Tag Archives: dessert

Beatty’s chocolate cake

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine

It’s been one of those weeks where things go a little crazy and your body brings something akin to OOS to the party. And all there is to do is say NO to eating toast one night, and instead roast a free range chook with lemon, herbs and potatoes till golden, crisp and juicy.

And bake a cake, even if your hands cry and tingle while you whisk on… and on… and even if you tip the cake out of the tin before it’s completely cooled and ruin its otherwise flawless bottom.

Luckily, frosting provides excellent coverage for facial imperfections of the cakey sort.

Happily, the cake has been reasonably well-received by visitors and flatmates :-) If you make it, expect a moist, easy-to-eat cake and frosting which provides an immediate sense of luxury… and don’t expect the cake to last long if you have people in your house!

    Ingredients:
    Butter for greasing the pans
    1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    Chocolate frosting:
    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
    Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
    Chocolate frosting:
    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
    Modifications: I used a mixture of demerara sugar and caster sugar – and just over a cup of sugar all up (and it was sweet enough for me). Skipped the parchment paper. Substituted vanilla essence with kahlua. Made it without an electric mixer – possible, but I’d go with an electric whisk if I had one!

I’m also taking the chance to enter this for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by the lovely Sue of Couscous & Consciousness.

Chocolate for change

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
~ Andy Warhol

I don’t like white chocolate. I have never ordered anything with it in a restaurant, and I have only ever bought it as gifts for others.

I have not previously understood how white chocolate could be described as “delicious” (quelle horreur!).

I didn’t buy this block, though reading this story and seeing that there were raspberries in it made me put my hand up for a sample (thank you, Whittaker’s!)

NZ readers may have heard about it, or seen the by-product on supermarket shelves: thanks to five passionate young students and the help of a favourite confectionery manufacturer, New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation will benefit from chocolate bar sales… :-)

Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in NZ, which doesn’t look like a big number but is astounding if you stop to think that each of these women is someone’s mom / sister / daughter / friend / cousin / neighbour / grandma / aunt. And while there are a million causes out there begging for support, and you can’t help all of them, you can make a few different choices – like what candy you buy – and help out a little bit at a time. Buy this chocolate instead of another white chocolate bar, for instance, and you will help NZBCF with needed advocacy, research and rehab (a part of what I understand NZBCF does).

So… on to my chocolatey moment of truth. I paused for a second after tearing open the foil. I silently broke off a bit of the chocolate, and popped it into my mouth.

And, you know, I wanted to eat a few more bits. I had to shove it back into the pantry whilst I cooked so I wouldn’t give in to temptation and have too little left to cook with later.

I’ll never like it the way I like dark chocolate, but I’ll concede that this white chocolate raspberry bar smells amazing (especially while you’re chopping it up) and tastes very nice indeed all on its own. (Perhaps I’ll even buy a few more…)

I decided to make something with this though, especially after my eye fell on David Lebovitz’s recipe for white chocolate and fresh ginger ice cream. Right now, I am waiting impatiently for the ice cream to set. Every 45 minutes it emerges for a whisk, and every 45 minutes I resist the urge to eat a bowl of half-set ice cream (I tried a teaspoon of the mixture… the flavour is sooo good!).

So, reading about these five students inspired me to think, once again, about the power of one – and the power of people getting together to make a difference.

It’s easy to focus on the painful things in life – I stopped reading / watching the news regularly a few years ago, because so much of it grieved / disgusted / paralysed me. The feeling of exasperation grew after I graduated, and in the first two years after that I got a small glimpse of the staggering scale of the world’s problems. Natural disasters, life-threatening diseases, would it end? Worse, it seemed that for every person working for good in the world, there were a hundred creating all sorts of stupid messes. I questioned my own choices and decisions – it was easy to think about people not pulling their weight, but what was I doing about it? I didn’t like my own answers…

And in more prosperous parts of the world, I saw a less physically challenging but still undeniable side of darkness: soul poverty that no amount of money can even begin to touch.

Yet, I have come to accept that yes, the world’s problems are not easily solved by man (the human race seems to be better at creating messes). But there are other people who are behind a lot of good. So often, positive things have started with one person, one decision, one voice… and as long as there is just one person who will not balk at the tangle that is life and just do one right thing at a time, there is hope.

And, as you probably already know, hope makes so much difference.

On that note, happy Blog Action Day (this year’s theme: “The Power of We”).

P.S. Get your friends together and buy some chocolate, won’t you.

