23 August 2019

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE

Chocolate cakes are traditionally seen as overly rich, with quite a bit of buttercream or other fillings, but this cake is quite different. The word I would use to describe it is light. It is not overly sweet, and its texture, and everything about it, despite it being a chocolate cake, is very light. Soft, tender cake layers, tangy glaze, and an airy mousse filling make for a perfect coffee-time treat. Actually, that is how it first came to be – as an impromptu wish for an after-supper dessert.
As always, when it comes to my cakes, I have two rules – the cake layers cannot be dry, and the filling has to be light and flavourful. Using good vanilla, as well as dark chocolate, gives this cake that special something that makes it a delight. I chose a 99% cocoa bar and a 70% cocoa bar, simply because I love the combination of extra dark chocolate and cream, but feel free to choose any chocolate bar with over 50% of cocoa.
Dark chocolate has a lot of flavour, and it makes the mousse smooth, yet not overly sweet, and it balances the overall flavour of the cake. It is worth noting that I used my homemade apricot jam, but you can use an apricot marmalade, too, if you wish. The slight tanginess of the preserves pairs perfectly with the lush filling.
Despite it coming together fairly quickly, the mousse does require a bit of time to cool down, so it requires a bit of planning. And even though it keeps well at room temperature and is fantastic just chilled in the refrigerator, if you are like me, and like ice cream cakes, you can place it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before serving.


Ingredients
For the soft cake layers
250 ml hot water
1 teaspoon instant espresso
200 grams plain flour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
150 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
100 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
200 grams apricot jam
For the chocolate mousse
200 grams extra dark chocolate
500 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by making the mousse filling, because it will require a bit of chilling before whipping. Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, and gradually add the double cream, while mixing with a spatula constantly. It will take a bit of time to incorporate all of the cream, but be patient. Once it is combined, add in the vanilla, mix well, and let this cool down slightly, then place it in the refrigerator for 5 hours.
Take a small bowl and pour in the hot water; add the espresso powder, mix well, and let it cool down slightly. Sift the flour into a large bowl, then sift in the cocoa powder and the baking powder, add in the sugar, and whisk very well. When the coffee is a tad cooler, pour in the oil, vanilla, and the lemon juice, and whisk them together. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, mix until combined, but not longer, and immediately divide it into four small square cake tins (15 cm) lined with baking parchment.
Bake the cake layers in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Check them for doneness after about 10 minutes of baking, since they are thin and you do not want them to overbake and dry out. Take the baked cakes out of the oven, let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then very carefully transfer them to a wire rack with the parchment still attached, because they are quite fragile when warm. Carefully spread the apricot jam evenly on every cake, and let them cool down completely.
Once they are ready, proceed to make the mousse filling. Pour the cream and chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and whip it until firm peaks form. This might take some time depending on your mixer and the cream you used, but it will whip up, just be persistent. Once firm peaks form, divide the filling into four equal parts.
Carefully remove the parchment from the first cake layer, and place it on the serving platter. Generously spread the mousse filling on top, then top it with another cake layer. Repeat this two more times, then frost the entire cake with the remaining mousse. Place the cake in the refrigerator overnight, then serve with strong coffee. Yields 12 rich servings.

16 August 2019

PRUNE WALNUT TRUFFLES

Growing up, it was a true delight to spend weekends on my paternal grandparents’ estate. They had a garden, a large orchard, an apiary, and true respect for nature and everything it gives to us. Every year my grandfather would make his famed plum brandy from the best, ripest fruit, and the ones that weren’t up to par, they would lay out in the sun to dry out, preserving them for the winter months. Everything they made mirrored how they lived – unburdened, respectful, and wholesome.
And even though my grandmother doesn’t make as many desserts as she used to, there are a few that are on the table very frequently. Usually quite simple, humble if you wish, but always flavourful and aromatic, with as little sugar as possible.
Fragrant, sticky prunes, ground walnuts, sweet, sweet honey; all natural, organic, full of nutrients, and such a delight to enjoy with a cup of coffee. They don’t need any adornment, as they are beautiful and delicious all on their own, but for some additional sweetness, feel free to enrobe them in extra dark chocolate.


Ingredients
200 grams soft prunes, stones removed
100 grams toasted walnuts, ground
20 grams raw honey
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preparation
Place the prunes into a small bowl, pour over the hot water, and let them soak for about 10 minutes. This will make them softer, and much easier to blend. Take a medium bowl, add in the ground walnuts and the cocoa powder, and whisk them together. Once the prunes are ready, place them into the blender, add in the dry ingredients, honey, vanilla, and rum, and blend until everything comes together into a ball in the.
Carefully transfer the batter into a medium bowl and squeeze it with your hands, practically gently kneading it, until it comes together. Since the batter will still be warm at that point, it will be easy to shape. Quickly take out walnut-sized pieces of the batter, and shape them into truffles. In case they start getting a tad sticky, wet your hands with a bit of cold water, and continue. Let them cool completely in the refrigerator, and serve with strong coffee. Yields 15 truffles.

09 August 2019

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY PISTACHIO TIFFIN

I have always been a fan of refreshing desserts, preferably with fresh fruit. While deeply chocolate desserts are impressive and famed, I have always strived for the balance between sweet and slightly tart, just enough to brighten up the flavour, without the heavy sugary feel.
Old-fashioned desserts have an unmistakable charm that makes all generations love them. Together with the forgiving nature of the tiffin, it is such a delight in an immensely simple form.
A very humble sugar syrup, some chocolate, ground pistachios, and a few raspberries, for good measure. The balance is such a delight, too; with the depth of flavour coming from the dark chocolate, along with a burst of fresh summer flavour from every hidden raspberry in each slice.
A lovely mix of sweetness, tartness, and a slight bit of crunch, this tiffin stays nice and soft even served directly from the refrigerator, so it is quite handy for the little ones. And as a final note, it can be made completely vegan, by using beet sugar, vegan butter, and a jam made adequately.


