All 15 entries tagged Chocolate

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March 31, 2013

How to… A beginners guide to creating chocolate butterflies


Cupcakes decorated with salted caramel buttercream and chocolate butterflies
Butterflies resting on banana cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream


I wanted to make a chocolate butterfly, the moment that I saw Emma's beautiful chocolate butterfly resting on top of her Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake.

But I'd never made any form of chocolate decoration before. So, how could I do it?

I found out that Emma had bought some special chocolate that didn't require tempering, which I didn't want to splash out on. Otherwise, I needed to temper my chocolate using a thermometor. That put me off for a few weeks because it felt a bit too complicated and pricey, if I'm honest.

And then, a cherry blossom cake started to take shape in my imagination. Dark chocolate forms the silhouette of the tree and branches and I'd use real cherry blossoms for the flowers. However, I'm not sure what the cake mixture will be so this cherry blossom cake is still locked away in my mind. Since then, I've looked at some pictures of beautiful cherry blossom cakes but they mostly seem to rely on sugarpaste and fondant decorations. I'd still like to do my chocolate version.

Well, true to character, I read a few more blogs and watched a couple of youtube videos. On the note of youtube videos, I recommend watching Ann's How to cook thattutorials for the variety of methods and decorations that one can attempt with chocolate.

Then, at 11 o'clock on Saturday night, armed with a bit more confidence and knowledge, I simplified the process of tempering chocolate as much as I dared, filled a piping bag, traced a butterfly template and gave it a go.

There are more complicated ways of tempering chocolate than the one that I'm going to share with you. Strictly speaking you need to use a minimum of 300g of chocolate in order to temper it. I chose to use 100g because it was meant to be a small trial and if it went wrong then it would be less of a waste. I also wanted to experiment with white and dark chocolate to see if they differed at all and 100g of each felt like it would be sufficient.

Next, I realised that I didn't have enough pyrex bowls. Perhaps it's a sign that it's not meant to be - as if! I used my Denby bowls (they're microwave and oven proof, so I was pretty sure they'd be okay).

Here's how I did it.

You'll need:

  • Chocolate for melting. I began with 100g but, as you know, you're supposed to have a minimum of 300g of chocolate to temper it.
  • Non-stick baking paper
  • Template
  • Pen/Pencil
  • 1 large hardback book. I used 1 hardback and 2 smaller books to lift it up even more.

1. Preparation: I found a template of a butterfly and traced it onto my baking paper. Then I flipped the paper over, so that the chocolate doesn't pick up the ink, folded the paper down the middle of the butterfly's body and opened the paper back out so that it was flat on my worksurface. I opened up the hardback book in the middle. That's where I rested my butterflies so that they'd dry in 3D.

butterfly template

2. I chopped up the chocolate and set aside 20g of the chocolate and put 80g of chocolate in the bowl and zapped it in the microwave at 15 second intervals to begin with, reducing it to 10 seconds. I burnt my first batch, but only in the middle. Rather than waste the chocolate, I scooped out the burnt bits with a teaspoon, gave the remaining chocolate a good stir and learned my first lesson.

When microwaving chocolate to melt, the chocolate in the middle of the bowl melts quickest. Stir the chocolate at each interval, even if they don't look like they've begun to melt.

3. Once the chocolate in the bowl had melted, I stirred in the 20g. By doing this step, you are, in effect, bringing down the temperature of the chocolate. This is my very simple way of tempering the chocolate.

filling a piping bag with melted chocolate

4. I filled a disposable piping bag with the chocolate, pushed the chocolate down and twisted the top end. It's better to do it now rather than when you snip off the tip, otherwise the chocolate will squirt out the hole. I'm not sure what you'd do if you weren't to use a disposable one... If anyone's got any helpful suggestions then please leave them as a comment at the bottom.

5. I snipped a bit off the tip. I began with the tiniest of openings and gradually made it bigger. Mostly because I realised, whilst piping, that I hadn't fished out all the burnt bits and they were causing a blockage. Ooopsies.

piping bag readysnipped off end of piping bag

6. I barely used any pressure on the bag to pipe the chocolate carefully over the butterfly template. Once I finished, I lifted up the tip and quickly began work on my second, third, fourth.. you get the picture. That night, I went on to make chocolate stars and dragonflies.

chocolate butterfly 1butterfly setting in the books

7. I rested the baking paper in the open book so that the fold in the paper nestled into the fold of the open book.

8. Leave them to dry and then carefully peel the baking paper away from the chocolate.


gently peel off the butterfly


See. Not so difficult afterall and the decorations will certainly impress your friends.

The Han-Na of 6 months ago would have been put off making a chocolate butterfly because of the notion of tempering chocolate; I guess my resolution to push myself in developing new baking skills is slowly paying off. Recently I noticed that my attitude is taking on a bit more of a 'if it's difficult, I'll give it a go' sheen.

This makes me giggle ruefully. I always describe myself as one who 'doesn't like pushing themselves'. Honestly, really, I'm not. I'm part of a triathlon club and I constantly see evidence of everyday athletes pushing their physical limits. I don't do that: my swimming at the end of lane two just doesn't mirror their drive.

So... is it baking that is going to knead that push and determination into me?

Maybe.


February 28, 2013

A Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache


hazelnut brown butter cake slice

I had already decided that I was going to like this hazelnut brown butter cake the moment I saw it. And then I read on:

'This is a cake that has it's roots in dacquoise and meringue.' - Shuna Fish Lydon

A whatcha, whatchamacallit? Dacquoise and meringue.

Meringue is a dessert that we're pretty aware of, but dacquoise? I've been blissfully ignorant of its existence until Monday evening. I was trying to find another cake recipe to make for Sarah's birthday, other than Praline Almond Cake, because I didn't have enough butter for that recipe and I was much too tired to trawl round Tescos. I can't even remember how my brain jumped from praline almond cake to hazlenut brown butter cake, but somehow I found myself reading Smitten Kitchen Deb's enticing blog entry on it. Debs links onto Eggbeater Shuna's detailed poston how to make this cake. I highly recommend reading Shuna's step-by-step instructions before baking the cake because if you follow it, it's pretty fool-proof. And that's where I first stumbled across dacquoise. A dacquoise, so Wikipedia tells me, is a french dessert made with layers of nut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream. The meringue is normally made with almonds and hazlenuts.

I decided to read up a bit more on the cake. I got as far as Jibuyabu's metricised description on making this cake(thank-you) and then I stopped. It was 9:30pm and I needed to begin the baking.

