Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Tag: cake

Fig and Marsala Trifle with Toasted Meringue

I must be watching too much Great British Bake Off or simply being too much of an anglophile. Every time a celebration or an occasion is mentioned in British context, there seems to be a glorious towering glass of trifle being brought out onto the dining table with all eyes fixed on the distinct multiple layers of cake, fruit, cream, custard and jelly (or not). Just reading about it just makes me salivate, I don’t even have a look at an image.

The French or the Italians may scoff at it, but digging my spoon into layers and layers of trifle-goodness is a personal dream of mine. Who in the sanest mind would refused a deep dish of overindulgence of possibly many desserts put into one? I wouldn’t. Sure, it could be a massive fool (the other dessert) in disguise but one would be an actual fool to not like it.

The challenge of trifle was the layers. Sadly, we did not have a trifle bowl so we had to make do with wineglasses. So, goodbye layers, we’ll be doing trifle free-style. The recipe called for rather unconventional ingredients so it didn’t matter how sticky we had to be with tradition. For example, we used a madeira sponge cake instead of the typical finger boudoir biscuits. We did however made sure the custard was as original as it was, without any added support from flour or corn starch.

After the cake was laid at the bottom, figs and pomegranate seeds were placed as neatly as they could. Custard was then poured into the glass, and thus filling up all the gaps the fruits and cake made. Topped with lightly toasted meringue, the dessert was like a gooey mixture of creamy goodness. The joy about trifle is not about looking good when eating it (it never be – just too sloppy), it’s about indulging the kid in you. Although we didn’t grow up eating trifle, at least we know how it feels like now.

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Plum Rum Baba with Cream Chantilly

Anyone reading this blog will know that we are fans of a television contest that features amateur bakers competing to be Britain’s top in the world of cake, pudding and all things sugary and saccharine. Set in a white marquee tent dressed with Union Jack buntings and paisley-hued furniture, the Great British Bake Off has got us salivating and craving for sweets all the time. After four seasons, it never fails to make us tremble with fear each time a soggy bottom is mentioned.

Sure, there are plenty of baking shows on TV. Such as Cupcake Sisters, which we will never, in our whole lives, understand its popularity. Food, like fashion and music, comes and goes with different trends. Ask the person on the street, dessert now comes in petite-sized portions with eclectic colours and detailed decorations. Peer into a cake shop and you’ll find stylish crowds nibbling into tiny cupcakes, macarons, fondant birthday cakes, eclairs and the latest, cronuts and duffins. We have nothing against these pretty items, and we do find them awfully lovely to look at. But taste is another matter altogether.

Yet, GBBO manages to stand out despite its lack of human drama or excessive glamour and plastic surgery. You might say “it’s just baking!!”, and you are right about that. But that’s why it’s so popular, it was baking at its truest. For once, a reality show without sob stories and crazy antics! Talent and the product was very much the focus in GBBO. And one thing we love about it was how it not only featured popular classics and innovative creations, it revived forgotten bakes back into our kitchens.

The rum baba is one of those forgotten desserts that not many have heard of at this age. Few serve rum babas, and even lesser know how to make it. For us, it is something new and unusual. The moment it graced the screen, we knew we have to try it one day. Like Mary Berry, we just love anything with alcohol in it and the thought of a rum-soaked cake was just too tempting to ignore. And we could finally make use of our savarin moulds that we bought when in Salisbury (yes, pretty random).

A rum baba is a hybrid between bread and cake, and has a pretty interesting past. Classic bakes are usually invented in royal courts or for the aristocracy. Despite its humble moniker, the rum baba has seen a colourful history from Poland to Versailles. Now, it graces the tables of Michelin-starred chef Alain Duscasse. Our rum babas may not be blue-blooded, but for first timers, they tasted almost heavenly.

Being quite versatile, one can use different types of fruit or rum syrup (Raymond Blanc uses raspberry eau de vie once), making it the perfect dessert to feature seasonal produce (hence the plums). We remained true to the dessert and used dark rum (there are many grades of rum from dark to light) for the syrup. Because the batter is rather unusual from a typical cake, it takes some courage and instinct to decide the readiness. If you want to be as authentic as possible, use dariole moulds instead of savarins, but we found ring babas held the cream better. And we were very very very generous with our drink.

Like the clafoutis, the rum baba found itself new fans in this household and we’ll definitely be serving them again for dinner parties or sunday afternoon teas. No, we were not drunk, but we must admit: those babas were really that brilliant.

 

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Lemon-Pistachio Polenta Cake with Lemon Icing

To be honest, there is a long list of entries lining up to be written. It doesn’t help that all I want to do these days is snug into bed and watch anime (damn you, Gintama and Shingeki no Kyogin) or tumblr stupid gifs. The procrastination bug has hit me real bad this time.

