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

 

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Sweet Treats: Passion Fruit Macarons

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Happy Macaron Day to all!!

It has been a few years since I tried making my first batch of these delightful treats. To be honest with you I have made a plenty of attempts before I got even half decent macaron shell. But I never gave up on the idea! It is so incredibly rewarding once you master a magic art of preparing them in a correct way. In the end you will be ever so proud to see them come out of the oven! So lovely, shiny, round and standing on their ‘feet’.

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I feel that using the right ingredients makes a huge difference. And one of the very important things is to age the egg whites. You can either separate egg yolks from egg whites and store them in a fridge for 24 hours. I am not particularly keen on this method, as I do not like to keep the separated eggs in my fridge. What works for me is simply using ‘older’ eggs. I always buy eggs one or two weeks in advance and simply keep them out the fridge so they come to room temperature before whisking.

This particular recipe is my favourite as I only recently fell in love with passion fruit. The trick is to keep it until the skin becomes all wrinkled and a bit crunchy/dry. The actual fruit inside is then wonderfully sweet and just perfect to use for the filling. Of course, I mix it with slightly bitter chocolate ganache which goes really well with the sugary macaron shell. I decided to use double cream in this recipe, which does not add any more sweetness but still holds the flavour very well.

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When deciding on the colour of your shell, you can either use a small amount of the food colouring to create light shade or add a wee bit more to create a rich and deep colour. But be careful when adding the colouring as this could change the texture of the meringue and  macarons they will not rise. Also overworking the mixture, when you try to get the colour evenly spread, would cause knocking too much air out. In this way mixture because too runny and spreads too much on a baking sheet. I usually add the gel food colouring just towards the end of making a meringue.

Passion Fruit Macarons (makes 18)

95 g egg white
75 g caster sugar
152 g icing sugar
123 g ground almonds
yellow food colouring (preferably gel)

For the chocolate ganache
80 ml double cream
one passion fruit (you could also use two depending on the size of each)

Whip the egg whites until still. Keep in mind that you have to add the caster sugar gradually while you are whipping the egg whites. This allows the macaroons to develop their characteristic shine. Add a tiny bit of food colouring to the meringue. The easiest way is to use a toothpick. You can easily regulate how much colour you need to use. Sift flour and icing sugar in a separate bowl and add ground almonds. Slowly fold the flour mixture to the egg whites and be very careful not to over-mix.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe onto a baking sheet. Drop the baking tray on a flat surface to allow air bubles to come out: in simpler words, knock the air out. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes until the surface of each macaron is no longer sticky. This allows the macaron to rise evenly when baking. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/mark 4.

Put into the oven for 10-13 minutes. Keep checking during the baking as you might need to rotate the tray to allow an even bake.

Once baked, allow to cool down, and then transfer from the baking sheet. If macaron shells are too sticky that mean they need a bit longer in the oven. However remember the tray will be hot and will continue to cook the shells even after you take it out off the oven.

For the filling, whip double cream until it still has a bit of a runny texture. If you over whip it, then cream could split when piping onto shells. Add the inside of one passion fruit by scrapping each half. You can also add two passion fruits as long as the filling does not become too runny. Mix well and transfer into a piping bag.

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Match two shells so that their size will be as similar as possible. Pipe a little bit of double cream filling on one macaron shell and sandwich together with the second one. Leave to cool in the fridge. Macarons are best on the next day and ideally kept in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about an hour before eating, to allow the filling to warm up to room’s temperature.

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

Sweet Treats: almond and blueberry cake

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Almonds, blueberries, and cream…that just can’t go wrong! An absolute Foodamazers’ favourite: we love this scrummy cake. This was one of Maria’s, our patissier, first cakes, the one she would make for friends. It is simple and works really well as a light dessert for a dinner party or just as a little treat for one of those lazy Sunday afternoons. It just feels like home. If you are not keen on blueberries, you can replace them with any other fruit you fancy, like strawberries, blackberries, or even passion fruit. And if you feel double cream is a bit too heavy, whipping cream will also do the job.

Almond and blueberry cake (serves a few good hungry friends)

4 eggs (preferably large)
200 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g ground almonds
75 g plain flour
3 tbsp Lemon and lime marmalade
300 ml double cream
220 g blueberries
1 lemon zest
20 g toasted flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180°/160° fan/mark 4. Grease or line two sandwich tins with baking parchment (if you have only one 8in cake tin, it’s fine, just slice the sponge in two discs once cooked).

Whisk the eggs with caster sugar and vanilla extract until pale and twice the original volume, usually about ten minutes. Be patient when whisking because this will determine how well the sponges will rise in the oven. Keep going until the eggs turn light, almost ivory colour and full of bubbles. Mix flour and almonds in a separate bowl and slowly fold into the whisked eggs. The trick is not to overmix and lose the volume.

Pour mixture into the sandwich tins in the oven for about fifteen minutes (or thirty minutes if you are using one large tin). The cake is ready once it is turning golden and pulls away from the sides of the tin. Let it cool in the tin for a few moments and then release to cool on a wire rack.

Prepare the base sponge spreading lemon and lime marmalade on it. Then whisk the double cream with lemon zest and spread half over the sponge. Add two thirds of the blueberries and then top with the second sponge. Spread the rest of the double cream on the top and scatter with the remaining blueberries and toasted flaked almonds. To finish, dust with a little icing sugar.

Now, treat yourself!

by Maria