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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Less than 30 minutes

15Jul 12

Little Chocolate Macaroons

Little Chocolate MacaroonsMelty and crispy… what a combination!

These little chocolate macaroons get baked in our house every so often.  Sometimes we devour the lot in one go, and sometimes I manage to save some in an airtight container to share with friends on coffee mornings – which is usually the motive for making them in the first place.  They are a perfect coffee compliment, and they contain a chocolate-coated coffee bean in the centre.

These chocolate macaroons are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.  Your friends will be delighted to share them with you.  If you can’t find the coated coffee beans, use a whole blanched almond as a substitute.

For an evening variation for the grown-ups, serve a couple of macaroons in a pretty bowl, drizzled over with almond liqueur or the Italian liqueur Disaronno; or spoon a little liqueur cream onto the side.  Here’s another idea; simply serve with a liqueur coffee after a special meal. (Another fantastic cookie to go with coffee is this Italian biscotti di prato.)

Ingredients:

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate, grated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 130g ground almonds
  • Small bag of chocolate-coated coffee beans

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a baking tray with grease-proof baking paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites in a bowl until they are stiff, and then gradually whisk in the sugar.  You are aiming for a thick and glossy consistency.  Work in the ground almonds nice and gently, along with the grated chocolate.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag, and using a large, plain nozzle, pipe the mix onto the prepared baking tray in small circles of 4 cm diameter.  If you don’t have piping equipment, you can use a teaspoon to create the macaroon shapes.
  4. Insert 1 chocolate-coated coffee bean into the middle of each macaroon, just below the surface.  Place the tray into the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, when the biscuits should be just firm and slightly risen.  Let the macaroons cool down on the baking paper before tucking in.

Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 24

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13Jul 12

Lime and Chocolate Creams

Lime and Chocolate Creams
A refreshing pud for the early summer. Lime and chocolate creams are best served really well chilled from the fridge, and this dessert takes less than 10 minutes to prepare! Make the little pots of yumsciousness a little in advance, and then whip them out for a sophisticated, yet devilishly simple, round off to an evening of entertaining. You’ll make use of both the juice and the zest of the limes to create a lovely citrus burst.

We sometimes make lime and chocolate creams just for the two of us on a sunny afternoon; we make two big glasses and leave them to chill – this is pretty decadent I know. Then in the evening we take one out onto the terrace with a couple of spoons as the sun sets and share it together with a super chilled glass of cava. If we catch the neighbours in the garden, we’ll invite them round too, grab a couple of extra spoons and give them the glass that we were saving for tomorrow. That really is the life. If we’re feeling extra indulgent that evening, we may even shake up a caipirinha cocktail to keep the lime theme and the socialising going a bit further into the night.

Lime and Chocolate Creams
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A refreshing pud for the early summer. Lime and chocolate creams are best served really well chilled from the fridge, and this dessert takes less than 10 minutes to prepare!
Ingredients
  • 100g good quality milk or dark chocolate
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • The juice and fine zest of 2 limes
  • 300ml double cream
  • A little soft brown sugar to crumble over the top
Instructions
  1. First we need to create a lime syrup. Squeeze the lime juice into a small pan and grate in the lime zest. Add the water and the sugar and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir everything together well and remove from the heat, allowing the mixture to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the double cream into a mixing bowl and pour the cooled lime syrup over the top. Whisk the mixture together until firm and beginning to peak.
  3. Grate the chocolate on a course grater (not fine). Put a little of the chocolate to one side to save for the topping and mix the rest into the lime cream.
  4. Divide the chocolate lime cream into individual glasses and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. This dessert is nice really cold.
  5. When ready to serve, remove the glasses from the fridge and sprinkle over with the grated chocolate you reserved and a little soft brown sugar.
Notes
Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or an hour if you can wait that long.

 

 

 

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05Jul 12

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Millionaire's ShortbreadMillionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a shortbread base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping! I like to use more milk chocolate than dark chocolate on mine, but you can play with the proportions as you wish. Traditionally it is made completely with dark chocolate instead of using a combination.

This is a snack that we used to make at home sometimes after school with Mum. I loved rubbing the butter and flour together through my fingers, enjoying the sensation of getting my hands covered in the dough, and gradually breaking it down into finer crumbs as the butter separated and became covered in the flour – something very satisfying about that. Then there’s the fun of making the caramel and dipping a sneaky finger in to ‘check that it’s ok’! (If you love caramel flavours, then you will adore this caramel cake with butter cream icing.)

The chocolate part, well what can I say – it has to be the crowning glory doesn’t it? I used to loved eating my way through the 3 layers. Sometimes biting through the whole cake, and sometimes eating it layer by layer.

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Millionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a biscuit base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping.
Ingredients
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 397g condensed milk (1 can)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease an 18cm square cake tin – loose based or spring-form if you have one.
  2. Make the shortbread: Rub 50g of the butter and the flour together through your fingertips to create a fine breadcrumb texture. Add 25g caster sugar and combine the ingredients into dough. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin, pressing it into a flat layer. Bake in the oven for around 20 mins until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. Make the caramel next: Melt the remaining butter together with the condensed milk and the remaining sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring everything together. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture up to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently for around 5 mins. The mixture will thicken and turn lightly golden. Pour over the shortbread and let stand for 2-3hrs to set.
  4. To make the chocolate topping: Melt the chocolate gently in a saucepan and pour it over the set caramel. Leave it to set before cutting the cake into squares.
Notes
3-4 hrs to set

 

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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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21May 12

Chocolate Crepes with Hazelnut Liqueur

Chocolate CrepesChocolate Crepes are fun and easy to make with children or for the big kid in you!  You can experiment with different fruit fillings too – try raspberries or strawberries! Crepes Suzette is another fruit option for the orange lovers out there.

Ingredients:

For the crepe batter:

  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur

For the chocolate sauce:

  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Make the crepe batter first.  Melt the butter and leave to one side to cool slightly.  Then mix the milk, butter, egg yolk, vanilla essence and hazelnut liqueur together in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the icing sugar, whisking it in until very well mixed.  Gradually add the flour, whisking it together until the crepe mixture is completely smooth. Put the batter to one side.
  2. Next make the chocolate sauce.  Take a saucepan, and add the butter to it, melting it nice and slowly over a low heat.  Stir in the milk and the hazelnut liqueur.  Add the cocoa powder and the icing sugar, combining all the ingredients thoroughly.  Turn the heat down very low to keep the mixture warm as you cook the crepes.
  3. So now it’s time to cook the crepes.  Grease the surface of a non-stick frying pan (or a crepe pan if you have one) with a little butter and place on a medium heat.  Pour in about 60ml of the crepe batter, swirl it into a thin disk and leave on the heat for around 2 mins before flipping it and cooking for a minute on the other side.  Have fun with the flipping too – call the family in to watch this bit!
  4. And to put it all together!  Pop the crepe on a plate and spoon over with the chocolate sauce.  Fold or roll the crepe as you like it, drizzle a little more chocolate sauce over the top, and sprinkle over with a little icing sugar.  Repeat the process until all 4 crepes are cooked, filled and decorated.

Note: These crepes are delicious with slices of chopped banana added too.

Time: 25 mins to prepare, 10 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 4

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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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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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