My youngest daughter is doing her SATs this week so I have made brownies as a treat after school. She needs all the treats she can get; it has been a stressful year with SATs practice after practice after practice. We will all be glad when Friday comes and SATs are over with.
I have made a version of these brownies before with peanut butter, but decided on salted caramel this time as we had some cream in the fridge. I have also added some chopped almonds in there for a bit of interesting texture.
The salted caramel takes a bit of making but you do end up with a jar of caramel sauce that will last about a month in the fridge. Which is always a good thing and it’s not a massive hardship even for someone like me that normally only has to look at caramelising sugar to make it go grainy. If you can’t be bothered with it then just use a jar of ready-made caramel sauce (aka dulce de leche) or omit it altogether as the brownies are delicious all on their own.
For the caramel sauce:
240g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
½ tsp salt
225g double cream
Place the water, sugar, vanilla pod and salt in a pan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil the sugar syrup until it turns a dark golden colour. Take off the heat and add the cream. It will seize up and go hard. Don’t worry. Return to the heat and stir and it will become runny again. Heat until it reaches 110°c or turns a dark golden colour.
For the brownies:
150g dark chocolate
50g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
50g wholemeal spelt
50g almonds, chopped
pinch of coarse sea salt
Line a 23cm round or 20cm square tin with parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4, or use the baking oven of the 4-oven Aga.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large bowl over a simmering pan of water. Stir in the cocoa powder. Leave to cool slightly.
In another large bowl whisk the eggs and the sugars together until thick and moussey. Pour the chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and fold in gently. Fold in the spelt flour and the chopped almonds. Pour the batter into the tin. Pour some of the caramel over the top and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt.
Place the tin into the centre of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. The top should be crusty but the centre should still be wobbly. It will firm up on cooling and give that characteristic fudgey centre. Serve with a little more caramel sauce poured over the top.
In typical English weather fashion, the week before the Easter school holidays was glorious, then the girls broke up from school and it has rained and rained, and snowed and any other horrible weather that you might want to think of.
But in true English style we went for a picnic with friends yesterday anyway. We sat on a bench in the playground just as it started hailing. Hey ho, these cakes cheered us up as we sat under our umbrella.
They are very easy to make as they make use of a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread instead of having to make a buttercream topping. There is also a lovely dollop of chocolate spread in the middle too to give the cakes a lovely gooeyness when you sink your teeth in.
Place the softened butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and milk in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.
Line a patty pan with cupcake cases and place a scant teaspoonful in the bottom of each case. Then put half a teaspoon of chocolate hazelnut spread on top of the batter. Top with another scant teaspoonful of batter. Place the cakes into a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre shelf of the Baking Oven of the Aga for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch.
Place the cakes onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, spread generously with chocolate spread and decorate to your heart’s content. Enjoy in the hail or the sunshine.
I am ridiculously pleased with an early Christmas present from my parents. A Nordicware bundt pan.
I made vanilla bundt cakes immediately but today was time for a bundt cake that can be shared with We Should Cocoa, this month hosted by Choclette. She chose orange for this month’s challenge and I love the combination of chocolate and orange.
The chocolate bundt cakes have orange zest and juice added and are beautiful drizzled with the orange flavoured icing. Delicious.
110g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons of yoghurt ( I use Total 2%)
Zest of a large orange
Juice of half a large orange
For the icing
75g icing sugar
juice of half a large orange
Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the Baking Oven of the Aga. Butter or oil the bundt pan. Although, I did run a test on mine and the non stick coating worked a treat without greasing beforehand.
Making sure that the butter is really soft (I left mine out of the fridge for two days and it still wasn’t soft enough – a testament to our chilly kitchen), place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until you have a smooth batter.
Pour a teaspoon of the batter into each hole of the bundt pan and place in the oven. Cook for about twenty minutes until they look cooked and if you lightly touch them the cake will spring back.
Leave them in the tin for a few minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with the orange juice. If you think it’s too runny then add a little more icing sugar as it will depend on the juiciness of your orange.
