Exam term Medicine: GF/DF Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow frosting

Exam season has hit Cambridge. Even those of us who haven’t got exams can feel up in the air, or is that just the dismal weather. Remember back in April when the sun was shining? No me neither, we do live in England after all. Not only is the atmosphere pretty grim, but extra curricular and social activities have dropped to virtually nothing. Other than a housemate trip to the very English ‘Cambridge Beer Festival’ things are pretty quiet. Im aware I am making myself incredibly unpopular to those with exams by keeping myself busy with Sudoku puzzles and the like, so I thought I would cheer them up by making a cake. As it is a cake for the choir, it is of course Gluten and Dairy Free for the Gluten and Dairy Free boy. I also thought it would be a bit more fun if I made it in the shape of book, specifically the book that is pretty much the foundation of knowledge for any music student. That way the music students can get a kick out of literally devouring their revision.

Cake

600g ground almonds

6 eggs

100g cocoa powder

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp baking powder

4tbsp honey

200g sugar

2tsp vanilla extract

Large pinch of sea salt

4tbsp water

Marshmallow Frosting

3 egg whites

300g sugar

Vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to Fan 180*c and line a 20cmx15cm baking tray.
  2. Whisk the egg, sugar, vanilla, honey and salt together. Meanwhile combine all the remaining dry ingredients. Mix the two bowls together and add water to thin the mixture a little.

  3. Cook for 15-20mins in two batches, until set and a spatula comes out clean.

  4. Meanwhile make the marshmallow icing. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Meanwhile heat the sugar with a splash if water until it becomes a clear, bubbling liquid. Pour into the egg whites whilst still whisking. When all the syrup is combined, keep whisking for 4-5mins. Spread or pipe onto the cake, using some to sandwich the cake and some to ice the cake.

NB If you want to recreate the book, use ready to roll icing and roll between to sheets of grease proof paper to get a thin sheet without sticking to the rolling pin.  

     


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Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache; a nostalgic nod to Brazil.

What with the launch of the Gonville and Cauis CD of Brazilian music, I got rather nostalgic today for my 2 weeks in Brazil last year and turned back to The Comedy Agent’s Birthday present to me from last year; a book of Brazilan recipes.
IMG_1240IMG_1238Cabana:The Cookbook is not just a recipe fountain but also contains essential guides for life such as ‘how to dance the samba’,
IMG_1237‘how to recognise Brazilian fruit’ (something that would’ve come in useful while in the fruit markets in São Paolo), and of course the vital ‘how to make a perfect Caipirinha’. (I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing it properly, for reference: How to say Caipirinha.)IMG_1239
it is full of wonderful recipes such as: Crazy lady cake (a rich dark chocolate sponge), the addictive Pao de Queijo, and one of my favourite recipes that I am constantly doing variations of, Fejioda, or Black bean stew. Of course being me, I decided to ignore all these recipes and instead take inspiration from all the different flavours. Here is my Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache. As usual, a normal version of this is not enough of a challenge, so this is my healthy, dairy and gluten free version. (Hopefully proving Dairy and gluten free isn’t all expensive, hard to source ingredients)

Cake
100g coconut flakes
2 bananas
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
170g caster sugar
100ml oil
Syrup
75ml cachaca (or rum if none available)
50g sugar
pinch sea salt
Ganache
1 large avocado
1tbsp cocoa powder
2 pinches of salt
2tbsp honey
Icing
200g icing sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
  1. For the coconut flour, Soak the coconut flakes in 25ml hot water for 4hrs. Blend in a blender, drain well, lay out the flakes on a baking tray and dry for either 3hrs at 170°C or overnight with the light on in the oven. Blend in the food processor to a fine powder.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the cake in a food processor. Spoon into a lined cake tin and bake for 30mins at fan 160°C until browned. Leave to cool.

  3. Meanwhile, Heat the syrup ingredients together till sugar is dissolved and syrup has thickened slightly. Pour over cake.FullSizeRender 4. Leave cake to cool COMPLETELY. Make the ganache. Blend the ganache ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cake.

