Wednesday 30 July 2008

Daring Bakers July Challenge: Filbert (Hazelnut) Gateau with Praline Buttercream

When Chris of Mele Cotte chose Hazelnut Praline Gateau for this months challenge I was thrilled. My favourite chocolates are pralines and so using that flavour for a cake sounded a wonderful idea and it so was. This cake is amazing. The toasted hazelnuts used in all components of the cake give a fabulous flavour and aroma.

I decided to half the recipe as I didn’t want too large a cake. The Hazelnut Genoise was light and tender and dotted with tiny nuggets of hazelnuts. The toasted hazelnuts worked so well in the cake that when I tasted a few scrapes of the cake from around the tin I had to prevent myself from not taking a bite out of the cake before it was finished.

I used a little rum in the syrup which gave it flavour but I was careful not to add too much. I then used amaretto in the buttercream to enhance the nutty flavour but didn’t add any more liqueurs to any of the other components as I wanted the hazelnuts to be the main flavour.

For the praline paste I used hazelnuts which were pre chopped which worked well as it meant they got more of an even coating in the caramel. I ate a bit of the brittle before I blitzed it and it tasted so good, the caramel coating really enhanced the praline flavour. I saved a few of the brittle pieces back to help decorate the top of the cake and I like how they were small pieces rather than a whole nut. It took longer to blitz the brittle into a smooth paste that I anticipated and I had to keep scraping down the sides of the processor, but the aroma it released while being crushes was unbelievable. Every time I removed the lid of the processor a cloud of deep toasted hazelnut aroma would waft up and smelt so unbelievably good it would almost make me feel lightheaded. It was enough to make you want to weep with happiness.
When it came to assembling the cake all was going to plan. I had lots of praline buttercream leftover and not wanting it to go o waste I decided to use it to cover the top and sides of the cake as well. This worked fine and I put it in the fridge to chill while I made the ganache. When it came to pouring the ganache over the cake I suffered a minor disaster. The ganache flowed and settled on the flat top of the cake fine, but when I tried to smooth it over the sides of the cake it ran off in horrible blotchy patches where it began to melt the butter in the buttercream and run off in oily patches – not good. I piled it all on anyway, stuck it back in the fridge to chill and hoped for the best. When the ganache had cooled but was still spreadable I removed the cake from the fridge and tried to scoop it up the sides of the cake. Thankfully it did stick this time but the end result looked like a monstrosity. Back into the fridge it went and then sufficiently chilled I removed it once again and carefully began to remove the excess ganache from the plate. A few minutes later and ta-da, the cake had been transformed from a blob into something quite presentable – whew! I have learnt a good lesson though, never cover the sides of a cake with buttercream if you want to cover it in a warm glaze :)
When I tasted the finished cake it was well worth the effort and I would definitely consider making it again for a celebration. The hazelnut flavour was gorgeous and all the tastes and textures mingled together well and the smooth dark chocolate ganache finished it off perfectly. The gateau is quite rich so small slices were sufficient.

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see other Daring Bakers creations.

Filbert (Hazelnut) Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by carol Walter
Hazelnut Genoise
225g toasted skinned hazelnuts
75g plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
7 egg yolks
55g & 160g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated lemon rind
5 egg whites
50g clarified butter, melted

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 10inch spring form tin and set to one side. (Use a 6inch tin if halving the recipe)
Place the nuts, flour and cornflour in a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds. Then pulse until you get a fine powdery mixture, but don’t over process. Set aside.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk for 3-4 minutes until they are light in colour and tripled in volume. Slowly add the 160g of sugar a tablespoon at a time. The mixture should turn moussey and leave a ribbon trail.
Mix in the vanilla and lemon and set aside.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then add the 55g of sugar a spoonful at a time until glossy.
Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg whites and whisk until just combined.
Scatter over two tablespoons of the flour nut mixture and fold in gently using a spatula. Continue doing this with the remaining mixture until you have only two tablespoons left. Then drizzle over the clarified butter, add the remaining nutty flour and fold in well.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until it feels springy to the touch and has started to come away from the sides of the tin.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool.

Sugar Syrup
225ml water
55g caster sugar
2 tbsp rum or liqueur of choice

In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar together until dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in your liqueur of choice. Set aside.

Swiss Buttercream
4 egg whites
160g caster sugar
300g butter
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or liqueur of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg whites in a large glass bowl until foamy and nearly at soft peak stage. Then place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, but the bowl shouldn’t touch the water.
Whisk the egg whites, adding tablespoons of sugar one at a time. Continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm. The mixture should look like fluffy marshmallow.
Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for 5 minutes until cool.
Place the butter in a clean bowl and beat until soft and fluffy. Continue to beat the butter, adding tablespoons of the meringue mixture until it is all used up.
Beat in the vanilla and liqueur of your choice.
Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before using.

