15 December 2017

HOMEMADE DOUBLE CHOCOLATE SPREAD

What’s better than a chocolate spread? Why, a double chocolate spread, of course! If you’ve ever made chocolate, you know the process starts with high quality cocoa butter, and high quality cocoa powder.
This spread is amazingly delicious on its own, on a slice of bread, or even as a cake filling, if you are feeling very festive. Moreover, the best gifts are always homemade, so add a glittery bow, and gift this to someone who enjoys sweet breakfasts.


Ingredients
100 ml whole milk
200 grams granulated sugar
100 grams cocoa butter, edible
100 grams powdered milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
30 grams high quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Preparation
Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in the milk, add in the sugar, and let the mixture come to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook it, without stirring, for exactly 5 minutes. The mixture will start to bubble up as it heats up, because of the milk, but it should not bubble over. Do not walk away while this is heating up, it can burn easily. Once the 5 minutes are up, remove it from the heat, and add in the cocoa butter.
Mix until completely melted, then sift in the powdered milk, and whisk it really well, or use an electric mixer on low, until completely blended. Add in the vanilla bean paste, and blend well. Divide the mixture into two parts, then sift in the cocoa powder into one of them, and mix really well, to disperse any possible cocoa clumps. Let the spread cool down slightly, then pour it into a jar, alternating between white and dark chocolate as you pour. Keep refrigerated. Yields 500 grams.

08 December 2017

COCONUT RASPBERRY SANDWICH COOKIES

Three more weeks until the end of the year. In this very busy period of the year, these little pink gems will be the perfect adornment for your Christmas platter. Egg-free, of course, and really easy to make, plus, they store really well, so you can bake them up before the big day. Feel free to mix colours for a more effective presentation, if you wish. You can also use a jam in the same colour, or even in a contrasting one. Make sure you choose a tangy jam, to compliment the taste of the shortbread cookie.


Ingredients
150 grams butter
150 grams icing sugar
few drops of pink food colouring, optional
100 grams desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons cornflour (corn starch)
4 tablespoons freeze dried raspberries, crushed and sifted
250 grams plain flour
4 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams thick jam, preferably tangy jam

Preparation
Take a large bowl, add in the butter, and the icing sugar, and beat with an electric mixer on low, until lighter in colour and very creamy. Add in the food colouring (if using), and blend it well on low. Add in the desiccated coconut, cornflour, freeze dried raspberries, and yogurt, and blend very well, until uniform in colour, and smooth. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and combine everything together with a wooden spoon. You can use an electric mixer on low, but the batter is quite thick, so the wooden spoon works best.
Wrap the dough in cling film, and place it in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes, so the dough can rest and firm up. After the dough has chilled, dust the work surface with plain flour, and roll the dough out carefully, to the thickness of about 5 millimetres. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough, and arrange them on a large cookie sheet, lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for 8 minutes.
After baking, let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then carefully remove them to a wire rack, and let them cool completely. Sandwich the cookies with the jam of your choice (I used my homemade Bourbon peach jam), and serve. Yields 25 sandwich cookies.
Baker's note: You can dust them with icing sugar just before serving, if you wish.

01 December 2017

CHOCOLATE & VANILLA FUDGE CAKE

This is a fabulous chocolate cake, incredibly moist and flavourful, but incredibly easy to make at the same time. You need one bowl and a whisk and that's it. Everything is mixed in one large bowl (or in the baking tin, if you prefer) and then baked. One other thing I love about this cake is that it uses basic ingredients that you're likely to have in your pantry.
The cake is frosted with a lovely homemade vanilla cookie frosting, one of my favourites. Smooth and rich, but also with a tiny bit of crunch from the cookie crumbs. Feel free to use chocolate cookie crumbs if you wish, it will give the frosting even more of a speckled look. All in all, whether you're baking for someone who can't have eggs or you just don't have any eggs on hand, this cake is perfect and it works every time.


Ingredients
For the cake
250 grams plain flour
200 grams sugar
50 grams vanilla cookie crumbs
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
100 ml oil
400 grams vanilla yogurt
100 ml whole milk
For the vanilla-cookie buttercream
150 grams butter, softened
50 grams instant vanilla pudding powder
50 grams icing sugar
50 grams vanilla cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Place the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and cookie crumbs in a large bowl and whisk it thoroughly, to mix everything well and deal with any clumps in the cocoa. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the oil and yogurt and mix very well. The batter will be very thick and sticky, but don't be tempted to add additional yogurt or oil. Grease and flour a baking tin (18x30 cm), pour in the batter and bake in a preheated oven, at 190˚C (375˚F) for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness around 18 minutes (or even before that), to avoid overbaking the cake. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer it gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cake is cool to the touch, transfer it to a cake plate and gently brush the milk over the surface of the cake, being careful not to spill it down the sides. Place the softened butter in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat it for about 3 minutes on medium speed, or until very smooth and lighter in colour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat 2 more minutes. Add the vanilla pudding powder and cookie crumbs and incorporate really well, on high, then slowly add the icing sugar in a few batches. Finally, add the heavy cream and vanilla, and blend well. Spread or pipe the frosting over the cooled cake and serve chilled. Yields 12 servings.

