Category Archives: Chocolate

Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake (2)

You’d think that with nearly five years of living in Bootle under my belt, I’d have learnt by now. But every Easter it’s the same. The urge to bake something sweet will usually strike me somewhere between my first bacon sandwich and the 3.00pm football kick off, and I’ll realise with a sinking feeling that I’ve not got nearly enough ingredients in my cupboards and all the local supermarkets are closed. Praise be then to the heathen cornershop at the end of my road. OK, so the women behind the counter usually scowl at me for slouching in there in my leggings with unwashed hair, and the produce there verges somewhere between ‘ropey’ and ‘inedible,’ but they’re usually stocked with butter, milk and bread, and you can buy two gigantic bars of Dairy Milk for a quid.

Hence this ‘Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake,’ a total bastardisation of Nigella Lawson’s classic Honey Chocolate Cake. Made out of various odds and ends, and a jar of delicious citrus infused honey that I managed to sneak home from Florida in my suitcase (Take that Richard Dawkins!) this is a seriously impressive little number. In the wrong hands, the combination of chocolate and honey could be decidedly sticky, but here, the combination of ingredients is perfectly balanced. I also loved the unique chocolate honey ganache which threatens to overwhelm the cake with sticky goop, but hardens into a gloriously shiny glaze.  The original version calls for you to make tiny bees out of marzipan, but I seriously lack both the patience and sugarwork skills to pull that kind of decoration trickery off. Instead,  I just bashed a Crunchie bar to bits with a rolling pin and sprinkled it over the top.

The end result is tasty, tangy and decidedly moreish – you need a lot of willpower to stop at just one slice.  It’s a testament to how good Nigella’s original recipe is that I made this with crappy chocolate and it still managed to be one of the best cakes I’ve baked in a very long time. With good quality ingredients, it’s sure to be sensational.

CHOCOLATE HONEY CAKE (Makes roughly 9 – 10 pieces)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

You will need

For the cake:

  • 100 g chopped milk chocolate (My preferred brand is Green & Blacks)
  • 275 g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 225 g soft butter
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (again, I prefer to use Green & Blacks, but any good quality cocoa will work well here)
  • 250 ml boiling water

For the icing:

  • 60 ml water
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 175 g milk chocolate
  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 1 Crunchie bar

Make It!

  1. Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature. While that’s happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl. You can either do this by zapping it in the microwave for a minute,  or by suspending the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF, and butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform cake tin. (Alternatively, I used a silicon baking tray I got from my local ASDA, and the cake turned out perfectly.)
  3. Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey. Add one of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Add the cocoa and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared tin. Cook for up to an hour and a half, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is catching cover the top lightly with foil and check every 15 minutes. (As a guide, mine was ready after an hour.)
  4. Let the cake cool completely for 45 minutes – 1 hour. While it’s chilling on the side, bash your Crunchie bar into small pieces. I find it’s quite cathartic to wrap it in a tea towel and beat the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin/EMPTY wine bottle.
  5. To make the glaze, bring the water and the rest of the honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes then whisk together. Sieve in the icing sugar (don’t skip this step, otherwise your icing will be horribly lumpy) and whisk again until smooth.
  6. Pour the icing over the chocolate cake and smooth it down the sides with a palette knife. Sprinkle the bits of crunchie bar over the top and leave to set for an hour – 2 hours prior to serving. This cake should last for seven days in an airtight container, but you’ll be lucky if it lasts for five minutes.
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Chocolate Dipped Gingerbread Marshmallows


Gingerbread Marshmallows

I love marshmallows. Making them feels like alchemy – taking all these everyday ingredients, boiling them in a gigantic pot and whipping them up into fluffy little candied clouds. However, like many things in life, the road to marshmallow perfection has been paved in gloopy disaster (including one trip to the local supermarket last week where I bumped into my next door neighbour, and she politely pointed out that I had gigantic dollops of congealed marshmallow in my hair and on the tip of my nose.)

After much, much trial and error, I have come to realise that you need three key things if you want to be a record breaker attain marshmallow perfection. These are:

  1. Egg whites: While I am sure that there are some fantastic marshmallow recipes out there that do not require egg whites, I’ve yet to find them. And every time I’ve attempted to make marshmallows without them, it’s left my kitchen looking as though it’s been attacked by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. As it is, they add a nice wobble to your finished product, and an even nicer level of structural integrity.
  2. Cornstarch and icing sugar: I nabbed this trick from the baking genius which is David Lebovitz. Dusting a silicon mould in a mixture of cornstarch and icing sugar helps to stop the mixture sticking too much, and makes it easier to cut once set. Rolling the finished squares in this also helps, as it helps to dry them out and make them easier to work with.
  3. Patience: Making marshmallows requires time, patience and a hell of a lot of swear words. They’re not exactly the kind of thing you can whip up at 8pm on a Wednesday evening to take into work the next day. Give yourself a good day or so to make these, and you will be richly rewarded.

