Kitchen Therapy


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Chocolate, Prune and Whiskey Cake

IMG_7035.JPGThis cake is for grown ups.
It is rich, decadent and alcohol infused.
There is something about soaking dry fruit in liquor, and then having to wait until it becomes plump and moist, that excites me!
I’m not a big drinker, however my husband has an every growing scotch and whiskey collection that I’ve grown to enjoy the smell of.
The Macallan Edition No.2 Single Malt Scotch Whiskey caught my eye for this recipe as it was a limited edition release by Macallan Master Whiskey Blender Bob Dalgarno and the chefs behind El Celler de Can Roca, the 3 Michelin starred restaurant in Spain.
I can smell the fruity and even chocolatey notes in the alcohol and thought they would be wonderful paired with prunes in this cake.
(Having said that, the recipe calls for Irish whiskey so I’ve already strayed!)

The cake has almond flour so I decided to experiment (which I enjoy) and make a nut free version using plain flour, however I added my favourite bourbon for cooking, Maker’s Mark in this second version making it a Chocolate, Prune and Bourbon Cake.

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I think the psychologist in me revels when there’s any form of experimentation happening. I found it interesting that with time, the Macallan seemed to absorb the flavours of the prunes and they melded together to make me think of a Christmas Pudding. However the prunes with the Maker’s Mark smelled consistently of just the bourbon.
Both cakes came out of the oven at the 35 minute mark (which was the high end of the recommended cooking time) and in hindsight I think it would have been perfect to remove them 5 minutes earlier to get an even more gooey centre.
The result was a beautiful cake.
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Rich, dense, moist, decadent yet not overly sweet, in fact, most of the sweetness came from the alcohol infused prunes. Surprisingly, while the cake was definitely luscious and satisfying, it still left you wanting more, looking for another hit of sweetness and whiskey from the succulent prunes.

*I used Macallan Edition No.2 Single Malt Scotch Whiskey instead of the Irish Whiskey called for in the recipe.
*I made a second nut free version substituting plain flour for the almond flour, using the same amount of plain flour as almond flour.
*The second version I also used Maker’s Mark Bourbon to soak the prunes in, so technically making this a Chocolate, Prune and Bourbon Cake
*I’m including the recipe with my findings and my thoughts on the nut free version.

CHOCOLATE, PRUNE AND WHISKEY CAKE
from THE VIOLET BAKERY COOKBOOK by CLAIRE PTAK

125g prunes
40ml Irish whiskey (I used scotch whiskey in one version and bourbon in another)
240g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces
200g unsalted butter
5 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
150g almonds, ground (or 150g plain flour if making nut free version)
butter, for greasing the tin

1. Soak the prunes in whiskey, if you can do this the night before, all the better.
2. Peheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan).
3. Butter a 20-23cm cake tin and line with baking paper (I used a 21cm tin).
4. Put the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl or it may spoil the chocolate. Once the chocolate has melted, take the pan off the heat to cool slightly but keep away from any draughts.
5. Put the whites and yolks into two separate bowls and, starting with the yolk, add half of the caster sugar and whisk to thicken.
6. Fold the thickened yolk into the melted chocolate and set aside.
7. Chope the prunes into eighths and add to the chocolate mixture along with the ground almonds (or plain flour if making a nut free version).
8. Beat the egg whites with the remaining caster sugar and the sea salt until soft peaks form.
9. Fold into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated.
10. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. The cake will be slightly soft in the middle but do not overtake it or the gooeyness will be lost. (I cooked my 21cm pans for 35 minutes and the gooeyness was barely there so I recommend 30 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature.

CONCLUSION:
Straight from the oven, I was drawn to the nut free version as it seemed to be slightly sweeter. Both cakes are very rich and you are a left looking for some sweetness from the prunes to give you a break from the almost bitter richness of the chocolate.

The original almond version has more moisture and lushness on the tongue, and you can taste the ingredients individually. The almonds, the prunes and the alcohol hold their own integrity and can be tasted in each mouthful.