  4. To finish. Make a glace icing by mixing the coca powder and icing sugar with 2-3tsp of water to a very thick icing (nb mix well before adding more water).

  5. Spoon into a piping bag and decorate!

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NB As you may have noticed in this post, I’ve learned how to use links in my blog, onwards and upwards…

Blue Velvet Cake

My colleague Molificent and I came upon the topic of cakes the other day (you would have thought this topic came up a lot given I work in a cafe but apparently not so much) and I began wondering, as only the mind of someone staring at cake all day can, why we have red velvet cake. Why not other colours? Admittedly a green cake might put us off our food, but why not a blue cake. Unnatural yes, but then what is natural about the vivid red hue of a true red velvet cake? To be terribly British of me, it is the epitome of the difference in cuisine between Americans and English. The English like basic, traditional stodge and couldn’t care less if it was plated up. The Americans like exciting colourful reinterpretations of the classics like cake pops and whoopie pies (stereotyping I know but this is a food blog post not a political argument). So I scoured the internet for Red Velvet Cake recipes. I discovered that unfortunately the cocoa was essential for more than just flavour. The chemical reaction between the cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and red food colouring was what increased the intenseness of the red colouring. How was I meant to recreate this given that there is no such thing yet as a white chocolate cocoa powder. Molificent suggested investing in a dehydrator, but firstly I can’t afford another slightly unnecessary kitchen implement, secondly it wouldn’t have the same effect as cocoa as the whole point of cocoa is the lack of dairy or sugar and finally my housemates wouldn’t let me buy anything more that might clog up our kitchen surfaces. So instead I upped the bicarbonate of soda to increase the acid levels to supplement the acid in the cocoa and added white chocolate pieces to add a white chocolate flavour in lieu of the cocoa flavour. The result was the moistness of a red velvet cake with the overwhelming sweetness of a white chocolate cake (NB this recipe is for the sugar addicted only). My only regret is that I didn’t add enough blue food colouring so the resulting cooer of the cake was too green, for future reference, a whole bottle of blue gel food colouring will be needed.

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Blue Velvet Cake

 

120g Butter
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Bottle of Blue food colouring gel
1tsp Vanilla extract
350g Plain white flour 
1tsp Sea Salt
240ml Buttermilk
1tbsp White wine vinegar
2.5tsp Bicarbonate of soda
150g white chocolate, finely chopped

Icing

100g Butter 
600g Icing sugar 
250g Cream cheese full fat
2 tbsp lemon juice

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and vanilla extract, beat well. Add the flour, food colouring, salt, chopped chocolate and buttermilk, mix.
  2. In a cup mix the vinegar and soda and immediately add to the cake mix. Pour immediately into two prepared sandwich tins.

  3. Bake in the oven at 180oC for 30-40mins until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool COMPLETELY.

  4. Meanwhile mix the WELL SOFTENED butter with lemon juice and icing sugar together. When beaten, add the cream cheese. Spread onto the cooled cake as a a filling and topping. Serve.

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Avocado and Kidney bean Brownies

I put Avocado in Brownies and it worked. It began when I came across a suggestion to substitute avocado for butter in baking, not make the baking healthier, but also to make the recipe dairy free. Likewise I read on t’internet about how kidney and black beans can be used as a replacement for flour in some baking recipes. Never one to shirk from a challenge or do things by halves (and with gluten free and dairy free friends) I decided to combine the two. Would it be possible to make brownies without the seemingly moreish creating factors of dairy and gluten? and possibly end up making the brownies that little bit healthier as well? Apparently so. I am not denying they are not quite on par with orgasm in the tin that is salted caramel brownies… but they are dense, very fudgy and most importantly chocolatey goodness.

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Makes 12
225g 85% dark chocolate
Large pinch of sea salt
1x 400g undrained tin of red kidney beans or black beans
1 small, ripe avocado
2 eggs
225g white sugar
2tsp vanilla extract

1. Drain the kidney beans and bat dry with kitchen towel, to make the beans as dry as possible.
2. Place beans into a food processor and blitz.
3. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and avocado and blitz till mixture is smooth.
4. Meanwhile melt chocolate with sea salt. Add to the mixture and blitz again to a thicker, cake mix like consistency.
5. Spoon into a parchment-lined square tin. Bake for 25-30 mins at 160 oC, until the top is hard but the brownies are still soft underneath. Leave to cool and serve.

