Tag Archives: chocolate

On Cookies and Cookery Books

By day, I am a bookseller. My love of reading means that I already buy more fiction than I even have time to read, and there are still more that I have to restrain myself from buying (the staff discount makes it even more tempting). The problem only grows when I start flicking through cookery books when I’m lost for ideas for dinner or looking for something different to bake. My cookery book collection has grown substantially since I began working with books, and the worst part is… I never use them.

Never is a strong word, and perhaps somewhat inaccurate. But considering I make myself dinner every day, and bake at least once a week normally, the frequency with which I open any of my large number of cookery books in no way matches the amount I cook. Cooking for oneself tends to become a matter of convenience, of sticking to what you know when you’ve got other things to do in the evening and can’t be bothered messing about with a recipe that has far too many ingredients and takes three times as long to prepare as anything you’d normally cook. So why can I not resist?

In order to stop myself from buying even more books, I sometimes borrow recipes from books. I like to think of it as a test, where if the recipe is good enough, I might just buy the book. Or not. Maybe. So the other day I was flicking through Green and Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes (I know, the title immediately says BUY ME), and I came across this recipe for cookies. The best cookies ever. I’m willing to start a cookie contest with anyone who dares to enter, my cookies would pretty much definitely win. Just saying.

30g plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

100g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

100g blanched hazelnuts

250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

2 eggs and 1 yolk

110g caster sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F.

2. Chop the milk and white chocolate and the hazelnuts into small pieces, and combine with the flour and baking powder.

3. Melt the dark chocolate, and let it cool for a few minutes.

4. Whisk the eggs and yolk with the sugar until light and fluffy, add to the dry ingredients and then pour in the cooled chocolate. Mix.

5. Spoon cookie-sized lumps of mixture onto a greased baking tray, and then bake for 10 mins. No more than that, because after 10 minutes they are awesomely gooey.

So I haven’t bought the book yet, but there’s a pretty good chance I will, just because, who doesn’t need loads of chocolate-based recipes they will probably never actually use.

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The flip side of this woeful tale of my unused cookery books is that there is one book that I do always use, which is Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking. In fact, I am just about to go and make the carrot cake from it right now. It is the best carrot cake I have ever consumed, and if you want to know more about that carrot cake, you can see here where I wrote about it last year. Anyway, any cookery book that tells me I can actually make crumpets has my vote (no, seriously, before I got this book I just kind of assumed that crumpets were a factory-made supermarket item. I wish I was kidding). All I can say is, if you only want to have one cookery book in your kitchen, have that one. At the very least it means you’ll be eating cake all year round (and crumpets).

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Probably the Chocolatiest Cake Ever Baked (TM)

SO. There’s been rather a delay in updates. The main news that has occurred over this three month silence is that one Jordi Wieler is returning to England! Hurrah! So perhaps this will continue in a slightly less transatlantic way.

The main baking news of the last three months is that I started making peanut butter pies, which have become wildly popular with my boyfriend. No one else really gets the chance to eat them, because he demolishes them so quickly – a whole 10″ pie within 24 hours. I’m not sure impressive is the word I want to use, but it’s definitely something like that.

Anyway, to the topic today, which is chocolate! It was my dear friend Laura’s birthday on Monday. Laura loves chocolate in a way that most people love their pets…or maybe even more than that. It’s hard to say. She heroically gave up chocolate for Lent, and to many people’s surprise, managed to stay strong and go the whole 40 days without caving in (so proud of Laura). So even though she’s been able to eat chocolate for a few weeks again now, I vowed to make her the chocolatiest cake I could find.

A Chocolate Brownie Gateau.

This cake is not for the faint-hearted. Or the easily sickened. The cake itself contains 1lb of chocolate, and the icing is made from even more chocolate and double cream. The slice I had was at the widest end not much more than an inch, and I had difficulty finishing it. So if you’re feeling extravagant, or you just love chocolate as much as Laura does, here is the recipe:

450g plain chocolate

225g unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g light muscavado sugar

75g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

175g chopped walnuts

For the filling:

150ml double cream

100g plain chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 190C or Gas Mark 5. Grease 2 7″ cake tins and line with baking paper. Roughly chop 115g of the chocolate and set aside.

