sweet

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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Soured Cream Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Almond Brittle

This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g soft butter
  • 225ml soured cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

For the buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g salted caramel sauce
  • large pinch salt
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the brittle:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
  4. Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
  5. For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
  6. To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.

Enjoy!

Nutty Cinnamon Swirls with Toffee Glaze

These sweet bread swirls are stuffed with cinnamon spice butter and assorted nuts, brushed with a sticky toffee glaze and drizzled with white icing; unsurprisingly, this makes them dangerously moreish and a great accompaniment to a Sunday evening Netflix binge (yep, dual binging going on here)…

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Ingredients (makes 7 rolls to fit a 9 inch cake tin):

For the dough:

  • 90g butter
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 550g strong bread flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 3tsp fast action dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 200g soft butter
  • 80g light brown soft sugar
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 50g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g pistachios, chopped

For the topping:

  • 1 egg, whisked (to glaze)
  • 50g butter
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g dark brown soft sugar
  • 3tbsp double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 4tbsp icing sugar mixed with a few drops water

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Method:

  1. Place the butter and milk in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Set aside to cool, then add the eggs and whisk to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. Add in the wet ingredients in one go and rapidly mix together with a cutlery knife or your hands. Once you’ve bought it together to form a dough knead either by hand or using a dough hook (10 minutes by hand/ 5 minutes with a dough hook).
  3. Put the kneaded dough (it should be smooth and elastic) in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm. Place in a warm (not hot) place and leave to double in size for 1 hour.
  4. While the dough is rising prepare the filling; to do this simply beat together the butter, sugar and spices to create a soft spreadable consistency. Lightly toast the nuts and roughly chop. Prepare a large cake tin by generously greasing with butter.
  5. Once your dough has doubled in size roll it out to a large rectangle about 1cm thick (the rolling is enough knocking back). Making sure the longest side is facing you, spread the cinnamon butter evenly over the dough then scatter on the nuts.
  6. Roll up the rectangle away from you until you have a large sausage shape. Slice this sausage into around seven 2 inch (roughly) wide pieces- each piece should have a spiral cross section.
  7. Place the pieces (spiral up) in the bottom of the cake tin; I fit 6 around the edge and one in the centre. Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for a final hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180c. Whisk the egg and brush all over the top of the proved buns. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bread cooked through.
  9. For the toffee glaze melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan, then stir in the cream and add the salt. Brush this over the cooked swirls then finish with the simple white icing and any leftover chopped nuts.

Enjoy!

Cherry Ripple Cake

I know, it’s January; cue the health kick and gym session right? Wrong. I was trialling this cake for a client today and just had to share the recipe despite the diet-crazed time of year… the sponge is so light and moist and the cherries pair perfectly with the vanilla bean buttercream. I will be posting some healthier bakes and dinner ideas soon, so why not make this as a bit of a last hoorah (at least until the obligatory post-Christmas detox is over).

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Ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 400g soft butter
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 400g self raising flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 250g greek yoghurt
  • 2tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream and filling:

  • 240g soft butter
  • 800g icing sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-6tbsp milk
  • 250g good quality cherry jam (homemade is always preferable!)
  • handful fresh cherries

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c and grease/line three 7 inch cake tins.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together with an electric whisk until really light and fluffy (this could also be done in the bowl of a stand mixer).
  3. Now add the eggs one at a time (with a little of the flour if you like to prevent curdling) and whisk well between each addition.
  4. Once the eggs are well incorporated, sift in the flour and fold to incorporate. Finally, stir in the greek yoghurt.
  5. Distribute the batter evenly between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until springy to the touch.
  6. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. For the buttercream, whisk the butter until it’s light, then add the icing sugar a little at a time and beat until it lightens in texture and colour (this could take about 10 minutes). Once you’ve achieved a fluffy consistency add the milk and vanilla and whisk again to incorporate.
    At this stage you may like to ripple in a little of your cherry jam to create the streak effect but that’s up to you.
  8. Time to assemble! Place one cake down and top with a generous layer of buttercream and spoonful of jam. Repeat until you’ve used up the sponges then cover completely with buttercream, swirling in some remaining jam as you go. Decorate with fresh cherries (and some glitter if you’re feeling fancy).

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Enjoy!