Chocolate Gingerbread Marshmallows

As it is, my own spin on marshmallow perfection is a combination of methodology from the aforementioned David Lebovitz, Eat Like a Girl and Delicious magazine, and flavouring inspiration from Joy the Baker . I made this particular batch to support my entry in Hamburger Queen, a fantastic talent show for fat people (like myself) which also saw me donning a blonde wig and a blow-up sax and rolling around on a stage to Bryan Ferry’s Jealous Guy. While (sadly) I didn’t win (the winner made a truly amazing red velvet cake in the shape of Divine, and if that hadn’t won, I would have demanded a judge’s recusal) , these were consumed by both judges and audience members with almost indecent haste. Which, quite frankly, is reward enough for me.

Chocolate Gingerbread Marshmallows

CHOCOLATE DIPPED GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS (Makes 35 – 40 medium sized marshmallows)

You will need:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 120 ml cold water
  • 3 sachets (27 g) powdered gelatine
  • 440 g caster sugar
  • 160 ml golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp ginger cordial
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

For the dip

  • 100 g good quality dark chocolate
  • 7 – 8 gingernut biscuits

Make It!

  1. Dissolve the gelatine in the water and set to one side.
  2. Combine the caster sugar and golden syrup in a pan with 80ml water. Wipe down the sides of a pan with a wet pastry brush, so that the mixture doesn’t crystallise when you’re heating it. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up the heat until the mixture begins to boil. Monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer until it reaches 130°C. (Try not to take your eye off the pan, as it will get hot very quickly. If the mixture goes over 130°C, then it won’t set properly.) Take the pan off the heat and leave for a minute.
  3. While the sugar mixture is cooking, whip your egg whites (you’ll need a heavy duty mixer for this I’m afraid) with a pinch of salt until they become light and fluffy. Increase the speed of the mixer to high, before slowly and carefully pouring the hot sugar mixture into the bowl. (Try not to let it stick to the whisk or the sides of the mixer, as it’s a bugger to clean off afterwards.) Add the gelatine and flavourings, and continue to whip until the mixture is completely cool, and is forming stretchy bubblegum-like strands.
  4. Combine the cornflour and icing sugar in a bowl, and use it to dust a silicon baking tray until there are absolutely no bare spots. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the tray and leave it to set for 4 – 6 hours (preferably overnight if you have the time.)
  5. Once the marshmallows have set, dust a piece of baking paper with the leftover cornflour and icing sugar mixture, and remove from the baking tray. Slice them into squares with a lightly oiled palette knife, before rolling them in the mixture.
  6. Chop the dark chocolate into squares, and melt it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. Crush the gingernut biscuits either by wrapping them in a teatowel and bashing the living daylights out of them with a rolling pin, or by mashing them up in a pestle and mortar. Dip each of the marshmallows in the melted chocolate before sprinkling them liberally with the gingernut crumbs. Allow to set.
  7. These should keep for around a week, but quite frankly, it will be a miracle if they last that long.
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Chocolate Brown-Butter Muffnuts

Chocolate brown butter muffnut

One of the things I like best about my new working-from-home regime is the fact that I can act on my impulses. If I want soda bread for breakfast, I can just walk into the kitchen and make soda bread for breakfast. If I fancy a curry for lunch, all I need to do is avoid being knocked out by the jar of Madras paste when I attempt to dislodge it from the top of my (overstuffed) cupboard and whip one up during The World at One. So, when I was gripped an overwhelming urge for donuts on Monday afternoon (brought on by the sight of a Dunkin Donuts box in an episode of Orange is the New Black) I knew what I needed to do.

I am too much of a wuss to deal with bubbling pans of boiling oil on a weekday afternoon, so I turned to a baked doughnut recipe from Joy the Baker to cure my cravings. While some may see baked doughnuts as being a bit of a cop-out – particularly as they lack that delicious artery-clogging hit of hot fat and white sugar you get from the fried versions – they’re great for people like me who like to kid themselves that they are a ‘healthy option’. The only snag in my glorious plan was that Joy’s original recipe calls for a ‘doughnut pan’. I do not own a doughnut pan. I do not know anyone who owns a doughnut pan. In fact, prior to reading that recipe, I wasn’t even aware that doughnut pans existed. And I certainly wasn’t going to schlep all the way to Lakeland for a very specific item of bakeware. It was time to put my thinking cap on.

