Friday, March 28, 2014

Chocolate cherry éclairs

I've been on the hunt for the perfect éclair recipe ever since the pretty French pastries started popping up everywhere! It seems they're the next big baking trend after the macaron mayhem we're all recovering from! I got the old-school choux pastry training where we taught that the perfect puff is achieved with a 1:1:1:1 ratio of water, butter, flour and eggs. As long as they were light, it didn't matter if they were a bit wonky-looking. But just like Pierre Hermé, who created that perfect-looking macaron that we all do absolutely anything to achieve, someone somewhere created a perfect-looking éclair and now we're all doomed to do the same.

In swoops Kate to save the day! After much research and testing, I give to you.. The Secret of The Perfect Eclair! 


So flipping obvious when you think about it! You've whipped up all that gluten and to get a perfect shape, you need to rest the pastry so it rises evenly. Makes sense right?!

A modern, sleek-looking éclair deserves an updated filling, so I've plugged them with boozy whipped cream, and placed some beautiful plump amarena cherries inside (just to-die-for!). Pile the éclairs on top of each other croquembouche-style, add some chocolate shavings and a drizzle of that gorgeous cherry syrup and I challenge ANYONE to resist this as a dessert showstopper! 

Black Forest éclairs
Makes 20

350ml water
150g butter, diced
pinch of salt
200g cake flour
4 eggs, beaten

500ml cream, whipped
1 tsp cherry liqueur (optional)
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 cup preserved cherries, in syrup, drained and halved

200g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 200C.
Place the water, butter and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until melted. Then bring the mixture to the boil. As soon as the water boils, remove from the heat and add the cake flour in all at once. Beat together with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
Place the mixture into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or you can do this b hand) and beat until smooth. Allow to cool slightly then beat in the eggs gradually until the mixture is thick and smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Place the pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain 2cm nozzle and pipe 10cm long eclairs onto a lined baking tray, making sure to leave enough space between to allow for rising.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastries are golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Dip the tops in the melted chocolate and allow to set completely then cut the eclairs in half but not all the way through.
Make the filling by whisking the cream, liqueur and icing sugar together until stiff. Place in a piping bag and pipe the cream inside, arranging a few cherries inside each éclair as well.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chocolate rum 'n raisin fudge

If I told you I've always loved the combo of rum 'n raisin, I'd be lying. It reminds me of the days my grandparents would come home from shopping and announce there was ice cream for dessert, only for me to later find out that it was rum 'n raisin flavour. The disappointment that tub of ice cream brought me was something I could only describe in a couple of days worth of therapy. It was a grown-up flavour that ruined a perfectly good scoop of ice cream, if you'd asked me!

But I was a pretty bright kid and with my insatiable sweet tooth, it didn't take me long to persuade my tastebuds to like it so I wouldn't have to skip dessert (I think the deadly sin 'glutton' is appropriate here!). Rum 'n raisin was reserved for the adults, it was sophisticated and I would feel rather classy (and clever) 'enjoying' it. So now, when I think of rum 'n raisin, I feel exactly that; classy. 

So here's a classy chocolate fudge recipe which feels like it should be stored in an antique tin. I'm pretty sure it would taste even better that way. 

Chocolate rum and raisin fudge
Makes 24

½ cup raisins
¼ cup rum (or 1 tsp rum essence in ¼ cup water)
400g dark chocolate, chopped
395g tin condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g butter or margarine

Line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
Combine the raisins and rum and allow to stand for at least 1 hour.
In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the chocolate, condensed milk,  vanilla and butter and stir over a low heat until melted.
Increase the heat and stir for a few minutes until the fudge is smooth and thick. Stir in the raisin mixture.
Pour into the lined cake tin and refrigerate until set.

Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Remember to hop on over to Facebook and like my page for recipes and sweet stuff. I also tweet about some cool things every now and then and Instagram my bakes (if I remember to snap them before I devour them!) 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Double mocha chunk cookies

Want to know the best part about these cookies? Except for the fact that they are deliciously dark, decadent with just the right ratio of crunch vs. gooeyness? It's the fact that they're Fairtrade. 

It's Fairtrade week which means we should all be focusing on looking out for that little (but very important) black logo and popping that product in our trolleys. Chocolate and coffee are two of my favourite things in the world and I use them in stacks of recipes (see my caramel latte loaf recipe here or the uber delicious tiramisu eclairs recipe here) and they also happen to both be Fairtrade products. To find out more on what Fairtrade means you can check out their website: but basically, it's all about looking after the farmers and the people that work so hard to harvest and grow those coffee and cocoa beans! And I like the sound of that. 

Something I also like is the idea that I can dig into a warm, melty batch of these cookies, and know that somehow, I'm contributing to making the world a better place. 
Now, go forth and bake up a batch so you can too!

Double mocha chunk cookies
Makes 20

1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
250g Fairtrade dark or milk chocolate, chopped
125g butter
1 tbsp Fairtrade ground coffee
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract

Sieve flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Melt half the chocolate with the butter and ground coffee in a saucepan over a low heat and allow to cool. Beat melted chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla together and gradually add flour mixture. Stir in the rest of the chopped chocolate. Use an ice cream scoop to drop lumps of dough onto lined baking sheets. Bake at 180C for 12 minutes until cookies are flat and cracked but slightly moist inside. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container.

The lovely people at Eat Out have nominated me for Best Local Food Blog in SA so if you like my recipes please head on over to their page and vote!