Praline Paste
150g toasted skinned hazelnuts
150g caster sugar

Scatter the sugar over the bottom of a heavy frying pan and heat over a low flame for 10-20 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and formed a light caramel. Do not stir the sugar, but the odd shake of the pan is ok to enable even melting.
When the sugar has completely melted remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts.
Quickly spread the mixture over a baking try lined and greased with parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
Leave to cool before breaking into pieces and blitzing in a food processor to form a paste. This can take up to 10 minutes and you will need to scrape down the sides every so often.
Transfer to a bowl and cover until ready to use, do not put in the fridge.

Praline Buttercream
1 x Swiss buttercream
1 x praline paste
1 tbsp rum or liqueur of choice

Whisk half the buttercream into the praline paste until well combined. Then add the rest of the buttercream and fold in the liqueur of choice.

Ganache Glaze
175g dark chocolate
300g double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp liqueur of choice
¾ tsp vanilla extract

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl and set to one side.
Heat the cream and the syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat.
Leave it until it just reaches a gentle boil, then remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
Stir until smooth and well combined. Stir in the vanilla and liqueur of choice.
Leave to cool and thickened slightly before using, but don’t leave it too long or it will set.

To Assemble
Cut the cake into three even layers and turn the top layer upside down to use as the base.
Brush the layer with some of the sugar syrup and a third of the praline buttercream.
Top with another layer of sponge, moisten with syrup and spread with another third of buttercream.
Top with the final cake layer, moisten with syrup and spread over the rest of the buttercream.
Transfer the cake to a wrack set over a deep baking tray. Brush the sides with a little melted apricot jam and pour over the still soft chocolate ganache glaze. Spreading it out evenly over the top and sides of the cake, catching any excess in the tray below.
Using leftover buttercream or whipped double cream, decorate the top of the cake.
Store in the fridge until required. It can be kept for up to 5 days.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Decadent Chocolate Brownie Cookies

These cookies are my new favourite treat for when I want a chocolate hit. They have all the moist chocolate richness of a brownie but with a thin cookie exterior. They are so decadent that I have had to make two batches in the last week as the first batch vanished in a matter of hours.

Their cookie form means they are perfect for packing into lunchboxes, taking on journeys, eating on their own or transforming into brownie cookie ice cream sandwiches.

I added some swirly white chocolate chips to mine but you could of course add any number of add-ins, raisins, nuts etc. They only require one saucepan to make too, meaning they are very quick to make. So hop to it – go and bake some now.

Decadent Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Recipe adapted from Leiths Baking Bible
60g butter
50g dark chocolate
70g caster sugar
70g soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
70g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175C and grease a baking tray.
Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a saucepan until smooth and then remove from the heat.
Stir in the caster sugar and brown sugar and beat until the crystals have dissolved. Then beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and beat until all combined. The mixture will turn very stiff at this stage but this is what you want.
Finally chop the white chocolate into chunks and stir through the chocolate batter.
Place rounded tablespoons of the chocolate mixture onto the baking tray, leaving a two inch gap between each one. Flatten slightly.
Bake in the oven for 9 minutes only before removing and leaving for 2 minutes to firm up before transferring to a wire wrack to cool. Do not over bake or they will become crispy when cool.
Makes around 14 cookies

Friday 18 July 2008

Raspberry & Almond Cupcakes

I am lucky enough to have a small mountain of home grown raspberries, thanks to my aunt who has quite a jungle of raspberry canes growing in her back garden. I think raspberries are a beautiful fruit, so unusually constructed with their plump little pockets of sweet juice surrounding tiny seeds and so pretty in colour. Another bonus is that they grow surrounded by flat greens leaves rather than the prickly thorns of blackberries meaning they are far more enjoyable to pick. I have frozen a few for future use and enjoyed some raw but I also wanted to use them in baking and these cupcakes were the result.

At first I planned to make raspberry muffins but I find raspberries can sometimes have quite large seeds which are not nice to chew on, so instead I decided to use one baked into the centre of a cupcake and then make a raspberry cream topping with the rest.

I used ground almonds in the cake mix which I find always gives a lovely moist texture and is a perfect flavour pairing with raspberries. The raspberry baked into the cakes centre is a nice surprise when bitten into and it seemed to have intensified in flavour. For the raspberry cream I used a base of an Italian style meringue but whisked it with the juice of lots of raspberries which I pureed first. I was worried that this would be too wet and I would end up with liquid goo but it actually whisked up to be wonderfully light and fluffy. I added some whipped cream to give it extra stability and this transformed it into a light and airy raspberry mousse which tasted divine. The sweetness of the meringue base really enhanced the raspberry flavour and it turned a lovely pretty pink colour and was so creamy and smooth In fact it was so good that I spooned the leftovers into little glasses and served it as a raspberry fool.

