Many of us have been doing a lot of cooking during these weeks of lockdown; we’ve tried out new things and created our own recipes. Now how about going a step further, dear friends – and doing some baking? I must confess I’ve never been a great baker; cooking seemed to take up so much time already, so why spend even more time in the kitchen… But now that we’ve got more than enough time on our hands, we might as well give baking a try! Or rather, making sweets, because some of the recipes I’ve put down here for you don’t even require an oven.
You’ll probably have almost all the necessary ingredients for a simple cake at home: sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and butter or margarine. You’ll probably also have one or more baking tins; you can use a round or a rectangular one for the recipes here, whichever you’ve got or prefer. Also, it would be helpful to have a hand mixer, kitchen scales and a measuring cup, and you’ll certainly need a big bowl for mixing your ingredients!
Speaking of which, the amounts mentioned here are for a regular cake for 4-6 persons; it would be very difficult if not impossible just to bake for 2. But then, those sweets don’t go off easily, and you’ll be able to enjoy them for days!
3 bananas, 2 eggs, 300g flour, 100g margarine, 150g sugar, 100ml milk, 2tsp baking powder, salt
The good old American banana bread has turned out to be THE lockdown baking favourite – partly because it’s very easy to do, but also because it’s just so… awesomely tasty!
Put the margarine and the sugar in a big bowl and whisk with a hand mixer (if you haven’t got one, a whisk or a cooking spoon will do, but it’ll take longer). Add the eggs and a dash of salt, the milk and the flour and the baking powder and keep whisking.
Peel the bananas, squash them with your fingers and add them to the mixture and stir some more with a spoon. Put the mixture in a baking tin lubricated with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour at 180°C. (Meanwhile, you can let the kids lick the bowl, or you can do it yourself, of course!)
Leave your cake to cool down, then cut it into slices and enjoy!
150g semolina, 125g flour, 150 margarine, 600g sugar, 6 eggs, 125ml orange juice, 2tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp brandy, 4tsp baking powder, 1tsp vanilla sugar, salt
This is a very popular cake from Greece, not too difficult to do and enormously tasty and filling. Here’s how to do it: first of all, take the butter out of the fridge; it mustn’t be too hard when you put it into the mixture. Then put the flour, the semolina, the baking powder and a dash of salt into a bowl and stir it.
Separate the egg yolks and whites, put the egg whites into a small bowl and whip them with a hand mixer or a whisk. Put the yolks in a big bowl with the butter, 350g sugar and the vanilla sugar and whisk. Lubricate a big baking tin with oil.
Slowly add the semolina-flour mix and the egg whites to the butter and sugar in the big bowl. Then add the orange juice. Put the whole mixture into the baking tin and bake it in the oven for 45-50 minutes at 175°C. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup: put 250g sugar in a pot with 125ml water, bring it to boil, then add lemon juice and brandy and leave it to cool down.
When the cake is ready, pour the syrup over it and leave it until it’s cooled down, then cut it into squares. A great tea or coffee time treat!
4 eggs, 80g sugar, 200g flour, 60g butter, 200ml milk, 100g raisins, 1 dash lemon juice, salt, oil, 3-4 tsp strawberry jam (or any other flavour you prefer)
The Austrians are famous not only for their very varied cuisine in general, but for their sweet dishes in particular. Through the influence from the former Habsburg empire, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian and Yugoslavian sweets became part of the enormous repertoire of Austrian confectioners; and this is one of the most famous and delicious ones of them all: Kaiserschmarrn – which could be translated as ‘The Emperor’s scrambled pancakes’…
It’s a recipe you can do without an oven, because it’s fried in the pan! And in this case, since it’s not going to be baked in the oven, you can also halve the ingredients to get a dish for only 2-3 people. Strictly speaking, the procedure here isn’t actually baking, of course – but nevertheless, the outcome will be one of the best and most famous sweet dishes in the world!
