Saturday, 18 November 2017

Crispy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Today I made some wonderfully crispy biscuits and sandwiched them together with a chocolate ganache.  I got the idea when I saw some pictures of a French biscut Prince Chocolate.  They are a two thin biscuits/cookies that are sandwiched with chocolate, with a pattern imprinted on them..  The biscuit has to be hard and crispy giving a crunch when eating, and then the rich chocolate flavour in the middle.  For mine I decided to make some patterned and a few plain too, just to see if there was a difference in how they baked, as much as anything else. 

The recipe is simple, but patience is needed to get as many biscuits out of the dough, since having cut out as many as you can it is necessary to chill the remaining dough before cutting out more.

Then it is just a case of baking and waiting for them to cool as you make a simple ganache with dark chocolate and a little double cream and then filling the biscuts and allowing the ganache to firm up before serving.

Mine turned out very well indeed, they have a wonderful crunch to the biscuit and the firm ganache that softens in the mouth releasing the intense chocolate flavour.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits Video

For the biscuits/cookies:
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 50ml cold water.
For the ganache:
  • 15g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces.
  • 60ml double cream.
  1. In a large bowl place the flour and baking powder and sift in the icing sugar.  
  2. Mix together with a whisk to combine.
  3. Place the butter and water into a pan and heat until the butter has melted.
  4. Allow it to cool for a few minutes then pour the butter mixture into the flour and stir to combine and form a dough.  Keep mixing, using a hand if necessary, until all the flour mixture has combined and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Form the dough into a disc(I actually halved it and made two discs) and wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  7. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, or icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch(3 mm).
  8. Using a 2 1/4inch(6 cm) cookie cutter, with the scalloped edge facing down, cut out  the cookies and place them on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
  9. If you wish to use the off cuts of dough make sure you chill it thoroughly first.
  10. Make some patterns on them if you wish, little dots with a skewer, for instance.
  11. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, the tops will start to colour and the edges may slightly brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, on a wire rack.
  13. For the ganache either heat the cream to boiling point and pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until all has melted and combined, or melt the chocolate in a bain marie, or microwave and pour in the cream, stirring until all is combined.
  14. Turn half the cookies upside down and spoon, or pipe, a good amount of ganache on. 
  15. Take the remaining cookies and place on top of the ganache, gently pressing down to push the ganache to the edges.
  16. Allow the ganache to firm up before eating.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Quick and Easy Mince Pies

Mince Pies are a tradition at Christmas and I usually make them with my own pastry and homemade mincemeat.  But I decided that, for those who want to make them, but without the hassle of doing everything from scratch, I would make some using just two indgredients, shop bought shortcrust pastry and shop bought mincement.

I am aware that it is much easier to find ready-rolled shortcrust pastry in the UK than in other places, so I should say that using shop bought puff pastry is fine too, but will give a different texture to the mince pies.  You could also buy a shortcrust pastry mix, which again is readily available in the UK, where you simply add water to the mix to make the pastry. If you cannot find ready rolled pastry you can also buy blocks of pastry, both refrigerated and frozen which will work just as well but you will have to roll it out.  I will also put links below to my blog posts for making your own pastry and also your own mincement, for anyone who wishes to do that.  I will readily admit that making everything from scratch does give a better mince pie, but not everybody has the time, or the inclination.  Hence this post.

I use a bun or patty tin to shape the mince pies, but a muffin tin would be ok too, just don't line up the to top of each cup or the mince pies will be too large.

I would also recommend, whether using shortcrust or puff, that the pastry is made with butter as this is a major part of the flavour. The supermarkets usually stock 'butter' pastry and pastry made with margarine or vegetable oil.  Butter is the one to go for.  Also, if possible buy one that says 'sweet' pastry since that means there is a little sugar in it too, though that is not critical.

