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Cover: Loco for cocoa

June, 2012

30Jun 12

Maple, Pecan and Chocolate Tart

Maple, Pecan and Chocolate Tart

Canadian maple syrup is one of my favourite sweet flavours.  It’s wonderful, natural stuff – and good for you too!  Maple, pecan and chocolate tart offers a scrumptious variation on the classic pecan pie.  Enjoy it warm or cold.

Ingredients:

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 55g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 180ml maple syrup
  • 355g shortcut pastry, or puff pastry if preferred: ready, prepared and thawed
  • 130g whole pecan nuts
  • Icing sugar and ground cinnamon to dust

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Put an empty baking tray into the oven, and preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Melt the chocolate slowly together with the butter in a saucepan, stirring them well.
  3. In a separate pan over a low heat, melt the sugar slowly into the maple syrup.  Once all of the sugar is dissolved, take the pan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little.
  4. In a large clean mixing bowl, whisk the eggs lightly, then add and whisk in both the chocolate mix and the syrup mix.
  5. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry.  Place this into a 23cm wide by 3cm high, loose-bottomed flan dish, pressing the pastry to the sides and trimming it off at the top.  Turn the flan mixture out into the pastry, spreading it evenly and levelling off the surface.  Place the tart onto the hot baking tray, and cook it in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until the filling begins to set.
  6. Take the tart out of the oven and scatter the pecan nuts across the top.  Return the dish to the oven for about 10 more minutes until the nuts start to turn golden-brown.  Remove the tart again and turn the oven temperature up to 230ºC.  Generously sift icing sugar and cinnamon powder through a sieve over the surface and pop the tart back into the oven when it reaches the new temperature, caramelising the nuts for about 5 minutes.
  7. Let the tart cool for around 15-20 minutes before serving it with ginger or coffe and macadamia ice cream, or fresh whipped cream.

 

Time: 25 minutes to prepare, 40 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 8 servings

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25Jun 12

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chips

I’ve made chocolate chip muffins many times with my little niece.  It’s one of our staple favourites when she comes round as she always asks to help me make them. The last time she visited and we baked this recipe together, I have a feeling that more chocolate chips went straight into her tummy than into the muffins themselves. 

Chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter than traditional baking chocolate, giving them a higher melting point, which is what helps them to keep their shape during cooking.  We are all very familiar with the good old American-English muffin, which has become so very popular these days, and can be found in all sorts of sizes and varieties.  But the palm-sized chocolate chip muffin must also be high on the list of all-time favourites. (Also try these choconana muffin nests, perfect for Easter!)

Ingredients:

  • 90g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g butter
  • 75ml milk
  • 50g dark chocolate chips, or good dark chocolate, broken into pieces.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and grease a 6 muffin mould baking tray with a sliver of butter.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together over a large mixing bowl and stir.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together until light and creamy.  Add the milk, and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Gradually beat the butter and sugar mixture into the flour mixture, and when evenly combined, stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Bake the muffins in the oven for around 20-25 mins.  Remove the tray from the oven and cool the muffins on a wire rack before enjoying them with a fresh cup of tea and the company of children.

Note:    Normally, muffins are eaten once cooled, but have you thought of trying them warm, drizzled with chocolate sauce and with a dollop of ice cream for a wickedly rich pudding?  Or try eating them straight from the oven with chocolate custard.

Time: 15 mins to prepare, 25 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 6 large muffins

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22Jun 12

Chocolate Custard

Chocolate CustardI love making home-made custard, and chocolate custard is probably my favourite.  The real thing is so different from shop-bought (though that definitely has its place too, of course), but there’s something a bit special about the texture and the taste of custard when you make it at home.  It can’t be beat!

And it doesn’t take much longer to prepare and cook either.  Although eating it plain is tasty, you can also enjoy chocolate custard cold with tinned or poached fruit, warm with ice cream, or drizzled over all sorts of pastries, puddings and desserts like this spicy pumpkin cake.  This is also a great recipe to make with young children who will love watching the chocolate melt in the custard and stirring it all together with a big spoon.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 600ml milk
  • 4 tsp cornflour
  • 150g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 8 tbsp double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a mixing bowl, make the custard paste by first whisking the eggs, then beating them together with the cornflour, sugar and a splash of the milk.
  2. Heat the rest of the milk in a large saucepan, taking it just up to the boil.  Add the hot milk into the custard paste and whisk the ingredients together really well before pouring the mixture back into the saucepan and returning to the hob.  Cook the custard over a low heat now, stirring almost continuously as it thickens.  When the mixture gives a thin coat that sticks to the back of a wooden spoon, it has thickened sufficiently.  It’s important not to heat the custard too aggressively during thickening as you will cause the mixture to curdle.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate pieces.  Let them sit until they have melted, add the cream, and then stir everything together really well.

