Tag Archives: Hazelnut

The cake that’s even tastier than it sounds…

I ended up with a bit of a banana surplus this weekend.  I’d bought a bunch of bananas with the intention of making banana mousse again, but then that didn’t end up happening and suddenly I had banana overload.  I could, of course, have just eaten them, but I seem to get bored of bananas on their own after just one, so that tactic didn’t really get me very far.  Mushing them up and freezing them was an other option, but I already seem to have more than enough frozen bananas and limited space in my freezer.  Clearly the solution was to bake with them, and I had the perfect recipe for using up a bunch of bananas plus some of the mashed up ones in my freezer…  I even managed to tie it in with my continuing hazelnut obsession.

That, my dear readers, is a banana, hazelnut and spiced rum upside-down cake and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s even more delicious than it sounds.  One of my labmates declared that it might well be the tastiest baked goods that I’ve ever taken in.  Needless to say, my labmates were terribly enthusiastic when the cake appeared on the table during our afternoon coffee break (it’s also a magic cake, clearly), and even more enthusiastic about demolishing it.  We got some rather jealous looks from people passing through the foyer when they spied the rapidly disappearing cake.

I don’t even know where to start with the praises of this cake.  It’s full of banana flavour (hardly surprising since there are seven in there), it’s wonderfully moist and isn’t nearly as heavy as it looks (thank you cornflour).  The toasted hazelnuts add a lovely crunch and go wonderfully with the banana and spices.  The rum adds to the flavours as well (although – confession – I couldn’t actually taste the alcohol in the rum, just the spiced flavour.  My labmates could though, which probably says more about me than the cake).  The caramelised topping is delicious, but by far the best bit is the topping near the edges of the cake which is all gooey and caramely and sticky and just plain scrumptious.  Sadly my photos just don’t do justice to this cake because I was in a bit of a rush when I took them (tut tut tut).

There’s a new blog challenge on the block (the virtual block.  Which totally doesn’t make any sense, does it?).  Janine at Cake of the Week has started Baking with Spirit, which involves cooking or baking with a different alcohol every month.  Now, at risk of sounding like a stereotypical student, I think this is a completely genius idea, mostly because I tend to bake with alcohol fairly often (although perhaps a little less now since some of my labmates seem to be responsible types and they eat most of my baking).  G&T scones feature on this blog.  Enough said (in fact, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t think of a similar blog challenge!).  So anyway, “rum” is the challenge alcohol for this month’s inaugural challenge, which ties in perfectly with today’s recipe since it uses spiced rum.

Since this cake is so utterly fantastic and really does deserve to be shouted about from the rooftops (because obviously there are a lot of rooftops in the blogosphere), I’m also submitting it to Javelin Warrior‘s Made with Love Mondays blog event, which is all about cooking or baking from scratch.  I’d say that a large proportion of my baking and cooking is “from scratch” so I’m not sure why I’ve never participated before.  Obviously this cake doesn’t fit at all with this week’s suggested theme of “fresh aubergine” but luckily the theme is totally optional.

Banana, hazelnut & spiced rum upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from What We’re Eating

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 fragrant (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.  The four sliced bananas should be fresh, but for the three mashed up bananas, frozen ones will work perfectly fine (once thawed, obviously).  Tasty both eaten warm or cooled, and is delicious on its own, but also tasty served with crème fraîche and would probably be good with ice-cream if served warm.  The cake will keep for a couple of days, but is best eaten sooner rather than later.

Ingredients

For the caramel sauce:
85g unsalted butter
165g dark brown sugar
60 ml spiced rum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the cake:
70g toasted hazelnuts
7 bananas
175g all-purpose flour
35g cornflour
2½ tsp baking powder
75 ml whole milk
60 ml spiced rum
165g light brown sugar
115g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/fan oven 155°C.  Set out a 24 cm non-stick round cake tin (a little tip: if you happen to have two tins of a similar diameter, pick the deeper one).  Line a baking tray that the cake tin will fit onto with tin foil, making little lips around the edges of the tray (this is to catch any caramel sauce that bubbles over the side of the cake tin).

