Pressed Biscuits

Biscuits have always been – and are still – my nemesis in the kitchen. I have always struggled to get them fully cooked and crispy but not burnt or soft and chewy like giant cookies but neither raw nor overcooked. These pressed biscuits are small enough that you can basically guarantee that you will not end up with a raw centre (unless you underbake them which I have been known to do when I’m desperately trying not to brown the biscuits too much).

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This is the biscuit press!

The biscuit press that I use was my grandma’s and it still works brilliantly. They are absolutely worth investing in because they are not that expensive and, although you may not use them every week, when you need them these presses are invaluable – you can churn out hundreds of identical biscuits with very little effort. Most presses have a single or double setting on them. This basically dictates the size of the finished biscuits but it is worth having a play with yours to get used to it as if the dough is too soft, the double setting on the press can end up with blurry, smudged looking biscuits. It’s a classic example of just getting to know your equipment for the best results.

My biscuit recipe is a classic sugar cookie dough. This is probably the simplest form of biscuit you can make as there are no added flavours or ingredients that could affect the final outcome, it is just flour, butter, sugar, egg and vanilla… (also salt). Lots of recipes use different proportions of these ingredients to get the same style of biscuit so don’t be worried if your personal recipe is slightly different – the changes are usually very minor. Some recipes also use a raising agent however I feel that, if you beat your butter and sugar enough, there is plenty of air whipped into the mixture allowing the biscuits to rise a little and spread in the oven – ensuring that all the different sections are connected – but not so much that all definition from the biscuit press shape is lost. There is also a mindset that you should use icing sugar for this style of biscuit. It would make sense as Viennese whirls use icing sugar for their sweetness but the dough for this recipe has to be considerably tougher than that used for the whirls if only because it has to snap when you lift up the press, it cannot stretch into trails, you want the strands of biscuit to break cleanly leaving a beautiful, pressed result.

For flavoured biscuits, you can replace the vanilla with any sort of other extract or you could replace a couple of tablespoons of flour with cocoa, matcha, or some instant coffee powder for a colourful flavoured biscuit. You can even combine complementary flavours of dough in the press to get a beautiful, marbled result.

 

Pressed Biscuits (Spritz biscuits)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes three to five sheets of biscuits depending on the size

 

335g butter

225g sugar

450g flour (for chocolate biscuits, replace 40g flour with cocoa)

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

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Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined – if you overwork the mixture, the biscuits will be tough.

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Set up your biscuit press according to its instructions.

Select the piped shaped you want at the end and fill the press with one quarter of the dough.

Press the dough through onto a baking sheet to cover it in mini biscuits. It may take a bit of practice with your machine to work out which setting gives the best results. I have found on mine that for some shapes, a single click is enough but for others, you really need the double.

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Bake the biscuits for ten minutes.

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These are chocolate, not a burnt version of the last picture!

Allow to cool for a minute to harden up and then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.

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These biscuits will stay fresh for a few days if you keep them in an airtight box so don’t feel the need to eat them immediately…. or do eat them, no judgement here. I would not blame you!

 

If you are a fan of biscuits and fancy trying something a little bit more intricate than these, why not have a go at making my checkerboard biscuits? They look really cool and are a fantastic mix of vanilla and chocolate flavours.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a vegetarian treat.

H

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

After last year’s nauseating brain cake (check out how to make it here), and the spider cake that followed it (not for the arachnophobic among you), I thought I would tone down the horror of this year’s Halloween cake – not least because I still have to travel in public with it. So, of course, I made a cake with lots of broken bones oozing red goo stuck around it. It does not provoke the same level of visceral disgust as its predecessors but I definitely would not view it as plain – there is still an element of gore which is impossible to ignore.

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I have always classed myself as pretty squeamish. I cannot stand watching people get hurt, surgery, pimple popping etc. – it makes me feel faintly sick and go remarkably white (so I am told). I can just about deal with seeing things after the event – blood, autopsied bodies on tv – but watching it actually happen… that’s a no from me. For this reason, I feel that I have nailed a gore cake when it starts to elicit feelings of revulsion from me, its creator.

Squeamishness isn’t actually associated with seeing open wounds and that kind of thing but is actually a description of the feeling which they induce. As a result, the feelings of unease, nausea and even induction of vomiting can be caused by a great many things from watching someone get cut open on tv to seeing certain insects. There is, however, a phobia present in around 3% of the population which has the same symptoms as the squeamish response but is specifically caused by seeing blood, injections/needles and injury. I don’t think I have this because I can deal with blood and I have never fainted at the idea of needles (although I couldn’t go as far as saying that I am totally ok with having a piece of metal stuck into me, it’s not my idea of a good time).

