Thursday, 29 September 2011

Chocolate Fondant & A Long Weekend

If you have work or school tomorrow then I would advise you to stop reading now.I'd hate to make you jealous.Luckily for me I have the pleasure of a rare long weekend this week.For no apparent reason my school is closed tomorrow and as a result my weekend actually began today .Honestly,I could do a four day week every week.Anyway to kick start my weekend,I decided to whip up something easy yet deliciously decadent.And this chocolate fondant from Lorraine Pascale's book Baking Made Easy is decadence personified.
This recipe is so simple.It contains very few ingredients,most of which you will definitely have on hand.The butter is melted and the finely chopped chocolate is added,melted by the residual heat from the butter.In the meantime the eggs are whipped with the sugar to a mousse like texture.The melted butter and chocolate is then stirred through followed by the flour.The mixture is then divided up between the individual ramekins and popped into the oven to bake.
Looking back now,choosing black plates was a disastrous decision seen as condensation can clearly be seen because of how hot the fondants were,but at the time my mind was probably more preoccupied with getting my teeth into them,than choosing suitable serving plates.

Lorraine's book states that these little babies only take about 10-12 minutes.Now usually I take everything out about 2 minutes earlier then what a recipe states as my oven is like a super oven and cooks everything in about half the time.However,these were different.These actually ended up taking more like 15 minutes to cook but trust me,the wait was worth it.If you don't believe me,feast your eyes on the mouth watering molten centre of the fondant below!
Just look at that volcano of melted chocolate!
Overall,these were delicious and I really couldn't fault the flavour.My only slight alteration for the next time I make them would be to use a darker chocolate with a higher cocoa content,purely just to achieve a darker colour on the sponge.But really it's what's on the inside that counts ;)

Chocolate Fondants
110g(4oz)butter,plus 40g(1 1/2 oz)extra,melted for greasing
1 tbsp cocoa
110g(4oz)caster sugar,plus 1 tbsp extra for coating
110g(4oz)good quality chocolate finely chopped
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
110g(4oz)plain flour

1.Grease 4 dariole mould or ramekins with the 40g melted butter.Mix the cocoa powder and tbsp of caster sugar in a bowl then put this mixture in the mould,tilting and turning them so the mixture sticks to the butter.Tip out any excess.
2.Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat.Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and leave to melt.
3.Preheat the oven to 180C(350F)Gas mark 4.Whisk the eggs and yolks in a large bowl until they start to thicken.Then gradually add the sugar in 2-3 additions,whisking all the time.The mixture should become thick,pale and mousse-like.
4.Stir the melted chocolate and butter mixture then gradually pour it into the whisked eggs,whisking all the time.The chocolate is heavy and sinks to the bottom so check none is hiding!Sift in the flour and whisk briefly.
5.Divide the mixture among the prepared moulds and bake for 10-12 minutes(mine took 15).The tops should be firm and the middle should remain molten.
6.Once the fondants are ready,leave to cool for a minute or two,then use oven gloves to place a serving plate upside down on top of the mould.Hold everything together and turn the whole lot over so the plate is now on the bottom.Put the plate on the work surface and gently shake the mould until the fondant plops out.If you find it refuses to come out take a small knife and run it between the mould and the fondant to loosen it a little.
7.Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Friday, 23 September 2011

TGIF:Chocolate Peanut Butter Tobelerone Cheesecake

Friday,finally.Seriously my favourite day of the week.My usual Friday would go something like this:

Watch clock impatiently as the last few minutes of class go on forever.Bell rings.Bolt out of classroom and fight off the melee of students who crowd around lockers.Get home,fling schoolbag into a corner,bulging with books for a weekends homework.Roll up sleeves,and launch into my chosen recipe.

Nothing sounds better to me frankly than the above statement.This week I had my mind set on making a cheesecake.I toyed with many different flavours,vanilla,lemon,chocolate hazelnut,baileys but just couldn't find a recipe that really called out to me.So I decided to improvise and came up with my own combination for the filling,and boy am I glad I did!Scroll down for a luscious recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Tobelerone Cheesecake(unless of course your on a that case you should probably stop reading.Like now.)

