Chocolate Stout Cake

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Even tough it’s still quite cold here, the first signs of spring have arrived. The air feels fresher, the birds are singing beautifully each morning and the sun stays longer. Everything I’ve been waiting for. Except for the warmth, but it will come soon enough.
For now I keep myself warm with bits of chocolate every now and then.
This week I give you something that will make the prolonged wait for spring a bit cosier – an amazing Chocolate Stout Cake. It’s a chocolate cake that is incredibly light and actually feels refreshing. Those marvellous properties are thanks to the mix of a raw cocoa powder and a dark, bitter stout beer. If you can get your hands on some dark microbrewery beer, go for it, if not, a good old Guinness will do just fine here. If you’re up for making it a bit heavier, I would suggest making a dark chocolate ganache or a cream cheese frosting (maybe with a splash of some warming spirit in it). I like it without extra additions, just beer and chocolate will do for me.

Chocolate Stout Cake
inspired by Nigella
  • 250 ml stout beer,
  • 250 g  butter,
  • 80 g raw cocoa powder,
  • 300 g raw cane sugar*,
  • 145 g full-fat Greek yoghurt,
  • 3 eggs,
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract,
  • 275 g flour,
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
  • pinch of salt.
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and butter a 24 cm bundt cake spring form (make sure to butter well all the nooks and crannies).
  2. Place the beer and diced butter in a wide saucepan – it should be quite big, you will mix all the ingredients in here. Warm it up on a low heat until the butter is melted.
  3. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar to the beer-butter mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl lightly whisk the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Mix the yoghurt and egg with the beer-butter mixture and beat in the flour, soda and a pinch of salt. Pour the batter into the form.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool completely in the spring form.
Enjoy!
Note: The amount of sugar depends on the stout you use. If you go for a very bitter one, 300 grams is perfect, if you use Guinness, I would suggest going down to 200-250 grams, depending how sweet do you like your cakes.
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Tarte Tatin

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It has been a while since my last post, but it was a very busy period work-wise. Hope some of you will keep reading after this big break..
A couple of months ago I went to Paris. This trip was of course connected to my big fascination with patisserie and French cuisine in general. It’s funny, but if you would ask me a couple of years ago I would most probably say that French cuisine is not really my thing. Well,  lot of things happened lately that made me change my mind about it. I decided to buy a classic cookbook, supposedly used by almost every home cook in France. It’s really great that those kind of books are being translated into English lately. I must say that “I know how to cook” by Ginette Mathiot is an amazing discovery. All recipes are very short, to the point and, so far, all deliver delicious dishes.
On of the most interesting chapters is about cakes and pastries (of course). The recipes here are completely different that at Mr. Felder book. A completely different approach. I love the Tarte Tatin recipe though. I must say it’s the simplest recipe for this pie I ever tried (not that it’s ever a difficult cake to make) and definitely the best one. I was always under the impression that you should use French pastry for the original Tarte Tatin. Turns out that it’s actually a very simple shortcrust pastry (but, this recipe works perfectly also with French pastry, so feel free to replace it). It’s a delicious cake. The total time it takes to make is around 40 min, of which 30 min it spends in the oven. Perfect for any time you crave a warm, delicious cake (and it is winter, so that’s going to happen sooner or later). Just go and make one!
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Tarte Tatin
adapted from Ginette Mathiot
For the shortcrust pastry:
  • 250 g flour,
  • 1 tbsp flavourless oil (like sunflower or rapeseed),
  • 1/2 tsp salt,
  • 125 g butter, diced and chilled,
  • 1-2 tbsp ice-cold water.
  1. Place all the flower in a bowl and make a small well inside.
  2. Add oil, salt and  butter into the well. Rub the butter into the flour.
  3. Use the water to bring the dough together. Knead a couple of times – the quicker you do it the better is the pastry.
  4. Wrap in foil and chill for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling:
  • 125 g sugar,
  • 500 g of apples (around 4),
  • 40 g butte
Use a pan or pie-dish that can be used both in the oven and on a stove.
  1. Put 100g of sugar into the pan with 1-2 tbsp of water. Place the dish on a medium low heat and make a dark caramel. Make sure that the whole base of the dish in covered with caramel and allow to cool.
  2. Peel and core the apples. Slice them thinly.
  3. Arrange the apples close to each other in the dish with caramel. Put dollops of butter on the apples.
  4. Roll out the short pastry to 5 mm thick.
  5. Cover the apples with the pastry, making sure to tuck a bit of the dough on all sides, so that the apples are completely covered.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees, in the middle of the oven.
  7. Take out of the oven and turn out immediately onto a serving dish (the caramelised apples will be on top). Eat straight away.
Enjoy!

