping cream until the frosting becomes light and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes. DO NOT OVERMIX.  Use approximately half of this as fill in between the cake layers and reserve the other half to ice the cake with.  Do not colour.  

Finish decorating the top and sides of the cake with the remaining mascarpone cheese, swirling it over the top of the cake.  Just before serving, decorate with fresh or crystallised flowers. Grate some orange curls, sprinkle them over the top, and serve.  

Note: Sponge cakes keep for up to one week in a tin, in a cool place. Or they can be frozen for up to 2 months - allow to defrost for 4 to 6 hours on a cooling rack, before icing and decorating.

 

FRIANDS, two ways

Strawberry Tartlettes

Preparation time: approx. 30 minutes Baking or cooking time: approx. 20 minutes

makes 4 -6 small cakes, depending on size of pan

 Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites,120g (62.5%)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 5/8 cup (4½ oz/125g)  sugar  (62.5%)
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbl (4½ oz/125g) of butter, melted, slightly cooled down
  • 1 tablespoon of orange-blossom or rose water or grated orange peel
  • 1 generous cup (4½ oz/125g) of Organic Einkorn Pancake & Baking Mix
  • generous 2½ oz/75g of peeled ground almonds (60%)
  • 110g strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 recipe strawberry glaze (below), optional
  • 3 to 4 T. slivered toasted  almonds or chopped pistachios for garnish, optional
  • powdered sugar for garnish, optional

Directions

Beat the whites of the eggs together with the salt until stiff. Gradually add the sugar and beat until shiny. Add the butter and the orange-blossom water, sieve in the pancake mix, sprinkle on the ground almonds and using a spatula carefully fold into the batter.

Fill the buttered tartelette molds with batter.  Scatter the strawberries over the top of each of the cakes, dividing evenly.  (If any of the berries are touching the edges of the pans, use a fork to gently pull them away from the edge.)

Place the berry tartelettes in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350°F. and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the tartelettes from the oven, allow them to cool and dust with icing sugar directly prior to serving. Garnish with berries according to taste.

Dredge the cooled cakes with powdered sugar or ice them with the strawberry glaze.

Strawberry Glaze:

  • 2 oz/56g. strawberries, washed, dried and hulled
  • 1 tbl. milk
  • ½  tsp. lemon juice
  • 8 oz/225g. powdered sugar

Place the berries in a small bows and smash with a fork.  Pass through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp against the sides.  Measure out 2 tbl (1oz) of strained strawberry purée.  Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl and add the measured berry purée, the milk and the lemon juice.  Stir with a rubber spatula to make a thick, smooth glaze.  It should be just thick enough so that it will slowly drip down the sides of the cakes when spread on the top.  Adjust the consistency with milk, strawberry purée or powdered sugar.  Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

To glaze the cakes, place them on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.  Drop a blob of glaze on the top of each cake and spread out to the edges, allowing it to slowly drip down the sides.  Before the glaze is set, sprinkle the top of each cake with a few chopped pistachios or toasted slivered almonds. 

Un-iced, the friands will keep—in an airtight container—for several days.  Glazing/icing should be done on the day they will be served. 

Note on pans You may use any shape of muffin-sized cake tin that you like as long as you butter it well and don't fill it any more than 2/3 to 3/4 full.

 

Chocolate Pistachio Financiers

these are technically financiers and not friands in that they are made with browned butter.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup. (55g) pistachio flour/meal (see note)
  • ¼ cup (30g) Organic Einkorn Pancake & Baking Mix
  • 1 tbl (5g) cocoa
  • ¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar (100%)
  • generous 3 oz/90 g. bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbl (20g) honey
  • 6 tbl (90g) unsalted butter (100%)
  • 3 egg whites (90 grams)—beaten until foamy  (100%)
  • 1 recipe chocolate glaze (optional)
  • 2 or 3 T. coarsely chopped pistachios

Directions

Whisk the first four ingredients together in a medium bowl, then set aside.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and drizzle the honey over.  Brown the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter solids turn a golden brown.  Do not allow the solids to burn. Pour the butter, including all the browned bits, over the chocolate and honey.  Let sit for a few moments.  Whisk until smooth.

Add the egg whites to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle in the warm chocolate mixture in while whisking until fully mixed in.  Divide the batter among 9 buttered 2 oz. ramekins or 6 lined standard muffin tins.  Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.  

 When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.  If the ramekins have been in the fridge for longer than an hour or two, allow them to come to room temperature.  Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs—about 18 to 22 minutes.  Cool the cakes for 10 minutes before turning them out. 

The cakes may be served warm:  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a small scoop of ice cream, custard sauce, or whipped cream.  

Or, cool the cakes and decorate with chocolate glaze:  Spread the glaze to the edges so that it begins to drip randomly down the sides.  When the glaze is just set, garnish with a small mound of chopped pistachios placed on the center of each cake.

chocolate glaze

  • 55 g. (4 T) unsalted butter, diced
  • 85g. (3 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, broken up
  • 1 T. (21 g.) honey

Melt the butter, chocolate and honey together in the microwave or over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Let the glaze cool until it just begins to thicken (the temperature will be about 80°.

The cakes may be baked up to 24 hours ahead.  Store airtight.

Note: You can substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios. You will probably have to grind the pistachios or hazelnuts yourself, since more than likely you won't find them in flour form.  Best way to do this is with a rotary nut grinder, or in a food processor with half of the sugar, so the nuts don't get too oily.

 - adapted from the blog For Love of the Table

 

BISCOTTI CON RICOTTA

A traditional Italian cookie served at holidays and special occasions.

Ingredients

for the cookies:

  • 2 generous cups (9oz) Organic Einkorn Pancake & Baking Mix
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained overnight
  • ½ cup. 4 oz/113g butter, melted (50%)
  • 1 egg
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

for the glaze:

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extra
  • ¼ cup holiday nonpareils for decorating

Directions

Drain the ricotta overnight.  And if possible, make the dough the day, or at least 8 hours, before.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, whisk mix and sugar, then beat in the drained ricotta cheese, butter, egg, the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Chill, covered, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

To make the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a cookie scoop or a teaspoon  drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk confectioners' sugar, milk, lemon juice and vanilla. Spoon glaze over cookies, then immediately decorate with nonpareils.  Let the whole cookie dry for about an hour.

You can keep them in tins with wax paper in between, or you can freeze them in an airtight container right after they bake and cool down, then frost them a day or two ahead of when you'll be eating them. 


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