chocolate

Tahini & Pistachio Brownies

First off, apologies for the brief recipe hiatus. I’ve recently moved house and have been trying to figure out the perfect temperature to bake with in my new (incredibly retro) gas oven. And no, it’s not been as simple as converting degrees to gas marks- this oven has its own special way of working (i.e. it’s lukewarm for the majority of settings until the last when it turns into Mordor and burns everything in sight). Anyway I think I’ve cracked it now, so here’s my first recipe a la 1980s oven; tahini and pistachio brownies. They’re really simple to make but deliver everything you’d expect from a really good brownie- a dense, moist texture with added crunch from the pistachios and a deep indulgent chocolate flavour, which is definitely enhanced by the slightly salty, nutty pockets of tahini and halva.

Ingredients

  • 250g good quality dark chocolate
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • generous pinch sea salt
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 75g chopped pistachios
  • 100g halva, crumbled
  • 100g tahini, well stirred

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
  2. Place the dark chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate will burn). Melt gently, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
  3. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the golden caster sugar and eggs until pale and voluminous (about 3-5 minutes). Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the sea salt and flour. Add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks and most of the pistachios (reserve a few for sprinkling on the top) then stir.
  4. Tip half the brownie mix into the prepared tin then dollop over half the tahini and sprinkle on half the halva. Top with the rest of the brownie mix and repeat, then finish with the reserved pistachios.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is almost set but retains a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Once cooled, slice up and serve.

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Dark Chocolate and Salted Tahini Cookies

Tahini, a thick sesame paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, is my go to ingredient for when I want to  add a deep, nutty and slightly bitter flavour to a dish. I don’t usually think of incorporating tahini into my baking (for some unknown reason), and more often than not I’ll just pop it into baba ganoush, add it into a yoghurt dressing or drizzle it neat over slow cooked lamb and roasted roots to balance out a sweet date syrup glaze. This being said, yesterday I fancied making some cookies (someone put a stop to my wild and spontaneous lifestyle please…) and decided to bring tahini into the mix alongside sea salt and rich dark chocolate- the major players in my cookie game. The resulting cookies are absolutely delicious with a good balance of sweet, savoury, nutty and salty flavours; one hundred percent give the recipe a go, it’s a real winner.

Ingredients

  • 115g tahini
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp sea salt
  • 300g plain flour
  • 300g coarsely chopped dark chocolate, plus 50g extra for decoration (optional)
  • 2tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the butter, tahini and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mix curdles or you’re worried about curdling, add 2tbsp of the flour with each egg.
  3. Once the eggs are well incorporated add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour then mix to combine. Finally, add in the coarsely chopped chocolate and very briefly mix once more just to distribute through the dough.
  4. Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then line even balls onto the prepared trays leaving room for spreading (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are turning a light golden colour but the middles are still very soft (they will firm up during cooling).
  5. To finish the cookies melt the additional dark chocolate and drizzle over the tops, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

Coffee, Chocolate and Cardamom Cake

Moist coffee and hazelnut sponge, rich cardamom-spiked ganache and smooth espresso buttercream make up this delicious twist on an old favourite; I love the classic combination of coffee and chocolate (painfully predictable- I am addicted to both caffeine and cacao) but the cardamom adds a welcome aroma of spice which makes this cake an altogether more decadent one than your standard coffee and walnut. Enjoy on an Autumnal evening for a proper grown-up treat.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 350g softened butter
  • 250g soft light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 350g self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 12 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
  • 4tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 100g chopped hazelnuts

For the cardamom ganache:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 250ml double cream
  • 8 cardamom pods, cracked open

For the coffee buttercream:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 3tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water
  • 2-3tbsp milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. For the coffee hazelnut sponge, place the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until pale and thick. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to ensure the ingredients are well combined (add about 1tbsp of the flour with each egg if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Next fold in the flour, salt and ground cardamom with a large metal spoon then finally stir in the coffee, milk and hazelnuts.
  4. Split the cake batter between the prepared tins and level off. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  5. While the cakes are baking make the chocolate cardamom ganache. Place the cream and cracked cardamom pods in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then switch off and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up the chocolate and tip into a jug. Once the cream and cardamom has infused place back on the heat, bring to the boil then pour it over the chocolate through a sieve (to catch the cardamom pods). Let the cream melt the chocolate for a couple of minutes then stir to create a smooth ganache. Set aside for later.
  6. Now make the buttercream. To do this just cream together the butter and icing sugar with either electric beaters or a stand mixer with paddle attachment until very light and pale (about 10 minutes). Now add the milk and coffee and beat again to combine.
  7. Once the cakes are baked leave to cool completely in the tins, then turn out and slice each in half horizontally (leaving you with four layers).
  8. To assemble the cake stack up the layers sandwiched with chocolate cardamom ganache. Cover the whole cake in the coffee buttercream and decorate with piped buttercream peaks and a dusting of espresso powder.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Honeycomb Celebration Cake

Whenever I bake a chocolate cake (the layered kind, not the flourless, fudgy sort) I’m looking for a sponge which actually tastes of chocolate, is really moist without being overly dense and isn’t too sickly sweet. I’m always tweaking my go to chocolate cake with these characteristics in mind and think I’ve pretty much cracked it with this recipe. I’ve teamed the light chocolate layers with honeycomb toppers, salted toffee cream filling and a rich ganache coating here, but you could definitely fill it with chocolate buttercream if you want a pure chocolate fest.

