Happy New Year, and a healthy new recipe

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year – mine was a little hectic with moving house as well as lots of baking, but it was definitely a good one.

For New Year’s Eve, I headed up to Oxford to visit friends for a house party, and made the cake pictured above to take – a cinnamon sponge with milk chocolate filling and white chocolate frosting. I didn’t get any photos of the inside, so I’m going to make it again and wait until then to share the recipe – it’s a good one though, I promise!

For now, I’m going to give you another recipe, which I think is rather fitting for my first post of the new year – healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies.

(Pro photo courtesy of http://www.seangeephotography.com)

I made several attempts last year at making healthier vegetable-based brownies, using a butternut squash recipe from Delicious and a sweet potato recipe from Dan Lepard at the Guardian.

I wasn’t entirely happy with either, but I think I finally cracked it with this recipe, which uses butternut squash to replace the fat, and can also easily be made wheat and gluten free by swapping the 25g of flour for more cocoa powder.

Cut into 12 slices, it comes in at 200 calories per slice – ridiculous for such a decadent tasting treat, and perfect for anyone on a new year health kick.

I also added a quarter teaspoon of scotch bonnet chilli mash, from the Bad Boy Chilli Company, which is based not far from me in Lostwithiel, Cornwall. You only need a tiny bit of the mash to give the brownies a really fiery kick, so use with caution!

Although the chilli does pack a spicy punch, the sweetness of the white chocolate balances it out, and these were a big hit with all of my taste testers when I made them.

I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a go, whether or not you’re starting 2014 with healthy intentions. I’m not planning any huge changes to my diet (cakes aplenty!) but I am going to be trying out some new classes at the gym to try and tone up and increase my fitness – I’ll keep you updated with how it goes…

Healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies (loosely adapted from Delicious)

  • 330g butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • ¼ tsp Scotch Bonnet Mash
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • 25g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for about 10 minutes, or until you can cut through it like butter.  Stir in the dark chocolate until melted, then blend with a stick blender to get rid of all lumps. Add the chilli – if you’re worried about it being too hot start with less and add more if you think it needs it.

Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar until the mixture triples in volume, then fold in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.  Finally, fold through the chocolate squash mixture and the white chocolate chunks and spread the mixture into an 8×8” square tin, lined with baking paper.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until just set. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares to serve.

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

As this is the first time I’ve baked anything with the Bad Boy Chilli Company’s Scotch Bonnet Mash, I’m going to enter them into this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, hosted by Linzi at Lancashire Food, who chose ‘new ingredient’ as the theme. I love trying out new things, so this may not be my only entry, we’ll see!

Black and white chocolate showstopper

Black and white chocolate showstopper

It feels kind of arrogant to refer to something I’ve baked as a ‘showstopper’ – it definitely sets it up to be something spectacular so it’s a pretty bold statement to make.

But with showstoppers being the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Choclette, I’ve decided to embrace the word and be a little bold, and I am rather proud of this cake even if I do say so myself.

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

As I mentioned in my previous post about the Cake and Bake Show, I was totally inspired by the brilliant burlesque baking style demonstrated by Charlotte White, and so I decided to try my hand at a bit of a vintage design for my showstopper.

The stars all seemed to align for the making of this cake – I needed to make a showstopper, I was inspired by Charlotte, I had a friend with a birthday to bake for, and I was also having some professional photos taken on Saturday which was a great opportunity to get a half decent picture for a change (you may notice the drastic different in quality between the photos of the whole cake and the one of the inside, quickly snapped on my phone…)

The cake itself is my favourite dark chocolate cake, sandwiched with a white chocolate mousse and raspberry jam. I then coated it in a thin layer of buttercream before covering in white sugar paste, and decorating with royal icing, sort of piped in pearls but without flattening down the tips, and a flower paste flower of sorts on top.

For a first attempt at ‘fancy’ icing I was really happy with how it turned out, although I did have to do the sugar paste twice as I wasn’t happy with the first go as I rolled it too thinly and it cracked on the sides.

The birthday girl was happy too, and the taste lived up to the appearance – well, at 3 in the morning after one too many cocktails it seemed to anyway…

I really enjoyed making and decorating this cake, and I’m looking forward to my next attempt at something fancy – with a Clandestine Cake Club happening on Thursday I won’t have too long to wait, so I’ll update you on that soon!

Black and white chocolate showstopper

  • 90g dark chocolate
  • 90g butter
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 90ml milk
  • 90ml strongly brewed coffee, cooled

For filling and icing:

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 30g butter
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 750g sugar paste
  • 50g royal icing sugar mix
  • Black gel food colouring
  • 20g white flower paste

Start by melting the dark chocolate then set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, cocoa and bicarb, then fold into the cake mix. Add half the coffee and milk and beat slowly until just combined, then add the rest of the coffee and milk along with the melted chocolate, and mix again until the batter comes together and is smooth with no lumps.

Divide between three 6″ round tins, and bake at 170 degrees for around 25 minutes, until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool while you make the filling and buttercream.