2. Break the remaining chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter, in a bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the melted chocolate, sift in the flour and add the vanilla extract, chopped nuts and chopped chocolate.

3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for around 30 mins, until the surface has a sugary crust and feels firm. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn onto a cooling rack, leaving the cakes in the tins until cool, then remove.

4. Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a pan with the cream, heat gently until the chocolate melts. Allow to cool, then whisk until stiff and use to sandwich the cakes together.

This recipe came from Easy Everyday Desserts.

Finally, a picture of Laura and Julian cutting the cake as if it was their wedding day.

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(Laura just texted me saying she had some of the cake for breakfast. Seriously.)

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Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart… or, the first ever post

hello.

I’ve just realised, as I was about to write out the recipe for this lovely salted caramel and chocolate tart that units of measurement are quite arbitrary on a global level – so to assist with any confusion that grams, ounces or cups may cause, I hope you’ll find this of some use. With one English writer, and one Canadian writer, both of us are regularly subjected to the difficulties of converting measurements (I only bought my first set of cups about a month ago), so hopefully having that will be of general use to everyone. Now, on to the talk of baking…

With Christmas drawing near, I have invested in my Christmas themed baking magazines, my star-shaped cutters that will enable me to build a biscuit Christmas tree, and vague plans for gingerbread houses. However, I put all of those things aside temporarily to make this salted caramel and chocolate tart. 

375g pack of sweet pastry

150g butter

150g caster sugar

2 tbsp agave syrup

1x 397g tin condensed milk

1 tsp sea salt flakes

150g dark chocolate

150g milk chocolate

– Roll out pastry and line a 20-22cm fluted tart tin. Trim and remove the pastry edges (save to make stars for later!). Prick the base with a fork all over and chill for 30 mins. Cut out a few star shapes from the remaining pastry

– Heat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5, put the case on a baking sheet, line the pastry case with parchment and baking beans or dried rice and bake blind for 20 mins. Put the stars on the baking sheet and bake at the same time. Remove the paper and beans and continue to cook for another 10-15 mins or until pastry is light golden.

– When the pastry case is cold, make the caramel. Gently heat the butter, sugar, agave syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan until the butter has melted. Increase the heat and stir continuously until the mixture comes to the boil.

– Reduce the heat slightly and allow the mixture to bubble for 8-10 mins. Stir all the time until the bubbles become larger and less frequent and the mixture gets thicker. Stir in the salt. Cool a little, then pour into the pastry case and leave to set for 1 hour.

– Melt the dark and milk chocolate in separate heatproof bowls over a pan of simmering water.

– Flood the top of the tart with the dark chocolate, spreading it to the sides, then put small spoonfuls of the milk chocolate and using the end of a teaspoon swirl together to give a marbled effect.

– Chill for 30 mins, adding pastry stars to the top after 15 mins. Don’t leave for too long as it will become too hard to slice.

I’ve written out the original recipe just for accuracy, but when baking I always adapt recipes for convenience – e.g. I went to the supermarket in search of agave syrup to find that it cost £2.43. I wasn’t going to spend that for 2 tbsp of something, so golden syrup it was. I don’t know if golden syrup exists in Canada. Please answer this for me Jordi. 

Unfortunately due to the misleading nature of the picture in the magazine, I used a much too shallow case (approx 3cm) – so I ended up having to make two, because all the caramel I had wouldn’t fit in one – you can make two (which I recommend because then you can bring baking happiness to your family and your colleagues), or use a deeper case. You’ll need more chocolate if you’re making two though…like, 50g more or so. 

Finally, a note on pastry. I never buy readymade shortcrust pastry – my dad has passed some serious pastry-making abilities on to me. So the ultimate pastry recipe is:

12oz flour

3oz margarine

3oz lard

small amount of cold tap water

Rub the margarine and lard into the flour, until it looks kind of like breadcrumbs, then gradually add water, mix with a knife (yes!) until it starts to gather together, add a bit more water until it all comes together in a ball. It should be a bit sticky, so make sure it’s not too dry!

The tart recipe asks for sweet pastry, which I didn’t bother with – I think it’s nice to have plain pastry, because the caramel and chocolate create enough sweetness. It’s quite a time consuming recipe overall, but completely worth it, because the outcome is so good. It is going to be one of those recipes I just keep going back to. 

L.

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