I’ve always viewed my uneasiness around bones as one of those things that is completely natural because we shouldn’t actually be looking at bones, right? They should be safe and sound, wrapped in layers of muscle and connective tissue, all covered in skin; so seeing a large piece of bone – or large quantity of blood – means that something has gone very wrong. There is no reason to have your bones on display other than showing your teeth to someone.

This cake didn’t start cause me discomfort until I began to add the blood to the bones. The wet, fresh look really adds to the revulsion caused but that is a good thing! Normally I like my cakes to look so neat that people don’t want to cut them but when it’s Halloween, I like to go for the “this cake is so horrifying that no one can get near enough to cut it” approach.

Good luck making your cake gory as hell and have a fab Halloween (if you do that kind of thing – if you don’t, I hope you get left in peace all evening).

 

 

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

Time: 4+ hours

 

For the bones:

3 egg whites

175g caster sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract – optional

 

For the cake: (a batch of my devil’s food cake recipe)

75g cocoa

150g brown sugar

1 ½ cups (375ml) boiling water

180g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

340g plain flour

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

 

For the raspberry caramel:

200g raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)

80ml double cream

280g sugar

2 tbsp glucose syrup (or another 20g sugar)

25g butter

 

To fill:

520ml double cream

Raspberry coulis (optional)

 

 

Make the meringue bones:

Preheat your oven to gas mark ½ (85-90°C). (If your oven won’t get that low, select the lowest setting and then wedge the door slightly open with a wooden spoon.)

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are achieved.

Whisk in the salt and cream of tartar.

Add the sugar a spoon at a time until it is all incorporated and has dissolved fully in the egg white. You can check this by rubbing a little meringue between your fingers to see if it feels gritty.

If you are using it, whisk in the vanilla now.

Load the meringue into a piping bag and pipe bone shapes onto a baking sheet.

Bake for one and a half to two hours and then turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside to cool.

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Once cool, box up the meringues in an airtight box and set aside.

 

Make the caramel (as this will have to be cold before it can be used).

To make the raspberry caramel, blend the raspberries with the cream – if you don’t have a blender, you can use a potato masher.

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Strain through a mesh sieve and use a spoon to push as much of the cream through the sieve as possible leaving only a little raspberry pulp behind which can be discarded – you should have just under a cup of raspberry cream.

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Place the sugar, glucose syrup and a quarter of a cup of water into a pan.

Place this on a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

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Allow the sugar to boil unstirred until it reaches a dark golden colour.

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Pour the raspberry cream into the sugar. BE CAREFUL because the water in the cream will flash boil and could splatter a little.

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Stir the cream through and add the butter.

Boil this for another three or four minutes to make sure the caramel will be thick.

Pour into a heatproof container, cover and leave to cool.

 

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3.

Grease and line three eight-inch tins with butter, cocoa and baking parchment.

Place the brown sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the hot water over them. Stir until combined.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a separate bowl.

Add one egg and a spoon of flour and beat to combine.

Repeat with the other eggs to mix them in.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder along with half of the remaining flour.

Turn the mixer onto slow to avoid covering the kitchen in a cloud of flour.

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Once this flour is almost fully mixed in, add the rest of the flour and beat again to combine.

Finally, pour in the liquid chocolate from earlier and slowly mix together until you have a smooth, glossy, chocolatey batter.

Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until they are cold.

 

 

Once the cakes are cool, you can begin to assemble.

Whip the remaining cream to hard peaks (be careful not to overwhip as it will become butter).

Place a slice of cake onto your cake board and top with around a quarter of the whipped cream.

Drizzle over a couple of spoons of raspberry caramel.

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Add the next layer of cake and repeat before topping with the final layer of cake.

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Spread a thin layer of cream over the top and sides of the cake.

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Arrange the meringue bones around the outside of the cake. You can snap them in places to give a slightly jagged effect if you want.

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Drizzle some of the remaining raspberry caramel and raspberry coulis to give the bones and cake a more bloody appearance.

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Serve.

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If you are not eating this cake immediately, it must be kept in the fridge as it has a large quantity of cream and you do not want it to go bad!

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I love doing themed cakes and I had seen a couple of bone based cakes on the internet so decided to give it a try myself. Let me know if you have a go and how it turns out!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a nice, simple dish with a good amount of chilli.

H

Chocolate Rugelach

Rugelach are one of those foods that have come on a serious journey. Originating in Poland with a standard yeasted dough, they are now eaten all around the world in Jewish communities and have evolved to include ingredients such as sour cream, cream cheese, laminated pastry and fillings such as halva and Nutella. These are quite a different beast to the original basic dough filled with dried fruit and jams.

