Sunday, February 07, 2016

Battenberg Cake for Downton Night

After last week's spew fest, I decided to hold off on making flummery pudding this week.  Whoa!  I just knew Robert Crawley's health would take a turn for the worst this season but I had no idea he was going to spray blood all over a dinner party. 
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While it did make for exciting television, I had a difficult time stomaching my Chelsea Bun... and I thought they were a rather delicious bit of jammy goodness.

I am looking forward to some fun between Lady Edith and Lady Mary as Lady Edith's new confidence and willingness to take on a new life seems to have enrobed her with Teflon armor.  I like this Edith.  No, I LOVE this Edith!  I just hope Mary doesn't blab what she has discovered about her sister.  That is all we need.

Tonight's Downton dessert is Battenberg cake.  I have seen this dessert on many a tea table, mostly in magazines, and thought it would be too difficult so I keep passing it by.  However, I stumbled upon this recipe and thought, "Hey, I can do that!"  Battenberg isn't difficult per se, but it can a bit tricky if one doesn't have a properly sized pan (which I don't). 

"What is a Battenberg cake?" you ask.  Well, it is a Victorian era dessert created to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenbug.  The checkered pattern was to represent the four princes of Battenberg.  Usually, the pattern is yellow and pink but in honor of the Denver Broncos Superbowl win, I made one in orange and blue.

While my final product tasted delicious, it was about as ugly as they come.  The marzipan layer was too thick, my sections of cake were not as even as I initially thought them to be, the colors were unattractive and prior to slicing, it looked like a loaf of wheat bread.  HIDEOUS.  If you choose to make this usually elegant dessert, either buy your marzipan or use blanched almonds and stick with the traditional cake colors.

Here was my process (so you know what NOT to do).

Ingredients for the Cake:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Food coloring (in the colors you are using -- Traditionally, one portion is left alone and the other is dyed pink using red food coloring.  I dyed one portion orange and the other blue.)

Ingredients for topping:
  • 1 cup apricot jam 
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 cups ground almonds (blanched)
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


In a large bowl, add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, flour, baking powder, and salt.   Using a hand mixer, blend until the ingredients come together.  Do not over mix.

Separate the thick batter into two equal portions, placing one portion into a separate bowl.  Add food coloring to the batter as desired.

In a Battenberg cake pan, place the batter into separate compartments.  If no Battenberg pan is available, separate an 8"x8" pan using foil and parchment as directed here.  Otherwise, prepare two loaf pans with parchment and place a chunk of foil about 2" from the end to ensure there is enough batter to bake to approximately the same size. 

Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Then, lift from the pan by the parchment and continue to cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix the jam and a little water to loosen a bit but do not make it watery. This will be the glue used to bring together the checkerboard pattern. 

To make the homemade marzipan, bring together the ground almonds (mine weren't blanched so the final product will not be light in color), confectioner's sugar, egg, lemon juice, and almond extract in the bowl of a mixer.  Blend until it becomes a paste.  (I neglected to get a photo of this process.)

Once the cakes are cool, cut each colored cake in half lengthwise and trim to equal sizes.  This will ensure that when stacked upon each other, they are the same size.  Once trimmed, coat each side of the cakes with apricot jam and stack together in a checkerboard fashion. 
Roll out the marzipan and cover the entire Battenberg.  Using a small paring knife, make an indented pattern on the top as a decorative flourish.  Mine was soo ugly I didn't bother.

I found it difficult to roll the marzipan to a very thin layer.  I recruited my husband to help me but even he was unable to get it really thin.  I finally gave up and went with it the way I had it.

When serving, cut into small slices to display the checkerboard pattern.

Enjoy with a piping hot cup of tea.  Tonight, I am enjoying Snowflake Tea from the Tea Cozy!  Snowflake tea is a black tea with a lovely aroma and light flavor of coconut, a perfect accompaniment to the nutty flavor of the marzipan... even though this confection was most certainly NOT a feast for the eyes.

Based on the previews this week, we finally get to lay eyes on Lady Mary's turquoise and gold dress.  I have been waiting for this for a long time.  Magnificent elegance.  I think it might be my favorite evening look she has worn.
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I think we will also see Edith's relationship with the agent continue to grow.  I think this is also contributing to her growing confidence.  So far, he seems like a keeper!
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I do hope Mr. and Mrs. Bates' baby continues to grow healthy and strong.  I really don't want to see them disappointed again.  Feeling sad for the Bates is not a fun way to pass the time. My fingers are crossed for Mr. Carson as well.  If he keeps talking to Mrs. Hughes/Carson the way he has, well, that Scottish chickie is going to give him a good wallop! 

