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Cover: Loco for cocoa

April, 2012

26Apr 12

Chocolate Caterpillar Cake

Chocolate Caterpillar CakeHere’s the cake that I made for my niece’s 2nd birthday party.  First, you make a chocolate Swiss roll or chocolate roulade, or if you’re pressed for time and energy, you could always buy one; I sometimes do. Then decorate it with molten chocolate and smarties.  It’s fun and colourful and children love it!

Ingredients:

For the Swiss roll cake:

  • 75g flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g dark cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs

For the Swiss roll filling:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 75g milk chocolate, melted

For the caterpillar topping:

  • 300 – 400g milk chocolate for the caterpillar coating, broken into pieces
  • 4 tubes of smarties

You will also need a 23 x 33 cm Swiss roll tin, an electric whisk (ideally) and 2-4 birthday candles.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Grease the Swiss roll tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large mixing bowl, until the mixture becomes creamy and thick.  Ideally you should do this with an electric whisk to generate as much air as possible into the mixture.  Sieve the flour and the cocoa powder together into a separate bowl before gradually working into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add 1 tbsp hot water.  Mix this in very gently trying not to disperse the air bubbles you created when whisking.
  3. Pour the cake mixture into the tin, tilting in each direction to ensure that the mixture reaches into all of the corners.  Bake in the oven for around 10-12 mins, until the cake is cooked and springy to the touch.
  4. Sprinkle caster sugar onto a large piece of baking paper, turning the cooked cake out onto it.  Cut away any hard edges, and make a dent along the width of the sponge, 1 cm in.  From this end, carefully roll the sponge up with the paper, curling into the middle.  Leave the cake like this on a cooling rack.
  5. Work the icing sugar into the butter, creaming them together until they are fluffy and light, then beat in the melted chocolate.  Uncurl the sponge, and coat the top surface with the butter icing before rolling it up again.
  6. Melt the topping chocolate in a saucepan, adding 1-2 tsp water, or as necessary to make the chocolate begin to turn very slightly crumbly in consistency.  This is how the spiky, textured effect of the caterpillar is created.  Gradually work the chocolate over the entire surface of the cooled roll, using a spoon and a fork to spread and create the texture.  The cake will be fragile so it is worth taking time to do this bit carefully.  Add the smarties as you go, dotted about across the entire surface, so that they stick to the melted chocolate before it sets.  Create a smiley face shape with the smarties at each end of the roll.  You can use candles to make the antennae.

Time: 1 hour and 20 mins preparation time, including decorating, 10 mins cooking time.

Cocoa Treats: 8 slices

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19Apr 12

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ganaches

Dark Chocolate Ganache is a sensuous, rich and creamy delight that can be used in meringues, biscuits, cakes, puddings, pancakes (like these oat and buckweat pancakes) or even enjoyed on its own.  You can pour and spread it, warm or cool over cakes and other desserts.  You can also whip cooled ganache to sculpt as icing or filling.  It’s very versatile, so once you know how, you can throw it together at any time to add to many other recipes.

You can also vary the proportions of chocolate and cream, depending on what you’ll be using the ganache for later.  This recipe is half cream and half chocolate, and is therefore very rich.  It is what I call a multi-purpose ganache.  The photograph shows both types of ganache: the molten version for spreading and the cooled version for  whipping, both of which are made from this recipe.                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 250g good quality chocolate (around 52% cocoa), broken into pieces
  • 250ml double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring the mixture up to the boil on the hob, over a medium to high heat.  As the cream begins to boil – it will very quickly rise over the top of the pan, so you need to watch carefully to catch it at the right moment.
  2. Once you have removed the pan from the heat, add the chocolate pieces.  Let them sit in the cream until they melt and then stir them in with a wooden spoon.  Once completely melted and combined, pour the ganache warm over your chosen pudding, or leave the mixture to cool for later use.  Before you put it in the fridge for cooling, cover the surface directly with a piece of clingfilm to avoid the ganache forming a skin.

Notes:  Take care not to let ganache cool too much as it can become stiff and unworkable.

You can experiment with adding different flavours and liqueurs to your ganache.  Try 2-3 tablespoons of one of these: dark rum, orange liqueur, mint liqueur, coffee liqueur, raspberry liqueur, Disaronno Italian liqueur or hazelnut liqueur or essence.  If you want a sweeter Ganache, add 1-3 tablespoons of sugar to the hot cream.

