Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

I recently realised that in all of my recipes which used chocolate as a main ingredient, I have never actually talked about its origins which is something I am about to change.

There is evidence of the use of chocolate in drinks from almost 4000 years ago. The ancient Maya and the Aztecs were known to use it in drinks however the chocolate they consumed was nothing like what we have today. Cocoa beans are incredibly bitter and need to be fermented before they begin to taste nice. Even then, we still dry them, roast them and add sugar before they get close to our mouths.

The name chocolate derives from the Mayan word ‘xocolatl’ Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) word ‘chocolātl’. The Mayans used chocolate in celebrations and religious events. As cocoa beans grew so easily in Mesoamerica, chocolate was widely available and as a result everyone had access to it regardless of social status. Chocolate was so well thought of that there are paintings of the Mayan gods drinking it.

Cocoa Pod
A fresh cocoa pod

Like the Mayans, the Aztecs valued chocolate highly and also thought it had religious significance. They believed the removal of seeds from the pods they grew in was analogous to the removal of the human heart in ritual sacrifice. They would season chocolate with pepper and honey before they consumed it – almost like the world’s first chilli hot chocolate (except they drank it cold). Unlike the Maya, the Aztecs could not grow chocolate themselves as conditions were unsuitable so it was imported. As a result, cocoa beans were extremely valuable and were sometimes used a currency. When they conquered the Mayans, the Aztecs forced them to pay taxes (or ‘tributes’) in cocoa beans.

Since then, chocolate has become a world-wide phenomenon. It is consumed everywhere in, frankly, ridiculous quantities. Back in 2014, Switzerland held the crown for highest chocolate consumption per head with the average person eating 9kg of chocolate a year!

To produce chocolate, the beans must be roasted, cleaned, have their shells removed and ground up to create cocoa mass. This is then heated so that the cocoa butter melts creating a smooth, liquid called cocoa liquor. This is then either processed or left to cool in large blocks of raw chocolate which is then sold to different chocolatiers.

The raw chocolate can be re-melted and the cocoa butter is separated from the cocoa mass. These are then recombined in different ratios along with sugar, milk and oils to create the chocolate we know and love. The cocoa mass must be ground up to very fine particles which is what gives the chocolate its smooth mouth feel and is why you can’t just add cocoa butter to cocoa powder and sugar to create chocolate – the cocoa powder has particles with almost four times the radius of those in professional chocolates.

The cocoa butter is also important to making good chocolate. When you make decorations, many recipes will call for tempered chocolate. This is where you melt the chocolate and when it is cooled, prevent the cocoa butter from setting, but stirring, until it gets to the right temperature. This is because cocoa butter has six different crystal forms only one of which is completely solid at room temperature and you don’t want your carefully crafted decorations to collapse before everyone sees them! One way around this is to buy compound chocolate where the cocoa butter is replaced with vegetable oils – this means that you don’t have to temper it!

Luckily, the recipe this week doesn’t call for anything super fiddly like tempering chocolate. It does make one of the biggest cakes I have created though. With four layers sandwiched with cream and caramel, this cake is incredibly indulgent, exceedingly decedent and definitely worth it. It’s perfect to feed a crowd and if you only want a small one, you can easily half the quantities and only make a two-layer cake!

Chocolate, caramel layer cake

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes (or 1 hour)

Cooling time: At least one hour

Decorating time: 30 minutes (plus 1 hour cooling)

Total time: 3 ½ – 4 hours

Serves 25

For the Cake:

100g cocoa (you want to use regular shop bought dutchy processed cocoa, not raw cocoa!)

200g dark brown sugar

500ml boiling water

250g unsalted butter

300g caster sugar

450g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tbsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

For the Icing:
½ batch of caramel (see Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe which gives instructions for the full batch)

200g butter (at room temperature)

450g icing sugar – sifted

¼ cup milk

For the filling:

300ml double cream

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180oC) and line four eight-inch baking tins (you may have to make the cakes in two batches if you have fewer tins and this will also help ensure the cakes all bake evenly). I like to butter the tins, put a circle of parchment on the bottom and then give it all a coating of cocoa.

26996577_1839780009387029_2008817512_n

Place the cocoa and the dark brown sugar into a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Whisk this together.

27265004_1839778699387160_583980130_o

Cream the butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes in an electric stand mixer.

27152485_1839780086053688_2080588162_n

Stir the salt, bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder into the flour.

Add an egg and a tablespoon of the flour mix and beat it together.