My preliminary reading on this cake intrigued me. All three bloggers were in awe of this chef named Suzanne Goin, like we should all know her. "Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake. Need I say more?" - Smitten Kitchen. Well yes. Who is she? and why should that sway my decision on whether or not I should make this cake? As it turns out she is one of America's most highly-acclaimed chef. That is, at least, according to her book on Amazon. Debs and Shuna are US based food bloggers so that probably explains their awe of her. So, okay maybe that should sway my mind. But it doesn't really. At least, not yet. I wondered, whether she is the equivalent of say, Tom Ketteridge in the UK. Now, all you non-Brits, might be typing Tom Ketteridge into google search because you're scratching your head and wondering, 'who is this Tom Ketteridge dude?' Just this incredible michelin starred chef! Ah - the nuances of across the pond baking.

I tell you what, though, if we just call the cake what it is - a hazelnut brown butter cake - I think that it makes it sound utterly enticing. Don't you think so?

hazelnut brown butter cake ready to go

The 'not your standard cake' ingredients and the fun of trying out a new technique, validated it as the one to make as Sarah's birthday cake (the same Sarah of the Cardamon, White Chocolate and Rosewater angstand Chocolate Macarons)

In Suzanne Goin's original recipe, she serves it up with sauteed pears and icing sugar; Debs from Smitten Kitchen went for a chocolate ganache. It's a no-brainer which option Sarah would prefer, and I tweaked Deb's version and replaced the coffee with baileys liquor.

And I'll tell you what - the cake lives up to expectations and tastes perfectly divine. On Tuesday evening, I served it up and we all commented on how it smelled and tasted like ferrero rocher. It's not heavy, even with all that butter. Moreover, I believe that it would taste better as it gets older because of all that lovely moist nuttiness. Do you know - I'm pretty sure that we all managed two slices, after a pretty big main meal - so there's not much a chance of this cake hanging around that long.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Jibuyabu and Sunday Suppers at Lucques

Ingredients for the cake

  • 140g blanched whole hazelnuts plus some extra for garnish
  • 225g butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1tsp of vanilla extract
  • 170g icing sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 180g egg whites, which is about the equivalent of 5 extra large egg whites or 6 large egg whites
  • 45g granulated sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and prepare a 23cm or 25cm springform cake tin, by greasing the sides and lining the bottom with baking paper. I only had a 23cm cake tin and it turned out fine.

toasted hazelnutshazelnuts and icing sugar

2. Toast the hazelnuts under the grill or in the oven, by spreading them out in one layer on a baking tray, until they smell gorgeously nutty and turn a golden brown. It normally takes between 10-15 minutes. Once done, leave them cool. I transferred them onto another baking tray so quicken the cooling process.

3. Put the butter in a medium sized pan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthways down the middle and scrape out all the seeds onto the butter. Add the vanilla bean to the pan. Now, make the brown butter. I was a bit intimidated by this ingredient until I read this tutorial on Poire au Chocolat. Cook the butter on a medium heat until the butter browns, finishes crackling at you and smells nutty. It'll take a good couple of minutes for this amount of butter. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to one side to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and dump it in the bin.

preparing butter to brown with vanilla

4. Weigh out the icing sugar and place in a food processer. Once the hazelnuts have cooled down, add them to the food processer too and whizz them up until they are finely ground (this takes about 10 minutes, interspersed with moments of me scraping the sides of the food processer with a knife so that everything gets whizzed up). Add the flour and pulse it a few times to ensure that the flour is evenly mixed through. This mixture will smell gorgeously nutty and it tastes good too, if you happen to get some of it on your fingers while you are emptying this out into a large bowl. There are some perks for being a bit clumsy.

5. Whisk the eggs with a stand mixer or a handheld electic beater. I held off adding the sugar until the eggs had formed soft peaks, but in the original recipe she says to add the sugar in from the start. Keep whisking until they form stiff peaks.

6. In a small bowl, take a large dollop of egg white and a generous splash of brown butter and mix it together vigorously before re-adding and folding it to the egg whites. Eggbeater Shuna explains this process as creating an emulsion between two ingredients that would normally repel each other (whisked egg whites and butter) so that after it is introduced to egg whites, it makes it easier to incorporate the remaining large quantities of ingredients.

7. Alternate folding in the dry mixture of the icing sugar, hazelnuts and flour and the liquid brown butter to the egg whites, being careful not to overmix and knock back all the air that you've carefully worked into the egg whites.

cake batterhazelnut brown butter cake

8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. It's done when the cake is coming away from the sides of the tin and a knife comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, before then inverting it onto a wire rack so that you can peel the baking paper from it's bottom.

9. Turn the cake back over onto the plate that you'll be serving on.

** You could serve it just like this with a dusting of icing sugar and sprinkle the reserved hazelnuts. To make it pretty, why not use a stencil?

Ingredients for the ganache

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp baileys or irish cream equivalent

Method

chocolate ganache 1chocolate ganache 2

1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small pyrex bowl. As you can see, I put mine directly into a pyrex measuring jug to make the pouring bit over the cake easier.

2. Heat up the double cream in a small pan until it just starts bubbling and then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a few minutes, then gently stir until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add in the baileys and stir to incorporate.

preparing to dress the cake with ganachecake with ganache


3. Carefully pour the ganache evenly over the cake. It doesn't matter if some of the ganache spills over the sides of the cake. I think that it adds a certain charm and elegance. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining hazelnuts. I toasted and crushed them before sprinkling them over the cake. Alternatively, you could make caramel hazelnuts or a hazelnut praline (unfortunately, I had run out of sugar as well, so couldn't pursue either of those options). Or... just serve it as it is. Plain with the chocolate ganache.

You can make this a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge or in an airtight container in a cold room. So, go on - bake this one up and impress your friends.

Happy Birthday Sarah Cake

October 26, 2012

Understudies in Nigella's Chocolate Banana Bread: Introducing Whiskey and Currants

img_1846.jpg

I know this is a rather strange title for a recipe: this is another one of my cakes that appeared, as it were, from the magic created when the actors of a recipe are not there, one looks for the understudies and BOOM! the result is far better than the original. I say 'another' because it isn't the first time that I've improvised with ingredients whilst baking. My baking history is chequered with them, for example the courgette and walnut cake when my cupboard lacked most of the ingredients in and the carrot and pinenut cake that was created when I put baking powder in the wrong bowl of herman...

img_1818.jpg

The smell of this banana cake, that I conjured up, is of Christmas. No wonder as I used sloe whiskey and currants to substitute the called for dark rum and sultanas, respectively.

Have you ever come across - ? No! Have you ever tasted a banana cake that's like a Christmas cake? You'll now start posting recipes in my comments box to tell me of various banana cake recipes that do :) *giggle* I would welcome them.

While I'm asking - do you know what makes a cake into a bread? I don't know. Why is it that most banana cakes call themselves breads? Is it to do with the loaf tin that they are made in?

mixing egg

So... a confession. I made this cake because I was being made to pack up house, again! Do you remember the previous times that I moved flat and I found myself just having to make two lemon and ginger cheesecakesand bramble jelly? My fellow resident tutors and flat movers, David and Lucy, were really worried about the lengths that I went to avoid putting things away. So now, I'm very aware that I bake to distract myself from the pain of packing boxes; there's always good reason. This time, I had a hoard of frozen bananas, 12 as it turned out, that needed to be used up. Well, why not strike a compromise with the chore of packing and this golden (brown) opportunity, and try out quick and easy banana bread recipes.

