The UnProfessional Chef

A girl's commentary on food, cooking and all things delicious!

Location: Singapore

A closet food critic and wannabe chef who loves the art of cooking and enjoying great cuisine in the company of great friends!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Baking Bounty a.k.a. Diva Dining #2

You know who your friends are for life when you make it a point to see them on a very regular basis, when not having met for a month feels like far too wide a gap in time, and when you really want to hear everything about the other persons’ lives, even though your paths and interests have diverged wildly over 17 years. Despite everyone’s very busy schedule (including that of one full-time working new mum and one actress whose show is just about to open), we decided to get together for a late Sunday afternoon tea. Very sadly, the last essential member of our little group of friends was called away on work at the last minute and had to be present in spirit.

Completely undecided about what to prepare, I decided to bake three tea-time treats – a bit on the excessive side, but I figured I could always keep the extras or my dear divas could bring home the ones they liked best. As it turned out, it was a great idea to do all three since we managed to wolf down almost all of it and completely ruin our dinner in the process!

Flourless Lemon Almond Cake

Of course, I didn’t have time to sit down and bake all three treats in one morning and certainly had a packed schedule this weekend. Choosing simple, quick recipes for cakes that could keep resulted in a three day leisurely baking exercise resulting in a nice bounty for the weekend. I started late on Friday night with a Flourless Lemon Almond Cake adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Clementine Cake in How to Eat. This was the most time-consuming but a very straightforward process involving boiling whole lemons in water for two hours, before pulping it and mixing well (without even needing the KitchenAid!) with eggs, sugar, finely-ground almonds and the baking powder, then baking for an hour in the oven. I then prepared a thin glaze of lemon juice and icing sugar to drench the cake and topped it off with an experimental caramalised/baked lemon slice. I say ‘experimental’ because I hadn’t the faintest idea how to do this. However, it turned out looking pretty dried out, which was what I was aiming for, so the experiment appeared to work reasonably well. This cake is apparently at its best about a day or two after it’s been baked and certainly, it was delicious! Very smooth, intensely lemony (perhaps a little bitter from the skin) and gorgeously aromatic from the almonds. One of my diva girls could not believe it had no flour in it and even my lovely dog Z, was hanging about as close as possible (as you can see in the background of the picture above) when the divine smells of the baking lemons and almonds filled the air.

Peanut Butter Pound Cake

The Saturday procedure had to be a super quick one since this had to be squeezed in in between errands, lunch, cooking class, a birthday party and a family dinner. I opted for a simple yet rich Peanut Butter Pound Cake from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook. This was the book that really piqued my interest in cooking when I was a graduate student in Northern California some years ago. It was my first real cookbook, purchased from a secondhand bookstore, and it has proven to be one of my best buys - a trusted, reliable source of wonderful meals and a friend I often turn back to. Not one recipe has let me down over the years. This one certainly didn’t. All that was required was simple creaming and mixing of butter and sugar, creamy peanut butter (any old brand), eggs and flour. Simple as that. It didn’t look very spectacular but tasted absolutely fabulous and old-fashioned. Cakes like these are the best reason to eschew the processed preserved stuff masquerading as cakes and breads on the supermarket shelves and doing it by yourself homestyle. It’s not in the least bit difficult and very rewarding indeed.

Baklava Muffins

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, just before my gaggle of girlfriends arrived, I whipped up Baklava Muffins, courtesy of Nigella Lawson again, from How to be a Domestic Goddess. Described by her as ‘sticky buns for the slapdash cook’, these were certainly very quick and easy - the perfect dish to whip up in a hurry. The filling for these muffins comprised walnuts, demerara sugar, cinnamon and butter. These were encased within the muffin dough, which contained, buttermilk (unusually), sugar, flour, eggs and butter. Topped with honey, these very chewy and caramelly muffins were ready after being popped in the oven for a mere 15 minutes, just in time to be eaten hot and fresh in between pockets of juicy gossip and chatty catching up.

The baking bounty proved a lovely accompaniment to a great girly afternoon (albeit inclusive of two husbands, one baby and a dog!).


Blogger J said...

too much is not enough, especially when it's dessert and looks this fantastic ;)

5:49 PM  
Blogger The UnProfessional Chef said...

Heh, I'm always told I overdo things when it comes to food preparations, but agree with you that too much is never enough when your friends love food :)

10:35 AM  

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