Chocolate Fondants

A hot, gooey chocolate fondant is one of the most indulgent ways to end a meal and, like many baked goods, they are not as hard to make as most people think. There is something exciting about cutting into a cakey looking dessert only to have a chocolatey soup pour out ready to act as a sauce to the rest of the pudding.

Although fondants and lava cakes are relatively recent desserts in the grand scheme of things, appearing in the last 50 years unlike cakes and cheesecakes which are hundreds of years old, they have become incredibly successful. Many high-end restaurants serve them and they are a staple in the home bakers’ repertoire. They can be flavoured with fruit, coffee, caramel and all manner of different things so you can mix and match to make them perfect for you.

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Fondants, unlike lava cakes, are made by creaming butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour and finally stirring in the chocolate. The high chocolate levels and low amount of flour make them dense and fudgy with a melt in the mouth texture. Perfectly cooked fondants will still ooze when they are cut but the centre is thick and viscous and incredibly rich. On the other hand, lava cakes are made by whipping eggs and sugar until thick before folding in melted chocolate and butter and finally the flour. This whipping gives the cake surrounding the centre a light and airy texture and the high butter content means the centre is super runny and flows out of the dessert when it is cut.

Lava cakes and fondants are ideal desserts for entertaining as they can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge until needed when they can be whipped out and shoved into the oven just prior to serving. Even better is that as a result of the refrigeration, it takes far longer for the centres to set so you are much more likely to get the runny centre you desire which looks so impressive on the plate.

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This fondant has a salted caramel sauce and some double cream to cut through the richness of the chocolate

Perfecting the chocolate fondant is a matter of trial and error. If they split when you turn them out of their ramekins, try cooking them for a little longer and if they are solid all the way through, reduce the cooking time a bit. The hard part comes if they start to burn during baking as can happen in some ovens with white chocolate and green tea desserts. The best way to avoid this is to place a little foil over the top of the fondant but it must be loose to allow the dessert to rise in the oven! Using a combination of these  changes will allow you to get to know your oven’s preferred baking requirements for fondants and lava cakes.

These are so easy to whip up in a hurry – it only takes ten minutes and then the oven does the rest of the work. They are a personal favourite of mine and hopefully will become one of yours too!

 

 

Chocolate Fondants

Makes 3 cakes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes

 

180g dark/white chocolate

25g butter

75g sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

2 eggs

30g plain flour

1 tsp matcha green tea (this is only for green tea fondants and you should use white chocolate for these)

 

Place a baking tray into the oven and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Line the base of three ramekins with small circles of baking parchment and butter and flour the sides.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave stirring every 20 seconds to prevent it from burning. Set this aside once it is done.

Cream the butter in a bowl and slowly add the sugar until they are combined.

Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar and beat again.

Add an egg and a tablespoon of the four and beat until everything has mixed together. Repeat with the other egg.

Add in the rest of the flour and beat together.

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(If you wish to make green tea fondants, add the matcha powder at this point and mix it through the rest of the batter)

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Pour in the slightly cooled chocolate and mix through – the chocolate should be a little cool to the touch but not have started to set.

Divide the batter between the ramekins.

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Bake for 12 minutes in the centre of the oven on the preheated tray. This will help ensure that the top of the fondants is fully cooked so they are less likely to split.

To turn them out onto a plate, run a knife around the inside edge of the ramekin. If the knife comes out with liquid filling, place the ramekin back into the oven for another two minutes. This is very important or the cake part with stick and the whole pudding will fall apart.

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I may have forgotten to loosen my green tea fondant from the ramekin before I tried to turn it out.

serve immediately with ice cream, double cream, salted caramel sauce or anything else of your choice – the possibilities are endless!

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I have discovered that to get the perfect melty centre, you need to make these a couple of times to get used to the oven as the cooking time can increase or decrease depending on the oven that you use.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making a slightly less rich chocolate dessert, have a look at my recipe for a raspberry and white chocolate tart or if you are in the mood for a delicious main course instead, why not make a Thai curry? They are creamy and spicy and perfect to keep you warm over a cold winter (or at any other time of the year for that matter).

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a yummy vegetarian lasagne recipe.

