Sunday, 1 July 2018

Blackcurrant mousse cake

After a ridiculously successful Pick Your Own session, I found myself with nearly a kilogramme of black currants to find a use for. I was thinking about a mousse cake, but because I've been watching Bake Off - The Professionals, I thought I'd turn up the pressure and have a go at an entremet.

The cake had a coffee genoise sponge base, a milk chocolate "mousse" (I'll explain the inverted commas momentarily), caramelised almonds (as a substitute for a feuilletine layer), a blackcurrant mousse topped with a  blackcurrant glaze.

It wasn't half bad. It had a very long flavour. My mouth was constantly excited with each bite. The crunch of the almonds was an excellent foil to the luxurious mousse. The blackcurrant mousse and coffee cake combination is both complex and complementary. The bitterness of the coffee contrasting with the sweet fruit. The chocolate layer helped to seamlessly transition from one to the other. The glaze was intense and provide a real hit of fruitiness.

The only bit that didn't really work was the chocolate mousse. This was supposed to be a ganache, but had added egg yolks and sugar. I think the problem was that I didn't whisk the egg yolks and sugar together enough to form a sabayon, so when combined with the melted chocolate and cream, it didn't really for a mousse.

It's a very complicated recipe with many components, that I ended up making over night. I also wished I had a ring mould rather than a springform tin. De-moulding would have been much easier! I'm actually quite pleased with myself.

I'll give the chocolate ganache another bash and see if I can improve it. Maybe this is the start of an obsession with multi-layered desserts...

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Cheesecake brownies

I made this cheesecake-brownie mash-up because of a number of reasons:
  • I quite enjoy Paul Hollywood's City Bakes on the Food Network and I caught a repeat of the New York episode where he made these.
  • Last week I made an amazing baked cheesecake (I should have taken photos. I was surprised at how smooth it was: remarkable!).
  • I had a block of chocolate sitting in the cupboard.
  • At work, JW has declared his love of cheesecake on numerous occasions and I thought these would be a good way of sating that appetite.
They turned out pretty well. They are very rich and very chocolatey. They are more of a dessert than a brownie; at room temperature a plate and fork are definitely required. They are incredibly satisfying - you get a big chocolate hit. These do not leave you wanting.

I made some slight alterations to the recipe, based on my successful cheesecake the week before and instinct. I added a little cocoa and substituted in white chocolate chunks.

I think they could do with fewer chinks of chocolate and more cheesecake. I think I'd like the contrast between the brownie and cheesecake to be more pronounced, which I think you'd get if you upped the cheesecake content by 50%. I think it might be better to make them bigger pan thus making the brownies thinner and emphasising the contrast.

Recipe for cheesecake brownies (based on Paul Hollywood's original)

For the brownie:
200g plain chocolate, 45% cocoa solids
200g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
200g caster sugar
75g plain flour
15g cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
175g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cheesecake:
180g full fat cream cheese
1tbsp cornflour
15g caster sugar
1 medium egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
60ml ready-made custard

1. Line a brownie tin 22x29cm, 8 ½" x 11" with baking parchment. Heat your oven to 170°C.
2. Break 225g of chocolate into small chunks and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter. Place over a pan of simmering water and heat until melted. Leave to cool.
3. Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and the mixture has thickened. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour, cocoa, salt, chocolate chunks and vanilla extract. Pour into the prepared in.
4. Using an electric whisk on a slow speed, beat the cream cheese with the custard, sugar, vanilla extract and cornflour. Mix until smooth and all the ingredients are combine.
5. Drop spoonfuls of cheesecake mix onto the brownie then using a spatula fold through the brownie to create swirls. Bake for 25 minutes. A little mixture should still stick to a skewer when inserted in the middle of the brownie.
6. Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Coffee and cardamom cake

This cake came about with a need to provide cake for a cocktail party, which turned into a desire to produce a cake version of an espresso martini (although things took a bit of a turn when I started researching, especially when I read a James Martin recipe) and the need to provide a fiesta of buttercream.

It turned out really well. It's very delicate in flavour and the cardamom makes it incredibly fragrant. It's well balanced, not too sweet, and very long on the palette. It leaves you with a very satisfying hit of cake.

I was toying with making a white chocolate and coffee ganache for the top, or perhaps serving with a chocolate sauce (which would make it more of a dessert) but I think both of these would be over-powering. You could forgo the icing on the side, as well (but that depends on your predilection for buttercream...)

It's especially good with a cup of coffee the day are after baking. On to the recipe...

