Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gingerbread village





My sister was visiting this week, which I thought would be a great excuse to construct an elaborate village out of gingerbread. I had made the single gingerbread cottage last year, but it had felt so lonely and isolated, I decided I needed to ramp it up to an entire neighbourhood this time. There were minor glitches along the way, I lost a ring when I took it off to roll dough - and had to take a break from baking for 2 hours to search for it (I have yet to find it). Also I splashed a bit of caramel on myself whilst sticking the gingerbread pieces together sustained minor burns. Alas, that is the price one must pay for edible housing.
I used the same recipe as last time, but added some caramel windows (Heat caramel till dark brown, then pour over greaseproof paper and let it cool. You can then break off pieces and stick them inside the gingerbread house so they cover the window holes.)



It's difficult to see in the light, but in the dark you can see the fairy lights inside the houses lighting up the windows as above.

I changed the template slightly so the houses were smaller, as I was making more than one. I also added a icing snowman, some pine cones, and cinnamon stick logs.




Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lime and Coconut Macarons




I can't believe how long it has taken me to post this, the last couple of months have been so busy that today was the first day in a long while that I didn't have to set an alarm to wake up. Of course I've been used to getting up so early that I just woke up at 8.30am regardless. Anyway, this was yet another macaron experimentation, I also recently made vanilla and olive oil macarons à la Pierre Hermé, but since I rushed to make them in a rare hour I actually had free (a personal record on how quickly I could make them) I had no time to take pictures, and will try to remake them at some point.



For the shells:
90 gr egg whites - separated 2 nights before
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr icing sugar
73 gr almonds
37 gr coconut shreddings

Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Add the food colouring and continue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, coconut shreddings and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds.
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.



For the lime buttercream:
115 gr icing cream
55 gr butter, softened
2 tablespoons lime juice
Zest from 1 lime

Beat the butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the icing sugar. Add the lime juice and zest.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chocolate Ice Cream



I realise it may seem ridiculous that I have waited till the end of summer to try making ice cream, but really this is an intentional move as part of my greater agenda that ice cream has no season or weather, it can be made and eaten at any time. Until now the greatest impediment to this noble vision for me has been the lack of an ice cream maker in my kitchen (I still have no idea why I didn't just buy one). Anyway, about a month ago I stumbled upon this recipe on Cafe Fernando which resolved this gaping, ice-cream-maker-shaped hole in my life. 


I should clarify that this a denser and creamier ice cream than what you will be used to, which makes it unquestionably superior. It also melts very easily, so must be eaten as soon as served - which was not a problem based on multiple observations. However, if it does melt, you can put it right back in the freezer and regain the same product because it doesn't get icy when frozen (which is why you don't need an ice cream maker to make it).

Although not a difficult recipe, my attempts to make it were plagued with minor catastrophes like missing ingredients, cream having gone bad, and the forgetting of the pan on the stove to burn while trying to deal with the cream issue. There was a point of unbearable despair and then finally success! (I can't remember how many attempts later that was)

The crucial ingredient in this recipe is the cornstarch, as it acts as the thickening agent. If your ice cream ends up being too solid, either reduce the amount of cornstarch or cook it for a shorter period. The original recipe called for 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat, but 4-5 minutes on low-medium heat was enough for me.



Ingredients:
1 can (400 grams) sweetened condensed milk
180 grams whole milk
175 grams heavy cream
170 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
25 grams cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or two tablespoons freshly-brewed espresso)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of fine sea salt
12 grams cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

In a heavy-bottomed large pan, whisk sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and heavy cream until combined. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Take off heat and add the finely-chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk (using an electric whisk) until the chocolate melts and the cocoa powder is completely dissolved.

Mix cornstarch and cold water in a bowl with a fork until completely dissolved, and add to the ice cream base. Whisk until combined.

Place the pan over low-medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, scraping the sides and the bottom of the pan to prevent burning, until thickened, for 4-5 minutes. Note that the consistency should still be very much liquid, if it gets thick like pudding you have waited too long.

Transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside, uncovered, to cool for half an hour. Don't worry if a skin forms on top. When the bowl is cool enough to handle, cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly--preferably overnight--in the refrigerator.

