Thursday, August 27, 2015

Muscovado Drizzle Cake with Pecan Nuts and Cream Cheese Frosting

I thought it was about time for another epic cake. There have been a few, this one, oooh and this one, and definitely this one

If I could, I would just create OMG cakes all day long, but then they wouldn't be special, right? And boy is this one special. See how many words are in the title? Life tip: when you see a cake with THAT many delicious things in it's name, you know it's going to be gooooooood. Just look at it... *moment of silence, please*

A cake this beautiful always has a muse and my muse for this one was real, proper Muscovado sugar. 

Dark Muscovado sugar has a more intense molasses flavour than it's Light counterpart
I've only recently discovered the world of proper unrefined sugar. Until now, I've kind of just thought that sugar is well, sugar; although it comes in different forms which can alter the texture of baked goodies it really just adds sweetness, not flavour. 
That was until I spotted a new Dark Muscovado sugar made in Mauritius by a brand called Natura Sugars. I brought it home, and ended up eating it straight out the bag, with a spoon. It is THAT good. Rich, dark, complex and dusky. 

Remember when you discovered proper dark chocolate for the first time? This is like that. The real friggin' deal. A total game-changer.

My general motto in life, is that if something tastes good on a spoon, it automatically tastes good in anything else. And this cake once again, proves my hypothesis (woah big word alert). The sugar takes it to a whole different level. 

FYI 'Muscovado' means 'unrefined' in Spanish - although in Spanish they say 'Mascabado' - and Muscovado sugar was first crafted in Latin America several centuries ago. 

 So, with my muse selected, I set out to create a cake to show off all the complex flavours of dark and light Muscovado sugar. Spices. Pecan nuts. Butter (always butter). A bit of cream cheese - okay, a lot of cream cheese,  and, of course, there had to be a Muscovado glaze; drippy cake glazes are, like, so in right now. 

Sorry, but it's hard to care about cake decorating trends when you know the cake is so delicious it's not going to last long enough to be Instagrammed! ;) 

Muscovado Cake with Pecans, Cream Cheese Frosting and Muscovado Glaze
Serves 8-10

4 large eggs
120ml buttermilk
120g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
280g cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
100g pecan nuts, finely chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
100g butter, softened
250g full fat cream cheese*

Muscovado Glaze
50g Light Muscovado Sugar
50g Dark Muscovado Sugar
75g butter
125ml cream

To Serve
Crushed shortbread (I used chocolate-coated shortbread balls too)
Candied pecan nuts, crushed
Pecan praline shards (see Tip)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.
Grease and line 4 x 20cm sandwich cake tins (or use two and slice the cake in half)
In a stand mixer, whip the eggs and sugar until very light (almost white), thick and fluffy. 
In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. 
Pour this mixture into the egg mixture.
Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and fold into the creamed mixture along with the chopped pecan nuts.
Divide the batter between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sponge is golden brown on top and bounces back when pressed lightly. 
Allow the cakes to cool completely, upside down, before unmoulding. 

For the frosting, cream the butter, Muscovado and Demerara Icing sugar until light and very fluffy. Add the cream cheese and whip until very fluffy. 

To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until dissolved. Then bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute then set aside and allow to cool. 

Assemble the cake by layering the cake with the cream cheese frosting. To make layering easier, freeze the layers for 20-30 minutes before you begin assembling, this will make the cake more rigid and keep the frosting in place. Frost the sides of the cake, drizzle with the glaze, then decorate with pecan nuts, shortbread and extra frosting piped on top.

TIP: If you'd like to create the pecan shards, place 1 cup of light Muscovado sugar in a saucepan with 1 tbsp water and simmer until melted and caramelized. Pour over a handful of pecan nuts scattered on a greased and lined baking tray. Allow to cool completely then break into shards. I also crushed some to toss onto the side of the cake. 

*This post has been sponsored by Natura Sugars who produce a range of really special sugars that are unrefined and made according to traditional Mauritian sugar-making techniques. The sugars are non-GM, non-irradiated and unbleached with no preservatives, colourants or syrups added which basically means they are pure, natural and packed with flavour! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

You see that nibbled cookie there in the back? Now let me tell you something about food stylists, most of them would carefully break off a piece of said cookie to look like someone had taken a bite out of it, they would then meticulously arrange the crumbs with tweezers to look like they accidentally tumbled from the cookie. Er, yeah... that's totally what I did... JOKES! 

Are you kidding me?! The best way to make a cookie LOOK like it's had a big bite taken out of it is to TAKE A BITE OUT OF IT. And also, I ate a ton of these cookies while shooting them. The batch didn't make 9, I just ate so many that there were only 9 left...

 Oh you want to know about the cookie? Of course you do! Because you want to eat way too many like I did. That's why you're here!
This recipe is my twist on Christina Tosi's childhood chocolate chip cookie. 
Christina Tosi, incase you don't know, is the sweet genius behind Momofuko Milk Bar in the US. I haven't met her, but I just know we would be baking besties. 

