Sunday, 27 September 2009

Chocolate & Cream Cheese Brownies


Last autumn if I had any occasion to make a cake, it was an apple & cider one using my own recipe. The apple season being over, I duly moved on to other things. Having recently come across an apple & cider recipe on Anyone for Seconds and having been given a bag of apples this weekend, I was all set to make an apple & cider cake. At the last minute, I realised I had forgotten to get any cider and with time fast running out and some cream cheese in the fridge, I ended up making something far more decadent - Nigella's Cream Cheese Brownies.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 125g unsalted butter in a pan with 125g 85% chocolate and 200g dark brown sugar.
  • Sieved 80g flour (wholemeal spelt), made a well in the centre and poured in the chocolate mixture.
  • Mixed this up together with 2 duck eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Spooned half of this into a buttered 20x25cm tin.
  • Covered this with slices of cream cheese - 200g in total.
  • Topped this with remaining brownie mixture.
  • Baked in preheated oven at 180C (gas 4) for 17 mins.
  • Left to cool then cut into 16 smallish slices.
The tangy saltiness of the cheese cuts through the rich chocolatey confection - somewhat like a cheesecake, which I guess is what it is. That's what my chief taster says anyway! He also thinks it's absolutely delicious. The apple and cider cake will have to wait until next week.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Ginger and Chocolate Flapjacks

Back to work tomorrow after a much needed break. Office tradition requires we bring something back from our travels so all can participate a little in the holiday experience. As I live in Cornwall and only travelled within Cornwall, Cornish biscuits didn't really seem appropriate, so thought I'd make something instead. One afternoon in Penzance, we made our way to the Honey Pot for tea. I'd seen various scrummy sounding ads and good reviews about this tea shop, but until now, had never been there. What a great find! A chocolate lovers heaven - I counted no less than eight different chocolate cakes. Managed to try two of them by dint of stealing a considerable portion off someone else's plate. Excellent home made cakes and a friendly atmosphere, this one is definitely going into my as yet unwritten guide to the best tea shops. Whilst there I noted some chocolate and ginger flapjacks which sounded intriguing. No idea how they were made, but I liked the sound of them, so that is what I shall be taking back to my expectant colleagues.

And this is how I made them:
  • Melted 1 pack (250g) unsalted butter in a large saucepan with 100g 85% chocolate an 2 large tbsp (5oz) golden syrup.
  • Mixed in 1 lb rolled oats, a pinch of salt, 5oz Demerara sugar and 5oz of crystallised ginger (chopped into bits).
  • Pressed mixture into a 9" square cake thingie and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
  • Baked at 180C for 20 mins.
  • Cut into 32 small squares when cooled, but didn't remove from tin until completely cold (as first ones I tried to remove just crumbled into bits).

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hazelnut and Apple Chocolate Cake

The house is smelling wonderfully of roasted hazelnuts - mmmmm! It's another friend's significant birthday and there is a party to celebrate it tomorrow, so I have just cooked what smells like a really delicious cake. As it is the time of mellow fruitfulness and the time of apples and hazelnuts in particular, this seems like an appropriate time to make this cake from Green & Black's. Trouble is, I want to try it now!

This is what I did:
  • Roasted 4oz of hazelnuts in hot oven for 10 mins. After skinning them (rubbed them between my hands and skins came off very easily) ground them roughly in a coffee grinder. Reserved a handful of whole ones for decoration.
  • Creamed 10oz unsalted butter with 6oz unrefined brown sugar until quite pale.
  • Beat in 3 duck eggs alternately with 10oz sifted flour (5oz wholemeal + 5oz white spelt) and 3 tsp baking powder.
  • Mixed in 5 tbsp coffee.
  • Finally stirred in hazelnuts and 2oz grated 85% chocolate.
  • Divided mixture between two 21cm round tins (well, silicone thingies really) and baked at 180°C (gas 4) for 35 minutes until firm.
Hey ho, the best laid plans! One of the baking trays I put my sandwich thingies on was warped so I ended up with a rather lop sided cake which meant that the ganache went merrily rolling down hill and over the edge in a great chocolate waterfall. I also had trouble with my ganache, which separated and refused to behave so I had to rescue it with some icing sugar.

I continued thus:
  • Peeled and chopped 1.5 lb apples (original recipe stated Bramley - I used 1/2 Cornish Gillyflower and 1/2 Cornish unidentified).
  • Simmered this with juice and grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp unrefined granulated sugar until apple soft but not too mushy.
  • When cool used to sandwich cakes.
  • Melted 5oz 85% chocolate with 125 ml whipping cream and 1 tbsp grappa.
  • When tried to stir this, mixture curdled so added about 2 tbsp icing sugar which luckily sorted the problem out.
  • When cooled, poured this over top of cake and decorated with reserved hazelnuts and chocolate shavings.
Despite its rather interesting angle and the pool of chocolate down one side, I'm glad to report that the cake was a success. The hazelnuts really made it quite scrumptious. The apple filling was also a delicious addition and its fruity tartness complemented the chocolate really well. The next time I make this, however, I shall give it a few minutes less in the oven as it was a little on the dry side.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

White Chocolate & Banana Loaf

Friends for tea and a pile of bananas that needed using up, so time to try this one from Green & Black's.

