Saturday, 30 June 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons

Recipe adapted from Not So Humble Pie

Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons
Makes about 50

5g dehydrated egg white powder

28g granulated sugar
225g icing sugar (omit 2tbsp)
2tbsp cocoa powder

60g ground almonds
65g hazelnuts

100g egg whites

1. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.

2. Measure out the dehydrated egg white powder and granulated sugar into a little bowl and stir to combine, then set aside.

3. Grind the icing sugar, cocoa powder, ground almonds and hazelnuts together in a food processor and sift into a small-medium bowl.

4. In a large, clean, dry bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy and then sprinkle in the sugar and egg white powder while continuing to beat. Increase the speed of the mixer and keep whisking until a firm, glossy (but not stiff) meringue forms.

5. Using a soft spatula, fold in the almond-sugar mixture to the meringue in thirds, until fully amalgamated. Be cautious not to over mix, as you want the batter to flow off the spatula in a thick ribbon.

6. Transfer the batter to a piping bag with a plain nozzle (approximately 1cm diameter) and pipe round blobs (approximately 1-1½ inch diameter) onto the prepared baking trays. Firmly rap the trays against a counter top until the any air bubbles come to the surface- pop, with a cocktail stick, any which don’t burst. Leave the piped macarons for 30-60 minutes before placing into the lower half of a preheated oven (300F/150C/mark 2) for approximately 15 minutes.

7. Allow the macarons to cool on a wire rack before removing from the trays and sandwiches pairs of shells together with your choice of filling. Refrigerate and allow to mature for at least 24 hours.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

200g plain chocolate
100ml double cream
Pinch of salt, as required

1. Break the chocolate into pieces into a bowl.

2. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Leave for a minute before stirring until the ganache is homogenous. Mix in a pinch of salt, to taste, to reduce any bitterness. Leave to cool and refrigerate, as required, to thicken before use.

3. For sandwiching the macarons, pipe or spoon about a teaspoon of the ganache onto the flat side of half of the shells and gently press another shell on top, flat side facing in. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Ginger & Blueberry Layer Cake

The recipe(s) for this cake seem rather involved, as a whole ensemble, but it was far less time-consuming than I had anticipated.

The flavour combinations are wonderful, and the frosting is reminiscent of a favourite cheesecake of mine. I found that the cake could have done with a touch more ginger, so would up the number of ginger slices in the syrup a tad. 


For the sponges, I used two rather shallow almost-8 inch cake tins. I was a little worried that they wouldn't be big enough, but the fit was perfect. You could also use a deeper pan, and bake the cake for about an hour.
After having soaked the sponges and allowed them to cool, I sliced them in half and refrigerated them for about 20 minutes or so. This was to ensure they were sturdy enough to handle when assembling. Fewer layers could also be made (e.g. you could just fill two sandwich tins with the batter and not slice the layers).

Recipe from Poires au Chocolat

Ginger & Blueberry Layer Cake

For the sponge
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
5 eggs
100g greek yoghurt
335g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
3tbsp milk
For the ginger syrup
6 slices ginger (about 4mm thick)
100g caster sugar
100ml water
For the blueberry filling
250g fresh or frozen blueberries
100g sugar
1tbsp water
zest and juice of half a lemon
For the frosting
1.5cm fresh ginger
15g caster sugar
10ml water
75g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
125g cream cheese
125g mascarpone
½ tsp ground ginger

A small punnet of blueberries, to decorate


1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/mark 3 and grease and line two 8 inch cake pans.

2. For the sponges, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until completely incorporated. Fold in the yoghurt, and once combined, sift in the flour and baking powder. Begin to fold in the flour and baking powder, add the milk, and continue to combine. Once homogenous, transfer to the cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes (if baking in one deep pan, bake for 1 hour-1 hour 20 minutes). Once baked, the sponges should be golden, risen and a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave the sponges to cool for 15 minutes before pouring over the ginger syrup.

3. For the syrup, place the ginger slices, water and sugar into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Once the cakes have cooled for 15 minutes, poke the surfaces of the sponges all over with a skewer and pour the ginger syrup over the tops of the sponges. Leave the sponges to cool completely.

4. For the blueberry filling, heat the blueberries, lemon juice and zest, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool.

5. For the frosting, start by making another, more concentrated, ginger syrup. Chop the ginger into little chunks and heat gently with the caster sugar and water in a little saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring to the boil.  In a large bowl, freestanding mixer or food processor beat together the butter and icing sugar until the sugar is evenly distributed. Beat in the cream cheese, mascarpone and ground ginger and mix in the ginger syrup. Refrigerate to firm up a little before icing the cake.

6. To assemble, remove the sponges from the pans and slice in half. Place the sponges (without separating the new layers) into the fridge to become more manageable.  Sandwich up the layers of cake with the blueberry filling without spreading any on top of the top layer. Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with the fresh blueberries.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Blueberry Preserves

I made this cheesecake a little while ago... it was the last thing I made before having to submit to revision (- I couldn't even fit in the time to do a post on it).

Fortunately, this is the kind of cheesecake that is worth the wait.

The cheesecake consists of a ginger crust, white chocolate filling and blueberry topping.

Though I'm sure the naked cheesecake would taste lovely, I think that, as it is of the baked variety, it would be a little dry without a topping.