Prepare the caramel sauce:
2.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.  Once melted, add the dark brown sugar and stir until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the rum (be warned, it will probably bubble a little violently) and add the spices and salt.  Pour into the prepared cake tin so that the caramel sauce coats the bottom evenly.

Prepare the rest of the cake:
3.  Roughly chop the toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle evenly over the caramel.  Cut four of the bananas in half lengthways and tessellate them in the pan in a single layer, flat side down (don’t worry if some of the bananas break since that makes them a little easier to tessellate).

4.  Mash the remaining three bananas and set aside.  Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.  Mix the milk and rum together in a measuring jug or small bowl, set aside.

5.  Cream the butter and brown sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, making sure that each one is fully incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla extract, spices and mashed bananas.

6.  Add about ⅓ of the flour mixture and beat in until just incorporated.  Scrape down the walls of the bowl using a spatula before adding ½ the milk mixture and beating until just incorporated.  Repeat by adding ⅓ of the flour mixture again, followed by the remaining milk mixture and the remaining flour mixture, beating until barely incorporated each time (be careful about over-beating the batter as it will result in a tougher cake).

7.  Gently pour the cake batter into the cake pan over the top of the bananas, making sure that the batter is evenly distributed.  Bake for 50-55 mins until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and sit the cake tin on a wire rack to cool for 15 mins before placing a serving plate over the top of the tin and inverting the cake out on to it.  The cake should come out easily, but if not, give it a gentle tap on the table whilst still holding it to the plate.  Gently lift the cake tin away and scrape any remaining caramel out of the bottom of the tin and onto the top of the cake with a spatula.

Enjoy!

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White chocolate & hazelnut naked cupcakes

It appears that I’m going through a hazelnut phase at the moment.  I’m not sure why – perhaps my vestigial Northern hemisphere-oriented seasonal body clock is attempting to convince me to ignore the bright little clumps of daffodils that I pass on my way to and from uni by distracting me with hazelnuts and other such nutty, autumnal flavours because we’re coming up to September and said body clock thinks it should be autumn soon, not spring.  Or perhaps I toast hazelnuts in largeish batches so that I always have toasted hazelnuts available for use straight away when I bake and may have been a little overenthusiastic with the amount of hazelnuts that I toasted on Sunday such that they didn’t all fit into my designated toasted hazelnut jar (don’t judge) so I clearly had to bake with the overflowing ones.  Perhaps there’s an element of both…

Either way, I baked with hazelnuts this weekend.  More specifically, with white chocolate and hazelnuts.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d borrowed Marian Keyes’ Saved by Cake from the library.  One of the recipes that caught my eye was for white chocolate and macadamia nut cupcakes which she suggests can also be made with hazelnuts.  It sounded like an excellent way to sort out my minor toasted hazelnut over-abundance issues.  And indeed the cupcakes turned out wonderfully.  Now I realise that they don’t look like much, but oh boy are they scrumptious, and in fact their “nothing special” look makes tasting them an even more delightful surprise.  The combination of white chocolate and hazelnuts works fantastically well.  The white chocolate flavour subtly permeates right through the cupcakes and the hazelnuts intersperse it with a lovely toasted nutty flavour and also give a great crunch which keeps the cupcakes texturally interesting.

I’m also aware that they don’t look too much like cupcakes – one generally expects cupcakes to be topped off with great big swirls of icing.  Or even small swirls of icing.  But these are icing-less.  The original recipe doesn’t feature icing, and I’d initially thought that I might add some white chocolate-based icing, but when I tasted the cupcakes I realised that icing of any sort would probably just be too much and overpower them.  I was going to call them “muffcakes” since they look rather like muffins due to their lack of icing, but still have the texture of a cupcake.  Then I realised that that sounds like something else entirely – I haven’t looked it up on Urban Dictionary, but I don’t particularly want to.  So I’ve called them “naked cupcakes” instead.  Which I’m not sure is much of an improvement but it does sound slightly classier.  I’m just going to stop talking now and share the recipe.

