Archives for posts with tag: chocolate

Hot choc spoons

Happy (Australian) Mother’s Day! Just a very quick post as I have been baking most of the weekend so that I can spoil my Mum with high tea this afternoon, and I have to leave soon to get to my parent’s house.

My Mum has her birthday, Mother’s Day and wedding anniversary within the same week and I always try to make it special for her. Hopefully she will enjoy all my baked treats (I’ll update this post with links to what I have baked later…my Mum reads my blog and I don’t want to spoil the surprise).

However, these are not part of the high tea today. I actually made these for my Mum for Easter, however they make a great edible gift any time of the year and are great for chocoholics. It is more of an idea than a recipe. As such I haven’t given quantities, you can make as few or as many as you like based on the size of your moulds and the amount of chocolate you use. I first saw these in a magazine last year and have seen them in quite a few since then (too many to reference). I haven’t used them myself yet to make hot chocolate; however Mum has said they work really well, with the chocolate melting into the hot milk to make hot chocolate perfectly. So next time you are in search of a gift, why not give these a go?

Click here for the recipe

choc orange tart

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not that fond of chocolate (strange I know). I will always bypass a chocolate dessert for something made from citrus or berries. If I am going to eat (or bake) something with chocolate, I need something added to it to cut through the richness of the chocolate.

When I saw the cover recipe of the March BBC Good Food magazine, with the classic combination of chocolate and orange, I knew it was something I wanted to try. And with a house warming to go to this weekend, it was the recipe for me.

The recipe in the magazine used store bought sweet crust pastry, with cocoa added to it in a food processor to make a chocolate pastry. I decided I had to make the chocolate pastry from scratch. Not the best plan when you only have a few hours to make the whole tart at the end of the week and the house/kitchen is boiling hot (it is a warm summer here in Perth). But I persevered. If you can give the pastry a couple of hours in the fridge it is much easier to work with and you can roll it a bit thinner. I had to make it a bit thicker as it wasn’t quite cool enough when I rolled it…but the end result was still good. I also wanted to make small individual tarts as I thought that would be easier at a house warming than a large one that needed to be cut.

The filling for these is almost like a cross between a curd and a custard. Don’t take your eyes off it when it is on the stove. I went to check the pastry and it started boiling and almost curdled. Thankfully it still worked and the end result was a good combination of the rich chocolate from the ganache drizzle and pastry, and the sweet tartness of the oranges. I used my favourite ganache recipe instead of the one in the magazine which had the addition of golden syrup as I thought this would be too sweet. The recipe below has more ganache than you’ll need to drizzle on top of the tarts. However I had extra pastry so I made more tart shells and filled the rest with the ganache for rich chocolate tarts with a hint of orange in the pastry and ganache.

choc orange ganache tarts

Click here for the recipe

choc gingerbread brownies

With ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice filling the air, it’s really starting to smell like Christmas in my house as a result of this weekend’s baking. Aside from starting the gingerbread for some mini gingerbread houses (a future post), I also came across this recipe for gingerbread brownies that I had to try.

Not being a huge chocolate fan, brownies are usually too rich for me (although my fudgy chocolate and raspberry brownies are very popular with all the chocoholics I know). But I liked the idea of the added “Christmassy” spices and just had to try them. With the amount of chocolate in this recipe (both dark chocolate and cocoa), they were too much chocolate for me and I could only eat a small piece. But that is my issue, not the recipe’s. Besides, heading into Christmas time when most of us over indulge, only having a small piece of something is a good thing! They were very popular at work so, if you love chocolate brownies, why not give these a try instead of your usual brownie recipe at Christmas time? This would be great as a dessert warm with ice-cream too.

Click here for the recipe

 La Religieuse 1

I’m finally back to baking and blogging after more than a month away. My apologies for my absence, but my other hobby was taking up all of my spare time. As I have mentioned before, my other passion is musical theatre, and I was cast in a local (community) musical theatre production, which hit the stage recently for a one week run. And so my time was taken up with rehearsals and then performances.

However, the musical has now finished and it is back to cooking, cooking classes, baking and blogging. The show went well, with great feedback from the audiences.  The best part was meeting all the children from the audience in character after the show. They loved that. It was a lot of work and over too quickly, but well worth it. It has reignited my love and passion for musical theatre!

But for now, there are no more shows on the horizon so I have more time for my baking and blogging. The final episode of GABO is now a distant memory, however I set myself the challenge of cooking all the technical challenges, and there is only the final weeks challenge left to go, LA Religieuse. However, as usual I did change it a bit. I decided to just do chocolate and vanilla filled versions, rather than the chocolate, coffee and rose.

