16 February 2018

STRAWBERRY BUTTER COOKIES

Butter cookies are usually found on every cookie platter for several reasons – they are delicious, and pretty much everyone loves them. These are completely egg-free, but they are still very soft, rich, buttery, and delicious, and perfect for the afternoon tea, or with a cup of caffè macchiato. They are also pretty amazing on their own, right off the baking trey, still slightly warm.
After chilling, the dough should seem just ever so slightly tacky, but should not stick to your hands, and you should be able to easily form little pink spheres. That being said, if you wish to make them more intense in colour, feel free to add more red food colouring, or on the other side, feel free to completely omit it, they will be just as good. If serving these to children, you can replace the liqueur with strawberry cordial (squash).


Ingredients
200 grams plain flour
120 grams icing sugar
4 levelled tablespoons cornflour
120 grams butter, softened
4 tablespoons freeze-dried strawberries
3 tablespoons strawberry liqueur
2 drops strawberry red food colouring

Preparation
Sift together the flour, icing sugar, and cornflour twice. Set it aside for the time being. Place the softened butter in a large bowl, add in the freeze-dried strawberries, and blend with an electric mixer on high, until the butter is smooth. Add the food colouring (if using), and blend really well. Sift in half of the dry ingredients, and mix with an electric mixer on low, until crumbly, then add the rest of the dry ingredients, along with the strawberry liqueur, and blend completely. The dough will look sticky at this point, but that is fine.
Cover the top with cling film, and place the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour. When ready to make the cookies, line a large cookie sheet with baking paper, take out tablespoons of chilled dough, and arrange them a few centimetres apart, because they will spread a bit whilst baking. If you want to have a flatter cookie, press them slightly with your palm. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F), for 10-12 minutes. They will be very soft when you take them out of the oven, but they will firm up and sink a bit as they cool down. Yields 20 cookies.

09 February 2018

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE

Four layers of rich chocolate cake, and three layers of gorgeous white chocolate ganache, as simple as that. To me, the most important part about cakes is that the layers cannot be dry, and the filling cannot be a solid block. And this cake is just the way it is supposed to be – fudgy, soft, and deliciously rich.
Chocolate ganache is one of the first fillings I encountered when I started to learn about baking, many years ago, and it has stayed one of my favourites. But, since white chocolate ganache is not as sturdy as its chocolate counterpart, I opt for adding in some butter, just to make it firmer.
All in all, a delicious little cake, perfect for small celebrations and gatherings. And this was actually the first cake I have ever made. I made it for my husband, for our second anniversary. Over the years, the recipe has changed, but the simple deliciousness and the appeal of soft cake layers and smooth filling has remained.


Ingredients
For the cake
350 grams plain flour
250 grams granulated sugar
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
350 grams vanilla yogurt
250 ml cold water
100 grams butter
50 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
100 grams dark chocolate
For the filling and frosting
600 grams real white chocolate
200 ml heavy cream
150 grams butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the decoration
100 grams dark chocolate


Preparation
For the filling, take a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Add in the diced butter, chopped up chocolate, and the heavy cream. Melt everything together slowly, stirring gently, and being very careful not to let the mixture burn. If necessary, lower the temperature, and keep stirring. It can take up to 15 minutes for everything to melt together and become smooth. When melted, remove it from the heat, and let it cool down to room temperature, then cover the top with the cling film, and place it in the refrigerator for an hour.
To make the cake layers, start by sifting together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda at least two times. Sift them into a large bowl, add in the sugar, and whisk really well, then set aside. Melt the butter, and let it cool down just slightly. Coarsely grate the dark chocolate, add it to the dry ingredients, and whisk. Pour in the yogurt and cold water, followed by the melted butter, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Whisk gently until everything is combined, but do not overmix it, because the cake will be tough and rubbery. Grease and flour four small round cake tins (15 cm), pour in the batter, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool down for about 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them, and let them cool completely on wire racks.
When the filling has firmed up, remove it from the fridge, add in vanilla, and beat with an electric mixer on high, until smooth, lighter in colour, and airy. Level the cooled cake layers if needed, and divide the filling in half. Set one half aside, and place the first layer on the serving platter. Frost the first layer with a portion of the filling, then continue filling and stacking the cake, making sure you leave a bit of the filling to do a crumb coat on the cake. Crumb coating is basically spreading a thin layer of frosting all over the cake, just to trap in any loose crumbs from the cake layers, and prevent them from showing up in the final frosting layer. After crumb coating the cake, place it in the refrigerator for an hour, or in the freezer for 30 minutes, so it can firm up.
Add the cocoa powder to the reserved filling, blend it well, then frost the entire chilled cake, and place it back into the refrigerator. To decorate it further, melt the dark chocolate, and evenly spread on top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Place the decorated cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Yields 12 servings.

