Monday, 20 June 2011

Dr Cupcake's double chocolate tart, two ways

As Winter gusts its way through Hobart, and the top of Mt Wellington starts looking like it has been dusted with fine icing sugar, rich dark chocolate is a necessity in the Cupcake household. So I woke up on Sunday morning, huffed and puffed my way through a short jog (so I could justify the indulgence to come) and started my chocolate plan of attack.
 Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart, Chantal Coady all had chocolate tart recipes but I was looking for something very specific. In the end I adapted elements from all of them... this double chocolate tart has bitter cocoa in the pastry and 70% semisweet chocolate in its ganache filling.


I also made little tartlets.  These little babies are bite size and they're small enough for even people on horrible DIETS to consume.

Recipe is below, but here's the pictorial version...

The pastry is easy - all the dry ingredients get chucked in a food processor with the butter.

Then you add the iced water and pulse to make a ball of dough. You need to press this out roughly and wrap in cling film and chill for a while, because otherwise it's too hard to work. 

Butter the tart tins...

 When it's chilled, roll out - for small tartlets, cut a shape a slightly bigger circumference to the tin and push the pastry in, like in this pic, trimming the edges with a sharp knife.

For a larger tart, carefully pick up the rolled-out pastry and drape it centrally over the tin, then press it over the bottom and sides. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and use this extra pastry to patch any tears or gaps.

You should end up with something like this.

Blind bake the shells (instructions below) - these are what the tiny tart shells looked like when blind baked.

Make the ganache by boiling the cream and pouring it onto the chocolate pieces. With a few minutes of gentle stirring you will end up with a luscious, glossy mixture.

If you like, you could put a layer of something crunchy underneath the ganache - I say this because I used amazing stuff called Charlie's Choc Sugar, made by a company called Gewurzhaus. It's spicy, crunchy, and very sweet - the ingredients are cane sugar, cassia, coriander, clove, nutmeg and cocoa. Just adds something unexpected :-)

Fill the tart shells (with or without Charlie's Choc Sugar!) with the still-warm ganache and leave to cool. 

By this stage you'll be getting a great sense of achievement, because the glossy ganache makes the tarts look wonderful!

Decorate with your choice of topping... I found these beautiful bi-colour chocolate curls in an amazing new providore Bottega Rotolo in Bathurst St Hobart.

They taste yummy too :-)

For the larger tart a big dollop of cream just provided a bit more contrast.

Happy eating, chocophiles.... full recipes below.

Chocolate Pate Brisee (Sweet Crust Pastry)
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup iced water

Process all the dry ingredients and the butter (cut into small pieces)  in a food processor for about 10 seconds, or until the mixture looks like coarse meal or breadcrumbs. Then pour a small amount of the iced water down the funnel while blitzing the mixture again. Add this slowly because you won't need it all. When the mixture balls cleanly from the sides of the processor, you have finished. Discard any water left over and turn the mixture out onto some cling wrap, flattening it into a rough circle with your palm. Then put it in the fridge for half an hour (or the freezer for 10 mins) to chill.

Grease and flour your tart tin/s and set the oven to 190C.

Flour your bench and rolling pin and roll out the pastry, turning it regularly to make sure it doesn't stick to the bench. Don't overwork it. When it's about 4mm thick, line the tart tins as shown above.

You need to blind bake the pastry shell (this means you put the pastry in the oven and cook it without a filling - you need to do this when the filling you are going to use doesn't need to be cooked). Spread a layer of baking paper over the pastry and use pastry weights, if you have them, or gravel or small stones if you don't, to weight it down (this will stop the pastry puffing up when cooking).

Bake a large shell for 15 mins or until it's slightly springy to the touch. Bake small/mini shells for about 8-10 mins; instead of using pastry weights, you can 'nest' another shell on top of them when cooking (like when you're stacking the empty tart tins on top of each other). This will stop them puffing up just as well as pastry weights.

When the tart shells are cooked, turn them out of the tins CAREFULLY and leave to cool while you make the ganache filling.

Ganache Filling
300ml thick cream
330g 70% dark chocolate
2 tsp castor sugar

Chop or break the chocolate into small pieces, place in a heatproof bowl and leave aside. Turn the cream and sugar into a small saucepan and bring it to the boil (be careful, when it starts to boil it will boil up and spill over very quickly). As soon as it boils, pour it onto the chocolate, and stir gently while the chocolate melts. After a few minutes the mixture should be well combined, thick and glossy.

To put it all together, spoon the still-warm ganache into the tart shells and leave it to cool.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Cake for the Parliamentary Princess

Last week there was a birthday in the office - it was the lovely Amy's birthday. Amy is generally known as the Parliamentary Princess because she is a whizz at managing all of the Parliamentary briefs and papers, and we all depend very much on her.
When it came to making a cake, obviously it had to be a cake fit for a princess... so I made a crown cake!

