Chocolate Fig and Hazelnut Cake

This recipe caught my eye when it was published recently in Gourmet Traveller, so I saved the link. Friends coming to stay for the weekend is a good excuse to bake a cake so I thought I would give this a try. As a fan of chocolate, figs and hazelnuts it seemed to tick all the boxes. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve cut down on the sugar in the cake from 300g to 200g and cut it out altogether in the chocolate ganache. The muscat and figs are sweet, so you could try cutting down even more on the sugar in the cake, say to 150g. Maybe add a few more figs to compensate.

The original recipe said to use muscat or brandy. I used a muscat-style fortified wine made in Australia by Angoves and called Bookmark Crema All’Uovo. I bought the bottle several months ago at Dan Murphy’s to make that wonderful Italian dessert called Zabaione. If I hadn’t had any of that I would have used port rather than brandy. The packet of dried figs I bought weighed 375g, so I used them all.

The original recipe tells you how to make Candied Oranges to serve with the cake. I had some candied cumquats I made several months ago, so that’s what you can see as a garnish in the photo. To make the original Candied Oranges, search for the GT recipe.

To make the cake gluten-free, use gluten-free bread for the breadcrumbs.

Cake:
1 cup (250ml) muscat or port
300-400g dried figs, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
420g hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
250g unsalted butter, at room temp
200g caster sugar
6 eggs
250g dark chocolate, melted
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
Ganache:
½ cup cream
150g dark chocolate
To serve:
Whipped cream
Candied oranges or orange peel (optional – bought or home-made)

Place muscat or port in a saucepan with the figs. Bring to the boil then simmer, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes or until figs have absorbed the wine.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Place hazelnuts in food processor and process coarsely. Tip out. Make bread into breadcrumbs in food processor, then tip out. Place butter and sugar in food processor and process until smooth. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, then the melted chocolate, stopping to scrape down the sides from time to time. Scrape mixture into a large bowl and mix in the figs, the ground nuts and the breadcrumbs.

Scrape mixture into a large cake pan, greased and bottom-lined with baking paper. I used a 22cm square pan, but you could use a round one. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until cake feels firm on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Err on the slightly undercooked side, as the cake will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven. Leave to cool, then remove from pan and pour over the chocolate ganache, using a knife to spread it evenly over the top and sides.

Ganache: heat cream in a small saucepan. When boiling, turn off heat and add the chocolate, broken into squares. Leave to melt for a few minutes then stir until smooth. Allow to cool for a few minutes, so it’s a bit thicker for spreading.

Serve cake as it is, or with whipped cream and candied oranges or orange peel.

Serves 16

Variations: use walnuts or almonds instead of hazelnuts, or a mixture.

Chocolate Ganache with Hazelnut Spice Mix, Crème Fraîche and Orange Oil

I recently made this dessert from one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. The flavour combination of chocolate, nutty spice mix, slightly sweetened crème fraîche and orange oil is amazing. But Ottolenghi says to bake the chocolate ganache and although I only baked mine for 8 minutes it was rather dry. And I don’t think you need the eggs or the sugar in the ganache.

So the second time I made my usual chocolate ganache (which unlike YO’s doesn’t contain eggs, uses cream instead of butter and doesn’t contain any sugar) and I didn’t bake it. You could still plate it as above but I served it in little tea light glasses with the crème fraîche, nutty spice mix and a drizzle of orange oil on top, as you can see in the second photo. I doubled the orange oil as there wasn’t enough the first time.

 

Chocolate Ganache:
250g dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa solids)
300ml thick or whipping cream
Creme Fraiche:
300g crème fraîche or sour cream
2½ tsp sifted icing sugar
Hazelnut Spice Mix:
2 tsp coriander seeds
¾ tsp black peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
8 cardamom pods
¾ tsp caster sugar
2 Tbs hazelnuts
Orange Oil:
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2-3 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Maldon salt flakes

Ganache: heat cream to boiling point in a saucepan. Add chocolate broken into squares, remove from the heat and allow chocolate to melt. Stir till smooth then scrape into a shallow bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Hazelnut Spice Mix: place all ingredients except sugar in a frying pan and stir for 2-3 mins until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until fairly fine. Mix in the sugar.

Orange Oil: place both ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Just before serving mix icing sugar and crème fraîche or sour cream. Don’t do this ahead of time as the sugar can make the cream go runny.

Check the chocolate ganache and if it’s rock hard remove it from the fridge a couple of hours before serving.

Arrange some hazelnut spice mix on 8 plates. Scoop a heaped tablespoon size portion of the chocolate ganache onto each plate, using a spoon dipped in hot water and re-dipping each time. Garnish with the crème fraîche and orange oil. Finish with a tiny pinch of salt flakes.

Alternative way to serve: pour chocolate ganache into 8-10 small shot glasses or tea light glasses and refrigerate. Serve topped with a dollop of cream, a sprinkle of the hazelnut spice mix and a drizzle of the orange oil. Finish with the salt flakes.

Serves 8

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

When the kids were growing up I used to make a quick and easy chocolate sauce with a recipe from my mother in law. It goes well with ice cream, waffles and pancakes and disappeared faster than I could make it.

On a recent trip to Denmark  we spent a delightful weekend with our dear friends Vickie and Frants on the island of Fyn. Vickie served a delicious chocolate sauce with ice cream and when she explained the recipe I realised it was almost identical to mine, which I hadn’t made in ages.

Last weekend I went on a bit of a cooking spree and made a few things for the fridge and freezer, including peanut butter ice cream and chocolate sauce to serve with it. For Matthew, not the kids who are long gone. The recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so if you have a house full of kids you might like to double it. If you can’t find golden syrup, honey or maple syrup should work. The ice cream is very quick to make and you don’t need an ice cream machine.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream:
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
A generous ½ cup of sugar
600 ml cream
125 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of Maldon salt flakes
Chocolate Sauce:
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
4 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs Golden Syrup
A piece of butter the size of a walnut
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the ice cream, use electric beaters to mix the peanut butter with the sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and milk and continue beating until thick. Add the vanilla and salt, then scrape into a plastic container and freeze.

For the sauce, place all ingredients except the butter and vanilla in a large saucepan, as it tends to bubble up. Heat, while whisking until smooth, then boil at a steady boil without stirring for 4-5 mins. Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered and reheat in the microwave for about 30 secs. If it gets a bit thick add a tablespoon or so of water before heating. And if it’s too “dark” add some cream.

Serve ice cream topped with the sauce.

Makes about 1 litre of ice cream and 1 cup of sauce

 

 

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