Thursday, May 5, 2011

A trio of tea cakes

Last week I bought a set of mini loaf pans from William Sonoma which I have been waiting to inaugurate. Today I decided to bake three little loaves to enjoy with my cup of tea. My current fascination is with dried fruits and nuts and hence the three combinations involve just that. Until recently I used to buy the dried apricots from California which are not as sweet as the Turkish apricots and they would not get used as a result. After a visit to Trader Joes, I switched to the turkish ones which are sweet and chewy and great in cookies and cakes. A few weeks back, I used them to make pecan, cranberry and apricot biscotti and they were super. The biscotti was crisp and the the apricots had a nice chewy interlude. I will post the recipe the next time I make them so that I can show you how they look.

For my tea loaves, I use a standard 1-2-3-4 cake recipe by Alice waters and vary the mix-ins that make them unique. You can make them your won by mixing in any combination of dried fruits, nuts, lemon or orange zest, almond extract, chocolate chips etc.

 Apricot and Pistachio tea loaf

 Walnut and Raisin tea loaf

Almond and apricot tea loaf

1-2-3-4 Cake

Yield One nine-inch, two-layer cake
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups cake flour (sift and then measure)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsweetened butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch baking pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  • 2. Stir baking powder and salt into cake flour.
  • 3. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the four egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla to the mixture.
  • 4. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with one third of the flour. Stir just until the flour is incorporated.
  • 5. In another bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks. Stir one third of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Variations
  • The recipe can be divided among three cake pans for a three-layer cake. It also makes 24 to 30 cupcakes or it can be baked in a 12 x 18-inch sheet cake pan. Bake cupcakes or sheet cake for about 20 minutes.
Source: Adapted from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters

Half of the above recipe yields, three mini loaves. I made the batter and divided it equally among the three mini loaf pans. Then I tossed all the dried fruits and nuts in some all purpose flour so that they do not sink to the bottom of the pan, except the apricots for the apricot almond loaf. As you can see in the picture the apricots are at the bottom of the loaf (this was not intentional). The quantities for the dried fruits and nuts are as below:

Apricot and Pistachio Tea Loaf
1/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, finely chopped
1/4 cup shelled, roasted, and unsalted pistachios coarsely chopped
(I bought the pistachios already shelled and roasted)

Walnut and Raisin Tea loaf
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup raisins
(I roasted walnut halves on a sheet tray in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes. Then I cooled them and broke them into small pieces)

Almond and Apricot Tea loaf
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, finely chopped
(I bought sliced almonds with skin and roasted them on a sheet tray in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes. Once cool, I sprinkled the almonds on the batter and lightly pressed it to ensure they stick while baking).

I used the Goldtouch nonstick mini loaf pans and the cakes baked in 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely on the rack. And enjoy with a cup of tea and your crossword.