White chocolate & hazelnut naked cupcakes

Makes 15 cupcakes
Adapted from Saved by Cake

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 fragrant (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 cupcakes will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box, but are best eaten sooner rather than later and are perfect for an afternoon tea break.

Ingredients

300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
100g toasted hazelnuts
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Set out 15 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.

2.  Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter.  Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture).  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.

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

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture.  Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined.  Fold in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full.  Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

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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Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

One of the things that I love most about moving to a new country is discovering new fruit and vegetables.  I’ve spent the last six weeks enthusiastically discovering the feijoa, a fruit which is completely new to me.  Feijoas aren’t actually native to New Zealand – they originate from Brazil* – but they seem to grow very well here and are very popular and many people seem to have feijoa trees in their gardens.  I read somewhere that they are known as pineapple guavas in the rest of the world, but I’m not sure what parts of the world that would be, since I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  And nor have any of the other international students in the lab, including the South Americans.  Have you ever come across them before?

Feijoas fall off the tree when they are ready to eat – how convenient is that?  The flesh is quite firm, with a texture that reminds me a little of a grainy pear, but more pleasant, and the pulp bit in the middle is well… rather pulpy.  I’m terrible at descriptions (in case you hadn’t realised), and I’ve been struggling to describe the flavour, but I’ll do my best.  It’s like a slightly sweeter version of an apple, but with a subtle hint of strawberry.  Which I realise sounds a little odd, but I think that’s the closest that I can get (I would make such an appalling oenologist).  They’re utterly delicious.  To eat them, you cut them in half and scoop out the flesh and pulp, leaving the skin.  You can also bake and cook with them, so I borrowed a feijoa cookbook from the library (because I’m super cool like that) and decided to make muffins.

The only problem with feijoas is that they’re only in season from the beginning of April until the end of May, so you have to make the most of them whilst you can!  I actually made these muffins with the very last feijoas of the season, as I’ve been too busy concentrating on eating them fresh for the last six weeks.  Luckily, feijoas are supposed to freeze very well, so I’ve got some in the freezer to bake with over winter.  Perhaps that’s the best tactic – eat them fresh whilst you can, then bake with the frozen ones when you can no longer eat them fresh!  As feijoa season is only just coming to a close, I’m submitting these feijoa and hazelnut muffins to the Simple and in Season blog event for May, which is celebrating its first birthday this month!  The blog event was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and is being hosted by Urvashi over at The Botanical Baker this month.

The muffins have a surprise dollop of cream cheese in the middle, similar in concept to the pumpkin and cream cheese muffins that I made a while ago, but the cream cheese didn’t hold its shape and sort of melted into the muffin, leaving a small cavity in the middle of the muffin (see the photo at the bottom of the post).  I’m not sure why it happened – perhaps the cream cheese here is different, or perhaps the oven was too hot – and whilst they were very tasty with the tartness of the cream cheese perfectly cutting through the sweetness of the feijoa, it looks a bit odd when you bite into the muffins and there’s a hole in the middle.  I made a couple without the cream cheese in the middle and they were just as delicious, so I’d say that the cream cheese centre is optional (though recommended if you can deal with them being slightly less presentable).  The flavour of the feijoas really permeates the muffins, which I love – you can taste their subtle sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming – and I also love the slightly crunchy topping.  I’m totally into hazelnuts at the moment, so I substituted them in for the walnuts that were in the original recipe, and the flavours worked wonderfully together.  So if you ever happen across some feijoas and aren’t sure what to do with them, I’d strongly suggest tasting one and then baking these muffins!

Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

Makes 13-14 muffins
Adapted from The Feijoa Recipe Book

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.  The cream cheese filling is optional, though I do recommend it if you can deal with having a little cavity in the middle of your muffins.  Frozen feijoas would work well for this recipe, although thaw them out before using.