For the white chocolate mousse, melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whip the cream until almost stiff, then fold in the chocolate, working fairly swiftly so the chocolate doesn’t seize. To make the buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder together until light and fluffy (I actually had some leftover from another cake, but this quantity should be plenty enough).

To assembly the cake, line a deep 6″ cake tin with cling film and level the tops of all the cakes. Place one sponge in the bottom of the tin, then spread half of the white chocolate mousse on top. Spread two tbsp of the raspberry jam on the next cake layer, then place jam side down on the chocolate mousse. Repeat with the remaining mousse, jam and final cake layer, then leave in the fridge to set.

Lift the cake out of the tin using the cling film, then unwrap. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, then roll out the sugarpaste into a large enough circle to cover the cake. Drape over the cake, then work quickly to smooth down the top and sides before trimming any excess icing from the bottom.

To decorate, roll the flower past out very thinly and use a petal cutter to cut 20-25 petals. Use a ball modelling tool to thin the petals around the edges, then leave to set.

Mx the royal icing sugar with 1.5 tsp water and 1/2 tsp black gel colouring, whisking with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes. Add more water if it’s too thick, more sugar if it’s too thin. I then used Charlotte’s top tip of creating a baking paper collar for the cake to mark out the pattern for the pearl chain with a cocktail stick, before piping the decoration in dots.

Arrange the flower paste petals on top of the cake, securing with a little of the royal icing, then place the cake on a cake board covered in more sugarpaste.

Sit back, admire your handiwork, then eat cake!

Salted carmelitas

Carmelitas

I first came across carmelitas absolutely ages ago, and although I can’t for the life of me remember where I remember thinking that they looked amazing but I was put off from baking them by the fact the recipe called for wrapped caramels – I didn’t know whether this meant soft or hard, or what type to buy, and I didn’t like being confused so I didn’t save the recipe or attempt to make them.

Thanks to Pinterest, carmelitas were recently brought to my attention again, specifically through a recipe posted on Cooking Classy. This version had added salt, and the combination of salted caramel, chocolate, oats and brown sugar was just too much for me to resist.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, carmelitas are a sort of oaty cookie bar, with a layer of chocolate and caramel in the middle that is deliciously gooey when warm and stays just a little soft and squidgy when cool.

I still don’t know what type of caramels you’re supposed to use, but I decided to improvise and use half a can of leftover Carnation caramel that I had sitting in the fridge, which I figured would have a similar consistency to the melted caramels and cream used in the recipe.

The other change I made was to use milk chocolate with chopped hazelnuts instead of regular milk chocolate, which was mainly because the bar was on offer but also added an extra element of flavour and texture which I thought worked well.

Carmelitas are super sweet and a calorific nightmare, but they are also very addictive, so I highly recommend having a hungry pony on hand if you decide to make them…

Salted Carmelitas (recipe adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 110g rolled oats
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g ready made caramel
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 75g milk chocolate (with or without nuts), chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped

Stir together the flour, oats, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave, and add to the dry mixture with the vanilla, stirring until all the dry ingredients are completely coated. Press between half and two thirds of the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square baking tin, and bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until just starting to firm up.

Heat the caramel in the microwave to make it easier to spread, and stir in the second tsp of vanilla and the sea salt – use more or less depending on how salty you like it. Spread the caramel over the oat base, then sprinkle both chopped chocolates in an even layer on top.

Crumble the remaining oat mixture between your fingers and lightly press down on top of the chocolate and caramel layer, then return to the oven to bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the top is golden and the caramel is just starting to bubble around the edges. Leave to cool completely before slicing into bars.

Dark mocha chocolate fudge cake

Dark mocha cake

As I’m sure any regular readers will have gathered by now, if the pony got his way all I would ever bake is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.

I want to make things that he will like, but I don’t want to make the same things over and over again, so I’m always looking for sneaky ways to make something super chocolatey but with a bit of a twist.

This cake came about after I received a lovely delivery from the Handpicked Foodstore, which included a bar of Caffe Latte Artisan No.1 chocolate which I knew could be used in some sort of chocolate-coffee concoction.

I adapted my go to chocolate fudge cake recipe,  from Joanne Farrow’s Chocolate, switching half the milk for strong coffee, and adding a teaspoon of dissolved coffee granules to the icing to sandwich the cake.

I used half the quantities stated for an 8″ cake and baked it in my 6″ tin, which produced a nice tall cake that could be easily sliced into three layers.

The Caffe Latte bar was used to make the ganache on top – I wanted the flavour to stay pure and as it’s a milk chocolate I decided rather than using cream for the ganache to use water, and was very happy with how it turned out.

At the pony’s suggestion, I added a sprinkling of chopped dark chocolate on top, and I have to say looks-wise it gave it the final touch it needed – often chocolate cake is just brown and more brown but I think this one actually looks rather pretty!

