Dark Chocolate Madeleines

Deliciously crisp on the edges with a light and airy interior, you cannot have just one of these little beauties. 

I don't know what it is about madeleines but the very sight of them makes me want to smile. I'm in ore of every aspect of French patisserie and often catch myself daydreaming about working in a Patisserie Salon in Paris. I'm a lover of all things classic so I guess seeing these little genoise morsels, beautifully uniform with their crisp seashell jackets on I can't help but want to eat them...ALL.

I have recently obsessed over madeleines and anyone following my social media accounts will know. I do apologise. My sudden infatuation may be because I recently purchased and sexy new madeleine pan, or it might be because the other half insulted my first attempt so I've been trying a number of recipes to try and win him over; and I think I've accomplished that.

They're perfect on their own; flavoured with a little vanilla or lemon zest but they're so versatile that you can really try out anything with them. I've tried them dipped in chocolate, flavoured with gingerbread spices, with toasted coconut and almond... This is just the beginning of my love affair with madeleines and I'll be sure to keep you updated. 

Makes approx. 36 madeleines

Recipe adapted from http://dailydishrecipes.com/dark-chocolate-madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 75g Dark Chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids
  • 115g Unsalted Butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 160g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Large Eggs, Free Range or Organic
  • 140g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 shot of Espresso
  • 20g Cocoa Powder

Method:

  1. Over a bain-marie/double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together ensuring in a bowl doesn't come in to contact with the boiling water, stir in the espresso (or a tbsp of good instant coffee), set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Sift the the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and set aside until needed.
  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted, beat the eggs on high for 2-3 minutes until light. Turn the speed down and add the sugar slowly. Turn the mixer back up to high and leave it to do it's magic for around 5 minutes. If you are using a hand mixer it will take the same time but considerably more if beating my hand, but just think of the guns...
  4. Gently fold in the dry ingredients to the eggs and sugar trying not to deflate the air too much. The important thing here is don't be afraid, if you tread too carefully then the ingredients will not incorporate properly and this will cause you issues in the oven.
  5. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, again gently but mix it fully. Cover the mixture with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour. I don't know the exact reason for this but I've been told to do so, so that's what I do. You can keep the mixture in the fridge from upto 2 days.
  6. Preheat the oven to 210C. Melt the additional butter and brush into a madeleine pan, dust with a light coating of flour and tap away any excess. Pipe or spoon the mixture into the shells, you want to fill them 2/3 full.
  7. Bake for 7 minutes at this temperature and then turn the oven to 175C and bake for further 4 minutes. Remove from the over and turn out the pan onto a cooling rack or clean tea-towel, they should just fall from the pan.

I devour at least two or three immediately so if you're anything like me, be sure to have a cup of tea or coffee ready. Dip them in your brew or enjoy them as they are.

Sticky Toffee Baked Alaska

My first memory of Baked Alaska is from primary school. I'd stand in line with my compartmentalised food tray; eagerly working my way to the end of the counter so the scary dinner lady with hairy legs could spoon a portion of mallow topped ice cream into the top corner. I don't remember it ever having a sponge base, just ice cream, jam and a toasted marshmallow-esque topping - but I knew of nothing else so I was happy. I'd rush through my fish fingers and ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes as quick as I could and then savour every single mouthful of my pudding. Baked Alaska day was a much welcomed school day for me, probably the only welcomed one to be fair.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I had the real deal! I was out having dinner with friends at French restaurant in Leeds. One of the couples we were with had sampled it previously, in fact I believe it was the whole reason for the choice of restaurant, but when it came to ordering dessert it wasn't the menu, noticing this I felt a little bad for the guys who had wanted to order it again. It turned out that I was totally out of the loop, it was one of those things that if you know about it, you can have it, and if not - tough. It was a spectacle; it was doused in alcohol and flambéed at the table. It was that good that as we all dug in we barely noticed all the jealous eyes peering over at our table, but we didn't care, we were in B.A heaven.

I created this recipe for a dinner party not that long ago. We we're having our friends Chris and Anna over to stay with little Joseph; literally one of the cutest kids ever. Chris and Anna are the couple I spoke of previously so when we arranged to have them over, I thought what better dessert to make than Baked Alaska. I wanted to mix it up a little; one, to try something a new and two; because if it didn't live up to the last one I could just say "it's because it's a little different". Fortunately, I didn't have to pull out this excuse and although it was different, this made it even more delicious in my eyes.

Don't be put off by all the components that go into this dessert, each one is very simple to make. If you are worried or pushed for time, then you can always use some pre-made elements. To make the ice cream you will need an ice cream maker. Personally,  I wouldn't attempt this recipe if you don't have one. Each time I've made ice cream by hand I have always been left with ice crystals, despite following the method exactly. You could substitute for a good quality ice cream -  an Irish cream variety would be heavenly - or you could adapt a 'no churn' recipe. 