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Ultimate Cookies

One of the perks of working in a cafe is all the free cake available. Some of these taste amazing, and some just good; however I’ve learnt that taste isn’t actually as important as the fact that they all look incredible. It has made me have a bit of a think about my bakes, as whilst they often taste good, it can be hard to make them look aesthetically pleasing. For example my salted caramel brownies, which may taste of orgasmic goodness but look as if they had been sat on by a small child. So when asked if I might contribute something to the cafe menu, I soon realised I couldn’t just make my usual cookie recipe as these often come out in all sorts of different exciting shapes, but not the circle one would expect. Whilst pondering how to achieve the balance between chewiness and perfectly-round cookies, we happened to be visited by some chefs from another local independent cafe; one of whom was a pastry chef. Posing my conundrum to her, she gave me a few tips. Melt the butter, replace caster sugar with brown sugar, and use fewer eggs. Warning: the final recipe produces addictive results.

Chocolate Chip cookies 250g melted butter, 220g brown sugar, 75g white sugar, 2 pinches sea salt, 345g flour, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

  1. Combine the melted butter and sugar until smooth, add the sea salt. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then stir in the flour.
  2. At this point add either 150g milk chocolate chunks or 150g dark chocolate chunks (perhaps with a bit of orange peel or orange extract) or 100g white chocolate chunks with 50g dried cranberries….whatever combinations you like. Go crazy.

  3. Roll into a log shape, wrap in cling film and chill for a minimum of 1 hour. (This is very important as it helps the cookies keep their shape).

  4. Bake in a preheated oven on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, for 10-12 mins at 180ºC. NB they should be just cooked and still gooey when you take them out as the outside will harden up as they cool; this way they will still be chewy in the middle.

Oatmeal and raisin cookies 250g melted butter, 220g brown sugar, 75g white sugar, 2 pinches sea salt, 125g oats, 220g flour, 3 tsp cinnamon, 100g raisins, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Repeat the recipe as above, using the combination of oats and flour rather than just flour.

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Carrot Cake

You may have noticed that recently I have been utterly hopeless about posting in Gullifer Eats. This may or may not be due to the fact that I now have a full time job as cafe manager at Catesbys in Cambridge, (shameless advertising), and also possibly because I was producing an opera… slightly over-stretching myself!
It is only fitting that I chose to celebrate the end of producing this opera with some baking: how else would you expect me to celebrate? As is probably evident from this blog, I always relish a challenge. I have lived up to the challenge set by Stornaway (who as mentioned in previous posts is gluten free). However a second friend has upped the ante by not only being allergic to gluten, but also dairy. You have to be extremely imaginative when it comes to creating both GF and DF food. It seems to me very unfair that most offerings in restaurants and cafés for those who suffer from these allergies are boring and altogether far too healthy for my liking. So I set out to make a cake that still tastes delicious and bad for you, whilst also being GF and DF. In fact the biggest compliment I got from this recipe was from a GF friend, who had clearly been starved of baked goods for too long, and excitedly proclaimed that it tasted ‘just like real cake’.

260g light brown sugar
260ml vegetable oil
Large pinch sea salt
Dash of vanilla extract
5 eggs
260g gluten free self raising flour
500g pack of carrots, grated
100g raisins
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, salt and sugar together for 3-5mins.
  2. Add carrots, raisins and spices and mix. Add bicarbonate of soda.
  3. Mix in the flour.
  4. Pour into two lined sandwich tins.
  5. Bake at 180ºC for 30-35mins, or until just set. Be careful not to over-cook, as it will cook a little in the tin as it cools.
  6. When cool, sandwich the two halves together with icing made mixing 200g icing sugar with 2-4tbsp orange juice.
  7. Drizzle with more orange icing and/ or icing made with 200g icing sugar, 2-4tbsp water and a few drops of raspberry extract.

