Archives for posts with tag: Chocolate

Despite being on holiday / wedmin trip in Northern Italy, news of the GBBO #bincident earlier on in the series and the scandal it created reached my ears last week.

After dwelling upon the “bincident”, and other more mainstream portmanteaux (a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings – Wikipedia) – Brangelina probably being the least academic of them, my mind wandered to the fairly modern world of sweet dessert hybrids. Despite never having seen a cronut (croissant and doughnut) in real life, I get the picture, and quite enjoyed an apple and cinnamon duffin (doughnut and muffin) once in Starbucks.

It was by complete coincidence then, that in the Asda magazine that I picked up last week, there were recipes for aTownie and Pieclair.

I had thought it was an invention of the ever-impressive Asda magazine, however Bea’s of Bloomsbury is claiming the title according to this article.
http://www.today.com/food/move-over-cronut-its-time-townie-6C10411620

Joe and Sophie (Jophie?) were coming to stay, so I thought it an appropriate occasion to trial this new idea. I used a combination of the Asda magazine (paper form only I’m afraid) and this recipe that I found online. http://sortedfood.com/#!/townie/

Starting with a sweet dessert pastry base, I part-baked the shell in a silicone mould to make it easier to remove the townie once finished.

sweet pastry

I then added the tasty pecan mixture. I don’t often cook with nuts and so found it hard to tell when the mixture had cooked sufficiently.

pre-baked pecans

It did rise up a little and go nice and golden brown though.

post-cooked pecans

I made a brownie mixture in much the same way that I would make triple chocolate brownies https://lydiatoson.com/2013/09/08/coveted-triple-chocolate-brownies/ and poured on top of the baked pecan mixture. 20 minutes in the oven later, smelling superbly chocolatey, was my townie!

Chocolate townie     baked townie

I was rather pleased with my townie, I liked the encasing of a chocolate brownie, although in retrospect I probably overdid it slightly, so keep an eye on it is my recommendation!

Still, it was very tasty whether served warm or cold. Oh and the little ones were good for lunchboxes, and more robust  to being knocked about during the morning commute than a normal brownie.

I may go for a pieclair (yep – a pie made of eclairs!) or a pike (apple pie atop a raspberry cake) next…

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Wow, summer is going by very quickly so far! In the midst of wedding season, and as I am preparing to make a cross-channel wedding cake, I thought I would share some pictures of cakes that I have made to date for dear friends to celebrate their amazing weddings.

According to Wikipedia, one of the first traditions relating to wedding cakes began in Ancient Rome where bread was broken over the bride’s head to bring good fortune to the couple. In medieval England, cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over, if they successfully kissed over the stack they were guaranteed a prosperous life together.

It is such an honour to be part of a good friend’s wedding by making their wedding cake, and following a drunken conversation at a hen do I received a call the next day from Kiren, one of my best friends, just to check that I was still OK to make her wedding cake. Hours of practice and many carrot cakes later, there we had it. Sufficient wedding cake for 300 people at her and Raj’s beautiful, colourful and joyous wedding.

Cutting cake

At the bride’s request, I made everything as carrot cake, including three lots of two-tired cakes with cream cheese frosting and a pile of rose-topped cupcakes. I had some ornate sugarcraft flowers and a lovely plaque and personalised cake knife to commemorate the day.

Cakes

I also made lots of back up cakes for the caterers to cut up, but after an all-day eating extravaganza there was so still much cake left!

There was so much cake left after all the delicious food, that the bride wandered amongst her guests encouraging them to eat more!

Beautiful bride enjoying her cake!

I was so excited when some other great friends Vic and Ro wanted me to make their wedding cake for their summer garden party – themed wedding. They are such creative, fun people themselves that I knew their wedding would be great fun – and it was!

 

Happy couple

They wanted a relaxed, colourful feel which is why we used fresh flowers for the cake decorations. I knew that I was on to a good thing when, the morning before the wedding, I went to a florist in Thame, Buckinghamshire to collect the flowers that I had planned to use on the cakes, and there was a collection of flowers waiting there for Mary Berry! Talk about a good baking omen!

Coconut ice and biscuits BrowniesChocolate cake Love is sweet

I really enjoyed making the different cakes, including chocolate orange and Victoria sponge, as well as the other treats such as coconut ice, chocolate brownies and jammy dodger biscuits.

There was a slight issue in the 30 degrees heatwave that came from nowhere, but still we managed to keep the flowers looking fresh by not assembling the cakes until just before the meal. Luckily Vic’s mum who was hosting the wedding in her wonderful garden had a huge kitchen. I did have to demand that the caterers moved their 80+ creme brulees out of my cake fridge in order to store the cream-cheese frosted carrot cake centre piece, but all’s well that ends well, right?!

