Chocolate Marquise with Mint Crème Anglaise

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Chocolate marquise with a delicate mint crème anglaise

I can hardly begin to imagine a life without flour. Yes, it forms the basis of a lot of the food that I put in my mouth, but for me flour is so much more than that. It’s the foundation of baking, a hobby and passion I find therapeutic, relaxing, rewarding and escapist.  I love the process of rolling up my sleeves, dusting down the work surfaces, sifting and weighing, kneading and shaping, folding and finishing.

Flour is a staple ingredient in bread, of course, but so much more besides; think biscuits and brownies, pastry and cakes, pizza, pancakes and puddings, even quietly playing its part as a subtle addition to something as simple as a white sauce. It’s the ultimate easy ingredient; long-lasting, cheap and filling. Continue reading

Crème Brûlée with Pistachio Nut Butter & Pistachio Shortbread

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Creamy crème brûlée with a shiny crackly crust

Dessert, for me, is all about decadence. While a main meal tends to provide sustenance in addition to satisfaction, pudding provides an opportunity for sheer indulgence. You’re hardly going to get your five-a-day from chocolate, cream, sugar or any combination thereof, but that’s not really the point. What it fails to do for your health, dessert doubles for your happiness.

And what could be more decadent than a dessert that requires its very own bit of kitchen equipment?  Continue reading

Profiteroles with hot chocolate peanut butter fudge sauce

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Bite-sized cream puffs with molten peanut butter fudge sauce

I love watching cookery programmes. Whether it’s the jaunty Jamie Oliver cruising round Italy in his camper van and crusading against American obesity, a group of stressed out contestants in the latest series of Masterchef, or simply a boozed up Keith Floyd making friends with the locals, there’s just something about food and TV that makes for a great evening’s entertainment. This year I’ve become slightly obsessed with the BBC’s Great British Bake Off.

I didn’t watch it last year, but am a big fan of crowned king of cake The Boy Who Bakes, and an avid reader of the recipes that both he, and his fellow finalist The Pink Whisk, post on their respective blogs. In last night’s episode, five female quarter finalists battled it out to create beautiful baked cheesecakes, perfectly rolled roulades and towers of croquembouche; a pastry traditionally served at French weddings and celebrations consisting of hundreds of crispy choux buns held together with hardened sugar.

Continue reading

Butterscotch Pecan Ice Cream Tartufi

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Creamy butterscotch pecan ice cream in a smooth chocolate shell

Cooking, for me, is all about memories; indulging in old ones and creating new ones. Looking back over previous posts, you’ll notice that the vast majority include the lines ‘When I was little’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to recreate’, and I think this sentiment is somewhat universal. Much of our lives can be measured in the edible; from celebratory meals and birthday cakes, to the comforting smell of a Sunday roast, the zing of an exotic new spice or a single taste which transports you instantly to a certain time or place.

When I was given an ice cream maker for my birthday, there were certain flavours I knew I had to make. Rich chocolate and vanilla – my all-time favourite childhood combination – velvet smooth and dripping from a giant cone; milky straciatella, packed with fragile shards of bittersweet chocolate; nutty gianduja, a slightly more sophisticated take on Nutella, and mint choc chip – for me the flavour of France – piled high in a sundae glass and topped with delicate clouds of crème chantilly. Continue reading

Royal Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting

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Rich red velvet cake for a Royal Wedding

Yes I know, I’m a little bit late. The Royal Wedding happened yesterday, it’s old news, and anyone with a vested interest in making wedding themed goods will have already found, baked and eaten the recipe of their choice by the time this goes live. But I was just having too much fun gawping at the TV, gossiping about the dress, gobbling party food and sipping champagne to even consider posting this yesterday. However, since I felt this strange patriotic need to bake something delicious (and a little bit silly) to mark the occasion of Kate and Will’s happy day, I thought I mightas well share it here. Better late than never (as Prince Charles might be heard to comment on acceding to the throne).

