69. Ukrainian Sweet Chestnut Babka

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

Seinfeld introduced the idea of the Babka to me. It’s an enriched sweet dough usually flavoured with chocolate popular in Eastern Europe. The episode focuses on Jerry and Elaine’s desperation to get their hands on the last Babka in the bakery. I’ve wanted to find out what all the fuss was about for ages. It was definitely worth the wait.

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

I love how beautiful the Babka looks in all it’s braided glory. Dark brown sweet chestnut stripes peeking through the sweet dough, glistening in their honey glaze. I also love how complicated and impressive it looks too! I’ve plaited bread before, before but this was my first attempt at a braid and it’s not as difficult as you’d think.

Traditionally Babka, which means Grandmother in Polish, is a comforting bread flavoured with chocolate and baked at Easter time. As I like to do things differently (and I had ran out of chocolate) I found a tin of chestnut paste in the cupboard and thought I would put it to good use.

Babka swirls

Babka swirls

It’s absolutely delicious with it’s soft light texture and not too sweet, although you can add more sugar if you wish. I added cocoa powder to my chestnut paste along with poppy seeds to give a nod to the traditional chocolate and nut versions. The cocoa added depth to the chesnut paste and poppy seeds feature heavily in many European bakes and give a lovely crunch.

Having never baked with chestnut before, I was so happy with the result. I bought the tin on an impulse and it’s lay at the back of the cupboard forgotten until now. It’s an unusal flavour, rich nutty and rather savoury. Do check your can to see if it’s sweetened or natural. If unsweetened you’ll need to add sugar to you get your preferred level of sweetness. You could add chocolate chips, or use chocolate spread or nutella (or anything you fancy!) if you prefer.

How I made my Sweet Chestnut Babka

  1. Mix ingredients together til fully incorporated
  2. Knead for 10 mins until the dough is smooth and springs back when pinched
  3. Place in bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
  4. Knock back the dough.
  5. Knead lightly on oiled work surface and roll out to a rectangle approx 5mm thick.  30 cm by 20cm.
  6. Spread even layer of chestnut paste over the dough and sprinkle lightly with Poppy seeds and light brown sugar.
  7. Roll dough up from long edge to long edge to form a sausage of dough with a spiral of chestnut running through the centre
  8. Cut the dough sausage with a sharp lightly oiled knife lengthways all the way along the sausage. Cut all the way through the dough to spilt it down the middle and expose the filling.
  9. Seal the strips together at one end
  10. Twist the two halves together,  folding one half of the dough over the other keeping the stripes of filling in the outside
  11. Seal the other two ends together to form a braided ring. You can trim the ends of the Babka with sharp knife to seal the twists together before joining the ends to form a ring
  12. Lift carefully onto a greased and lined baking sheet.
  13. Cover with greased cling film and prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size
  14. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
  15. Brush all over with honey syrup whilst still hot
  16. Cool and eat!

Things I used to make my Sweet Chestnut Babka

Dough

  • 350g strong white flour (you could use all white strong flour if your prefer)
  • 115g strong wholemeal flour
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • splash of water and vegetable oil if needed to bring the dough together into smooth ball

Sweet Chestnut Paste

  • 300g chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 50 g light brown sugar
  • splash of milk to mix the paste together until smooth and spreadable (not too runny or thick)
  • *1 tbs sugar to sprinkle over paste
  • * 2 tsp Poppy seeds to sprinkle over paste

Honey Syrup

  • 2 tbs runny honey
  • 30ml water
    boil gently for 1- 2 minute to thicken syrup
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64. Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Considering how many small fires I’ve started in my kitchen recently I surprised myself by not inflicting any further injuries whilst venturing into deep fat frying for the first time. Churros have been on my got-to-bake list forever.

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. Churros, Dark chocolate dipping sauce, ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. (left to right) Churros, dark chocolate dipping sauce, vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

I first tried Churros in Sydney in the bohemian district of Glebe. San Churros is a late night chocolate cafe offering half a metre long cinnamon sprinkled churros, thick hot chocolate and ice cream. AMAZING. Newcastle needs one of these.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Churros are traditionally Spanish but also very popular in Mexico usually dipped in liquid chocolate for good measure. You could also add some chilli to your chocolate (or chocolate to your churros – substitute some flour for cocoa powder) if you want an extra kick.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

The process for making churros batter is very similar to profiteroles. Heat the water, butter and sugar in a pan until the butter melts.

churros recipe Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Take the pan off the heat and using a wooden spoon beat in the flour and salt until it comes together into a thick lump.

churros recipe Beat in the dry ingredients

Beat in the dry ingredients – best not use a whisk opt for a wooden spoon…

Then beat in the eggs one by one until it’s a smooth and shiny batter.

churros recipe Beat in the eggs

Beat in the eggs – wooden spoon is a much better option

This is quite a precise process so it’s worth setting up your workstation to make it as stress free as possible.

  • Keep a damp tea towel to hand to wipe your hands when you’re covered in batter.
  • Line a plate with kitchen paper and keep it close to add more layers when needed to drain the churros on.
  • Fill a shallow and wide dish with cinnamon sand to roll your churros in whilst they’re still hot.
Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

To prepare the chocolate dipping sauce, heat the water and milk in a pan until approaching boiling and point. Take it off the heat add half of the chocolate. Stir until melted. Then stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth and shiny. Pour your chocolate soup into a pot ready for dipping.

churros Chocolate dipping sauce

Chocolate dipping sauce

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot about 400ml in a 8 inch round stock pot will give you about 2 inches of oil to fry the churros in. Make sure the oil is hot enough before piping your churros in. Just pop a blog of batter in and if it sizzles you’re good to go. You will need a slotted spoon to turn the churros with and to scoop them out when they’re cooked.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Although the batter is thick it should be free flowing. Scoop it into a piping bag with a star shaped tip. Don’t overfill the bag as it becomes really unwieldly (gushing batter from both ends). You need as much control as possible when piping into boiling hot oil as you really don’t want to get splashed.

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup - churros recipe

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup

I’ve watched street food vendors preparing churros and they have special batter dispensers that cut off the flow and deposit long sticks of churros into a deep vat of molten oil. Great method but probably not something that you’ve got in your kitchen at home. TV Chefs have also demonstrated perfectly straight churros. Nigella piped hers into boiling oil using scissors to cut the flow from the bag. She made short churros. Jamie Oliver made a firm dough and rolled his churros and then fried them. My batter was very liquid and difficult to control so I mostly ended up with it all over my hands and in my hair but I did manage to get some of it into the pot.

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

My lack of precision and being covered in batter meant I piped rather curly churros into the pan which instantly puffed up into curious shapes. The batter has a mind of its own and using a shallow round pot does have some limitations. Despite their irregular appearance they’re pretty damn tasty.

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

They sizzle instantly as soon as they reach the oil (watch out for sizzly splashes) and take minutes to cook, about 2 minutes each side turning a golden brown.

