Archive for the ‘cake’ Category

Unlike the dried fruit Simnel Cake which seems to make an appearance at Easter-time, this rich,  decadent, chocolate cake ticks all my Easter boxes!  IMG_1360

If you gave up chocolate for lent, I know you’re probably clawing at the wrapper on your Easter Egg in the hope that you can scrape a finger of chocolate scent to keep you going for the next few hours.  Alternatively if you want to celebrate your sacrifice with a bite of chocolate decadence I dare you to keep yourself busy over the next hour making this ridiculously easy chocolate cake that is as rich as it is dark and light as it is sinfully delicious.

IMG_1358

Easter Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

225g Plain Flour

350g Caster Sugar

85g Cocoa Powder

1&1/2 tspn Baking Powder

1&1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda

2 Large Eggs

250ml Milk

125ml Vegetable Oil

2 tspn Vanilla Extract/Paste

250ml Boiling Water

For the Chocolate Ganache:

200g good quality plain chocolate

200ml double cream

chocolate shavings

1 bag of chocolate mini-eggs

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and line two sandwich tins.

2nd:
 For the cake – prepare all the liquid ingredients, except the boiling water, in a measuring jug and mix.

3rd: Prepare all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl – sieve the cocoa as otherwise it will be lumpy.

4th: Mix the ingredients together and use the boiling water to slacken the mixture.  Mix until smooth and well combined.

5th: Divide the mixture between the 2 sandwich tins and bake for 25-35mins or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

6th: Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.

7th: Prepare the chocolate ganache by heating double cream in a saucepan and adding small pieces of the chocolate.  Turn off the heat and allow the residual heat in the pan to melt the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and glossy – set aside to use later.

8th: To assemble the cake, release the cakes from their tins and place one of the sponge cakes onto a serving plate.  Spread some of the chocolate icing over this.  Then carefully top with the other cake.

9th: Carefully create a dip in the centre of the top of the cake.  Pour the ganache over and cover all over smoothing round the sides with a palette knife.  Note: if the cake or ganache are still slightly warm it will not adhere to the side of the cake.  Optional extra is adding chocolate shavings over to create a bird’s nest before placing the mini eggs in the centre.

IMG_1358

 

Happy Easter everyone!

Gastrorob.

I walked up to my front door to find that there was a bright red present tied with white and blue ribbon waiting at its feet.  It felt as if I had just received my first valentine card…the excitement, the joy, the intrigue.  Ripping through the wrapping, I found myself faced with a metal madeleine tray with 12 scallop-shell shaped moulds staring up at me.  Now if like me, you’re a food obsessive, you’d know what to do with it – otherwise you’d be taking it down the beach to decorate your sandcastles with.

the excitement, the joy, the intrigue

But I still hadn’t figured out who left it there!

The card that accompanied the tray made everything clearer; it was a gift from my friend, Pie.  On the card were suggestions as to which madeleine recipe to follow and who to youtube should I need direction, so that I too could enjoy the delights of a fresh, warm madeleine with a cup of coffee as a weekend breakfast.

I must place this in a context for you; my friend Pie, bakes delicious madeleines (or so she tells me as she’s never managed to invite me round for Sunday breakfast!)

So what is a madeleine?


A madeleine is a French patisserie favourite.  A small, buttery sponge cake to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.  Classically they will either be lemon or almond flavoured, however, they now come in a variety of different flavours; dunked in chocolate or filled with jam/fruit/curd.  But what sets a Madeleine apart from a standard sliced tea-time sponge cake, is the scallop-shell impressed pan they are baked in.

Having taken Pie’s recommendations and done some research myself – Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe is a good one to start with:

Madeleines

Ingredients:
2 eggs

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour + extra for dusting

1 lemon

¾ tsp baking powder

100g melted butter

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Brush the Madeleine tray with melted butter, shake in a little flour to coat the shells and tap out the excess.

2nd: Prepare your dry ingredients in a bowl and the lemon zest.  Pour the lemon juice into the melted butter and set aside.

3rd: Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy.

4th: Pour in the melted butter and lemon mixture and lightly whisk in the flour.  Leave to stand for 20mins before carefully pouring the batter into your prepared madeleine tray.

5th: Bake for 8-10mins until risen in the middle and fully cooked through.  The madeleine should be golden brown around the edges.  Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Madeleines are best eaten within the hour – barely warm and sprinkled with icing sugar.

