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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

A Cocoa Carrot Cake

Firstly, sorry for the woeful lack of posts this past week. I have an excuse though: some sort of throat virus that attacks anonymously but leaves its trace for several long, protracted days. Moving from the bed, much less blogging, was completely out of the question for the past few days but the good news is, apart from a nasty sinus headache (any tips for clearing that one up? I’ve tried every pill going and none of them seem to touch it) I’m back to 65/70% recovery and so I present to you a post that I started on Monday before I fell ill….(oh and I will get back to each one of you who commented or stumbled me…very soon!!).

I don’t know many people who dislike Carrot Cake. I prefer it everytime over chocolate cake. Perhaps it’s the always exciting spiciness of the cinnamon and cloves or is it the rich cream cheese icing (I always say I  love a bit of cake with my icing). Or is it the slightly perverse thrill at putting a vegetable into a cake?
carrot-cake-31

I suppose it could be the fact that Carrot Cake was once lauded as healthy. For sure it is missing the butter element but that cream cheese topping is about as calorific as it comes although there must be healthier options for the icing. I just don’t want to know about them.

For me, I enjoy the relentless moistness of the cake, the fact that it lasts forever in the cake tin (providing you don’t eat it first) and that tang of cream cheese followed by the spiciness of the cake when you take your first bite.  Oh, and it is really easy to make. In fact, it was the first cake I ever made, in Domestic Science class (that’s cookery to you and me), when I was about 10 years old. It is my favourite type of cake mixture, pour and stir. No creaming necessary. There is that annoyingly prolonged time spent grating carrots but if you have a food processor that element is despatched post haste too.

carrot-cake-21This recipe is slightly different, because, what with this being a chocolate blog and all, it uses Cocoa Powder. The flavour is not overpowered by the cocoa but simply enhanced and given extra depth. The original recipe used (from the Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes cookbook) used Cocoa Powder in the Icing too but I omitted that because I love the white, fluffy purity of the original cream cheese icing. I have given both options here in case you want to go all out cocoa mad though.

They're not real carrots - they're coconut!

They not real carrots- they're coconut!

For the Cake:

3 Large Free Range Eggs

175g Caster Sugar

200ml Sunflower Oil

250g Grated Carrot

200g Plain Flour

3 Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Ground Ginger

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

125g Walnut Pieces (optional)

For the Icing

100g Soft Unsalted Butter

100g Cream Cheese

300g Sieved Icing Sugar

5 Tablespoons Sieved Cocoa Powder (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 180c.

Line and grease two 8″ Round Sandwich Tins.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until light and frothy. Gradually beat in the oil. A hands free or electric hand whisk is by far the quickest method here.

Stir in the grated carrots.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the Flour, Baking Powder, Spices and Cocoa Powder and stir into the carrot/egg/sugar/oil mixture.

Fold in nuts if using.

Pour evenly into the two prepared sandwich tins and bake for about 25 minutes or until soft to the touch. A skewer may not come out completely clean as carrot cake is always supposed to be very moist.

Leave to cool in the tins and then turn out. Once completely cool, cover and fill with the following icing:

To make the icing, mix together all the ingredients until a thick but spreadable and very creamy icing emerges.

You can decorate with chopped walnuts if you like, or some coconut carrots that, implausibly, my Mum had in her bread bin!

Enjoy!