So, I did with Nigella's and Deb's (from Smitten Kitchen).

According to Nigella (How to be a Domestic Goddess), '[T]his is the first recipe anyone hesitant about baking should try: it's fabulously easy and fills the kitchen with that aromatic fug which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess.'Well that sold it to me... as if I needed any convincing. Nevertheless, there are even easier, equally enticing banana cakes out there. Cue: Smitten Kitchen's Jacked Up Banana Bread. I made her banana bread at the same time that I made Nigella's and it is just a tad easier to make. I'll post that recipe later, because this variation of Nigella's banana bread recipe, with the whiskey and currants, supersedes it in taste, flavour and richness.

banana and chocolate cake ingredients

Ingredients (and a suggestions box of other substitutes for the dried fruit and liquor at the bottom of this post)

  • 100g currants.
  • 75ml sloe whiskey, or any whiskey
  • 150g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 90-100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas, mashed (about 300g in weight with the skins off)
  • 60g chopped walnuts
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

1. Put your chosen dried fruit and liquor into a small saucepan (I measured the currants and whiskey directly in the saucepan for ease) and bring to the boil. Now, remove from the heat, cover the saucepan and leave for an hour or so, in order that the currants can plump up as they absorb the most of the liquid. After which, Nigella says, to drain the currants. I decided it was a waste of the sloe whiskey, so I ended up adding it all, currants and whiskey, to the cake mix at the appropriate step. I'm rushing ahead of myself here. While the currants are plumping up, move on with the rest of the recipe.

2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and line a 2lb loaf tin. I only have a 1.5 lb loaf tin and it just about manages it.

banana and flour

3. Measure out the plain flour, cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. Now add in the bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and give them all a good mix with a metal or wooden spoon. This means that you don't get any lumps of salt, cocoa powder or bicarbonate of soda in the eventual cake.

4. Melt the butter. I've used both methods of carefully zapping butter in the microwave (um, careful and zap don't seem to be natural partners but what other word describes what happens in a microwave?) and melting it in a saucepan. Both work. If you are going to zap it in the microwave, choose a large pyrex bowl that is big enough to make the cake mixture in, as it will save on the washing up later.

stirring butter and sugaradding the banana - looks really yummy!

5. Once melted, add the sugar to the butter and stir well until the sugar is well blended into the butter. It should look almost toffee-like in colour because of the brown sugar. Follow with the eggs. Beat them in, one at a time, to the sugary buttery mixture then add the mashed bananas and beat well.

6. Now add the currants and the remainder of the liquid in the saucepan, along with the walnuts, vanilla extract and the chopped chocolate to the mixture and stir well.

adding the chocolate, nut and fruitadding flour to chocolate banana mixture

7. Add in the flour mix (see 3) but do it a third at time, stirring well after each addition. Once all of the dry mixture is mixed in, add the cake mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. I check after 40 minutes and if the cake looks like it is browning at the top too quickly, then I cover it with some baking paper to protect the cake from burning. Sometimes the cake takes a little bit longer to bake, so don't worry if it needs an extra 15-20 minutes in the oven. You'll know when the cake is done when you insert a cake tester, or I use a sharp knife, into the cake and it comes out clean.

adding flour to chocolate banana mixwet banana and chocolate cake mix_1wet chocolate and banana cake mix_2

8. Leave the cake in the loaf tin to cool down completely, before slicing it up to eat. It does smell absolutely heavenly at the point the cake leaves the oven, but the inside of the cake steams up and collapses if you cut into it when it's warm. Trust me. I made that mistake last week at Baking Club when we were far too impatient to wait because we were experimenting with various liquors and naturally wanting to taste the different flavours.

Verdict? Scrum-dili-O-cious. Honestly, this version is truly scrumptious and rich in flavour. I've made a few variations (listed below) but there is something to be said about how the flavours of whiskey, chocolate and banana complement each other and stand their ground against each other in this cake. You know how I said to leave the cake to cool down completely before cutting into it. I discovered that this cake gets better with age. The chocolate, whiskey and banana mature well together if you can bear to leave it a day or two before eating it and you'll have a more complex flavour to savour. Leave the cake in an airtight container for at least a week and it won't dry out... if it lasts that long!

Baking Club came round last Wednesday laden with various liquors. We tried a few out.

  • Banana, Date and Toffee Bread: 100g chopped up dried dates, 75ml of butterscotch schnapps, subsitute half of the soft brown sugar with dark brown sugar. I'd also leave out the 25g of cocoa powder with replace it with plain flour so that the toffee has a chance of coming through.
  • The original Banana and Chocolate Bread: 100g sultanas, 75ml dark rum - this is Nigella's original recipe. Tastes alright but the whiskey and currants one tastes even better. I might try this one out later without the chocolate and compare it to Smitten Kitchen's version.
  • Banana, Apricot and Chocolate Bread: 100g chopped up dried apricots, 75ml apricot brandy. - gave this one away before tasting it.
chocolate banana whiskey currant bread
An alternative to Christmas cake, perhaps?

July 19, 2012

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

beetroot chocolate cake
choc beetroot muffins

My sister and her husband are coming to Warwick next week and their imminent arrival reminds me, amongst other things, of the beetroot they left me with the previous summer.

First of all. Whoever came up with the idea of adding beetroot in chocolate cake deserves a medal. You saved me from letting the vegetable go to waste. Let me take you back to my summer last year (when we had a summer!)

Oh dear...What was I thinking?

Everytime I open the fridge door, I have been glared at by the beetroot that has been discarded in the corner. I can't believe that after I discovered my dislike of its flavour, I went ahead and bought some more beetroot.

I know that it's silly, but there's a wee bit of me that believes that beetroot will eventually taste alright if I eat enough of it. However - I just can't face another savoury beetroot meal (see the entry on the fuschia beetroot risotto). So, I have decided that for the timebeing the best place for beetroot is in a cake and I've been baking this Chocolate and Beetroot cake from Delicious magazine. It's main attraction is using raw beetroot, as opposed to the cooked stuff.

Top Tip: Use kitchen gloves when handling and grating beetroot to prevent the juices staining your hands. They'll also protect your nails and fingers from being accidentally grated.

beetroot beetroot

But first, I'll answer the question: why bother adding beetroot to chocolate cake?

