14 June 2019

WHITE CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTED BROWNIES

In the category of everyday desserts, this is one of my favourites. Fudge brownie base, white chocolate fudge filling, and ganache topping; as simple as that. Classics do not have to take a lot of time to be prepared. Sometimes, only a few hours is enough, or more than plenty.
When desserts have only a handful of ingredients, they heavily rely on how much flavour they have, and on the wonderful new flavour combinations they can create together. Aromatic vanilla and sweet white chocolate create the perfect contrast to the rich, dark chocolate fudge base. And the contrast is not only visual; the textures pair incredibly well, as the creamy milk custard balances the dense chocolate brownie.
If placed in the freezer for a short time before serving, it will resemble a most delectable ice cream. It is truly best served in small pieces, almost in the same manner you would serve pieces of fudge, with a dainty dessert fork, and of course, strong coffee.


Ingredients
For the brownie base
100 grams plain flour
30 grams semolina
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams granulated sugar
200 grams vanilla yoghurt
150 grams dark chocolate
150 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the white chocolate fudge filling
500 ml whole milk
80 grams cornflour
100 grams granulated sugar
120 grams butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
100 grams real white chocolate
For the ganache
150 ml double cream
100 grams plain chocolate (50% cocoa)
50 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
For serving
100 ml double cream


Preparation
To make the brownie base, take a large bowl, pour in the yoghurt and the vanilla, sift in the cocoa powder and the baking powder, tip in the sugar, and whisk vigorously for a minute or so, until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy, almost resembling frosting. Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add in the chopped up chocolate and the oil, and let everything melt slowly. Once done, set it aside to cool down slightly, then add it to the cocoa mix, and stir until very smooth and silky.
Finally, sift in the flour and the semolina, and gently fold until smooth. Take a small square pan (18x18 cm), line it with baking parchment, then transfer the batter to it and level it as much as possible. Bake the brownie base immediately, in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs. Check them for doneness fairly early, to make sure they aren’t overbaked and dry. Once baked, let them cool down to room temperature.
To make the white chocolate fudge filling, start by taking away about 150 ml of milk, and whisking it really well with sifted cornflour and the sugar in a medium bowl. Pour the rest of the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place it over medium heat, so the milk can come up to a boil slowly. Once it starts boiling, add in the cornflour mixture in a thin stream, and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens up, and becomes a very rich custard, about 2-3 minutes. You will need to stir quite vigorously because it will be very dense, almost coming together into a ball of fudge.
Remove it from the heat, add in the vanilla and the chopped white chocolate, and mix well with a wooden spoon, until it is melted. After the chocolate, start adding in pieces of butter, beating the mixture with an electronic whisk as you add. If you whisk is struggling, switch to a wooden spoon and fold the fudge filling over itself until all of the butter is incorporated. Let the filling cool down to room temperature, folding it over itself as it cools down. Depending on the type of chocolate you use, the filling may seem a tad separated at one point, but that is to be expected; it will be smooth and combined once it has cooled down.
To assemble the dessert, line a small rectangular cake tin with a removable bottom (18x18 cm) with cling film, for easier removal of the cake later on, and place the cooled brownie base on the bottom of the tin. Spread the fudge filling carefully and evenly over the base, and place the tin into the refrigerator.
To make the ganache, chop up the chocolate and bring the double cream almost to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate and set it aside so the chocolate starts to melt. Mix the ganache vigorously with a spatula until everything is melted. Pour it over the fudge filling, and tap the cake gently on the counter a few times, so that any possible air bubbles come up to the surface. Place the cake back into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. To serve, whip up the double cream until soft peaks form, and gently place dollops on top of the ganache layer and serve. Yields 16 servings.

07 June 2019

RUSTIC JAM ROLLS

Even though lavish desserts and sensational cakes are always sought-after, sometimes, all that is needed is a piece of homemade pastry and a cup of tea to make us feel comfortable and safe. This type of pastry reminds me of long weekends, kitchen warm from the oven being on, the smell of coffee that was always served with them, the sense of complete cosiness.
Comfort food is not is not about its lavishness, it is about the feelings of utmost serenity it evokes within us. And these are just that for me. Tender dough, flaky and aromatic, sweet strawberry filling with just a hint of crunchiness form the pistachios, make these rolls a perfect, wholesome, tea treat. Best served hot off the baking tray, with the strawberry filling still molten, and the icing sugar is melting into the dough from its warmth.


