Tag Archives: Chocolate & Zucchini

Cinnamon and chocolate

I had some friends over for New Year’s Eve. We just wanted a quiet night, chatting and maybe playing on the Wii, as I think none of us really wanted to brave a night out at the local clubs (and judging from the broken glass paving the streets the next day I’m glad we didn’t).

So we ordered some pizzas, everyone brought drinks and I baked.

The first cake I made used another recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini – Yogurt Cake.

It’s a recipe I’ve used countless times since I found it, purely because of it’s versatility and simplicity. In the past I’ve thrown in handfuls of tart blueberries in the batter. I’ve also made a plain cake and served it with crème fraîche and blueberries on the side (yes, I have a thing for blueberries).

However this time I thought I’d make a more wintry cake and so I added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. On a whim, I also sprinkled the top with a mix of demerara sugar and more cinnamon.  The cake came out moist, as usual, but this time it also filled the kitchen with the lovely scent of cinnamon. It was like Christmas all over again!

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The cake is fine by itself but I imagine a small scoop of vanilla ice cream would go well with it. Then again, vanilla ice cream goes well with most cakes.

The second cake was a variation on the Brown Eyed Baker’s Best Brownies, which in turn was originally from Hershey’s.

Where the recipe states to use two eggs, I’d run out of eggs and so substituted the second egg with about two tablespoons of whole milk, in an attempt to make up the volume. As usual I replaced the cup of sugar in the original recipe with 150 g of soft brown sugar and finally, I chopped up about 150 g of milk and plain chocolate and folded it into the batter.

The results were delicious, especially when eaten warm.

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The brownies disappeared rapidly although I think it’s down to chocolate being a general favourite with my friends, rather than any spectacular baking skills. But the point of this is I’m glad my experiment with an egg substitute turned out so well. I doubt I’d be brave enough to do that with any other cake but I hope to one day reach a point when I can make up my own recipes.

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Reflections and Christmas baking

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As I write this post it is drizzling outside, but thankfully I live in an area unaffected by the floods; my prayers and best wishes go out to all those who do.

Every year, the Christmas season seems to bring either great joy or great sorrow to people.  I was a teenager when my grandmother died in hospital on Boxing Day, but on the flipside, she died surrounded by her family, comfortable and warm, after a Christmas Day spent with her family and friends. She had lived a long life and seemed quite ready to move on.

I won’t be going any further with this, but instead prefer to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May you all find some shred of happiness and peace, no matter the circumstances.

Onto the baking side of things.

This year hasn’t been the busiest for baking, but I am trying out new things. In the past I’ve generally kept to cakes and cupcakes, but this year I thought I’d diversify. In preparation for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner, I made chocolate tarts. I used a combination of recipes – the pastry from Chocolate & Zucchini and the filling from Gordon Ramsay on BBC Good Food. I also used a bit of Green & Black’s espresso dark chocolate to replace the equivalent quantity of plain dark chocolate because I think coffee really enhances the chocolate. However after I did that it occurred to me that using flavoured chocolates is an easy way to adapt this recipe to your personal taste. The coffee taste is subtle but there is still enough to make the tarts a little bit more special.

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Chocolate tarts with a hint of coffee

– Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini – Absolute Chocolate Tarts and Gordon Ramsay – Gordon’s chocolate tart

Makes 5 tarts (using 10 cm tart tins)

Ingredients:

Chocolate tart shell:
200 g plain flour
100 g castor sugar
100 g butter, cut into small cubes
Remove a heaping tablespoon of flour and substitute with the same quantity of unsweetened cocoa powder (approx. 15 g)
Splash of milk

Chocolate filling:
50 g milk chocolate
50 g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)
50 g espresso dark chocolate (I used Green and Black’s)
100 mL double cream
50 mL whole milk
1 egg
1 tbsp golden castor sugar

To make the shells:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa powder together in a bowl. Once mixed, add the butter to the bowl and work the ingredients together. Add a splash of milk and continue to mix. The finished mixture should resemble coarse sand.
  3. Divide the mixture and press evenly into tart tins using fingers.
  4. Prick the bases of the tarts a few times with a fork to allow air to escape when baking. Alternatively, line with parchment paper and baking weights.
  5. Blind bake for 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
  6. Once baked remove and cool on a wire rack.

To make the chocolate filling:

  1. Turn the oven down to 150°C.
  2. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place into a mixing bowl. 
  3. Bring the milk and cream to a boil. Add slowly to the chocolate, stirring to melt and mix with the chocolate. Once this is all mixed, whisk in the egg and castor sugar.
  4. Allow to settle to minimise the number of air bubbles in the final product.
  5. Pour slowly into tart shells, filling them almost to the top.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool.

Gordon Ramsay recommends serving this dusted with grated white chocolate, cocoa powder or icing sugar and decorated with chocolate curls. I will be serving this tomorrow with a dollop of crème fraîche and raspberries.

I admit that my chocolate tarts aren’t the prettiest, but I’ve tried one (I made a spare) and they do taste good. The presentation will come with practice.

I’m off to a Christmas Eve party in a bit and I do have to get ready so I’ll finish here. So for those who are already celebrating Christmas, Merry Christmas again, and for those who are not yet, I hope you have a great Christmas.

God bless!