Answer: Mostly for the moistness it adds to chocolate cake, and moistness is an essential quality in a goodchocolate cake. It's alright. Not everyone tastes the "secret ingredient" in this cake. Nonetheless, I think that the beetroot flavour comes through. Not at all in an overpowering way; I would describe it as a hint of earthiness. Somehow the beetroot marries nicely to the chocolate, in an earthy kind of way. I'm going to stop before I try to make the chocolate-beetroot combination into a sexy one.

chocolate beetroot muffins 1packing up the muffins

The first time I made it, I baked them as 12 muffins for a friend's picnic and there was enough mixture left over for a small loaf cake for my work colleagues to sample. I made a chocolate buttercream icing to go on top and finished it off with some slivered almonds. That was in the September with the first lot of beetroot given to me. Then with this second lot of beetroot, which I bought (silly me) I recently made three little cakes as a dessert, and a 20cm cake for another friend's dinner do. This time round, I finished them off with the chocolate sour cream icing detailed in Delicious's recipe. I've never been very interested in making icing (or as the Americans call it, 'frosting') as I'm not very fond of it. So, I'm pleased that I pushed myself on to learn something new.

chocolate beetroot muffins

What I like about this recipe is the end result: a scrummy, moist and very indulgently chocolate-y cake. Interestingly, the sponge in the muffins had wee air holes in it, like a wispa bar; the cake was a denser texture. If you like chocolate fudge cake, then I'd recommend you the cake version, especially with the chocolate sour cream icing. There's no fooling yourself that it's healthy, however, as there's an awful lot of chocolate that goes into it. Even on the basis that there is a vegetable in it. (Although surely if you ate enough of it, you could add it as a portion of your daily fruit and veg..?)

So, stock up on your dark chocolate before you bake this because you'll use a lot.

Ingredients for the Chocolate and Beetroot cake, adapted from Delicious Magazine's Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.

  • 250g plain chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g raw grated beetroot

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 and grease a 22cm round loose-bottomed cake tin* (see above for variations). Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper.

2. Slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave in short blasts. The second time round, my pyrex bowl was indisposed because of Herman (more about him earlier). So, I carefully melted the chocolate in a saucepan on a low heat and took the pan off the heat, the moment the chocolate at the bottom started melting, so that I didn't burn it. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool.

3. Peel and grate the beetroot using a normal cheese grater (see top tip about handling beetroot). Put the grated beetroot into a sieve over a sink and squeeze out the excess moisture. Leave it in the sieve whilst you get on with the next steps.

4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract.

5. In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and ground almonds. I'd recommend sifting the flour and bicarb of soda because you don't want to be eating ucky lumps of bicarbonate of soda in the baked cake. Then add them to the wet ingredients and fold it in with a spatula.

6. Now, add in the grated beetroot and pour in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be a dark violet colour.

dark violet beetroot chocolate batterbaked beetroot cake

7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes in the middle of the oven. Mine needed the full hour. Check after 30 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, then cover the top with baking paper or foil. If you bake them as muffins, you'll need 14-20 minutes. The cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean inserted in the middle.

8. Let the cake cool in its tin for a few minutes, then take it out of its tin and let it cool on a wire rack.

I made the chocolate sour cream icing the following morning, but you don't have to wait that long.

Ingredients for chocolate sour cream icing

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 100g sour cream
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

Melt the dark chocolate gently in a pan, or in the microwave. Allow to cool, then add to the melted chocolate, the icing sugar and the sour cream and beat until you have a thick, spreadable chocolate gooey icing.

Spread it over the cake, et voila!

icing on beetroot chocolate cakechocolate beetroot cake
iced chocolate beetroot cakechocolate beetroot cake 2

June 29, 2012

When Han–Na baked Chocolate Macarons (with a SPLASH of Baileys)

Item no. 25 on my 30 for 30 list is: bake macarons.

(That's not a typo, by the way. Remember the song: "You say eether, and I say eyether." Well, "You say macaroons, and I say macarons..." I've taken to saying macarons to describe these delightful creations because whenever I called them macaroons, people automatically assumed that I meant coconut macaroons.)

cimg8219.jpg
not many photos (yet!) of these chocolate macarons. I was too busy focussing on getting them right.

Anyway, back to the subject of macaron baking. These chocolate baileys macarons were the first batch of successful macarons that I baked and I was so pleased with myself. You see, I decided to bake macarons as a birthday cake of sorts for Sarah (of the White Chocolate, Rosewater and Cardamon cake episode) because she likes things that are a bit different. However, I had a disastrous first attempt making white chocolate and raspberry macarons from the Pink Whisk because I over-folded the mixture. Thus, when I added the bright pink mixture into the piping bag, it all ran out of the piping nozzle... and there was no stopping it. What. A. Fail. The sides of my mouth dropped a few centimetres as I scrapped the pink batter into the bin, and my bottom lip came out a bit. No joke.

Well, on the plus side, at least I know what over-folded mixture feels like. However, that's not much of a consolation prize when the clock is ticking.

The following day (which was the day I needed to present them), I decided to try another macaron recipe. I was still feeling somewhat deflated by the previous evening's disastrous attempt so decided to skip the grinding together of the almonds and sugar. That's why the macaron shells look rather rough and grainy, rather than smooth, on the photos. (I have done this for all subsequent macaron baking.) I was understandably slightly cautious when folding in the almonds and icing sugar into the eggwhites. I halted all folding action the second the batter slid slowly off my spoon in a somewhat ribbony fashion. No river of sugary, chocolatey, almond goo fell out of the piping nozzle this time. Success!

They (I don't know who precisely 'they' are) say that chocolate macarons are harder to make than normal ones because the cocoa powder drys them out. So maybe I lucked out with this. But I'll always remember them as the first batch of macarons that I baked successfully.

Ingredients for the chocolate macaron shells from Green and Blacks: Chocolate Recipes

  • 125g/4½oz ground almonds
  • 25g/1oz cocoa powder
  • 250g/9oz icing sugar (225g in with the almonds + 25g with the egg whites)
  • 100g egg whites, which is between 3-4 large egg whites
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 and line 3 baking sheets with non stick baking liners, such as Bake-O-Glide. Fit a large piping bag with a 1cm plain circle nozzle. Twist the piping bag and push the twist into the nozzle so that the mixture doesn't spill out of the nozzle. Stand it in a large receptacle, such as a pint glass.

2. Measure out the icing sugar and ground almonds. Put them into a food processor to grind down to an even finer mixture. I use my Bamix Dry Grinder and have to do it in 3 batches. When you're finished add in the cocoa powder then sift the almond, sugar, cocoa powder mixture and leave out the residue of ground almonds that weren't ground fine enough. (I always find that there can be up to a tablespoon of ground almonds leftover.) Then leave the sifted powders to one side.

3. Measure out the eggwhites and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until they are thick and glossy. (I sound like I'm describing hair for a shampoo advert!)

4. Use a spatula to gently fold in the almond, icing sugar and cocoa into the egg whites in a figure of eight. It will feel really dry at first and you'll wonder whether it'll ever come together, but don't worry. It will. It's important not to over-mix (see above) so stop when you feel like the mixture is dropping off the spatula in a thick ribbon. This is the tricky part to get right and it even has a name - macaronage.

