14 September 2018

NO-BAKE HAZELNUT CREAM CAKE

Before we delve into autumn desserts, one more no-bake cake is in order. As you know, no-bake cakes, along with ice-cream cakes, are among my favourite desserts. Those are lovely examples of tremendously delicious treats that are easy to make, yet absolutely delightful.
This five-layer beauty is very quick to make, and you will love it. Layer upon layer of chocolate biscuits and hazelnut cream, topped with lush whipped cream and some more roasted hazelnuts. Feel free to top the cake with chocolate fudge sauce, some more chopped hazelnuts, or even caramel, whatever suits your dessert preference.


Ingredients
650 ml whole milk, divided
40 grams cornflour
40 grams plain flour
100 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams roasted hazelnuts
120 grams unsalted butter, softened
300 grams cocoa biscuits (30 pieces)


Preparation
To make the hazelnut cream filling, start by taking away about 150 ml of milk, and whisking it really well with sifted cornflour, sifted plain flour, and the sugar in a medium bowl, and set it aside. Pour 400 ml of milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium high heat, so the milk can come up to a boil slowly. Once it starts boiling, add in the cornflour mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens up, and becomes a very rich custard, about 2-3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and strain it through a mesh strainer, just in case there are some pieces that have not dissolved properly.
Add the ground hazelnuts directly into the piping hot custard, mix very well, cover the top of the cooked custard with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature. When the custard is ready, take a large bowl, add in the room temperature butter, and beat with an electric mixer on high, until very light and creamy, and resembling a buttercream. Whilst the mixer is running, add in the cooled custard, a spoonful at a time, until well blended.
To assemble the cake, line a small rectangular cake tin (18x18 cm), ideally with a removable bottom, with cling film, for easier removal of the cake later on. Pour the remaining milk into a wide, shallow container (for dipping in the biscuits), and start layering the dessert. Divide the biscuits into three equal parts (keep in mind that you might need to cut some of them in half so they fit snuggly), and dip the first part into the milk briefly, then line the bottom of the tin. Spread half of the hazelnut cream filling over the biscuits gently. Dip the next batch of biscuits into the milk, and lay them on the filling, then top the cake with the last remaining biscuits dipped in milk.
Cover the top with cling film, to prevent the cake from drying out, and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. Next day, when you are ready to serve the cake, remove the cling film, place the serving platter on top of the cake, and invert it - making the bottom the top now. Decorate the cake as desired, and serve with strong coffee. Yields 9 servings.

07 September 2018

BAKED DAMSON JAM

It’s early September, and that means that autumn is almost here. So what better time to start canning and jam-making than now. Plums are in abundance now, and damsons are especially favoured by many, because of their sweetness and fragrance. As always, pick ripe fruit for jams, because it will yield the best flavour; and if possible, buy organic fruit. Damsons I used are home-grown, from my grandparents’ orchard, and they were plump and ready for jams and desserts.
Speaking of the jam, there is no constant stirring, no splatter, just the fruit, and some regular granulated sugar. Baking the jam instead of cooking it on the stove top is a tad unconventional method, but the jam is simply amazing. As for the preparation, you do need to remove the skins of damsons, but if our damsons are ripe, removing the skins will be very easy. If there is a piece left here and there, it will not be a problem, because once baked, you will be able to simply pick out any remaining plum skin with a fork.


Ingredients
1.5 kilograms ripe damson plums
200 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum


Preparation
Turn the oven on to 200°C (400°F) before you start working with the fruit. Wash each fruit, remove the skin, and the pit. Split them in half, and set them into a deep, large bowl as you work. Take a regular rectangular baking pan (20x30 cm), and evenly sprinkle in half of the sugar, then carefully add in the plums. I recommend adding them with a spoon, so you distribute them evenly in the pan. Once all the fruit has been added to the baking pan, sprinkle on the rest of the sugar. A good amount of sugar will be absorbed by the fruit almost immediately, but some of it will remain on the top, which is perfectly fine.
Bake the fruit in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 1 hour, gently and carefully stirring it about half-way through. The fruit should be completely soft and mushy by the time one hour is up, but if you want your jam to be of a thicker consistency, continue baking up to an hour and a half, carefully stirring and checking while baking. Once baked, remove it from the oven, and remove any piece of skin that has remained, then gently mash the fruit with a fork whilst it’s still in the baking pan. Add in the rum, and mix well. Carefully spoon the jam into prepared and sterilised jars, place the lids on, and store as you would normally store jam. Yields 750 grams.

31 August 2018

BATIDA DE COCO BROWNIES

Delicious brownies lavishly drizzled with chocolate topping make for a hearty family dessert. From start to finish, including making the topping, they can be done in under an hour. And brownies truly are a very easy, simple, and delicious treat.
While you make the chocolate topping, they will set up in the pan, so you can slice them up right away, and serve them warm, with the topping. Or, if you prefer, let them cool completely, and then adorn them with a lovely mixture of chocolate, cream, and Batida de coco.
One important thing you need to remember when making brownies is that you do not overbake them. That is, unfortunately, quite easy to do, as they are usually thin and can go from perfectly fudgy and baked to dry in minutes. Since every oven is a little bit different, keep an eye on them while they bake, and check them with a toothpick.
Brownies are done when a toothpick comes out with just some moist crumbs sticking to it. It is fine if you slightly underbake them, they will still be amazing. One more thing to keep in mind - the type and quality of the cocoa powder you use will determine how good your brownies taste.


