Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Chocolate Volcano Buns

The eagle eyed amongst you will spot that this one is only a minor modification of my standard, everyday bread recipe. This may very well be the case, but do not assume that there is anything standard or everyday about the result, as that would be a mistake. These buns are SERIOUSLY naughty, super sweet and hyper indulgent, with a sticky lardy crust and a rich, melted chocolate middle. They are the near definition of a guilty pleasure and not for the faint of heart. However, if you ever feel the need for a shamelessly sinful treat (and we ALL feel that need once in a while) then these are just the toothsome ticket!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some proving time)
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
110g Tepid Water
6g Fresh Yeast
A pinch sugar
150g Very Strong White Bread Flour
A Pinch of salt

6 heaped tbsp Nutella (or thick Chocolate Fudge Sauce)
15g Lard
10g Unsalted Butter
25g Caster sugar

This recipe will make about 3 large buns. Pour the water into a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar, then mix to blend. Add the flour and salt, loosely mix, then tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for around 8 minutes, stretching the dough apart, folding back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. When the dough is smooth and elastic return to a clean floured bowl and leave covered in a warm place to prove for around 60-70 minutes.  

Tip the proven dough out onto a floured surface, divide into three and roll each out into a flat disk, around the thickness of a pound coin. Place 2 heaped tbsp of Nutella in the middle, bring the sides up to form a ball, press to seal completely, invert and place on a greased baking tray. Cover with an upturned bowl or plastic tub and leave again for 20 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 8. Uncover the buns and pierce a hole in the top of each with a sharp skewer. Melt the lard and butter together and lightly coat the surface of each ball. I use my fingers for this, as I find a brush can sometimes damage the dough. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar, then bake in the centre of the oven. After 10-12 minutes, brush again with the remaining melted lard/butter, sprinkle with more sugar and return to oven for another 10 minutes or so, until a deep golden brown. These are best served warm with cold cream on the side, but I would advise against tucking in straight from the oven, as the melted chocolate middle will be nothing short of molten!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Fräulein Valerie

Valerie lived a life of virtue, of purity, of respectability. A pillar of her community and an example to others her righteousness was only matched by her incorruptibility. Or at least that is what she would have you believe. For you see, as the matriarch of the notorious Vienesse Baking Mafia, Fräulein Valerie's public and private personae were two different animals entirely. Behind closed doors the Fräulein would put to work an army of minions and all were tasked with the same singular purpose, to create cake after cake after cake. With her underground network of fellow firebrands she flooded the bootleg bakeries of Austria with a profusion of sweet sin and nothing was off limits, from the most luxurious of chocolates, to headily perfumed syrups, to every kind of fruit and nut one could imagine. Her influence was everywhere yet her name but a whisper, spoken only in hushed tones and in dark alleys. What was clear though was her message, that indulgence is necessary. To be refined and restrained is admirable, but now again we must allow ourselves a moment of abandon, a moment of unadulterated luxury, be it an expensive extravagance or an everyday treat. And what better everyday treat is there than a delicious slice of cake?

Caramelised White Chocolate Valerias

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
150g Caramelised White Chocolate (Recipe here)
150g Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs and 1 Yolk
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
150g Ground Almonds
50g Plain Flour
1tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Caramelised White Chocolate Icing
20g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
40g Icing Sugar
35g Caramelised White Chocolate (Melted)
A splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small rectangular baking tin with baking paper (around 27x22cm). Melt together the caramelised white chocolate and unsalted butter, either over a bain marie or in the microwave (if you are confident in your timings). Once creamy and smooth set to one side for a few minutes to cool slightly. Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl and whisk together until pale and fluffy. Add half of the almonds and flour, fold through, then add the melted chocolate and butter and do the same.  Finally, throw in the rest of the almonds and flour, along with the vanilla extract and continue folding through until evenly combined. Spoon into your prepared tin and smooth evenly to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until an even golden on top, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Once cool, remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Using a sharp knife slice into bars or squares, then it's onto the icing. Cream together the butter and icing sugar, then add the melted chocolate along with a splash a milk and mix until smooth and silky. Drizzle generously over each of your slices and your Valerias are finished.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Beast Bars