02 February 2018

STRAWBERRY WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE

It's February, my favourite month of the year, and even though there isn't much snow, it's still winter, so we might as well treat ourselves with a lush strawberry white hot chocolate. As I have said before, in Europe, hot chocolate is served thick and made with real chocolate, sometimes even with a consistency of a custard, so it is always a real treat, especially if you use a high quality chocolate bar.
This is especially important when using white chocolate, as white compound chocolate is not something you want to use for this type of recipe. I generally tend to steer clear of them in all desserts, but beverages are really sensitive to the type and quality of chocolate you use, so find a good, real white chocolate bar, and enjoy this delicious pink hot chocolate. If you are serving this to the little ones, omit the strawberry liqueur.


Ingredients
500 ml whole milk
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
50 grams freeze-dried strawberries, crushed
100 grams real white chocolate
2 tablespoons strawberry liqueur

Preparation
Pour the majority of milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium-high heat. Pour the rest of the milk into a small bowl, then sift in the cornflour and the freeze-dried strawberries; whisk it very well, add in the dark brown sugar, and blend well. Once the milk has come to a gentle boil, pour in the cornflour mix, and cook it over medium-high heat, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. It will resemble a runny custard.
Once thickened, remove it from the heat, and immediately add in the chopped up white chocolate. Let it stand for a minute or two, so the chocolate starts to melt, then add the strawberry liqueur, and whisk vigorously until the chocolate has melted completely. Serve it hot, with some freshly whipped cream on top, and some dark chocolate shavings, if you wish. Yields 2 servings.

26 January 2018

CINNAMON FIG JAM

Figs are quite possibly my most favourite fruit. They are naturally sweet, and pair tremendously well with various breads, muffins, and even cheeses. That being said, when they are not in season, there is only one thing to do – have them dried, in the form of a marvellous jam.
Very easy to make, although it does require some time, because they need to be soaked overnight. After that, it all goes very quickly, starting with a light caramel, and ending with cinnamon, and vanilla, just as it should.


Ingredients
250 grams dried figs
500 ml tepid water
100 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Take each of the figs, remove the stems, then dice them into small pieces. The smaller the dice, the better. This will ensure they cook quicker, and that remain soft later on. Place the chopped up figs into a medium bowl, pour over the water, and let them soak overnight. Next day, when you are ready to make the jam, take a heavy-bottomed saucepan (lighter pans work best), add in the sugar, and gently shake the pan so the sugar distributes evenly. Place the sugar over medium-high heat, and let it cook, without stirring, until it caramelizes, and turns a deep amber colour. This may take up to 5-6 minutes, depending on your stove.
Once the caramel has formed, and the surface looks shiny, pour in the chopped up figs and all of the water that they didn’t absorb. Pour this in very carefully, as it will bubble up and possibly splatter. Let the mixture come up to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes. The figs will soften up, the caramel will melt, and the jam will thicken up. Once it thickens, remove it from the heat, sift in the cinnamon, add the vanilla, and mix very well. Let the jam stand for about 10 minutes, then pour into sterilized jars. Store in a cool and dry place. Yields 300 grams.

19 January 2018

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CHUNK FUDGE COOKIES

What better way to spend a snow day than baking cookies. And which cookie is particularly tasty with a cup of tea or coffee? Chocolate cookie! These lovely little cookies are very simple and easy to make, and very quick, too! From start to finish, you need about 30 minutes, or even less, and they are truly moreish.
As far as the chocolate goes, you can buy chocolate chunks or you can chop up an entire bar of chocolate into rough shards, and fold them through. The cookies may look a bit textured, but those large pieces of chocolate will melt during baking and be amazing and delicious once the cookies are out of the oven.


Ingredients
2 medium egg whites
200 grams icing sugar
50 grams dark cocoa powder
2 levelled tablespoons cornflour
200 grams dark chocolate chunks
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Preparation
Sift the icing sugar twice with the cocoa powder and cornflour, and set it aside. Beat the egg whites on high for a few minutes, until stiff peaks form. Sift in half of the dry ingredients, add the vanilla, coffee, and the chocolate, and combine everything gently with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Repeat this one more time, and blend only until it is combined.
Line a large cookie sheet with baking paper, take about a tablespoon of the batter and gently place it on the cookie sheet. Arrange the cookies about 5 cm apart, because they will expand as they bake. Bake them in a preheated oven at 175˚C (350˚F), for about 10-12 minutes. They will be very soft when you take them out of the oven, but after about a few minutes of cooling, they will be ready to be transferred to a wire rack. Yields 15 cookies.