The blueberry topping is great. I used frozen blueberries, and they worked wonderfully. It is so perfumed- I thought it might lack flavour, but it really didn't. By all means, sample while its hot- just leave some for the cheesecake.

The recipe is from A Bountiful Kitchen

White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake


For the Crust
340g ginger biscuits
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon

75g butter, melted (1/3 cup)

For the Filling
340g white chocolate, chopped into little chunks
4 x 225g packs of cream cheese
150g caster sugar (3/4 cup)
4 eggs, beaten
2 egg yolks
1tbsp plain flour

1tsp vanilla extract

For the topping
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
1tbsp corn flour
60ml water (1/4 cup)
425g fresh or frozen blueberries (3 cups)
1tbsp lemon juice and zest from one lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/mark 3.

2. For the crust, crush the biscuits to fine crumbs and mix in the salt, cinnamon and butter. Press into a 10 inch spring form pan, covering the base and half way up the sides. Bake for 12 minutes and allow to cool.

3. Melt the chocolate and leave to cool. In a large bowl, soften the cream cheese and beat in the sugar. Gradually mix in the eggs and egg yolks. Mix in the cooled chocolate, flour and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the crust.

4. Transfer the pan to the centre of the oven and drop the temperature to 150C/300F/mark 2, then leave to bake for an hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and open the door by an inch- leave the cheesecake in the cool oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover in cling film or foil (whilst still in the pan) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

5. For the topping, bring the sugar, cornstarch, water and two thirds of the blueberries to a boil in a small/medium saucepan. Allow to simmer, whilst stirring now and then, for 10 minutes. Mash the berries in the pan with a potato masher. Add the rest of the berries and the lemon juice and zest. Leave to cool and top the cheesecake with.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Billionaire's Shortbread

So, after a somewhat unexpected hiatus for work-related purposes, I finally am able to return to the blog. It has been difficult, willing myself into focusing on the Cold war, population change, reversible reactions, Cepheid variables, respiration, poetry and countless other topics, when all I (desperately) wanted was to get back into the kitchen.
Just one more, little exam left. 45 minutes away from freedom- until September. And not a moment to soon. Thankfully it is (for once) not the kind of exam which could be revised for (well, for prolonged periods, anyway), which leaves me time to begin ticking off my endless list of baking goodies.

I have already done a post on Millionaire's shortbread, which I still stand by, but this is something more luxurious. The caramel is more intense and the dark chocolate also adds richness (you could substitute this for milk chocolate, which I would usually be tempted to do, but it works well with dark chocolate). This does take more time and care, but it is definitely worth trying.

Just a little more chocolate...

This can be made over a couple of days; the shortbread can be kept for around 5 days in a tupperware once baked and the caramel can be stored in the fridge.
I couldn't find a 20x30cm tray, so I used a slightly smaller tins. Most of the pieces I did were around 3x5cm rectangles- the rest were little squares.

Recipe from Heston Blumenthal.
He notes that in the Fat Duck, the shortbread is topped with golden nuggets made from fleur de sel dusted with edible gold powder. I couldn't obtain fleur de sel, so just rolled little pieces of rock salt in edible gold dust. This is good for balancing any bitterness of the dark chocolate.

Billionaire’s Shortbread
Makes 20 (or so) bars

For the shortbread
125g plain flour 
50g ground almonds 
½ tsp baking powder 
½ tsp salt 
110g cold unsalted butter, cubed
100g caster sugar
40g egg yolks (about 2 large egg yolks)
35g olive oil
A little more caster sugar, for dusting
For the salted butter caramel
200g double cream
190g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
185g liquid glucose
190g whole milk
For the chocolate
250g plain chocolate, chopped
10g unsalted butter

1. For the shortbread, sift the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Add the flour mixture and continue mixing until the appearance is similar to breadcrumbs.

3. In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks and olive oil and gradually add to the breadcrumb mixture until a soft dough is made.

4. Shape the dough, on a very lightly floured surface, into a flat rectangle and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

5. Unwrap the dough and place between two pieces of baking paper, then roll out into a rectangle measuring around 20x30cm. Cut the dough and baking paper to fit a 20x30cm tray and place in the tray. Place the tray in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/mark 2.

6. Remove the tray from the freezer and discard the top layer of baking paper. Place the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes, before turning it round to bake for a further 3-5 minutes, or until lightly golden all over.

7. Before allowing the shortbread to cool, slide it from the baking tray with a palette knife and transfer to a chopping board. Slice into little bars measuring approximately 3x5cm, or however desired. Dust with sugar and leave to cool.

8. For the caramel, line a 20x30cm baking tray with baking paper. Warm the cream in a small saucepan, without allowing to boil.

9. Put the sugar, butter, salt, glucose and milk in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

10. Begin whisking the caramel, and once it reaches 100C, make sure you continue whisking until it reaches 153C. At 153C, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream, in thirds, whisking quickly to incorporate.

11. Pass the caramel through a sieve and pour into the prepared baking tray. Let the caramel cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

12. Remove the caramel from the tray and slice into 3x5cm rectangles, or whatever size the bars of shortbread are.

13. For the chocolate layer, break the chocolate into a bowl over a small pan of simmering water and heat until melted. Stir in the butter.

14. To assemble, top the shortbread pieces with the caramel slices and cover with the melted chocolate. Leave for a few minutes before transferring to the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

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