To go back to the beginning, Pawel was off the other day and after seeing me struggle to make a variety of complex cakes etc for a long time, has treated me(!) to a stand mixer - as a sort-of get well present!
It makes light work of everything and definately worth having if you're a long-suffering baker.
So what better way to say thanks, than to help him make a polish gingerbread - or "Piernik" as it is known in his native language!
It's the first time we've actually baked together and we had a really nice time. However, because we had the new gadget to play with, we were both fighting over who was "turning it on" or "having a go next"....!!! Boys and toys, you know.
Polish Gingerbread - "Piernik"
The problem with us Brits, is that if a dish isn't Chinese, French, Spanish or Italian, we have our reservations about it! I know I am certainly guilty of that - and I was especially so about this cake.
I'm not too fond on cakes that use "All-Spice" as an ingredient - nutmeg and cloves aren't my favourite ingredients in a sweet dish. However, this was a lot different to what I was expecting, and just goes to show, that other countries outside of what we perceive as the "norm", in terms of cuisine, have some fantastic food.
It's hard to describe how this cake really tastes as the ingredients also vary by region and not to mention that families add their own "twists" to a recipe. Some are plain, others add dried fruit or nuts, some are coated in chocolate....the list goes on!
All I can tell you is that I was pleasantly surprised when I first tasted it and I think it probably has to be one of my favourite cakes now. There's not much hint of the ginger, cloves or nutmeg and I would describe it as rather like a very mild cocoa cake - the hint of cocoa being especially prevalent, but yet still subtle at the same time.
The addition of a layer of plum jam running through the middle followed by a bitter dark chocolate ganache topping means it's an explosion of bitter and sweet which works really well.
We loosely followed Pawel's old family recipe, although I jigged it about a bit just to add a new edge to it.
It's something different and incredibly more-ish!
* 300g plain flour
* 90g dark brown sugar
* 2 medium eggs, separated
* 2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
* 1 1/2tsp of All Spice
* 1 1/2tsp of baking powder
* 100g butter
* 120ml of honey
* 120ml of strong, freshly made coffee
* 4 tbsp of plum jam (more or less to taste)
for the ganache
* 100g dark chocolate ( at least 70%)
* 60ml of double cream
* 1/2tsp of instant coffee
* chopped hazlenuts (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to Gas 4. Grease and line the bottom of a 2lb loaf pan.
2. In a saucepan, place your honey, coffee, all spice and butter and melt on a low heat. Once the butter is melted, take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little until it is just warm.
3. Then, in your mixer or by hand, combine your egg yolks, brown sugar, cocoa and baking powder until evenly mixed. Slowly add your warm liquid, beating continuously at a low speed.
4. Once that is a nice and well combined mixture, add the flour - mixing again until you have a smooth, glossy-brown liquid.
5. In a seperate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Then, add your wet mixture into the egg whites and fold until only just combined.
6. Pour your mixture into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 45minutes to an hour or until a skewer comes out almost clean.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for around 10 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling
( TIP: This can be applied to almost any cake - it's less likely to crumble and break if you leave it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so first!)
8. Once cool, split the cake in half lengthways and spread the jam on. Then put the two halves back together.
9. To make the ganache, simply put the chocolate, cream and coffee into a bowl above a pan of simmering water and leave until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally until it is well combined and glossy smooth.
10. Then spread a thin layer of this ganache onto the top and sides of the cake. At this stage you can add the crushed hazelnuts, if using.
This is great for after dinner or with a coffee in the afternoon.... Definately my new favourite!