Desserts in the Social Desert

I’m not quite sure how this happened! Here we are entering week 6 of the lock-down and I have not given you a single recipe for any desserts whatsoever. It’s terribly remiss of me, so I am going to add some in very quick succession, I promise.

Sitting at my dining table with a coffee, listening to the rather plaintive Brahms Songs without Words (the link is below), it is no surprise one thinks of sweeter things. I have to admit that neither Eddie nor I are big dessert eaters. That’s why there a bowl of fruit. But now with time to spare, we like to do afternoon tea with a slice of cake, or a bit of pie, or even just a cookie or two. It divides the day up nicely between breakfast (mostly skipped thanks to the intermittent fasting), lunch, tea, cocktails, apéritif and dinner. In fact with all that preparing, cooking, sipping and mixing, it’s a wonder one gets any time for work at all. Just as well there isn’t much of it anyway.

Although I’m a professional chef, I’m an amateur baker at best, so you can rest assured that you won’t have any problems following me. In fact you’ll probably do it all much better. It also means that I have worked out a load of tricks that help me do things in actually incapable of. Such as rolling out dough and getting it into a pie dish. Ivan, our executive pastry chef, follows this blog, so he’s in for a good laugh.

I’ll give you a little teaser to entice you to come back and check out more recipes as I add them, but let’s start with something (almost) fool proof and gluten free to boot!

Perfect with a Cup of Coffee in the Afternoon. Make that an Irish Coffee.

Gluten Free Hazelnut Cake

The “Free” in this header only refers to the gluten, unfortunately, the 300g hazelnuts you will need are going to set you back a pretty penny. I love Hazelnut cake. It was one of the things my German grandmother baked for us and I’ll always remember arriving at a house filled with the wonderful smell of a hazelnut cake baking in the oven. Hers was obviously not gluten free and it certainly did not contain 300g hazelnuts! After having gone through the war (wrong side, I know) such large amounts of hazelnuts were forever thought of as excessive, even decadent. Frugality was in her recipes and generosity in the way she shared what she baked.

It’s an easy cake to make, if you get all the proportions right. A dear friend of ours had a few too many cocktails in the pm and added 800ml milk instead of 80ml. That screwed up the cake real good. Not sure what you can make with eggy hazelnut soup.

  • 300g ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • sprinkling of cinnamon powder, if you like that.
  • 6 eggs, separated like lovers in a lock-down
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml milk
  • 30ml rum (the alcohol evaporates, but omit if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence, natural, please. If you’re rolling in it, you can scrape half a vanilla pod into the batter.
  • pinch of salt

Butter cake tin. Separate eggs, whisk yolks with sugar, add milk + rum + vanilla, stir in hazelnuts. Whisk whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, lift one third under hazelnuts, repeat with second, then third third. All the egg white is now lifted under. Slop into tin, making sure you don’t have huge air bubbles in it. Bake at 180ºC for 40 minutes. Done!

This is a very moist cake, so when you do that knife test, you will see some of hazelnut oil on the knife. As long as there is no cake batter, you will be fine. The cake improves with age. So it will be better a day later. Keep it out of the chiller for one or two days, but refrigerate after. It freezes really well, so I usually cut it into slices on the second day and freeze what we won’t immediately eat.

Mischa Maisky and Pavel Gililov:

Hausfrauen Ratschlag

Some recipes advise you to “oil your tin”, but this Hausfrau knows that is a very bad idea. You can’t see what you’re doing, by the time you fill the tin, most of the oil has silently slid down to the bottom and if you were thinking oil was healthier, you shouldn’t be eating cake at all. So cut yourself a nut of butter and use your fingers to rub it all over the tin (on the inside, obviously). You will be able to both see and feel where your tin needs more butter and it will stay right where you put it. This cake, by the way has a lot of natural hazelnut oil, so a sticky cake won’t be your problem at all.

Sugar will “burn” egg yolk, creating dark, hard little egg yolk bits if you keep the two in contact. The trick is to whisk it immediately. My Kitchenaid isn’t a perfect machine, so it tends to leave some parts not that well mixed and that is why I do the first stirring in of the sugar into the yolks by hand. With the blade, so I don’t have to clean another thing.

In case you didn’t know, a stand mixer comes with a hook (looks like a hook) a blade (Looks like a “K” in a circle. Yes, a Circle K sign) and a whisk (and if I have to tell you what a whisk looks like, you better go back to barbecueing sausages). You could use the whisk to whip up the sugar and yolks, but that would mean you need to clean it for the egg whites and you don’t want to have to do that.

Soft Peaks – Egg whites can be whisked to two usable stages, soft peaks and hard. You mostly want soft peaks, which you get when the egg white holds it shape, but is still relatively pliable. Bit hard to explain, but just whisk it until it hold its shape and you’ll be fine. If you over whisk it, it will be crumbly. Not good.

Things to come:

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