Tag Archive for Chocolate

Whoopie pies with heritage frosting

Really, try this yourself. A tender, chocolaty, but not overly chocolaty cake filled with a ‘mock’ buttercream that tastes better than the real thing (not too sweet and very light & fluffy). The flavour combination reminded me of oreo’s, but they taste a whole lot better than those. Another great thing: these can be stored for a few days on room temperature, so they are perfect for making in advance. Although then you need to be careful that you don’t eat them all yourself before the event….
A good thing to know: these whoopie pies are a lot more like the original whoopie pie than like the ‘improved’ whoopies that are popular at the moment (which are quite disgusting and completely hyped and overdone).

Whoopie Pies with Heritage Frosting

Whoopie pies with heritage frosting (amount depending on the size you make them; I had 10)
From Joe Pastry

whoopie pies
2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
115 gram butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Preheat your oven to 190C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and prepare another 2 sheets of baking paper to fit the baking sheet.
Combine the dry ingredients in 1 bowl, and the buttermilk and vanilla in another.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and egg yolk.
Beginning with the flour mixture, alternate additions of the dry and wet ingredients 3-2 until everything is incorporated.
Spoon large dollops of batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, slide the cakes with paper and all onto a cooling rack and place a new piece of baking paper on the baking paper. Again dollop batter and bake, meanwhile peel the baked whoopies from the paper and place on the cooling rack. Repeat until all batter is used to make whoopies (make sure to have an even amount!) and all whoopies are cooling on a rack.

heritage frosting
4 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
230 gram butter
200 gram sugar (granulated or powdered; I prefer granulated although you need to beat the frosting longer to dissolve the sugar and get a smooth finish, because powdered sugar always makes a frosting taste chalky)
flavouring of choice, for example 2 tsp vanilla extract

Put the flour in a small sauce pan. Slowly add the milk, while whisking constantly (to prevent lumps).
Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. After about 30 seconds of boiling, the mixture is completely thickened. Allow it to cool about ten minutes, then cover with clingfilm directly on top of the mixture and leave to cool completely in the fridge (about 1 hour).
Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and mix until light, creamy and the sugar is dissolved. While mixing, add the milk-flour mixture spoon for spoon. Add the vanilla extract and beat for another minute. If the mixture looks split, just keep mixing until it is back to normal again.

assembly
You can neaten the whoopies by cutting them with a round cookie cutter, but I find it no problem that they are not perfectly round. Divide the batch into two, the lesser looking ones can go on the bottom. It is also nice to match them by shape/size if you didn’t neaten them. Spoon the heritage frosting in a piping bag (I like to use a large star tip). Pipe a generous amount of the frosting (you’ll have enough) onto a bottom whoopie and cover with the top whoopie. Do the same until all whoopies are filled.

Smoothies

I love making my own smoothies as an afternoon and/or pre-workout snack. They are easy to make, healthy, filling and you can make up endless variations and mix and match with the ingredients you have available. And of course they are delicious!

Because I often use frozen fruit, you need a sturdy blender or immersion blender, otherwise the smoothies will not get thick and creamy. The frozen fruit also is an economic way to eat fruit, for example berries, fresh they are terribly expensive but frozen they are quite affordable. And overripe banana’s work perfectly well in a smoothie (when you have too many of the overripe banana’s you can easily freeze them; just peel, cut (or break) into chunks and freeze).

Milk and banana are the base ingredients of my smoothies. I generally use semi-skim cow milk, but you can also use other milks like soy and almond, according to your preference; yoghurt also works very well. The banana is a base ingredient to make them deliciously thick, creamy and smooth. Using frozen fruit also makes the smoothie thick, creamy and smooth; if banana is the only fruit in the smoothie I freeze it, but when I also use frozen fruits I don’t bother with freezing the banana. I never add sugar, honey or other sweeteners because the fruit is sweet enough on its own.

Berry Smoothie

The two favorites I have right now are banana-berry (in lots of variations) and banana-chocolate.

Banana-berry smoothie
1 banana
150 ml milk
a handful of frozen berries (I like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries, or a mixture of berries)
optional: linseed (to bulk it up and add valuable healthy fats), vanilla or cinnamon (to amp up the flavour)

Blend everything together. Serve immediately, in a large glass with a straw.

Banana-chocolate smoothie
1 banana
150 ml milk
1 tbsp almond-hazelnut butter (can be any nut butter you like)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
optional: dessicated coconut, or coconut flour, or bran (to add fibers)

Blend everything together. Serve immediately, in a large glass with a straw.