Muffnuts

So, I used what few lateral thinking skills I have retained from my time in the Girl’s Brigade, and decided to improvise. If you’ve been keeping abreast of the food media over the past week or so, you’ll have seen a lot of press about the ‘duffin,’ a doughnut-muffin hybrid which was created by Bea’s of Bloomsbury and has (rather naughtily) been trademarked by Starbucks.  I’m not going to say that this donut-muffin mishmash is my version of a ‘duffin’ as a) I don’t want to be sued by Starbucks and b) I much prefer the portmeanteau of ‘muffnut’ (plus, ‘muffnut’ just sounds dirtier.) What I will say is that these muffnuts are the perfect vehicle for a chocolate glaze and a shedload of sprinkles, and make a perfect 3pm high-tea treat. Oh, and if you have an incredibly childish sense of humour like me, they provide you with ample opportunity to make loads of jokes about your ‘muff’. Sorry Mum.

Topped Muffnuts

CHOCOLATE BROWN-BUTTER MUFFNUTS (Makes six ‘muffnuts’)

Adapted from Joy the Baker

You will need

For the Muffnuts:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 75g white sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Make It!

  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees c/gas mark 5. Lightly grease a muffin tray, and set to one side.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. The butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts. Once the water has evaporated, the butter will begin to brown quickly and smell nutty. Make sure that you keep an eye on it, as it can easily burn at this stage. Once it’s turned a rich brown colour, remove from the heat and immediately transfer (brown bits and all) to a small bowl.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, brown butter and vanilla essence.
  5. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir together until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are well combined. Try not to overmix the batter, as that will lead to rubbery muffnuts (and no, that’s not a euphemism.)
  6. Portion out the batter into each section of the muffin tray until they are all evenly filled. This batter should give you six large ‘muffnuts’.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until they have turned a rich golden colour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before gently (!) removing them and placing them onto a wire rack. (If you don’t have rack, a large plate will be fine.)
  8. While the doughnuts cool, make the glaze.
  9. To make the glaze, sift your icing sugar into a medium sized bowl to remove any lumps. Then, whisk it together with the cocoa powder, and salt.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla essence, and whisk to combine. If it looks too thick, add a touch more milk. You want the glaze to have a relatively thick consistency.
  11. Once the muffnuts are completely cool, dip top-side-down into the chocolate glaze. Return to the wire rack/plate. If you’re artistically minded, this is the time to cover them in sprinkles. Allow to set for about 30 minutes before stacking or serving. The muffnuts should last for 2 days, but quite frankly, you’ll be lucky if they last two hours.
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Chocolate Cobbler

Chocolate Cobbler mix

If you are anything like me, two thoughts will immediately occur to you when you first hear the phrase ‘chocolate cobbler’ – a) What’s a chocolate cobbler? and b) just how quickly can I get my hands on a chocolate cobbler? You may also find yourself repeating the phrase chocolate cobbler so many times that it begins to lose all meaning. That’s understandable, particularly when you discover that it is an oozing molten morass of chocolate goo with the consistency of a muddy bog and the taste of the best chocolate pudding you’ll ever find yourself guiltily eating the leftovers of for breakfast (not that I would know.)

Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a cobbler, as a cobbler traditionally tends to contain fruit or a pastry crust.  It’s more a self saucing pudding (a terminology which I always imagine being uttered by someone like Fanny Craddock in faux genteel tones) which means you crack through a layer of baked demerara sugar and butterscotch to reveal a steaming ocean of hot whisky-scented chocolate sauce. Why whisky you ask? Well, because when I was making this I discovered that I’d run of vanilla essence, so decided to put a shot of the hard stuff in there instead. And because I believe that most things work better when you stick a shot of spirits inside them. I imagine it would also work quite well with Tia Maria or Kahlua if your tastes run more towards the coffee side of things.

This is not a genteel pudding, or indeed a pudding which can be photographed beautifully and artistically (all of my attempts to take a picture of it in a bowl ended up making it look like a dirty protest.) However, it’s incredibly simple to make, infinitely adaptable (I used butterscotch chips here, but I imagine it would also work very well with sour cherries or bourbon soaked apricots) and – best of all – fantastic to eat. Happy cobblin’.

Chocolate cobbler

CHOCOLATE COBBLER (Serves 3)

Adapted from The Kitchn

You will need:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsps cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 shot of freshly brewed espresso (or 1 tsp espresso powder)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 100ml full fat milk
  • 100g melted unsalted butter
  • 1 shot of whisky (Black Grouse or Jameson’s would work well here – if you prefer to keep it teetotal, substitute for 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 150g butterscotch chips
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Make it!

