Tag Archives: golden syrup

Triple ginger cake

Triple ginger cake

Last week, I made a batch of khobz for my friend Alex, who has started up a market stall. His operation (Kabak, named after a place he loves in Turkey) specialises in Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North Africa inspired foods and very fine they are too. In you’re in Lewes, look out for him Friday mornings at the market.

Coming home from helping Alex break-down the stall, I got to thinking about sweets inspired by similar cuisine. The classics are baklava and suchlike pastries, as well as cakes like the syrupy basbousa/revani. But I wanted to try something new, so reached for the cookbooks.

Arabesque* by Melbourne-based Greg and Lucy Malouf is subtitled “Modern Middle Eastern Food”, which is a good way of saying it’s not trying to be slavishly traditional or authentic. I’m not sure if his sticky ginger cake relates to any specific sweet the Middle East at all, but it’s a pleasing concoction that uses both powdered and fresh ginger. I like crystallised/candied ginger, so I added some of that too, hence the name.

Golden syrup

Golden age
It also uses golden syrup, arguably a quintessentially British ingredient and one I love, from a childhood of ginger biscuits and steamed syrup puddings.

It was invented in the late 19th century as a by-product of sugar refining. In Britain, we still mostly use the Lyle’s brand in the green and gold tin. The tin still bears an image of a (dead) lion and a swarm of bees, with the Biblical slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”, as it did when it was first marketed in 1885. (See Judges 14 for the full peculiar, gruesome yarn.)

Lyle’s golden syrup became a popular product in early 20th century Britain. This is in large part, I suspect, as with two world wars and food shortages it was a cheaper, more available alternative to refined sugar and a sweeter, less bitter alternative to molasses and black treacle.

So golden syrup isn’t a terribly Middle Eastern ingredient, but I suspect Greg Malouf uses it as a way of emulating or echoing the stickiness many more traditional sweets from that area achieve with a syrup poured on after baking.

220g golden syrup
170g sour cream, or yogurt (I used a half-half mix of double cream and yogurt)
2 eggs
100g soft brown sugar
About 50mm of fresh ginger, finely grated
80g crystallised ginger, roughly chopped
Zest of one lemon
280g unsalted butter
130g plain (all-purpose) flour
130g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp powdered ginger

1. Grease and base line a 20cm tin, ideally spring-form.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C.
3. Warm together the butter and golden syrup until the former is melted then beat this with the cream or yogurt, sugar, eggs, grated ginger, crystallised ginger and lemon zest.
4. Sieve together the flours, baking powder and powdered ginger then sieve again, into the mix, and fold to combine. Try to mix in any lumps of flour but don’t beat it.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about minutes. Test to see if it’s baked with a skewer – does it come out clean? If not, return to the oven for a bit longer. If it’s starting to get too brown on top, cover with foil.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then turn onto a rack to continue cooling.

Arabesque suggests serving it with what they call ginger cream – which is really a ginger custard. It doesn’t look that appetizing in the pic, but – it’s custard! With ginger!

About 30mm section of fresh ginger, finely grated
150g double cream
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
40g soft brown sugar
2 egg yolks

1. Whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar.
2. Warm up the cream and gingers in a saucepan, and heat to scald – ie just as bubbles appear, but don’t boil.
3. Pour the cream over the egg and sugar mix, whisking.
4. Put the mixture back in the pan and continue whisking, over a low heat, until it thickens.
5. Put in a clean bowl and allow to cool.
6. When ready to serve, whisk (or indeed whip) to increase the volume a bit.

Serve with the custard. It’s also very nice with clotted cream. But then everything is.

Anyway, this was good, but when it comes to Middle Eastern and Middle Eastern-inspired baking and sweets, what I really need on my bookshelf is the new The Baking Book from Honey and Co. Hopefully it will be there soon.

 

 

* Not to be confused with Claudia Roden’s book with the same title and similar theme.

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Filed under Baking, Cakes

Flapjacks

plate of flapjacks

Growing up in Britain, I was quite confused when I first heard the American English usage of “flapjack”. I ate a lot of flapjacks when I was a kid, and it was a staple of my university years, so the idea that the name could be used for anything other than a sweet slab of oaty goodness did not compute. Apparently the American usage of the word is for a pancake, something made with batter and fried in a pan. Wuh? What in blazes? What the flip?