Variations
– banana-vanilla: frozen banana, milk and vanilla extract (or use a vanilla flavoured milk; cinnamon, ginger or cardamom are also delicious spices to add
– banana-mango: banana, milk and frozen mango (also nice with a grating of lime zest)
– banana-tropical: frozen banana, coconut milk and a can of pinapple or tropical fruit mix (use fruit on juice, not fruit in syrup which contains lots of extra sugar)
– banana-coffee: frozen banana and coffee flavoured soy milk, optional add some nut butter
– citrus-berry: yoghurt, orange (or grapefruit) and frozenberries (because the yoghurt is thick you can add a liquidy fruit like orange without thinning the smoothie too much)
– pear-oat: milk, frozen peeled pear, oats and cinnamon
– winter: milk, frozen peeled apple, soaked prunes (dried plums) and pumpkin/speculaas spice-mix
– ….: any combination of milk, fruit, flavourings and add-ons

I know that there are a lot of people out there who like to add vegetables (spinach, kale, cucumber, celery, avocado, etc) to their smoothies, stating that you really cannot taste it. Well, I can, and I don’t like it. For recipes search on pinterest or google for (green) smoothie, and you will find tons of them. Another popular thing is to add powerfood like chia seeds to your smoothies. I don’t, because they are poorly available and very expensive over here. Also, I’m not so sure that they actually are as beneficiary as claimed.

Raspberry white chocolate blondies

When I was asked to bring a dessert (well, actually I suggested that I would make the dessert, but anyway) I immediately though of raspberry white chocolate blondies. I was completely sure that I had a recipe for these blondies, but when I started to search around in my extensive recipe collection, I could not find it. Did I imagine that I had this recipe? In the end I gave up looking and started to search online for a good recipe. It took some time, but in the end I found a recipe to my liking, and I was happy that I persevered and did not make something else. These blondies are deliciously sweet, with the sharp tang of raspberries as a contrast. The whole thing is sticky and fudgy and dense and it looks pretty as well. I make a lot of very nice things, but once in a while a recipe stands out, and this is one of those. These blondies are divine!

There is some confusion about what blondies actually are. Officially they are brownies, but made with brown sugar instead of the chocolate. But some people say they are brownies made with white chocolate instead of dark chocolate. But both definitions are not correct for these blondies… so I guess that makes them cookie bars or a tray bake. But I like to call them blondies, because it sounds a lot more delicious than tray bakes, and it works well as an Anglicism in Dutch as well.

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

Raspberry white chocolate blondies (8-12 portions)
Adapted from Life as a Lofthouse

115 gram butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
100 gram white chocolate chips (or a chopped up chocolate bar)
125 gram raspberries (I used frozen and did not defrost them before using)

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a 16×20 cm baking pan with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Beat in salt, egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour until combined, and then stir in white chocolate chips and raspberries. The batter will be very thick (like cookie dough).Spread and press batter evenly into the pan.
Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until bars are set and edges are lightly browned. Let cool completely before cutting.

Variations:
Use other fruit (for example blueberries or blackberries), or no fruit at all
Use other chocolates (for example white with rice crispies or hazelnuts, or dark chocolate)
Add any kind of nut you like

Millionaires’ Shortbread

This shortbread is a very delicious and indulgent treat. The three different textures are the key in these bars: the crumbly, crunchy, buttery shortbread base, the gooey sweet caramel in the middle, and the contrasting chocolate on top. They will be a big hit wherever you take them to, so make a big batch!

Millionaire's Shortbread

Millionaires’ Shortbread (24 squares)
From Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Shortbread
250 g flour
75 g sugar
175 g butter

Caramel
100 g butter
100 g brown sugar
two 397 g cans sweetened condensed milk

Topping
200 g plain or milk chocolate (I like plain because the caramel is already very sweet)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 33×23 cm baking tin.
To make the shortbread, mix the flour and caster sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture together until it forms a dough, then press it into the base of the prepared tin. Prick the shortbread lightly with a fork and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and very lightly browned. Cool on a rack in the tin.

To make the caramel, place the butter, sugar and condensed milk into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly (it will get a very pale caramelly colour). It is important to stir the caramel mixture continuously – if you leave it for even a second it will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn (using a non-stick pan is advised). Pour over the shortbread and leave to cool.

To make the topping, break the chocolate into pieces and melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally. Pour over the cold caramel and leave to set. Cut into squares or bars.

Hot chocolate

I have a love-hate relationship with hot chocolate. It can be the most delicious thing in the world, warming up with a mug of smooth, creamy and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream after an autumny beach walk or an evening walk when fresh snow has fallen. But it can also be the most ghastly thing, with a thick skin on top, nasty taste of sterilized milk and the chocolate flaking in bits because the hot chocolate is cooked too long, or lumps of cocoa powder. Ick.

