Waiting for Agnes

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The Ghost of Chocolate fixes past November 3, 2010

Trying to get at the keyboard under the mound of random stuff on our desk, I unearthed two recipe books. When I got over the distracted drooling and planning for desserts of the future (coconut mousse! dondurma kaymalki!), I remembered I had dumped them here to post from. Apparently two weeks ago I must have been on some kind of quest to plough through as many 250 gram blocks of Whittaker’s 72% as I could get my hands on. And who can blame me?

Unadulterated Brownies

courtesy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, largely unphotographed due to general rushedness and distraction

200 grams of dark eating chocolate, roughly chopped

175 grams of unsalted butter

325 grams of caster sugar

130 grams of plain flour

3 eggs

icing sugar to dust

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced).

Butter and line a brownie tin (I use a square cake tin, from which I get about 16 brownies, 12 if I’m feeling greedy)

Melt the chocolate and butter gently in a bowl over just simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth.

Remove from the heat.

Add sugar and stir to combine.

Add the flour and stir to combine.

Add the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.

Spread into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes. They should be just dry on top but still soft in the middle. Less is always more for brownies.

Leave to cool, dust with icing sugar and eat.

These are a dense, fudgy delight. One is never enough. And you can eat them with…

Very Chocolate Ice Cream

courtesy of Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis’s ice ceam and iced desserts

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of cornflour

350 mls of full fat milk

350 mls of thickened cream

250 grams of dark eating chocolate

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a medium bowl.

Whisk until thick and foamy.

Prepare a bowl over a bowl of iced water. Set aside.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and bring it just to the boil.

Gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring continually until thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon.

No wonder I was making ice-cream…how gorgeous was the weather? And how idyllic the view from our stove. I love finding photos like this, a reminder of the moments of domestic contentedness that make up for all the ragged, weary, shouty times.

Take off the heat and pour into the bowl that you’ve set aside.

Break up 210 grams of the chocolate and stir this into the custard until melted.

Set aside while it cools.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks and fold into the chocolate custard mixture.

Churn in an ice-cream machine (begged, borrowed, stolen, owned, just grab one somehow) until scoopable.

Chop the remaining 40 grams of chocolate as roughly or finely as you prefer and throw into the ice cream machine at the last minute. Churn for a few minutes to combine.

Transfer to a 1.5 litre airtight container and freeze for a few hours.

This requires no further description. Just eat it.

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Moo October 11, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 10:32 am
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A month ago, I wrote about the end of the small person’s exclusive breastfeeding career and his hesitant steps into the world of solid food. Aside from his untimely introduction to Nutella, I had big, wholesome plans for small’s diet. Obviously he would only be eating organic, GM free, fair-traded, ethically sound, teensy carbon-footprint-leaving, nourishing things, which have been hand picked by free-ranging vegetarians and travelled only 1% of a food mile. And that would be just dandy, if he could live on sugar snap peas and eggs. Sadly, he won’t eat either of those, or anything else homegrown, unless you count chook poo. Mainly he likes things that come in the shape of rice grains…like rice and the little bran sticks that come in muesli. Oh, and croissants, macaroons, crispy potatoes, spicy eggplant, fruit toast, wholegrain ‘fruit’ bars, All-Bran (which, incidentally, is most decidedly not ALL bran, but anyhoo), grissini, thai spring rolls, puff pastry and this cake: 

Luscious Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cake –

180 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped

180 grams of chilled unsalted butter, chopped

6 eggs, separated

180 grams of caster sugar

Mousse –

200 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped

30 grams of unsalted butter

3 eggs, separated

300 mls of pure (not thickened) cream

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter and line a 23cm springform tin.

Begin with the cake:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over just simmering water. Stir until smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, whisk the eggwhites and a pinch of salt in a large glass (or metal) bowl until soft peaks form. Add half the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick and pale. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly.

Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the eggwhites, one third at a time.

Pour gently into your prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin – it will sink as it cools.

Carefully transfer to a plate. Don’t be deceived by it’s crisp outer shell – this cake is a tender, delicate creature. You need to pop the outer part of the tin off and then ever so gently shimmy the cake across to a plate on the baking paper. And don’t be tempted to invert it for transfer as it will fall apart in your hands and you will cry.