A big question when it comes to making rugelach is whether or not to add dairy. In orthodox Judaism, milk and meat are not to be eaten in the same meal so by including butter or sour cream in your dough, you are preventing yourself from eating the rugelach as a dessert after a meaty meal. The obvious choice would be to leave it out but of course the dairy adds a large fat content to your dough which softens it dramatically. You could always add oil to replace the fat from the dairy but that still will not solve the tricky problem of laminating the pastry. One solution is that you could use some sort of margarine instead of the butter – after all, the pasty is a soft lamination, you are not required to keep the butter cold at all times like in puff pastry – but the flavour wouldn’t be the same (although with enough added sugar, I am certain that this would not be a problem).

This dough takes a relatively long time to rise. Both milk and sour cream have a non-neutral pH (they are both slightly acidic) and their pHs both lie outside the range at which yeast ferments best. The eggs and the dairy constituents contain fats which coat the flour during the mixing stage. This slows down the rate at which the yeast can break down the carbohydrates into fermentable sugar. With eggs, butter, milk and sour cream in this recipe you should not be worried if your dough rises slowly but you will have to be patient. Rugelach which are under proved – especially during the second rise – will not cook through in the oven, resulting in a doughy interior.

The sugars in the milk (as well as the sugar added to the dough) will result in the rugelach browning in the oven faster than normal bread but you have to hold your nerve about this. Make sure you know the temperature your oven is working at and, if you have a fan oven, adjust it down a little to ensure perfectly cooked, unburnt pastries.

The recipe I use for rugelach includes chocolate in the soft lamination. The cocoa butter in the chocolate helps to separate the layers and it also ensures you have a huge quantity of chocolate in the final pasty (which is never a bad thing). You are of course welcome to laminate just with butter – I can assure you this works very well as it is the technique I use when making Pastéis de Nata. You could even use a flavoured butter – cinnamon or why not give it a savoury twist and infuse your butter with herbs or garlic and stuff the rugelach with cheese? Go wild!

These things will make your house smell delicious – forget baking bread when someone is coming over for a viewing, make rugelach! Hopefully you will enjoy these as much as I did and let me know how they go if you try them at home.

 

 

 

Rugelach (the sour cream variety)

Work time: 1 hour

Proving time: 8 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Dough:

650g plain white flour

1 ½ tbsp yeast

150g white sugar

1 egg and 3 egg yolks

200ml sour cream

80g very soft butter

160ml warm milk

1tsp salt

 

Filling:

200g dark chocolate

100g butter

50g sugar

 

Glaze:

1 egg + 1 tbsp water

300g sugar

200ml water

 

 

Tip the dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.

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Mix until combined and then knead on a medium to low speed for five to ten minutes – until the dough is stretchy and bounces back a little when a finger is pressed into it.

Cover the dough and leave in a warm place for about four hours (or until doubled in size). Alternatively, you could leave this overnight at room temperature (providing the room is not too hot).

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Melt the chocolate and butter together and leave to cool until the mixture begins to thicken to a spreadable paste.

Flour a surface and roll out the dough to a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle.

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Spread a quarter of the chocolate filling over two thirds of the rectangle. Fold the uncovered third over the middle third and the final third over them both (this is a letter fold – when the dough is folded in three, like a letter).

Pat out any air bubbles and seal the edges.

Roll this log back out again into a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle but the other way from the first time. This will ensure that the folds are perpendicular to before.

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Repeat the spreading and folding again with one third of the remaining filling.

Mix the sugar into the filling that remains.

Roll out the dough back into its rectangle and square off the edges.

Spread the remaining filling over the dough.

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Cut the dough in half lengthwise.

Cut each rectangle into triangles with bases around three inches long.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll each triangle up into a little croissant like shape and place it on the baking sheet with the tip underneath the body – this will prevent any unrolling during rising and baking.

Cover the rugelach and leave for one to two hours or until they are visibly risen and they wobble a little when the tray is jiggled.

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Whisk the egg in a bowl with 1 tbsp water.

Egg wash the rugelach and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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While the rugelach are baking, pour the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for another minute and then remove from the heat.

 

The moment the rugelach come out of the oven, glaze them with the sugar syrup. This might sizzle a little when it hits the rugelach or the baking tray but that is fine.

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After glazing, move the rugelach to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Pile up on a platter to serve

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These rugelach really are amazing and I would say they are 100% worth the effort it takes to make them. If you are a fan of laminated doughs, why not try making some puff pastry to bake with or maybe you could have a go at croissants!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious savoury treat.

H

Vegan Salted Caramel Tart

This tart has been in the making for three years now. I created it for one of my closest friends who couldn’t eat dairy products at the time. The recipe has sat on my computer ever since then and has only been shared twice. The first time was an e-copy that was sent to a vegan friend who tried some of the original dish and wanted to know how to make it for herself; the second sharing event was a printed copy included in a short cookbook I wrote using all of my vegan recipes and given as part of a wedding present.

