S1, Ep 4: Gillian to the Rescue as Annabelle's Common Sense Fails
Annabelle has a mental breakdown in the kitchen while trying to bake a cake for her son’s 7th birthday. Gillian comes to the rescue from a bullet train in Japan, with a full set of baking instructions and, inspired by her travels, a recipe for tempura and a miso chocolate tart.
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Gillian's simple birthday cake recipe for a frazzled friend
When you see Annabelle’s photos of how her cake turned out, you’d never have guessed she had any difficulties.
Tip: This recipe’s a good one to master and you can adapt it easily to experiment with different flavours and textures.
Tip: In Australia and in the UK, butter is generally sold in either 250gm or 500gm blocks, so if you don’t have scales (as Annabelle didn’t), use I x 250gm block plus a ¼ of a 250gm block. In the US, a stick of butter is 110g.
Tip: the best result will be when all your ingredients are at room temperature. Yes, even the eggs and milk.
2 x 9”/23cm round tin. Lined with parchment paper or lightly buttered. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celcius/350F.
300gms of softened butter. I usually use unsalted, but if you only have salted, use that:)
6 large, organic eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 cups of self-raising (self-rising) flour. If you only have plain, all-purpose flour, add 6 level teaspoons of baking powder to 3 cups of plain flour and sift together at least 3 times.
IF you want to make this a chocolate cake, then simply replace 1/4 cup of the flour with a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
3/4 cup of full fat milk
Beat the butter and sugar together until the butter has turned a very pale cream colour.
Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until fully combined.
Then fold in half the sifted flour, then half the milk (fold, fold), then the remaining flour, fold, then the last of the milk. Fold it all together until it’s one lovely smooth batter. Then stop! Your batter should be a good ‘dropping’ consistency. If not, add a ¼ of a cup of milk and fold that in.
Pour equal of amounts of batter into each of your tins. Spread evenly in tin with back of spoon.
Bake for about 45-50mins. When the smell of the cake fills the room, it’ll be ready. But test it first by sticking a skewer (Annie used a twig from her garden) into the centre of the cake. Remove it. If there is wet batter on your skewer, return it to the oven for about 6-8 mins, then try again.
Remove from oven when cooked. Alow to sit in tins for about 10mins then tip out onto a wire rack to cool. Fill your cakes with frosting when they are cool. Decorate as you wish. x
The weather was still hot in Australia when Annabelle made her cake and I suggested a simple white chocolate ganache for her cake. This can be made by melting a good quality white chocolate with scalded full fat cream. 3 parts white chocolate to 1 part cream. If you want to make a dark chocolate ganache, like Annabelle did, use 2 parts chocolate to one part cream.
Or a simple frosting of butter and icing sugar whipped together with about 250g of cream cheese. You could add some zested lemon rind for a lovely taste, or some cocoa for a chocolate frosting! Balance the ingredients to your taste. There aren’t really any firm rules with this. Trust me:)
Gillian's Japanese inspired recipes
Here are a few Japanese-inspired recipes that you might like to try. Ever so tasty,and simple to make. Gillian xx
If you watched my instagram stories while I was in Japan, you would have seen my friend Rumiko preparing tempura from fresh, wild vegetables we had just picked. It’s very important your vegetables are fresh and tender, and that your tempura batter is light.
The quantity you need will depend on how much tempura you wish to make. It’s so simple to make, so make it up in smaller batches as you go if you’re not sure on quantity.
Choose a range of vegetables for your tempura. Wash and dry them thoroughly. Cut into bite sized pieces. Leafy greens make lovely tempura, but leave the leaves whole.
Tip: Tempura is a light coating of batter. Don’t try and completely conceal your vegetables in batter.
You will need:
½ cup of plain (all purpose flour)
½ cup of cornflour (cornstarch) or potato flour
enough cold water to make a batter the thickness of pouring cream.
Mix the ingredients together with a fork or chopsticks until combined. It doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps.
Heat some fresh, light vegetable oil in a saucepan or wok (enough oil so it’s deep enough for the tempura to be suspended in the oil without touching the bottom of the pan). Heat until it is hot, but not smoking hot. Test it with one tempura first.
With your fork or chopsticks, dip a piece of vegetable into the batter for a light coating, allow it to drain a little before placing it in hot oil. Cook until the batter is crispy but still pale. If its browning too quickly, turn the heat down a little. Do small amounts at a time. Drain on paper and keep warm, but serve quickly. I love it with ponzu sauce.
Miso, ginger and sesame paste
Miso is a fermented soy bean paste and a staple of Japanese households. I make my own with soy beans and koji rice, allowing it to ferment for a year. The flavour and smell is sublime. But it’s quite easy to find a good one in health food shops these days. I’m also lucky enough to live in a part of Australia where the climate allows us to grow ginger in our gardens.
Tip: There are different kinds of miso. For the recipes here, I’d recommend using a lighter coloured to mid brown. If you can only find the very dark brown, use it sparingly.
Tip: Choose fresh, young, ginger root. The skin will be thin, the flesh visibly juicy and not fibrous. When new season ginger becomes available, buy a large piece, break it into smaller pieces and freeze for use throughout the year. Ginger powder really is no substitute, even in cakes.