Carrot cake
I think my favourite decoration though was the miniature teaset that I stumbled upon whilst browsing eBay for teapot necklaces. It was too sweet not to use and I thought the perfect decoration for such a classic cake as Victoria sponge.
_1012170 (2) _1012176

Right, I’d best get back to finishing off the icing of my Dutch cousin Niek’s wedding cake ahead of his marriage to the lovely Ismay. I’m excited about hearing them say Ja (“I do!) and celebrating Dutch style!

Biscuit postcards

Wow, so it’s mid-February already, how did that happen? The weather has been blowing a gale here in London along side the non-stop rain. What else to do on rainy days other than experiment with new recipes and bake, of course?!

During January (notebly absent from my blog) I discovered a number of delicious veggie curry dishes as well as soupy/ stewy staples. Since it was Valentine’s day yesterday I thought I’d share some of the treats I made my sweetheart (cheesey, I know!)

First up and actually not for Valentine’s day but to sweeten up the people I am working with, some white chocolate and fresh raspberry cookies, which to be fair are red and white-themed.

Raspberry and white chocolate cookies

The recipe I used was another gem from the Carnation website, and these truly taste delicious. Soft, chewy, and full of chocolate and fruit, I think they are a tastier, fresher and preservative / junk free version of the ones you can buy in the supermarket in brown paper bags. They also stay fresh for quite a few days (if they last that long!).

Using this recipe I found that rolling the dough in to balls worked a lot better than trying to flatten it out. The cookies flatten and expand a lot whilst cooking so space them apart and only put a few on each baking tray. Patience is a virtue, plus you get to eat the early batches whilst the rest are cooking!

Also, use frozen raspberries if you wanted to, as they are a) cheaper and b) easier to squidge in to the dough. Unlike fresh raspberries they don’t fall apart under pressure.

So, cookies are good. Always good.

On to Valentine’s day. I had George the tortoise in the spirit of things…

Valentine's tortoise

…and was even given a belated tortoise birthday cake that week by my talented friend Steph. It tasted very chocolatey!

Cake

On to my Valentine’s iced biscuits. It took me a while to find a recipe that I was happy with, I wanted it to be interesting (not bland) and also not to expand too much so that the biscuits would lose their shape.

Using a spiced biscuit recipe not dissimilar to the one I used at Christmas from Ocado,  I then used roll out fondant icing to make these envelope biscuits, inspired by Domestic Sluttery’s efforts (http://www.domesticsluttery.com/2013/02/baking-for-beginners-valentines.html). I loved this idea, since I love things all stationery and letter-writing. Edible letter-writing!? Yes please!

The biscuit recipe is so easy, although I would recommend chilling the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge since this does stop the biscuits from spreading and losing their shape whilst cooking.

I purchased some edible icing pens online and admittedly could do with some practice, since this was my first attempt at using them. I rolled out fondant icing and stuck them on to a biscuits with a little glace icing.

Biscuits

I made a selection of biscuits with lemon glace icing, although again I think I need to practice my “flood icing” technique. After all, practice makes perfect right?!

Messy biccies

Due to the “storm” that was about to hit London (even Barry the Thames Barrier has gone down) on Thursday, my train to the gym was severely delayed, therefore I abandoned exercise and was able to come home from work at a decent time.

My Mum and Dad were coming late last Sunday night, determined that we would fit in a Lebanese at a newly opened local establishment down the road upon arrival. The purpose of their visit was some minor DIY, and I needed to give them energy whilst tiling my kitchen windowsill the following morning.

So I recreated one of Mum’s favourite biscuits, if that is indeed the culinary category in which this treat falls. Millionaire’s shortbread. What better tea time (or any time) treat?

Sparkly shortbread

Crunchy shortbread biscuit, a large amount of soft, sweet, caramel, and a definitive dense chocolate topping, The chocolate and biscuit are working together to hold in that caramel, and the ratio of biscuit to caramel in this recipe is far more generous than most shop bought equivalents (and of course contains no nasty preservatives).

As has been a feature of several recent(ish) posts, I have borrowed someone else’s recipe (in this case Carnation’s, of condensed milk fame) and adapted it a little.

http://www.carnation.co.uk/recipes/60/Millionaires-Shortbread

This is a rather simple recipe, and you don’t even need a sugar thermometer to get the caramel right (see reference to disastrous macarons in previous post I am still holding out for one for Christmas).

