Flourless Chocolate Cake

There are some people you always associate with certain foods. My mother makes a mean lasagne, my auntie’s strawberry mousse is better than birthday cake and Dad’s beef stroganoff is the best in the business.

For one of my oldest chums the recipe most associated with me (and one she constantly nags me to bake) is a richer than rich chocolate cake. It’s not what I’d call a signature bake – I made it once and she fell in love, but after years of begging (literally) and considering she’d cooked me some delicious dinners I owed her one. 2014-08-26 19.13.25-1There’s no flour in the recipe and the ground almonds set off the rich chocolate flavour without being overpoweringly nutty. It doesn’t need a ganache but my friend did say it added an extra bit of luxury, admitting she missed it this time around. Lesson learned – sometimes, more is more!2014-08-26 22.38.19

  • 160g dark chocolate (70 – 80%)
  • 160g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

Grease and line a 23cm cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180C

  1. Break up the chocolate and place it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
  2. Allow it to melt slowly, once smooth turn off the heat (but leave the pan there) and drop in the cold butter – let it melt a little bit before you stir then leave to sit until it melts completely before stirring again.2014-08-26 15.59.51
  3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the whites until they form soft peaks, add caster sugar and stir until the peaks begin to stiffen.2014-08-26 15.56.20
  4. Stir the butter into the chocolate until smooth and glossy.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and butter one at a time.
  6. Fold the whisked egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mix, very gently until just incorporated.
  7. Finally fold in the almonds light-handedly, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.2014-08-26 16.15.49

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make a simple chocolate ganache use equal parts chocolate and cream. Chop the chocolate finely, heat the cream until nearly boiling but not quite then pour over the chopped chocolate whisking until smooth. Leave to thicken slightly before using.

2014-08-26 22.38.24Alternatively you could just drown it in cream….2014-08-26 22.42.18

Back to Basics

When I was little I used to ask Mum to make me apple sauce – all the time. I loved it. I’m assuming that love for stewed apples is what drove me to start baking copious amounts of apple crumble, courtesy of Delia Smith’s One is Fun. My favourite cookbook for a very long time. When dessert was requested for a family roast dinner, at short notice, this little piece of nostalgia came to mind. Fuss-free, easy to whip up and very forgiving (I’ll admit I may not have stuck 100% to what’s written here) apple crumble and custard it was. 2014-08-16 10.58.16

Normally I can’t get enough of spices but in this dessert it’s not necessary to go overboard. The cinnamon is all you need to bring out the flavours of the fruit. Although I added a couple of cloves for a little depth, they’re not essential. The beauty of crumble is in its simplicity but I just couldn’t resist a twist on the topping. I ground up some almonds and a handful of oats to throw into the crumble. Nothing too exciting, it was mostly to add bulk and stop it being too sandy.

  • 6 red apples (Braeburn, Jazz, Jonagold – whatever is in your fridge)
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Cloves (a couple whole)
  • 100ml water
  • Handful sultanas
  • Squeeze of lemon

*Most recipes say to use cooking apples but I just used what was in the fridge. Apples like Bramely sort of melt as they cook whereas Braeburn’s hold their shape. The sultanas I added for some natural sweetness and because they’re nice juicy little gems to come across amongst the apples. *

Preheat the oven to 180C

Peel, core and chop the apples roughly into cubes.2014-08-16 11.18.02

Tip into a pan along with the spices and sugar, pour the water over and allow to stew over a medium heat.

Squeeze in some lemon juice – I hate sickly sweet fruit and red apples are much sweeter than green so it just added some tang.2014-08-16 11.26.28 2014-08-16 11.51.53

Leave the fruit to stew for 15 minutes or so until it’s soft and slightly golden.

Meanwhile mix together your crumble topping:

  • 150g butter
  • 200g flour
  • 50g oats
  • 50g almonds
  • 100g brown sugar

Whizz the almonds and oats in a food processor – briefly, you want them to add texture to the topping so not too fine.2014-08-16 11.31.12

Rub together with the sugar, butter and flour.

You should have a sandy-ish texture with lumps and bumps here and there. Squeeze some of the mix together to make slightly bigger chunks if you like. 2014-08-16 11.40.36 2014-08-16 11.50.39

Once the fruit has stewed tip it into a casserole dish and sprinkle the crumble mix generously over the top.

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Bake at 40 – 50 minutes, or until golden.2014-08-16 14.34.04

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes so the topping gets a slight crunch, serve with custard or cream.

