Sweet and tart: chocolate and cherry cookies

chocolate and cherry cookiesPart of having your birthday is taking treats to work for your colleagues. As we both work in big offices, that means lots of colleagues, and cookies are always a great option in that case. These are the cookies my boyfriend chose to take for his birthday. The recipe is from my trusted Les cookies de Laura Todd book (the basic recipe is always the same, so you can add whatever you want). I made a huge batch (hoping to have some left for the weekend) but not a single cookie returned… the dried cherries needed for this recipe are now a big hit in my household, some end up in granola, others just go “missing”. Here’s how to make them:

Preheat the oven to 140 C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Mix 250 g softened butter (you can use margarine as well) with 350 g soft brown sugar until fluffy and soft. Add 1 egg and beat well until incorporated. In two batches, add 375 g self-raising flour (or use regular flour and add 1 tsp baking powder as well), a pinch of vanilla powder (I used a small bag of vanilla sugar, you could use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract of the seeds of half a vanilla pod as well) and a pinch of salt and mix well. Now add 150 g dried cherries (chopped if they are too large) and 250 g dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

Roll small balls of dough with your hands, put them on a baking sheet and flatten it lightly with the back of your hand. Space the cookies well apart as they will spread. Put in the oven for 15-20 min. Enjoy!

fabulous and heavenly: chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercream

Chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercreamAs always, we divided the preparation of the courses for the family Easter lunch under the family member (I have a small family, so we don’t end up with a ten course meal). It’s a little predictable, but I’m usually in charge of dessert. Of course, I have to do better than last year to wow the judges, and this totally did the trick. Chocolate is always a winner and I’m totally addicted to salted caramel, so this just couldn’t go wrong! You need a bit of time (I prepared both the cake and buttercream a day in advance and assembled in the morning) but it’s well worth it and not hard at all. The recipe is for my recent GoodFood issue and is by John Whaite, winner of the Great British Bake Off. Here’s how to do it:

First, bake the cake:
Heat the oven to 140 C and grease and line a 25 cm round deep cake tin with baking parchment. In a large bowl, mix 125 ml sunflower oil, 7 egg yolks (you need 7 eggs in total, separate them and set the whites aside for later), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 375 g sugar and 200 ml water until well combined. Sift in 50 g cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Sift in 300 g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (if you don’t have it, replace by 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder) and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter and mix until everything is well combined. Gently pour the mixture into your cake tin, then bang it on the work surface twice to expel any large air pockets. Bake for 1 hr 10 mins or until the cake springs back when gently prodded and an inserted skewer comes out clean. (Cover with foil after 1 hr if the cake starts to get too dark.) Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a large wire rack and peel off the parchment. Leave until the cake is completely cool.

For the salted caramel buttercream:
Make the salted caramel icing while the cake bakes. Heat 250 g soft brown sugar, ½ tsp salt and 150 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bubble for a few mins, then leave to cool completely (stir every now and then so it cools evenly. Of course a taste test is an excellent way to determine wether it’s cool enough – I tested constantly :-). Beat 140 g softened butter until smooth, pour in the cooled cream mixture and continue mixing until softly whipped. Chill until needed (this will allow it to firm up a little – if you leave it overnight, it will be too solid to spread, so take it out of the fridge half an hour before using or pop it in the microwave for 15-20 sec).

Make the ganache for the topping
To make the ganache, heat 250 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) until just boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over 250 g dark chocolate (chopped). Leave to stand for a few mins until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth sauce consistency. Leave to cool at room temperature until the ganache is a pipeable thickness, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle (I added the chocolate to hot cream instead of vice-versa, meaning it tool a little more to cool as the saucepan was still hot – I found it took about 2 hours to cool down to pipeable thickness – once you’re there, you’ll have to work rather fast or it will become too solid).

You’re ready to assemble
To finish the cake, slice in half and fill with the salted caramel buttercream. If, like mine, your cake has risen to unbelievable new heights, you may want to slice it in 3 and divide the buttercream. Pipe tall spikes of chocolate ganache on top and decorate with the sea salt crystals. Will keep for up to 2 days in a cool place (not that it stands a chance of being around for that long). I usually end my blog post by suggesting you how to use up left-over ingredients but really, will you have left-overs?! Enjoy!