Time: 10 mins to prepare, 6-8 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats:  8 servings

Note:    Try adding 2-4 tablespoons of mint, coffee or hazelnut liqueur at the end for an interesting and adult variation, poured over an artisan ice cream.

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19Jun 12

Pear and Chocolate Tart

Chocolate and Pear TortI sometimes make this pear and chocolate tart on a Sunday as a All Postsgreat pudding to follow a roast ham or pork meal.  Pear, chocolate and almond flavours play really well together, and serving this dessert warm with ice cream simply adds to the pleasure.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, soft, ripe pears
  • 155g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 tbsp almond liqueur
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 340g puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten, for the glaze
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • Cream or ice cream to serve

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Lightly grease a baking tray and sprinkle it over with a little water.
  2. Melt the chocolate gently in a saucepan over a low heat, add the almond liqueur and stir together until smooth.
  3. Cut the pears into quarters, remove the cores, and then cut into thin slices.  Put the pears into a bowl and cover them with cold water, adding the lemon juice to the water to stop the pears from going brown.
  4. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the puff pastry out into a standard pie dish.  Place the pastry into the prepared dish and create circular edges around the pastry with a sharp knife.
  5. Spoon the melted chocolate onto the surface of the pastry and spread it evenly on top.  Drain the pear slices really well, patting the surface very lightly with kitchen paper before laying them out over the chocolate, keeping the pear from touching the sides of the pie tin. Make little indent marks with the back of a sharp knife all around the top of the pastry edge for decoration before brushing the edges with the beaten egg to create the glaze.  Pop the tart in the oven and cook for around 20-25 minutes until the pastry has risen and goes golden brown.
  6. Take the tart out of the oven and turn the temperature up to 230ºC.  Sift a plentiful dusting of icing sugar over the pears and pop the tart back in the oven to brown for 5 minutes.  Keep a close eye at this point so as not to burn it.  Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving with cream or ice cream.

Time:   25 minutes to prepare, around 30 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 6 servings

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15Jun 12

Almond and Apricot Chocolate Brownies

Almond and Apricot Chocolate BrowniesChocolate Brownies of any description are pretty heavenly.  Rich, moist and gooey!  Eaten warm with ice-cream is always my favourite way to devour them!  Brownies are often made with walnuts, but I want to give you a slightly different idea. 

Almond and apricot chocolate brownies have all the gooey richness of a classic brownie, but they offer a different kind of sweetness and crunch.  You can try experimenting with other fruit and nuts too.  Any variation is good fun to make, and lip-smackingly tasty!  Just be sure not to overcook your brownies, or they will be disappointingly dry.

Also, try this Go Free Chocolate Brownie recipe, which is gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free. Perfect for large groups with special dietary needs.

Ingredients:

  • 300g good dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 200g good milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 220g unsalted butter, left to soften
  • 220g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 100g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 75g breakfast apricots, drained, excess juice squeezed out, and roughly torn

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.  Grease and then line a shallow baking tray with grease-proof paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate slowly together with the butter in a large saucepan, stirring well.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar until creamy and light, then stir in the melted dark chocolate.  Once well mixed, add the flour, the almond and apricot pieces, and the roughly chopped milk chocolate.  Combine everything together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Spoon the mixture out into the lined baking tray and bake for around 40 mins until the centre of the cake feels firm to the touch but soft directly underneath the surface.  The trick with brownies is never to overcook them. You need to look out for the golden moment, and take them from the oven before they begin to go dry.
  5. If you’re not going to eat the brownies straight away, leave the brownie to cool in the tin.  Once cooled, turn it out onto a chopping board and cut it into squares.

