Tag Archives: chocolate

Windsor Wedding Cake

11 Apr

A slice of nostalgia ... and deliciousness!

So, just to make clear … I am not a royalist. I am not particularly interested in the upcoming wedding of William Windsor in the UK, nor am I excited to see what dress his bride will wear. But no one could escape the fluffy news pieces about the nursery tea cake that William requested as his Groomsmen Cake for the upcoming nuptials. May be we needed a break from the devastation of Japan or the multiple uprisings around the world. I’m not sure.

But what I do know is this: the cake sounded intriguing. And when my beloved GoddessMoments sent out a request asking for someone to make her the cake, I thought … Ooh, Id love to do that! So I promised her a cake and I got to work doing a bit of research.

This refrigerator cake (there is no baking) was apparently a favourite tea time cake when William was a child, and according to former royal Chef Darren McGrady, is also a special favourite of the Queen. Its a simple cake – chocolate and tea biscuits are its main components, but there are several versions out there which also incorporate fruit and nuts. I have already written about my dislike for mixing the purity of chocolate with fruit and nuts – I find it muddies the waters.

I found online two main recipes – one by Nigella Lawson that incorporates dried fruits and nuts and uses condensed milk as the sweetener. The second is attributed to Chef McGrady, and uses sugar instead, but is pure chocolate. I loved the idea of using condensed milk so I did a bit of a mashup and evolved my own recipe. I think its delicious – simple and satisfying, tasting of tea biscuits and chocolate.

Please do use an organic egg in this recipe – because even though the heat of the chocolate “cooks” the egg, its probably not fully cooked. Use a pasturised egg, or omit entirely if you are worried. Add dried fruits and nuts if its your thing … and give it time to firm up in the fridge before gilding with its final bath of pure chocolate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe – during the wedding of William and Catherine – or to celebrate your own life! πŸ™‚

Makes 1 9-inch cake. Please keep refrigerated.

  • 1 packet McVities Rich Tea biscuits
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 can (about 1 cup) sweetened condensed milk, thickened and cold from the fridge
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (6 + 8) best quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%)
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare a 9 inch cake tin (if you have a spring form pan it is best, but not absolutely necessary) by lining it with parchment paper and buttering well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, crush the Rich Tea Biscuits with your fingers. You want an interesting mix of almond sized pieces and crumbles. Set aside.

In a stand mix, whip the butter until it is light and fluffy, and then whisk in the sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla until just combined. Set aside.

Pour boiling water into a saucepan, and set a small metal bowl over. Melt 6 ounces of chocolate in the small bowl, until completely liquid. Using a fork (and with the bowl still set over the hot water), whisk in an egg. The chocolate mixture will “seize” – this is OK, just work very quickly.

Pour the chocolate and egg mixture into the butter, and whisk well to combine. Pour the butter-chocolate mixture directly over the biscuits, and fold well. Pour the cake “batter” into your prepared cake tin and refrigerate, covered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Once the cake has had time to mature in the fridge, melt the remaining 8 ounces of chocolate, and allow to cool for about ten minutes.

Once the cake has solidified, use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, and turn out onto a cake rack. Set the rack over a baking sheet. Remove the parchment paper from the top of the cake and use a spatula to smooth any rough edges.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, and smooth the sides with a spatula. Refrigerate (either on the cake rack or transfer to a serving plate) for at least another 2 – 3 hours.

Serve with a very sharp knife to hack the cake to pieces!

Note: You can flavour this cake with all sorts of things. Whisky comes to mind – or peppermint essence. Fruit and nuts would also work if youre so inclined.

Enjoy!

O’Gourmet Food Hall Chili Chocolate Mousse

3 Apr

Chili and chocolate is a wicked, wanton pairing. Chocolate is deep and dark; spicy notes with a bass pounding beat. Chili is bright and spicy – a spark of fire like the river of sound from a sharp sexy saxophone. Together, they play off each other and intensify their own qualities to create an extraordinarily beautiful fusion.

This mousse was created as the last dish in a Spanish red wine tasting at O’Gourmet Food Hall. It was paired with a Humiliat 2008 – a red that is complex, with a depth of flavour and contrast. The pairing of chili and chocolate brought out the various notes in the red wine, and deepened its complexity even further.

Do note that I used organic eggs for this recipe – and this is crucial because the egg white is not cooked. If you have concerns, use pasturised eggs if possible. And do balance the amount of chili to suit your taste. I used Kashmiri chili from O’Gourmet – which is full of fire, and yet smooth and gorgeous. The thing I love about this chili is that in sweet dishes (I used it in a vanilla ice cream before as well), it really allows for stages of flavour – the first hit you get is chocolate, and then suddenly, fire. Its very more-ish, and brings about a flush of passion in those who consume it.

This is not a diet dessert by any standards – chocolate, lashings of cream, butter and eggs. Its rich, but the chili somehow adds a fresh, wild note. And as laden as it is with calories, it uses very simple ingredients – and if you make sure they are top quality, the taste will be sublime. You also cant have huge bowlfuls of this dessert – it is best served as a delightful, delectable taste, may be with a dark cup of coffee.

