10 July 2020

APRICOT LEMON CONSERVE

This amber beauty is a cross between a jam and a typical conserve, and its charm lays in the large pieces of fruit. Because there is almost no stirring, many of the apricot halves will remain almost intact. Yes, some will break down, especially if they are really ripe, but the majority will still be in one piece. It is simply divine on toast, pancakes, or just enjoyed with a tiny spoon.
The vanilla will help deepen the flavour of the conserve, especially the longer it stands, and the whole lemon slices will brighten it up and add a layer of tanginess to it. And as an addition, it will make the jars look very decorative and nice.
Keep in mind that apricots are naturally a bit lower in pectin, and because the conserve is cooked relatively shortly, the finished conserve will not be of the thickness of the common jams. However, it is a perfect chocolate cake filling, especially because of its somewhat thinner consistency, as it will just simply melt into the cake layers.

Apricot lemon conserve | tinavesic.com

Ingredients
1 kilogram ripe apricots, stones removed
2 teaspoons baking soda
600 grams granulated sugar
320 millilitres cold water
¼ vanilla bean
1 large lemon

Preparation
Wash the apricots and remove any imperfections, then tear them in half, remove the stones, and place them in a large, non-reactive pot. Pour enough cold water to cover them fully, sprinkle in the baking soda, mix well, and let them stand in the water for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, take a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, and pour in the cold water. Add in the sugar, and place the pot over high heat. Bring it to a boil, and cook, without stirring, for 4 minutes, or until thickened to a consistency of honey. Drain the apricots, and add them to the sugar syrup carefully. Add in the scraped seeds form a vanilla bean, and shake the pot well. Gently stir the fruit to distribute it, but not after this point in cooking. However, do remove any foam that comes to the top while it is cooking.
Reduce the heat to medium high, and shake the pot from time to time, letting the fruit level itself in the sugar syrup. Because there is only a kilogram of fruit, the cooking process is quick. While the fruit is cooking, thoroughly wash the lemon, slice it into thin slices, and remove any pips. After about 30 minutes of gentle bubbling, the conserve should be thickened. Add in the whole lemon slices on top, and cook for 5 more minutes. Check for setting point either with a thermometer (105°C), or by using the saucer test. If the conserve is setting and ready, remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool down for about 10 minutes. Carefully arrange the lemon slices in each of the prepared sterilised jars, pour in the fruit, seal them, and let them cool down to room temperature. Store it in the refrigerator for best possible taste and longer shelf life. Yields 1 kilogram of conserve.

03 July 2020

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE

The good old classic, the hearty chocolate cake that stays soft and moist for days. The cake you make in the evening and then eagerly await the next day, to serve and enjoy it.
It does require a bit of preparation, whipping the egg whites to a glossy perfection, grating the chocolate, making the syrup and the frosting. But the result is a lush flourless chocolate cake, combining both dark cocoa powder and extra dark chocolate, soaked in a fragrant syrup, and topped with double cream, to balance the richness.
As with any cake, be careful when baking so it does not dry out. Bake only until the centre stops wobbling when you move the pan, and the toothpick inserted in the very centre comes out clean. It could even have a few little most crumbs sticking to it, and that would also be fine.
On a final note, keep in mind that his cake, although flourless, is not gluten-free, as it contains semolina.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 small pinch of salt
150 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
180 grams unseasoned mashed potatoes, at room temperature
50 grams semolina
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
For the chocolate rum syrup
100 ml cold water
50 grams granulated sugar
50 grams extra dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa solids), grated
15 millilitres dark rum
For the decoration
100 ml double cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Preparation
Carefully separate the egg yolks from the egg whites, placing them into large bowls. Add a small pinch of salt to the egg whites, and whip them with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. They should be firm enough to hold peaks, but still glossy. Set them aside. Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer on high for about 2 minutes or until they start to get lighter in colour, and slightly thicker. Add in the granulated sugar and the vanilla, and continue mixing until they increase in volume and become pale, about 3-4 minutes more.
Add in the mashed potatoes, and briefly mix on low. Sift in the semolina, cocoa powder, and the baking powder, and mix on medium speed until just combined. Take a sturdy spatula, and fold in about a third of the egg whites. Fold it through gently, making sure a lot of air remains in the batter. Once that is folded in, add in the rest of the egg whites, and softly fold until combined.
Take a small rectangular pan (18x18 cm) and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment. Pour in the batter and bake immediately, at 200°C, for about 20-25 minutes, until the centre no longer wobbles, and the inserted toothpick comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, cook the rum syrup. Pour the cold water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and add in the sugar. Place it over high heat, and let it come to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the sugar is melted and the syrup is barely started to thicken up. Remove from the heat, and add in the grated dark chocolate. Mix until it is completely melted, and set aside to cool down slightly.
Once the cake is baked and ready, remove it from the oven, and let it cool down in the pan for about 5 minutes. Add the rum to the chocolate syrup, mix it through, and soak the baked cake really well with it. Use a tablespoon and slowly pour the syrup all over, making sure the sides are soaked, as well. Let the cake cool completely at room temperature.
Add the vanilla and the cocoa powder to the chilled double cream, and whip it until stiff peaks form. Spread it evenly on top of the cooled cake, and place the whole cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. It will only get better and better as it stands. Serve with additional melted chocolate, walnuts, or just strong coffee. Yields 12 rich servings.