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly grease a medium-sized baking dish.
  2. Combine the flour, white sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. In another bowl whisk together the milk, espresso, melted butter, and whisky. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine (the batter will be thick.) Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the demerara sugar and remaining tablespoon and a half of cocoa powder. Sprinkle the sugar-cocoa mixture evenly over the batter, followed by the butterscotch chips. Pour some boiling water over the top of the mixture until it is fully covered, but do not stir.
  4. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and cook for 40 minutes, until the center is jiggly and just barely set. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream.
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Chocolate-Baileys Ice Cream with Spiced Pecans for #bloggersscreamforicecream

Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream

“Christina,” said Mr. McMc after taking the first bite of the dessert I’d lovingly served up on Christmas Day. “Just how much Baileys in this ice cream?” “Oh, just 250ml,”  I said nonchalantly. “Why, is that a problem?” It turns out that I had put half a pint of rich, creamy booze in my frozen treat. As you do. Well, after all, it *was* Christmas.

I’ll level with you. This is not the type of ice cream which you should think about making and consuming if you’re planning on dieting next year. It contains two different types of chocolate, crunchy smokey-sweet pecans coated in a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and smoked paprika, and enough Baileys to fell a horse.  Rich, boozy and decadent, it’s a fairly ridiculous concoction devised after one too many sherries in the run-up to the festive season. It’s also my entry for December’s booze-themed Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge – a delicious last gasp of Christmas indulgence.

In some ways, this ice cream is the perfect emblem of my year of excess. After all, 2012 was the year I got married, turned 30, visited Berlin and New York and somehow only managed to lose my shit about all of this three times along the way (a perfect example of this being the Monday before my wedding where I ran laps around the outside of my office in a vain attempt to calm myself down.) While I wouldn’t change any of these experiences for the world, there’s a part of me that would like my 2013 to be slightly more sedate. I’m a firm believer in New Year’s Resolutions (although most of them tend to be broken by 6th January), and my ones for the next year mainly involve building upon the happiness and wonderful experiences which I was so lucky to have last year. If 2013 is even half as great as 2012, I’ll be a very happy person indeed.

But for now, enough self indulgence. There’s still ten hours left of 2012, and there’s baths to be had and booze to drink. For now, I wish you all a very happy New Year. Here’s to 2013 and whatever excitement and new experiences it holds.

Chocolate-Baileys Ice Cream with Spiced Pecans

CHOCOLATE-BAILEYS ICE CREAM WITH SPICED PECANS

For the Chocolate-Baileys ice cream (based loosely on David Lebovitz’s recipe for Chocolate ice cream in The Perfect Scoop)

You will need:

  • 500ml double cream
  • 150g high quality dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 150g high quality milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 250ml Baileys (If you’re not a raging boozehound like me, feel free to reduce this to 200ml)
  • 150g granulated white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the spiced pecans (recipe based loosely on this one from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 20g Muscovado sugar
  • 60g white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 150g pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water

Make It!

  1. First, place the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer and chill for 24 hours. (I know this sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve forgotten to do this and wept for all the delicious ice cream I could have made).
  2. While your bowl is chilling, make your custard. Warm 250ml of the double cream and the chopped dark chocolate together in a medium saucepan, whisking thoroughly to ensure that the two are thoroughly blended together.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped milk chocolate, stirring rapidly until the mixture turns smooth and glossy. Then stir in the remaining 250ml of cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a large sieve on top of the bowl.
  3. Warm the Baileys, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until they turn light and fluffy. Slowly pour the warm Baileys mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir the mixture constantly over a medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom while you stir so the mixture doesn’t stick. The custard is ready once it has thickened and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the chocolate mixture until it turns smooth, then stir in the vanilla.  Cover the bowl with a piece of greaseproof paper and leave it to cool for half an hour – this will prevent a skin forming. Them, pop it in the fridge overnight until it’s ready to churn.
  5. To make the spiced pecans: While your custard is chilling, make your spiced pecans. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add the pecans, and stir to coat evenly.
  6. Sprinkle your nuts with the sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet which has been covered with baking paper. Bake your pecans for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.
  7. Once you’re ready to make your ice cream, add the spiced pecans to the chocolate-baileys custard (the custard will be quite thick), and churn it according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
  8. Serve either on its own, or with a simple cake – this Almond & Cinnamon Cake from BBC Food complements it nicely.
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Momofuku Milk Bar’s Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies

Ah the joy of Bank Holidays. There’s something unequivocally British about them; with their awful weather, terrible TV and pathetic excuses for public transport. In true ‘English-person-with-their-head-in-the-sand’ style, Mr. Cay and I had planned to go to Southport for a day trip on Monday. My only prior experience of Southport has been an ill-advised family trip to a Pontins Holiday camp there when I was seven. I got into a fight with a bloke dressed as a giant crocodile and my brother got very bad stomach flu. To be honest, it was a miserable experience for everyone involved. But, I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt this time, mainly because I’d been led to believe that it was a place which served up excellent donuts and fish & chips, and also because it was only a 30 minute train journey from our house. Then the trains decided to go kaput. I’m not good with rail replacement services at the best of times, but especially not when I could be at home drinking wine and watching Dexter.