5. Pour or use the spatula to spoon the mixture into the prepared piping bag. Once it's full, gently untwist the piping bag and begin piping the mixture onto the baking sheets. With the nozzle perpendicular to the baking sheet, squeeze out the mixture until it forms the circular size you're after. Firmly flick up your nozzle and move onto the next one. Leave 2cm of space between each circle, in case the macaron mixture spreads a bit.

6. Next, here's the noisy part. In order to remove spare air in the macarons, bang the baking trays firmly on a flat surface. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour for a film to form on the macarons. They're ready when you can lightly press your finger on the wet macaron circles and your finger comes away clean. This is also a good time to press down any remaining peaks on your macarons. Something that I clearly forgot to do with the one in the top photo.

7. Put the baking trays in the oven to cook at 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 for 1 minute, and then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake the shells for another 10-12 minutes. The shells should still be soft to touch but not gooey.

8. Let them rest for a minute on the baking trays and then remove them gently from the baking sheets to cool on a wire rack.

Ingredients for the chocolate baileys ganache filling

  • 100g double cream
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp baileys or an irish cream liquor substitute (or more splashes of baileys if you prefer)

Method

1. Break up the chocolate and put it into a heat proof bowl.

2. In a small pan, bring to boil the double cream and then pour the double cream on top of the chocolate. Leave for 2-3 minutes so that the chocolate starts melting of it's own accord.

3. Gently stir the cream into melting chocolate to encourage the remainder of the chocolate to melt away. Add in the baileys for flavour.

4. Let it cool completely and put it into the fridge to harden for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.

To assemble the macarons:

1. Lay out the macarons so that the flat side is looking at you, and pair up similar sizes - you can tell that I'm a novice macaron baker.

2. When the ganache is ready, you can spoon the ganache onto the shells using a teaspoon, or better still, transfer the ganache into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm nozzle, and pipe the chocolate ganache onto half of the shells. Sandwich them together with the other half of the shells.

3. Ta DA!

cimg8226.jpg

How does the story end with Sarah's birthday treat? Is it happily ever after? Oh no - my list of things that went wrong in baking macarons didn't stop there. Once I'd arranged the macarons and the candles on the plate, I decided to hide them in the bottom oven. And then I used the top oven to warm the bread. You already know how this story ends, right? Yup, you've guessed it - when I took the plate out to surprise Sarah, virtually all the candles had bent over like the tops of walking sticks. Only three of them had survived the oven. We were all amused!

Oh and the verdict on the macarons? Tasty, of course. Sarah was really pleased with the alternative birthday 'cake'. Now, if you were patient enough to eat one 3 days later - heavenly! The flavours had matured and melded together. Elegantly scrum!


May 16, 2012

Claire's Chunky Chocolate Cookies

Chunky Chocolate Cookies

What’s my favourite chocolate cookie recipe so far? The recipe that came from a calendar of chocolate recipes and my then-housemate Claire baked, back in the day when I wasn’t very good at trying out new recipes. And, wow. Didn’t they smell gorgeous and taste incredible… with that wonderful chewiness that cookies should have, and a bit toffee-ish flavour (that’s the brown sugar talking)!! Lekker, lekker, lekker!

Without wanting to sound too much like a cookie monster, I decided to have a go baking them because I wanted to eat MORE! It turned out to be a really simple recipe (hurrah); a bit too simplified perhaps? I made quite a few basic mistakes when making these.

For instance, I discovered that cookies splay out in the oven, so if you don’t space them out enough, they can all meld into one big rectangular cookie, which you have to cut apart.

Next, I found out that if you don’t use baking paper, it’s hard to get the baked cookies off the baking sheet.

Then, there’s minutes in baking them so that they’re soft and chewy and them being rock hard. Err on the side of chewy caution, my friend and use a timer!

Finally, this is less of a mistake but a definite learning point. It was an eye-opener for me to realise how much sugar goes into making cookies. I kind of thought of them as a ‘healthy’ snack before then, but 500g of sugar doesn’t quite fit that category. Hmmm…. So, let’s say that you wanted to cut down the sugar a bit, then I’d try reducing the amount of white sugar you put in. I’ve not tried this yet, but I’d experiment with between using half or two thirds of white sugar. I’m not entirely certain how that will affect the chemistry and flavour. However, I would definitely not scrimp on the brown sugar because it’s the brown sugar that produces that more-ish nuttiness to the cookie’s flavour. That first time, I even asked Claire whether she’d put toffee in the cookies.

chocolate cookie dough

So, I’ve amended the method section so that you can build on my experience. Also, at the bottom of this post, I’ve listed some of different combinations that I’ve created by adapting this recipe.

This makes about 55 regular sized cookies (by regular, I mean 10-15 cm). Claire advised me later that she often halves the recipe so that there’s not an eruption of cookies. You can freeze them, if you have space in your freezer. I have rolled my spare cookie dough into ball shapes and frozen them in a ziploc bag. Later, all I’ll need to do is put the cookie dough balls out on some baking paper and sheet to defrost for an hour at room temperature, then pop them in the oven. A wonderful, ‘instant’ treat to have up your sleeve!

Ingredients
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 250g white sugar
  • 280g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (you can use dark, milk, white and in any combination)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 500g plain flour
chunky chocolate cookies 1

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Prepare 2 baking sheets/trays with baking paper or greaseproof paper.
1. Mix butter with sugar until creamy and fluffy, with an electric mixer. If you don’t have one, then use a wooden spoon and beat hard!
2. Add the eggs, chocolate chips and vanilla essence and mix well. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt to the flour and add to the other ingredients. Sitr to form a thick cookie dough.
3. Take ping-pong ball size amounts of the mixture, roll it into a ball and place spaced apart on the baking sheet/tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the oven. The cookies should be slightly golden brown. Let them rest for a few minutes and then gently place on a rack to cool.

chocolate chunk cookies 2
The top ones have been baked for 5 minutes too long and are too hard, whilst the bottom rather anaemic looking ones have been baked perfectly so that they’re chewy but with a bit of crunch.
Ideas for different flavours?
I’ve adapted the recipe a few times and substituted the 300g chocolate for:
  • 100g dried cranberries, 100g roughly chopped macadamia nuts & 100g roughly chopped white chocolate chunks
  • zest of 2 lemons & 300g dark chocolate chunks
  • 100g roughly chopped brazil nuts & 200g dark or milk chocolate chunks

Kids love the lemon and dark chocolate one – or at least the kids I’ve baked with when babysitting them.


February 08, 2012

Chewy Cornflake, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Cookies: baking across the pond

cornflake cookies

I finally got to bake an american recipe, using american measurements in America. I know that, for some, that doesn't sound remarkable; it was personally rather enlightening on a typical US baking environment and experience. I hope that any americans reading this don't mind me saying that.

