Tag Archives: Chocolate

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Goodness, it’s been a while since I showed some signs of life, hasn’t it?  I previously mentioned that things were likely to be a bit quiet as I knuckled down and got on with this whole MSc thesis-writing lark,* however  I didn’t quite expect to more or less completely disappear from the online world (with the exception of Instagram – have I ever mentioned my addiction?).  A scheduled post about one of the best cakes ever (shameless plug, what?) not going up several weeks ago (let’s pretend that I didn’t only just notice today) rather helped to reinforce this absence.  I am, however, still alive and kicking.  I’ve been baking, too, to de-stress a bit and take a break from thesis-writing.  I just haven’t had the time to take any half-decent photos or write recipes up.  Or collate any Sunday Smiles posts either for that matter.

Bet you'll never guess what kind of cake this is…  Oh wait.

AlphaBakesWhilst Microsoft Word and Excel get their act together, unfreeze and stop repeatedly crashing on me (I’ve had a fantastic morning…), I thought I’d share this utterly amazing kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake with you.  Anybody thinking that kumara is some terribly exotic, amazing new ingredient that’ll be impossible to find in a normal shop, it’s just the Kiwi (and Australian I think?) name for sweet potato.  Rather conveniently, the challenge letter for AlphaBakes happens to be “K,” so I’m sending this cake in as my entry to Caroline Makes, this month’s host.

Cake in progress

After a classic case of forgetting to check a recipe for quantities before going shopping and consequently overestimating the amount, I ended up with some surplus orange kumara the other day and decided that some cake was in order.  I dug out a recipe that I’ve had bookmarked since last year, and threw some chocolate in, just because I could.  I added some cinnamon in too, since I’m actually incapable of not adding cinnamon to pretty much everything during autumn and winter (in spring and summer I only add it to about 50% of everything…  I might have a cinnamon problem).  The cake came out wonderfully moist and utterly scrumptious – the combination of kumara and cardamom was a pleasant discovery for me.  The cake also happens to be gluten-free, but you’d never guess it (I feel gluten-free baking has a reputation for rather heavy and dry results, but I haven’t dabble much with gluten-free, so I could be wrong).  Suffice to say, the lab loved it.

This totally wasn't my breakfast.  Ahem.

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from The KitchenMaid

I’m rather liberal with spices, so if you’re not into strong flavours, you may wish to reduce the cardamom down to 3 tsp.  I’ve yet to locate good quality dark chocolate chips (with more than 70% cocoa) that aren’t overly sweet, so I prefer using good dark chocolate and just chopping it up myself, however if you do have good dark chocolate chips, feel free to use them.  This cake also works as loaves or mini loaves (great for breakfast…), though the baking times will have to be adjusted (probably around 50 mins for two loaves or about 35 mins as mini loaves, though don’t hold me to that).  The drizzle is, of course, optional.  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
450g orange kumara (sweet potato)
150g dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs, room temperature
225g ground almonds
4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the drizzle (optional):
100g icing sugar
¾ tsp ground cardamom
Just under 1 tbsp boiling water

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.

2.  Scrub the kumara and pierce the skin several times with a fork.  Place on a baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork – you should have around 325g of cooked flesh.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 195°C/fan 175°C.  Line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with baking paper.

4.  If using chocolate and not chocolate chips, chop the chocolate up and set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat the eggs in, one at a time, adding about 1 tbsp of ground almond with each egg (this will help prevent the mixture from curdling).

6.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the spices, baking powder, salt, mashed kumara and chopped-up chocolate and stir together with a spatula or spoon.  Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1h-1h10, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if the cake starts to brown a little too much on top, just cover it with aluminium foil).  Allow to cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

To prepare the drizzle:
7.  Once the cake has cooled fully, add all the drizzle ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Pour into a freezer bag, snip a small corner off and drizzle over the cake.

Enjoy!

Also makes an excellent breakfast in mini loaf form…  I'm all about cake for breakfast, doncha know.

*Heavy sarcasm alert.  It’s anything but a lark, just in case anybody was unsure.

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Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

I really had high hopes of getting back to a regular blogging schedule.  Evidently that hasn’t happened, and even Sunday Smiles has completely flown out of the window.  With two months until I’m supposed to be handing in a 40,000 word thesis, I’ve accepted that a regular blogging schedule is unlikely to magically throw itself together any time soon.  So I’ll stop peppering the blog with excuses and apologies for not posting, and just hope that you, my lovely regular readers, will hang in there and put up with some seriously sporadic posting.  Will a pretty picture make up for it a bit?  Let’s give it a try:

Have I mentioned how idyllic my surroundings are? I'm actually jealous of myself.