Do please note that I made this mousse to feed about 20 – 30 people (albeit in tiny little cups). You could probably feed 8 – 10 people with leftovers. Make in little individual serving pots, or one large, luscious bowlful – its up to you. But do make sure you add the whipped cream on top (and a few chocolate shavings or nuggets) – its all about the contrast and layers of flavour.

Makes about 4 – 5 cups

  • 10 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%) broken into chunks
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 + 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 3 + 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 + 1 cups cream
  • 2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
  • Chocolate chunks or curls to decorate

Fill a saucepan with boiling water, and place a small metal bowl on top. Melt the chocolate in the small bowl, and add the butter. When the butter is melted, whisk in the egg yolks (they will stiffen the mixture), salt, and vanilla. Stir well, and take off the heat. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and set aside.

Whip the egg whites, adding 3 tbsp of light brown sugar, until the egg whites are very stiff, and hold high peaks. Fold about 1/3rd of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then gently fold the rest in. Cover the bowl, and place in the fridge.

Whip 2 cups of cream until stiff, and then remove the chocolate mixture from the fridge. Fold the cream in gently. Sprinkle the chili over the mousse in 1/2 tsp portions, and fold until completely incorporated. Taste and keep adding until to your taste. I like it hot!

 

Chill the mousse for at least half an hour. If you are serving it in individual portions, spoon or pipe into cups. If you are serving in a large bowl, spoon into the bowl and cover.

 

Whip Β the remaining 1 cup of cream, 2 tbsp vanilla extract and 3 tbsp light brown sugar together and pipe or spoon over the prepared and chilled mousse. Decorate with chocolate and cool in the fridge for 2 hours minimum, or up to 24.

Serve with joy!

Zucchini Chocolate Spice Bread

12 Feb

I love zucchini bread – bold in its simplicity and perfectly comforting. Its a good bread, one that is easily frozen and surprisingly easy and quick to make. I thought of this bread when I saw some luscious zucchini at O’Gourmet last week, and thought that it might be a nice idea to try a new twist. I found Bentong ginger powder at PastryPro – organic, sun-dried and so deep and complex in scent its almost overwhelming. I wanted to use it in a bread, and with my beautiful zucchini to hand, I set about inventing a new, enticing version of my beloved old standard.

I have to admit, this new zucchini bread is pretty spectacular. It is damp, lush, complex and dark. I really decided to go all out in this bread … I used dark and light brown sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and the amazing Bentong ginger, a touch of ground hazelnuts, beautiful Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, and both white and bittersweet chocolate. I realise, its full on! I thought to myself, when I put the loaves in the oven … either this is going to be delicious, or its going to taste like a muddled mess!

Luckily, its a wonderful, complicated, intriguing bread. Its very moist and it will get better over a few days – the flavours compounding and playing off one another. It freezes well, and its wonderful lightly toasted, as a snack, breakfast or tea time treat. Plus, what a wonderful way to get people to eat their zucchini and love it too!

I know that this seems a load of ingredients to bring together. If you cant find ground hazelnuts, or dont want to make them, substitute ground almonds, or even just plain flour. Chop and change as you wish, its a very forgiving recipe. Try though to include the honey and the spices … they really deepen and improve the bread immensely. And who doesnt like chocolate? Hehe … though if you want to be more healthy, try a few seeds or dried fruit instead. And do try and wait at least 10 minutes after you remove the bread from the hot oven – its very delicate at first, and needs a moment to firm up! Says she, who never waits πŸ˜‰

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2 medium-large zucchini (approximately 2 – 3 cups grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 scant cup sugar – half dark brown, half light brown
  • 1 heaping tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, beans scraped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger (I used Bentong ginger, which is very flavourful – you may want to up the amount of ginger – may be 1 – 2 tsp – Β depending on the quality of your source)
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, drops or chopped (I used half bittersweet, half white, best quality chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F). Line two loaf pans with baking paper. I usually cut out a large piece of baking paper, centre the loaf pan, and cut in at a 90 degree angle on all four corners. I can then fold in the paper, and have a bit of nice overhang. Set aside the pans.

Set a sieve over a small bowl, and grate the zucchini into the sieve. I use the very fine grater, but depending on the texture youre going for, you might want to grate it slightly more coarsely. Press the zucchini into the sieve to encourage as much water out as possible (you will probably get about 1 cup worth). Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (and reserve both the zucchini and its liquid!).

In a large bowl, place the eggs, vegetable oil, sugars, honey and vanilla. Whisk together well until everything is well combined and integrated. Set aside.

In a small bowl (or large measuring jug, which is what I use) combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely. Set aside for a moment.

Measure out about 1/2 cup of zucchini water.

Stir the flour and zucchini water into the sugar/oil mixture, in thirds, mixing gently but thoroughly. You might not use all of the zucchini water – just add a splash each time to really help the flour to integrate into the sugar/oil.

Add all the zucchini and mix well, and finally add the chocolate and mix well.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf tins.

of Zucchini Bread!Bake, switching the tins in the oven half way through if youre concerned about hot spots, for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. A cake tester inserted into the loaf will either come up covered in chocolate (in which case, wipe down and try again!) or with scant crumbs attached.

Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes or so before devouring. This freezes exceedingly well, and will stay good in the fridge for a week or more (though its always finished up by the first day or so in my house!).