Place the little cakes on a serving plate and drizzle with the icing.
You could make this in a large bundt pan, in which case you will need to double the recipe and cook for about 45 minutes. Test the cake with a skewer which should come out clean after being pushed to the centre of the cake.
Eek! This is my late entry to this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, hosted this month by Choclette. She came up with the great idea of combining chocolate with chilli this month. I was up for the challenge but unfortunately time ran away with me. So at the very last hour I made these. They are very moreish. At first bite they taste like a normal chocolate but then it hits you with a great big spicy kick.
These particular truffles have a secret ingredient. Should I tell you? Oh, go on then.
My mum bought these for us when she was on holiday earlier this year. They are a little pod of espresso with added cocoa. You drink the contents with the attached straw and after that you whir around like the Tasmanian Devil for the next ten minutes. They are fab! Unfortunately they don’t seem to be available in the UK, so if you want to add the espresso element, which is there to boost the chocolate flavour of these truffles then just add 20ml of strong espresso.
I had various theories about how to get the chilli flavour – dried or fresh? Minced or sliced? Should there be a bite of actual chilli in there? In the end I decided that I should use fresh and infuse the cream with slices of said chilli, seeds et al, and then sieve these out. I thought it would need to infuse for an hour or so. Let me tell you here and now it doesn’t! Thankfully I checked after five minutes and that was enough to give the cream a sufficient chilli kick ( read definitely enough, any longer and it will blow your head off).
100g good quality 70% chocolate
200ml double cream
1 red chilli, sliced with seeds
chocolate flakes for rolling ( I used chilli flavoured chocolate flakes)
Place the sliced chilli and seeds with the cream into a pan and heat until just below boiling point. In the meantime chop the chocolate finely, you can do this by whizzing it in a food processor, should you have one. Remove the cream from the heat and let it infuse. Try it after a few minutes and if it seems to have enough of a chilli kick then sieve the cream over a basin to remove the chilli. Return the cream to the pan and briefly heat just to warm through. Add the chopped chocolate and the espresso and stir gently until smooth. Place this in a bowl in the fridge to firm up. Take teaspoonfuls and roll into chocolate flakes or cocoa powder.
The beauty of this ganache is that it also makes a mighty fine and warming hot chocolate for bedtime.
Just heat a cup of milk in a pan until warm. Add a tablespoon of the ganache or about three of the truffles and whisk until well combined. Heat to the desired temperature and enjoy.
Thank you Choclette, and I am sorry for being so rubbish at organising myself.
This is my contribution to this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. This month it is very exciting as the challenge is a year old (time flies!) and Chele wanted everyone to make a cake suitable for a first birthday.
My cupcakes are inspired by the wonderful blogs of both Chele and Choclette, the brilliant bloggers behind We Should Cocoa. They have both recently featured honeycomb – Chele made Nigella’s Hokey Pokey and Choclette reviewed some very delicious looking honeycomb draped in Valrhona (drooling!). I knew I had to make some honeycomb and soon. Then I thought about a cupcake featuring honeycomb. When I was making them it seemed obvious that I needed to use spelt flour as I learned about spelt flour from Choclette. The spelt flour has the consistency of wholemeal and so adds a bit more texture to the cupcake. I happen to like this, but if you prefer yours in the traditional style then by all means use plain flour.
And, of course, if you are only one year old you don’t want a great big slab of cake (or you may want a big slab but your mummy won’t let you), so a cupcake is perfect.
Thanks to Chele and Choclette for a fabulous monthly challenge which has inspired me many times during the last year.
Before I divulge the recipe I have a few confessions to make. I cooked the cupcakes with honeycomb sprinkled inside the batter, but all it did was dissolve and escape out of the top of the cakes so I wouldn’t bother with doing that again. My instructions for making the cupcakes will leave this bit out. Also, when I was making the hokey pokey I reduced the amount of bicarb from the original recipe from 1½tsps to 1 tsp.
To make the cakes, first make the hokey pokey as described by Chele. Then make the cupcake batter as follows.