That’ll be the view from a recent evening walk I took with one of my housemates.  Which is obviously not what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.  Perhaps not so surprising that I absolutely love it here, eh?  Moving swiftly on before you all hate me…  I’m sure you’re aware that it was St Patrick’s Day the weekend before last.  (Oh that’s why the internet was suddenly almost entirely decked out in green…)  A couple of my housemates and I went to visit one of our other housemates who is doing research up north (my current housing situation is currently somewhat convoluted and there’s a fair bit of subletting involved) for St Patrick’s weekend.  I, of course, brought baked goods.  And gin, obviously.  But lets focus on the baked goods.

Chocolate and walnuts – a promising start for any baked goods (unless you dislike chocolate or walnuts…)

I wanted something vaguely Irish-themed since it was St Patrick’s and all, and had an urge to bake brownies (which are also easy to transport – win!).  I looked up my favourite brownie recipe (coffee & walnut brownies, since you ask) to see how I could Irishify (totally a word) it.  And it hit me: Irish Coffee & walnut brownies.  Oh yes.

Hang on a second, where did all the brownies go?

AlphaBakesConfession time: I didn’t actually use an Irish whisky – there wasn’t any in the cupboard so I used Glenfiddich, my usual baking whisky.  Luckily the brownies turned out so scrumptious that nobody picked me up on it.  The whisky flavour does come through subtly and goes wonderfully with the other flavours in the brownies.  Success!  I’m submitting these brownies to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes.  The special letter this month is “I,” so that’ll be I for Irish Coffee…  That totally counts as an ingredient, right?  I’m also attempting to sneak my entry in because I totally thought the deadline was today…  It was yesterday.  Thankfully, I’m way more on the ball with my thesis due date…

Oh that's where all the brownies went…  Into the biscuit tin.

Irish Coffee & walnut brownies

Makes 20 brownies
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

I used Glenfiddich as that’s my usual baking whisky, but just use whatever you favour – an Irish whisky would obviously be ideal…  You can also use freshly-brewed espresso rather than instant coffee if that’s what you have at home.  These will keep for a several days in an airtight container, though they’re so moreish that I doubt they’ll last that long!  These are probably best enjoyed with a coffee – an Irish Coffee, obviously.

Ingredients

70g walnut pieces of halves
140g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
125g unsalted butter
2 tbsp espresso-style instant coffee
4 tbsp boiling water
3-4 tbsp whisky
1 tbsp cream
60g all-purpose flour
150g caster sugar
2 eggs

Directions

1.  Line a 20 x 25 cm baking tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 170°C.

2.  Roughly chop the walnuts, then dry toast them in a small frying pan until fragrant, taking care not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

3.  Break half the chocolate into pieces and add to a medium heat-proof bowl with the cubed butter.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  In a little ramekin or glass, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.  Add to the chocolate and butter mixture along with the whisky and cream and melt together, stirring occasionally.  When all melted together and smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Sift the flour into a small bowl.  Roughly chop the remaining chocolate into small chunks and stir into the flour, along with the cooled toasted walnuts.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until well mixed and a little foamy.  Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula then pour into the prepared baking tin.  Smooth the top of the mixture if necessary and bake for 18-22 mins until a knife point comes out with a little mixture still stuck to it.

5.  Cool for about 20-30 mins in the tin until just warm, then remove and allow to cool fully on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!

Yummy goodness in progress.

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Happy ever-so-slightly belated Chinese New Year!

I’m afraid that life has completely gotten in the way of blogging.  Again.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the past few weeks in the lab fighting the incredible slowness of the one computer that runs the programme that I need for my research.  Which doesn’t really make me want to come home and spend more time staring at a computer screen.  Then there’s the minor detail that I’ve decided to move up to Leigh permanently (well, until the end of my MSc) because I love it so much here.  So I’ve been back and forth between Auckland and Leigh over the past two weeks to pack up my Auckland flat and also deal with visa extension applications and other such joys.  And between all of that, please don’t hate me too much (especially if you’re in the northern hemisphere) but we’ve been having such a wonderful summer that it’s been impossible to resist the call of the outdoors.

Any post with dragons in is automatically awesome, right?