Link to mince pies using home-made pastry:  click here

Link to home-made mincemeat:  click here

Quick & Easy Mince Pies

Quick & Easy Mince Pies - Video

  • 2 x 320g ready rolled sweet shortcrust pastry(made using butter)
  • 500g mincemeat (buy the best quality you can)
  • I egg, beaten to use as an egg wash.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/Gas mark 7
  2. Grease a 12 hole bun/patty tin.
  3. Lay the sheets of pastry out, on the paper they are wrapped in, on the counter.
  4. Cut out 12 rounds, using a cookie cutter that is about 3 1/8 inches(just under 8cm).
  5. Cut a further 12 rounds using a cookie cutter that is about 2 1/2inches(just under 7 cm).
  6. Carefully line each hole in the bun tin with the larger discs of pastry,
  7. Carefully spoon about 1 dessert of mincemeat onto the pastry.
  8. Use a finger to wipe some water onto the exposed edge of that pastry(or onto the smaller discs, but on the inside edge of it).
  9. Place the smaller discs of pastry onto the filled pastry and press round the edge to seal(use a fork to make a pattern and aid sealing if you wish.
  10. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and then make two small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
  11. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then remove from the bun tin and dust with some icing sugar.
Notes:  Work quickly, before the dough becomes too warm.  
             Re-roll the excess pastry to make more, but chill the pastry in the                     fridge again before rolling otherwise it will shrink back after being                     rolled.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Treacle Tart - Again

I had a request on Youtube to do a video of making Treacle Tart.  So, although I already have a blog entry for this wonderful British dessert I decided to make it and post again, this time with a video as well.

Treacle Tart is a British favourite, and is ideal with some nice, creamy custard.  It will go just as well with cream or ice-cream, so whichever takes one's fancy it just fine. When I was at school it was served with custard.

Although called treacle tart the main ingredient is actually golden syrup.  Those who cant find golden syrup can easily make it themselves, or they can substitute corn syrup instead.  The major difference between the two is that golden syrup is made with slices of lemon used to infuse during making.  The lemons are then discarded.  So for this recipe, which already uses the zest of a lemon corn syrup will work just fine.

The base is a shortcrust pastry, and the scraps can be used to put a lattice type top to the tart, if required.

You can use shop bought pastry, though I prefer to make my own.  I love the smell of pastry cooking and the added sweet aroma of the golden syrup really makes me want to taste it as soon as possible. There is also a nice hint of lemon, from the zest, as it cooks.

I messed up in making the video, as I forgot to press the record button when I was making the filling  So, having baked one tart, I set about making a second one, so that I could film making the filling since that is the most important part of the tart.

I was very happy with both tarts, they taste exactly as they should, the sweet soft treacle filling matched by a lovely shortcrust pastry.  

Treacle Tart with whipped cream

Treacle Tart - Video

For the pastry:
  • 275g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 140g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp water
For the filling:
  • 350g golden syrup
  • 150g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs(or a mixture of both is fine)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp double cream
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  1. Make the pastry by mixing the flour and caster sugar together, preferably in a food processor. 
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
  3. Add  just enough water to bring the pastry together. 
  4. Remove from the processor and gently squeeze into a ball. 
  5. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/gas mark 6. 
  7. Place a heavy baking tray in the oven.
  8. Grease a 23cm round flan tin or cake tin.
  9. Remove the pastry from the fridge, cutting one third of it and place that back in the fridge, wrapped in cling film.
  10. Roll out the remaining two thirds of the pastry to 4mm thick. Line the flan tin with the rolled out pastry. Add the offcuts to add to the other one third of the pastry for the lattice.
  11. Prick the base with a fork.  Cover with clingfilm again and place back in the fridge for about 30 minutes, as you make the filling.
  12. Warm the golden syrup slightly to make it easier to mix with the other ingredients.
  13. Melt the butter and stir into the golden syrup.
  14. Beat the cream and egg together and add in the lemon zest and salt.
  15. Mix the golden syrup and cream mixtures together and stir in the breadcrumbs.
  16. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into about 16 strips. You can make a nice lattice, threading the strips over and under each other, but I don't bother, as I will explain.
  17. Remove the flan tin from the fridge and pour the mixture into it.
  18. Slightly wet the edge of the pastry around the flan tin.
  19. Take 8 strips of rolled out pastry and lay them all in the same direction across the flan, leaving a nice gap between each.
  20. Lay the other 8 strips across the flan, making a criss-cross effect.
  21. Press the edges down against the dampened edge of the pastry case.
  22. Trim off any excess.
  23. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  24. Reduce the heat to 180c/160C Fan/350F/Gas mark 4 and bake for a further 20 minutes, or slightly longer if the pastry isn't nice and golden.
  25. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the tin.  Then you  can turn it out and serve it, with custard, cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

No Knead Rustic Bread

Home made bread is always a treat, even if it sometimes takes a lot of work.  The aroma of baking bread is hard to beat.  But it is great to be able to make some bread with very little effort, even if it does take a while.

That is why a no knead recipe is hard to beat and this Rustic No Knead bread is great. With little effort you can end up with a lovely, fresh, loaf that has a nice open texture and is crusty too.