As you may suspect, the most complicated part of this recipe to develop was the caramel. Standard caramel is based around sugar, cream and butter – as you can imagine removing the dairy from this is not ideal. My first attempt involved replacing the cream with coconut milk and the butter with a dairy free alternative. It was almost good. The problem: you need to cook the caramel for a decent length of time and I broke, I just gave in too early and took the caramel off the heat. It did not set. You really need to boil caramel to get it to set properly. Since then I have realised that vegan caramel also works far better with brown sugar and not melted white sugar, as I would use for a classic, cream-based caramel.

Coconut milk is extracted from the grated flesh of the coconut. It is relatively high in fat (above 20% for non-skimmed/non-low fat varieties) and this is why it works as a cream replacement in the dish. Coconut cream has at least 20% fat and is incredibly thick. While you could use it for this recipe instead of coconut milk, it really isn’t necessary as the aggressive boiling will drive off the water from the coconut milk. Moreover, I would discourage using coconut cream because the extra water in the milk will help dissolve the sugar before the cooking begins. If the sugar isn’t all dissolved, you will end up with a gritty caramel – or even worse, it might crystallise and if that happens there is nothing you can do to revive the situation.

I class this recipe under my list of things that show that vegan food is just as good as the non-vegan stuff. Just because this is dairy-free does not mean it is flavour-free too! Let me know what you think.

 

 

Vegan Caramel Chocolate Tart

Work time: 2 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes

Cool time: 4 hours

 

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

125g cold margarine

50g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

2 tbsp water

 

For the vegan caramel:

300g dark brown sugar

400ml coconut milk

100g margarine

 

For the chocolate layer:

300g dark chocolate

175g margarine

125g water

50g brown sugar

 

 

Tip the flour and margarine into the bowl of a food processor and blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

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Add the sugar and blend again.

Pour in the water and vanilla and blend until the pastry starts to clump together.

Pour the pastry onto a clean surface and squeeze it into a ball. Very lightly knead this to ensure the pastry is homogenous.

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Wrap and leave in the fridge to chill for half an hour.

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6

Unwrap the pastry and roll it out to a few millimetres thick (about ¼ inch). Use the pastry to line a tart case.

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Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork.

Line the pastry with foil weighed down with baking beads and bake for fifteen minutes.

Remove the beads and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes until the pastry is golden.

 

To make the caramel:

Start this when the baking beads have been removed from the pastry case.

Tip the sugar and coconut milk into a pan and whisk to combine (you do not need to fully dissolve the sugar).

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Bring to a boil and add the butter in four chunks.

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Boil, stirring regularly, for about ten minutes until the bubbles become larger and slow down. The mixture should be thick on the back of a spoon. To test if it is done, take a small amount of caramel and place it in a bowl in the fridge. After about 30 seconds, it should be thick and not flow too much when you draw your finger through it.

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Pour the caramel directly into the pastry case.

Lightly sprinkle with flakes of sea salt.

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Allow to cool for an hour to room temperature and then in the fridge for another hour until the caramel is cold to the touch.

 

For the chocolate layer:

Pour the water into a pan. Add the sugar and the margarine. Bring to the boil

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Break the chocolate into pieces and place them into a large measuring jug.

Pour the boiling liquid over the chocolate, leave for two to three minutes for the chocolate to melt and then lightly whisk until a smooth, glossy, chocolatey sauce is accomplished.

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Pour the chocolate sauce over the top of the caramel. Pour it in the centre of the tart and allow it to flow out! This will get you the smoothest result. Gently tip and shake the tart to smooth out the chocolate layer.

Allow to set in the fridge for at least an hour.

Decorate with cocoa powder, lustre dust, chocolate pieces or whatever else you fancy!

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Once the chocolate has set, do not try to smooth it! I used a hot offset spatula to try and even the chocolate layer but actually it just took the shine away which was a real shame.

This can be served with cream or ice cream (or dairy-free alternatives) but I don’t think they are necessary as it is perfectly amazing by itself!

If you fancy trying the non-vegan variety, why not check out my quadruple chocolate and salted caramel tart or if you are looking for other plant-based desserts, look no further than my apple and cinnamon tart.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious Indian dish.

H

Mocha Cake

With this cake, I have finally cracked two problems I have had whilst baking: how to get a level cake (which doesn’t dome) and how to get the cake to fill up the tin fully. Obviously these two problems are linked. The answer to how can you make the best cakes includes a healthy amount of chemistry along with a substantial quantity of thermodynamics.

In order to understand how to get the best end result, we must first ask ourselves the question: why do cakes rise? For a standard sponge cake (which is what I am addressing here) there are two raising agents. One is a chemical one (that is: baking powder) and the other is the air beaten into the cake. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to start with the baking powder. Traditional baking powder contains two ingredients: bicarbonate of soda and a weak acid (commonly tartaric acid which is also known as cream of tartar). There will normally be some kind of buffer (like cornflour) which will prevent the acid and the bicarbonate of soda from reacting with each other until the cake is in the oven. Once the temperature hits 60°C the baking powder activates. The acid and the base react to produce carbon dioxide and this gives the cake lift causing it to rise.