Note: If you want to serve some of the brownie hot and fresh, you can remove the part you want from the tray as soon as it is cooked, and serve it in bowls with ice-cream. To make it fruitier, try topping with bits of strawberries and apricots. It will fall apart and be ever-so gooey!  Then you can leave the remainder of the cake to cool in the tray, to cut into servings and store.

Another idea for preparing it to eat hot, is to bake the brownie mix in smaller pots or ramekins to serve straight from the oven with cream and ice-cream.  Or you could even pop a square of brownie in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it at any time.  So many ways to eat a brownie!  Yum!

Time: 20 mins preparation, 45 mins baking

Cocoa Treats: 18 squares

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13Jun 12

Almond and Chocolate Orange Biscotti

Almond and Chocolate Orange BiscottiAlmond and Chocolate Orange Biscotti – Italian style biscuits that are wonderful accompanied by a rich roast cappuccino. It’s the perfect complement to round off your Italian meal. (Try this pancetta and pea gemelli recipe.)

Ingredients:

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g light muscavado sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 55g polenta, or ground semolina
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur (or swap for 1 tsp vanilla essence)
  • 1 egg
  • 110g almonds
  • A little icing sugar to dust

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC, and grease a baking tray with a little butter.
  2. Put the almonds in a plastic sandwich bag, or wrap them loosely in clingfilm, and place them on a wooden board.  Using a rolling pin, bash them gently to break them into rough pieces.
  3. Melt the chocolate and the butter slowly in a saucepan, stirring them together.
  4. Take a large mixing bowl and sift in the flour and baking powder.  Mix in the sugar, polenta, egg, orange zest, orange liqueur, and finally the almonds.  Work in the butter and chocolate mixture and form a biscuit dough.  The dough should be a good consistency, but if it is a little moist, sift over an extra little bit of flour; and if it is a little dry, add another splash of orange liqueur, or a tiny bit of water.
  5. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and divide the dough into 2 halves.  Create a log shape out of each half, about 25cm long.  Lay out each sausage of dough on the baking tray, flattening them with your palms to about 1.2cm high.  Bake for 25 mins in the oven, or until the dough rises and feels firm to the touch.
  6. Set the partly baked biscotti to one side to cool.  On a wooden board, slice each log diagonally into 10 biscuits (about 1.5cm thick) and place them back onto the tray, leaving a little space between each one.  Return the tray to the oven for about 10 more mins, crisping up the biscotti.  Remove them and once cool, dust over with the icing sugar.

Time: 20 mins preparation time, 35-40 mins cooking time

Cocoa Treats: 20

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09Jun 12

Pure Pleasure Chocolate Cake

Pure pleasure chocolate cakeYou may have noticed by now that I’m not much of an advocate of cooking chocolate used specifically for baking. I see it like this; the better the chocolate, the greater the eating pleasure.  Simple really.  And there’s certainly no exception to that rule when it comes to this incredibly moist and rich pure pleasure chocolate cake. (Also try this chocolate beetroot cake.)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 55g light muscovado sugar
  • 80g ground almonds

For the creamy chocolate covering and filling:

  • 155g good dark chocolate, chopped into fairly small pieces
  • 155g double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.  Grease and line a circular tin as I did.
  2. Gently melt the chocolate with the butter.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the eggs and the sugar together until they begin to firm.
  4. Sift the flour into the mixture; add the ground almonds and the buttery chocolate mixture and stir everything together until completely combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin and pop it in the oven for around 35 minutes, or until the mixture is just firm.  Timing is everything here so keep an eye on the cake and when ready, remove it from the oven and delicately transfer it onto a cooling rack.

For the creamy chocolate filling and covering:

  1. Whilst the cake is baking, you can make the chocolate cream covering and filling.  Take a saucepan and pour in the cream, bringing it up on the heat until it is just about to boil.  Take the cream off the heat and add in the chocolate.  Leave the chocolate sitting in the cream until it melts and then stir it all together into a smooth mixture.  Pour it into a cold bowl and leave it to cool and thicken.

Putting it all together:

  1. Once the cake has cooled, slice the top off if it has risen in the centre and then cut it in half horizontally.  Sandwich the creamy chocolate inside the two halves of the cake – use about one third of the chocolate cream for this.  Finish the cake by spreading the rest of the chocolate cream over the top and the sides.  Slice it and serve with a refreshing cup of tea.