That is exactly why I prefer to make my own hot chocolate: I think the best hot chocolate is made with whole milk and good chocolate. Making it with cocoa powder always gives it a kind of dusty mouth feeling, while making it with chocolate gives it a very smooth, creamy and chocolaty taste. Topping it with whipped cream enhances this creamy, luxurious feeling even more. Oh, and don’t bother with warming up store-bought chocolate milk, those are way too sweet. Although since chocomel (the main brand of store-bough chocolate milk) started to sell those hot chocolate machines to cafés and coffee houses the quality of hot chocolate you get there greatly improved, it is not the best option when you are at home. And really don’t dare to call that instant powder stuff you can mix into milk hot chocolate: it really is not (its mainly sugar and something to make your milk brown).

The amount of chocolate you use for a really delicious cup of hot chocolate is a bit tricky. Too much and the hot chocolate gets too thick, making it almost a dessert. But not enough the hot chocolate is watery and not chocolaty enough. This recipe of Jeroen Meus is perfect (although he uses milk chocolate with nuts, instead of the pure chocolate I use, and he also adds a cinnamon stick). Jeroen Meus is one of my favourite chefs, he has a program on Belgian television (Dagelijkse Kost) in which he makes something else every day. I really like his vision that food should be about good food and good taste, and not about using posh expensive products and making it look mind-blowing perfect while the taste could be better. It is important that food looks appealing, but looks should not go at the expense of taste; it is exactly how I think about food.

Hot chocolate (2 large mugs)
adapted from Jeroen Meus – Dagelijkse kost

500 ml milk (preferably whole milk)
90 g chocolate (I use 55% cocoa semi-sweet chocolate, I think 70% cocoa chocolate is overkill and makes it too bitter)

125 ml whipping cream (preferably fresh cream with 35% fat as it whips and taste better, but a sterilized carton of cream with 30% fat is okay too)
2 tsp sugar
few drops of vanilla extract

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot, but not boiling (this prevents the milk from getting that boiled taste). Meanwhile, add the sugar and vanilla extract to the cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Because it is a small amount, I prefer to do this by hand. Add the chocolate to the hot milk, stir until molten on very low heat (it should still not boil). Scoop or pour the hot chocolate in 2 large mugs, top with the cream and enjoy.

Fruit delice and chocolate pear cake

Delice (fruit-moussetaart)

This delice consist of three layers. The first is a sponge layer, soaked with simple syrup and fruit puree. The second is a mousse layer, made with cream, Italian meringue, fruit puree (in this case forest fruits) and fruit juice/liqueur, all set lightly with gelatin. The top is a fruit glace, made with a mixture of fruit puree and simple syrup. It tastes really fruity, creamy and light as a dream. The amount of gelatin is just right, so that the mousse is barely set, making it even lighter. You can find the recipe of this tart in James Martins Dessert book.

Pear and chocolate cake

This pear and chocolate cake is a variation on my basic cake recipe. Just make half a recipe of cake batter, spread it out in a tin and neatly arrange slices of pear on top. It is best to push them down a bit to prevent the edges to burn. Because the cake is much thinner than normal, it only needs 30-45 minutes to bake. After letting  the cake cool down, you can melt some chocolate, put it in a piping bag with a small hole, and decorate the cake with it. The combination of cake, pear and chocolate works great!

Chocolate and cherry layer cake

I was asked to make a cake involving chocolate and cherry. Obviously, I immediately thought of Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, the famous German classic. But, when I started looking into recipes, most of them were just overly complicated and fussing around for nothing. So I invented my own variant.

My cake consists of 3 layers of chocolate genoise cake, with one layer of good cherry jam as filling, and one thick layer with lovely smooth whipped chocolate ganache. The outside of the cake was covered with whipped cream, the sides covered in chocolate shavings and the top decorated with piped rosettes. For an elaborate layer cake it is quite fast, because the fillings are quite easy to prepare. It holds up really well and it cuts clean. And by using different jams/fillings and other decorations, you will have a completely different cake very easy.