Now for the mousse –

Melt the chocolate and butter in a  heatproof bowl set over just simmering water (yes, I know, sounds familiar). Stir until smooth, then allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the eggwhites in a medium size glass bowl until soft peaks form.

Whip the cream into soft peaks in another bowl.

Whisk the egg yolks, one at a time, into the cooled chocolate mixture.

With a large metal spoon, gently fold the eggwhites and cream into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, scatter with grated chocolate and refrigerate for about 2 hours until set.

This is not a pretty cake. Frankly, it looks like a cow pat. But damn it tastes good and at least the eggs are free range. Jeez we’re great parents.

 

One October 6, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 11:41 am
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Seven am, small awake and break-dancing on my pillow. At least we’re not calling it six am any more. Kettle on. Small playing with noisiest toy in whole house. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. Sodding cow. Should we be teaching small that cows are blue? Nope, don’t care. Must remember to do things on list today. Ring someone. Who? Where is list? Not that list. Other list. Why is beloved pretending to be dead under the doona? Make small’s breakfast of hated porridge extra loudly. Success. Breakfast. Drop in on LMF for tea and mini-playdate. Drink tea in LMF’s yard in glorious sunshine. Small hijacks her work phone and sends random blank messages to her clients. To shops. Unsuccessful attempt at buying food or a wedding gift. Home. Wedge spoonfuls of mystery mash into small’s mouth while he tries desperately to pull my top off.  He breastfeeds like he’s not been fed for days. He sleeps. Still no sign of list. Pay a bill? Cook something? Yes! Food for a friend, another LMF, who’s just had her fourth baby. Macaroni cheese. Brownies. Soul food for the breastfeeding mama. Find letter reminding me to re-enrol in deferred university course. Will I have time to study next year? Small awake, trying to climb up me to plunge his hands into all the pots on the stove. Pouring rain. Chickens all huddled under one shrub. Overgrown chicks trying in vain to squeeze under Betty’s wings. Very entertaining. Alarm going off? Oh, brownies.

Brownies for the Breastfeeding Mama (and her children)

200 grams of dark eating chocolate

125 grams of unsalted butter

1/2 a cup of brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of almond meal

1/4 of a cup of plain flour

160 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped roughly

80 grams of flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Grease and line a square tin.

In a medium saucepan, melt the 200 grams of dark chocolate with the butter over low heat, stirring until smooth.

Take off the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.

Stir in the sugar, eggs, almond meal and flour.

Stir in the chopped chocolate and flaked almonds.

Spread into the tin and bake for 25 minutes, until just firm to touch.

Allow to cool in the tin for ten to fifteen minutes.

Turn onto a wire rack. Turn again and dust with icing sugar.

Cut into as many pieces as you like.

Wrap brownies. Think for the hundredth time how useful it would be to have a big basket to carry food in. Must put that on list. Damn. The list. Ring who? Never mind. Everyone in car. Arrive at house of new baby. Baby is breastfeeding, on the brink of blissful sleep. Her older sisters and brother bounce about. Biggest sister carries small off to play. Tea with our friend. We chat about the uni course she has just finished, the same one I am procrastinating about. Hmm. That puts things in perspective.

 

 

The high road September 26, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 9:12 am
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There are times when one’s beloved is not. There are times, in fact, when your significant other might actually be a bit of a bastard. For one of my lovely midwife friends (LMF), today is one of those days. And isn’t it so tempting, when your spouse is being a bastard, to just be a bastard right back at them? You might not want to actually speak to them, but you do want to stay close by, just to let them know – through the mediums of stomping, door-slamming and heavy sighing – that you are wronged and they are responsible. Unfortunately, like me, my long-suffering LMF is sharing her life with an irredeemably stubborn and obtuse Polack. And like me my LMF has come to know that Polacks pay no attention to the subtext of stomping, door-slamming or heavy sighing. The Polack assumes that if you have stomped into another room, you want to be in the other room alone and that maybe you’re just feeling a little heavy-footed today. No amount of exaggerated huffing or avoiding eye-contact will make the Polack realise they should be apologise for a wrongdoing. If they were wrong, which is of course pretty unlikely, they would have apologised already. Obviously.