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There is nothing that aggrieves me more than being out of biscuits (or cookies, if you will), particularly on a holiday. Instead of having my usual tea and biscuits for breakfast, I have to revert to (gasp!) toast or cereal!
I know it sounds unhealthy but I have an agreement with my stomach: he won’t hurt, if I feed him high cocoa chocolate based foods at various points throughout the day. Sometimes he shirks on his agreement and hurts anyway but I continue to eat chocolate regardless.
So, what’s a girl to do without biscuits and/or chocolate? Make chocolate biscuits of course! And for one of the best cookie recipes I have ever cooked, I turned to Great Cookies by the wonderful Carole Walter. This is is a fantastic book, beautifully photographed with every type of cookie recipe imaginable, from drop cookies to speculaas, pinwheels to biscotti and everything else in between. Of course, I have only ever cooked one recipe from this book: Walter’s unbeatable Oatmeal Cookies.
I used to hate anything with oatmeal because it would always provoke an outbreak of stomach ache, so I avoided this wholesome tasting cereal like the plague. However, since I now have the aforementioned agreement with said stomach, I like to experiment with foods that I previously couldn’t eat. And fortunately, I have discovered there is quite a lot now that I can eat without too much discomfort.
IBS is a really unpleasant disorder. In my case, it causes severe bloating, headaches, cramping and nausea if I eat too much wheat or dairy produce. I take medication before each meal which does greatly reduce the symptoms but fellow sufferers will know that this isn’t always the answer. I have suffered from it since I was old enough to suffer from the stresses of the real world, sixteen or seventeen years old and when I first approached the doctors with my complaint about persistent stomach aches, they put it down to poor diet. IBS didn’t really exist (in the UK at least) back then.
Thankfully, reasonably effective anti-spasmodics have been introduced and some people (like my work colleague who finds that beer causes his outbreaks) can control theirs purely by cutting out ‘trigger’ foods.
I, on the other hand, rely purely on the tablets because I refuse to let the illness spoil my culinary life. The only foods I have strictly cut back on are dairy based foods like yoghurt, milk (and milkshakes), coffee with milk, and ice cream. Also, chocolate with a high milk content has to be eaten with care. Fortunately we have 70% cocoa which I can eat. Nuts are usually a big no-no if they are of the harder variety (for example, peanuts, brazil nuts or hazelnuts).
“But, enough about your stomach!” I hear you cry, “what about those cookies?”
Ah yes. The Cookies. Oatmeal cookies, studded generously with large chunks of dark chocolate and mahogany hunks of pecan. The original recipe calls for walnuts but I find that Pecans have a sweeter taste but generous bite.
The wonderful thing about cookie recipes is that you can alter the flavourings to suit your palate (or in my case, stomach) or store cupboard. These would taste just as good without the chocolate or nuts, just plain old fantastic oatmeal cookies.
Going against most recommendations, I halved the recipe, straight down the middle, for the simple reason that whilst I could eat 3 dozen of this oatie beauties, my stomach and I would come to serious blows. And despite this, the recipe turned out perfectly: these cookies/biscuits are crisp on the bottom, chewy in the middle. If you eat them still hot, the chocolate chunks still run fluidly throughout and there is nothing nicer than eating melted chocolate. When cold, they are just as good.
Being the true American that he is, Paul ate his with a glass of milk. I simply ate mine whilst watching the Road to Perdition, crumbs falling all over as the film reached its tense crescendo.

Other variations of this cookie could involve swapping chocolate for raisins or dried cranberries, various nuts or seeds, if you want a slightly healthier version.

oatmeal-cookiesOATMEAL COOKIES adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies that are 2.5″ wide, roughly
Ingredients:
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/4 Cup Oatmeal (not instant)
1/6 Cup Caster (or granulated) Sugar
3/4 Cup Plain Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (not really soft)
1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup or Golden Syrup
1 Small Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Chocolate Chips (I hit a bar of Lindt 70% chocolate repeatedly against a work surface to break them into decent size chunks)
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, or nut of your choice
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 180c. Line two baking sheets with baking paper or lightly oil them.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the brown and white sugar and a third of the oatmeal until sand-like. This will take about 3 minutes.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the rest of the oatmeal. Set aside.
Using your stand alone mixer or electric hand whisk, blend the butter with corn syrup on low speed until light.
Beat in the processed oatmeal/sugar mixture in three additions. Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Turning the speed up to medium, add the sifted flour in three more additions, mixing until only just combined.
Finally, fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Using either a couple of teaspoons or a small ice cream scoop (which I highly recommend!), drop spoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoopful. They will spread out during cooking but not horrendously.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until starting to turn golden around the edges.
Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets then remove to a cooling rack.
According to Walter, these cookies will last 2 weeks in an airtight tin. I doubt that they will last that long!

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“What’s that? A healthy Chocolate Cake?” I hear you gasp. Well, yes and no. It has no butter in it, so you’re already losing the fat element. It has banana, of course, which we all know is really good for you (high in potassium which is great for regulating blood pressure and the function of the heart, not to mention they’re incredibly soothing if you suffer from mouth ulcers), and it has Malt Extract. Whilst this may seem like an extravagance, Malt Extract not only tastes fantastic but it is a useful daily supplement due to it’s abundance of Vitamin B. And it habanana-cake-3s the most amazing affinity with chocolate (It is also a slow digesting sweetner which is better for people with issues with sugar. But mostly, it just tastes fantastic. Fans of Maltesers/Malt Balls will be nodding in vociferous encouragment). A further incentive for buying some Malt Extract: if added to bread dough, it gives a wonderful flavour.

Furthermore, the cake uses unrefined Demerara Sugar which is a slightly more natural sugar and gives a wonderful caramel-like taste to anything it touches. The chocolate element is a low-sugar cocoa. I used Green and Blacks Organic Cocoa Powder which has a richer taste than say Cadburys Cocoa Powder (although Cadburys powder has a milk chocolate taste which some people may prefer). This dark as coal dust Cocoa has rich, almost smoky taste, deeply chocolately and definitely for the grown ups.
The icing is also a healthier option, just water, icing sugar and more cocoa powder. None of that sticky, unctuous butter icing for this cake. Water Icing always reminds me of my Grandmother who used to ice her Fairy Cakes with it. Most bakeries over here still use it on their iced buns, Belgian Buns etc. It is a much more economical option too.

monkey1Anyway, a cake that tastes this moist, this chocolately and this banana-ry doesn’t need any other fripperies.
And because it is so simple to make – literally a pour and stir cake – children interested in cooking would also have lots of fun joining in, mashing the banana and getting all gooped up from the malt and syrup. You could even convert this into little cupcakes instead and if you’re feeling really artistic, make some marzipan bananas!

