Christmas part 2: Buche Nero

Buche NeroFor Christmas, I made Buche Nevado but I wasn’t sure everyone would like it as it was made from white chocolate and almonds, which is too sweet for some people (my dad for starters). So I decided to “invent” a dark version and gave it the very original name “Buche Nero”, how’s that for my Spanish! After the taste test, the verdict was in: most tasters like this version better and apart from my dad that included my mom, grandmother and brother. My sister just couldn’t decide.

Here’s how I did it: I decided almonds wouldn’t work with dark chocolate, and used hazelnuts instead (the ones you also add to ice cream). To avoid it getting to sweet, I decided to replace the raspberry coulis by oranges instead, it works well in sachertorte, so I knew it would work well here too. For the rest, I stuck to the recipe and made it as follows:

To get started, line your mould with cling film that you first brushed with olive oil (if you don’t have a pastry brush, just put some oil on a paper towel and wipe that on the cling film).

The recipe consists of 4 elements and you can easily make it a day ahead. You can even make the chocolate mousse and coulis 2 days ahead as they need to set.

Step 1: orange coulis
Put 2 sheets gelatin in cold water to soften. Heat a pot of orange marmalade until boiling, then take it of the heat and add the sheets of gelatine (squeeze the water out first). Pour onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or oiled cling film and put in the fridge to set. You can do this 2 days in advance.

Step 2: dark chocolate mousse
For the dark chocolate mouse, I used the recipe of Jeroen Meus, another famous Flemish TV cook, a bit the Jamie Oliver of Belgium. First, put 1 sheets gelatin in cold water to soften (you don’t need the gelatin for this recipe, but I added it to be sure as I’m taking the mousse out of a mould later). Melt 100 g dark chocolate au bain marie (so in a bowl over simmering water). If using gelatin, squeeze the water out of the it and add to the chocolate. Separate 3 eggs and mix the egg whites until stiff (you need to be able to turn the bowl upside down and that’s no joke! Add a pinch of salt to get there sooner). Now mix 180 ml cream until you see the trace if your mixer in it. You still want it to be half runny, if it’s too stiff it will split. Finally, mix the egg yolks with 50 g caster sugar for 5 min until they are foamy and almost white. If you do the mixing in this order (egg whites – cream – egg yolks) you don’t need to wash it in between! Now you’re ready to assemble: first mix the chocolate with the egg yolks. Now fold in the egg whites and finally add the cream. You want to fold in the cream quite quickly to avoid it splitting. Pour in the prepared tin until half full and allow to set in the fridge. You can do this 2 days in advance as well.
Tip: if you’re just interested in the chocolate mousse and have no desire to turn it into a log, this recipe will serve 4 people. Leave out the gelatin and pour into glasses and put in the fridge to set. You can decorate it with some red fruit for a gorgeous dessert.

Step 3: hazelnut sponge
Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Put 75 g hazelnut powder in a bowl with 30 g icing sugar and 12 g plain flour and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix 90 g egg whites (from 2-3 eggs) until stiff, then add 50 g caster sugar and mix again. Carefully fold the egg whites into the almond mix until combined and spoon onto the baking sheet in a rectangular form, about the size of your loaf tin. Use a knife to nicely flatten the top. Bake in the oven for 10 min until the sponge is lightly golden and springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven, turn it out onto a sheet of lightly sugared baking powder, carefully peel off the lining paper and lay it back over the sponge. Allow to cool completely.

Step 4: hazelnut crumble
Turn the oven up to 180 C. Mix 100 g plain flour with 100 g hazelnut powder,100 g sugar1 g fleur de sel or salt and 100 g butter until it resembles bread crumbs. Put on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, roughly the size of your loaf tin, and bake for 12-15 min until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Now you’re ready to assemble. You already added the chocolate mousse to your loaf tin, and by now it is set. Take the coulis out of the fridge, cut it to the same size as your loaf tin and put it on top. Don’t worry if you need to patch it up a little. Now do the same with the sponge and finish with the crumble. Make sure to turn the crumble upside down for this, so that the flat part is on top. Put in the fridge again until you are ready to serve. When ready, turn out onto a serving plate (use a blowtorch to loosen a bit if you have one (if the chocolate is too runny after that, just put it back in the fridge for 15 min or so to stop it running), if not just peal of the cling film) and decorate as desired. Cut into slices and enjoy!

Impressive gift: hazelnut and lemon madeleines

Hazelnut and lemon madeleines
Hazelnut and lemon madeleines

These madeleines are totally delicious and always a success. They look absolutely great too, so they make a great gift! My dad is a huge fan, so I made them recently for fathers day. My mom said after dinner that she would love a madeleine, but my dad just said she couldn’t have any, they were all for him… This recipe comes from Lorraine Pascale‘s Baking Made Easy and it’s really not that hard. All you need is a madeleine tin, which you can find anywhere really.

Preheat the oven to 180 C and oil the madeleine tin with vegetable oil. Put 4 eggs in a large bowl and whisk until they have almost doubled in volume, then, while still whisking, gradually add 100 g caster sugar down the sides of the bowl. This will take about 10-15 min with an electric mixer (if you have a kitchen aid or anything like that, just use the machine, it’s so much easier! You can put the timer on 15 min, slowly adding the sugar in the first 5, and then do whatever you like in the mean time). The result will be a very light, fluffy and mouse-like batter.

Add 80 g melted butter around the sides of the bowl so as not to knock out all the air, then add the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod and fold the mixture over itself to combine, using as few strokes as possible. Add a pinch of salt and 100 g sifted plain flour in 2 batches and carefully fold it into the batter. Add 40 g toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped or ground (I use ground almonds, that works equally well) and the zest of 1 lemon and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into the madeleine moulds until two-thirds full (the recipe suggests using a piping bag, but even though the mixture is very runny, I make it work with a spoon). Bake in the oven for about 10 min or until the madeleines are springy to the touch and are turning a light golden brown colour. Leave to cool in the tin for a few seconds, but not more, transfer them to a wire rack immediately or they will stick to your tin (I’m talking from experience here). Just push them gently on one side to slide them out. Eat them within two days or they will dry out (don’t worry, they won’t last that long!). Enjoy!