Today’s post should have gone up about two weeks ago.  For Chinese New Year.  Evidently that didn’t happen.  However, since today is the Chinese Lantern Festival, which is still part of the New Year celebrations (from what I understand), I’m totally letting myself off on that one.  We went to the Lantern Festival in Auckland yesterday, and there were some super awesome lanterns (funny that).  Including a whole montage of penguins and polar bears, which, before anybody gets upset about the ecological inaccuracy of that (I totally did before I read the explanatory panel), was apparently meant to symbolise China’s scientific interest in both polar regions.  Still not sure how that’s quite relevant to New Year, but it sure looked awesome!

Penguins and polar bears – always so closely with Chinese New Year…

One of my housemates is Chinese and another is Chinese-Malaysian, and they cooked a big Chinese New Year’s Eve meal for us (which was totally amazing).  I was asked to make a dessert (it took my housemates about a week to figure out that I’m not half bad in that department).  I wanted something fairly light and bite-sized – I had no idea how many people would be coming, but was sure that the main meal would be pretty filling – that I could preferably prepare the evening before so as not to get in the way of my housemates’ preparations on the day.  In the end I settled on that most Chinese of desserts: chocolate and ginger macarons.  Because ginger is totally a Chinese flavour, and I made the shells red and piped Chinese characters in gold on the top of each macaron, which means they’re clearly Chinese New Year-themed.  Ok, so it’s a little tenuous, but everybody loved them and they went down an absolute treat.  (Phew!)

A very Chinese dessert.  Ahem.

I didn’t just pick some totally random Chinese characters by the way.  One of them is which means prosperity or blessing – obviously an important symbol for New Year – and the other is shé which means snake – because it’s the year of the snake.  My housemates wrote them out for me to copy, so any mistakes are totally not my fault.  I’m really happy with how they turned out though – adding the characters really just made them that little bit extra special.

Mad Chinese piping skills!

We Should CocoaI’m submitting these macarons to this month’s We Should Cocoa, which is being hosted by Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes, who has chosen “ginger” as the special ingredient to be combined with chocolate.  An awesome choice, might I add, since I do love ginger.  The bitterness of the dark chocolate in the ganache cut through the heat of the ginger wonderfully and also went some way to counterbalancing the sweetness of the shells.  The ganache is pretty intensely chocolatey though, so if you’re not a huge dark chocolate fan, be warned that you might not be able to wolf down a whole batch.

These all disappeared rather quickly over the course of the evening

Chocolate & ginger macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves
Royal icing recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Colouring the shells and piping Chinese characters on them is obviously totally optional.  The recipe for the royal icing decorations on top makes far more than you’ll need, but any leftovers will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a few weeks.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden. If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)

For the ganache filling:
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
20g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
40g Frangelico (or Amaretto)
1 tbsp ground ginger

For the royal icing decorations:
1 egg white
1 tsp Frangelico (or Amaretto)
250–280g icing sugar
Yellow or gold food colouring paste or gel

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  Add a few drops of the red food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well to get the shade of red that you wish.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the butter and chocolate chocolate (broken into pieces), the Frangelico and sift in the ginger.  Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if absolutely necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

9.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

10.  Leave in the fridge for a few hours in an airtight container to set before piping decorations on top.

To decorate the macarons:
11.  Prepare a piping bag with a very thin round tip.

12.  Sift 250g of the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl, and add the egg white, Frangelico (or Amaretto) and a drop or two of the food colouring gel (the amount to add will depend on how intense you want the colour to be, obviously).  Whisk them together with an electric mixer until the mixture is stiff and can be used to pipe without running.  If the mixture is not reaching a stiff stage, add more icing sugar a little at a time and keep mixing.

13.  Transfer the mixture to the piping bag and pipe the decorations on top of the set macarons.  Allow the mixture to set before returning to the fridge so that the macarons have spent at least 24h setting before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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A Bond-themed Cocktail in a Macaron: Leiter Fluid

Super-duper exciting news: Skyfall was finally released in New Zealand yesterday!!  I’ve been vastly unimpressed at having to wait a month after its release in the UK to see it, particularly since I’ve been hearing how good it is.  Miraculously, I’ve managed to avoid hearing about or seeing any spoilers, which, over the course of an entire month spent on facebook and Twitter, is a rather impressive feat, though I’m assuming that I’ve managed this mostly through sheer luck.  And I suspect that perhaps some of my closest friends who share my Bond love have carefully avoided posting spoilers since they knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it yet.  If so, I’m incredibly grateful.  Anyway, the suspense has been killing me.  Not helped by having to walk past a giant Skyfall billboard every day…

I was finally able to watch Skyfall yesterday evening with some of my labmates.  Wow.  Fantastic.  I can’t really say much more without giving away any spoilers, but I loved it.  Whilst Kat, Craig and I were watching our way through all the Bond films during the summer between our third and fourth years of undergrad, Craig made us a particular cocktail one evening.  I believe it’s mentioned in one of the books (possibly Casino Royale), so we didn’t really invent it, but I think he slightly adapted it and then we re-named it.  It consists of equal parts of gin, red vermouth and Campari and then topped off with tonic to fill the glass.  So basically a Negroni with tonic.