Gingerbread cake

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There are certain flavours and aromas that I will always associate with Christmas. Like cinnamon, oranges, anise, honey.. And a good gingerbread is a perfect combination of them all. This cake is quite extraordinary as it contains mainly rye flour. It makes it a bit denser, but it is a delicious cake. The combination of flavours will make everyone happy that Christmas is coming, even if it rains outside. It is an easy cake and it’s perfect to make when you are waiting for a recipe for an aged gingerbread (coming next week!) or to change into muffins and take for your work Christmas party.
This weekend I go fully on with baking gift cookies and will share the results very soon. It’s about time to start after all 🙂

Gingerbread cake
adapted from Christophe Felder
For the cake:
  • 100 ml milk,
  • 1 tbsp. star anise,
  • 240 g honey,
  • 25 g all-purpose flour,
  • 150 g rye flour,
  • 25 g potato starch,
  • 11 g baking powder,
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon,
  • 1 tsp. allspice,
  • 240 g orange marmalade,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 80 g butter, softened,
  • 1 tsp. salt.
For the glaze:
  • 200 g apricot preserve,
  • 3 tbsp. orange marmalade.
  1. Bring the milk to boil in a small pan. Add the star anise, remove from the heat and infuse for 10 minutes.
  2. Warm the honey over a small heat.
  3. Whisk both types of flour, potato starch, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice in a big bowl.
  4. Add warm honey and marmalade to the dry ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  5. Stir in the eggs, butter and salt.
  6. Strain the milk to the mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into a 24 cm rectangular baking shape.
  8. Bake for an hour at 170 degrees in the middle of an oven. Check if it’s ready with a wooden skewer.
  9. Let it cool for 5 minutes in a shape.
  10. When cooled, spread the apricot jam mixed with orange marmalade on top.
Enjoy!

Not your usual Brownie

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I like to think I’m not a terrible cook and a baker. When I first started dating my boyfriend I think he had a completely opposite opinion on that. One of the first cakes I decided to make for him was a brownie. I mean it’s chocolate, everyone should like chocolate (I truly believe so) and it’s dead easy to make, what can go wrong? Well, I proved that a lot of things can actually go wrong. For starters you can split the chocolate while melting it, then you can mix the eggs to quickly and make them loose their volume and after that, when you think that in the grand scheme of things it all doesn’t really matter so much in a brownie, you can burn the damn thing. In all honesty I think it was the first cake in my life that I just simply thrown out. A perfect way to impress a boy 🙂
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After that incident I decided to simply not make a brownie. I mean, there are so many great chocolate cakes out there, I don’t think it even makes it to the top 5 of my list. But last week I was just flipping through one of my favourite cake books  – Sweet by Eliza Morawska (she also has an amazing blog, check it out if your polish is decent enough) and found this fascinating combination of chocolate and prunes. I made a bit lighter than a usual brownie by beating the eggs with sugar until very pale and fluffy. If you fold in the chocolate very carefully the cake will be airy and not as heavy as some brownies can be. It’s a perfect cake for an evening when you just got back home and have a chocolate craving – any day until spring as far as I’m concerned 😉
Just a note to those who actually read, I’m not stopping with my Patisserie challenge, in fact I even went to Paris last week to get further inspired 🙂
And as we are approaching December very fast I decided to start a full on Christmas baking – there is so many cookies to make that will make perfect gifts. So as of next week a Christmas Patisserie will start! Yey!

