12 January 2018

TOASTED SESAME SEED FOCACCIA

Focaccia is a very versatile type of bread, very forgiving, and delicious with many different additions. Apart from the famed focaccia al rosmarino, this is my absolute favourite. The dough is amazing on its own, but the fragrant toasted sesame seeds send it over the top for me.
Also, this is a no-knead bread, so even if you have never made bread on your own, do not fret, you only need a bowl and a wooden spoon. But, the dough does require a lot of time to rise properly, so plan ahead.
I usually serve it hot with a main dish, but you can most certainly serve it as a sandwich bread. There are really so many ways to enjoy this wonderful bread, that whichever you choose, you cannot be wrong.

Toasted sesame seed focaccia tinascookings.blogspot.com

Ingredients
200 grams wholemeal flour
200 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
50 grams sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil (for brushing)

Preparation
First toast the sesame seeds. Take a large skillet and pour in the sesame seeds in an even layer. Place the skillet on medium high heat, stirring them occasionally, or shaking the pan, until they get darker in colour and fragrant. That should take up to 5 minutes. Do not let them burn, because they will be bitter. Remove the pan from the heat and let them cool down slightly.
Sift both flours into a large bowl, add the yeast and salt and whisk it very well. Make a well in the centre, and add the majority of the sesame seeds (leave about a tablespoon or two for sprinkling on top), warm water and 3 tablespoons of oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl, but it will be too sticky to knead by hand. Cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for 12 hours. You can stir and stretch the dough with a wooden spoon a few times during the rise, but it isn’t necessary.
The next day, when the dough has risen, gently knead it with a wooden spoon and transfer it to a large, well-greased baking pan. Brush the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons of oil and gently stretch and press it out with your hands until it fills the pan completely. If some of the oil goes beneath the dough, it is fine. Sprinkle the reserved sesame seeds on top of the dough, then let it rise for another 2 hours. When the dough has risen, make little indents with your finger in the dough, then bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F) for about 20-25 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then slice it up and serve.

05 January 2018

CINNAMON HONEY CHOCOLATE FUDGE TRUFFLES

Starting off this year with a lovely, light, easy recipe. Truffles are a dessert pretty much everyone loves, and they can be decorated in many different ways, thus adjusted to any occasion or celebration you might have. Cinnamon and honey are a combination I've learnt to love only recently, but it works fantastically with the deep cocoa flavour.
One other good thing about these truffles is that they can be very easily made completely vegan - by using plant-based milk, agave syrup, and vegan butter, of course. As for the decoration, I went with the icing sugar decoration, but you can decorate in any way you wish. They are really delicious coated in dark chocolate, but milk chocolate works really well, too.


Ingredients
100 grams high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
50 ml whole milk
3 tablespoons raw honey
75 grams unsalted butter, divided


Preparation
Sift the cocoa powder with the cinnamon, and set it aside. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and pour in the milk, along with the honey. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, without stirring, until the honey dissolves in the milk. Add in 50 grams of butter, and keep stirring so it does not burn. Make sure the mixture does not come to a boil. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat, and add in the cocoa powder, and the vanilla. Stir with a sturdy spatula or a wooden spoon until the batter comes together. It will seem very dry at this point.
Add in the remaining butter, and mix to combine. Once everything is well-blended, let the batter cool down to room temperature, then place it in the refrigerator for an hour. It will firm up considerably, but that is normal. When the mixture has cooled and set, remove it from the refrigerator, and cut it with a sharp knife into 16 equal pieces. You can knead it briefly, so the heat from your hands melts it slightly, and makes it more pliable, but that is not mandatory. Roll each portion into a truffle, and then decorate the truffles to your liking. Serve well-chilled. Yields 16 truffles.