 

Definite show stopper: Malteser chocolate cake

Malteser chocolate cakeOn a recent trip to London, the Waterstones near Piccadilly Circus was one of our first stops, as usual. Of course I cannot go past the cooking books and I spotted one I didn’t have yet. So this recipe comes from my new cookbook as it seemed perfect for a birthday celebration: Fast, Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale. You can of course opt for something else than Maltesers: M&Ms, crushed Oreo’s…

Here’s how to make it: preheat the oven to 160 C, grease 2 20 cm round tins with butter and line the bottoms with baking parchment. Mix 150 g softened butter with 250 g caster sugar, 150 g self-raising flour, 125 g sour cream (if you don’t have any, use regular cream or double cream and add a squeeze of lemon), 4 eggs, 50 g cacao powder, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod (or a couple of drops of vanilla extract) and mix again to give a smooth, soft mixture.

Divide evenly between the cake tins, smooth the tops and place in the oven for 30 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely (this will take about 25 min).

When the cakes are almost cool, start making the buttercream: melt 100 g dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In a bowl, mix 550 g icing sugar with 250 g softened butter and 2 tbsp milk until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and mix again.

Put a small dollop of buttercream on a plate or cake stand and add the first cake (the buttercream will make it stick to the plate so it doesn’t slide off during transport). Spread about a third of the buttercream on the cake and sandwich the second cake on top. Spread the remaining buttercream on the top and sides of the cakes. Once you have covered the cake, take 540 g brown or white Maltesers (or any other topping of your choice) and stick them all over the cake. Enjoy while listening to Summer in the city by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Use up left-over Maltesers by crushing them and sprinkling over ice cream or use them in your cookies any style.

Foolproof classic: chocolate and cardamom mousse

Chocolate mousseMost people never grow tired of chocolate mousse, it’s the kind of dessert that goes “missing” if left overnight in the fridge. I’m adding cardamom to this recipe because I just love the taste, but if you prefer the classic no frills version, just leave out the cardamom and keep the rest of the recipe as is.

Put 4 ramekins or glasses in the fridge to chill while you make the chocolate mousse (this will allow them to chill more easily). Separate 4 eggs and beat the egg yolks in a bowl with 4 tbsp sugar until you get a white and foamy mass. Meanwhile, melt 150 g dark chocolate (you can use milk chocolate as well, but this will make the end result less mouse-like) with the crushed seeds of 3 cardamom pods (optional) in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Take of the heat and cool for a few minutes, then add to the egg yolks and stir to incorporate. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites (this will make it easier to whisk them) and whisk until stiff (you have to be able to hold the bowl upside down!). Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix and divide between your ramekins. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Enjoy while listening to Sugar Sugar by The Archies.

Liked the taste of cardamom? Then you will love a cardamom loaf.

Use up left-over chocolate in chocolate chip cookies, rocky road squares, regular brownies or chocolate and raspberry brownies.  Got chocolate mousse left? Use it to fill your sachertorte.

foolproof show stopper: chocolate raspberry brownies

chocolate raspberry browniesLast week, a last minute birthday lunch meant I needed a quick dessert for a chocolate loving birthday girl. As always, I found one in my trusted GoodFood magazine: these chocolate raspberry brownies are so easy to make and judging by the mmmmh’s that kept coming they were a big hit!

Get started by heating the oven to 160 C. Line a 20×30 cm baking tray with baking parchment. If you don’t have a baking tray, just use an oven tray or roasting tin, anything that can go in the oven will work, just make sure to line it with baking parchment. Put 200 g dark chocolate (broken into chunks), 100 g milk chocolate (also broken into chunks), 250 g salted butter (if you don’t have this, just use unsalted butter and add a good pinch of salt) and 400 g soft light brown sugar in a pan and gently melt, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon (you really need that much sugar, it’s surprising but true, I tried with less but ended up adding all of it anyway). Remove from the heat.

Stir 4 eggs, one by one, into the melted chocolate mixture. Sieve over 140 g plain flour and 50 g cacao powder and stir in. Stir in half of 200 g raspberries and scrape into the tray. Scatter over the remaining raspberries and bake for 35 min. Cool before slicing into squares. Enjoy while listening to You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate!

A great gift: chocolate truffles

I needed a gift for a late Easter lunch invitation. Usually, I go with cookies as they are so fast to make and always a winner. But for a festive occasion I wanted something with a bit more glam and came across this recipe in a recent GoodFood magazine. I have several recipes for truffles, but I really like this one as it only contains chocolate and cream. Other recipes I’ve come across also add butter and sugar, but I think that’s a bit too much of the good stuff!