Time:   5 minutes to prepare, 5 minutes to cook, plus cooling time

Cocoa Treats: 2-3 servings, or 400g to use in other recipes.

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18Apr 12

Fudgy Chocolate Sponge Pudding

Fudgy Chocolate Sponge PuddingFor those still chill evenings in the spring, before the summer comes in, why not delight in making and eating this fudgy chocolate sponge pudding, which you can serve with chocolate custard and ice cream?  These sponge puddings are simple to prepare and very quick to cook for a bit of a posh, midweek pud!

When we were children, we used to go and stay with my granny in the Easter holidays, and she lived by the sea – so you can imagine what fun we had playing in the sand and going to the theme parks! It was an exiting and magical time.  Some days, when we got in from a long day of running and hiding in the sand dunes, she would make this pudding for us after we’d hungrily downed our pesto cod and chips and mushy peas!  So this one’s in honour of precious memories with you, Gran!

Ingredients:

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 8 tbsp milk
  • 8 eggs
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 220g fudge, broken into pieces
  • 220g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy.
  2. Whisk the eggs well in a separate bowl and then add them gradually to the sugar and butter mix.  Once well combined, add and stir in the flour.
  3. Grease 4 microwaveable ramekins with a touch of butter.  Put a quarter of the fudge and chocolate pieces into the bottom of each pot, and then spoon over the sponge mixture, dividing it equally across the 4 ramekins.  Cook each pot of sponge in the microwave for around 4-5 mins until the sponge is beautifully cooked and the chocolate and fudge have melted.
  4. Depending on you preference, serve directly in the ramekins, or turn the sponge puddings out into shallow bowls so that the chocolate and fudge sit at the top of your presentation.

Time: 20 mins to prepare, 5 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 4 servings

Note:    Try serving with warm chocolate custard, or with pouring cream

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12Apr 12

Chocolate Fool’s Fudge with Almonds

Chocolate Fudge with almonds
Bite-size slices of crunchy fudgy heaven…

So called fool’s fudge because it is not made in the traditional way with all of the traditional ingredients.  It’s easier to make and will magically form just the right consistency, without you having to worry about it coming out too hard, or even too soft.  As with other no-bake sweet treats, the only demanding bit about making it is the time you have to wait for it to set before reaching those fingers into the fridge! (Also try these choc-cherry fudge slices.)

Chocolate fool’s fudge with almonds is great for parties and weekend treats.  Once sliced, you can wrap it up in parchment paper, tie it with pretty ribbons and give it to your friends as a ‘happy today’ treat to make them smile on any old day, or for birthday and Christmas presents.

Ingredients:

  • 175g good quality 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 175g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 395ml condensed milk (one can)
  • A small pinch of fine salt grains
  • 30g butter
  • 75g raisins
  • 75g whole almonds
  • 1tsp almond essence

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a large heavy-based saucepan, mix the butter, chocolate, and condensed milk together; gently heating them until the butter and chocolate have melted.  Add the salt and the almond essence, and then stir everything together really well.  Leave to cool a while, but do not let the mixture begin to set.
  2. Meanwhile, put the almonds into a clean sandwich bag.  Lay the bag on a wooden chopping board, and use a rolling pin to split the almonds into smaller pieces within the bag.
  3. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, stir the almond pieces and raisins in using a wooden spoon.
  4. Spoon the fudge mix out into a 23-25cm square foil tray using a spatula, levelling the top.
  5. Chill the mixture in the fridge until it is set, at least overnight.  In the morning, slice the fudge in its tray into bite-size chunks.

Note:  In my opinion, the texture continues to improve over a couple of days – but I suggest that you start enjoying it the morning after you’ve made it.  You can tuck into it sooner, as long as it is set.  The texture will be softer but the flavour equally as yummy.

