Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Grown Up Chocolate Bites

Chocolate Biscuit Sultana Vodka Bites

Naming these were difficult as in truth, they were a bit of a fail at what I was going for. A few weeks ago, we went to an Eastern European shop and tried some lovely biscuits, which we later found out was "chocolate salami" - very soft and cocoa-rich, with a kick of alcohol. Very decadent. From what I've gathered, they are made by making a chocolate, biscuit (and other ingredients like jelly or dried fruit), forming it into a sausage shape (like a salami), then once chilled, cut into slices.
I went on a hunt for recipes and gave one a go...except I changed a few ingredients (like I do), and the resulting mixture was way too runny to make into salami :(
Rather than throwing the mixture away, however, I poured the mix into a lined tub and froze it.

Shockingly, the results ended up really good!! Straight from the freezer they are cold but not frozen solid, smooth and rich in cocoa - being in the freezer also means I don't scoff too many in one sitting (which otherwise I definitely would do!). They're a great staple to have in your freezer when you want a little pick-me-up. This recipe does make a lot though, so you could always give some away to friends and family :)

These are also no-bake, and can be prepared in less than 20 minutes :)

Makes 50-60 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 250g (1 cup) softened butter
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
  • 250g (2 & 1/2 cups) cocoa powder
  • 100g (2/3 cup) sultanas
  • 3 tbsp of your favourite spirit (I used a Polish vodka called Zoladkowa Gorzka)
  • 300g (3 cups) hobnobs/your favourite biscuit
  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk
Method:

1. Line the base of a freezable tub (at least 20x15cm if possible) with baking parchment. If you don't have a tub so big, this could be frozen in multiple tubs, or freeze in a deep, small container and have thick slices (it'll still taste brill).

2. Melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan. 

3. Pour the sultanas into a mixing bowl and add the spirit. Leave for 10 minutes to plump up the sultanas.

4. Break up the biscuits into approximately 1-2cm pieces.

5. Sift the cocoa powder over the sultanas, and then add the biscuits, condensed milk and the butter/oil mixture. Stir until everything is well combined.

6. Pour into the prepared tub.

7. Freeze for 1-2 hours, until set. Remove from the tub, peel off the baking parchment and cut into small squares. Keep frozen unless eating :)

8. Enjoy!

Chocolate Biscuit Sultana Vodka Bites
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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Japonaise (Coffee Almond Meringue) Chocolate Basket Cake

Coffee Japonaise Chcolate Basket Cake

Coffee Japonaise Chcolate Basket Cake


I baked this for my dad on Father's day - I wanted to try to bake something special for him and remembered how much he loved the chocolate coffee macarons I made a few months ago. I had a spark of genius and remembered an almond meringue-based dessert known as a japonaise, which traditionally is sandwiched with coffee buttercream and covered in flaked almonds.
I took the concept of this dessert and turned it into a birthday cake by covering the cake with a chocolate "basket" (which is a lot simpler than it looks!) and topped with seasonal fruits - these cut through the richness of the coffee buttercream nicely.
To make the basket all you need is dark chocolate and bubble wrap!
Both of my parents loved this cake, and it's one I'll definitely make again, so why not give it a go?

Makes one large 20 x 15cm cake

Ingredients:

For the japonaise (almond meringue) layers:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 330g (1 & 2/3 cups) light soft brown sugar
  • 150g (1 & 1/2 cups) ground almonds

For the coffee buttercream:

  • 160ml (2/3 cup) water
  • 200g (1 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 250g butter softened (at room temperature)

For the chocolate basket:

  • 250g dark chocolate (I used 55% but higher % cocoa would work well)

To finish:

  • 200g of your favourite fruits (I used strawberries and blueberries)
Method:

1. To make the japonaise layers, preheat the oven to 140c (130c fan)/gas mark 1. Grease the base of two baking trays.

2. Draw a 15 x 20cm rectangle on two sheets of baking parchment. Flip them over (so the ink/pencil is facing downwards) and stick to the baking sheets.

3. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk 2 egg whites until very frothy and soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted (this is easiest using a stand mixer or electric whisk).

4. Gradually add 110g brown sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whisking well between each addition. Once all of the sugar has been added, turn the whisk up to high and beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.

5. Fold in 50g ground almonds gently, until evenly distributed.

6. Fill a piping bag with the mixture. Pipe half of the mixture onto the first baking sheet, filling the rectangle template you drew. Repeat with the other baking tray.

7. Bake for around 45 minutes, or until crisp on top. Halfway through the cooking time, switch the trays over in the oven.

8. Repeat steps 1-7 with the remaining ingredients (so you end up with 6 meringue layers). Set aside to cool fully.

9. Whilst the japonaise layers are baking, make the coffee buttercream by pouring the water into a saucepan with the brown sugar and coffee. Bring to a boil and simmer until all of the brown sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

10. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and start beating until the butter is very pale and soft. 

11. Slowly pour over the coffee mixture and beat for 10 minutes - it will look like it has split but trust me, it'll come together to a thick spreadable consistency. Reserve a third of the buttercream for the top and sides of the cake.

12. Assemble the cake by placing the first japonaise layer on your serving dish. Spread over a few tablespoons of the coffee buttercream, then place the next layer on top. Repeat until you have stacked all of the japonaise layers. Set aside whilst you prepare the chocolate basket.

12. To make the chocolate basket cut four strips of bubble wrap - measure the height of the cake - e.g. if it is 8cm, make two strips 20cm x 8cm, and two 15cm x 8cm.

13. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave by heating for 30 second bursts on full power, stirring well after each burst.

14. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bubble wrap and set aside to cool.

15. To finish the cake, spread the reserved coffee buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Gently peel away the bubble wrap from the chocolate and place the chocolate "basket" sides onto the cake - be very gentle!

16. Top with seasonal fruits.

17. Enjoy!

Coffee Japonaise Chcolate Basket Cake
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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia


I haven't attempted for focaccia in ages, but after getting a KitchenAid stand mixer, I thought it'd be a good dough to try it out!
Foccacia is a very wet dough, so is really tricky to knead by hand. It can be done, but will be messy!
I topped this focaccia with grapes - sounds weird I know, but the slight tang of the red grape really complemented the bread well!
Makes 1 focaccia (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 600g strong white bread flour
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 360ml (1 & 1/2 cups) water
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 100g red grapes (seedless)
  • 10g (2 tsp) sea salt flakes
  • 10g fresh rosemary

Method:

1. Pour the water and oil into the bowl of your stand mixer. In a separate bowl, sift in the bread flour. To opposite sides of the bowl, add 1 tsp of the salt and the yeast. Stir briefly to mix. 

2. Pour the dry ingredients into the water and 1/2 cup of the oil, and start the stand mixer (with the dough hook attachment) on a low speed. Once all of the flour has been incorporated, turn the speed of the mixer up to medium and knead for around 7 minutes. If doing by hand, knead for about 12 minutes.

3. Cover the bowl and place the dough aside in a warm place for around 45 minutes, or until it has at least doubled in size.

4. Line a 20 x 30cm tray with baking parchment and brush with about half of the remaining oil.

5. Tip the proved dough out onto the tray. Gently press down to make a rough rectangle shape, about 15 x 20cm in size (about 1.5cm (1 inch) deep).

6. Press a finger all over the dough (docking the dough) to make little crevices, then insert a grape into each docked spot.

7. Lightly cover with cling film and prove for another 30 minutes.

8. Preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 6.

9. Brush the remaining olive oil over the surface of the dough, then insert the rosemary sprigs all over the top of the dough. Sprinkle over the remaining salt.

10. Bake for between 20 and 25 minutes, or until the surface has turned an even golden colour.

11. Enjoy!

This is delicious served warm, but would also be fab served at room temperature with some soup.

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia


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