I’ve experienced a lot of this low-level cultural confusion lately, having done three months in the kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. Some days I’d talk to a California colleague and they’d look at me totally blankly, following neither my accent nor my idiom. Other days, it seemed like everyone was doing comedy English accents, taking the piss. Anyway, I digress (as usual).

This is a flapjack. It’s made with rolled oats.

oats

We’re – finally – going hiking in the mountains this weekend, and when you’re hiking, you need energy food. Oats are perhaps the best straightfoward, real energy food you can get. Feed them to working horses and they’ll go and go. Eat porridge (gah – oatmeal!), muesli or granola for breakfast and you’re set till lunchtime. It’s all about the slow energy release from the complex carbohydrates. Oats are also great because the bran (the high fibre bit)  reduces low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol”. I should probably say “some research indicates” it reduces LDL or something, but I thought there was a pretty good scientific consensus these days. Oats are also high in protein – not the increasingly problematic proteins of starchy modern wheat, but a different type that’s reportedly akin to meat or egg protein.

Humble, but a real superfood.

So flapjacks are great. Except for the fact that, when making them, you undo a lot of the good work of the oat in its natural state by slathering it with butter and refined sugars, in the form of sugar and golden syrup.

Golden Syrup

The butter is essential for proper flapjacks, but what defines them is really the golden syrup. Ah, golden syrup. I believe this doesn’t exist many parts of the world, but in my British upbringing it was v important – notably for the quintessential winter steamed pudding known as treacle sponge. Which isn’t made with treacle (black, ie molasses) but is made with golden syrup (golden). It looks like honey, but is basically a viscous liquid sugar. Technically it’s an inverted sugar syrup. Felicity Cloake in The Guardian also dedicates one of her “How to make the perfect…” blogs to flapjacks. She discusses the whole crunchy vs chewy thing, so I’m not going to go into that. She also includes a link to this useful site, with an in-depth discussion of flapjacks.

Suffice to say, flapjacks are stupidly simple and unsophisticated, they’re packed with rolled oats, they’re very sweet, and they’ll help you get across mountains. I just hope it doesn’t thunder and lighting when we’re up there among the peaks of Abruzzo National Park, as that’d totally freak out Fran. And, as much as I’d dearly dearly love to see one of western Europe’s few (really tragically few – maybe a three dozen or) remaining brown bears, let’s just hope one doesn’t get too excited about the flapjacks, as that’s totally freak us both out. We should be alright; if they were made with honey, that’d be another story, as bears love honey right?

As for a recipe. Well, I made a lot of flapjacks when I was at universty, and played around with the recipe extensively. I’ve not made them for years though, and my recipe is tucked away somewhere, in another country, in a shed, in a box, in a knackered old blue scrapbook. So instead, I used Cloake’s, with a few minor tweaks that I’d probably tweak some more were I to make them again any time soon.

sugary fatty goodness

Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan).

Line a baking tin with baking parchment. Cloake suggests a 30x20cm tin, but I think these would be better thicker, so if you have a tin a size down from that, I’d recommend using it.

Melt 250g butter in a large pan, along with 70g of brown sugar (Demerara is traditional; I used more of a soft brown as sugar types are little different here in Italy to in the UK) and 150g golden syrup. (Guys – seriously, electronic scales, tare function, easy. Tablespooning golden syrup is messy and inaccurate. Not that accuracy really matters for a recipe like this. It’s not a fancy cake with exacting chemical reactions.)

When the mix is all melted, add 450g of rolled oats. You can use a mixture of jumbo and quick-cook porridge oats, whatever you fancy. Add a pinch of salt too, if you’ve used unsalted butter.

Bake for about 25 minutes until nice and golden brown. Mine are a bit underbaked but the darned oven in our rental flat has very aggressive bottom heat so I didn’t want to char the bottom trying to get a golden brown top. I’ve had a charred bottom before, and it’s not fun.

sugary fatty oaty goodness

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Filed under Biscuits, cookies, Other food, Recipes