For me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie has firstly, more chocolate chips than cookie and secondly, is crispy on the outside but chewy in the middle. This is ALL of those things!  Chris (my baking bestie) uses milk powder in her recipe, I swapped mine for Horlicks (because I basically keep them in business with my addiction) and I revved up the chocolate chips. And I really mean revved, because I used three kinds; white, caramel and milk chocolate. Good things always come in three's, people. 

Also, imagine Astro's or Smarties in these? Or Chuckles?

Now, go forth and bake cookies!

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe inspired by Christina Tosi
Makes 24

225g butter, melted (still warm but not hot)
1 cup packed Natura Light Demerara Sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tbsp Horlicks (malted milk drink) or milk powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
360g chopped chocolate or chocolate chips*

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celcius. 
Mix together the butter and sugar for 1 minute or until well combined. 
Beat in the egg and vanilla for another minute. 
Mix in the flour, milk powder, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda until just combined. Add the chocolate bits and mix again. 
Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto lined baking sheets ad bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely. 
I'm not going to even bother telling you how to store them because there won't be any left to store. 

*TIP: Chopped chocolate is much better than choc chips, in my opinion. We're looking for ooze here, and choc chips are way too stabilized. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Microwave Double Chocolate Lamingtons

This chocolate cake recipe is legendary in the Williams household. 
It was the first thing I learnt to bake, probably the only reason we owned a microwave and definitely one of the last things I want to eat on this earth.
 The sponge is light as a feather and has been layered into birthday cakes, baked into a bundt and glazed with chocolate icing for bible studies, and poured into slabs and topped with swirls of tinned caramel for school fundraisers. It can be a cupcake, a swiss roll - and now, a lamington!

Start to finish? These lamingtons will take you 30 minutes flat (if that). 
Or your money back. Jokes! But seriously, just chuck everything in a bowl. 
Whisk. Microwave. Dip. Roll. Eat. Repeat. (The eating part, that is)

The recipe is really so easy that I've memorised it. Which is pretty handy, you know for cake emergencies and all.

I've made mine pretty ('cos I love pretty things - yes, even my lamingtons) by baking them in heart-shaped silicone moulds which you can buy super-cheap nowadays but you can simply bake the batter in a silicone muffin tray, or a microwave-safe dish and then cut them out with cutters or keep them in blocks. 

These are the classic lamington flavour (chocolate and coconut) but I will mention that my intention was to give them a tart twist by stuffing the insides with a raspberry sauce.  But I was craving the classic and they tasted just too darn good on their own. You can be more creative than I was and sandwich the cake together with jam, or caramel(!) or flavour the dipping glaze with coffee or liqueuer. 

You know what the only problem is with making a recipe from memory though? There's a very real possibility of leaving an ingredient out, say for instance, the sugar. Which I totally did! And yes, I flop recipes too. All the bloody time. And on that bombshell... go make these! Now! Just make sure to add the sugar ;)

Microwave Chocolate Lamingtons
Makes 18-20

1 cup (250ml) cake flour
1 cup (250ml) caster sugar
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
4 tsp (20ml) baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup (250ml) hot water
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract

Chocolate glaze
60g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) cream
2 tbsp (30ml) golden syrup or honey
1/4 cup (60ml) hot water

Toasted desiccated coconut, for tossing

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. 

Divide the batter between silicone heart moulds (or whichever you desire) sprayed with cooking spray - don't fill more than halfway as the cake mix expands quite a bit. 
Now pop the moulds into the microwave and microwave on full power/high for 2-3 minutes or until the cake springs back when you touch it in. 
Remove from the microwave and allow to cool slightly before unmoulding. 
Continue with the rest of the batter. 

TIP If your silicone tray doesn't fit in your microwave (mine didn't), cut it in half - the cakes will cook more evenly too. 

While the cakes are cooling, make the glaze by placing all the ingredients in a small microwave safe bowl and heat gently until melted and glossy. Allow to cool. 

When the cakes and glaze are completely cool, use a pastry brush to paint the glaze onto the cakes then toss in the toasted coconut. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Caramel Creme Horns

I remember the first time I had to make puff pastry at chef school. Actually, I'm surprised I remember it - what with our brains blocking out horrific events and all. 
No other pastry has a more appropriate name than puff;  you spend what feels like hours just hanging around waiting (for the butter to chill in the fridge), and then there's lots of huffing and puffing as you frantically roll and fold that pastry before that same butter melts. Then the waiting. Then the puffing. And repeat. I mean, it's just a nightmare, and probably the only time butter is annoying. Ever. But, you only have to make puff pastry once to come to the same conclusion I did:

Life is too short to make your own puff pastry. 

