23 June 2017

FERRERO ROCHER CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKE

Today calls for celebration with cake! As one would need a special occasion to eat cake. But, nonetheless, today we celebrate with a loaded Nutella, chocolate, and Ferrero Rocher cake. It is as delicious as it is gorgeous. Four layers of pure delicious goodness.
You can keep my minimalist decoration, or you can go over the top, and add additional Ferrero Rocher candy, Hanuta pieces, and those miniature jars of Nutella, if you can find them. For me, though, this was perfect.
The reason behind not pressing the truffle layer on the one, but instead gently layering it by spoonfuls, is to keep its texture. If you press it in, you risk making it denser, like a spread. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the texture we want here. And finally, to slice the cake, pour some hot water into a jug, place in a thin blade knife, dry if off, then carefully slide it through all of the layers.


Ingredients
For the crunchy Ferrero Rocher base
200 grams hazelnut wafers
8 Ferrero Rocher candies
200 grams Nutella, softened
For the chocolate Nutella layer
100 grams cooking chocolate
2 tablespoons Nutella, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the milk chocolate truffle layer
300 grams milk chocolate
250 ml heavy whipping cream
100 grams Ferrero Rocher crumbs
100 grams dark chocolate, roughly grated
For the dark chocolate truffle layer
300 grams extra dark chocolate
250 ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons dark rum
For the decoration
100 grams cooking chocolate
8 Ferrero Rocher or Ferrero Rondnoir


Preparation
Start by lining a round cake ring (15 cm) with acetate, for an easier cake removal. Make sure the acetate strip is tall enough for you to pour in the fillings. Once you have prepared the pan, crush the wafers and Ferrero Rocher in a food processor, or by hand, but do not crush them too finely, leave a variety of crumb sizes, it will make the texture of the base better. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl, and add the softened Nutella. Stir gently in the beginning, then, as it starts coming together, you can stir more vigorously. Do not worry if the base seems to be a tad soft, it will firm up in the refrigerator. Once the base is done, place the cake ring on the serving platter, and press it in. It will be sticky, but be patient with it, and it will spread out evenly. Set the base aside and start making the fillings.
To make the fudgy chocolate layer, melt the chocolate over very low heat, along with the heavy cream. Keep stirring it as it melts, so it does not burn. Once melted, remove it from the heat, and let it cool down a bit, then stir in the Nutella. Keep stirring until it melts completely, then pour it over the base layer, and place the platter in the refrigerator.
Next, make the chocolate mousses. The preparation is the same for both of them. Chop up the dark chocolate, and the milk chocolate, and place them into separate medium bowls. Pour the heavy cream in two heavy-bottomed saucepans, and let it almost come to a boil. It needs to just be hot enough to melt the chocolate. Remove the cream from the stove, and pour it over the chocolate in the bowls. Let it stand for a minute, then mix it well with a spatula.
Once they are almost at room temperature, place both bowls in the refrigerator to help it cool down almost completely. Take a hand–held mixer and beat the milk chocolate Ganache, on the highest setting for a few minutes, until it becomes smooth and creamy. Add in the Ferrero Rocher crumbs, and the grated chocolate, and blend well. Take the base out of the refrigerator, and drop in the chocolate filling by the spoonful onto the base, gently shaking the platter to evenly distribute it, smooth the top, and place it back in the refrigerator. Repeat the mixing procedure with the dark chocolate Ganache, whipping it up with the icing sugar, and the rum, until it becomes lighter in colour. Very carefully drop it by the spoonful onto the dark chocolate mousse, smooth the top, and return it to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Once the cake is ready, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave, let it cool down ever so slightly, then drizzle it on top of the cake, and down the sides. Place the Ferrero Rocher on the top of the cake, so each slice has a candy on top. Add your centrepiece in the centre of the cake, if using, or decorate it further with some additional chocolate shavings, pieces of Hanuta, or Ferrero Rondnoir. Keep the cake refrigerated until serving time. Yields 8 servings. © TINA VESIĆ