It really is as simple as mixing the ingredients together and then leaving it overnight to prove fully.  Then it just has to be shaped and baked, preferably in a Dutch oven. It could be baked on a baking tray, but with a pan with water in the bottom of the oven to create steam for creating the crust.

From my perspective I find it very important to allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.  If you slice before it is cool you will release the steam from inside the loaf.  That steam is what makes the bread moist.

My bread turned out very well, exactly as I hoped, with an airy, open, texture and a great crust.  So I was very pleased indeed. This is ideal fresh for a sandwich, or open sandwich and then it is good for toast or garlic bread when it is more stale.
No Knead Rustic Bread

No Knead Rustic Bread - Video

  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 285ml warm water(about 110c/43F)
  • 6 grams active dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  1. Place the flour into a large bowl and set to one side.
  2. Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir then leave for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  3. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mixture.
  4. Stir to combine until all is mixed and there are no flour pockets.  You will have a shaggy dough.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draught free environment overnight.
  6. The next day, after about 18 hours,place a dutch oven, with lid on, in the oven. If using a baking tray place a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to heat up(this will hold water later).
  7. Preheat the oven to 230C/450F for at least 30 minutes.
  8. The dough will be quite loose in the bowl, Tip it out onto a heavily floured work surface.
  9. Work the dough, knocking out the air and pulling the dough up on itself, doing that from each of four sides in turn.
  10. Turn the dough over and use your hands to form it into a ball. This will create some tension in the dough and will shape it nicely for baking.
  11. Cover with a towel and leave  until the oven is at the right temperature, about 30 minutes.
  12. Carefully place the dough into the Dutch oven and score a line or two on the top with a very sharp knife if you wish. If using a baking tray place the dough on and place in the oven, then pour a cup of water into the roasting tin to create the steam necessary for a crust to form.
  13. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the lid and bake for a further 15 to 25 minutes, until you have the crust colour as dark as you wish.  If using a baking tray you will need to judge when the loaf is done by tapping the bottom of the loaf to make sure it sounds hollow.
  15. Remove from the oven and carefully place the loaf on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Peach Posset Tartlets

I had some peach puree in the freezer so I decided to make some posset with it.  That is a rich, silky smooth dessert made with cream and sugar.  I then decided that instead of serving in glasses, with little biscuits, I would make tartlet cases and put the posset in those for serving.

The recipe for the posset is very simple indeed.  For the pastry it is a little more complicated, but still easy.  Of course you could always use shop bought shortcrust pastry and that would work just as well.

I am very pleased with how the tarlets turned out, with the lovely short pastry and that very creamy and silky smooth posset, with the subtle flavour of peach enhancing the cream.
Peach Posset Tartlets

Peach Posset Tartlets - Video
For the pastry
  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g cold butter cut into cubes
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 2 tbsp cold milk.
  • Egg white for an egg wash.
For the posset:
  • 600ml double cream
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 140g peach puree (or 100g lemon juice or other fruit puree)
  1. In a food processor place the flour, sugar and butter.
  2. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and process until combined.
  4. Add the milk and process until the mixture begins to clump.
  5. Tip out onto the work surface and simply squeeze it together into a ball and flatten a little.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F
  8. Using between half and 2/3s of the pastry roll out 6 discs large enough to line tarlet pans, with an overlap of pastry.
  9. Prick with a fork and then line with parchment paper.
  10. Add baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the baking beans and paper and brush egg white over the surface of each tartlet case.
  12. Carefully cut off the excess pastry and bake for a further minute to cook the egg white.
  13. Set aside to cool.
  14. In a saucepan place the double cream(heavy cream is fine) and caster sugar.
  15. Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently for 3 minutes.
  16. Remove from the heat and pour in the peach puree, then mix to fully combine.
  17. Allow the mixture to cool a little and then pour into each of the tartlet cases, using small glasses for any excess.
  18. Allow the mixture to cool and then place in the fridge to chill for 3 hours, so that the posset firms up completely.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Chocolate & Almond Battenburg

I saw a lovely video on Home Cooking Adventure for a Chocolate & Almond Battenburg cake.  Now Battenburg is an almond cake, in two colours, pink and yellow and covered with marzipan.  This version has chocolate as one colour and flavour and almond as the 'yellow' colour and flavour.  For the marzipan a chocolate and almond version was created too.  So this has the same checkerboard pattern, but with different colours and flavours.

The process was a bit messy, particularly for me, and you do have to trim the cakes, leaving you with leftovers to eat, but when it is complete it looks and tastes very good indeed.