Enjoy!

 

Hot Fudge + Port Pear Chili Jam

30 Dec

So yes, I am in a saucy mood. I have been cooking a lot recently, but not new recipes. And its been one of those weeks (months?) – first my phone died, and then my hardrive on my laptop got fried. I am lucky in that I have the means to deal with these issues (new phone on the one hand, and my old laptop on the other). But its been a frustrating time, and I havent felt a whole lot of inspiration.

But a stroll through O’Gourmet certainly helped! Mr. Kumar (the manager) was so excited to show me some chili powder from Kashmir – hand carried back to KL. It was like nothing I had ever seen before – rich, deep burnt orange red, and almost wet … with a scent that had so many layers to it I cannot even begin to describe, but I will try. Soft, mellow, with a sharp tinge… hauntingly musky with a long profound beat of heat and sun and spice. Gorgeous. Stunningly sensual. I had to cook with it – and suddenly, inspiration arrived!

I decided to make a chili ice cream (the recipe for which I will post tomorrow). But this was to be not just a singular ice cream, but an ice cream sundae. Hot fudge sauce (with dark bittersweet chocolate and melted Scottish fudge) and a chili jam – with a base of port and pears – at once sweet, hot and boozily beautiful. I felt that these sauces would elevate and intrigue – and would provide the perfect foil for the cold creamy ice cream. AngelKitten suggested we get some caramelised pistachios to top the sundae. What a combination of flavours and tastes! I couldnt wait to get started.

These two sauces would of course be just as magical on their own (the hot fudge sauce is particularly simple to put together) or combined over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. If you can, though, try the whole package. Its quite a few pieces of cooking work – but if you break it all down, and prepare in advance, its actually a doddle!

Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes about 2 cups of hot fudge. This can be served warm, or made in advance and reheated just before serving. Use the best quality chocolate and fudge you can find.

  • 450 – 500 g (1 lb) vanilla fudge
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 250 – 300 g bittersweet (at least 70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other sea salt

Grate the fudge into a large saucepan. Add the cream and stir a little.

Add the chopped chocolate, stir, and add the Maldon salt.

Place the saucepan over a low heat, and melt the chocolate into the fudge, stirring all the while. Make sure that the fudge too has been completely melted into the sauce.

Serve warm, or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat before serving.

Port Pear Chili Jam

Makes about 2 cups of jam.

This jam is quite loose. It pours like a sauce, but it also depends on how long you cook it – the less liquid left, the more “jammy” and thick it becomes.Β  If you do not want to use port or another alcohol, substitute with grape juice.

  • 9 pears (I used 3 each of D’Anjou, Bosc and Conference), peeled, pared and roughly chopped
  • 1 + 1 tbsp pear balsamic vinegar (if you cannot find this, try using pear or apple juice or even some apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup port wine (or grape juice)
  • 1 tsp best quality (Kashmir if you can find it) chili
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 – 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp best quality (25 year old) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey (I used leatherwood honey)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence

Peel, core and chop the pears. As you work, place the pears in a large saucepan, and toss them with 1 tbsp of the pear vinegar.

Measure out the pour wine and add to it the remaining 1 tbsp pear vinegar, chili, chili flakes, mustard seed, 3 tbsp of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine, and pour over the pears.

Place the saucepan over high heat, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring well.

Once the mixture comes to the boil, lower the heat to medium, and add the honey and the vanilla. Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered for at least an hour. The jam will thicken and become much darker in colour. Taste and add a little more brown sugar if you feel you need to up the sweetness of the jam.

Give it a stir every so often. Allow to simmer until it is a thickness that you prefer. I like it a little liquid because I am using it as an ice cream topping … but! If you want to make it into a proper jam, just cook it for a little longer.

This can be served warm or at room temperature, and will keep, uncovered in the fridge for up to 2 – 3 weeks.

Apologies for lack of photos – still dealing with loss of hardrive!

Oatmeal White Chocolate Bars

8 Dec

Totally Decadent, Slightly Healthy ;)I didnt post yesterday because… well, because I was remembering my father. 14 years ago, yesterday, he passed away. And every day, I miss him. I just had nothing I wanted to cook, so I didnt. Instead, I smoked a cigar in his honour, and remembered him over dinner with a person who loved him too.

So today, I wanted to make something that was comforting, easy, and yet very flexible – kind of like my dad! I decided on oatmeal bars because they fascinate me – and AngelKitten suggested that I add marshmallows – kind of like in a rice crispie bar. Intriguing idea. You dont have to add marshmallows if you dont want to – though they certainly give the bars a chewy, burnt, caramelly angle. Basically, you need to add equal amounts of oats and “ingredients” – in this recipe I added marshmallows, pistachios and peanut butter chips. I know. Sounds like a weird mixture, but funnily enough, it works!

And, with the addition of almond meal, this is a gluten free recipe, though if you are very stringent, make sure you get oats that are labeled as gluten free. While oats themselves are gluten free, they are manufactured in factories, and often stored in facilities with other flours – cross contamination can occur, so be aware.