I have to say I had issues with this bake. Even though I’ve made both choux pastry and crème patisserie before. Part of it could have been that I was recovering from a migraine when I first started on Saturday, and the rest was not reading the recipe correctly and then rushing and taking short cuts at the end. My first crème patisserie was a bit grainy (the sugar hadn’t dissolved using the GABO method which had the sugar in with the milk) and I put the large and small choux pastry in the oven at the same time instead of cooking them separately. So after enjoying some fresh air and sunshine at the Unwined food and wine festival in Subiaco today, I decided to start again. This time I used my normal crème patisserie recipe (which I much prefer) and cooked the choux in batches as it was supposed to, with much better results. I have to admit though, by the time I got to the assembly stage I was tired and rushing. My icing was too runny, and I didn’t want to make a second batch. And I used whipped cream instead of melted white chocolate which wasn’t firm enough. So they weren’t very pretty in the end and not very stable. But they still tasted nice and the choux pastry itself turned out great.

I have to say next time I will just cook éclairs or profiteroles, which can all go in the oven at one time, and they are much easier to assemble.  All in all, after the first failure, I was pretty happy with the outcome taste wise, although they are a very sweet and rich dessert. I am very happy that I managed to get through all 8 of the technical challenges (some better than others). Of course, cooking in your own kitchen is completely different to the high stress environment of the GABO tent, but who knows…I might have read the recipe properly if I was there!

Next up? I start a 5 week Christmas Baking Class with Sarah Brigden from babyCakes this week.

Click here for the recipe

checkerboard cake

After months of waiting The Great Australian Bake Off (GABO) has finally made it to our screens and in celebration I have decided to attempt each week’s technical challenge to see how I go. For those of you not familiar with the format, each week contestants on the show have to bake in three separate challenges:

  1. The signature bake (their own tried and tested recipe)
  2. The technical challenge where all contestants are given the same recipe (with limited detail) and ingredients
  3. And finally the show stopper, where each week they are asked to create something creative with wow factor. 

One of the things I love about this show is that for two of the challenges, the contestants get to work off their own recipe which they know and have been able to practise. It is so important in baking to get the measurements/ratios right that it has always amazed me that people in other reality TV cooking shows can bake all manner of things from memory. I know that, even though I’ll often change things and add my own flair, in baking I still always start by looking at the recipe!

The technical challenge for week one was a chocolate and orange checkerboard cake and I just had to make it for my Dad’s birthday. The cake recipes themselves seemed quite easy, however my first hurdle was that I didn’t have the right sized tins (four 18 cm tins were required for this recipe). I managed to find one tin in a little homewares store down the road; however this meant that I had to cook four cakes separately rather than all at once. There was certainly no way I was going to be able to make this in the two hours the contestants had!

If you have the time, I would suggest making the cakes the day (or at least the morning) before you want to assemble them to allow them time to cool in the fridge (or freezer). They are much easier to cut and assemble cold (the first cake I made was a lot easier than the last, which was still slightly warm). I only made three rather than four levels as I had to transport it the next day (although you still need to make four cakes to get the desired pattern). And I also felt that the three levels was more than enough. This cake certainly has wow factor when you cut into it. I have to admit I was very excited when my Dad sliced the first piece and we could all see the checkerboard pattern inside!

I have to confess that, at the request of my Mum, I used my usual ganache recipe rather than the GABO recipe.  . I also found I needed to use extra orange zest to get the level of flavour I was wanting. It is quite a rich cake and I would definitely recommend serving it with cream or icecream. But on the whole I have to say that my first technical challenge was a great success.  On to the week 2 challenge!

Click here for the recipe

It is only recently that I have become confident enough to make my own pastry, rather than using premade bought pastry, and I am really looking forward to going to a pastry making class with Sarah Brigden soon to learn some more techniques, tips and tricks. For a lot of people though, the thought of making pastry from scratch is quite stressful. And I think cooking should be enjoyable, not stressful.

These tarts are a great alternative to a pastry dessert. Instead of a pastry base, they have a macaroon tart base, made from egg whites, coconut and sugar.

The end result is a beautiful macaroon tart base, which is crisp on the outside and chewy in the centre with a rich and creamy chocolate filling. The tartness of the raspberries cuts through the chocolate filling, making it fresher and lighter. I think this is a great alternative to a pastry dessert and a great dinner party dessert as it can be made ahead for stress free entertaining.

raspberry macaroon tarts

Click here for the recipe

Onto the next of my Christmas gifts from the kitchen. I have to say, that when I was rolling these in the coconut, it started to feel and smell like Christmas in my kitchen. This recipe uses bought fruit cake, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Of course, if you have leftover home-made fruit cake at home, you can use that. But I’ve always made these with bought light fruit cake (just the basic home brand version) and have been happy with the result every time.

For a non-alcoholic version, just replace the rum with orange juice. The recipe below is a double batch of the original recipe.

rum balls

Click here for the recipe

In my quest to share the holiday spirit through food, I may have overdone it a bit this week. It started off innocently enough in the planning stage about a month ago. I like to give food gifts at Christmas. This began years ago when I was still in high school. I would make a hamper of goodies for my friend’s families. Now I tend to do food gifts for people at work. Last year I went a bit overboard making fudge, rum balls and truffles, which took several nights to complete, and this year I promised myself I was just going to make one thing. Small gingerbread trees (out of stars). I did a test run a month ago, it all worked so I was (I thought) set.