The nut free version has a more muddled taste. The texture is more dense and as it hits the mouth, it feels almost sticky. The flavours of the cake come next and they are more mild than the almond version and I think more child friendly. There is more sweetness and less of a hit from the alcohol. It’s as if the strong flavours in the cake have fused together and have taken the edge of each individual ingredient and melded into a very pleasant mouthful that is easier to eat than the almond cake that is more intense and has more of a slap to your face intensity!


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The Violet Bakery Cookbook Banana Buttermilk Bread

 

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I have a lot of cookbooks and while I may not cook from them as often as I’d like, I can confidently say that if a book has a recipe for Banana Bread, there’s a good chance I’ve made it! Paleo, Vegan, Choc-Chip, alcohol infused… I’ve made them all. Probably in the same recipe at some point.

This banana bread has been voted by the family as their all time favourite.
And they’ve eaten the many variations I’ve made… so they do speak with some authority!
It comes from the Violet Bakery Cookbook.
The bakery that made the cake for the recent Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan. It’s a book I’ve had for a while and never cooked from. However, the bunch of browning bananas sitting on my kitchen bench made this the perfect opportunity to get up and experiment.
With yet another banana bread recipe….

I made this bread twice. The first time with greek yoghurt and olive oil.
I did not have the 25cmx10cm loaf asked for in the recipe so I used a smaller tin, 23cmx10cm. The smaller tin added more height to the bread and even though I cooked it longer there was still some raw-ish texture under the bananas I had laid on top.

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The second time I made the recipe with buttermilk and vegetable oil.
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I bought a longer tin that the recipe calls for this time.
I followed the recipe and (obviously) the mixture spread more and cooked perfectly in the time stated in the book. Having said “obviously” I do need to add that sometimes even though the recipe is followed precisely, it still doesn’t work as it should! So it was great to see that this recipe did turn out as described in the book!

I loved the delicate, crispy layer of skin on the bread. The extra sprinkle of sugar before adding it the oven is no effort at all for great reward. It adds just as much to the aesthetics of the bread as it does the taste.

Verdict:
I have already made this recipe twice this week and I know I will make it again. I will definitely use the larger tin and having tried both versions, I think from now I will make it with the delicate extra virgin olive oil I buy for baking and cooking.
(Also, I can tell myself it is healthier by using the olive oil! I don’t care if I’m wrong 🙂 It makes me feel better so I’m sticking with it!)

*Also I need to add that I did not have dark rum in the house so I used my favourite Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey. I’m not a drinker however I love the smell of this bourbon!
*The recipe calls for 6 very ripe bananas, the rest of the ingredients are all measured in weight (which I absolutely loved) however the bananas are not and they come in such varying sizes, so this step does my head in!
Having said that… the first time I used 5 bananas and the second time I used 3. I think the lack of banana weight inclusion as well as the change in alcohol is testament to the flexibility of the recipe.
*I’m adding the recipe here only because it is readily available on the internet and will include the small changes I have made.

RECIPE from the THE VIOLET BAKERY COOKBOOK
In her introduction to the recipe, Claire Ptak the author, talks about her initial resistance to add banana bread to her bakery menu. Now, some years down the track, this recipe has proven itself to be one of the most popular items in the store. 
BANANA BUTTERMILK BREAD

6 very ripe bananas
150g vegetable oil (I preferred light extra virgin olive oil)
200g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dark rum (I used bourbon)
2 eggs
75g cultured buttermilk or plain yoghurt (I used greek plain greek yogurt)
210g plain flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons caste sugar
butter, for greasing the tin

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C (fan).
2. Butter a 25cmx10cm loaf tin and line with parchment paper.
3. Reserve half a banana for the top of the cake and mash the remaining banana well.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, vanilla, rum, eggs and buttermilk or yoghurt. Add the mashed banana and set aside.
5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the banana mixture until just combined, then pour into your prepared tin.
6. Smooth the top with a palette knife or spatula and place the reserved banana half, cut lengthways, on top. Sprinkle with the caster sugar.
7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake has set and starts to caramelise.
(The author states she sometimes uses a kitchen blowtorch to help this process along).
8. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Finally… and most importantly…
enjoy the most incredibly moist, yet delicate, banana bread you’ve ever eaten!
Just as I am doing as I write this x