P.P.S. Brandy snaps pictured above were made with this recipe. Not perfected yet, but perhaps that will come with practice ;-)

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Mini apple crumble

With an apple I will astonish Paris.
~ Paul Cezanne

It was pretty in the early cooking stages; less so as it neared completion. No creative turn of my camera could make it look good; I gave up after a few tries. Certainly it did not look promising by the time I removed it, cooked, from the oven. It also clung a little heavily to the pan, meaning it did not look cohesive or inviting on the plate. Only its very delicious smell gave me the courage to serve it (gulp) to my flatmate…

So why am I posting this? Keep it real, right? There are days on which everything goes swimmingly in the kitchen, and days on which everything is ugly and your hands feel cursed. But I’m not just posting this to show I’m human…

See, once we bit into it, I decided this deserves a second try sometime in the near future (perhaps with a lightly greased pan and a higher baking temperature – incorporated below). I like having a recipe for a small dessert around (most dessert recipes always feed more!). And, more importantly, we were both surprised by its golden crunchy crumble crust (dare I say, perfect!) and tender caramelised apple filling… mmm.

    Mini apple crumble
    Recipe adapted, with a few modifications, from Sew Happy Geek
    Ingredients:
    2 apples (I used Granny Smith)
    1 tbsp caster sugar
    1/2 cup plain flour
    45g butter, cubed
    1/3 cup sugar (I used a mixture of 2 parts caster sugar, 1 part muscovado sugar – just under 1/3 cup)
    1/2 cup rolled oats
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    2 tbsp kahlua
    Cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 190°C*. Lightly grease an oven-proof baking dish.
    Peel and cube the apples, and place them in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of sugar. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, till they soften and are partially cooked.
    Meanwhile, rub the butter cubes into the flour with your fingers till it takes on the texture and look of breadcrumbs. Add in the cinnamon, ground ginger, sugar and oats, and mix well with a whisk or fork.
    Add the apples, any liquid in the saucepan and the kahlua to the bottom of the baking dish. Stir gently before spreading the apples out in an even layer.
    Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the apples, then place the dish in the oven to bake for approximately 40 minutes*, or until the top is cooked/golden and it all smells delicious! Let it cool for a few minutes, then serve with cream or ice cream, if desired.
    Yields 2-3 servings.

* The original recipe says to cook it at 180°C for 20 minutes. It emerged with a way undercooked crust for me after 20 minutes, so I increased the temperature to 190°C for a further 15 minutes, then 200°C for yet a further 10 minutes. I suspect 190°C is optimum crumble-baking temperature (based on a few quick Google comparisons too), and that a crumble takes more than 20 minutes to cook. Obviously you should also factor in your oven’s size and personality!

If ever a routine is to claim my morning

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
~ Faith Whittlesey

Some people have morning routines. I am not one of those people, except that I am loathe to begin any day without brushing my teeth/washing my face. But I don’t do morning runs, or yoga; I don’t stumble to the coffee pot or walk out the door at precisely 7.45 every morning.

If ever (however unlikely this “ever” is) I am to adopt a morning routine, I hope it’ll have something to do with sunrise and cooking. Honestly, cooking is one of the very few things I have ever felt wonderful waking up for at 6am. Not even catching an early bus to go to the airport makes me feel that way (and that is saying something, because I really like going to the airport to catch a plane).

This morning at 6.15, I skipped down the stairs two at a time, and headed into the kitchen. My corner of the world was still quiet and half hidden by shadows.

I baked, half feeling like I was in a trance, half feeling like dancing. Three eggs, propelled by my handheld mixer, whirled swiftly and became like custard. With a sharp knife, three peeled Bosc pears became quarters, then strips, then smooth white dice. I relaxed into the sweet, nutty scent of browned butter.

I dressed for work while my oven worked. Just after 7.40, the cake proclaimed that it was ready to pop out of the oven. I walked out the door while my kitchen waved goodbye, with the scent of chocolate, cake and the promise of a good day lingering at the doorway.

Recipe here.

P.S. I am very excited that my dear friend Tabitha arrives today!! (She has been hiding in Canada).

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but you can now find me on Facebook, if that is your sort of thing!

Poached pears and Charlie Brown

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
~ Dr. Seuss

What to do with Monday Blues:

Kick them into a corner… let them whimper.

Open every window and blast “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (link via one of my favourite blogs The Breakfast Bachelor).

Get down on your knees and scrub the floor à la Cinderella.

Wash your hands, like hygiene really matters.

Peel and poach some pears.

Make some chocolate sauce.