H

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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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Yule Log

To those of you who celebrate, have a very merry Christmas and to those of you who are not Christian, happy holidays! Whether you celebrate or not, one thing that you have probably taken advantage of is the myriad of festive foods which are available at this time of year. Whilst things like Christmas cake and Christmas pudding tend to divide people into the group that likes them and the group which thinks they were created by the devil in the eighth circle of hell, one thing that I feel almost everyone likes is the Yule Log.

The original Yule Logs were not cake. They were, in fact, a carefully selected piece of wood which was burnt around Christmas time. This started around 800 years ago in Europe. It was a huge lump of wood meant to last the entirety of the twelve days of Christmas; the stump left at the end would be used to kindle the log the following year. The stump would be kept in the house and was believed to ward off bad luck and illness.

The modern cake version of the log is a swiss roll masquerading as a tree stump by scratching the icing and often using leaves and berries as decoration. Whilst originally a plain Genoese sponge with a chocolate filling, nowadays you tend to find the reverse; a chocolate sponge with whipped cream inside. This is then slathered in chocolate ganache, buttercream or truffle mixture which is textured to look like bark. It is not uncommon to take a large slice and rest it on top of the log to resemble a branch.

I really like swiss rolls as they are incredibly simple to make. They can be created in 90 minutes and are certain to impress anyone you serve them too. As it uses a whisked sponge, the cake is very light and bakes in a short space of time. Whilst people always make a big deal about how to prevent the roll cracking, the answer is simple: don’t let it dry out! Avoid overcooking the sponge and make sure to place the damp towel over it while it cools. That’s all you need to do!

Although it is traditionally a Christmas dish, this cake is still perfect at any occasion during the year and owing to the speed at which it can be made and assembled, is a very good one to have in your baking inventory.

 

Yule Log

4 eggs

100g caster sugar

60g self raising flour

50g cocoa

 

For the filling:

300ml double cream

¼ cup caster sugar

¼ cup water

2 tbsp Bacardi or other white rum

 

For the ganache:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

50g butter

20g dark brown sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until its thick and creamy (about eight minutes).

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5 vs 8 minutes – the extra few minutes makes all the difference in the thickness of the mix

Sift the cocoa and flour into the beaten egg and sugar and fold together taking care not to lose too much air.

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Before, during and after folding 

Pour into the tin and spread out evenly.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

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Before and after baking

 

While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup.

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved and place into the fridge to cool.

Lay out a piece of baking parchment larger than the swiss roll tin.

Remove the cake from the oven and flip out onto the parchment and remove the paper covering the base.

Place a damp tea towel over the cake to make sure it doesn’t dry out!

 

While the cake is cooling, make the ganache.

Heat the cream, vanilla and sugar until the cream is just about to boil.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and leave for three minutes.

Whisk the ganache until everything comes together.

Set aside to cool.

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks – you do not need to add sugar as there is enough in the syrup and cake already.

Add the Bacardi to the syrup.

Remove the tea towel from the top of the cake .

Use a pastry brush to brush a layer of syrup onto the cake – this will help keep it moist and roll properly. You don’t need to saturate it, just give a nice coverage.

Spread the cream onto the cake going up to both long edges and one of the short edges – make sure to leave an inch along one of the short edges to start

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Use the baking parchment to start to roll the cake up. Lift from the short edge (with no cream) and fold the edge over, try not to crack the roll (but its fine if it does start to crack).

Continue to roll up the cake – try to get a nice tight roll.

End with the outside edge on the base so it doesn’t unroll!

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Once the ganache has started to set but isn’t hard – it should hold its shape when a spoon is dragged through it – cover the cake including the ends. The easiest way to do this is by placing lots of small blobs over the cake and then spreading them  out.

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Before and after adding texture to the ganache

Use a fork to make circles on the ends and run it up and down the length of the cake to make it look like a tree.

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This makes a perfect end to a Christmas dinner for those who don’t like Christmas pudding (or have both).

It is an ideal dessert if something goes wrong with your planned pudding as you can make the whole cake from start to finish in 2 hours.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know in the comments if you try it at home or drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you like this and want to keep with the Christmas spirit, check out my gingerbread house recipe. It tastes amazing and looks incredible. It’s a showstopper at any occasion! Alternatively, for a slightly more savoury meal, why not try your hand at making miniature beef wellingtons – a delicious dinner and surprisingly easy to make.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a healthy soup – ideal for a quick lunch and that new year health kick to make up for the Christmas guilt.

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.

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Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of chocolate.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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 everywhere inside the tin in the oven 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 usable 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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Add the orange extract and cocoa and beat again.

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

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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…

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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!

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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.

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

 

Decorate the cake with chocolate and orange decorations.

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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

 

 

 

Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

Chocolate Tart

Hey guys,

As promised last week, I return with the most amazing chocolate tart you will ever make. It contains not one, not two but four types of chocolate and a hidden layer of caramel. To be honest, this tart should probably come with a myriad of health warnings and possibly an ambulance on speed dial but it is 100% worth it!

I love making caramel. It can be a little bit daunting the first time and you do need to be careful as the melted sugar is very hot however homemade caramel is just so superior to shop bought that in my opinion, it is very much worth a little extra time making the filling instead of buying it. WARNING – melted sugar will burn instantly. If you do get any on you, immediately stop what you are doing (the tart can wait –you can not) and hold the area under cold water for at least 5 minutes if not more. It will hurt but isn’t too serious.

You have a couple of options when it comes to melting sugar for caramels or decorations. The slower but more controlled method which I use if I need a specific temperature of sugar or don’t want a deep golden caramel involves melting the sugar with a small amount of water and then boiling the sugar syrup until it achieved the desired temperature. This is particularly useful for making a large batch of caramel for things like a croquembouche. The other method, the one used in this recipe, involved holding your nerve a bit and directly melting the sugar in a pan. I am unashamed to admit that it took me about 5 years to become confident enough in my culinary skills to attempt this method instead of the syrup one.

Caramel is produced when you drive water away from sugar by heating it. If making large amounts, you will quite often add glucose syrup or a small amount of vinegar as it helps invert the sugar preventing crystallisation which will ruin your dish. This is where the caramel will suddenly turn solid and brittle again and no amount of heating can save it. You just have to start again! To prevent crystallisation, you should never stir the boiling sugar syrup once the sugar has all dissolved in the water and if making it via the more direct approach, treat the sugar incredibly carefully as it is a real diva in the kitchen. Inverting sugar is not always necessary as you can buy Invert Sugar Syrup in some areas however you don’t need it for this recipe! It occurs as glucose and fructose are isomers (they have the same chemical composition, just in a different formation. Think of them as anagrams of each other). The colour of the caramel comes in part from the long chain carbohydrates contained (24, 36 and 80 carbon atoms long!) and also from by products produced when the sugar is heated.

This tart is particularly good at a dinner party. Wow your guests with a delicious homemade dessert which looks like you’ve just picked it up from a professional patisserie. Serving it with fresh fruit like strawberries can give it some semblance of health even though we all know it’s only for show! You can also use this recipe to make mini tartlets which is what I do if I have enough excess pastry

 

Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

Serves 12-15

Preparation:1 hour 10 minutes

Cooking:25 miutes

Resting:1-1½ hours

 

Pastry

160g plain flour

25g sugar

2tbsp cocoa

75g unsalted butter

1 Large egg yolk

½ tsp vanilla

 

Salted Caramel

225g caster sugar

100ml double cream

125g salted butter

 

Chocolate filling

300g dark chocolate

200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

500ml cream

50g unsalted butter

½ tsp vanilla

 

 

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, cocoa and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it appears as fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour and stir in the other dry ingredients.

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After going through the food processor, the mixture should look a little bit like sand!

Make a well in the centre and add the vanilla and the egg yolk.

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I don’t know what was different about them this time but the egg yolk was just so very, very orange

Mix until just combined, pour onto a worktop and knead until a homogenous dough is formed but do not overwork the dough!

Put the dough into the fridge to rest for an hour.

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Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (190oC).

Roll out the dough and line a 9 or 10 inch tart pan preferably, one that has a removable base – you may have to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften up.

Trim the excess dough leaving a little hanging off round the edge – this is so that if the dough shrinks, the excess dough will make sure the tart doesn’t lose height. Alternatively, you can trim all the excess dough off and then place the lined case in the freezer for another half hour to make it really firm which should prevent shrinking altogether.

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Make sure any excess pastry isn’t hanging down as this can cause the case to crack if it shrinks too much

Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork so it doesn’t crack, line it with foil and pour in baking beads (or rice/pasta/lentils if you don’t have them) – this prevents the case from bubbling up and keeps the base nice and flat.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beads and bake for another 10 minutes so the pastry case if fully cooked.

If you still have bits of pastry overhanging the tin, use a sharp knife to trim off the edges and neaten it up.

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To make the caramel, place a third of the sugar in a heavy based steel pan – non-stick pans encourage crystallisation which ruins caramel.

Heat the sugar on a medium heat and as it starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to gently move some of the unmelted sugar into the melted areas. Move the pan on the hob so no area gets too dark when melting. You don’t want to burn the sugar. Turn the pan onto a medium to low light for the rest of this.

Once about half of the sugar in the pan has melted, sprinkle on half the remaining sugar and gently stir the melted areas. The sugar may start to clump but don’t worry!

As more of the sugar melts, sprinkle on the remaining sugar and continue to agitate the melted areas in the pan to prevent burning and to bring the unmelted sugar into contact with the heat.

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The melting of the sugar (top left to bottom right)

Once the sugar has all melted, you should have a light caramel. If it is cloudy, that means not all the sugar has melted! Swirl the sugar in the pan a little to help stir it but at this point, do not use the spoon as it will make the sugar crystallise.

When the caramel is clear, continue heating slowly until it is a deep golden colour. Swirling it gently will help mixing it in the pan so it doesn’t burn.

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Getting ready to add the cream to the melted sugar

The moment the caramel is a rich golden brown, remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the double cream. BE CAREFUL – the cream will bubble and steam vigorously so make sure you are using a big pan so it doesn’t spit out of the pan. Stir the caramel to make sure it is all mixed. The area with the cream may be thicker than the melted sugar as it is cooled a little but it will remelt and everything will mix together nicely.

Let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes and then add in the butter chopped into cubes or slices.

Stir in the butter as it melts and once it has all melted and mixed together, pour it into the pastry case – you don’t need to wait for it to cool!

N.B – if you are unlucky, the caramel may split when you add the butter and you will end up with an oily layer on top. If this happens, let the caramel sit for a few minutes to separate out and then spoon off the oil that appears at the top.

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My caramel wasn’t quite as salty as I would normally like so I sprinkles some sea salt flakes over it once I had filled the pastry case.

 

Chop your chocolates and place in bowls – make sure the dark chocolate is in a large bowl as the others will be added at a later point!

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Add 30g of butter to the dark chocolate, 20g to the milk chocolate and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the white chocolate.

Heat the cream until it’ just about to boil and then add 275ml to the dark chocolate, 150ml to the milk chocolate and 75ml to the white.

Let the chocolate stand in the cream for 2 minutes and then stir each bowl until it is filled with a smooth chocolate ganache.

Take a little of the dark chocolate ganache and put it off to the side – this is for decorating later.

Pour the milk and white chocolate ganaches into the dark chocolate making sure not to scrape the bowl out as the leftovers in the bowls are used for decorating.

Use a skewer to mix the ganaches – BUT ONLY A LITTLE – you want the variation in ganaches inside the tart.

Pour the filling into the tart filling it but not quite to bursting!

Use the leftover dark, milk, and white chocolate ganaches to spoon blobs and lines over the top of the tart.

Use a skewer to swirl the chocolate filling to give a beautiful and professional finish – don’t catch the caramel layer when doing this!

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Mini chocolate tart with the leftovers
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The main event at any party!

Let the tart set in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight to fully harden up.

When serving, place your knife in a jug of hot water and then wipe it off on a tea towel before cutting. This helps make the cuts incredibly clean and prevents the filling sticking to the knife too much.

Serve with a little cream and a selection of berries.

 

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This is one of my favourite desserts and I hope it will be one of yours too! As an added bonus, this tart also freezes really well – assuming you have any left!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last recipe from my Baking series – the gooeyest chocolate brownies you can find or here if you fancy making a delicious dinner of homemade pizza!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with an exciting recipe for spiced turkey burgers. Fab for using up odds and ends and wonderful as a filling for other dishes too!

H