Back to business: the lemon-pistachio lemon cake is another homage to our trip to Great Britain, and one of our favourite chefs Yotam Ottolenghi. I remembered how knackered we were from all the walking and from the cold, that we decided to do a quick takeaway from one of Ottolenghi’s cafes. Being not unusually greedy, we bought more than our little tummies could handle.

One of the many dishes we brought away was a lemon polenta cake topped with icing and pistachio bits. At first bite, yotam’s cake was slightly stodgy and the icing was dry. We kept half of it for the next morning and strangely it tasted better. The flavour intensified and had more moisture than before. Nevertheless, the cake was gone at the end of the day.

Polenta is one ingredient we’ve not dealt with so far. The Italian cornmeal is usually used as a gluten-free substitute in cakes, which will result in bakes that are moist and dense with a grainy texture. I’m not trying to be biased here, but Ned’s polenta cake turned out better than Yotam’s (blasphemy!!). It had the right amount of tanginess of the fruit and sugary sweetness of the lemon icing. Unlike what we had in London, the cake had good consistency in moisture and texture. It’s a dessert Gin-san would approve. (Good job, Shinpachi.)

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Cream Cheesecake with Raspberry Gelee

Baking can be a very humbling experience. Despite how many successful bakes one can have, there will always be another hurdle to cross. Praise is often showered no matter how simple the bake is. Bring a tray of the easiest brownies you can make over to your neighbours (they have to be edible at least), they would gush about what an amazing baker you are. Unless of course you have honest-to-God neighbours. We do receive plenty of compliments, which we really appreciate, but they are all taken with a pinch of salt. Because only we know how good we actually are.

That’s why we are so fond of Thom & Aimee. It pushes us to experiment with new things, makes us understand our strengths and work on our weaknesses. We are never one to hide that we cannot do certain things and we have had plenty of failed bakes. At times, it becomes upsetting when so much effort, time and money has been used, and only to find that it barely made out of the oven properly. Sometimes they taste good despite their unflattering portraits.

Today, we ate the humble cheesecake. Ned has made cheesecakes before, but it was definitely a first that it got a little screwed up. It could be because we didn’t follow the recipe strictly as we did not have certain equipment. At the end, the raspberry gelee had to be made separately and laid on the cake afterwards. Thus, explaining why it is smaller than the cake. Despite how deformed it looks and the problems we faced, the cheesecake wasn’t that bad at all. Albeit a little too stodgy than usual. The flavour of the cream cheese came through and the raspberry gelee was a subtle touch of sweet tartness. Well, we’ll just have to try this recipe one more time in the future to make it right.

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Molten Dark Chocolate Cake

Look at the cake. A perfectly baked chiffon sponge-like cake.

But if you take a closer look…

There. Do you see it?

It beckons to you like a moth to a light.

This will inspire lovelorn gentlemen to abandon all reason and write beautiful poetry. It puts even the most beautiful ladies to shame. It could probably bring about world peace if it wanted. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  No more war because of a chocolate cake.

Nothing could beat a soft warm chocolate cake with thick creamy dark luscious sauce oozing out. Tearing the dessert open is like causing rainbows to spill out. And biting into a piece of heaven and attaining nirvana. Just looking at it makes me salivate. There is no other dessert that I crave that much. in fact, I almost sound crazy just describing it.

Yes, and you know why I went mad.

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Hot Banana Soufflé

When I served ‘S’, our little sister, one of the soufflés (there’s four of us at home by the way – N, S, me and our eldest brother), she just exclaimed, “Soufflé Girl!” Yes, I would do anything to add a Doctor Who reference into one of our posts. While N could be impersonating a soufflé-making Dalek, these magical puffs were nothing like those that turned out in the sci-fi show (they were burnt, in case you didn’t know).

Soufflés are odd desserts. They are like cakes, but are too soft to be actually feel like you’re eating one. It’s almost like eating clouds; they are just so light and fluffy. Watching them rise up from their little cups was giggles-inducing. S would not believe me when I told her that they were not created with modern technology. In fact, it goes all the way back to the 18th century in France. She would then reply in question, “But… how…” Well, I could not answer her after that. If only The Doctor could bring us back to investigate. Maybe it was even The Doctor himself who invented it. He made the Yorkshire Pudding after all.

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Black Banana Cake

When we were kids, there was a collection of Sesame Street Big Books filled with wonderful stories that still hold a place in our hearts now. But there was one story that always got us salivating – Big Bird making his special Banana Cake. I vividly remember the illustrations of Big Bird whipping up that beautiful yellow batter. Against his equally yellow feathers, I could only imagine what a banana cake tastes like.

Making this banana cake was a hark back to our childhood that was always filled with sunshine and fun times. It was like flipping back those pages and reading about how Cookie Monster was trying to bake the largest cookie he could eat. Now that’s another story to inspire us in the future.