Note: this cake is so extra and is definitely one for a special occasion- you could half the recipe and just coat with ganache if you’re after something indulgent but a little more modest

Ingredients (makes a tall 8 inch celebration cake- feeds 12-14 people)

For the cake:

  • 375g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 325ml milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 325ml just boiled water
  • 2tsp instant coffee granules

For the toffee cream filling:

  • 325g soft light brown sugar
  • 225ml double cream
  • 175g butter
  • pinch sea salt

For the ganache:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

For the honeycomb (this makes more than enough- I use about half and store the rest in a jar for my many weak snacking moments):

  • 60g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c (325F / gas mark 3). Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave in short stints, stirring often). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
  4. Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
  5. Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 45-55 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.

  1. While your cakes are cooking and cooling you can get on with the filling, ganache and honeycomb toppers.
  2. For the filling, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a smooth caramel coloured cream. Set aside, add the salt (to taste) and cool completely. Once your cream has cooled take the butter and whisk (in a stand mixer or with electric beaters) until it reaches a light, whipped consistency then gradually add your cream mixture. Keep whisking this until it has thickened and is spreadable. Set aside for later.
  3. For the ganache chop up the chocolate and scrape into a heatproof bowl or jug, then heat the cream until it just reaches boiling point and pour directly on top. Leave for a couple on minutes then stir to make sure the chocolate has melted into the cream leaving you with a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool and thicken.
  4. For the honeycomb line a baking tray with some lightly oiled baking paper then place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. Gently heat until all the ingredients start melting together then stir to combine. Turn up the heat and leave to bubble until it reaches a deep golden colour then add the bicarbonate of soda and briefly mix to make sure it’s evenly distributed- it should now start bubbling up and becoming lacy in appearance. At this point pour it quickly onto the lined baking tray and leave to set hard.
  5. Once you’ve made all your elements and they’ve cooled to room temperature you’re ready to assemble the cake. To do this slice any uneven tops off your sponges then slice in half horizontally, leaving you with four layers.
  6. Sandwich the layers on top of one another, filling with the toffee cream as you go. Once stacked, spread any remaining toffee cream all over the cake and then chill for 10 minutes (this setting time makes it easier to cover the cake neatly in ganache).
  7. After chilling the cake spread the ganache all over its surface. I used a palette knife to create a line pattern on my cake to tie in with the honeycomb theme but you could make it super sleek and smooth or go for a really rustic look- it’s up to you. To finish it off break up the honeycomb and use as decorations; I also made some toppers by setting melted chocolate over bubble wrap, but it really isn’t necessary!

I hope you all enjoy this recipe- my family and friends went absolutely mad for it so it’s definitely worth the effort if you’re up for a little bit of a baking project!

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownies

These fudgy brownies incite frenzied eating in my house; they barely saw the light of day when I made them last and half my family were out… It’s hardly surprising they are so addictive though- white chocolate matches brilliantly with fresh cherry compote (particularly when accompanied by a very generous glug of slightly unseasonal brandy).

Ingredients:

For the compote:

  • 300g cherries (stones removed)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp water
  • large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)

For the brownies:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 200g white chocolate chunks

Method:

  1. Start by making the compote. Roughly chop the cherries. Place in a pan along with the sugar, water and brandy. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the cherries become soft and the syrupy liquid starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Once the consistency is somewhat jam-like, taste and add more brandy if you like (you can leave out the brandy entirely if it’s not your jam- ha.). Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
  3. Place the butter and dark chocolate in a  heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl). Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted together.
  4. Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and fold in followed by the flour and 2/3 of the white chocolate chunks. Tip into the lined baking tin and level out.
  6. Dollop the compote all over the surface of the brownie and finish by sprinkling on the remaining white chocolate. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is set but the inside is moist and a little gooey.
  7. Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 large cookies)

  • 225g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (or 8-10 cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
  3. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
  4. Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

One For the Kids: Easter Tiffin Nests

I’m sure lots of you could make these little treats with your eyes closed, but that’s not to say the end result isn’t absolutely delicious and for me, very nostalgic. Calling for only a few ingredients and with barely any skill required, these are the perfect thing to make with children over Easter- they (and you, be real) will love mixing together the melted chocolate with their favourite biscuits, and who doesn’t get worked up into a frenzy over mini eggs?!

Ingredients (makes 12):

For the tiffin base: 200g dark chocolate, 100g butter, 1tbsp golden syrup, pinch salt, 200g your favourite crushed biscuits (I used ginger snaps)

For the nest topping: 200g crumbled up shredded wheat, 150g milk chocolate (melted), mini eggs

Method:

  1. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. Place the dark chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted then remove from the heat and add the biscuits and salt. Stir to coat then distribute the mix between the cupcake cases. Smooth down and chill for half an hour.
  2. While the tiffin bases are firming up, stir together the melted milk chocolate and crumbled shredded wheat until it resembles little twigs.
  3. Take the chilled bases and top with a spoonful of the chocolate coated shredded wheat. Make a little dip in the centre and press in three mini eggs.
  4. Chill the complete nests for a further half an hour then remove the cupcake cases and serve!

Enjoy!