cooking

Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Macaroons

I’m no macaroon master. I’ve never really committed much time to perfecting the art and will fully admit I’ve had a few disasters which have put me off practicing (not the best attitude). That said, I’ve recently been playing around with the classic patisserie staple and have become a lot more comfortable with the making process. This spiced chocolate variety is my favourite experiment to date and although they’re not entirely perfect to look at, the shells are both crisp and chewy, the fillings are well balanced and, most importantly, each mouthful is deliciously moreish.

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 15g cocoa
  • 160g egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 1 punnet fresh raspberries

For decoration (optional):

  • some additional dark chocolate, melted
  • edible gold paint

Method (makes about 30 macarons):

  1. Before I begin- you will need a sugar thermometer, an electric whisk or stand mixer, a food processor or blender, some greaseproof paper with 4cm circles traced on to use as a piping guide (see here) and piping bags.
  2. The first thing to do is weigh out your ingredients accurately (this is something I don’t often do but for this recipe, its a necessity!) and line up to 4 baking trays with your greaseproof paper templates.
  3. Now, place your ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and blitz until very fine (about 30 seconds- 1 minute). Pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the chunky bits.
  4. Next, pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until the temperature reads 115c on your sugar thermometer.
  5. While your sugar syrup is heating up, stir half of the egg whites (80g) in with the ground almond mixture to create a thick paste. Place the other half (remaining 80g) in a clean bowl (or bowl of  a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks.
  6. Take your sugar syrup (which should now be at 115c) and, while whisking on a high speed, pour it into your stiff egg whites in a slow stream. Your egg whites will become smooth and glossy (as you would expect from meringue). Now continue whisking for about 5 minutes until the bowl has cooled down to room temperature.
  7. Take 1/3 of this cooled meringue and stir it into the almond paste to loosen the consistency. Once well mixed add the remaining meringue and fold, very gently, until you have a mixture which is thick enough to be piped without running but not so thick that the meringue isn’t fully incorporated.
  8. Pile the mixture into a piping bag and snip the end off (about 1cm diameter). Take your macaroon template and pipe vertically (not at an angle) into each circle. Be sure to leave a tiny bit of space for spreading. I find that working quickly is best for consistency as you develop a bit of a rhythm.
  9. Once you’ve piped all your circles lift the trays a few inches off the work surface and drop them down a few times- this eliminates air bubbles. Now leave them for an hour to form a bit of a skin before baking. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan).

  1. While your macaroons are forming a skin, make the chocolate cardamom ganache. To do this, put the cream in a saucepan, crack the cardamom pods and add to the pan then very gently heat. Bring to the boil then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Chop the chocolate finely and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Once infused, strain the cream into another saucepan and bring to scalding point (just before boiling) then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Set aside until cool and thickened.
  3. Now your macaroons will be ready to bake; they will take around 18-22 minutes but check after 15. You’re looking for a crisp top and chewy middle, and they should peel off the greaseproof when ready.
  4. Cool the macaroon shells on a wire rack when they’re baked.
  5. To assemble the macaroons, pipe the thickened ganache in a ring around one shell and place a raspberry in the middle, then sandwich with another shell. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, edible gold paint and freeze dried raspberries.

Enjoy!

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Gooseberry and Elderflower Layer Cake

Layers of zesty elderflower sponge sandwiched together with tart gooseberry compote and lightly whipped elderflower cream make up this delicious nod to the British countryside. Bake it for a special mid-summer occasion or round off a Sunday lunch with a generous slice.

Ingredients:

  • 275g soft butter
  • 275g caster sugar
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 5 eggs
  • 275g self raising flour
  • 3-4tbsp elderflower cordial

For the gooseberry compote:

  • 500g fresh (or frozen and defrosted) gooseberries
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50ml water

For the elderflower cream:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 4-5tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1-2tbsp icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar and zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. Now tip in the elderflower cordial and briefly mix once more to distribute it evenly through the batter.
  4. Sift over the flour and fold in with a large metal spoon. Split the mixture between the two prepared tins and level out. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
    While the cakes are baking, make the gooseberry compote. Put the gooseberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruits are soft and a loose compote has formed (10-15 minutes).
  5. When the cakes are ready, leave to cool completely in the tins. While they cool, make the elderflower cream. To do this simply whisk together the cream, cordial and sugar until soft peaks form.
  6. Once all your elements are cool, assemble the cake. Spread a generous layer of compote and several dollops of elderflower cream between each sponge, then finish with a few sprigs of elderflower for a simple, effortless summer pudding.

Enjoy!

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!

Chocolate Raisin Brownies

I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate covered raisins recently (health god) and yesterday I had a brain wave (daydream) about throwing them into brownies alongside chocolate chips. I cooked a batch up today and they might just be my favourite variety ever; moist middle, crispy shell-like top, pockets of chewy chocolatey fruit and chunks of white chocolate- a definite winner. Try my recipe out and join the party.

Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 275 caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • large pinch salt
  • 125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g chocolate covered raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt until pale and thick.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and fold in then do the same with the white chocolate chunks and chocolate covered raisins.
  4. Tip the brownie batter into a baking tin and level out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crisp on top and fudgy in the centre.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin then slice into squares and enjoy!

Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet (No Churn)

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Bucks, and the sunny weather has inspired me to make something zesty, refreshing and seasonal. This brilliant pink sorbet really hits the spot after a three course dinner or makes for a great component in a larger dessert. I’d advise preparing it a day or two ahead as it does require blitzing a couple of times (but no ice cream maker needed- result!).

Ingredients:

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
  • zest and juice 3 limes
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb pieces and poach for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
  2. Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
  3. Increase the heat on the rhubarb sugar syrup and boil until it reaches ‘thread’ stage. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds; you can check it’s ready in two ways. Firstly, you could use a sugar thermometer and make sure it reads between 223 degrees and 235 degrees. Secondly, if you don’t have a thermometer just add cold water to a bowl and drop some of the syrup in- if it forms a thin thread in the water, it’s ready (I use this method).
  4. Once you’ve reached thread stage take the syrup off the heat and cool a little, then add half to the rhubarb and lime ( too much will make the sorbet too sweet!). Blitz to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve, then add the lime zest. Pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally to help break up ice crystals.
  5. After the sorbet has frozen, break it up and return to the blender. Add the egg white (if you can’t eat these or are making this for vulnerable people, just skip this) to lighten the texture and blitz again until smooth.
  6. Freeze again and use as required.

Fudgy Chocolate & Beetroot Cake (Gluten Free)

This dense, fudgy cake topped with a generous sweep of thick milk chocolate ganache is best enjoyed on the sofa with a good film, strong coffee and warm blanket (I’m fantasising about this right now as the fluke sunny day we enjoyed last week is a distant memory and it’s currently blowing a gale). Don’t be put off by the beetroot- the earthy flavour mellows through baking and brings moisture and richness to the cake.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 325g dark chocolate (melted)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 275g grated raw beetroot
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • pinch salt

For the ganache:

  • 250g milk chocolate
  • 150ml double cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Place the melted dark chocolate, egg yolks, grated beetroot, caster sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir together until combined.
  3. Put the egg whites in another bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk, together with the salt, until they have formed stiff (but not dry) peaks. Add a large spoonful of the whites into the beetroot mixture and stir in to loosen.
  4. Add the remaining whites and carefully fold with a large metal spoon, ensuring you keep as much of the air in as possible. Once the mix is combined, carefully tip into the prepared cake tin (not from a height or you will lose some of the air you’ve worked in!).
  5. Level out the mixture then bake for 45-55 minutes, until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  6. Set the cake aside and make the ganache. To do this simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly onto the chocolate. Leave to melt for a couple of minutes then stir together until smooth and glossy. Leave to cool.
  7. Once everything is cool, cover the cake in the ganache and decorate as desired. I used some purple violas, handmade beetroot crisps, herbs and chocolate shards.

Enjoy!

Snickers Celebration Cake

Alternating layers of brown sugar cake and chocolate sponge sandwiched with peanut buttercream, chopped peanuts, salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache make up this look-at-me celebration cake (and ode to the Snickers bar)… A bit of a project? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!

snickers1

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge:

  • 50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
  • 250g soft butter
  • 250g soft light brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 225ml milk

For the brown sugar sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 165g dark brown soft sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 20g melted butter
  • 60ml boiling water

snickers2

For the peanut buttercream:

  • 150g smooth peanut butter
  • 100g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 5tbsp milk

For the ganache:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

For the salted caramel:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • pinch salt (to taste)
  • 75ml double cream

For decoration (optional):

  • chopped peanuts
  • chocolate shards
  • chopped Snickers bars
  • thin ganache to create drips
  • excess caramel

snickers3

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
  2. To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
  5. Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Distribute this batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
  6. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
  8. To make this sponge place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) then whisk until light and voluminous (about 10 minutes). Sift in the flour and fold, then add the melted butter and boiling water to the side of the bowl. Fold very gently to retain the air then distribute between the tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
  9. When the brown sugar sponges are cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. You should now have four cake layers (two chocolate and two brown sugar) and are ready to make the fillings.

snickers-4

  1. Start off by making the caramel. Just place the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar (do not boil or stir, just be patient!). After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and boil for a few minutes; once the syrup reaches a deep amber colour remove from the heat and whisk in the cream (be careful as it will spit a little). Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the salt.
  2. For the ganache simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a jug or bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour all over, allowing the chocolate to slowly melt. After a couple of minutes, stir the mixture to achieve a lovely smooth, glossy consistency. Set aside.
  3. Finally, for the peanut buttercream beat the peanut butter and butter together with electric beaters (or a stand mixer). Once well combined continue whisking while you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar increase the speed and add the milk; whisk until very light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. To assemble the cakes stack a chocolate layer with ganache and salted caramel, followed by a brown sugar layer. Repeat this process then cover the entire cake with peanut butter icing. You can be as neat as you like! Decorate with peanuts, Snickers pieces and chocolate shards (more is more in this case!).

Enjoy!