So, my LMF did not stay home today and wear herself out with foot-stampery. She went out and bought the bastard a birthday present. Then she came here and made him a birthday cake. Because, as anyone sharing their life with a stubborn Polack knows, there’s just no point holding a grudge. They only get confused.

Bastard Husband Guilt Trip Cake*

*adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes & Slices

200 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of instant coffee

1 tablespoon of boiling water

150 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

125 grams of caster sugar plus 2 tablespoons extra

3 eggs, separated

1 cup of plain flour

Filling:

200 grams of pure cream

1/2 tablespoon of instant coffee

1/2 tablespoon of boiling water

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Icing:

140 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

140 grams of unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over hot water (set a small pan to simmer, then turn it off). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

The original recipe suggests adding a tablespoon of water to the melted sugar. Reading this, I thought ‘hmmm, that will seize the chocolate’. Then I thought ‘maybe this is a magical exception that the AWW has somehow created’. It is not an exception. Adding water to melted chocolate makes it seize. Do not do this. It’s a quick way to waste a lot of chocolate. Whenever you’re reading a recipe, listen to your instinct. They are not infallible. On the upside, redoing the chocolate part gave us the idea to add coffee and make this a mocha sacher torte.


In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Add the coffee to the mixture, beating well to combine.

Stir in the melted chocolate.

Sift in the flour and stir well to combine.

In a medium bowl (glass or metal) beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the extra caster sugar and beat well until the sugar has dissolved.

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Spread the batter into the tin. Bake for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is completely cold (this can be hastened by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes, which is helpful if all the children in the kitchen are driving you mad with their restlessness) cut it in half horizontally.

For the filling:

Sift the icing sugar into the cream.

Whisk until thickened slightly.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Whisk into the cream and continue to whisk until spreadably thick.

Spread on the bottom layer of the cake. Replace the top layer.

For the icing:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl over hot water.

Set aside to cool and thicken. This may also be hastened by putting it in the fridge, stirring regularly until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread all over the top and sides of the cake.

Take it home and give it to the undeserving bastard. With love.

 

My friend the tissue box September 3, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Moreish puddings — titchandboofer @ 10:17 am
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Entire household still in the throes of tedious, mouthbreathing cold. Shan’t bore you with details of same. On the upside, desperation to stagger to the end of the week meant lazy Friday became lazy Thursday. The house was filled with the LMFs, teetering piles of thai takeaway containers and the leftover-from-small’s-birthday sparkling grape juice (oh yes, we go hard and then we go and lie down with a good cup of tea). And what better way for the cold-stricken and weary to prematurely finish the week, than by finishing dinner with an enormous hit of chocolate? Thank you beloved, I shall whine about your kitchen invasion no more, at least not this week.

Desperation Pie

an adaptation of a Sophia Young recipe

Pie crust:

250 grams of plain flour

30 grams of icing sugar

150 grams of cold unsalted butter, finely chopped

1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Process the flour, sugar, butter and salt in your food processor until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Whisk the egg with the vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and process until just holding together.

Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap in clingwrap and regrigerate for ten minutes.

Pie filling:

150 grams of dark chocolate (72% Whittakers is perfectly acceptable), finely chopped

150 grams of caster sugar

50 grams of cocoa

250 grams of ground almonds

200 grams of cold unsalted butter, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of Amaretto (or liqueur of your choice)

4 eggs

Process the chocolate, sugar, cocoa and almond meal until finely ground.

Add the butter and Amaretto and process until combined.

Add the eggs, two at a time, processing until combined after each addition.

Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced) and pop a baking tray in there to heat up.

Butter a tart pan, ideally with a removable base. If you get to this point and discover that you have returned ‘your’ tart pan to your mother, just use a baking dish. We used a round, glass one with excellent results.

Grab your pastry from the fridge. Roll it out between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of ~4mm.

Gently line your pan/dish with the pastry, pushing it into the corners and trimming the top edge. Make fork pricks liberally over the base and sides.

Freeze for at least 30 minutes (longer won’t hurt).

Once the pie crust has been nicely chilled, and you’ve downed your pad ginger chicken and roti, remove it from the freezer.

Spoon in the refrigerated chocolate filling and smooth the surface with a spatula. You don’t have to be too fussy.

Place the pan/dish on the hot oven tray and bake for ten minutes.