110g caster sugar
110g softened butter (unsalted)
pinch of salt
20g cocoa powder
1 heaped tsp instant coffee powder
100ml hot water
140g flour (spelt or plain)
1 tsp baking powder
Method Dissolve the cocoa powder and the instant coffee in the hot water and allow to cool. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Spoon into cupcake cases and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or in the baking oven of the Aga for 12-15 minutes until cooked. When you place a fingertip on top the cake should spring back. Remove the cakes in their cases to a wire rack to cool.
This is my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. This month’s challenge is to make a swiss roll or roulade. Well, you have already witnessed my roulade attempt for last week’s Sunday lunch. Well, this was this week’s Sunday dessert. My two girls have fallen in love with mint choc chip ice cream and I keep having to buy tubs from the supermarket to sate their appetite. I have wanted to make mint ice cream for a while. The mint in our garden is in its prime, a month earlier than usual. It is also rampant so finding another use for it is a big bonus.
I have always wondered how you got the mint flavour in there – do you infuse the cream or infuse a sugar syrup? (Obviously, if you are a commercial ice cream seller you use mint flavouring and you don’t go in for this infusing malarkey). I googled mint ice cream and found that you can infuse the cream or you can infuse a sugar syrup. I decided to go with the former.
My first attempt was a disaster. I decided that to get the green colour you probably needed to chop the leaves and the stalks. I forgot that mint turns brown when bruised and the cream turned a mucky brown colour on top – not very appetising.
So, the second time round I removed the leaves from the stalks and discarded the stalks (the chickens loved them). I kept the leaves whole and infused them for an hour in the warm cream. This seemed to work very well but the cream wasn’t very green. So I thought I would puree the mint leaves and push them through a sieve with the cream again, risking that this may turn the cream brown. Well, in actual fact I nearly turned the cream red (reminder to self – stick blenders are extremely sharp and will cut your fingers!). Fortunately, all blood was contained well away from the infused cream and I had no reason to tell my guests that we were having mint and strawberry ice cream, as suggested by my helpful neighbour. I also still have my index finger and thumb intact, just about.
Anyway, as it turns out the infused cream did have a subtle green glow about it.
Not quite commercial mint choc chip green but lovely anyway. I was surprised by the taste, it is nothing like commercial mint ice cream. It had a subtle mint taste with a slight earthiness about it. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think the kids were as impressed though because it didn’t taste like what they are used to.
I could have just served it as it is but I still wanted to enter this month’s challenge, so I thought an arctic roll might just hit the spot.
I made a traditional swiss roll rather than a roulade. The difference for me between the two is the flour used in a swiss roll. If I was making it again I might use the roulade recipe as it is richer and not quite so dry as a swiss roll. But this did roll better. I borrowed my mum’s tin – the right size for the recipe, and rolled it straight away as it came out of the oven. Then unrolled it to fill it with ice cream. No cracks!
Next time I will make the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly and I might just take James Martin’s advice to freeze the ice cream in a plastic pipe as trying to roll it in greaseproof paper was messy and difficult.
For the Mint choc chip ice cream
600ml double cream
60g mint leaves
50g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1 dsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, chopped into chip sized pieces
For the swiss roll
75g caster sugar
50g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
Method For the ice cream:
Pour the double cream into a saucepan and add the mint leaves. Place the pan on a medium heat and bring up to almost boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract together until combined. Sieve the cream into a jug and discard the mint leaves. Pour the cream over the eggs and whisk well. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and then freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions or pour into a plastic container and place in the freezer removing every half hour for two hours to beat the mixture and remove ice crystals.
I would then recommend sourcing a clean plastic pipe as James Martin advises and freezing the ice cream in this. Otherwise, lay a piece of greaseproof paper on a worktop and spoon on the ice cream and roll up into a tube shape measuring 5cm x 30 cm. I found this quite difficult because I had made my ice cream that day and it was melting as soon as I handled it. So I would advise making the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly.
For the swiss roll
Grease and line with greaseproof paper a shallow swiss roll tin measuring 33cm x 23cm.
Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl until the whisk leaves a trail when lifted. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and fold very carefully into the mixture. Spread this evenly onto the tin.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or with the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 8 minutes until the sides are shrinking away from the tin.
Whilst the swiss roll is cooking, lay a piece of greaseproof paper, which is bigger than the swiss roll tray, on the worktop and dust with cocoa powder or sugar.
As soon as the swiss roll is removed from the oven carefully invert it into the greaseproof paper. Peel away the paper that is on the bottom and, using the paper underneath to help you, roll into a swiss roll. Place on a wire rack to cool.
When you are ready to serve, remove the roll of ice cream from the freezer, unroll the swiss roll. Place the ice cream in the middle and re roll the swiss roll to cover. Serve in slices.
I made this on sunday, with the first British strawberries that I have seen this year. The rolling didn’t work out too well. But I thought to myself, ‘well I will post it as it tastes good’. Then just before I post it I read Chele’s latest blog about this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. This month’s challenge is not an ingredient, but a technique and you guessed it – the making and rolling of a roulade/ swiss roll. Oh well, maybe more practice is needed before I can submit an entry into this month’s challenge.
Last time I made this roulade it rolled much better. But last time I had run over to my parent’s house to borrow her swiss roll tin, which measures 29cm x 18cm and has shallow sides. On Sunday I used my Aga half-sized roasting dish which measure 27cm x 16cm and so this resulted in a slightly thicker and slightly shorter cake. This made it more difficult to roll, so I think getting the right sized tin is definitely the way to go if you want to enter any challenges. If you just want a tasty cake then live a little on the edge and use a tin that is approximately the right size.
The recipe for the cake element is based on Delia’s Squidgy Chocolate Log from her Complete Cookery Course.
For the cake:
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
Line a swiss roll (shallow) tin that measures 29cm x 18cm with greaseproof paper or silicone sheet.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks until they start to thicken. Add the sugar and whisk until a little thicker. Sift over the cocoa powder and fold in.
In a separate and scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add one third of the egg whites and fold in carefully and then add the rest of the egg whites in two further batches. Folding carefully to retain as much air as possible. Pour the mixture carefully into the prepare tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre of the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 20 minutes until it is springy to the touch.
Leave in the tin to cool.
For the filling:
3 tablespoons of strawberry jam
300ml double cream
about 8 strawberries
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Place a sheet of greaseproof paper, slightly larger than the cake, onto the worktop and dust with cocoa. Softly whip the cream. Turn the cake out of the tin onto the greaseproof paper. Spread the jam evenly over the surface and then spread the cream on top. Halve the strawberries and dot them on top of the cream. Using the greaseproof paper roll the cake gently into a roll. If it cracks, it will still taste good. Serve with extra double cream poured over.
It has been a very busy Easter holiday and so I am a bit behind with my posts – sorry. The next post will be the cake for which I used the crystallised violets but I have just had a look at Choclette’s blog and she reminded me that time is running out if I want to submit an entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. Choclette chose marzipan this month and marzipan is one of my very favourite things. I adore marzipan chocolates and so the idea of cooking with marzipan and chocolate really appealed. I wanted to try something a little different but that was reminiscent of Easter. Easter, of course, means simnel cake, but I didn’t want to make a normal simnel cake. Then I thought about the pistachios I had bought and then about my chocolate hazelnut cupcakes and whether it might work if I made the same mixture but with pistachios and cooked the cake with a layer of pistachio marzipan like you do with simnel. The resulting cake was moist and chewy, much more like a brownie than a cake and was better the second day than the first when it had time to settle.
I really liked this cake/ brownie and it can be made with almonds just as easily. I urge you to have a go at making your own marzipan as it is so much nicer than shop bought. The layer of marzipan sinks to the bottom but is gloriously chewy. The people who tried this cake gave it the thumbs up and I don’t think they were just being polite.