Before transferring the chilled ice cream to the freezer, stir or whisk to dissolve the skin on top and scrape into a container. Cover with plastic, this time pressing the wrap against the ice cream to create an airtight seal; put the lid on (or cover with an additional layer of plastic wrap) and freeze until firm enough to scoop.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

White chocolate and raspberry macarons


I wanted to make some brightly coloured macarons but wasn't sure which fruit to go for. I initially tried to make cherry icing, which I didn't like. So instead of ruining the perfect shells with a not so nice filling I decided to try making a white chocolate and raspberry ganache, which was delish. I used raspberry jam to make it as I didn't have fresh raspberries at hand, but I think those would be a nice substitute.

For the shells:

90 gr egg whites - separated the night before
30 gr granulated sugar
220 gr icing sugar
110 gr almonds
red food colouring

Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Add the food colouring and continue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.




For the ganache:

80g whipping cream
100g white chocolate
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
red food colouring (optional)

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until boiling, then add to the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the raspberry jam, and a couple of drops of food colouring should you so choose. 



Monday, June 11, 2012

Homemade chocolates with gianduja and caramelized almond filling



The best thing about making chocolates at home is the leftover melted chocolate, which obviously it would be a crime not to spoon. The key disadvantage is that you end up with chocolate all over the place - up to your elbows. Or maybe it's just me. I've also never been able to eat ice cream in a cone without eliciting points and laughs. 

I have to say I thought this would be an easier recipe, melt the chocolate, make the filling, put it all into the mold, and voila, I thought naively. The problem is that the chocolate has to be tempered, and kept at a specific temperature till it's used, so I ended up heating and cooling chocolate, particularly as I had underestimated how much chocolate I would need. Also, I made the mistake of trying to make the filling, the almonds, and tempering the chocolate all at once, which apparently is not advisable. The best idea is to finish the fillings, then concentrate on getting the chocolate right.

This recipe makes about 30 chocolates.

Gianduja filling (pronounced Jan-du-ya, apparently) 

75g skinned, quality hazelnuts
75g powdered sugar
75g couverture dark chocolate, 50g of it melted




Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 175 degrees C until they are golden brown (approx 10 mins). Take them out, and while they are still hot, grind them with the powdered sugar. This is a long process, because basically they need to be ground to the point where a sufficient amount of oil has been released by the hazelnuts, so that the mixture turns to liquid (yes this will eventually happen). Mix in the 50g melted chocolate, and the 25g solid chocolate, and keep mixing until the mixture has cooled to 27 degrees C.

Caramelized almonds

1/2 cup of almonds
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and scatter the almonds onto the tray so that they are quite close to each other. Sprinkle with brown sugar, put in the oven. After 10 minutes, take out the tray and mix the almonds with the caramelized brown sugar so that they are all covered. Leave in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Tempering the chocolate

300g dark couverture chocolate

Break all of the chocolate into small pieces and melt 200g of it using a double boiler until it reaches 45 degrees C. Take it off the heat, add the 100g remaining chocolate, and mix continuously until the melted chocolate cools to 27 degrees C. Then put the melted chocolate back over the heat for 5-10 seconds until it reaches 31 degrees C. At this point the chocolate is tempered and ready to use. If it cools before you get a chance to use it, reheat to the same temperature. 

Molding the chocolate




Fill the molds to the brim with the melted chocolate then turn upside down over a large bowl so that all of the extra melted chocolate is emptied with just enough chocolate left in the molds to cover the bottom. Use a spatula to remove remaining melted chocolate around the mold, then tap the mold on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Remove from the fridge then fill the molds half way with the gianduja filling, topping it with a caramelized almond. Tap on the counter and refrigerate again for 10 minutes.

Finally, top the molds with melted chocolate, using a spatula to remove any excess around the sides. Tap on the counter to remove air bubbles, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. 

At this point your chocolate are ready and you can remove them from the fridge and store them at room temperature (storing them in the fridge for too long will cause them to sweat).



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate mousse cake





I have to thank the labour movement for this cake as it is thanks to them that 1st of May has become a holiday for the first time this year in Turkey. Obviously I've only just moved here and May 1st has always been a bank holiday in Britain so I can't say it's been a major change for me, but I've been able to appreciate it more now that I'm working. I spent the preceding weeks agonising (ok maybe agonising is a bit strong) on how to best utilise my free day. In the end chocolate mousse cake seemed to be the natural conclusion - I made parts of it the evening before then I got up early (well, 10 am is early right?) and put it all together. 

Oh and while I was making the mousse the night before, I lost control of the whisking bowl and ended with whipped cream EVERYWHERE. So after changing my clothes, wiping counters, appliances, and floors I had to start again at about 10pm. 

The decorating also turned out to be more time consuming than I had anticipated - I spent ages trying to get the sides to be perfectly smooth. 