I recently bought The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, a collection of sinfully sickly all-American cakes and treats that puts a smile on your face and an inch on your hips just by looking at the pictures. I’ve never made Red Velvet cake before, and thought it sounded appropriately rich and royal, with the pale cream cheese frosting a perfect canvas to decorate. The recipe suggests individual cupcakes, but I wanted to make something larger so adjusted the ingredients accordingly. I think my calculations were slightly too casual as the resulting cakes were a little denser than I’d have liked, so I’ve provided the original cupcake quantities below. This recipe will make 12 large individual cupcakes, or, if doubled will fill three 20cm cake pans. Anything in between and I’m afraid you’ll have to make like me and fall back on that ancient maths GCSE . . .

The Red Velvet recipe produces a moist, tender crumb, creamy from the addition of buttermilk, with a mild chocolate flavour. I’m not quite sure where the idea for red colouring comes from, but it’s nothing more exotic than a heavy dose of red food dye (I think I’d imagined beetroot, raspberry or some other exciting ingredient). You may notice from my snaps that my cake is a little on the brown side – more Queen Mum than Kate Middleton – and this is because I took a more organic, hippy approach and tried to use natural food dyes. Don’t. It may contain a few undesirable E-numbers, but in amongst the lashings of butter, sugar and chocolate, a little bit of red food dye isn’t going to hurt you, and it is 100% necessary to produce the trademark scarlet crumb you’ll see in the Hummingbird book.

In the spirit of all things British I decorated my cake with a Union Jack, piping extra frosting over a layer already so thick you could leave giant teeth-marks in it. I finished it off with little edible sugar flowers and silver balls, and served with big juicy strawberries. Kate and Will’s wedding cake looked delicious, but if you’re looking for something a little more simple and silly, this is the recipe for you.

Royal Red Velvet Cake (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days)

For the sponge:

120g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
1 tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
240ml buttermilk
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting:

100g unsalted butter, softened
600g icing sugar
250g full fat cream cheese

One 12-hole deep muffin tin, or three 20cm cake pans if you double quantities to make a three-layer cake.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.  Line your muffin tin with cases or grease and line the cake pans.

Using a hand held electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar til pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time and continue to whisk to a smooth, light mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, vanilla essence and food colouring until they form a paste. Mix into the cake batter until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk to create a smooth consistency. Add the salt, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda and mix to a smooth batter.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cases or cake pans, approx. 2/3 full, then bake in the oven for 18-20 mins or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, put the butter and icing sugar in a blender and process to a smooth crumb. Add the cream cheese and blend til smooth, then fill an icing bag and pipe over the cupcakes, or use to layer and cover your single giant cake. Pop in the fridge for an hour or so to set then finish with decorations of your choice.

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Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake

A simple, incredible chocolate cake is like a little black dress; everyone should have one in their culinary wardrobe. So says Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall of River Cafe and Cottage fame. I’m not sure about Hugh’s taste in in evening wear, but his ‘Easy rich chocolate cake’ from River Cottage Everyday is definitely the kind of staple recipe every girl should have up her sleeve. Rich, moist and velvety, this is an intense chocoholic hit, and the perfect dessert to rustle up for any occasion.

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I made this for a group of friends for Sunday lunch and served it with a wickedly indulgent thick whiskey cream . . . Sadly I don’t have any photos of this- by the time I had my camera out the whole bowl had been wolfed.

Warning *excess consumption of said little black cake may result in inability to fit into your favourite little black dress*

Easy rich chocolate cake (from River Cottage Everyday)
Serves 10

250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250g unsalted butter, cubed
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown or muscovado sugar
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds

Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin and preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/Gas Mark 3.

Melt butter and chocolate together and leave to cool.

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Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks and sugar til well combined., then add the cooled chocolate mixture. Combine the flour and almonds and fold these in, too.

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In  separate bowl, whisk the egg whites til they hold firm peaks. Stir  large spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest of the whites, taking care to keep in as much air as possible. Use  lrge metal spoon – this will keep the cake light and velvety.

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Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for approx. 30 mins until just set. I checked mine after 25 and suggest you do the same. It should still be slightly wobbly in the centre – this will then set into a sticky, fudgy chocolate dream once cooled. Leave at least 15 mins before releasing from the tin and serving with boozy whiskey cream (recipe below).

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Whiskey cream

200ml thick whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
Good slug of your favourite whiskey

Whip cream, then stir in sugar and whiskey, adjusting measures to taste. Taste again. One more spoon. . . And serve.