Most baking powders today have a second acid added to them. This causes a fast-acting reaction at room temperature with the bicarbonate of soda when they are mixed into the cake batter. The ratio of ingredients in the baking powder is designed so that there is a second reaction in the oven (like the traditional baking powders). These are known as “double acting” baking powders. This first (room temperature) stage is what helps give an even rise in the oven. When gas gets hot, it expands. In this case, if your cake goes from 20°C at room temperature into a hot oven, the gas will expand a lot. By the time the cake has reached 60°C and the second stage of gas release occurs, the gas produced by the original reaction will have expanded by 10%.

Flour begins to thicken and cook at 52°C; if you have a single stage baking powder the cake will dome in the oven massively. This is because the flour in the mix at the edge of the tin cooks before the baking powder releases gas so all of the rise is forced towards the centre of the cake. By using a double acting baking powder the gas in the cake mix at the edges of the tin will have already expanded quite a bit as it heats up, in the oven, before the flour begins to cook. By the time the flour has finished cooking, the gasses will have expanded by just over 20% giving a good rise to the cake.

When you take a cake out of the oven, you can see it steaming, so clearly if the steam is escaping, we can conclude that not all of the gas in the cake is trapped inside, some of it will escape which is why you want as much as much as possible in there at the start of the baking process. As well as using a chemical leavener, the other method to ensure a large cake rise is by beating the butter and sugar into oblivion. During the creaming stage, you beat in lots and lots of air which will expand in the oven when the mixture is baked. You want to do this with a K-beater and not a whisk attachment because it is very difficult to over beat the butter and sugar with the former. If you use a whisk and beat in too much air, then the cake will expand and rise in the oven too quickly as it will puff up, the gas will escape before the flour cooks and traps it and the cake will deflate in the middle and collapse. This is possibly the only thing worse than under-beating and ending up with a domed cake.

If you follow the recipe below, you will not have any problems with your cakes. You may need to alter baking times/temperatures a little for your own oven but I trust that you will know how to adjust that better than I would! Let me know how these cakes turn out for you if you have a go at them.

 

 

Mocha Cake

Work time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25-35 minutes

Serves: 12

 

For the Cake:

8oz. (225g) unsalted butter

8oz. (225g) caster sugar

8oz. (225g) self-raising flour (or plain flour with 2tsp baking powder added)

4 eggs

2 tbsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tbsp milk

Pinch salt

 

For the icing:

5oz. (140g) unsalted butter

7 ½ oz. (210g) icing sugar (sifted)

4oz. (115g) dark chocolate

1 shot espresso (optional)

 

 

To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease and line two eight-inch sandwich tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the K-beater attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (at least five minutes). It is really important to cream these properly as the air incorporated now will help the cake rise. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE BEATING TO TRY AND SAVE TIME.

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Counter-clockwise from the bottom left: just after the butter and sugar come together, after two minutes of beating, after five minutes of beating.
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Look how obscenely light and fluffy this butter and sugar is!

Add the eggs one at a time beating each one until it is fully incorporated. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature as this will help them mix in. After the fourth egg, the mixture may split and curdle – this is fine as everything will come back together I promise.

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This is what curdled looks like…..

Add the flour (and baking powder) and mix together on slow until the batter is homogenous. You do this slowly to avoid overmixing the batter which would cause gluten build up from the flour and also knock the air out of the mix.

Pour in the coffee and milk and slowly beat again until it is mixed through.

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Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. My oven at home is a little temperamental so baking times can vary a lot. Knowing your oven will help will this but sometimes, you will just have to play it by eye. The cakes will be golden on top, nicely puffed up and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked through.

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You can see that the batter still looks a little bit curdled – THIS IS OK. It will sort itself out in the oven.

Remove the cakes from the oven, leave to cool in the tins for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

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For the buttercream:

Melt your chocolate and set aside to cool to room temperature (don’t worry, I assure you it will not go hard).

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for five minutes until it is super light and fluffy.

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I contaminated my butter with a little chocolate which is why it is pale brown but imagine it being white in this picture. You can still see how creamy the butter has become.

Add half of the icing sugar and beat for another few minutes.

Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat in for another three minutes to make a super light and fluffy buttercream.

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With the beaters on slow, mix through the chocolate and then beat on high again once the chocolate is added to ensure it is mixed through evenly.

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If you want to add a little coffee, now is the time.

 

To assemble, sandwich the cakes together with half of the buttercream.

Spread/pipe the rest on the top of the cake to decorate.

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If you want, you could add a few coffee beans on top of the cake to jazz it up a little.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of coffee, you have to try my coffee and walnut cake – it is wonderful.