I know when some of you read the combination it will sound overly sweet and chocolaty.But I found that that just wasn't the case.Yes the cheesecake filling itself had quite a rich chocolaty filling but the added peanut butter cut through the chocolate so that it wasn't tooth achingly sweet.The tobelerone was a delicious add in,the little chewy bits of nougat a pleasant surprise  in an otherwise mousse like filling.So if your looking to make a cheesecake with a difference this weekend,give this recipe a second thought before you make your final decision.I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed ;)

For The Base
100g Butter
200g Biscuits(Digestives,Rich Tea,feel free to play around)

For The Filling
300g chocolate
100g peanut butter
250g full fat cream cheese
250g mascarpone cheese
250ml double cream
250g tobelerone,chopped

1.Start by making the base.In a food processor or using a rolling pin,blitz or crush the biscuits until you have fine crumbs.Melt the butter in the microwave and then add this to the biscuits.Stir to distribute the butter thoroughly.Press the biscuit mixture into an 20cm(8") round springform tin.Place in the fridge to set while you make the filling.
2.Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.Melt the peanut butter in the microwave in 20 second bursts until runny.Allow both to cool.
3.While these are cooling,place the mascarpone,double cream and cream cheese and beat using a wooden spoon until creamy and combined.
4.Add the melted chocolate and about three quarters of the melted peanut butter,reserving some to create the swirled effect on the top.Stir to combine making sure the mixture is uniform and the one colour.Add the chopped tobelerone and fold through.
5.Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top off with a spatula.Pour the reserved peanut butter over the top in a swirled pattern.Place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
6.Once ready to serve,remove the cheesecake from the fridge for about 15 minutes before serving to make it easier to cut.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Chewy Speculaas Blondies

Ah Friday,finally!I was having one of those weeks where it just seems to drag by and when Friday feels like it's never going to come.As soon as the bell rang to signal the end of school today I bolted out of the door and headed for home.I love weekends.Weekends allow you to do the things which you want to do during the week but never have the time or energy for.One such example is baking.As is probably quite obvious to anyone who has ever even glanced at this blog.I'm unable to pin point just exactly what it is,but I find nothing more relaxing than getting stuck into an exciting new recipe.Therefore,when the weekend finally rolls around I discard my schoolbag and homework and get out my eggs and flour.
As I mentioned in my last post,I recently recieved Edd Kimber's new book,The Boy Who Bakes,in the post.After perusing the book quite thoroughly,I decided to choose a nice simple recipe for a relaxed Friday evening.I chose the Chewy Speculaas Blondies,as I have been wanting to make blondies for quite a while now and the recipe seemed pretty easy.
The recipe comes together very quick.The butter is melted in a pot,the spices are added and then the sugar.I was unfortunately unable to find ground cloves or cardamom anywhere in my area,so I just had to omit them from the recipe(I'm sure they probably would make quite a difference if added).This mixture is allowed to cool before the eggs are whisked in.The flour,baking powder and salt are folded in.Finally the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts are added.The mixture(which I found to be quite stiff)is tipped into the tin and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes(mine baked in about 23-25 minutes).One cooked the blondies are left to cool in the tin for a couple of hours so that they can set and firm up.Now I'm usually one of those people who can't stand waiting around for something to cool or set but luckily today I had to go out for dinner first.This acted as a nice distraction and meant the blondies had time to cool and set properly.

By the time I arrived home the blondies had set perfectly.I removed them from the tin and snapped a few pictures on my(useless) camera with the little natural light still left.I was glad to see the blondies had a beautifully fudgy interior once I cut into them.They really were like a blonde brownie.I decided to dress the blondies up a bit for a dessert and so I attempted to make the salted caramel sauce which was also included in the book.Now I'm not sure exactly what went wrong but once the sauce was cooked it began to harden and became like a chewy toffee more than a sauce.I could also taste very little salt,which is probably down to the extremely small pinch I put in to the sauce but at least I'll no better next time.If anyone had any suggestions as to why the sauce went hard when it began to cool I would be glad to hear them as this is one sauce I'd really like to try again.

I first tried these blondies after I gave them about 30 seconds in the microwave to heat up.I served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and dug in.I found the taste of these to be quite unusual.The spice present really came through in the blondies and worked nicely with the chocolate.Later on,I tried a small piece of the blondies cold on their own,and found that I actually preferred the blondies like this.Room temperature,unadourned yet still delicious.

I was pleased with how my first batch of blondies turned out and will definitely make these again when I can get my hands on ground cloves and cardamom.In the meantime however,I may just have to make some of the other recipes in this great new book!