Coffee and cardamom cake:

8oz butter, softened
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs
3tbsp strong coffee
Cardamom seeds, ground from 10 pods
8oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2oz ground almonds
Coffee liqueur
For the buttercream - this is enough to cover the sides:
9oz butter, softened
18oz icing sugar
Coffee/coffee liqueur, to taste, approx 6tbsp
Chocolate, to decorate

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale.
2. Beat in the eggs, one by one.
3. Stir in the coffee and ground cardamom seeds.
4. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almond.
5. Split the cake mix between two greased and lined 8" cake pans, and bake at 180° for 25 mins (or until done).
6. While the sponges are cooling, make the butter cream.
7. Beat the butter, icing sugar and coffee together until smooth, adding coffee/liqueur to taste.
8. Once the cake are cool, split each cake in twain and drizzle with your choice of coffee liqueur.
9. Slather each cake with buttercream and stack.
10. Cover the top and sides with butter cream (if wanted) and decorate with grated coffee.
11. Grab a fresh mug of coffee or shake up an espresso martini, sit back and enjoy a slice.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Chestnut chocolate torte

Now anyone that knows me, must know that I think the chestnut is massively underused during the festive season on our fair isle. So, when a friend of mine was leaving for New Zealand, it seemed to me that a fitting farewell cake might be some kind of brownie laced with chestnuts. After reading rave reviews of those from Dan Lepard, they were promptly produced and enjoyed. But that was just the start.

It started me wondering if some kind of chocolate chestnut torte might be in order...

Turns out I was right. The dense brownie base is a perfect foil for a light mousse topping united by the subtle flavour of chestnut. This is a really deep (I think that's the effect of the chestnut puree)rich torte which has a long chocolate flavour which the booze gives a very gentle kick. The chestnuts in the brownie base give textural contrast to the light delicate mousse to sit atop. It's not too sweet. It's a simply beautiful balance.

I'd like to try this with chestnut flour, to see what that adds. You could also get away with twice as much mousse if you wanted. I probably would...

Chocolate Chestnut Torte

For the brownie base:
100g cooked chestnuts, chopped roughly
100g dark soft brown sugar
50ml bourbon/rum/brandy (your choice) 
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, separated
100g butter
100g dark chocolate
35g plain flour
15g cocoa
1/4tsp salt
100g chestnut puree
1tbsp double cream
For the mousse topping:
250g mascapone
300ml double cream
200g chestnut puree
50ml Bailey's Irish cream
Icing sugar (to taste)
To decorate:
Icing sugar
Grated chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 9" round baking tin.
2. Mix the chestnut pieces, 50g of the sugar and the alcohol in a bowl.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie.
4. Meanwhile, whip the egg white until stiff. Gradually add in the remaining sugar to create a meringue.
5. Beat in the egg yolks.
6. Slacken the the chestnut puree with the double cream and beat into the melted butter and chocolate along with the salt.
7. Sieve in the flour and cocoa.
8. Fold in the meringue.
9. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until barely set in the middle. Leave to cool.
10. Once cooled remove from the tin and put on a serving plate. Replace the wall of the tin over the base to allow you to build the torte.
11. Whip the cream to light peaks with the Bailey's and icing sugar.
12. Beat the mascapone and chestnut puree, then mix with the Bailey's cream.
13. Cover the brownie base with the mousse and leave to set for a few hours.
14. Once set, unmould and decorate with icing sugar, cocoa and grated chocolate.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Lemon Drizzle cake


I took my first proper cake into work today: a lemon drizzle. This was the same cake as I did for a wedding a couple of years ago, (I never quite managed to blog that one...) so I was reasonably confident but you never quite know. It did seem to go down quite well though.

When making it, it seems like it's more drizzle than cake, so to say it's a moist slice, is an understatement. As someone in the team rightly pointed out though, that's the point! It's still retains a pretty good structure. The different drizzles, I think, give maximum penetration and using different types of sugars gives pleasing textural differences. Oh and it's unashamedly lemony!

Lemon drizzle cake recipe

200g caster sugar
4 eggs
150ml sour cream
Zest 1 lemon
60ml lemon juice
150ml oil
200g plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
Drizzle 1:
4tbsp icing sugar
45ml lemon juice
Drizzle 2: 
70ml lemon juice
Zest 1 lemon
80g demerara sugar
NB: One lemon has about 30ml juice

1. Line and grease an 8" cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
3. Add the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and oil. Whisk together.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb and fold in.
(NB. The batter will seem very liquid, but don't worry it'll be OK)
5. Bake for 45 minutes at 180°C
6. Whilst the cake is baking make the two drizzles by simply mixing together the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved.
7. Once the cake is baked, use a skewer to make holes all over the cake. 
8. Brush on drizzle 1 all over the top of the cake using a pastry brush.
9. Brush on drizzle 2, waiting for each stroke to be absorbed before adding more. This'll take some time.
(NB. It'll seem that there's no way the cake will take that much moisture - it will) 
10. Leave to cool. Unmould and devour.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Celeriac soup with smoked haddock and leeks

One of the perks of working at home is the ability to make lunch in a full kitchen. Sometimes, I might take that just a tad too far. This might have been one of those times.

