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.

2014-08-26 17.03.03

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

The Perfect Picnic

In preparation for the beginning of the bake-off and in true British summer style, my friends and I decided to have a picnic. We are all relatively unfussy lovers of all things edible so there was no end of picnic possibilities. There was plenty of hummus, veggie sticks, and ripe plum tomatoes, a tapas picnic of sorts.2014-08-06 19.12.09 There was, however, a centerpiece- the star of the show, a deliciously cheesy, spinach, bacon, mushroom and feta quiche. Quite the mouthful.

The bacon and mushrooms are not part of the original recipe but we decided to go all out and it was no mistake. Some sun dried tomatoes wouldn’t go amiss either.2014-08-06 19.24.06

So, let’s start with mains and perhaps if you keep reading you’ll find a dessert to follow.

  • 100g butter (if you’re using bacon this is not necessary)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 275g frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 200g feta, crumbled
  • 200g mild Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly pepper to taste
  • Shortcrust pastry for a 23cm (9in) dish
  • (I used shop bought for the first time ever! Time was of the essence, use your
  • own recipe or try this one)
  • 4 eggs
  • 250ml milk

Preheat the oven to 190C

Roll out your pastry enough to cover the pie dish with some overhang, keeping in mind it will shrink as it cooks.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the frying pan along with a knob of butter, perhaps 20g if you’re a stickler for precision, cook over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add the finely chopped onions and sauté until soft, add the garlic last as it’s most likely to burn.

Let the flavours come together for a couple of minutes over a low heat before adding the mushrooms and spinach.

In the meantime beat the eggs, add the milk, some salt and pepper and beat further to combine.

Check your veg, continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated, then add the crumbled feta and half of the cheddar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the mix from the pan into the prepared pastry case then, pour over the milk and egg mixture, allow the two to combine.

Stick it on the oven, removing after the first 15 minutes to sprinkle the remaining cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes more, the quiche is done when there’s only a very slight wobble in the middle – like a cheesecake. 2014-08-06 18.39.55

Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

2014-08-06 19.11.45

Once we’d had our fill of carrot sticks and quiche it was just about 8 o’clock. Now, no picnic is complete without cake and by the time the bake-off started we had all settled down, cuppa in hand and a slice on our laps. It was the perfect combination of a quintessential apple crumble and bright summer fruits.2014-08-06 20.44.57 Light, in every sense of the word, but not without that dense-ness necessary to hold the berries in place and leave you just satisfied. The perfect way to end the picnic and, considering the theme was cake, start the bake-off!

 Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease and line a loaf tin

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 175g muscovado sugar
  • 175g butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 small eating apple
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g blackberries
  • 125g raspberries

Start by rubbing together the flour, sugar and butter just like you’re making a crumble topping or pastry. Make sure all the butter is rubbed through and you have a sandy texture.

Measure out 5 tbsp. of the flour, butter and sugar mix, into a separate bowl. To those 5 tbsp. add the cinnamon and demerara sugar, leave aside for now.

2014-08-04 21.24.44

Grate your orange zest finely, and the apple down to the core – don’t worry about peeling it.

Beat the eggs and then stir in the zest and grated apple.

Add the teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients followed by the wet egg mixture. Stir with a light hand, gentle but quick, until the mixture is just combined and drops easily from the spoon. 2014-08-04 21.06.59 2014-08-04 21.26.38

Fold in 3/4 of the berries try not to break them.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, level off and place the rest of the berries on top. Finally, scatter the crumble mixture over to cover them.

2014-08-04 21.31.22 2014-08-04 21.33.06 2014-08-04 21.34.14

Bake for 1hr 15 – 1hr20 mins.

Check after 50 minutes and cover the cake with tinfoil to stop it burning.

When finished a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Allow it to cool for 30 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.

2014-08-06 20.42.56

Et voila!

If you intend to follow suit, you’ve time to whip up both these delicious treats in time for the second episode tomorrow evening.

2014-08-06 20.45.44

2014-08-06 20.53.30

Back with Brownies

Hello and apologies for the dry spell! I’ve spent the past few weeks teaching teenagers, an experience to say the least and one that didn’t give me much time for baking. In true Blue Peter style I had prepared a couple of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ posts, however I couldn’t access this blog AT ALL on the school Wi-Fi so my efforts were futile. Some tech-savvy child probably could have helped me but I never actually thought to ask. I’m sure you’ve not been going hungry and life has hardly been devoid of treats but wait ‘til you see what I’ve got in store. They’re decadent, delicious, delightful. Rich chewy brownies combined with a fruity raspberry cream cheese and dotted with gorgeous little bursts of fresh raspberry. Naughty and nice in every bite.

2014-03-28 12.06.00

I present to you, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies and here’s the how:

2014-03-28 12.05.48

Brownies:

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 95g all-purpose flour

Raspberry Cheesecake swirl:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80g raspberry jam
  • 100g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking tray ready to go.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmer water, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature (15-20 mins)

2014-03-27 13.51.19

Once cool, stir in the sugar and then add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.

Whisk in the vanilla and then gently fold in the flour.

2014-03-27 13.56.23

Set that aside while you crack on with the cheesecake layer, it’ll take you all of two minutes.

Beat all the ingredients EXCEPT the whole raspberries with a handheld mixture until nice and smooth. I added a couple of extra drops of red food colouring to give a more intense colour but that isn’t necessary – the aesthetics are all up to you.

2014-03-27 13.41.232014-03-27 13.43.47

Now, pour ¾ of the brownie mixture into the pan, leaving the last ¼ in the bowl. Drop dollops of cheesecake mixture alternatively on top of the brownie, spoon the remaining brownie batter on top and then swirl with a knife. Try not to over-swirl or you just end up with a mess

2014-03-27 14.06.05 2014-03-27 14.08.06

Finally press some fresh raspberries into the top of the mixture and stick it in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out not quite clean. You want them fudgy but not too undercooked

2014-03-28 12.07.222014-03-28 12.04.49

As with any brownies, and particularly ones with swirls or extra jazzy bits, leave them to cool COMPLETELY before even attempting to lift them out of the tin and refrigerate before slicing. I know, I know, the temptation… it’s a test of willpower worth the wait.

2014-03-28 12.05.13

Soda Bread

Image

I’m not a bread kind of girl. I know people that live for toast but not me.  That is, unless it’s soda bread. I could eat soda bread all day, everyday. Preferably spread thick with salty butter and honey or heaped with smoked salmon and a drizzle of lemon juice.  My Irish family are all great cooks, whether it’s a roast, apple pie, lasagna or strawberry mousse (my favourite ever dessert, I don’t think I’ve had a birthday without it) food is always delicious and my aunties in particular knock up a mean soda bread. I’ll never bake one half as good but when the craving struck I decided to have a go. My mini loaf was neither a raging success nor a huge disappointment and it did the trick!

Image

*Because making the bread is quick and I wasn’t sure I’d blog it I didn’t take any ‘process’ pictures. Instead you’ve got a breakfast overload. Enjoy!

Preheat the oven to 190C

  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 50g oats
  • 230ml buttermilk
  • 15g butter
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

**Double for a normal sized loaf**

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix it up quickly, you’ll have a really sticky dough.

Shape the dough into a round and place on a lightly oiled piece of baking paper.

Score with a deep cross (this helps the bread to cook better inside but you may still find it slightly doughy, I did)

Image

I had to bake my loaf for about 40 minutes and it was a small one so I’d recommend up to an hour if you’re making a larger one.

The bread should be a nice golden brown when done and should sound hollow if you knock on the bottom.

Leave it to cool a while on a wire rack before slicing.

Image

I went for a different choice of topping to normal, a poached egg and avocado to sort me out after an early morning sweat session. It didn’t disappoint but a slice of bacon or salmon certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Image

ImageImageImage

I can never just have one slice…

Bye-Bye Brownies

…a.k.a Peanut Butterscotch Cheesecake Brownies 

Image

My housemates are packing their bags and heading off to join the circus. Well, not quite. They’re packing them to go explore Asia & Australasia and I am incredibly jealous. So jealous I’ve attempted to make them put on a stone before they embark on their adventures. If you can’t beat ‘em and you can’t join ’em… fatten ‘em up! I joke girls. You’ve probably guessed now why I’ve called them ‘bye-bye brownies’, I’m going to assume you have anyway. These girls have been fantastic guinea pigs and have spent hours tirelessly taste testing even my most interesting creations. They have never once complained, nor faulted my baking skills, regardless of temperamental ovens or experimental mishaps. They’ve praised me far too much and far too kindly so thanks gals and I hope you enjoyed these!