Pillows of Heaven: Macaroons

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You may or may not have noticed that I am a little bit obsessed with macaroons. The macaroon tour of Paris may have given you a hint. While in Berlin recently I detoured into the nearest Galerie Lafayette to the Macaroon counter to taste the ‘Brazil’ macaroon (Curacao, lime and mint).  My next challenge will be savoury macaroons, watch this space.

This could be the reason why I’ve shied away from making macaroons, I always worry that I would fail to live up to my expectation. But given the time on my hands (and the excuse of family friends coming over for a drink in the 24hours my parents are here), plus it would be an excuse to use the pretty cake stand, I’ve bitten the bullet. The greatest compliment I got was ‘I thought they were from Maison Blanc, take that Raymond.

The most important things seem to be:

a) The consistency, how long you mix, exact measurements etc

b) Not adding anything that will change the ratios e.g NO extra liquid

c) Baking for the correct length of time

 

Makes a lot (I split into two different flavoured batches)

4 large egg whites

70g caster sugar

230g icing sugar

120g ground almonds

pinch of salt

gel food colouring (or paste – DO NOT USE LIQUID)

1. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, I found using a kitchen aid mixer the easiest. You should be able to turn them upside down on your head without them falling out. Beat in the sugar to shiny thick peaks, then beat for 2-3mins more. They should be really really stiff. Add the gel food colouring and beat for 40sec more.

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2. Sift the ground almonds, icing sugar and salt into the bowl and fold into the mix with a spatula gently. This should take 30-50 folds, actually count. Too little and the macaroons will be to meringue like and crumble, too much and they will be too dense, I took about 40 folds. The mixture should be thick and shiny but still light and not liquid.

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3. Put into a piping bag (see Baking tips) and pipe small blobs onto a lined baking tray. They should be about the size of a 2p coin. The best way to do this is slowly and gently and pull the piping bag to the side of the macaroon to try and avoid a peak. Drop the macaroon tray from a small height onto the kitchen worktop to get rid of any bubbles, and prevent cracking.

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4. Leave for 20mins to develop a skin on top (make sure the kitchen isn’t too warm). Bake in a preheated oven for 20mins at 150oC, turning halfway through to ensure an even bake. They should easily come off the tray, if not they need to be baked more.

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5. If you can wait that long, the shells work even better if left in an airtight box overnight.

Flavourings and Fillings

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– This time round I made Raspberry, Popping candy and White Chocolate and Pistachio and Dark Chocolate, but you can experiment with buttercream fillings, jam fillings, cream fillings or other nuts in the shell.

– Mostly it is best to leave the shells flavourless and just add colour, leaving the flavour in the filling. However you can flavour with other nuts, or citrus zest or intense powder flavours, as long as you don’t alter the ingredient ratios too much.

– For Pistachio macaroons replace half the ground almonds with finely ground pistachios (I just ground them myself in a food processor).

Chocolate and Pistachio Ganache

Pistachio Paste

60g pistachios (weight without shells)

15g ground almonds

30g granulated sugar

1tbsp water

2tbsp sunflower oil (I experimented and added a drop of truffle oil as well)

pinch of salt

Chocolate Ganache

150g dark chocolate

75g cream (or half cream, half alcohol)

30g butter

vanilla extract, pinch of salt

1. Toast the pistachios at 200oC for 8mins. Meanwhile heat the sugar and water to about 120oC then toss in the pistachios, coat and leave to cool.

2. Place in a food processor with the almonds and salt. Grind to a fine powder, add the oil so the mixture forms a paste.

3. Heat the cream, vanilla and salt to boil. Meanwhile chop the chocolate finely. Pour over the cream as soon as it reaches the boil. Leave for 1min then stir till chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the butter till melted.

4. Combine the paste and the ganache, put into a piping bag and refrigerate till needed. Bring to room temperature before piping.

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache

150g white chocolate

75g cream

2-3 drops raspberry extract

vanilla extract

pieces of freeze dried raspberries

popping candy

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1. Heat cream, raspberry extract and vanilla to boiling. Finely chop the white chocolate. Pour over the cream as soon as it reaches boiling point and stir till chocolate is completely melted. Fold through the raspberries and put in a piping bag.