Let's add a star thingy to that statement and include phyllo pastry in there too, shall we? Don't even bother trying to make your own paper-thin phyllo pastry. It will end in tears. And tears. Gosh, English is weird. 

But I digress, back to puff pastry. The pastry that won the butter lottery. 
I've had this old box of cream horn moulds for ages which I was given by my Great Aunt and have been desperately wanting to bake a batch. Except, are they still a thing?

Whatever happened to cream horns? They seem terribly out of date these days, but why? Whoever is doing the PR for them, is doing a shoddy job. Doughnuts - still trendy. Pavlova - still trendy. Tarts - still trendy. How can puff pastry and whipped cream be OLD-FASHIONED?! Well, I'm resurrecting them. With a boozy caramel cream that will knock your socks off. I reckon a tiramisu filling (the one I used in my eclairs here) would be mind-blowing too. And before you tell me you need cream horn moulds, you don't - simply cover ice cream cones in foil. The only thing difficult about making these, is figuring out how to eat them gracefully. 

Caramel Cream Horns
Makes 10-12

1 x 400g packet ready-made puff pastry (I used Today's)
Milk, for brushing
White sugar, for sprinkling
1/2 cup (125ml) cream
2 tsp (10ml) almond liqueuer (optional)
1 tsp (5ml) caster sugar
1/2 tin (200g) caramel or dulce de leche (do I need to tell you what to do with the other half)
Icing sugar, for dusting 

Preheat your oven to 200C and grease or line a large baking sheet. 
Spray your cream horn moulds with cooking spray (if you don't have, simply wrap ice cream cones in foil and spray the outside). 

Start by unrolling the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. No need to roll it out with a rolling pin, it's just the right thickness for the cream horns. Less work - yay! Cut 1cm strips lengthwise from the puff pastry then starting at the tip of the horn, wrap the pastry around, making sure it overlaps slightly. Brush a little milk on the end to make sure it sticks then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with more milk and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat until all the puff pastry is finished. 

Bake the horns for 20-25 minutes or until they're a lovely golden brown. Remove from the baking tray (or the sugar will make them stick) and allow to cool on a cooling rack. 

Make the filling by whipping the cream with the liqueuer and sugar until thick then place in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. 
Whisk the caramel in a bowl until smooth. 

Fill the horns with a little (or a lot of) caramel then pipe the whipped cream on top - do this just before serving so they stay nice and crunchy. Don't forget the dusting of icing sugar! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Egg-free Chocolate Chestnut Macarons

Egg-free, vegan macarons? Is this even possible? This must be some kind of dessert voodoo! Although baking is magic, this takes it to a whole other level. When I recently saw an article about chickpea meringue it stopped me in my tracks. That gross gloopy stinky water from a tin of chickpeas that I pour down the drain couldn't possibly make a meringue that's billowy, pristine and light as a feather - surely?

But, just when I think I know all there is to know about baking BAM, chickpea water surprises me. This is a revelation (well, to me anyway - it has been around for ages but there was an internet conspiracy hiding it from me) and I am now obsessed with finding  gajillions of ways to incorporate this sweet sorcery. 

Until now, one of the most difficult things about vegan baking has been getting sponge cakes that are float-off-your-fork light; Angel food cake, for example, is impossible to make without eggs (not counting egg substitutes). But now... that's all possible! "It's a whooole neeewww wooooorld!" Is it a bit odd that I'm getting THIS excited about chickpea water? Yes. Do I care? No. 

You should know me well enough by now to know that I'll use any excuse to make macarons, so when I whipped up that first batch of pea meringue, my first thought was - I wonder if this would make amazing macarons. YES! The answer is a thousand times yes. It makes brilliant macarons. In fact, I think chick-water is far more reliable. It doesn't have different water contents and freshness like eggs but that's all a bit sciencey and I'm starting to drift off to sleep... Anyway, all you need to know is you HAVE to try this to believe it. 

If your'e still going to therapy for your macaron-a-phobia (totally a real thing), then at least make egg-free meringues, people. Whip 180g chickpea water to soft peaks then beat in 1 cup (250ml) castor sugar and a drop of vanilla. Dry out in a 120C oven. 
FYI 1 egg = 3 tbsp chickpea water 

Egg white's are out. Chickpea water is IN!
Now I just need to figure out what the heck to do with 5 tins-worth of chickpeas... Hummus, anyone?

Egg-free Chocolate Chestnut Macarons
Makes 20

180g water from a can of chickpeas
125g ground almonds 
65g icing sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml cream (for a vegan version, use diary-free cream)
150g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
100g sweetened chestnut puree (available here)

Place the drained chickpea water in a saucepan and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to 60g. This will make a nice strong meringue. Allow to cool. 
Pulse the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until fine and then sift well - discard any leftover large pieces of almonds. 
Place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed for about 15 minutes or until light, airy and soft peaks form. It will look exactly like meringue. Gradually add the castor sugar until a stiff glossy meringue forms, then whisk in the vanilla. 