Ingredients
250 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
50 grams granulated sugar
150 grams vanilla yoghurt
50 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 grams pistachios, roughly chopped
100 grams thick strawberry jam


Preparation
Start by preheating the oven to 200°C (400°F), as these rolls will be baked as soon as they are made. To make the dough, take a large bowl, add in the yoghurt, oil, vanilla, chopped pistachios, and the lemon zest, and mix well with either a wooden spoon or a spatula. Add in the sugar, and mix it around, just so it starts melting slowly. Separately sift the flour with the baking powder, then tip in into the yoghurt mixture. Stir the dough with a wooden spoon until it comes together, then proceed to knead it with your hands until a smooth and soft dough ball forms. It will be supple and it will not stick to your hands.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, roll it out to about 5 millimetres thick, and cut it into twelve equal triangles. Put a scant teaspoon of the jam on the wider part of the triangle, fold it over and press lightly, encasing the jam, so it does not leak during the baking. Form the crescent roll by rolling up the triangle starting at the wider side, and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. As soon as you take them out of the oven, gently roll them generously in icing sugar, and serve immediately.

31 May 2019

RUM TRUFFLES

Chocolate truffles are such an easy dessert to make. Delightfully creamy, with a deep chocolate flavour; they are humble enough to be an everyday dessert, yet classy enough to be a centrepiece for a special occasion. Whether you choose to decorate them by haphazardly drizzling melted chocolate over them, or by dipping each one into a pool of molten chocolate and sprinkling them with crushed toasted walnuts, they will be delicious either way.
Apart from being incredibly easy to make, they are a good way to creatively use up leftovers, and create a wonderfully smooth, rich, and fragrant chocolate treat. Now, because they are so smooth and creamy, they do require a bit of chilling before rolling into truffles. And depending on the type of biscuits you use, on how much they absorb, you might have to add a tablespoon or two more, so keep on hand, in case the batter is overly soft even after chilling.


Ingredients
180 grams mashed potatoes
180 grams finely ground vanilla biscuits
100 grams icing sugar, sifted
20 ml dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams dark chocolate (60%)
100 grams butter, unsalted
50 grams cooking chocolate (40%), for decorating

Preparation
To make the mashed potatoes, you can slightly heat up leftover unseasoned mashed potatoes, or chop a peeled large potato into small cubes, place it in a saucepan and cover with water. Let it come to a boil, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until soft, then drain thoroughly, mash, and let it cool down to room temperature. Once the potatoes are ready, place the diced butter in a saucepan, along with the chopped up dark chocolate, and melt it slowly over low heat. When completely melted and glistening, remove it from the heat, and reserve until cooled down.
Place the mashed potatoes into a blender or a food processor, and blend on the highest setting you have, for about a minute or two, until completely smooth. Add in the icing sugar, and blend again. Add in the melted and cooled chocolate and butter, as well as the rum and vanilla, pulse the batter a few times, to combine, then blend. Finally, tip in the vanilla biscuit crumbs, and blend for a whole minute. The batter should be smooth, almost like icing, too soft to be formed into truffles at that point. Place it into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until firmed up from the butter and the biscuits absorbing the liquid, and able to be formed.
Take out small scoops of the batter, and gently roll them between your palms into little spheres. Arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment, and return to the refrigerator for 30 more minutes. This will firm them up even more, and make the glazing much easier. While they are setting up, melt the cooking chocolate over low heat, cool it slightly, and pour it into a small decorating bag. Take the truffles out of the refrigerator, drizzle the melted chocolate all over them, and serve. Yields 25 truffles.
Author’s note: These can very easily made completely vegan - by using an appropriate icing sugar and vegan butter.