Ingredients

350g feijoas
230g all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
3 rounded tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
1 egg
185ml milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Cream cheese filling (optional):
120g cream cheese
40g icing sugar

Topping:
40g toasted hazelnuts
60g soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with 14 liners or set out 14 silicone liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 190°C.

2.  Prepare the cream cheese filling in a small bowl by whisking the cream cheese with the icing sugar until smooth.  Set aside.

3.  Peel the feijoas and finely chop them (the pulp can make this a bit fiddly.  They don’t have to look presentable though, so don’t worry too much as long as they’re in small pieces).  Set aside.

4.  Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl.  Stir together.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat or in the microwave.  Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.

6.  Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should still be a bit lumpy, with some flour still visible).  Gently fold in the chopped feijoas.

7.  Transfer about half a tablespoon of batter to each muffin liner or mould (make sure that the batter covers the bottom, but that there is still enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in each liner on top of the feijoa layer.  Split the remaining feijoa batter between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a ramekin.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

8.  Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and well risen.  Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

* I have also read that feijoas originate in Chile.  But since the Chilean in our lab says she’s never heard of or seen them in Chile, I’m rather more inclined to believe that they’re from Brazil.  The word “feijoa” also looks more Portuguese than Spanish to me (though I am neither a linguist nor an etymologist).

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Dessert for one… Or maybe three

Cooking for one can be a bit of a pain.  I have so many bookmarked recipes that are for four or more people and not particularly easy to split.  I get bored eating the same thing several times in a row and my freezer is currently full (thanks to a recipe I tried out the other week that made enough food for 6-8 people… which I obviously didn’t forget to check before I started.  Ahem.), which I need to sort out before I start making soup for the winter.  Now I love crumbles, but all my recipes seem to be for large crumbles to feed at least six people.  I could probably eat a whole six-person crumble in one go all by myself… but just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea.  So I decided to try making myself a one-person crumble.  Cooking for one shouldn’t mean depriving oneself, it just means trying to adapt things to make smaller quantities.

I was originally going for a pear hazelnut crumble, but as I was rummaging around the fridge, I happened across an apple that was looking a little lonely all by itself, so I decided to make a two-person pear and apple hazelnut crumble.  The two-person crumble turned into a three-person crumble because the fruit turned out to be a tiny bit too much for just two ramekins.  So much for a one-person crumble…  Since I made them in ramekins it’s easy enough to just limit oneself to eating one at a time though, so it’s not much of an issue (otherwise I’d have just another spoonful, and just a little one more, and oh… where did the crumble go?  Woops.).

The flavours of pear, apple and toasted hazelnut complement each other so well, and are really the perfect autumnal combination.  I don’t think I’ve ever matched all three flavours together before, but I’ll definitely be trying the combination out again!  Since the hazelnut flavour in these crumbles absolutely shines through, I’m submitting this to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, because the random letter is “H” – H for hazelnut, but also for honey, which also features.  I’m not entirely sure whether the challenge is only for baked goods, or whether anything that has seen the inside of a hot oven is fair game.  I’m going with the latter…

Pear & apple hazelnut crumble

Serves 3
Recipe from my imagination

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.  I used a bosc pear and a braeburn apple since that’s what I had in the fridge.  If using a small apple and small pear, you could probably fit the slices into just two ramekins instead of three.  I always think that crumble is best served with pouring cream or ice cream.

Ingredients

40g flour
25g unsalted butter
4 heaped tsp light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
20g porridge oats
20g toasted hazelnuts
1 medium apple
1 medium pear
2-3 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
2-3 tbsp honey

Directions

1.  Add the sugar, flour and cinnamon to a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the sugar and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and stir into the crumble mixture with the porridge oats.  Set aside.