So, if you fancy making a healthy, slightly lower-fat than usual chocolate banana cake, here’s the recipe:

CHOCO-BANANA CAKE
Ingredients:
CAKE
2 Bananas, mashed well
225g Self-Raising Flour OR 225g Plain Flour with 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder, preferably organic
115g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Tablespoons Malt Extract
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup (or Corn Syrup)
2 Eggs
4 Tablespoons Skimmed Milk
4 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil or similar non-flavoured vegetable oil
ICING:
6oz Icing Sugar, sifted
5 Teaspoons Cocoa Powder, sifted
Warm water to mix
METHOD:

banana-cake
Grease and line an 8″ Deep Cake Tin.
Preheat oven to 160c.
Sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, making sure they are well combined.
Make a well in the middle and add all the other cake ingredients. Stir well to combine and pour into your prepared cake tin.
Bake for between 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. A palate knife should come out mostly clean but will still have a little sticky cake crumb sticking to it. This is a moist cake.
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool, you can make the icing.
Sieve together the icing sugar and cocoa then, using a fork, whisk in a tablespoon of water at a time, until it forms a thick, dark, glossy paste.
Spread over the top of the cake. Decorate as you wish, with some sliced bananas if you are planning to eat it all the same day or some marzipan fruits.

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So I’m cooking lunch for my mum and, at 10.30am the same morning she asks me what we’re having:

Mum: “Meat?”

Me: “No.”

Mum: {pleading voice} “Not vegetarian?!”

Me: “No.”

Mum: “So…it must be fish?”

Me: “Yes, yes it’s fish”

Mum: “Oh. So have you made a big dessert then?”

Me: “No. Did you want dessert?”

Mum: “Well, fish isn’t very filling and if it’s a fish dish I haven’t had before, I probably won’t like it.” Me: “So you want dessert so fill up on. Just in case?”

Mum: “Well, you do write for this chocolate blog now so it might make sense to give yourself something to write about. Pleeeeease?”

End of telephone conversation.

I suppose I should be offended really but I’m used to my family’s complete and utter fear of what they see as my maverick style of cooking. And all because I’ve cooked maybe 3 or 4 really dud dishes over the last 10 years. And I think that’s pretty good odds myself.

But, I like a challenge so I start rustling around my cookbooks. Paul suggests the 30 minutes chocolate puddings but I don’t want any extemporaneous faff when I get to my mums so I find this perfect recipe, ironically in a cookbook that my mother bought me for my birthday, called Good Food 101 Chocolate Treats: Chocolate Brownie Cake.

Yes, it’s a Brownie baked in a cake tin but it’s more than that. It is fast. All the sugars, chocolate and butter and melted together in a saucepan and then your flour, cocoa and baking powders are stirred in. Almost like your American Dump Cake. Not only is it fast and easy, it is incredibly rich and delicious. I think this could be alluded to the additions of Golden Syrup and cocoa powder, not generally used in traditional brownies.

Anyway, I baked the Chocolate Brownie Cake and was thrilled to see it had the traditional ooey, gooey middle and rich, deep flavour.

We served it with some single cream and raspberries (Paul had vanilla ice cream but then, he is American). Mother was pleased. Oh, and she said the fish dish was filling too…

CHOCOLATE BROWNIE CAKE – serves 6-8

Ingredients:

100g Butter

175g Caster Sugar

75g Muscovado Sugar (light)

125g Good Quality Dark Chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

2 Large Eggs, beaten

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Plain Flour

½ Tsp Baking Powder

2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 180c.

Line an 8” Cake tin.

In a large saucepan, gently melt together the chocolate, butter, golden syrup and sugars until the mixture is amalgamated and quite smooth.

Remove from heat, beat in the eggs and vanilla and sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Stir thoroughly and pour into your prepared cake tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes).

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes, then cut into slices and serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraiche and some fresh fruit.

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Well, if you’re going to make a chocolate cake, you may as well push the boat out right? Wrong. At heart I love truly simple things: choc-chip cookies, chocolate with no nuts, no caramel, no nougat, chocolate sponge cake with buttercream icing or maybe just whipped cream. My favourite pizza is even plain ol’ cheese and tomato and my drink of choice? Water. Well, during the week anyway.

Yet, to push the boat out for the penultimate day of Chocolate Week, I decided not to make a simple chocolate sandwich cake. I chose (that’s right, chose) to make that Hungarian classic, Dobos Torte.

