03 April 2020

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ORANGE SNACK CAKE

There is something almost comforting in a slice of a simple homemade chocolate cake. The humbleness of its ingredients, the simplicity of preparation, the sense of normalcy, of having a piece along a glass of cold milk, sincerely enjoying each bite. It is these modest cakes that are the midweek dessert staple, quickly prepared for after lunch, a treat that brings both sweetness and nostalgia.
I love how moist and flavourful this chocolate cake is, especially soaked with chocolate syrup. It is so very soft, almost melts away on each bite, and pairs perfectly with milk, tea, and coffee. Made with only a handful of ingredients that are probably already in the cupboards of many, it is both delicious and hearty. If you like, you can serve it with whipped cream, perhaps with a sprinkle of icing sugar, or simply plain; its charm is exactly in its simplicity.


Ingredients
For the cake
250 grams plain flour
150 grams granulated sugar
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
200 ml fresh orange juice
50 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate syrup
75 ml cold water
50 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


Preparation
Start by making the chocolate syrup, because it needs to cool down. Pour the water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the sugar and the cocoa powder, and whisk to combine. Place the saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook for exactly one minute, then remove from the heat. Let the syrup cool down before using. Sift the flour into a large bowl, tip in the sugar, and sift the cocoa powder, instant coffee, and the baking soda over it. Briefly whisk them together, and set aside.
Take a medium bowl, pour in the orange juice, vegetable oil, and vanilla, and whisk really well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and whisk until incorporated. Take a medium pan (20x30 cm), line in with baking parchment, pour in the batter, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes. Check it for doneness with a toothpick, making sure it is not overbaked. Carefully pour the syrup over the baked cake, shake the pan gently, and let it cool down completely. Serve with some whipped cream, or just plain with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. Yields 9 generous servings.

27 March 2020

POTATO FLATBREADS

Making flatbreads always takes me back to summer mornings spent with my paternal grandmother, watching her prepare breakfast so lovingly and effortlessly. Incredible how some recipes have an incredible ability to echo that first experience with it and the very first decision to learn how to make it by ourselves.
Flatbreads are a wonderful alternative to the common bread roll. Effortless to make, they do not require any yeast or long raising times. Just a few ingredients and a bit of your time, and you can create a delightful bread, perfect for serving with a bowl of homemade soup, or as a scrambled egg wrap, along with cottage cheese and a sprinkle of fresh scallions.


Ingredients
200 grams mashed potatoes
180 grams plain flour
5 grams salt
15 ml vegetable oil
½ teaspoon baking powder
30 ml vegetable oil, for the pan

Preparation
Dice and cook the potatoes in plenty of water until they are tender, then drain all the water, and return the pot to the stove for just a mere minute, so all of the remaining water evaporates. Mash them with a potato masher until they are creamy. If you are using leftover mashed potatoes, reheat them in a pot over medium heat, or in the microwave. To the hot potatoes, add the salt, being careful with it if you are using seasoned leftover potatoes, and the oil, and mix well.
Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough comes together. Divide the dough into 16 equal parts, and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Heat up a heavy-duty pan over medium heat and gently brush it with a few drops of vegetable oil. Roll each of them into about a 2-3 millimetre thick disk, and cook them over medium heat, about a minute or two on one side, and then about 30 seconds on the other. They need to be cooked through and almost golden in colour. After every few flatbreads, brush the pan with a bit of oil, and continue cooking. Serve them immediately. Yields 16 flatbreads.

19 March 2020

CHOCOLATE CARAMEL HAZELNUT CREAM CAKE

Ten years' worth of words, ten years' worth of photographs, ten years' worth of recipes. Thousands of ingredients, thousands of preparation steps, and thousands of grams of chocolate and flour, and here we are. Ten years ago, I clicked the Publish button for the first time; and timidly but bravely, I have immersed myself in what has become a calling for me.
As I always emphasise, beauty is in the simplicity and lots of rich chocolate flavour, and this cake is no different. There is something almost comforting about the effortlessness of this cake. Deep caramel mousse base, light as air cake layers, and plenty of cream for a lavish decoration.
Despite its many layers, it does come together quite quickly, and it indeed serves a crowd. Feel free to decorate it entirely to your liking, be it with lots of toasted hazelnuts, maybe some honeycomb, or perhaps with a caramel shard or two. The beauty of baking lies in the joy of creating your own masterpiece each and every time.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake layers
250 grams plain flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
100 grams light brown sugar
500 ml whole milk
100 grams apricot jam
40 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate caramel cream
150 grams sugar
50 ml cold water
200 ml milk, divided
40 grams cornflour
75 grams butter, diced
100 grams dark chocolate (75% of cocoa solids), chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
20 grams hazelnut praline
200 ml double cream
5 grams gelatine


