4: Baking up a new year

We kick off 2021 with our go-to summer cake recipe... and lay down some truth about why streaky isn't always the best bacon for the job.

4: Baking up a new year

Hello and Happy New Year! We’re already reminiscing about delicious things eaten over the festive period (ham for days… we’re not complaining!), as we also look forward to the next couple of months of sizzling summer eats. We like to think we’re unbiased when it comes to seasons, but we’d have to admit summer does have a whole lot of natural talent when it comes to fruit and vegetables… and the perfect conditions for outdoor dining, of course! Read on for a stunner of a cake recipe that rises just enough to the occasion, and pairs perfectly with summer berries and fruits. And check out our guide to making the most of all the brilliant bacon varieties we lovingly produce – or shall we say ‘how to break out of the streaky box’!

To all of you friends who are already keen bakers, or who are eager to grow your baking repertoire in 2021, we’re planning plenty of bakeable inspiration to send your way throughout the year – here in our newsletters, in a dedicated section on our upcoming revamped website, and on Instagram.

Summer baking

A light, airy sponge cake filled with whipped cream and berries has summer written all over it, right? We agree, but let’s speak a simple truth right here – oh, the pressure to get that sponge rising, and the oh, disappointment when it (all too often, we find) looks wonderfully lofty only to collapse quarter of an hour after exiting the oven. The decided mugginess that plagues many parts of the country in summer does not lend itself to towering sponges.

So here we present an alternative, the ultimate cake to take you through summer – perfect for topping with fresh summer berries and whipped cream, or perhaps grilled stone fruit with Cointreau-laced mascarpone. This flourless chocolate cake (based on a torta Caprese) is wonderfully forgiving – you can swap out the type of nuts, slip in flavourings like citrus zest, whole berries, cherries, or slices of plum, or play around with alternatives to butter if you’d like to make it dairy-free as well as gluten-free. One of the most marvellous things about it is it’s designed to sink a little after baking – all the better to boost its fudgy texture and create a flat canvas for topping with goodies.

Flourless chocolate cake

Serves 8-10 | Makes one 22cm round cake

100g skinned hazelnuts
200g Whittaker’s Dark Ghana chocolate, broken into pieces
200g salted butter, diced
4 Freedom Farms eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
icing sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180℃. Grease the base and sides and line the base of a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Spread hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in hot oven for around 15 minutes, checking halfway though, until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. Put toasted hazelnuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until you reach the consistency of demerara sugar. Set aside.

Put chocolate and butter into a double boiler or a bowl set over a small amount of simmering water in a saucepan (ensure the water is not touching the bowl). Melt, stirring, until almost entirely melted then remove from heat and stir until melted and glossy. Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until soft peaks form.

Stir melted chocolate and butter into the egg yolk mixture and combine thoroughly. Stir in the hazelnuts and the ground almonds, then fold in the egg whites using a whisk or metal spoon, until combined.

Pour batter into prepared tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The trusty old skewer test doesn’t apply here as you still want the centre nice and fudgy, but the cake is ready when a crust has formed on top of the cake (crust may crack – that’s fine!)

Cool for 10 minutes in tin before carefully turning out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

You may like to decorate the cake by sprinkling icing sugar through a sieve over a paper doily or your own homemade paper-cut pattern – or pile on fruit, berries, cream and so on if you prefer.

Back to bacon

We know only too well that streaky bacon is marriage material. We understand the desire to put it in everything. But sometimes...hang on now, take a seat if you need to, this news could be difficult to deal with, but we’re here to support you –  sometimes, streaky maybe isn’t the best bacon for the job.

  • Sometimes, you want a little less of the sweet-fat crisp-o-rama and a little more of the umami meatiness. Here are some occasions you may like to reach for our other offerings – shoulder, middle, rindless middle, rindless eye, and back bacon.
  • It’s a good idea, too, to consider using other rashers for ethical reasons. If we all reach for streaky bacon, which is just the outer belly part of the pig, we’re condoning the idea that some parts of the pig are valued over others. We reckon part of being a meat-eater is valuing the whole animal.
  • In savoury baking where you want to dice or slice the bacon into small pieces – think quiches, tarts, pies, muffins, pinwheel scones – go for a meaty, easy-to-dice choice like shoulder or eye.
  • In many dishes where the bacon will be cooked with a degree of moisture – streaky’s natural talents are a tad wasted when it’s not allowed to be its crisp best. Opt for shoulder bacon, or eye bacon if you like a rich ‘hammy’ flavour’ in tomato-rich pasta sauces and for soups, middle bacon, which has some belly fat, makes a nice alternative to streaky to use with creamy sauces.
  • In breakfast eat-with-the-hands dishes like burritos, muffins and baps, you want something gutsy that’ll hold up to runny egg yolks – middle bacon is great as it still has that fat to soak up remnants of the night before...
  • In other sandos with lots of juicy ingredients, especially if not serving right away, opt for shoulder or eye bacon.

Above all, trust your taste buds! If you prefer one type of bacon to another in certain dishes, go with your instinct.

Five Good Things

A new addition to The Omnivore for 2021… each month we’re sharing five things that we’ve read, seen or listened to… some food-related, some less so – but all worthy of checking out.

1/ READ: Hiakai by Monique Fiso
A heart-stirring account of Māori food – its traditions, ingredients and tikanga (customs and traditional values). Monique runs a Wellington restaurant (also named Hiakai) that was recently named amount Lonely Planet’s top travel pics for 2021. Look for a copy at your local bookstore or library.

2/ LISTEN: A Carnivore’s Crisis by Rachel Khoo (and produced by NZer Nicola Harvey)
This eight-episode Audible podcast doesn’t have all the answers for what the future of food should look like… in fact it left us with more questions than answers… but they were all really good questions! Get it here (paid content, but free trial available)

3/ READ: I run a butcher shop in small-town Pennsylvania. Covid-19 has transformed my business – possibly forever by Tod Auman and Sam Bloch
Our local butchers were not deemed essential during our March lockdown – it’s fascinating to see how they’re fairing in places where COVID is far from managed. Read it here.

4/ READ: Every dairy lolly in New Zealand, reviewed and ranked by Madeleine Chapman
When The Spinoff published Madeleine’s chip review, people called us (as the food section sponsor) to tell us she was treasonous and WRONG (she wasn’t BTW). This list didn’t inspire the same outrage, but it is a fun way to reminisce about lazy hot afternoon walks from the campground to the dairy. Read it here.

5/ EAT: Bad Baker Biscuits
I’ve diligently done school lunch baking every weekend for the past six years… but was recently relieved of my duties as these biscuits are *better than homemade ones*. And in all fairness, I can’t argue. The Double Chocolate Chunks ones are our pick – they make a great afternoon tea treat, but also stand up well as the shell of an ice cream sandwich (we’ve paired them with Duck Island Ice Cream’s Strawberry Coconut Lime Leaf). Find Bad Baker online here, or ask for them in your local grocery store.

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