The next two weeks mark the two year anniversary of this blog so expect some amazing food!

Have a good one,

H

Jaffa cake… Cake

For those of you who have been following me for some time, you may remember a blog post from a little over a year ago in which I discussed the controversies surrounding the pronunciation of the word scone – and the additional arguments about the order in which the cream and jam should be applied. The thing about the scone debate is that, even though it still rages to this day, it has never made it into the court (as far as I am aware- please correct me if I am wrong). The same cannot be said for the Jaffa cake.

Jaffa cakes are a British snack created in 1927 by McVitie’s (originally McVitie and Price). They consist of a small cake layer and a thin circle of orange jam, topped with a layer of chocolate. Many supermarkets in the UK sell own brand Jaffa cakes as McVitie’s never trademarked the name and so, whilst the originals may still be the best-selling cake in England, you can find other varieties all over the place. I recently tried some similar style snacks from Poland some of which had raspberry jam and others blueberry.

The controversy surrounding Jaffa cakes arose because, in the UK, chocolate covered biscuits (for example: chocolate digestives and chocolate hobnobs) are taxed whilst chocolate covered cakes are not. The issue with Jaffa cakes was that they seemed to be created to avoid tax because they are eaten in the same manner and circumstance that you would eat a biscuit but are culinarily defined as a cake. It should be noted that McVitie’s have always classed them as a cake whereas HMRC wanted to class them as a biscuit to increase revenue from taxes which lead to the infamous court case.

The argument reached a climax in 1991 when it entered the court. There were many things taken into consideration before the final decision was given: Jaffa cakes are closer in size to a biscuit than a cake; they are advertised and packaged in the same manner as biscuits; they are displayed in the biscuit aisle of supermarkets and not with the other cakes; the batter for the “cake” contains egg, sugar and flour – it is a genoise sponge – and is closer to cake batter than biscuit dough; when they go stale, Jaffa cakes harden like stale cake and do not soften like a stale biscuit; the texture of a Jaffa cake is soft like a cake whereas biscuits are hard and can be snapped; and of course the product is literally called “Jaffa cakes” not “Jaffa biscuits”. The judge noted this final point and all but dismissed it saying that it was only a minor consideration. I still can’t make up my mind on which side of the debate I think the Jaffa cake falls but I definitely do eat them like a biscuit – then again I would never dunk one in my tea!

The cake in the recipe below is a Jaffa cake inspired cake. It is not meant to be recreating one but it should be reminiscent of a Jaffa cake. To that end, the top is designed to have the same shape as a Jaffa cake with the cake, jam and chocolate layers but it has been scaled up a bit. I would also recommend spreading the marmalade layer at the top of each piece over the rest of the slice unless you particularly enjoy eating a mouthful of marmalade (I don’t judge… peanut butter and Nutella are very eatable with a spoon…). The chocolate ganache replaces the actual chocolate on a real Jaffa cake because if you scaled up and had a proper chocolate layer, the cake would be uncuttable. It would be a messy nightmare waiting to happen.

I chose to set the jam with pectin for this as I find that vege-gel has a bizarre flavour and both real and vegetarian jelly are kind of wet meaning buttercream won’t stick. Frozen pectin set marmalade, on the other hand, adheres to the buttercream really well and gives a fantastic shape to the final cake.

I hope you like the recipe.

 

 

Jaffa Cake Cake

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total work time: 2 ½ hours

Setting time: as long as possible (overnight if you can)

 

Jelly:

1 jar of thick marmalade

Or

1 jar runny marmalade and 1 sachet pectin

 

For the cake:

335g (12oz). butter

335g (12oz.) sugar

6 eggs

335g (12oz.) self-raising flour OR plain flour with 1tbsp baking powder

Zest of two oranges

 

Buttercream:

Just to fill between the layers:

200g (7oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

300g (10 ½ oz.) icing sugar

25g (1oz.) cocoa

1 tbsp milk

 

Total coverage:

450g (16oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

700g (25oz.) icing sugar

50g (2oz.) cocoa

2 tbsp milk

 

Syrup (optional)

Juice of 2 oranges

75g sugar

50ml triple sec or other orange liqueur

 

Ganache:

Just the top:

100g dark chocolate

100ml double cream

 

Full coverage:

400g dark chocolate

500ml double cream

 

 

For the jam layer:

If using thick marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with cling film and spoon the marmalade in.

Place in the freezer.

 

If using runny marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with clingfilm.

In a pan, heat the marmalade until it has mostly melted but is not yet boiling.

In a separate pan, whisk the pectin into 60ml (1/4 cup) cold water. You may need to use a blender to get rid of all the lumps.

Heat the pectin water until it begins to slacken up.

Pour the pectin water into the marmalade and whisk it all together.

Heat the marmalade until It is boiling and allow to boil for one minute.

Turn the heat off and pour the marmalade into the tin.

Allow to set for an hour at room temperature before moving to the freezer.

 

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease three eight-inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange zest and beat again.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated. If the mixture looks like it is about to split, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together. If your eggs and butter are at room temperature, the mixture should not split at all.

Once all of the eggs have been added, beat in the flour in three additions.

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Split the batter evenly between the tins, level it and bake the cakes for about 35 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before transferring the cakes to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

 

Optional: To make the syrup

Pour the sugar and juice into a pan.

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for one minute.

Remove from the heat, stir through the triple sec and allow to cool.

 

To make the buttercream:

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until it is light and fluffy.

Add half of the sugar and beat until fully combined.

Add the rest of the sugar and the cocoa and beat again.

If the icing is very thick, add the milk and beat again to combine. This should result in a fluffy, soft icing which can be easily spread.

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To assemble the cake:

Level the cake layers and lay the first on an eight-inch cake board.

Use a pastry brush to brush syrup all over the top of the cake.

Spread a layer of buttercream on the cake.

Add another layer of cake and repeat until all the layers have been stacked and covered in buttercream.

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If you are covering the entire cake, remove some of the buttercream for later and use the rest to create a layer of icing down the sides of the cake. And over the top.

You do not need to crumb coat as the entire cake will be covered in ganache so this layer will not be seen.

 

Remove the marmalade from the freezer, place it in the centre of the cake and cover in the remaining buttercream smoothing over the edges so the top is reminiscent of a jaffa cake.

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Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up the buttercream.

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For the ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream until almost boiling (but don’t let it boil) and pour it over the chocolate.

Allow to stand for two minutes and stir together.

 

If you are only ganaching the top, gently pour the ganache over the centre and work outwards being careful not to let it flow over the edges of the cake. You can use an inverted cooling rack to get the lines across the top which a real Jaffa cake has in the chocolate.

If you are ganaching the entire cake, place the cake (on its board) on a cup or jar to raise it off the surface so the ganache can drip down the cake and off the sides. I like to do this over a baking tray so the excess ganache can be collected and used at a later date.

Pour the ganache in the centre of the cake and spiral outwards making sure to pour it so the ganache flows down the side of the cake and coats it evenly.

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Allow the ganache to set for half an hour and then transfer the cake to a serving board. You can decorate the cake as you wish now. I like to do something to cover up the ragged edge around the base – this can be piping excess buttercream in a border or covering the base of the cake in mini decorations.

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I would suggest when you serve this that people spread the marmalade in their slice over the whole cake and don’t just eat it as a separate layer but that’s just how I would eat this cake – you may know people who are happy to eat marmalade by itself.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you a fan of the fruit and chocolate combination, you should definitely check out my Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake or maybe my White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious soup.

H

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Whenever someone brings in a Fox’s biscuit selection (other biscuit selections are available), the first ones to go are the chocolatey ring biscuits. The other biscuits are nice but there is something about shortbread with an obscenely thick layer of chocolate that just can’t be beaten for most people. The recipe below is my take on these biscuits. The chocolate layer isn’t quite as thick but you are welcome to double up to a kilo of chocolate and double dip the biscuits if you want them to be ultra-chocolatey.

As the chocolate is being used to coat the outside of the biscuit, and thus will be handled when the biscuit is eaten, it is important to make sure that it is well tempered. Tempering is a process where you control the crystal structure which forms when the cocoa butter in chocolate cools. This is why compound chocolate doesn’t need tempering… there is no cocoa butter in it, they use other fats instead! But real chocolate, with cocoa butter, has a far nicer taste and mouth feel, so to get the best results we must temper the chocolate. This involves melting the chocolate, cooling to a specific temperature and then warming it slightly before it is used.

Cocoa butter has six crystal stages which are arranged by the temperature at which they form: I, II, III, IV, V and VI. This ability to exist in multiple different crystalline structures, as exhibited by cocoa butter, is known as polymorphism and this polymorphic property is what can make or break your chocolate work. When you buy chocolate it has already been tempered and it is packed solid with type V crystals – the tempering not only gives the chocolate a satisfying snap when you break it but also is what keeps it solid at room temperature. Crystal types IV and lower melt well below 27°C, well below body temperature meaning that your chocolate will be soft at room temperature or immediately melt all over the hands of anyone who tries to touch in. In contrast, type V crystals melt just below body temperature (33°C) meaning that your fingertips will not melt it when you pick up the chocolate as they are slightly cooler than your internal temperature but when you put the chocolate in your mouth, it will begin to melt.