This design is borrowed from the amazing Paris Cutler of Planet Cake. Her original design was for a circular cake, and the increased space gave room for the letters 'PRINCESS' to be spelt out underneath the crown. However, because I wanted to go with a gluten free, dairy free orange syrup cake that tends to sink in the middle, I went for a loaf shape that would be easier to reverse top to bottom to get a flat top.

Instead of chocolate ganache as a base for the icing, I used very dark (70%) chocolate, melted and poured straight onto the cooled cake. I fiddled with it as little as possible, just leaving it to find its level. It took about an hour to firm up in the fridge. The chocolate tasted really lovely as a coating for the cake, but it made the cake really hard to cut!

Meanwhile I prepared the fondant by kneading in some pink gel colouring.


When I started on the crown, I made it in white and planned to coat it in some food-grade gold leaf flakes that I had in the cupboard but had never used. (Paris's design called for gold shimmer dust but I didn't have any.)
But when I tried to apply the gold flakes it was a bit of a disaster. They wouldn't stick on, and when I tried to moisten the surface of the icing to help the adherence, the flakes just rolled up into sticky chunks.

I abandoned the effort and remade the crown in yellow fondant, which worked quite well. The crown was hand cut and hand shaped - I didn't use a stencil, but you could if you wanted.

In the pic you can see the gold leaf experiment in the background and the new yellow crown in the foreground. 

I also made some little stars with a small cutter as additional decoration.

After rolling out the pink fondant and covering the entire top and sides of the cake, I rolled out some thin strips of white fondant, and created 'frills' by running a balling tool down one side (this thins out the fondant on that side and stretches it slightly so it is both thinner and more curvy).

Then, using a little water, I stuck these ribbons in a looped formation around the edges of the top, and finished them off by fixing a flat 'ribbon' at their edges, to hide the messy edge where they joined the pink icing.

I stuck the crown and stars on with a little water, and hey presto! Happy birthday Parliamentary Princess!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Macaroon disasters, disorganisation and a rather nice orange syrup cake

Dr Cupcake has moved house!!

This may sound joyful and exciting, but the effect on Dr Cupcake's cakey experiments has been less exciting. Regrettably I have been too busy packing boxes to make many sweet things. Some may be interested to know that my baking, icing and decorating equipment took about 5 boxes to transport, not including a very large box which arrived from Mum with a vintage Kenwood Chef (like a Kitchen Aid Mixer), which was duly polished and is now on the new kitchen bench. 

Coincidentally, I received this image in an email full of vintage 'inappropriate' ads the same week my vintage Kenwood arrived. Joy!

The Raspberry Macaroon Disaster
The week before I moved, I somehow thought that it would be a good idea, in amongst the chaos, to try making raspberry macaroons for the first time. I blame my cousin David who saw my blog on coffee macaroons and asked for directions on raspberry. I can never resist a challenge and being a bit OVER confident by now (after making lots of coffee and chocolate and even pistachio macaroons), I decided to 'throw a few things together' and come up with my own raspberry macaroon recipe.

Turns out over confidence and inexperience is a bad mix. Who knew?

raspberry 'granita' added to the tant pour tant mix
I used frozen raspberries because they are not in season and decided to simply process them in a blender when they were still frozen, to make a kind of raspberry granita. In my ignorance I assumed that this would blend seamlessly into the base mixture of ground almonds, sugar and italian meringue (see my previous posts for a how-to). And indeed as you can see from this pic, it looked like it would work.

I was very grumpy.
In an early sign that things would not proceed to plan, Mr Plums jumped up on the table and somehow managed to flick a tray of just-piped macaroon circles onto himself. 

Having dumped the feline-affected tray, I put the two remaining trays into the oven to bake.

so far they looked normal...
Things now seemed to be going ok...

...right up until I removed them from the oven.

... And what I saw was horrible. Instead of smooth, glossy meringues with a hard surface and a little rough 'foot', I had created nasty, dusty pink circles which were sticky, foamy and not set at all.

 'Maybe,' I thought hopefully, 'they will taste a lot nicer than they look.' But you know, they didn't. They were glutinous, stodgy and dull, with a strongish, too-sweet, raspberry jam flavour.

I do know when to call it a day, so they all went straight into the bin. However by that time I had already started on the filling - a white chocolate and raspberry ganache.

raspberry puree added to white choc ganache
Ironically this turned out quite well. I had a white chocolate ganache which I melted down, and added pureed raspberries.