Brownie with prunes
adapted from “Sweet” by Eliza Morawska
  • 200 g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into small pieces,
  • 160 g butter, cubed,
  • 150 g sugar,
  • 4 eggs,
  • 80 g of flour,
  • 4 g of baking powder,
  • 300 g of prunes, soaked in a glass of strong tea (Note: add a shot of rum to it if you like it).
  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl placed over a pan with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Mix until melted. Let it cool slightly
  2. Beat the egg with sugar until they are pale and fluffy.
  3. Carefully fold in the chocolate into beaten eggs in small batches.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold gently.
  5. Strain the prunes and add them to the mixture.
  6. Pour into a flat baking tray.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven at 180 C for about 25 minutes. Make sure you check on the cake after around 15 minutes, depending on the size of your tray it might need more or less time. Check if it’s done with a wooden skewer.
Enjoy!

Too many egg whites…

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One of the (maybe the only) downsides of baking French pastries is the sheer amount of egg yolks you need.  Every recipe calls for more yolks than whites. Poor egg whites, so under appreciated.. I decided to find a cake where they can be given a central stage as part of my ‘use all, waste nothing’ policy in the kitchen.
I found the recipe on one of my favourite cooking blogs – smitten kitchen. It does not look special, but the taste is anything but ordinary. It is incredibly light, with a very nutty taste and aroma. I would use it as a base for tiramisu or a layered cake. I would, but the cake was quickly gone with just some sugar sprinkled on top and an espresso on the side..
The greatness of this cake comes with the combination of the toasted hazelnuts and brown butter. If you never tried brown butter before go ahead and make some. Eat it with anything (fresh made pasta, steamed veggies, roasted asparagus,you name it). It’s absolutely delicious! Browning the butter gives it a nutty aroma and flavour. No matter what you use it with, it will make it taste better. Just give it a try.
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Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
adapted from smitten kitchen
  • 150 g of hazelnuts,
  • 225 g of butter,
  • vanilla pod, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out,
  • 150 g of powdered sugar,
  • 75 g of flour,
  • 6 large egg whites (Note: I use small eggs so I took 8 egg whites, in total 260 g),
  • 45 g of sugar.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast them for 5 minutes. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and after a couple of minutes rub the towel vigorously so that the brown skin comes off.
  2. Blend the hazelnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor. Add the flour and pulse a couple more times.
  3. Brown the butter. Put it on a medium heat in a pan with a heavy bottom with the vanilla seeds and the pod. The butter will melt and at some point will get very foamy. Wait until it subdues. Scrape the bottom with a spatula to make sure the butter browns evenly. Once it starts smelling nutty take it off the heat and cool. Discard the vanilla pod.
  4. Whip the egg whites with 45 g of sugar until they fold firm peaks.
  5. Gently fold the dry ingredients and the butter into the egg whites in small batches.
  6. Pour the mixture into a buttered 24 cm spring form or use a rectangular shape (Note: I used a 25 by 35 cm shape).
  7. Bake in the centre of the oven at 180 C for 40 minutes or until golden.
  8. Cool before serving.
Enjoy!

Apples or Pears?

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Autumn is here! I love this season. The weather turns towards worse, so I turn towards the more of a comfort food, to keep warm.
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There are two great fruit at abundance now (and for quite some months to come): apples and pears. I always feel like people give way too much attention to apples, completely forgetting about an even more amazing pears. I mean, they are as versatile as apples, can be used for cooking, baking, eating fresh, just like apples again, and yet a pear pie recipe is not a part of so many cuisines as an apple pie. Why? I love pears, I think they are great and should be appreciated a bit more by everyone (a pear appreciation society?). But when it comes to a pie I like to mix both apples and pears. This makes the filling for my recipe a little bit more special. If you use nice baking apples, after cooking them for 15 to 20 minutes they will loose some water and change into an incredible mousse.  Pears won’t do that, they will stay in the nice slices. And that will create the ultimate filling: nice crispy pears in an apple mousse. Just give it a try and you will see my point.
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Apple and Pear Pie
 