The size of the quarters is dependent on how the cakes rise, as you have to trim them so that you have four quarters of equal size to be stuck together using apricot jam.  I am pleased to say that despite it being a messy process mine turned out very well and it tastes wonderful.
Chocolate & Almond Battenburg Cake

Chocolate & Almond Battenburg Cake - Video


For the cakes:
  • 170g softened unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 5g baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 30ml milk
For the almond batter:
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract
For the chocolate batter:
  • 16g cocoa powder
  • 30ml milk
  • 15g caster sugar
For brushing on the cakes:
  • 180g apricot jam, 
For the chocolate marzipan:
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 16g cocoa powder
  • 60g apricot jam, strained
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F
  2. Grease an 8 inch square cake tin and line with parchment paper, with an aluminium foil also covered in parchment paper to divide the tin into two.
  3. In a bowl mix the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt to combine.
  4. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine.
  6. Add the flour mixture gradually, adding the milk before the last addition of flour, and mix to combine.
  7. Divide the batter into two equal parts.
  8. Add the almond extract to one part and mix to combine.
  9. Mix the cocoa powder, milk and sugar to make a chocolate paste.
  10. Add the chococlate paste to the second half of the batter and mix to combine.
  11. Place the two batters into opposing halves of the cake tin and level off.
  12. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until a skewer poked into the centres comes out clean.
  13. Allow to cool for about ten minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  14. When cakes are completely cooled place trim the tops to flatten, and place one on top of the other and trim to equal size.
  15. Cut each in half lengthways.
  16. Place a strip of chocolate cake on a working surface, brush the top and sides with apricot jam and place an almond cake next to it. Repeat with the other strips of cake on top. Make sure to brush each with apricot jam.
  17. Prepare the almond paste. Place the almond flour (ground almonds), powdered sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl of a food processor. Grind to combine. Add apricot jam and almond extract and continue grinding until it comes together. Knead a bit into your hands to come together.
  18. Use a rolling pin to roll the marzipan between two sheets of parchment paper, into a thin layer.
  19. Cut the almond paste into a a  rectangle large enough to completely cover the cake on all sides, but not on the ends.
  20. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and place it top side down on the marzipan.
  21. Brush the remaining three sides with apricot jam.
  22. Tightly wrap the cake in marzipan.
  23. Trim the ends and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Chickpea Chocolate & Coconut Brownies

Watching some videos recently I was quite surprised at some of the things you can do with chickpeas.  One suggestion was to make brownies, using chickpeas instead of flour.  This sounded very interesting and I did some further investigations and watched some videos and they all seemed very good.

For my version I am using a combination of chocolate and cocoa powder and some coconut as well to give another lovely flavour.  

Most of the videos I watched used a blender to mix all the ingredients together, but that seemed to be a messy way of doing it, since having blended everything it is rather difficult to get it out and then the washing of the blender is a bit of a bind too.  So I decided that to mash the chickpeas I would use the processing attachment of my handheld immersion blender.  Then everything could be easily mixed together in a bowl.  I used some maple syrup as part of the wet ingredients.  I did consider golden syrup since I love that, but maple syrup worked very well.  Although I used a 9 inch square tin I am sure an 8 inch one or a 7x11 pan would do.  It would just mean a slightly difference in thickness to the brownies.

Just as an aside I want to mention that you can also use the water from the can of chickpeas to make meringue, instead of using egg whites.  I haven't tried that but I have watched a couple of videos where they do it and the meringues turned out great, nice and crisp.  

My brownies turned out very well.  I let the tin cool down completely before turning the bake onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Then I cut into squares for serving.  They certainly taste very good indeed,  moist and very chocolatey and the coconut flavour and texture is there too.  
Chickpea, Chocolate & Coconut Brownies

Chickpea, Chocolate & Coconut Brownies - Video

  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 100g butter, unsalted
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA), beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  • 60ml maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt, if desired
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/320F
  2. Line a 9x9 baking tin(8x8 or 7x11 would be fine too).
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water(or in a microwave oven, in short bursts).
  4. Mash the chickpeas to a fine pulp( I used my immersion blender with attachment).
  5. Add the chickpeas to the chocolate, in a large bowl, and mix to combine, ensuring it is all fully mixed in.
  6. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and maple syrup and mix.
  7. Add the cocoa powder and baking soda, and salt if using, and mix in.
  8. Add the coconut and mix until all is nicely combined.
  9. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and shake to make it spread evenly and reach all four corners.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until it is springy on top and a skewer in the centre is only slightly moist.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before removing onto a wire rack to firm up as the cooling finishes.
  12. Cut into squares to serve.