I have a problem. I own a number of really amazing cookbooks and have recently added a few more to my collection. I love browsing through them and getting ideas for recipes as well as oogle at the gorgeous food photography or typography. But when it comes to last minute cooking inspiration, I tend to just whip out the iPhone or iPad and surf the web. Whaaatt??
Take last Sunday for example, I woke up and decided that I needed to bake. I didn’t care what, I just wanted to get the butter, sugar and flour out. So instead of getting out of bed and flipping through my cookbooks, I stayed in bed and surfed YouTube for recipes. Gosh, how low can one go right?
This recipe for fudgey brownies came from Laura Vitale of Laura in the Kitchen. I’m sure we all have our ‘go-to’ brownie recipe, I had one too. But after watching Laura’s version, I chucked my age-old high school brownie recipe and dived straight into the kitchen for my baking therapy.
Loved, loved, loved this fudgey brownie. Chewy and super chocolatey – just the way I think brownies should be and it’s really easy to make. No excuses for anyone wanting to reach for the pre-mixed brownie box!
Adapted from Laurainthekitchen.com
140g (5 oz) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g (7 oz) of 70% dark chocolate, melted
200g (approx 1 cup) of castor sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
¼ tsp of salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp of espresso coffee
75 g (2/3 cup) of plain flour
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Spray an 8 by 8 inch square pan with non stick cooking spray and lay the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and espresso. Beat until all is combined.
Add the melted chocolate and whisk, add the dry ingredients and mix everything together until it’s incorporated but don’t over mix.
Pour batter into your prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 40 minutes or until when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not wet batter.
Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
I wanted to bake him something different. Something I haven’t made before. I thought long and hard and changed my mind a dozen times. Turned out, I spent way too much time thinking about what to bake that my man’s birthday came and went and the cake was only still a vision in my head. We celebrated his birthday with a amazing meal at Nobu. But still no cake.
Finally I got my act together (a couple weeks late) and decided to go with the classic, old fashioned Blackforest Cake. Yes, for those in the know – I still have cherries and this was a great recipe for using up more of them.
The traditional blackforest cake originated from Germany, and is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cherry torte). Kirschwasser, otherwise commonly known to the rest of us simply as Kirsch is a clear liquor distilled from cherries. Cherries are steeped in a sugar syrup with Kirsch before it is used for the cake. In my opinion, the kirsch-soaked cherries are the best parts of the cake. Well, the chocolate cake, whipped cream and shaved chocolates bits are great too, but the cherries…mmmm…
In my recipe, I used freshly frozen cherries instead of the canned ones, which is often what is recommended in recipes because they already come well soaked in syrup. Many use the canned syrup with kirsch or rum, or on its own if a non-alcohol cake is required.
I prepared the fresh cherries, with a simple sugar syrup…and white port. Oh yes, I broke the rules and used port. I didn’t have kirsch nor rum, only port. There’s sweetness, there’s alchohol…so why not? It worked really well anyway. Rules what rules? I got me some port-soaked cherries and cake…and it was gooooood.
The cake part was a no-brainer – I used my all time favourite chocolate cake recipe and the rest of it was just construction work. So easy yet it can look so impressive.
Happy belated birthday to my favourite person in this world!
Makes a 9 inch, double layered cake
About 500 – 700g pitted cherries
25g caster sugar (more if cherries are not very sweet)
55ml port (kirsch, rum or brandy if you want to substitute)
1/2 cup water
Add cherries, sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer till the water is reduced by half and becomes syrupy. Add in liquor, remove from heat. Let cherries soften and soak in the liquid until cool.
600ml thickened cream
2 tbsp soft icing sugar
Whip cream until almost stiff, then add in sugar and whip until cream holds peaks.
Half the cooled cake horizontally, brush both layers of the cake with some of the syrup and port mixture. Some people like the cake to have more syrup and some prefer the cake without – so it’s up to you how much syrup to soak the cake with. Just don’t drown it.
Spread whipped cream over the bottom layer of cake, and distribute soaked cherries evenly over the cream.