24 May 2019

CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO SNACK CAKE

This is what I consider a simple chocolate cake. An everyday sweet treat, a weekday dessert, something homemade, flavourful, and comforting. The charm of these cakes will always lie in their availability, in the easiness of preparation.
They can be ready in under an hour, and served, too, especially if you like hot desserts topped with ice cream. Usually made with only a handful of ingredients that most already have in their cupboards, not requiring more than a bowl and a whisk, they are so very simple to prepare, yet utterly delicious and wholesome.
A few notes regarding serving this lovely cake – I always cut it in nine very generous servings, but you can most certainly cut it into sixteen. I do not recommend cutting the cake in smaller pieces than that, because they will be very difficult to serve, due to the softness of the cake.
And as for the serving itself, you can serve it after only a couple of hours at room temperature, as it will still be warm, with a thick and glossy chocolate syrup still running from the slices, and it will pair perfectly with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Or, you can serve it the way I prefer to – after a whole night of chilling in the refrigerator, with the syrup completely soaked into the cake, and it having a fudge brownie texture. It will be amazing and delicious either way.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake
200 grams spelt flour
50 grams semolina
100 grams granulated sugar
20 grams dark cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 teaspoons baking powder
150 grams finely chopped pistachios, divided
150 grams vanilla yoghurt
150 ml cold water
75 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate syrup
250 ml cold water
150 grams granulated sugar
100 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

Preparation
Sift the flour, baking powder, and the cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the semolina and the sugar, and give them a quick whisk to blend. In a separate medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the yoghurt, oil, vanilla, and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones, and mix until it starts coming together. Add in 100 grams of chopped pistachios, and whisk the batter until combined. Do not overmix, because the finished cake will be tough. Pour the batter into a lined square cake tin (18x18 cm), and bake it in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 15-18 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.
While the cake is in the oven, make the chocolate syrup. Pour the cold water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and sprinkle in the sugar. Place the saucepan over high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring. Once it starts to boil, cook it, still without any stirring, for 6 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup has thickened. Remove it from the heat, add the chopped up chocolate, stir until completely melted, then reserve.
By then, the cake should be baked; remove it from the oven, and very carefully cut the cake into 9 squares, and gradually pour over the chocolate syrup. Pour it slowly, a spoonful at a time, waiting until the cake absorbs the amount you poured before adding more syrup. Pay special attention to the edges of the cake, as well as the cuts you made. Once you have added all of the syrup, sprinkle it with the remaining pistachios, and set it aside until it cools down to room temperature, and then place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably longer. Yields 9 generous servings.

17 May 2019

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM

Ice cream is one of the universally loved sweet treats. Be it chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or a combination, it is commonly enjoyed with or without any additions or toppings. A lot of ice cream recipes usually include a cooked custard base - rich, luxurious yolk custard, which makes the finished product creamy and smooth. The fat from the yolks helps the ice cream not freeze into an icy block, instead making it velvety and delightfully soft. This little gem of a frozen treat, however, does not require any yolks or cooking.
Peanut butter, with its unique and robust taste, is a fantastic ingredient for homemade ice creams. They are usually soft, especially if served after only a few hours of freezing, and peanut butter acts almost like a thickener, giving the ice cream the much needed stability and denser texture. On its own, it is almost overpowering in flavour, but when mixed with whipped cream, it becomes lighter, mellower, and sweeter.
Rich flavour of the peanut butter, sweetness of the condensed milk, depth of dark chocolate, and silkiness of the whipped cream, mix perfectly with vanilla and the tiniest bit of salt, just to balance everything, and bring out the flavours. It is perfect to be enjoyed in small bites, with a miniature dessert spoon, following every bite with strong coffee, or cold milk. And if you really love peanut butter, you can melt a spoonful and drizzle it over each serving.


Ingredients
200 grams sweetened condensed milk, cold
200 ml double cream
100 grams creamy peanut butter
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 60%)
50 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
⅛ teaspoon salt

Preparation
Melt the dark chocolate over low heat, or in the microwave, and set it aside so it can cool down slightly. Place the peanut butter into a large bowl, add in the cold sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and the salt, and blend well with a mixer. Add in the icing sugar, and blend well again. By then, the chocolate will be cooler and ready to be added. Slowly drizzle it into the peanut butter, in a thin stream, and mix on low, as to achieve the stracciatella effect, and set it aside.
Whip the double cream in a separate large bowl until stiff peaks form, and add it into the batter in a two additions. Do not use a mixer at this point, because it will deflate the batter, but gently fold the cream through, using a spatula. If a few streaks of the cream remain, it is fine, it does not need to be completely incorporated. Pour the batter into a freezer-safe container, cover tightly with a lid, and place it in the freezer for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Serve with some additional chocolate flakes, or more melted chocolate. Yields 600 ml of ice cream.