Salted Caramel Macadamia Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Matthew loves anything with salted caramel, so I knew this would be right up his alley.

I used a 28 cm metal flan tin with a loose bottom. If your tin is a bit smaller the filling will be thicker and you may have a bit more pastry left. Use a shallow tin rather than a deep one you would use for a quiche.

1 batch of Sweet Shortcrust Pastry made into a 25-30 cm pastry shell
Or 1 bought pastry shell
400g macadamia nuts
Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup cream
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup cream
1 Tbs liquid glucose (corn syrup)
300g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
To serve:
Sea salt flakes
Whipped cream

Make pastry according to the recipe at the link. Follow the instructions down as far as refrigerating for 15 mins. Bake 10 mins, remove paper and weights, then bake for a further 8 minutes (instead of 3 minutes), or until fully cooked and golden. Place macadamia nuts in a large non-stick frying pan and stir over moderate heat until slightly coloured. Spread over the base of the pastry shell.

For the salted caramel, heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook, without stirring but swirling from time to time, until it turns into a rich amber caramel (10-14 minutes). Carefully add cream and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir through butter and salt. Spoon evenly over the nuts in the tart shell, then leave to set.

For chocolate ganache, bring cream and glucose to the boil in a saucepan then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and butter, stirring until melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy. Spread ganache over the salted caramel, then stand in a cool place until set. Serve at room temperature or chilled with flakes of sea salt scattered on top. It’s very rich so cut into small servings. Whipped cream is optional.

Serves 12-16

Peanut Butter Balls

If I make a recipe and Matthew says he really likes it I never make it again. Well that’s his story, which is a real exaggeration. When he tells people this sob story I usually roll my eyes.

One of his absolute favourites is Peanut Butter Balls, which taste a bit like the American chocolates by Reece’s, called Peanut Butter Cups. If Matthew had his way I would make them every week, but they’re fiddly and time-consuming. Not the initial mixing, but the coating in melted chocolate. And they all disappear in no time flat.

Once I made them a few days before friends came around for dinner. I was planning to serve them with coffee, but guess what, they had all disappeared. So the next time I sneakily put them in the freezer, but that didn’t work either. Matthew found them and informed me smugly that peanut butter balls thaw nicely in the time it takes to boil the kettle.

So to put a smile on his face I made a batch for him to share with our son-in-law on Father’s Day next Sunday.

 

1 cup smooth peanut butter
125g butter
3 cups Rice Bubbles (Rice Krispies)
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
300g dark or milk chocolate, or half and half
A small piece of Copha (or coconut oil) the size of a large walnut

Place peanut butter and butter in a bowl, cover then zap in the microwave for a minute or two to melt. Mix in rice bubbles and icing sugar then refrigerate for an hour or until firm. Line a baking tray or two with baking paper. Scoop out heaped teaspoonsful and arrange on the trays. Refrigerate again until firm, then use your hands to squeeze them into nice round balls. Put back in the fridge while you prepare the chocolate.

Place chocolate squares in a bowl with the Copha or coconut oil over a pan of simmering water. When melted and smooth remove chocolate from the heat and take the balls out of the fridge. Coat each one in chocolate using two forks and leave to set on the paper-lined trays. Work quickly otherwise they will start to fall apart. Find somewhere to hide them in the fridge!

Makes about 50

 

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

This quick cake requires no baking making it great for last-minute entertaining. Serve it with raspberries or raspberry coulis and cream. Add a dash of brandy or a liqueur to the coffee mixture for a more grown-up flavour. It’s adapted from a recipe I found in an IKEA cook book.

250g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate
1 cup icing sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup hot water mixed with 1 heaped Tbs instant coffee
1 packet of plain rectangular biscuits such as Marie (you need 23-25)
To serve:
Icing sugar
Raspberries or raspberry coulis
Whipped cream or pouring cream

Cut butter into cubes and place in microwave-safe bowl with the chocolate, broken into squares. Cover, otherwise it will splatter. Heat for about 2 minutes on high, stopping halfway to stir, or until melted.

Meanwhile place icing sugar in food processor and process to remove any lumps, then add the eggs. When mixed add the melted butter and chocolate and the vanilla essence.

Line a loaf pan with foil or plastic wrap. If using a silicone pan you don’t need to line it. Spoon about 4 tablespoons of chocolate mixture into the pan and spread over the base. Dip each biscuit briefly in the coffee mixture before arranging them in the cake pan. Lay a single layer of biscuits over the chocolate, then continue alternating chocolate and biscuits, ending up with chocolate.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove cake from loaf pan, dust with icing sugar, then slice and serve with fresh or frozen raspberries or raspberry coulis and whipped or thick pouring cream.

Serves 8-10

Individual Black Forest Trifles

In 1915 Josef Keller, pastry chef at the Café Ahrend in Bad Godesberg in south-west Germany, invented the Black Forest Cake, using a local liqueur made with sour cherries to produce a distinctive flavour. His winning combination of chocolate and cherries went on to become famous around the world.

Here I’ve used the same ingredients to make a quick and easy dessert, layered in a glass. For an authentic flavour it’s worth investing in a bottle of cherry brandy, but a dash of ordinary brandy or your favourite liqueur will do.

I wanted to decorate each trifle with a fresh cherry, but tried three supermarkets and there wasn’t a fresh cherry to be had, it being mid-winter here.

You can also make this trifle in one large glass dish.

Chocolate cake (bought or homemade)
Cherry jam (I used Hero’s Black Cherry)
Preserved cherries in a can or jar (I used a 680g jar of Aldi’s pitted Morellos)
2 heaped tsp arrowroot
Cherry brandy or brandy (optional)
Chocolate Ganache:
350ml cream
50ml milk
200g dark chocolate (I used Cadbury’s Old Gold 70%)
To decorate:
250ml cream, extra
Fresh cherries
Grated chocolate

Slice cake horizontally and fill with a generous layer of cherry jam, then stick the two halves back together. You will need a third to half a jar of jam. Cut slices or chunks of cake and arrange a piece in 8 glass tumblers. If liked, drizzle each with a tablespoonful or two of cherry brandy or brandy.

Place cherries in a saucepan with most of the juice and heat to boiling point. Mix arrowroot with the rest of the juice until smooth, then add this to the cherries and cook, stirring, until thickened. Spoon cherries over the chocolate cake.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan. Add chocolate, broken into squares, then heat to boiling point, stirring until chocolate has completely dissolved. Spoon chocolate ganache over the cherries and shake glass to spread evenly. Desserts can be made ahead to this point and kept in the fridge, covered, for several hours or overnight.

Whip extra cream until soft peaks form, then place a large dollop on each trifle. Decorate with a fresh cherry on its stalk (if available) and some grated chocolate.

Serves 8

Variations: Use fresh pitted cherries, stewed with a little sugar, in season. Use milk chocolate instead of dark. Use a different red fruit jam. Arrowroot is available in the cake ingredients section of the supermarket.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

This chocolate fudge cake has been our family’s birthday cake for decades. Twice it was promoted to the status of a three-tiered wedding cake – once covered with dark chocolate ganache and shaved chocolate and the second time with white chocolate ganache. It continues to be the preferred celebration cake in our family.

For the unenlightened, a Tim Tam consists of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by chocolate cream filling and coated with a thin layer of chocolate. These biscuits have become something of an Australian icon since their launch by Arnotts in 1963. Over the years new flavours and fillings have been introduced to keep up with modern trends. Tim Tams now come in dark or milk chocolate and with fillings such as salted caramel and peanut butter.

Matthew is a staunch Tim Tam fan so I decided to use them to decorate his birthday cake this year. Unfortunately white chocolate ends up rather yellow as you can see in the photo – but it tasted good! Make the cake the day before the birthday as it’s much easier to ice next day.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

Cake:
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
¼
 cup vegetable oil
1¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups self-raising flour, sifted (or use plain flour plus 2 tsp baking powder)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup buttermilk (for substitute see below)
½ tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache: (option 1)
300ml thick cream
250g chocolate (dark, milk or white)
Cream Cheese Icing: (option 2)
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese at room temperature
¾ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbs cold milk, as required
To decorate:
2 x 200g packets Tim Tams
1 packet Maltesers (optional)
3 Tbs cream and 50g white chocolate, melted, to drizzle over

Preheat oven to 180°. In a fan-forced oven it’s best to lower the temperature to 170ºC so cake doesn’t rise too fast. Grease a 20-22cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Alternatively use two shallow sandwich tins and line them both.

Place all ingredients for cake in a large mixing bowl. Using electric beaters, mix well for 2-3 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down any bits stuck to the sides of the bowl.

Scrape mixture into cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 mins in the centre of the oven, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Don’t overcook as you want the cake to be moist and fudgey. Two thinner cakes will take less time, around 25 mins. Cool 10 minutes in tin. Turn out and cool on a cake rack. Ice the cake the following day.