For the pastry:
  • 120 g of butter, softened,
  • 80 g confectionery sugar,
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half, seeds removed,
  • 75 g ground walnuts,
  • pinch of salt,
  • 1 egg,
  • 200 g flour.
  1. Sift the confectionery sugar to the soft butter. Add the vanilla seeds, ground almonds and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated.
  2. Add the egg and beat it in.
  3. Sift the flour and beat the mixture for a couple of minutes until you get a smooth dough. Form a flat disk, cover with a plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
  4. Roll out 2/3 of the dough and put in a 20 cm spring form.
  5. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork.
For the filling:
  • 4 baking apples, peeled and cored,
  • around 700 g pears, peeled and cored,
  • 1 tbsp of honey,
  • 1 stick cinnamon,
  • 1 star anise,
  • 1/3 cup raisins (optional),
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs.
  1. Cut apples and pears into thin slices (3 mm thick) and put in a heavy bottom pan. Add cinnamon and star anise. Cook for 10 to 20 min, until apples become a mousse.
  2. Let it cool slightly. Add honey and optionally the raisins.

Assemble the tart:

  1. Spread the bread crumbs at the bottom of the tart. Pour in apples and pears.
  2. Take the reserved 1/3 of the dough and great it over the pie.
  3. Bake in the centre of the oven at 180 C for 30-40 minutes, until the dough is golden.
  4. Let it cool for at least an hour.
Enjoy!
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Italian Semolina Cake

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When it comes to food I’m a compulsory buyer. Whenever I see some ingredient that could possibly be changed into a delicious cake/dinner/breakfast I buy it. The result is that my pantry is full of different types of, for example, flour that are not so easy to use in a regular bread recipe. But there is an upside to this: I absolutely hate throwing out food and always try to use every edible bit of fruit and veggie, so I look for new recipes and experiment (is there anything better in the kitchen?). Whenever I feel like making a cake (which to be honest happens a couple of times per week, the only factor keeping the amount of the cake coming out of our oven more or less restricted is our capacity to eat it..), I first need to search for a new and yet unknown dessert using one of the ‘not-so-necessary-to-have’ pantry products. 

This weekend I decided it’s about time to use the bag of semolina I got a while ago. I was planning originally to make a lemon polenta cake with it, but semolina and polenta have a bit different texture, so I decided to go for a cake where a very fine grain of semolina can fully shine. I found an incredible blog by Emiko Davies, where she tries to modernise old Italian recipes (awesome, right?). This semolina cake is very easy to make. The final texture is very smooth and delicate. I found it even a bit too delicate. But that is easily fixed by serving the cake with some nice preserves. I think cherries or black currants work magic with this cake and make it an absolutely wonderful dessert. 

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Italian Semolina Cake
adapted from Emiko Davies
  •  1 litre whole milk
  • 130 g fine grain semolina
  • 100 g blanched almonds
  • 120 g sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons (1 in original recipe, but i like the more lemony taste)
  • 20 g of butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Before you start prepare the almond flour. You can either do it in the food processor and blend the almonds until you get the meal and then mix it with sugar. The other (harder and better) option is to do it in mortar and pestle as recommended by Emiko. The result will be more even and the extra oil from the almonds will further improve the texture. It takes some time to prepare but definitely worth the effort.
 
  1. Heat up you oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Line a 26 cm baking shape with baking paper.
  3. Mix milk with semolina and bring to boil over a small heat. Keep whisking it constantly to avoid lumps and burning.
  4. Cook it for around 8 minutes, until it thickens. It should have a very smooth, velvety texture.
  5. Just before taking of the fire, add the almond meal (mixed with sugar), butter, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and whisk until combine.
  6. Take it off the fire and let cool for around 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs.
  8. Pour into the buttered and floured form.
  9. Bake for 1 hour or until it’s evenly browned at the top.
  10. Cool it completely and dust with the icing sugar.
Tastes best drizzled with a lightly warmed up cherry preserve.
Enjoy!
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How you treat your friends

 
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In live we come across many people. I thinks there is as many different ways to connect with people as there are people to begin with and the only thing you can do is to be yourself and be honest. Then it doesn’t matter if you see each other every day, week, month or even every couple of years. I know there are people in my life that will always be there for me and I will always be there for them. Those are the relations worth investing time and effort in. I’m not good with words, I’m good at cooking. That’s why whenever I want to tell someone that I care about them I cook for them. I believe that a piece of a delicious cake can bring a smile to every face and make your day better. So when a dear friend has a birthday you have to make a proper birthday cake (even if you are late).
 
