playing with flour

Category: Chocolate

Hot Cross Buns

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I’m not above a little bribery. As previously mentioned we recently moved in order for me to start my new job. Very quickly it seems we’ve come around to needing to renew our lease and there’s a small amount of doubt as to how easy this will be to do. It’s not that we aren’t good neighbours but more so that our landlord may want to sell our unit. So, in hopes of persuading them that we should really be staying here I decided to make some appropriately timed hot cross buns.

I absolutely love any baking that involves having to use my hands – bread, pizza dough, pasta, even shortbread where you have to crumble butter into flour. It makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable (and yes, so much more messy). I’m still not that confident when it comes to using yeast but after buying a pizza stone and using it frequently I’ve learnt some tricks and can confidently make some basic doughs. The good thing about this recipe is it’s hard to get wrong.

The awesome thing about hot cross buns is the endless varieties that can be produced. I chose to go with a somewhat traditional sultana and mixed peel rendition but also added some dark chocolate to break it up. I used 85% cocoa chocolate which is bitter and not very sweet as the fruit already has some sweetness but if you’d prefer you can use chocolate with less cocoa.

My tip for this recipe is to make your paste for the crosses quite thick. As you can see from my pictures my crosses spread considerably and don’t have quite the classic look. When you pipe, do one row at a time and stop the flow of paste with your finger before moving on to the next row. There is a lot of waiting involved in this recipe but it is simple and easy to make and the buns are perfect gifts for anyone you feel like putting in a good mood 😉

Happy Easter x

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Hot Cross Buns

14g dried yeast
¼ cup caster sugar
1.5 cups milk
4 cups plain flour
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sultanas
1/3 cup mixed peel
40g dark chocolate
1 egg

Warm milk in saucepan over low heat, do not let boil. Combine with yeast and sugar and cover with cling wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until frothy.

In a large bowl sift in the flour and spices then rub the butter in with your fingertips. Add the yeast mixture, egg, fruit and chocolate and mix well until you have a soft dough. Cover and let sit for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 200° and grease a 23cm square baking tin. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth (4-5 minutes) then divide into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then place in tin. Once all pieces are arranged allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Paste

½ cup plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
Approx 1/3 cup water

Make your paste by mixing just enough water into the flour and sugar. Ensure the mixture is smooth before piping onto buns. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Glaze

1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp gelatin
1 tbsp water

Combine the above ingredients in a small saucepan and heat slowly without boiling until completely dissolved. Brush onto still warm buns. Allow to set and cool before eating.

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Espresso Mud Cupcakes

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There is nothing wrong with super sweet cakes and cookies but sometimes you need a grown up dessert. Something rich and sexy to share with a loved one or hide away and eat for a few secret minutes of self indulgence. These cupcakes fit that description perfectly.

Full of dark sinful flavours of chocolate and espresso, instead of being overly sweet they have a slight bitterness to them that may not sound appealing but is actually delicious. These are an adults only treat with Kahlua and coffee, so wouldn’t recommend giving these to children!

Initially I had planned to pair these cupcakes with a peanut butter or Nutella frosting but upon doing so found they lost some of their complexity and sexiness (don’t worry I taste tested thoroughly for you to make sure). All they need to be perfect is a light dusting of icing sugar.

I would recommend making these in small sized cupcake liners as they are seriously rich, and be sure not to overcook them to ensure a moist cake. If you wanted to convert into one large cake I would recommend doubling the recipe.

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Espresso Mud Cupcakes

125g unsalted butter
100g quality dark chocolate
½ cup hot water
2 tbsp espresso powder
50ml Kahlua
1 cup brown sugar
150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 160° and prepare your cupcake liners. In a medium saucepan combine the chocolate, butter, water, Kahlua and espresso. Melt over medium heat, stirring until combined. Stir in the brown sugar and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and stir through. Add the egg and ensure the mixture is thoroughly combined. I would recommend pouring into a jug with a pouring lip before filling your cupcake liners to save on mess. Fill to 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes or until just cooked through. Allow to cool before dusting with icing sugar.