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By the end of dinner we were all wed fed and very much satisfied, myself perhaps a little bit too much. I just love those apples.

 

 

 

Poached Pear Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart.

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This is a recipe I’ve been dying to try for ages and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. Pastry hasn’t posed me too much of a problem before (bar the soggy bottom Bakewell) but chocolate pasty was a new challenge. I’m not sure if it’s the cocoa powder but it just seems so much more dry and crumbly than normal sweet shortcrust, even this recipe that uses three egg yolks. In attempt number one the pastry bubbled and in the second it cracked when I lifted it out of the tin. It was third time lucky and about time too! The pastry is rich but not very sweet, which is just as well because the hazelnut cream and poached pears really are, the cocoa adds a depth of flavour which offsets that sweetness.

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Start with your pears, doing these the day before will allow the medley of spices to infuse.

Poached pears:

  • 8 pears
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Vanilla pod
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • 50g caster sugar (or honey)
  • 500ml water

 As I’ve said before, I love spices. I used bits of whatever was in the cupboard but to keep it simple just use a vanilla pod – sometimes less is more and the pear flavour won’t be overpowered by just using vanilla.Image

Peel, core and chop the pears in half.

Bring the sugar, water and spices to the boil and simmer for a minute or two before adding the pears. Image

Allow to simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Test this by poking them with a sharp knife, they should feel soft like tinned ones.

Take them out and allow to cool, put them in the fridge for a day to let the flavours come together. Image

 

Chocolate Pastry:

  •  175g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Just as with normal shortcrust, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub together with the butter.

Once you have a breadcrumb like consistency add the three egg yolks and mix into a smooth doughImage

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Wrap it up in clingfilm and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grease a tart tin ready for when the pastry is rolled and preheat the oven to 180C.

Dust a surface lightly with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the tart tin.

Drape it over and press gently into the sides, overhang is good because the pastry will shrink as it cooks.

Finally, line the pastry case with some baking paper and fill with baking beads

I know I normally use rice or lentils when baking pastry to keep it’s shape, however I have discovered that baking beads are much more effective.

Bake for 15 minutes before removing the beads and baking for a further 5.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.

 

Hazelnut cream:

  • 300ml milk
  • 50g cornflour
  • 60g golden caster sugar (I used a mix of brown and caster)
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g ground hazelnuts

I roasted and ground my own hazelnuts using Mum’s fabulous food processor which, as much as I love it, puts my little hand blender to shame. The perks of being at home.

Turn the oven up to 160C

Place the nuts on a tray and stick them in for 10 minutes.

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Take them out and remove the skins, they should come off easily but if not you can put them in a bowl of water and sort of squeeze them out. Into the food processor they go and whizz until they’re finely ground.

You can make your own vanilla sugar too; just stick a couple of vanilla pods in a jar of caster sugar, leave for a week or two and bob’s your uncle. Well, he might not be but you’ve got vanilla flavoured sugar anyway. I didn’t bother and just added a drop of vanilla essence.

Finally, for the cream!

Weigh out the sugar and cornflour and sieve into a bowl

Crack the eggs into the bowl.

Bring the milk to the boil and once it’s nice and bubbly pour over the sugar, cornflour and eggs – whisking all the time.

Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes stirring constantly.

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Remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, mix and set aside to cool. Image

Once cool pour into the pastry case and arrange the pears on top.

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Decoration:

Dark chocolate

Chopped roast hazelnuts

Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the tart with a spoon (I ended up with a couple of dollops but who doesn’t like a good blob of chocolate…)

Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top et voila!

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I brought this to a friend’s for dinner and it went down well with a scoop of ice cream, and even better with a Ferrero Rocher to follow. Indulgence at it’s best.

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*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart

Banoffee Pie

I love bananas and I love toffee but I’ve never really been a huge fan of banoffee pie. However,  this dessert has been made two weekends running. Considering I rarely bake the same thing twice that’s saying something.ImageImage

Needless to say I have changed my own mind. The extra banana caramel layer is what does it, I think. This was a massive hit with everyone and my baking guinea pigs hailed it as ‘the best you’ve ever done’ so, without further ado:

 For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 75g cold but pliable butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 15 ml ice cold water

Tip: This makes enough for one pie, you can double the quantities and freeze half ready to use for something like an apple tart.

Use your hands to combine the flour, icing sugar and butter, rubbing the butter through until you have a sandy texture with no big lumps.