First, separate the egg whites from the yolks, then whip the whites in a small bowl. In a big bowl, stir the egg yolks and the sugar, then add the flour, the milk, the butter, the lemon juice and a dash of salt. Then, carefully add the egg whites and the raisins, stirring with a spoon.
Put the mixture in a big pan with oil and fry like an ordinary pancake; when it’s golden brown and solid enough, turn it around with a spatula (or two, to make sure, one at the bottom and one on top) and fry it from the other side. When it’s done, tear it apart; serve topped with some more sugar and jam.
500ml milk, 300g sugar, 100g flour, 4 bananas, 4-6tsp crushed almonds, 1 packet vanilla sugar
This is an exotic and extremely tasty recipe from Turkey; and, like Kaiserschmarrn, it’s done without using an oven! Put the sugar and the flour in a pot and add the milk, stir well and slowly bring to the boil. Let it simmer until it’s really thickened down (at least 10-12 minutes). Peel and slice the bananas.
Take the pot off the hub and add the banana slices; fill the sweet into 4-6 bowls and let it cool down. Then, serve garnished with the crushed almonds.
4 bananas, 4tsp sugar, 25g margarine, 100g apricot jam, 1tsp lemon juice, 1tsp sherry
Another exotic recipe made with bananas (they’re just endlessly useful and tasty!), this time from the Caribbean. And you don’t need an oven for this one, either!
Peel and halve the bananas, put them in a pan with margarine and top them with sugar. Fry them until they start to get golden brown. Meanwhile, for the syrup put the jam, the lemon juice and the sherry in a small pot and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer at a low temperature for a few minutes.
Pour the syrup over the bananas, heat up again for a moment, then serve – delicious!
Sweet Rice Casserole
250g rice, 350ml milk, 4 eggs, 25g margarine, 75g sugar, 75g raisins, 1 dash lemon juice, 1tsp vanilla sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg
This one’s from the Southern States of the USA – where they sure know how to cook and bake! Cook the rice (round grain preferably) for 15-20 minutes; meanwhile, put all the other ingredients in a big bowl and whisk with a hand mixer or whisk.
When the rice is ready, add it to the mixture and stir well; put it into a lubricated baking tray and bake for 1 hour in the oven at 180°C. Easy but very effective, and also very filling!
500g flour, 300g raisins, 250g sugar, 150g butter, 1 egg, 200ml milk, 1 packet yeast powder, 1 teabag black tea, 3tsp cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt
Finally, here’s something for advanced bakers: a classic sweet bread from Ireland, a favourite for Halloween, but it’s great all year round, of course. Thing is just: it’s a yeast cake – and yeast can be tricky.
Things have been much better since yeast powder has been available at every supermarket; the chances of your cake being successful are much higher now. Still, you’ll have to be careful with the temperature of the ingredients; they’ve all got to be at room temperature, which means you’ve got to take some of them out of the fridge well before embarking on your baking adventure – otherwise the dough just won’t rise…
Anyway, a barmbrack is well worth the extra effort and care. So, having taken the right amount of butter and milk out of the fridge, make a big mug of tea with the tea bag, pour it into a bowl and soak the raisins in it for 1 hour.
When the milk is warm enough, mix it with the yeast powder and 2tsp sugar and leave it for 10 minutes. In a big bowl, mix the flour, the sugar, the cloves, some nutmeg and cinnamon and a dash of salt and stir well with a spoon; add the egg, the butter and the yeast mixture and stir again, then knead with your hands for 5 minutes.
Dry the raisins on a few pieces of paper towel, then knead them into the dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough in the unheated oven (where no sudden draught can harm it) for 45 minutes to rise. Then, put it into a lubricated baking tin and bake it for 35-40 minutes at 180°C. Your barmbrack should rise nicely, and your reward will be a genuine Irish classic!
Happy baking and sweet-making, dear friends, and stay happy and healthy indoors!