But we wanted a Bond-themed name for the cocktail, and we eventually settled on Leiter Fluid (that’s Leiter as in Felix Leiter).  By “we” I really mean Kat and Craig – I’m not particularly inventive, so I was probably more focussed on sampling the drink itself.  Anyway, in honour of Skyfall’s release and also of this month’s Baking with Spirit theme of “gin,” I decided to take the Leiter Fluid and turn it into a macaron.  Leiter Fluid macarons – oh yes.  I decided that the flavours of the drink (particularly the Campari) would pair well with a dark chocolate ganache, and indeed they did, although they ended up coming through rather more subtly than I expected.  Which is no bad thing.  And the sweet shells balance the bitter ganache perfectly.  My only gripe is that the shells didn’t come out quite as swirly as I wanted, but luckily that doesn’t affect the taste!

Leiter Fluid macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by me

I used Gordon’s gin in the ganache since I find that the Campari and red vermouth mask any real subtleties of good gins.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden.  If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  (Not that I’m speaking from experience…)  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

For the ganache filling:
50g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
20g Campari
20g gin
20g red vermouth
A small glug of tonic

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.  If you want to make the macarons swirly, brush three or four lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  I did three stripes).

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  If you want to make the shells a uniform colour, add a few drops of food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces), the Campari, gin, red vermouth and a glug of tonic and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Chocolate, cherry & hazelnut cookies

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen, and she has chosen “cherry” as the special ingredient.  I got all excited about this, because I adore cherries.  My enthusiasm deflated slightly when I remembered that it’s very much not cherry season here, so I’m a little jealous if you live somewhere with fresh cherries in abundance.  But whilst fresh cherries might be off the cards for me, there are plenty of other options: dried cherries, glacé cherries, preserved cherries and kirsch.  Adding kirsch is one of my favourite ways of jazzing up anything chocolatey – I nearly always add a (liberal) splash of kirsch when making chocolate cake, and when we made Craig’s meerkat cake, the chocolate meerkat cookies were decorated with kirsch icing.

As much as I wanted to make something combining chocolate and kirsch, frustratingly I’ve yet to actually find kirsch here (I heartily welcome any information on how to resolve that).  Luckily, I’ve had a recipe for chocolate and cherry cookies lodged in my brain for the past few weeks, and this was the perfect occasion to try it out (not that I really need an excuse).  It comes from The Boy Who Bakes which I borrowed from the library a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wanting to try it since it jumped out at me as I first flipped through the book, particularly since it uses dried cherries so I wouldn’t have to wait until cherry season.  A flawless plan, but for one minor detail: the small supermarket that I usually shop at apparently doesn’t sell dried cherries.  Dried goji berries, no problem.  But dried cherries, nope, I’d have to make a trip to the larger supermarket that’s further away.  Not in itself a huge problem since it’s still within walking distance (though not so much with heavy shopping), I just needed to find the time.

Having finally stopped off at said larger supermarket on my way back from the aquarium yesterday, I stocked up on dried cherries which meant it was time to (finally) try out the cookies.  It seems to me that adding toasted hazelnuts to chocolatey baked goods is the logical thing to do with it’s cold and windy outside, so I threw some in for good measure.  A smashing idea if I might say so.  Appropriately for We Should Cocoa, these cookies are very chocolatey, so if you’re not a big chocolate fan then these probably aren’t for you.  The dried sour cherries cut through the intense chocolate nicely and the cookies themselves are just a little gooey in the middle, which I love.  A little post-publish addition: these cookies went down an absolute storm with my labmates during our afternoon coffee break – one of them never has seconds for sweet things and ate two, and another is eating vegan all month but decided to make an exception because they looked so good… she also ate two.  Actually, I think everybody ate two.  I can’t give you a better recommendation than that!