Reduce the oven heat to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced) and bake for a further 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the filling is firming. A little less time equals more of a gooey, molten filling and vice versa.

Leave to sit about on the stove top for ten minutes or so, then serve up with ice-cream.

Eat, then eat some more. When you take your bowl back to the kitchen you might just want to tidy up the cut edges of the leftover pie a little. Or just have another piece.

 

White nemesis August 28, 2010

One of my lovely-midwife-friends is engaged! Well, to be absolutely accurate, two of the LMFs are engaged and I give a third one about six months before she too sprouts a sparkly rock on her ring finger. But back to the point – the LMF of this story had her engagement party last night. She and her fiance (both as cute as buttons can be) celebrated their engagement with their friends and family in a hall bedecked with twinkling fairy lights, with ivy winding about candles, with photos of the two of them looking button-cute and with tables groaning beneath plates of all sorts of food (there was middle-eastern lamb that I would have sold a relative for, not small obviously, but any of the extended family). A week ago this LMF was at small’s birthday party. We were chatting about her upcoming celebration and how all the guests were bringing food. I half-jokingly offered to make the cake, thinking ‘oh it would be lovely to be able to do it for her’ but also thinking ‘surely she would have that all wrapped up by now’. Not, as it seemed. Huzzah! Gift baking! Not just fun and indulgent but completely sanctioned by the beloved at any time.

Having spent much of the past two weeks poring over epicure: chocolate, I had ideas. Too many ideas. The LMFs engagement story is utterly romantic. It all began in the dead of the night, there was mystery, there were aeroplanes, there was even a sea-plane, there was swimming, there were fish, and of course the popping-of-the-question, all by the love of her life. A heart shaped cake seemed the right choice. But one heart seemed small and lonely. Almost as importantly, it only enabled the use of one recipe.

Two Hearts

Part One:

“Coco the burlesque wonder cake” (I could not pass up an opportunity to make a cake with such an impressive name – thank you to Ben Johnson of thelovebite.com, very very much)

175 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 of a cup of cocoa

2/3 of a cup of caster sugar

1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 a cup of golden syrup

3/4 of a cup of sour cream

2 eggs

For the cake –

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced)

Butter and line a tine (~22cm diameter)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Whizz until well combined. Pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat by 20 degrees and bake for another half an hour. It’s done when you poke the top gently and it springs back.

Cool in the tin for about ten minutes then turn onto a rack and cool completely.

Frosting:

50 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 a cup of sour cream

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

80 grams of dark eating chocolate, melted

3 cups of icing sugar, sifted

1/4 of a cup of cocoa

25 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped into little bits

Put all the ingredients except the chopped chocolate into the food processor. Whizz until well combined. Add the chopped chocolate and pulse to splinter it a little. Spread over the cooled cake. This cake is luscious – the golden syrup gives the cake and the icing a hint of caramel; there is a generous amount of icing; the chocolate splintered through the icing adds bite and a bittersweet edge. It doesn’t surprise me that this cake is rumoured to receive fan mail. I’m tempted to send a little note myself.

Part Two:

“Lisa’s white chocolate cake”. Not such an exciting title, but this LMF does like her chocolate and I was aiming for contrast.

125 mls of water

200 grams of caster sugar

80 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

100 grams of white chocolate broken into pieces

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

30 grams of cocoa powder (yes, you read correctly, cocoa – the cake is not white to look at, until it’s slathered with icing)

1 cup of frozen raspberries (my tweak)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Butter and line your tin.

Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Take off the heat.

Add the butter and white chocolate. Stir until melted. Cool slightly.

Whisk in the eggs. Sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until well combined.

Pour into your prepared tin (it will be pourable) and tap the tin to settle any bubbles. Drop in your raspberries at the last minute (they will sink, but will still be tasty).

Bake for about half an hour. When done an inserted skewer will come out clean.

Cool in the tin.

For the icing:

Up until this point everything was very smooth sailing. Perfect. Tasty cakes. Excellent first batch of icing for cake number one. Layout ideas coming along nicely. Found a tray that meant I wouldn’t have to venture out to buy a cake board. Then I started on the white chocolate ganache. I haven’t baked with white chocolate for a long time and now I remember why. It is an abomination. It does not behave like chocolate. It doesn’t cooperate.