Repeat this until all the eggs are added.

Add in half the remaining flour and mix it together.

Add the rest of the remaining flour along with a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate mix to prevent the mix turning into a hard dough.

27044663_1839780096053687_1999958223_n
The moment it starts looking lumpy, add a little of the chocolate mixture

Add about a quarter of the remaining chocolate mix and make sure it is beaten through well so there are no lumps of while left.

Gently add the remaining chocolate mixture and slowly stir that through until all the mix is combined.

27157499_1839780129387017_1288622159_n

Divide this into your tins and bake them for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool before filling them.

To make the icing, beat the butter for at least seven or eight minutes until it is light and fluffy. This step is imperative to making a smooth, spreadable icing.

Add half of the icing sugar and slowly beat it in to prevent covering the room in a layer of icing sugar.

Once it has been incorporated, beat the icing again on a medium to high speed for another five minutes.

Add the remaining icing sugar and repeat, beating for another five minutes. If the icing seems to be getting dry and clumping, add a tablespoon of the milk.

Add half of the caramel and beat it into the icing – the rest will be used later. The icing should now be smooth and delicious.

Once the cakes are cool, it is time to assemble them.

If the cakes are very domed in the middle, it’s best to level them a bit at this point. Us a sharp knife or a cake leveller to remove the top of each dome so the cake will be a more even shape.

27044398_1839780152720348_1669186088_n

Whip the cream to soft peaks – it should be able to hold its shape but not have started to split!

Place the bottom layer on the cake board and pipe a circle of the butter cream around the edge.

26996488_1839778719387158_1346141131_n

Spread the inside of the circle with one third of the cream and one third of the remaining caramel.

27045316_1839780189387011_595854934_n

Add the next layer of cake and repeat this until you only have one layer of cake left to add.

When you add the final layer, add it upside down so the top of the cake is a smooth, flat surface. You may have to build the icing wall up a little higher on the third later to support this if your cakes aren’t completely level.

27044739_1839780176053679_2051402154_n

Cover the entire cake in a thin coat of icing and chill for an hour.

26996804_1839780239387006_166920918_n
Chill the cake after adding the crumb coat so the final product has a clean finish on the outside

Once the cake has chilled, cover it in the remaining icing keeping about 4 tablespoons back for decoration.

Use the reserved icing to pipe designs onto the cake. You can make them more visible by adding a little cocoa to the icing so it stands out.

27048187_1839778706053826_1488837876_o

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and that you love the cake when you try it! If you fancy a little bit more baking, why not have a go at making some Brandy Snaps or for a quick and easy meal, make yourself some One Pot Pasta!

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a delicious curry recipe – it’s even going to be vegan!

H

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Brandy Snaps

For a long time, I was unaware that brandy snaps could be eaten on their own as opposed to being used a decorations for bigger, grander desserts. While this discovery hasn’t exactly rocked my world, it has given me another recipe in my biscuit arsenal, one that is particularly quick and easy to make! Whilst containing almost identical ingredients to gingerbread, the difference in ratios is what gives brandy snaps their distinctive appearance.

While in the oven, the butter and golden syrup melt, as does the sugar. This makes the brandy snaps  spread out from teaspoon sized blobs to several inches across. The bubbling in the butter causes little holes giving rise to the lacy appearance. As the sugar caramelises in the oven and the butters flows out of the biscuits, they darken. Once removed from the oven, the brandy snaps are far to soft to handle but as they cool, the sugar begins to harden. This is when they should be shaped. Cigars are shaped using an oiled wooden spoon but more exciting shapes can also be made. Laying the soft biscuit over an oiled cup or orange can give a beautiful bowl which can hold a dessert or cutting into triangles or long rectangles and curling can give an ornate garnish to a pudding.

Dating back to the early 1800s, brandy snaps have been around for a long time and haven’t really changed at all! They are traditionally filled with whipped cream however they can also be dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts to give another dimension. The origin of the name is actually thought to have been derived from the word ‘branded’ referring to the fact that they can appear burnt. Having said that, I can appreciate that you may wish to drink a couple of brandys whilst baking these as they are some of the fiddliest things I have ever created.

One thing to note is that while you want to shape them while they are still hot, they have to cool enough not to break when you handle them (and also not to burn your fingers). Another thing that makes them so useful is if you only want a few to jazz up your dessert, the lack of eggs in the recipe means you can reduce the quantities as much as you want – providing you stick to equal ratios of all ingredients other than the ginger.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and have a chance to try these at home!