Here's how I did it:
  • Melted 4oz unsalted butter with 100g bar white chocolate.
  • Mashed up 3 medium bananas with 5oz unrefined granulated sugar.
  • Sieved 6oz wholemeal spelt, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt into a bowl and made a well in the middle.
  • Poured in chocolate mixture and stirred in, followed by 2 duck eggs.
  • Mixed in 2oz roughly chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp grated orange rind.
  • Spooned this into a 2lb loaf tin and baked at 180°C (gas 4) for 50 mins.
  • Left in tin to cool before turning out onto a serving plate.
The top came out rather browner than I would have liked, but luckily it was not overcooked inside and in fact had the perfect texture for a loaf cake - moist but not too crumbly. It tasted great too. The bananas were not, surprisingly, the overwhelming flavour, but the white chocolate gave it an added depth it would not otherwise have had. I love walnuts, so they could only be an enhancement!



Saturday, 5 September 2009

Bitter Chocolate Cake

About 2 years ago, there was a great series of radio 4 plays about baking. The very first play was about making a chocolate cake with mayonnaise. How weird I thought, then forgot all about it. A few days ago, I again heard mention of mayonnaise used in cakes. So maybe it wasn't just a few crackpots in a play! In need of a cake for a camping trip, I fished out the recipe and set to.

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 200g 85% dark chocolate together with 120ml strong coffee.
  • Combined 100g of sieved wholemeal spelt, 25g buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 100g ground almonds, 1 tsp baking powder and 200g caster sugar.
  • Made a well in the centre and put in a guestimated 200g of mayonnaise and 1 egg (latter was not in the original recipe, but I had one that needed using up).
  • Mixed this together along with the melted chocolate.
  • Spooned mixture into a 22cm cake thingy and baked at 180°C for 30 mins.
  • Melted 100g 85% dark chocolate with 150ml of single cream.
  • Stirred until combined then left to cool.
  • Spread onto cooled cake.
The "bitter" in the title refers to the bitterness in the play, but I suspect with all that chocolate as well as coffee, it will be a cake for the discerning palate. As we won't be tucking into this until we are safely ensconced in our holiday retreat, I'll have to report back at a later date on the cake's edibility!

13 September 2009
Back from our break and have to report that the cake was delicious. Bitter was an apt name, as I thought it might be - all that dark chocolate and coffee played its part. Moist, rich and not too sweet, a little went a long way and lasted us most of the week. What about the mayonnaise? Well, if truth be told, we could taste it occasionally - presumably where it wasn't as well mixed as it might have been! It was fun to try, but next time I make the cake I think I'll just use eggs and butter.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Peanut Butter Blondies


Due to a flurry of posts about the Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies in Rachel Allen's Bake, I thought I'd better see what all the fuss was about.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 4oz unsalted butter with 6oz (1/2 jar) of peanut butter and 6oz sugar.
  • Beat in 2 medium eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Mixed in 5oz sieved wholemeal flour and 1 tsp baking powder, which made rather a stiff dough.
  • Finally mixed in 100g of chopped white chocolate.
  • Spooned into a 8x10" tin and baked at 175°C (gas 4) for 20 mins.
Turned out 20 minutes was a couple of minutes too long! The top was rather browner than it should have been and the middle was not quite as squidgy as I would have liked. Peanut butter and white chocolate were not flavours I would have immediately thought of as going well together, but it actually works really well. I will definitely be making these again, only next time I'll give them 17 minutes rather than 20.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Chocolate Baklava

I was having a curry night for friends and wanted something authentic for pudding. But how to get the chocolate bit in? Kulfi is the only Indian desert I know and chocolate kulfi? No, just didn't seem right. So, I cheated a bit and made mango kulfi for pudding, and then made a middle eastern baklawa to have with lemon balm tea after dinner.
  • First, took 400g filo pastry pack out of the freezer and left overnight in fridge to defrost.
  • Heated 300g of granulated sugar with 200ml water until sugar dissolved.
  • Added 6 lightly crushed cardamon pods and simmered for 15 mins until slightly thickened.
  • Left to cool then added 1 tbsp rose water and 2 tbsp lemon juice.
  • Meanwhile, chopped 100g almonds, 100g walnuts and 100g pistachios into small bits (initially tried to use coffee grinder to do this, but it enthusiastically turned the nuts into powder, so had to give up on this method as baklawa is so much nicer with pieces of nut to bite into and chew upon).
  • Dry fried these for about 5 minutes being careful not to scorch them, then left to cool.
  • Chopped 100g dark chocolate into small pieces.
  • Mixed together nuts, chocolate, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tbsp syrup.
  • Melted 175g unsalted butter.
  • Buttered an 8" sq cake tin then covered the tin with two overlapping sheets of filo (if I'd had a tin the same size as the pastry, life would have been easier) and brushed with melted butter.
  • Repeated this another 5 times, then spread half the nut mixture over the pastry.
  • Folded in the overhanging bits of pastry.
  • Covered the nut mixture with another 6 layers of pastry brushed with butter then spread on the remaining nut mixture. Folded in the overhanging bits.
  • Covered nuts with another 6 layers of pastry brushed with butter and then folded in the overhanging bits giving it all a final buttering.
  • Cut the baklawa into about 18 pieces (tried to do diamonds, but turned out to be rectangles with a few triangles).
  • Baked at 175°C (gas 4) for about 25 mins until crisp and golden.
  • Poured the cold syrup over the top as soon as was removed from the oven (this helps keep it crisp).

I've made baklawa a few times, but never with chocolate. I was, therefore, slightly concerned at how this would turn out. I needn't have worried - the chocolate actually enhanced the taste and texture. It counteracted the sweetness of the syrup to make a lusciously nutty, sticky but not overly sweet pastry that was enjoyed by all.

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