29 December 2017

VEGAN CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE

There really shouldn't ever be a special reason for making a delicious chocolate cake, but if there is, even better. Seven layers of rich fudge cake and delicious buttercream, topped with chocolate truffles, and more chocolate. The best way of celebrating anything, really. One other thing that is great about this cake is that it is completely egg-free and dairy-free.
As with all vegan baking, make sure that all of the ingredients, as well as the process used to make them, are actually vegan. And by this I predominantly mean sugar and cocoa powder. Also, some dark chocolates can still contain dairy products, so check for those, too. Finally, if you wish to use any other type of plant-based milk, feel free to do so.


Ingredients
For the cake layers
200 grams plain flour
200 grams unrefined sugar
100 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
200 grams dark chocolate
350 grams soya yogurt
200 ml cold water
For the fudge filling
250 grams vegan butter
350 grams icing sugar
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
100 grams dark chocolate
2 tablespoons dark rum
6 tablespoons soya milk

Preparation
For the cake layers, start by sifting together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Add in the sugar, and whisk everything well. Melt the chocolate over low heat (or in the microwave), and set it aside to cool down a bit. Add the soya yogurt and water to the dry ingredients, and lightly mix. By then, the chocolate should be cool enough to add, so pour it in the batter, and mix it through.
Once the batter is smooth, pour it evenly in four 15 cm round cake pans, lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 15 minutes. When the cake layers are baked and ready, let them cool almost completely in the cake tins, then remove them carefully and let them finish cooling on a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. Melt the chocolate over low heat, and let it cool down almost completely, but it needs to stay pourable. Place the butter in a large bowl, and cream with an electric mixer on high until it becomes smooth and lighter in colour, about 5 minutes. Sift in the cocoa powder, and continue mixing until it is completely smooth. Check if the chocolate has cooled enough, then pour it in the buttercream, and blend well.
At this point, the filling will become softer, but that is normal. Sift in half of the icing sugar, and continue beating with an electric mixer on high until all the sugar is incorporated. Pour in the rum and milk, and blend it again. Finally, sift in the rest of the icing sugar, and let the mixer run for at least 5 minutes, so the filling becomes light and airy.
To assemble, place one of the cake layers on the serving platter, and spread a portion of the filling, then top with another cake layer, and continue stacking until you’ve used up all of the cake. Spread the of the filling over the whole cake, and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, so the filling can firm up. Once the cake has chilled, decorate it as desired, and return it to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Baker's note: If your vegan butter has a higher water content, increase the amount of icing sugar or cocoa powder, depending on your sweetness preference, until you reach the desired consistency.

22 December 2017

HOT CHOCOLATE

Well, the winter has officially started yesterday, so what better way to keep warm than with a cup of rich and thick hot chocolate. Although many consider hot cocoa and hot chocolate to be the same thing, in Europe, hot chocolate is served thick and made with real chocolate, sometimes even with a consistency of chocolate custard; and while I do love hot cocoa, hot chocolate is always a real treat, especially if you use a high quality chocolate bar.
This is a plain and very delicious hot chocolate you can spice and enrich with any addition you like, be it peppermint extract, orange water, or whisky. If you choose to add powdery spices, add them in the beginning, with the rest of the dry ingredients, so they can distribute evenly and melt into the chocolate. You can top this with plenty of freshly whipped cream, or you can leave it plain, although I find the addition of cream balances well the sweetness of the chocolate.


Ingredients
500 ml whole milk
1 ½ tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
100 grams high quality bittersweet chocolate
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon peppermint flavouring, optional
100 ml heavy cream, to garnish

Preparation
Pour 400 ml of milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium-high heat. Pour the rest of the milk into a small bowl, then sift in the cornflour and the cocoa powder; whisk very well, and add in the brown sugar, and blend well. Once the milk has come to a gentle boil, pour in the cocoa mix, and cook it over medium-high heat, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. It will resemble a custard, only with more of a runny texture.
Once thickened, remove it from the heat, and immediately add in the chopped up chocolate. Let it stand for a minute or two, so the chocolate starts to melt nicely, then whisk vigorously until the chocolate has melted completely. Finally, mix in the vanilla and the peppermint flavouring (if using). Serve the drink hot, with some freshly whipped cream on top, and a few crushed candy cane pieces on top. Yields 2 servings.

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.