 

Makes 6 individual desserts/ 

Ingredients:

Date Ice Cream

  • 150g Medjool Dates, Pitted
  • 100ml Spiced Rum
  • 4 Egg Yolks 
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 300ml Whole Milk
  • 300ml Double Cream
  • 1 Vanilla Pod or 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Sticky Toffee Cake

  • 100ml Freshly Made Coffee or Spiced Rum
  • 110g Dates
  • 60g Unsalted Butter
  • 75g Muscovado Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 110g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp baking powder

Caramel Sauce

  • 55g Unsalted Butter
  • 110g Muscovado Sugar
  • 150ml Double Cream

Brown Sugar Meringue

  • 50g Egg Whites
  • 100g Muscovado Sugar

Specialist equipment required:

Ice Cream Maker & Kitchen Torch

Method:

  1. For the ice cream, chop the dates roughly and add to the rum. Let them macerate for up to 4 hours. Add the milk to a heavy bottomed pan with the vanilla extract or seeds added, if you're using fresh vanilla then add the seeded pod too. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat. Meanwhile in a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy - I do this by hand and let it pass as my cardio for the day.  Very slowly add the hot milk to the eggs, whisking as you do this. If you add the milk to quickly the eggs will cook and you'll have vanilla scrambled eggs. Yuck!
  2. Once added, return back into the pan and cook on a medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, this can take up to 10 minutes. Allow to cool
  3. Add the double cream to a large bowl or jug and pour in the cooled custard. You may need to sieve this first. Mix thoroughly. Next, turn on the ice cream maker and slowly pour the mixture in through the feed. Let it churn for approximately 20 minutes. Just before you're done, add the macerated dates and let them fully incorporate in the ice cream. Place in a freezable container until needed. 
  4. For the sticky toffee cake, chop the dates into small pieces and add them to the coffee to soak. After 5 minutes add the bicarbonate of soda and mix, this will break down the dates and leave them soft and sticky.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the egg beat until combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and lightly mix in. Add the date mixture. 
  6. Pour into a small lined baking tin or an 8" square cake tin (that's what I used) and bake for 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
  7. While the cake is baking you can make the sauce, and it couldn't be easier - just add the ingredients to a pan and melt, cook on a medium/high heat for a 3-5 minutes until thick and all the sugar has dissolved. Make sure to watch it as it can bubble over. 
  8. Take the cake out of the oven and using a cake tester or cocktail stick, poke holes all over the cake. Add 1/2 of the warm toffee sauce and let it soak in.
  9. For the brown sugar meringue, place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over simmering water and heat until the sugar dissolves. If you're using fresh egg whites as opposed to pasteurised egg whites, you'll need to heat the eggs and sugar to around 65 C to kill any possible bacteria. Once done, transfer to a stand mixture and whisk on high until thick and glossy. 
  10. To assemble, cut round discs out of the sticky toffee cake and set aside. The best thing is the have off-cuts to nibble on whilst you work. You also need to make sure the cake is cool, if the cake is still warm (as a typical S.T pudding is) it will melt the ice cream and you'll just end up with a mess dripping down on to your kitchen floor. Place a scoop of the date ice cream  on top of each sponge, I used a specialist confectionery dome mould for this and placed my ice cream in them before putting in the freezer but I assure you an ice cream scoop works just as well. Cover each mound of ice cream with the rest of the toffee sauce.
  11. Take the meringue and either pipe it on to cover the cake and ice cream or use a small knife/palette knife to cover the whole thing. 
  12. Plate up and take to your guests. Let them use the blowtorch to scorch their own desserts, trust me, they'll love it - just be careful, safety first.

'Propa' British Brownies

Celebrating the fact that it’s biscuit week on Great British Bake Off, I am sharing my recipe for 'Propa’ British Brownies, chock-full of biscuits we all know and love. I am also celebrating the fact that today, I joined the gym. Now the reason I am celebrating this is because I feel less guilty about rushing home to bake these knowing I will devour at least three during tonight's episode of GBBO.

So, on my quest to find the perfect brownie I have come across many different recipes; the key is getting that perfect balance of fudgy cakiness in the middle and the chocolaty crisp exterior.

Back in 2013 I came across John Slattery’s recipe for ‘Chocolate Pecan Brownies’ when I won a chocolate wedding cake competition, part of the prize was his book: John Slattery’s Creative Chocolate. It has been my go-to recipe whenever I’ve been in the mood for brownies. I’ve had them with peanut butter swirled throughout, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and then jewelled with cranberries during winter, I’ve gone totally cray and thrown white, milk and dark chocolate chips in the mix. They were the dessert at my first dinner party in my new house – I kept it simple and served with a homemade vanilla ice cream. Along the way I have made a few minor tweaks, I’m not saying these tweaks make the recipe better; they’ve just happened organically and seemed to have stuck.