Topped with an extra raspberry they encompass the joys of fresh summer berries, now I just wish the weather would take the hint and stop being so cold and wet.

Raspberry & Almond Cupcakes
For the cake

100g self raising flour
115g butter
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
25g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond extract
12 raspberries

For the raspberry cream
2 egg whites
150g caster sugar
200g raspberries
200ml double cream

Method – for the cake
Preheat the oven to 175C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one.
Add the ground almonds and almond extract. Sift over the flour and baking powder and mix well to combine.
Spoon a teaspoon of the almond batter into the base of each of the muffin cases. Place a whole raspberry in the centre of each spoonful of batter. Divide the remaining batter evenly between the muffin cases, covering each raspberry.
Bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.
Transfer to a wire wrack to cool.

For the raspberry cream
Take 12 of the best raspberries and set to one side for decoration later. Then place the remaining raspberries in a pan along with the water and 50g of the caster sugar.
Heat until the raspberries are mushy and thick, then remove from the heat. Push the raspberry mush through a sieve, collecting the juice in a glass bowl. Discard the seeds.
Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and add the egg whites and rest of the sugar.
Whisk the mixture over the heat until it turns very fluffy and has tripled in volume, around 4 – 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue to beat for a few minutes more until nearly cold.
Whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks and then whisk it into the raspberry mixture. It will turn creamy and deflate slightly, but this is ok. Whisk until thick and mousse like.
Chill in the fridge to firm up for at least two hours before spreading or piping onto the tops of the cooled cakes.
Top with the raspberries saved from earlier.
Makes 12 cupcakes

Sunday 13 July 2008

Very GÜ’d Puds

Have you ever heard of GÜ Puds? If not then you’re missing out. They make wickedly tempting chocolate treats and desserts. Last week I was lucky enough to try two of their latest creations, some Hot Chocolate Melting Middle Puds and a pack of Chocolate Trifles.

I love how much attention to detail has been given to presenting the products. The black glossy box with the contrasting white GÜ gives the impression of elegance and luxury even though it’s kept simple. The GÜ looks like a happy smiling face to me, almost as if it’s hinting at the treats awaiting you inside. The hot chocolate puds come wrapped in decorative brown and gold paper muffin style cases and really give the impression that this is something indulgent and of premium quality. The film lid of the trifle pots is decorated in white swirls and even the inside of the trifle box is covered in ornate black swirls, just because a little of it is on show surrounding the product. It really made me think that care had been taken when designing the packaging.
GÜ Hot Chocolate Melting Middle Puds
The puds can be heated in either the microwave or the oven and so in the interest of a fair review (and because it was the perfect excuse to be greedy) I decided to cook and sample one prepared each way.

Microwaved pud
The pud kept its shape well, and had a smooth puffed up surface which slowly relaxed and cracked revealing a sneak preview of its dark glossy centre. It had a thin fragile top crust, similar to that of a brownie, which when broken released a dark and velvety smooth gü-ey chocolate heart that was just heavenly. It was rich and thick, coating your tongue and filling your mouth with an explosion of deep dark chocolate flavour with the texture of molten chocolate ganache. This molten chocolaty gü was encased in a tender sponge shell, which helped the pud keep its shape and provided another texture.

You can really tell that good quality dark chocolate had been used, it was wickedly dark and indulgent. The box states 70% cocoa and for a dark chocolate fan this was just divine – the perfect balance of sweet and bitter and very chocolaty. For someone who is often disappointed in bought chocolate puddings, which often taste of nothing but sugar with a milky chocolate aftertaste, this intense chocolate hit was wonderful.

Oven baked pud
This pud also kept its shape well. I was worried it might break when transferring it from baking tray to plate, but the spongy sides provided a good barrier to the molten centre. The first noticeable difference to the microwaved version was the aroma. As it warmed in the oven it released an intense, hot melting chocolate aroma which even enticed my brother away from the computer (which is nothing short of a miracle). For some reason the pudding stayed quite sunken in the centre compared to the photo on the box, perhaps it needed a couple of extra minutes in the oven but this probably meant there was more gü-ey filling, which is never a bad thing. The sponge sides seemed marginally thicker on this pudding, but I think this was just because they had a slightly crisper coating due to being oven cooked. The gü-ey centre was just as seductive and silky smooth. There really was not much difference in quality between them, both were oh so good. The hardest part was trying to keep my family from demolishing the puds while I was taking photos, they all gathered round me with their spoons at the ready.