A good cinnamon sand coating is required churros recipe

A good cinnamon sand coating is required

With your kitchen roll at the ready you can pop your churros straight from the pan onto the paper to blot any excess oil before transferring them to the cinnamon sand (caster sugar and ground cassia/cinnamon) for a good sugary coating.

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Keep piping churros into the boiling oil, flipping them, scooping them out, blotting them off, rolling in sugar until you’ve exhausted all of your batter. This makes an enormous amount of churros, so you may need to friends to help… Be careful not to leave the oil on the heat for too long, for example if you’re messing around taking photos. Without any churros to absorb some of the heat the oil will continue to sore in temperature and scorch the next churros you pipe into the pan. Also make sure you scrape out any scraps from the oil before piping the next churros in to avoid burnt bits attaching themselves to your fresh batch of churros.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Eat immediately! The longer they sit, the more oil they absorb so they lose a little of their crispiness. You’ ll not be disappointed by these churros. I shared these still warm and cinnamon scented to my friends at a picnic and with my family. Every single one disappeared. They’re light and fluffy on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside, (with the added texture from the sugar) to be oh so moreish.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

I quite like the contrast of the dark chocolate against the sweet churros, but my 3 year old nephew winced at the bitterness despite the addition of some milk to my chocolate soup. You could use a lighter chocolate or milk chocolate if you prefer more sweetness in your life.

Things I used to make my Curly Churros

Churros Batter

  • 470g/ml water
  • 45g butter
  • 45g caster sugar

Melt in pan then remove from heat

  • 440g plain flour (or if you want to make chocolate churros substitute 420g of flour and 20g cocoa powder)
  • 2g salt

Beat in with a wooden spoon

  • 2 eggs

Beat in with a wooden spoon

Pour the smooth batter into a piping bag with a star shaped tip

  • 400ml vegetable oil

Heat oil until sizzling hot. Pipe in Churros. Cook them for 2 minutes (ish) on each side. Remove from oil and to drain on kitchen paper

Cinnamon Sand Ingredients

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2-3 tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon powder)

Roll warm churros in cinnamon sand

Chocolate Soup Ingredients

  • 60ml water
  • 20ml milk

Heat liquid til just before boiling, remove from heat and add half the chocolate. Stir til melted

  • 100g good quality chocolate
  • optional sprinkle of chilli powder for extra kick

Add the remaining chocolate and stir until melted.

Dip your warm churros in your chocolate soup and enjoy!

63. Ugandan Groundnut Cake (Peanut Cake)

Ugandan Groundnut Cake recipe

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Smothered in a thick dripping coat of dark chocolate this is one hell of peanut cake. (The recipe didn’t call for chocolate but I figured it was the logical combination.) Not one for the faint hearted or those watching their calorific intake. It’s fudgey and delicious.

Groundnuts are hard to come by so I’ve substituted them for peanuts, which is apparently what most people do as peanuts are easier to grow too. It’s probably the sweetest cake I’ve ever made. And I LOVE it.

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

This recipe is a large one and I found it was enough to make 2 6inch round cakes and 1lb loaf too! So I hope you’re hungry. (Or you could use larger round cake tins if you have them maybe 8 or 9 inches – adjust/reduce your cooking time accordingly.)

I never usually bother toasting nuts, but I thought I would pull out all the stops to make this cake as authentic as possible. Toasting the peanuts helps to release the oils, creating a moister (if that’s a word) cake with a deeper peanutty flavour. Spread skinless (blanched) peanuts evenly on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees c. Keep an eye on them in case they burn. Once cooled chop them roughly with a big knife.

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating - fluffy, frothy and runny - groundnut cake recipe, peanut cake

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating – fluffy, frothy and runny

Whilst the peanuts are gently toasting, beat the eggs until lights and fluffy. They will reach a mellow yellow stage after about 4  minutes of beating with an electric mixer.

groundnut cake peanut recipe Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Then beat in the sugars, (brown and caster) along with the honey and vanilla extract. Once the sugars are fully combined, beat in the vegetable oil. The mixture will take on a gentle brown hue and increase in volume.

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder groundnut cake recipe

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder

The batter will become light and fluffy. Then to beat/fold in your dry ingredients. (I’m lazy and continued to beat in the ingredients using my mixer, but if you want to have a lighter cake you could fold it in with a metal spoon). I use ground cassia as I love it’s sweet cinnamonny notes. (Feel free to stick with cinnamon if you have it). Fold in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Fold in the toasted peanut - ugandan groundnut cake recipes

Fold in the toasted peanuts

Then fold in the cooled chopped peanuts into the thick glossy cappuccino coloured batter and it’s ready to bake! Pour the batter into your greased and lined baking tins. I used 2 x 6 inch round cake tins and a 1lb loaf tin. You could bake it in 2 larger cake tins, 8 or 9 inch rounds would require less time in the oven. My cakes took between 40 and 55 minutes. If you’re using a bigger tin your cake might take around 30 -40 minutes. The trick is to keep checking, once it’s safe to open the oven without causing your cake to deflate. I checked mine at 30 minutes and although the top of the cakes were firm to the touch the skewer didn’t come out clean when I tried it.

Golden brown groundnut cakes

Golden brown groundnut cakes (the flat bottoms)

Once the cakes are firm to the touch and when you insert a skewer and it comes out clean. (They should be looking slightly caramelised on the top and take on a darker brown hue.) Then you know they’re done. Cool them on a rack covered in grease proof paper to stop the rack branding them with stripes. This cake freezes well uniced (wrap them in greaseproof paper first). I baked mine in advance so I could assemble and ice it for Cake Club later in the week and still have fresh moist sponge.

Peanut buttercream is a revelation. I could eat the entire bowl with a spoon. But resisted long enough to get a smoothish coat on the cakes. In hindsight I had enough to be a bit more generous (particularly in the middle of the two cakes) but regrets don’t suit anyone so be as frugal or free with your icing as you like.

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Beat your room temperature butter and smooth peanut butter together until they’re fluffy and light. I used a health food store peanut butter which promises to be natural and unprocessed. This did mean it was more oily than other peanut butters and more grainy. Give your peanut butter a good stir before measuring it out so it’s not too oily or dry. Then beat in your icing sugar and salt until it’s a smooth peanuty cream. The recipe called for honey but frankly this cake has enough sugar in it so I skipped it. Adding only a splash of milk to loosen it up and give a smoother finish.

how to ice a cake with buttercream

Smoothing the buttercream with a palette knife all round the cake

I slapped on a layer on peanut butter for food measure before adding a layer of buttercream to sandwich the cakes together. Then using a palette knife apply a thin ‘crumb coating’ of buttercream around the sides and top of the cake to fill any gaps and encase the crumbs so they don’t peek through your final finish. Chill the cake uncovered for an hour in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set before applying a thicker coat all over. Cover the bowl of remaining buttercream with cling film to stop it drying out in between uses. Smooth the final layer with a palette knife as much as possible. Then return to the fridge.