Let me fill you in quickly on the back story. This all came about when Chang-Bum op-pa*, a friend of the family, invited my mum and I to spend New Year with them in Southern California. My mum and his parents go way back; I think that the last time I had met our host was when I was the age of his youngest son, aged 9. I remember going to Loch Ness with him and his sister. (*Chang-Bum is his name but op-pa is how I address him. Op-pa translates into older brother in Korean in case you're wondering)

I offered to bake them Fiona Cairn's amazing shortbread for them, as a taste of Scotland, and it is a great recipe.

cornflake cookie helpers

Well, it isn't that they turned me down. It's more like they redirected my offer. Chang-Bum op-pa had already read my food blog. So, his question was, "Would I like to bake a cookie/biscuit*/scone* recipe with his family instead? It would be the first time for them and they are mad for cookies/scones/biscuits." (*US and UK versions of biscuit and scones are different.)

"Absolutely!"

Alarm bells ring when I am given a negative to the question, "Is there a set of weighing scales?" That's when I'm pushed out my comfort zone and my education into american baking culture really starts.

So, I search online specifically for an american recipe, and in doing so, introduce my friend's wife to Smitten Kitchen's reliable collection of recipes. The next part is a trip to a grocery store, where we put all purpose flour and butter measured in sticks into our cart. But my biggest culture shock moment is whilst gazing flummoxed at the spices rack. There are no jars of mixed spice! I'm a bit shocked. (Question: why don't they sell mixed spice in american grocery stores?) I apologise to any Americans who have hunted for mixed spice on account of my recipes and been given a blank look from a grocery assistant. And at that moment, I appreciate why some american recipes are so particular on their spice measurements. E.g. ¼tsp of ground cloves; ¼tsp ginger; ½tsp cinnamon...

After that culture shock, the actual baking of the cookies seemed fairly unremarkable. I understand why american recipes list the number of sticks of butter, because that is how they are sold. Besides, sticks of butter are exactly what we needed in the absence of weighing scales. Having said that, now that I'm writing this back in the UK, I've converted the recipe to grams and ounces.

The original recipe is for an oatmeal, pecan and chocolate cookie. The cornflakes were a subsitute for the oatmeal that had gone off. I like to think that I was truly original and no-one had ever thought to put cornflakes in cookies before. Then a few days later I read the side of the cornflake packet: a recipe for cornflake and cranberry cookies. Perhaps, I was being innovative rather than original then, but I still think fondly of my ingenuity.

This recipe made between regular sized 36-46 cookies. We baked them ALL. I haven't tested this yet, but if you wanted to, I guess you could bake the amount you wanted and freeze the rest. Freeze them, unbaked, in a baking tray and then once frozen, you can store them in a container. To bake from frozen: lay them out on a baking tray and let them defrost for an hour or so before want to you bake them. Once I try it out, I'll re-edit this post with how it worked.

Ingredients

  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 100g/3½oz granulated sugar
  • 150g/5½oz light soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 120g/4oz crushed cornflakes or 90g/3oz oats
  • 250g/8oz pecans, chopped (rough or fine depending on your preference)
  • 2tsps orange zest
  • 300g/12oz dark chocolate chopped into chunks or use chocolate chips, if you prefer

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. This recipe makes LOTS of cookies so line various baking trays with baking paper.

2. Measure out the flour, bicarbonate soda, mixed spice and salt in one bowl and sift together.

3. In a big bowl, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. It's much quicker when done with an electric mixer (about 4-5 mins), which my hosts didn't own unfortunately. So, I had to use arm power and it took much longer, but good for toning the arms.

4. Add the orange zest, vanilla extract, white and brown sugars and cream together with the butter until they are thoroughly mixed.

5. Now mix the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time.

6. Add the flour mixture in two batches, ensuring that the first batch is well-combined with the butter/sugar mixture before adding the second. The reason for doing it like this is that it is easier on you to beat out any lumps of flour in the dough.

7. Now, obviously if you had to use a wooden spoon/spatula all this time because there wasn't an electric mixer then you don't have to switch over. But if not, with a wooden spoon/spatula, mix in the chopped pecans, chopped chocolates. Finally add in the crushed cornflakes or oats and mix well.

cookie doughbaked cornflake cookies

8. Using a tablespoon to measure it out, dollop out the cookie dough onto the baking tray, making sure that each of the tablespoon sized dollops are evenly spaced out. The high fat content in them means that they will spread out while baking, so don't worry - they will flatten out!

9. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes. Take them out when they are golden brown in colour and still soft in the middle. They will harden more in the cooling process. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking tray and then let them cool on a wire rack. If you're limited on space, you'll be itching to get the next batch onto the baking tray and in the oven as soon as possible.

And yes, since I was in America, I can confirm that they are perfect when they are still warm, with a glass of milk and the house has that wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies. Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) rates these as the perfect balance between chewy and crispy and that the combination of the spice and orange zest give it a grown up feel. I agree. Adapt it with milk chocolate, if you prefer. Next time, I think that I'll try baking it with oatmeal or muesli, just to see how it turns out.

cookies and milkchewy cornflakes, pecan and chocolate cookies

On reflection, nowadays, I get the impression that kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, make allowances for each other cultures. Most UK kitchens have US style cups, and lots of recipe books will give a glossary list of US and UK terms. Having majoredspecialised in cultural history, I find this all rather fascinating. (self-conscious note on my choice of vocabulary. A relic of my sojourn in the States.) Nevertheless, having grown up in the UK, I personally consider it normal to:

  • weigh out ounces and grams vs cups;
  • use plain and self-raising flour vs all-purpose flour style;
  • differentiate types of sugars, such as caster, granulated, demerara... vs white, brown or molasses;
  • and buy a jar of mixed spice in the supermarket!

But I am partial to the cookies and milk combo.


October 03, 2011

A Cake for Sarah: White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater Cake

a cake for sarah

"cheers" my friend Sarah on a recent holiday to Baynuls-sur-Mer

The other night I made a surprise cake for my friend Sarah who is going to Mozambique for 6 weeks to volunteer with Iris Ministries, set up by Rolland and Heidi Baker. She's going to two of their ministry bases, one in Pemba and the other in Muputu, to serve as a willing pair of hands. Giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting involved with the work out there, she's not quite sure what's in store. She leaves on Tuesday and I'm excited for her and the stories of her experiences that she'll bring back with her.

Well, naturally I felt it was appropriate to mark the occasion with food, and I really wanted to make her a cake that was, a) personal to her b) I could decorate and c) a delicious new recipe. But suddenly (de repente!), I was overcome with all these mini moments of doubt when I forgot what flavours she liked and didn't like. (I felt like such an awful friend!) After several hours of poring over Fiona Cairns and Nigella recipes, it got to the point that all I knew for sure was that - she likes chocolate. Especially white chocolate. So, I picked this White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater sponge from Fiona Cairns, Bake and Decorate.

