Lemon Olive Oil Cake (one-bowl)

It started with a birthday. It had to be done: something simple and stress-free. This cake post has been in the works for a while, not because it necessarily needed a lot of tweaking, but more due to the fact that I haven’t taken a picture of my actual, circular cake yet, and went straight to going crazy with the blondie version, which this cake seamless transforms into. I have made olive oil cakes before, but the combination of the zing-zang-pop of tart lemons, and many glugs of heady liquid fat, is special.

I know, you’ll be standing there in your kitchen, pouring all that quality oil into your bowl, thinking, what a waste! But no! No. In the parlance of Zadie Smith’s stance on love and relationships, it hurts as much as it’s worth.

The beauty of these one-bowl recipes, as usual, lie in their ease and grace. You simply mix together the wet ingredients first, then tip in the dry, then you sprinkle on some granulated sugar before baking to get this beautiful golden, crackly top once it is finished baking in the oven.

As pictured below, I reveal to you a more behind the scenes shot of recipe testing, which included plenty of char, which I don’t mind but is not particularly photogenic. Nevertheless, it was just as sublime, darkness and all.

My friends being the sweet guinea pigs that they are, have been devotees of this simple yellow cake. It has crisp edges and a fudgy middle, so it is pretty much right smack in the middle of being a cake and a blondie. You truly get the best of both worlds. Although the granulated sugar sprinkle at the end of the cake-making process is optional, it’s mostly a must, making for the most delicate crispy crust hugging the top and corners.

Lemon olive oil cake (for one 9-inch cake, serves 8-9)

Ingredients

The juice and rind of 2 lemons

3 eggs

210g (around a little more than a cup) white sugar

1 tsp fine salt

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

240ml (1 cup) extra virgin olive oil

3-4 tbsp granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a 9×9-inch square tin or a 9-inch circular baking pan with parchment paper. I recommend using a pan with a removeable bottom, as it makes removing the cake later a piece of cake (haha).

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice and rind. Tip the flour and baking powder on top, and use the same whisk to first gently whisk the flour and baking powder that is sitting on top of the liquid batter briefly, then slowly incorporate everything together until you get a nice, homogenous batter. The batter should be yellow and rather liquidy, so it drops easily from your whisk. Pour the batter (and it should be easy to pour) into your prepared pan and sprinkle on the coarse granulated sugar all over the top. You may need slightly more than the quantity described in the ingredients list, according to your taste. Bake for half an hour. Check at the half hour mark with a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake; if the skewer emerges with moist crumbs, then remove and let cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Bake for another 10 minutes if the skewer comes out still looking quite wet. The top should have a beautiful and the sides will have darkened slightly. Once the cake is cool, you can dust the top with icing sugar and maybe even some dried lemon slices. Serve with cream or ice cream!

Until next time,

Alex

Coffee Blondies

This. These! I have been making these repeatedly the past 3 or so months (aside from my banana bread). A hybrid of blondie and muffin, you get devilishly chewy edges and a soft, plump, risen middle, bursting with coffee flavour. I have no excuse for a late post, I just really have been enjoying making these and not much else, unless you count a load of pasta dishes following by disappointment with HelloFresh. I used to be a big fan, but now, not as much. So haphazard kitchen experimentation it is.

The secret ingredient is the instant coffee powder– don’t scoff until you’ve tried it. It blends in so easily with the batter and melts in the oven, but you may get little specks of the stuff in the final thing, which only enhances the coffee narrative.

Coffee blondies, makes 6-7 muffins or one loaf of blondies

Ingredients

100g butter, at room temperature

50g light brown sugar

50g white sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp fine salt

110g plain flour

1 tsp instant coffee

1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and prepare 6-7 muffin liners. Alternatively, grease a standard 9×5-inch loaf pan; you can use this mold for the same batter and its quantity.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soft butter, sugars and salt using a strong metal whisk. Use a rubber spatula to help cream everything together. Once pale and fluffy, add the egg and whisk that in well. Then tip in the flour, baking powder and instant coffee. Use the rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet.

Scoop large tablespoonfuls of batter into the muffin liners, or scrape everything into the loaf pan. Bake for 20 mins. Insert a wooden skewer into the centre after 20 minutes- if it comes out wet then bake for 3-5 more minutes, or until the skewer emerges again with moist crumbs. Let the muffin liners or loaf pan sit for 10 minutes on a cooling rack before cutting and serving. Best enjoyed alone with a cup of coffee. Perfect.

Tahini Cashew Cookies

For anyone who doesn’t know, I was vegan for almost two years, not too long ago now. During that time, I discovered the versatility of the humble sesame paste. I stopped using it so much after moving to Oxford, but rediscovered how beautifully it blends into bakes just yesterday when I trialled these cookies for a third time. The taste just doesn’t fade, unlike a lot of other things like maple syrup, matcha or honey, of which you can end up using quite a bit of because the flavour is easily lost while baking. Anyway, this cookie…! It got all my flatmates’ seals of approval, much to my surprise, since tahini can very much be a love/hate thing.