Sift in the almond and icing sugar mixture in 3 batches, using gentle folding movements to incorporate it into the meringue. Keep folding until the mixture reaches a lava consistency - it should hold it's shape but ooze off the spatula when you lift it up. 
Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small rounds onto a silicone baking tray.
Lift the tray up to chest height and then drop it onto the counter a few times to spread the macarons. Now allow to dry at room temperature for about 2 hours or until they form a skin - you should be able to touch them without your finger sticking. 

While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 150C. Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes. (I always make a small tray with one or two on so I can do a test batch first). Allow to cool. 

For the ganache, bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then stir until melted. Allow to set until spreadable. Place the ganache in a piping bag. 

To assemble, pipe a circle of ganache onto one macaron shell then fill the middle with the sweetened chestnut filling before topping with another shell. Continue with all the shells. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours then bring back to room temperature before serving. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Swedish Waffle Rosettes

These little rosette waffles are incredibly crunchy with enough nooks to collect pools of golden syrup and plenty crannies to hold piles of snowy icing sugar - so when you bite into one, it quickly crumbles into submission. I love desserts that fall into my mouth without me having to do much!

There is only one memory I have of these rosettes and it's a sweet one; of Friday afternoon's spent whisking them up with my best friend, Tammy (still in our school uniforms) just before a weekend sleepover. We would devour them still-hot with sticky syrup running down our forearms and icing sugar on our noses. My excitement was partly due to that after-school-Friyay-feeling but mostly due to the waffles which I was only able to make at Tammy's house because her mom had one of the old fancy irons. Of course, that just made them infinitely more delicious. Because they were special. 

And they were just a sweet memory until I stumbled on the vintage waffle iron at an antique shop. Of course, after that, I saw them everywhere - you can now even buy them (cheapish) online. It's a rosette revolution, people. And you're invited!

The pretty waffle iron is the most intricate part of this recipe; the batter is literally a pancake mix ratio.  So simple. Whisk. Deep-fry. Eat. Repeat. 
What's that? You don't have a pretty waffle iron? Well then, put the batter into a squeezy bottle and pipe your OWN pretty designs into the oil. No excuses here, move along.

I didn't get the chance to try these with anything else (I ate them all) but I imagine (nay, fantasize) that vanilla ice cream would be the bomb. So would a salted caramel sauce. Or or or! - Kate x

Swedish Waffle Rosettes
Makes 30

1 cup (250ml) cake flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp (10ml) castor sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Golden Syrup, for serving
Icing sugar, for dusting

Combine the flour, salt and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl. 
Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together separately then slowly whisk into the dry ingredients. 
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or pot until 180 degrees Celcius. 
Using a Swedish waffle iron, dip the iron into the hot oil first, then into the batter. Remove the iron from the batter then dip in a second time before placing into the hot oil. Allow the waffle to cook in the oil until it starts turning golden, then push it off the iron using a skewer or chopstick. Fry until golden brown, then drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining batter. 
Serve warm with dustings of icing sugar and pools of golden syrup. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake with Spiced Clementines

This is gooey, chocolatey, messy, shove-your-entire-face-in-it good. 
Who wants to fiddle around with gelatine when you can just bake this and get a dessert that can only be described as the love child of a chocolate fondant and a mousse?! It's light but still deathly decadent. 

A slice of this would be heaven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or double cream (wait who am I kidding, we're all thinking the same thing - there is no way in friggin hell ONE slice is a serving.) Anyway, whatever size your serving is, be sure not to skip over the boozy clementines - they add a pop of brightness not only in colour, but also in flavour, so you can make your way out of the dark richness of it all. 

But if you honestly need another reason to make this? It's a source of Vitamin C*.

*sort of. 

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake with Spiced Clementines
Serves 8-10

250g good-quality dark chocolate
125g salted butter
zest of 1 Clemengold
4 large eggs, seperated
110g white sugar
3 tbsp (60ml) cake flour, sifted

Spiced Clementines
6 Clemengold's, peeled
1 cup (250ml) sugar 
1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tbsp (45ml) brandy (optional)
Cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 vanilla pod, split

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin (or standard loaf tin) and preheat the oven to 180C
Place the chocolate and butter in a large glass or metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the Clemengold zest then set aside to cool slightly. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks and sugar until very light, pale and thick. 
Whisk the egg whites in a seperate bowl until soft peak stage. 
Fold the egg yolk mix into the melted chocolate and then gently fold in the egg whites and flour in 3 batches until completely combined. 
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until just set but still gooey (trust the timings and resist the urge to keep baking). 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving with the spiced clementines. 
To make the clementines, slice the Clemengold's and set aside. 
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, brandy and spices over medium heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil then add the fruit and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.