Chocolate and more Chocolates

I’ve realised that if I actually want to commercialise my chocolates (watch this space) I probably should stop giving tips about how to make them. So here is some pure food porn of the chocolates I’ve been making. I’ve been getting a bit excited about making themed choocolates recently so apologies about how pretentious they might seem.

 

Dr Faustus – Chilli, Lime, Salted Caramel

 
 

Coconut Creme – Coconut ganache, toasted coconut, orange jelly, coffee ganache

 
Both made for the occasion of the book launch of The Tragick history of Henry Fowst by Griselda Heppel.

 

The Ella Fitzgerald Collection – It’s Alright with Me and Georgia on my Mind

 
It’s Alright with Me – Salted Caramels

Georgia on my Mind – Peach ganache, raspberry coulis, orange liqueur jelly

 

Part of the Noel Coward Collection – Don’t lets be beastly to the Germans

 
Noel Coward Collection

Don’t Lets be beastly to the Germans – Marzipan, Brandy Soaked Figs, Almond Ganache smothered in white chocolate.

I’ve been to a marvellous party – Honey and Ginger Caramel and Honeycomb covered in milk chocolate.

The Stately homes of England – Layers of blackberry ganache, lemon ganache in a milk chocolate cup, sprinkled with shortbread.

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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.  

     


Caesar Salad, Pancetta wrapped Cod, Jelly, Ice Cream and Chocolate

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents dearly. But for two immensely talented and successful people, they are absolutely hopeless at feeding themselves. People think I’m joking when they ask where I learnt to cook and I tell them it wasn’t so much where but why, it was a necessity if I didn’t want to live off fish cakes for the majority of my teenage years. Take this weekend when I came home. I had offered to cook dinner for the parents and the man upstairs, and in return my mum had bought in a shopping order. I had left basic items like stock and dried herbs off the list assuming anyone who isn’t a student, lives in a house full time and presumably eats would have these staples, I was wrong. My mothers response? ‘We had some at christmas’, yes we did, and I used it up, the last time I cooked in our house. My father is I’m afraid no better, while very good at selecting wines for our dinner, he took in the food order and left out most of the veg and salad because they wouldn’t fit in the fridge, the fridge was full of potatoes…. Anyway, for those of you who know how to store vegetables, here is a standard, albeit slightly middle class, quick dinner party menu.

Posh Caesar Salad (Serves 4) 

2 iceberg lettuces, 2 chicken breasts, 4 quails eggs, 10 anchovies, 1 small sourdough roll, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 tsp of English mustard, 1/2 tsp of garlic, finely chopped, 1 1/4 tsp of white wine vinegar, 1 1/4 tsp of lemon juice 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 10g of Parmesan, grated, 120ml of vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle chicken with sea salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and top with 1/2 crushed garlic clove each. Roast for 12-15mins at 180*C, leave to rest. 

  1. Meanwhile boil the quails eggs for 2 1/2mins, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool, peel and set aside. Cut the roll into croutons and toast on both sides under a grill, seasoned with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. For the dressing, blend 2 anchovies, egg yolk, mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil whilst blitzing. Add Worcester sauce, lemon juice and Parmesan, season to taste.

  3. Serve drizzled over Iceberg lettuce topped with chicken, anchovies, quails egg and Parmesan slivers.  

Pancetta wrapped cod, pearl barley risotto, garlic mushrooms, crispy kale, Early Grey jus

4 cod fillets, boneless and skinless, 12 rashes pancetta, 100g button mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 100g kale, dried rosemary, 320g pearl barley, 2 stock cubes, 1 onion, dried thyme, drizzle of truffle oil, 3tbsp Brandy. 2 earl grey tea bags.

  1. Soak the tea bags in 300ml hot water for at least 1hr. Wrap 3 pancetta rashes around each fish and set aside in a baking tray. Meanwhile place the kale in a baking dish, sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary and a small drizzle of oil. Place in the oven at 140*C for 25mins, stirring occasionally, until crispy.
  • .Meanwhile, slice the onions into small pieces. Sauté for 2-3mins in olive oil and salt. Add the pearl barley, thyme then brandy. Add 600ml stock and cook, stirring occasionally for 30mins, adding more water if needed. Season with lemon juice, pepper, salt and truffle oil and set aside.