I’ll get to the recipe in a minute, but I first wanted to introduce something new: music. In my house, there is always music and the first thing I do when I start cooking is putting some music one. Meals are always accompanied with music too, so I thought it only natural to start adding music to my blog. So for each recipe, I’ll give a tip for a song to listen to when enjoying your homemade goodies!

Now it’s time to get you started on those truffles: gently heat 150 ml double cream (use cream with at least 33% fat contents) in a pan. When hot (almost boiling), remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 1 min. Add 100 g dark chocolate (chopped into small pieces) and 100 g milk chocolate (chopped into small pieces as well) and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and chill in the fridge until firm (overnight is easiest).

Put 2 tbsp of cacao powder in a bowl and put 50 g chopped hazelnuts in another bowl. Take your firm chocolate and spoon a teaspoon on your hand and roll to a ball. Now put it in the bowl with the cacao and toss it around to coat. Repeat with the rest of the chocolate and either coat it in nuts or in cacao. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

The ideal song to play while enjoying this treat is very obvious so no surprises there, it has to be Chocolate salty balls by Chef from Southpark, have fun!

Getting ready for easter: mocha cake

Chocolate and coffee cakeAs with all major holidays celebrated in the family, I’m in charge of dessert this Easter. And as my grandmother is a big fan of chocolate, this cake always goes down a treat. It’s not your classical Easter dessert, my mom is in charge if that as I’m not a fan of it and I only bake what I like myself. But you may like it, so I’ll make sure she takes a nice picture of it so I can post it for you to try it later. Right now, it’s back to chocolate with the addition of coffee and coffee butter icing, a recipe I found in Rachel Allen‘s Bake, so you can’t really go wrong there!

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a loaf tin with parchment paper. Put 175 g self-raising flour in a bowl with 50 g cacao powder and 225 g soft light brown sugar and stir to combine (the recipe says you should sieve the flour ad cacao powder first, but I usually can’t be bothered). Beat in 175 g melted butter (just pop it in the microwave for not even a minute), 4 egg yolks (you will need the whites later), 60 ml very strong cooled coffee and 3 tbsp water. Whisk the egg whites until stiff (add a pinch of salt to make it easier, you should be able to turn the bowl upside down over your head without any of the contents shifting) and fold into the cake mix. Pour in the tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Give the tin a tap by banging it gently on your work surface (you may want to put a towel in between for the noise) which will remove any air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 35 min, then reduce the temperature to 150 C for another 20 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 min then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the coffee butter icing: place 100 g softened butter (if you keep your butter in the fridge, just pop it in the microwave for 15-20 min) in a large bowl and beat in 200 g icing sugar and 3-4 tbsp cooled very strong coffee. If your butter is too soft, it will become runny (as it did in my little experiment) but you can pop it in the fridge for am hour or so to stiffen up (I didn’t have time for that and went for the nice drizzled option).

Now you can assemble: using a bread knife, split the cake horizontally and spread about a third of the icing on the lower half with a palette knife (or any big knife will do). Place the other half on top and spread the rest of the icing over it. You can limit it to the top so you see the layers, or you can go all the way round the sides as well, up to you! As a decoration, add chocolate curls, easter eggs, or any other decoration you want. It’s best to let the cake settle for 30 min before cutting and it will easily keep overnight as well. Enjoy while listening to Make me smile by Cockney Rebel!

Chocolate heaven: sachertorte

SachertorteThis is alway a huge hit and it’s really not hard at all to make! I made it for my grandparents recently and when my grandmother opened the box her eyes started to twinkle and a big smile appeared. She quickly closed the box and put it away, I didn’t even get a piece myself, she kept it all for her! The recipe comes from and old cookbook my mom has that isn’t reprinted anymore. As you can see, I need to work on my cake-writing skills but luckily that doesn’t affect the cake at all!

A sachertorte is a chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and marmalade and covered with even more chocolate. So first, make the chocolate mousse. You can easily make this one or more days ahead. Melt 75 g dark chocolate “au bain marie” (so in a bowl over hot water – you can also microwave it, but put the microwave in defrost mode and stir regularly because if the chocolate burns it won’t stay smooth). Seperate 2 eggs and beat the yolks with 2 tbsp sugar until it’s foamy. Now stir in the chocolate. Beat the egg whites very stiff (you need to be able to hold the bowl upside down, and that’s not a joke!), it goes easier if you add a little pinch of salt. Spoon the egg white under the chocolate mix and put the bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours or over night until it’s a mousse!

