22 July 2016


Chocolate, raisins, and rum. Really one of the best flavour combinations for desserts. Rum brings out the chocolate flavour, and the raisins give just a tiny bit of additional sweetness. As you might have noticed, I love baking brownies. Out of all the brownies I made, these might just be the most fudgiest. There is a lot of batter, and they require a bit more time in the oven, but they are worth it.
You can serve them plain, or with a dusting of icing sugar, or with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Speaking of ice-cream, you can even use these brownies as a base, spread a layer of vanilla (or caramel!) ice-cream on top, freeze the entire batch, and serve them as a gorgeous ice-cream cake.

Fudgy rum raisin double chocolate brownies recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

300 grams cooking chocolate (at least 40% cocoa)
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
250 grams butter
200 grams sugar
4 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
180 grams plain flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
200 grams raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum, divided
200 ml lukewarm water

Take the raisins, place them in a small bowl, add one tablespoon of dark rum and the lukewarm water, and let them sit and absorb the water for about an hour. When they are ready, proceed with the brownie batter. Chop up the dark chocolate and the cooking chocolate finely, and dice the butter. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add in the butter, followed by the chocolate. Melt everything together slowly over medium low heat or in the microwave. Be careful when you melt this much chocolate, because it can burn quite easily if left unattended or left on too high heat.
Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the sugar. Mix briefly, and let the batter cool down just slightly. Then add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking vigorously after each. This will prevent burning in case the batter didn’t cool down enough. Add in the vanilla and the remaining rum, and mix everything together.
Drain the raisins very well and add them to the batter as well. Then carefully sift in the flour with the dark cocoa powder, and very gently fold everything together. Because it is a big batch of brownies, about 30-35 spatula strokes should be enough to blend, but not to overmix the batter. Take a rectangular baking pan (23x33 cm; 9x13”), lightly grease it, then line it with parchment paper. Pour in the batter, level it and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 40-45 minutes. Make sure they do not overbake. Once baked, let them cool completely, then serve. Yields 20 servings.

14 July 2016


I have been making apple strudels for years this way, and we love them. Just the right amount of sweetness, hint of vanilla, and cinnamon. Really a great dessert combination. I usually use Golden delicious and Granny Smith apples in equal quantities, but you can use any apple you like to eat. If you like your strudels really sweet, feel free to increase the amount of sugar, but don't overdo it, because a lot of sweetness comes from apples. Make sure you wait for about 20-30 minutes to cut the strudels and serve, because they need to cool down a bit and firm up.

Homemade apple strudel recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

1 kilogram apples (peeled and grated)
12 sheets phyllo pastry (about 500 grams)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons semolina
½ teaspoon powdered vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
100 ml vegetable oil
100 ml carbonated water

Peel and grate the apples coarsely, then set them in a strainer to remove some of the liquid. You do not have to press them; just let them drain a bit. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, semolina, vanilla, and cinnamon, and set it aside. Take another bowl and whisk together the vegetable oil and carbonated water; this will be needed for brushing the pastry sheets. Divide the phyllo pastry in three parts with four sheets in each part.
Lay one sheet flat on the work surface, brush it generously with the liquid mixture you made earlier, then lay another sheet on top. Repeat that once more, then place the last sheet on the top and sprinkle on the grated apples. Make sure they are evenly distributed on the whole phyllo sheet. Take a third of the dry semolina mixture and sprinkle it on the apples. This will absorb any moisture the apples release during the baking.
Fold the outer inch or so of the phyllo dough in, to keep the filling in, then roll it up in a tight roll. Repeat this with the other two parts of the phyllo and arrange them on a large baking sheet, lined with baking paper. Since you will have a bit of liquid mix leftover, brush that on the rolls and bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for about 20 minutes. Once they are baked, remove them from the oven, and let them cool down on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes, then cut them up and serve. Yields 12 servings.