Chocolate, cherry & hazelnut cookies

Makes 25 cookies
Adapted from The Boy Who Bakes

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  These cookies are delicious accompanied by a cup of coffee to wash the chocolateyness down.  They will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

350g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
130g all-purpose flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
60g toasted hazelnuts
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g dried sour cherries

Directions

1.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

2.  Melt 200g of the chocolate by breaking it up and placing in a heat-proof bowl over a bowl of simmering water (ensure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).  Remove from the heat once melted and allow to cool slightly before using.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and the toasted hazelnuts and set aside.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium-sized bowl, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and two sugars using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs one by one until well incorporated.  Beat in the flour mixture a third at a time, until just incorporated.  Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the mixture with the electric whisk on medium speed, beating until combined.  Stir in the chocolate pieces, hazelnuts and dried cherries.

5.  Form heaped tablespoons of dough into balls and place on the prepared baking trays, with up to six per tray.  Bake for 13-15 mins until crisped around the edges.  Cool for 5 mins on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

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Cookies to blow a Kiwi’s socks off

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was surprised to discover that sweet potatoes were actually a staple in the Māori diet before the arrival of European settlers.  Consequently, they remain popular here and although it seems that the traditional kumara varieties have mostly been replaced with imported varieties that grow bigger and produce more, they are still referred to by their Māori name, kūmara (pronounced KOO-mah-rah).  Orange kumara seems to be the same variety as orange sweet potato that you find in the US or Europe, but we have two other varieties here that I don’t think I’ve seen before: red and golden.  The three varieties differ slightly in their flavours and their levels of sweetness, with orange being the sweetest (and mushiest when cooked, it seems), and red the least sweet.

Given the popularity of kumara and its long-standing availability in NZ, I was expecting the batch of orange kumara and chocolate cookies that I took into the lab the other day to be fairly run-of-the-mill.  Not in terms of taste, since they were rather scrumptious, but I mean the combination of kumara and chocolate, in a cookie.  How wrong I was…  It turns out that kumara is only really used in savoury dishes here, so the concept of using it in cookies just about blew the socks off my Kiwi labmates.  And my Spanish labmate, who took one home for his wife to taste (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it “disappeared” en route).  Oh and my Italian labmate, who explained he’d only discovered kumara here, because you don’t get sweet potatoes in Italy.  Basically everybody except the Americans and Canadians.  It seems that using sweet potato/orange kumara for baking must be a very North American thing to do – I’ve clearly been influenced by the 4 years of my childhood that we spent in the southern US without realising it!  I was genuinely taken aback by their surprise though, and being able to so unexpectedly introduce (almost) everybody to something new really made me happy, particularly since they liked them.  I predict that more kumara-based baked goods will be making an appearance at the lab…

Aside from their secret ability to blow the socks off Kiwis, these cookies are delicious in their own right, and the orange kumara gives them a lovely orange tinge as well.  They’re lovely and soft and pillowy and fantastically moist, so actually, I feel cookie might be a bit of a misnomer since their texture reminds me more of cake than a traditional cookie.  It’s very much like eating cake in the shape of a cookie.  I’m a fan.  Although I can’t help but wonder if there should be an alternative name for them – cakies or cakelets or something.  Any thoughts? Although kumara are perpetually in season (in NZ anyway – in Europe I always thought they were in season through winter), the spices make me associate these cookies with winter: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Definitely a fabulously wintery combination, and one full of flavour at that!

Kumara & chocolate cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

These cake-like cookies are wonderfully soft and pillowy, not crunchy as you might expect from a cookie.  The kumara/sweet potato taste really does shine through, as do the wintery spices.  Make sure to use orange kumara as they are the sweetest and mushiest, so perfect for baking, and they also give the cookies their slightly orange colour.  The cookies will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight box.  Since they’re quite soft, place a sheet of baking paper between layers to prevent them from sticking together.

Ingredients

1 medium orange kumara/sweet potato (I used a 350g kumara, which yielded about 250g roasted flesh)
220g light brown sugar
2 eggs
120ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g all-purpose flour
125g wholewheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
175g dark chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2.  Scrub the sweet potato and pierce the skin with a fork.  Place on the baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and roughly mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and egg until pale and thickened (it will get pale, I promise – it just takes a bit effort if doing it by hand, as I did – see the photo below).  Gently whisk in the oil and vanilla, then fold in the kumara.