When life hands you a cancelled adventure, the only right and proper course of action is to make cookies. I’d been meaning to make Christina Tosi’s (of Momofuku Milk Bar fame) Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow cookies for a while, but had never gotten the chance. Despite my ridiculous girl-crush on her (hey, we bakers-called-Christina have to stick together) it seemed like a lot of faffing for a plateful of biscuits; all that cornflake-crunching, butter-creaming and dough resting, and going to the shops to buy skimmed milk powder. But with a spare day on my hands, and some serious book-writing-displacement-activity to indulge in, it seemed churlish not to at least give them a try.


And man, I’m glad I did. These cookies may just be the best cookies I’ve ever tasted in my life – a riot of tastes and textures. First, there’s the wonderful toffee notes of the (seriously addictive) cornflake crunch, followed by a hit of chocolate and wonderfully gooey melted marshmallows. Yes, it’s a sugar bomb, but it’s a sugar bomb which packs one hell of a punch. I took a batch of these into my office yesterday and couldn’t help feeling a note of pride when they were devoured in record time.

There are a few things to consider when you’re baking these though. First, mixing and resting the dough is vital. My trusty hand mixer actually conked out on me halfway through making these, causing me to curse £6 ASDA home baking equipment and pray for God to deliver me a KitchenAid for a wedding present. Secondly, don’t skimp on the dough when you’re portioning these out for baking. They spread out quite a bit when they’re baking, so if the balls of cookie dough aren’t large enough, they’ll be too thin and burn before you know it.

Other than that, I can’t think of a better way to waste an afternoon in a kitchen. Sorry Southport, nothing personal. But I think that this time, I got the better end of the deal.

CORNFLAKE CRUNCH

You will need:

  • 120g cornflakes (I used Crunchy Nut cornflakes)
  • 40g skimmed milk powder
  • 40g white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 130g unsalted butter, melted


Make It!

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Pour the cornflakes in a medium bowl and crush them with your hands to 1/4 of their original size. Add the milk powder, sguar, and salt and toss to mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act like a glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal and creating small clusters.
  3.  Spread the clusters onto a baking parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed.
  4. Cool the cornflake crunch completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep for one month.

CORNFLAKE-CHOCOLATE CHIP-MARSHMALLOW COOKIES (Makes 15-20 cookies)

Adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook

You will need:

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 270g Cornflake crunch
  • 125g chocolate chips
  • 65g mini marshmallows

Make It:

  1. Combine the butter and sugars in a bowl. Cream the two together with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat again for 7-8 minutes. Do not skip this part. This is a very important step to achieving the right consistency for Milkbar Cookies (If you’re lucky enough to own a KitchenAid, this is where it will come in handy. If you don’t, be prepared to develop some serious upper-arm muscles).
  2. Turn your hand mixer/stand mixer to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute (Don’t do it for any longer, or you  risk overmixing the dough). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
    Add the cornflake crunch and mini chocolate chips to the dough and mix for 30-45 seconds, until they are just incorporated. Add the mini marshmallows, and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. Portion out your dough into balls which are (roughly) the size of your fist onto a parchment lined sheet pan.  Don’t make them any smaller than this – if you do, they’ll be too thin, and won’t obtain that lovely chewy effect. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat, wrap the sheet tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature- they will not hold their shape.
  4. Heat your oven to 2oo degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Arrange the chlled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on a parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. At the 12 minute mark, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the center. Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or so if they aren’t and they still seem pale and doughy on the surface.
  5. Cool the cookies completely before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. At room temperature the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.
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Milk Chocolate Tart with Cherry Sorbet

It’s the last Friday of 2011, and, as is customary, I am currently sat in my pyjamas scoffing leftover Christmas chocolates and thinking about the events of the past year. 2011 has been a funny one for me. Whilst there’s been no deaths in the family, or even (bar Mr. Cay’s dodgy mouth) any major health scares, I’d  be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly glad to see the back of it. There’s been one too many mistakes and regrets for my liking – friends who turned out to be anything but, chances which I cocked up due to my own idiocy, loaves of elaborately sweetened bread which descended into mires of gloop. And let’s not mention the calimari I attempted to make last night which turned into a rubbery, soggy mess.

