“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot
for a lot of people; it does for me.”
My Father in law was going away recently and gave me some items from his fridge to use up. There were three cooked and peeled bulbs of beetroot in a bowl. Hmm I said. Salad? nah. Cake? Yes! And I’m not a fan of the hiding vegetables-in-cake brigade, as
a) My family EAT vegetables
b) I’m hesitant about the nutritional value of the said vegetable post bake
Anyway, in this case the beetroot needed using, so chocolate cake ensued. Beetroot is almost always organically grown as it is resistant to most pests. Good News. But grows best in cooler climes, so with the onset of climate change definitely starting to affect us here… Bad News.
150g of cooked beetroot (simply boil in it’s scrubbed skin until soft, then peel)
140g plain white flour
1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder
60g good quality cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g sunflower oil
50g dark chocolate, chopped
Heat your oven to 170oC. Grease a good quality loaf tin, and line with baking paper, bringing it well up the sides. Unusually I am using my Kenwood food processor, that I normally wouldn’t DREAM of making cakes in. (and yes, since you’re asking I dream about making cakes ALL the time)
Anyway, I digress. “Blend” the beetroot until like little grated chunks. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla, eggs and cocoa. Blend again slowly then add the oil down through the chute until you get a nice sloppy cake consistency. You may need to scoot around the sides with a spatula to make sure everything is nicely blended.
Pour/ scoop into the prepared tin and sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or until the skewer comes out almost clean. Leave in the tin to cool down completely.
Chocolate anything is hard to beat. And I find that making something gluten free with chocolate always garners high praise as so often the commercially prepared gluten free confectionery is not very tasty, and often dry. It seems to be a love it or hate it type of food. Many like to eat gluten free although they are not diagnosed as coeliac. I like balance in my diet (yeah yeah I know- a chocolate cake in each hand), but I recognise the need to offer the choice. Hence these brownies.
The ground almonds are added to help with the structure but are good retainers of moistness in a cake. And as brownies are typically gooey, they work very well here. If I was substituting ground almonds for flour in a recipe with a raising agent, I would increase the amount of baking powder used, and really the almonds don’t work well in produce using yeast. Biscuits are a good gluten free treat also, as there is no need for a raising agent, and there are many flours suitable for coeliacs. I personally like to keep my ingredients as natural as possible, so stay away from the mixes as much as possible. Buckwheat would be my flour of choice in this case.
225g dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
225g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
50g white chocolate, chopped
Pre heat the oven to 180oC. Melt the chocolate and butter gently in a heavy bottomed pan. Whisk in the vanilla and the sugar. Whisk in the eggs, then the ground almonds. Leave aside while you line a tin. about 25cm square, or equivalent.
Add the white chocolate bits and immediately pour into the tin. Here I’ve added a mix of white and dark chocolate drops. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. It will still be wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into squares. You don’t even have to mention “Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies”, Brownies will suffice, a little like Madonna really.
Who doesn’t love Tiramisu? Even people who don’t like coffee like tiramisu. Regular readers will have seen my tiramisu cake, which is VERY popular and velvety smooth to have as a dessert at the end of a meal. And although it takes a little while to make, it’s very simple.
My Tiramisu Recipe
For the sponge
4 large eggs
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
30g cocoa powder
For the filling
1 tablespoon instant coffee (Fine granules)
150ml boiling water
50ml tia maria
3 x 250g mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons icing sugar
65g grated dark chocolate
For the decoration
100g finely chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 180oC. Grease a Swiss roll tin and line with baking paper, or line two round 7” tins.
For the sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together for about five minutes, or until the mixture is very pale and thick. Sift over the flour and cocoa and fold in gently using a metal spoon or spatula.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin (tins) and tilt the tin to level the surface.
Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked. Cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
For the filling, dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and add the tia maria. Set aside to cool. Brush the tops of each cake with the alcohol/ coffee mixture. Wrap sponges in clingfilm until ready to ice.
Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and icing sugar. Decide on your serving dish, what you make the dessert in, is what you will put on the table so choose carefully. Add broken bits of the cake to the dish, then spread 1/2 of the mascarpone icing over the soaked sponge.
Scatter over 1/2 of the grated chocolate.
Place the second sponge on top in pieces if you have to to make it fit (you won’t see this as it chills), spoon over the rest of the coffee mixture then spread more of the icing over the soaked sponge. Spread the rest of the icing in a thicker layer over the top layer. Chill for at least two hours in the fridge before final decoration- of- you guessed it- more grated chocolate! Divine!
Not only are you probably all sick of pancakes, you are also a little fed up of my current blood orange obsession. Well fear not, this is the last blood orange hurrah…. and these pancakes are SO totally worth it. With, or without the chocolate sauce.
FOR THE PANCAKES:
250g ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 tablespoon blood orange zest
2 tablespoon blood orange juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
FOR THE SAUCE:
200g chopped chocolate
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
To serve: Some chilled mascarpone cheese combined with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
To make the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, place over a pan of simmering water, stirring frequently until the chocolate is melted and looking smooth. Turn off the heat but leave over the pan of water so it doesn’t thicken too much while you are making the pancakes.
In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, sugar, eggs, orange zest and juice. Add flour and baking powder and stir until well combined.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add a little bit of butter to melt.
Ladle batter into the pan and cook pancakes until edges are beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
Serve pancakes topped with warm chocolate sauce.
