Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ 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.

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Happy Easter everyone!

Gastrorob.

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Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is there not to like?  Butter, sugar, chocolate chips… yum!  But everyone likes their chocolate chip cookie to be different.  Some of us prefer a crisp cookie; others prefer a squidgy, fudgy, almost butterscotch, straight out of the oven chocolate chip cookie.  And then there are those who prefer their chocolate chip cookie to be somewhere in-between: fudgy and chewy in the centre but crisp around the edge.

Then there is the matter of whether it’s chocolate chips, chocolate pieces, or chocolate chunks.

Some of us don’t even get as far as needing to put the cookie dough in the oven!

Snack or Dessert?

Chocolate chip cookies are a go-to favourite dessert, Nigella taking it to another level with chocolate chip cookie dough pots that you bake in the oven!  Cookies make a great sweet snack or after school treat but no matter what your favourite chocolate chip recipe is, why is it that chocolate chip cookies are so appealing?

The imagery surrounding the Chocolate Chip Cookie is always about a caring and loving home.  In films we always see little Johnny’s bedtime routine involves a cookie and glass of milk; or should little Johnny be sick in bed, Mom would nurse him back to health with the miracle cure that was the Chocolate Chip Cookie!  Sesame Street encouraged us to believe that the chocolate chip cookie, courtesy of the Cookie Monster, “Me want cookie.  Nom, nom, nom!” was fun and enjoyable (and generally how I feel when faced with a tray of freshly baked cookies!)

The quintessential American panacea spreading joy and happiness throughout the world!

Please believe me, cynic I am not.  I love a good cookie.  I prefer mine to be fudgy and chewy in the centre with the occasional molten chocolate nugget poking through its cracked carapace but let’s be honest; when faced with a cookie, any cookie, they are all going to be devoured as soon as they come out of the oven.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is my ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe:

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

315g Plain Flour
½ tspn Baking Soda
225g Butter
113g Granulated Sugar
170g Soft Brown Sugar
1 tspn Salt
2 tspn Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
350g Choc Chips

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 175˚C.

2nd: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3rd: Combine the butter and sugar together in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

4th: Add the eggs (1 at a time and combine) and the vanilla extract.

5th: Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

6th: Stir in the chocolate chips.

7th: Drop heaped tablespoon-sized balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10mins or until golden brown around the edges.  Allow to cool.

To create either a soft and chewy or thin and crispy bespoke Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, you’ll need to tinker with the ratios of sugar and butter to get the texture you want.   For a thin and crispy cookie you need to increase the amount of butter and granulated sugar, reducing the amount of brown sugar.  For a cakey cookie you need to reduce the overall sugar and butter quantity.  Another important factor is the use of either baking powder or baking soda– powder puffs; soda spreads – and I want my cookies to spread in the oven.

Cookies that keep on giving

If like me you just fancy a couple of cookies with a cup of tea, note: the dough freezes very well.  I made up the recipe as above and only baked 6 cookies.  I turned the remaining dough out onto a floured surface and rolled it into a sausage shape.  I covered this in greaseproof paper and wrapped in plastic wrap and chucked it in the freezer.

Now every time I want some freshly baked cookies I just slice into the frozen choc chip sausage and bake.  Cook for the same time.

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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.

IMG_1358.JPG

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!

Easter-bannerHaving just come out of the Easter Long-Weekend, what everyone is in agreement with is, that no matter what,

Easter is all about CHOCOLATE!

Even more so than Christmas, in particular, the now traditional chocolate eggs.  But where did this tradition come from?

There are two ideas here that intertwine to the point where we gift eachother chocolate eggs.  The first is the idea that eggs are seen as a sign of fertility and new life – hence why a lot of Easter dishes are enriched with egg: hot cross buns, bollo hornazo, torta de acelgas, etc.  Christians refer to this period as Easter, however, various pagans previously prayed to their respective Goddess of Sex and Fertility: Eostre (Anglo-Saxon), Ishtar (Babylonian), Ashtaroth (Ancient Hebrew), Astarte (Ancient Greek) before the rise of Christianity.

Hence, the egg became a symbol of new birth.

Secondly, the 40 days of Lent were originally fasting days where you were not allowed to eat dairy products.  Lent was meant to be an austere time.  On Shrove Tuesday, you had gorged on pancakes full of egg, milk and sugar, confessed your sins and cleaned out your larder – you were now officially shriven.  But chickens carried on laying eggs through lent!  So how could these be saved?  These eggs were boiled, thus prolonging their shelf-life and eaten at the end of Lent.  Eventually the tradition of giving eggs as gifts arose: starting with these boiled eggs which evolved into decorated boiled eggs, to jewel encrusted Imperial Fabergé eggs made especially for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife!  In due course, chocolatiers made chocolate versions of these Fabergé eggs with sweet treats hidden inside which the masses could afford.  Where does the Easter Bunny fit in?!?

But whether you fasted for 40 days, or were praying to your Goddess of Fertility, Easter Sunday was and is all about chocolate!  And even though cracking open those chocolate eggs lined above your cupboard was a great breakfast and you are probably still recovering from that chocolate hangover, here is a chocolate recipe to indulge in at anytime!

taken from http://www.taste.com.au

Toblerone Cheesecake
Ingredients
125g double chocolate digestive biscuits

80g melted butter

30g ground almonds

500g cream cheese

100g caster sugar

120ml double cream

400g toblerone chocolate

Method
1st:
Melt the butter and allow to cool.  In a food processor blitz the biscuits and add the ground almonds.  Pour over the cooled butter, mix well and line the bottom of a spring form baking tin with this mixture.  Press this down with a glass jar / tumbler to reach the edges.  Chill in the fridge for 30mins.

2nd: Melt 200g of toblerone chocolate and allow to cool slightly.

3rd: In the food processor blend the cream cheese, caster sugar and double cream.  Pour in the cooled, melted chocolate and blend until everything is incorporated thoroughly.  Pour over the biscuit base and chill overnight or for 4 hours.

4th: (optional extra) crush 100g of toblerone chocolate and mix this into the cheesecake mixture.

 

5th: Crush the remaining toblerone and pour over the top of the cheesecake before serving.

 Go on, indulge me.

photo taken from http://www.taste.com.au