3.  Slice the apples and pears (you might need to cut the slices into two or three to fit them into the ramekins) and mix together.  Set out three ovenproof ramekins (mine are 0.2 litres) and split the apple and pear mixture between them.  Drizzle with about 1 tbsp of Frangelico per ramekin, followed by about 1 tbsp of honey, then top with the crumble mixture, evenly split between the three ramekins.  Don’t pat down the crumble mixture, but make sure that it covers the fruit more or less evenly.

4.  Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 mins until the crumble is golden.  Serve immediately, accompanied by pouring cream or ice cream.

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Club #18: Banana & hazelnut porridge

It seems that the only recipes getting posted this month are those that I’m submitting to blog challenges, and this one is no different.  But I have the excuse that I’m relocating to the other side of the world (in precisely two weeks today!!) so I’m a little bit busy with other things at the moment.  Today’s blog post is no different – it’s my entry to this month’s Breakfast Club, being hosted by Aimée at Food, Je t’Aimée, who has chosen the theme of “January detox” to compensate for all the Christmas over-indulgence.  Now, the thing I associate most with detox is a smoothie.  Probably because it’s usually packed full of fruit and super healthy.  But all the berries that I would normally look for in a smoothie are completely out of season and I really don’t like smoothies for breakfast anyway, mostly because I get hungry about an hour later.  So, I decided to go for something vaguely healthy but filling, which is always good, because it means you don’t snack before lunch.  And what could be more filling and wintery than porridge?

Using skimmed milk makes this porridge a little healthier, and the banana is a portion of fruit, which is always good.  The hazelnuts add a lovely little crunch, plus nuts are healthy (can you tell that being healthy isn’t my strong point?  Ya, nuts are healthy, there’s fruit, use skimmed milk: totally counts as a detox!).  If I’d been really organised, I could have tried this out for breakfast yesterday and posted it for Burns Night, since porridge is vaguely Scottish and all (as are bananas, ahem.  In some alternate universe…).  It would have been slightly less of a tenuous link than my honey, lemon and chocolate muffins for Chinese New Year.  But I wasn’t organised, and plus I’m not really a fan of Burns Night.  Well, that’s not really true, it’s an excellent excuse for a dinner party, but other than that, I’m not really going to go out of my way to celebrate it.  Anyway, I digress.  This made a rather delicious breakfast – porridge might not be your first choice for a detox, but at least you won’t be snacking before lunch, and it’s not a fatty or super-sugary breakfast either.  And it’s important to have a proper breakfast to start off the day anyway!

Banana & hazelnut porridge

Serves 1
Adapted from BBC Good Food

I used whole milk, but skimmed or semi-skimmed milk would work fine as well if you want to make the porridge slightly healthier.  Adding raisins or seasonal fruits at the end would work well, too, and up the fruit content.  Everybody likes their porridge to be a different level of sweetness, so the honey will be very much to your taste.

Ingredients

35g porridge oats
200ml milk
1 banana
1-2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
Clear honey, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Directions

1.  Thinly slice the banana.

2.  Add the oats and milk to a small saucepan, along with half the sliced banana and simmer over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally (apparently stirring anti-clockwise brings bad luck – I haven’t tested the theory, but you’ve been warned, duhn duhn duhn…) until thickened to your liking.

3.  Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, top with the remaining banana slices, a drizzle of honey, the chopped hazelnuts and a light dusting of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

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Gunpowder, treason and plot… And chocolate toffee apples

Chele form Chocolate Teapot has chosen “apple” as the special ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge.  On reading the challenge, I must admit that I was not convinced by the apple-chocolate combination.  I just couldn’t taste it in my mind (if that makes sense – perhaps I should have said that I just couldn’t imagine the taste).  I resigned myself to the inevitable last-minute, slightly panicky, cobbled-together entry that would take me a whole month to come up with and turned my thoughts to toffee apples and Bonfire Night, which is tomorrow.  And then suddenly it hit me – what about chocolate toffee apples?  Hello potentially genius idea…