For the pistachio marzipan
125g pistachios, finely ground in a food processor
60g caster sugar
60g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 free range egg, lightly beaten (you will only need about half the egg)
To make the marzipan:
Place the pistachios and the caster sugar and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add the lemon juice and about half the egg and mix to a soft dough. Place on a worktop dusted with icing sugar and knead until smooth. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use it. (I made mine by putting all the ingredients into a food processor and whizzing until smooth, which worked just fine).
For the cake batter:
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
100g pistachios, finely ground in a food processor
100g spelt flour (you could use wholemeal or plain flour)
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
Roll out the pistachio marzipan into a disc that fits snugly in the tin and leave to one side whilst you make the cake.
Beat the butter with an electric whisk until creamy and then cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the pistachios, cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.
Place half the mixture in the tin and then carefully place the disc of marzipan on top. Cover with the remaining batter, smoothing the top.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4, for 50-60 minutes. About halfway through check the cake and cover the top with foil if it is beginning to brown. A skewer should come out clean when the cake is cooked.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about ten minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
These have been in my mind for quite a while. I have been thinking about how Nutella might taste in the middle of a fairy cake and what would happen to its consistency. I can tell the seasons from a jar of Nutella. In the winter it is almost impossible to spoon out of the jar, the cold of the cupboard has set it hard. In the summer it becomes oily and hard to keep on the knife as it is lifted out of the jar.
Well, these little cakes were made when the Nutella is of perfect consistency, on a mild spring day, when the sky is an almost azure ( I am in England after all and we don’t often get an azure sky) and the temperature is that wonderful warm on your back but don’t reach for the sun screen warm. The Nutella stayed soft in the centre of the cakes making for a lovely bite of gooeyness. This also means that there is no need for frosting – perfect.
110g light soft brown sugar
110g softened butter
120g self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder added)
20g good quality cocoa
Nutella or hazelnut chocolate spread, about 6 teaspoons
Place all of the ingredients, except for the Nutella, in a large bowl and whisk well until all is combined.
Place a scant teaspoonful of the mixture into a fairy cake (mini muffin) case in a patty (mini muffin) tin. Place half a teaspoonful of Nutella on top. Cover with another scant teaspoonful of cake batter. Repeat with the remaining eleven.
Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch of a light finger.
I think I could benefit from a cupcake decorating course 🙂
I made these the other day to have in the park on the walk home from school to celebrate the change in the weather we seem to have had in the last week or so. Spring may actually have sprung. Of course, though, because we had planned a picnic the English weather let us know that we were fools and the sun didn’t peek out of the clouds once. It was a fairly cold picnic! Oh well, the cupcakes were good.
I made these in muffin tins so that they are a fair-sized cupcake. You don’t see fairy cakes about much these days. A fairy cake sized cake is sometimes exactly right to fill a hole. So feel free to make these smaller. If you are making them muffin sized they will make 12, so smaller might make 16- 20 I would say.
For the frosting
100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar
3 tsp cool strong coffee, made from 3 tsp of instant coffee dissolved in 4 tsps of just boiled water
2 tbsp double cream
Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 for about 4 minutes until they are lightly toasted. Be careful, they soon burn. Pour them onto a clean tea towel and rub gently. Most of the skins will come off, but leave some on as they add a good flavour. Turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4.
Put the hazelnuts into a food processor and whizz until they are large crumbs. This adds a nice crunchiness to the cupcake.
Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and whisk until fluffy and pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well with each addition. Gently stir in the hazelnuts.
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder over and fold in gently.
Place dessertspoonfuls of the mixture into the muffin cases in a muffin tin. They should be about three-quarters full. If you are using fairy cases then use a teaspoon to fill them three-quarters full.
Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 20 – 25 minutes for the muffin sized cakes or 10-15 minutes for the fairy cake size. They should look firm and feel springy to a gentle touch.
Leave them to cool in the tin for a minute or two and then lift out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the butter in a bowl until soft, add the icing sugar and stir in gently at first. If you beat it straight in you will end up with a fine layer of icing sugar dust all over the kitchen. When it is starting to clump together start to whisk it until it is fluffy. Add the coffee and beat again. Add the cream and beat until all is combined. Pipe over the cupcakes more artistically then I can manage.
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