A multi-layered gateaux, reminiscent to some of Martha Stewarts Crepe Cake, although much simpler than that to produce, the Dobos Torte was invented by Hungarian Confectioner Jozsef C Dobos. Dobos idea was the produce a long-lasting cake and the caramel topping on the final layer was his solution.

It is simple enough to produce, eggs whisked with sugar, vanilla and flour, then this frothy batter is spread out on five 7″ baking paper circles and baked for 10 minutes. The resultant thin layers are then sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream, the top layer coated with hot caramel.

So far so good, my cake looks a little shabby. My icing skills are not honed enough and the cake is too domed for the crisp top layer to rest flat but it looks OK. In fact, it looks almost impressive.

And then we come to tasting it. The sponge has a mean, rubbery texture that is not particularly pleasant. This is no doubt down to Dobos desire to produce a cake that will last into infinity. Well, these sponge slices certainly resemble their car-cleaning cousins.The butter cream is tooth-achingly rich but curiously still not chocolatey enough. The topping is tricky to cut and can only really be eaten with the fingers, in one piece.

My own cooking notes would be as follow: ground almonds rather than flour would be a worthy edition to the sponge recipe and a dark, dark chocolate ganache better for the filling. You can’t really improve on the caramel topping for sheer drama and your guests are happy to wrestle with that layer than all well and good.

Incidentally, there are over 100 variations of this recipe, some include butter in the sponge which I think would improve both the texture and the flavour immeasurably. However, I have given the recipe below should anyone wish to replicate it. Good luck!

DOBOS TORTE – serves 8

Ingredients:

SPONGE LAYERS

3 Eggs

100g Caster Sugar

1tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Plain Flour

FILLING:
175 Dark Chocolate

175 Softened, Unsalted Butter

2 tsbp Milk

350g Sieved Icing (confectioners) Sugar

CARAMEL:

100g Granulated Sugar

4 Tbsp Water

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Cut out five 7″ dia Greaseproof Paper Circles and, place two of them on two baking sheets.

Whisk together the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes using a hand-held whisk, until pale and voluminous. Sift in the flour, pour in the vanilla and fold in.

Spoon three dessertspoonfuls on each of your two prepared circles, spreading out with the back of the spoon to within 1/2 an inch of the edge of the circle. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly puffy. Leave to cool, on the paper, on cooling racks.

Repeat with the remaining 3 circles, to give a total of five layers.

To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together the icing sugar, butter and milk. Beat in the melted chocolate.

To assemble, you will probably need to trim each of the layers slightly to ensure that they are the same size. there is no easy way to do this except to say, ensure that you do not layer the cakes bottom sides touching as they will just stick together.

Place one layer on your serving plate and spread with the buttercream, ensuring you get right to the edges and do not have too much in the middle. Repeat with three more of the sponges. Spread the icing around the edge of the cake.

To make the caramel layer, melt the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until it turns golden but not dark. Place your final sponge layer on a cooling tray over some sheets of kitchen paper (the caramel will run everywhere when you pour it over the sponge).

When the caramel turns golden, about 5 minutes or so, working quickly, pour over the final sponge layer, tilting the cooling tray to ensure that the whole cake is covered. Leave to cool for a few minutes then, using a long bladed knife, mark (but do not cut) the segments of the cake.

Carefully remove from the cooling rack and place on top of your iced cake. If you have any icing left (and you should have plenty), pipe whorls on each segment.

Leave to setup for a couple of hours and then serve.

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Winter is drawing rapidly closer – the clocks are due to fall back and it will soon be dark when I leave work – my desire to cook good wholesome food seems to be an all time high. I am so excited about the impending winter events, Halloween (celebrated by the ancient Celts as part of the Samhain festival and which indicated the end of the year and thus the onset of Winter), Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving and finally Christmas and New Years, that I have already started planning menus for all of them.  I have an urge to cook for large crowds, yet I am very rarely given the opportunity unless we visit my husband’s family in the US.
The winter months seem like the perfect time to be overly generous with your food (you should be anyway, but when it’s cold, it seems like we need extra nuturing), and if it doesn’t all get eaten in a sub-zero body-protecting frenzy, we have leftovers instead.

So, with Hallowe‘en pending and in true bloodthirsty mode, I have a bunch of baby beetroot lingering in the fridge, with which (witch?) to make Muffins.

Beetroot was charmingly referred to as Blood Turnip in the 19th Century so it seems like a perfect vegetable to prepare for All Hallows Eve.
I hope that some unsuspecting Trick or Treaters will come to the door that night so I can confront them with blood pink stained hands, half peeled beet clutched demonically in my fist, paring knife in the other.  When they yell “trick or treat” at me, I will say “Borscht or Candy?”
I had great fun peeling the beetroot. It is amazing to see this dull, deep red root vegetable transformed into a vibrant, ruby coloured gem (traditionally used as the colourant for pink lemonade – shattering my dreams, as I thought that some remote tropical land grew pink lemons) as you gently remove the soft outer skin. I didn’t wear gloves as recommended, and my fingers weren’t really stained too badly at all.