Now, I’ve never tried making toffee apples before, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten eaten one before.  The first step was to find a recipe, and none of my recipe books obliged (probably because most of them are French).  Now, there are approximately 56 bajillion toffee apple recipes online, which doesn’t help when trying to narrow them down.  In the end, I settled on one that seemed straightforward and didn’t require condensed milk (because I’ve no idea what else to do with the other part of the tin that would be left over).  So I settled on one from BBC Food, and added some cocoa powder in at the end.  I think the addition of the cocoa powder made the toffee a lot thicker and heavier and also meant that the toffee wasn’t as smooth glossy as it would normally be, which also resulted in a few issues when trying to coat the apples as the toffee cooled quicker than I was expecting (I was faffing around a bit though, hence why there’s an uncoated apple in the  photo…).  I’ve never tried a normal toffee apple before, so I can’t say whether I prefer these or not, but these did taste good!  Enjoy Bonfire Night, however you’re planning on celebrating!  (Hopefully toffee apples are involved…!)

Chocolate toffee apples

Makes 3
Adapted from BBC Food

I used Cox apples, because that’s what I happened to have, and they’re quite crisp which works well.  If you don’t have skewers or lollipop sticks, you could probably just drop the apples into the toffee and fish them out with a slotted spoon or something (though eating them without a stick to hold onto could be a slightly messy affair).  Using a small saucepan makes the toffee layer deeper, making it easier to dip the apples.  I think the addition of the cocoa powder resulted in a slightly thicker toffee, which made coating a little more difficult, and the toffee cooled slightly quicker, too.  Remember that this involves heating sugar to 140°C, so it’s probably best to keep small children and pets out of the kitchen until everything has cooled.

Ingredients

3 small apples
110g granulated sugar
60 ml water
15g butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp roasted chopped hazelnuts
10g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Scrub the apples in hot water to remove the waxy layer so that the toffee sticks well.  Remove the stalks and insert a lollipop stick or bamboo skewer halfway into the apple through the bit where the stalk was.  Set on a lined baking sheet and place near the hob.

2.  Heat the water and sugar together in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the cubed butter and honey and bring to the boil.  Clip your sugar thermometer to the saucepan, and allow to boil without stirring until the temperature reaches 140°C.

3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully stir in the nuts and sifted cocoa powder (be careful not to splash yourself with hot toffee).

4.  Carefully (but quickly) dip each apple into the saucepan, coating as thoroughly as you can (don’t worry if you don’t get it right to the top though).  Set the apples on the lined baking tray to cool and harden.

Enjoy!

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Fête des Mères: Chocolate & hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups

I’ve never understood why practically every country has a different date for Mother’s Day, yet Father’s Day is the same pretty much world-wide.  It makes no sense.  And it’s a particular pain if, like me, you happen to celebrate Mother’s Day of a country different to the one in which you live.  In my case, since my wonderful mum is French, we always celebrate French Mother’s Day which happens to be today, but I live in the UK where Mother’s Day was way back in April.  By the end of May there are obviously no Mother’s Day cards or gifts anywhere, which means that I have to be super-organised (not one of my greatest skills) and buy a card and gift two months in advance.  The challenge is then remembering where I’ve put them two months later.  Not always as easy as it sounds, but thankfully this year I managed.

I actually shouldn’t really be complaining too much, because I still have to celebrate British Mother’s Day for my Scottish grandmother.  Living in the UK, this is much easier than trying to keep track of both French and British Mother’s Days whilst living in Norway, which, you’ve guessed it, has a completely different Mother’s Day.  Oh and on top of that, none of the available Mother’s Day cards are in English.  Nightmare.  Though easily solved by a blank card with flowers on the cover…!