I recommend you set your timer for 8mins and then watch the madeleines like a hawk as they’ll go from pale and white to dark brown within the 2mins left!
Renowned food writers, such as David Lebovitz, who is known to “pop a few for breakfast” drizzles honey into the mix and gives his batter a generous wait time.  Rachel Khoo, from Little Paris Kitchen, drizzles in some honey and prods a raspberry into the centre of the batter mixture before baking, then piping lemon curd into the centre of the baked madeleine.  Julia Child’s recipe calls for salt, vanilla extract, 2 drops of lemon juice and 2 drops of bergamot extract as well as boiling the butter first to turn it brown – why would any home cook want to have to go through all that?!

I followed Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe adding more lemon juice than expressed.  Next time I’d like the madeleine to have a stronger lemon taste therefore adding more juice or perhaps adding some lemon curd to the batter mixture.  I prepared the batter before I went out the night before and placed in the fridge.

Make sure not to fill the moulds too much as they will spill over and engulf the madeleine next to it if you’re not too careful.


I suppose, like the old Chinese proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Pie has provided me with the tools and wisdom, so that I too can eat madeleines as often as I want.

Cue accordion music

 

IMG_1360

Easter Chocolate Cake

If you gave up chocolate for lent, I know you’re probably clawing at the wrapper on your Easter Egg in the hope that you can scrape a finger of chocolate scent to keep you going for the next few hours.  Alternatively if you want to celebrate your sacrifice with a bite of chocolate decadence I dare you to keep yourself busy over the next hour making this ridiculously easy chocolate cake that is as rich as it is dark and light as it is sinfully delicious.

Easter Chocolate CakeIMG_1357

Ingredients:
For the cake:
225g Plain Flour
350g Caster Sugar
85g Cocoa Powder
1&1/2 tspn Baking Powder
1&1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda
2 Large Eggs
250ml Milk
125ml Vegetable Oil
2 tspn Vanilla Extract/Paste
250ml Boiling Water

For the Chocolate Ganache:
200g good quality plain chocolate
200ml double cream
chocolate shavings
1 bag of chocolate mini-eggs

Method:
1st: Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease and line two sandwich tins with parchment paper.
2nd: For the cake – prepare all the liquid ingredients, except the boiling water, in a measuring jug and mix.
3rd: Prepare all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl – sieve the cocoa as otherwise it will be lumpy.
4th: Mix the ingredients together and use the boiling water to slacken the mixture.  Mix until smooth and well combined.
5th: Divide the mixture between the 2 sandwich tins and bake for 25-35mins or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6th: Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.
7th: Prepare the chocolate ganache by heating double cream in a saucepan and adding small pieces of the chocolate.  Turn off the heat and allow the residual heat in the pan to melt the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and glossy – set aside to use later.
8th: To assemble the cake, release the cakes from their tins and place one of the sponge cakes onto a serving plate.  Spread some of the chocolate icing over this.  Then carefully top with the other cake.
9th: Carefully create a dip in the centre of the top of the cake.  Pour the ganache over and cover all over smoothing round the sides with a palette knife.  Note: if the cake or ganache are still slightly warm it will not adhere to the side of the cake.  Optional extra is adding chocolate shavings over to create a bird’s nest before placing the mini eggs in the centre.

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Happy Easter everyone!
Gastrorob.

choccake1

chocolate cake

Baking soothes the soul

Unsettled, squalid weather makes for a perfect cake baking day.  And yesterday was such a day.  Whether you opt for a sandwich cake filled with something sweet and creamy or whether it’s a cake popped out of a spring form tin, baking a cake – for yourself and/or loved ones – is a pleasurable act.

They say that baking soothes the soul.  How can it not?

“The reassuring ritual of quietly weighing out butter, sugar, flour, cracking eggs, whisking, beating and folding”

The smell of a cake wafting through the house providing instant comfort and security from the world outside.  The sense of achievement that you managed to combine the ingredients and create an elemental change in them should never be underestimated.

Basic quantities are 225g of self-raising flour, sugar, butter and 4 eggs.  Baked for 20/25mins.  But feel free to create variations – e.g. for a chocolate sponge swap 2 table spoons of the flour for 2 of cocoa powder.

