chocolate

Spiced Pistachio and Sour Cherry Brownies

No matter how many elaborate desserts or multi-step bakes I make, I will always have time for the humble brownie; there is something deeply satisfying about that fudgy melt-in-the-mouth core and crackly top, plus they are incredibly versatile- throw anything in (within reason) and you can guarantee a delicious result. These festive brownies are studded with orange-soaked sour cherries, pistachios and milk chocolate chunks, and hum with cardamom, cinnamon and mixed spice.

Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 100g roughly chopped sour cherries
  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 100g 80% dark chocolate
  • 150g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • 1tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g roughly chopped pistachios
  • 150g roughly chopped milk chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Soak the sour cherries in the orange juice and set aside until required.
  2. Put the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Leave to melt, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
  3. Meanwhile beat together the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or a large bowl) until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size). This stage is well worth the effort- it will give you that classic cracked top.
  4. Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon. Add the flour, salt and spices and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the pistachios, chocolate chunks and cherries (strain away the orange juice) and stir through to evenly distribute.
  5. Tip the mix into the prepared tin and level off then bake for 25-30 minutes. When it’s ready, the brownie will have a flaky crisp top but will still be gooey and moist on the inside. Set aside to cool in the tin then remove, slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

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Miso Caramel Chocolate Fondants with Salted Cashew Crunch

A classic, but better; think filthy dark chocolate fondant with an oozing liquid centre, then throw in the addition of pooling, hot, slightly-savoury miso caramel sauce and a salted, nutty crunch topping. Need I say more?

Ingredients (these quantities yielded 6 large fondants but would make 8 smaller ones)

For the miso caramel

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 50ml double cream
  • 2tbsp white miso
  • pinch salt

For the chocolate fondant base

  • 180g butter, plus a little more for greasing
  • A little cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 275g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g plain flour

For the salted cashew crunch

  • 75g cashews, toasted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds

Method

  1. Before you make the chocolate mix, make the miso caramel. To do this place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved, then increase the heat and boil until it reaches a deep golden colour. At this stage, add the double cream and stir for another minute before taking the saucepan off the heat and adding the miso paste and salt. Stir until smooth, taste and adjust the level of salt then pour into a heatproof tub and chill until firm.
  2. For the salted cashew crunch place the sugar in a pan and melt, then allow it to turn golden brown and add the cashews, sesame seeds and salt. Stir to coat the cashews with the caramel then tip onto a piece of greaseproof paper and leave to set hard, then roughly chop into a coarse crumb.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease the insides of the fondant moulds with the extra butter, then dust with cocoa, shaking to coat. Tip out any excess then place all the moulds on a baking tray, ready to be filled.
  4. For the chocolate mix, place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth then set aside to cool a little. Whisk in the sugar (using a good old fashioned hand whisk will do) then the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and once you’ve got a smooth mix split half of it between the moulds. Now create a little indent in the middle of the chocolate in each mould and scrape in a heaped tablespoon of your caramel. Top up with the remaining chocolate mix until each mould is filled to about 2cm below the rim.
  5. Bake the fondants for 17-22 minutes or until they are set on top and around the sides but still have a slight wobble in the middle (this time will vary from oven to oven and mould to mould so keep an eye on them- bare in mind my moulds have a 2inch wide base/3 inch wide rim/are 2 inches in height, and the fondants took 22 minutes in my old school oven!).
  6. Once the fondants are ready, leave to sit for a minute or two then run a knife around the edge of each mould. Carefully turn the fondants out onto serving plates and sprinkle with some salted cashew crunch. Serve with vanilla ice cream for added indulgence.

 

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies (Vegan/Gluten Free)

I’ve tried a lot of vegan brownies which are dry, crumbly or ‘raw’. Sure, there’s a time and a place for healthy alternatives and we can’t just slob around eating sugar-laden baked goods all day, but if I want a brownie and I’m vegan (I’m not I’m just being really selfless…) I want the real thing, not a load of dates and coconut oil. With this not-very-2018 thought in mind, I’ve been attempting to put together a recipe for a completely vegan and gluten free brownie which rivals a conventional dairy/egg based one. The recipe I’ve devised delivers a fudgy core and crisp top, rich flavour and all round delicious result- give it a try, it’s a good place to start with vegan baking.

Ingredients (makes 16 small brownies, or 9 big ones!)

