Walnut and Chocolate (Gluten Free) Cake

This is what I call a ‘good-for-you’ cake. One-quarter cup of walnuts, for instance, provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amount of copper, magnesium and biotin.  Dark chocolate provides you with energy, fat, minerals and antioxidants. Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12. Ok there is some sugar in a cake, but you can replace it with honey and it is a cake after all, not a medicine. So, I say… Eat more cake!

walnut & chocolate cake

WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE CAKE

(An adapted recipe from Jul’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

140 g shelled walnuts

140 g caster sugar

140 g dark chocolate

4 eggs

butter to grease the cake tin

cocoa powder or chocolate for dusting (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Place the walnuts and sugar in the blender and pulse it until the walnuts are finely chopped, resembling a coarse flour.
  3. Transfer it to the bowl and add finely grated chocolate.
  4. Separate the eggs. Leave egg whites aside. Add the egg yolks to the nut mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Whip up the egg whites until they form the stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the walnuts.
  6. Butter a round tin and line it with the parchment paper, then scrape the batter into the tin.
  7. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and set.
  8. Let it cool down completely before slicing, dust with cocoa powder or more chocolate.
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Hot Chocolate for Grown-ups

If you don’t like hot chocolate, it is probably because you’ve not tried a proper one. I grew up on a very nice but very milky hot chocolate, which was perfect at the time, as we were kids. However, our palettes are constantly changing and if you are like me you hanker for something more full-bodied, indulgent and decadent, forget instant hot chocolate! Stay here with me and try this for size.

There are a few steps to insure you’ll have a heaven in a mug:

  1. Go dark! Choose some good quality DARK chocolate. Not only will it give you a more intense flavour, but it has the added benefit of magnesium and iron. You can skip the cocoa powder, but I like to add a bit of it too, also dark and good quality.
  2. Go rich! While whole milk is the standard prescription for hot chocolate, the idea of  finishing the chocolate off with 200ml single cream brings the hot chocolate to another level, gives you luxurious silkiness in the mouth.
  3. Go crazy! Customise your drinks with the flavours you love.

Variety of Flavourings: Vanilla, Almond, Chilli, Cinnamon, Mint, Marshmallows, Hazelnuts, Shredded coconut. For the grown-ups version alcoholic additions: Brandy, Whisky, Irish Cream Liqueur, Hazelnut Liqueur or any Coffee flavoured Liqueur.

And what ever you do, always add a pinch of salt! While it is hard to pick up, it does make a big difference in taste, making it more chocolatey and intense.

Decadent Hot Chocolate

DECADENT HOT CHOCOLATE

Ingredients (for 2 mugs):

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon instant coffee

pinch of sea salt

1 1/2 cup milk (I use full-fat)

3/4 cup single cream or full-fat canned coconut milk

50-80 g dark chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons any preferred alcohol (optional)

Method:

In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, instant coffee and salt. Heat the milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer, stirring every few minutes. Sprinkle the dry chocolate mixture over the hot milk, turning the heat down to low. Whisk continuously until smooth (do not let it boil), then whisk in the chopped chocolate, vanilla extract and alcohol. Serve and enjoy!

 

Perfecting the Brownies

Defining what are the perfect brownies is a constant source of debate. People tend to fall into two camps: those who prefer a crumbly, cake-like brownie and those who enjoy the chewy and rich variety. Mark and I definitely fall into the chewy and rich camp and we’ve been hunting for a perfect recipe for a long time.

At last, after many failures and attempts at allegedly foolproof recipes, I found this one, which works! Well, because brownies can be difficult – too short a cooking time, and they are far too runny and thick, too long and they’re dry and cakey. Plus there is the infamous and sometimes elusive cracked glossy topping.

This recipe is a slightly tweaked famous Leith School of Food and Wine and they are describe as ‘decadent, indulgent and deliciously excessive’.

Rich Dark Chocolate Brownies

LEITH RICH DARK BROWNIES

Ingredients:

(Makes 20)

200g good quality dark chocolate

140g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

85g plain flour

handful of roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Break the chocolate into the small pieces and place in a large heatproof bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the chocolate. stand the bowl over a pan of just-boiled water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water, to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.
  3. Set aside to cool for 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the sugar using an electric whisk until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk the eggs one by one into the chocolate mixture and beat until smoothly combined. Sift the flour and whisk in well for about 20 second until the colour begins to lighten. Stir in the chopped walnuts (or any extras you chose to add).
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a stick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs (not wet batter!) clinging to it. It s better to slightly undercook then overcook brownies, as they should still be fudge in the middle and will become less moist as they cool.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 2 minutes before lifting carefully from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool. Remove the paper before the brownies is completely cold. Cut into 20 squares using a sharp knife. These are delicious cold or warm, served with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche or, if you want to be really indulgent, a fudge sauce.

A Little Extra:

Any extras should serve to enhance, rather than mask a brownie’s fabulous chocolate taste.