As part of her Fête des Mères, not only did my mum get a card in a language that we actually speak fluently, but I asked her up to St Andrews for lunch.  I love cooking for my mum – she loves pretty much everything, appreciates good food, and there’s the added bonus of knowing that even if I screw up whatever I’m attempting, she’ll still love me.  In my usual bizarre logic, when I was planning the menu, I started with dessert.  My problem was that I had too many options, too many dishes I wanted to try out.  My mum loves chocolate, so I settled on a recipe for chocolate and hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups that I happened across a few months ago and that I’ve been wanting to try out ever since.  (Yes, I did the one thing you should never do when inviting people: serve a dish you’ve not previously tested.  I do this far too often.  One day it will go horribly wrong, but thankfully that was not the case today.)  My mum loves mousse, and I know she never really makes it for herself, so it was a pretty obvious choice.

The mousse was a fabulous idea – my mum absolutely loved it!  She loved it so much that I sent her home with a small jar of extra mousse.  Oh and all my textbooks and folders from the last four years of university.  I’m a great daughter like that (don’t worry, she knew about the books beforehand – the surprises that I spring on people tend to be more of the culinary variety).  But back to the mousse.  Ya, it was yummy.  I think that’s pretty much all there is to say.  Except that it took far longer than I was expecting, mostly because contrary to the original instructions, the mousse did have to spend a little stint in the fridge.  But that’s totally fine because I have loads of time on my hands at the moment.

All that remains for me to say before sharing the recipe is: Bonne Fête des Mères, Maman – je t’aime!

Chocolate & hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups

Makes about 16 mini mousses
Recipe from Dulce Delight

The chocolate cups can be prepared the evening before and stored in the fridge until ready to be used.  However, if you really don’t have time to make them, you can also just pipe the mousse into mini paper liners (but it’s less fun!).  The original recipe includes a video demonstration, so do head over if you’d like to see the progression of the recipe visually.  I used silicone mini muffin moulds, because I had them, but the original recipe uses paper liners and that seems to have worked perfectly fine as well!

Ingredients

For the cups:
170g dark chocolate (around 70%)

For the mousse:
130g dark chocolate (around 70%)
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp icing sugar
240g double cream
20g ground toasted hazelnuts
3-4 tbsp hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico)
Chopped hazelnuts or flaked white chocolate, to decorate (optional)

Directions

For the cups:
1.  Melt the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir with a spoon towards the end to make sure the chocolate has melted smoothly.

2.  Set out 16 mini muffin/petit four paper liners or silicon moulds on a baking tray or plate (something that is freezer-proof).  Spoon about 1 tsp of melted chocolate into one liner and paint the chocolate up the inner sides of the liner using a paint brush (a clean one, obviously).  Make the coating as even as possible.  Repeat for each liner/mould, and then place the tray or plate in the freezer for at least 30 mins.

3.  Once the first chocolate coat has set, re-melt the remaining chocolate if necessary, and re-coat the inner sides of each liner, looking out for any translucent areas that indicate that the chocolate coating is too thin.  Return to the freezer for a further 30 mins at least.

4.  Once the second coat has set, remove one cup from the freezer and carefully remove the silicone mould or paper mould by peeling away from the top edge.  Set the chocolate cup on a large plate.  Repeat for each chocolate cup (only remove them from the freezer one-by-one so that they remain as cool and hard as possible – you don’t want them to start softening or melting!), and once all have been removed, store the chocolate cups in the fridge until required.

For the mousse:
5.  Melt the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

6.  In a large heat-proof bowl, briefly whisk the egg yolks, icing sugar and 1 ½ tbsp water.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly by hand for 6 mins as the mixture cooks and thickens.  After 6 mins, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a further 3 mins using an electric whisk.

7.  Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture and stir until thickened.  Add the ground hazelnuts and hazelnut liqueur and mix with a spatula until thickened.

8.  In a clean bowl, whisk the double cream to stiff peaks.  Gently fold one third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.  Once fully incorporated, carefully fold in half the remaining whipped cream, and again, once fully incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.  If the mousse is not suitably set, place in the fridge for about 1 hour.

9.  Remove the chocolate cups from the fridge.  Fill a piping bag with the mousse and pipe into the chocolate cups with a flourish to make them look pretty.  To decorate, sprinkle with some chopped hazelnuts or flaked white chocolate (optional).  Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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