Gently lay top layer of cake over and top it with more cream. Decorate with piped cream, shaved dark chocolate and cherries.
It’s the last day of 2011!!! Oh my, how time flies. This has been an amazing year starting off with our final months in the UK, enjoying a luxurious Mexican vacation, saying farewell to our wonderful friends in the big smoke, witnessing my brother in law’s wedding in Vietnam, moving home to Melbourne Australia, setting up a new home, starting and ending a new job within a few weeks, enjoying funemployment for a few months and now here I am, fresh from my Christmas vacation in beautiful Tasmania and ready for 2012. Busy no?
I’m very thankful for all of God’s blessings, including a year of good health for me and my family and friends. I’ve also had a few blissful month of funemployment, but I am also pleased to say that I will be back in the rat race starting next week. New year, new job, new hopes, new adventures. I can’t wait!
One of this year’s many blessings is this.
Meet my new and totally adorable friend – my PINK Cuisinart ice cream maker. I think I’m becoming more and more of a girly girl. My once black, blue and grey wardrobe is being taken over by splashes of colours, pink included. And this trend has obviously seeped into my kitchenware! Gaaahhh!
So with this new pink gadget, I decided to make a more “manly” ice cream. A dark, super duper chocolatey ice cream. It’s easy, and egg-free and this method of making ice cream with corn flour guarantees a creamy and very smooth dessert.
Have a wonderful new year’s eve, go a little crazy cos you can, don’t drink and drive and may 2012 start off with a bang (yes to fireworks!) and filled with more deliciousness in your lives! xx
Eggless Very Chocolate Ice Cream
Serves 4 – 6
350 ml whole milk
350 ml cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3-4 tablespoons of corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1. Whisk together 200 ml of the milk with the corn starch, making sure that there are no lumps. Set aside for now.
2. Blend the remaining milk, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a sauce pan. Warm until steaming hot on medium heat. Now, stir in the cocoa and corn starch mixture with the rest of the ingredients in the sauce pan. Barely reaching a boil, cook and stir continuously for about five minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
3. Reduce the heat and continue to stir for another five minutes until the mixture has thickened even further.
4. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and prepare according to the instructions of your ice cream machine
Peaky batch. After making macarons a number of times, it’s still pretty hit or miss with these little diva shells. I got the beautiful peaky shiny meringue. I got the ‘magma’ flowing mix with the almond meal. I piped, tapped the trays and waited. Yet there were still stubborn peaks on the macaron shells. I’m thinking my magma wasn’t quite flowing right.
One thing about macarons. Whether they are smooth and pretty or not so pretty slightly deformed mounds – they all taste the same. Good same. Yummy same.
On a recent trip home from a snow weekend, we stopped by a berry farm. I know fresh berries aren’t in season during winter, but the farm was open, and there were berry products which we could taste! Free tastings are always good right? There were berry jams, berry wines, syrup, sauce – all things berrilicious. I left with a wonderful jar of chunky and sticky fig jam and a smooth and shiny apple and elderberry jelly.
This is the first time I’ve filled macs with ganache and am really glad to say they’re a perfect fit. I used the apple and elderberry jelly to flavour the white chocolate ganache and the subtle fruity flavours came through just enough. Could have done with a bit more of a fruity hit but I didn’t want to add on more jelly as the sugar high from one of these mamas would have been ridiculous!
Summer’s on the way (read BERRIES galore!!), so next time I’ll add fresh berries to the ganache instead.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. I’m off to enjoy another round of Glee marathon before I break into Season 3. Yes, I’m a Gleek!
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Line baking trays with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 118 C. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue whip for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it.
The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C.
Bake one set of macarons for 12-14 minutes, rotating once.
Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
APPLE & ELDERBERRY WHITE CHOC GANACHE
50ml pouring cream
100g white chocolate
5 tbps apple and elderberry jelly
Bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add jelly, stir till fully combined.