This recipe is inspired by many tries I made with a sponge cake and creams. I think I found a balance of sweetness and chocolate that is perfect (though I’m always more on the less-sweet part of the sweetness scale). I don’t mind buttercream frosting on cakes, but I know many people find it too heavy. When I want my creams to be slightly lighter I use a mixture of whipping cream and melted chocolate (not exactly light, I know). The process of making this cream might seem a bit odd and complicated, but I think it’s worth the extra effort. You need to beat the cream with melted chocolate over a bowl of ice water. This will ensure that the chocolate starts to set quicker and the resulting cream will be easier to work with. It will also have a velvety consistency of a melted chocolate. Just give it a try!
 

Double Chocolate and Raspberry Birthday Cake
 
For the sponge cake: 
  • 120 g flour,
  • 30 g cornstarch,
  • 150 g sugar,
  • 5 eggs, separated,
  • 5 g baking powder.
Dark chocolate cream:
  • 140 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70%),
  • 500 ml whipping cream,
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds (this is not necessarym but coriander adds really nice freshness to the dark chocolate).
White chocolate & raspberry cream:
  • 70 g good quality white chocolate,
  • 250 ml whipping cream,
  • 200 g raspberries.
Start by making the sponge cake:

 

  1. Sift the flower with the cornstarch and baking powder (make sure to use fine sieve).
  2. Set the oven to 180 degrees. Line a 20 cm baking shaper with a baking paper or butter and flour the shape.In a bowl of a stand mixer beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.
  3. At the same time start beating the egg yolks with 50 g of sugar.
  4. When the egg whites are holding their shape, add the remaining sugar (100 g) and beat them further, until they are stiff and shiny.
  5. Beat the egg yolk until they are pale and all sugar is dissolved (Note: It’s important to beat the egg yolk until they are almost white).
  6. Start adding the egg whites to the egg yolks in batches. Mix them very carefully, preferably with a big metal spoon (that will allow you to incorporate more air into the mixture).
  7. Add the dry ingredients in batches and mix delicately.

 

Make the dark chocolate cream:

  1. Bring 250 ml of cream to boil.
  2. Add crushed coriander seeds and set aside to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Warm up the cream again and pour it through a sieve to a finely chopped dark chocolate. Do it in 2-3 batches to make sure all the chocolate is melted.
  4. Set aside for 30 min to cool down.
  5. Put the bowl with melted chocolate over a bigger bowl filled with ice water.
  6. Slowly add the remaining 250 ml of cream (it should be cold).
  7. Beat the cream until it hold peaks. It might take a while, so don’t get discourage after a couple of minutes. The chocolate need to cool. Just keep beating. It’s a good exercise for your arm (who needs a gym 😉 ).
Make the white chocolate cream:
Follow the steps as for the dark chocolate cream, just remember that it’s half the quantity of the dark chocolate cream and I skip the coriander.
 
Assemble the cake:
  1. Cut the sponge in 3 pieces with a bread knife.
  2. You might want to use some alcohol to slightly moist the sponge, I usually mix 10ml of sum with 40 ml of hot water and use it on all layers. You can also skip it.
  3. Put 1/3 of the chocolate cream and cover with another piece of sponge.
  4. Spread 1/3 of the white chocolate cream. Then put the raspberries and spread the remaining cream over them.
  5. Cover with the top piece of the sponge.
  6. Cover the whole cake with the remaining dark chocolate cream.
  7. You can decorate the cake with some more raspberries, almond flakes, hazelnut, whatever you like and have at hand.
It’s best if you make this cake one day before and allow it to stay overnight in the fridge.
Enjoy!
 
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