Chocolate and cherry layer cake

Chocolate and cherry layer cake (12-16 servings)
The ganache and genoise recipe came from the Blueband Kookboek Gebak

For the chocolate genoise cake
6 eggs
175 g sugar
145 g flour
35 g cocoa powder
40 g butter

For the ganache
250 g pure chocolate
250 ml cream
50 ml milk

Other ingredients
300 g cherry jam
50 g chocolate shavings (made yourself with a vegetable peeler or shop bought)
250 ml cream
1 package klop-fix (whipping cream stiffener)
1 package vanilla sugar
1 tbsp sugar

Start with preparing the genoise. Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease a 24 cm springform. Weigh out the flour and cocoa powder and have a sieve and spatula ready. Heat the butter until just molten. It is important to have everything ready, because the only raising agent in genoise are the eggs, and those deflate if you leave them for too long. Add the sugar to the eggs in a heatproof bowl, put this on a pan of boiling water (au bain marie). Beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, and flows from your beaters in a ribbon. Take care: the volume will increase a lot, I guess something like 6 times, so choose a bowl that is large enough. Take the bowl of the pan with hot water, and keep beating until the mixture is hand warm. Sieve the flour and cocoa above the bowl and fold it in gently. Don’t overwork the batter! Then fold in the butter, this should be barely liquid/just set. Pour the batter into the springform, making sure to lower the bowl as close as possible to the form, to prevent knocking the air out of the batter. If there are any flecks of unmixed flour/cocoa powder, you can give them a quick stir now. Place the form in the lower part of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. When ready, it should feel springy to the touch, should be shrunken back from the sides of the tin and when a satay skewer is inserted, it should come out clean. Leave it to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then take it out and leave it to cool on a wire rack. The cake should be cool before slicing and filling.

Proceed with the ganache. Chop up the chocolate. Heat the cream and milk together until almost, but not really boiling. Add in the chocolate and stir. The original recipe said to do this on low heat, but I found that the chocolate also melts fine when off the heat, which will lower the risk of everything burning. When the mixture is smooth, pour it into a bowl that is set into icecold water and leave the ganache to cool, while stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile slice the cooled cakes in three layers. The top of the genoise usually isn’t completely flat, so I either trim it, or use it as the middle layer, to end up with a level cake. The bottom part of the cake is level, so I use the bottom layer of the genoise upside down as the top level of the cake. So place the middle layer of the genoise as the bottom layer of the cake on a plate, chopping bord, cakeboard, or something you prefer. Spread the cherry jam over the genoise, but leave a cm edge free. Take the top of the genoise and place it upside down onto the jam. Press it until the cake is level and the jam is right up to the edges (this is why you leave the edge free at first).

Finish the ganache by whipping it about 5 minutes with a hand mixer until very light and fluffy. Spread this onto the cake immediately, and all the way to the edges, this stuff sets really, really fast (like in half a minute) and then it becomes quite difficult to work with. Place the last layer of the cake on top of the ganache, pressing lightly to make it level but not too hard to prevent the ganache to come out of the sides. Because this genoise layer is the most level one, not much pressure is necessary to level the whole thing.

For the whipped cream, make sure your cream is cold, as well as the bowl you will whip it in, as this will help the klop-fix to work. Pour the cream in the bowl, add the sugar and vanilla sugar to the cream and add the klop-fix gradually while whisking. Whisk until stiff.

Use a quarter of the whipped cream to give the cake a crumb coating (top+sides), this will prevent crumbs from getting into the final layer of cream. Place the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes to stiffen. Then use a quarter of the whipped cream to spread over the sides. Hold the pie up with your left hand, while pressing the chocolate shavings on the side carefully, above a plate to catch all the chocolate that did not stick. Then use another quarter of the cream to spread on top of the cake as a second layer of cream. Scoop the last quarter of cream in a piping bag and pipe rosettes or other decorations on the cake.

Place the cake in the fridge (covered) for one hour to stiffen, you can keep it for about 1 day in the fridge, but make sure to take it out in time. Cakes at room temperature are much nicer than cold cakes. Serve it in thin slices, as it is quite a filling cake.

Cappuccino cake

A festive cake mildly flavoured with coffee and decorated with whipped cream, chocolate coffee beans and pralines. It is easy to prepare and keeps well, but it does need the layer of cream to give the cake enough moistness. The coffee and the relatively low amount of sugar used make this a real grown-up cake.