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2. After piping into macaroons, sprinkle with a little popping candy before putting shell lid on top.

 

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Continental Breakfast

My parents have always been obsessed with croissants, so much so that when my father couldn’t work out where the cereal was kept on his house and left alone for breakfast, there was no question of sending his secretary out to the corner shop to buy him none other than a croissant. What’s not to love? A buttery, flaky pastry that melts in the mouth, a crisp exterior best served warm with lashings of jam. Even the famous ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat Diet’ recommends a small croissant for breakfast as the only way to start the day. Marie-Antoinette is said to have brought these delicate pastries over from Vienna to Paris. Virtually the only thing she would eat, they are even said to have inspired the notorious ‘Let them eat cake’ quotation. Definitely not an everyday bake, rather time consuming, they are nonetheless exceptionally satisfying to make, and make the house smell amazing, making my parents’ only 24 hours in the house in my 2 weeks at home, special.

Makes 13 small croissants

250g plain flour

70g water

70g whole milk

25g sugar

20g unsalted butter

7g yeast

large pinch salt

drop vanilla essence

To Laminate

140g cold butter

1 egg, beaten to wash

 

1. Mix all the ingredients together ( I used a dough hook on my kitchen aid). When combined knead for 3mins so there is moderate gluten development, too much will cause too much fight back from the dough while ‘laminating’ (adding the butter). The best way to tell is when the dough has turned shiny and doesn’t leave any traces on the side of the bowl. Shape the dough like a disc (so it can be easily shaped into a square later) and leave in the fridge overnight.

2. To Laminate, start by slicing the butter and filling a 7.5cm square on a larger piece of baking parchment. Place another baking parchment piece on top and roll out to 9.5cm square. Trim the uneven edges to 8.5cm square and place the trimmings on top, gently even out the thickness. Then refrigerate. To get an even thickness, roll from the middle to each side, rotating

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3. Take out the dough. Roll out to 20x30cm rectangle using the same method as above. BUT this time sprinkle both pieces of paper with flour. Take your butter out of the fridge and place in the centre so that a corner is facing an edge. fold each corner of the dough into the centre like an envelope. Roll out using the method above to a 20x30cm square. Fold the edges in like an envelope again and refrigerate for 30mins. Repeat this process 4 times. On the last time roll the dough out to 20x70cm, dust with flour, carefully fold and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively you can leave in the freezer for a couple of hours then the fridge for another couple of hours.

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4. Take the dough out and trim any curved edges. Using a pizza cutter/knife and a tape measure, mark 10cm intervals along the top. Mark 5cm along the bottom then continue in 10cm intervals. Using a ruler, cut diagonally towards the firs 5cm notch from the top left corner and then diagonally up to the first 10cm notch on the top, this will form a triangle. Continue. You should have 13 triangles and a few extra pieces for make into pain au chocolate’s (by filling with a square of good quality dark chocolate) or just odd shaped croissants.

5. Take a triangle, make a cut in the middle of the bottom and roll up to the point. Continue with the remaining triangles. Place on a lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Leave for 2 hours at room temperature to prove. .

6. Bake at 180oC fan for 6mins. Then turn the oven down to 150oC and bake for a further 8-9mins. They can be reheated, not as good as freshly baked, but almost.

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A Night at the Opera

Next on tour of French Patisserie is a classic combination of coffee, chocolate and cream (the French Tiramisu) and a homage to my other passion, the Opera cake. This cake is technically difficult but melts in the mouth, when made correctly, and is almost as tasty as Tenor Jonas Kauffmann (Exhibit A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzLR1OuDaKY&list=PL4_Y5duTlUpkLbLPRZ16uNo1Xxo_Fcr8Z). It was made famous in the 19th century by French Patissierie Dalloyau, which just so happens to be in the shadow of the Opera Garnier the building on which the pastry is based on. I assume that the many decadent layers of the cake are meant to mirror the decadent layers of the Opera Garnier. I should hopefully end up with perfect contrasting cream and brown layers with a smooth, shiny chocolate ganache on top.