The baking wonderland is such a rich and varied landscape that one requires a near limitless supply of energy to bound across it as often as I. These bars are a perfect pick me up, packed with a bounty of wholesome goodies and just the tonic if you find yourself in need of a guilt free refuel. So if you find yourself at somewhat of a low ebb, weary, washed out and in need of your inner 'beast mode' then have a batch of these at the ready. You will be back in the game, ready for action before you know it!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
50g Rolled Oats
50g Oat Flour (Available online or from health food stores)
50g Ground Almonds
75g Toasted Flaked Almonds
90g Dessicated or Shredded Coconut
1tsp Cinnamon
50ml Milk
85ml Rapeseed Oil
100g Natural Fruit Based Sweetener (Such as
1tsp Almond Extract
1tsp Vanilla Extract
250g Pitted Dates (Chopped)
150g Sultanas or Plump Raisins

These are positively virtuous, so no excuse not to get cracking! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a smallish baking tin (mine was around 27x22cm) with baking paper (if you're lucky you'll be able to do this with a single sheet). In a large bowl mix together the oats, oat flour, ground and flaked almonds, coconut and cinnamon. Add the milk, oil, sweetener and extracts, then throw in the dates and dried fruit. Give it a loose mix with a wooden spoon, then get your hands in there and bring the mixture together until consistent, albeit slightly sticky. Tip into you prepared tin, press down firmly and evenly to the edges, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top.

When you are happy the mixture is baked remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool remove from the tin and slice into bars with a sharp knife, carefully peeling each bar from the paper once sliced. The best thing about these bars is that within reason you can freestyle to your heart's content, replacing or adding ingredients as you see fit. Just remember to adjust the baking time accordingly and maybe refrain from throwing in handfuls of M&M's or Skittles!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Roasted Hazelnut Syrup Tart with Mascarpone Pastry

"Mascarpone pastry? What sweet lunacy is this?" I hear you cry. But fear not, I have not gone completely barmy (well, no more than usual). Using Mascarpone cream cheese, as well as butter gives the pastry a fantastically flaky, crisp crumb and beautiful biscuity flavour, which works brilliantly both as a shell and as a pie topping. This time I've used it as a shell and filled it with a roasty toasty, not to mention saccharine sweet roasted hazelnut syrup filling. With regards to the hazelnuts themselves I buy them pre-ground, as I find it very hard to get the fine milling required when grinding myself. You can pick these up relatively simply in some supermarkets, or failing that online. To the kitchen!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus 25 mins chilling time)
Baking time: 40 Mins
For the pastry
200g Plain Flour
75g Unsalted Butter (Cold and cut into cubes)
75g Mascarpone Cheese
1 Egg Yolk
2tbsp Caster Sugar

For the filling
454g Tin of Golden Syrup
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
100g Ground Roasted Hazelnuts
100g Fresh White Breadcrumbs

I don't know why people fear pastry, it is so easy to make! Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter. You don't want any lumps! Add the cheese, egg yolk and caster sugar, then give it a brief mix with a flat bladed knife. Using your hands bring together to a smooth dough, then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for around 25 minutes.

Once the pastry has rested in the fridge, remove it and preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Take a 21cm fluted tart or flan tin, then on a lightly floured surface roll the pastry out thinly, so it is big enough to fit. Carefully press the pastry to the edges and trim off any excess, leaving about a 1cm extra pastry over the edge (to allow for shrinkage). Repair any cracks with the leftover pastry, then line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and blind bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and paper, return to the oven for a further two minutes to dry out the base, then remove and set to one side whilst you prepare the filling.

Speaking of which, add the syrup to a saucepan along with the lemon zest and juice, then slowly warm through on a medium heat. When the mixture is just starting to bubble add the hazelnuts and breadcrumbs, mix through, then remove from the heat and keep mixing until evenly combined. Pour into your pastry case and return to the oven. As soon as you put the tart into the oven turn the heat down to gas 4 and bake for around 35-40 minutes, until just starting to colour on top. Keep any eye on it as once it starts to colour it will turn very quickly.

When you are happy the tart is baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for around 30 minutes, then very carefully remove. Trim any excess pastry with a sharp knife and serve. I like mine warm with ice cream, but it's just as delectable cold the next day. Yum yum yum!