Let the drama begin!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Enjoying Downton with a Chelsea Bun or Two

I LOVE Downton Abbey. (I want Lady Mary's entire outfit pronto.  I am confident I could pull it off.)
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Since we will get to the Downton talk later, let's focus on another love... my love of cinnamon rolls.  Before you go any further though, check out those shoes!  How about that coat?!!  I am dying over the red dress.  Oh my.  Focus!

I do love a good cinnamon roll but don't fall for just any roll.  I can easily resist those things out of a can.  I have a will of iron and steel when it comes to those covered in a five inch layer of cream cheese frosting. Bleh. I never consume the poor excuse, pre-baked, cellophane-wrapped jobs on the shelves at the mini-mart.  As I mentioned before, I love a GOOD cinnamon roll.  If it is homemade, from scratch, with the right ratio of roll to filling to topping, well... I find it really hard to resist that yeasty, sweet treat. 

With the weather turning a little colder and rainier, I decided cinnamon rolls were in order this weekend.  Knowing I needed to bake for Downton, I wanted to save myself from having a stockpile of sweet treats lying about the house.  I quickly set out to investigate if the British have a cinnamon roll in their repertoire.  Guess what... they do!

Tonight's accompaniment to Downton Abbey is the Chelsea Bun.

Chelsea Buns are a warm, sticky roll filled with cinnamon sugar and dried fruits, topped with a delicious icing.  As I completed my research, I could almost taste the final product as I perused the ingredients.  Below, you will find how I completed my version of the Chelsea Bun.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • vegetable oil to grease the rising bowl

Filling Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped

Topping Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • water
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • zest of 1 orange (optional)
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the package of yeast.

Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted.  Do not allow the milk to come to a boil.  Slowly pour into the flour mixture.  Add the egg and stir the mixture together until the dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for five minutes.  Dough should become smooth and elastic.

Oil a large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in center.  Cover with plastic wrap and place into a warm, draft-free area for an 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.

Once dough has risen, remove the plastic wrap (WARNING: The scent is intoxicating!) and turn onto a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12" x 8" rectangle.  Butter a 9"x13" baking dish and set aside.

If the dried fruit has not yet been chopped, place into a food processor and pulse until small chunks have formed.  In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, and chopped dried fruit.

Brush the dough with the melted butter and evenly sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, fruit mixture.

Begin tightly rolling the dough from the long side furthest from you, to form a log. 

Cut 1 3/4" rolls from the log.  There should be about 10 rolls.  I cut them a little larger so I ended up with nine. Place the rolls into the buttered dish, about 1/2" apart.  Cover, set in a warm place, and let rise for another 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove plastic wrap and place into a preheated 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven. 

Bake buns for 20 to 25 minutes.  While they bake, find something productive to do.  The scent of these treats as they bake is just too much.  There were several moments I thought I would just open the door and pinch off a piece.  Soo incredible. 

Once golden brown, remove from oven.  In a small bowl, mix jam and a little water. Place in microwave approximately 10 seconds and stir until smooth. Brush the glaze over the buns.  Allow to cool on a baking rack.  Don't they look stunning?  They smell divine.

Once buns have cooled, transfer to a serving plate.  Mix the powdered sugar, orange zest (if using) and two tablespoons water or milk.  Drizzle over cooled buns and allow to set before serving.

What a gorgeous sight!

Speaking of gorgeous sights... I was thrilled to see Gwen again. 
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While she was only in the house a short time, I did get choked up when she spoke of Lady Sybil helping her get the secretary job in the city.  I also agonized over Thomas outing her to the family over the meal.  What a putz!  He really IS his own worst enemy.  It is almost like he is that child who needs attention and doesn't care if it is positive or negative... so long as he gets others to notice him.

I must admit Robert looked like a royal pain when he celebrated the fact that Mrs. Carson would continue to be known as Mrs. Hughes in the house.  If she wants to keep her name, I am all for that but his reaction was a little too joyful for my liking.  Maybe I am just too sensitive about such things.  I did get teary when Mr. Carson checked his empty room.  He lived there for soo long.  Even though he is happily moving forward in his life, there was still sadness at that ending.

Mr. Carson wasn't the only one to choke me up, I was soo excited for Mr. Bates to figure out what was going on with Anna.  Do you think everything will work out?  We can only hope.

Well, tonight's episode has loaded onto my DVR and I am just waiting for the littles to head to bed.  Time to prep my cup of Spiced Pear tea from the Tea Cozy and enjoy my first Chelsea Bun
Good Downton Night to you!