Sunday, August 19, 2012

Peach Crumb Cake

In Pakistan, mangoes are the superstar fruit of summer. The thing is they don't bake very well in my experience. 

(In response to, "What? Baking with mangoes?")
Yes, I have baked using mangoes. I have tried many things in all the years I've been an avid baker.

It was this really nice mango bread recipe. The bread was great and moist and delicious, but the flavour of the mangoes just didn't come through. 

But that's okay because in summer there's so much great stone fruit to eat and to bake with and to make fruit salads with: plums, apricots, cherries, peaches. 

I love making apple crumb cake in winter and peaches seemed like the perfect substitute for a summer version.


For the cake:
4 oz butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk

For the crumb topping: 
2 oz butter (cold, and cut into small cubes)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 peaches, peeled and sliced into eighths
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon  

1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
2. First prepare the crumb topping. Add the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon to a small mixing bowl. Then rub the butter into the mixture with the tips of your fingers. Use the same motion you would if you were sprinkling salt on to something with your fingers to rub the butter in. If it's a hot day, you're better off doing this in a food processor, because the butter will start to soften very quickly and be harder to work with. Add all the ingredients to the processor and blitz a couple of times, for about 2 or 3 seconds each time. Whether you do it by hand or with the processor, the crumb mixture ought to look something like this.

3. Place the crumb mixture in the fridge while you prepare the cake batter.
4. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
5. Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixture until light and creamy.
6. Beat in the vanilla extract.
7. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with the mixer on its slowest setting. After each addition, beat until well combined.
8. Mix in half the flour mixture.
9. Fold in the remaining flour and the milk with a spatula.
10. Place the peaches in bowl and add the 2 tbs sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Toss lightly so that the peach slices are coated.
11. Now take a greased 8-inch loose-bottomed cake pan and line the base with wax paper.
12. Spread half the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan.
13. Then arrange the peaches on top of the batter.

14. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top of the peaches.
15. Finally, sprinkle the crumb topping mixture evenly on top of the cake mixture.
16. Place in the centre of the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 70 to 80 minutes.
17. Allow the cake pan to cool on a wire rack for a while before you remove the cake.
18. Remove the cake from the tin but don't remove the base of the cake tin until the cake has mostly cooled.   You don't want to disturb the crumb topping by inverting the cake when it's hot.
19. To remove the base, invert the cake on to a plate lined with wax paper. Quickly but gently remove the base of the cake tin and the wax paper. Then invert the cake back onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

At 10:19pm I was craving cookies.

(I was working so obviously I wanted to do anything but.)

What kind of cookies though? Well that really depended on what I had in the kitchen at the time. 

I had a bag of these in the freezer...

... and I had just enough peanut butter too so I decided on Peanut Butter Cookies.

I pretty much made up the recipe as I went along, so it could've turned out horribly wrong. But thankfully it didnt. 

New recipes go into a trusty recipe book my friend Susie gave me for my birthday last year. 

Once the cookie dough is ready, a cookie scoop will make things a whole lot simpler and will make it easier to get your cookies to be the same size and shape. If you don't have one though, just use a tablespoon to portion out the dough. 

I don't like to bake too many cookies all at once. I think you'll agree cookies are always better freshly baked. So at this stage, I like to freeze the raw portioned cookie dough. Once it has frozen, I store it in Ziploc bags so I have it at the ready to bake cookies whenever I feel like it.

For the cookies you are baking, flatten the dough slightly with a fork...

... and then pop the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, move the tray straight from the freezer to the oven, and you'll have freshly baked, warm, rich, peanutty, buttery, chocolate chippy cookies in no time.

(Excuse the photographs. I was baking at night and my kitchen doesn't have great light even during the day.)


1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
3 oz butter
2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used smooth but you can use crunchy if you want)
¼ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
¾ cup peanut butter & milk chocolate morsels (or any kind of chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
  2. Line a baking tray with a Silpat, or grease the baking tray and line it with wax paper.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, add the butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy.
  5. Beat in the egg with mixer on slow speed. 
  6. Add the vanilla and half the flour mixture and beat until combined.
  7. Using a large metal spoon, mix in the remaining flour and the chocolate chips. 
  8. Drop tablespoons of the cookie mixture onto a baking tray.
  9. Flatten the cookie dough slightly with a fork or with the tips of your fingers and place the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the dough to chill.
  10. Remove from freezer and bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are lightly brown around the edges.
  11. Remove the baking tray from the oven and allow the cookies to cool in the tray for 5 to 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. 
Makes approx. 24 cookies.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Day, New Blog, New Cake

When I decided to start a food blog I struggled with what I should call it for a long time. I delayed telling anybody about it until I had "the" name. Then I finally I put the blog up as it was (Sahar ka Food Blog, it was called) and told some friends and family about it. How long was I going to put it off? I'll change the name when it comes to me, I thought.

Well, it didnt come to me.

Until now, that is.

The Saveur magazine website has a section called Sites We Love where each week a new blog/website is featured. Every blogger is asked, "Why is the site called --- ?" I read every one, wanting to know how other people came up with names for their blog, hoping to be inspired.

But the blog was starting to get neglected and I wasn't really inspired. So as I started to rethink the blog I realized it had to feature more baking, more cakes, pies, cupcakes, cookies. And as I started to think about all this it just popped into my head: Chai + Cake.

I guess it's still not that special or clever or cool. But it just makes more sense to me and its more personal. Anybody who knows me knows what a tea junkie I am and how much I love to bake. So Chai + Cake it is.

So obviously the first post has to be cake right?

Well this, my friends, is what you call a chocolate fudge cake.

When I first saw the recipe for Wellesley Fudge Cake on Serious Eats I couldn't wait to make it.

It's a really rich cake and the frosting recipe is a bit tricky, but it's totally worth it. Follow the recipe exactly, don't leave the frosting mixture alone while it's cooking and use good-quality dark chocolate. I halved the cake recipe and baked it in two 7-inch sandwich pans, and I halved the frosting recipe as well. However this cake will disappear fast so making the full recipe isn't a bad idea.

The fudge frosting is the best I've ever eaten and is what really makes the cake stand out. My sister asked why we needed the cake at all. "Couldn't we just eat the frosting on it's own?"

It seems like the kind of cake one ought to wait to make for a special occasion, but I guess finally coming up with a blog title I'm happy with is something to celebrate, isn't it?