 

 

Brandy Snaps

Prep time: 10 minutes          Cook time: 40

Makes: 30 medium sized brandy snaps

100g unsalted butter

100g brown sugar

100g golden syrup

100g plain flour

1tsp ground ginger

(optional: 1tbsp brandy or lemon juice)

 

Vegetable oil and wooden spoons

300ml whipping cream to fill

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C).

Sift the flour and ginger into a bowl and make a well in the middle.

Gently heat the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan until it has all mixed together and the butter is fully melted. DON’T LET THIS BOIL!

Pour the butter and sugar mixture into the well in the flour and mix together.

Add the lemon juice or brandy and mix into the batter – it should be thick and flow very slowly.

Using a half tablespoon (or a heaped teaspoon), dollop four blobs of batter onto each baking sheet – they will spread out a lot so do not put more than 4 on the first couple of sheets. Once you know if you can fit an extra brandy snap on the sheet then you can add one to the next batch.

26781658_1825492097482487_355910209_o

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown – but not too dark as no one wants burnt brandy snaps.

26771954_1825492077482489_313483823_o
Minute 0, minute 4 and minute 8.

I tend to use three sheets on a rotation as the lower one doesn’t cook as fast so once I remove the first sheet, I move up the lower one and add the third sheet on the bottom of the oven and work in four or five minute intervals from there.

Lightly brush the handles of some wooden spoons with the vegetable oil.

Let the brandy snaps rest for a minute until they are cool enough to handle and won’t rip when lifted but are still soft and malleable.

26695423_1825492117482485_1126386009_o

Wrap each one around the handle of the wooden spoon and place (seam side down so they don’t unwrap) onto a surface to cool.

26732679_1825492080815822_320453513_o

The brandy snaps should have cooled enough to remove from the wooden spoons without losing their shape when the next batch comes out of the oven.

Keep this rotation going until you have cooked all of the brandy snaps.

 

To fill them, whip the cream and pipe into the brandy snaps from both ends. You can also dip ends of brandy snap into melted chocolate (before filling with cream of course) and roll it in chopped nuts.

26732410_1825492130815817_991540380_o

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know how these turn out for you, drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing as I love seeing what you guys create at home. If you fancy something more cakey – check out my recipe for a Yule Log (they don’t have to just be for Christmas)! Alternatively, if you are looking for something a little more savoury, why not make yourself some delicious Curried Parsnip Soup?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a base recipe for one pot pasta which can be adapted to make masses of dishes!

H

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Wasting food is something which I try to avoid doing as much as possible and as a result, lots of the food I eat is made up of odds and ends lying around. Bread and butter pudding is a perfect example of this – it’s a very good way of using up the remains of a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale. It’s also very easy to personalise as you can swap flavours in and out incredibly easily.

Traditionally, bread and butter pudding was made without the orange and chocolate I use in this recipe. Instead, the bread was buttered before being put in the tin and was then sprinkled with large quantities of raisins (which were often soaked in booze). The custard was also flavoured with nutmeg and vanilla along with other spices. Bread and butter pudding is the modern version of a dish known as whitepot which dates back from the 1500s. This was made with bone marrow instead of butter and sometimes the bread would be substituted out for rice which is what gave rise to rice pudding. This diverged from bread and butter pudding back in the early 1600s when recipe books started listing whitepot and rice pudding as different desserts. The first written recipe for bread and butter pudding didn’t appear until almost 100 years later!

Bread and butter pudding should not be confused with bread pudding although the two do have many similarities. They are both ways of using up stale bread and also both contain cream, eggs and dried fruit. Bread pudding starts to differ as instead of layering up the bread and pouring custard over it, small lumps of bread are mashed into the custard mix before adding brown sugar, lots of spices,dried fruit and peel. This gives rise to a much more homogeneous dessert which is denser than bread and butter pudding would be.

One of the best things about this dessert is its versatility. I have made it on several occasions for people who are lactose free and you can simply replace the cream and milk with dairy free alternatives (of course you also have to check that the chocolate spread doesn’t contain milk either)! If you don’t like chocolate and orange, you can just replace them with other flavours for example, swap the marmalade for strawberry jam and sprinkle fresh strawberries between the layers instead of chocolate. If you feel like splashing out, this can also be made with brioche or croissants instead of plain bread for a super rich, buttery dessert.