I had some celeriac in the fridge and I have been trying to eat more fish recently, so there was some  haddock too. Consequently I came up with this mongrel of a recipe, but it's tasty. Very tasty.

It's not too fishy, but the flakes of white fish under the earthy creamy soup are great combination. The cheesy crouton even works as well. (I'm normally a staunch advocate of the "no fish with cheese" rule). The crispy chorizo and pumpkin seeds for a garnish worked remarkably well too.

Altogether this was a meal born of opportunity but was perfectly fitting for a cold winter's day.

Celeriac soup with haddock and leeks

~300g Smoked haddock, boned removed, skin on
~500ml milk
Bay leaves
1 leek, finely sliced
Celeriac, peeled and cut into large dice
Bunch parsley, roughly chopped, stalks reserved
Optional crouton and garnish:
Slice of bread
Strong cheddar, grated
Slices of chorizo, large dice
Pumpkin seeds

1. Put the haddock skin up into a frying pan and use enough milk to just cover. Add bay leaves and peppercorns.
2. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer. Take the pan of the heat. Turn the fish over and cover. Leave for 20minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sweat the leeks in a generous knob of butter over a gently heat until soft. (I find a pinch of sat and use of lid works well).
4. Remove half the leeks from the pan and reserve, if you want to make the crouton.
5. Add the celeriac to the leeks and fry briefly to add a bit of colour.
6. Drain the milk from the haddock and add to the celeriac and leeks. Top up with water, if required. Add the parsley stalks.
7. Bring tot eh boil and simmer until the celeriac is soft, ~15min.
8. Remove the parsley stalks and blitz the soup until smooth. Add more water/milk until it reaches your required consistency. 
9. Put the soup in a pan and the chopped parsley leaves and keep warm. Season to taste (I'd suggest being aggressive with the pepper)
10. To make the garnish, dry fry the chorizo and pumpkin until the meat is crisp and the pumpkin seeds "popped"
11. To make the croutons, toast the bread and smother with leeks. Cover generously with cheese and grill to melting perfection.
11. To serve, put flakes of the haddock in the bottom of the serving dish and cover with the soup. Scatter over some chorizo and pumpkin seeds and finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Pecan Squares

A few weekends ago I wanted to make a cake version of a pecan pie for work colleague so I was inspired to make pecan squares from The Great Big Cookie Book (Walden, H., 1999). They weren't too bad but as they were double baked the shortbread was too crisp and the whole thing just too brittle. The lemon in the shortbread was inspired though.

Consequently I had another go this weekend, changing the caramel to mirror that from a millionaire's shortbread. These were, I think, much better. The shortbread held together and the topping felt much more luxurious and comforting. Salt in the caramel offset the sweetness although the flavour of the maple syrup didn't really come through. A small square 2" is more than enough to give you a sugar hit be that as a pick-me-up at for threeses at work or

If I made them again I'd probably slightly reduce the amount of caramel (or increase the amount of pecans halves) to showcase the nuts a little more. I'm not quite sure how to increase the maple syrup factor though; a drizzle, maybe? 

Clearly further experiments are required. However, if you want to give this work in progress a go, here's the recipe.

Pecan squares (makes about 20)

For the shortbread:
7oz plain flour
4oz caster sugar
2oz pecans, toasted, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
Zest 1 lemon
Pinch salt
For the caramel:
150g butter
397g condensed milk
100g soft dark brown sugar
50g maple syrup
1/2 - 1tsp sea salt
400g pecan halves, toasted

1. Line and grease a 30 x 20 cm shallow baking tin (a swiss roll tin) and pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
(While the oven is heating up you might as well toast your nuts, having spread them on a large baking sheet. Just be sure to watch them like a hawk and check them every few minutes. The last thing you want is burnt nuts.)
2. Sift the salt and flour into a bowl and mix with the caster sugar.
3. Rub the butter into the flour to create breadcrumbs. Stir in the pecan pieces and lemon zest.
NB Steps 2 and 3 can be done by pulsing in a food processor
4. Add the egg and bring the mixture together, with a very gentle quick knead on a floured surface.
5. Press into the tin and chill for 30 mins.
NB The mix may be very sticky so be careful.
6. After 30min fork the biscuit all over and bake for 20min until golden. Once baked leave to cool.
7. While the biscuit base is cooling, make the caramel topping.
8. In a heavy bottomed pan place the sugar, condensed milk and butter. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
9. Stir in the salt and maple syrup. Mix in the pecans and cover thoroughly.
10. Pour the caramel-pecan mix over the shortbread and try to distribute evenly. Leave to set.
11. Once cool, cut into squares using a large heavy knife.
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