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon... droooooool

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon… droooooool

 

While the cake sets melt 50g dark chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds bursts until it’s almost all melted. Stir inbetween between. Stir in the remaining 20g of chocolate and stir until melted to temper the chocolate and achieve a glossy finish.

peanut cake - chocolate icing

Drool

Use a teaspoon to coax the chocolate down over the sides of the cake and to swirl the chocolate over the top of the cake. Leave it to set at room temperature to retain the glossy finish. I took inspiration from Pinterest for this decoration (I lose hours looking at pretty cakes but I like this style, it reminds me of a chocolatey dripping paint tin). Refrigerating the cake will dull the sheen of the chocolate but you may want to store it in the fridge if you want to keep it for awhile or try to transport it! Firm buttercream frosting travels well and keeps the moisture in the cake too.

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it's glory

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it’s glory – check out the chunks of peanuts speckled throughout the cake

Serve it with a flourish and a sharp knife! This is one tall cake with chunks of peanuts to chop through too. And it is gorgeous, jam packed with peanuts and flavour. A friend likened it to ‘a cake version of the nougat in a snickers bar’ and that sums it up perfectly. It’s moist with a subtle hint of cassia permeating the sponge. I managed to keep a slice in the fridge for 3 days and it was just as delicious, not a dry slice in sight. I love this cake and will be making it again for sure!

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cakeClandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

My Ugandan Groundnut Cake was very well received at our Clandestine Cake Club meeting at Waterstones. This week we were pushing the boundaries of cake. It was amazing. We had savoury cakes, Tiffin Cakes, extraordinary ombre 8 layer cakes and a magnificent ice cream cake (unfortunately that one was out of shot in the fridge).

 

Things I used to make my Ugandan Groundnut Cake

  • 200g of blanched peanuts – toast for 10 mins in medium hot oven and chop up roughly. (Save these for the end)
  • 6 eggs – Beat til fluffy. Then beat in…
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 270g runny honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g (3/4 cup) vegetable oil

Beat sugar and eggs til light and fluffy. Then beat in a third of the the dry ingredients, followed by a third of the milk

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cassia
  • 650g plain flour

Wet Ingredients

  • 270ml milk (I use semi skimmed)

Once all the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated, fold in the toasted peanuts.

Bake in 2 x 6 inch round cake tins (greased and lined) and a a 1lb loaf tin at 170 degrees c for 35 – 50 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to check if your cakes are cooked sooner. I took the loaf cake out first after 40 minutes and the last 2 round cakes needed a little longer.

Peanut Buttercream

  •  200g butter
  • 50g peanut butter (I used smooth wholefood peanut butter but you can use your favourite brand) – beat the butters together until soft and smooth before beating in the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400g icing sugar – beat in the sugar until it’s smooth and no longer grainy
  • a splash of milk to loosen it up if it starts to dry out

Chocolate Coating

  • 70g of dark chocolate melted – I used 70% cocoa chocolate but use whatever you have to hand.
ugandan groundnut cake

Yum

If you like nutty cakes you may also enjoy my Iranian Pistachio Cake too!

 

62. Russian Black Bread

If you suggested that I put chocolate, coffee and onions into a loaf of bread a year ago I would have probably checked if you were feeling ok. It sounds vile doesn’t it? But then often the most unexpected ingredient combinations produce the most interesting results. Intrigued by the traditional Russian Black Bread I stocked up on espresso, caraway and fennel seeds ready for this strange bake.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Russian Black Bread

I was not disappointed. This is an extremely flavoursome and dark loaf. I found this recipe originally in a Jamie Oliver magazine but adapted it (as per usual) to fit my ingredients. It was supposed to be for 2 loaves. As I was expecting this bake to be a bit on the odd side, I wasn’t convinced that I could consume 2 entire loaves of it. So I scaled it down. (Feel free to double the ingredients if you would like to stockpile Black Bread.)

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

Considering how much sourdough bread I’ve been baking recently I have transferred some of my newly acquired bread skills into this bake as I like to split my bread baking into manageable chunks to fit in around work and enjoying life. Using the fridge to prove my dough overnight is a great help. This means the flavours develop slowly and deepen. it also makes the dough easier to handle, especially if the dough is a wet and sticky or enriched with butter. Fridge proving produces a firmer more pliable dough, that needs very little kneading! Result!

Russian Black Bread Recipe

  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp/70g treacle (molasses)
  • 40g butter
  • 40ml espresso
  • 13g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 350ml water
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 30g strong wholemeal flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g rye flour
  • 70g bran
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small shallot (diced)
  • * approx 100g Rye Flour (you may need more or less) to help bring the dough together if it’s too sticky when kneading

Russian Black Bread Method

1.  Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

2.  Add cider vinegar

3.  Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Russian Black Bread: Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

4. Pour in the chocolate liquid and mix together either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. You may not need to add all of the liquid, or if the dough becomes too sticky, gradually add a little more rye flour until it comes together into a ball, (or a slightly less sticky mess.)

Russian Black Bread: Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

5. Knead for 10  minutes (by hand or using an electric mixer – I used my Kitchenaid dough hook).

6. Cover your dough in a large bowl with cling film and prove either overnight (up to 24 hours) in the fridge or at room temperature for 1-2 hous until it’s doubled in size.

7.  Knock back the dough after it’s first prove. Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Russian Black Bread: Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

8. You could prove it directly on a baking tray if it’s firm enough so it won’t spread too far. I wanted to make mine pretty so I proved it in my round banneton basket, which I coated with wholemeal flour first.

9. Cover your loaf with a shower cap or oiled cling film and prove for 2 hours at room temperature.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night or at room temperature for 2 hours

10. Pre heat the oven (and a casserole pot with a lid) 30 minutes before the end of your loaf proving time at 250 degrees C. (See the Hot Pot sourdough method for more details)

Russian Black Bread: Second prove done. Ready for baking!

Second prove done. Ready for baking!

11. Sprinkle the bottom of the hot casserole pot with ground semolina and gently tip the proved loaf from the banneton into the hot pot. Use a razor blade to score a design into your loaf to help it cook evenly. (I went for a heart shape but you could try a few other designs.)

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

12. Bake with the lid on at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn it down to 220 degrees for the final 40 minutes. Check that the bread is baked by tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow it done. If not, pop it back in the oven in the pot with the lid on for 5-10 more minutes.

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

I love how the wholemeal flour (that I used to dust the banneton with when proving the dough) bakes into the loaf, providing the perfect contrast against the rich brown bread peeking through the heart pattern. It even holds onto it’s circular imprint.

Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

Apparently Russian Black Bread is best served with lashings of butter or caviar! The Russians sure know how to live! This bread is soft, pillowy and very rich. It’s a very unusual bread with hints of aniseed and licorice from the caraway and fennel seeds. The treacle also adds depth to the licorice tones without making the bread overly sweet.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

It’s a wholesome, fluffy and filling bread. The bran, rye and wholemeal flours are balanced with a dash of white flour giving an unexpected light texture. I could imagine this bread being a perfect accompanyment to a hearty stew or soup with a thick coat of butter. It is very rich so, as predicted, I didn’t manage to finish the loaf this week, it’s resting in the freezer for my next round of extra special sandwiches.