26 June 2020

KINDER BUENO CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKE

Chocolate cake will always be the queen of celebration desserts. This seven-layer showstopper is every bit as delicious as it is beautiful. Four layers of supremely soft chocolate and hazelnut cake and full-flavoured fillings make it over-the-top amazing.
White chocolate ganache, whipped into an airy mousse, full of large pieces of white Kinder Bueno, nougat cream filling enriched with ground hazelnuts and Disaronno, and whipped dark chocolate ganache, made with extra dark, extra delicious chocolate. Pure bliss.
As always, the decoration does not have to be lavish, it can be kept quite modest. You can just drizzle melted dark chocolate all over the cake, and sprinkle some roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts. Serve it in small slices, because it is very rich, and enjoy with a glass of your favourite dessert wine or a cup of espresso.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake
350 grams plain flour
100 grams toasted ground hazelnuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
200 grams granulated sugar
150 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
500 millilitres hot water, divided
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
For the white chocolate Kinder Bueno filling
150 grams white chocolate
100 ml double cream
3 packs White Kinder Bueno candy
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the nougat filling
100 grams soft, Viennese, nougat
150 ml double cream, divided
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams roasted hazelnuts, finely ground
50 millilitres Disaronno
For the whipped dark chocolate ganache
100 grams dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids or more
150 ml double cream
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the decoration
100 grams dark chocolate, 50% cocoa solids
200 ml double cream, divided
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
assorted candy bars and truffles


Preparation
To make the white chocolate Kinder Bueno filling, start by heating up the double cream until it almost comes to a boil, and then pouring it over the chopped up white chocolate. Mix until the white ganache is smooth and blended, and let it cool down to room temperature, stirring as it cools. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film, and let it cool completely in the refrigerator, for at least 2 hours.
For the nougat filling, melt the soft nougat with a splash of double cream, either in the microwave or over a double boiler. Once melted, add in the hazelnuts, mix well, and let it cool down to room temperature. When the nougat has cooled down, but still soft, add in Disaronno and mix again. Whip the rest of the double cream with the vanilla, until soft peaks form. Fold a third of it through the melted nougat, to lighten it up, and then add in the rest of the cream, and keep gently folding it through until it firms up. Set the filling aside.
For the whipped dark chocolate ganache, heat up the double cream until it almost starts to boil, then pour it over the dark chocolate and the unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix until it melts completely, and then let it stand for a few hours at room temperature, until firmed up. Once firm, add in the vanilla and whip it until firm peaks form, using an electric mixer on the medium setting.
To make the chocolate cake, start by sifting the cocoa powder into a small bowl and pouring 100 millilitres of boiling water over it. Mix briefly, and let the cocoa bloom. Add the sugar into a large bowl, pour in the rest of the hot water, mix, and set it aside for a few minutes, so that the sugar starts to melt. Add the oil to the sugar, along with the vanilla and the cocoa powder, and mix very well. Tip in the sifted plain flour, ground hazelnuts, and the baking powder, and whisk until well blended.
Take four small baking tins (15 cm), ideally with a removable bottom, and line them with baking parchment. Pour in equal amounts of batter and tap them lightly on the counter to remove any large bubbles. Bake, in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15 minutes. Once a toothpick inserted in the very centre of the cake comes out clean, the cakes are done. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool slightly in the pans, and then take them out and let them cool completely on the wire rack.
By this time, the white chocolate ganache should be ready and firm. Add in the vanilla, and whip it up with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form, then chop up the Kinder Bueno bars roughly, add them to the ganache, and continue whipping until firm peaks form.
Level the cakes if needed, and place the first cake layer on the serving platter. Close a cake ring around it and, if needed, line it with a tall strip of acetate. Spread the dark chocolate ganache evenly over the cake, and place another layer on top. Add and level the nougat filling on top of it, and place another cake layer. Carefully spread the white chocolate Kinder Bueno ganache, working slowly to level it nicely, and top with the final cake layer. Cover it with cling film, and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
When the cake is firm and ready, prepare the decorations. In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt together the dark chocolate and half of the double cream. Let it cool down slightly, so it is still pourable, but not piping hot. While it is cooling, whip up the rest of the double cream with the unsweetened cocoa powder. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate strip, if used, and leisurely decorate it with chocolate drips and splatters. Add a few dollops of the chocolate whipped cream, and add the candy bars, if using. Return the cake to the refrigerator until serving time. Yields 16 servings.

