Monday, 31 July 2017

Sticky Toffee Basket Weave Cake


Sticky Toffee Basket Weave Cake Roses

This is a pretty special cake. My take on a sticky toffee pudding with a new and amazing toffee buttercream, surrounded by a piped buttercream to look like a basket of flowers. It looks fancy but with a few special piping nozzles, it's no where near as hard to make as it looks.

The nozzles you need are a 2D piping nozzle for the flowers. For the basket itself, I used a wilton 47 tip - if you search for a "basketweave piping nozzle" you'll find it. I believe there are different nozzles to make different width of baskets, so if you want thicker weaves get a bigger nozzle :) I'll describe here how to pipe the baskets, but I know it can be easier to see this being done - here is the youtube link I used. 

I used a 1M piping nozzle for the flowers and ridging, and a 104 wilton nozzle for the leaves (I'm pretty sure you could make good leaves just by slicing the end of the piping bag off however...)


Flower/2D

Basketweave/47

Petal/104

This toffee buttercream is amazing, and it's really simple to make. Don't worry about making the caramel - this recipe is foolproof :)

Makes one 23 cm cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:
  • 400g (2 & 1/4 cups) dates, chopped
  • 480ml (2 cups) weak black tea
  • 200g (1 cup) light brown sugar
  • 50g (1/4 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g (7/8 cups) butter
  • 2 tbsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 320g (3 cups less 2 tsp) self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt

For the vanilla buttercream:
  • 100g (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) softened butter
  • 200g (2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp boiling water
  • Red/pink/purple gel food colouring (to colour the flowers)
  • Green food colouring (for the leaves)

For the toffee buttercream:

  • 300g (1 & 1/2 cups) dark soft brown sugar (or half dark and half light soft brown sugar for a less intense toffee taste)
  • 170g (3/4 cup) butter, cut into cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 90ml (2/5 cup) skimmed milk 
  • 250 - 315g (2 - 2&1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Method:

1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm springform cake tin (with butter or oil), and dust the base and sides with flour.

2. In a saucepan add the chopped dates, black tea and bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes until softened. Use a blender to mix the dates/tea into a thick sauce. Leave to one side to cool.

3. Melt the  butter in a saucepan or in the microwave (be careful in the microwave though as if you don't cover the plate the butter may "explode" all over the microwave...).

4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla together for a few minutes, until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has become pale and slightly thicker. 

5. Whisk in the melted butter into the eggy mix. Fold the dry ingredients and pureed dates into the mix until no more flour speckles can be seen. Divide evenly into the prepared cake tin.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, and the cake is coming away from the sides of the tin. 

7. Whilst baking, start the toffee sauce (this is the first step of making the toffee buttercream so see the toffee buttercream ingredients in the list above). Pour the dark brown soft sugar, butter and milk into a saucepan and place on a low-medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally until the butter has melted.

8. Turn the heat up (to about medium) and let the caramel boil for 4-5 minutes. If using a sugar thermometer, the temperature will read about 170c/350f. If not using one, stop when the mixture has deepened in colour and thickened. Take off the heat, add the vanilla extract and salt, and leave to cool for a few minutes.

9. Set 1/3 of the caramel sauce aside. Set aside the other 2/3 to cool, then place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool fully.

10. Once the cakes are out of the oven, prick all over with a fork. Spread over the caramel sauce (the third that isn't currently in the fridge). Set the cakes aside to cool fully.

11. To finish the toffee buttercream, take the caramel sauce out of the fridge and pour into a large mixing bowl. Sift in half of the icing sugar and beat in using an electric whisk if possible (a wooden spoon will work too, it'll just be harder work). Gradually add more icing sugar until the buttercream is thick and when you lift the buttercream from the bowl, it sticks to the whisk/spoon and doesn't fall off (but doesn't feel too stiff to move). If you add too much buttercream add a teaspoon or so of hot water to loosen.

12. To make the vanilla buttercream, beat the softened butter until very soft then sift in half of the icing sugar and the vanilla extract. Add 1 tsp of boiling hot water and beat. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar until the buttercream is thick enough to not fall off the spoon when lifted from the bowl, but not too stiff to move around the bowl.  Set aside one third of the buttercream. Take two tablespoons of this and colour it light green (for the leaves).

Divide the remaining buttercream into bowls and colour as desired for the flowers. For example if you want purple and pink flowers, divide the buttercream into two and colour one bowl pink, the other purple.