The issue is that when you melt chocolate so it can be used for covering the biscuits, you destroy the temper, that is to say that the heating melts the type V crystals which the manufacturer formed in the chocolate. Because of this, you must make sure to heat the chocolate well above the type VI melting point (36-37°C) so that there are no “bad” crystals and you can start the process of forming the chocolate from an unadulterated mixture. While the type VI crystals are solid at room temperature, their melting point is too close to body temperature so they don’t melt in the mouth as nicely as type V. The addition of unmelted chocolate cools the mixture as the unmelted chocolate not only must be warmed to the same temperature as its surroundings but will take in latent heat so that it can also melt. This rapid cooling, whilst also agitating the mixture by stirring, prevents the formation of type VI crystals. The reason we continue to slowly cool the chocolate down to around 28°C is to make sure that it is close to the type V crystal formation temperature. It is then warmed just a little bit to melt any type IV crystals that could have formed, slackening the mixture in the process, and making the chocolate perfect for dipping.

You will notice when you temper chocolate that as you approach the correct temperature, the chocolate becomes a lot more viscous. This is a good indicator that you are almost ready to dip. It will also mean that you get a thicker layer of chocolate on your biscuit and that is always a good thing.

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 18 mins

Dipping time: over an hour

Makes around 35-40 biscuits

Ingredients

11 oz. (310g) plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

7oz. (200g) butter

4 oz. (110g) sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

To cover:

500g dark or milk chocolate (you will need to temper this if it is real chocolate).

50g white chocolate for decorations.

To make the biscuits:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C).

Place the butter and flour into a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand (this is like rubbing the butter into the flour – which also works – but is more effective as you don’t introduce heat from your hands).

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Add the sugar and salt and blend again until fully combined.

Pour in the vanilla extract and add the egg yolks. Blend again until everything appears homogenous.

The mixture should feel slightly sticky.

Pour the contents of the blender onto a surface. Use you hands to squeeze all of the bits together and continue to compress until the dough comes together but try to avoid kneading the dough too much so you don’t get too much gluten forming – a little is fine as you need the gluten to hold the biscuits together when you dip them.

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Lightly flour the dough and roll out to ¼ inch (about 1/2cm) thickness.

Use a two-inch cutter to cut as many rounds out of the dough as you can.

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You can bake the biscuits as they are at the moment (circles) but you will get fewer than 40.

To make the rings, use a cutter just smaller than half an inch (about a centimetre) to cut a circle in the centre of each of the larger circles. I found that the cap from a bottle of whisky was best for this as I didn’t have a proper sized cutter.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.
Let the biscuits rest in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up.

Bake for 18 minutes – or until the biscuits start turning golden around the edge.

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When the biscuits are cooked, transfer them to a wire rack to cool and leave until completely cold.

If you are using compound chocolate, ignore the tempering instructions. Just skip to the dipping stage.

Tempering the chocolate

Chop up two thirds of the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

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Roughly chop the remaining chocolate and place in a smaller bowl and off to one side for later.

Fill the base of a saucepan with water and place the big bowl of chocolate over the top.

Heat the water until it is just simmering – don’t let it properly boil – whilst occasionally stirring the chocolate in the bowl until it melts. Don’t stir to vigorously (it’s just unnecessary).

Continue to heat the chocolate until it has reached 55°C for dark chocolate or 45°C for milk chocolate. If you do not have a thermometer, dip your finger in and the chocolate should be uncomfortably warm. If you do have a thermometer, you can still dip your finger for an excuse to eat some of the melted chocolate – I would. PSA: remember to wash your finger between dips

Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat.

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Tip the contents of the smaller bowl (the unmelted chocolate) into the melted chocolate and gently stir. This will bring the temperature of the chocolate down whilst also introducing the desired V crystals into the mixture. These V crystals from the unmelted chocolate will help seed the formation of more of them in the melted chocolate as it cools.

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Continue to stir the chocolate until it reaches about 29°C for dark chocolate or 27°C for milk chocolate. This will feel cool to the touch. If you dip a spoon in the chocolate and place it in the fridge, the chocolate should harden very quickly to a semi-shiny state on the back of the spoon.

Place the chocolate back over the heat until it reaches 31°C for dark or 29°C for milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it gently for about 45 seconds to a minute. This will slacken the chocolate a little making it easier to work with.

Remove the chocolate from the heat again.

The Dipping

Set up a dipping station with the biscuits on one side of the bowl of chocolate and a lined baking sheet on the other.

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Use a fork to place a biscuit into the chocolate and make sure it is just covered.

Lift the biscuit out and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl a few times to let the chocolate drip off.

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Place the biscuit on baking parchment and repeat with the rest.

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For the white chocolate decoration, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in fifteen second bursts stirring between each heating.

Pour the chocolate into a piping bag, make a tiny hole in the end and pipe lines of chocolate across the entire batch of biscuits. This will ensure that the biscuits have the same design but each one is unique.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy trying some classic shortbread or alternatively, going the other way and making yourself some millionaire’s shortbread, you should definitely check out my recipes for them.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a super duper spicy recipe.

H