Tag Archives: chocolate

The Great Wedding Bake Off

May the 4th was my cousin Jo’s wedding. The whole family descended on Henley, even the sun graced us with it’s presence. You can see from her blog that Jo is very crafty so we had predicted that she would have made some of the decorations for the day, but we were totally overwhelmed by how much trouble she went to! Handmade confetti, hand printed table runners, personalised table settings and bright, colourful flower arrangements & bouquets made the day so unique.

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After the simple ceremony, and the fantastic hog roast was another quirky addition to the day, instead of dessert Jo organised The Great Wedding Bake Off. Everyone was invited to bake something and that meant that there were lots of different puddings for everyone to try, which wasn’t exactly a hardship.

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the ideas I had for what to bake, and everyone seemed to be on the same track as me… the dobos torte. Now I could have done a gorgeous rectangular dobos torte like Deb on Smitten Kitchen, but I like to make life complicated for myself. The notes with the recipe mentioned that you can ‘paint’ the batter into a shape drawn on a baking sheet so I decided that for the wedding I would make the cake in the shape of the bride & groom’s initials. See, always complicating things.

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I baked a practice version for the Band of Bakers party in the shape of ‘BoB’. I was really pleased with it until I saw it next to all the other bakes and realised that I really am hopeless at icing & decorating. It looked awful! Oh well, that’s what a practice run is for and all the feedback said it was delicious which is the main thing.

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So on the Thursday I drew out my ‘NJ’ cake shape on 7 sheets of baking paper mixed up the cake batter and baked them all. I had extra batter left over as the area the ‘NJ’ covers wasn’t very large, so I baked an extra couple of layers. I then froze them until the Friday to make sure they stayed fresh. Then on the Friday I made up the icing, sandwiching the layers together and encasing it in chocolate. To make sure it looked rather better than my Band of Bakers version I bust out a piping bag to stud the outline of the initials and I think it looked beautiful.

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Transporting the cake back to my mother’s house and then on to the wedding was a challenge. We didn’t have anything big enough in the kitchen to cover it, so ended up improvising with a storage box, some cling film and a lot of electrical tape. It was precarious but at least the cake made it there in one piece.

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There were so many great cakes, but as the only obscenely chocolatey one mine proved very popular and at the end of the evening I won a ‘highly commended’ rosette for my trouble. The winner of the bake off was the mother of the groom for making Jo & Neil’s beautiful wedding cake, and you can’t compete with that.

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My thoughts on the dobos torte: well it was rich, creamy and super chocolatey. Yes, the way I made it was labour intensive but if you follow Deb’s instructions for a rectangular cake then it’s no where near as much hassle. Without a doubt I will make this cake again, it might even become my signature birthday cake.  If you want it to become yours, you can get the Smitten Kitchen Dobos Torte recipe here.

And that just leaves me to say a huge congratulations to Jo & Neil and thank you for inviting us to join you to celebrate your wedding. May the fourth be with you!

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Wedding Cake Ideas

May 4th is my cousin’s wedding day. It’s been in the diary for ages and is suddenly on the horizon. Luckily I’ve almost finished making my dress, so my next challenge is the cake. No, I don’t have to make the actual wedding cake, thank god! The pressure of making someone a wedding cake or dress would kill me. I will never do it.

Instead, inspired by the popular BBC TV show with a very similar name, Jo is hosting The Great Wedding Bake Off. The invite requests that everyone who wants to enter brings a baked pudding or cake, then everyone can try them and vote for their favourite. It’s an awesome idea and one that suggests we shouldn’t be expecting too traditional a wedding day next week!

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I’ve been through pretty much all of my baking books, I’ve trawled my Pinterest boards, various blogs I follow and Googled every type of ‘celebration cake’ I could think of and here is my short list. I’m off to Band of Bakers 1st birthday party next Thursday and the theme is celebration cake, so I will get a chance to practice it before the wedding competition on the Saturday!

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Top row (l-r):
1. Dobos Torte from Smitten Kitchen or Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
2. Torta Alla Gianduia from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
3. French Fraisier Cake from Food Lover’s Odyssey.

Middle row (l-r):
4. Butterscotch Nut Gateau from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
5. Swedish Prinsesstårta Cake from Donal Skehan or Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking.
6. Bitter Chocolate Orange Cake from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth.

Bottom row (l-r):
7. Pistachio Angel Cake from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
8. Gateau Moka aux Amandes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
9. Baumtorte/Baumkuchen German Tree Cake from Global Table Adventure.

Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

The flavour combination I am completely obsessed with is back, this time in hot cross bun form. Sourdough hot cross buns obviously. These are not your traditional hot cross buns, in fact if you like a traditional spicy, fruity hot cross bun then these are not for you! These hot cross buns are for those of us who like the idea of a hot cross bun, but then take an hour to eat it because we have to pick out all of the dried fruit as we go. I used to be that person, then I made spiced stout hot cross buns and my mind was changed. If you like a traditional hot cross bun, those are the buns for you.

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Instead these hot cross buns harness the richness of Guinness to flavour a soft, dense dough containing lots and lots of dark chocolate chips that melt when toasted and mingle with the melting butter that you will smear across it to create the most decadent breakfast I’ve had in a while. But I’m in training, so I’ve been living off porridge for longer than I dare to remember. I can’t wait to get back into proper Sunday morning breakfasts.

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You could of course use any kind of stout and another type of chocolate, but Guinness and dark chocolate are particularly strong together. In total these took me a day and a half to make, but you can follow the timings for the spiced stout sourdough hot cross buns if you want to make them in a day (plus overnight leaven creation). I know we’re only really supposed to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, but as these aren’t traditional hot cross buns I think I’ll be untraditional and carry on eating them for a few more weeks!

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Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes about 16 buns.
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe.

Ingredients

325ml Guinness (or another brand of stout if you must)
100g sourdough starter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
800g strong white flour + a couple of tablespoons extra for the crosses
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
50g caster sugar + 1 tablespoon extra for the glaze
1 large egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate, chopped into chips

In the morning, whisk together the Guinness & the sourdough starter in a large bowl and stir in the spices and 250g of the strong white flour. Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for at least 6 hours.

That afternoon, mix the remaining 550g of strong white flour with the salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the Guinness batter, egg and melted butter until you have a shaggy mess of a dough. Note added: If the batter is struggling to absorb all the flour, then add a little extra Guinness, a tablespoon at a time until it’s all mixed in. Leave for 10 minutes, I took this time to chop up my chocolate as I’m never very good at preparing things like that before I start. Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and stretch & kneed the dough until the chocolate chips are fully incorporated, cover with clingfilm or a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rest.

After 30 minutes, stretch or kneed the dough for 10 seconds or so, then cover and leave to rest again. After a second 30 minutes take the dough out of the bowl, stretch it out to a rectangle then fold the right third to the centre and then the same with the left third, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (check out this video for a visual aid, but don’t panic when your dough takes a lot more effort to stretch). Return it to the bowl for another rest. 60 minutes later, repeat the folding technique and return to the bowl for a final 2 hour rest.

By now we’re well into the evening, perhaps even nearing bedtime, so line a baking tray with baking paper and clear a shelf in your fridge. Divide the dough up into 100g lumps, roll them into balls and place them on the baking tray. They should be touching, but only just. Cover with clingfilm (lightly greased with a little vegetable oil to avoid sticking) or your damp tea towel and place in the fridge overnight.

When you bake them the next day is up to you. I intended to get up and bake them first thing, but in the end I didn’t have time until the afternoon. The buns will be fine in the fridge for most of the day unless you have a particularly vigorous starter. Take them out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before you plan on baking them and preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.

Mix a little flour & water into a paste. Initially add a tablespoon of each then add flour/water a teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. Spoon this into a piping bag & pipe long lines across the rows of buns to create crosses. Go slowly to ensure the batter follows the undulations of the buns & creates even crosses. Put the buns into the preheated oven & place an oven dish with a cup of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for 25 minutes.

Take the buns out of the oven and dance round the kitchen to celebrate how great they look. Then, while they are still warm, mix a tablespoon of boiling water and a tablespoon of caster sugar together to form a syrup. Brush this over the buns, making sure you get in all the dips and cracks and between any lumps and bumps from the chocolate chips. It’s worth the effort.

Slide the baking paper with the buns still attached onto a wire rack to cool. The sooner you take them off the paper the better, but you need to let them cool down enough to handle as you’ll probably need to break them into individual buns to do so.

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To enjoy: Choose the biggest bun, cut it in half, lightly toast it and smear it with a large quantity of butter. Follow with the tea/coffee of your choice.

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Time for round two…

Sourdough Surprises : Sourdough Chocolate & Guinness Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze

It’s time for another challenge from Sourdough Surprises – a group for bakers who want to experiment with making more than just bread with their sourdough starter. March’s challenge was cake – a challenge I’m always happy to take on.