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Coconut Mascarpone Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream

The mascarpone buttercream in this cake reminded us of the apple cake we made some time back. If you look at the writeup that accompanied the recipe in Guardian, you’d find a charming snippet of chef Dan Lepard and his marriage to his partner. Coincidence then, that the aforementioned apple cake was by Yotam Ottolenghi who is also gay. Not that it matters, because it should not. No one should be judged by their race, religion, gender or sexuality. Hopefully, with marriage equality, everyone will be treated fairly as fellow human beings and without prejudice.

But what struck me was how a simple thing like a cake played such a meaningful part in Lepard’s story. It was a symbol of an individual moment that spoke deeply to a person’s life and possible futures. Think about the birthday cake you had when you were a child, there would be precious memories whether bitter or sweet. That is probably why people brighten up when served with a slice of cake; it’s just filled with happiness and hopes.

Make a cake, and it could be any other day. Just waking up is more than enough to celebrate. Us? We are just celebrating cake.

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Le Noël Blanc

Christmas came and went like a ghost from a Charles Dickens novel. We have been planning for our first dessert table for more than a month now. Different state of emotions ran through us: excitement, fear, calmness, confidence then the usual freaking out. The funny thing about Christmas was that there was always not enough time whether you were feeding six or 50 people. Something was probably missing or not done. (That was always solved with a glass of pinot noir and a small amount of charm.)

Dessert tables can be daunting. Just google it and you can find plenty of different inspirations and examples. The beauty of a dessert table at its most basic and importance is that it must be an aesthetic masterpiece. Some might disagree but we have a reason of saying so. A lot of colour coordination comes into play, alongside complementary props. Many use icing and fondant to achieve that level of thematic consistency, which is something we as bakers are not keen on. To all cupcake and fondant lovers, sorry, we are just not that into them.

But as all dessert tables, yes, there was still a theme to abide to.

Working with an upcoming events boutique The Magpies, we were given a small brief: White, Rustic and French. The France that everyone knew well were the chic streets of Paris with their high-fashion houses and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. To achieve rustic charms, we decided to drop ourselves into a region famous for its rolling lavender fields and charming bastides (country houses): the south eastern part of France, Provence.

When one speaks of a Provençal Christmas, the famous 13 desserts come to mind. Here was the difficult part. As fascinating and mouth-watering 13 desserts could be, churning out so many types of sweets could become literally a Nightmare before Christmas. There were a number of other factors that came into play: the need of balance between the savoury and sweet, dietary specifications, a tight baking schedule and availability of ingredients and recipes.

So, many recipes were tried and tested. Those you see on the table above are the successful bakes after weeks of homework. We tried to keep the Provençal spirit alive with or without the 13 desserts. It may not be the best representation, but it was still as delicious. We hope to execute the real Provençal Christmas desserts one day. Someone, please let us know where we can find a good Calissons recipe in English!!

Here was the menu that was served:

Two types of hassle-free tea sandwiches, one with eggs and chives, and the other was roasted chicken with cranberry sauce. Lovely roasted potatoes served with mustard mayonnaise. And a personal favourite – mini Caramelised Onion and Gruyère tarts.

The sweets were fronted by a magnificent chocolate Gugelhupf cake (I’d call this the show-stopper), toffee nut macarons, dainty orange blossom crème caramel cups with meringue, and a dark chocolate fondue served with marshmallows and bananas.

To quench one’s thirst, we had Lemonade and Pastis de Marseille. (Yes, it’s a summer drink but pastis is such a fixture of the Provençal culture that we had to serve it.) We also gave Ginger nut Biscuits as a little gift to the guests.

At a glance, the menu does not seem extensive or difficult. To be honest, we did not meet with any major mishaps other than some burnt caramel. This was our first dessert table after all, we could aim for the stars but it was better to get it right for a start. As with many beginnings, it can only get better the next time.

Pictures are from our friends at The Magpies. (Thank you girls!) For the recipes, just scroll down to the end of the entry!!

By the way, The Hobbit came out 2 weeks ago and we were very very happy and satisfied fans. If you have yet to watch it, go catch it (especially in HFR 3D, it’s eyegasm galore)!!!! WE INSIST.

Now that Christmas is over, there is only 3 more days to the New Year…. we feel old already… *sobs*

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Nigel Slater’s Classic Seed Cake


It is a picnic staple for many reasons. One: great over travel, wrap it with paper, chug it into the basket and it remains intact. Two: a humble cake full of flavour. Bite into a caraway seed and you can feel fireworks of spice bursting inside your mouth. Three: Friends will always be reaching out for more. Four: Hobbits eat seed cakes, so should you. Five: you can even dress lemon icing or cream if you like.

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