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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Recipes with dark chocolate

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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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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31May 12

Chocolate Triangle Cake

Chocolate Triangle CakeThe Mayans were amazing and sophisticated people. They learnt how to cultivate cocoa trees, and they developed ways of fermenting and roasting the beans so that they could be consumed. At the same time the Roman Empire was peaking, the Mayans were building their huge pyramids.

 

So here’s a recipe inspired by those incredible Mayan Pyramids.  To create the unique shape of this chocolate triangle cake, the mixture is poured and set into a tilted cake tin.  I have used almonds and raisins in this recipe but you can substitute any dried fruit or nuts you like; for example hazelnuts, mixed nuts, dried apricots, de-stoned prunes, dates, or glacé cherries to name a few.

Ingredients:

  • 300g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100-150g good dark chocolate
  • 170g digestive biscuits, broken into roughly shaped pieces
  • 125g raisins
  • 100ml evaporated milk
  • 100g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 100g white chocolate

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Take an 18cm square cake tin and line the base and 3 upright sides with clingfilm, leaving one side without film.
  2. Pour the evaporated milk into a heavy-bottom pan, add the milk chocolate and on a low heat, gradually melt and stir the mixture together.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool, but not to set.
  3. Stir in the nuts, raisins, and biscuit pieces.
  4. Place the cake tin at a 45 degree angle by propping it up on one side with a box.  It should sit with the unlined side of the tin being the side that is propped up, and therefore raised above the level of work surface. Transfer the cake mixture to the propped up tin, smooth the top surface and leave until it is firm.  At this stage you can put the tin into the fridge to set the cake completely.
  5. Once thoroughly set, remove the cake from the fridge, turn out of the tin and peel off the clingfilm.  If any bits of biscuit sit above the level of the chocolate mixture, you can slice these off so that the cake will sit flat on a serving plate.
  6. Melt the dark chocolate and spread it in a very thin layer over the top sides of the pyramid.
  7. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle in a decorative pattern for presentation.

Time:  20 minutes to prepare plus cooling and setting

Cocoa Treats: 10 servings

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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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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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