The mousse turned out amazingly rich and gorgeous, which I felt was enough to justify the work I had put in, however, there was no one around to eat the cake but me. Nevertheless, I would argue that it wasn't a complete waste of time as later I remade the very same mousse as filling in a chocolate cake, which was very well received.

In sum, always have a tight grip on your whipping bowl if you want to avoid late night laundry and cleaning.

I'm writing down the recipe as I used it but if you wanted a cake with greater height you could just as easily double it or use a pan with a smaller diameter (I used a 25cm round springform pan).

For the chocolate cake:

40g flour
20g cocoa powder
65g sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
Half an egg (yes, good luck separating)
25ml milk
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Stir all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt) in one bowl. Then add all the wet ingredients (egg, milk, oil and vanilla extract). Mix with electric mixer until combined. 
Butter and lightly flour a round springform pan, pour in the batter, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. This should be about 20 minutes. Let it cool before releasing it from the pan.  



For the chocolate mousse:

240g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
60g butter
4 large eggs
120g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
240ml heavy whipping cream (35% fat content)

Use a double boiler (or just a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with boiling water) to melt the chocolate and butter. Separate the eggs. Let the chocolate and butter mixture cool slightly then whisk in the egg yolks. Cover and refrigerate.
Whisk the eggs whites, using an electric whisk, until you have soft peaks. Slowly add 60g sugar, and continue whisking until you get stiff peaks and a glossy meringue (do not overdo this, your meringue will become dry).
Whisk the whipping cream, vanilla extract and the remaining 60g sugar until you get stiff peaks (again, do not carry on whisking once you reach this point as the cream can start to separate).
Using a plastic spatula, fold in the whisked egg whites to the chocolate mixture, a couple of spoons at first, then the rest. Then fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.



For assembly:

A handful of strawberries
40g dark chocolate
Cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler as above, then dip the strawberries in chocolate and refrigerate briefly. In the meantime, spoon the (refrigerated) chocolate mousse onto the (cooled down) chocolate cake and smooth the edges. Sift cocoa powder on top to garnish and top it off with the chocolate strawberries.


Recipe sources: joy of baking, martha stewart

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cinnamon, coffee and chocolate orange macarons

Ever since I started working I'm finding it more and more difficult to find the time to type up these posts. I have a huge list of things I want to bake and blog, and I only have weekends, if that. I also want to redesign the site, and have just ordered a new camera, so somehow I need to find the time to bring all of these things together, maybe by becoming a social recluse. Obviously any tips on what to improve or general time management skills would be much appreciated.


These macarons were made on a total whim, I realised I had leftover egg whites that had been sitting in the fridge for a week (I keep some in the fridge for urgent macaron needs). I wanted to try a different flavour combo and these went down really well. I was also tempted to add some nutmeg into the mix but alas there wasn't any in the house, and I was feeling too lazy to go the distance.


For the shells:
90 gr egg whites - separated a couple of days, preferably about a week before
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr icing sugar
110 gr almonds
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon








Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, coffee and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.


For the chocolate orange ganache filling:
125 ml heavy cream
2 teaspoons honey
120g dark chocolate orange
15g butter, cut into small pieces






Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the golden syrup or honey. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using (I recommend you refrigerate).



Sunday, April 1, 2012

A variation on the opéra



I've made an opéra cake before, but I wanted to make it again in slices just like they do in patisseries. And while I was at it I switched out a few other things as well: I substituted the almonds in the joconde for hazelnuts, one of the coffee buttercream layers with the caramel-coffee ganache, and topped with some tempered chocolate squares instead of chocolate glaze. And voilà! Actually not really "voilà" because it took a whole day to bake and put together... 

Coffee caramel macarons





Here's a slight variation on the coffee macarons I made earlier. I used caramel-coffee ganache instead of the coffee buttercream, although I have to say the caramel taste somewhat overpowered the coffee - if I were to remake it I would definitely increase the amount of coffee in the ganache. 

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites - preferably separated the night before
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr icing sugar
110 gr almonds
1 teaspoon espresso powder





Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, coffee and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.



For the caramel-coffee ganache:
280g sugar
120g whipping cream
3 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp salt
120g unsalted butter
120g white chocolate

Put whipping cream, instant coffee and salt in a saucepan and heat until the coffee and salt infuse into the cream.
Put the sugar in another saucepan, place the pan on medium heat and cook undisturbed until the sugar begins to melt and caramelize-you’ll see a few wisps of smoke coming out of the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and stir occasionally so that the sugar melts and caramelizes evenly. While the caramel is still very pale add cream to the caramel at arm’s length, averting your face the caramel will boil up and may splatter out of the pan. Add the butter and white chocolate, and stir slowly until smooth.