08 July 2016


Truffles may very well be the perfect party treat. They are quick and easy to make, very convenient to transport, and almost everyone loves them. These little spherical sweet treats are full of caramel and chocolate flavours, with a hint of whisky. The whisky flavour isn’t that prominent, so if you want to add more, by all means do it, but keep in mind that you will need to increase the amount of icing sugar, to make the truffles firmer. They stay soft at room temperature, but they do not lose their shape. And if you want, you can even place them in the freezer for a little while, so they almost have an ice-cream bar texture.

For the truffles
500 grams butter, unsalted
250 grams Angel Delight mix (butterscotch flavour)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
250 grams butter cookies (such as Petit Beurre)
300 grams powdered milk
400 grams powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons whisky
For the caramel sugar coating
300 grams granulated sugar

To make the truffles, place the softened butter in a very large bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer on high, for at least 5 minutes, until it becomes lighter in colour and very creamy. Sift in the dessert mix and the cocoa powder, then blend really well, for about 2 more minutes. Add in the cookie crumbs, powdered milk, and the whisky, and blend on high for about 5 minutes. The batter should start to thicken up. Finally, sift in the icing sugar in a few additions, blending on medium as you add. The finished batter will still be a little soft. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, and place the entire bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until chilled thoroughly. Chilled batter will be slightly dry (because of the buttercream crusting) and not sticky at all.
While the batter is in the refrigerator, make the dry caramel. Pour the sugar in an even layer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or a skillet. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let the sugar melt and cook slowly. Do not rush this process or stir the sugar at this point. It will take some time for the sugar to start melting, but once it does start to brown on the edges, slowly move the melted sugar towards the centre. Still on medium heat and keeping a close eye on it, cook the sugar until it starts to turn darker in colour and very fragrant.
Once it becomes evenly a deep amber colour, remove it from the heat and immediately pour on a silicone mat. Let it cool and harden completely, then, using a kitchen mallet or a rolling pin, crush it into manageable shards. Put the caramel shards into the food processer and pulse it until the caramel is ground to your desired consistency. Take out portions of the batter (using a tablespoon measure), and roll them into truffles. Immediately roll the truffles into the ground caramel, and serve. Yields 70 truffles.

30 June 2016


Everyone has their own favourite brownie recipe. This is mine - dense, moist brownies, with a delicious chocolatey flavour. With lots of dark chocolate, and just a little bit of unsweetened cocoa powder, it really is a chocolate dream. But it gets even better - these brownies are stuffed with candy bars! I used a mix of our favourites - chocolate covered hazelnut bars.
You can use whatever candy bars you like, just make sure they aren't too soft, because they might melt into the brownies. That might not be an altogether bad thing, to be honest. Come to think of it, these would be fantastic with say a Jaffa brownie candy bar. Really, the possibilities are limitless. Just make sure you use the exact amount of flour and as few strokes as possible when folding it in, just to make sure they stay moist and dense.

300 grams dark chocolate
150 grams butter
200 grams granulated sugar
4 medium eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6-8 candy bars (to fit the pan)

Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the diced butter, and the chopped up chocolate, and melt everything over medium heat, until smooth. Make sure the heat isn't high, and everything melts slowly. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and add in the sugar. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then whisk in the vanilla bean paste. Take a small dish to crack the eggs in, then add them to the batter, one at a time, whisking well after each. Whisk really quickly after adding the eggs, to make sure the eggs do not scorch. Once the eggs are added, add the sifted flour and cocoa powder, and fold them in with as few strokes as possible.
Grease a 23x30 (9x13") pan's bottom and sides, add a piece of baking paper in the bottom of the pan, and pour in half of the batter. Arrange the candy bars so the whole surface of the brownies is covered, then pour over the remaining batter. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F) for about 18-20 minutes. Check them with a toothpick to make sure they are baked, but not dry. Make sure you do not poke through a candy bar. Remove from the oven, and let them cool in the pan. When they cool completely, slice them into squares and serve. Yields 16 servings.