The café near me actually does these amazing tahini chocolate cookies, which inspired me to make use of the stuff again. I have done tahini chocolate cookies before, but thought I would do a little twist with another earthy and grounding element- nuts. The result: fabulous. Definitely my favourite bake of June so far.

These cookies are light, chewy, not too sweet, and most importantly, the tahini is the main character of the show.

The only way to eat it

Tahini cashew cookies (makes 8-10 medium cookies)

Ingredients

100g butter, soft and at room temperature

160g white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

100g light tahini

1 egg

150g plain flour (optional: substitute half with whole-wheat flour)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g cashews, chopped

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. If you only have aluminium foil that works too, but bake the cookies for 5 minutes shorter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soft butter, sugar and salt. Add the egg and tahini and whisk those in well too.

In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and chopped cashews, then tip that into the wet mix and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together well. The batter should be quite sticky, not dry at all. Take heaped tablespoonfuls of batter and shape them into balls. If you want to get real precise, each medium cookie will be 52g. I did this and the yield was around 10 medium cookies.

Bake for 18 minutes but check at the 15-minute mark to see if the edges have browned slightly; once this has happened remove the tray from the oven and let them cool and set. The insides will be very chewy as they set, the edges nicely browned without being burnt.

Enjoy warm dipped into more tahini or with ice cream on top!

Review: Hamblin Bread, Oxford

My first Oxford review must be dedicated to Hamblin. Not by choice, but by instinct. As I smuggled bites of their cardamom bun into my mouth while walking all that way home, I knew I found quite a gem. The long walk there from home seemed contrary to the desire to make this a regular haunt, but honestly all that fitness just fosters a more reasonable state of mind to pick and choose the baked goods, while upping the excitement along the way.

Cardamom bun

My top pick here must be the cardamom buns. They also do a whole range of other buns, including cinnamon and custard (below), but this remains top of the list for me. The edges are perfectly browned and crispy without being flaky, characteristic of a traditional cardamom bun. The cardamom flavour itself holds its own.

Custard bun
Cardamom bread pudding

Leftover or stale cardamom buns are also used to make this cardamom bread pudding which is both genius and delicious. A harder, sugary crumb crowns the slab of soft, squidgy deliciousness.

Chocolate chip cookie

This very simple cookie is chewy all the way through to the edges. This is the perfect chocolate chip cookie to me- a cute and manageable size, not too sweet, rough chunks of dark chocolate, a hearty mouthfeel with the fresh, locally-milled flour, and doesn’t leave you feeling sick, either. Speaking of flour, their infamous sourdough (below) is all the rage for all the right reasons. The crumb is thick, robust and tender, slightly stiff but never dry. The terrain is perfect for spreading on soft, salted butter.

Sourdough
Potato cheese pasty

The potato pasty sounds like an unnecessary carb-on-carb affair but I see why it’s so popular. The sizeable chunks of potato are never mushy or mixed with a bunch of random, weird herbs.

I do miss London with all her cafés, but places like this bring her right back to Oxford. There are so many hardworking, independent café owners that know exactly what they’re doing with the magic they offer day-to-day, and I’m living to promote it.

Hamblin Bread

247 Iffley Road

Oxford

Rating: 5/5

Cottage cheese white chocolate pancakes

I fed these to my three flatmates, all of whom have never had such a pancake before, and I got the green light from all. I’m no stranger to cheese in pancakes. I’ve made them a few times with this recipe, but this one with cottage cheese does stand out somehow, with its simplicity, distinction in flavour, and softness. Oh, so soft!

The curds naturally present in cottage cheese are a result of draining instead of pressing the product. The fact that it’s not aged like most other cheese you consume means it offers a slight, pleasant tag instead of just, well, a pungent cheesy flavour. It’s also very high in protein, which made it quite filling despite how light they turned out.

A lot of recipes I found online blend or process the cottage cheese to get rid of the curds, but I refused to dirty another appliance, and ended up really liking the bits of curd in there, which went wonderfully with the melting pockets of white chocolate. There is also hardly if any flour in there, which concentrates the flavour of the pancake and keeps them extremely light.

Serve these with more butter and honey/ maple syrup and your Saturday is so sorted.

Cottage cheese white chocolate pancakes (makes 6-8 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

250g (one tub) cottage cheese

2 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

30-40g (large handful) white chocolate, chopped

30g (2 tbsp) melted butter, plus some extra for cooking on the pan

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, eggs and sugar well. Leave the lumps, you want them for both texture and flavour. Then fold in the flour, baking powder and white chocolate with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Finally, add the melted butter. Whisk until everything is well incorporated. Add a pat of butter to your pan, then put your pan on medium heat and wait for the butter to completely melt. Add 1/4 cup of heaping tablespoons of the batter to the pan and let them cook for at least 2 minutes on the bottom side before flipping. The pancakes tend to look prettier as you go on cooking, the first ones usually aren’t as glamorous. These take slightly longer than normal pancakes to cook, so be patient. The second side will take about a minute to cook.

Enjoy warm with butter and maple syrup. Yum.