 

 

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Prep time: 20 mins – Rest time: 10 mins – Cooking time – 45 mins

 

 

1 large loaf thinly sliced white bread – crusts removed

Marmalade

Dark chocolate spread

150g dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped dark chocolate)

5 eggs

1 pint full fat milk

150ml double cream

150g sugar + more for sprinkling

Optional – orange zest

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).

Butter a large baking dish.

Cut the bread along the diagonal to get large triangles.

Spread a generous portion of marmalade onto some of the triangles – however many it takes to cover the bottom of the dish.

24135586_1779483845416646_953137265_n

Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of chocolate.

24133434_1779483825416648_2042660800_n
If you have any large gaps with no bread, just chuck a little bit into the them – it doesn’t have to look neat as everything is covered!

Add another layer of bread, this time with the chocolate spread.

24116715_1779483848749979_2007540671_o

Sprinkle over some more of the chocolate.

Repeat the above steps until the tin is full remembering to place the top layer in spread side down – do not overfill it as the pudding will over flow in the oven. Try to avoid squishing the bread down too much as the air pockets around will all be filled with the custard.

24140025_1779483842083313_674141373_o
Place the top layer, spread side down to give a nice even finish.

 

Put the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and orange zest into a jug and whisk them together.

Pour this over the bread slowly making sure none of the bread on the top is left dry! Try to leave a little room at the top of the tin as the pudding will puff up when baking.

24139887_1779483822083315_149455970_o
I mixed some marmalade into the custard for an extra burst of orange.

Sprinkle over a small amount of sugar which will caramelise on the top.

Leave to sit for 10 minutes so the custard can soak into the bread – you can add more if it is all absorbed!

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pudding is puffed up – check it at halfway through and if the pudding is browning too fast, cover the top with some silver foil and return it to the oven.

24167232_1779483862083311_1304839390_o

This can be eaten warm of cold and heats up wonderfully in the microwave. Serve with cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce.

24139352_1779483808749983_1729434365_o

24138997_1779483838749980_936922650_o

Let me know if you try this at home as I love to see what you guys cook! Drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you are looking for a warming savoury dish to precede this in a meal, look no further than my delicious mushroom risotto or if you fancy having a go at baking some other sweet treats, why not try your hand at my millionaire’s shortbread? Its bound to impress your friends!

Have a good one and see you next week with a recipe for a lovely salmon dinner!

H

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Success in the kitchen. One of the things that you learn very quickly when you have a blog or Instagram is the importance of aesthetics. There are many things I bake which are never mentioned outside my house as they look terrible, didn’t look right or even just tasted plain disgusting. You don’t get anywhere without a decent amount of trial and error.

Of course, over time you learn different food combinations and what works or what doesn’t, but this often comes from making a dish that you regret ever thinking of the moment the first bite touches your lips. While this becomes less common, I do still occasionally make food, get halfway through it and decide it just isn’t palatable. Things like this are never mentioned again and kept secret for fear of people realising that like them, you are just another mere mortal in the kitchen. One thing that they do find out about is when food goes wrong. I have been reduced to tears over something I have made several times.

Once was because I managed to get boiling sugar on my hand which is not a pleasant experience and should be avoided at all costs. Another was because a cake I made stuck in its tin. The cake had multiple layers which needed to set which would have been fine if they hadn’t then stuck to the tin and flowed into the lip at the base rendering the cake almost impossible to remove. In the end, two of my friends managed to help me get the cake out using four knives and fish slice. I learnt a valuable lesson that day. Anything can be covered by a good layer of icing. The battle armour on the cake made it almost impossible to know of the horror that was the outside of the cake where all the layers has mixed into a mess – the cake still tasted fine in the end.

23584326_1765443073487390_1599956348_o
A decent layer of decorations covers a multitude of sins on this chestnut and chocolate cake

The first time I made millionaire’s shortbread, I messed up. I had no idea what I was doing and tried to boil a tin of condensed milk poured into a pan. Unsurprisingly, it did not set. It was a long time before I tried again and in that interim, I learnt how to make caramel properly which very much helped. My other main kitchen disaster was my first attempt at Macarons. They flowed over the tin in the over and set rock solid through the baking parchment onto the metal below. To this day, I have no idea what happened to them or where I went wrong but it took two days of soaking to remove them and make the tray useable again. Things go wrong and you learn. Many recipes you find have been tried and tweaked and tried and tweaked until the person making it is fully happy with the result. Even then, you will still plan as you get to know how the food cooks and will make minor changes to suite the oven or the temperature outside or even a new tin!