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Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

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Ah, night shifts. The highly dreaded, anxiety fueling week that all interns dread. Well, most interns anyway. I do know of some people who actually look forward to night shifts, but I definitely wasn’t one of them. My biggest concern was staying awake through the night, especially as I don’t drink coffee. I was convinced I’d get to 3am and just fall asleep at a desk, or worse, while sitting with a patient. So I came up with a plan – eat plenty of sugar! That’s where these cupcakes came in. Ok, I’ll admit I had another motive as well as keeping my eyes open – I figured a little bribery of the other staff might help make things easier.

These cupcakes were born from me having a spare packet of Oreo’s and a need for something sweet. They’re a double hit of vanilla with flavouring in both the cupcake and the frosting but it isn’t overpowering thanks to the Oreo in the base and throughout the cake. To be honest I’d be keen to up the vanilla flavour a bit more using a vanilla pod but I’d run out so it they ended up fairly subtle – it’s up to you what you’d prefer to use. If you’re looking for something to make for Valentine’s day these would be perfect – and even more so if you used the pink Oreos (I think they’re strawberry?).

Oh and in case you were wondering, night shift was actually great fun. I stayed awake all night, saw a great mix of patients and slept so well once I got home!

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Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

1 oz soft unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 packet Oreo’s split in half

Preheat the oven to 180º and prepare your baking cups. Cream the butter with the sugar then add the vanilla essence. Beat in the eggs one at a time then sift in the flour and baking powder. Stir through the milk. Break up half of the Oreo’s into pieces and stir through the batter.

In the base of each cupcake liner place half of an Oreo (the side with the cream) then spoon over the batter until 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

Vanilla frosting

8 oz salt reduced butter
4 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp vanilla essence

Beat the butter with the sugar until smooth then add the milk and vanilla. Beat for at least 5 minutes of until light and fluffy. Pipe onto cupcakes then top with mini Oreo’s.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

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I was always the kid at school whose birthday fell in the holidays before school started. While it may seem like a great thing to be on holiday it never felt that way for me, I always felt that I missed out on bringing cupcakes to class or getting all the attention for the day from people who wouldn’t otherwise know it was my birthday. As I’ve grown up I’ve realized these things aren’t actually important and now that I’ve started working I’d be pretty happy to still be on holidays come late January! I don’t generally do anything fancy to celebrate but this year I wanted to have dinner with the friends that got me through med school and I was lucky enough to have some of my new colleagues come along too. I find the great thing about starting a new job is meeting new people and although it’s only been a couple of weeks I feel as though I’ve already made some great friends – some of which are people I previously knew (but not well) and some who I’ve only just met. Instead of making cupcakes I decided to make a slightly more grown up birthday treat – chocolate and raspberry truffle cake.

This cake is rich and decadent and a small piece is probably enough (although that didn’t stop some people from having seconds). Layers of light spongy cake studded with raspberries are sandwiched between creamy rich chocolate truffle frosting. The raspberries are tart enough to set off the sweetness and the cake layers aren’t so dense you can’t finish.

I love the technique of pouring the frosting over the cake while it is in the tin to get smooth layers. This saves on frosting time and looks really elegant. You may have to do some touch ups after removing the tin, just use a warm dry spatula to spread leftover frosting where needed. The cake is open to all sorts of decorating possibilities but I loved how simple and classy it looked plain (and this looked even better with sparklers in it at dinner). I apologize for not having a decent photo of the cake cut but it was a dark restaurant – trust me when I say that each layer was defined and evenly spaced and looked fantastic.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tart

1 cup plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
2/3 cup caster sugar
8 eggs
200g melted butter
1 cup raspberries

Preheat your oven to 180º and prepare two springform baking tins. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until thick and creamy (at least 5 minutes) then sift in and fold through the cocoa and flour. Divide between the two tins then sprinkle the raspberries over the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Allow to cool in the tins.

