Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

I may be a chocolate + pretzel addict....

First I made these Salty Pretzel Chocolate Brownies and they were such a delicious chocolately salty soft and crunchy sensation that  my food imagination went into overdrive and I made these Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Doughnuts.

It was only a matter of time before one obsession met another- 'browning' butter. You will notice a subtle caramel undertone in your cookies if you add brown butter AND it also makes this dough easy to roll into balls before baking.

Makes 2 dozen

100g butter
110g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
100g chocolate chips
175g plain flour
50g crushed pretzels
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1. Brown 50g of butter by heating in a saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter starts to crackle, turn the heat down. Take off the heat when plenty of brown flecks appear and the butter goes silent. Leave to cool completely.
2. Cream 50g butter and the sugars in a bowl with an electric beater for 5-6 minutes. Add a third of the egg with a tablespoon of flour and beat well. Continue to use up all of the egg.
3. Add the vanilla and brown butter beat briefly for 1 minute.
4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until fully combined, but try not to get too heavy handed.
5. Finally fold in the pretzels and chocolate chips. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Heat the oven to 180oC. Roll the dough into balls and place well spaced apart on a baking sheet.
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden at the edges.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Chocolate Coffee Pecan Buns

The weekend is my happy coffee time. If I drink coffee at work, I am usually feeling tired and in need of an energy boost. But at the weekend, I savour it. A good cup of coffee is a giant exhale, a high-five, a 'whoop' it's the weekend. 

And I won't just make a cup of coffee for anything. It has to be for something good. A great read, an interesting article, a cool podcast, a great episode of my favourite-right-now TV show. A good cup of coffee at the weekend cannot be squandered.

And just as the moment must be right, so too must the accompaniment. Enter soft pillowy dough and swirls of coffee chocolate pecan sweetness. God I am in LOVE with these buns. The dough recipe is taken from Donal Skehan's recipe for Swedish Cinnamon Buns,.

Yeah it has yeast in it so you need to hang around for an hour or so to let it rise and do 5 minutes of kneading if you don't have a food processor, but honestly it's extremely straightforward. I experimented with the filling, departing from the traditional cinnamon flavour and really do love the chocolate and chocolate combo. The coffee cuts through the sweetness of the milk chocolate and the pecan nuts provide a toffee tasting crunch. 

Because I am a hipster wannabe I baked them in a cast iron skillet. You can bake these buns free form on a baking sheet or in muffin cases. 

Go on.... Your weekend coffee deserves a worthy partner.

Makes around 12 rolls

200ml milk
1 sachet instant action yeast
55g butter, melted
55g caster sugar
375g plain flour
1-2 tsp salt

For the filling
40g butter
55g sugar
30g milk chocolate
1 heaped tsp instant coffee powder
1 tblsp cocoa powder

1. Heat the milk and butter over a low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave until the butter is almost melted. Take off the heat, stir until the butter is fully melted, add a teaspoon of sugar and allow to cool.
2. When lukewarm, sprinkle over the sachet of yeast and whisk well. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. If it doesn't get frothy, then check the sell by date on your yeast and start again.
3. Put the flour, salt and caster sugar in a bowl. Add in the yeast mixture and mix until a ball of dough forms. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes until the ball is smooth and no longer ragged.
4. Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour to 1.5 hours in a warm place like the airing cupboard or beside (but not on) a radiator, until doubled.
5. To make the filling, put the chocolate in a small saucepan with the butter and heat until evenly melted. Take off the heat and add the coffee and cocoa powder. Allow to cool and then add the sugar. Mix well until a thick paste forms.
6. Heat the oven to 190oC.
7. Punch the air out of the dough, tip onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle 3mm thick. Spread the paste liberally, not forgetting the corners but leaving a 1cm border around the rectangle.
8. Starting at the long side roll the dough like a swiss roll to create a snail-like effect.
9. Once fully rolled up, use a knife to cut the dough into 12 pieces. Place cut side up into a cast iron skillet or a flat bottom pan suitable for the oven which has been greased and lined on the bottom with a sheet of baking paper. Leave an inch or so between each buns. Do not overcrowd or your buns won't cook properly and will be soggy. You may have one or two extra if your pan is as big as mine. Bake these free form on a baking sheet.
10. Leave the buns to rise for another 30 minutes and then brush with a little beaten egg for shine before baking for 15-18 minutes until golden.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Doughnuts

Listening to: Serial- A journalist becomes obsessed (in her own words) with the murder of a teenage girl in Baltimore in 1999. Her ex boyfriend has been convicted of her murder but has maintained his innocence since his imprisonment at 17. Thorough research and excellent journalism results in an utterly intriguing podcast series detailing her investigation. I have never really gotten into podcasts, but Serial demonstrates how effective they can be when done properly. While baking, on the way to work, cleaning the house, chilling out with a cup of coffee. I'm hooked on Serial!

Raving about: The Walworth Farce at the Olympia theatre - I don't go to the theatre enough. So compelling, so intense, dark and bitter and sweet and funny. Brilliantly executed with thrilling performances from the Gleeson family. What are we if not our stories? I think all the weekend shows are sold out but if you are around Dublin and free on a week day definitely go. If you don't believe me listen to what Aaron Paul had to say when he saw it this week.
Reading: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Don't read too many reviews of this, all you need to know is that this a story about family, laced with humour, deft observations and interesting nougats of psychology. Short listed for the Man Booker prize, this is one of my favourite books in a long time. 

Eating: Baked Doughnuts! I am a foodie fad follower and when baked doughnuts started cropping up on my favourite blogs I knew I had to get a baked doughnut pan. They don't cost very much but you will need to go to a specialist kitchen shop. The possibilities are endless, but where better to start then chocolate and salted caramel frosting! The crushed pretzels add a salted crunch. In truth, they aren't much different than cupcakes but they are so much more fun! 

Makes 10 

Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp finely ground coffee powder (or melt instant granules in a tiny splash of water)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
25g milk chocolate, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
50g butter

For the frosting
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cream
25g butter
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup pretzels, crushed
1 cup icing sugar, sieved
3 tablespoons cream

1. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, coffee and cinnamon into a big bowl. Add the salt.
2. Heat the butter over a low heat until melted. Continue to heat until the butter begins to crackle and brown. Take off and allow to heat.
3. Spray the doughnut pan with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Put in the fridge to cool completely.
4. Add the butter, egg and melted chocolate and mix well until completely combined.
5. Heat the oven to 180oC. Only fill the doughnut pan 3/4 full and bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Make the frosting. Heat half of the sugar over a low-medium heat watching cautiously. When the sugar has melted sprinkle over the rest in an even layer and allow to melt. Heat for 4-6 minutes until the sugar is copper coloured. Don't allow to get too dark.
7. Add the 1/2 cup cream into the caramel. The mixture might become lumpy, but keep whisking over a low heat until it becomes smooth again.
8. Add the butter and salt and whisk until melted and glossy. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool completely. If there are any lumps, sieve them out.
9. Beat the icing sugar, cream and 3 tablespoons of the salted caramel with an electric whisk until smooth.
10. Crush the pretzels. Spread the doughnuts with the frosting and sprinkle over the pretzels.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Almond and Ginger Bostock

I tried to brainstorm 10 reasons why January is great. That idea quickly got scaled down to 5 reasons why January is not so bad. After three journeys of brainstorming in and out to work I ended up with the following. Think positive! 

A. Normal TV programming is back. Like the little TV junkie I am I need my regular fix. And those sly networks know exactly what they are up to leaving us with tantalising cliffhangers before Christmas. I need my Mindy Project 21 minutes of happy time.
B. Using your Christmas vouchers/gifts. I got a whole slew of great cookbooks this Christmas and January finances mean that I  can get stuck into making and creating great new recipes. 
I also got a baked doughnut pan so my kitchen is being prepped to become doughnutopia. Incessant and obsessive recipe idea googling has already begun. 
Super excited about the three lovely vouchers I have to use over the coming weeks, dinner, afternoon tea and a one day photography course which means I have so much to look forward to! 

C. Longer daylight hours. I hate the short daylight hours so more sunlight as we inch closer to summer is a big bonus for me. In the winter I can't get up at lunchtime on a Saturday, laze around for 2 hours and still go for a nice long walk. I cannot be expected to be motivated until at least 2pm at the weekend. 
D. Award's Season. Who cares who won! It's all about the dresses dresses dresses. Did you see Julianna Moore's dress in the Golden Globes? Uh-mazing.  I want to be buried in that thing. 
E. Less nasty alcohol/food related ickiness. Bank balances and all round do gooders guilting us with their diets and alcohol bans means that most of us have been trying to be good. I for one do not miss the side effects of repeated over indulgence. 
So Bostock is bold. It won't be on any Weight Watchers menus any time soon, but boy is it worth it. Thickly sliced day old brioche is brushed with syrup, covered in sweet almond mixture, sprinkled with flaked almonds and baked until golden. Think of it as proper French toast. You can make your own brioche, but of course you can buy brioche and make this a super quick sweet treat. 
Makes 4 slices
70g ground almonds 
70g icing sugar 
70g butter, softened 
1 egg yolk
2 balls of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped

25g caster sugar 
25ml water 
one thick slice of fresh ginger 

4 slices slightly stale brioche
25g flaked almonds

1. Beat the icing sugar and butter for 4-5 minutes with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and ground almonds and beat very briefly until the mixture is well combined.
2. Add in the ginger and fold carefully.
3. Put the caster sugar, water and ginger in a small saucepan and boil rapidly for 2 minutes until thickened.
4. Brush the brioche slices liberally with the syrup.
5. Spread thickly with the frangipane and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake at 180oC for 20-25 minutes until golden around the edges.

Friday, 9 January 2015


I made this brioche while dancing around to the new Ben Howard album.... This Jools Holland performance is especially mesmerising. It makes me want to finally learn to play the guitar properly so I can do that cool from-the-top left hand action  (watch the video and you will get it). Great for moody shouty alone time singing.

One of the lyrics of another song Time is Dancing reads 'I am finally colouring inside the lines that I live between'. Check out the album for other such lyrical gems.

Brioche is a weekend baking exercise. With a food processor it is extremely straightforward, but does require a long 8-10 hour rise. Patience reaps rewards though, amazing toasted with butter and jam and also can be used to make bostock, brioche soaked in syrup and covered with frangipane- recipe to follow soon.

From Edd Kimber- Patisserie Made Simple

180g strong white flour
180g plain white flour
20g caster sugar
7g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
85ml milk, lukewarm
150g unsalted butter, chilled and diced

1. Mix flours and salt together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook.
2. Put milk and yeast together in a jug and mix until the yeast dissolves.
3. Pour the milk and eggs into the flours and mix on a medium speed until the dough comes together. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
4. Add a piece of butter at a time and beat at a medium speed until well incorporated.
5. Continue to use up all of the butter and beat at a medium speed for 10-15 minutes until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl. The dough will start very sticky, but kneading should bring it together.
6. Put in a clean bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave for 8-10 hours in the fridge to rise.
7. Take out the dough, punch the air out and tip into a lined 2lb loaf tin.
8. Leave to rise for another 2 hours in a warm place until doubled in size. When risen brush with a little beaten egg yolk for shine.
9. Preheat the oven to 180oC and bake for 20-25 minutes until the loaf is hallow when tapped at the bottom and well browned on top.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Passion Fruit and Chocolate Macarons

Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Reality is slowly starting to worm its way back into our lives, but there is always macarons and brioche and other sweet treats to help us escape our January blues.

Today passion fruit and chocolate ganache is encased in cheetah like shells. I used these as part of my Christmas gift bags, which also included sea salt caramels and grapefruit marshmallows.

Use milk rather than dark chocolate here, as the dark chocolate would be too bitter with the passion fruit and as always with macarons, fill and allow to 'mature' for 24 hours. This will allow the ganache to soften the shells providing a delicious mallowy centre.  

Follow the recipe for the shells here, using a lighter yellow food colouring. Sprinkle the shells lightly with cocoa powder ten minutes before putting into the oven.

For the passion fruit chocolate ganache

8-9 passion fruits
275g milk chocolate (40% chocolate solids)
50g butter, at room temperature and diced

1. Scoop the flesh out of the passion fruits, seeds and all.
2. Blend with a hand held blender for 30 seconds until the seeds are broken down, if not completely.
3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan, removing all the seeds.
4. Heat over a gentle heat until the passion fruit purée is almost boiling.
5. Put the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water until it is just starting to melt.
6. Pour over the passion fruit purée and stir clockwise until the ganache is smooth and creamy. If the ganache curdles, add a dash of cold milk and continue to stir.
7. Add the butter one cube at a time and stir until well incorporated and the ganache is glossy.
8. Pour into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool and thick enough to pipe.
9. Pipe the ganache onto the macarons and sandwich together.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ile Flottantes

This day last year I was in Paris. After a hearty bean stew full of sausage, bacon and ribs in a bistro beside our hotel that coincidentally happened to be on the Guardian's list of best cheap eats in Paris, we ordered Il Flotantes (translates to Floating Islands) for desert. Served in a shallow enamel dish, it was a curious looking thing. Squares of mallowy meringue drenched in caramel floated on a sweet custard. Simple, homely, stunning.

I can't believe it has taken this long for me to make it at home. It's perfect after a heavy meal and great for those with a simple palette.

From Ed Kimber's  Patisserie Made Simple

For the Custard
400ml full fat milk
100ml single cream
5 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean

For the Meringue 
3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1L semi skimmed milk

For the Caramel 
100g caster sugar

1. For the custard. Heat the cream and milk in a pan with the vanilla bean split lengthways or the vanilla bean paste until almost boiling.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a bowl. Add the hot milk in a continuous stream whisking constantly.
3. Pour back into the saucepan whisking constantly over a gentle heat until the custard thickens to the consistency of single cream- not as thick as traditional custard.
4. Pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool completely in the fridge.
5. For the meringue beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is glossy.
6. Put the semi skimmed milk in a large wide saucepan and heat to barely simmering. Using two tablespoons dipped in cold water, shape the meringues into ovals- called quenelles.
7. Slide into the warm milk and cook in batches for around 10 minutes with the lid on, turning them half way through.
8. Take the meringues out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
9. When you are ready to serve, make the caramel. Put half of the sugar in a large saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted. Add the rest of the sugar sprinkling evenly oven the melted sugar. Heat the caramel until medium brown.
10. To serve, ladle the custard into a shallow bowl. Top with two meringue "islands" and drizzle over the caramel sauce.