23 June 2016


This brownie torte is the perfect mixture of fresh ripe berries, white chocolate, and dark chocolate. A fantastic fudge double chocolate brownie base, topped with slightly sour cherry jelly that’s bursting with summer flavours, and adorned with a light raspberry white chocolate mousse. By far the most fragrant and flavourful cake you can serve all summer.
One note I have regards the gelatine – I used the bronze gelatine sheets (140 bloom), so if you use stronger gelatine (225 or even 300), please adjust the amounts according to the package directions, because if you use too much gelatine, the mousse will be not as light and airy and the jelly layer will turn into a gummy candy.

For the fudge brownie base
200 grams dark chocolate
120 grams unsalted butter
200 grams granulated sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
120 grams plain flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
For the cherry jelly
300 grams fresh cherries, pitted
100 grams sugar
120 ml cold water
5 sheets leaf gelatine
For the raspberry mousse
500 grams fresh raspberries
100 grams sugar
100 grams real white chocolate
400 ml heavy whipping cream
5 sheets leaf gelatine

To make the fudge brownie base, chop up the dark chocolate, and dice the butter. Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, and keep stirring until they are completely melted and blended. Remove the pan from the heat and add sugar. Whisk briefly, then proceed to add the eggs, one at a time, whisking very well after each egg. Add the vanilla, and whisk once more. Finally, sift in the plain flour and unsweetened cocoa powder, and fold them in very gently. Do not overmix the batter, because the brownie will be tough when baked. It should take about 25 spatula strokes.
Grease the base and sides of a round cake pan (23 cm; 9”), place a round of baking paper on the bottom of the pan, and grease the paper lightly. Pour in the batter, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 15-18 minutes. Check them carefully with a toothpick to make sure they are done, but not overbaked. Once baked, remove the pan from the oven, let it cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan, place it on a cake platter, and close the cake ring around it.
For the cherry jelly, start by roughly dicing the cherries, and keeping all the liquid they release. Place them in a pan, and sprinkle in the sugar. Let them sit for about an hour or two, to soften up, and release more liquid. When they are softer, strain them carefully, and place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Measure the released cherry juice, and pour 120 ml of it over the cherries in the saucepan. Add 120 ml of cold water, and place the saucepan over medium high heat. In the same time, soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water, to soften up.

Once the cherries are bubbling, keep cooking and stirring for about 10 minutes, until they further soften, and the liquid reduces by almost half. Remove from the heat, and take the softened gelatine sheets out of the water, wring them very gently to remove excess water, then add them to the cherry mixture. Mix until they are dissolved, then set the pan in a cool place until the liquid starts to set (about 30 minutes in the refrigerator should be enough). Once it starts to set, carefully pour it over the brownie base, level it, and place the entire cake platter in the refrigerator.
For the raspberry and white chocolate mousse, place the fresh raspberries in a heavy bottomed saucepan, sprinkle the sugar over them, then place them over medium high heat and bright them to a boil. Chop up the white chocolate and place it into a deep bowl. Once the raspberries come to a rolling boil, cook them for 5 minutes, breaking the berries with a wooden spoon or a spatula as you cook. When the purée is ready, remove them from the heat and immediately strain them over the chocolate. Keep pressing them into the fine mesh strainer to remove all the raspberry seeds. It will take some time to strain it completely.
Discard the seeds, and whisk the raspberry purée and the now melted chocolate until blended. Let this mixture cool down in the fridge (about 10 minutes). Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water, as you did before, for about 10 minutes. Whip up the heavy cream until soft peaks form, pour in the raspberry purée, and continue beating on low speed until stiff peaks form. Melt the softened gelatine sheets over low heat, stirring until melted, but be careful not to let them come to a boil. Take a bit of the raspberry mousse and mix it in the gelatine, then pour everything back into the mousse and fold gently with a spatula. Pour the mousse over the cherry jelly layer, and place the cake back into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Keep refrigerated until serving. Yields 16 servings.