17 November 2017

SPICED SOFT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Right now, there is less than seven weeks until the end of the year. Have you started thinking about this year's Christmas cookie platter? As you can tell, I have. These lovelies are so soft and airy, with a delightful combination of cocoa and spices, they are sure to brighten up the platter. If you are worried about the white pepper in them, fret not, that is the same delicious spice combination as the one in Speculaas cookies. And, if you are really feeling festive, you can dip them or just decorate them with a bit of melted chocolate, but I chose to serve them just as they are, lovely in their simplicity. I do recommend letting them cool down a bit before serving, as they tend to be too soft right after coming out of the oven.


Ingredients
200 grams soft flour
50 grams cornflour (corn starch)
¼ teaspoons baking soda
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
50 grams butter
100 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams plain yogurt

Preparation
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and whisk together. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat and add vanilla and spices and whisk until everything is combined and smooth. Set it aside to cool slightly. Take a large bowl, and sift in the flour, cornflour, and the baking soda. Make a little well in the middle, then pour in the chocolate mixture and the yogurt, and lightly mix with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out the batter and arrange the cookies on a large cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a bit of room between them, as they will spread a bit, and this will keep them round and pretty. Bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F) for 8-10 minutes. As they will be soft when you take them out of the oven, let them cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them and putting them on a wire rack. Yields 20 cookies.

10 November 2017

NO-BAKE NOUGAT CHOCOLATE CAKE

No-bake cakes, along with ice-cream cakes, are among my favourite things to make. They are always a good idea after a hearty meal. Or just with a cup of coffee, for that matter. This four-layer beauty is so easy and quick to make; you will love it. Layer upon layer of chocolate, nougat, and cream. I used Viennese nougat, a gorgeous chocolate and hazelnut confection. You can make a more lavish decoration, if you like, or you can keep it minimalist, like I did - with just a drizzle of melted dark chocolate.





Ingredients
For the hazelnut base
150 grams hazelnut wafers
120 grams butter, softened
50 grams icing sugar, sifted
50 grams finely ground hazelnuts
For the whipped cream
100 ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the nougat layer
150 grams soft nougat
250 ml heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatine
50 grams dark chocolate
For the decoration
100 ml heavy cream
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanila

Preparation
Start by lining a round cake ring (15 cm) with acetate, for an easier cake removal. Make sure the acetate strip is tall enough for you to pour in the fillings. Once you have prepared the pan, crush the wafers in a food processor, but not too finely, leave a variety of crumb sizes, it will make the texture better. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl, and add in the softened butter. Start mixing with a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, until the mixture starts to come together. At that point, sift in the icing sugar, and add the ground hazelnuts, then mix everything together until a soft but pliable base forms. Do not worry if the base seems to be a tad soft, it will firm up in the refrigerator. Once done, place the cake ring on the serving platter, and press the base in. Set it aside and start making the fillings.
Take a large bowl, and pour in the heavy cream, along with the icing sugar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, then slowly spread it onto the cake base. You can level the whipped cream layer, or you can leave the top with a texture, the choice is yours. Place the platter in the refrigerator, and proceed to make the nougat layer.
Cut the nougat into small pieces, and place it into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour 50 ml of heavy cream over it, then place the saucepan over medium heat, so the nougat can slowly melt. Make sure to stir frequently while it melts, to prevent burning. Once melted, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for up to 30 minutes, so it can cool down, but still be pourable. In the meantime, pour 2 tablespoons of cold water over the gelatine, and let it bloom.
When the nougat mixture has cooled sufficiently, whip up the rest of the cream until soft peaks form, then add in the melted nougat, and fold it thorough. Melt the chocolate over low heat, and let it cool down slightly. Dissolve the bloomed gelatine over low heat (or in the microwave), but be careful not to let it boil. Take a little bit of the nougat and cream mixture, stir it in the dissolved gelatine and then pour it back in, and fold it through, incorporate.
Pour half of that mixture over the whipped cream layer, and return it to the refrigerator. Take the melted and cooled chocolate, and pour it into the reserved mixture. Fold it through gently with a spatula, then spread it very carefully over the nougat layer. You can leave it like that, or take a skewer and mix two layers, giving them a marble effect. Place everything into the refrigerator overnight.
To decorate the cake, whip the heavy cream with the cocoa powder, icing sugar, and vanilla. Take the cake out of the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate strip, then spread some of the whipped cream around it, and use the rest of it to decorate the top of the cake. Serve chilled. Yields 8 servings.