Then, a work morning tea was organised, and I offered to bake. So far, still okay. It was then decided that there would be a “best representation of a Christmas tree” competition at the morning tea. My team settled on my suggestion, a gingerbread Christmas tree decorated by the team. And there went my Christmas gift plan.

My team's gingerbread Christmas tree

My team’s gingerbread Christmas tree

The end result was over the last week I have:

  • Cooked a dinner party for friends (home made dips, slow cooked roast lamb with a few sides and two desserts);
  • Baked and decorated numerous gingerbread stars, men and ornaments, and assembled a tree made out of decorated stars;
  • Baked cupcakes and a yule log for the work morning tea; and
  • Made and packaged up fudge and rum balls to give out at work.
Death by chocolate cupckaes

Death by chocolate cupcakes

Not to mention I still had to work everyday, finishing up the Christmas shopping, etc. Let’s just say I spent a lot of yesterday sleeping to recover. But it was worth it. I had a lovely night with my friends over for dinner last weekend, the gingerbread tree turned out amazingly well (even if we didn’t win – we still got to eat it) and everyone loved the morning tea and the gifts. So I was happy, if a bit tired.

Now however I am very behind with posting, so today I will share my three holiday baked gift ideas, starting with the easiest fudge recipe ever. I don’t even know where the recipe came from originally, that is how long I’ve been making it. I think it was one of those Nestlé Christmas recipes that you find in magazines at this time of year.Choc almond fudge

Click here for the recipe

Not much baking this week, as I spent a few nights in the beautiful south west of Western Australia for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. I got to meet some amazing local and international chefs and try some great food. I had a wonderful weekend of food and will definitely be going again next year. Unfortunately it is now back to reality, with lots of unpacking and laundry to do before I head back to work tomorrow.

I did, however, cook my Death by Chocolate cupcakes a few weeks ago for a work morning tea, so it is now a perfect time to share the recipe. This is another recipe from Sarah Brigden at babyCakes that works every time and the cupcakes always disappear very quickly whenever I cook them. Like the citrus coconut cupcakes, these don’t contain any butter and are oil based. Again, the mix needs to be made the night before or at least a few hours before cooking to create light cupcakes (it will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge or two months in the freezer before cooking). The recipe does not contain any eggs, so it is good for anyone with an egg allergy/intolerance. As with any recipe using chocolate, use a good chocolate that you like. If you like a dark/bitter chocolate, use that in the ganache and dutch cocoa in the cake mix. I usually use normal cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate) so that the cupcakes aren’t too bitter and a 50% professional baking chocolate (that I get from babyCakes) for the ganache for a rich chocolate taste without the bitterness.

I have also made chocolate orange cupcakes using this recipe by replacing the vinegar and some of the water with orange juice and adding orange zest to the cake mix, as well as orange liquor to the ganache. If I’m making the citrus coconut cupcakes at the same time, I like to use some of the raspberry swirl frosting on some of the chocolate cupcakes as well.

If your oven has hot and cold spots like mine, turn the tins around during cooking so that you get an even bake. As long as you don’t open the oven every minute, opening it a few times isn’t a problem.

Click here for the recipe.

Continuing my very busy month of classes, I recently went to a class with Sarah at Baby Cakes to learn how to make a White Chocolate Yule Log (or Bȗche de Noël ). These are in all the patisseries in France at Christmas, so seeing as we are having Christmas at home with my family this year, I thought it would be nice to learn.

I always enjoy Sarah’s classes and her recipes have always worked perfectly at home. Her berry soufflé rose so high the first time I tried it at home, I had to scrub the top of my oven and top shelf (not that I minded, as I was so worried they wouldn’t rise – I’ve since learnt not to doubt Sarah’s recipes). I’ve made her cupcakes so many times, and they have always resulted in beautifully moist cupcakes. Sarah has been generous enough to allow me to share her recipes on my blog, so cupcakes will be coming soon (I am baking a massive batch tomorrow for birthday morning tea for work, so I’ll put them up early next week) and I’ll try and get the soufflé recipe up as well.

But back to the Yule Log. I’ve always thought they would be extremely difficult and fiddly, but it was actually a lot of fun to make and achievable at home, and it rolled up a lot easier than I expected. Plus the frosting hides any mistakes. The recipe may look like a lot of steps, but it is only a few ingredients and processes. I believe that these are traditionally decorated with marzipan or other decorations, meringue mushrooms and some of the ones I saw in France a few years ago were very elaborately decorated. Having just learnt how to use fondant, I tried making an elf and reindeer at home and took them along with me, and was quite happy with how they turned out for a first attempt. We also made chocolate decorations (melted chocolate, piped onto baking paper) and some fondant holly (roll out green fondant, cut with a holly cutter and then roll balls with red fondant for the berries). You can decorate it anyway you want. You could also replace the white chocolate ganache with dark chocolate for a dark log. That is the joy of cooking, you can make it the way you want using the basic recipe as the base.

Thank you to Sarah at Baby Cakes for allowing me to share this recipe.Bȗche de Noël

Click here for the recipe.

%d bloggers like this: