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

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

As I have said several times in the past, there is a bizarre mystique that surrounds many baked goods causing people to believe that they are too difficult to make at home. The swiss roll is one item which has been given this reputation by nefarious rumours but is far simpler than you may imagine. They are surprisingly sturdy and once rolled, can be wrapped up in clingfilm or parchment paper and moved easily from one place to another without having to worry about them losing their shape.

The Great British Bake Off has helped bring swiss rolls back into fashion like so many other baked goods. The classic questions which arise when making a swiss roll are: how to prevent it from cracking? How to get a tight roll? I will address these one at a time but the answers are intrinsically linked as what both boil down to is how the cake batter is mixed.

When it comes to preventing a swiss roll from cracking, each backer has their own method which they swear by. I have tried a couple of different methods and will give you my opinion on them, but please remember that everyone has their own way and I can only judge the techniques from the results that I have had. There first of three main methods that I have encountered regarding the prevention of cracking is the pre-roll. This involves rolling up the cake while it is still hot and very soft. You let the cake cool in the rolled position before unrolling it, applying the filling and then rerolling the cake. This is meant to cause the cake to ‘remember’ the rolled-up shape so when the filling has been added, it is easier to roll up again. I do not like this method and, truthfully, I have had the most disasters while using it. Why would you handle a fragile cake more than you need to? You are rolling/unrolling this cake three times more than if you wait for it to cool before filling and rolling. The second method involves cooling the cake flat, still in its tin, under a damp tea towel. The tea towel prevents too much of the steam from escaping but also stops it condensing and being reabsorbed into the cake leading to a soggy mess, as would happen if the cake were covered with a hard object. This method seems to work, but you may have to remoisten the tea towel if it dries out from the heat as you want to keep the cake in a humid environment.  The final method involves adding a little water to the recipe or simple syrup to the finished cake. The additional moisture in the cake gives it more flexibility allowing for a tighter roll as the cake can bend more without breaking.

If you want to get a tight roll, the easiest way to learn is by practice. Trying to avoid too much filling at the end of the cake where you start rolling is imperative, as if there is too much cream it will prevent the cake from folding over into a super tight swirl and you will end up with a cake more reminiscent of an arctic roll. The other thing to do is to make sure that you don’t underfold the mixture when you are adding the flour, if there is too much air left the cake will overinflate in the oven and will be too thick to roll properly – of course you must be careful not to overmix the batter and knock all the air out but, like I said before, practice is key.

Once you have mastered the swiss roll, you will see that it is a great last-minute cake as you can make the entire thing from start to finish in under an hour (assuming you aren’t trying anything ultra creative). The one given in the recipe is slightly more technically challenging because of the addition of the chocolate stripes but if you don’t feel like attempting them, you could always chop up some chocolate and sprinkle it over the filling before rolling to keep the chocolate flavour but avoid the faff of a second batter.

 

 

 

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

Time: around 2 hours

 

For the chocolate stripes:

50g butter

50g icing sugar

30g flour

20g cocoa

2 egg whites

 

For the coffee cake:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g plain flour

2 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tbsp tepid water

Pinch of salt

 

For the syrup:

100ml water

100g granulated sugar

½ tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp kahlua/tia maria/rum (optional)

 

For the Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

50g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

 

Make the stripes:

Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl.

Mix in the egg whites until completely incorporated.

Mix through the flour and cocoa.

The mixture should be a spreadable paste. If it is very thick, add water ½ tsp at a time until the paste is a little thinner.

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Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the base of your swiss roll tin.

To decorate the outside of the cake you have a few options: you can pipe swirls etc across the sheet of parchment, you can cover the whole thing and use an icing scraper to scrape away sections to give perfect stripes or you can use Sellotape to cover areas of the paper to give you completely straight edges on your stripes when you have spread the chocolate mix over the gaps and then removed it.

Once you have decorated the paper, place it on a flat tray in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.

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While the design is hardening up in the freezer, butter the edge of your swiss roll tin, this will help you remove the cake later as they can stick rather spectacularly.

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

Sift the flour and coffee powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.

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Whisk until the mixture has turned light, foamy and thick – around seven minutes. It will not reach the same stability as pure egg whites, the mixture will still flow but will be absolutely full of air.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the flour mixture along with salt.

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When the first batch is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and fold it in.

Pour the water around the edge of the mixture in the bowl – if you pour it into the middle, it can deflate the mixture.

Fold the water through. This additional liquid will help give an even textured cake and prevent it from cracking when you roll the cake up.

Remove the parchment paper from the freezer and place it into the bottom of the swiss roll tin.

Pour the batter on top and gently spread it out. Be careful not to be too aggressive when spreading as you don’t want to disrupt the pattern on the base of the tin.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is just golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

Combine the water and sugar in a pan.

Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Pour the syrup into jug and set aside to cool.

After it has cooled for ten minutes or so, add the alcohol of your choice.

The syrup should be no more than slightly warm to the touch when you use it.

 

Remove the cake from the oven.

Lay out a sheet of baking parchment, which is bigger than the cake, on a flat surface.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar, loosen the edges from the side of the tin.

Flip the cake out onto the baking parchment so the base with the design is now on top.

Gently peel off the parchment which is on the designed side of the cake.

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Cover the cake with a damp (but not wet) tea towel and leave to cool.

 

To prepare the filling, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until the mascarpone has softened.

Add the cream and mix again. The mixture will go very runny and then as the cream is beaten, it will thicken up again. Stop when the filling reaches a thick but spreadable consistency as you don’t want it to rip the cake apart when you add it.

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To assemble the cake:

Gently flip the cake onto a new piece of baking parchment so the patterned side is down.

Lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. This will help prevent cracking.

Spread the filling across the top of the cake leaving a centimetre strip filling free along both short ends of the cake.

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Starting at one of the short sides, use the parchment to help fold the end of the cake up and over before rolling the cake up down its length. Make sure the seam is underneath the cake as the weight on top will prevent the cake unrolling.

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Trim the edges to neaten them up and transfer the cake onto a serving platter.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of swiss roll style cakes, why not try your hand at a chocolate log (they aren’t just for yule) or if you would like a slightly simpler tiramisu, check out my recipe here.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a spicy beef dish which is great for dinner and as a cold lunch the next day too.

H

Chocolate Spider Cake

This cake makes a perfect, child-friendly dessert for a Halloween party. It’s not too in your face with the spiders but there are enough of them to make the cake look a little bit creepy. The cobwebs are also super fun to create which is always a bonus when baking. Hidden away beneath the spiders is a rich devil’s food cake sandwiched together with whipped cream. The cream cuts through the richness of the cake, helping to balance the flavour, and acts as a strong glue to keep the cake in one piece.

Devil’s food cake has been around for just over one hundred years. It is a variation of the red velvet cake and is generally distinguished from a classic chocolate cake by the addition of water as the primary liquid. This increase in water (and decrease in egg content) results in a very dense, rich, moist cake which I far prefer to a classic chocolate sponge cake, which can get very dry. The other main difference between a devil’s food cake and a classic chocolate cake is the addition of not only baking powder but also bicarbonate of soda. The raising of the pH by the bicarbonate of soda causes the cocoa to turn a far darker shade of brown, leading to the almost black appearance of the cake.

The decoration on this cake looks really cool but I would check with the people you are making it for because, although they are not real, the spiders on top can really upset some people. Arachnophobia is an interesting condition because it would have helped our ancestors to avoid contact with spiders – they knew that spiders were dangerous but didn’t know which ones could kill. It is interesting that such a small creature can pack such a powerful punch and it makes sense that a healthy fear of them keeps you alive longer. The thing about arachnophobia is that the extremeness of the fear is not healthy. Like all phobias, arachnophobia isn’t just having an aversion to arachnids, it is an overwhelming sense of fear and panic which is completely disproportional to the danger being posed. For some people, the sight of webs or a picture of a spider can cause heart palpitations, panic attacks or even fainting.

Spiders permeate many different cultures. From Arachne in ancient Greek mythology, to Anansi in African folklore, to Aragog from the Harry Potter series, spiders have woven their way into stories for thousands of years. They are usually representative of some sort of trickster god or betrayal – whether this came before the fear of spiders or after is a cause for debate – and rarely have positive connotations. It is interesting that such a small animal can have such a big effect on ancient stories and even how we act today.

Living in a country where you can almost guarantee that any spider you see will not be dangerous, I find it fascinating how strong a reaction some people can have to them. Even for people without a genuine phobia, the unease felt around spiders is what gives this cake its creepiness and what makes it perfect to serve up around Halloween.

 

Chocolate Spider Cake

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 filling and icing:

200g soft butter

300g sifted icing sugar

50g sifted cocoa

1 tbsp milk

300ml double cream

2 tsp vanilla

 

To decorate:

200g marshmallow

Small round chocolates (Halloween themed spheres and maltesers both work)

50g milk chocolate

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.

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

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

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Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a bowl.

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

Repeat with 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.

Once the flour has mostly mixed in, add the rest and beat again to combine.

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

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Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

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

 

To make the icing, beat the butter with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer until it is soft and fluffy. Using a stand mixer is far easier than a hand held one but if you don’t have one, any electric set of beaters will do!

Add half of the icing sugar and beat slowly until the sugar has been mixed in. Then increase the speed of the mixer and beat the icing for another minute.

Repeat the above step with the cocoa and then with the remaining icing sugar.

Tip in the milk and beat the icing for another five minutes to make it ultra fluffy.

Once the icing is done, add the vanilla to the cream and beat until the cream just reaches hard peaks. Make sure not to overwhip it or you will end up with butter!

 

To assemble the cake:

Level each layer of cake – it doesn’t have to be perfect as you can bulk out small dips with extra cream and icing (no one will mind).

Place the bottom layer on a cake board and pipe a circle of icing around the edge. Fill the centre with the cream.

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Add the next layer and pipe more icing onto it before filling the centre with cream.

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Finally, place the top layer onto the cake and cover the cake with the remaining icing. There should be enough to give a thin layer of icing on the top and the sides of the cake – you will still be able to see the cake layers through the side of the icing. If you want a completely opaque layer around the outside, multiply the icing recipe by 1.5 and make the layer around the cake much thicker.

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Place the cake into a fridge for at least half an hour to set the icing.

 

To decorate the cake:

Melt the chocolate.

On a sheet of baking parchment, pipe lots of little chevrons about 1cm tall and 1.5-2cm wide. These will become the legs of the spiders so make sure to pipe at least 9 per spider so you have a spare for when one of them inevitably snaps. Put these in the fridge to set.

Cut the base off each chocolate sphere (about ¼ of the way up the sphere)

 

Once the cake has been sufficiently chilled, you can make the webs.

Pour the marshmallows into a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.

Stir them and microwave again until all of the marshmallows have melted. You may want to stop heating when there are a few lumps left as these will melt if you stir the mixture.

Continue to stir the marshmallow for three or four minutes until it becomes super stringy.

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Pick up a blob and use all of your fingers (wash your hands first!) to stretch it out into a white sheet or a large number of strings. Wrap this around the cake and continue to wrap the strings or marshmallow around the outside until they snap.

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Continue to add layers of cobwebs to your cake until you are happy with the appearance. You want to still see the icing underneath as it gives a good contrast. (Wash your hands again to remove residual stickiness!)

 

Use the stickiness of the marshmallow to stick the balls of chocolate all over the cake and add eight legs to each of them. Pipe a small head at one end of each spider.

For added colour, brush a tiny amount of lustre dust over the back of each spider.

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This cake looks really cool and is perfect to serve up on Halloween for a party or just to an arachnologist at any point of the year. It can look super creepy and with multiple layers of cobweb, the 3D effect stops the cake looking too flat and boring.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are looking for another Halloween recipe, check out my amazing brain cake – it’s super gory but looks really cool! Of course, if you want something a little bit more tame, why not treat yourself to a wonderful coffee and walnut cake – or even a lemon drizzle cake!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious lunch which is as good cold as it is hot.

H