Now make the chocolate cake: first grease a 26 cm round cake tin and preheat the oven to 140 C. Separate 6 eggs and beat the egg whites very stiff in a large bowl. Put the mixer on the lowest speed and, while continually beating, add the egg yolks, a packet of vanilla sugar (or the seeds from 1 pod), 200 g sugar, 1 tbsp custard powder (the kind you buy to make vanilla pudding), 40 g cacao powder, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 100 g self-raising flour (sifted) and 2 tbsp oil (I use sunflower – and you really need the oil to make the mix glossy). Pour the batter in the tin and bake in the oven for 60-70 min (a skewer inserted in the middle should come our clean). Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Now we’re starting to assemble: first, split the cooled cake horizontally. I do this by using a long sharp knife cutting halfway through the cake and then turning the wire rack around until I’m back where I started from. Add a layer of chocolate mousse to the bottom half, followed by orange marmalade (you can also use raspberry if you prefer, but you’re cake will be a lot sweeter if you do so, now it gets a tangy taste). Put the upper half back on top. Melt 100 g dark chocolate with 2 tbsp cream (again “au bain marie” or in the microwave on low). Use this to cover the top and sides of the cake. If you want to write something on top, just melt a bit more chocolate to do so. Enjoy!

So easy and always a success: rocky road squares

Rocky road squares
Rocky road squares

I’m always surprised that this is such a big hit because it just so easy to make! Even grown ups get a twinkle in their eye when I opened my box at work recently (I made them for my birthday). Some colleagues seemed to have so many questions they had to come and personally ask me that day… Needless to say, I only took an empty box back home! This is again one of my trusted GoodFood recipes, this time I got it from one of their small books, 101 cakes & bakes.

Line a 20 cm square tin with baking paper (if you don’t have a square tin, you can also make one yourself out of tin foil – or you can buy Lakeland’s Parchment Lined Foil, I’ve just bought it and already I’m a big fan!). In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (aka “au bain marie”), gently melt 500 g milk or dark chocolate, broken into pieces. Then stir in 10 marshmallows cut into small pieces and 85 g roughly chopped mixed nuts (pecans, almonds or walnuts will all do as well).

Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Leave to set for at least 2 hours (or overnight) before cutting it into 2.5 cm squares. To get a smooth and easy cut, just dip a sharp knife in hot water and wipe it, the heat will make it much easier to cut the squares. Trust me, this chewy, crunchy bite will be an instant hit anywhere… Enjoy!

Always a success: chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cookies

These are such a success that I always keep a batch in the freezer in case my grandmother calls to “place an order” (of course she doesn’t say it like that, it’s more along the lines of “oh no dear, you don’t need to bring anything at all, I’m fine, but should you have any of those lovely cookies left, well, I won’t say no to that…”). I got the recipe from a foodie friend and it comes from the New York Times.

I updated the ingredients list to European sizes, and the cookies too: according to the American recipe you can bake about 16 gigantic cookies, but I make around 80 normal sized ones from this batch. Of course you can easily half the recipe but I usually make all of it and then just freeze half! In case you’re already hungry, I have to disappoint you: the dough needs to stay in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours, so it’s a great make-ahead treat!

Mix 285 g softened butter with 285 g light brown sugar and 225 g white sugar (caster sugar) until you get a pale and fluffy mix. Add 2 eggs one by one while mixing constantly, followed by 2 tbsp vanilla extract. Now add all the dry ingredients: 240 g plain flour, 240 g flour for w

hite bread, 1 + 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 + 1/2 tsp salt (I never bother to sift any of these). Mix it in with a spoon to avoid a cloud of white dust all over your kitchen.

 

Finally, add 600 g of chocolate drops(try not to break them). Cover the dough with cling film (press it against the dough) and put it in the fridge for at least 24 h or up to 72 h.

Ready for the freezer
Ready for the freezer

Ready to bake? Heat the oven to 180 C. Put small balls of dough on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 min until golden brown. You can also just put the balls in a container to put in the freezer. When ready to bake, just defrost and continue as indicated above. And if you have enough to share, put in a bag with a nice ribbon around it and visit your grandmother! Enjoy 🙂