5.  In a large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Add the kumara mixture to the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until the flour is no longer visible.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

6.  Scoop up heaped tablespoons of cookie dough and deposit on one of the prepared cookie sheets, as neatly as possible.  Space the heaps of dough about 5cm apart.  Bake for 10-12 mins until risen and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies on the trays for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (they’ll still be quite soft so be careful).

Enjoy!

PS – I know I said the kumara gives an orange tinge, but not quite as much as the photo above – that rather over-emphasised colour is courtesy of my minor Instagram addiction (you can find me under sharkyovengloves).

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Peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies

Despite usually using British words for things (unless I’ve been talking to an American for longer than about 20 minutes) – rubbish, a bin, crisps, chips and scones rather than trash, a trash can, chips, fries and biscuits – I use the words biscuit and cookie interchangeably to describe the same thing.  I think I use biscuit more often but sometimes cookie just sounds better.  Chocolate chip biscuit really doesn’t have the same ring as chocolate chip cookie.  Cookie certainly sounds more appropriate when describing something that I strongly associate with the US… such as peanut butter.  Peanut butter biscuits just doesn’t sound right, it’s almost like an oxymoron to sandwich together very American peanut butter and terribly British biscuit.  Peanut butter cookies, on the other hand, sound perfect and scrumptious to boot.  In case it’s not clear, I love peanut butter cookies.  But I don’t have a trusty go-to recipe for them (which is a serious problem in my life, but probably also good for my health).

When I saw a recipe for peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies I just knew I had to try it.  I love baked goods with surprises in the middle (like these white chocolate strawberry-surprise muffins), and I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate so really it was a no-brainer.  The cookies ended up a little larger and more spread out than I was expecting, but they were delicious, so I’m not going to complain!!  There’s just the perfect amount of peanut butter flavour, they’re not too sweet and the chocolate surprise centre works wonderfully – I initially tried with dark chocolate, but I really think that milk chocolate works better with peanut butter (and I’m not usually a fan of milk chocolate when it comes to baking).  I tried a couple of these without the chocolate centre and they make tasty peanut butter cookies in their own right.  If I’m honest, I won’t be baking them on a regular basis because of the freezing-and-waiting faff (although I did read a whole paper whilst they were doing their thing), but they’ll definitely be making an occasional appearance in situations involving cookies (and people without peanut allergies).

Peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies

Makes 12 cookies
Adapted from My San Francisco Kitchen

Since these cookies need to stay as cool as possible, I would recommend keeping this recipe for the cooler days of autumn and winter (though Scottish “summers” shouldn’t be too much of an issue…).  I used crunchy peanut butter, but smooth peanut butter would work just as well in this recipe, so just use whichever you prefer and have available.  If you don’t like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, these cookies are also delicious without the chocolate centre.  The cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

95g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
55g brown sugar
45g caster sugar
45g unsalted butter, softened
85g unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
1 egg
6 small squares of milk chocolate

Directions

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  Cream together the butter and two sugars together in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Add the peanut butter and egg and mix together on medium speed.  When fully incorporated, add the flour a bit at a time, mixing on low speed.

3.  Once the mixture is well blended, form the dough into a log with floured hands and wrap in cling film (it gets a bit sticky, even with floured hands, so if necessary, just wrap it in the cling film and form it into a rough log – it doesn’t have to be super neat anyway so don’t worry too much about it).  Place in the freezer for an hour.

4.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.  If necessary, cut the chocolate squares in half or quarters (they have to small enough to be wrapped in the cookie dough, mine were about 1 x 0.5 x 0.5 cm)

5.  Working quickly to keep the cookies as cold as possible, remove the dough from the freezer and split equally into 12.  Press one piece of chocolate into the middle of each piece of dough.  Form the dough into a ball around the chocolate and space out on the baking sheet, flattening each one slightly and making a pattern with a fork.  If the cookies get too warm and melty, pop them in the freezer for about 5 mins (or the fridge for 10-15 mins if you discover that your baking trays don’t actually fit into your tiny freezer…).

6.  Bake for 10-12 mins, allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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How to accidentally feed a small child caffeine…

Coffee breaks are a big thing in my lab.  Before I elaborate, I should probably explain my work situation (work as in uni work).  As a postgrad, I have a desk.  A whole desk all to myself, which is kind of exciting.  I mean I effectively had my own space in the computer lab in the last few weeks that I was writing my dissertation (of doom) in St Andrews, but that was more because I claimed it by spending about 18h a day there and leaving my papers and files scattered around it for the 6h that I wasn’t because I was sleeping or eating, but now I have a desk that’s actually mine and doesn’t require scattered highlighters and papers to mark my territory.  I’m clearly going up in the world.

