BAKING: A Choctastic Torte (Meg Rivers Home Baking)

So, on this journey of kitchen experiments I have apparently found myself on – I decided to bake a torte. I have never baked a torte and was unsure what it was supposed to look/taste like but it was the only thing in the cook book that I could successfully travel from Essex to London for a dinner party.

Taken from the beautiful and comforting Meg Rivers Home Baking cook book, this recipe is all about simplicity, chocolate and great taste (who wouldn’t want to bake something that tasted like Nutella?)

The ingredients were pretty straight forward…
100g whole, balanced hazelnuts
250g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
100g salted butter
6 eggs
1/2 cream of tartar
120g caster sugar

For the ganache topping…
200g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
125g salted butter
4 tablespoons of whole, blanched hazelnuts

23cm round cake tin (for the first time in my life I actually had the correct sized cake tin!)

Baking

Firstly, please be warned – DO NOT BUY UN-BLANCHED HAZELNUTS UNLESS YOU ENJOY PAINSTAKINGLY PEELING 200G OF HAZELNUTS ONE BY ONE I made this error and I began to hate the torte before I even started to bake. Don’t make the same mistake as me, hunt down those blanched hazelnuts.

It was a fairly simple recipe (which I can post on here if anyone needs?) and turned out to be a pleasure to bake. My mum has a troublesome oven but we powered on and I got a great consistency with the torte which I was pleased with, although, it did taste a little ‘torte’ and I’m not sure if the chocolate I used was too dark?

Ta Da!

Be warned, this is very chocolatey. It’s not Devil Cake level but you definitely need a 30min break after dinner before you can tackle a slice. The hazelnuts come through beautifully which does give a lovely mature edge to the torte – this would be a hit with the guys also!
The ganache recipe is also a great one, very simple and effective although mine did require some cooling just to get a good spreading consistency. I also recommended getting some double cream to serve with to take off the edge.

This torte got many thumbs up – a recommended recipe! (Again, happy to post step by step if someone wants 🙂 )

BAKING: Wonderful WHOOPIE pies!

After going to Southbank in London the other weekend and paying £3.25 for a average tasting, hard, marshmallow-less Whoopie pie; I wanted to give them a whirl and see a) how easy they are to make and b) if I could do it better myself. 

A quick google search led me to Simon Rimmer’s BBC Good Food recipe and I chose it because it was pretty straight forward and had simple ingreients. INGREDIENTS & METHOD AT THE BOTTOM

I got to work and made sure I took my time doing everything right (I feel like whoopie pies are a little like Macaroons in the sense they are extremely sensitive so I wanted to avoid any mishaps)

Step by step
The batter turned out ganache-like; thick, shiny and very chocolatey. I used a measuring (table) spoon to measure out the whoopies on the baking tray – this would have been SO much easier if I had used an ice-cream scoop so I could get them all the same size (so they match up) annoyingly I have found printable size guides for Macaroons (that go under baking the parchment) but not for Whoopie pies 😦 it was hard as I had literally no idea how big the halves needed to be.
Whoopie

Unfortunately there were a few important factors that were left out of Simon’s recipe which made the whole experiance a little tricky! These being…

1) An indication on how well baked the whoopie pies should be after the first half of cooking is complete before you add the ‘mellows and re-bake. I think mine were a little underdone
2) How long should whoopie pies be left after the first bake (before you put back in with mellows) I wan’t sure if they needed to be completely cooled or not – mine also ripped a fair bit as I took them off the tray
3) What the overall consistency of the whoopie pie should be when finished cooking. I think mine were ever so slightly under-baked. Although, this did make them deliciously chewy, a bit like brownies and they went down a TREAT
4) I think the timings are totally wrong, I know all ovens are different but they were literally raw after I had baked for 6-8 mins

They also came out a little cracked, which has confused me, so I need to investigate as to why this happened.

the end
I made some friends very happy with these; they were relatively easy to make and so incredibly tasty. A definite must try!
I will be making these again for sure and perfecting before (the sizing being the real hurdle for me) I move on to the many amazing different types of WHOOPIE pies you can bake.

INGREDIENTS & METHOD BELOW (link also to webiste above):

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz butter

  • 150g/5½oz chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, plus extra for melting (optional)

  • 225g/8oz sugar

  • 3 free-range eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 250g/8¾oz flour

  • 30g/1¼oz cocoa powder

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • 18 marshmallows

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.)
  3. Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl then fold in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together, then fold into the chocolate and egg mixture.
  5. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray (the mixture should make 36 biscuits) and bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside half of the biscuits on a cooling rack. Turn the remaining biscuits over and place a marshmallow on top of each. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the marshmallows have softened.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack to cool slightly. Press the cooled biscuits on top.
  8. Optional: Melt 100g/3½oz extra chocolate and pour this over the cookies, then set aside to cool.

Zealand Coffee – Roman Road, London

One of my favourite coffee shops EVER is Zealand on Roman Road, Bethnal Green.

I used to come here a lot a few years ago when my sister, who introduced me to Zealand, lived in Bethnal Green. I forgot how much I loved it!

Mr A. and I decided to take stroll and grab a coffee and bite to eat for breakfast (at 1pm ha)
The decision to go to Zealand was THE BEST DECISION WE MADE ALL WEEK.