Cappuccino Cake (12-16 servings)
Adapted from “Das Grosse Backbuch, Unsere besten Backrezepte – Kochen & Geniessen”
100 gram dark chocolate
600 gram whipping cream (divided in 200 gram and 400 gram)
4 eggs
150 gram sugar
a pinch of salt
20 gram cappuccino powder (the stuff you use with hot water to make instant-cappuccino; make sure you use an unsweetened one!)
150 gram flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 package klop-fix (whipping cream stiffener)
1 package vanilla sugar
1 tbsp sugar
mini-pralines and chocolate coffee beans for decorating

Prepare a springform (24 or 26 cm) by greasing it with soft butter or oil and then dusting it with some flour.
Chop the chocolate finely. Larger bits will sink to the bottom of the cake, because the batter is very light.
Preheat the oven at 175C.
Whip the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 8 minutes until pale, fluffy and increased in volume, this works best with an electric or standing mixer. The mixture will run from the whisk in a ribbon. Then whip 200 gram of whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold the flour and baking powder into the egg mix, then fold in the chocolate and whipped cream. Pour into the prepared springform and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a sateh stick comes out clean. Take care not to overbrown the cake, when it gets a bit dark but is not cook yet, cover it with some aluminium foil. Let the cake cool and remove the springform side.
Klop-fix works best when used with cold whipping cream, so make sure that the remaining cream is very cold, place it in the fridge for a few hours. I usually place my metal bowl in the freezer at the same time and use that to whip the cream in.
Pour the cold cream in the cold bowl, add the package of vanilla sugar and the tablespoon of sugar. While mixing (I find an electric hand mixer works best) gradually add in the klop-fix. Keep whipping until the cream is stiff. Spread halve of it on top of the cake, and put the other halve in a piping bag with starred nozzle. Use this to decorate the cake, I make rosettes around the edge of the cake, on which I place the mini-pralines and chocolate coffee beans alternating. Serve immediately or store in the fridge until serving. When assembled, it keeps 1 day. You can make the cake itself a day earlier and store it well wrapped at room temperature.

The quest for homemade croissants and pain au chocolat – part 1

About a year ago I tried to make croissants at home for the first time. That was a big disaster, it took a lot of time/efford and the result was rubbish. So I did not try again. But after being on holiday in France, where they have these delicious vienoisserie everywhere, it started to itch again. In the Netherlands, the croissants and pain au chocolats are just not as good as in France, so to have the perfect croissant for my breakfast, I would have to make them myself.

I found a new recipe and tried again last week. And although they were not as good as the ones we had in France, they were certainly nice and flavourful. I had some trouble with the dough, it was much to wet (probably because I scaled down the recipe) which gave trouble with rolling and laminating the dough. Also the butter did not form nice layers in the pastry, it partly absorbed in the dough (but I still had some layers!). Also they were not as puffy as I would like, probably because normal yeast cannot grow that well at the high sugar levels (18%) of the dough, but osmotolerant yeast is quite hard to come by over here.

So it is clear that the croissants need lots of tweaking. To be continued….

Croissants and pain au chocolat

Trail mix and coconut flapjacks

In this holiday season it is nice to have a variety of things to take with you on day trips and vacation. It is always good to have some food (and enough water!) with you, you never know what will happen, even if you expect to be able to go to a shop or something.

This year I wanted something else than the standard stuff, and had a go with making trail mix. Trail mix is quite uncommon in the Netherlands, but it has some overlap with the Dutch studentenhaver (students oats). It is a mix of grains, dried fruits, nuts and sometimes chocolate. It is light-weight, calorie-dense, tasty and easy to store, so it is ideal to take with you on hikes… hence the name trail mix.

Usually trail mix uses sweet and salty things mixed together, but I don’t like that, so I made separate sweet and salty mixes. My sweet mix contained the following: marshmallows, m&m’s, honey loops, tutti frutti (mixed dried fruit) and raisins & nuts covered in chocolate & yoghurt. My salty mix contained the following: dry roasted nut mix (peanut, almond, cashew), pepitas, salty pretzel/cracker mix and roasted chickpeas.

Another thing I wanted to add to the sweet mix were coconut-oat balls. In the end I adapted a flapjack recipe, baked it as a whole and then broke it in pieces. It became very, very delicious, coconutty and caramelly… but a slight bit greasy and very sticky. So I decided to keep them apart, to prevent the whole thing getting a sticky, greasy mess. I think they are a bit greasy because the original recipe only used oats and I swapped half for dessicated coconut, which of course also contains quite some fat. So the next time I will try it with less fat. It is a very delicious snack (high energy but not to healthy), which I will certainly make again.

Coconut flapjacks

65g butter
20g coconut oil
85g brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp stroop (golden syrup or treacle)
75g dessicated coconut
75g oats

Line a baking tin. Preheat oven at 180C.
Melt together the butter, coconut oil, brown sugar, honey and stroop on low heat. Mix in the coconut and oats, make sure that it is mixed well. Dump in the baking tin and flatten to 0.5 cm. Bake for 15-20 min, or until golden. Leave to cool completely before cutting/breaking into pieces.