Now this desk is located in the fairly large marine lab, half of which consists of postgrad desks and the other half is the actual lab bit with lab benches and microscopes and chemicals, none of which I actually use.  Other than an invisible line there’s no separation between the desk-filled half and the proper lab half of the room, so the whole thing is classed as a lab.  Food and drink aren’t allowed in labs.  Thus, no food and drink at our desks.  Which means… no coffee.  Which is an issue.  And explains the importance of the coffee break.  The lab is also quite cold, which makes it all the more frustrating that we can’t have hot drinks at our desks.  Coffee breaks mean that we get to venture upstairs where it’s a bit warmer.  Coffee breaks are also ideal for bringing in baked goods that you don’t want to eat an entire batch of by yourself.  And baked goods are a great way of making friends with your labmates.

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being guest hosted by Lucy of The Kitchen Maid and she has chosen “coffee” as the special ingredient, which is an excellent choice because I love the combination of coffee and chocolate.  In fact, they almost pair a little too well, and I actually found it rather difficult to choose what to make because there are just so many possibilities.  I think that coffee and chocolate complement each other best in something fairly rich, so after much indecision I finally settled on coffee and walnut brownies.  The walnuts were the result of some last-minute inspiration, but they go so well with both coffee and chocolate, that they just seemed like they’d make the perfect addition.  And they really did work wonderfully, adding a little bit of crunch and balance to the soft, rich chocolateyness of the brownies.  The coffee blends perfectly with the chocolate – you can definitely taste that it’s there, even if it’s not a distinct flavour and you can’t quite put your finger on it.  I think this might be my favourite brownie recipe ever.

I brought the brownies in for yesterday’s afternoon coffee break and they went down a storm.  One of the guys who works in an offshoot of the marine lab further down the corridor had his kids in with him so they joined us for our coffee break.  I think they’re about 5 and 8 years old.  Whilst their dad was making his coffee and whatever drinks they were having they were eyeing up the brownies sitting on the table, but clearly too scared of all the adults they didn’t really know to ask for some.  I didn’t want to offer them some without first checking that nuts were ok though – I hear that inducing somebody’s child into anaphylactic shock is considered rather bad form.  The fact that there’s caffeine in the brownies totally didn’t cross my mind until after they’d each had half a brownie and their dad said “these are so good, but they taste a bit different to standard chocolate brownies, what’s that extra flavour?”  “That’s probably the coffee.  Oh my gosh, coffee.  I just gave caffeine to your kids.  I am so sorry!!”  Awkward.  I don’t have any younger siblings or young cousins, so I’ve had minimal experience with small children…  Can you tell?  We concluded that there was probably less caffeine in a brownie than in several sips of coke, so they probably wouldn’t go totally crazy.  He even let them have another half each when they asked for more.  Since I’m spending this morning at the aquarium, I won’t have seen him by the time this post publishes, so I’m not sure how that worked out…

Coffee & walnut brownies

Makes 20 brownies
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

If you’re not a huge fan of coffee or you want a slightly more subtle flavour, you can decrease the amount of coffee down to 1tbsp dissolved in 2 tbsp of boiling water.  You can also use freshly-brewed espresso rather than instant coffee if that’s what you have at home.  These will keep for a several days in an airtight container, though they’re so moreish that I doubt they’ll last that long!  These are probably best enjoyed with a coffee.

Ingredients

140g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
125g unsalted butter
2 tbsp espresso-style instant coffee
4 tbsp boiling water
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
70g walnut pieces or halves
60g all-purpose flour

Directions

1.  Line a 20 x 25 cm baking tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 170°C.

2.  Break half the chocolate into pieces and add to a medium heat-proof bowl with the cubed butter.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  In a little ramekin or glass, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.  Add to the chocolate and butter mixture and melt together, stirring occasionally.  When all melted together and smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Sift the flour into a small bowl.  Roughly chop the remaining chocolate into small chunks and stir into the flour, along with the roughly chopped walnuts.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until well mixed and a little foamy.  Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula then pour into the prepared baking tin.  Smooth the top of the mixture if necessary and bake for 15-20 mins until a knife point comes out with a little mixture still stuck to it.