Garnier Opera 5operacake

The First Challenge is the Almond sponge, I found the key here was to be very gentle with the mix, especially folding the egg whites, be very accurate with the measurements and trust your oven (i.e don’t open the door too early during cooking or the cake will sink). I also made this sponge mix in two batches (I only had one tin and didn’t want the mixture to deflate too much between cooking, of course if you happen to have 4 swiss roll tins lying around handy, you’re fine.)

Almond Sponge (serves 10)

150g icing sugar

5 tbsp flour

pinch of salt

140g ground almonds

1tsp vanilla extract

6 eggs

30g butter, melted and cooled

6 egg whites

2tbsp caster sugar

1. Mix the icing sugar, flour, salt and almonds together. Whisk in the eggs one at a time slowly before adding the vanilla. Then add the butter.

2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down on your head without the eggs falling out – I greatly enjoy doing this to other people). Add the sugar carefully and whisk to shiny peaks. Mix 1/3 into the almond mix, whisking together. Fold (using a metal spoon in a folding action) the remainder of the egg whites into the mix.

3. Spread a thin layer onto a lined swiss roll tin (34.5x 24.4cm). Make sure to use a palate knife to spread the mix to the ages, but try not to overwork it or it will lose the rise. Bake at 220oC for 6-8mins, until golden brown. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Repeat 4 times.

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For the Coffee Syrup

300ml water

150g sugar

3tsp expresso powder (I also like to add a drop of vanilla extract)

1. Stir the ingredients together until dissolved over a low heat, bring to the boil, boil for 1-2mins, remove from the heat.

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For the Coffee Buttercream

4 egg yolks

150g sugar

40ml water

pinch of salt

300g butter

2tsp expresso powder dissolved into 2 tsp boiling water

1. For this recipe you really need a kitchen aid (no-hand mixer) or a hand held electric whisk (but you may need help). It’s quite hard to do it without… Whisk the 4 egg yolks on high for 5mins until light and creamy.

IMG_20692. Meanwhile heat the sugar, water and salt in a pan until boiling. Boil until you get a clear syrupy consistency (roughly 115oC).

3. Immediately pour into the egg yolks little by little, like making mayonnaise, while the mix is still mixing. Add a bit then whisk some more and repeat. You should end up with a lighter pale mousse consistency. Keep whisking until cooled to room temperature (feel the sides of the bowl, if it is too warm the butter will melt into the mix and you won’t get the desired consistency.)

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4. Add the butter bit by bit and whisk until you get a white creamy mix. Add the expresso, cooled.

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For the Ganache

100g dark chocolate 

15ml cream

60ml whole milk

(optional: 20ml white rum)

50g butter

1. Chop the dark chocolate finely and pour into a bowl. Heat the cream, (rum) and milk together and bring to the boil. Immediately pour over the chocolate and leave for 2-3mins. The chocolate should have melted. Mix to a smooth melted chocolate consistency if need be add more dark chocolate to achieve desired consistency and blast for 5-10secs in the microwave at a time to heat a little, before beating to melt. When chocolate is melted add the butter and mix till melted. Leave to cool to a spreadable consistency.

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For the Chocolate Glaze

200g dark chocolate

60g butter

1. Melt chocolate and butter together. Reserve some in a piping bag to pipe.

To Construct

1. Take 1 of the sponges. Lay down with the non-parchment side facing up. Temper 150g chocolate. (Melt at 20 sec intervals until almost all is melted – there should be a few lumps, take out and stir till all the lumps have melted = easy tempered chocolate). Spread this over the sponge in a thin layer, then leave to set in the fridge for 5mins (you don’t want it completely hard). Flip onto a cake board/whatever you want to serve the cake off. The chocolate bottom will make it easier to take the slices off the board later.

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2. Soak the first sponge with coffee syrup, the more the better, but make sure to dab not pour the syrup over or you will just end up with a disintegrated sponge. Apply your first layer of buttercream, using a palate knife to smooth it down to about 1/2 cm thick.