Time: 15 minutes to prepare plus cooling and setting time

Cocoa Treats: 50 – 60 bite-size pieces

 

 

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10Apr 12

Chocolate Cake in a Mug

Chocolate Cake in a MugWell, here’s a little something completely different from the classic chocolate fudge cake.  There’s nothing posh about this cocoa treat, oh no… but chocolate cake in a mug is fast, fun and tasty to throw together for a mid-week pudding for the kids, or just for yourself whenever you need a little comfort food (shhhh don’t tell anyone).  If you’re making it just for one, simply halve the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp self-raising flour
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 8 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 6 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 6 tbsp sunflower oil
  • Splash of vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs

You will also need 2 large mugs

Preparation Guidelines:

Split all of the ingredients by half into 2 large mugs. Or, you can simply mix everything together in a bowl, then transfer the mixture evenly into the 2 mugs before cooking.

  1. First add all of the dry ingredients and stir them together with a teaspoon.
  2. Add the egg and thoroughly work the mixture together with the spoon.
  3. Add the oil and the milk and stir again.
  4. Splash in the vanilla essence, pour in the chocolate chips, and keep mixing.
  5. Cook the mixture in the mugs; put each mug in separately for 3 minutes (timing is for a 1000W microwave).
  6. Allow the cup to cool enough to handle it before you dig in to your yummy chocolate cake in a mug.

Note:    The cake mixture should rise over the top of the mug during cooking.

This cake is also really tasty eaten hot with vanilla ice cream, or any other flavour for that matter.  If you fancy it this way, simply transfer it to a bowl to serve and add the ice cream; the combination of hot cake and the ice cream will be wonderful!

Time: 5 minutes to prepare, 3 minutes to cook in the microwave for each mug of cake.

Cocoa Treats: Makes enough for 2 large mugs of cake!

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09Apr 12

Amaretti Chocolate Sticks

Amaretti Chocolate sticksThe shape of these Amaretti chocolate sticks is created by wrapping the biscuits around a spoon handle whilst they are still warm. Why chocolate sticks?  Well here’s a little aside for you…

The word chocolate may well have its origins in the Mayan word, ‘xocolatl’. There’s debate over its meaning – it could translate as ‘bitter water’ which comes from ‘xoco’ (bitter) and ‘atle’ (water). This beverage was the first hot chocolate. Or it could be because the word is onomatopoeic – it sounds like what it describes. For instance, if you say it over and over, it sounds like the beating or pounding of the sticks that would have been used back then in the preparation of the beans.

So you can see where I got the stick idea from… let’s get on with the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 300g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 6 tbsp almond-flavoured liqueur
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
  2. Line 4 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg white together with the sugar.
  4. Sift the cocoa powder and the flour into the bowl, then add the butter and the cream, and stir the whole mixture together.
  5. Lift and place 4 dessertspoons of the mixture onto one of the lined baking trays.  Space them well apart so that they don’t touch as they cook.  Smooth each one out into an oval shape, gently, with the back of the spoon.
  6. Cook the biscuits in the preheated oven for 4 minutes until the edges of the biscuits darken a little and spread.
  7. Take the tray out of the oven and let the biscuits rest for 30 seconds. Then lift each biscuit using a palette knife and wrap them around the handle of a wooden spoon until they set into their rolled stick shape.  Once set, remove them carefully and place them onto a cooling rack.  Repeat until all of the biscuits are cooked and set into shape.
  8. Melt the chocolate, stir in the almond liqueur, then dip the biscuit sticks into the chocolate, letting any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.  Place the chocolate-covered sticks onto a sheet of greaseproof paper to set.
  9. Present in little pots.  If any are left over, they can be stored in an airtight container.

Time: 20 minutes to prepare, plus setting.  4 minutes cooking time for each batch.

Cocoa Treats: 32

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06Apr 12

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte Part 2

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte 

 

Here’s the 2nd part of the Chocolate Eater Nest Torte recipe which covers instructions on making the moussey torte topping, and the pretty nest-style decoration for the top of the cake.  There’s a lot of work involved overall, but it’s fun, and the result is truly worth it!