Truffle Frosting

450g quality dark chocolate
2 cups cream
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar

Melt the cream and chocolate over a low heat until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar over simmering water for at least 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. Fold the chocolate through the eggs and beat on low speed until cool.

Place one layer of cake in the springform tin then pour over half of the truffle filling. Place the second cake on top then pour over the rest of the frosting, it will run down the sides of the cake. Place in the fridge until cold and set. Carefully remove the tin after warming the sides with a warm cloth.

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Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

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The weather is absolutely insane here. It was only weeks ago that it was so hot it was hard to do anything strenuous, now its raining so hard areas are flooding, we lost power temporarily and I have to continually mop up our floors as the water seeps in under the windows! It’s the perfect day to read a book, watch a movie or bake cookies. If you’re in need of some inspiration these cookies are a pretty good option.

I started work last week after a thorough orientation meeting some of my super friendly and interesting colleagues. I knew that Monday morning would be highly stressful as I had no idea of how things worked or what the local protocols were (well, that and I feel like all the knowledge I once had has left my brain after a three month holiday!), so I made these cookies as a comfort measure to eat when I was feeling overwhelmed. Turns out they work wonders.

Crumbly and light, they literally melt in your mouth. Add in the chunks of white chocolate they’re a fantastic pick me up with a cup of tea and aren’t overwhelmingly sweet so it’s easy to eat a couple without even thinking about it (which may not be the best thing for the waistline!). Feel free to swap the white chocolate with dark or milk chocolate or even something crunchy like peanuts or smarties, personally though I think the white chocolate pairs really well with the cocoa in the cookies.

Yes I do realize there is a lot of butter in this recipe but I’ve found that decreasing the amount stops the cookies from being as decadent and they don’t have the melting quality that makes them so endearing. Just do what I do and give them away before you eat them all.

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Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

1 3/4 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp cocoa
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
200g white chocolate, chopped

Preheat your oven to 160º and prepare baking trays. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fully mixed (the longer you beat the light the cookies become – give it at least  2 minutes). Add the cocoa mixture and beat until combined into a soft dough.

Add the white chocolate and stir through. Take tablespoon sized amounts of dough and roll into balls. Place on the baking tray and flatten with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until firm on top. Allow to cool on the tray until they firm up then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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White Chocolate and Caramel Gingerbread Blondies

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So it’s starting to dawn on me that I have to start being a grown up as of next week. It’s been so long since I’ve had a full time job, I’ve been living the student life for nine years now. While I’m sure the hours are going to be a shock to the system, I think the fact that I have responsibility and will be making decisions regarding people’s health is what is really stressing me out. Yes I’ve been preparing for this for years and I know I’ll be well supported but it really is a lot of pressure – it really is the perfect time to do some stress-relief baking!

These blondies are delicious. Moist, dense and full of flavour they’re super easy to make and can be adapted to use whatever you have on hand. Replace the Jersey caramels with caramel or butterscotch chips or even dried cherries or cranberries and the white chocolate with milk or dark to give a completely new taste. The ginger pairs really well with the white chocolate and keeps it all from being too sweet.

I found the best time to eat them was still warm, straight out of pan but they’re also great once cooled or even out of the fridge if you want them a bit more dense. If you have new years resolutions to eat better this year I would recommend giving these away as soon as possible (do keep one or two for yourself of course) to avoid the temptation to eat the whole pan. Trust me.

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White Chocolate and Caramel Gingerbread Blondies

1 ¾ cups plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter
60g golden syrup
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup white chocolate, chopped
½ cup Jersey caramels, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180° and prepare a 9 inch baking pan with baking paper. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until thick and pale. Add the golden syrup and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.

Sift over the flour, baking soda, salt and ginger and fold through the mixture. Add the chocolate and caramel and mix through until just combined. Pour into pan and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan before cutting.