The story doesn't stop there. I confess that I had many anxious thoughts ready to trip me up and stop me from baking this cake:

  1. The biggest, most glaring, thought that rang alarm bells in me, was - does Sarah like cardamon and rosewater..? Both are pretty strong, unusual flavours. And will the rest of the small group like it? Because if you don't like either of those flavours, then I'm done for!
  2. Secondly there was a step involving a food processor and adding hot water to white chocolate to melt it... this is a new technique and I wasn't sure whether my old food processor and I were up to the task.
  3. My lack of a real pestle and mortar to 'grind the [cardamon seeds] into a powder' (I do love Fiona's writing).
  4. I have never ever made ganache before.

So there you go. This cake almost did not happen. However:

  1. Firstly, I had this vaguely reassuring feeling that Sarah has pretty much liked every flavour of cake that I've baked her. And my small group are happy to venture out and try new flavours.
  2. Then, I thought that I could only give it a go and see what happens with the white chocolate, food processor and hot water.
  3. And I improvised a pestle and mortar with the end of a rolling pin and my trusty small stainless steel pampered chef bowl. Then, it was Alex who did the hard work of bashing the cardamon seeds into a powder and sifting out the husks later.
  4. I love video tutorials!

Result:

white chocolate cardamon and rosewater cake

I didn't tell you that I decorated the cake to look sort of like Mozambique. I don't do decorating cakes. However, as I had to do something(!), I got this idea of using sweets to creating Mozambique from Jen, a friend of mine in my small group, because it is fun and colourful. Kind of what I hoped Sarah's trip would be for her. (Whenever one of Jen's funny, creative 'face birthday cakes' turn up in our small group, there is a lot of laughter. I wish I had some photos to illustrate how funny they are to you! "John, your face is delicious.")

Later on, I put candles on it to mark Pemba and Muputu when we presented the cake to her at our church small group. By way of imagery, the candles also represented that she'd be a light where she was going. Corny isn't it, I know!

When the cake came in with its lit candles, Sarah said, "but whose birthday is it?" and she made us all sing a song.

And what about the flavours and the cake? Well, I'd forgotten that she'd previously made a lime and cardamon cake so she was already a cardamon fan. So, she really liked the cake, as did everybody else. It truly is a delicious cake. Although 20 cardamon pods sound like a lot, I don't think that their flavour was so overpowering that you couldn't taste the white chocolate or the rosewater. I'm wondering when I can make this recipe again.

Now that the cake has been eaten and loved... I can let those stomach knots untie themselves as I wonder whether some of the anxiety around the cake was really to do with wondering, "How will I manage without Sarah for 6 weeks?"

In the meantime, here's Fiona Cairn's white chocolate and cardamon sponge

Ingredients

  • 130g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 20 green cardamon pods, deseeded* (see method 2.)
  • 170g self-raising flour, sifted to add lightness to the sponge
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line with baking paper, a 20cm cake tin. I used a 23cm cake tin and it was probably a bit too wide. I'll use a 20cm next time, so that the ganache can be a bit thicker.

2. Deseed the cardamon pods using the point of a sharp knife. Empty out the seeds and grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. (Or as I improvised, a stainless steel bowl and the end of a rolling pin). Sift the cardamon powder in order to remove the husks that inevitably remain.

3. Well, my old food processor happily stood up to the challenge of this next bit. Place the chopped white chocolate and half of the caster sugar into the food processor and pulse for a few minutes, until it is as fine as possible. Then take 2 tbsp of hot water (important that its hot, not boiling, otherwise the white chocolate will seize up and go firm). Keep the processor going and add the hot water slowly (Fiona describes it as, 'dribble it') to the chocolate, until most of the chocolate has melted.

4. Add in the remaining sugar and butter to the food processor and process it so that it is well mixed. Finally, add in the eggs, ground cardamon, flour and vanilla extract and mix it well. The end result won't be entirely smooth as there may be some white chocolate that hasn't melted and manifests itself as little lumps. Don't worry about it. The baking will sort it out.

5. Transfer the batter into the baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Rest the cake in the tin for a few minutes, then turn it out to cool completely, onto a wire rack.

Then we move onto making a white chocolate ganache. Can I just say,

"This is the first time ever that I have made ganache!"

I was a bit anxious about it and even a year ago, I think that I would have been too scared to attempt a ganache. However, whilst I've been watching the Great British Bake Off, I've been inspired to try out new techniques. I still searched online to learn a bit more before I tried it and build my confidence. I'd like to say that this was fairly simple to do. But I'm not sure that my ganache looked entirely right. I think that I might have whisked it for too long.

Top Tip: Still feeling nervous about making ganache? I'd recommend watching this, to help ease your nerves. It is a really good video tutorialon making white chocolate ganache.

So, the ingredients for a white chocolate and rosewater ganache

  • 100g good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2tsp rosewater

Method:

1. Place the finely chopped white chocolate in a heat proof bowl.

2. Heat the double cream and the rosewater in a saucepan until it boils. You want it to be 'scalding'. Then pour it into the heat proof bowl with the white chocolate.

3. Leave it for a about 30 seconds to begin the melting process, and then begin stirring the mixture gently so that the melting white chocolate and the hot cream are completely mixed together. Once done, leave it to cool completely, then pop it into the fridge to chill slightly.

4. Then take it out and whisk until it thickens.*

*This is where I think that I may have gone wrong. However, since then, I have wondered whether using a more expensive white chocolate would produce a better ganache, rather than Sainsbury Basic.

To finish off...

Fiona suggests that you split the cake into two layers, spread the ganache in the middle and sandwich the two layers together. I modified this to compensate for my poor decorating skills and needing to decorate this cake into something that resembled Mozambique.

On the day, I raced back home during my lunch break to decorate the cake. I spread the ganache on the top of the cake, as a frosting. Then I used haribo men and jelly tots to create a shape that resembled Mozambique, chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, while I went back to work and voila!

Sarah and Cake



July 30, 2011

Baked Oreo Cheesecake

oreo_cheesecake

This is the first ever cheesecake that I made solo.

I'd never made a cheesecake before until I was sous-chef for my friend Meagan when she made this dessert. Since she isn't into baking yet made it look so easy, I thought that I'd have a go. Two years later, I finally got round to it and by then I'd forgotten the recipe and so had Meagan. Told you she isn't much into baking. I made it again the other night to remind myself of what recipe I'd chosen.

Funny moment related to this, the first time I made this, I bought so many oreos and cartons of cream cheese that the lady in the checkout told me off. She said that to watch out because I'd get fat! She's right, you know. If I ate it all tonight then I'm sure I'd have to be rolled out of bed in the morning because I'd have grown 3 spare tires, given the amount of cream and sugar in this.