For the Beetroot Muffins, which sound like something from a Roald Dahl novel, the beets have to be roasted in the oven for about an hour and a half, skin on, wrapped in foil. With those snugly ensconced in the oven, I got on with making dinner.

The Romans thought of Beetroot as an aphrodisiac, but taking into consideration that it also has a highly effective laxative quality (Apicius devoted at least five recipes to using beetroot to relieve constipation), it’s probably not recommended for a romantic night in for the just the two of you.
These Beetroot Muffins, which are a glossy chocolate mauve colour and are rich enough to serve dusted with icing sugar and a swirl of whipped cream but are also sturdy enough to survive travelling in a lunchbox. The beetroot gives them a delicious moistness, meaning that they keep well in the cake tin (if they last that long!) and, more importantly, they are a tasty way of getting all of the beetroot’s nutrients into you.

However, because I’m entering this into the the eleventh edition of Muffin Monday, hosted by Cuisine Plurielle, I have decided to make it even more Autumnal, to tie in the with theme, Colors and Flavors of Autumn.

Whilst on their own, the muffins are richly chocolatey with a hidden depth (that’ll be the beets), I decided that a tangy fruit layer would work really well with the dark, dark chocolate, so I added a layer of freshly picked blackberries, of which there is a surfeit of along the roadside. And then I got to thinking, how am I going to use up those baby marshmallows that I bought for hot chocolate? So, I decided to throw a couple of them in the mixture too, plus stud the top of the muffins with them.  I suppose I was thinking campfire s’mores and picking wild fruit in the woods. Finally, I sprinkled the tops with some Cacao Nibs, mostly just because I had them but they do give them muffins a woody looking effect and add an unusual texture.

N.B. This recipe uses roasted beetroot, but you can buy it vacuum packed and ready cooked at the supermarket which saves quite a lot of time. Just be sure that it isn’t pickled!

BEETROOT MUFFINS Makes 12
Ingredients:
300g Beetroot Raw (to give about 250g cooked and peeled, see method) or 250g Vacuum Packed Ready Cooked Beetroot
75g Cocoa Powder (I use Green and Blacks because it has a wonderful dark, rich flavour)
180g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
250g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
200ml Unflavoured Oil (such as corn oil or sunflower oil)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Handful of Blackberries and Mini Marshmallows (optional)

METHOD:
1) Preheat oven to 200c. Wrap your uncooked beetroot, unpeeled, in tin foil. Fit snugly in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about an hour and half or until tender. If using ready cooked beetroot, skip this and go straight to step 2.
2) Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Put to one side.
3) Once your beetroot is cooked, peel and chop into large chunks. Puree in your blender. Add the eggs, one at a time until blended.
4) Add the Vanilla Extract and Oil and blend until thoroughly mixed. The blender will now look Pepto-Bismal Pink.
5) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in your hot pink beetroot mixture. Combine gently but do not overstir.
6) Pour into a lined muffin tin. If you want to add the blackberries and marshmallows, half fill the cases, sprinkle over some of the fruit and marshmallows, then cover over with more batter. Sprinkle some of the marshmallows on top. I added a sprinkling of Cacao Nibs which add a delicious crunch and look gorgeous.
7) Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180c or until springy to the touch.
The baked muffins will have a slight sheen to them but they will be cooked through.
Enjoy but in moderation and remembering Apicius’ five recipes…

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Chocolate Brownies. Possibly the most perfect of all the ways to indulge in Theobroma Cacao. The chocolate hit in a well made brownie is so strong it can feel like you’ve just downed three double espressos in less than 10 seconds flat.
And there’s the non-prep side of things. It takes no time at all to whip up a batch of brownies and even less time to devour them. The only difficult part is melting the chocolate and if you have a microwave then you even remove the double boiler element.
Of course, there is a down side to such a simply wonderful cake. Brownies don’t really look like much other than brown, heavy, stodgy bits of brick. But think again! There lies within a simple, evil genius. People unfamiliar with the Brownie may overlook it once, but once bitten, never again shy.
I baked my first batch of chocolate brownies a few years ago, using a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe from her Good Tempered Food and found them to be completely and utterly darkly delicious. They are as chocolatey as you could ever imagine, fudgy and dense. I don’t bake them too often though because any good Brownie recipe hinges on using excellent quality chocolate and I covet my expensive chocolate as though it were an internal organ.
The characteristics of the brownie, whether it’s chocolate or otherwise (blondies also exist and are just as yummy) is that moist, almost undercooked middle that takes very little time to get used to. This is where I often have problems. Many of my brownies are under or over cooked but I adore that squidgy middle so much that I have strong reservations about leaving them in the oven for the stated time in the recipe.

