Festive Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies

So this year, Vanessa Kimball has organised for Rococo Chocolates to host her Let’s Make Christmas gift swap.

The idea is that you make something according to the theme and bring it along to be entered into a competition. Then you pick a gift from all the goodies that have been brought along while having some tea, mulled wine and lovely baked goods for tea.

This year’s theme was chocolate so we had to make something with Chocolate in it or to make something from Chantal Coady’s book, Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate which is a stunning book with lots of innovative recipes using chocolate but not in the usual way. There are goats cheese chocolate ganaches, savoury chocolate biscuits and even a recipe for an Armenian lamb stew which looks amazing.

For the gift swap, I made some Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies which I thought were quite festive. As usual, I tweaked the recipe by adding a lot more of the ground ginger than recommended as I like the flavour to come through. Be warned, this recipe uses a lot of chocolate!

Let's Make Xmas

 

Festive Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Lots

Ingredients

  • 350g cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 285g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 275g cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 125g cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 75ml black treacle
  • 280g chocolate, cut into small chunks or use equivalent in chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  4. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Beat in vanilla and black treacle.
  7. Reduce speed to low.
  8. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
  9. Stir in chocolate.
  10. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  11. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes.
  12. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  13. Cut into squares.

Notes

These are very easy to make once you have all the ingredients. I used a smaller tin so my brownies were thicker than the recipe. If you use a bigger brownie thin, the batter will spread thinner and will cook faster.

Recipe inspired by Martha Stewart's White Chocloate Gingerbread Blondies

http://www.eatcookexplore.com/festive-chocolate-gingerbread-brownies/

Chocolate Cheesecake with Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine

Baking, I don’t do it often enough and if I did, I would have to buy a new wardrobe. I do love baking though, not just the wonder of seeing a recipe come together but the lovely smells wafting through the flat.

This week I made a Chocolate Cheesecake. This was for a Bake Off bloggers’ challenge hosted by Russell Hobbs using their new “Creations Kitchen Machine”. This is a stand mixer that is in direct competiton to the more expensive ones on the market like KitchenAid and Kenwood.

Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine

The challenge was to use Chocolate and the theme was Summer Cakes.

Here is the Chocolate Cheesecake recipe I used from Lucy Cufflin’s book, Lucy’s Food. Her recipes are easy to follow and are very well tested.

Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine Chocolate Cheesecake

I used the Creations Kitchen Machine to mix up all the cream cheese mixture on the setting at #5 for about 5 minutes. I had to stop and scrape the bottom as all the cheese was stuck at the bottom. I probably shouldn’t have used the whisk extenstion as pictured here and should have used the mixer one. It also come with a dough hook for kneading bread which I shall be trying out next.

The Kitchen Machine is really straight forward to operate. Everything slots in intuitely and is easy to clean. I am very interested to find out what other attachments are available for this as I see some other places to plug things in.

Back to the cake, to fit the criteria of Summer Cakes, I served raspberries on top which not only looked stunning but also helped to counter the richness of the chocolate. All this was dusted with icing sugar which just makes everything a touch more professional, even though it’s not. It could have done with some pouring cream or ice cream too.

In the book, she suggested serving it with hot chocolate sauce too.

Chocolate Cheesecake with Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

12 servings

Chocolate Cheesecake with Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine

Quick Chocolate Cheesecake recipe that looks a million dollars. Can be made gluten free by changing the base to use nuts, oats or any other substitutes.