  • Forthe mushrooms, finely chop garlic and cook in truffle oil for 1min. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5mins over a high heat, set aside. Put the fish on to cook in 140*C oven for 15mins.

  • Meanwhile, make jus. Combine earl grey stock with stock cube, salt, pepper and lemon juice, reduce by about half.

  • Just before serving, heat jus and risotto. Make a bed with the risotto, scatter around mushrooms, place fish on top, drizzle jus and scatter with kale chips.  

  • Grown-up Jelly, Ice cream and chocolate sauce

    A nostalgic nod to my primary school, The Rowans, where we indulgently were given those wonderful ice cream squares, strawberry jelly and chocolate custard, my favourite dessert. We used to mix them all up together in a wonderful synthtic, sugary mess we loved. This thankfully is more refined, very simple and quick and tasty, try adding ginger to the ice cream.

    1 tub vanilla ice cream, 200g shortbread biscuits, 4tbsp maple syrup, Silicone half sphere moulds, 300ml grapefruit juice, 4 gelatine leaves, 200g dark chocolate, 50g sugar, 50ml water, pinch of sea salt.

    1. Let the ice cream soften, until it can be squeezed out of its tub. Use a pastry brush to coat 4 silicone moulds. Crush shortbread in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Pour into moulds to coat and shake out so you have an even layer lining the moulds. Scoop ice cream into each mould, using a knife to level the base. Freeze.
  • For the jelly, heat grapefruit juice to boiling. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water, squeeze out and stir into grapefruit juice. Pour into a base lined square dish and refrigerate for at least 2hrs.

  • For the sauce, heat water and sugar to boiling. Stir in chocolate and salt until melted. Chop grapefruit jelly into squares. Serve beside ice cream and jelly in a little jug.

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    Easter Day with the Gullifers

    Aren’t you lucky, today you get a double whammy of Gullifer Eats. Second part here. Partly because Easter weekend is all about food (and music and religion), or is that only in the Gullifer household? And partly because I am currently on a three and a half hour bus journey back to Oxford and am extremely bored. Most people are not put upon by relatives to host major festivals until they are at least settled with a mortgage, but for some reason the Gullifer clan descended on me this Easter holiday. Apparently it had something to do with the fact I mentioned I wouldn’t be able to come and cook the normal Easter feast at home, due to work….. But of course I relished in the planning, cooking, and of course the food shop that arrived to my door paid for by the parents, as I couldn’t afford to pay to feed everyone. It was a lovely weekend, peppered with Kings college concerts and services, the most amazing brunch at Cau (see below), cocktails with my sister and chocolate. For the main event I invited over Gluten-free-Dairy-free man and the Perpetual Poldark lover as they were in Cambridge for finals and I thought I’d add to their stress levels by inflicting my family on them.  

     

    (Eggs Royale with grilled avocado and chimichurri sauce)

    I am ashamed to say I didn’t cook any of the starter, I was a little strapped for time. But Waitrose came up trumps with their anti-pasti selection and the Sister arranged a Work of Art on the plate to make it that extra bit special.  We had giant Sicilian olives, gin and orange soaked olives, ricotta, baby mozzarella, fresh grilled anchovies, chargrilled artichokes (in some amazing dressing), smoked sundried tomatoes (wow) and some of the best pesto I’ve  tasted, with whole shreds of Parmesan.   

    What I was pleased with was the wine selection, thank you Cambridge Wine Merchants. My sister had made an off hand comment earlier in the week about new world sparkling wines all tasting too sweet and sainsburys Cavaesque. I was determined to prove her wrong. I was recommended a Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs, an Argentinian sparkling wine aged on the lees (yeast) for 58 months. As the lady said to me, it tastes like liquid shortbread. Think a really intense champagne, reduced at the moment in the wine merchants to £16 it tastes like a much more pricey champagne, if you are in Cambridge I recommend. 

