Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cherry Chocolate Fondants

Remember when all it took to win a television cookery show such as MasterChef was an unburnt scallop, a thin slice of black pudding and a decadent chocolate fondant? The glory days of twitter hashtags such as #ScallopWatch and 5 million viewers watching with bated breath to see if the centre of a fondant was appropriately, gloriously, gooey?

For the last five years, every time I've made a chocolate fondant I've envisaged a miniature Gregg Wallace on my shoulder simultaneously licking his lips while jovially repeating the one line he will forever be associated with: 'Cooking doesn't get tougher than this'. I've laid siege at the oven door, crossing fingers, toes and spatulas for a soft, molten middle and a risen sponge. I've wanted to play a recording of the sweaty-palm, racing-heart MasterChef Countdown music as I serve the puds (erm.... in my defence, Monday nights can be quite slow around these parts). 

But one squidgy, heady, melting mouthful and I can understand why chocolate fondants are still the favourite of MasterChef contestants. I've added a summery twist with a fresh cherry compote to this classic recipe. 

Chocolate Fondant
(Makes four)

For the chocolate fondant:
100g butter, plus extra for greasing
Cocoa powder, for dusting
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 free-range eggs
2 free-range egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour

For the cherry compote:
200g pitted fresh cherries
125ml orange juice
50g caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Lightly grease four dariole or pudding moulds with butter and dust with cocoa powder, ensuring a comprehensive coating
2. For the fondant, place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, until just melted. Remove from the heat, stir until well combined and set aside.
3. Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar together until thick and pale. Sift in the flour and mix well. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture and mix until smooth and well combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared moulds and place into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
5. While the fondants are chilling, make the compote: place the cherries, juice and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the cherries are softened. After five-ten minutes remove the cherries and continue to simmer the juices until thick and syrupy.
6. Meanwhile, bake the fondants for 10-12 minutes, or until firm on the outside, with a crust formed on top and still gooey in the middle.
7. Invert the fondants onto serving dishes and pour over the warm cherries and syrup

Baker's notes...

  • Prior to baking, the fondants can be frozen for up to one month. To cook from frozen add a further five minutes to the cooking time
  • Alternatively, the unbaked fondants can be kept in the fridge for several hours until needed. Simply add another two minutes to the cooking time 
  • They were rather good:

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Raspberry and Yogurt Loaf Cake

Raspberries are having the year of their lives. If they were sprinters, they'd be gloriously winning the Olympics in world record breaking time. 

If they were musicians, they'd be celebrating Grammy award winning albums, platinum record sales and Chris Martin would be forced into spending his time touring burger joints rather than international stadiums with Coldplay. 

If they were authors, JK Rowling's book sales would be left in tatters and the Harry Potter theme park, hit by downward spiralling attendances, would be torn down in favour of 'Raspberry World'*. 

*Think M&M World, Leicester Square but pinker and more squishy. 

This summer, growers are predicting bumper raspberry crops and, move aside please blueberries, the raspberry is now Britain's fastest growing soft fruit.

To celebrate the raspberry's ascendancy I baked a cake (as if I needed and an excuse). This is based on a Donna Hay recipe. The yogurt adds a light, fluffy crumb to the tangy, sweet and juicy raspberries.

Raspberry and Yogurt Loaf Cake

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g Greek yoghurt
225g self-raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, melted
150g raspberries plus extra spoonful to serve
Icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan/325°F. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with non stick baking parchment. 
2. Combine the eggs, vanilla extract and yogurt and whisk with a fork to combine. 
3. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Using a metal spoon, fold through the melted butter and yogurty mixture, being careful not to over mix. 
4. Spoon half the mixture into the loaf tin, scatter over the raspberries, and spoon the remainder of the batter into the tin, levelling the top
5. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour ten minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and top with extra raspberries to serve

Bakers notes...
  • The original recipe used blueberries rather than raspberries but I reckon chopped strawberries, gooseberries or blackcurrants would also work a treat in this recipe
  • Fancy a fancier topping? How about white chocolate and yogurt: omit the icing sugar and mix together 250g melted white chocolate, 125g natural yogurt and 1 tsp vanilla essence to form a smooth thick icing and spread over the cake

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough No Churn Ice Cream

Despite writing a blog that is, quite frankly, sweeter than the inner most depths of a Haribo factory, I've yet to include an ice cream recipe. Partly I've been discouraged as we don't own a one of those unwieldy ice cream maker-machines, partly because we've only the teeniest of freezers and mostly because the corner shop five minutes away has yet to run out of Twisters.