What filling/topping you go for is a matter of how far you allow your imagination to take you.  Sandwich style cakes can be filled with fruits and or cream as well as topped with a dusting of icing sugar, chocolate ganache, or a calorific butter frosting.  Whether it’s a childhood psychedelic marble cake or a traditional Victoria sponge cake, there is a nostalgic nursery-teatime quality to the custom of cutting cake.  And any iced-cake is ultimately a birthday cake waiting to be called into service.

choccake2

ultimate chocolate cake

As a cook, I compartmentalise chocolate into two groups.  First: normal everyday milk chocolate bars full of sugar, biscuits, dried fruits or nuts that seduce us with glittery, colourful wrappers; appealing to the inner child.  They serve as a mere sugar rush, a boost of energy to keep me going through the day.  Second: dark chocolate with its sophisticated, bittersweet, melt-in-the-mouth, 70% cocoa solids, I mainly use in cooking and baking.

“brownies, fudge cakes, hot chocolate, chocolate mousse, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate pots, chocolate sponge cake, sacher torte, black forest gateau, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fondants, chocolate truffles, chocolate torte, chocolate tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate pudding, chocolate souffle, devil’s food cupcakes, chocolate fondue, chocolate creme brulee, rocky road, chocolate-rice krispie cakes…”

Why do we like chocolate so much?  Chocolate is medically proven to stimulate the release of hormones called endorphins in our brains, generating feelings of pleasure and promoting a sense of well being.  Chocolate also appeals to the senses – primarily taste but also smell and hearing; good dark chocolate should make a ‘snapping’ sound when broken opposed to the dull ‘thud’ that milk chocolate makes.  The glossy sheen and cool feel of chocolate, melting at blood temperature, serving to seduce us further.

What can divide us is chocolate cake.  Be it a plain chocolate sponge or traditional Sacher Torte or Black Forest Gateau, no matter how much we like eating chocolate, chocolate cake does not interest everyone.  True chocoholics find chocolate cake too cakey (duh!); just not chocolatey enough.  However, everyone loves chocolate brownies with their dark, fudgy interior or chocolate fondants with their gooey oozy centres – some cooks even making chocolate truffles to put into the fondant to guarantee a river of molten chocolate as you dive into the pudding.

I claim not to have a thing for chocolate but looking back over my blogs there seem to be a lot of chocolate inspired recipes.  I’ve made chocolate pots, cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, chocolate puddini bon bons, rocky road and I even grate dark chocolate into my chilli-con-carne!  I once tweeted a celebrated food writer asking her for recipes to use up my left-over Easter eggs – she was clearly appalled by the fact that I had not scoffed the lot by Bank Holiday Monday!

“Left-over Easter eggs?!” was the only reply I got.

So here goes, another chocolate dessert recipe for the collection.  These chocolate puddings have the decadence of a
chocolate fondant but the lightness of a mousse.  They have all the makings of a serious, grown-up dessert but are so easy to knock up that you can make them mid-week with minimal fuss.  The great thing about them is that you can freeze them and cook from frozen at a later date.

chocolate pudding

Baked Chocolate Puddings
Ingredients
100g of good quality dark chocolate
100g of butter
1 tbspn liqueur (Brandy or any other liqueur that works with chocolate)
2 large eggs and 2 extra yolks
55g golden caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
30g Plain Flour

Method
1st:
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt along with the butter, add your liqueur of choice (I use Cointreau as I always seem to have a bottle in my cupboard.)  Stir until smooth and glossy.

2nd: While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, eggs, yolks and vanilla extract (I tend to use vanilla bean paste) in a mixing bowl and whisk for 6-10 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume.  I recommend using either an electric hand whisk or an electronic mixer as you’ll need some serious muscle power to whisk this by hand to get to the ribbon stage.

3rd: Mix the cooled chocolate mixture into the mousse-like egg mixture.  Sift the flour over and then mix everything using a large metal spoon.  Carefully fold everything together taking care not to beat all the air out of the mixture.

4th: Divide the mixture between your pudding basins, cover with cling film and chill or freeze them until you need them.

5th: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Remove the clingfilm and bake in the centre of the oven for 12 mins (14 if chilled first and 15 if frozen.)  Allow them to stand for 1/2mins before turning them out and serving with cream.

Chocolate pudding

 Heaven on a plate!

I was going to be away from home for a week and I needed to make sure there was nothing left in the fridge that would turn before I got back. I didn’t want to have to face the prospect of arriving from holiday to find I had a smelly fridge that needed cleaning out.

There are times when foraging in the fridge doesn’t give you major ingredients to work with. Here you’ve got to be creative and inventive needing a little something extra (herbs and spices) to help your ingredients shine like the stars they were in your shopping basket.

I want to create delicious meals that don’t taste like second best.