16 June 2017

FUDGE BROWNIE TRUFFLES

Brownies are one of the most forgiving desserts of all. They almost never include a lengthy preparation process, or a complex gadget. For most recipes, you only need one bowl, and one spatula. These gorgeous little truffles start with a fudge brownie base, and are enriched by homemade fudge sauce, rum, and hazelnuts. Basically, a winning combination in every way.
As with every brownie recipe, do not overmix the batter, and do not overbake them. They will be somewhat thin after they bake, so keep an eye on them, and check them with a toothpick, so that they remain fudgy and dense.
For this recipe I used my homemade chocolate syrup, but you can use a store-bought fudge sauce, too, as long as it is a tad runny. If it has thickened in your refrigerator and has a consistency of a chocolate spread instead of sauce, microwave it for a few seconds to loosen it up a bit, then proceed with the recipe as written.


Ingredients
For the brownies
180 grams plain flour
150 grams granulated sugar
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
180 ml cold water
180 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon dark rum
For the truffles
120 grams chocolate sauce
1 tablespoon dark rum
50 grams toasted hazelnuts, roughly ground
5 tablespoons heavy cream

Preparation
Start by making the brownies. Take a large bowl, sift in the flour and the cocoa powder, then whisk everything really well. Add in the sugar, and whisk everything again. Pour in the water and oil, then add the rum and vanilla bean paste. Whisk until well blended. Take a baking pan (23x33 cm), grease it well, and pour in the batter. The batter will be thick, so level it as much as you can. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F) for about 18-20 minutes. Check them with a toothpick, because if they overbake, they will be dry. Once they are done, let them cool almost completely, but not in the refrigerator. Letting them cool down at room temperature will make them easier to blend well with other ingredients.
Crumble up the brownies into a large bowl, then add in the fudge sauce, rum, and heavy cream. Mix it briefly, then add the hazelnuts, and mix with a wooden spoon, or a sturdy spatula, until the mixture forms into a soft and pliable dough. If the batter seems to be too soft for your liking at this point, you can place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or you can proceed to make truffles. The softer the batter, the smoother and creamier the final truffles are. Take out tablespoons of the batter, roll them into little spheres, and arrange them on a serving platter. Top with more of the fudge sauce, and serve. Yields 35 truffles.

09 June 2017

JAFFA CAKES FUDGE BROWNIES

Brownies, as you know, can be cakey or fudgy. And although those big, fluffy, cakey brownies we all find in stores do look really nice, really nothing beats a fudge brownie. These are so fudgy, and so flavourful, yet they do not have any butter, nor eggs. The base of this recipe is the simple, staple, good-for-everything applesauce. It replaces majority of the fat in this recipe, so if you are looking for a dessert of that type, look no more.
Whenever I write about brownies, I feel I need to emphasize how important it is not to overmix the batter, and not to overbake them. If you overmix the batter once you add the flour, that will create a cakey texture in the finished product, and that is not how these should turn out.
Another thing to keep in mind is the baking time. The true nature of chocolate brownies is to be soft and fudgy, so make sure you test them with a toothpick. They will continue to cook even after you remove them from the oven, so do not leave them in for longer than necessary, as they will turn out dry.
And, of course, as brownies are one of those desserts that are always better the next day, my suggestion would be to carefully wrap these up in baking paper, then in cling film, and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. That way they will firm up, and they will be much easier to cut and serve, not to mention gorgeously fudgy.


Ingredients
250 grams unsweetened applesauce
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
300 grams granulated sugar
120 ml cold water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
250 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams Jaffa cakes
100 ml heavy whipping cream
additional Jaffa cakes, for decorating

Preparation
Take a large bowl and add in the applesauce, then sift in the unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix it well with a spatula, by folding the cocoa powder through the applesauce. Tip in the granulated sugar, and mix well with a spatula. The batter will become looser at this point, and that is fine. Add in the cold water and the oil, and mix again. Sift in the flour and the baking soda, then fold everything through gently. The batter will be somewhat thick, but spreadable. Take a rectangular pan (23x30 cm; 9x13"), butter and flour it, then pour in the batter, and smooth it out as much as possible. Take the Jaffa cakes and press them into the brownie batter. You may need to cut some of them in half to fit them on the brownie surface.


Bake in a preheated oven, at 170°C (340°F), for 18-20 minutes. Check it with a toothpick, to make sure they are done. There should be only a few moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick. If you overbake the brownies, they will be dry and crumby. Once done, remove them from the oven, and let them cool down to room temperature. You can serve them at that point, or you can wrap them in baking paper and cling film, and place them in the refrigerator overnight. Just before serving, whip up some heavy cream, place a dollop onto each brownie, and top with some additional Jaffa pieces. Yields 20 brownie pieces. © TINA VESIĆ 2017

02 June 2017

POMEGRANATE PAVLOVA

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert, with a crisp outside and a soft, light, marshmallow-like inside, usually topped freshly whipped cream, and fruit. It is incredibly easy to make, yet so elegant, and, more importantly, delicious.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when making this cake. First of all, use a metal or glass bowl that has absolutely no traces of grease in it. Any amount of grease can cause the egg whites not to whip up properly. Also, do not overbeat the egg whites, because they will deflate.
Finally, the baking and cooling. Pavlova is very fragile, and you have to pay additional attention to it. Bake it in a low oven for the required time, then turn the oven off, and slightly open the oven door, thus leaving the cake to cool down gradually.


Ingredients
For the meringue
2 medium egg whites
150 grams granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ tablespoon cornflour (corn starch)
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
150 ml heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small pomegranate (arils only)


Preparation
Place the egg whites into a large glass bowl (metal also works well), and whisk with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Once the egg whites hold stiff peaks, start adding in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating really well after each addition, until the meringue looks glossy.
Sift in the cream of tartar, cornflour, and vanilla, and mix them in with a wire whisk. Take a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, and place the meringue in a circle, about 12 cm in diameter. The meringue should not expand that much as it bakes.


Once you place all of the meringue on the baking sheet, use a spoon to make a crater in the centre of it. Bake the meringue in a preheated oven, at 100°C (220°F), for an hour, then turn the oven off, and open the oven door just a little, so the meringue can cool down gradually. This will prevent the sinking of the cake.
When the meringue is ready, whip the heavy cream with the vanilla, until soft peaks form, and spread it on top of the cake. Finally, top everything off with pomegranate arils, and serve. Yields 4 generous servings.

26 May 2017

BACON CHEDDAR BISCUITS

Biscuits are a very versatile food. You can make them big or small, sweet or savoury. They are always a great finger food and a fantastic canapé base. This dough is soft and fluffy and pretty simple to make. The addition of yogurt makes it stay fresh even the next day, and the bacon makes them a great breakfast item with your favourite yogurt or dipping sauce.
One important thing to keep in mind is to drain off as much fat as possible from the cooked bacon. You don't have to discard it, of course, you can save it for cooking, but make sure you leave the bacon on paper towels for at least 5 minutes before crumbling it. You can crumble (or dice) the cooked bacon as roughly or finely you like, it will not change the texture or flavour of the biscuits.


Ingredients
400 grams soft bread flour
200 ml yogurt
3 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
100 ml hot water
100 ml olive oil
200 grams bacon
50 grams white Cheddar, finely grated

Preparation
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat, until cooked through, evenly browned, and crispy. Transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels, to absorb some of the fat. Crumble the bacon, or chop it finely, and let it cool down slightly. Finely grate the Cheddar and set it aside. Take a large bowl and sift in the flour, add the yeast and mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt with the oil and the hot water. This will make the mixture warm enough to get the yeast activated. Stir it roughly with a wooden spoon, add the chopped bacon and Cheddar, then knead with your hands, until you get a soft dough that doesn't stick.
Transfer the dough to a well floured surface and knead it by hand for 5 more minutes, to make it elastic. Add a tablespoon or two of flour more, if needed, but do not add more than that, because you will end up with tough biscuits. Put it in a warm spot for about an hour to rise, then transfer it to a floured surface and roll it out to about 1 cm thickness, and cut out 5 cm wide biscuits. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, and let them rest for about 30 minutes. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for 12-15 minutes. Serve warm. Yields 45 biscuits.