The recipe I have used here is from Sara Jayne Paines – Chocolate The Definitive Guide and is, as the name suggests, rich and fudgy. However, if you are making a lot of Brownies for a large crowd, I would also refer you to the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook‘s Outrageous Brownies recipe which is truly superlative (if bank busting).

CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIES – makes about 10-15 depending on how small you cut your squares

Ingredients:

400g Good Quality Dark Chocolate, at least 65%,  chopped finely

300g Unsalted Butter, diced

4 Eggs

400g Brown Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

55g Plain Flour mixed with pinch salt and

2 tsp Baking Powder

285g Pecan Nuts, lightly toasted

8″ x 11.5″ x 2″ tin, floured and buttered

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 160c.

Melt together the butter and chocolate either in a double boiler (this amount takes a long time) or in the microwave.

Meanwhile, whisk lightly together the eggs, vanilla and sugar.

Pour the melted chocolate/butter over the whisked eggs/sugar/vanilla and combine well.

Sift in the flour/baking powder/salt and fold into the mixture.

Finally, fold in the nuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared baking tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out mostly clean.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting into squares.

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Today marks the official start of Chocolate Week, an auspicious observation of all things chocolately. You may ask “why devote a whole week to chocolate”? I would quickly answer:  a week is not long enough to explore every facet of the world’s favourite confectionary. There a literally hundreds of brands of chocolate bars, some candy, some gourmet. And then you have liqueurs, hot chocolates, ice creams, biscuits, nibs and beans. There are Premier Cru, Single Origin, Single Estates, Vintages and Couvertures.  The list is truly endless and for the chocolate fanatic, Chocolate Week gives us the chance to spend even more time indulging in our favourite, well, indulgence.

This week, we at Cocoa Lounge are devoting each day to the ultimate in Chocolate Recipes. Our choices are purely personal but we hope that you will enjoy trying them out. Chocolate is such a generous ingredient that loves the company of other ingredients so please feel free to experiment with our recipes and let us know what you come up with!

To kick off Day 1 of Official Chocolate Week – the ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie.  This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who is from the Dairy State, Wisconsin. This probably accounts for the large amount of butter in these delicious, crumbly, chocolatey cookies. Well, that and the half cup of peanut butter and copious amounts of chocolate chips too….

This recipe makes 30 or so cookies but they do not stay around for long. Warm from the oven, with the chocolate still molten, they are dreamy. When cool they are a softer cookie, not crisp like the ones over here in the UK but this is no bad thing. The peanut butter is an inspired addition and to cut through the richness, I would recommend a dark chocolate. Paul’s Mom uses Hershey’s Mini Kisses which hold their distinctive droplet shape. Unfortunately, us Brits have to make do with chocolate chips or just chopped chocolate.

The batter is super fast to whip up and you can have a batch prepared from bowl to mouth in about an hour.

Other additions would be raisins, white chocolate chips and cranberries, pecans or any nut in general. Omit the chocolate altogether, make a larger cookie and these are great for ice cream sandwiches. Play around, have fun but most of all, enjoy!

JUDITH’S PEANUT BUTTER CHOC CHIP COOKIES – makes approx. 30

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter, crunchy or smooth depending on preference

3/4 Cup (160g) Butter, softened

1/2 Cup Muscovado Sugar

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1 Egg

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 Cups Plain Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

6oz Mini Kisses or 6oz chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 180c.

Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, sugars, vanilla and egg until completely amalgamated.

Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt. Using an electric hand whisk, mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate.

Leaving plenty of space in between, spoon out the cookie dough onto your baking sheets using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave to cool on the tray for 2 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. They will still be soft but firm up as they cool.

Repeat until all the cookie mixture is used up. As you can see, I reused the baking paper between batches with no harm at all.

Enjoy!

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The first in an erstwhile series of classic recipes, designed to be simple, quick and – hopefully – foolproof.  The use of the word “Masterclass” is tongue in cheek as many of these recipes will be made for the first time by myself too and any comments or suggestions are gratefully received.

All recipes, of course, are using chocolate. This week, Sachertorte.

I have an ongoing love affair with gateaux, particularly those from Vienna. I have yet to try them at Demels or indeed any coffee shop in Austria (much less Vienna) having never visited there but this doesn’t stop me lusting after their tender, multi-layered cakes, the flaky pastries interlaced with stained glass preserves or the tall cups of coffee topped with frothy clouds of whipped cream. For now, I must make do with reading the pertinent Foods of the World book, devoted to Vienna or the tattered issues of Gourmet Magazine from the late 60s which serialised Lillian Langseth-Christensens Old Vienna Cookbook.
Now, whilst I love to look at these seemingly superhuman feats of patisserie, I am not the best or most patient baker. I don’t have much time to devote to churning out trays of cookies or muffins and even if I did, we don’t have a large family to devour them. That said, my work colleagues are always willing and able guinea pigs (albeit a little too critical at times) so I decided to bake a cake that I have found alluring and beautiful ever since I first saw its thick, glossy dark icing and woodly dense interior: the Sachertorte.
The original recipe, first invented at the Hotel Sacher, is a closely guarded secret.