Make Chocolate Ganache or Cream Cheese Icing – see below. Either ice cake just on the top and sides, or if you’ve cooked it in two sandwich tins use some of the ganache in the middle to stick them together. You can also cut one large cake in two horizontally with a serrated knife. If cake has risen into too much of a domed shape shave a bit off with a serrated knife.

To ice cake in the middle as well as top and sides you will need to make one and a half times the Ganache recipe. With the cream cheese icing there should be enough.

While the cake is perfectly nice without any adornment, if liked stick Tim Tams around the sides, cover the top with Maltesers and drizzle with melted and cooled white chocolate mixture. Cake keeps for 3-4 days in a tin.

Chocolate Ganache: Heat cream in a small saucepan until boiling then remove from the heat and add chocolate, broken into squares. Stir to dissolve then cool until thick enough to spread over cake.

Cream Cheese Icing: With electric beaters, beat butter and cream cheese, gradually adding the cocoa, then the icing sugar and enough milk to make desired consistency.

Substitute: if you don’t have buttermilk use ½ cup plain yogurt and ½ cup milk or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar and left to stand for an hour.

Serves 14


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Nutella Tart

Some of the grandkids like Nutella. I’m not a fan, but usually have it in the pantry for visiting Nutella eaters.

This recipe makes a quick dessert and was a good way to use up a jar which had been sitting there for a month or two since the last visit. To save time you can use bought shortcrust pastry, but this home-made chocolate crust is very quick to make in a food processor.

Nutella Tart

Pastry:
3 heaped Tbs plain flour
1 heaped Tbs cocoa
1 level Tbs caster sugar
55g butter
3-4 Tbs water
Filling:
300g (about one heaped cup) Nutella or other chocolate spread
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
To serve:
Whipped cream
Optional: Toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans

For pastry place first four ingredients in food processor and whiz until it forms crumbs. Slowly add water through the feed chute, with motor running. Stop as soon as mixture forms a ball. Remove and press into a ball, then roll out thinly and use to line a 20cm (8″) metal tart tin. Refrigerate for up to an hour. If in a hurry stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line tart with foil and fill with dried beans or corn to stop it rising. Bake for about 8 minutes, then remove foil and beans (which can be kept to use again and again) and put back in the oven for 5-10 mins or until set. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 150°C.

Meanwhile for the filling, place eggs in a bowl and beat with a hand whisk. Whisk in Nutella and cream and when smooth pour into the tart case. It should come almost level with the top of the pastry. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set, but still wobbly in the middle. Don’t overcook.

Cool then refrigerate till serving time. Serve with whipped cream and toasted nuts.

Serves 8

 

Chocolate and Ginger Cheesecake

Chocolate and Ginger CheesecakeWith a food processor this dessert is quick to make. Really chocolatey and not too sweet.

Crust:
125g Ginger Nut biscuits
50g butter
Filling:
250g mascarpone or sour cream
500g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2-3 Tbs sugar, to taste
150g dark chocolate, melted in microwave
2-3 Tbs crystallised ginger, chopped
To serve:
Labneh
Icing sugar
Crystallised ginger or stem ginger in syrup, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Place biscuits in food processor and process until fine. Melt butter in microwave, mix in biscuit crumbs then tip into a 20cm (8″) springform pan which has been greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Press the mixture evenly over the base of the tin. Bake for 10 mins.

While biscuit crust is cooking make filling. Wipe out the food processor. Place all ingredients except ginger in processor and mix till well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides halfway. Add chopped ginger and process briefly, just to combine.

When ready remove biscuit base from the oven tip in the filling and smooth the top. Return to the oven for 30 mins or until just set, but still a bit wobbly when shaken. Cool cheesecake, then refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Dust the top of the cheesecake with icing sugar. Serve with Labneh or whipped cream, with some chopped ginger and a little icing sugar mixed in.

Serves 10-12

Churros

Many moons ago I was in Spain for the first time on a school exchange when my host family took me to an establishment which served churros and nothing else. The queue of people waiting to be seated went out the door and halfway up the block. Always a promising sign.

We eventually sat down to a huge plate of warm crispy churros rolled in cinnamon sugar which was placed in the middle of the table. We each had a mug of very thick hot chocolate to dip the churros into. And I mean thick – you could almost stand your spoon up in it! I was hooked.

Like eclairs and profiteroles, churros are made from choux pastry, but instead of cooking them in the oven they’re fried in hot oil, like doughnuts. I have a special gadget for pushing the dough through, but a piping bag with a large star nozzle works just as well.

Instead of a mug of thick hot chocolate serve the churros with a simple dipping sauce made from cream and chocolate. For a more grown up combination try them with salted caramel sauce. Either way they are delicious.