Ingredients

  • 100g Butter
  • 200g chocolate digestives, crushed
  • 150 full fat cream cheese
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder (not hot chocolate)
  • 6 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 175 C or 350F.
  2. Prepare a 20cm cake tin by lining it with baking parchment. (Note: I found that this size tin was too small, resulting in a thicker biscuit base and too much filling. Use one slightly larger than 20cm)
  3. Do this by cutting a circle about 10cm larger thatn the diameter of the tin. Fold around the edges and tuck it in. This will create a rustic border when the cake is cooked. Using the baking parchment, it makes the cake easy to remove from the tin. ( I made a it a big bigger so the paper was like a handle to remove the cake when cooked.)
  4. Crush the biscuits into crumbs in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix in the biscuit crumbs. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the tin with a big spoon to form an even layer.
  5. Put the other ingredients into your Creations Kitchen Machine and mix until smooth.
  6. Pour over the base.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven for 1- 11/2 hours or until the cheescake has risen and is wobbly/ set on top. It should be cracked and slightly crusty on top.
  8. Leave to cool for at least an hour.
  9. When it is cold, hold the paper and the tip of the tin slightly to remove the cheesecake. It is quite solid and will come out easily. Slide a baking sheet between the paper and the cheesecake and put on a serving plate or cake stand.
  10. To Serve
  11. Serve at room temperature dusted with icing sugar.

Notes

I decorated mine with raspberries. You can add a selection of summer fruits as well. Alternatively, serve it with pouring cream, ice cream or even chocolate sauce to make it more decadent.

http://www.eatcookexplore.com/chocolate-cheesecake-with-russell-hobbs-creations-kitchen-machine/

On the night of the judging, the cakes were presented:

Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine
The very serious judges

The judges took a lot of notes, tasted the creations and finally retired to another room to decide. It was quite Xfactor like.

The winner was Heide from Kitchen Secrets who made this amazing Chocolate Pecan cake with Maple Cream.

 

Russell Hobbs Creations Kitchen Machine

 The Russell Hobbs Creations Range will launch later this year and I was sent one for this challenge and to review.

 

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple tarts are little short crust pastry tarts with home made pineapple jam. In Malaysia, these are made for special ocassions like Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya (Eid). Families used to make it but in this age of “I don’t know how she does it”, we tend to buy them from the many cottage industry vendors in town.

I made these for Vanessa Kimbell’s Let’s Make Christmas bloggers’ swap recently as they were suitably festive. The only concession that I made was to use a star shaped cookie cutter instead of the usual round ones.

Every one has their own favourite version of these tarts. I like them with crumbly buttery, short crust pastry and a sweet but tangy pineapple jam. You can cheat by buying in the jam instead of making it yourself but it is quite easy to make. It just takes a bit of time but well worth the satisfaction.

 

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Makes 30 Tarts

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts

Delicious Pineapple Tarts for any ocassion.

Ingredients

    For the Pineapple Jam
  • 500g grated fresh pineapple. If you can’t find fresh pineapple, you can use the equivalent tinned pineapple in juice (remember to drain away the juice)
  • 250g caster sugar. Adjust to your taste but reduce the sugar if you’re using tinned pineapples in syrup
  • 4 cloves (optional)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • For the Short Crust Pastry
  • 300g plain flour
  • 175g salted organic butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk for egg wash

Instructions

    To make the pineapple jam
  1. Cook the grated pineapple, spices and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat until it starts to bubble, stirring as you go. Note, you can use an electronic chopper instead of grating if you prefer.
  2. Once the mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat to low and stir regularly for about 1 hour or until pineapple jam has reached a sticky consistency. You need the jam to be quite dry or it will run all over the pastry when you bake it.
  3. Make sure you keep stirring the jam as it burns quite easily. Once the jam has thickened, turn off the heat, remove the spices and allow to cool completely. You can bottle this for use later.
  4. To make the pastry
  5. Rub in the butter and flour until the mix resembles bread crumbs.
  6. Add in the beaten eggs to bind but don’t work it too much as the pastry will get too hard. If it is too dry, you can drizzle a few drops of water (ala Delia). Don’t be tempted to make it too wet.
  7. The dough should all come together into a ball. When it does, wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  8. About an hour before you are ready to roll out the pastry, take the dough out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature or it will be too hard to roll out.
  9. Putting the tarts together
  10. Preheat oven to 180°C. Using lightly oiled hands, roll out about a teaspoon of the pineapple jam into balls and place aside. Don't be tempted to make the balls of jam too big as they will overflow over the pastry.
  11. Roll out the pastry dough to a 0.5cm thickness (pound coin) between two sheets of non stick baking sheet or use a lightly floured rolling pin. Remove the top sheet of paper and use your pineapple tart or cookie cutter mould to cut out shapes of your pastry. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a small circular dent in the middle. You can then either remove the excess dough and slide the baking paper with the pastry onto your baking tray or remove each cut piece and place it on a baking sheet.
  12. Place the prepared balls of pineapple jam into the middle of each tart and place decorative pastry on top of jam if you want. Traditionally, small pieces if dough will be rolled out and placed as a cross across the jam. In this case, I used some star shaped sprinkles to match the cookie shape after the tarts were cooked.
  13. Brush pastry with egg wash and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack to allow the pastry to crisp up and store in an airtight container.
http://www.eatcookexplore.com/malaysian-pineapple-tarts/