As it is, I’m immensely looking forward to 2012, with the blind idiocy of a person who is trying not to panic about just how much she has to accomplish over the course of the next twelve months. After all, it’s the year where I have to write a book, get married and turn 30 whilst attempting to retain my sanity amidst the chaos. I could panic about it all, but that would be pointless. As it is, tomorrow night I shall just raise my whisky glass, shout BRING IT ON WORLD! at midnight, and indulge in another slice of this Milk Chocolate Tart.

Prior to making this, I’d never had much luck with tarts. The pastry always turned out to be too soggy, or cracked, or just couldn’t handle the strain of a huge custard filling. But then I turned to that guru of all things baked, Dan Lepard. And what do you know, I think I may have finally gotten to grips with this whole ‘pastry’ lark.

The recipe for this Milk Chocolate Tart is based (very loosely) on his Pecan Crusted Bourbon Chocolate Tart. There, he suggests chilling the dough twice, which helps to keep it firm, and reduces shrinkage whilst baking. Because it’s the season to get down and get merry, I added a good shot of Black Grouse whisky to the Milk Chocolate custard. Black Grouse is a peated malt with overtones of caramel, sugar and a slight hit of smoke – and is just the thing to cut through the sweetness of so much chocolate.

The cherry sorbet is also a must when you’re serving this – its sharpness perfectly compliments the tart. Indeed, I quite enjoyed just eating it on its own – scooping it out of the tub with a big spoon when no one was looking. All in all, this is a dessert to savour –  a small slice of indulgence to enjoy whilst you’re seeing out the old year and welcoming in the new. Happy New Year (and, because I don’t say it often enough, thank you for continuing to read Little Red Courgette!)

MILK CHOCOLATE TART WITH A CHERRY SORBET (Serves 8-10 slices)

Milk Chocolate Tart adapted from a recipe by Dan Lepard

You will need:

For the Milk Chocolate Tart

  • 125g plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk

For the filling

  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 400g good quality milk chocolate, chopped (I used a combination of Green & Blacks, and Lindt)
  • 75g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 50ml whisky

For the cherry sorbet

  • 400g cherries, washed and de-pitted (be careful when you’re de-pitting your cherries – I did it by squishing them and my kitchen ended up looking like the scene of a particularly brutal murder)
  • 200g white sugar
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest and juice of a lemon

Make It!

    1. Sift the flour and caster sugar into a bowl. Cut up the butter, add to the flour mixture and rub in with your fingertips until any lumps vanish.  Mix the egg yolk with a teaspoon of ice-cold water and add it to the bowl until a soft dough forms. Pat into a flat slab, cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge until firm (this should take around 20 – 30 minutes).
    2. When you’re ready to roll, let the dough soften for five to 10 minutes at room temperature until pliable, then roll it out thinly on a floured surface (if you don’t own a rolling pin, you can use a floured empty wine bottle to do this). Line a tart tin with the pastry, then place the tart case in the fridge until it firmed.
    3. Press a sheet of  greaseproof paper weighed down with baking beans against the base and side, bake at 170C (150C fan-assisted)/335F/gas mark 3 for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and bake for 10 minutes more.
    4. For the filling, heat the cream until boiling, remove from the heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add the chocolate and butter, stir until both have melted, then stir in the whisky. Leave to cool until lukewarm, then beat the mixture slightly until it turns thick and gooey. Pour into the pastry case and chill until set.
    5. For the sorbet: Place the cherries in a large bowl and macerate them with the side of a spoon until the flesh has turned pulpy. Put the cherries, sugar, water, lemon zest and vanilla essence in a heavy based, high sided saucepan . Place over a low to medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat slightly and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly (be careful whilst doing this – the mixture will bubble up very quickly once it reaches boiling point). Squeeze over the lemon juice and stir to combine.
    6. Place the sorbet mixture into an ice cream machine, and churn for around 30 minutes until the mixture has firmed up, yet is still slightly slushy when prodded with a fork. Place in the freezer until ready to serve.
    7. Serve the tart and the sorbet together with a large shot of your favourite poison.
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Chocolate Chestnut Meringue Cake

Birthdays. Like Starbucks coffee, Harry Potter and the musical oeuvre of Lady Gaga, I have always found them to be slightly overrated. The only birthday I’ve ever really found myself getting excited about was my 21st which started with me drinking too much champagne on a train to Newcastle, and ended with me falling arse over tit down a hill whilst dressed as a PacMan ghost. Unfortunately, seeing as I’m turning the grand old age of 29, I fear I may be too old for that kind of thing nowadays.

As it is, I have learnt to lower my expectations when it comes to the annual celebration of the day of my birth. After all, what are birthdays but just another day – albeit another day where your parents call you up to cry and tell you the story of your birth (I was two weeks late, had to be pulled out with a pair of forceps, and the consultant told my Mum off because I’d made him miss Coronation Street). The best thing about the whole affair in my opinion is that they give you an excuse to legitimately drink during the day (I like to do my daytime drinking in the bath fact fans) and eat cake. Lots and lots and lots of cake.