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

It just so happened that I purchased some pickled herring and seaweed caviar (a much more affordable caviar at £2 a pot!) from Ikea last weekend so I had to hand some pretty impressive sandwich making ingredients. In hindsight, pickled herring may be a bit of an extreme pairing for Russian Black Bread which is almost a entire feast all by itself. The herring overpowered the flavours somewhat, but the caviar works very well indeed.

55. Giant Punschrulle – Swedish Green Marizpan Rolls

too long for a normal plate - the giant prunschelle

too long for a normal plate – the giant punschelle

The Prince family love marzipan. In every shape, form and colour. There is a a rather well known Swedish shop that sells these amazing little green marzipan rolls called Punschrulle and everytime I go I stock up, mainly on food ignoring all the other homeware options.

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

I have been looking for a recipe for Punschrulle or Punsch-rolls forever and was unable to find one that reflected the ingredients described on the back of the packet. The key ingredient was always missing, oats! So in the end I made up my own recipe and tasted it along the way to make sure I had got it as close to the original as possible.

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

The Punschrulle is also known as dammsugare which in English means rather oddly, “vacuum cleaner”. I think this is related to it’s tube like appearance, like a vacuum cleaner’s hose perhaps? But also because this cake gives you the opportunity to use up leftover cakes and cookies, hoovering up the crumbs from yesterday’s baking. What an efficient little cake this is.

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be mashed up

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be beaten up

I was lucky to have 6 earl grey cupcakes waiting patiently to be eaten in my freezer from a rather large baking frenzy I had whipped myself into. now was there time to shine. I defrosted the 6 cupcakes and blended them in my kitchenaid (using the beater attachment) to a fine crumb. You could also use a hand blender or food processor if you wish. I simply couldn’t be bothered to unpack my food processor so used the kitchen aid, which does a pretty good job of beating things to a fine crumb, particularly if you break it up a little by hand first.

cake crumbs

cake crumbs

Chocolate and marzipan are my favourite combination. I could merrily eat a block dipped in dark chocolate all to myself, but tried to resist as far as possible. Punschrulle rolls are filled with a rich chocolatey, oaty cake. Further investigation also indicates that they are a rather boozy cake too, with punsch liquor. However I wanted to make a child friendly recipe, not get my little nephew hammered, so I omitted the booze from my recipe. But feel free to whack a bit in if you prefer your cakes alcoholic. I’m not entirely sure where you purchase punsch liquor from in the UK, but I think brandy , vodka or rum would be a good substitute!

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

Sieving cocoa powder and sugar into the mix I realsied that I needed something more to bulk the cake crumbs up and balance out the cocoa powder. Rooting around in my cupboards I found some digestive biscuits which were perfect for this purpose. Again I crumbled them into the mixer bowl by hand and let the mixer do the work for me.

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

I was worried that the oats would be a bit too large in this mixture so introduced my hand (stick blender) to blitz the mixture to a much finer crumb. As this cake is uncooked, the oats needed a little time to soften in the mixture, you want texture to the cake, but not to make your friends feel like they have oats stuck in their throat.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter

It’s such a simple cake to make, having completed the baking when I made the cupcakes a few months ago. All that’s left to do is to rub in the butter and shape the mixture into a roll! I wanted to make my punschrulle for my sisters birthday and envisaged a giant punschrulle roll, rather than making individual rolls.

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice lump

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice chocolatey lump

I used cling film to roll the mixture up and flatten at the ends, whilst smoothing the top.

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Sealing the ends of the cling film, the roll can then be transferred easily to the fridge to set, while you get busy colouring the marzipan and rolling it out.

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

Traditionally Punschrulle rolls are bright green and each end is dipped in dark chocolate. I used a little green gel food colouring and kneaded it thoroughly into the marzipan. dousing the worksurface in icing sugar stops the marzipan sticking and means you can roll it out into a thin rectangle, just enough to cover the entire cake.

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Making sure the marzipan was loose enough to remove it from the worksurface, (The last thing you want is to realise half way through icing you cake is that the marzipan is welded on to the worksurface.)

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

I plonked the roll face down (the smooth side which is to be the top of the cake) face down on to the marzipan and folded the marzipan over to envelope the cake fully. Strategically folding the marzipan to hide the join underneath the cake and tuck the folds along the edges underneath.

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Whilst the bottom of the cake is facing upwards, I melted a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave, reserving one third of the chocolate and stirring every 30 seconds to avoid it burning. Once the chocolate is melted pour in the final third of the chocolate and stir until fully melted. This helps to reduce the temperature of the chocolate and temper it, so it retains a glossy finish and doesn’t look like a sweaty mess when you’re finished.

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

I smeared melted chocolate all over the bottom of the cake in a thin layer and allowed it to set. This means each slice has a layer of chocolate, not just the lucky people who get the end pieces! It also helps to lift the cake when you need to move it later on…

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Once the bottom layer of chocolate has set fully, turn the cake face up and paint the ends of the cake with a thick layer of chocolate. Et voila, you have created a giant Punschrulle cake!

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Now this is when I realised that you have to be a member of my family to think this cake looks pretty. On a giant scale, the Punschrulle looks a bit odd… but it tastes great! (Even if I do say so myself.) I don’t own a plate or chopping board long enough to house such an enormous cake, so I had to resort to using a colourful serving tray.

too long for a normal plate - the giant Punschrulle

too long for a normal plate – the giant Punschrulle

The addition of a giant candleabra birthday candle  gave the cake somewhat of an eccentric finish. What Giant Punschrulle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra? This cake didn’t last long in our house. Despite it’s chocolatey richness, it’s very moreish and disappears very quickly when served with a hot cup of tea. I could easily eat 2 slices in one sitting. The crunch of the dark chocolate is there with every bite, balancing out the marzipan and dense oaty filling.  It’s a great way to use up any leftover cakes and biscuits in your house, so it’s a rather economical and unusual birthday cake. If you want to see how the individual Punschrulle rolls should look, have a pop over to www.nearof.com for a review of the cakes I based my recipe on.

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister! Here’s a interesting interpretation of the Punschrulle cake just for you!

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Things that I used to make my Giant Punschrulle Cake

  • 6 cupcakes (you could use whatever cake crumbs you have available, chocolate or vannila would probably work best)
  • 10 digestive biscuits (plain biscuits again work well in this cake, rich teas, shortbread or digestives would be good)
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Vanilla

Icing

  • 300g marzipan
  • green food colouring
  • icing sugar (for dusting the board)

Chocolate 

  • 100g dark chocolate

54. Hawaiian Haupai Pie – A Coconut Chocolate Cream Dream

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Having never visited Hawaii I have absolutely no idea what the traditional cake Hawaiian cake would be until I discovered Haupai Pie. I’ll never look back from this tropical chocolate, coconut cream dream pie.

