Sweet Treats: Banoffee Pie in a Glass

A few days ago I had a real craving for a banoffee pie. Unfortunately I had no time to make a proper one in a tin and I certainly did not have enough ingredients. So I decided to make just an experimental one in a glass. Well actually, in two glasses. I was not so sure if it will be any good but my flatmate certainly enjoyed it. Even though I ruined her diet as usual.

Word banoffee is a combination of a word banana and toffee. They are my favourite things I am therefore very much in love with this new ‘recipe/invention’. I must admit that it is very simple and does not take longer than 10 minutes to make. However if you fancy something creamy and delicious, I think you might enjoy it too. In comparison to my macaron procedure, it seems rather straight forward. No oven needed or fancy equipment, hardly any waiting time and certainly no piping involved.

I have used dark chocolate on the top as I find milk chocolate far too sweet with caramel. However you can also skip it if you don’t have a fancy grater which I save from my Christmas cracker a couple of years ago. It is impossibly small but incredibly handy when I use chocolate shavings. There is hardly ever any risk of cutting my fingers.

I have struggled to take decent pictures of this dessert though. Due to the shape of the glass and also light was not in my favour on the day. But I guess in the end couple of pictures seemed fairly good.

Sweet treats: Banoffee Pie in a Glass (serves 2)


2 small bananas (cut into chunks or circles)
150 ml double cream
6-8 digestive biscuits (with or without chocolate)
1 tin of carnation caramel
20 g dark chocolate

Break digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and then roll over the bag with a rolling pin to create fine breadcrumb texture. It is fully up to you if you prefer larger chunks of biscuits or fine sandy like texture. Then transfer to a glass to create a base. Scatter chunks of banana over the base and pour caramel. Top the glass with whipped cream and if you wish shavings of dark chocolate.

by Maria

Sweet treats: Chocolate Cigarello Cake

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Long Easter weekend is coming! And a lot of chocolate with it. I am not so keen on Easter eggs so I came up with a stylish Chocolate Cigarello Cake to share at our friend’s lunch. It is very rich and I can assure you, everyone will love it!

Dark chocolate is amazing and always balances the sweetness of the sponge with the caramel. However, if you are not a fan of ‘bitter’ chocolate you can easily replace it with milk or white chocolate cigarellos. I use Chocolate Trading Co for my cigarellos as they come beautifully uniform and precise. They also taste fantastic and have an excellent crunch. You can choose the volume you need from a small batch to a large one depending on how many cakes you are planning to  make. The delivery is very efficient and cigarellos are packaged really well to prevent any damage. However be aware you might need to buy more cigarellos, in case the crumble once you start working with them.

I must admit that I failed miserably on my attempts to make these beautiful decorations. No matter how many videos I have watched and practised… Working with fragile chocolate is difficult enough when trying to get the temperature and roll consistent for all cigarellos. My determination in this case was simply not enough. And trust me I am a one determined baker!

Fruits are excellent as a decoration on the top of the cake. They bring fresh and citrus flavour and also lighten up the cake. Strawberries, raspberries and also blueberries with redcurrants would work really well. I love having my cake with fruit whenever possible!  Especially now when the spring is in it way. Well one hopes it’s on its way…

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Chocolate Cigarello Easter Cake (serves 12-14)

For Chocolate Sponge
175 g lightly salted butter, plus 10 g for greasing
75 g dark chocolate
300 g plain flour
375 g golden caster sugar
25 g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs
200 g buttermilk
100 ml boiling water

For Vanilla Sponge
4 medium eggs
225 g softened unsalted butter
220 g self raising flour
220 g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
pink and purple food colouring

For the chocolate ganache
250 g dark chocolate
180 ml of double cream

For the Filling
1 tin of Carnation Caramel

box of 50 chocolate cigarellos
various fruit (optional)

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/mark 4. Grease with butter and line two 8-inch cake tins. For Chocolate Sponge, boil the kettle with water. Put chocolate, broken in small pieces, and butter into a small pan, then heat gently and continuously stir until melted. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, and soda bicarbonate together with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk until lighter in colour then add to the flour mixture together with melted chocolate. Add 100 ml of boiling water and whisk preferably with electrical whisk, until the mixture is lump free.

Divide the cake mixture into two tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remember to swap tins halfway through the bake if place on different shelves in the oven. Once the cake is ready and the skewer comes out clean when testing, take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool down.

For a Vanilla Sponge, grease and line one 8-inch cake tin. Whip the softened butter with sugar until pale, and then add eggs, and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. The mixture should be light and easy to spread. Transfer the mixture to a cake tin and bake for 15-20 min until skewer comes out clean. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and allow to cool down.