Success in the kitchen comes with time but following written recipes always helps to reduce how long it takes to understand what is going on. I hope that this recipe will stop anyone having the issues I had with making millionaire’s shortbread and will serve you well!

 

 

Millionaire’s Shortbread

This recipe makes about 15-20 shortbreads if you cut them relatively large or over 30 if you cut them small.

Prep time: 45 minutes – Cook time: 15 minutes

 

Shortbread:

250g plain flour

175g butter

75g caster sugar

 

Caramel (this gives a very thick layer of caramel. You can half this for a thinner layer):

300g brown sugar

300g butter

2 tins condensed milk

 

300g chocolate (I used 200g dark and 100g milk)

Optional – White chocolate to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C)

Line an 11-inch x 11-inch tin with baking parchment – or a tin/tins of equivalent size. If you have a one-piece tin, make sure to line the base and the sides. If your tin has removable sides you only need to line the base.

Rub the butter into the flour – once it looks like breadcrumbs, keep rubbing it in and the mix will start to come together.

23600361_1765442200154144_1415202812_o
The mix has started to come together but you have to keep going!

Once the butter and flour mix start coming together, add the sugar and stir through with a fork to make sure it is evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Compact it down and bake for 15-17 minutes turning the shortbread halfway through the cooking

23558201_1765442156820815_1168170385_o

23558060_1765442130154151_1402974420_o
Try to compact it down with a square object to avoid the ridge in this photo. The ridge can catch and burn in the oven which is not what you want

Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin.

 

 

To make the caramel, melt the sugar and butter in a large heavy based pan.

Once the sugar has dissolved or the mixture has started to bubble, add the condensed milk.

23558220_1765442196820811_1531498696_o

Stir together over a high heat and bring the mixture to the boil stirring constantly.

Cook for a couple of minutes until the caramel has started to thicken.

23584954_1765442180154146_1666188301_o
You can see the caramel sticking to the sides of the pan and when you let a small amount drop back into the mix, it sits on top before sinking back in

Remove from the heat and pour onto the shortbread.

Leave to set in the fridge for an hour

 

Melt the chocolate and pour over the shortbread.

Lightly tap the tin on a table to smooth out the chocolate.

If you want to decorate this, use a fork to scatter lines of white chocolate on top of the dark and then use the tip of a knife or a skewer and swirl it through the chocolate to get a professional finish.

23627152_1765442203487477_564305228_o

Leave in the fridge to semi set (so the chocolate isn’t hard but also will hold its shape when cut)

Remove the shortbread from the tin. Mine has removable sides so I didn’t line them along with the base. If you do this, use a hot knife to release the caramel and chocolate from the sides of the tin.

Cut the shortbread into pieces and place into the fridge to fully set – if the chocolate is a bit hard and the caramel is oozing out when you cut it, fill a tin with boiling water and heat the knife in it before each cut. Make sure to not push down too hard and just let the knife melt through the chocolate!

23558086_1765442166820814_1111589698_o

23584046_1765442133487484_2139600950_o
Arrange the shortbread on a plate before serving to hide the stress of making them

 

I hope you enjoy making it. Let me know how it turns out for you and give me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing if you have a go yourself! If you liked this, why not check out my last baking recipe which also has a decent chocolate layer – my boozy tiramisu or if you are in the mood for something a little more savoury, my beef lasagne is perfect to keep you warm as winter approaches.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for some delicious risotto – including how to tweak it for different dietary requirements. It truly is versatile!

H

Chocolate and Orange Cake

Let’s talk about birthdays. I love birthdays – not just my own! I always find it incredibly stressful buying presents, especially at university. It’s really easy to get presents for your good friends as you know them but if you don’t know the person as well, what do you do? I have found that baking someone a personalised birthday cake just for them is a perfect replacement as it shows you are willing to put in a lot of effort for the person and you can tailor the cake to that persons tastes. The chocolate and orange cake in this recipe is a perfect example of this. I first made this cake during exam season last year during a large gap between exams when I was stress baking. I ended up giving most of it away as not only do I stress bake but my appetite goes down so I don’t want to eat what I make! One of my friends has just turned 22 and I ended up remaking it as his birthday cake as he really liked it last time.