The first slice of Haupai Pie

The first slice of Haupai Pie

Trying to decide on a birthday cake for my sister I put a call out for inspiration on twitter and Haupai Pie was suggested by the lovely @FoodandFrets. I knew instantly that this was the pie for me especially with my upcoming trip to @private_pie club which was to be held the amazing Quilliam Bros Teahouse (which is incidentally also my favourite shop to visit with their millions of teas brewed to perfection and spectacular peanut brownies). The theme of Private Pie club this month was ‘free from’. I interpreted this to mean free from meat but not free from calories.

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

Recipes vary for Haupai pie. Many require just an unspecified ‘pie crust’. Which is helpfully vague but also means I can do what I like best in the kitchen, and make it up as I go along. Sweet chocolate pastry pie crust it is then for me!

Pastry is not my forte. It’s no secret. I have heard that chocolate pastry is particularly difficult and delicate but who cares what the worriers tell you. Just plough on through and it’ll be fine. If I can make it I’m sure anyone can.

Butter me up

Butter me up

Infused with confidence, having churned my own butter recently, I set to work using my Homemade butter to make this challenging crust.

Rub rub run your flour

Rub rub run your flour

Rubbing together the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar and homemade butter by hand means you’re more in control of the pastry and less likely to overwork it. (Not that I could honestly tell the difference between over our under worked pastry as they all taste pretty good to me.) I chose to use icing sugar rather than caster sugar to achieve a smoother pastry. Caster sugar, although finely ground, could be a little too course for this pastry  (Another helpful tip brought to you from the wisdom of Mary Berry!) It’s definitely not because I had ran out of caster sugar and only had icing sugar to hand…

Pastry starting to come together

Pastry starting to come together

An egg is used to enrich the pastry and bring the dry mixture together. I also added a splash of milk to get the pastry to a good rollable consistency. Once it starts to come together, tip it onto an icing sugared dusted surface and knead it lightly and pat it into a round.

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

Moving the pastry as little as possible is apparently the key to good pastry (and cold hands, which I have even in summer). Lightly rolling the pastry away from you, in one direction, turn the pastry 90 degrees clockwise, roll again and turn. Keep repeating until it’s about 5mm thin and big enough to line your tin.

A thin pastry rectangle

A thin pastry rectangle

The best tip I have is to trim off the excess pastry, making more of a round shape as you roll to help keep it all under control. It makes life much easier when trying to fling the pastry into your tin too. Also as the pastry has a high butter content, there’s no need to grease your tin. Hurrah! Another job saved.

Pastry envelope

Pastry envelope

My method is to fold the pastry like an envelope, into thirds and lift it into the middle of the tin. Then all you have to do is unfold the pastry and gently press it into all of the nooks and crannies of your tin (I chose a tart tin with a wavy edge for my main pie). If your pastry is extremely delicate you can press it using a piece of cut off pastry instead of your fingers to stop yourself from poking a hole in it.

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Once the pastry has relaxed and is pressed tightly into the tin you can trim off the extra and save it for later. This recipe made enough pastry for 2 pies! So I made a bonus practice Haupai pie. You could freeze the raw pastry for another day if you prefer or make some tasty biscuits instead.

Trim your edges

Trim your edges

The pastry needs to chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before blind baking the case.

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Before baking the chocolate pastry case prick the pastry all over with a fork to stop it bubbling up allowing you to fill it evenly later on.

Blind baking with kidney beans

Blind baking with kidney beans

I like to use crumpled up greaseproof paper to line the case and kidney beans to hold the pastry down during the blind bake. With my extra pastry I decided to attempt a fancy twisted pie crust…

Fancy twisted pie crust

Fancy twisted pie crust

However in reality the fancy pie crust was a bit over ambitious. It melted in the oven during the blind bake and collapsed into the case giving some lucky people an extra thick chocolate crust! To make sure the pie crust bakes evenly I pop the pie onto a preheated baking sheet. The pie needs to be blind baked for 15 minutes and then baked uncovered for a final 5 minutes until it’s fully cooked in the middle. Some of the crust did stick to the greaseproof paper but hey it doesn’t need to look pretty on the inside, it’s going to be covered in luscious chocolate and coconut pudding. (Please ignore the twisted pastry mess on the outside too.)

Not so fancy pie crust

Not so fancy pie crust

Whilst the pie crust is cooling you can then make the coconut custard/pudding mixture. This recipe seemed worryingly liquid filled to me.  I couldn’t imagine it ever thickening up to a custard consistency. I had visions of the runny custard seeping into the pastry and ruining the crisp base. No one wants a soggy bottomed tart. The recipe called for a lot of coconut milk, milk and sugar to be boiled together and allowed to thicken. I had some homemade dulce de leche that needed to be used up so I substituted half of the milk for this instead, which also helped to thicken the mixture. (But you could just use normal milk or condensed milk for an extra sugary kick if you prefer…)

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

I’ve never made a custard without eggs before, relying solely on corn flour to thicken the mixture. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use up the box of cornflour I had carefully carried through customs all the way back from Berlin recently too, believing it to be a German cake mix. Google translate revealed later that it’s just plain old cornflour that I could buy in any shop here…

This custard/pudding recipe screamed against all my baking instincts, which I had to suppress with all my might to stop myself throwing in the odd egg yolk or two. I’m pleased I ignored my supposed baking instincts and put my faith in the recipe.  Pouring the full volume of water mixed with cornflour into the coconut milk, I held my breath and whisked like mad…

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me...

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me…

Miraculously the custard thickened immediately after I poured to full amount of cornflour into the mix! Producing a gloriously thick and glossy custard.

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

The custard then needs to be divided in half to whisk chocolate into one half and dessicated coconut to the other, until you get a beautifully shiny chocolate custard and a wonderfully textured coconut pudding custard.

Chocolate custard

Chocolate custard

Coconut custard

Coconut custard

With your cooled chocolate and coconut custards at the ready, the rest of the Haupai Pie assembly is pretty straight forward. Pour the chocolate layer in first and spread evenly over the base, followed by a layer of coconut custard. As I was making two pies, I ran out of coconut custard for my second pie, but you get the gist of it… You could just make one really full pie instead if you prefer or have a much more chocolatey second pie, like me.

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Whilst this is setting in the fridge, take the opportunity to whip up your double cream with a little caster sugar, until fluffy and light.

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Spread a final thick layer of whipped cream evenly all over your pie and decorate with chocolate, or coconut or a combination of the two! With two pies to decorate I made one with chocolate buttons and another with homemade coconut curls and a milk chocolate drizzle.

The first slice of Haupai Pie - chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

The first slice of Haupai Pie – chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

I absolutely love Haupai Pie! I love the triple layered effect, with the dark chocolate pastry and custard contrasting with the mellow coconut custard and the white whipped cream! You can probably tell I have a bit of a coconut fascination, so this pie is right up my street.

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

The crisp chocolate base is the perfect partner to the smooth and creamy filling. Adding the extra dessicated coconut to the custard gives an added texture and interest to the pie too. And despite my crust slipping into the pie, I quite enjoyed the extra thick crust.  I could quite happily eat chocolate pastry every day. Who would have thought that this time last year I thought that I didn’t really like pastry or cream?! I’m so pleased I persevered and not only do I now like pastry and cream I can now say I really do LOVE it.

