Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Baking, Bournemouth and Blueberries: SEASIDE AND CAKE

When I fully embraced and accepted my food obsession I discovered food magazines.  Glossy spreads of food porn.  Pretty good.  Flicking through, mentally noting which recipes, gadgets and tips I want to try.  Promptly forgetting as soon as I finished the article.  

I met a mate after work on Thursday for a gloriously dirty-sexy burger dinner at Meat Liquor and then Alex and I took advantage of a half-off hotel offer, spending Friday and Saturday at the seaside.  Beachside donuts, ice-creams, fish chips and a surprisingly delicious hotel dinner meant that while I was well-fed, my fingers were itching after being away from the kitchen three dinners in a row.  The food magazine I read on the way home inspired the next days furious catch-up-cooking.

Baking requires a style of cooking that doesn’t come naturally to me.  You need to be precise, neat and methodical: everything I’m not.  Traditional baking seems to be experiencing a renaissance at the moment and even crap homemade cakes taste infinitely better than super-market and you feel dead proud showing off even a sinking sponge to anyone who cares.

It’s been a steady aim of mine for the past year to improve my baking skills.  Like any aspect of cooking, practice makes perfect: you need few goes to help you get a feel for the chemistry of the ingredients and the quirks of your oven.  I chose this blueberry cake cause one, it included blueberries, my new favourite fruit, and two, sour cream.  Everything that includes sour cream is amazing.

 The cake was lighter than I expected, sweet yet fresh from the fruit.  For something airy, it was still rich, though this could be because I accidently added the whole sour cream amount to the cake mixture rather than the four tablespoons indicated.  Alex thinks I should sandwich the cream and cream cheese frosting both within two sponge layers and on top, rather than just on the top, though I quite like the simplicity of it as it is.  Whatever I do next, as it was, it was pretty damn moreish.

 Blueberry Sour Cream Cake (barely adapted from Good Food Magazine, April 2012)

175 g soft butter
175 g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
142 ml soured cream
400 g blueberries (about two punnets)
200 g tub of soft cheese (Philadelphia?)
100 ml sour cream
100 g icing sugar

1)    Heat the oven to 180 C, butter a 23 cm loose based/spring-form cake tin.
2)    Put butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract  and sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Beat for 2-3 mins hard until lighter in colour and well mixed.
3)    Beat in the cream (all of it if you’re me or 4 table spoons if you're Good Food).
4)    Stir in half the blueberries with large spoon – don’t smash them up, do it carefully.
5)    Tip the mixture into the tin (do it closely from the bowl so as not to knock air out of the mixture).  Bake for 40 mins.  (Good Food said 50 but clearly my oven was hotter).  Resist urge to check before then – opening and shutting the oven too much can cause the sponge to sink.  It will be ready when you press it lightly and it feels springy and bouncing back when pressed.
6)    Cool for 10 mins in the tin, then take out and cool completely on a rack before putting on the icing and remaining blueberries.
7)    ICING – literally just beat the remaining sour-cream (or another 100 ml if me) with the cream cheese and sugar then spread lightly on the top of the cooled cake and top with the other punnet of blueberries.

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