If you want healthy bars, please feel free to substitute dried fruit (cranberries and blueberries suggest themselves), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) and all kinds of nuts. But do add the chocolate – it elevates these bars from crunchy granola to oh my goodness gracious, yes please, I will have another one! πŸ˜‰

Makes a large baking pan full – about 20 bars

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 4 cups “taste ingredients” – I used 2 cups marshmallows, 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips and 1/2 cup pistachios. Feel free to go wild – add whatever your heart desires, but if youre daring, do try this combo. Its delicious!
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or all spice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 heaping tbsp mascarpone (or cream cheese)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
  • 2 – 3 tbsp milk or cream

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the oats, almond meal, taste ingredients, cinnamon, salt, and light brown sugar. Use your hands and toss well to combine completely.

Grate over the butter and toss again to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, honey and vanilla. You should have about a cup of liquid. If more, thats fine. If less, make it up with a touch of milk.

Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and use your hands to combine. You wont think that the mixture will come together at first, but trust me, it will. It will be quite wet.

Turn out into the prepared baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until slightly puffed and toasty brown. (If you have used marshmallows, keep a close eye out – they can burn easily).

Let cool for about 20 minutes. While the oat bars are cooling, melt the white chocolate with the milk in a small saucepan over very low heat until liquid.

When the oat bars are cooled, drizzle over the white chocolate. Allow it to firm up, and then cut into bars.

These will keep up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy these delicious, slightly healthy, rather decadent treats!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

4 Dec

Deep Dark DelectableSome days, you just need chocolate. For happy, for sad, for good and for bad, chocolate has a remarkable complexity and depth to it which just eases you on your way. I have a real deep affinity for chocolate, and I always try and have some in the house at all times. There is something so essentially sexy about chocolate. Its the stuff of lovely naughty imaginings, and it is unabashedly decadent and delightful.

And I am a serious chocolate snob. Cheapo chocolate made with vegetable fats (like those overly sweet sugary candy bars) is not something I crave regularly. Admittedly, sometimes it just hits the spot, but its obvious junk food. Deep, dark bittersweet chocolate though, preferably Valhrona or Callebut … now there, my dears, is something to get excited about.

Bittersweet chocolate is real chocolate in my book (though you will never see me turning down milk or white Valhrona or Callebut) … it has such deep notes, so much going on in each bite. It resonates with the sunshine and the earth where it was grown, it has notes of coffee, caramel, plum, tobacco, dusk. A small mouthful of bittersweet chocolate brings me straight into the now. I cannot think of anything but that melting bass pounding taste. Its amazing.

And I am a chocolate snob in other ways as well. Chocolate and fruits, meh. Well, chocolate and bananas and chocolate and some berries are okay, but Im not a huge fan of astringent orange or lemon and chocolate. It just doesnt do it for me. Though I do love a good mint and chocolate combo. And chocolate and nuts is a combination which I have generally stayed away from… Again, some nuts, for me, are okay with chocolate (almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter), but the dairy nut tins were never my first choice.

However, I have been gradually re-evaluating this stance. Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Starry Starry Night cookies introduced me to the wonders of baked almonds and chocolate, and I have recently been fiddling with a combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. The most famous hazelnut and chocolate combo is that sweet treat from all our childhoods – Nutella spread. But there is a lovely grace to the pairing, the round, rich, caramel notes of the nuts gentling the intensity of bittersweet chocolate.

After several tries, and several versions, I have decided this is the chocolate hazelnut cake that I love. Its not so much a cake as a fallen souffle, a thick gooey almost brownie like pudding, with a crackling crust. It must be served with a generous blowsy dollop of whipped cream, and can be made completely gluten free by removing all the flour and using only ground hazelnuts instead. Though if you can, keep the flour in – it gives it some structure, and helps to pull everything together in a beautiful whole.

Bake this cake in a springform tin, and do make it the day before you will serve it. It really benefits from sitting, well wrapped, in the fridge overnight. Something about that pause between baking and eating allows all its flavours to blossom. And, if you can source it, use hazelnut oil. I find that it really adds to this cake, both in texture and flavour. Its unctuous smokey caramel tone embraces the chocolate beautifully.

Serves 8 – 10 (even 12 if you serve really thin slices). Best baked the day before, though you could refrigerate for up to 3 days, easily.

  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour (you can substitute additional hazelnuts here if you need a gluten free version)
  • 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 + 1/4 cup light brown sugar + additional for whipped cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • Vanilla paste or essence (I used a remarkable vanilla, cacao nib and chili paste) – to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F (165 F). Line a spring form cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, tossing well to make sure the mixture is smooth and integrated. Set aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in a small bowl that fits over the rim of a small to medium sized pot or saucepan. Boil a kettle of water, and pour into the pot. Place the bowl containing the chocolate and butter over the pot, and allow to sit, stirring occaisionally until the butter and chocolate have melted completely. Once the chocolate and butter are liquid, add the hazelnut oil and stir well. Set aside.

While the chocolate is melting, combine the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat well with an electric stand mixer or hand held beaters. You want the egg yolk mixture to be fluffy, thick and golden in colour. When you lift the beaters from the yolk, a thick ribbon will fall back into the bowl. This should take you 3 – 5 minutes or so. Beat in the vanilla once you have the consistency you like.