People are often afraid of making meringue. I find it a super dessert to make in advance. A good friend of mine, Emily, had told me about a Rachel Allen recipe that basically just flung everything together and whisked the bejasus out of it. And I often make meringue the “meringue girls” way too. But this recipe is specifically for pavlova. And works every time.
The secret is to put everything in the bowl, with some hot water, I think the hot water is almost the equivalent to making meringue the Italian way. Then it’s whipped on high for 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are holding their shape.
I simply spread this onto a large, lined baking tray and spread into some sort of shape. If I’m making a large one I’ll make it square as it’s easier to portion, but this was just the usual family dinner, so I made a circle (ish)
The other secret is the oven setting. Although Rachel says you can use a fan oven, this recipe works best I feel when using the conventional one, as she suggests. You simply heat the oven, on conventional, to 2000C, then simply switch it off when you put the tray into the oven to bake. This means that you can make it last thing at night and simply walk away. Mind you, be careful not to come down in the morning to turn the oven on again before taking the masterpiece out!
The last thing to add is the topping. Rachel suggests Mango and crystallised ginger. I don’t always have a ripe mango to hand- who does?- so I go with a mixture of what fruit I have in the fridge. And as this was a special dessert, I melted some chocolate to spoon over the assembled dish.
When I was in LitFest, I helped out with the Claire Ptak demo, her of The Violet Cakes Fame. She bakes will real fiinesse. One of the recipes I had to cook of hers was for a chocolate covered digestive biscuit made from dark rye flour. I decided to make these for guests as a treat with a cuppa, and gluten free was the order of the day.
As I mentioned the original recipe uses rye flour, and I simply swapped this for buckwheat flour. Buckwheat isn’t actually wheat based at all. It is not commonly used in Ireland, but very common on the continent. With baking, the gluten is the key to light and fluffy textured end product, but you don’t essentially want that texture in a biscuit. So we were already on a winner.
It’s high in fibre, and as it is not very processed also retains it’s mineral and vitamin content. It’s not a grass but related to sorrel and rhubarb! First cultivated in Asia in 6000BC, it does not do well in nitrogen rich soil, which is possibly why it’s cultivation died out. As more and more farmers added fertilizers to their ground.
Once the dough is made, it gets rolled straight away, cut into digestive sized biscuits. I used the thin end of a chopstick to get the obligatory holes. Claire had been very specific about this, and it really finishes the biscuits off properly.
The next essential stage is to chill the biscuits, for a minimum of 30 minutes in the fridge. And longer if you can. I was under a little bit of time pressure so they puffed up a little while cooking but not enough to affect the flavour!
When they’ve cooled on the tray for 10 minutes, remove to a wire rack and melt some chocolate. I dipped the cooled biscuits in this, by tilting the bowl and dipping half the biscuit in. I thought at this stage to put them back on the prepared tin, as I didn’t want the drying chocolate to meld onto the wire rack. A little sea salt on some finished them off nicely. And if you can wait around long enough for the chocolate to dry- be my guest. We couldn’t.
For me, Baileys Irish Cream is a drink I enjoy every now and then with my sister in law, so I felt it was fitting to make her birthday cake using it. And as it was a “big” birthday, I felt it was a good idea to get creative with the decorating.
Baileys Chocolate Cake Ingredients: 150g unsalted butter, chopped 100g dark chocolate, chopped 100g caster sugar 100g brown sugar 50g good quality (preferably Dutch) cocoa powder, sifted 180ml Baileys Irish Cream Liquor 170g plain flour 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 3 eggs, room temperature FOR THE MASCARPONE BUTTER CREAM ICING 300g icing sugar 150g butter (soft) Tub of mascarpone FOR THE CHOCOLATE BAILEYS GANACHE 100g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped 50ml cream 50ml Baileys Irish Cream pinch of sea salt 10g butter, softened to room temperature Method: Preheat oven to 160°C. In a pan over low heat, melt the butter, chocolate, sugars, cocoa powder and Baileys, stirring to get rid of any lumps. Remove from heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease and line a 20-21cm round cake tin. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Add the eggs to the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Gently fold in the flour mix until free of lumps. Scrape into cake tin then bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanish. Remove from oven and cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling it down completely. Trim the tops of the cake to level. FOR THE GANACHE Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Bring the cream, Baileys and the salt to a simmer in a pan. Pour over the chocolate and sit for a minute. Gently stir to combine then beat in the butter. Set aside at room temperature and cool until it is thick enough to spread over your cooled cake. Gently stir the ganache occasionally as it cools to keep the temperature even and the ganache smooth. FOR THE BUTTERCREAM Mix the butter and the icing sugar together, then add the mascarpone, beat very well (I use my kenwood for this) TO ASSEMBLE: Level the top of the cake, make a crumb layer using the cream cheese buttercream, refrigerate for one hour. Further cover the cake with the buttercream. Smooth with a warmed palette knife. Refrigerate again. Carefully pour the ganache onto the cooled buttercream coated layer, tilting to give the “dripping” effect.
The internet is a wonderful thing, and I’m very glad that I don’t put on weight from looking at food pictures. I’d have to stop fairly smartish if so. Pinterest- thou ist mine enemy.
With pancake day around the corner, I did a bit of searching on variations on the pancake theme:
Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes) with Vanilla and Jam
Obviously in the grand scheme of things, even for the good of my loyal followers I couldn’t possibly eat all of the above in the interest of testing. So I decided just to make a selection….
For your entertainment over the following number of days I plan on making some of the above, tomorrow’s will be the spicy oatmeal pancake. A small attempt at the healthier option before it all deteriorates into an abyss of chocolate and syrup.