This simple paste/dressing is so versatile and delicious. I make it often as a condiment, marinade, and if loosened with warm, boiled water, a tasty dressing.
You will need:
brown miso paste
fresh ginger root
whole sesame seeds
sesame oil (optional)
warm, boiled water
The balance of the ingredients is to your taste. For the first time, I’d suggest about 3 x the amount of ginger to miso paste and a generous amount of sesame seeds. You can add sesame oil if you like to enhance the sesame taste, but just a dash. The honey is to sweeten, and the water to loosen the paste.
First, peel your fresh ginger and grate.
Grind the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder.
Mix the miso paste with a teaspoon or two of cooled, boiled water to loosen it. Add the grated ginger and sesame seeds and mix well. Add honey to sweeten to your palate. You are aiming to not have one flavour dominate the others. You’ll work it out:)
Serving suggestion: char grill fresh prawns and brush with the miso, ginger & sesame paste before serving, or add a large dollop to hot, steamed rice.
Gillian's chocolate miso tart
That night, sitting on the train from Nara to Kyoto, I thought about making a chocolate tart with some salty, miso paste: a Japanese-inspired version of a chocolate and salted caramel tart, but less sweet.
Tip: I suggest a sweet shortcrust pastry for this recipe and a dark, semi-sweet couverture chocolate for the ganache to fill the tart. I used one that was 58% cacao. Again, choose one that you’d like, but make it a good quality one.
Tip: because of the butter content in this pastry, you don’t need to grease your tin.
I think it’s a good one for you to have up your sleeve -it tastes good, it’s crisp and it’s easy to roll out and handle. But feel free to use your own favourite recipe, or buy a good shop bought one that is made with real butter.
You will need:
23cm/9” round shallow pastry tin. The fluted ones are nice to use for this recipe.
225g /1 ½ cups of plain (all purpose) flour
1 tablespoon of icing sugar (you can use icing mixture or confectioner’s sugar)
140g of cold butter , chopped coarsely
1 large egg yolk (in Australia, a large egg is 60g)
2 tablespoons of iced water (approx)
Buzz the dry ingredients in your food processor until the butter is evenly distributed, then add the egg yolk (buzz,buzz), then the iced water. Buzz until it has come together in a ball. Or make it by hand - crumble the butter and flour together with your fingertips until you have the mixture that looks like sand, and then pour in the egg yolk and water, and bring the mixture together with a rounded knife.
With you hands, knead the pastry together until you have a smooth ball. I then like to roll it out between two sheets of baking paper. Roll it ‘til it's slightly larger than your tin. Ease it into the tin, pressing it gently into the corners. Trim it up but keep the trimmings for later. Prick the floor of the pastry case with a fork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 180c/350-375F and place a large baking sheet in your oven.
Tip: Make sure you oven has reached temperature and has been at temp for at least 15 mins.
Tip: Don't through away your used baking paper. Just crumple it up into a tight ball then smooth it out flat with your hand. Crumpled paper is much easier to fit into your tin for blind baking than a fresh sheet.
When the pastry is chilled, remove it from the fridge and prepare for 'blind baking' by covering the pastry completely with a piece of used baking paper and then fill the tin with baking beads (or rice or dried legumes). Place it on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake it for about 30 mins, then remove the paper and beads, and put it back in the oven for about 10 mins, until it is golden brown. (Pale pastry might look good in photos but it doesn’t taste the best).
Remove from oven on the baking sheet. While the pastry is still hot, use little bits of the pastry trimmings as polyfilla to fill in any cracks or gaps that have developed in your pastry shell. Allow to cool.
600 gms of semi-sweet, dark couverture chocolate roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
300 gms of cream (not reduced fat)
Make a bain marie by filling a large, shallow pan or baking dish with boiling water. Place the chopped chocolate into a large bowl and sit the bowl in the bain marie. (I can hear some of you shouting that the bowl with the chocolate in it should never come into contact with water. Trust me on this. All will be fine).
Meanwhile, heat the cream until it is steaming hot and pour over the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to sit and melt, stirring from time to time until all the chocolate has melted. Remove bowl from bain marie. Slowly stir by hand with a balloon whisk until the chocolate & cream is a smooth, amalgamated chocolate ganache. Cover and allow to cool at room temperature.
Take a tablespoon of miso and mix it through the ganache. Taste it to see if it’s to your liking. Add more miso paste if you’d like it saltier. Pour the chocolate miso mix into your pastry shell. Chill in the refrigerate before serving.
Serve small slices. This is a grown-up tart and it is very rich.
Bring back the days when cookery writers, a la Elizabeth David, told you to cook "until done". Where you actually had to use your commonsense. Recipes are so prescriptive now. This is a fabulous article about how some recipes even lie nowdays to make the cooking process appear easier and faster, saying things like, (about onions): "gently soften over a low heat until translucent and starting to caramelise, 5-10 minutes". Caramelising onions takes 45 mins. As if the trust in our own cooking abilities wasn't already shaky enough?!
Gillian will share her Japan itinerary and where she stayed in our upcoming newsletter, so sit tight for that.
Annie Leibovitz's book Pilgrimage.