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Panforte

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Wow, what a month it has been. I know that I promised to post here more often but sometimes things just don’t go to plan. We moved house which is always a challenge, and have finally unpacked and settled in and got our internet connected after three weeks. Whilst doing that I also had my graduation from medical school, my parents visiting from interstate and preparation for my new job which starts next week. Of course, just to make things slightly more hectic, there was Christmas and New Years! Thankfully things have calmed down now and should get back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Christmas this year was lovely and simple, with breakfast and lunch at our new place with family. Instead of the traditional Christmas puddings or cakes I made panforte which is an Italian variation on Christmas cake and gave it as gifts to friends and neighbours. It’s rich and flavourful and packed full of nuts and fruit, held together by chocolate and honey. The orange gives it a citrus scent and the figs make it chewy and moist. While I realise I’m a little behind with the Christmas recipe posts I don’t see any reason to wait until next year to make this. It is fantastic with coffee and makes for a great afternoon treat.

The recipe is simple and easy to make and you can feel free to make any alterations you wish. Add more or different nuts, use spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, add glace fruit… there are endless possibilities but I found this combination worked really well. The panforte can be kept wrapped in cling wrap and stored in a dark place for up to six weeks.

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Panforte

100g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa
150g whole almonds
125g hazelnuts
Rind from one orange
100g raisins
150g dried figs, chopped
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
185g honey
60g dark chocolate, chopped finely

Preheat your oven to 170° and prepare a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Combine the nuts, rind and fruit in a large bowl and sift over the cocoa, flour and mixed spice.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the sugar and honey and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the mixture until it reaches 118° on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage). Remove from heat, add the chocolate and stir through. Immediately pour over fruit and nut mixture and mix (it will firm up considerably).

Press the mixture into the prepared pan until even. Bake for 40 minutes then allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire tray. If cutting into pieces allow to cool completely first.

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Butterscotch and White Chocolate Muffins with Praline

I’ve recently gone back to an old workplace, this time not as an employee but instead on an elective placement. It’s been quite interesting seeing how things run from another point of view and realising how little things have changed over the years. While there have been some staff changes, most of the old team are still there and still as lovely as ever. I made these muffins as a think you to them for welcoming me back so readily. They didn’t last long.

These muffins bring together some of my absolute favourite flavours: butterscotch, caramel and white chocolate. They’re moist and dense and kept soft by the sour cream. The chunks of white chocolate provide little bursts of sweetness and the praline topping is deliciously crunchy. It’s a little extra that you could choose to omit but it does add another dimension to the muffins.

Overall they are delicious but there are a couple of small changes I would make next time around. Firstly I would increase the amount of white chocolate to 1/3 of a cup and also increase the sour cream to 250g to give a slightly wetter batter. The praline is fantastic but I think next time I will break the caramel up into shards rather than process into powder to give extra crunch and toast the almonds before adding them to the caramel. You will end up with extra praline and this can be stored in an airtight container until you find another use for it.

 

Butterscotch and White Chocolate Muffins with Praline

2 ½ cups plain flour
3 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
100g buttermilk
200g sour cream
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat your oven to 180° and prepare muffin cups or tins. Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl and add brown sugar. In a separate bowl combine melted butter, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and egg and whisk together. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir through the white chocolate.

Spoon batter into muffin cups/tins and sprinkle praline over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Almond Praline

100g sugar
6 tsp water
¼ cup slivered almonds

In a small saucepan combine sugar and water. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves then increase to high and bring to a boil. Do not stir. Allow to boil until the colour changes to caramel then remove from heat.

Spread almonds out on a tray then pour over caramel and allow to set. Break up the praline and whiz in a food processor to get crumbs. Keep extra praline stored in an airtight container.

Miniature Neapolitan Cakes

Did you find when you bought neapolitan ice cream that there was a favourite flavour that always went first? For us it was chocolate and then strawberry, but at a distant second. It was only when low on the others or when told off by the adults that we would eat the vanilla. Which is funny really because I love vanilla ice cream these days, although if given the choice I think I’d still choose the same order of preference.

