Eating España, again – Part II: The sweet stuff
So after a heavy dose of savoury Spain and seductive Salamanca you’d be forgive for thinking that this week, the week in which Spain was once again splashed over the headlines as a bank bailout was agreed, that The Daily Norm couldn’t get any more Spanish. Well you would be wrong, for today, it’s time for the ever-so-tempting waist-line enlarging pudding-perfect postres, all of which I cooked, and ate, at the weekend (I am now avoiding my bathroom scales – I feel that our current acquaintance could lead to a small falling out).
First up, something for afternoon tea, and as cakes go, this one is more almond than butter, which must make it healthy, right? It’s the very traditional Santiago Almond Cake, a firm Spanish favourite, moist in its naturally oily almond component, with a delicate and delicious simplicity.
Tarta de Santiago (Almond cake)
I first ate this delicious cake in Cappuccino Grand Café is the stunning hill-top town of Valldemossa in Mallorca. No sooner had I returned home than I was buying up the local supply of ground almonds and sampling my own.
This recipe is from the collection of Spanish desserts by the vivacious and frequently tipsy TV chef favourite, the late Keith Floyd. His recipe is so simple you have no excuse not to make this cake. In fact probably the trickiest part of the whole operation is lining a 20cm cake tin (I use a spring form to make the operation even simpler at the end). Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is get yourself a food processor and all the work will be done for you – Just whizz up 3 eggs with 225g caster sugar, 100g butter, 175g self-raising flour and 125ml water until all of the ingredients are well blended.Then add 225g ground almonds and the grated zest of 1/2 a lemon. Whizz for a few seconds only, just to mix (if you overwork the almonds the mixture will become too oily). And that’s it! Tip the mixture into your greased and preferably lined tin and bake at 180 degrees centigrade for an hour. Test with a skewer and when it comes out clean, you’re done. Once the cake is cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy.
Next up are Rick Stein’s Orange Flans (the Spanish equivalent of the French Crème caramel, or if you want to entirely strip the words of their glamour, Caramel Creams). But these have an orange twist which provides an exquisite burst of Sevillian sunshine in your mouth. I’ve cooked these a few times now and they’ve gone down ravishingly well on each occasion. They’re not that fiddly either – just be careful not to burn the sugar.
Ok, so you need to start by preparing your space. You’re going to need around 6 ramekins which should be ready placed in a roasting tin so you can make a bain marie later (this needs to be ready because once you’ve made your caramel, you need to pour it directly into the ramekins otherwise it will turn rock hard in your pan).
Onto the caramel then. This is where you need to be careful. Place 100g caster sugar and 45ml of water in a heavy-based pan and leave over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (I stir it a bit to ease the process, but old Rick doesn’t tell you to). Once the sugar has dissolved, whack the heat up to high and leave to boil rapidly, without stiffing, until the syrup starts to turn orange, orangier, red and then a pale brown brick red colour (tends to take around 5 minutes). Be careful here. If you let it go too far into the red zone, it will very quickly burn – I’m talking seconds here. So as soon as it starts to go a brick red, whip it off the heat and pour straight into the ramekins, distributing it evenly between them. You can leave them there as you turn your attention to the orange cream.
Finely grate the zest from 2 oranges and squeeze the juice out of these and 2 others until you have around 400ml of fresh orange juice. Pour this, the zest and 300g caster sugar into a pan and bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar.
In the meantime separate out 14 (yes, fourteen!) egg yolks (discard the egg white – or save it for a nice pavlova (see below)) and place with two whole eggs (this hen has been busy) in a mixing bowl and whisk. When the orange juice comes to the boil, turn down the heat and allow it to simmer rapidly for 2 minutes. Then, through a sieve, pour the orange juice mixture into the eggs and mix.
Now it’s time to pour the mixture into your ramekins on top of the caramel. Once this is done, pour boiling water into the baking tin so it comes to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Place in the oven at 160 degrees centigrade for around 15 minutes for small ramekins, and 20 minutes if they’re a bit bigger. Once out of the oven lift out of the water (being careful, obv) and allow to cool before placing in the fridge. Ensure they are refidgerated for at least 4 hours before eating, but preferably overnight.
When serving, carefully invert each dish onto a small serving plate. With a bit of jigging they should plop out quite easily, but you can always eaze around the side with a knife if they’re being obstinate. Some caramel will come out on the top, but if you want more from the mass that is stuck to the bottom of your ramekin, place back in a roasting tin filled with boiling water and leave until the caramel melts a bit. Now go and eat the divine things – you’ll be booking flights straight to Andalucia in no time.
And one for luck… a very un-Spanish mini strawberry pavlova
Wasting all of those egg whites from the Flan would have been a crying shame, so I decided to make a few meringues, just to soothe my guilt at pouring so much of a hen’s hard work down the sink. I used Raymond Blanc’s simple meringue recipe which can be found here except I made mine smaller. The original intention was to crush up the meringue and make an Eton Mess but the meringues turned out so surprisingly beautifully that I made them into mini pavlovas. Here are the fruits of my labour, and well worth the extra effort.Happy cooking!
- Eating España, again – Part I: One starter and two mains (normsonline.wordpress.com)