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

I was worried that I had prepared the pies too early as I made them on Monday to be served on Wednesday. I feared that the custard would make the pastry too wet. But lo and behold it was still perfectly crisp after 2 days. This pie definitely needs to be kept in the fridge and is probably eaten as soon as possible but rest assured it keeps very well for at least 3 days (if it lasts that long in your house!).

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Things That I used to make me Haupai Pie

Chocolate Pastry Recipe

  • 90g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1 egg
  • a splash of milk
  1. Rub together ingredients dry ingredients and butter
  2. Add the egg (and milk if needed) to bring the pastry together
  3. Roll out to 5mm thickness and press into tin
  4. Cut to shape and prick with a fork all over
  5. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees c.
  6. Bake uncovered for a further 5 minutes, until evenly baked.
  7. Allow to cool

Coconut and Chocolate Custard Fillings

  • 235ml milk (or 175ml dulce de leche and 50ml milk) (or 235ml condensed milk)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (400ml)
  • 200g white sugar

Heat milk and sugar until boiling and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.

  • 235ml water
  • 65g cornflour
  1. Mix the cornflour and water until dissolved.
  2. Pour cornflour into the coconut milk
  3. Whisk over the heat until thickened (about 3 minutes)
  4. Take off the heat and divide the mixture in half
  • 210g chocolate (100g milk and 110g dark)
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  1. Whisk the chocolate into one half of the custard
  2. Whisk the dessicated coconut into the other half of the custard
  3. Allow to cool
  • 400ml Double cream
  • 40g caster sugar
  1. Whisk the double cream and sugar together until fluffy
  2. Pour chocolate custard into the pastry case
  3. Pour coconut custard into the pastry case
  4. Top with whipped cream
  5. Decorate with chocolate/coconut (or anything else you like)
  6. Enjoy!
Eat with a big spoon

Eat with a big spoon

53. Triple Layer Sachertorte – why have 1 layer when you can have 3?

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte in Berlin

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but this is one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte that I ate in Berlin

What’s more indulgent and luxurious than a Sachertorte? Surely a triple layer Sachertorte beats them all hands down. Why have merely one layer when you can have three? The Berliners had the best idea and yes I stole it, nay, lovingly recreated it at home for my friend Adam’s 30th birthday present.

Oh dear it's all gone a bit wrong, but here's my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills...)

Oh dear it’s all gone a bit wrong, but here’s my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills…)

Sachertorte was invented in Vienna, Austria and although I’m still yet to visit the country I thoroughly enjoy it’s food. One of my very first around the world in 80 bakes, bakes was indeed a 4 foot pastry monster, also known as the Viennesse Apple Strudel.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

After all of that I had to make myself a one too … just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

A very rich and dense chocolate cake, two layers of Sachertorte are usually sandwiched together with apricot jam and chocolate ganache. But for this extra special version I made 3! Well it is a special birthday after all and I had been promising Adam a triple layer Sachertorte for sometime.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

It’s an almost flourless sponge, made mainly from almonds, so it can cope with a bit of handling (or slicing into more layers). It also benefits from a heavy layer of ganache to retain moisture in the sponge.

Melt the chocolate

Melt the chocolate

There’s a lot of real chocolate in this cake, so it’s as chocolately as it’s ever going to get, rather than just adding cocoa powder. This is the real deal. Using a bain marie is the best way to melt chocolate (in my opinion) without burning it. Melt the chocolate gently with a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water.

Beat together the sugar and butter

Beat together the sugar and butter

Once the chocolate is melted, leave it to cool slightly whilst you beat together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy.

The slightly cooled chocolate can then be beaten into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla extract.

Beat in the chocolate - sachertorte

Beat in the chocolate

Then whisk in the egg yolks one by one until the mixture is nice and thick.

Beat in the eggs - sachertorte

Beat in the eggs

The ground almonds and flour can then be introduced and folded into the chocolatey egg yolk mix.

Whisk egg whites

Whisk egg whites

If like me you have a stand mixer you can do a little cheat here. I used my hand held electric whisk to the egg whites to a fluffy state whilst I set my Kitchenaid to task whisking mix the chocolate and egg yolks together in a separate bowl. This helped to save a bit of time and energy on my part. Don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer however you could easily whisk your egg whites after you’ve finished the egg yolk mix.

The egg whites need to be whisked to incorporate as much air into them as possible as this cake doesn’t have any other raising agent to help it do the job. The whites should be whisked for about 2-3 mins at a slow speed until frothy and bubbly. Then increase the speed to high and continue to whisk for about 4-5 minutes, until the whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold into the egg whites

Fold the chocolate mix into the egg whites

Add a good dollop of the chocolate egg yolk mix to the egg whites and fold in gently to help loosen the mixture up. Then carefully spoon the rest of the chocolate mix into the egg whites and fold in, very gently ,to preserve as much air as possible in the mixture.

Pour into the tin

Pour into the tin

Once it’s all combined (and there’s no tell tale spots of egg whites floating about) the batter is good to go. Carefully pour the batter, (holding the bowl as close to the tin as possible so you don’t knock any of the air out of the mixture) into a greased and lined 9 inch round tin and smooth the surface down with a spatula, making sure there’s no holes or lumps. Bake the cake in the centre of your preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes.

Baked Sachertorte

Baked Sachertorte

Once the cake is thoroughly cooked, you can tell this as a cocktail stick when inserted will come out clean, the cake will shrink back from the sides of the tin slightly and when pressed in the centre the cake will spring back. Leave it to cool in the tin slightly and then tip it out onto a wire cooling rack.

You may remember the Sachertorte from the Great British Bake Off technical challenge in series 2. Mary Berry insisted that you had to use the top of the cake so it had to be as flat as can be. I’m not that strict so I use the lovely flat bottom of the cake as my smooth top, although either end of the cake would be fine to use, as it was in fact rather flat.

Sliced in 3 layers

Sliced in 3 layers

The cake really needs to be entirely cold before you take a knife to it. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way and broken many a cake cutting into it while it’s still warm too eager to start the layering process. It always ends in tears and much smaller cake than I envisioned. So patience my friend and a really sharp knife.

I find it easier to swivel the cake round and hold the knife in the same place to (attempt) to get an even slice. I find it easier to cut the top layer off first and work my way down. Using a palette knife to support the cake to carefully lift each layer off and pile them up on a plate.

Ganache Mixing

Ganache Mixing

While your slicing up your cake into 3 layers, pop the cream in a pan and heat  it to almost boiling point. Take it off the heat and add two thirds of the the broken dark chocolate. Keep stirring the ganache until the chocolate is fully melted and add the final third of the chocolate. Continue to stir until it’s glossy and smooth.

First layer all jammed up

First layer all jammed up

As this was a birthday present I bought a cake board to pile the cake onto. I sterilised the board with a little orange brandy, to get the party started. Taking the bottom layer (which technically was the top of the cake previously when it was baking in the tin…confusing?) I sat the sponge on top of a splodge of warm apricot jam on the cake board to hold it in place. The jam must be heated to make it extra runny and also to sterilise it, as you want your cake to keep well. 40 seconds in the microwave should do it, but don’t boil the jam!