But then I read loads of great no-churn ice cream recipes, it got to hot to switch the oven on and we ate loads of frozen peas one night, freeing the teeny freezer for sweeter stuff.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Konditor and Cook Cake School Review

There is probably only one cake in the entire world that has been seen by an estimated 125 million television viewers. The Curly Whirly Cake from Konditor and Cook was arguably the standout star at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. But then of course a decadent dark chocolate sponge cake enveloped creamy vanilla frosting would be the leading light:

Image courtesy of Konditor and Cook

And one evening last week I popped along to the Konditor and Cook Cake School to learn all about the infamous Curly Whirly Cake. I'd been invited to the Introduction to Cake Decorating class, a two hour class packed full of brilliant tips and tricks to decorate biscuits and cakes, including the Curly Whirly. 

We headed behind the scenes at the Borough Market branch, through a door marked 'Cake School', the confectionery equivalent of walking through the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Our fantasy land beyond held tempting trays of Konditor and Cook nibbles. I for one tucked into with an alarming greed and gusto; apologies to my fellow course mates who probably did not have the chance to sample the bite sized brownies, delicate Parmesan shortbreads and the perfectly layered noisette sponge cake.

After we I had devoured the welcome snacks, Zera, Head Decorator at the branch, ably assisted by her colleague Alex began the class with an instruction to make a dozen mini parchment piping bags each. I'm not the most dexterous person at the best of times; this was like entering the world's most complex origami competition. But under Zera's expert and infinitely patient tutelage within a few minutes we'd all produced our piping bags:


Once they were filled with a variety of bright Royal icings, Zera demonstrated how to write and pipe the icing. It was just as well my first efforts were on a practice board. My writing was so wobbly it was as though I'd spent the previous two hours in the local pub hell bent on devouring their entire gin supply.

My wavy, childlike writing soon filled the board and it was time to progress to decorating biscuits. We were enthusiastically encouraged to decorate self-portraits and the faces of loved ones. Mine looked like the love child of Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart whilst my husband questioned his new orange beard when I presented him with his portrait later that evening:

(I'd like to confirm the biscuits were utterly delicious and my husband doesn't look anything like his biscuit portait.)

And then, then it was time to bring out the big gun: the undecorated Curly Whirly Cake. We all stood utterly transfixed by the gloriously perfect, naked cake, initially not daring to tarnish the smooth silky icing with wobbly lines and uneven decorating:


Eventually, inspired by Wimbledon I plumped for a strawberry decoration. I reasoned this was possibly more achievable that an iced image of Andy Murray Roger Federer fist-pumping his way to the final of the tennis. With Zera's invaluable assistance, this was my creation:

The class was incredibly enjoyable, relaxed, and taught with huge enthusiasm and warmth. The skills and tips are eminently transferable to the home kitchen ... just as soon as I figure out how to make the piping bags without Zera's close supervision and reassurance! 

If you’d like to visit Konditor & Cook there are four branches dotted across central London:

Waterloo – 22 Cornwall Road, SE1 8TW
Borough Market – 10 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Holborn – 46 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8LR
The Gherkin – 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8BF

And a full list of their brilliant Cake School classes can be found right here.

PS: They've an awesome range of July 4th American Magic Cakes to celebrate today's Independence Day in store right now:

Image courtesy of Konditor and Cook

With many thanks to Konditor and Cook for inviting me along to the class and Cake School. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Strawberry, Pimms and Mascarpone Swiss Roll and Oxo Giveaway

Strawberries are having a great year. Unlike the recent fortunes of the English national football team and suncream sellers at Glastonbury.

Bumper crops of sweeter and juicier fruits are being enjoyed in larger quantities than ever before as we've tucked into a phenomenal four times as many tonnes over the last month than the same time last year. Meanwhile, strawberries were the top selling product in all of Waitrose last week while M&S have sold 20 million of the juicy berries in the last seven days (most of which, I'm quite certain, ended up on our kitchen table). And this is all thanks to the ideal conditions of recent months: a mild, wet winter and early, warm Spring.

Walkers Market Deli Potato Chips Launch

We eat a whooping six billion packets of crisps each year in the UK. That's a humongous amount of sliced potato. The equivalent of 150 packs per person. And, incidentally, we've loved the same flavours for decades (in descending order, fact fans, Cheese & Onion, Ready Salted, Salt & Vinegar, Prawn Cocktail and Chicken). 

And on a warm, sunny evening last week I trotted off to the launch event of the latest addition to the snack food aisle: Walker's Market Deli Potato Chips. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

American Bakes: Snickerdoodles

The whimsical sounding Snickerdoodle biscuits are most unlike the chocolatey confectionery that share their name. I was a little disappointed. A nougat, peanut and sweet caramel biscuit encased in milk chocolate sounds really a rather fine invention, don't you agree? I'd even go as far to say that the company behind Snickers are missing a trick there, but I am very happy to sell my idea for a six figure sum and fifty percent share allocation (Yes, I may have been watching a bit too much "Dragon's Den" of late).