Pur the melted chocolate/butter/hazelnut oil into the ground hazelnut mixture, and stir exceedingly well. Make sure any lumps or clumps are smoothed out.

Pour in the beaten egg yolks and sugar, and using a spatula, stir well to combine. Set aside.

Clean the beaters and bowl (or use new ones!), and beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites hold soft peaks. Continue beating, adding the remaining 1/4 cup sugar gradually, until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. The egg whites should look like foamy marshmallow.

Fold about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring quickly and strongly to lighten the batter. Add the rest of the egg whites in two batches, stirring firmly, yet gently. Stir in a folding motion, making sure to completely integrate the egg whites with the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top has risen and cracked, and a tester inserted into the cake comes out with crumbs attached.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan.

Prepare the whipped cream. Measure out the cream, and take 2 tbsp and pour into a small bowl or container. Sprinkle the agar agar into this set aside cream, and allow to melt into the cream. You could assist by whisking gently with a fork. You want the agar agar to be completely absorbed by the cream, and to melt away into the cream.

Whisk the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the reserved cream and agar agar, along with the sugar and vanilla paste. Whisk until the cream holds stiff peaks. Reserve, covered until you are ready to serve, up to three days.

When serving, remove the cold cake from the fridge, and ice the top with the whipped cream. Serve in gentle slices, and enjoy!

Raspberry Tart

28 Nov

With purple pansiesThis raspberry tart is dramatic, beautiful, romantic and outrageously delicious. Its such a perfect combination of flavours and textures, and its so pretty that people smile when they see it. I love this tart, and I must give credit where it is due – it was inspired by Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio’s amazing raspberry tart, but enlivened with a few of my own happy pleasures. Specifically, dark bittersweet chocolate – and instead of a cookie crust, a pistachio crust inspired by her pistachio ice cream.

This tart is easily made (in its various components) ahead of time, and put together a few hours before serving. The combination of pistachio biscuit crust, dark bittersweet chocolate cream, light vanilla whipped cream and tart fresh raspberries is just outstanding. Crunchy, slightly bitter and nutty, creamy, chocolatey, tart, fresh, cool, bright – decadent, sumptuous, and totally sensual. Can you tell by all the superlatives how much I loved this tart? πŸ˜‰

The element which brought drama and a really natural beauty to the tart were the flutters of sweet purple flowers adorning the top. My local supermarket sells edible flowers in a little packet – all different colours and they are beautiful. I picked out the purple ones – pansies I think – and together, they made for a stunningly lovely presentation. You can find information on edible flowers at the Cook’s Thesaurus and also some very pretty photographs here and here. Flowers are a wonderful way to make food look visually appealing and beautiful, and after this result, I definitely need to start using them more often!

This tart will serve 10 – 12 people. Its very rich, so you dont need huge slices.

Pistachio Crust

  • 1 cup whole pistachios
  • 2 tbsp powdered/icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp flour (plus additional if needed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cold butter
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Using a coffee grinder, processor, your immersion blender – or even a plastic back and a rolling pin to smack them into submission! – grind and pulverise the pistachios with the powdered sugar. The sugar will ensure that the nuts dont go over into a paste – but watch them carefully. I usually grind the pistachios in two batches of 1/2 cup each plus 1 tbsp of powdered sugar.

Put the ground pistachios and sugar into a bowl. Add the flour and salt and toss to combine. Grate the cold butter over the pistachio mixture, and using the tips of your fingers, combine very gently. You could even use a fork left in the fridge to mix everything up. This mixture can be exceedingly delicate so be careful!

Beat the 1 egg and vanilla together, and add to the pistachio-butter mixture. Combine gently and quickly until the mixture comes together into a dough. If its really sticky, add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time until it comes together, but be gentle and work quickly.

Shape the dough into a ball, and refrigerate, covered for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 175 C (350F). I used a 11″ tart pan with a detachable base and non stick surface for this tart. If your tart pan is not non-stick (and really, it should be if it has a detachable base), butter the pan well. Remove the dough from the fridge, and centre it on a the tart pan. Using your fingers, quickly spread and knead and push and prod the dough so it completely covers the pan. Line the tart with parchment/baking paper, and pour in some pie weights. I use dried beans – theyre much cheaper, and they work just as well!

Bake your tart for about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the baking paper and pie weights/beans, and place the tart crust back into the oven for a further 5 minutes or so, or until the shell has lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 3 minutes or so. Whisk the egg white with a fork in a small cup or bowl. Brush the interior of the shell with the egg white. This is a great trick to ensure that the tart crust is “water proof” and does not become soggy when you add the pastry cream!

Set aside to cool completely before assembly.

You can make the tart crust up to 1 day in advance, and store in the fridge, covered until needed.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pastry Cream

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups cream
  • About 150 grams (1 1/2 small slab bars) best quality bittersweet chocolate – I used Lindt, broken into pieces
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt until well combined. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl, and whisk into the sugar-flour mixture until you get a smooth paste.

Place the saucepan over medium low heat, and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the while. This will take you about 10 minutes – about 5 minutes into this time, stick your thumb in the mixture. It should be like quite hot bathwater. Add the chocolate now, and continue whisking for a further 5 minutes or so. The mixture will start to steam, and bubble, and will have become noticeably thicker.