Chewy Speculaas Blondies
225g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg(I used dried and reduced the amount)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cardamom pods
400g light brown sugar
2 eggs
250g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
80g chocolate,chopped
80g hazelnuts chopped

1.Preheat the oven to 180C(160C fan)gas mark 4.Grease and line a 23 x 33 cm baking tin and line with a strip of baking parchment,leaving a 5cm overhang along the edges to make removing the blondies easier.
2.Melt the butter in a pan over a medium high heat,add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes.Next add the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes,stirring constantly before taking the pan off the heat.
3.Leave to cool for 5 minutes.Next whisk in the eggs and fold in the flour ,baking powder and salt.Stir in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts,then pour the batter into the prepared tin.Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
4.Once cooked,allow to cool in the tin completely and to set for a few hours in the tin.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Butterscotch Pecan Cheesecake

Today I have a quick post for you with a recipe for Butterscotch Pecan Cheesecake.It's hard trying to find time to update the blog with recipes during the week when I have school and homework,so at the moment I'm really just posting whenever I can.I made this cheesecake last weekend for a relative who was coming to visit.I knew they had a particular soft spot for cheesecake and there was a bunch of cheesecakes I'd been wanting to try.I have made many cheesecakes before but this was the first time I made a baked one.Im delighted I finally decided to make a baked one as I love the texture of a baked cheesecake.This recipe caught my eye,butterscotch and pecans-what's not to like?
I read the recipe and realised that although a simple enough cheesecake to make,it was time consuming.To be honest this cheesecake would really have to be made the day before you actually want to eat it,or at least very early that morning.But if you keep that in mind then this really is a very easy cheesecake to make.
The cheesecake begins with a regular biscuit crumb crust.The filling is a combination of cream cheese,sugar,egges and chopped pecans.The glaze combines butter,light brown sugar,milk,vanilla essence and icing sugar to create that delicious butterscotch flavour.
I thought this cheesecake wasy quite tasty.The pecans were a nice crunchy contrast to the smooth creamy filling and the glaze delivered with a real butterscotch flavour.One thing which I noted is that I think I may have baked the cheesecake for slightly too long.The recipe stated the the middle should have a slight wobble when it was cooked and looking back now I'm pretty sure there was no wobble in the centre of mine when I took it out of the oven.Overbaking the cheesecake made the filling suffer slighly I think,making it more dense and less creamy than I would have liked.Also I think I should have whisked the glaze for slightly longer to make it smoother.If it was smoother I think it would have set nicer on the cheesecake and gave it a more polished finish(So if your being put off by my rather useless photography skills,please don't be-I promise it looks better in the picture in the book!).

For The Biscuit Base
220g(8oz)digestive biscuits
100g(3 1/2oz)melted unsalted butter

Cheesecake Filling
700g(1 1/2 lb)full fat cream cheese e.g.Philadelphia
120g(4oz)caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 large eggs
80g(3 oz)pecans,finely chopped plus 10-12 pecan halves to decorate

Butterscotch Glaze
60g(2oz)unsalted butter
45g(1 1/2 oz)soft light brown sugar
2 tbsp whole milk(I used skimmed)
120g(4oz)icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

One 20cm(8in)diameter spring form cake tin

1.Line the base of the cake tin with baking parchment then,in a food processor,whiz the digestive biscuits into fine crumbs using the blade attachment.This could also be done by placing the digestive biscuits in a bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
2.Place the biscuit crumbs in a bowl,add the melted butter and mix together with a spoon.Pour the buttery crumbs into the lined cake tin and press them into the base of the tin.Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to cool and set.
3.Meanwhile,preheat the oven to 160(320F) Gas mark 3 and prepare the cheesecake topping.
4.Using a hand held electric whisk or a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment,mix together the cream cheese,sugar and vanilla essence on medium speed until smooth.Add the eggs one at a time,mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.Stir in the chopped pecans by hand and then pour the cheesecake mix onto the chilled biscuit base.
5.Wrap the cake tin in foil(I did a couple of layers)this prevents water from the water bath getting into the cheesecake.Place the wrapped cake tin in the roasting tin and fill the tin with water to about 5mm(1/4 in)from the top of the cake tin.This creates a water bath for the cheesecake to bake in,which will prevent the top from cracking while it bakes.Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cheesecake is a light golden colour,especially around the edges,firm to the touch and with only a slight wobble in the middle.
6.Allow the cheesecake to cool down at room temperature while still in the tin,and then place in the fridge to set for a few hours.
7.When the cheesecake is fully chilled make the butterscotch glaze.Put the butter,sugar and milk in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil.Remove from the heat,stir in the icing sugar and vanilla essence,then whisk until the glaze is smooth.
8.Pour the glaze on top of the cheesecake and decorate using the pecan halves.Place in the fridge to set for a few hours or overnight if possible.Remove from the cake tin before serving.