1 cup of thickened cream

200 grams of white chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of unsalted butter

~1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, sifted (yes I know, not traditionally a ganache component, all will be explained)

Heat the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate, mixing until it is melted. Add the butter and mix to combine. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.

Right. Well the first time I tried to be clever – I tried to treat the ganache like the version from the Nutella cake, whisking to cool and thicken it into a mousse-like consistency. So it split. Tasty, but kind of nasty to look at.

Nevermind, thinks I, I have enough things for a second batch. Gently I repeat the melting and stirring process, then leave it alone. It cools. It does not thicken. I put it in the fridge. It does not thicken. I put it in the freezer. It does not thicken. Time is running out. We should have left for lovely party an hour ago.

In desperation, I put a bit on the cake, hoping it will set in the manner of ice-magic touching ice-cream. No.

In further desperation, I start whisking icing sugar into it. Ah ha!! Success! Lovely texture, not quite tooth-achingly sweet, very white.

I put this on the cake. The previous, runny stuff slooshes off from beneath the new icing and onto the tray. I mop it up with half a roll of paper towel while the beloved, small and another LMF watch with a kind of amused horror. Frantic smoodging of icing continues. Cake ends up well covered, if not as perfectly pretty as I would have liked. In the meantime I have melted some extra dark chocolate and piped a message out onto some baking paper. Miraculously it has set and can even be extricated from the paper and transferred to the cake without stuffing it up irreparably. With zero time to spare, cake is complete.

Sadly I cannot show you a photo of the finished cakes in all their glory. For one thing, the hurried photo I took before we sprinted out the door was pretty appalling. More importantly, the anonymity of my LMF and her own beloved would be compromised. Best just to look at the second last photo and use your imagination. My last pieces of advice: if you want white chocolate just buy a block of Cadbury Dream. Then eat it. If you want glorious cake and mouthwatering ganache, use 70%+ dark eating chocolate, the tastiest you can afford.

 

Molten August 25, 2010

The beloved has been baking. She does this very occasionally. On a lazy Friday perhaps, or if she’s on holiday. It always makes me nervous, mainly for ludicrous reasons…what if she loses my best tiny spatula, or uses a bad, unvetted recipe, or breaks all the wooden spoons (which could actually happen – she has engineered some unfortunate blender vs. wooden spoon incidents. Oh god, what about the blender?) or blows up the oven? I know I’m not the only one afflicted with ERK (Extreme and Ridiculous Kitchen-possessiveness). You’re out there. You know who you are. We should form a support group.

Fortunately she usually makes the same thing, a pudding which could make anyone overcome just about any affliction, except diabetes. Pure heaven in a ramekin.

Once upon a time I worked in an office. Those of you familiar with working in an office will understand this phenomenon: if a colleague on maternity leave visits with their baby everybody stops work until the baby has exited the building. Apply this to our chickens*. Enough said.

Beloved Pudding

adapted from Annie Bell’s gorgeous desserts

300 grams of dark eating chocolate, broken into pieces

75 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

75 grams of brown sugar

5 eggs (*see above)

40 grams of plain flour, sifted

1 tablespoon of Amaretto (or the liqueur of your choice)

Ice cream, cream or creme fraiche to serve

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Butter six ramekins (roughly half-cup size).

Melt your chocolate gently. Either do this in a bowl over a pan of just simmering water, or in the microwave on 60% power. Set aside.

Put your butter, sugar, eggs and flour in the bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth. Add the chocolate and process again. Add your generous tablespoonful of delicious Amaretto and give it all one last spin.

Divide equally between the ramekins.

Sit the ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 8-9 minutes, until just rising. There should be a layer of cooked cake on the outer and molten chocolate on the inside.

Serve immediately. If you want to make these ahead, you can get to the ‘divide into ramekins’ bit and then cover each ramekin and put them in the fridge. When you bake them from the fridge add about 3 minutes cooking time.

This is an exceptionally versatile pudding: make it to impress when you have people for dinner (individual puddings are so elegant), make it to heal an ailing beloved of your own who is lolling on the couch moaning about their headache, or make it in thanks for lovely gestures (say, for the person who builds your son a sandpit for his birthday)