Ingredients:

For the torte topping

  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp powdered gelatine
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 200g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml whipping cream

For the decoration

  • 150g good milk chocolate, roughly sliced
  • 1-2 packs of mini chocolate eggs

Preparation Guidelines:

For the torte topping:

  1. Dissolve the gelatine in the water and leave to soften.  Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a clean bowl, and mix together with the sugar, cornflour and a splash of milk.  Make a custard by heating the remaining milk in a saucepan, bringing it just to the boil, then whisking it in well to the egg yolk mixture, returning it to the saucepan and cooking it gently until thickened, stirring constantly and not overheating.  Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the gelatine, dissolving it. Add the chocolate and let sit until melted in, and then stir well.  Transfer the mix to a bowl, cut and lay a piece of greaseproof paper over the surface to prevent a skin, leave to cool until just starting to thicken, and remove the paper.
  2. Whip the cream firm and work into the chocolate mix.  Spoon the mixture on top of the chocolate sponge (part 1), inside the chocolate casing (part 1), levelling the surface, then chill in the fridge for 1-2 hrs until set.  You can then remove the paper strip from around the chocolate casing.

For the decoration:

3. Roughly slice the milk chocolate into long, thin shards.  Scatter them gently in a nest shape on top of the torte and fill the nest with the mini eggs.

Time: 2 hrs plus cooling and chilling time for the whole cake making process, including part 1

Cocoa Treats: 12 servings

Note: For more spring cake ideas, try this Easter cake with orange and marzipan.

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05Apr 12

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte Part 1

 

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte is an involved piece of baking which results in a truly special celebration cake to share with the whole family over Easter(Also try this Coach and Horses Easter Simnel Cake.) You will learn how to sculpt and mould chocolate in new ways (or at least I did!). This recipe includes dark chocolate and milk chocolate, sponge, mousse and solid chocolateBecause there are so many stages involved in creating this showcase, I will be posting the recipe and instructions over the course of 2 postsHere is part 1 which covers the sponge cake part of the process, as well as the creation of the cake’s chocolate collar.  See part 2 for a photo of the finished cake!

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • 40g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 75g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 tbsp orange juice

For the chocolate collar

  • 75g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Before you start the sponge cake, you need to make a form to create the chocolate collar.  Use a piece of string to measure the circumference of the cake tin.  Then cut a piece of parchment paper 1.5cm longer than the string and 6cm high. Keep it to one side for later.
  2. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a 23cm cake tin (ideally spring-form) and line the base. Over a mixing bowl, sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Beat the sugar, butter and eggs in a separate bowl until creamy and then whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Spoon into the prepared tin, level the surface and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until just firm. Once cooked, cool the sponge on a rack. Once cool, transfer to a plate and drizzle over with the juice.
  3. For the chocolate collar:  Melt the dark chocolate and stir.  Spread the melted chocolate all along the paper strip that you made earlier, leaving 1cm free of chocolate at each end.  Leave it to one side for about 15-20 mins, allowing the texture to thicken but not set.  It should stay in-situ when lifted.  Very carefully lift the strip of chocolate on the paper and shape it, sticking it right around the sponge cake.  Put the sponge with the strip into the fridge to chill as you make the filling.

Time:  For part 1: 40 mins to prepare and 25 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 12 servings

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02Apr 12

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate PuddingThis is the kind of pudding that takes me back to childhood. Those midweek nights of fish fingers and beans, when Mum filled the house with the wonderful smell of chocolate baking in the oven.  She’d put the dish on the table on a big wicker mat and ladle out this chocolate pudding into our eagerly clutched bowls, as long as we’d polished off the whole of our first course…. of course!

 

We loved eating it hot with a dollop of choc chip ice cream. (Check out the recipe on my blog for this ice cream, as well as another chocolate pudding option chocolate fondant with cherries and vanilla anglaise.) This recipe serves 2-3 people, so just double up the quantities if you have a bigger family, or if you have friends coming round.

Ingredients:

  • 150ml milk
  • 125g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 75g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 12g cocoa powder
  • 12g self-raising flour
  • Dusting of cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Gently warm the chocolate and the milk together in a saucepan until the chocolate melts completely.  Remove from the heat and stir together until smooth and cohesive.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the butter until light and creamy.  Mix in the separated egg yolk, cocoa powder and flour.  Then gradually add the chocolate and milk mixture until evenly combined.
  4. Whisk the egg white in a clean bowl until it is stiff before spooning and mixing it into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a 1L capacity oven-proof dish and set the dish inside a roasting tin.  Boil a kettle of water and pour 2cm water into the roasting tin all around the chocolate dish.
  6. Bake in the oven for around 30 mins, until the top of the mixture has crusted but the mixture underneath remains a little soft. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with whipped cream.

Time:   20 mins to prepare, 40 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 2-3 servings

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