This cake is wonderful as the syrup keeps it nice and moist and can give a bit of a kick if that’s what you want. It is also super adaptable as you don’t have to add the ganache which does make the whole cake a little easier to make or alternatively, you can cover the entire cake in the ganache for a beautiful shiny finish. You can also just not include the chocolate for a lovely orange cake which you can decorate with candied peel and piping work.

I like to make my own decorations for cakes which can be themed to the event the cake is for. For the cake in this recipe, I made mini orange meringues. This was more to test out the new Aga than to use meringues as decorations but luckily, they worked really well so I was able to use them on the cake. The other decoration (the chocolate nest) was made by piping tempered chocolate into a glass of Bacardi which had been in the freezer for a few hours. This meant that the chocolate set immediately into beautiful winding 3D shapes which I could then place on the cake.

The recipe below doesn’t include the decorations however I will do a post about different types of decorations in the next few weeks.

 

For the Cake:

280g (10 oz.) Butter

280g (10 oz.)Sugar

280g (10 oz.) Plain Flour

5 tsp baking powder

5 Eggs

Rind of 1 Orange

1 tsp Orange Extract

 

For the Syrup:

Juice of one orange

50 g sugar

¼ cup water

Triple sec/Cointreau (optional)

 

For the Icing:

250g Butter

375g Icing sugar (sifted)

150g Dark Chocolate

2 tbsp Cocoa

1 tsp Orange Extract

 

For the Ganache

150g Dark Chocolate

150ml Double Cream

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C) and line three 8 inch baking trays.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

22243489_1723903020974729_1356235058_o

Add the grated orange rind and the orange extract and beat again.

22198931_1723903034308061_353772157_o

Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each egg beating after each addition.

22197803_1723903070974724_322296771_o

Pour in the rest of the flour and beat until just combined.

22171576_1723903080974723_2056041249_o

Pour into the baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

22217942_1723903047641393_2010105871_o

 

While the cakes are cooling, you can make the syrup and the icing.

For the syrup, combine all the ingredients – excluding the alcohol – in a pan.

Bring to a boil making sure that all the sugar has dissolved and then remove the pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. Then add the triple sec.

 

For the icing, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.

22219485_1723903040974727_149582039_o

Add the sifted icing sugar a bit a time and beat until the icing is smooth and glossy.

22171624_1723903054308059_1954166972_o

Add the orange extract and cocoa and beat again.

22199400_1723903017641396_649107361_o

Melt the chocolate in the microwave remembering to stir every 20 seconds to prevent it burning!

22171562_1723902974308067_976254891_o

Pour the chocolate in and beat again. Do not do this with the beaters running as they will just knock the chocolate onto the sides of the bowl which is not particularly useful…

22197545_1723903000974731_412620567_o

 

To assemble the cake, attach the first layer to the cake board or plate with a tiny amount of icing.

Brush a layer of syrup onto the top of the cake to keep it moist and then add a layer of buttercream

Repeat with the next two layers adding them upside down to give a smooth top to the cake.

Cover the entire cake in a thinnish layer of buttercream – there should be just enough left to do this without the cake peeking through too much!

22218076_1723902967641401_1877666339_o

Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the buttercream before adding the ganache

 

For a raindrop look, heat up the cream in a pan and add to the dark chocolate in a bowl.

Leave for at least two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then stir until combined.

When the ganache is at room temperature, pour it into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly over the top of the cake.

Using a spoon or a piping bag, pour some extra ganache over the edges of the cake and let it run down the side.

22164136_1723902994308065_1968308739_o

To coat the cake completely in ganache, double the quantities in the recipe.

 

Decorate the cake with chocolate and orange decorations.

22171851_1723902980974733_1207398315_o

22164133_1723903067641391_1600944344_o

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at thatcookingthing! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

If you enjoy baking cakes, my Coffee and Walnut Cake is a wonderful addition to any afternoon tea or if you are looking for a simple dinner try my delicious Spiced Turkey Burgers

Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for the cheesiest macaroni cheese you will ever eat and believe me, it is stunningly good!

 

H

 

 

 

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

21618485_1703171193047912_1840963141_o

Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

21618315_1703171206381244_384891810_o

 

While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

21585640_1703171313047900_923652268_o
Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
21585496_1703171506381214_991924181_o
After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

21584389_1703171519714546_1684321348_o
Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

21640295_1703171533047878_1048536134_o
We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

21618416_1703171543047877_685127786_o
Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
21618451_1703171556381209_923194452_o.jpg
Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
21618451_1703171556381209_923194452_o
Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

21585616_1703171579714540_801267357_o21584459_1703171576381207_1168778211_o

 

This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H

Gooey Chocolate Brownies

I love chocolate brownies. They are some of the most amazing things to have been created in the kitchen however they still cause dispute between people who make them. Should they be cakey? Should they be fudgy? Personally, I fall very strongly on the fudgy side of the argument. If I wanted something chocolatey with a cake like texture, I would make a chocolate cake, not a chocolate brownie! These brownies are about as fudgy as you can get. You need to watch out though as with such a high butter and chocolate content, they are liable to soften up in the heat if you make them in summer and whilst not an issue if you are at home, this can cause problems if you are taking them on a picnic! Try adding an extra minute or two to the cooking time if you know they brownies will be in the heat for an extended time before you eat them as they will stay fudgy but won’t melt everywhere which from experience, is incredibly messy (but really, really yummy)!

The fudgy chocolate brownie is generally accepted to be a descendent of the Bangor Brownie. This came about after the creation of brownies in the late 1890s and in the 1900s, the Bangor Brownie with its fudgy, dense texture was created. It differed from the original brownies by adding extra chocolate and eggs to the mixture. The recipe I am using today is a take on the Nigella Lawson recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess – a book I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys baking. Unlike Nigella, I do not put walnuts into the brownies and have been known to add chocolate chips to them.

They are very simple to make too requiring minimal experience and always go down well. Not only that but you don’t have to eat them just as brownies. If you are hosting a dinner party or having friends over, chocolate brownies make a wonderful base for a dessert or can be warmed up and served with ice cream. Baking times really do vary dramatically by oven so making something like brownies a couple of times is a good way to get to know your oven and also leaves some rather nice leftovers.

21325912_1696710787027286_598464611_n
Mocha dessert featuring: mocha mousse, coffee macaron, coffee caramel, chocolate brownie and tempered chocolate garnish

If you are feeling adventurous, why not try adding a swirl of caramel or peanut butter (thinned down with a little milk and sugar to make it smooth) into your batter in the tins to make the brownies a little more exciting? You could also add small pieces of fudge, candied orange peel, chopped nuts or a tiny amount of coffee to add to the flavour and texture.

 

 

 

Chocolate Brownies

Prep time 25 minutes, cook time 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

375g dark chocolate

375g unsalted butter

500g sugar

6 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

225g plain flour

 

Optional:

100g white chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)

100g dark chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180oC)

Line two eight inch square pans with baking parchment

Place the butter and dark chocolate into a large, thick based pan together and heat on a low light until it has all melted and combined. Keep stirring to prevent the chocolate from burning. I have also found that putting the butter into the pan first helps prevent the chocolate from catching.

21330736_1696716077026757_1689371546_o (1)
Line the pan with butter to prevent the chocolate burning

Measure out the sugar and the eggs into a jug

Add the vanilla to them and beat until they have all come together

21390310_1696710790360619_1131835953_o

Once the butter and chocolate have melted together, remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute if it feels hot to prevent the egg from curdling when it is added.

21362371_1696710797027285_1039636095_o

When the chocolate mixture is slightly warm, slowly pour in the eggs and sugar whilst stirring to combine it all together – depending on the temperature of the chocolate at this point, the combined mixture may thicken slightly as the egg is added

Once all the other ingredients are combined, slowly stir through the flour in two or three batches making sure that there are no clumps left over. I tend to do this with the balloon whisk that I use for beating the eggs and sugar earlier

21362095_1696710820360616_643986752_o

Add in the chocolate chips and stir through and immediately divide the mixture between the baking pans to make sure the chips don’t melt into the rest of the batter

21389344_1696710833693948_2142429771_o

21363367_1696710823693949_696892946_o.jpg

Bake for about 23/24 minutes or until the surface looks cracked and there is a slight wobble. The brownies will still cook a little after they are removed from the oven but make sure they are not raw in the middle!

21330957_1696710830360615_2024467812_o

Once the brownies are cool place them in the fridge to firm up before cutting as they can be really fudgy if they aren’t quite cooked enough for the flour to set.

21363582_1696710810360617_651504448_o

Let me know how these went for you in the comments – I love seeing what you guys have been making at home! See here for last week’s Cooking from Basics recipe for Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake and here for the last recipe in the Baking section, Artisan Loaves.

Have a fab week and see you all next monday!

H