 

Make a massive batch to give away. They are always better than the shop bought ones.

Brazilian Chocolate Brigadeiros

I found this recipe on another food blog and they looked so lovely that I had it on my list to try. Then came along the Let’s Make Christmas event, so I made it for my swap contribution. See below for my adapted recipe.

They are really easy to make and the recipe makes about 30 balls, depending on how big you roll them. This could be a really fun job to involve kids in. Get a lot of different coloured sprinkles and create a whole range of amazing looking sweets.

Sidebar: In the process of making this, I discovered the world of glittery sprinkles in a cake supplies shop nearby. It’s like a kid being let loose in a toy shop. Now I need to find more recipes where I can use the colourful icing, the icing pens, glitter, etc. Fun!

Brazilian Chocolate Brigadeiros

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

30

Brazilian Chocolate Brigadeiros

Really fun Brazillian sweets that you can make in a jiffy.

Ingredients

    For the Brigadeiros
  • 1 400ml Can of Condensed Milk
  • 3 tbsp of Drinking Chocolate Powder
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • For Decoration:
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
  • Fancy Sprinkles
  • Baking glitter
  • Crushed Pistachio nuts

Instructions

  1. Pour the condensed milk into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.
  2. Add the drinking chocolate drinking and butter and keep stirring your Brigadeiro mixture until it starts to show the bottom of the pan when you scrape it with your spoon. This is the only crucial bit to watch out for. As you scrape the bottom of your pan with the spoon, the Brigadeiro mixture should be thick enough to show you the bottom the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture levels out again. This takes about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the Brigadeiro mixture into a glass container and leave your Brigadeiros aside to cool until it’s room temperature, then you can put them in the fridge. The mixture can stay in the fridge for 3 to 4 days until you’re ready to roll them out.
  4. When you are ready to roll your Brigadeiros, remove the mixture from the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature again as this makes it easier to handle. Using a teaspoon, scoop a small quantity and roll it into a small round shape, about the size of chocolate truffle. If you spread a bit of butter on your palms before rolling, this will prevent the mixture from sticking. (You can make this a fun group activity to get the kids to do this part)
  5. Drop the Brigadeiro ball into a bowl containing your choice of topping and gently roll it around until it’s totally covered. I chose some chocolate sprinkles and some colourful edible star shape sprinkles from Sainsburys.
  6. Transfer your Brigadeiro to a mini cupcake cup. (I bought my mini cupcake cups from ebay where there are loads of choices.)
http://www.eatcookexplore.com/brazilian-chocolate-brigadeiros/

Coffee Tasting And Coffee Matching Masterclass

Slurping your food and drink loudly is seen as rude in some cultures but in tasting beverages like wine, tea and coffee, it’s quite essential as the oxygenation releases the flavours and aromas. Up to this point, I have never had much of an occassion to taste more than one coffee at a time and this would be a great tasting lesson.

At a recent Coffee Tasting Masterclass with Cafe Direct,  we were taught about the fine details of tasting coffee with coffee expert Thierry.

As part of the coffee matching, there was a mini competition to make a dessert to match one the 4  coffees, Kilimanjaro, Mayan Palenque, Machu Picchu or Cloud Forest.  Each coffee has its own distinct flavour and characteristics as coffees are much like wine, the flavours are influenced by terroir.