Ganache Layer

Ganache Layer

Smear a generous coating of warm apricot jam onto the sponge, to act as a barrier against the ganache so it doesn’t seep too far into the sponge. Then add a nice layer of ganache and plop the next sponge layer on top. Repeat for the next 2 layers.

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

The final layer will need to be neat and tidy so pour the ganache all over the top of the cake and using a palette knife and gravity encourage the ganache to run down the side of the cake. You may need to even things up a little, holding the palette knife vertically and pressing it gently into the side of your cake, run the knife around the side of the cake to straighten up the edges.

Hairdryer at the ready

Hairdryer at the ready

The ganache may start to set before you want it to, so keep a hairdryer to hand (yes a hairdryer- I haven’t lost my mind honest) to heat the ganache a little and allow you to continue to work with it. You can always tip the cake slightly to let the ganache flow around the top of the cake.

Ganached and glossy

Ganached and glossy

Undoubtedly you will get ganache everywhere at this point, on your face, in your hair, up your arms and all over the kitchen, but that’s part of the fun. Keep some paper towels close by to mop up any spillages and to wipe excess chocolate off your palette knife. You’re also going to need a damp paper towel (or 10) to wipe the excess ganache off the cake board. Apparently it’s a really clever idea to put pieces of greaseproof paper under the sponge to catch the ganache which can then be disposed of later on. Or if your cake board is entirely flush to the cake (like mine), you could pop it on a wire cooling rack and let the ganache drip onto a plate underneath, ready to be used again, or eaten with a spoon (I’ll let you decide).

Sack the chef

Sack the chef

The pièce de résistance. The chocolate ‘Sacher’ signature. The name of this wonderful cakes creator. You need milk chocolate to contrast against the dark ganache, melted and in a piping bag. Or like me you may use a sandwich bag with the tip snipped off. You only have one attempt at this, unless you fancy re – ganaching your entire cake, so no pressure. I made a right hash of it (sorry Adam) as my piping/sandwich bag exploded half way through dripping unslightly chocolate onto the cake which then had to be incorporated into the signature.

oh dear it all went a bit wrong but here's my SacHERtorte...

Sack the Chef. Check out my very neat s – a and c

Well my signature is certainly distinctive. But on a positive note the ganache is extremely glossy and mostly smooth. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead… Please note how nice and neat the ‘S’ ‘a’ and ‘c’ are. Maybe it’s a subliminal message to myself SacHER!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Anyways I’m sure your chocolate handwriting skills will far surpass mine. I’m assured that it tasted lovely despite how rustic it actually appeared…  I boxed it up and delivered it complete with sparkler candles to wish Adam a very happy 30th Birthday!

Cake delivery!

Cake delivery!

I wanted to try making a traditional one layer Sachertorte just to make sure I could definitely do it right, second time round and definitely not because I’m a greedy guts. I absolutely love this cake. It’s a moist sponge and improves (as most cakes do) when left for a day or two to cut it.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

I did another one… just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

I must admit that home made was actually more moist than the shop bought cake we sampled in Berlin. The apricot jam infuses the chocolate with a gorgeous fruity flavour, balancing out the slightly bitter dark chocolate ganache with the sweetness of the jam. The ganache is smooth and luxurious and means the sponge keeps really well.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

One thing to note, if you store your cake in the fridge your ganache will lose it’s shine so it’s best to keep it at room temperature if you want to see it glisten in the birthday candle light. It’s a classic celebration cake that will be loved by everyone.

Things that I used to make my Triple Layered Sachertorte

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
One greased and lined 9 inch round tin

  • 140g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 140g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 55g plain flour

Bake for 40  minutes at 180 degrees C

The Ganache

  • 140g plain chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

The Filling

  • One jar of apricot jam, heated

The Writing

  • 25g melted milk chocolate

IMG_20130801_094101

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat.  The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better,  it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1 cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3 cup or 75g  melted butter
  • 1 egg

Custard Cream Filling

Custard

  • 285ml milk
  • 25ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4 cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

We have been busy bees recently. I put some of our wedding present vouchers to very good use and invested in a beautiful Candy Apple Kitchenaid Mixer. I have christened her Joni and she has already proven her weight in gold.

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

My 30th birthday was approaching fast and wanting to mark the occasion my friend Jill (who’s birthday just so happens to be the day before mine!) and I decided to have a little soiree at our local pub. Cupcakes seemed to be a good option for a gathering, so we didn’t have to worry about plates, knives and such like. It also meant that we could go a bit mad with the flavour combinations too.

What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes!

On my actual birthday! What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes from my mam and my sister. We’re not going to go hungry. EVER.

The week before our birthdays, Jill and I spent a merry evening baking everything in sight. Modifying Hummingbird Bakery recipes to our hearts content. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 3 hours by two 29 year old girls, armed with a Kitchenaid and a bottle of prosecco. We got very creative indeed.

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz??

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz?? There’s still more in the oven…

We baked well over 100 cakes and still made it to the pub afterwards to meet our husbands. I must admit we sampled rather a few along the way so not all of the cakes made it into our freezers to await their icing. It’s hard to resist when you’ve got cupcakes hot out of the oven dancing in front of your eyes.

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin!

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin! Soaking in white rum syrup

The following week we defrosted our cupcakes and spent an entire day icing the lot, with lashings of buttercream, glitter and ganache. The results were very well received by our friends and the bar staff! The Jasmine green tea cupcakes were a surprise success after I accidentally  emptied the entire bottle of Jasmine Extract into the cupcake batter… They are the most fragrant cupcakes I’ve ever created. Perhaps an acquired taste for some and definitely an excellent air freshener accessory.

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes – my personal favourite. I shall be rolling many more cakes in coconut in the future

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table! (From left to right; coconut mini bundt cakes, amaretto snowballs cakes, pina colada bundts, jasmine green tea, double chocolate, more jasmine green tea, amaretto sours, and peppermint cream cupcakes,)

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful start to the new decade!

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

I’m not entirely sure if this is the scientific way to create your own recipes but it seems to work for me. My basic understanding of creative baking is to find a recipe that works for you then add and subtract from it. Experiment to the extreme! My general guidelines are

  1. Don’t alter the specified oven temperature (unless you have to because you’re using a fan/non fan oven) cupcakes bake at around 170-180 degrees Celsius and should take about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cases
  2. Maintain the combination of wet to dry ingredients
  3. Use whatever is in your cupboards
  4. Feel free to double the quantities if you need to bake lots but be prepared to bake them in stages
  5. Naked cupcakes freeze really well and can keep for a month. Freeze them as soon as they’re cooled in freezer bags/Tupperware and this holds all of the moisture in sponge. Leaving you with a wonderfully moist cupcake when you choose to ice it later on.
  6. You normally need more buttercream than you think so again feel free to make a double batch!
  7. The more you beat buttercream the better it is.
  8. Feel free to experiment with shapes if you have a Madeleine tin, Gugelhupf or mini bunt tin they work really well too
  9. A squiggle of melted chocolate works wonders if you can’t be bothed to whip up buttercream to top your cakes and a sprinkle of coconut and glitter hides a multitude of sins

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (using cupcake not muffin sized cases)

For the sponge:
Rub together (using an electric whisk if you have one) the sugar, butter, flour salt and baking powder. When it all looks quite sandy beat in the wet ingredients including your choice of flavouring!