Churros

1 cup milk
75g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1¾ cups plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
sugar and cinnamon for rolling
Chocolate sauce:
1 cup thick cream
125g chocolate (milk or dark)
Salted Caramel Sauce:
½ cup sugar
½ cup cream
60g butter
½ tsp salt

In a non-stick saucepan heat milk, butter and sugar until boiling point is reached. Remove from the heat and add the flour and baking powder, all in one go. Beat well with a wooden spoon until lump-free and mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean. Return to the heat and cook, stirring for 2 mins. Remove from heat and add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Cool.

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan or deep fat fryer. It should be at least 4cm deep. Place some of the mixture in a piping bag with a star nozzle or in a special churros gadget. When oil is hot pipe in the churros a few at a time, using a knife to cut them off when they are 10-15cm long. Cook, turning once, till golden on both sides, then remove from oil and toss in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm with chocolate or salted caramel sauce.

Chocolate Sauce: heat cream until boiling point is reached then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and stir until melted. Cool a bit and serve warm.

Salted Caramel Sauce: melt sugar in a small heavy-based pan until melted and dark caramel colour, swirling the pan from time to time. Add cream and butter and mix until smooth. Cool a bit and serve warm. Can be reheated.

Serves 6-8

Chocolate-Espresso Self-Saucing Pudding

Every grandma worth her salt has a chocolate self-saucing pudding in her repertoire. They’re a cinch to make and because of the unique way the ingredients are assembled a delicious sauce forms under the pudding as it cooks.

Adding a couple of shots of espresso turns this into a more sophisticated dessert for coffee lovers. Adjust the amount of coffee to suit your taste or leave it out altogether and just use 2 cups (500ml) of boiling water. Kids will prefer it without the coffee.

Chocolate Espresso Self-Saucing Pudding

1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
60g unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
Topping:
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water and 1 cup hot coffee (2 shots)
To serve:
Cocoa for dusting
Thick cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 180ºC and butter a 1.5L capacity ovenproof dish such as a lasagne dish. Sift flour, sugar and cocoa into a bowl and mix. Mix melted butter with milk and vanilla and beat in the egg with a fork. Mix thoroughly into flour mixture then tip into pudding dish and spread evenly. Mix sugar and cocoa for topping and sprinkle evenly over the pudding. Mix boiling water and coffee and carefully pour evenly over the top. Bake for 30 mins or until the top is firm.

Use a sieve to lightly dust the top of the pudding with cocoa powder. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-8

Variations: use brown sugar instead of caster sugar. Add some chocolate chips and/or chopped walnuts.

Chocolate Puddings with Ginger Pears

This decadent recipe appeared in the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller. I’ve increased the quantities to serve six, left the sugar out of the the chocolate puddings because I think they’re sweet enough without and made a couple of other slight adjustments. The recipe said to serve the puddings at room temperature, but we preferred them chilled.

Chocolate Puddings with Ginger Pears

Pears:
6 ripe but not over-ripe pears
1 cup Stone’s Green Ginger Wine (see note below)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Puddings:
250g dark (70%) chocolate, broken into squares
180g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs
2/3 cup cream
2 Tbs crystallised ginger, finely chopped
To serve:
Whipped cream, pouring cream or crème fraîche (see note below)

Place ginger wine, water and sugar in a medium-sized frying pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Peel and halve pears, leaving stems on one half and removing cores with a melon-baller. Place pears in frying pan, cover with a lid and simmer for about an hour, turning them over from time to time. Drain pears and refrigerate, covered until serving time. Keep the poaching liquid.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Place butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Zap in the microwave for 1-2 mins or until melted, stopping to stir halfway. With a balloon whisk, thoroughly mix in the eggs and then the cream. Lastly mix in the ginger. Divide mixture between six 1 cup ramekins and bake for 6-8 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for up to 36 hours, covered.

Drain pears and dry on paper towels. Place cut side down in a medium sized non-stick frying pan. Turn on the heat and cook until pears are slightly glazed just on the one side, then remove carefully from pan. Add any accumulated juices from pears to the poaching liquid. It should have cooled to quite a thick caramel sauce, but if it’s still a bit thin pour it into the pan after removing the pears and cook until reduced and thickened a bit. Cool to room temperature.

Top each chocolate pudding with two pear halves, glazed side up, drizzle with a little caramel sauce and serve with whipped cream, pouring cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 6

Notes: If you can’t find ginger wine, heat 1 cup of white wine with 2 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 mins then strain.

Make your own crème fraîche by mixing half thick Greek yoghurt with half thickened cream. If liked mix in a teaspoon of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.