The reason this recipe came about was because I couldn’t bring myself to throw out those slightly soft and stale custard creams lurking at the bottom of the biscuit barrel, I know you all have them... So instead of throwing them out I baked them into a batch of chocolate brownies and something magical happened! They went from the seemingly everyday confection to little squares of heaven. I have tried them with a variety of biscuits and personally I prefer a nice random mixture so the good thing there is you can throw in whatever you have. 

Makes 12 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 225g Dark Chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids
  • 125g Unsalted Butter
  • 225g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs, Free Range or Organic
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Vanilla Pod or 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 140g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Shot of Espresso
  • 25g Cocoa Powder
  • 250g Assorted Biscuits

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an 8" square cake tin or you can use a standard 12x9 baking sheet, however they won't be as deep and the baking times will change so be aware.
  2. Over a bain-marie/double boiler, melt the chocolate ensuring in a bowl doesn't come in to contact with the boiling water, set aside to cool slightly. Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the eggs, yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the chocolate and espresso. As a reward for getting this for you may lick the chocolate bowl.
  3. Sift the the dry ingredients together and add to the mix slowly until the mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. Roughly crumble 1/3 of the biscuit assortment into the batter and loosely mix in to combine. Spread half of the mixture in the tin and layer another 1/3 of biscuits (whole) on top. Cover with the remaining batter and then press in the leftover biscuits.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until you have a shiny, papery crust on top and the sides just start to come away from the tin.
  6. Once out of the oven let them cool fully in the tin. Cut the brownies into quarters and then cut each quarter into four. If you like your work colleagues then you can take them to work and reluctantly share them out, if not you can save them all for yourself.

The Best Chocolate Chunk Cookies

If you like a cookie that's soft, chewy and contains a mammoth amount of chocolate in every single bite, then you really need to try these! Look good don't they?!

Hello and welcome to this, my first blog entry, EVER! For years I have wanted to start a blog, I've had dreams of inspiring people with my confections but I have never really taken to technology; or should I say it has never really taken to me. When I was studying Art at university, one module was to start a blog to showcase ourselves as 'creatives' and post updates. For some reason I am incapable of retaining any information when it comes to anything technological, however simple or complex. Suffice to say that I didn't do particularly well on that one. But, over the last year or so I've been toying with the idea of finally starting my own bake blog so here it is, the bitten bullet.

I have been stressing over what to put out there for my first recipe (those who have their own blogs may be able to relate?) I consider myself to be a novice baker, despite my profession as a cake maker/designer. The reason I say novice is that I am completely self taught when it comes to baking, the cakes I make - and I assure you I make them all - are years of experimenting in my kitchen; developing recipes until I feel they're worthy to offer to my clients. I try recipes out, tweak them, make them into something new. I develop my own recipes from scratch, some work and some fail miserably. I have no romantic anecdotes of my mum or grandma teaching me how to make the perfect Victoria sponge, I haven't inherited any famous family recipe's, for me it was shop bought maderia cake and birds instant custard, but I didn't have any complaints, in fact I loved it.

So, when it came to the first post I wanted it to be something that everyone loves and that was simple to bake. This Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe is one of my babies, something I have nurtured over many years and has evolved into something that will cure the sweetest tooth. I vote chunks over chips any day and this cookie has them in abundance but you have to use good quality chocolate, it's a must. I used Callebaut 811NV. To me this cookie has the perfect combination of chocolate to cookie ratio but you can change it up and add nuts or dried fruit, but why mess with perfection...?! 

Makes 36 very good sized cookies 

Ingredients:

  • 150g Unsalted Butter
  • 70g Soft Light Brown Sugar
  • 140g Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Large Free Range or Organic Egg
  • 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 220g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Corn Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 250g Dark Chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light. Add the egg and vanilla; beat on low speed until just combined - 20 seconds will do (mixing the egg for too long can result in a 'tough cookie', literally)
  2.  Sift the the dry ingredients together, I do this several times to ensure the corn flour and raising agents are well distributed. Add this to the mix slowly until the mixture comes together; you may need to add the dry ingredients in batches if you are mixing by hand to avoid the dreaded flour cloud.
  3. Chop 200g of the chocolate in to chunks, there's no real science behind this so chop as large or small as you wish, I like my chunks to vary in size. Take the remaining 50g of chocolate and finely grate it; it's this what gives that chocolate speckled goodiness to the final product.
  4. Roll the dough into balls ready to bake; if you're as anal as me then you can weigh them into 30g balls and you will have the perfect size cookie for one - not too big that you feel you have to share but big enough to satisfy your cookie needs. Bake for 8-10 minutes BUT NO LONGER, anything longer that this and you will turn them from chewy perfection to crispy discs of disappointment - trust.
  5. Once out of the oven let them rest on the baking tray for 10 minutes or so to firm slightly; remember there is a lot of melted chocolate inside to they will seem very soft to touch, don't mistake this for them being under baked. Once firm transfer them to a cooling tray until you can deliver them to your face. ENJOY!

 

Follow me on social media and tag me in your bakes so I can see what you think.

 

FIN