The Original Sacher Torte made by Hotel Sacher

The Original Sacher Torte made by Hotel Sacher

It is a cake that arouses such passion in people that Demels and the Hotel Sacher had some intense legal wranglings over the decoration and naming of the cake. Eventually the Hotel Sacher won the court case and the right to call the cake, Sachertorte, identified by its chocolate seal. Demels now refer to their version as Demels Sachertorte. Seems like a case of “You Say Tomato and I Say, er, Tomato” if you ask me but family reputations are built and destroyed upon such trifles (or rather, gateaux).
The cake itself is famous for its deeply dark texture, an apricot jam filling and the glossy dark mantle of chocolate icing, this is a chocolate cake for adults. The recipe I made used ground almonds instead of flour, two whole bars of the blackest chocolate, and over 300g of sugar! This being in addition to 6 eggs and several freshly ground coffee beans. The eggs are separated, the whites whisked to snowy white stiffness and the yolks made frothy with the sugar. The two are then combined and baked for an hour (although, I took mine out of the oven maybe 10 minutes earlier as it would have dried out too much otherwise).
The taste of the cake is as rich as you might expect but with the unexpectedly tart apricot jam flavour. I don’t normally like fruit with chocolate but this was a whole new taste experience for me. Apparently the cake should be stored for a week when, like a vintage wine, it matures and deepens in flavour. Of course, this is impossible.
After making the cake, I wondered why it had taken me so long – it is so easy and makes a perfect coffee cake or dinner party dessert, served, as the Viennesse, with whipped cream.
LORNA WING’S SACHERTORTE – Serves at least 8
Ingredients:
200g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Coffee (freshly ground if possible)
6 Eggs (5 separated)
150g Ground Almonds
310g Granulated Sugar (not caster)
6 Tablespoons Apricot Jam
Icing:
100g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
40g Unsalted Butter
METHOD:


Preheat oven to 180c.
Butter and line a 9″ Springform Tin (I actually used an 8″ tin because that’s all I have but it didn’t effect the cake).
Gently melt the 200g chocolate in a double boiler.
In a large bowl, whisk the 5 egg yolks and remaining whole egg with the sugar until pale and fluffy, like homemade mayonnaise.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiffly peaking.
Add the almonds, molten chocolate and ground coffee to the egg yolk mix and combine well.
Gently but firmly fold in the whipped egg whites until throughly combined. The mixture will seem very grainy.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour (it may be done sooner). Halfway through cooking or when the top has set, cover with some foil. This cake burns easily because of the egg whites.
When cooked, remove from the oven (the top may crack or sink, again due to the high egg content). Don’t worry because you can always do as I did – turn it upside down!
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool you can begin the icing. Melt the Apricot Jam in a small saucepan over a gentle heat.
Unmould the cake, and decide which side up you are going to ice it. Brush over the now liquid Apricot Jam thickly over the top and sides. This is not merely going to help the icing stick but will be an important and surprising layer of the cake.
In a double boiler, melt the 100g chocolate. Once liquified, add the butter and stir until melted. It might look as if it’s going to seize up but keep stirring over the gently heat and it will become runny, like double cream.
Pour over the cake, spreading fairly quickly over the top and sides until it is coated all over. With the back of a spoon, make a circular pattern. You can pipe the familiar Sacher moniker on the cake with a little melted chocolate if required.

Leave for a week or a day until you cut it if you can bear it! This cake lasts superbly due to the high quantity of ground almonds in it and makes a wonderful treat for your gluten intolerant friends who often miss out on lovely gateaux.

Recipe from Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes.

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Chocolate Biscotti

I suppose it’s fortuitous for me as a writer that food holds many happy reminiscences for me. The Banana Splits of my childhood, my husband converting me to the taste of freshly ground coffee, my Mums pernicutious Spaghetti Bolognese and my Grandmother’s Coffee Cake. Since meeting Paul, I also have a whole world of foodie firsts:

Every Kitchen Should Have One!