Date and Ginger Pudding with Maple Sauce

This indulgent ginger and date pudding is made for those miserable winter evenings where you just want to curl up and watch a film with a bowl of something warm, comforting and nostalgic…

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Ingredients:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar
  • 70g black treacle
  • 165g golden syrup
  • 200g pitted dates
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 100ml milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tbsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 2 eggs
  • For the sauce: 100g dark brown sugar, 75g butter, 50ml maple syrup, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, pinch sea salt

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a pudding dish (or chosen vessel) with butter.
  2. Roughly chop the dates and place in a small bowl, then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the soaked dates and water. Stir together.
  3. Now gradually pour in the milk. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break up then gradually add the melted ingredients from the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
  6. While the pudding is cooking, make the butterscotch sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and syrups in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt.
  7. Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.

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No Churn Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Two varieties of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough run through this vanilla custard ice cream, making it both delicious and dangerously addictive in equal measure. Try it at home (you don’t need a churner) and you are sure to be very popular- move aside Ben and Jerry!

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For the cookie dough base: 140g plain flour, 80g very soft butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 50g caster sugar, few drops of milk

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Sift in all the flour except for 1tbsp (reserve this for later) and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. If too dry, add a little milk to bind (usually I would use eggs but because this dough isn’t baked I use milk instead).

Now split the dough into two bowls (it will look like a small quantity but it is enough!).

To finish the doughs you will need: 1 1/2tbsp cocoa powder, the reserved tbsp flour, 100g chopped white chocolate, 100g chopped dark chocolate 

To one bowl of dough add the white chocolate and the cocoa powder.

To the other bowl add the dark chocolate and the reserved flour. Beat both doughs to combine all the ingredients.

Roll the doughs into small balls (about a tbsp each) and place in the fridge to chill while  you make the vanilla custard ice cream base.

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For the custard base you will need: 200ml double cream, 200ml whole milk, 1 vanilla pod, 140g caster sugar, 8 egg yolks

Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Put them in a heavy bottom pan along with the milk and double cream and heat until the edges start to simmer. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Once the cream and milk have heated remove the vanilla pod and discard, then pour into the mixing bowl. Stir to combine the creamy mixture with the eggs and sugar then place in a clean heavy bottom pan.

Over a very gentle heat, stir this egg custard with a wooden spoon until it thickens enough to coat the back. Once it does this, remove from the heat and leave to cool with a layer of cling film over its surface (to prevent a skin from forming).

Once cooled put your thickened custard and chilled cookie balls into an ice cream tub and freeze overnight.

The following day, take your frozen ice cream and cut it into smallish pieces. Blitz in a magi-mix (or other food processor) until the ice crystals have broken down and it is smooth. You should be left with a creamy texture with little bits of cookie dough and chocolate running through it.

Return this mixture to the ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours until firm. Serve with crumbled cookies on top or just grab a spoon and eat it solo from the tub (definitely not what I did…).

Enjoy!

 

 

Gluten Free Chocolate & Almond Cake

This chocolate cake is rich, moist, easy to make and even gluten free! I’ve used ground almonds where I would usually reach for flour and olive oil instead of butter to create a fudgy texture and it really works. Try it yourself (you could even omit the topping to make it dairy free too!)…

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For this cake you will need: 175ml boiling water, 2tsp instant coffee granules, 80g cocoa powder, 225g ground almonds, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp salt, 300g golden caster sugar, 5 eggs, 225ml olive oil

And for the topping (which is optional- you could just dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder), you will need: 100g dark bittersweet chocolate, 100ml double cream, some white chocolate and a sprinkling of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180c and grease a 20cm cake tin with butter. Place a disc of baking paper in the bottom and grease over that too.

Combine the almonds,bicarbonate of soda and salt in a small bowl.

Mix together the cocoa, coffee and boiling water in a jug and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar until pale and thick. Add the cocoa mix and continue whisking until you have a fairly liquid cake batter with no streaks.

Add the almond mixture down the side of the bowl and fold in gently.

Pour into the prepped tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

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While the cake is baking, make the topping (a simple ganache). Place the cream and chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl).

Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and remove from the heat. Leave to cool.

When the cake is cooked leave in the tin for 5 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, spread the ganache over the top then sprinkle with white chocolate scratchings and sea salt.

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Enjoy!