Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova With Syrupy Cherries

This right here, is what a Black Forest cake WISHES it could be. 
Layers of chocolate-swirled meringue with dark chocolate mousse, glossy cherries, soft whipped cream and some chocolate curls thrown in for funzies. Repeat until epic tower of delicious awesomeness is achieved. 

I mean, look at it - I'm committing sugar-on-sugar crime and I'm not even sorry!

Which reminds me, quick poll: If I call this gluten-free (which it is) does that make it diet food? 

Right, so you want to know how to make this epic tower of deliciousness? First, you need to start with the crispy marshmallowy layers of meringue. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE meringue? It's literally food magic. Which, kind of makes me a dessert magician!  I'm totally okay with this title by the way (switches tabs and adds it to twitter bio). 

So meringue is made out of just two ingredients, which means they need to be GOOD ingredients: free-range eggs, people (yes it costs a bit more but you're voting for a better world with your money) and proper, unrefined sugar. It makes a difference, I promise you. Natura Sugars makes this beautiful Golden Caster Sugar (swoon over the colour!) which not only dissolves quickly when you're making meringue but also gives a subtle caramel flavour which is just heaven with the dark chocolate. 

For the chocolate mousse, I've chosen a recipe that uses up all the egg yolks leftover from the meringue because throwing them away just seems like a waste. If you'd like an easier recipe, use my 2-ingredient chocolate mousse and if you're feeling super lazy (no judgement here!) simply grab a tub from the shops. 

 The Natura Golden Caster Sugar is also perfect for the syrupy cherries since it's quick-dissolving (I also sprinkle it over strawberries - yum!). I bought a heap of cherries and plan on preserving them all - they're heavenly spooned over vanilla ice cream or inside these Black Forest Eclairs

Now, while you decide for who or what you're going to make this showstopper, I'm going to go and be the dessert magician that I am and make this pavlova dissappear! ;)

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova with Cherries
Serves 6-8

4 egg whites
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, melted

Chocolate mousse:
140g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
200ml cream
1 sheet gelatine
4 egg yolks

Syrupy cherries: 
1 cup water
200g fresh cherries, pitted

200ml cream, whipped, for serving
Fresh cherries and chocolate shavings, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius. Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper and draw 4 x 10-cm circles on the paper to use as a template guideline. 
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form, then gradually add in the caster sugar until completely dissolved. Whisk in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla. Divide the meringue between the 4 circles and spread into a disc using a palette knife. Drizzle with the chocolate and swirl to create a marble effect. Place in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until until crisp but still mallowy in the middle. (If you're not using a thermofam, place a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it ajar - this will help to dry them out faster). 

To make the mousse, heat 75ml of the cream and pour over the chopped chocolate. Allow to stand for a few minutes and then stir until melted and smooth. Set aside. 
Whip the remaining cream and set aside. 
Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften. 
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a glass or metal bowl and place over a pot of gently simmering water. Add the softened gelatine and gently whisk until the egg yolk mixture is hot to the touch (about 60 degrees celcius). Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously (you can use an electric mixer) until light and thick but still lukewarm. 
Fold the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate along with the whipped cream. Place in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours. 

To make the syrupy cherries, place the sugar, water and cherries in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the cherries are softened. Allow to cool or pour into sterilized bottles and seal. 

Assemble the pavlova by layering the meringue discs with spoonfuls of chocolate mousse, whipped cream and spoonfuls of cherries in syrup. 

TIP: To make the golden cherries, mix 1 tsp edible gold dust (available to baking shops) with a few drops of vodka. Use a pastry brush to splatter or paint the cherries and allow the alcohol to evaporate completely until dry. 

Disclaimer: 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, October 20, 2015

Homemade Crunchies (Chocolate Honeycomb)

Honeycomb was one of the first things I created that made me fall completely in love with baking. It's got that magic - like meringue - where you can make something glorious out of a handful of very basic ingredients. It really comes down to science, but it's still damn cool when you sprinkle bicarbonate of soda into a molten pot of caramel and it fizzes up like a heavenly volcano. (If there are volcanoes in heaven, I'm pretty sure they will ooze bubbly honeycomb...#justsaying)

There is not a South African alive that doesn't have an affinity for, what we call, crunchies. As a kid, my memory of them is of Friday after-school drives home, eating crunchies while letting the chocolate melt on my fingers so I could lick it off. When I say 'letting the chocolate melt' I mean it was done purposely, because chocolate bars never have time to melt in my hands! We'd buy the crunchies from this glorious little factory shop in George that sold all Cadbury's rejected chocolate bars. Rejected by them and welcomed by me! 

I've covered my homemade version in dark chocolate because I love how the bitterness balances the sweetness of the honeycomb, but feel free to coat yours in milk or even white chocolate. A sprinkling of sea salt also gives these a deliciously grown-up twist!  My memory of them is not quite the perfectly formed crunchies most would be used to, but I urge you to embrace this because cutting honeycomb into perfect bars? Ain't nobody got time for that!  What you will have time for though, is slowly letting the chocolate melt so you can lick it off your fingers! 

As seen on Food24.com 

Homemade Crunchie Bars
Makes 8

50ml water
140g glucose (available from pharmacies or baking shops)
60g honey
10g bicarbonate of soda
500g dark chocolate, melted (for coating)

Grease and line a 20cm-square baking tin with non-stick baking paper.
In a medium pot, over low heat, combine the water, sugars, glucose and honey until completely dissolved. Turn the heat up and simmer until the syrup reaches 144°C*
Remove from the heat and, working quickly, add the bicarbonate of soda all at once. Whisk until the honeycomb foams up then immediately pour it into the prepared baking tin.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Once completely cold, use a sharp serrated knife to cut the honeycomb into bars.
Dip the bars in the chocolate (you can also use a pastry brush to paint the chocolate on) and allow to set on a sheet of baking paper.
It is very important to store honeycomb in an air-tight container to avoid it becoming sticky. If you have silica gel sachets saved from shoes or handbags, place one of them in the bottom of the container to help absorb humidity.

