Rhubarb & Caramelised White Chocolate Choux Nuts

Pastry

Crisp choux pastry, sharp roast rhubarb with a hint of vanilla, and butterscotch-sweet caramelised white chocolate cream; a delicious combination you’ve got to try, and a great way to celebrate seasonal British produce (and millennial pink… *sigh*).

Ingredients (makes 10-12)

For the choux

  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 220ml water
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 250g white chocolate (make sure it’s at least 30% cacao)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 thick stems rhubarb
  • 3tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods or 1tsp vanilla extract
  • Juice and zest 1 lemon

For the topping

  • 100g icing sugar
  • Enough of the rhubarb syrup (leftover from roasting the rhubarb) to create an icing with a drizzle-consistency
  • Dried rose petals (optional)
  • Candied rhubarb ribbons (optional) (I make these by creating ribbons of rhubarb with a peeler, which I then simmer in a simple 2 parts sugar: 1 part water syrup for 5 minutes before draining off any excess liquid and cooking at 160c for 10-15 minutes, or until dried out, on a lined baking tray)

Method

  1. To make the choux put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  3. Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
  4. Pipe 10-12 doughnut shapes onto the prepared baking trays, leaving room for expansion. Bake the choux for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden, then skewer each one and return to the oven for around 10 minutes or until the middles have completely dried out. Set aside to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 180c.
  5. Slice the rhubarb into batons and toss in the caster sugar, lemon juice and zest and vanilla. Roast for 10-15 minutes in a high sided baking tray until the pieces are tender but still retain their shape. Set aside to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  6. Chop up the white chocolate and scatter on a lined baking tray in an even layer. Place in the oven to allow the chocolate to melt for 10 minutes, then stir/turn and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Repeat this step 2-3 more times until the chocolate reaches a deep golden colour, then scrape into a bowl and mix in a splash of cream to loosen the consistency (it can get a little grainy at this stage so pass through a sieve if necessary). Leave to cool.
  7. Once the white chocolate has cooled, place in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and add in the cream and salt. Whisk until pipe-able.
  8. Slice the cooled choux nuts in half horizontally and pipe in a generous helping of caramelised white chocolate cream. Slice the roast rhubarb pieces thinly and arrange these on top of the cream, then pop the choux lid on top.
  9. For the pink icing, pour the cooking syrup from the rhubarb tray into the icing sugar and mix to create a smooth drizzle-like consistency (add in a little water if you don’t have enough syrup). Spoon this over the filled choux-nuts and garnish with edible petals and rhubarb ribbons.
Enjoy!
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Salted Chocolate Cake with Coffee Mascarpone & Hazelnut Praline Caramel

Cakes

I made this cake last weekend for my Dad’s birthday and it went down a storm. Granted, the flavours aren’t subtle and it’s not for the faint hearted (which neatly mirrors my Dad’s personality actually), but the punchy combination of bitter coffee, nutty hazelnut, rich but surprisingly light chocolate sponge and salted milk chocolate ganache just work (duh- that amount of cream, sugar, salt and chocolate is always going to be delicious).

Ingredients (serves 12-14)

For the hazelnut praline caramel

  • 100g blanched hazelnuts, toasted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the sponges

  • 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

For the salted milk chocolate ganache

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 275ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the coffee mascarpone filling

  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 100ml double cream

  1. Start off by making the hazelnut praline caramel.To do this simply place the caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan over a medium heat and swirl the pan until it melts. Once melted, up the heat until the sugar reaches a deep golden brown. At this stage add the toasted hazelnuts, stir to coat then tip onto a baking paper lined baking tray. Leave to set hard, then blitz into a paste. Set aside. Pour the cream into a saucepan and gently heat. Once the cream is gently simmering add in the praline paste and stir to create a caramel. Cook down for a few minutes until thickened, then set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch baking tins. 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.
  6. While the cakes are cooling make the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it meets scalding point then pour over the chocolate. Allow the cream to melt the chocolate for a few minutes then stir until smooth and glossy. Add salt to taste then set aside to cool.
  7. For the coffee mascarpone crush the coffee into a fine powder then just whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
  8. When all the elements are cool you’re ready to assemble the cake. Your cakes will probably have a domed top, so trim these off then divide each one into two even layers (leaving you with 4 layers overall).
  9. Scrape the hazelnut praline caramel into a piping bag. Split the mascarpone into thirds. Spread one third of the mascarpone over the first sponge layer then pipe over a third of the caramel in a zigzag (so that each slice will have some caramel inside!). Repeat this step until you’ve used up the sponges, then rustically cover the whole cake in the thickened ganache.
  10. Garnish with edible dried flower petals.

Tahini Crumble Mince Pies with Cardamom, Pomegranate and Orange

Uncategorized

In the old school spirit of stir up Sunday I thought now might be a good time to share my favourite mincemeat recipe (it’s not compulsory to make this on 25th November though, it will work just as well after a few days of maturing!). This is pretty classic in it’s foundations and I’ve been making it for a few years, but this year I’ve jazzed it up with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (think pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, cardamom and pistachios). You could make traditional pastry-topped mince pies with this mincemeat, but I think it works really well with a tahini crumble topping- try it out!

Ingredients

For the mincemeat (makes about 1kg)

  • 275g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots, diced
  • 100g dates, diced
  • 75g dried figs, diced
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1tbsp orange blossom extract
  • 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-2tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 Bramley apples, peeled and diced
  • 200g vegetarian suet
  • 50g roughly chopped almonds
  • 50g roughly chopped walnuts
  • 75g roughly chopped pistachios
  • 150g Demerara sugar
  • 50g muscovado sugar
  • 200ml spiced rum

For the pastry (enough for 8 large, deep fill mince pies or 12 smaller mince pies)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp milk

For the crumble topping

  • 50g tahini
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • 50g butter, cubed
  • 150g plain flour

Optional

  • 1tbsp icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Ideally a week ahead of making the mince pies, make the mincemeat. To do this stir together all the ingredients except for the rum in a large bowl. Cover and leave the flavours to develop overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 120c. Tip the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tray or oven-proof baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 2 hours, turning gently every 45 minutes or so with a wooden spoon. Add in the rum and stir, then return to the oven, covered, for a further half an hour.
  3. Set the mincemeat aside and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring a couple of times to keep everything well coated.
  4. Once the mincemeat has cooled down, store in well-sealed, sterilised jars. You can use the mincemeat at this stage, but if you can, leave it for a week or so for the flavours to intensify even more.
  5. When your mincemeat is ready to be used, make the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and milk and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks and milk using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
  6. For the tahini crumble rub the butter and flour together until they resemble rough breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, tahini and sesame seeds.
  7. Grease your cupcake tray generously with butter. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and cut out circles to fit the cupcake holes (make sure your circles are big enough to create a deep mince pie- you want a generous amount of filling!). Push the pastry into the holes then fill with the mincemeat (in my large deep fill tray I put about 2 heaped tbsp of filling in each, but judge according to your tin).
  8. Top with a heaped tbsp of the crumble and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the crumble crisp. Enjoy hot from the oven with a dusting of icing sugar and dollop of cream or brandy butter.

Chocolate Sesame Layer Cake

Cakes

Chocolate, tahini, sesame seeds (and more chocolate). What’s not to like? With four layers of dark chocolate sponge sandwiched together with creamy milk chocolate ganache smothered in sesame-studded tahini buttercream, this little twist on a classic chocolate fudge cake makes for a great celebration centrepiece which boasts a delicious balance of  sweet, nutty and rich cocoa flavours.

Ingredients

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 milk chocolate ganache

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 175ml double cream
  • pinch salt

For the icing

  • 100g tahini
  • 200g soft butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3-4tbsp black sesame seeds

For decoration (optional)

  • extra black sesame seeds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
  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 40-50 minutes ( or until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. For the chocolate ganache, place the milk chocolate,salt and cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently melt together (ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl) and once smooth and creamy, set aside to cool completely.
  7. For the buttercream, beat together the butter, tahini, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or using electric beaters) until light and fluffy. Now add the icing sugar in batches, beating well on a slow speed between each addition. Once it’s all in increase the speed and beat for about 5-10 minutes until very light, smooth and creamy. Add in the sesame seeds and briefly mix again to distribute them evenly through the buttercream.
  8. To assemble the cake, slice the cooled sponges horizontally into two even layers (leaving you with four layers). Sandwich them on top of each other with a generous helping of ganache in between, then cover the whole cake with a thick coating of tahini buttercream using a palette knife (this buttercream is a little more textured than the regular kind due to the addition of tahini, so dampen the palette knife before spreading to achieve a smooth surface).
  9. To decorate, spinkle with extra sesame seeds for an understated look, or go to town which chocolate shards and sesame brittle.

Enjoy!