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Checking out the Sourdough Surprises Pinterest Board I immediately repinned this recipe for a sourdough chocolate cake from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I was given a bundt tin for Christmas, so this seemed as good a time as any for it’s first outing. I also did a little research on the Herman The German Friendship Cake that is doing the rounds at the moment. It’s essentially a sourdough starter maintained specifically for cake, which you’re supposed to keep splitting and passing on to friends. However the recipes didn’t seem to use the sourdough to enhance the flavour or volume as there was no resting time for it to develop, it was just added for the sake of it. It got me wondering if all those people with Herman’s living in their cupboard realise his full potential…

In the end two things heavily influenced the way I adapted the sourdough chocolate cake. #1 – I had been making a lot of stout hot cross buns, and had an open can of Guinness on the kitchen side and #2 – this recipe for Guinness brownies with a whiskey glaze cropped up in my Google Reeder (more on my heartache at the demise of Google Reader on my social media blog). I am obsessed with Guinness & chocolate cakes, I’ve made several variations in the past, one of which won me a prize at a cake competition! So it was decided, I would make a Chocolate & Guinness Bundt Cake with a Whiskey Caramel Glaze.

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I refreshed my rye starter with water and white bread flour and left it for 6 hours before mixing up the cake – next time I think I’ll use Guinness at this stage as well to deepen the flavour. Then I mixed a cup of this starter with Guinness & flour and left it for 2.5 hours to ferment, you can see the before and after above. After that it was just a case of putting all the ingredients into the stand mixer to create the most bizarre consistency cake mix I have ever seen. It clearly couldn’t decide if it was dough or batter. At one point it looked a lot like blancmange, but it turns out that is no bad thing. The resulting cake was dense and moist, the Guinness isn’t so much a seperate flavour as a boost to the rich chocolate flavour.

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The next day I went to make the whiskey caramel glaze, but wasn’t entirely happy with the recipe. I googled a few other caramel sauce recipes and came up with my own version. As you can see from the photos, it was still a bit runny! If you prefer your glaze thicker then keep adding icing sugar, a little at a time, until you get to a consistency you’re happy with. The glaze was to die for. I couldn’t stop eating it. I’m not ashamed to say I even spread it on toast.

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Sourdough Chocolate & Guinness Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze

Makes 1 large bundt cake.
Based on the recipes for this cake and this glaze.

Cake Ingredients

1 cup sourdough starter fed approx. 6 hours ago
1 cup Guinness
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
2 large eggs

Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp double cream
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 tbsp Guinness
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup icing sugar (to reach my consistency – add more as required)

Mix together the fed starter with the Guinness & plain flour. Cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to ferment at room temperature for roughly 2.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan & grease your bundt tin with butter.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachement (or by hand), combine the caster sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder & espresso powder. Beat on a low speed to combine, and don’t worry about it being grainy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between.

Add the Guinness leaven to the batter and beat on low until well mixed. At this stage the batter goes through a range of textures (it’s very elastic!), just keep going until it’s nice and smooth. Scrape down the paddle & bowl a couple of times to make sure it’s all mixed in evenly.

Transfer the batter into the bundt tin and level the top. Bake for around 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, mine took 47 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Now for the glaze.

Combine the caster sugar with 2 tbsp water in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Stir briefly until the sugar dissolves and then leave it, any more stirring will cause sugar crystals to form and you’ll have to start again. Continue to cook until the sugar has turned a dark amber colour, keep a close watch on it as it can turn quite quickly once it gets to the right temperature.

Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter and double cream until combined. Add the whiskey, Guinness and salt, whisk and return to the heat, cooking until the caramel is smooth.

Cool the sauce for 10-15 minutes, it will still be a little warm. Using an electric mixer, or by hand add the icing sugar a bit at a time, until you get to the consistency you like, then drizzle over the bundt cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for half an hour to set the glaze, then enjoy!

Check out the other Sourdough Surprises entries here, and don’t forget – the leftover glaze is cracking on toast!

Can't get enough of the whiskey caramel sauce. #caramel #friday #love

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Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Coco Meringues

I never make meringues. My grandma makes the best meringues and every time I visit her I come home with a tin full, so I never feel the need to make my own. But no-one said I have to make plain meringues, & this is where Lily Vanilli comes in.

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Last Sunday morning I decided to try her Coco Meringues dipped in Chocolate & Crushed Pistachios. They’re super easy to make, just plenty of egg whipping and then a good couple of hours in the oven. Sadly I didn’t really think about the fact that we had a friend coming over for a roast dinner, so meringues occupying the oven for 2 hours wasn’t ideal. I took them out after an hour and a half and put them in the airing cupboard to keep drying out instead! It’s not a technique I’ve seen recommended in any books but it didn’t seem to do them too much damage. The inside was a little more mousse-like than chewy, but oh god that was not a bad thing…

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