*if you dont have a sugar thermometer, simply drop the syrup into a small cup of tap water. It is ready when it forms a hard ball almost immediately.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween Poison Toffee Apple Cake with Caramel Peanut Brittle Buttercream and Snow White Apples

Halloween isn't really a big deal here in South Africa, I mean there are a few spooky decorations and the odd ghost-shaped sweet in the supermarkets but definitely not as big of a deal as it is in America. BUT let me just warn you, 'cos it seems to gradually becoming a thing. Last year? Kids came trick or treating at my door and I had NOTHING to give them! The horror! And before you go and say I was tricking them - how could THE biggest dessert-o-holic NOT have sweets in her house, let me just say that it's because I'm an all or nothing kind of gal. Meaning, I eat them all so there's nothing left.

But I digress. This year the lovely folks over at Food & Home Entertaining Magazine asked me and my ridiculously talented sister to do a little something for Halloween. Scary tales was the brief - the spooky side of fairy tales (which frankly are bloody terrifying). This cake is an evil (but delicious) spin on Snow White and the poison apple; layers of spiced apple cake, toffee buttercream, peanut brittle and some snow white apples on top. Sugar, sugar and more sugar - basically, if the poison apple hadn't done the job, this cake certainly would've!

Halloween Poison Toffee Apple Cake with Caramel Peanut Brittle Buttercream and Snow White Apples
Serves 8-10 

210g salted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour, sifted
½ tsp (2.5ml) bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp (15ml) cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5ml) nutmeg
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
145g finely grated Golden Delicious apples, squeezed well
75g flaked almonds, toasted

240g Natura Light Demerara Sugar
250ml (1 cup) water
360ml (1 ½ cups) cream
250g salted butter, softened

8 small lunchbox apples
8 wooden skewers or clean sticks
200g white chocolate, chopped

Peanut brittle, crushed, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C (conventional) and grease and line 3 x 20cm sandwich cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 8-10 minutes).
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
Beat in the vanilla.
Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices and stir into the cake batter alternating with the milk.
Stir in the squeezed apple and flaked almonds then divide between the 3 tins and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes, comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool, upside down, completely then remove from the tin.
To make the buttercream, place the sugar and water in a pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil and simmer, without stirring, until the mixture begins caramelizing.
Once the syrup reaches a dark toffee-colour (137 degrees celcius on a sugar thermometer), pour in the cream and swirl to combine.
Allow to cool completely and divide the mixture in half.
Cream the butter until very white and fluffy (about 8-10 minutes) then add one half of the toffee sauce and whip to combine – the buttercream should be very light and fluffy. 
To assemble, slice each cake in half to create 4 layers.
Sandwich the layers together with the buttercream, sprinkling a little of the peanut brittle in between each layer, then cover the top and sides with the remaining buttercream.
To make the snow white apples, insert the sticks into the apples then set aside.
Melt the white chocolate gently over a double boiler then dip each apple into the chocolate. Allow to drip thoroughly before placing on a lined baking sheet to set completely.
Place the apples on top of the cake then drizzle with the rest of the toffee sauce, to serve.

TIP: If the buttercream gets stiff while assembling the cake, simply whip again until fluffy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

No-Churn Amarula Ice Cream Cake with Malted Chocolate Balls

Maltesers, Whispers, Whoppers - malted chocolate puff balls have many names, but I have a special place for the ones we call Chuckles here in South Africa. Mainly because the 40g suggested portion size Woolies has placed on the packet makes me LOL. Do you know how much 40g is?! Not enough. 

This no-churn ice cream is AMAZING - what's not to love about it? 
It's got condensed milk - YES, Amarula - YES! Chocolate sauce - Yes! 
Chuckles - A million times yes! 

The most difficult part of making this cake is chopping the malty chocolate balls in half. Warning: they do NOT like being chopped - I had quite a few runners who tried to escape the wrath of my knife. They of course didn't escape the wrath of being eaten though! Mwahaha. 

Note: I give an amount of malty chocolate balls in the ingredient list, but of course, you need to buy double - if you need to know why, then we can't be friends.

You may also leave out the Amarula; I would replace it with some Milo or hot chocolate powder (Nesquik!) dissolved in a bit of milk. I poured my ice cream mix into a fancy silicone bundt mould, but let's be honest here, no one will actually care what it looks like once they taste it because all you REALLY need is a spoon!

No-Churn Amarula Ice Cream Cake with Malted Chocolate Balls
Serves 6-8

600ml fresh cream
60ml (1/4 cup) Amarula (optional: use Milo or Hot Chocolate mixed in 60ml milk)
1/2 (400g) tin condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
100g malted chocolate puffs, halved plus extra to decorate 

Amarula Chocolate Sauce
55g dark chocolate, chopped
60ml cream
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Amarula
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the cream until stiff peaks then add the Amarula and whip until combined.
Fold the condensed milk, vanilla and chocolate into the whipped cream. 
Pour into a lined cake tin or silicone mould, sprinkling in the halved chocolate malt puffs as you go. Freeze for 4-5 hours (or overnight) until firm. 
To make the sauce, place all the ingredients in a jug and microwave until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. 
Unmould the ice ceam cake by briefly dipping into water and unmould it onto a chilled plate. Serve drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with the malt puffs. 


Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake