Greek Easter Cakes

Easter Sunday – a day of importance and meaning for many people. To kids (of all ages) it means hunting for chocolate eggs, to parents it means hiding them and to most other people it means a day of reflection – about the amount of chocolate you are consuming and how you will definitely go to the gym next week. Probably. But you know Easter Sunday is not just about chocolate – there are all sorts of other ways to ingest sugar on this special day. Here’s one – Greek Easter Cakes.

I thought I would choose this as my first food blog of the year, a very restrained 3 months after the previous gluttonous run of kitchen correspondance. These yummy moist cakes are perfect with crème fraiche and can be served warm or chilled. They contain no chocolate so from that point of view they are probably really good for you.

Ingredients

For the cakes
125g butter
100g caster sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
4tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
125g semolina
2tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds

For the syrup
10 cardamom pods
1 orange
300g caster sugar
200ml water
juice of half a lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp cloves
2tbsp orange flower water

This is what the contents of your grocery bag look like…

What's in the grocery bag?
What\’s in the grocery bag?

…and this is what they look like after my kitchen assistant Sven has prepared everything…

Gratuitous use of crockery to display ingredients
Gratuitous use of crockery to display ingredients

Ask Sven (or your equivalent) to heat the oven to 200 degrees (190 for fan)

Instructions

1) Blend the butter & sugar. I used my old trusty Kenwood mixer but apparently you can buy bowls and spoons that take this sort of routine kitchen activity into the 21st century.

Mix the butter & sugar
Mix the butter & sugar

2) Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, eggs, semolina, baking powder and ground almonds and mix until you stop. If using a bladed mixer stir the rind in by hand afterwards instead so as not to diminish the strands of lemony loveliness.

Add more stuff
Add more stuff

3) Grease a bun tin (you could use bun cases) and add the mixture to the moulds. Try and get a level finish. Slide the tin into the oven and leave for 15 or so minutes.

Let's bake!
Let\’s bake!

4) Remove the tin from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before transferring to a flat surface.

No Greek tragedy - they've turned out fine.
No Greek tragedy – they\’ve turned out fine.

5) You can be making the syrup while the buns are in the oven, so as to speak. Heat the sugar in water slowly until it has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and let it all boil for a few minutes until it thickens into something syrupy. Add all the other ingredients and leave on a low heat for 5 minutes except for the orange flower water – add this after the 5 minutes.

Nectar of syrupy health
Nectar of syrupy health

6) Let the mixture cool slightly. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick and then spoon the syrup over the buns.

Just like aunt Demetria used to make
Just like aunt Demetria used to make

Taste immediately to make sure the quality is of sufficiently high standard. Taste again to make sure. Congratulate yourself for having consumed something containing no chocolate whatsoever.

While you are at it spare a thought for those less fortunate than us, forced to work on this day of rest. Consider the put-upon supermarket staff obliged to spend Sunday evening away from their chocolate (and families) slashing the prices of eggs you were fleeced for only yesterday. They will be working late tonight restocking the shelves with barbecue products that will be advertised ad-nauseum as centre-pieces for the halcyon Indian summer we are not going to have.

Oh, Sven – just wash up & tidy before you leave. Thanks.

White Chocolate Hazlenut Brownies

I’ve started to realise that my blog entries this year have gradually progressed from exercise based subject matter to face stuffing and todays blog is another foody one. Let’s blame the weather as we head into winter, but somebody let me know if May comes around and I’m still yattering on about food.

This is one of those cakey recipes that I keep coming back to, not because it is necessarily my favourite but people seem to demand it (yes – I’m talking about you sugar fiends at work). It’s dead simple and you can’t go too far wrong.

Ingredients
500g White chocolate
75g butter
3 eggs
175 caster sugar
175g self raising flour
175g chopped hazlenuts
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Raw Ingredients
Raw Ingredients

A few of observations before I go any further. Some recipes say to use unsalted butter when baking sweet things but I have rarely found that it makes much difference. If they are thinking of the health aspects then you probably want to ditch all the above ingredients apart from the flour and vanilla extract, but the results may be less satisfying. You may notice that I’m using cheapy basics white chocolate. It’s fine for this sort of recipe and it isn’t worth paying three times as much for free range organic stuff carried on foot by Umpa Lumpa all the way from the Wonka factory. The biggest improvement you can easily make is to toast off the hazlenuts under a grill to maximise their flavour but I haven’t bothered this time because I cant be arsed and I usually end up burning half of them. Anyway, let’s get on with it shall we…

Naked ingredients
Naked ingredients

Instructions

1) Grease and line a 27 x 19cm baking tin and preheat the fan oven to 180 degrees.

2) Melt the butter and 100g of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. I find this very therapeutic for some reason…

Melt stuff
Melt stuff

3) While this is going on roughly chop the hazlenuts. These are soft nuts and you don’t want to end up with powder so I lightly crush them with the flat surface of a knife to break them into large peices without creating a pile of sawdust.

4) Also roughly chop the remaining 400g of chocolate. Use the blade of the knife so that you DO get a fine residue of surplus chocolate. It is very important that you DON’T use this is in the recipe. If only there was something I could do with this wasted byproduct of the preparation process…

5) Whisk the eggs & sugar together until smoothish. Then stir in the slightly cooled butter mix and the vanilla extract.

Whisk things up
Whisk things up

6) Next sift the flour and salt into the bowl.

Sieve things in
Sieve things in

7) Chuck the chopped hazlenuts and chocolate into the bowl. I always judge there to be a little “too much” chocolate so I couple of bits end up wasted. Again, recycling suggestions welcome.

Chuck some more things in
Chuck some more things in

8 ) Fold the mixture into itself until you have a big sticky gloopy bowl of dietary doom. In truth it isn’t beautiful to look at by this stage. With some recipes at this point you are tempted to lock the doors, take the phone off the hook and sit on the kitchen floor finishing off the mixture while you wonder what to watch on TV tomorrow as you take the day off sick. This is one of those recipes where the palid sweet raw ingredients aren’t as tempting as the finished product.

Give it all a good stir
Give it all a good stir

9) Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and bung it in the oven for approx 35 minutes. You are looking for brown/golden at the edges and risen/just firm at the centre. It’s still going to taste great give or take 5 minutes but overcook it and it doesn’t look so good while undercook it and it will collapse when you try to slice it.

Squidge it into the tin
Squidge it into the tin

10) Leave to cool. No LEAVE IT! Go and do something else you impatient pig.

Cool it dude
Cool it dude

11) Slice it and store in an airtight container taking care to store it in a secret location.

Slice and consume with indecent haste
Slice and consume with indecent haste

It should keep for about 3 hours, unless you really do get sick of it. Alternatively take it to work and leave it in the kitchen where a mysterious bermuda style food triangle almost instantaneously spirits away any goodies that pass through it.