  • 125g smooth peanut butter, plus 50g more for the core and topping
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 275g dark chocolate (I used half 60% and half 80%), plus 75g roughly chopped for chocolate chips
  • large pinch salt
  • 100ml aquafaba (the starchy water you get in a can of chickpeas- you will get about 100ml from one can)
  • 1tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 1tbsp water (this replicates an egg yolk very well!)
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
  • few chopped peanuts, for topping (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20x20cm square brownie tin.
  2. Mix together the flaxseed and water at this stage to give it time to thicken an form an egg-yolk consistency. Put the oil, peanut butter and 275g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the aquafaba in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until soft peaks just form. At this stage add in the flax mixture, sugars and salt (it’s amazing how much this looks like eggs whisked together with sugar!). Whisk again until the sugars are well incorporated then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, followed by the flour. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared tin then dot over half of the extra peanut butter and some of the chopped chocolate. Top with the remaining batter and repeat the peanut butter/chocolate stage, then finish with the peanuts (if using).
  4. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp on top but very slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil and Espresso Torte

No intricate decorations, fillings or tiers here, just one humble layer of ludicrously fudgy, crinkly chocolate joy (which is, entirely by chance, dairy and gluten free). For a real depth of flavour and the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, take note of my chocolate recommendations and use a good quality olive oil (this recipe idea actually stemmed from a yearning to bake with a deliciously floral, wincingly expensive extra virgin oil I picked up in Greece last month*).

* Disclaimer: don’t judge, I was in that holiday headspace where you flash your card with the sort of cavalier attitude usually reserved for Monopoly money… sufficed to say, I could do with passing GO right now

Ingredients

  • 200g 60% dark chocolate
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100g 80% dark chocolate
  • 200ml good quality olive oil
  • 275g light brown soft sugar
  • 75ml strong espresso
  • 5 eggs
  • Generous pinch sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin.
  2. Roughly chop all the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl along with the olive oil. Put the sugar and coffee in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (avoid bringing it to the boil at this stage).
  3. Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir everything (chocolate, olive oil, sugar, espresso) together to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then stir in the egg yolks.
  4. Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches using a large metal spoon, then scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin (make sure you don’t scrape from a height or you’ll knock out some of that air you’ve just put into the whites!).
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin. When cooling, the top of the cake will dip and crack- don’t worry, it’s a smooth, flourless torte, not a sponge cake! Once cool, slice up and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve with creme fraiche, if you like.

 

Spiced Fig, Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Tart

This is a proper grown up spin on the classic Bakewell tart, with chocolate pastry encasing an earthy pistachio frangipane and sweet spiced fig filling. Served up warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with creme fraiche, it would make for the perfect way to round off a late summer lunch or dinner party.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

For the chocolate pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp icing sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 140g cubed butter, cold
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 2tbsp cold milk

For the spiced fig compote

  • 300g figs
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 6-8 cracked cardamom pods
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • zest and juice 1 orange

For the pistachio frangipane

  • 150g soft unsalted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g ground pistachios (I just blitz pistachios up in a food processor for this)
  • 25g plain flour

To finish 

  • a couple of extra figs
  • a few pistachios, chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start off by making the pastry. To do this place the flour, cocoa, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and milk and pulse again until the mix starts to come together and form large lumps. Tip this onto a work surface and shape into a disc, about 1.5 inches thick (handling as little as possible). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease a deep tart tin with butter. Once the pastry has chilled and firmed up a little, lightly flour your work surface and roll it out to about 3mm thick. Roll up around a rolling pin then unravel over the prepared tin. Push the pastry down into the tin, using a spare piece to get it right into the corners and grooves (avoid stretching the pastry as this can lead to shrinkage when baking). Once well lined, trim any overhanging excess and return to the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
  3. Now take a piece of greaseproof paper, screw it in a ball and unwrap. Push it down into the pastry case and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sides are set. Once you reach this stage remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and sandy to the touch.
  4. Make the compote next. To do this just slice the figs into small pieces and place in a pan along with the honey, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, orange juice and zest. Cook gently until it forms a sticky jam-like consistency then set aside to cool (you may have to add a little water during this process if the figs get a little dry before softening completely).
  5. By this point your pastry case will be ready, so set aside to cool a little and reduce the oven temperature to 160c. For the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once all the eggs are well incorporated, mix in the pistachios and flour to form a smooth mixture.
  6. Spoon the fig compote/jam into the base of the tart case and spread out. Spoon the frangipane on top and level off, then add a few extra fig slices in a pattern of your choice. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the frangipane is set and golden. Set aside to cool (if serving cold).
  7. To finish the tart, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle all over the top. Sprinkle with extra pistachios and serve with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

Salted Hazelnut Praline and Black Forest Fruit Brownies

It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.

Ingredients

For the hazelnut praline

  • 150g blanched hazelnuts
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the black forest fruit filling

  • 400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 4tbsp kirsch (optional)

For the brownie batter

  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
  2. To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
  3. The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
  4. Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
  5. While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size).
  6. Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
  7. Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  9. When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Cherry, Chocolate and Tahini Parfait with Sesame Crumble

We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.

Ingredients

For the chocolate ripple

  • 150g bitter dark chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt

For the cherry compote

  • 200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
  • 3tbsp honey or caster sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

For the parfait base

  • 4 eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 150g tahini

For the tahini crumble

  • 25g tahini
  • 25g demerara sugar
  • 25g butter, cubed
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1tbsp black sesame seeds

Method

  1. Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
  2. Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  3. Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
  4. Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
  5. Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
  6. Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  7. While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
  8. Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.

Enjoy!