Check that the mixture will hold a line when it coats the back of a spoon and you run your finger through it. If not, continue to cook for a few minutes further, whisking all the while. It should not take that long to get there, so be vigilant! And remember, the pastry cream will thicken as it cools, so the consistency at which you take it off the stove is not the consistency it will be when you finally assemble the tart!

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Strain the pastry cream through a fine sieve, and allow to cool to room temperature.

The pastry cream can be made up to 2 days in advance, and stored, covered (with parchment paper spread over the surface for preference), in the refrigerator until needed.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream – 2 tbsp of cream removed from this amount
  • 1 1/2 tsp agar agar
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, and beans scraped – or 1 tbsp vanilla essence/paste

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. From this amount, measure out 2 tbsp, and remove to a small bowl. Sprinkle agar agar over the 2 tbsp of cream, and set aside for a few minutes to allow the agar agar to dissolve into the cream.

Whisk the remaining cream (by hand if youre macho – with a stand mixer or handheld electric beaters if youre me!) until it just begins to hold soft peaks. Add the reserved cream and agar agar mixture, the icing sugar and the vanilla, and whisk until the cream holds stiff peaks.

The agar agar will ensure that the cream holds its shape for about six hours.

I would prepare the whipped cream just before assembly.

Assembly

  • Pistachio Crust
  • Bittersweet Chocolate Pastry Cream
  • Vanilla Whipped Cream
  • Raspberries – About 1 1/2 pints (1 1/2 small packets)
  • Pretty edible flowers for additional decoration (optional)

Place the tart crust/shell on a good working surface. For the kind of pretty decoration that I created here, I actually centered the crust (in pan) on a small lazy susan that I had from Ikea – this helped move the tart as I was placing raspberries and piping cream.

Pour in the bittersweet chocolate pastry cream, and using a palette knife or even a spoon, ensure that the pastry cream is evenly covering the tart shell, and is smoothed on top.

For this tart, I placed half the vanilla whipped cream into a piping bag with a small round tip (and topped it up when needed). If you want to get extra fancy, you could use a star tip, but that for me would be gilding the lily!

GorgeousPipe a border of whipped cream around the edge of the tart. Now take the raspberries, one at a time, and using the small tip, fill the raspberry with whipped cream, and pipe a small circle of cream at the opening of the raspberry. Place the raspberries onto the pastry cream in circles – working your way from outside in.

Once the tart has been covered with raspberries, begin placing the flowers. Pipe small circles of cream between the raspberries, working from inside out, and on each small circle of cream, place a single flower. You could cover the entire tart with raspberries and flowers, or, as I preferred to do, leave the outer edges with the decadent chocolate cream peeking out.

Refrigerate the tart until ready to serve. Assemble no more than 6 hours before consuming!

When you are ready to serve, remove the tart from the pan, leaving the bottom intact.

Enjoy the pleasures of this most lovely of desserts.

Birthday Cake

15 Nov

For E!Yesterday was a day of birthdays. It was such a joyous day! When I came home from my GoddessSister’s birthday party, I decided that I was going to bake a cake for my beloved nephew. He turned 21 yesterday. I still remember him as a little baby boy that I held in my arms (he was the cuddly type). Now, if I want to look him in the eye, I have to make him sit down! Time passes so quickly, but I am glad to say that he has the same sweet, kind, loving soul he had when he was little. He is a big, grown up man now, but his spirit is still gentle and good. I am so lucky to have been part of his life all these years – to watch him grow and find himself, to become a friend as well as an Auntie.

Anyway, before I become maudlin, or Hallmark card twee, I decided to bake him a cake. I had about 2 hours before I needed to go to dinner, and I decided on a version of my niece’s dark chocolate cake with white chocolate icing. I think I might have over-reached myself a bit πŸ˜‰ I forgot that actually, the white chocolate icing needs a little time to set up in the fridge before serving. You can serve it just after making, but you really need to not bring it in a car – its still soft and voluptuous, and can be a little difficult to transport.

While I was clever enough when I visited the baking supplies shop to purchase some cardboard cake rounds, I was not intelligent enough to purchase some boxes in which to place said cakes and rounds. Unfortunately, when I drove to our favourite shopping centre to meet up with the family, I had an encounter with a road-rage type personage who not only stole my parking space, but made me brake hard to avoid hitting him (and his pregnant wife and young child in the car with him!). This of course made my freshly baked and iced cake veer catastrophically, and the top layer of cake slid blowsily off the bottom in a cloud of white chocolate icing glory. Oooh I was so mad! And, because I put my hand out to catch the cake whilst at the same time braking, also covered in icing!

Thank goodness, my family is loving, kind and very sweet. They looked at the cake – which was once pristine white, covered in sophisticated silver dragees and bordered by Starry Starry Nights – and which now looked like something the cat rolled in, and were incredibly diplomatic. My beloved nephew said that he always loved home made better than anything bought in the store, and you could certainly tell that this one was home made! Heheh. Given all that, please excuse the photographs – they are post-road rage person, and thus show a slightly damaged, but still made with love, birthday cake.