     

    For main course, to mix things up from the traditional Lamb, we had whole baked salmon. Not only was it different and undoubtably healthier than lamb, it also only took 45mins (15mins on the highest temperature, 30 at 180*C). This was served with a lemon, dill and yoghurt dressing. Accompanied by smashed sweet potatoes – Simply cooked in a microwave for 15-20mins, smashed up with olive oil, a drizzle of truffle oil, thyme, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. – We also had brussel sprouts with chorizo, which ‘convinced a fussy eater that sprouts were delicious’ according to the Perpetual Poldark lover. -Halved Brussel sprouts, drizzled with sesame oil, salt pepper, 1 onion, finely chopped, 1 garlic clove, finely chopped, and 200g cubed chorizo for 20-30mins at 180*C. -Finally we had asparagus with balsamic drenched tomatoes. – Blanched Asparagus, cherry tomatoes cooked in a little oil, salt and balsamic for 5mins and a scattering of basil.  

       

    Finally for dessert, I couldn’t do anything but go down the chocolate route, it was Easter after all. (For the record Steve had coconut pannacotta, with sweet and salty almonds – literally coconut milk, sugar, lime juice, vanilla extract, gelatine, topped with toasted almonds tossed in sugar and salt-) I made orange and basil mousses, chocolate soil and white chocolate dipped strawberry. Any guesses as to what I was trying to recreate?  

     

    We ended the meal in truly decadent (and bordering on bizarre) fashion. Vin Santo and Cantucci biscuits, Articulate – our favourite game, ridiculously competitive, and my father lighting amaretti papers on fire in the conservatory. Fun fact, did you know they rise like a pretty lantern when they burn? Next party trick. 

    Twas the night before Christmas…

    Now I am essentially what they call a ‘working gal’, I was in the cafe right up to the hilt. This meant, unfortunately, that I was unable to indulge in my usual 3 day cooking marathon in the run up to Christmas, and SHOCK HORROR, had nothing prepared for Christmas lunch before the big day itself. This is unheard of from the girl who usually has everything chopped, prepped and cooked the day before, save the Turkey. I had luckily still found time to create the, now infamous, Christmas spreadsheet and book the grocery delivery slot. -my mother still doesn’t actually know the password, her grocery shops are so infrequent- Credit where credit is due however; I arrived home to a stocked and catalogued kitchen. Mother had received the food delivery and processed it in the only way a lawyer knows how to. This meant that once I breezed in off the dreaded 3 ½ hour coach journey from Cambridge at around lunch time, waving to the grandparents as I walked past them, I could set straight down to work on the Christmas Eve dinner.

    I would say it is a tradition in our household to have a three course dinner on Christmas Eve, but considering I instigated it a few years ago when I took over proceedings, it is more of an indulgence of a personal whim. What is more of a family tradition is negotiating the short time frame in which to eat dinner between watching ‘Carols from Kings’ between 5.25pm and 7pm with a glass of bubbly and finishing before the 9.15pm rehearsal for Midnight Mass. The time constraint is combined with the limitations of: my grandmother’s aversion to peas and nuts, my father and his father’s aversion to visible celery, cabbage (I ignored this one) and onions and everyone’s fear of fish bones and remotely undercooked meat. Catering for everyone’s request whilst still gratifying my experimental mindset is a challenge every year.

    This year we began with a starter inspired by The Organist’s New Years Eve extravaganza last year, crab mayonnaise. Made by simply mixing crab meat ( I chose brown crabmeat but next time I will go for white, more expensive but a better texture) with lemon juice, mayonnaise, black pepper and salt. I served this with an avocado cream made by blending 3 avocados with Crème fraiche, a small pinch of salt and lemon juice. The combination of the salty crab with the smoother avocado made for a pleasing blend.

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    I followed this with a venison and chestnut stew, herb crumble, winter slaw and roasted squash purée.
    For 6:
    Brown 600g Cubed venison dusted with flour,pepper and salt in a little olive oil. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add 2 onions, cubed and 6 rashes of unsmoked, thick bacon and sauté with a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent. Deglaze the pan with a glass of port. Add thyme, a bay leaf and a spoonful of juniper berries. Finally return the venison to the pan with a beef stock cube, enough water to fill the pan. Place in the oven with a lid or covered in foil for 1 ½ hours at 180oC. Remove from the oven and add 250g cooked and peeled chestnuts, simmer on the stove top for 20mins until thickened.
    For the crumble: Mix 300g breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, chopped parsley and chopped sage. Toast in the oven at 180oC until browned, mixing occasionally.
    For the purée: Roast 500g cubed butternut squash with 1 chopped red onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of white wine vinegar, a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped sage at 180oC for 30mins, until soft. Blend.
    For the slaw: Chop 1 red cabbage and mix with 1 grated apple, 1 tbsp of mustard, a handful of raisins and 2 tbsp mayonnaise. Season to taste.