GÜ Chocolate Trifles These looked very tempting. Upon peeling back the lid you are greeted with a dark chocolate mousse that is studded with air bubbles, promising a light and airy texture. My spoon sunk through this chocolate layer to the softly whipped cream beneath. The top chocolate layer was thick, moussey and very light and the cream was soft and full of air bubbles which dissolved smoothly on my tongue. The cream was followed by a small mound of tender chocolate sponge and ended in a bottom layer of thick sticky chocolate ganache. The chocolate flavour was prominent, although not as intense as the melting middle puddings thanks to the whipped cream which mingled with the chocolate, preventing it from being too rich. The chocolate ganache was wonderfully smooth and creamy, although I would have quite liked it to be layered after the cream and before the layer of cake as I found it got left behind in the base of the pot when taking a spoonful, but then I suppose you wouldn’t get such a good layered trifle effect. A less bitter dark chocolate is used in this dessert meaning it would suit all grades of chocolate lover whilst still providing the desired indulgent chocolate hit.

I was impressed with both these puds although my favourite was the melting chocolate puddings, which were oh so gü’d!

Sunday 6 July 2008

Date Streusel Squares

These squares were the other sweet treat given to the refreshment stand for last weekends fete. They consist of a shortbread style base, a sticky date filling and a coconut streusel topping. The original recipe called these ‘crumble slices’ but as they also have a base (unlike a crumble) I think calling them streusel squares is better.

I really liked all the different textures of each layer and the coconut in the topping added extra flavour and its own unique texture. My only criticism is that the squares were quite sweet, but then dates are very sweet by nature. Next time I might try reducing the sugar a little.

Other dried fruits such as apricots or figs would also work well in place of the dates. Adding a few finely chopped nuts might be good too.

Date Streusel Squares
(Recipe adapted from Simple Slices by Australian Women’s Weekly)
For the base
90g butter
150g plain flour
75g caster sugar

For the date filling
250g dates
250ml water
20g caster sugar

For the streusel topping
90g butter
30g desiccated coconut
15g shredded coconut
75g plain flour
20g rolled oats
110g soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a rectangle pan, around 20cm x 30cm.
To make the base, melt the butter and then add in the flour and sugar and mix well to create buttery crumbs.
Press the crumbs into the base of the tray and pat down firmly.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp and golden brown in colour.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Chop the dates into small pieces and add to a pan along with the water and sugar.
Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until the dates have broken down and the water has been absorbed.
Continue to heat, stirring constantly until you have a thick pasty mixture, around 10 minutes.
Spread the date mixture evenly over the surface of the baked biscuit base.
Now make the topping. Melt the butter and then pour over the rest of the ingredients and mix together, ensuring everything gets evenly coated. Press together gently with your fingers to form small clumps.
Scatter the streusel over the date mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the topping has turned golden brown.
Allow to cool completely in the pan before transferring to a board and cutting into squares with a sharp knife.
Makes 12-15 squares.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Tray Bake

Last weekend it was our local village fete. My family always help run a few game stalls for the children and supply a few little cakes for the refreshment stand. This tray bake was one of the cakes contributed.

It’s an all-in-one cake meaning you simply have to put all the ingredients into a bowl and beat it together, so it’s very easy to make. Swirling together vanilla and chocolate flavoured batters makes it more appealing to the eye and means it will please both vanilla and chocolate cake fans. I topped the cake off with a dark chocolate buttercream and drizzled over a little white chocolate to keep the two tone colour theme going.

The cake was light and tender and I loved how the dark chocolate swirl stood out against the vanilla sponge. The buttercream was sweet, with a rich chocolate flavour that prevented it from being over sweet. Cut into squares it went down well with both children and adults at the fete.

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Tray Bake
For the cake
200g self raising flour
200g butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
20g cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

For the buttercream
100g butter
200g icing sugar
75g plain chocolate
50g white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter, sugar and eggs and beat using an electric mixer until smooth and slightly lighter in colour.
Beat in the vanilla.
Mark the cake batter in half using a spatula and then dollop tablespoonfuls of half the vanilla mixture at regular intervals in the tin, leaving spaces between each one.
With the remaining half of the batter, sift over the cocoa powder and beat in until well incorporated. Add the milk to slacken the mixture and mix well.
Dollop tablespoonfuls of the chocolate mixture in-between the vanilla blobs in the tin.
Take a skewer or thin bladed knife and run it up and down through the mixture to swirl the two cake mixes together.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire wrack to cool.

For the buttercream
Beat the butter until soft and creamy.
Sift over the icing sugar in two batches and beat well until smooth.
Melt the dark chocolate, allow to cool for 10 minutes and then beat into the buttercream. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.
Spread the buttercream evenly over the top of the cake. Melt the white chocolate and place into a piping bag with a small nozzle.
Drizzle the white chocolate over the top of the cake and leave to set before cutting into squares.
Makes 15 squares.