13. To assemble the cake, gently remove the cakes from the tins, making sure to keep the orientation (i.e. don't flip them). 

14. Place a tablespoon of buttercream (it doesn't matter which) onto the cake board/serving dish (this will ensure the cake stays still in transit, even if that transit is just from the kitchen to the dining room!). Top with the first layer of cake.

15. Use a palette knife to spread about a third of the toffee buttercream on the top of the cake layer. Try to evenly spread the buttercream to the edges - it doesn't matter if it goes over a bit.

16. Top with the second cake layer. Now use a palette knife to spread a thin layer of the uncoloured vanilla buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. This creates a crumb coat, and hopefully means you won't end up with any crumbs showing on the outside of the final cake :) 

17. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes, until the buttercream stops feeling sticky to the touch.

18. Now for the fun! Prepare piping bags - for the basket weave, place the piping nozzle into a piping bag and half fill with the caramel buttercream. For the flowers, place a 2D piping nozzle into another piping bag and fill with the flower colour of your choice. If you want flowers with two colours in them, spoon half of e.g. the pink buttercream down one side of the piping bag, and the purple buttercream down the other side.

19. Pipe the basket onto the cake. If you practice using the basketweave nozzle, you'll note that if you have one end of the piping nozzle towards you, you'll get a smooth line when piped down, and when you turn the piping bag 180 degrees and pipe down, you get a ridged effect. 

20. Pipe a ridged line down the cake, then pipe smooth lines horizontally over the vertical line you've made, leaving a gap about the width of your piping nozzle between the lines.

21. Pipe the next vertical line, then pipe ridged lines from the gaps between the horizontal lines, over this next horizontal line.  If this doesn't make sense, follow the youtube link at the top of the page for a visual demonstration by the experts.

22. To pipe the roses, hold the piping bag with the 1M nozzle vertically over where you want the centre of the rose to be, then pipe a concentric circle going outwards (like a snail shell). Repeat as desired, using other colours if you like.

23. Place the green buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a flower petal nozzle (I used a wilton 103). Pipe leaves about 1.5cm around the flowers (this just means piping down and along for a second or so, and the nozzle means you get a nice leave shape).

24. To finish, I piped the remaining purple/pink buttercream around the edge of the top of the cake. I stuck with the 1M nozzle and simply piped down then moved around 1cm, to create a kind of ripple effect.

25. Enjoy!!

This cake is lovely and moist and should keep for up to a week in an airtight container.


Sticky Toffee Basket Weave Cake Roses

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Friday, 28 July 2017

Mint Chocolate Macarons


mint macarons mint chocolate ganache

As you may have gathered, I love macarons and wanted to have a go at a grown up flavour. The macarons were flavoured with peppermint extract, and the filling is a chocolate ganache flavoured with an amazing Finnish chocolate mint vodka I received as a birthday present (called minttu). In place of that, you could use your favourite spirit, or more mint extract if you want a mint sensation. 

These are delicious just after assembly, but are even better the next day. I think duck eggs are amazing, but hen eggs will work too (just make sure they are free range as the better quality eggs, the better the meringue and hence the macarons).

Makes around 24 macarons (48 shells)

Ingredients:

For the macarons:
  • 175g (1 & 1/3 cups) ground almonds
  • 175g (1 & 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 4 (125ml/1/2 cup) medium duck egg whites
  • 165g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 50ml (3 tbsp and 1 tsp) water
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (not essence, a paste would be best)
  • Green food colouring (I use a paste, but you could use a powder)

For the chocolate ganache:
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) double cream
  • 50ml minttu (or your favourite spirit)
  • 300g (2 cups) 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 30g (2 tbsp) softened butter

Method:

1. Place the ground almonds, and icing sugar in a food processor (or high power blender) and blitz 3 times for 2-3 second bursts, until the mixture is very fine. Be careful not to blitz for too long as the almonds can turn to butter!

2. Sieve the almonds/icing sugar into a large bowl. Add 2 of the egg whites, and beat until a smooth paste is formed.

3. Heat the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Then stop stirring and place a sugar thermometer in the pan. In a grease-free bowl *, add the remaining two egg whites. Once the sugar/water has reached 110C, start whisking the egg whites (I tend to use a hand-held electric whisk, but a stand mixer would be even easier!).