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    The day before Christmas Day I suppose one does not want anything too heavy in order to preserve one’s appetite for the main event. So for dessert I decided on a dish that was small and sweet. A champagne sabayon with popping candy, served with dark chocolate matchsticks. I kid you not, the matchsticks were a revelation. The intense bitterness provided by a lychee vinegar based ganache matched the overwhelmingly sweet sabayon well, adding richness and texture to the dish. NB you would not want too much of the sabayon as it is so sweet, in this case a cocktail glass full was ample.
    For the sabayon: Whisk 6 egg yolks with 250g sugar, dash of vanilla extract, 200ml sparkling wine and a pinch of salt over a pan of boiling water for 8mins until it has doubled in size and thickened. Immediately remove to whisk over a bowl of iced water for 10-15mins until light and increased in volume again. Pour into glasses and chill. Sprinkle with popping candy just before serving.
    For the matchsticks: Melt 200g milk chocolate and 200g dark chocolate together. Meanwhile bring 25ml cream and 50ml lychee (or other fruit flavoured) vinegar with a large pinch of salt to the boil. Immediately pour over the melted chocolate, leave for 1 min and then combine to a thickened ganache. Spoon into a piping bag, pipe into shapes and chill. When set, dust in cocoa powder.

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    Chocolate Poem

    I have a friend, who shall remain nameless (although those of you who are good with word games may realise what her name is), who recently had a birthday party. As a gift, I turned up with a box of chocolates made up of chocolates forming an acrostic spelling of her name.

    Irish Coffee

    Mango, Lime and Sea Salt Caramel

    Olive and Strawberry

    Elsewhere on my blog you can find exact instructions on how to make ganache and caramels etc. But here are a few tips on constructing flavour combinations and using fruit in your chocolates.

    When I put together a box of chocolates there are three things I always consider. 1) how I can use a balance of white, dark and milk (I feel this means you cover most people’s taste preferences), 2) having a mixture of textures and flavours in each bite (never just one per chocolate), and 3) how all the chocolates relate to one other in the box. Like creating a dish, I like chocolates in a collection to compliment each other. Other things I like to start with are classic combinations, such as sea salt and caramel, and then think about ways to pimp them up. The idea is that not only is each box better than buying one from a shop, as being homemade no two are the same; but also that they are simply more exciting then something you would buy at Thorntons. (Having said this, as a devotee of Lindt Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bars, I do agree that sometimes a little bit of simplicity just hits the spot.) I know some people feel that homemade chocolates should be made with high quality chocolate, but I think if the flavours are vibrant then any chocolate works fine. So long as the dark chocolate is at least 75% cocoa content, it doesn’t really matter about the other two. A little cost-saving tip!

    I think I may have been inspired by my recent trip to a Brazilian fruit market (see Brazil Baby, I’m in Miami Bitch) because my first thought for the letter M was Mango and Lime. As followers of my blog know, I have recently moved to a house virtually next-door to an Aldi. This means I have the luxury of using exotic fruits in my food whilst still working to a budget. I think one of the things that makes homemade chocolates special is the fact that they can use real fruit rather than extracts. To make the caramel, I pulverised mango and simmered the pulp with lime and chilli, before straining and adding to sugar and continuing to make my usual salted caramel. It meant that it was a thinner consistency than my usual caramel, and was lighter in colour. This would probably work for most fruit caramels. I poured the caramel into a white chocolate shell: usually I wouldn’t put these two together as I find the combination too sickly-sweet, but the chilli and lime here off-sets the sweetness.

    For the Irish coffee, I went with a whisky gel and an espresso ganache. Already powerful flavours, so I put them with milk chocolate, providing the sugar that completes the ‘drug triumvirate’ (alcohol, caffeine and sugar) in all the best things: affogatos, Irish coffees, jäger bombs….

    The third flavour achieved something which I’ve wanted to try for ages: savoury with chocolate. Black olive caramel (again pulverised, like fruit, with a pinch of salt) and a sweet strawberry ganache. Using strawberry purée helped the chocolates pack a flavourful punch. These were then smothered in dark chocolate, and dipped in crumbled almonds to add texture.