And I have to say, despite it all, it was a really tasty cake. Simple dark chocolate cake, lightened by whipping the egg whites separately so that they aerated the cake, and made deeper and chocolate-ier by adding melted chocolate as well as cocoa powder. The cake was moist and rich without being overwhelming – and yet it stood up to the icing with aplomb! Obviously, I need to learn more about baking supplies (tools are everything!) but last night ended with all of us happily digging into my sticky chocolate topsy turvy tipsy cake, and enjoying a family moment of love, pride and happiness.

Makes 2 layers of a 9-inch cake. Recipe for the white chocolate icing can be found here – and remember, it doesnt need to be pink πŸ™‚

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp / 1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (whole milk is best)

Preheat your oven to 170C (350F), and butter 2 9-inch cake tins. Line them with parchment paper, and butter that too.

Place the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass heat proof bowl. Bring kettle filled with water to the boil. Fill a saucepan with the boiling water, and place the bowl atop the saucepan. The chocolate will melt in a few minutes if you stir vigorously. Once the chocolate has melted, set aside.

If you have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, use it for the next steps. If not, use a handheld electric beater. Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer. Cream the butter for about 2 – 3 minutes until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the sugar, and allow it to become completely incorporated – about 3 – 5 minutes more. Watch carefully. You want the mixture really thick and creamy, but you dont want to over beat so the butter starts to separate.

Separate your eggs, and set the whites aside. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture, as well as the vanilla essence. Beat until the mixture is thick and golden, and then add the melted chocolate. Beat to combine, and then remove the electric paddle/beaters.

In a separate bowl or measuring jug, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a fork. You just want it combined.

Using a spatula, mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture in three lots, alternating with the milk. Make sure everything is well incorporated and that you have a thick heavy batter.

Using a clean bowl and beaters, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add about 1/4th of the egg whites to the cake batter, and fold to combine completely. Once the cake batter has been lightened a bit, fold in the rest of the egg whites gently, folding lightly, but making sure it is completely integrated into the batter.

Divide between your two cake tins, and bake for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes, before flipping out onto a rack and allowing to cool completely, a further 20 – 30 minutes or so. Ice (or glaze or sprinkle with some icing sugar) and enjoy with those you love!

 

White Chocolate Shortbread

11 Nov

I am in full on cookie baking mode. I just put about 200 Starry Starry Night cookies into the freezer, waiting to be baked tomorrow, and I decided to sit and think about what other kind of cookie I could make. I love shortbread – full, rich, simple and classic, but I wanted to give it a twist. As I looked in my store cupboard, I realised I had about a kilogram of Valrhona white chocolate waiting to be made into something fabulous.

I wanted to make white chocolate chip cookies, and I still may do that, but I wondered if there was a way to get white chocolate into a shortbread without making a shortbread with white chocolate chips. I wanted the white chocolate to be in every bite, to permeate the shortbread – to live in its essence πŸ™‚ So I thought about it some more, and looked at the ingredients list – pretty simple, really. Butter, sugar, flour. Vanilla for additional flavour if needed, and a touch of salt. Thats it.

Well, I thought, if I were to add white chocolate, I could bring the sugar content down. But how to add the chocolate without melting it? Melting the chocolate and adding it to shortbread would, I thought, mess with the essential crumby-ness of this classic biscuit. It would make a nice cookie, but it wasnt what I wanted. I was still thinking about the sugar though, and then it came to me… Could I somehow crumb the white chocolate so that it was mixed in with the flour? I could blitz with my immersion blender – and lo! It worked!

This cookie is astoundingly good. Its surprising too – white chocolate just oozes out of its very heartbeat – but you dont see it when you bite into the cookie, so it taste is unexpected and wonderful. Crispy, rich, scented with vanilla and white chocolate, this cookie is so much more wicked than it looks. Enjoy it very soon, with someone you love very much πŸ˜‰

Makes 8 triangles from a 9 or 10 inch pan

  • Approx 1 cup (5 oz/150 g) good quality white chocolate (I used Valrhona disks – otherwise, use a good chocolate bar and roughly chop), cold from the fridge
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla

Place white chocolate, flour and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together until all the white chocolate is completely covered in flour. This is important for the next step, so please dont skip it!

If you are using a food processor or blender, place the flour chocolate mixture into the machine, and pulse lightly until the white chocolate has crumbed and completely integrated into the flour. If you are using an immersion blender, as I did, place the blender into the flour chocolate mixture, and pulse quickly. Move the bowl around, until all the chocolate has been incorporated into the flour. Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the butter mixture.

In a stand mixture, or using a hand held mixer, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. This usually takes about a minute or two. Add the light brown sugar and cream until it is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and mix again.

Remove the flour mixture from the fridge, and add to the butter mixture, adding it in a few batches. The dough will come together quickly.

Butter a spring form pan or a tart pan (about 9 – 10 inches across), and place the dough in the centre. Using your hands, quickly push the dough so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Score wedges with a sharp knife (I cut it into 8 pizza wedges – you could do it however you wish), and poke holes in it with the tines of a fork.

Refrigerate the prepared dough for at least an hour, or overnight.

Once youre ready to bake the shortbread, preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Bake the shortbread for about 25 – 35 minutes. Check after about 15 minutes, and if its browning too fast, cover with a little aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. After about 25 minutes check again – it should be crumbly and firm to the touch.