Lets face it – most birthday cake is rotten. It’s usually too dry, covered in globs of disgusting buttercream and tastes like a one way ticket to a hypoglycemic coma. In my opinion, it’s high time it had a makeover. And what better way to reinvent the birthday cake by turning it into a Chocolate Chestnut Meringue Cake?

This cake is everything a dessert should be – a rich, flourless chocolate truffle cake topped with a firm, chewy, toothsome meringue. I had a tube of Créme de Marrons (aka sweetened Chestnut paste) that I’d found being sold for 99p in my local deli so I decided to throw that into the mix as well – lending the cake a nice nutty sweetness which cut through the denseness of the chocolate. I also finally relented and finally invested in a hand mixer which I found being sold for £6.00 in my local ASDA. Seriously people, if you don’t own one of these, I highly suggest that you go out and buy one as soon as you can. They’re amazing. All I want to do now is meringue the shit out of everything in sight.

As it is, I’ll just be content to bask in the gorgeous meringue joy of this cake instead – a cake which tasted pretty bloody good half an hour out of the oven, and even better the next day when all the flavours had melded together to form a slice of fudgey chocolatey delight. Birthdays may be overrated, but this cake certainly isn’t.

CHOCOLATE CHESTNUT MERINGUE CAKE

Adapted from Tartelette

You will need

For the cake:

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 130g firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 200g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% Cacao), melted and cooled
  • 80g Chestnut Puree
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • A pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 150g white sugar

Make It!

Bake that cake

  • Cream the butter and brown sugar until pale and smooth. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of your bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla essence, chestnut puree, rum and salt. Mix well until fully combined combined.
  • In a clean mixer bowl, beat the 6 egg whites until they have turned fluffy and soft peaks can be formed on top. Fold one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture and combine well. Fold in remaining egg whites, pour the cake batter into a well greased cake tin, and bake 25 minutes on Gas Mark 4/180 degrees centigrade. The cake is done when it looks  as though it has only just firmed up – don’t worry if a skewer doesn’t come out clean so long as it’s not too gloopy with uncooked batter.

Slam that meringue:

  • Combine the chopped chocolate and cornflour in a small bowl, and set aside. Place remaining 4 egg whites in a clean mixer bowl and beat with a hand mixer on a high speed until they turn thick and frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.

Assemble and Finish:

  • Remove cake from oven. Using a large offset spatula, spread meringue mixture on top of cake using as little strokes as possible not to deflate the meringue, and return to oven. Bake for around 25 to 30 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned and crisp, Let the cake cool for around 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.

Rocky Road Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of those things which has gotten me through many of the major disappointments of my life. When I was five years old, and had been badly stung by a jellyfish whilst swimming in the sea on Miami Beach, my Bubbie held my hand and promised me that if I was a good girl, and didn’t cry, she’d buy me the world’s biggest sundae afterwards. I have a vivid memory of my Dad waving a dripping ice cream cone in my face in an attempt to coax me out from underneath a table when I refused to get my BCG injections. Back in 2004, after a very bitter break-up with one of my ex boyfriends, I’d frequently sit on top of Greenwich Point moping and eating Mint Cornettos. To put it bluntly, when I’m feeling sad, I tend to each for the Ben & Jerry’s.

So, cut to last Sunday. I’ve spent my Summer swathed in a fug of minor annoyances; a situation not helped by the fact that recently, Liverpool has been experiencing almost monsoon like weather conditions. I am (unsurprisingly) hungover, having spent the previous day overindulging at the Liverpool Whisky Festival (which led to me waking up fully clothed on my bed at 1am, cursing the person who invented Lagavulin).  I have just experienced a terrifying trip to ASDA which was playing the theme to Twin Peaks whilst I shuddered in the milk aisle, and was full of screaming children. I look at the ice cream maker currently taking up space in my living room and decide there’s only one thing for it. It’s time for me to drown my sorrows in frozen emulsified fat.

Last month, the nice people at Cuisinart were kind enough to send me one of their Ice Cream Deluxe makers which, I’m ashamed to say, sat in the corner of my living room for far longer than it should have. I was too scared to open the box, and allow it to wreak havoc on my (already larger than it should be) waistline. But, me being me, I’d been contemplating all of the delicious things I could make it with it. Should I combine chocolate with salted caramel to create a salty-sweet treat? Or perhaps I should swirl it with peanut butter? Maybe vanilla studded with popping candy would work? After some deliberation, I finally settled upon a Rocky Road ice cream, studded with large chunks of marshmallow and digestive biscuit.