This place is effortlessly cool, a little on the small side (not nice to sit outside when it’s cold!) and of course very rustic and healthy. The menu is so simple and the food is delicious – I do love a place with a small menu, always means that they can nail what they have on there!

We ordered two flat whites and had to sit outside for a bit while we waited for a comfy seat inside.

Coffee & menu

I went for the ‘brie, mixed leaves & caramelised onion granary s/w’ and of course, I added bacon – they had to put it on flat bread though as they had run out of granary (which totally made it better in my eyes!) Mr A. went for the ‘avo toast with chili flakes & lemon’ and also added bacon (I don’t like chili or flakes but I’ve been told this combo is one of the best known to man – and probably, if you have been to AUS or NZ,  you are  hooked anyway)

Avo

The staff could do with being a little bit nicer but hey ho. Maybe it’s not cool to be nice?!

Of course we finished it off with cake and of course it was a flour less chocolate & orange cake BUT IT WAS SO DARN TASTY.

£19 for all of that and a fresh mint tea…not the cheapest but a definite must visit.


BAKING: Creme Egg Brownies

I had a random day off today so I thought I would go crazy and bake something I’ve been thinking about for a while…

CREME EGG BROWNIES (well, it is almost Easter!)

I have had some tough times with brownies recently so I was a little nervous that I’d mess up (I spent about £7 on chocolate alone!) but I took the plunge anyway…

Actually – before we start, I’ve calculated that these come out about 430 calories per brownie (if the batch is cut into 12)

After a quick google search I settled on the Woman’s Own Recipe (<—that’s a handy link to the recipe and ‘how to’)
I liked this recipe as it was simple and included a no fuss brownie mixture, it was easy to follow so I was happy (you can see the easy steps in my wonderful step by step below ha)

ImageMy favourite part was smushing the halved creme eggs into the slightly cooked brownies (see photo number 5). Cutting the Creme Egg’s was a bit tricky so make sure you use a really sharp knife and do it quickly (without cutting yourself!!) otherwise the Creme Egg mushes and crumbles and that’s not what we want…(see photo number 4)

I think they were a little overcooked as the edges were a tad crispy (probably because I had my oven too low to start with so I ended up cooking them for longer than recommended – hmpf!) but they did actually turn out well. They were so goey and chocolatey and lovely and rich….actually, they were really delicious. An all round winner I’d say!

Image

BAKING: Sometimes troublesome BROWNIES

I have had a longstanding issue with brownies…it seemed that whatever I did (bigger tin, smaller tin, bake for longer, bake on a lower temp, different recipe’s etc. etc.) they always REFUSED to be a brownie. They always turn out like some sort of joke type chocolate paste/mousse/mush.
WELL, NOT FOR MUCH LONGER.

Last night I thought I would tackle my brownie issue for the 100th time and I am very pleased to say THEY TURNED OUT REALLY WELL. I could actually pick them up and hold them and take them around with me.

The recipe I used was created by Mr. A’s wonderful mother. I also added some cheeky fudge pieces and for half of the chocolate I used was a Galaxy ‘Cookie Crunch’ bar.

I’m not quite sure what I did differently to make these work…I think it may have been the large baking tray I used and the temperature. And the time, I left them in for a little too long.

We ate them all before I had time to take fancy photos but here was the finished product.
Image

I am excited to get started on some adventurers brownie recipes now 🙂

BAKING: A FABULOUS flowerpot cake (trial run)

SO, being the *amazing* daughter I am, I decided I wanted to make my mum a really fancy cake for mother’s day. This was the first 3D cake I have ever made and the first cake I have ever used fondant icing with…so it was a pretty big challenge.

I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy step by step but instead, I’m going to highlight a few fundamental errors I made (hurrah!)…

1. I stupidly (or really cleverly?) chose a ‘rich chocolate cake mix’ which was REALLY tasty but at the same time so so rich – like make-your-face-sweat rich.

2. The was so heavy…the density of the cake was unbelievable and it was literally like a brick making it difficult to move around/eat.

3. I got over excited and crumb coated it before I should have. In hindsight I should have turned it upside down (in a bowl) and crumb coated it so I could then put the fondant icing on properly. Because I did not do that, I had to kind of drape the fondant around the edge, leaving it all wrinkly and gathered and stuff. Definitely not a professional look.

4. I didn’t have enough fondant icing – I thought 250g would be enough, but it was not. Too thin = very wrinkly.

See below for a clever little photo montage of each stage…

Cake montage

After I had assembled my cake, I realised I had  I ran out of icing sugar (SO ANNOYING WHEN THIS HAPPENS) so my cream cheese frosting was slightly runnier than it should have been – well  I think that’s why it was runny.

Also N.B. cake and fridges don’t really go well together (cue mega crumbles), so I won’t be using a cream cheese frosting again as I like to keep this in the fridge, and with it being such a MASSIVE cake it’s hard to eat in one day.

Apart from all of the abouve…I was VERY pleased/proud for my first attempt at a ‘proper’ cake.

Flower pot final

I am going to re-make this cake this weekend but instead will make a madeira cake and a fresh strawberry buttercream. Should be much lighter and yummier!

I am happy to share my recipes if anyone wants them 🙂