Cool, in the pan, on a rack for about ten minutes. Re-score and re-hole if you feel the shortbread needs it! After about ten minutes, cut the shortbread through with an offset spatula or sharp knife, and allow to cool for a further ten to fifteen minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!

If you have any leftover, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

 

A Food Lover’s Day

10 Nov

Today was one of those days… It was a day I used to only dream about, but ever since I have embraced my life as a woman immersed in the pleasures and joys of food, these days seem to be happening more often. It was a day of adventure and exploration, of sensuous delight and comfort, and happy-making gifts devoured with beloved ones. Today was a food lover’s day πŸ™‚

This morning, AngelKitten and I ventured out to the wilds of Taman Megah to find Bake With Yen. We had gone to the Taman Tun Pasar Besar outlet, but to be honest, it was a bit, well, rough. And it really didnt have all the supplies we were looking for. AngelKitten and I are on a big baking jag – we are going to be refining and baking cookies, with the possibility of offering some for sale over the Christmas period. We needed to go to a real baker’s shop, and we had been told about Bake With Yen and really wanted to go and see for ourselves.

The Taman Megah shop was wonderful! So many pretty and useful baking supplies – we were like kids in a candy store!

Every kind of flour and nut you can imagine, in any presentation you might like. Green pea flour? They had it! Ground hazelnuts or almonds, yes yes! All broken down from huge bags at the back, direct from the supplier, and sold in 1 kg bags. Brilliant, and very inexpensive compared to supermarket prices.

Colourings

Food colouring, flavouring, spices, herbs, vanilla beans,honey, treacle, sugars, coconut – anything and everything you could imagine to add colour and taste to a cake, pastry or cookie – they had it. And in bulk too – often for less than you would purchase a tiny amount in the supermarket.

Pans

Every kind of baking tin, pan, roll that you could imagine, in every shape and size. Amazing selection, and really good prices. A little cat shaped tin, yep, they could find it for you. Hearts and teddy bears, squares and rounds and octagons and quiche, pie, flan and chocolate tins. I was totally overwhelmed.

And for decoration, every kind of sugar flower that you could think of, for a few cents each. And pretty decorations for sugar cookies and cakes. And loads of different decorative pieces including stencils, fondant rollers, sugar work tools, and an entire aisle of colourful cupcake holders.

I’m telling you, we were both in an advanced state of happy. So we got what we needed (meringue powder for sugar cookies! almond meal! loads of extras we didnt mean to buy but couldnt resist!) and headed on to our next stop….

Well, actually, we stopped at the Warung Kek (Cake Shop) next door – very old school. Huge loaves of bread, blistering hot from the oven, blueberry cheesecake tarts that reminded AngelKitten of her school days, mee with sambal and packets of nasi lemak, and big moist slabs of chocolate cake. Could we resist such take home temptations? Of course not! πŸ˜‰

But then it was time to rest and revive our senses…

——-

At the unadulterated sensuousness of lunch at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio…. Oh bliss.

We shared a starter of a tangle of lightly sauteed green vegetables, atop a crispy puff pastry circle, elegance and deliciousness combined with a light and sure touch.

And our main course was a mindblowingly gorgeous, light, yet rich ink lasagna with ratatouille, and a ratatouille foam scented with parmesan. Smooth and sexy, perfectly balanced, indulgent yet restful.

And finally, we shared a pot of tea and this dessert – chocolate espuma, over chocolate cake dust (which coated the entire inside of the bowl) – textures of smooth silk and rough chocolate, and in the centre, in all its subtle glory, mascarpone sorbet.

What a meal. We were so happy. And we went away with 2 kgs of Valrhona chocolate to bake with…

——-

And this evening, AngelKitten and I put the chocolate to good use. First I made a batch, and then AngelKitten made a batch, of Starry Starry Night cookies. The batter sits in the fridge at the moment, doing its magic and firming up so that tomorrow we can roll in sugar and freeze them before the final bake. I love this part of cooking – imparting my knowledge, my rhythm, my sense of balance and taste to my niece. Well, the niece of my heart. I love the sense of continuity it gives me, and joy and peace.

And after the melting of the chocolate, the whipping of the eggs, the folding of the almond meal, and the washing up, cleaning and drying… we rewarded ourselves.

We sat down, and shared an entire box of Pierre Herme macarons which had been brought home to me all the way from London by my beloved Goddess. What a lovely gift. What pleasures to taste these macarons. Such amazing complexity of flavours – grape and bittersweet chocolate, green tea, apricot, vanilla, hazelnut. These were macarons to be savoured – each one painstakingly cut in half, looked at, smelled, tasted, discussed. There were great depths to the macarons, amazing flavour combinations, varying textures. We had such a great time, immersed in our macarons, intent on discovering the flavours of each new bite. As AngelKitten said to me, these were like no other treats she had ever tasted … they were a feat of enfolding complex and deeply layered flavours into one tiny little pastry. Astonishing and wonderful and such fun to share, and to be given, such a treat!

And on that note, I will look at my now almost empty box, and bring myself to bed… perchance to dream of another perfect food lover’s day…

Sweet dreams!