Chocolate and Orange Biscuits

Biscuits to us Brits, or cookies to the Americans. Either way I’ve never really had much success making either of them, but I decided to give it another go using the recipe in Delia’s Cakes. Yes, it’s weird that the book with “Cakes” in the title has recipes for biscuits, but never mind.

The recipe is pretty easy to put together, although I found the dough a bit dry and I added a little extra orange juice to bring it all together.

The resulting cookies look great and are very uniform in appearance, but they are too hard for my liking. It’s quite likely I overbaked them, but I also found the orange and chocolate flavour to be lacking. Not a big win in my book, but Mark seems to like them and tells me that they are even better when dunked in a mug of tea.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Fudge Cake

Well, this is a strange one. The recipe comes from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, and whilst it looks like a run of the mill chocolate cake, one of these five ingredients is definitely not like the others. Yes folks, this cake really does include a tin of condensed tomato soup.

It would be fair to say I was very suspicious when making this, and the smell of tomatoes whilst making the mixture was much stronger than I had imagined – although I did use a bit too much soup (the tin we bought was bigger than the quantity required and I only spotted just before the last drops went in!). Once the cake batter is made it goes into two sandwich tins and bakes in the oven for about half an hour – and out comes chocolate cake! Quite an attractive looking one, too.

Meanwhile you make some chocolate icing/ganache from a mixture of water, cocoa, butter and muscovado sugar. I found that the quantities in the recipe produced about 25% more than I needed. However, I did find icing the cake to be quite tricky because both my sponges were quite domed, and when I assembled the cake the top sponge broke up a little bit – the icing ended up being more of a glue to hold the whole thing together.

The resulting cake is really nice, really rich and really fudgey. I’m not sure whether that’s due to the tomato soup, or if it’s the massive (and I do mean massive) quantities of sugar and cocoa used in the cake. Are they there in their own right, or to mask the flavour of tomatoes? I’ve no idea, but the cake will be demolished by us two I can assure you of that.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Weird title, right? This one was inspired by my co-workers who were talking about an article they’d read in the Metro about using mayonnaise to create a chocolate cake. That article in turn linked to a piece on which had an actual mayonnaise chocolate cake recipe and, well, curiosity got the better of me!

After converting the weird American volume units (cups? yuck!) into lovely metric weights I got cracking. Because you use mayonnaise instead of butter, it’s very easy to mix – no butter to beat in. But it’s a very odd recipe… it calls for a huge quantity of water to be added and the mixture was already very runny so I decided to deviate and use less than half the specified amount.

Another weird feature was that the recipe told you how to make two sponges but made no recommendations for what to ice the thing with, so I just went for a simple buttercream of icing sugar, salted butter and cocoa powder.

The last thing I found odd was the quantities. It uses a lot of cocoa powder, which is naturally quite bitter. To compensate it then uses a huge amount of sugar… a slice of this cake is nearly your entire day’s allowance of sugar!

The resulting cake is, admittedly, pretty good though! I wouldn’t say it was out of this world, but it’s a very nice, very chocolatey cake with a close but moist crumb. Don’t be put off by the idea of mayonnaise, it works really well here and nobody would ever even realise that you had used it!

Chocolate and Walnut Layer Cake

This week’s bake comes from a book we don’t use very often, Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. It’s described as a chocoholic’s dream, and it certainly is… but it was a pain to make.

The cake is made first and isn’t too complicated, but after it’s baked you then need to leave it to cool before slicing into three layers. Mine could have done with rising a bit more which made the slicing a bit precarious.

You then make the icing and use it to ‘glue’ the layers back together before topping with some more icing. Given that I was making a stew and cobbler topping at the same time (see previous post!) I’d had enough at this point and so I skipped the final steps of grating chocolate over and dusting with icing sugar.

End result is very nice, but very very rich. We actually nearly made ourselves sick by cutting thick slices and then trying to finish them – the brandy in the icing doesn’t help!

Cranberry and Walnut Chocolate Brownies

This one comes from a book we’ve not used in a while – Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake.

The recipe is very easy to follow, as long as you can resist eating the enormous block of Bourneville chocolate which is involved. Not sure how Americans would make this without ready access to Cadbury’s classic chocolate bar?

Unfortunately, something went wrong. Despite following the cooking guidelines, the end result was too soft in the middle. We tried it in the oven for longer but the edges started to dry out and burn but the middle was still too gooey. I suspect the problem was that I used large eggs instead of medium eggs – in hindsight I should have cooked it for longer at a slightly lower temperature, and perhaps covered it with foil.