I have made this recipe several times, and feel that I am close to perfecting it. I find the base works best when you blitz the shortbread in the food processor, finer crumbs = sturdier biscuit base. This is the cheat’s shortbread base, you can also make your own from scratch which is straight forwards but more time-consuming.

Stirring up shortbread

Next, you make the caramel. Gently stir together the butter and sugar until fully melted, and then drizzle in the condensed milk, stirring continuously as you don’t want it to burn. I don’t know why but I find a wooden spoon helps this process. And you can smack away any fingers trying to get an early dip of the sweet nectar!

Keep stirring even though you don’t want to, for fear of burning. I also have a fear of the caramel not setting, so I do stir it until notably thicker. Then pour on to the cooled shortbread and leave to chill out for a while.

Caramel

Leave the caramel to cool in the fridge and melt two bars of chocolate (200g in total) over a bain-marie, which is easier to control the temperature than melting in a saucepan directly. Dark, milk and white chocolate toppings are all delicious, or even a combination of them together.

To get a celebration-like finish to the shortbread, I then melted white chocolate and flicked it across the top, then scattered tiny edible gold stars over the tray.

Mini shortbreads

I am experimenting with finger-sized treats that I can parcel up as presents, and so made some tiny shortbreads in silicone petit-four cases.

Petit fours

My biggest tip for making shortbread is to score the chocolate topping before it has entirely set, otherwise it is a nightmare to cut in to straight lines.

Scoring the chocolate topping

There are loads of sweet (terrible pun – sorry!) recipes on this site. I want to try the fudge recipe next time, but not until I have my sugar thermometer…

I call these brownies “coveted” because in the many years I have been making them, I have probably been asked for (and have shared) the recipe around 25-30 times by various friends, family and colleagues.

I really feel that brownies must be intensely chocolatey and also have some sort of treats within them; I can’t stand dry, bland tasting brownies that feel like you are eating a stale chocolate sponge. Therefore, triple chocolate chips are used throughout the intensely moist, chocolate-packed brownie mixture.

They are so easy to make that at work I have shamelessly bribed numerous office workshops and group exercises with brownie-shaped refreshments. The last team that I worked with instigated a “brownie bake off” following my departure, to see who can make the best brownies in order to replace me – a compliment I’m sure!

It must be said upfront however that this is not wholly my own recipe, it is indeed adapted from Anthony Worrall Thompson for BBC, and this is the link I always offer people when asked for the recipe:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/triplechocolatebrown_7685

Over the years I have adapted Anthony’s recipe, but feel free to use either version (see below) and read on for a few tips I have learned along the way.

Firstly, I have never claimed that these brownies were low in calories, as I may do with some recipes, since a full 600g of chocolate are required to make these little beauties. My biggest tip would be to use good quality chocolate (minimum 70% solids dark chocolate and decent white chocolate), it truly does make a difference to the richness and taste of the finished product.

Quality chocolate

Secondly, follow the recipe. Whilst I do not often stipulate the order in which ingredients should be added, the ingredients in this recipe must be added in order due to the heat of the butter/ chocolate mixture at the start. You want to stir the sugar in whilst the mixture is still hot, however you must wait for it to be cooled with flour and eggs added before adding the chocolate chips, otherwise they will melt before cooking and end up a squidgy mess (and not in a good way!).

Brownie mixture

Thirdly, trust your judgement when deciding whether the brownies are sufficiently cooked. This can be a bit tricky, but make sure that the top is firm and only moves a little if you shake your hand whilst pressing lightly onto it. Unlike a sponge, it is fine for the mixture to still be a little moist after cooking since they will solidify as they cool.

Brownie tray

Fourthly, these chocolatey treats are great cooked just before guests arrive, since they will fill any space with powerful cocoa aromas.

Good enough for a true celebration as well as a tough workshop, they were recently requested for a wedding by my great friends Vic and Rowan as part of the dessert table I made for them.

Brownie stack

Ingredients:

300g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
250g unsalted butter
325g caster sugar
100g milk chocolate, cut or broken into large chunks
100g white chocolate, cut or broken into large chunks
100g dark chocolate, cut or broken into large chunks
175g plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Grease a 30x20x3.5cm/12x8x1½in tin (I use a standard sized roasting tin) with butter
  2. Put the plain chocolate and butter in a large bowl, place over a pan of simmering water and allow to melt. Stir often
  3. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the sugar
  4. Add the eggs and mix all together by hand until combined
  5. Fold in the baking powder, flour and chocolate
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes. The top should be firm but the inside should feel soft when cooked
  7. Cut brownies into squares whilst still warm but wait until cool to remove from tin. I tend to trim any crisp edges.
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