Image

So what do we have here? All the good stuff. Chocolate brownies filled with butterscotch chips, marbled with a creamy peanut putter cheesecake mix. Quite a mouthful, literally. They’re deliciously indulgent, sinfully calorie laden and worth every bead of sweat you might have dripped not to feel guilty about eating them. If you don’t feel an ounce of guilt then good for you, get on and enjoy. You’ll probably burn them off with the excitement of eating them anyway.

Image

Brownies:

  • 230g dark chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 80g flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g butterscotch chips

Grease a 9×9 pan and line with baking paper

Heat the oven to 180C

Melt the butter and chocolate

Set aside and leave to cool while you weigh out the rest of the ingredients

Whisk in the sugars then add the eggs one at a time beating until smooth after each addition.

Image

Add the yolk and vanilla then whisk again

Fold in the cocoa powder, flour and salt followed by the butterscotch chips.

ImageImage

 

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl

  • 120g cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 50g sugar
  • 125g peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

Whisk the cream cheese, egg and sugar together until smooth.

Add the peanut butter, salt and vanilla essence and whisk again, it’ll be quite thick, just add milk a little bit at a time until it’s slightly smoother and creamy – you don’t want it runny at all.

Image

Easy as that.

Use about 2/3 of the brownie mix to fill the bottom of the pan.

Dollop spoonfulls of peanut butter mix on top followed by spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter.

Image

Use a knife or toothpick to swirl the two together creating a marbled effect.

It’s really tempting to overswirl but try your best not to. Just drag the knife in straight lines from one edge to the other until you’ve got the desired effect.

Image

 

Image

Stick in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.

Allow the brownies to come to room temperature before placing them the fridge where you should let them cool until completely firm and ready to slice without making a runny mess.

Image

 

When they’re ready to be cut use wet cloth to clean the knife between each slice.

Enjoy!

 

ImageImageImage

Monster Cookies

Summertime. You’ve been sweating for that bikini body since January and you definitely deserve a cookie. Just one won’t hurt. These melt in your mouth little monsters are full of peanut butter deliciousness, and a touch of butterscotch too.

Image

I’ve not baked cookies in a while and when the craving struck I had no chocolate chips, #bakingprobs. I did however have a bag of butterscotch ones which I thought would be the perfect compliment to peanut butter. I’ve never reaaaalllyyy been a fan of PB but that’s rapidly changing. I do prefer natural to creamy but this recipe demands the creamy stuff or your cookies will fall apart, it’s worth it so just do as you’re told, starting with your ingredients:

Image

  •  115g butter
  • 185g peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 165g flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g butterscotch chips
  • 1 sharing bag of peanut M&Ms
  • 40g quick cooking porridge oats

Cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy

Image

Add the peanut butter and mix to combine

ImageImageImage

Repeat with the egg and vanilla essence, in that order.

Add the flour and bicarb slowly, I mixed with a spoon and was careful to only mix until the flour just disappeared.

Fold in the butterscotch chip, oatmeal and M&Ms

Image

Shape into balls, I used about 1.5 tbsps worth of dough to make my cookies and managed to get 24 out of the mix.

A few tips on cookie aesthetics:

Mine were not perfect (see here for the originals) and took a couple of attempts to get looking even close to that.

Image

Monster cookie evolution

Be sure to flatten the cookies slightly before baking so they spread out a bit and get nice and ‘monstery’ looking.

Place a couple of chips and some M&Ms at the top of the dough, otherwise they all get hidden inside and you’ll have great tasting cookies but they won’t look very fun. ImageImageImage

Try using a combination of chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, the butterscotch chips don’t stand out much from the colour of the cookie dough and I’d have liked to use chocolate ones as well to cut at the sweetness and add a little contrast.

Image

These disappeared in 24 hours flat

They’re delicious and while not as chewy as I had expected, they had a melt in your mouth kind of texture and flavour you only really get with peanut butter.

ImageImage

 

 

 

 

 

Poached Pear Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart.

Image

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image Image

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.

Image

 

*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart