Monday, 29 December 2014

Chocolate Truffles

It's always delightful to present your loved ones with a box of chocolate truffles, but that's not to say you have to buy them. Making your own chocolate truffles is not only very easy, but relatively inexpensive compared with the boxed versions available to purchase. They are also of course almost irresistibly delicious and surprisingly flexible when it comes to flavours and coverings. Although I've kept mine simple, you could flavour with vanilla, orange or even a dash of booze and cover with anything from crushed pistachios to sea salt.

Although this recipe is straightforward there are a few points worth noting. The chocolate is the star of the show here, so it is definitely worth investing a pound or two extra in high quality bars. You will definitely notice the difference. Also, take care when heating the cream that you don't leave the heat up too high or you may find it scorches on the bottom of the pan. Finally (I only mention this as it has happened to me more than once) if you find the chocolate splits then just add a splash of cold water and whisk with vigour. You should find the mixture comes back to being smooth again after a minute or so of whisking.

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus chilling time)
Baking time: No baking this time!
110ml Double Cream
200g Dark Chocolate (Cut into tiny cubes, like gravel)
15g Unsalted Butter (Cut into a small cubes)
1-2tbsp Cocoa Powder

Ready... steady... go! Add the cream to a small saucepan and slowly bring up to a simmer. At the same time add the dark chocolate and butter to a large heatproof bowl. Once the cream is just simmering, remove from the heat, leave for 30 seconds then pour over the chopped chocolate. Leave for a minute or two to melt, then stir together until smooth and glossy. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for around 1 hour to chill, then bring back out.

Tear off a sheet of baking parchment and place on a large plate, then on a separate plate dust over the cocoa powder. Take a small amount of the truffle mixture, shape (I don't tend to shape too much as I like them to look rather rustic) then roll in the cocoa powder. Place on the baking parchment and repeat for the rest of the mixture. Cover the cocoa dusted truffles and return to the fridge for another hour or so to finish setting and they are ready to box up and present to your friends and family. Lucky them!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My Baking Adventures - November/December 2014

Here's a little peek at just some of my recent baking adventures. Many of the recipes are on the blog, but if you have any questions of comments you know where to find me...

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Festive Cake Truffles with Brandy Buttercream

So here's a fun recipe that combines many of the familiar festive flavours in a lovely little bitesized package. A delicately spiced sponge is broken into crumbs, before being mixed with a really rather naughty brandy buttercream. Each is then shaped into a cakey truffle ball and finished with a paper thin layer of marzipan (one of my favourites by the way), to create a moreish mouthful that's perfectly suited to the party season. So to the kitchen with you fellow cake crusader, for it is time to bake once more.

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus some cooling time)
Baking time: 30 Mins
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Orange Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
1tsp Vanilla Extract
160g Plain Flour (Sifted)
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Mixed Spice

For the buttercream
50g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
A splash of Brandy

100g Marzipan
2tsp Apricot Jam

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the extracts, along with the flour, baking powder and spice then mix to a smooth consistent batter. Spoon into your prepared tin, even gently to the edges, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool you can prepare the buttercream. In a bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar, then mix through the brandy until smooth and glossy. In a clean, large bowl break the cooled cake down to fine crumbs. Add the buttercream and mix to combine. I find the best tool for this is your hands! Shape into balls (you should get about 20 out of the mixture) and place on a sheet of greaseproof or baking paper.

For each ball take a small amount of marzipan, roll it into a ball and press into a thin disc. Warm the apricot jam to loosen, dab a small dot onto the top of each ball, then top with the marzipan disc. Mould the disc to cover the top (so it looks like a little Christmas pudding) and leave in a cold place for an hour or two to firm up. You can decorate these further if you wish but even without embellishment they are still ruddy delicious!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge Mouthfuls

Although nothing beats stuffing ones face with a massive slice of cake, a cheeky little mouthful now and again is always a welcome pleasure. These chocolate fudge devils are perfect with a cup of leaf tea or coffee as a naughty treat and due to their petite proportions can be enjoyed (almost) guilt free. In fact the only real complaint I ever receive when sharing with my various consorts, comrades and companions is it is near impossible to stop after just one!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 25 Mins
80g Dark Chocolate (Broken into squares)
50g Cocoa Powder
125g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
150g White Chocolate (Chopped into little squares, a bit like gravel)

The first task is a relatively simple one. Place a small amount of water into a saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Sit a heatproof bowl over the saucepan, ensuring the water doesn't touch the base and add the dark chocolate, cocoa powder, unsalted butter and light muscovado sugar. Leave to melt together slowly, stirring occasionally until smooth and glossy, then remove from the heat and set to one side for 10 minutes to cool slightly. At the same time preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small, rectangular baking tin (around 26x21cm) entirely with baking paper.

Add the ground almonds, vanilla extract and eggs to the chocolate mixture, then mix with enthusiasm to combine. Fold through the chopped white chocolate, then spoon into your prepared tin. Gently spread to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 25 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out just a little sticky when inserted into the middle of the mixture.

When you are satisfied that the mouthfuls are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once completely cool remove from the tin and slice into little squares, a few centimeters in size. Peel off the paper as you go and that's it, you're all finished.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Roasted Hazelnut and White Chocolate Coffee Cake

One of the many joys of home baking is that any recipe, however simple and however traditional affords the opportunity to experiment. Take this coffee cake for example. Now I love a good coffee cake as much as the next gentleman, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for just a little tweaking here and there. This time I've used a handful of ground roasted hazelnuts to add a lovely roasty toastiness and enriched the whole thing with finely chopped white chocolate. Ok ok, I admit the white chocolate may be entirely necessary, but in my eyes that makes it even more fundamental!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 55-60 Mins
100g Roasted Hazelnuts
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
110g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
3tbsp Strong Black Coffee (Cooled to room temperature)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
150g White Chocolate (As finely chopped as you can)

So let us retire to the kitchen once more. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep, loose bottomed baking tin and line completely with baking paper. Grind the hazelnuts as finely as you can, but stop when they start to release their oils and become claggy. I use a mini food processor for this. Once ground set to one side whilst you prepare the rest of the mixture.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking powder and lightly fold through. Add the coffee and vanilla, followed by the ground nuts and mix until evenly combined. Finally, throw in the white chocolate and fold through, before spooning into your prepared tin. Even to the edges, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 55-60 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 30 minutes, before very carefully turning out onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely and you are ready to serve. Lucky you!