Go nuts – A handful of toasted pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts add a pleasing textural contrast.

Get fruity – Dried berries (sour cherries, cranberries, raspberries) or orange zest all go well with chocolate.

Lace with spice – For a Mexican-style brownie, add a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of chilli.

Top tipple – For adults-only indulgence, add a slug of bourbon or a tot of a rich, dark rum.

Perk it up – Coffee and chocolate are natural partners: so try adding a dash of espresso or choc-coated coffee beans to the batter.Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate and Hazelnuts Biscotti

These biscotti are loaded with chunks of hazelnuts and chocolate, and are perfect for dunking in your coffee. They are crisp and crunchy, with a deep chocolate flavor that comes from adding both unsweetened cocoa powder and dark chocolate to the batter. You can make them as crunchy as you prefer by leaving them longer in an oven during the second bake. Original recipe asked for pistachios but I didn’t have them on hands, so I used the hazelnuts instead and was pleased with the result. IMG_4646

CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUTS BISCOTTI

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe)

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for baking sheet

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup toasted hazelnuts

1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Butter and flour a baking sheet; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beat until well combined. Add flour mixture, and stir to form a stiff dough. Stir in toasted hazelnuts and chopped chocolate.
  3. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 30 x 10cm. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 150C.
  4. On a cutting board, using a sharp knife, cut biscotti diagonally into 2.5cm slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8 minutes (or longer, depends on how crunchy you want them to be).

Re-visiting the classics

We’ve been making this cheesecake (originally adapted from the M. Berry’s recipe) in many different variations for the past few years. The reason for that is that texture of this cheesecake is so divine and silky, and the white chocolate is a perfect companion to the magnificent flavours of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, passion fruit, mint,- the result never disappoints. However, this time we tried blackberry with drizzled dark chocolate on top for an extra alluring and visually stunning after-meal treat.

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BAKED WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

For the base:

50 g butter

150 g plain chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed

Filling:

300 g good-quality white chocolate

400 g full-fat cream cheese

2 eggs

150 ml soured cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve:

About 200 g blackberries

80 g dark chocolate
(melted over a pan of hot water or in a microwave for 30 seconds)

a dusting of cocoa powder

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm spring-form cake tin with the non-stick paper.

2. Melt the butter and stir in the crushed biscuits, press evenly over the base of the prepared tin. Chill in the fridge.

3. Break and melt the white chocolate per a pan of hot water (do not allow the chocolate to become too hot!), stirring occasionally with a spoon until runny and smooth.

4. Whisk the cream cheese and eggs together in a large bowl until smooth, then add the soured cream, vanilla and whisk again until completely smooth with no lumps. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix together.

5. Pour this mixture into the tin and spread evenly over the chilled base. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes until firm around the edge and just set in the middle (the centre should wobble a little). Remove from the oven. Run a small palette knife around the edge of the tin and then allow to cool and chill without removing from the spring-form (this is to avoid a big cracks).

6. Remove the outside ring and lift the base on to a serving plate. Arrange blackberries on top and sprinkle over with the melted dark chocolate and dusting of cocoa powder.

(!) The surface of the baked cheesecake may crack slightly in the middle, but don’t worry, it is part of its charm! Serve very thin slices as this cheesecake is very rich, but so delicious!

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Salted Caramel Shortbread

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It’s all about salted caramel at the moment, you can get it as a coffee flavour, cupcakes, ice-cream, roasted nuts, pop-corn, cheesecakes, but I am not complaining, because I love the sweet and salty combination! If you like it as much as I do, here is another variation for you – shortbread!

SALTED CARAMEL SHORTBREAD

(originally adapted from the OLIVE magazine)

Ingredients:

250 g butter

150 g golden caster sugar

200g wholemeal flour

100 g plain flour

zest od 1 orange

150 g dark chocolate (optional)

salt flakes for decoration

Caramel:

100 g golden caster sugar

salt flakes

Method:

1. To make the caramel, heat the sugar in a frying pan until melts and then starts to bubble to a golden brown. Swirl the pan if you need to keep the melting and browning even. Add a good pinch of salt flakes and tip the caramel onto an oiled baking sheet set on a wooden board. Cool and then break into chips with a rolling pin.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest until you have a smooth paste. Add the flours, pinch of salt and combine until it forms a dough. Tip onto a lightly floured surface, roll out gently and sprinkle with the crushed caramel. Fold in half and then transfer to a 20×30 or similar size tin and push into an even layer. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oven to 160C. Bake the shortbread for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, mark into fingers with a knife and then cool completely. Cut along the marked lines into pieces.

You can stop here or to make it more luxurious, you can cover the shortbread with the chocolate. If you decide to go for it, please read further.

4. Heat the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of water (or microwave it for 30seconds) until it starts to melt, stir until smooth and take it off the heat. Lay the shortbread next to each other on a cooling rack and spoon over the chocolate in strips – it doesn’t need to be perfect. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with some salt flakes and then leave it to set.

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