4. Once the sugar/water syrup has reached 118C, the egg whites should be white and frothy (like shaving foam). Carefully pour the syrup onto the egg whites, whisking constantly. Be very careful not to touch the syrup as it is super hot! Keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and forms peaks when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (this should take between 5 and 7 minutes). Add a small amount of the green food colouring and whisk until the desired green colour.

5. Use a metal spoon to fold a third of the egg white mixture into the almond/sugar paste. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

6. Fill a piping bag with the macaron mixture, and cut off 1cm from the end (or use a large round nozzle). Grease and line three baking trays with parchment paper and hold the piping bag vertically above where you want to pipe. Pipe 3cm lines of macarons, leaving at least 2cm between each macaron. 

7. Tap the tray on the surface a few times, then leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, until a "skin" has formed on the macarons - this means that when you gently touch the macaron, no mixture goes on your finger.

8. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/ 340F/ gas mark 3. Before you place the baking trays into the oven, tap the trays against the surface again. This gives the perfect "foot" of a macarons. Bake the macarons for 8-10 minutes - keep an eye on them after 8 minutes in case they are browning too much. Remove the macarons from the oven and transfer the macarons (with the baking paper still attached) to a wire rack to cool.

9. To make the ganache, heat the cream and butter in a saucepan until bubbles are beginning to form on top of the cream.

10. Pour over the chopped chocolate and beat until all of the chocolate has melted. Add the minttu, and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool, then place in the fridge for around 45 minutes, until beginning to set.

11. Take out of the fridge for 5 minutes at room temperature. Use an electric whisk to beat the ganache, causing it to become fluffy and soft (it becomes more mousse like in texture). Fill a piping bag with the ganache.

12. Flip half of the macarons over. Pipe ganache on the flipped halves and gently top with an unflipped macaron shell.

13. Enjoy!

* A great way to ensure your bowl and whisk is grease-free is to lightly wipe with lemon or lime juice.

mint macarons mint chocolate ganache

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Chocolate Sesame Cake

Chocolate Sesame Cake Ganache Honeycomb

I made this cake quite a few weeks ago, but haven't stopped thinking about it :) Sesame is a flavour underused in UK cakes, but tahini (sesame seed paste) is pretty common in the rest of the world, and various versions of halva (like a sweetened sesame seed block - very yummy) appear in countries from Poland to Greece and India. This cake swirls a lovely chocolate cake with a tahini infused cake, and it's covered in a milk chocolate buttercream and crushed honeycomb.
It may not be the most elegant cake I've made, but it tastes amazing and I doubt you'd be able to buy a similarly flavoured cake.
So be different and try out this cake. I doubt you'll regret it :)

Most UK supermarkets do sell tahini - look in their world food sections. If you can't find the tahini, you could try using a smooth nut butter - I'd recommend Meridian as a brand as the butter is very loose (like tahini).

Makes one 23cm cake

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge cake:

  • 200g (7/8 cup) softened butter or margarine, plus an extra tablespoon for greasing
  • 200g (1 and 1/8 cup) 55% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g (1/2 cup) soft light brown sugar
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) espresso coffee (or 100ml of a regular cup of coffee)
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) soured cream
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 200g (1 & 2/3 cups) self raising flour
  • 5 tsp good quality cocoa powder
  • plain flour and icing sugar, for dusting

For the sesame sponge cake:

  • 150g (2/3 cup) tahini (or runny peanut butter, see above)
  • 150ml (3/4 cup) instant coffee
  • 150g (3/4 cup) golden caster sugar
  • 250g (2 & 1/4 cups) self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the frosting:

  • 400ml (1 & 3/4 cups) double cream
  • 400g (2 & 1/4 cups) 55% dark chocolate
  • 80g (1/3 cup) butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

For the honeycomb:

  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 75g (1/3 cup and 2 tsp) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Method:

1. Grease two loose-bottomed 23cm round cake tins with butter, then lightly dust with plain flour and icing sugar. Tap the tin to evenly spread the flour/icing sugar around the base and sides of the tin, and tip out any excess.

2. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/355f/ gas mark 4.

3. For the chocolate sponge, melt the butter and chocolate together, by placing in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure that the water does not touch the bowl!). Stir occasionally until all of the chocolate has melted.

4. Meanwhile, beat the brown sugar, caster sugar, and eggs together in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the espresso coffee, soured cream, self raising flour and cocoa powder. On top of these ingredients (prior to mixing), pour over the butter/chocolate. Beat with a wooden spoon (or whisk) until you can't see any flour/cocoa speckles. It will be a nice deep brown colour. Set aside whilst you make the tahini sponge.