Beat the egg yolk and water together with a fork and add to the dry ingredients.

Mix with a wooden spoon until they come together to form a soft dough.

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

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Once your dough has chilled take it out and roll it between two sheets of lightly floured baking paper. I find this stops the pastry sticking.

The pastry needs to be about ½ a cm thick, enough together a 20cm tart tin.

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Lift the pastry with the rolling pin and drape it over the tin, pressing gently into the bottom and sides.

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Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper over the pastry and pour on some baking beads, lentils or rice. This will stop the pastry shrinking away from the sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 – 15 mins then remove the baking beads and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

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While it cools begin making your caramel.

 For the caramel:

 I made two caramels, brining my love of bananas and toffee together to create a banana caramel to layer on the bottom and then standard banoffee caramel on top of that.

Banana caramel:

This follows a similar, but not quite the same, recipe as the caramel for the butterscotch banana cake.

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 50g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 banana

Heat the sugar and water until it turns a reddish brown.

Add the butter and bananas, removing from the heat to stop it burning.

Add the sugar, return to the heat and add the cream, mixing all the time.

Let it bubble, stirring constantly until it becomes quite thick but you still have some bits of banana.

Remove from the heat and pour over the pastry base.Image

Caramel:

  • 115g light or dark brown sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 1 x 397g can condensed milk
  • 100 ml double cream

 *Mary Berry’s recipe used two cans of condensed milk and it is delicious but I didn’t need as much toffee because of my extra banana caramel layer, I also wanted it slightly creamier so replaced the second can with some cream instead. Tweak the recipe as you please!

Melt the butter and add the sugar, stirring until the two combine to make a thick mixture with no oil sitting on top.

Add the condensed milk and cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently, stirring constantly for 3 or so minutes until the sauce thickens and darkens.

If you overcook it the toffee will become quite chewy but it all depends on your banoffee tastes, some people enjoy a chewy toffee.

Pour the caramel over the banana caramel and leave to cool and set before finishing. Leaving it overnight is best.

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To finish:

  •  2 or 3 bananas
  • 284ml (1 carton) double cream
  • Chocolate to grate

Slice the bananas and layer them (I like to layer quite generously) over the toffee.

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Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, not too much more or it’ll be too thick and you want a nice light texture, as the toffee is quite dense.

Spread ¾ of the cream over the bananas.

I whipped the remaining ¼ a little bit more so it was firm enough to pipe around the edges as decoration.

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Grate some chocolate over the top as or just leave it if you’ve done quite a lot of decorating as I did with my second attempt (seen above).

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You’re done! It seems long-winded but it was quite easy to whip up. If you really are tight for time or not comfortable with pastry you could always use the base from the Bannoffee Cheesecake.

Banoffee Cheesecake

There isn’t much that really needs to be said about this so I’ll cut straight to the point. It’s delicious. Bake it, eat it, have another slice of it with extra caramel. Then go for a jog so you don’t completely defeat the purpose of your ‘depriving myself of all things yummy’ new years resolution.

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For the base:

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease and line a 20in cake tin (spring form probably best!)

melt the butter and while it’s melting crush up your biscuits really well

Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter and mix well

Spread/press the base into the prepared tin

Bake for 15 minutes

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For the cheesecake:

  • 150g very ripe banana (if your bananas aren’t very ripe bake them in the oven a about 180 until the skins blacken, leave them to cool before taking them out to add to the cheesecake)
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 11/2 bsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • *3 tbsp caramel (you can omit this from the recipe, I added it because I liked the idea of some caramel flavor running through the cake alongside the banana)

Mash or blend your bananas really really well

Add everything but the egg whites to the bananas and blend together really well

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks

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Carefully fold the egg whites into the creamy cheesecake mixture

Pour into the tin

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This is where I added my caramel. I whisked it a little to smoothen it then dropped a couple of teaspoons into the mix. I dragged a knife gently through to swirl it in. There was no marble effect once baked but I didn’t want to add too much and cause the cake to collapse.

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I was worried about a lemon drizzle incident the way the cake rose and fell but I shouldn’t have been. It was gorgeous. Definitely benefits from being chilled overnight so if you’re going to make it for a dinner party or other event I’d do it the day before. When it’s ready to serve drizzle over some caramel and grate some chocolate on top.

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Perfection.

*The recipe is from Good Housekeeping magazine which is chock full of fantastic stuff.