P.s. The winner of last years Great British Bake Off,Edd Kimber,has just released his new book.I got it delivered the other day and it looks great!Expect to be seeing a few of his recipes being tried here in the next few weeks :)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mini Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes

So this past week or two has been pretty busy hence the general lack of posts.I'm back in school and getting more homework than ever and it's only the second week!Coming home from doing a full day of school and then having to launch into doing a full nights homework leaves little time for much else.This means less time for baking.At the moment the weekends are the only time I really have to bake.Therefore by the time Friday evening comes,I'm only itching to get my hands into a delicious new recipe(I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who experiences this).
Next week is going to be hectic once again.The results of my Junior Cert exams will be coming out on wednesday(god help me!).Then on Saturday I have been asked to make something for a relatives big birthday party.She's asked me to make some form of a sweet or dessert for roughly 50 people.No pressure now.I was trying to come up with suitable recipes for ages but nothing seemed right.I knew she would be ordering a big cake herself so a cake itself was out of the question.Then,while flicking through my much loved Hummingbird Bakery book,I hit upon the perfect recipe(actually recipes!).I saw the recipes for these mini alcohol based cupcakes and knew instantly they were just right.They look absoulutely adorable,they taste delicious and also they are slightly more sophisticated than your average cupcake as they contain alcohol.This combination of factors makes me think these will be perfect for an adults party.
Just before I begin the next paragraph,please excuse the shoddily iced cupcake above,I had much better ones and really don't know why I chose to photograph this one but anyway..

So last Friday with the pending party in mind,I set about trying out one of the recipes for the alcohol flavoured mini cupcakes.I chose the strawberry daiquiri ones as my mam loves strawberry daiquiries.The recipe comes together pretty easily really.The most time consuming bit is waiting for the strawberries to soak in the rum reduction.The recipe says to soak the strawberries for about 30 to 40 minutes.I soaked mine for about 25 and one point I would make is that I found the flavour of alcohol to be very weak in the cupcakes.Therefore I think I would recommend to anyone considering making these,to soak the strawberries for the full 40 minutes to really get that hint of rum.After that the cupcake batter is like any other average cupcake batter.You place a few pieces of soaked strawberry into the base of each mini cupcake liner,spoon over the batter and pop into the oven for 12 to 15 minutes.Once they come out of the oven you spoon over a little of the rum reduction and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.While cooling the icing can be made.Its a pretty basic buttercream but a few teaspoons of the rum reduction are added giving it a lovely strawberry flavour.Once cooled the cupcakes are iced and topped with a sliced strawberry.Very pretty indeed!One thing I should mention is that the recipe states it makes 24-30 cupcakes.I managed to get 48 so keep that in mind!

Now on to the important bit,the taste.I personally didn't think I was going to like these.The main reason for this is that I generally hate alcohol in desserts.Take for example tiramisu or any other dessert which has a strong rum flavour.However,I must say these were honestly delicious.As mentioned above,the flavour of rum is very weak in these but they most certainly taste like a strawberry daiquiri.The fruit in the mixture and the rum reduction spooned over the cooling cupcakes makes for a seriously moist cupcake which is always a good thing.I think these cupcakes are best eaten on the day as after a day or town the sliced strawberry on top begins to look a bit,well,sad.Also the cupcake becomes slightly soggy due to the fruit in the batter.