How to Taste Coffee, also called “Cupping”

There are 3 steps to tasting coffee:

When tasting we are looking for these characteristics, fragrance, aroma, acidity, body, flavour, balance, aftertaste.

Fragrance : Firstly, we had to smell each of the 3 ground coffees.

Aroma: This is what we get after adding water to the coffee. Each cup was left to brew for 4 minutes for the aroma to develop. We then had to use a spoon and scoop the liquid away from you and then inhale.

Coffee Tasting Matching

Tasting: Using 2 spoons, we scooped around the edges of the cup to remove the foam that has formed and then had to slurp the coffee to aerate it allowing us to discern more of the characteristics of each coffee. Unforunately, my tastebuds are so insensitive that it was hard to get more than bland, bitter, too strong.  Each coffee was quite different when tasted in succession and surprisingly, the flavour profiles changed a lot when we tasted the coffees at a cooler temperature.

coffee tasting

We also learnt that different coffees should be drunk at different times of the day, like the Kilimanjaro blend is perfect for a breakfast coffee as it warms your tastebuds.

On the the baking competition

I paired up with the delightful Gill from Tales of Pigling Bland where we attempted a Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from Ferran Adria’s new cookbook, The Family Meal. Our dessert was chosen to match the Machu Picchu coffee from Peru, which has a nutty and chocolatey flavour.  We were given a bag of ingredients to create our dessert.

Coffee Tasting Matching

The recipe is actually really easy and we were all quite anxious to see how it would turn out as there were so few ingredients and steps. The result was surprisingly superb, the recipe yielded a light, spongy and super chocolatey cake. Since we had a bit more time and ingredients, we made some nut brittle to go with the cake and did some fancy plating up, as seen in the picture.

Unfortunately, our dessert didn’t win the competition and the winner was a spiced honey cake made by Team April (aka Rhubarbandrose and 21stCentury Housewife)

 

Ferran Adria Flourless Chocolate Cake

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

6 small cakes

Ferran Adria Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 175g Dark Chocolate 60% cocoa
  • 90g Butter at room temperature
  • 4 Egg whites
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 egg yolks

Instructions

  1. This recipe makes 6 cakes
  2. Half fill a saucepan with water and bring to boil. Put the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl and place over pan to melt. Leave the chocolate to melt slowly, stirring occasionally with a spatula until smooth. Remove the pan from heat.
  3. Cut the butter into cubes and add into the chocolate. Stir in the butter to melt into the chocolate.
  4. Put the egg whites into a large bowl, then add the sugar. Use a balloon whisk or electric beater to whip the whites and sugar into a soft meringue. Do not allow the mixture to stiffen.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F/ Gas Mark 6.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks for a few seconds.
  7. Pour the yolks over the meringue mixture, then fold together using a spatula or whisk.
  8. Tip the meringue mixture into the buttery chocolate.
  9. Fold everything together carefully with a spatula until even.
  10. Spoon the cake mixture inot a piping bag and snip off the end. If you don't have a piping bag, use 2 teaspoons instead.
  11. Pipe of carefully spoon the mixture into circular silicone moulds about 12 cm across and 4cm deep. If you don't have silicone moulds you can use metal ones but make sure you grease well with butter.
  12. Bake in the oven for 12mins or until risen and shrinking away from the edes of the moulds.
  13. Leave to cool before removing from moulds.
  14. Serve the cake warm.
http://www.eatcookexplore.com/coffee-tasting-and-coffee-matching-masterclass/

You can read my review of The Family Meal here and buy the book at Amazon.

Ferran Adria's The Family Meal Cookbook

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria

You can win a cookery master class at L’Atelier des Chefs by submitting a dessert to match one of their coffees. Details here

Cafe Direct buys their coffee directly from traders and not via Fairtrade or the non Fairtrade register. All the coffees are single estate blends. The coffees are available from leading supermarkets.