So, I’ve joined the workforce again. This was my first week at work and boy am I not used to working so hard for so many hours in a day! The couple of months off has ruined me! But it certainly is nice to be bringing home some bacon. I love pay days!
Brownies. Let me just say this - I’m not a big fan. As many of you would know, I’m not a chocolate lover, so when it comes to cake or baked goods, I usually lean towards the citrusy ones. However, I was bored at home (while job hunting) and thought I’d bake a batch of chewy chocolately pecan brownies. Jamie Oliver’s recipes have never failed me so I went ahead to recreate his bloomin’ brilliant brownies. Be warned. If you’re after a crumblier cakey version, then skip this.
These brownies were uber chocolatey (think 70% cocoa) and they were chewy and gooey. I loved them fresh from the oven, and I would recommend warming it for 10 sec in the microwave if it’s been a day or two old, and serve it with creamy vanillia ice cream. It’s rich and totally sinful. Moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips. But for something so divine…I’d take the hips, thanks!
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies
250g unsalted butter
200g dark Fairtrade chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up
50g chopped pecans
80g cocoa powder, sifted
65g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
360g caster sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a 25cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.
Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.
All the boxes have left the building. What a relief. This whole moving to a whole different continent thing is not proving to be fun…but sitting here in a half empty apartment, I’m actually getting psyched and excited about going home to Australia. Can’t wait to see all our friends again.
I’m relishing an unusually warm Spring here in London, soaking in all the sun before we head back to Winter again. Now that, I’m not looking forward to.
Right, Cashew Blondies. I mentioned in my previous post that I showered my colleagues on my last day at work with more baked goods. This is my first time I’ve baked with cashews. I liked it. The cashews gave the cake a nutty, slightly creamy flavour and stood out strong against the bittersweet chocolate bits.
So I leave this with you until I find the opportunity to blog again…wherever I may be. Sweet dreams!
adapted from Chocolate Temptations (Linda Collister)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups self-raising flour
a large pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped cashews (I used non-roasted)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking tray with foil.
In a heavy pan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, stir well, and remove from the heat. Let cool for a minute, then add the eggs and vanilla, stirring well.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder over the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Stir only until thoroughly blended, but don’t beat or overmix. Fold in nuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes until just firm.
Cool for a while in the baking tray, then lift the cake, transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove the foil and cut into squares.
Ten more days people! Ten more days before I uproot four years of my life in the UK back to good ol’ Australia. It’s been crazy. I definitely have a good excuse for not posting as regularly. Please bear with me…but right now, cardboard boxes and constant ‘pack, chuck or think about it’ questions rule my life.
The last time I made orange marmalade macarons, my colleagues went gaga over them. Many asking for the recipes while scoffing them during morning tea break. Since the last one went down so well, I decided I’ll spoil them again before I finish off my second last week of work with this chocolate macaron with espresso buttercream.
I don’t really know if those guys at work will miss me more or would it be my offerings of baked goods for morning tea they’ll miss. Just kidding. I have enjoyed using them as my guinea pigs, and will definitely miss this wonderful bunch of people. I did go in on my last day at work with more baked goods (upcoming post) and the next time I bake anything, it will be on a whole new continent. The thought of it is blowing my mind!
After posting this, it’s back to crazy packing. And by end of the week, hubby and I will be living out of our suitcases, watching movies on our laptops (bye bye TV *sob*) and eating takeaways.
Chocolate and coffee is a classic combination and I loved making this. I used really strong espresso but you can substitute with espresso powder mixed into vanilla extract.
Once again, I never know if the macs would turn out okay…
But they did…phew.
CHOCOLATE MACARON (Italian Method)
200g almond meal or ground blanched almonds
200g confectioners’ sugar
15g unsweetened dutch-processes cocoa powder
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Method for making macarons can be found here, along with tips and tricks. With the cocoa powder, sift it together with the almond meal and proceed as usual.
225g unsalted butter, softened
250g powdered sugar
2 tbsp very strong espresso
1 tsp vanilla extract
Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more.
Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl, continue on low while adding vanilla and espresso till fully incorporated. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.