My fridge-foraging session turned up: summer berries, bananas, bread, eggs, cheese, milk and pepperoni. Not much to make a meal with but with a little ingenuity these items created three fantastic dishes that will make it into my regular meal choices.

Eggy Bread with Summer BerriesEggy bread breakfast with summer berries

Use any bread that needs using up, I know a brioche style slice would be the most decadent and that using croissants would be just as great but I had my slightly stale multigrain loaf with seeds that always gets a space in my weekly shopping basket.
Beat the egg with milk and a dash of vanilla bean paste. Next add your chosen slices to the mixture and leave to one side so that the mixture absorbs the eggy-milky liquid. Add butter to a hot frying pan. Turn the bread slices over and leave to soak more of the liquid on the other side. Then drain the excess liquid and add your eggy bread to the hot butter – do not be tempted to push the bread around, leave it and only turn once the bottom is golden brown. Fry on both sides until slightly souffléd and golden, drain on kitchen paper. I served mine with the summer berries I had knocking around in the fridge but would have been equally delicious with cinnamon and honey (Gibraltarian torija-style).

Pasta lunch with garlic, chillies, pepperoni and Parmesan pepperoni pasta
Cut the pepperoni and fry in olive oil. Once the pepperoni has released its paprika spice and colour add the garlic and chillies and fry for a few minutes. Add your boiled pasta of choice and toss everything together until your pasta is slicked in paprika-oil. Add fresh basil and grate Parmesan over.

Banana bread muffins

A very easy recipe that doubles easily should you need to create a larger batch.  I usually make this as a loaf which will need a greater cooking time than muffins.  NB: this makes a very liquid batter.

Ingredients

2 cups Plain Flour1 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tspn salt

1 cup Sugar

(1 ½ cups dried fruit optional)

½ cup Vegetable Oil2 Eggs

4 Ripe Bananas (over ripe bananas are ideal!)

1/3 cup Milk

1 tspn Lemon Juice

01a07142630b17b9a6727780a6678ecd8a643dbea81st: Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2nd: Mix all the ingredients together.

3rd: Bake in a well greased loaf tin (or muffin cases) at 180°C for 60-70mins for the loaf or 40mins for the muffins.

 

None of these are difficult to make nor do they need an excessive amount of ingredients to make them a meal.  I packed my suitcase whilst the banana bread muffins were in the oven so there was a warm treat waiting for me when I finished.  AND when making a cake batter you’re always going to need flour, sugar, eggs and either butter or oil and any other additions; chocolate, fruit, a filling/cream/ butter icing, the list can go on – so as far as a tea cake goes these were quite simple to put together.

From now on, before I go on my weekly shop let alone on holiday, I’ll be checking to see what I can put together from the ingredients left in my fridge as I often throw out ingredients that just need a little imagination or reinvention to become a delicious snack, treat or meal.

cheesecake1

Ingredients:250g gingernut biscuits170g butter

 

200ml double cream

 

400g full fat cream cheese

 

8 pieces of stem ginger

 

6 tbsp ginger syrup

 

Fruit of  your choice

 

Method:1st: Melt the butter and set aside to cool.2nd: Crush the gingernut biscuits as you wish (food processor or rolling pin).  Mix the melted butter and the gingernut rubble together and add a good drizzle of ginger syrup too.  Mix well and press the mixture into a spring form tin.  Chill for approx 1hr.

 

3rd: Whip the double cream and incorporate into the 400g of cream cheese.

 

4th: Chop up the pieces of stem ginger and mix into the creamy, cheesy mixture along with more ginger syrup.  Pour over the biscuit base and chill until firm.

 

5th: I chose to top my cheesecake with pears poached in their own syrup, with a trickle of ginger syrup and star anise.

 

 

cheesecake 2I have seen this recipe done before with stem ginger and syrup on top but I do feel that that would make this teeth-achingly-sweet. I would recommend that you choose some form of seasonal fruit to go on top of the cheesecake.  I chose pears as their flavour would complement the gingernut base and they retain some of their shape when gently poached. The River Cottage makes one with poached rhubarb but not everyone is a fan.  Poached plums would make this a great autumnal dessert.

Great for afternoon tea but could just as easily be a delicious dinner party dessert, served in individual ramekins or prepared in metal rings ready for plating up.  A super easy cheesecake to make and even easier to eat!  I can’t wait to have to make it again.

Give it a go and let me know what fruit choices worked for you.

Gastrorob