Time: 20 minutes to prepare, plus cooling time, 45 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 12-14 slices

Note: The picture is of my cake is the pre-icing stage so you can see how chocolaty the cake is!

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06Jun 12

Choc Chip Flapjacks

Choc Chip FlapjacksFlapjacks are such a classic old favourite.  They are also a great way to get the benefits of oats into children who can’t bring themselves to enjoy porridge. (If they do like it, try this wholesome oats recipe.)  And let’s face it; we never really grow out of the comfort of a home-baked flapjack, even when we’re all grown-up.

Oats are a good source of some B vitamins, and also contain iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc, amongst other nutrients.  The humble oat is packed with soluble fibre which is thought to help reduce high blood cholesterol levels.  They also have a low GI (glycaemic index) so they are absorbed slowly into the blood stream, which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. As you can see, oats offer some good health benefits for all age groups.

We have to admit here; however, that once those little oats are coated and doused in golden syrup, butter and sugar, that yes, they are rather full of calories.  But as afternoon snacks go, you can be sure you’re getting some good energy and nutrition into your body too.  And well, I couldn’t give you a flapjack recipe without including chocolate could I?  So here’s how to make some very yummy choc chip flapjacks.

Ingredients:

  • 400g porridge oats
  • 230g unsalted butter or margarine
  • 230g light muscovado sugar
  • 300g good quality milk chocolate bar chopped into small pieces, or milk chocolate chips
  • 180g golden syrup

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and the golden syrup, mixing well as the ingredients melt, and then leave the mixture to cool completely.
  2. Grease a baking tray with a little butter and preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the porridge oats and the chocolate together. Gradually fold in the syrupy mixture and stir well until all of the ingredients are very well combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the baking tray and level off the surface with a wooden spoon.
  5. Bake the giant flapjack in the oven for about 20-25 mins until the edges of the mix begin to turn a golden brown.  Remove and leave to cool in the tray.  Once cooled, transfer the large biscuit onto a chopping board and cut into small bars.  They are delicious served freshly baked, but you can also store them in an airtight container.

Time: 20 mins to prepare, plus cooling time.  20-30 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 20-24 pieces

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03Jun 12

Choc Chip Ice Cream

Choc Chip Ice CreamThis is a traditional home-made choc chip ice cream recipe.  No ice cream machines or churners necessary, just the time and the patience to do it all yourself.

Once made, you could also convert it into a choc chip milkshake, using similar steps as with this white chocolate milkshake.

 

Ingredients:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 300ml milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 190g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces or chocolate chips
  • 110g good milk chocolate, broken into pieces or chocolate chips
  • 300ml double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Begin by making a custard.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the cornflour, the sugar and a good splash of milk.  Heat the remaining milk on the hob in a saucepan, bringing it up to the boil.  Pour the hot milk from the saucepan into the mixing bowl, combining it with the egg and sugar mixture, then transfer everything back into the saucepan and return it to the heat.  Cook the mixture gently, stirring continuously until the custard thickens and leaves a thin coat on the back of a metal or wooden spoon.  It is important to keep the heat gentle or you may curdle the ingredients.
  2. Take the pan off the heat, add the dark chocolate, letting it sit within the mixture until it has melted, before stirring it in evenly.  Cut a circle of greaseproof paper and lay it over the top of the chocolate custard to stop it from forming a skin, and then leave it aside to cool.
  3. Once the chocolate custard is cold, pour the cream into it and whisk together.  Put the chocolate and cream mixture into a freezer-proof container with a lid and freeze it for 2-3 hours, or long enough for it to freeze around the edges.
  4. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl, and using a fork and a mashing action, break down the ice and stir the mixture around.  Put it back in the container and freeze again for around 2 hours, or until the edges have re-frozen.  You will need to repeat this process a couple more times during the setting period, adding in the milk chocolate pieces at the third or fourth time, but add the chocolate after you’ve finished mashing and once you are ready to stir.
  5. Once the ice cream is fully set, transfer it to the fridge about 50 minutes before you want to eat it, so that it softens slightly. 

Time: 30 minutes to prepare, 1 hour to cool, 4-8 hours freezing time

Cocoa Treats: 4-6 servings

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