The chocolate base for this ice cream comes from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop – which is the bible for all things sweet and frozen. Rich, decadent and almost overwhelmingly chocolatey, it’s the perfect accompliment to the sweet squidgeyness of the marshmallows and the crunch of the digestive biscuits. Because of its richness, you don’t need a lot of it – I found that a ramekin sized portion was just enough to satisfy my cravings.

This ice cream didn’t cure my hangover, or cure any of my problems, but it did make me feel a little bit happier and a little bit more content with my lot.  If you use the best chocolate you can afford when you make this, you’re sure to adore it too.

ROCKY ROAD ICE CREAM

Inspired (yet again) by David Lebovitz

You will need:

  • 500ml double cream
  • 3 tablespoons high quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 150g high quality milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 240ml full fat milk
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 Digestive biscuits
  • A large handful of mini marshmallows

Make It:

  1. First, bash your digestives – you can do this by sticking them in a carrier bag and whacking the living daylights out of them with a rolling pin. I suggest doing this when you are a) very pissed off and b) there’s no one else around. It’s rather cathartic.
  2. Warm 250ml of the double cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped milk chocolate, stirring rapidly until the mixture turns smooth and glossy. Then stir in the remaining 250ml of cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a large sieve on top of the bowl.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly with a hand mixer, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (if you have a candy thermometer, it’s ready when it reaches 170°F). Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the chocolate mixture until it turns smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Pop it in the fridge for an hour or two until it’s chilled.
  5. Once the custard is ready, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  (As a guide, I churned my mixture for half an hour). Add the marshmallows and the bashed digestives right towards the end of the churning process – I didn’t do this, and kept staring into the machine terrified that the motor was going to burn out due to an excess of synthetic fluffy goodness. Once the churning has stopped,  pop it in the freezer for two hours until firm.
  6. Serve with extra marshmallows and (if you have any) hot fudge sauce.
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Dense Chocolate-Rum Cake

I’m really up against it at the moment. My life is full of work, deadlines, stress – that toxic brew which leads to me waking up each morning feeling as though my jaw has been clamped in a vice because I’ve been clenching it so hard in my sleep. And that’s without the psychic swipes I keep taking at myself for not blogging as often as I should. In such circumstances, there’s only one thing for it. I need to bake.

When some people get stressed, they go and hit a punching bag.  For others, the only way to work off their malaise is to go for a five mile run, or drink a tumbler full of whiskey and get into a fight. My personal release valve is none of these things. Indeed, I only feel that awful yoke of anxiety lift from my shoulders when I’m in the kitchen creaming eggs and sugar together, or thumping the living daylights out of a huge lump of dough whilst singing along to the radio. I come alive when I bake. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me.

So, last Sunday, I shoved my to-do list and my worldly cares to one side, broke out the chocolate, and decided to make a cake. A ‘Dense Chocolate-Rum Cake’ to be exact. It was supposed to be a straight up recreation of Nigella Lawson’s famous Dense Chocolate Loaf, but circumstances contrived to work against me. So, I decided to (for want a better term) ‘freestyle’ a bit. I’ve replaced the vanilla essence she uses in her recipe with dark rum (because hey, show me a person that doesn’t like rum) and I used Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans because it was just what I had in my fridge at the time.

The end result was magnificent – rich and delicious, with a dense consistency and an almost treacle flavour. The slight hint of coffee and rum complemented the dark chocolate perfectly, and it almost reminded me of a very grown up version of Parkin. Both myself and Mr. Cay ate huge slices of this with a vanilla spiked cream and a nice mug of builder’s tea, and suddenly all was right with the world.

This cake won’t write my work reports for me, blog for me, or even be accepted by my debtors in lieu of payment. But, when I’m eating it, it does make the world feel that little bit brighter. Even if it is only for five minutes.

DENSE CHOCOLATE-RUM CAKE (Makes 6-8 medium sized portions)

Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson

You will need:

  • 225 g salt soft unsalted butter
  • 375 g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 large glug of dark rum
  • 100 g best dark chocolate, melted (I used Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar for a nice coffee kick)
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Make It!

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5. Grease and line a 23x13x7cm cm (9x5x3in) loaf tin (or, alternatively, you can use a silicon baking dish). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and rum, beating in well.
  2. Next fold in the melted and cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but do not overbeat.
  3. You want the ingredients combined: you don’t want a light airy mass. Gently add the flour, to which you’ve added the bicarb, alternately spoon by spoon, with 250 ml of boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter.
  4. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3 and cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won’t come out completely clean.
  5. Place the loaf tin on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. It improves if left for a day or so before eating. This cake will probably sink in the middle because of its denseness.
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