19 June 2020

VEGAN FUDGE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

It is a very fine line between fudge truffles and these cookies. Soft and squidgy, completely vegan, full of bananas, chocolate, and dark rum, these little beauties are one of the best choices for any occasion. Either as a holiday cookie, or as a mid-week sweet treat, they are like little chocolate gems. Their deep chocolate flavour comes from dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa in the batter, as well as the extra dark chocolate pieces folded through.
When it comes to chocolate, my preference and recommendation is to buy a good, high quality chocolate bar, and chop it up into chunks of various sizes, and then fold them through the batter. Not only will it add more texture to the baked cookie, but it also gives a lot of additional flavour.
This is a modest batch of cookies. It only yields nine soft, brownie-like cookies, and they are dense and do not spread much, so you can bake all of them in one batch on a large cookie sheet. If you prefer your cookies flatter, do make sure you shape them to your liking before baking, as they keep their shape fairly well.


Ingredients
120 grams bananas, mashed well
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon dark rum
50 grams plain flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
25 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
50 grams dark chocolate, 50% cocoa solids
25 grams butter
50 grams extra dark chocolate, at least 70% of cocoa solids, finely chopped

Preparation
Melt together the dark chocolate with the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave on low. Remove from heat, stir until completely smooth and glossy, and set aside to cool. While the chocolate is cooling, sift together the flour with the cocoa powder, icing sugar, and the baking powder. Add the mashed bananas to a large bowl, add in the vanilla and rum, and whisk well. This will break up any remaining larger banana pieces. Add in the cooled chocolate, and whisk well once again. Tip in the dry ingredients, add in the chopped extra dark chocolate, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Cover the top of the bowl with cling film, and place the batter in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. It will firm up just enough so it can be easily shaped. Scoop the chilled batter into 9 cookies, either using a cookie scoop, or by a spoon, and arrange them on a large cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. They will not spread a lot during baking. Bake them immediately at 180°C, for 8-10 minutes, or until set. The centres will look soft, but the edges of the cookies will be baked. Let them cool down and firm up for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 9 cookies.

12 June 2020

SOFT SOURDOUGH CRESCENT ROLLS

Sourdough has a long tradition of being not only healthier than regular bread, but also tremendously delicious and versatile. Once made, the starter itself can be kept for a very long time, and if fed properly, it is a true gem. It is so very forgiving that even the discarded portion can be used for baking. I deeply dislike wasting food, so a need arose to use up the discard from feeding my sourdough starter, and thus, these lovely soft rolls were created.
Deliciously tangy, savoury, generously filled with large pieces of white Cheddar cheese, these make a lovely snack, a fantastic picnic item, or even a dinner roll alternative, with a hearty soup. Buttery enough to be pillowy soft, yet light and slightly chewy. They contain no commercial yeast, only the natural wild yeast created by the long fermentation. Wild yeast can be created by many foodstuffs, including beer and potatoes, but sourdough remains my favourite. The initial starter does take some time to ferment, but the flavour and texture that it rewards you with are immeasurable.


Ingredients
400 grams plain flour
150 grams ripe sourdough starter or sourdough discard
150 millilitres warm milk
75 millilitres warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
50 grams unsalted butter, softened
150 grams white cheddar

Preparation
Pour the milk, water, and sugar into a large bowl, mix well, add in half of the flour, along with the salt, and whisk until blended. The dough will resemble a thick cake batter. Add in the sourdough starter, and mix again with a wooden spoon. Start adding in rest of the flour, and mix vigorously until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of cling film, and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. After the dough has rested, remove the film and add in the softened butter. Knead the butter into the dough until it is fully absorbed. Cover the bowl once again with cling film or a kitchen towel, and leave it to rise in a warm spot, for about an hour and a half or two hours, until doubled in size.
In the meantime, slice the block of Cheddar into 16 pieces, one for each of the rolls. Turn out the risen and airy dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and press it down gently to release all of the air, and roll it out into a large circle, about 5 millimetres in thickness. Using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 triangles. Shape each of them into a crescent roll by placing a piece of cheese on the wider part of the triangle, and then rolling the dough towards the narrower end. Place them onto a baking sheet, seam side down. Let them rise for another hour or so, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden. If desired, brush the baked rolls with a bit of softened butter and serve immediately. Yields 16 crescent rolls.