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3. Top with the next sponge, parchment paper up. Remove the parchment paper and soak with coffee syrup. (NB you may want to refrigerate the cake between layers if your kitchen is very hot. But the buttercream will have to sit out a little so it can be spread.

4. Spread with chocolate ganache, then top with the next sponge and soak with syrup. Spread with more buttercream, top with the final sponge and soak with syrup.

5. Finally spread one more layer of buttercream, thinner than the others. This is mostly just to make the top smooth and fill in the cracks.

6. Finally pour over the glaze, spread evenly and quickly (mine wasn’t as even as I would’ve liked and the key is speed.)

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7. Let set for a little, then take a serrated knife and cut down each side to trim the edges. Keep refrigerated till served.

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Tour de France

Since realising that I’ve finally left institutionalised education and actually have no fixed path anymore I’ve decided to branch out with my cooking. I seem to have had writers block during all the post exam furore ( hence the lack of posts recently) so I’ve decided to try and set myself challenges. In order to master these recipes I’ve always struggled with I’m going to read lots of different versions of the recipe to try and pinpoint the problems and come up with the best result. First up is Patisserie. I’ve never really mastered some of the classic French recipes so with a week of nothing to do but put off unpacking my university stuff, I decided to do a mini tour of the highlights of French patisserie. First up is choux pastry. In homage to the upcoming final leg of the Tour de France in Paris, I’ve decided to make  Paris Brest. This pastry was first made to commemorate the Paris-Brest bicycle race in 1910, ironically it was popular with the riders as it gave them a lot of energy but I can’t image that it would fit in with the intense nutritional programs of today’s competitors. It’s meant to look like a bicycle wheel, as exhibit A shows.

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I’ve had problems with choux pastry before. My profiteroles looked incredibly promising in the oven but sank the moment they came out leaving a soggy flat circle…. So this time I studied a number of different recipes to try and get it right this time. As far as I can tell the 3 things to be careful are

1. Don’t slack beating the flour and water mix before adding the eggs as the pastry needs a good support for the outer shell.

2. Don’t try to add all the eggs at once, the eggs need to be properly beaten so that the pastry rises enough.

3. Don’t take the pastries out of the oven too soon, even if it is a little brown, the pastries will sink if brought out too early.

The Recipe

1. Start by melting 150ml water and 50g butter and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and beat in a pinch of salt and 75g flour into the mix so the dough is shiny and comes away from the pan. Return to the heat and beat for 2mins.

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2. Set aside to cool a little. When the mix is cool, add 2 eggs and a drop of vanilla essence, beating in 1 at a time. Beat well for 2-5mins until the mix is shiny and drops off the spoon.

3. Heat the oven to 200oC. Fill a piping bag with the mix and pipe circles onto a lined baking tray. (This is actually the hardest bit, try to make the thickness as equal as possible all the way round for a the prettiest finish) Brush the tops with egg yolk and then scatter over 50g flaked almonds. Bake in the oven for 10mins, then turn the heat down to 180oC and bake for a further 20mins until brown on top. As soon as they come out of the oven split the pastries in half lengthways. Leave to cool.

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4. For the filling, beat together 2 egg yolks and 40g sugar together until light and fluffy, then add 25g plain flour. Meanwhile heat 160ml whole milk in a pan with 1 tsp expresso powder and 1tsp vanilla extract. Pour the heated milk (not boiling) over the egg mix and whisk together. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat whisking constantly. When the mixture is thickened remove from the heat. Leave to cool (This is again where I went wrong – try to refrigerate this if possible as if you add the mixture too warm to the cream, the mix won’t be as thick in the pastries as it should be)

5. Beat 200ml cream to soft peaks. Fold in the patisserie cream and decant into a piping bag. Pipe between the pastry halves. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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As a side note I also had a go at making Kale chips (healthy crisps so I’m told). Simply remove the thick stalks of the kale leaves and tear into small pieces. Lay on a foil lined baking tray, sprinkle with salt and bake in the oven for 6-8mins at 200oC. It’s not quite the same as Walkers but they are pretty addictive.

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