These miniature cakes bring together that classic combination of chocolate vanilla and strawberry so that you don’t have to choose just one. While you could bake each of these in individual moulds, to make life easier I baked 3 larger cakes and then use a cookie cutter to make smaller ones. You do end up with a lot of excess cake so I blitzed this in a food processor and combined it with the leftover frosting to make cake balls. You could easily make them into cake pops if you were so inclined. I wont write a full post for them but I will put a picture up on my Facebook page if you want to see them.

The cakes are dense and very flavourful with rich creamy frosting in between. I used the same frosting as in the cappuccino cupcakes but feel free to use buttercream frosting or any other that you prefer. The cakes are made from one simple recipe with minimal variations. If you’d prefer you can substitute your own recipes but I’d try to keep them similar so each layer is as dense as the next.

I took these cute towers of cake to an 80s themed birthday party over the weekend and they were a hit. Not that neapolitan is particularly 80s but it does evoke childhood memories which for many of us were from the right era. Being so tall it is hard to eat all 3 flavours at once (unless perhaps you use a fork) so it’s interesting to watch and see who eats what layer first. I haven’t quite decided which I like best so perhaps it’s time for another taste test!

Miniature Neapolitan Cakes

Vanilla Cake

1 cup caster sugar
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 180° and prepare an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add the vanilla, baking powder and flour and mix until incorporated. Stir through the milk until smooth. Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Chocolate Cake

As per vanilla cake with the following variations:

Decrease flour to 1 ¼ cups
Add ¼ cup sifted cocoa when adding the flour
Omit vanilla essence

Strawberry Cake

As per vanilla cake with the following variations:

Combine 1/3 cup chopped strawberries with ½ tsp sugar and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Mix into batter with milk. Add ½ tsp strawberry essence and a few drops pink food coloring to batter and stir through before baking.

When all three layers are baked and cooled cut out small rounds of cake with a cookie cutter and level the tops so they’re all the same height. Stack each cake with corresponding frostings in between and finish with a frosting swirl on top.


Sour Cream Frosting

Vanilla and strawberry frostings

170g white chocolate
60g unsalted butter
120g sour cream
300g icing sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly before adding the sour cream and stirring through. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat well until the frosting is smooth.

Split the frosting in to two bowls and add a teaspoon of vanilla essence to one and ½ tsp strawberry essence + a couple of drops of pink food dye to the other.

Chocolate frosting

As for basic frosting above but substitute in dark chocolate for the white chocolate. This frosting can be quite thick so add a splash of milk if required.

Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

I have a confession to make: before today I had not tasted Nutella. Shocking I know, but it’s true. Obviously I’ve had chocolate and hazelnuts before, and even had the two together, but not once had I eaten this amazing spread. It is probably a good thing really, I can see myself buying (and eating) a lot more of it. I ate three spoonfuls before even starting these cookies!

Fragrant with hazelnuts and coffee this shortbread melts in your mouth. The rice flour keeps them light and the hazelnut meal gives a strong flavour and interesting texture. You could easily substitute almond meal or even macadamia meal if you like, but I found these cookies went perfectly with a spoonful of Nutella sandwiched between them.

This shortbread is quite easy to make but a little temperamental to work with. I recommend placing the dough in the fridge for a while before shaping into cookies to avoid getting your hands too messy. I cut small shapes out of half of my cookies while they were still warm from the oven although you can try and do this before you bake them but they may be too soft. Also don’t let them cool completely and then try to cut them as they will just crumble.

I think this recipe will quickly become a favourite in this house, not least of all because it gives me an excuse to eat more Nutella!

Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread Cookies

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g icing sugar
60g hazelnut meal
130g rice flour
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
Nutella to fill

Preheat the oven to 160° and line baking trays with baking paper.

Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the hazelnut meal, flour and coffee and stir until combined. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Roll teaspoon sized balls of the dough and place on baking trays. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass (use a piece of baking paper between the glass and the dough if they stick) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.

If cutting out shapes from your cookies now is the time to do so. Be very gentle and use a toothpick to clean up any edges. Once completely cooled spread Nutella on one cookie and sandwich with another.

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