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Ammonia, and A NICE PLUM CAKE

 
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:05 pm    Post subject: Ammonia, and A NICE PLUM CAKE Reply with quote

Just got back from a couple months in India where a company called Honest Bakery makes the best damn Plum Cake I've ever eaten.

It's very much a Brit thing, I'm sure. Plum Pudding is another variant.

So I'm trying to reproduce the recipe here at home in USA, and the closest I've found is from Mrs Beeton's, of course.

Code:

1769. INGREDIENTS.—

1 lb. of flour,
1/4 lb. of butter,
1/2 lb. of sugar,
1/2 lb. of currants,
2 oz. of candied lemon-peel,
1/2 pint of milk,
1 teaspoonful of ammonia or carbonate of soda.

Mode.—Put the flour into a basin with the sugar, currants, and sliced candied peel; beat the butter to a cream, and mix all these ingredients together with the milk. Stir the ammonia into 2 tablespoonfuls of milk and add it to the dough, and beat the whole well, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Put the dough into a buttered tin, and bake the cake from 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Time.—1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Average cost, 1s. 3d. Seasonable at any time.

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/beeton-baking-35.php


the AMMONIA is no doubt a leavening agent, but just exactly what is it?

And as such, I think I'd be tempted to use a slightly sour or clabbered milk.

The cake from Honest Bakery is quite dense, yet has a very light crumb, so I think I'll use cake flour and beat as lightly as possible. And despite its density, it's not very rich.

This reproduction will probably take a few tries, but I welcome suggestions.

BTW, the ingredients listed on the Honest Bakery package are as follows. One in particular has me baffled. Can you guess?

Sugar
Vanilla
Vanaspathy (that's ghee)
Egg
Cherry
Ginger
Greap
Liquid Glucose
Permitting Flavours
Essence
Cardamom
Etc.

Now WTF is GREAP? :-)
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1018
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ammonia is a prior century leavening - see
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bakers-ammonia-ammonium-carbonate-27-oz

carbonate of soda would be baking soda, also used as a leavening.

Greap - dunno.... found one ref to "fruts" - but nothing on that either....
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dilbert,

Knew I could count on you but didn't expect such a speedy reply.

Many thanks! Spirits of Hartshorn, as I believe it was called?

Also, figured out the mystery ingredient greap.
It's grape! just spelled wrong. Whether they mean juice or crushed fruit will have to be determined by experimentation.

Jim
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1018
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hartshorn at one time - as I understand - was actually made from powder deer horn.

it's a veddy traditional 'flavor' for some German Christmas cookies...

if you opt to use it, do be advised - it does leave / produce an ammonia smell and flavor. you may or may not care for the effect.....
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dilbert,

Thanks again. Of course I don't want the cake smelling of ammonia, so I'll substitute baking powder. Question is, at what ratio?

If orig recipe calls for 1 tsp ammonia, how much baking powder (double acting, Clabber Girl) should I use? Cake as it's made is rather dense, so I'm inclined to go on the shy side.

Had a good laugh trying to figure out why the cake was brown and not white.
It's the damn raisins/currants! I'll bet some are used as pulp to color the dough.

As far as flavoring is concerned, my original assessment was the following

Ginger
Allspice
Mace
Cloves
Cardamon

Going to skip the cloves, and it's a toss-up whether to use mace or allspice or both. And knowing my own peculiarities, I'll take it easy on the cardamom...

A friend raised an interesting question: use powdered ginger, or fresh grated?

Found the candied orange peel, and the candied cherries, so I think I'm all set. Skipped the candied citron, but did buy some candied lemon peel which I doubt I'll use.

Suggestions welcome. Thanks again!

Jim
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1018
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

substitution....

okay,,,, there is not universal agreement on this.

for the most part.....

1 part hartshorn = 1 part baking powder
or
1-1/3 part baking soda
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1st iteration in the oven as we speak.
325° F for an hour? I'll use the toothpick test.

Made quite a few changes to Mrs. Beeton's.
Wish me luck!
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Code:
1 lb. of cake flour,
1/4 lb. of unsalted butter,
1/2 lb of sugar,
˝ tsp salt
1 whole egg, room temp
1/2 lb of currants,
2 TBS of candied lemon-peel
2 TBS candied cherry
12 oz (1˝ cups) whole milk room temp,
1 teaspoonful of ammonia or carbonate of soda = 1 slightly heaping tsp double-acting baking powder (fresh)

Spices:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground allspice (may be too much?)
1TBS ground ginger
5 pods fresh green cardamom, husks removed (~ shy ˝ tsp)


Mode.—Put the flour into a basin with the sugar, currants, and sliced candied peel; beat the butter to a cream, and mix all these ingredients together with the milk. Stir the ammonia into 2 tablespoonfuls of milk and add it to the dough, and beat the whole well, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Put the dough into a buttered tin, and bake the cake from 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

10” cast iron pan, parchment paper on bottom, greased, warm.

325° F (pre-heated) for exactly 1 hour





Didn't come out quite as I'd expected. I wanted something denser and moister, so maybe too much baking powder? Pan too shallow or not deep enough? 325° F seems rather slow; should I go slower?

Also, need to macerate some of the currants (and use ˝ raisins next time) and mix into batter to make a dark brown cake.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim,

I think it might have risen too much and taste different because you used baking powder instead of baking soda as your replacement for carbonate of soda. Sodium carbonate (carbonate of soda) is a bit more basic than sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) but as a leavener should be close enough to sub 1:1. Also, because it is more basic it might contribute flavor in much the same way that lye does to pretzels and masa. (Alternatively, you can theoretically make your own carbonate of soda by spreading baking soda out on a sheet pan and baking at 250-300F for over 30 min. An hour would probably be best. The resulting reaction should be: 2 NaHCO3 -> Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2. The resulting powder can be used in lieu of lye in many recipes like making ramen noodles, pretzels, etc.)

(Modern baking powders will have significantly more lift than the old timey stuff too. But the more I think about this, the more I think you just need to make your baking soda.)
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael,

I bet you're right on the baking SODA. I didn't read Dilbert's post closely enough and used baking POWDER instead of Ammonium carbonate.

It's quite good, not too sweet, and dense, which is the way I wanted it. Has a light crumb, too.

But it's not moist at all! Not dried out, but hard as a brick (well, almost...).
I don't want to add more fat, and I *think* the amount of liquid was about right.

So... deeper baking dish? Shorter cooking time? Both? (add some glycerin?)

EDIT: I also added an egg, as a binder of sorts. It just didn't make sense not to use one as called for in original recipe, but perhaps I was wrong?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

try using brown sugar instead of regular sugar? That usually results in a little more moist mouthfeel.
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Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 339
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh. of course!

How that slipped my mind, I don't know, but I meant to use some jaggery instead of all white castor sugar.
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