5. To make the tahini sponge, simply beat the tahini, coffee, sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon and milk together until the flour has been incorporated.

6. Use two large wooden spoons to dollop mixtures of each sponge mixture into the two tins (so, for example you spoon a large spoonful of the chocolate mixture into cake tin 1, then a large spoonful of tahini sponge, then another chocolate sponge spoonful etc). Evenly distribute between the two cake tins.

7. Once the cake tins are about halfway filled, swirl a skewer (or knife) through the batter to marble the cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly pressed, is slightly coming away from the sides of the cake, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

8. To make the frosting, chop the dark chocolate finely and pour into a medium mixing bowl.

9. In a large saucepan pour the double cream, and heat until bubbles are just beginning to form (this will be about 80c if you're using a sugar thermometer).

10. Pour the chocolate over the chopped dark chocolate and stir until all of the chocolate has melted.

11. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the cinnamon and salt, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

12. To make the honeycomb, grease the base of a baking tray, and have to the side of your oven your bicarbonate of soda and whisk ready.

13. Heat the golden syrup and sugar together in a small saucepan, stirring at first to dissolve the sugar into the syrup. Once you can no longer see the sugar speckles, remove the spoon and leave to boil away.

14. Heat until the mixture is a deep golden colour (about 154c/310f). Once this colour, turn off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda, and whisk quickly. The mixture will bubble up ferociously, so be careful not to touch it!

15. Whisk until the bicarbonate of soda is fully absorbed, then pour onto the prepared tray. Set aside to firm up for 30 minutes, then crush half of the honeycomb to a fine crumb. The other half can be eaten as is, or dipped in chocolate (YUM).

16. To assemble the cake, turn both cakes out of the tin and level the tops.

17. Take the ganache out of the fridge and bring to room temperature for 5 minutes. Use an electric whisk to beat the ganache briefly - this aerates the ganache, giving it an even better texture.

18. Place a tablespoon of ganache on your serving dish/cake board. Transfer the first sponge to the dish/board, and lightly press down.

19. Spread a third of the ganache on the first sponge, and top with the remaining sponge layer.

20. Use a palette knife to spread a thin layer of ganache over the top and sides of the cake. This acts as a crumb coat, and helps give a nice crumb-free finish. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

21. Use your palette knife again to spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the cake. This can be as neat or as rough as you like. I made mine a little rough as I wanted it to look informal.

22. Sprinkle on the crushed honeycomb. You could use the spare honeycomb shards here to add an extra wow factor to the cake, but do this just before serving (as the honeycomb slowly melts when exposed to air in my experience, especially on summer days).

23. Enjoy!

Chocolate Sesame Cake Ganache Honeycomb

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bacon Brownies



I wanted to bake something a little different this week, but didn't have loads of time to do something crazy. So instead I decided to put bacon in brownies :) Using bacon in sweet dishes is nothing new in America, but over in the UK, it's still pretty weird. The key is to make the bacon very crisp, so that it's not soft in the brownie. That, and if you can, use streaky bacon - I find it gets much crispier than standard rashers and imparts more bacon flavour.

Makes 20 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 150g (2/3 cup) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 100g (1/2 cup) dark soft brown sugar
  • 150g (3/4 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • 75g (1/2 cup) chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans would work great)
  • 50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  • 50g (3/8 cup + 1 tsp) ground almonds
  • 150g (1 & 1/4 cups) plain flour (a gluten free plain flour would work equally well if you're gluten intolerant)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 75g (1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips
  • 200g (1 cup) streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355F/ gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 20 x 20cm baking tray with butter and dust with plain flour.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until all of the butter has melted. In a separate frying pan, fry the bacon (in a little butter) for 3-5 minutes, until it becomes really crisp. Take off the heat and pour the maple syrup over the bacon. Stir through then pour onto a plate to cool.

3. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla, light soft brown and dark soft brown sugar until lighter in colour and it has at least doubled in volume. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and ground almonds onto this egg/sugar mixture, and pour over this the melted butter. Fold in, so that you can no longer see any flour speckles.

4. Add the chopped nuts, crispy bacon and chocolate chips. Fold in briefly to distribute the walnuts/bacon/chocolate evenly, then pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the top is crisp, but when you shake the tin a little, the middle of the brownie wobbles a little.

6. Cool, slice into squares, and serve warm with ice cream for dessert, or at room temperature for an afternoon snack.

7. Enjoy!


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