Sources: cannelle et vanille, dailydelicious

Monday, March 12, 2012

Plaisir Sucré with Coffee Ganache





Unemployment + new kitchen = excessive amounts of time spent baking. This is only the first of many desserts I'll be posting in the upcoming days, I'm literally losing sleep to bake. It may not be entirely coincidental that everything I've made so far has been coffee flavoured.


This is a twist on the Pierre Hermé classic, I substituted the layers of milk chocolate ganache with layers of coffee and dark chocolate ganache.


Milk chocolate sheets:







300g milk chocolate
Candy thermometer
2x A4-sized acetate sheets


To temper the milk choc, place it in a clean bowl, then either double-boil or microwave it in short intervals until the temp reaches 49 degrees C. Be careful not to let even a drop of water get into the choc as it will seize and render unworkable. Remove chocolate from heat and continue stirring until the choc has cooled to a temp of 27-28 degrees C. Reheat the choc again until it reaches 29-31 degrees C (should only take 10 seconds or so). Get ready the A4-sized acetate sheets and spread the choc onto the acetate with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for about 5-10 minutes or until the choc is half set, then remove from fridge and score twelve 11x3cm rectangles with a knife onto each sheet (you should end up with 24 rectangles). Refrigerate until firm, then remove the chocolate by peeling off the acetate sheet and breaking them along the score lines. Refrigerate again until ready to use.


The hazelnut dacquoise :


105g ground hazelnuts
150g icing sugar
135g egg whites, room temp
4.5 tbsp caster sugar
1 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned & halved


Sift ground hazelnuts & icing sugar together & set aside. In a bowl whisk egg whites until foamy then gradually add in sugar and whisk until stiff peaks. Fold hazelnut mixture into the whites then spread mixture evenly onto a 6-inch baking tray lined with parchment paper. Scatter hazelnut halves on top then press down slightly. bake in a preheated oven of 165 degrees C for 25-30 mins or until browned. Leave to cool.


The hazelnut praline :






300g nutella
75g milk choc, melted & cooled til lukewarm
1 cup rice krispies or chocolate wafers
1.5 tbsp butter, melted & cooled


Place nutella paste in bowl then add in the remaining ingredients the order they're listed. Mix well.


Coffee ganache:


200g white chocolate
200g whipping cream
10g coffee


Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Bring the cream to a boil. Add the ground coffee. Remove from the heat and cover. Allow to infuse for a few minutes then pour it over the chocolate a third at a time. Stir it to obtain a smooth ganache. Refrigerate until it's ready to use.


Chocolate ganache:


200g dark chocolate
200g whipping cream
70g butter


Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized heatproof bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. (Can also heat the cream and butter in the microwave.) Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand, without stirring, for a few minutes. Stir gently (as you do not want to incorporate air into the ganache) with a spoon or whisk until smooth.


To assemble:


Start with the hazelnut dacquoise, then spread the praline evenly onto the dacquoise, working from the center and spread as far as it will go to the edges. Spread the coffee ganache on top and then place 12 pieces of chocolate on top of the ganache, refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and until firm. Then cut around the rectangle chocolate pieces until you have 12 slices.
Pipe the chocolate ganache on top and place another piece of chocolate on top of each slice, topping them with a hazelnut each dipped in nutella. Refrigerate for a further hour.




Source: adapted from Pierre Hermé

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oreo Truffles





I realise that I'm not able to post very often lately (which I do intend to change) so in compensation I am going to provide the easiest recipe ever for parties, dinners and food-based gifts: truffles! These ones are oreo filled, I might post about some other options another time.




Ingredients:
32 oreos
200g cream cheese
400g dark chocolate
50g white chocolate


Grind the oreos until they become fine powder. Add the cream cheese and mix until well blended. If you want to cut out shapes as I have, at this stage you should spread the mixture evenly over a tray and refrigerate until it becomes firm enough to be cut into shapes (about 1-2 hours). otherwise you can directly roll it into little balls.
Melt the dark chocolate, then let cool slightly. Dip balls in chocolate and place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate until the chocolate has firmed (about half an hour).






Melt the white chocolate, then using a pipe or rolled up parchment paper decorate the oreos. Refrigerate again until the truffles are firm.


Done!