These last few weeks in London before the big move are flying by. It’s scary really that in a few short weeks my morning walk to work will no longer take me through Exmouth Market (and the ever tough decision whether to get my morning flat white at Caravan or to hold out till I get to Leather Lane where I can choose between coffee from the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs or Prufrock Coffee) but instead I will be meandering right through Rome’s historic centre, passing the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps. At the same time it is also incredibly exciting. Although I have spent a lot of time in Italy since meeting Alessandro 5 years ago, I know that living in Italy will be a totally different experience and I cannot wait to start exploring Rome and get to know the city that will be my home for the next 6 months.
Nonetheless, leaving London is hard. Even when I left London to move to Brussels for 6 months a few years ago saying goodbye was hard. As much as I love (and in fact crave) to discover new places, London and the UK have become my home. I left Germany when I was 16, initially just for 1 year in boarding school, but that 1 year quickly turned into 2 and, before I knew it, I had finished law school in London and accepted a position with a firm in London.
Given my impending departure, I am trying to make the most of my time in London, cramming as much as possible into the short time that remains. My aim really is to revisit some of my favourite places, try out a few more restaurants and bars, wander around London’s backstreets the way I did when I first moved to London as a first year student at 19, and spend time with my friends.
The past weekend was therefore bursting to the seams with birthday drinks, tapas at Cambio de Tercio in South Kensington, another round of almond croissants and cinnamon buns at Gail’s with my sister, a quick dash to the National Gallery to look at the Richard Hamilton exhibition, a pizza at our favourite neighbourhood Pizza joint Oregano’s off Islington’s Upper Street and an epic lunch at Viajante. Two nights that ended at 3am left me exhausted and with no motivation to continue packing my boxes, yet I somehow managed to peel myself off the sofa and bake these little mini cakes.
As much as I am trying to incorporate baking into my everyday life (in the sense that I don’t constantly want to have buttercream frosted cakes sitting on the counter – I would much rather bake a banana loaf and know I can devour this guilt-free for breakfast over the course of a week or so), trying to clear out my pantry is not making this easy. So I tried to come up with a recipe to use up my remaining home-made pistachio paste in something I could happily eat for breakfast. And these mini cakes, served alongside the poached rhubarb and some creamy yoghurt are exactly that. A little bit naughty but with staying power thanks to the yoghurt. And as the cakes are already quite sweet, I only used very little sugar for the rhubarb.
I experimented with my basic cupcake recipe, substituting butter with olive oil and water (in a ratio that matches the fat-water content in butter) and replacing 1/3 of the flour in the original recipe with cornmeal. I have been baking with olive oil a fair bit – I have easy access to good quality oil, it is full of unsaturated fats and has a longer shelf life than butter. The cornmeal was something I will definitely add to cakes again as it gave the little cakes a bit of bite.
Next time, I might try changing the directions a bit, starting with creating an emulsion from the olive oil and the egg yolks (just like I do for my olive oil brownies), mixing the sugar into the emulsion until the mixture is no longer grainy but then whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks before carefully folding them into the egg emulsion. I am wondering how this would impact the rise and crumb structure of the cake.
Pistachio Cornmeal Minicakes with Poached Rhubarb and Greek Yoghurt, served with Maple Syrup, Chia and Hemp Seeds
Ingredients for the mini cakes (makes 15 mini cakes or 12 cupcakes)
80g Olive oil
50g pistachio paste
100g plain flour
50g masa harina
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
800g rhubarb (3 large stalks in my case, a little less or a little more doesn’t really matter)
6 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp water
6 tsbp elderflower liqueur (I used St Germain)
1 vanilla pod
Greek yoghurt (quantities according to taste, I used ca. 1/2 of a small pot per person)
Maple syrup (ca. 2 tbsp per person)
Chia seeds, hemp seeds (or any other type of seeds or chopped nuts you have to hand)
For the mini cakes
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees and lightly oil 15 mini loaf tins or 12 cupcake lines/muffin forms.
2. Mix the sugar, the olive oil, water, milk and the pistachio paste in a big bowl. Beat in the 2 eggs one by one. Beat on high volume until mixture is pale and fluffy and has grown in volume.
3. Combine the masa harina, flour, baking powder and pinch of salt in a separate bowl and sift over the egg mixture.
4. Carefully fold the flower into the egg mixture being careful not to overmix it.
5. Fill the mini loaf tins ca. 3/4 to the top and place them on the middle-shelf of the oven.
6. Bake for ca. 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
For the poached rhubarb
1. While the mini cakes are baking, clean the rhubarb and cut into 4inch long logs.
2. Place the rhubarb with the sugar, water, elderflower liqueur and vanilla pod in a casserole.
3. On medium to low heat let the rhubarb poach until it is soft all the way through and starting to disintegrate. Let cool slightly.
1. Place 1 mini cake, a spoon of the poached rhubarb and some greek yoghurt on a plate.
2. Drizzle with Maple Syrup and scatter some Chia and Hemp Seeds over everything.