Then pour the smooth liquid batter into prepared cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the centre of the oven at 170 degrees celsius until golden brown and springs back when pressed. To be extra certain they’re cooked insert a cocktail stick and if it comes out clean it’s definitely done.

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

  • 120g  (4½oz) plain flour
  • 140g (5oz/) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g (1½oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml (4½floz) milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Cupcake Roulette!
Choose from an array of flavour combinations such as

Green Tea

  • 3 Jasmine Green Tea bags steeped in 3tbsp just-boiled water (reduce the amount of milk by 3
  • Replace 30 ml of milk with jasmine extract

Vanilla

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Replace caster sugar with vanilla flavoured sugar (if you have pre-prepared some but if not don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • You can also add almond extract for extra oomph

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • Add 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Add zest of one lemon

Coconut

  • Replace 25g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of normal milk

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

  • Steep the milk in 1 tbs of dried lavender flowers overnight
  • Infuse the sugar with 2tbs of dried lavender flowers for a week
  • Sieve the lavender petals out of the sugar and milk before use
  • Blitz 1 tsp of lavender into the sugar before use

Rose

  • same as lavender but using dried rose petals
  • Replace 1 tbs of milk with rose water

Piña Colada

  • Replace 40ml of milk with Malibu
  • Replace 25 g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of milk
  • (soak cupcakes in rum syrup whilst still warm)

Chocolate Brandy

  • Replace 40ml of milk with brandy
  • Replace 20g flour with cocoa powder

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

The possibilities are endless! Create your own flavour combinations!!

You could choose your own favourite liquor, (Gin?)  cordial (sasparilla, blackcurrant), extract (Orange Blossom, violet), and just follow this idea. I’m very tempted to create some Brandy Alexander cocktail cupcakes very soon…

Then to choose your topping to enhance your flavour combination even further…

 

The Basic Buttercream Recipe
Depending on your style of icing you may want to double the quantities of buttercream. Piping swirls and roses uses a lot more icing than creating a palette knife swirl.

  • 25 ml milk
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 25 ml milk with amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

You can see here the rules are simple. Add whatever flavour extracts you like. Substitute milk for liquid or boozy flavourings.  Zests are good to add as they are dry so won’t effect the consistency of the buttercream. If your icing is looking a bit sloppy beat in some more icing sugar and return it to the fridge to set a bit if it’s too runny.

Use a piping bag and star shaped nozzle to pipe swirls,  Mr Whippy peaks, stars or roses onto your cupcakes. Or use a palette knife to smooth a swirl of buttercream onto your cakes.

Syrup

If you would like extra moist cakes you can add a syrup to the sponge whilst it’s still warm.

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

Warm the sugar and rum in a pan over a low heat. Simmer it until it’s reduced by half in volume. Once cooled pour over your cakes. Allow it to soak in before icing your cakes. Feel free to use other flavours too! Lemon juice, rose water, cordial etc make a really good syrup!

Colourings

Using a cocktail stick add a couple of drops of your food colour gel of choice and beat until its fully incorporated. You can always add more if needed.

If you want to swirl 2 colours together, split your buttercream in half. Colour each half whatever you fancy. Pipe one colour buttercream down one side of a piping bag and then pipe the different colour down the other side of the bag. You will then get a lovely swirl of colours on you cupcakes when piping the two colours simultaneously from the same bag!

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat up 300ml of double cream to just about boiling
  2. Take it off the heat
  3. Smash up equal amount of dark plain chocolate 300g
  4. Stir the chocolate into the hot cream until completely smooth
  5. Spoon a generous blob onto cupcakes and let gravity do the work to create a smooth level shiny ganache top

You could use white chocolate if you add more white chocolate to the mix as it contains less cocoa solids so it won’t set until there’s more chocolate than cream in the mixture.

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

  1. Sprinkles
  2. Glitter
  3. Desiccated coconut
  4. Chocolate shavings
  5. Hand made chocolate swirls (melt chocolate squiggle it onto some grease proof paper allow it to cool and hey presto fancy looking chocolate bits)
  6. Lustre powders
  7. Popping candy
  8. Pearls
  9. Cupcake wrappers (if you have some)

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

  • Chocolate sponge and peppermint buttercream
  • Jasmine green tea sponge and vanilla buttercream
  • Chocolate sponge and chocolate ganache
  • Amaretto sour sponge and amaretto sour buttercream
  • Piña colada sponge and coconut buttercream
  • Amaretto sponge and coconut buttercream

Jill and Johnny’s Wedding Day Brownies – Hummingbird Bakery

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Jill and Johnny's Wedding Day Brownies

I’m baking a little something for my friends’  wedding day. Something that can be piled high and shared. I have baked rather a few Hummingbird Bakery things now from America but this is definitely my favourite brownie recipe. Nevertheless I still wanted to do a trial run to make sure they work (and taste good). When better to try them than at Jill’s hen weekend, this weekend.

The trial run went so well Chris requested a second batch! These Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Brownies are rich, sweet and chewy with a delicate crumbly top. Perfect with a strong cup of coffee. A good sugar boost too to keep those energy levels up for wedding dancefloor action.
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This recipe is so quick I made the first batch in less time than it took me to ruin two lots of pancake batter. The longest bit was waiting for the chocolate to melt.

I love how this recipe requires no whisking or sifting. Simply stirring everything in one bowl with a wooden spoon means hardly any washing up too! You couldn’t even whip these up and freeze them for brownie emergencies.

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The entire brownie

1. Melt 200 grams of good quality dark chocolate in a bain marie along with 175 grams of butter.
2. Make a cup of tea while this melts gently over a low heat.
3. Once melted stir in 325grams of sugar until it’s all combined.
4. Then stir in 125grams if plain flour.
5. Stir in 3 largest eggs until you have a smooth paste.
6. For extra decadence stir in some chunks of chocolate. I used more dark chocolate. (Whatever amount was left in the cupboard probably about 50grams but I reckon the more chocolate the better as you get gorgeous melty chocolate surprises when you bite in to the brownies.)
7. Pour all the gooey batter into a rectangular baking tin about 23cm by 13cm
8. Bake for 30 mins at 175 degrees
9. Try to wait (if you can resist tucking into the tray with a spoon) until its cooled to chop it up and eat it as it tends to fall apart while it’s still warm… But this might be a good thing especially if you’re eating it with ice cream!

Enjoy!

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Piles of Brownies

This recipe is supposed to be for 12 portions but I chopped it into smaller triangles and made about 30 servings.

Recipe taken from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.