Once all the sponges are cool, trim all three so that they are same depth. It is very helpful to put them all on top of each other and compare to the hight of the chocolate cigarello. That will give you a rough idea on how high each sponge needs to be. Spread caramel on the bottom chocolate sponge followed by vanilla sponge and finally by the second chocolate sponge. Be generous with the caramel as it will also absorb into the sponges. Put the cake into the fridge for about 30 min.

For the chocolate ganache, pour the double cream into a heavy based pot and bring slowly to boil. Then pour over broken chocolate and leave it to melt the chocolate for a couple of minutes. Once all the chocolate has melted, pour half of the chocolate ganache over the cake and spread over the sides of the cake. Then you can start attaching cigarellos to the side of the cake. Ganache will act as a glue and help to position each roll. This will get messy but keep cigarellos tight together and make sure they are vertical to the work surface. You can keep adding fresh ganache in case cigarellos do not stick to the cake properly.

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Once all cigarellos are attached pour leftover ganache on the top of the cake. Set aside preferably in a cod place to allow the chocolate to set. Add the fruit on top of the cake and dust with icing sugar.

by Maria

 

Sweet Treats: Mini Croquembouche Filled With Caramel Cream

 

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I still remember the first time I tried to make profiteroles…and the second, and the third, and also the fourth time… It was not an easy task but they were absolutely perfect, once I realised what went wrong. So, be brave and don’t give up if the first batch doesn’t work out. It is so worth it to make these glorious little golden globes! Plus choux pastry is amazingly versatile and it could be used for desserts as well as starters and nibbles.

The origin of profiteroles is rather mysterious and hardly anyone could find out who was the first person to make this delicious treat. However, we do know that cooks in Southern Germany and France during the thirteenth century already started experimenting with puff pastries. It is more likely they were made with savoury filling based on cheese. One of the stories claims that it was actually one of the cooks of Caterina de’ Medici who came up with the idea. Nonetheless, choux pastries are wonderful and such a great fun.

Profiteroles look their best in croquembouche, which is traditionally made for weddings, baptisms, or other family gatherings. There are some spectacular ones and of course you can choose caramel or chocolate to stick choux pastries together. They can be decorated with a variety of ingredients, most traditionally sugared almonds. Last Saturday, I  decided to make this simple mini croquembouche just for a few close friends who came for dinner and they loved it…

Mini Croquembouche filled with Caramel and Cream  (Serves 5-6)

For the choux pastry
3 eggs
200 ml cold water
85 g unsalted butter
115 g plain flour
pinch of salt

For the filling
250 ml double cream
50-100g carnation caramel

For the caramel
100 g sugar
25 g water

For the chocolate sauce (optional) 
50 g dark chocolate
25 g butter
125 ml double cream
1 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven 200°C/180°C fan/mark 6.

Place water and butter into a pan and heat gently until the butter melts. Once the water starts to boil, tip in the flour and mix quickly until combined. Continue mixing on very low heat, preferably with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the edges of the pan. This allows the drying of the batter, in order to avoid the profiteroles ending up soggy.

Leave to cool slightly for about 5 minutes and then mix in one egg at the time. When you add the eggs, the mixture will split into smaller chunks, but keep going and it will come together into smooth and glossy dough. Once all the eggs are incorporated, transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle. If you haven’t got a nozzle, just cut off the end of the bag with scissors.

Pipe small balls in a regular pattern on a baking sheet and glaze with egg or just press the top with a wet finger. Place in the oven and leave to bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow profiteroles to brown slightly. Lighter colour would make them wet inside once cooled down.

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For the filling, whip the double cream until almost stiff, then add as much caramel as you please. Do not overmix, as it will curdle when pipping. Remember, the caramel will make the filling rather sweet, so there is no need to add sugar. Make a hole in each profiterole with you finger and fill with the cream mixture. It is easier if you are using a small nozzle.

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For the caramel, place sugar and water into a pan, and slowly bring to boil on a low heat. Don’t be tempted to stir and move the pan, as this would encourage the formations of crystals. Let it boil slowly and the caramel will start to brown. You can turn the heat down once the caramel is turning darker, just to prevent burning.

Please, be very careful when arranging your croquembouche, as the caramel will be extremely hot. Dip the tip of each profiterole into the caramel and start to build base in a circle, then continue by adding more layers. Caramel will act as glue and it will hold all profiteroles together very well. Finish of by carefully pouring caramel over your completed croquembouche.

For the chocolate sauce, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Mix the rest of the ingredients and heat in a separate bowl until combined well together. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate. Stir well until combined. When you serve the croquembouche, show off first, then serve several profiteroles in a bowl for each person, and dress with the hot chocolate sauce.

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 by Maria