Every Kitchen Should Have One!

his Mom’s thanksgiving meals and apple cake, richly covered with Miracle Whip, thick fluffy pancakes and hash browns. This is without making note of Cheetoes, Nila Wafers and Saltines. These road trip essentials are available over here in exclusive delicatessens, along with Krispy Kreem Donuts, priced up to the point where they are no longer a cheap road snack but an unnecessary luxury instead.
Of all the great culinary discoveries made by myself in the US, the Coffee Shop with its endless shiny counters stacked high with glass jars filled with cookies, plates gleaming with fruit tarts and, my most favourite coffee house treat of all, the Biscotti.
In Italian, Biscotti loosely translates as “biscuit twice cooked” (bis-cotto) and no word could sum up the Biscotti more succinctly than that. A stiff sort-of cookie dough is made, flavoured with almost any conceivable (and some inconceivable, no doubt) ingredients, then formed into a Ciabatta loaf shape, baked for about 30 minutes, then it is cut into slices – the familiar Biscotti shape – and baked once again for another 10 minutes on each side. What this double bake produces is a hard, crisp biscuit, perfect for dipping into your morning coffee. The Italians don’t call these hard biscuits Biscotti though. In Italy, Biscotti is a generic term that refers to any biscuit, from Amaretti to Pignoli Cookies. Instead, the twice-baked biscuit, a speciality of the Florence region, is called Cantuccini and supermarkets often carry these imported Italian cookies, often studded with almonds or half dipped in chocolate, which melts as you stir your coffee with them. In Italy, they are also served as an after-meal treat, to be dipped in Vin Santo or a sweet dessert wine or liquor.
Biscotti or Cantuccini are simple to make, although a little more labour intensive than the usual drop cookies. However, the dough is easy to work with and they are so adaptable, that you will probably find yourself baking them often (in her book, Great Cookies, Carole Walter even has a Passover recipe, using Matzo meal instead of flour). And, despite the initial reservation of tasting a dried out biscuit, they are incredibly moreish, particularly those half dipped in chocolate. They also have the added bonus of lasting quite some time in the biscuit tin.
Such is the popularity and adaptability of this nibbly biscuit that there are at least twenty cookbooks devoted to just the Biscotti, thousands of jars stuffed full of them in cafes throughout the world and most supermarkets even produce their own versions. Not bad going for a dried out hard biscuit.
Perhaps we are in love with the romantic Italian notion of turning something boring into something magical, merely by dipping it into a cup of hot coffee or chilled wine.
Whatever the reason, this alchemic biscuit is a worthy addition to your baking rota and will accommodate whatever ingredients you have available. You can dress them up or down, and they will always make a welcome gift at any time of the year. They are the perfect vehicle for a delicious, high cocoa content, chocolate.
Here is a basic ‘starter’ recipe using chocolate shavings, nuts and citrus zest. Using this recipe, you can switch any of the flavourings around, using dried fruits instead of chocolate, brown sugar instead of white, add a dash of vanilla or almond extract, dip them in chocolate or icing. You could use a little cornmeal in the mixture or make a highly spiced Cantuccini with ground cloves, cinnamon, cardamom or ginger. I recently saw Giada de Laurentiis dip her Biscotti in Chocolate and then red and green sugar sprinkles for Christmas. You could utilise a similar theme with white and pastel sprinkles for wedding favours or to for baby showers.

BISCOTTI WITH CITRUS, CHOCOLATE AND PECANS
Ingredients:
1 ½ Sticks Unsalted Butter (170g), room temperature
Zest of 1-2 Lemons and 1-2 Oranges (depending on how citrussy you want it)
1 Cup Sugar
2 ½  Cups Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
3 Large Organic Free Range Eggs
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1 Bar (about 120g) Good Quality Dark Chocolate (70% is ideal), shaved, rather than chopped. The chocolate could be replaced with half a cup of dried fruit, raisins, cranberries, cherrys, figs etc.
¾ Cup Chopped Nuts of your Choice. I used Pecans, but Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Walnuts would be great
METHOD:
Using either a hands free mixer or an electric hand whisk (the mixture does get quite stiff later on), blend together the butter and zests.
Add the sugar and beat for another couple of minutes until pale and fluffy.
Add one egg at a time, beating for about 30 seconds between additions. Take care to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl regularly.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Then introduce this, in three turns, to the batter, mixing well before the next addition.
Finally, fold in the nuts and chocolate.
Cover and chill the bowl in the fridge for at least an hour.
After an hour, line or grease two large baking sheets and preheat the oven to 175c.
Divide the dough into two halves and, using one half at a time, place on a lightly floured board.
Gently mould into the shape of a Ciabatta Loaf (which is to say, a slightly flattened log, about 10” long by 4” wide) and place each log on the baking sheet. Leave about 3 or 4 inches between the logs. They will spread out slightly but not much.
Bake for 30 minutes on the top shelf, or until lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven, turn the heat to 150c, and leave to cool for five minutes.
Using a dough scraper or meat cleaver, cut the logs into ½” biscotti, placing them cut side up on the second baking sheet.
Bake for another 10-15 minutes until they feel dry on one side. Turn them over and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven. They will still feel a little soft at this point. Leave for a couple of minutes until you are able to handle them. Then remove to a cooling rack.
You can then dip them in melted chocolate if you want or just serve them with freshly brewed coffee.
Store in a large jar or biscuit tin.
Enjoy!

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