Thanks to the guys at Handpicked for sending me the chocolate and inspiring this cake, which I wouldn’t even need any encouragement from the pony to make again…

Dark mocha fudge cake (adapted from Joanne Farrow’s Chocolate)

  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 60g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 60ml milk
  • 60ml strong brewed coffee, cooled

For the icing and ganache:

  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 60g butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee dissolved in 1 tsp water
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 50g coffee flavoured chocolate
  • 10g finely chopped dark chocolate to decorate

For the cake, melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg and beat again. Sieve together the flour, bicarb and cocoa and fold into the cake batter. Beat in half of the milk and half the coffee, then add the melted chocolate and then the remaining milk and coffee. Pour the mix into a greased and lined 6″ round cake tin and bake at 170 degrees (160 fan) for about 50 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water, without stirring, then quickly beat in the icing sugar, coffee and milk. Leave to cool until thick enough to spread. To make the ganache, melt the coffee flavoured chocolate and then add hot water 1 tsp at a time, until it reaches a fairly runny consistency – it will thicken as it cools.

To assemble the cake, slice the cake horizontally into three layers, and spread the fudge icing on top of the bottom and middle layers. Reassemble the cake, then pour the ganache on top, gently spreading it out towards the sides. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top, then leave until the ganache has set to slice.

Raspberry and dark chocolate blondies

Raspberry and dark chocolate blondies

I’ve never really been that much of a fan of pairing raspberries and dark chocolate – I’ve always felt the tartness of raspberries is much better complemented by the sweetness of white chocolate.

With that in mind, I’m not entirely sure why a couple of weeks ago I became fixated with making dark chocolate and raspberry blondies, but I’m glad I did as this recipe has totally converted me.

I did a quick search on Google and Pinterest for recipes but nothing that came up was really what I wanted, so I ended up using this recipe as the basic blondie mix, swapping the white chocolate for dark and adding a small punnet of raspberries.

The bars were just dense and fudgy enough to be blondie-ish rather than cakey; the raspberries added bursts of fruity tartness, and the chunks of dark chocolate were a great contrast both in flavour and texture.

The blondies were sweet enough to balance the dark chocolate and raspberries, and I think that’s why I liked these so much – I still think I wouldn’t be a huge fan of raspberries in a brownie, but maybe I should give it a go and maybe be pleasantly surprised…

Raspberry and dark chocolate blondies (blondie recipe adapted from Baking Bites)

  • 115g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g plain flour
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g fresh raspberries

Beat the butter and sugar together until well mixed, then add the egg and vanilla and beat again. Fold in the flour and white chocolate chips, then gently fold in the raspberries – don’t over-mix or they will stain the batter pink. Spread the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square baking tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until golden and set. Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares otherwise they’ll be far too gooey to cut neatly!

Triple chocolate cookies

Triple chocolate cookies

When it comes to eating shop-bought snacks and baked goods, I can be very particular – if I’m going to splurge on calories and sugar it has to be worth it, and more often than not anything that comes in a packet isn’t.

At my work we have a fairly well stocked biscuit tin, but it’s very rare that I’ll have anything from it as I just don’t see biscuits as a worthwhile indulgence. I also think there’s something slightly disturbing about a biscuit that has a shelf life of months, if not years – I dread to think what’s in it that keeps it fresh!

The one type of biscuits I do like, although still buy very rarely, is cookies. As in the big, chewy, American-style ones, that come from the bakery section rather than the biscuit aisle , or, my absolute favourite, from Millies Cookies.

Even with those I’m still pretty fussy though – I like standard chocolate chip cookies, milk, white or dark, but definitely not anything fancy like toffee or rolos or smarties, and definitely not double or triple chocolate. Nope, plain flavour dough all the way, get those sinister looking dark cookies out of here right now, they’re not for me. No way.

Until now.

I made these on the request of the pony, who complained that I’d never made chocolate cookies with chocolate dough. As most of what I bake is eaten by him anyway, I thought it was a reasonable enough request, and after the success of the thick and chewy cookies I made a few weeks ago decided to use a recipe from Edd Kimber’s ‘The Boy Who Bakes’, adapting chocolate and cherry cookies to be chocolate and more chocolate cookies.

I was fully expecting to be pretty indifferent about these, but I was so wrong. I think, maybe, they are the best cookies I have made to date, beating every one of the plain flavour dough recipes I’ve tried.

These cookies are addictive – I initially halved the recipe to make 12 cookies, but had to mix up another batch just two days later when they’d all been eaten (I ate two, the pony ten…)

I honestly can’t recommend this recipe strongly enough – even if you think you wont like them, you will! Promise!

Triple chocolate cookies (adapted from The Boy Who Bakes)

Makes 12, but you’ll probably want to double, or triple, or quadruple it…

  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg
  • 65g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped

Beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy – because it’s quite a high ratio of sugar to butter this will take a few minutes, but stick with it. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt and fold into the mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, then finally add in the chopped dark and white chocolate, folding until the chocolate is evenly distributed. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour, to make the cookies easier to shape.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (mine were about 40g each) and roll into balls. Place six of the balls spaced a couple inches apart on a lined baking sheet, then bake at 180 degrees for around 13 minutes, or until the dough has spread and cracked and is just starting to crisp around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for as long as you can, then dive in and enjoy.