So, this Oreo Cheesecake... It tastes pretty special. If you like oreos and you like baked cheesecake, then I can guarantee that you'll like this dessert. I've adapted the recipe from the Krafts website.

Ingredients

  • 38 (or 3 packets of) Oreo biscuits, 1 packet roughly broken to add into the cream cheese mixture.
  • 900g soft cheese
  • 60g melted butter
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 150ml sour cream (original recipe said 100ml, but as sour cream is sold in 150ml cartons in the UK, I added in the remaining 50ml as I didn't have anything better to do with it.)

Method

1. You'll need to preheat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3. The first time I made it, I used two 20cm deep loose-bottomed cake tins and then I experimented with a 23cm stoneware square baker. The stone works brilliantly, but I'm pretty biased with stoneware. This time, I used the traditional 23cm springform cake tin and made 6 mini cheesecakes as tasters, naturally, as well. They all work well.

2. In a bowl, set aside the packet of Oreos that you've roughly broken by hand.

3. Take 22 biscuits (2 packets minus 6) for the biscuit base. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Or if you prefer it a bit rough, then do what I did and bash them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Make sure that all the air is let out first, otherwise there'll be a mini oreo explosion.

4. Add in the melted butter and mix well before emptying the crushed biscuits into the springform cake tin. Spread the biscuits out somewhat evenly, then press the biscuits down firmly to the bottom. I found that the end of the lid stopper of my food processor doubled up conveniently for the task. For the mini cheesecakes then my mini tart shaper works beautifully.

5. In a BIG mixing bowl, as there is rather a lot of cream cheese involved, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer. Add in the vanilla extract and the sour cream. Make sure that it is well combined and the mixture doesn't have any lumps. The first time I did this, I didn't have an electric mixer so I remember using a pampered chef mix 'n' scraper. What doesn't work, and I share this from experience, is a whisk. I don't know what possessed me to try that one out...

6. Add the eggs in one by one. Gently beating them into the mixture until they are just about combined before adding the next one...

Top Tip: I read somewhere that in order to stop the top from cracking, you have to treat the mixture much more gently once you start adding in the eggs. Something about coagulating and air bubbles.

ps. It didn't stop mine from cracking. Then again, I could have done a number of things wrong to make that happen.

7. Add the oreos that you set aside in 1. into the cream cheese mixture and stir gently.

oreos in cheesecake mixture

8. Pour the mixture into the biscuit base. Crush the remaining oreo biscuits and scatter them on top. I had a thought, too late, that I could have arrange oreo biscuits so that it looked prettier. It doesn't matter really.

9. Pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes with an oven proof bowl of water. The bowlful of water helps to keep the cheesecake moist whilst baking. I chose to do that, rather than double wrap the cake tin with foil and pop it in a deep baking dish filled with water, for the sake of ease really. I think that it is also supposed to help the top from not cracking too. Given that my last one did, maybe I should have used a water bath.

10. You'll know it's done when the top wibbles a bit when you touch it. It'll set more whilst cooling. Run a knife round the edges to immediately so that the edges don't cling to the sides whilst cooling. It also makes getting the cheesecake out of the cake tin much cleaner later on. Leave it to cool completely in the oven, with the oven door ajar.

11. Then wrapped in clingfilm or foil, refridgerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours. This is really important for allowing the flavours to mature. Serve it up and enjoy.

The verdict? A smashing dessert and as it is a cheesecake, perhaps a good one for the summer. The eggs give it a slightly yellowy appearance and I might experiment with using one less egg in future. It's not as elegant as the lemon and ginger cheesecake, but it's not meant to be. Who minds if it has a few cracks on the top; my tasters certainly didn't.


December 31, 2010

My Favourite Chocolate Brownies: Chocolate Brownie Hunt

ChocolateBrownie1

I really like this Chocolate Brownie recipe.  The end result is densely chocolate, moist and good.  The ingredients and the method is ever so simple and you can't go wrong with it¹.  I've even forgotten to add eggs to it once and it was just extra gooey and went wonderfully well with icecream.  I found the recipe in my Usborne First Cookbook, which I bought when I was in primary school.   Now, when I think about it, it is my first ever cookbook.  So, the newer editions (which Amazon tells me there's a few) may not have this recipe.  Anyhow, my mistake was not making them until I was about twenty.  By this point, I had passed from a nine-year old who disliked brownies (in the '80s British brownies were more like a boring chocolate cake) to a twenty-year old who had spent a year in the US and wanted to recreate that dense chocolate experience.  The brownies were an instant hit and I gained a reputation as a Chocolate Brownie Queen.  This is the recipe that I go back to all the time, even though I'm on an Ultimate Chocolate Brownie Recipe Hunt.

What I love about this recipe is that it is a fantastically easy basic brownie recipe and I'll often add things to suit the ocassion.  I've listed a few that I've tried below.

Ingredients for Dark Chocolate Brownies adapted from Usborne First Cookbook.

  • 4oz/100g dark chocolate
  • 4oz/100g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6oz/160g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of milk if the mixture is too firm.

And the secret ingredient?  Well, this is when you make it your own and add in something extra. Here's a starter for 5:

  1. My favourite - a 200g packet of maltesers/revels etc.
  2. 50g of roughly chopped walnuts/pecans/brazil nuts etc.
  3. 100g celebrations
  4. 2 tbsp Baileys or any Irish Cream liquor.
  5. Zest of one orange and 1 tsp of mixed spices and 1 tsp of cinnamon.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.  Line a square baking dish with baking paper. The dish be between 20 - 25cm.

Top Tip: I've found that stoneware, pyrex or ceramic dishes produce better results that a baking tin.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. 

3. As the chocolate and butter is being zapped in the microwave, measure out the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into another bowl.  Sift the flour if you want to, but it's not necessary.

4. Add the vanilla extract and sugar to the chocolate melted goodness and mix well.

5. Add the beaten eggs and keep mixing to combine it all.  Don't worry - they won't scramble.

6. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder so that the whole mixture is well combined.

7. Let your imagination go wild and add in your extra ingredients.  In the top photo I used maltesers and hazlenuts.

8. Bake in oven for 20 mins.  The secret is to take them out when the top is firm to touch but still wobbles when you shake it.

The verdict? Yummmm.... simple and delicious.  I really like the brownie that it produces.

Happy Hogmanay 2010.

¹However, I did get it wrong.  Once.  Very badly.  I added in cointreau, orange zest and mixed spices, which lent it a lovely Christmassy feel.  It would totally have worked, except I had run out of some ingredients so I substituted:

flour with wholemeal flour
eggs with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda

As I took it out the oven, the bubbling mistake was unrecognizable as a brownie, in looks or taste.  A complete disaster in the brownie front but as I explained away the disaster and said it tasted a bit like a Christmas flapjack, it all went.  What a laugh!  But - don't repeat my disaster.  Some ingredients are irreplaceable.


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