Talk to the Paul of your universe (he is my macchiato-and-noodle-loving, way-talented-at-dancing, kinder-than-your-Gran friend who also helped me, via long distance email, to pick the photos you see on this post tonight. I took so many photos, I drove myself batty trying to decide which ones to use.) ;-)

Have three soft luscious golden winegingercinnamon-infused chocolate-coated pear halves for your dinner.

Nothing else.

No steak. No veg. No pasta.

Keep listenin’ to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

    Poached pears with quick chocolate sauce
    Inspired by Orangette and Nigel Slater
    Ingredients:
    500ml leftover white wine (I’m still attempting to clear my post-Thanksgiving stash…)
    500ml water
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tbsp vanilla essence
    Juice of half a lemon
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 knob of ginger
    4 sturdy, ripe pears (I used Bosc)
    For the chocolate sauce*:
    8 squares dark chocolate (I used Whittaker’s)
    1 tsp instant coffee powder
    2 tbsp hot water
    1/2 tsp butter
    Method to my madness:
    Combine the sugar, water, wine, vanilla essence and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Throw in the ginger and cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer. Peel and halve the pears, and remove the cores with a sharp knife and teaspoon. Place the pear halves in the simmering syrup and allow to cook for around 20-30 minutes, or until tender. They should be golden and bordering on translucent.
    When you are satisfied with how the pears look and feel, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool (or not, if you are hungry).
    Pour the coffee powder, hot water and chocolate squares into a microwave-proof jug or container and microwave for approximately 20 seconds. Take it out and give it a stir, and microwave for a few more seconds if needed (do it in bursts of a few seconds, so nothing burns!). Once the chocolate has all melted, stir in the butter. You should now have a glossy, velvety sauce.
    Drain and plate the pears, drizzle the warm chocolate sauce* over it all, and tuck in.
    Yields 3-4 servings.
    * I made just enough sauce for three pear halves, for that is all I ate tonight – adjust quantities of ingredients to make as much sauce as you need/like.

Chocolate fudge cake

A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.
~ Roald Dahl

As promised, here is what remains of Ottolenghi’s chocolate fudge cake. The curved strokes you see on its surface were artfully crafted by a budding two year old artist who struck before we could stop him ;-)

Today has been saturated with cake, so much so that I can barely bring myself to type the word without feeling ill. Croquembouche. Banoffie pie. Oreo ice cream cake. Blackforest cake. Chocolate guinness cake. Pecan pie. Etc… (yes this isn’t even the full list).

They were all seriously good (or good-looking, for the ones I just did not have capacity to eat), but I do not, right this second, want cake of any description to come within an inch of me.

I can’t bring myself to taste this cocoa-topped twice baked fudgey cake, but I gather from all comments received tonight that the recipe is a keeper.

    Ingredients:
    240g unsalted butter, cut into small* cubes
    265g dark chocolate** (52% cocoa solids), cut into small* pieces
    95g dark chocolate** (70% cocoa solids), cut into small* pieces
    290g light muscovado sugar***
    4 tablespoons water
    5 large free range eggs, separated
    a pinch of salt
    cocoa powder for dusting
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 170′C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
    Place the butter and both types of chocolate in a large heatproof bowl – it should be big enough to accomodate the entire mix. Put the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir to mix, then bring to the boil over a medium heat. Pour the boiling syrup over the butter and chocolate and stir well until they have melted and you are left with a runny chocolate sauce*. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Set aside until the mixture comes to room temperature.
    Put the egg whites and salt in a large bowl and whisk to a firm, but not too dry meringue. Using a rubber spatula or a large metal spoon, gently fold the meringue into the cooled chocolate mixture a third at a time. The whites should be fully incorporated but there is no harm if you see small bits of meringue in the mix.
    Pour 800g (about two-thirds) of the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level gently with a palette knife. Leave the rest of the batter for later. Place the cake in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out almost clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool properly.
    Flatten the top of the cake with a palette knife. Don’t worry about breaking the crust. Pour the rest of the batter on top and level the surface again. Return to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. The cake should still have moist crumbs when checked with a skewer. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Dust with cocoa powder and serve.
    The cake will keep, covered at room temperature for 4 days.

* Seriously, cut the butter and chocolate into small pieces, or the syrup won’t melt them (in which case – suspend the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir till it melts. It worked for me in the end).

** I used 250g Whittaker’s 50% chocolate, and approximately 110g 72% cocoa chocolate.

*** I used approximately 1 cup dark muscovado + just under 1/3 cup caster sugar.

Honey, cinnamon and plums

He felt like he was in a kind of moon soup, with the stars turning slowly above him and his thoughts floating past like ingredients. He felt he was drowning in it.
~ Nigel Cox, Waiting for Einstein

They won’t come.