I've decided I'm definitely going ahead with this recipe for the party(and also one or two others,more to come on them during the week).I'll be sure to put up a post later on in the week letting you know with how I got on making roughly 150(!) cupcakes.
For The Sponge
100 ml(3 1/2 fl.oz) white rum
170g(6oz)caster sugar
150g(5 1/2 oz)strawberries
40g(1 1/2oz)softened,unsalted butter
120g(4 oz)plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp  salt
1 large egg
120ml(4 fl.oz)whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

For The Frosting
80g(3 oz)softened unsalted butter
250g(9 oz)icing sugar
1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest
4 tsp whole milk
Sliced strawberries,to decorate

1.Preheat the oven to 170C(325F)Gas mark 3,and line a mini muffin tin with cases.
2.Add the rum and 30g of the sugar to a small saucepan and bring to the boil,allowing it to reduce by half,then set aside to cool slightly.Hull and chop the strawberries and then add to the rum and sugar reduction.Soak for about 30 to 40 minutes.
3.Meanwhile,using an electrice whisk or freestanding mixer,slowly mix together the butter,flour,remaining sugar,baking powder and salt.Mix until the ingredients have come together and resemble breadcrumbs.
4.In a jug whisk together the egg,milk and vanilla essence.With the mixer or electric whisk on low speed,gradually pour the liquid mixture into the flour and butter mixture thoroughly.
5.Drain the strawberries from the rum reduction,reserving the liquid.Place a few small pieces of strawberry in each cupcake case.Spoon the cake batter over the strawberries,filling each case about 2/3 full.
6.Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cupcakes are a light golden brown colour and bounce back when pressed lightly.While they are still warm,spoon about 1/2 teaspoon on the rum reduction over each cupcake and allow to cool completely before frosting.
7.Using a freestanding mixer or electric whisk,set on low speed,beat together the butter,icing sugar and lime zest,until combined and crumb like in texture.Now mix together the milk and 4 teaspoons of the rum reduction in a jug.Pour this into the butter and icing sugar still mixing on a low speed until incorporated.Then increase the speed to high and best the frosting until soft and fluffy.
8.Smooth the icing on the cupcakes using a palette knife.Top with sliced strawberries to decorate.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Brown sugar,ginger and pecan cake with peaches.

I don't know about you but I don't really like fruit.On the other hand I love vegetables but I just never really liked eating fruit say,for a snack.I don't know if it's because maybe here in Ireland supermarkets don't stock really ripe,good quality fruit.The only way I usually eat fruit would be in desserts.Give me a fruit crumble,pie or tart anyday and I will most definitely go back for seconds.That's why it's unusual for me to choose a recipe like this where the fruit isn't actully used or cooked in the dessert but merely to adourn the cake itself.

I think what really persuaded me to make this cake was the images which accompanied the recipe.They were so striking and the colours of the cake were so pretty to look at.The peaches on the top of the cake were also arranged so beautifully that I felt I just had to recreate this cake for myself.My pictures and indeed my cake probably resemble nothing of the original but I was still very pleased with the results.This cake required no fancy piped icing,just simple sliced peaches.

Even though this cake turned out very well,while it was baking I was almost considering not posting about it.See I realised just as the cake went into the oven that I had made a rather huge mistake during the preparation of the cake.Not jus a minor omission of a teaspoon of vanilla extract.No,I had unbelievably doubled the amount of butter required for the cake.You may think that sounds like a very silly mistake to make but the ingredients list gave the butter measurement in cups and when I converted the cup measure to grams I forgot that the cake only required 1/2 a cup of butter!I was so dissapointed and had resigned myself that the cake was never going to work.However,I left it in the oven just to see what would happen and amazingly enough,the cake turned out fine even if it was a tiny bit sunken in the middle!The frosting covered up the slight dip in the cake nicely and no one was any the wiser.This cake required that you use fresh peaches.When I read this I almost decided to use tinned peaches instead as I was worried that I would have a hard time finding really tasty,ripe,juicy fresh peaches.In the end I decided to stick to the recipe and go with the fresh peaches.To be honest I can't really fault this cake.The cake itself was delicious,the extra butter actually added to its flavour and kept it unbelievably moist.The dark brown sugar really came through to give the cake a lovely deep sweetness.The bits of pecan added nicely to the texture.The unusal frosting was delicious and was perfect for the cake.The only slight downfall came where I expected.The peaches I got although not terribly hard,lacked that sweet peach flavour.If I was to make this cake again I would almost certainly use tinned peaches to ensure the peaches were really sweet.As a little extra thought,I also think this cake would work with a lot of other fruits for example,plums.

You can find the recipe here on a great blog called Dessert for Breakfast.The photos are particularly good!