Ingredients
For the brownies
120 grams vanilla yoghurt
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
200 grams granulated sugar
120 grams unsalted butter
90 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
50 ml Batida de Coco
For the chocolate glaze
75 ml heavy cream
75 grams dark chocolate
30 ml Batida de Coco

Preparation
Pour the yoghurt into a large bowl, add in the vanilla, then sift in the cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt, and whisk vigorously for a minute or so, until the mixture becomes really smooth, almost like frosting. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, dice in the butter, and place it over medium heat, and let it start melting slowly. Tip in the sugar, and gently mix it until the butter is completely melted, and the sugar starts to dissolve. Add the melted butter and sugar to the cocoa mix, add in Batida de coco, and stir until very smooth and silky. Finally, sift in the flour, and gently whisk until smooth. Take a small square pan (20x20 cm), line it with baking parchment, then gently transfer the batter to it, and level it as much as possible.
Bake them immediately, in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 15-20 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. They should look baked on the edges, but the very centre should look moist, but not raw. Remove them from the oven and cool them on a rack while you prepare the glaze. For the glaze, pour the heavy cream and Batida de coco into a medium-sized saucepan, and place it over medium-high heat. Let the mixture heat up, but not come to a boil, then immediately add in the chopped up chocolate, and mix until completely melted. Serve the brownies generously drizzled with the glaze, and some additional desiccated coconut. Yields 9 servings.

24 August 2018

OVERNIGHT FLAKY BISCUITS

Freshly baked homemade pastry is one of the best things in life. And biscuits, a lovely, soft snack, are always welcome. Usually split down the middle and enjoyed with sweet or savoury fillings, they are so very soft and fluffy, with a gorgeous crispy and crunchy exterior. The ingredients are simple, but the baked biscuits are very delicious, as all old-fashioned pastries are.
They are very easily adjusted to your needs; you can make them larger, by dividing the dough into six or less pieces, so they can be a fantastic version of burger buns. You can also make them smaller, and serve them with dips, or as sliders. They are amazing with marinara sauce, and all cheese-based sauces, as well as tangy jams and clotted cream.


Ingredients
400 grams soft bread flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
120 ml light olive oil
250 ml tepid water
100 grams butter, softened


Preparation
Sift the flour twice, add in the yeast and the salt, and make a little well in the middle. Pour in the oil and water, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to form, then knead with your hands for 5-10 minutes, until you get a smooth and elastic dough that doesn't stick to your hands. Depending on the flour, you might need to add a tablespoon or two more, if the dough sticks too much to your hands. Once the dough is smooth and ready, oil the bowl, place the dough in, oil the dough surface, then tightly cover it with cling film, and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
After the dough has slowly risen, knead it briefly or a floured work surface, then roll it out to a very large rectangle - as large as your work surface allows you. Take one half of the softened butter, and spread it evenly over the entire dough surface. Fold the dough in half, then spread the other half of the butter evenly. Fold the dough in half again, very lightly roll it out, just to thin it out to about 1.5 cm, then cut it into eight square biscuits. Place them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, let them rest for about 15-20 minutes, then bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 18-20 minutes. Serve warm. Yields 8 large biscuits.

17 August 2018

ORANGE RUM BREAKFAST PASTRIES

One of the best things to have for breakfast are freshly baked sweet pastries, with a bit of jam or clotted cream on top, and a cup of hot tea or coffee. The texture of these gorgeous pastries almost resembles brioche pastry, and the fresh orange zest gives lots of flavour, combined with the warm vanilla, and dark rum.
Keep in mind that you do not have to divide the dough into eight pieces like I did, you can divide it into as many as you like, and make the pastries as large or as small as you need them to be. And also keep in mind that the baking time will vary depending on the size of the pastries, so keep an eye on them so they do not overbake. Serve them warm, with plenty of hot tea or black coffee.


Ingredients
350 grams soft flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
50 grams light brown sugar
75 ml vegetable oil
60 ml tepid water
2 medium eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
50 ml vegetable oil, for brushing


Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast, sugar and salt, and whisk it very well. Make a little well in the centre, and pour in the water, oil, lightly beaten eggs, as well as the orange zest, orange extract, rum, and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. At this point, add a bit more flour if you need to, but try to keep the dough as soft as possible. Keep kneading the dough right in the bowl, for a couple of minutes more, until it becomes lightly tacky, but you will be able to shape it into a ball. Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it for a few minutes. If the dough keeps sticking too much, add some additional flour. Divide the dough into eight pieces, and then shape each one into your favourite shape. If you aim for an intricate shape, you might need to add a tad more flour, to braid or twist it more easily. Arrange the pastries on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it sit in a warm spot for another hour, to rise again. Just before baking, brush it generously with oil and bake in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for 12-15 minutes.

Baker's note: As with any other baked bread, if you wish, you can brush the top with a bit of butter as soon as you take it out of the oven, for a softer crust.