The pictures and words I’ve been saving up over the last few days to share with you… some in my camera, some in my mind. Snapshots of a (wonderful and mostly sunny) weekend in Wellington; thoughts on life; stories of eating, giving and receiving.

I’m almost irritated that they are piled high behind the door, refusing to come out. But it’s no use – I’ve been hovering here for over an hour, perched on the edge of my seat with a hot water bottle on my lap, typing and erasing, sighing and humming. They’re refusing to let me post them here.

I’m not sure why.

So I’ll let them simmer on in hiding… meanwhile, would you like to talk about Cake?

With my friend G’s birthday coming soon, I’ve been looking for a ‘yes cake’. You know, a recipe for cake that makes you say YES, I’m going to make you…?

I flicked impatiently through what felt like TONS of recipes in blogs, magazines, cooking websites – lots of lovely pictures and tasty sounding things, but no ‘yes cake’… and then, late this afternoon, I found it. Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon and Plums. An absolute ‘yes cake’!

Making this, I could imagine myself leaping into a mountain of Autumn leaves, feeling them envelope me in playful laughter, and gazing up at clouds and winking sunshine…

There’s the scent of warmed golden syrup, lyrical like someone you love saying “Honey, I’m home!”; the look and feel of butter – a generous hug, a glove around your senses; the kiss of cinnamon – a sweet and spicy fairy dust, making all it falls on special. All three together make for pretty delirious inhaling.

Oh, and the BROWN in this recipe – the different shades are glorious and luxurious, and chocolate doesn’t even make a guest appearance! There’s the shimmering, luminous brown of the honey + butter + golden syrup melting on the stove – which reminds me first of George’s Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl) and then of liquid gold. There’s the butterscotchey, dulce de lechey, yummy-caramelly look and flavour of the flour + golden syrup stirred together into a thick creamy mix – miracle I managed to avoid licking the spoon! Finally, towards the end when the elements combine to form the batter, there comes a demure woolly brown that reminds me of slim ladies, cashmere sweaters and milk chocolate melting in the sun.

This cake presents nearly no challenges – it’s mostly a breeze to make. There is just one point when it’s hard to imagine the cake turning out, those few minutes when the egg mixture splashes and swirls around the flour + golden syrup mix and you’re trying not to associate it with Things of the Bathroom… If not for the saving line in the recipe “it will resist incorporation and look weird at first”, I might have despaired. In the end, however, it comes together very nicely and reminds me that perseverance can sometimes lead to good surprises.

The cake rises effortlessly and proudly in the oven – and oh, I do so enjoy the look of the plums, round and sweet and delicate, on the risen cake, in the square tin. Smile inducing.

I did change a few things in the recipe, mostly due to pantry limitations. Sure hope the taste isn’t compromised – I’ll let you know tomorrow after the birthday girl has had a chance to try it! :-)

[edit] We managed to surprise G with a birthday morning tea. J brought a scrumptious lemon cake, dense and moist and luscious, with crunchy miniature sugar crystals on the top. M brought brownie squares laden with invisible coconut threads. I brought Nigel’s cake. We had a rich morning tea – and all, it seemed, were smiling! I took home an empty cake tin. Happy, happy birthday, G. [/edit]

    Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon, and Plums
    Adapted from Orangette
    Ingredients:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 slightly heaping tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 very generous tsp ground cinnamon
    2 pinches salt
    2/3 cup golden syrup
    2 tbsp maple syrup
    125g unsalted butter
    1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
    1/4 cup caster sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 cup (250ml) milk
    5 ripe plums, pitted and quartered
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish, and set aside.
    In a large bowl, sift and combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk well.
    In a saucepan, warm the golden syrup, maple syrup and butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter is melted, stir in the muscovado and caster sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool for a minute or two.
    Break the eggs into a medium bowl, add the milk, and whisk the mixture.
    Pour the golden syrup mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. The batter will be very thick at this point. Pour in the egg mixture, and continue to stir – don’t worry if it doesn’t resemble a good cake mix – it will come together and form a loose batter with no traces of flour
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then arrange the plums on top. (They will sink.) Bake for 30 minutes; then place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the cake, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. The cake should look mostly set at this point. Remove the piece of foil, turn off the oven, and leave the cake in there for another 15 minutes. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes, then loosen from the pan and cool completely before slicing.
    See Molly’s recipe here for her version, and additional notes.

This is my first post for Sweet New Zealand (if I’m not too late!) – hosted by the lovely Allison of Pease Pudding this month.