I thought (especially after the day I'd had) that the raspberries would make the ganache seize, as chocolate usually does when exposed to water based substances, but no - the ganache tolerated the raspberries well and I was able to stir them in to create a smooth, pink, slightly speckled mixture.

Sadly I had no use for it, so I consigned it to the freezer, which caused me no end of problems when I moved. I had to somehow keep it frozen through defrosting my old fridge and two hours in the car to get it into the fridge at the new house. When I have recovered a little from the galling disappointment of my raspberry macaroon experiment I will look up a recipe, make better raspberry macaroons and I'll have a ready made filling.

The Coffee Macaroon Disaster
At the new house the kitchen is not yet organised and we have the happy problem of having too many appliances to work with. The new/old Kenwood Chef made me all excited so I whipped up a batch of my favorite coffee macaroons, using the Kenwood instead of my usual electric hand held beater.

You'll notice there are no pics in this section? I was too depressed to take any pics, for reasons that will become all too clear. 

Carpe Kenwoodem! (beware of the Kenwood) Not being used to this newfangled all-in-one thing, I did not scrape down the sides and base of the bowl enough, and my egg whites foamed unevenly - some bits were stiff peak, some were not even soft peak and a big scrape and stir at the very end did not fix it.

In addition to that, instead of using my trusty food processor to whizz the ground almonds and icing sugar in, to make them absolutely smooth, I firstly forgot to whizz them at all and went straight to sieving them - only remembering I'd left out a step when I noticed how rough they looked. Then I discovered that my food processor was still in a box somewhere, so I pulled out Mr Cupcake's blender thingy, which I have never used before, and used that instead... but again I didn't quite have the knack, and ended with a rougher texture.

Their appearance upon leaving the oven was ... well, not disastrous exactly, but not great. Their surfaces were a bit bumply and pimply, and they were not well risen - their little feet were very small and they were flatter than they should have been.

I then proceeded to make them worse by absentmindedly using salted butter, instead of unsalted, in the buttercream filling.


Let's leave the coffee macaroons there and reflect on the wisdom of FOLLOWING RECIPES.

A slightly better experience with poached pears
I feel a bit better about bringing poached pears in to work two weeks ago.
These particular pears were picked fresh from the garden and brought to work by the generous Liz. A big bag of them sat in the work kitchen for a few days. They were such a lovely size, about the size of a golf ball, and I thought they would look pretty if poached in red wine.

 I got a bottle of The Accomplice for six bucks, and poured it into a small saucepan, heating it to simmering with a cinnamon stick, some whole cloves and about four big spoonsful of castor sugar. Then I peeled the pears, keeping them whole, and slid them into the poaching mixture.

They simmered for about half an hour, after which I took them out and passed the poaching liquid through a sieve, then returned it to the pan and added more sugar, turning the heat to high until it reduced by about two thirds. Be careful because it tends to boil up dramatically.

This syrup can then be poured over the pears when serving. Because I was taking them to work, I rested each pear on a cupcake bed and poured the syrup over in advance. But these are best when served warm on a plate with a big dollop of pure cream. Yum!

Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
I make this orange cake a lot because it's really easy, quick and keeps well in the fridge. I admit I have been known to eat a slice for breakfast, but please don't tell Mr Cupcake that because he would disown me.

The annoying thing about this cake is that it sinks dramatically in the middle during baking. You can do nothing to prevent this, so the best way around it is to reverse the cake once out of the oven, and use the bottom as the top. Once decorated with a thick swathe of icing it looks quite passable.

You can also make this as cupcakes, and either put something on the top of the cupcakes to hide the dip (like the pears I described above which fitted neatly into the dip) or reverse the cupcakes too and ice the 'bottom'. To do this you need to make them without paper cases - just grease the tin, and line the bottoms of the cupcake moulds with a small circle of greased baking paper to aid in getting the cakes out cleanly.

(Quantity for one loaf cake or 10-12 cupcakes)

3 eggs
100 g ground almonds
50 g castor sugar
1 tsp baking powder
175g orange marmalade
100g (more or less) cream cheese (I use the Philadelphia tub variety)
Juice of half a lemon
150g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180 C.
Beat the eggs on high speed for five minutes or so - they should be pale and creamy, and form the ribbon. Mix all the dry ingredients together and stir into the eggs until well combined, then stir in the marmalade. Pour the mixture into the tin/s - it will be foamy and sloppy.
Bake for 30 mins (15 mins for cupcakes) - the cake will rise, then sink.
To check if it's cooked, insert a long skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
For the icing: Put the icing sugar into a bowl and add about 100g of cream cheese, then beat to combine. Add the lemon juice and test for flavour and consistency. For a stiffer icing, add more icing sugar. Spread onto the cake when cake is cold.