5.  Cool for about 20-30 mins in the tin until just warm, then remove and allow to cool fully on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!  And uhm, perhaps avoid feeding them to small children…

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Fête des Mères from afar

Today is Fête des Mères, or Mother’s Day, in France.  Since my mum is French, we always celebrate French Mother’s Day rather than the Mother’s Day of whichever country we happen to live in, which inevitably falls on a different date.  It does involve some serious organisation when it comes to Mother’s Day cards, but other than that, celebrating it on a different date doesn’t really affect proceedings much.  The last four years, when I’ve been in St Andrews and my mum in Edinburgh, my mum has come up to see me for Fête des Mères, and we’ve either gone out for lunch or I’ve cooked for her.  Actually, that’s one of the distinct advantages of celebrating Mother’s Day on a different date to of the country you live in – it’s usually much easier to book a table in your choice restaurant.  This year though, my mum happens to be located on the other side of the world – a little far for a day trip – so I can’t give her all the hugs that she deserves and cook for her or take her out, which I really wish I could.  Skype is awesome, but it has its limits.

My mum is the best mum I could ever wish for, and definitely a better mum than I deserve.  She has always been there for me, always encouraged me, always supported me, no matter what.  At the age of ten, I announced that I loved sharks and wanted to be a shark researcher.  And haven’t changed my mind since.  It can’t be easy when your only child’s dream career revolves around things with sharp teeth and a bad reputation for eating people (no matter how many times said child tells you that the reputation is unjust).  And yet, my mum has always encouraged me to follow my dreams.  Even though she jokingly tried to convince me for several years that studying sardines would be far more interesting, I always knew that she would support me, whatever I chose to do with my life.  I think that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a child – unending support in whatever they choose to do.  When I announced that I was thinking of applying for Masters in NZ and Australia, despite the prospect of me ‘abandoning’ her and disappearing off to the other side of the world, she still fully encouraged me.  And when I was offered a place, she helped me with all the packing whilst I was busy feeling totally overwhelmed and not getting anywhere with it.  Truly the best mum ever, and I can never thank her enough.

My mum adores chocolate, so if I was cooking for her today, I’d make a chocolatey dessert – last year I made some deliciously dainty chocolate and hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups, which she adored.  If she was coming for lunch this year, I’d have made her these chocolate and chestnut fondants – they’re super rich and chocolatey, which she would love, but I think the chestnut flavour that comes through is what makes them truly special.  On top of that, they look rather impressive, but are actually really simple to put together (my favourite kind of recipe).  I wish I could serve these up to my mum today, but I don’t think they’d survive very well in the post, so I’m afraid, Maman, that if you’d like some, you’ll have to make them yourself…  Or wait until you visit me.  DIY Mother’s Day dessert isn’t much in thanks for everything that my mum does and has done for me.  My mum might be the best mother ever, but I’m really not the best daughter.

Bonne Fête des Mères, Maman – merci pour tout et je t’aime de tout mon cœur!

Chocolate & chestnut fondants

Serves 6
Slightly adapted from Cuisine, March 2012

I used non-sweetened chestnut purée.  If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover chestnut purée, I think you can just warm it up with a little milk or cream, some sugar and a little bit of vanilla and whisk together to make a sweetened version, then serve it for dessert with a little bit of cream (I’ve yet to try sweetening the purée though).  Using sweetened chestnut purée may make the fondants a little too sickly sweet.  This recipe splits really well, so if you only want to make two or three, the recipe will still work with smaller quantities.  The fondants are very rich and chocolatey, so the crème fraîche cuts through very well – I think that serving them with whipped cream would be too sweet.

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for the ramekins
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar, plus extra for the ramekins
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g chestnut purée
50g all-purpose flour
Crème fraîche, to serve
Cocoa powder, to serve

Directions

1.  Liberally butter six ramekins (mine are 200ml in capacity) and sprinkle the inside with caster sugar.  Set the ramekins out on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2.  Break or chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl, along with the cubed butter.  Melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and whisk together, followed by the sugar and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until smooth.

4.  Remove about 150ml (⅔ cup) of the mixture to a separate bowl.  Add the chestnut purée to this and whisk together (don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth).  Fold the chestnut mixture and the flour into the original chocolate mixture.

5.  Split the chocolate mixture evenly between the six ramekins and bake for 10-15 mins (I took mine out at 10 mins and they were very slightly under-done).  The middle should still be a little wobbly or soft, but the edges of the top should be set.  Remove from the oven and rest in the ramekins for 3-4 mins.  Turn the the fondants out onto individual plates (you may need to run a knife around the edge of the ramekins) and serve immediately, accompanied by crème fraîche and dusted with cocoa powder.

Enjoy!

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