Preparation
Start by making the chocolate caramel cream filling. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in the cold water, tip in the sugar, and gently shake the pan to somewhat distribute the sugar, without stirring it. In a medium bowl, whisk together 100 ml of cold milk and the cornflour, and set it aside. Place the saucepan on medium high heat, and let the sugar melt, and then start to cook, without stirring. Once it comes to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes, until it becomes a deep amber colour. For a long time, it will seem like the sugar syrup is not changing into caramel, but do not step away from the stove, as it will turn into caramel incredibly quickly.
Once it is amber and fragrant, very carefully pour the remaining milk into it. It will bubble and splash, so be careful. Let it cook for a minute or two, until all of the caramel melts into the milk, then pour in the cornflour mixture. Cook, until thickened and blended, for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat, and start adding small pieces of butter and dark chocolate, whisking constantly. Add one piece at a time, and do not stop whisking, until the filling is smooth and blended. Cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the filling is cooling down, start making the cake layers. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large bowl, add in the brown sugar, whisk well, and set it aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the jam and the oil. Blend them really well, especially if the jam was cold from the refrigerator. Once blended, add in the vanilla and milk, and mix again. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined. Weigh the batter and divide it between seven small cake pans (15 cm), lined with baking parchment. If you have to bake in batches, it will still be fine; the batter will still bake up as intended. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200C, for about 7-8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the very centre comes out clean. The layers will be very thin and soft; let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pans, remove them to a cooling rack, and let them cool completely.
By this time, the filling will be at room temperature, which is exactly what is needed, so remove the cling film, transfer the caramel chocolate custard into a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on high, until completely creamy. Add the gelatine into a small bowl, pour in two tablespoons of cold water, and let it bloom. Add the vanilla bean paste and the hazelnut praline into the caramel chocolate cream, and blend again very well, so it almost resembles a chocolate spread. In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, whip the double cream until soft peaks form. When the gelatine has bloomed, heat it up over the lowest heat, or in the microwave, until melted, but do not let it boil. Add a few teaspoons of the chocolate cream to the melted gelatine, mix very well, then pour everything back into the filling, and blend. Add about a third of the whipped cream to the filling, and gently fold it through. Once somewhat blended, add in the rest, and keep softly folding until it resembles a chocolate mousse.
To assemble, place the first cake layer onto the cake platter, place a tall acetate strip around it, and close a small cake ring around everything, to keep it in place. Carefully spread a portion of the caramel chocolate mousse, and top with another cake layer. Keep layering the cake until all of the material is used. Top the surface of the last cake layer with cling film so it does not dry out, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Once chilled properly, decorate the cake to your liking, and serve with strong, freshly brewed coffee. Yields 20 servings.
Author's note: To decorate, I used 100 ml of double cream, two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as some chopped walnuts and cinnamon honeycomb candy.

13 March 2020

BANANA HAZELNUT ICE CREAM CAKE

With spring being almost here, we are once again reaching for no-bake sweet treats. Ripe bananas have been used for years in making ice creams, which is why they are a perfect choice as a base for this little no-bake beauty.
Plenty of toasted hazelnuts, a bit of chocolate, a dash of rum, and a drop of vanilla make this no bake treat a real gem. All of the well-known traditional flavours in a form of a charming little ice cream cake.
You can even glaze it in fudge sauce, ganache, or perhaps roll it into some more chopped up toasted hazelnuts, for an added crunch. And as always, feel free to add a splash of Frangelico if you so desire.


Ingredients
250 grams butter, softened
100 grams icing sugar, sifted
400 grams ripe bananas
50 grams dark chocolate (90% cocoa), melted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon dark rum
350 grams toasted hazelnuts, ground
150 grams vanilla biscuit crumbs


Preparation
Place the softened butter into a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, and whip with an electric mixer on high, just as you would for buttercream, for about 3-4 minutes. It should be much lighter in colour and creamy in texture. Melt the chocolate over low heat or in the microwave, and let it cool down slightly. When the butter is ready, mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork, or blend with an immersion blender until smooth, and add them to the bowl. Add in half of the ground hazelnuts, to help the mixture blend, and whip for a minute or so, until combined.


It will still be runny at this point, so tip in the rest of the hazelnuts, and blend once more. Add in the melted chocolate, vanilla, and rum, and blend well again. Finally, tip in the biscuit crumbs, and mix. Take a small round cake form (15 cm), place it on the cake platter, and add in a strip of acetate if the form is not tall enough. Slowly add in the cake batter, in layers, levelling each one as you add, as this will ensure the cake does not have any air pockets. Once levelled, cover the top with cling film, and place the cake into the freezer for about 4 hours, preferably 8. Before serving, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, for easier slicing. Yields 20 servings.

06 March 2020

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE FROZEN MILKSHAKE

Even though the calendar says we are still in winter, the weather outside shouts spring. Warmer, sunny days simply call for a sweet treat that is bright and flavourful, and strawberries are perfect for that.
Strawberry cheesecake is a spring classic, and this milkshake is just like it, only served in a glass, and even slightly frozen. Fresh strawberries, vanilla bean ice cream, fresh double cream, and whole milk. Luxury in a glass.
There are a few different ways to make milkshakes; thinner, easily enjoyed with a straw, or with a somewhat thicker texture, perhaps even served with a small dessert spoon. I like my milkshakes on the thinner side, perhaps because that is how I had them growing up, but if you like yours with a thicker texture, simply add less milk, and blend really well.


Ingredients
200 grams vanilla bean ice cream
500 ml whole milk
250 grams fresh strawberries, hulled
50 grams Mascarpone cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 ml double cream

Preparation
Place the ice cream into a large blender bowl, and pulse it a few times, just to make it creamy. Add in the strawberries and the Mascarpone, and blend until completely smooth. Pour in the milk and the vanilla, and blend once again. If the bowl is freezer-safe, place it into the freezer for about 15 minutes, so it starts to freeze ever so slightly, as this will give the milkshake a delightfully frozen texture. If not, transfer the mixture into a freezer-safe container, and proceed in the same fashion. Place the milkshake mixture back into the blender, pour in the double cream, and let it whip up again. Serve immediately in chilled glasses with some additional fresh strawberries. Yields 4 rich servings.