Ingredients
200 grams granulated sugar
135 ml cold water
150 grams butter
150 grams dark chocolate
150 grams ground pistachios
125 grams vanilla cookie crumbs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams thick raspberry jam
150 grams raspberries, frozen

Preparation
Chop up the chocolate into shards, and dice the butter into cubes of equal size. It will not make a difference whether the butter is cold or softened up at room temperature. Take all of the other ingredients and arrange them so you can work quickly after the syrup is done. Take a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the sugar, pour the cold water over it, and gently swirl the pan so all of the sugar is coated. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Let it boil, without stirring, for 3 minutes, then remove it from the heat. Add in the butter and the chocolate, and briskly whisk until all is melted into the syrup.
Add the ground pistachios and the biscuit crumbs, and mix vigorously, switching to a spatula at this point, for easier folding. After all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, add in the frozen raspberries, jam, and the vanilla, and mix everything together. At this point, the batter will still be somewhat soft. Line a small rectangular pan with a removable bottom (18x18 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter, level it, and place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, slice it up into 9 large squares, and serve with some additional chopped pistachios and frozen raspberries. Yields 9 large servings.

02 August 2019

MIXED BERRY VEGAN SMOOTHIE

This vibrant beauty is filled with blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and beets, along with green tea and vanilla. Full of nutrients and natural, intense fruit flavours, it is completely vegan, and can be served within 30 minutes.
We love our smoothies partially frozen, so what I like to do is to place the smoothie into a freezer safe container, freeze it for 30 minutes, then blend it up again, and then serve; like a gorgeous, healthy sorbet. You can also freeze it completely in your favourite ice lolly moulds.
This smoothie draws its sweetness from ripe bananas and raspberries, and it is perfect for us, but if you like your smoothies on the sweeter side, feel free to add a spoonful or two of maple syrup or raw honey, if you are not making it vegan.


Ingredients
250 grams fresh beets
100 grams cherries, frozen
100 grams raspberries, frozen
100 grams blueberries, frozen
150 grams ripe bananas
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
250 ml hot water
1 sachet of green tea
30 grams maple syrup, optional


Preparation
Add the sachet of green tea into the hot water, and let it steep for about 10 minutes, then let it cool down completely. Chop up the fresh beets into small chunks, then add them to a blender and pulse until they are broken up into tiny pieces. Carefully scrape down the sides, add in the frozen cherries, raspberries, and blueberries, and let it blend until completely smooth.
Add in the bananas and the vanilla, and blend again. Scrape the sides, just to make sure there aren’t any small beet pieces stuck to the side, and add the green tea in a few additions, blending fully between them. If using the maple syrup, add it, and let the blender run until smooth. Either serve it immediately, or let the smoothie batter freeze slightly, and serve it partially frozen. Yields 2 large servings.

26 July 2019

GARLIC CHEDDAR SAUSAGE ROLLS

Years and years ago, while school picnics and hikes were very popular, every single one of them was accompanied with a fluffy roll, and a tiny carton of juice, usually orange. The rolls were sometimes sweet, filled with jam or custard, and the savoury ones were always, almost to a fault, sausage rolls.
Although they are typically made with puff or flaky pastry, I prefer this type of dough with them. Soft, fluffy, yoghurt dough is always my choice for these, as it holds the filling well, and it does not make them greasy. And speaking of filling, cheddar is the perfect choice for these, as well; it is sharp, but at the same time rich and almost nutty in flavour. The spiciness of the sausages does give a lot to the overall flavour of the finished rolls, but if you do not like the spice, feel free to use mild sausages.
These big, pillowy rolls are really best enjoyed hot, right from the baking sheet, while the cheese is melty, and you can see the bubbling on the surface taper off. Serve with yoghurt dips or a cold beer of your choice.


Ingredients
For the dough
300 grams strong bread flour
250 grams plain flour
180 ml warm whole milk
20 grams fresh yeast
90 ml vegetable oil
180 grams natural yoghurt
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
300 grams spicy smoked sausage (or rød pølse)
200 grams white Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Preparation
Pour the yoghurt into a small bowl, add in the salt and the crushed garlic clove, and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Crumble the fresh yeast into a small bowl, pour in the warm milk, briefly whisk, and then leave it in a warm place for about 15 minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift the flours into a large bowl, make a well in the centre, and pour in the yoghurt and oil.
Add in the dissolved yeast, and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn it out on a floured surface, and knead with your hands for about 5 minutes. The finished dough should be very soft and supple, and ever so slightly sticky. If it sticks too much to your hands, add another tablespoon or two of flour as you knead, but not more, the dough needs to be as soft as possible. Place the dough into a large, clean bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
When the dough is ready, lightly flour your work surface, turn out the risen dough and press it well with your hands to release all the air. Roll it into a large rectangle, thinning out one of the sides, so it is much easier to seal the roll. Liberally sprinkle grated cheese all over the rolled dough, leaving about 5 cm of room to seal.
Place the smoked sausage links on the long end, and start rolling the dough tightly, being careful not to rip it. Wet the thin edge with cold water, to help it seal. Cut the roll very carefully into 12 equal slices, and arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Leave them for 30 more minutes to rise, then bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 15-20 minutes, until golden and puffed up. Serve immediately, while the cheese is melty and soft. Yields 12 servings.