STRAWBERRY MINI-CAKES FOR BAKE PINK PROJECT

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I am joining Chef Colette Christian in her Bake Pink Project. I don’t know how many dear friends and acquaintances of mine have been affected by breast (and other) cancers, but far too many.  In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime, with early detection being KEY to survival. In other words, get screened annually, and talk to all your friends to make sure they do the same.

I’ve never met Chef Colette in person. But I know for a fact she is one of the nicest human beings around. I will talk more about it in a few months, for reasons that will become clear by then. For now, let me just say she is a fantastic online instructor who is responsible for me finally conquering macarons a few years ago (check her 6 classes at Bluprint, all pretty amazing). Once I got addicted to baking macarons, my horizons were opened to other kinds of patisserie. In many ways, I think Colette is the person who helped me go from cake-o-phobe to passionate baker.  She is winning her own battle with breast cancer, and I am absolutely thrilled to join her BAKE PINK project. Today I share a recipe for a cake I recently enjoyed at Ottolenghi’s cafe in London.  It is pink, it is delicious, and quite simple to put together.

STRAWBERRY-VANILLA MINI-CAKES
(slightly modified from Ottolenghi’s Sweet)

recipe also available online here

for the cake:
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250 g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
120 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
140 g almond flour
15 oz fresh strawberries, hulled cut in half
1 T olive oil
2 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

for the strawberry icing:
55 g fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
300 g icing sugar
1 T light corn syrup
1/8 tsp vanilla paste

to decorate:
whole strawberries
freeze-dried strawberries
sprinkles

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Start by making the roasted strawberries, preferably many hours in advance, or the day before.  Mix the strawberries with olive oil, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl, add to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until the edges start to get dark and the liquid gets thick. Do not let the strawberries burn or get too dry.  Reserve. Dice before using in the recipe. If there is excessive liquid, drain it.

Prepare four mini-loaf pans by coating them with butter and flour or using a baking spray.

Make the cake batter. Place the butter, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until light, then add the eggs, a little at a time. Continue to beat until fully combined. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then stir in the almond flour. Turn the speed of the mixer to medium-low, then add the dry ingredients in three batches and finally fold in the diced roasted strawberries.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the strawberry icing, place all the icing ingredients in a food processor and process together until smooth. Drizzle the tops of the upside-down cakes with the icing, allowing it to drip down the sides. Garnish and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: While in London, I really wanted to stop by Ottolenghi’s place, but since my schedule was quite tight, I was worried it would not happen. So one afternoon I was all by myself and realized I barely had the time to catch the tube and get to the cafe before closing time. When I got there, I could not sit down for an early dinner because they were just getting ready to call it a day, so I was a bit frantic trying to decide what to get. From the corner of my eye I saw some cute mini-loaf cakes, and that’s what I bought. My plan was to travel back to the hotel and have it as my dinner. But it could not hurt to take a test-bite as I walked back to the metro station, right?  Right. Problem is, I could not stop eating it. Moist, sweet, but also tangy with the strawberry taste. It was so so good… The sweetest walk ever through Notting Hill.

Of course, it is often problematic to try to match the great things we stumble upon like that. But I have to say, the ones I baked at home were pretty close to that level of goodness. I opted to roast the strawberries because at this time of the year they are not at their peak, and also because roasting will always intensify the flavor, so why not? It is just a small additional step that I think pays off big time here.

Chef Colette, thank you for Baking Pink, and for all the help and advice you’ve given me this past few months.  You are a sweet and bright person…

And for all my readers and fellow bloggers, let’s do all we can to raise awareness about breast cancer, it is a serious killer that can be tamed by early detection.

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JERUSALEM: PASTA WITH YOGURT, PEAS & CHILE

If you are a cookbook lover, chances are you have at least one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s books on your shelf. His book “Plenty” (released in 2011) was a huge success, but “Jerusalem“, which he wrote together with Sami Tamimi is probably the hottest cookbook published  last year.  Countless bloggers have been raving about  the recipes in Jerusalem, and even the Diner’s Journal of The New York Times devoted a special article to the cookbook.  As usual, I bookmarked way too many tempting concoctions to try, but when I read this review from Orangette, I knew this pasta would hit the spot with us.  Several things I like about it: the sauce is made with yogurt instead of cream or a bechamel; peas are incorporated in two ways; feta cheese gives it a sharp bite, and fresh basil does the magic that fresh basil always does.

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But, as if that symphony of flavors and textures was not enough, each serving is crowned with a spicy and nutty flavored oil, made by sauteing pine nuts and Aleppo pepper.  Oh, my!   Can you spell perfection?

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The two main components of the dish come together quite quickly. First, the yogurt-pea sauce, simply whirled in a food processor.  Beautiful light green color!

sauce
Then, the finishing touch, a flavored oil with pine nuts and Aleppo pepper. Red pepper flakes can be substituted, but I say go for a Turkish pepper if you can find it.

aleppo

The yogurt sauce is never heated, instead the hot pasta is added to it in small batches to prevent the sauce from separating.  Reminds me of pasta in fresh tomato sauce, a regular appearance at our table these days.

I must say this recipe was the best thing I cooked in a few months! I loved everything about it…  The original recipe used small shell-shaped pasta which might be even better to catch those cute little peas,  but any pasta will work.  If you have a dinner party coming up and would like to offer a vegetarian option, I say it will be hard to top this one…   😉

If you want the full recipe, you can buy the book (click here), or you can use the version published at Orangette

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