    I don’t like to say these chocolates encapsulate their namesake as I feel it would be rude to insinuate she was either over caffeinated, spicy or alternative. But I feel she appreciated the comedic effort in the word-play of the names.

    Salmon Risotto, Aldi’s finest

    So Mark Francis and I are finally in the house together for the first time, me just back from Brazil (more on that later) him just back. The plan is to welcome him back from a long day at the office with a GandT and a home cooked meal of what Aldi has to offer. As I am technically unemployed at the moment I can’t really afford to splash the cash, so it is half a salmon fillet each (found in the freezer) and a pineapple I picked up for 59p from Aldi around which I create the menu. As we sit in the garden having a drink while dinner is cooking on the stove you’d almost think we were grown ups…..almost.

    Salmon Risotto with peas and Swiss chard
    (serves 2)

    1 salmon fillet
    100g risotto rice
    1 bay leaf
    Few sprigs of thyme
    1tsp sesame oil
    1 onion, chopped in to dice size pieces
    3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    Swig of white alcohol (white wine, vermouth, sherry – I used an ancient bottle of Becherovka (look it up) donated to me by my parents)
    600ml stock
    4-5tbsp lemon juice
    Vanilla extract
    Peppercorns
    Juniper berries
    Salt
    Large handful of Swiss chard
    Large handful of frozen peas

    1. Sauté the onions and garlic in the sesame oil and a large pinch of salt over a medium heat, stirring till they become translucent. Add the wine and let bubble. Add the rice, thyme and peppercorns. Let sit for 1 min, then add a little stock. Stir till stock is combined and then add more, repeat till the rice is al dente. Keep stirring it, try not to leave unattended, it will stick to the pan otherwise.
    2. Meanwhile put 250ml water, the bay leaf, a few peppercorns, juniper berries and a few sprigs of thyme in a pan. Add the salmon fillet and bring to the boil slowly over a medium heat. Boil for 2 min, remove from the heat and set aside. When ready to serve remove the salmon leaving it in the water for at least 5mins. Remove the skin and cut in half, the salmon should be on the cusp of turning light pink, the innermost centre still darkish pink.
    3. Empty out all but 2cm of the water, add the chard and a pinch of salt, cook over a medium heat for 2mins until dark green.
    4. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and peas to the risotto, cook for a further 3mins till the peas have defrosted.
    5. Serve with the risotto as a base on the plate, topped with the Swiss chard and finally the salmon.

    Continue reading

    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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    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.

    IMG_2074

    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.)

    IMG_2070

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

    IMG_2071        IMG_2073

    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.

    IMG_2076

    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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    Dustbin Tales

    Dustbin Tales
                A good friend of ours is one of my favourite types of people, the sort of person who will eat anything. I cannot stand fussy eaters. (I know I contradict myself a bit on this because of not liking cheese but you know what I mean) So of course I am always delighted when he comes round to dinner or drinks and I can palm of some of my latest invention on him. He is always a grateful receiver of any cookies, brownies or cake that are left lying round the house which I baked as a stress reliever and can’t persuade any of our family to eat any more. So I was delighted when I was asked to cater his 21st birthday. I had absolutely free reign on a savoury and sweet canapé spread; I could experiment with mini macaroons, cheesecake bites, three different sorts of dip and mini toad in the hole. I made mini satay chicken, white wine jellies, chargrilled squid and mini apple pies. Most of all I got to make a spread sheet to organise the whole thing – brilliant! The only request was that I make a cake like the one his mum made for him every year for his birthday.

                As I mentioned before this friend was famous for eating everything, so his mum had come up with a dustbin cake. A chocolate cake with the top sliced off, topped with all the disgusting gummy sweets he wasn’t allowed most of the year and then the top of the cake placed over them. Now I wanted to go one step further for this cake. So I planned a 4 layer chocolate cake, of which I cut out a hole in each layer. I filled the hole with gummy sweets, smothered the cake in chocolate icing with a few token gummy worms making their exits down the sides and topped the whole thing off with a pure chocolate disc lid. On this lid I piped lines coming off the centre and added on a fondant handle and there you have it a pure chocolate dustbin. I was later told that this was breakfast for weeks afterwards, ah well better to over cater than under….