All that said, the brownie which was salvageable was damn good and is rapidly disappearing from the kitchen.

Chocolate, Hazelnut and Orange Cake

Cake time once again! There’s a recipe in Nigel Slater’s Appetite for a chocolate cake which I decided to try. It includes coffee though, and Mark’s not a fan of coffee cakes so we left it out.

Apparently Nigel only added the coffee instead of milk… but I forgot to swap any milk back in. I also grated in the zest of an orange (one of Nigel’s suggested variations). The recipe all calls for grating the chocolate – a tedious task if ever there was one.

End result was worth it though. A big, nutty, dense cake – a little on the dry side (possibly because of the lack of milk) but actually it gave the cake a bit of character, making it seem more substantial than you’re typical sponge. Hazelnuts worked well, but ground almonds would have probably worked too. The orange was almost lost, but actually became more prominent after a day or two. Beyond that… well, there was no cake left by then…

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve got a sweet tooth and I love making cakes, but one thing I’ve never really had much success with is biscuits (cookies, if you’re American). I decided to try and break that tradition today by making some of Nigella Lawson’s chocolate chip cookies as featured in Kitchen – if you’ve not got the book, you can also find the recipe on her website.

It’s a pretty easy recipe. Melt some butter and mix it with two types of sugar. Then add a whole egg plus a single egg yolk and mix some more before adding plain flour and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Finally, you fold in some chocolate chips.

The mix is supposed to make about 14 cookies, but mine stretched to 18.

The end result was nice, but I must confess to being a bit disappointed. They weren’t as chewy/soft as I had hoped – it’s not that the biscuit isn’t nice, it’s just that it wasn’t what I expected. It’s also possible that I overbaked them, and splitting the mixture into more pieces than recommended probably compounded that.

On the plus side, I can console myself with biscuits.

Trillionaire Shortbread

So we’d watched Jim Chapman making millionaire shortbread on YouTube. We were inspired to make some and went rummaging through our cookery books to find a recipe… we didn’t just find a millionaire though, we found John Whaite’s recipe for trillionaire shortbread in his first book John Whaite Bakes.

Ingredients-wise it’s pretty simple, and the method is too. The tricky part is the timing: make the shortbread, let it cool; make the caramel and pour it over the shortbread, let it cool and set; then finally make the chocolate ganache and pour it over. The caramel took an age to firm up, so most of today was spent hanging around the house and occasionally giving it a prod.

I also made a major blunder… I used golden caster sugar instead of regular, which meant that the key step in making caramel (“wait until it turns amber”) was lost on me because it started out that colour! But it all worked out in the end.

End result? Utterly, utterly decadent and delicious. I was feeling really guilty after eating a slice until I discovered Daniel Frazer has an even more calorific version.

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

When I found out one of my colleagues at work had a birthday coming up, obviously a cake was required! But with limited time, I also needed something quick and easy so I turned to this recipe by Nigella which always reliably turns out a great cake. All the orange in it makes it really aromatic too.

But I can’t make a cake for the office and let Mark go without. So I baked two. Imagine the scene – a huge vat of chocolate orange cake mixture with its scent wafting through the house.

The cake went down a storm at work. And at home, we’re enjoying it very much as well. 

Chocolate Brownies

Who doesn’t love chocolate brownies?

Mark and I have both been ill with a viral bug for the last few days. I was finally feeling better, so asked Mark what he’d like me to bake for medicinal purposes – his answer was chocolate brownies.

We’ve got a few different recipes around – there’s one in Kitchen by Nigella Lawson which uses “regular” chocolate instead of premium; she also has a flourless recipe in Express, and John Whaite has a cherry brownie in John Whaite Bakes. However, I decided to go for the plain and simple classic brownie from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

The recipe is a bit daunting though… 500g of sugar? 6 eggs? 375g of butter and 375g of chocolate? This isn’t a recipe for calorie counters – but to be fair, it does make a lot of brownies.

Nigella’s recipe is pretty easy, but does require a few items – first up, you need a big pan to melt the chocolate and butter in. Then you need a bowl to mix your eggs with sugar and vanilla essence, plus another bowl for mixing the flour and salt. Once the melted chocolate has cooled a little, pour the egg mixture and and mix followed by the flour mixture and the chopped walnuts.

It takes a little under half an hour in the oven and the end result is pretty spectacular. Just try not to think about the mountain of butter and sugar which went into it!